Thursday, May 01, 2014

Black Grape - Stupid Stupid Stupid - 1997

It's funny, but I've always found the Happy Mondays interesting but never essential, and I know that probably makes me a bad person. I'm sure at some point, the Happy Mondays will grow on me, and I'll be singing their praises, but I always found Black Grape to be a far better mix.

The Happy Mondays were sort of ground zero for Madchester, at least until The Stone Roses took over. The appeal of the Madchester sound was that it was a blend of, well, nearly everything. At the core of it, the idea was to take some the rave and dance music and incorporate it with rock'n'roll elements, but the Happy Mondays (and, by extension, Black Grape) took it a step further and integrated rap and hip-hop, whereas The Stone Roses would add psychedelic elements. HM and BG both did so as well, although nowhere near to the extent that the Roses did.

Part of the problem was that the leader of Happy Mondays, Shaun Ryder, seemed like he was poised for self-destruction when the band broke up. During the Happy Mondays, Ryder had always come across as somewhat thuggish, and his public overindulgence of drugs and alcohol was well documented. Instead, he came back a few years later with Black Grape, and their first album, "It's Great When You're Straight... Yeah." And that album, basically, just continued on doing the same thing the Happy Mondays had been doing, except with a bit more grungy rock vibe.

Black Grape's second album, "Stupid Stupid Stupid," opens with the song "Get Higher," a hilariously weird cutup mixing rap, rock and rave, as well as spliced together audio footage of Ronald and Nancy Reagan talking about the benefits of marijuana. Sure, it's not high end weirdness, but it's enough for a great laugh. From there, the album descends it a wild mixture of all the things that Madchester was about - rhythm, guitars, drums, manic vocals and a sense of energy. Some critics have said it isn't as strong as "It's Great" because it's doing much of the same, but I think it does it better, more refined, and that makes it a better album. Either one's good, really, but I prefer "Stupid."

It was to be Black Grape's last album, and eventually, the Happy Mondays reformed and put out a new album in 2007 that I haven't heard yet. I've heard it's okay, but not amazing. Still, it's mostly made up of the team that formed Black Grape, so we'll see. "Stupid Stupid Stupid" saw a lot of play from me when I was in college. It's a hidden gem you should give a listen to.

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