Earl Brutus – Your Majesty, We Are Here/Tonight You Are The Special One: Deluxe Editions (3 Loop Music)
Your Majesty, We Are Here
Being a teenager in the 90s meant growing up when Britpop was in full flight. Now, 20 years later, I like to think about how things might have turned out if more of the bands from the iconic Select magazine cover featuring Brett Anderson had broken through. That cover announced the Britpop scene (let’s ignore the awful, “Yanks go home” headline). I imagine that if Denim, The Auteurs and Saint Etienne had made it past cult success (like their fellow covermates, Pulp and Suede), they would have made an excellent alternative Britpop scene to some of the uninspired bands we ended up with (Cast, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics). In this imagined version of Britpop, I like to think there would have been a place for Earl Brutus in the charts too. In reality, they were another great cult band and today are the great unsung heroes of that era.
Earl Brutus started releasing singles in 1993 after lead singer Nick Sanderson left World Of Twist and met Jamie Fry. They built up a small following over the next few years with a series of excellent singles. When their first album, Your Majesty, We Are Here came out in late 1996, that following remained modest. They were a regular on ITV’s Chart Show indie chart top 10, but never got close to the actual top 10. Despite the lack of chart success, they appeared defiant in spirit throughout their brief career.
Their early single, the triumphant ‘Navyhead’, does a good job of setting the stage for the album. Sanderson’s distorted opening vocals are reminiscent of Mark E Smith at his most fierce. This is followed by huge drums and guitars which were a common theme in their material. By the time they get to the first chorus the excitement they create is infectious. Things don’t slow down with ‘I’m New’, which evokes 90s rave culture mixed with glam rock. ‘Don’t Leave Me Behind Mate’ is a highlight representing Sanderson’s skill at making the oddest lyrics sound moving. Here he pleads, “please don’t be impossible, Steve it’s only alcohol” in an impassioned manor. ‘Shrunken Head’ is ridiculous and amazing at the same time. Sanderson again steals the show singing, “shrunken head, massive head” over and over.
The placement of the previous single, ‘Life’s Too Long’, is perfect. It’s kept as the penultimate track, which makes it feel like the most important song in the world when the drums start and Sanderson sings, “Bus driver keep on bussing, you’ve gone on and lost your luggage”. They make us wait over two minutes until the massive football chant-like chorus arrives. The clapping drumbeat teases the listener before the chorus arrives. In my imagined alternative Britpop world, this was their number one single.
Amazingly, ‘Life’s Too Long’ isn’t the best song on the album. Amongst the big glam anthems that fill this album there are brief electronic interludes that show a different side ‘(Thelmex)’ and ‘(Curtsy)’. Similar in style to those interludes is the striking, ‘On Me, Not In Me’. Sanderson tells us, “nice times are here again” as an eerie electronic lullaby plays in the background. It’s unnerving and a real contrast to their glam-inspired material. The chorus sounds like a lost electronic single from the 70s. It could be a Kraftwerk outtake or a second single by Daniel Miller’s The Normal. Anyone who knows this song will know that the line, “take me to your harvester” means something very special. For 30 seconds the song almost turns into a big rock anthem. A harpsichord playfully appears as the band turn into rock gods and drums and guitars come crashing in, announcing that something big is about to happen. Then it stops and the song reverts into electronic melancholy, with the title of the chorus repeating until it ends abruptly. These three minutes are a huge part of why this is one of the most exciting and flawless debut albums of all time.
Tonight You Are The Special One
A year after the release of Your Majesty, Earl Brutus started the campaign for their second album, Tonight You Are the Special One, on a bigger label. First single, ‘The Sas & the Glam That Goes With It’ continues where previous singles left off — with high energy. Earl Brutus had the quotable slogans, “Jesus died for Earl Brutus” and “Pop music is wasted on the young”. The chorus of ‘The Sas & the Glam’ states, “you are your own reaction” which is a typically brilliant snapshot of Earl Brutus’ ethos. Like a lot of their songs, it’s urgent and confrontational. They also had a retrospective side too. On the third single, ‘Universal Plan’, Sanderson states, “I get up, go to work, eat my lunch, come home, cure cancer, that’s it. It’s a beautiful world.” It’s a simple and effective lyric.
The second single, ‘Come Taste My Mind’ was their biggest hit, reaching number 80. It’s another great performance by the band with Sanderson making the lines, “look into my mind, there’s nothing there” sound utterly heroic. It’s strangely poignant when he starts ranting, “who are you? you’re nothing you are” with the music building atmospherically in the background. For a band that were known for chaotic live shows and novelty aspects of how they presented themselves, they deserved way more credit as musicians. They blended glam rock and electronic influences effortlessly.
Tonight does not let up for a second. ‘Second Class War’ starts with a church organ that turns into one of their biggest and dirtiest riffs. ‘Midland Road’ builds over a stuttery electronic beat until yet another big guitar riff comes in. ‘God Let Me Be Kind’ is one of their most beautiful electronic tracks with a really vulnerable vocal. ‘Male Wife’ ends the album in chaotic style. This is a set of songs filled with humour, emotion and anger, sometimes all at once. Earl Brutus were not messing around: this was a second perfect album in a row.
The bonus material that comes with the reissues is just about every song they ever released, and a few extras. B-sides such as ‘North Sea Bastard’, ‘Like Queer David’ and ‘Teenage Opera’ are as essential as their best album tracks. The Saint Etienne remix of ‘Life’s Too Long’ is predictably great. After their first few singles, Earl Brutus gained an extra member, Shinya, whose role in the group was to stand on stage and shout at the audience. He joined the group after telling them, “Earl Brutus have entered my mind”. He gets the spotlight on ‘I Love Earl Brutus’ and ‘Nicotine Stain’, the latter is a live excerpt in which he asks, “can I have a kidney pie please?”. You just don’t get songs like that with other groups.
Earl Brutus split after the failure of their final single, ‘Larky’, and never recorded their third album, once rumoured to be called 20 Brutus Greats. After a few more live dates and an unreleased cover of ‘Mouldy Old Dough’, Sanderson became a train driver. Tragically, he died of cancer in 1998. He may have never became the megastar he deserved to be, but with Earl Brutus he left behind a perfect back catalogue. The reissues of these albums will make their small fanbase love them all the more and I hope it will gain them some new fans as well. The music they created sounds as vital as ever 20 years on. They understood how powerful music could be as a statement and always had fun making it. These reissues are an excuse to celebrate a band that often sounded like they were celebrating life by doing what they want.
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