Senseless Things - The First Of Too Many (Cherry Red)

Senseless Things – The First Of Too Many (Cherry Red)

How many bands formed around the ages of 9 to 11? My best mate and I certainly had aspirations around this time, but where mine would turn to nothing other than a music journalist, my aforementioned mate would become a counsellor. So not entirely without purpose then. But as for friends Mark Myers (aka Mark Keds) – vocals and guitar and Morgan Nichols – bass, from dreams of those 11-year-old lads in Twickenham, these were realised when they first put together Wild Division in the early 80s. The addition of drummer Cass Browne, would see them become Psychotics, playing venues in the local area whilst still at school. Roll forward a few years and not lacking entirely in an education, the band’s name came from a phrase in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Julius Caesar, and the trio’s first performance as Senseless Things would be at Hammersmith’s, Clarendon in October 1986. A venue like so many nationwide is, alas, no more. Roll forward a few more of those years and having attracted the attention of John Peel, released their first LP, Postcard C.V. for independent label Way Cool. In 1990 they played Reading Festival and subsequently landed a major record deal with Epic at the start of 1991. This culminated in the release of The First Of Too Many, an album which reached a lowly #66 in the UK. Not all was a downward spiral though and along with their working with comic book creator & illustrator Jamie Hewlett, famously responsible for Tank Girl, displayed on their sleeve art, it kept the ball rolling for them both.

Opening this set, it was almost as if I were tasting a dish from my childhood. The flavours, or sounds, in this case, evoked memories that couldn’t be unstuck and it was a wonderful feeling. Rather than just a straight reissue of this classic album, Cherry Red has boosted this otherwise single LP to triple CD and double vinyl versions. To allow this, founding members Morgan Nichols and Cass Browne have revisited the original master tapes and produced this anniversary edition, some 30 years after its original release. Both versions are available here, giving the listener the chance to sample this 21st-century version alongside its 20th-century sibling. The opening number is ‘Everybody’s Gone’, which if you’re familiar with recordings of this genre, screams of its time and place. Neds Atomic Dustbin, Mega City Four, or The Wonder Stuff might come to mind, even early Radiohead, such is the warmth of familiarity. This remastered version is indeed a different beast from its original recording. The sound is warmer, and the mix introduces itself with Keds’ guitar in the left channel, until after 9 seconds the entire mix is brought in and there’s no going back. Appearing in 1989 as what you might call an indie-punk outfit, they were firmly in the Indie camp, with jangly guitars and a steady drum pattern by the time this album found its release. I can see the likes of Thousand Yard Stare, a band who may’ve taken their lead from Senseless Things – although all active around the same time, it is clear they were all swimming in the same pond. Another example of split channel mastering was first heard here on ‘Everybody’s Gone’, again used on the 2021 mix of ‘American Dad’. This really breathes new life into the number and shows how it should’ve been done, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. It’s as if the whole album has had a tin of polish applied, bringing out clarity to the original album. So whether you’re a first-time Senseless Thing or a well-travelled fan, this version will have something for all.

Talking of something for all, the CD version features a third facet, in a live recording at Camden Palace in June 1991. Displaying the band’s punk pretences, which conjures memories for me of seeing Blur at Northampton’s Irish Centre in 1991. When these foppish shoe gazers put on a full-on punk onslaught while selling ’She’s So High’ t-shirts in the foyer. It was something else to see bands wearing their genesis on their sleeve. Here, a performance which was to promote First Of Too Many’s release in March of that year. This is 42 minutes of musical mayhem, during which they announced mid-set that “…we’re recording tonight by the way…”. Finally, it is only now that we hear this announcement commercially, during a set which featured 6 numbers lifted from that album and as expected, 12 from the band’s career up to that point. They put on a thoroughly vibrant performance and one I should imagine will sell the band to many. They display their personality during both the performance and the inter-track dialogue. Of the tracks, my particular favourites are ‘Fishing At Tescos’, which features a simply sublime bass run and ‘American Dad’, with its inspiring rhythm guitar.

This is an impactful performance, which accompanies an album made better by recent action taken by founding members Nicholls and Browne. Although this marks the album’s 30th anniversary, its release has been done in memory of the band’s vocalist and songwriter Mark Keds, who passed away in early 2021. Gone, but not forgotten and this live album is the cherry on top of this cake.

The First Of Too Many is released on 18th November through Cherry Red.

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