Bennet: Out Of The In Crowd

1993 – Pre Britpop

Bennet formed in Reading in the Summer of 1993.  Peddling cheeky, upbeat indie, they picked up more and more local support slots, possibly assisted by the lead singer’s job at Virgin Records store in town.

1994 – Peak Britpop
Bennet increased their gigs and improved their onstage patter.  By 1995, they were signed to a record label and opened the second stage at Reading Festival 95.

1995 – Britpop in early decline, still selling
Bennet got signed at this point.

Now you’re thinking, so what? These are late period Britpop stalwarts, surely?
Odd I’ve never heard of them.

Except they were a Britpop sounding band. Who signed to Roadrunner.

Now, for the uninitiated Roadrunner Records began in 1980 and used to import US metal into Europe, becoming one of the largest heavy metal indie labels as the 90’s wore on, with key bands being Sepultura, Motorhead, Machinehead, Fear Factory, Biohazard, Sick of it all and Corrosion of Comformity.

Bands who looked like this;

bennet 1 - biohazard

And this
bennet 2 - metal band
When Bennet looked like this;
bennet 3

What could possibly go wrong?

Firstly, many of Bennet’s better songs were let down by imperfect production and pushed out as B sides.
The A sides were excellently produced by Marc Waterman (previously produced albums by Ride, Elastica and Ash).

The 1st album was also done decently by Wolsey White (who’d go on to produce Hard Fi’s better received stuff) with Phil Vinall doing later singles again just fine, but really that accounted for a quarter of material at a time when people were focused on end to end great EPs and singles (See Suede et al).

The B-sides, (where some of their best live songs like Polka, ‘Bennet have left the building and Hello, we are Bennet ended up) got mauled (seemingly in one long session by Patrick Hannan, with no production credits I can find before or after. Incidentally he seems to have been the drummer for the Sundays, of massive selling ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ fame).

This destroyed any possibility of Bennet being taken seriously. Blur had suffered similarly early on, but had kept the songs back enough – or just been lucky and had time to get better at writing so had more in the bag.

Bennet were always tight live along with being entertaining, energetic and even more fun. I saw them a number of times in the earlier days and never failed to be entertained, but the versions on singles were (and are) shocking; songs like Bennet have left the building a roaring beast of an indie tune with a fantastic chorus live, is done so badly you can only imagine you’re listening to a rough demo by mistake. The whole song is imbalanced, the drums are tinny, the guitars overloud and mewing, there’s no life in the performances and vocalist Jason sounds almost bored, like he doesn’t know this is the actual version and is doing a guide vocal.

Bennet did a peel session in 1996 (‘What a jolly noise they make to be sure’ enthused Sir John), which features two of the afflicted tracks; Polka and Jordan Bennet and an Evening session which had a version Hello, we are Bennet, and these tell the tale – making mincemeat of the released versions, showing flashes of well laid out backing vocals, the bands power and above all, the energy that marked the band out as such a live treat.

Anyway, the lesson was clear – buy a Bennet single and get dull tracks (apart from those on the album anyway).

Secondly, promotion.

I used to spend my Saturdays in a record shop in Ware and it was the devil’s own job to get hold of the Bennet singles despite knowing the staff. The singles almost seemed to start their shelf life in the bargain bin.

The rep literally didn’t seem to know what to do with the first single – used as he was to pushing metal records (Roadrunner had had the Prodigy ‘Experience’ and an Erasure album at some point, but those had been heavily trailed prior, needing little push) and said so.
To be fair, adverts duly appeared in the NME, no one seemed to have a bad word to say about their live performances, but with confused selling and cover artwork that was shockingly bad, a weedily coloured mess of cheap looking photos, by the time the album came around, few cared.

1996 – Britpop’s last indie albums released early on in the year (Morning Glory/Expecting to fly)

Bennet released Super Natural on the 2nd September, with Suede dropping ‘Coming up’ (to mixed reviews as they were coming to the end of their peak period and failing to break the US) the same month.

Super Natural is a wonderful album, chock full of great songs and it did well in reviews (7/10 in the NME) “they’ve always got a smile on their face and a song in their heart. And, in Bennet’s case, it’s nearly always a bloody great song.” (Mark Sutherland)

The lyrics were always a strength, something you really couldn’t say for so many indie bands of the time. Printed proudly on the inner sleeve of the debut album and quite obviously one of the reasons that, even as the light heartedness of the material gave fuel to lazy writers, the criticism was never that cutting. Some of the best songs that hadn’t been mauled on the singles fared well here, it’s a great album, but albums with one trick pony singles all over them and a confused promotion (and more dreadful cover art), it was never going to be a massive seller.

Still, as 1996 closed, no one would have been surprised if Bennet had been dropped. If anything I expected it myself – and I was a fan…

Early 1997: Britpop at this point = Spice Girls and was thus dead – and here come the dance acts…

And then, in February 1997 Bennet released Mums gone to Iceland. Presumably the last single.

Now I’ve no idea how much this took Roadrunner by surprise. Certainly they must have signed them for a reason and I’m doubting it was for my favourite song at the time Wanker (I was very immature for someone in their early 20’s, not much has changed)

It had a shockingly bad single cover even by the standards of the day. Literally the four of them standing in a white room with Jason drinking Orange Juice. The height of not trying on the labels’ part.

I don’t have any adverts for it, despite running up a website for them and having things like postcards, I’m not even sure it really got promoted…
Dead in the water, surely?

It got to number 34.

Now that’s not a massive hit it would seem. But back then getting in the top 40 meant something and for Bennet, everything. It meant radio play, it meant at least some people were interested and some were buying them.

So now Roadrunner have to give even a simple push, maybe this wasn’t such a failed experiment?

Noticeably some ads appeared and artwork on the follow up single improved a lot….but too little too late, a re-release of an earlier single wasn’t going to cut it with more woeful b sides and it slid in at 64.

Confused, Roadrunner must have felt compelled to do a second album. Because now, well, this lot have actually done something lots of indie bands – labouring in those days – hadn’t done with much bigger pushes and budgets.

Even to this day indie fans know Mums Gone to Iceland if they’re of a certain age/dedication.

But at the time not a lot happened. More touring, but without new material. And then, radio silence.

The recorded a second album. I saw them preparing for album 2’s release at London’s Water Rats venue. Fantastic, but still…Water Rats..it wasn’t up and the nicer supports (Carter USM being one of their biggest) weren’t forthcoming.

I Like Rock came out as lead single album, barely charting, but still charting…but too little too late, no one seemed to care – at least not enough.

And then somehow, they got a BBC 1 radio broadbast from a show in Exeter.

And in that radio show, a possible second hit, a secret weapon, a last gasp: Generation Pepsi.

A anthemic track, much more intricate, much bigger chorus – it showed a side of Bennet starting to learn how to do ‘bigger tracks’, bit of word of mouth…

Best showcased on that live gig broadcast by Radio 1, it had a great chorus and…

And then Pepsi got wind of it. They weren’t having it and I can’t imagine Roadrunner were going to push back, given the status of the band.

Generation Pepsi staggered, punch drunk, out of Roadrunner, renamed as Horses Mouth, some truly underwhelming production, more awful artwork (neon pink arrows anyone?) and very strangely adjusted lyrics even in the verse killing any chance of it doing well and indeed it didn’t.
The second album also waddled out, a few muted ads around the papers – but not much – this one had a decent opener, lots of energy, a few decent tracks scattered around the filler (typical ‘written on the tour’ stuff it struck me), but it wasn’t amazing (though again it garnered decent reviews).

And by the end of 1998, Bennet were done, dropped.

So what has this taught us about what happens when a great little band sign to the wrong label?

Who knows.

So for now, sit back, relax and enjoy the best song Bennet had – even if it didn’t have the hilarious (to an immature 20 year old) sucker punch of Wanker

Bennet
Karaoke (Live – Exeter University)
Someone Always Gets There First
Wanker (Live – London Astoria, 20th September 1996)
Young, Free And Sorry
Alright, so I lied about Wanker.

Karaoke is from the awesome Radio 1 Broadcast from Exeter, Wanker is from the tape given away at a Highbury Garage gig in 1996, SAGTF is the single version and Young, Free And Sorry is just..my favourite Bennet song.

I’d have put the Bennet Christmas single here but a) I don’t have it b) It’s not their best song. ;O)

Thanks for reading,

Ed The Saint

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See See Rider – Stolen Heart

See See Rider were brilliant when I saw them at the Joiners Arms, Southampton.  They were signed to Lazy Records after being spotted by Birdland manager Wayne Morris and the secured support slots for Lloyd Cole and the Jesus and Mary Chain (See See Rider were from the Mary Chains home town of East Kilbride).  They only made a couple of singles and the album was abandoned before it was released.  Their output actually made My Bloody Valentine look busy. But it was not necessarily their fault as they were victims of a series of unfortunate incidents.  These included a motorbike accident and bust ups onstage.

Stolen Heart is the second and last release from See See Rider.  It features a cover of The Rolling Stones, Happy only on the vinyl edition of the EP. So I have been slightly completest and have included both the CD and 12” versions. With an output limited to only 2 releases you can be excused for being slightly obsessive.

See See Rider : Stolen Heart

 

The Bedflowers – Songs : Summer 1990

In the early nineties before widespread internet use and podcasts if you wanted to discover new music, you listened to the radio. I fondly remember coming home from a night out on a Saturday, switching on the radio turning the volume off and recording John Peel while I slept. I would wake up in the morning and the light on the radio would still be on. From this I made many discoveries. Some of the things I heard I would never listen to again, like a spoken word radio parody Broadcast Booth by The Drag Racing Underground, the other was The Bedflowers I’m So Cool. This is no longer a distant memory, with the help of the internet.

The Bedflowers were a duo from Tottington north of Manchester. Janice White and Danny Moran formed the band in 1989. They recruited some help in the form of Howard Goody and Shelia Seal both from The Man from Delmonte to create a three track demo. Songs – Summer 1990 would be their only release and it was on the Manchester Bop! label, which was home to Demonte too.

It has a catchy, fresh gangly twee guitar feel. Janice Whites’s vocals sound not unlike Amelia Fletcher’s from Talulah Gosh. The whole thing was recorded on a shoestring budget which adds the the amateurish appeal.

It is the lyrics and the wit that are the real selling point of the demo. Candidate for the greatest song title ever would be You’re Not Blonde and Stupid, But Nobody’s Perfect. The standout track is I’m So Cool. In just under 3 minutes it mentions everything that was important to me in 1990. It has references to Dr Martens, the NME and The Wedding Present. It is a sideways look at youth culture in the early nineties.

The Bedflowers : Songs : Summer 1990

Madly In Love With 25 People
You’re Not Blonde And Stupid, But Nobody’s Perfect
I’m So Cool

Catherine Wheel – She’s my Friend

The  debut  single  that  was released  on the  minuscule  Wilde  Club label.   It was never  going  to  make an impression on the charts as it is a vinyl only release limited to 3000 copies, but it did cause much excitement in the indie world.

It has the original versions of She’s My Friend and Salt, these were rerecorded for Ferment.  I would not say that there is much different between the single and album version, except the album version is less fuzzy (which could be a good or bad thing).  Salt has slightly softer vocals and harmonies, which more standard in the shoegazing genre.

Both Wish and Upside Down are good solid songs but never made it onto the album. Interestingly, the sleeve for the single features a Carrie impersonator covered in blood, the photograph was taken at a San Francisco gay parade.

Catherine Wheel : She’s my Friend

She’s My Friend
Wish
Upside Down
Salt

Heavenly – Heavenly vs. Satan

From the ashes of indie twee Talulah Gosh, indie twee Heavenly was spawned. To the average listener there was not much difference between Talulah Gosh and Heavenly, to the indie expert that has the knowledge to rival the late John Peel there was not much difference between Talulah Gosh and Heavenly. It had all the redeeming factors of its precursor; twee, amateur and very shambolic. This is their first album released on Sarah Records, who were looking for a replacement for the label stalwarts The Field Mice. Its amazing to think that Talulah Gosh were not signed to the Sarah label, they could of been invented for each other.

Heavenly Vs. Satan is the first album from Heavenly.  It has the cute girly vocals from Amelia Fletcher. Which still sound raw and unpolished compared to future Heavenly albums. The lyrical content is very sixth form romance based, such as Cool Guitar Boy. There are only 8 tracks but it is packed with enough sugar to rot your teeth.

I realise that I am probably painting a negative picture of Heavenly. But you can safely say that if you like other Sarah bands like The Field Mice, Talulah Gosh, St Christopher and 14 Iced Bears, you will like Heavenly.

Heavenly : Heavenly vs. Satan

Cool Guitar Boy
Boyfriend Stays The Same
Lemonhead Boy
Shallow
Wish Me Gone
Don’t Be Fooled
It’s You
Stop Before You Say It
I Fell In Love Last Night
Over And Over
Our Love Is Heavenly
Wrap My Arms Around Him
She Says
Escort Crash On Marston Street

The Dayoffs

The Dayoffs are a Russo-Japanese duo from New York, who combine many elements in an infectious whirlwind of sharp riffs and pure energy.  Yet with all the energy abound there is still pristine melodies mixed with scuzzy basslines.

The duo are Vladimir Komarov and Artuo Matsmoto and their self-titled album was released in November last year on the German boutique label Emerald & Doreen Recordings.  There is a definite Boo Radleys Everything’s Alright Forever feel to the album this is highlighted in the track Nobody Knows Her.  The production makes Everything’s Alright Forever seem quite rough.  They lay right in the middle of The Boo Radleys and Aztec Camera.

Galaxie 500 – This is Our Music

Christmas is upon us again, and I have the annual task of writing something festive.  This year I have run out of ideas, but at this time of year I think of my favourite winter song.  This is Yoko Ono’s Listen, the Snow Is Falling, this has bassist Naomi Yang singing her first song. Listen to the drums shuffle along quietly and then then comes the break. My personal favourite, it reminds me of Spacemen 3.

Named after a nondescript car Galaxie 500, were ahead of their time.  The were the precursors of shoegaze long before the scene really got going.

This is Our Music is the final and probably best Galaxie 500 album. Starting with Fourth of July their single and title track from the album.  It exudes a sense of quiet resignation throughout.  There are some great lyrics in the song, ‘I wrote a poem on a dog biscuit.  and your dog refused to look at it.  So I got drunk and looked at the Empire State building it was no bigger than a nickel?’

The whole album swells up like an ocean then gently ebbs away. Emotionally charged to breaking point. Allegedly this is why its their last album.  To create something as emotionally stirring as this, took its toll on the trio.  In a way its reassuring that they split up at their zenith.

Galaxie 500 : This is Our Music

Fourth Of July
Hearing Voices
Spook
Summertime
Way Up High
Listen, The Snow Is Falling
Sorry
Melt Away
King Of Spain, Part Two