Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Sneaker Pimps - Becoming X (1996)

Whilst I suppose it shows a certain sense of discernment to avoid letting oneself be swept along by the latest thing - which is why I never gave a shit about the Arctic Monkeys, for example - one probably shouldn't take it too far, refusing to listen to certain things purely on the grounds of their being new. This came out twenty years ago so is only new in a geological sense, but it's taken me that long to overcome my misgivings. This region of the nineties was, for me, characterised by lazy trip hop shite, an almost-genre to which I objected for numerous reasons.

Firstly, trip hop was sort of what myself and at least a few other cassette types had been doing in our own quiet way since the previous decade, and yet no music paper ever sent anyone around to suck my dick. I would have remembered something like that.

Secondly, it all sounded a bit too much like rooms full of students wearing jumpers with holes in, staring at each other's shoes, noshing hob nobs and rolling up the four millionth fat one of the day as preface to yet another telling of the hilarious anecdote about when they fed the dog some gear and, like, got it really blitzed, and hey - check it out, some well crucial sounds on this one, my man...

Thirdly, once you've heard one record with a squeaky voiced girl singing helium blues over a slowed down drum track, just how much more of the same fucking thing do you really need? Maybe it was just one record, but it seemed like all of them to me.

...and Sneaker Pimps always sounded like it was trying just a bit too hard, a name somehow redolent of stoned white kids quoting Samuel L. Jackson's lines from Pulp Fiction at each other whilst partaking, if you know what I'm saying, dude...

Well anyway, they broke down my resolve when Armand van Helden worked Spin Spin Sugar into one of the greatest garage tunes of all time, in my estimation, so when I saw this album for a few measly dollars I thought what the fuck - how bad could it really be?

Astonishingly, as music it's about a million times better than Sneaker Pimps ever was as the name of a band, and probably because Becoming X does indeed genuinely sound like the work of a band rather than just stoners pissing about in a studio - a problem blighting much of that which has no problem allowing itself to be labelled trip hop. The girl one is as squeaky as you might have anticipated from the singles, but over the space of an album your ears get used to it, and you notice she has a pretty decent bluesy voice, albeit one at the Minnie Mouse end of the scale. Furthermore, once we're over the novelty of wobbly sine waves as bass and all that sort of thing, the songs suggest a band existing at no fixed point in time - Post-Modern Sleaze could have been early Jethro Tull, and then there's the grunge of Low Place Like Home, all capped off with a very pleasant version of that song from The Wicker Man. Weirdly, this is one of the blusiest, most whole-foody organic sounding things I've heard in a while despite half of the music having been played by Cylons. I therefore consider myself duly re-edumacated.

The Arctic Monkeys can still fuck off though. Not interested.

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