Monday, 29 October 2012

Happy Mondays - Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches

Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches is Happy Mondays third studio album, released in 1990. The album for me epitomizes the late 80's/early 90's "Madchester" scene much more so than the other leaders of the era, The Stone Roses who always had a much more retro sound compared to the Happy Mondays more contemporary style. The album is their most successful, as well as their most critically acclaimed and its not hard to see why: it would personally be in my top ten most favorite records of all time!

With Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches, Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder finally got to work with the producer that he was vouching for: Paul Oakenfold, no doubt thanks to the success of his "Think About The Future" mix of Wrote For Luck. Their singles would be typically remixed by DJ's anyway so really a more dance oriented album was a pretty natural move I think. In any case, the sound on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches was the sound that Shaun had always hoped the band would go for. Happy Mondays were always a band that lent towards the dance end of the music spectrum but with Pill N Thrills and Bellyaches they finally embraced their dance influences. By doing so, they created their defining album and many people agree. The album reached #4 in the UK charts which was a colossal leap from previous album Bummed, which only reached #59.

The album also spawned their two biggest hits: Step On and Kinky Afro. To say that these are the best songs though would do the other tracks a massive disservice. If anything Step On and Kinky Afro are two of my least favorite tracks on the album. The album tracks on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches more than match (they surpass in my opinion) the singles released from the set. The only song that I'm not overly keen on is Grandma's Funeral but I like or love every other song. With the other Happy Mondays albums, as much as I like them all they do always have a few songs I'd regard as filler. With Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches though there is a special cohesion here: every song adds to the album really and it really is Happy Mondays at their peak.

Another thing I must pay special attention to is Shaun Ryder's lyrics on the record. Shaun Ryder has always been a really good lyricist in a twisted and manic sort of way. Its his lyrics coupled with Happy Mondays hard hitting dance rhythms that give them a certain edge I think. On Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches his lyrics are particularly strong. Kinky Afro has got some of the most twisted and consequently funny lyrics I have heard and the same can be said for God's Cop. Really, the whole band are at their peak here. No aspect of the band has ever sounded stronger than on Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches in my view.

All in all, if British indie music is the 90's is your thing then this is an absolutely essential listen. All of the songs are memorable and the band are at the peak of powers in every respect from the music to the lyrics, right down to the choice of producer. Currently the band are in the studio recording their first studio album to feature the original line up since their fourth record, 1992's Yes Please. Whilst you can never rule anything out really, its hard to imagine they'll ever top this record. It's that good! 

Favorite Tracks:
  • Dennis and Lois
  • Bob's Yer Uncle
  • God's Cop

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