Friday, 17 October 2014

CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT: Keep Your Distance





(#345: 9 May 1987, 2 weeks)

Track listing: Misfit/Down To Earth/Free/Know What You Know/Curiosity Killed The Cat/Ordinary Day/Mile High/Red Lights/Shallow Memory

Not just of its time, but utterly of its place; I knew something of Fulham wine bars in 1987 and this I heard coming out of all of them. It’s a wonder this bunch of amiable, if confused, Sloanies – coming variously from Earl’s Court, Sunbury-on-Thames, Strawberry Hill and Putney – were ever seriously touted as the new Duran Duran. Theirs is depressingly grown-up music, ideal fodder to make the twenty-something Cameron and Johnson feel they were modern, without all the awkward political stuff (don’t tell me they were really digging The World Won’t Listen or The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death). The problem is not that Curiosity’s music was bad – it isn’t (although “Down To Earth” is by far their best song) – but it’s not exactly earth-moving or life-changing either. It squats in the middle of the Broadway like a sulky sausage. Ben VP’s vocals are either too timid or too overstretched, various backing singers and eminent British jazz musicians read the flyshit and get their mortgages paid off, and – as was the regrettable norm of mid-eighties mainstream British AoR pretending to be pop – his lyrics, whether they deal with school bullies (“Shallow Memory” is no “Rusholme Ruffians”) or sententious finger-wagging (eponymous band song), are too pretentiously unfocused to make us feel or believe anything. Sly and Robbie pop up to produce “Free” and no doubt chuckled to themselves as Ben “I’m Independent, Are You?” VP droned “If we can’t be free/Then we don’t wants (sic) to be we” but simply make me wish I were writing about Rhythm Killers instead. And in “Red Lights,” the backward fisherman’s cap-wearing vocalist intones the following classic line: “The touch of your hand gives me the command to donate.” To donate what, Ben? Your left kidney?

10 comments:

Mark G said...

The classic "Why Not?" answer applies to the question "Why did Curiosity get the big push?" because it was all very confortable. Yes, the music was, but it's not even that...

You have a bunch of people, quite posh and well mannered, already shelled out on expensive instruments, you can't imagine them rehearsing in anything less than a warm and comfortable rehearsal room, formative gigs in seated wine bar / restaurants, management with professional attitudes that know exactly how far to push it for what they need and want (speak softly and carry a big lawyer). It certainly makes a change from dingy tramshed gigs..

The Warhol video, the blandly good-looking frontman that wears a hat so as to be recogniseable, and in fact a reverse invisibility device: all he has to do is take it off and he's invisible in a crowd. Even if he turns around! (yes, I remember that ad too).

You know all the band have great record collections, but still are hampered in that they can never emulate their heroes so they do music that's nice on first listen but gives nothing more on the second.

Marcello Carlin said...

Very nicely put, MG. It's a shame that the "Misfit" video was almost Warhol's last act on Earth. If I had to sum them up, I'd say: Level 4.2.

jasl said...

I was actually very curious about how would be your approach in TPL to this...er..languid indifference. Looks like by omission almost everything was well said.
Gone to Earth still plays a lot in 80s radio here in several radios in continental Europe.
Oh and Sly & Robbie riddim killas reference is spot on! It deserved better luck, it is one of the best of the dubby dude but boops the Old did it again.

Quitter said...

Wonder what it says to me, as a 12 year old in 1987, that I bought both this AND the people who grinned in the same week?

Marcello Carlin said...

It made more sense at the time, I think. Do you still have both?

Quitter said...

Neither - as I bought both on cassette - and my collection has long since been thrown out.

However, i can't begin to suggest that I found any deeper meaning / value in The Housemartins than in Curiosity. I was 12, and they both (just) made pop songs as far as I was concerned.

Marcello Carlin said...

I may consider this topic further when we get to one or other of the chart-topping Housemartins spinoffs.

gary said...

The "Misfit" video...yes almost.
It occurred to me that maybe Warhol was mimicking James Cagney at the end of "Angels With Dirty Faces" when he's going to the chair.
That said, almost every week a new picture appeared in the back then of some cred-free band gurning with Warhol.
I just typed in Jo-Boxers and Warhol and nothing came up...

gary said...

Stewart Levine, he of Simply Red and Jamie Cullum fame/notoriety is claiming on his website that not one but two of his CKTC produced singles reached number 1 on the chart. Which chart that is, he isn't clear about.

Quitter said...

It's going to sound abstract, but I can add that it was around this time that my mother started taking me to a hair salon. I think it was called 'Jazz' - which probably sets the scene vividly enough to go any further.

Put it this way, there was no room for The Housemartins next to the Julia Fordham album in the salon's tape selection.

Curiosity on the other hand...