The criminally underrated album from a band that was unfortunately caught in the tail-end of the Madchester movement.
The problem with musical movements – especially those invented by the media or tied to one geographical location – is that a whole bunch of artists tend to get lumped together who have nothing much in common, and those who appear at the end of the movement are often overlooked as short attention span DJs, music critics and fans move on the the Next Big Thing. Thus it was with ‘Madchester’, where two if the more interesting acts to emerge from the Greater Manchester area – World of Twist and Intastella – found themselves lumped in with the likes of The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Inspiral Carpets, but were then all too often seen as johnny-come-lately bandwagon-jumpers like the shockingly poor Northside – despite having been around for just as long (if not longer) than those other acts – seeking to cash in on the dying embers of a short lived scene.
World of Twist put out two amazing singles that I loved, followed up with an album that I didn’t buy for some reason and then vanished, so it seemed. Dropped by their label, falling out with each other and disillusioned with the industry, the band imploded. From being brief media darlings to nothing in one fell swoop. For the longest time, the only reminder I had that the band had ever existed was when I would pull out the Sons of the Stage 12 inch picture disc and demand some poor house guest marvel at its genius. It’s that sort of record – the one you suddenly remember when the need to play someone something special that they won’t have heard is sparked by the altered consciousness of alcohol (or whatever is your poison…).
I have no idea why I didn’t buy Quality Street, beyond the fact that it seemed to slip out almost unnoticed and I might not have even known that it existed for a while. Or perhaps by then I was fully in thrall to the industrial dance of Wax Trax. Who can say? It was a long time ago. Catching up with it over two decades later, it’s clear that the loss was all mine.
Listening to the album now, it’s easy to see why they would’ve been lazily lumped in with the Madchester bands. Tony Ogden’s vocals bear a passing resemblance to Ian Brown (and later World of Twist fans made good, Oasis) and the band mix rock and dance beats in the style of the era. But these are superficial similarities to be honest. The dance elements of their music is more an acknowledgement of the groove elements of the pop, psych and glam rock that is the more obvious influence. There’s a battle of the old and the new here, and sometimes, the dance beats seem to win (most notably on the Mark Goodier sessions featured on disc two of the special edition of the album), but on the whole, there’s a balance maintained that results in a triptastic modern psychedelic sound that is like a collision of Hawkwind, Iggy Pop, Roxy Music and trance. Just as old farts like Hawkwind dabbled in trance music in the 1990s, so modern dance rock acts like World of Twist dug out nuggets from the past, to the two eras met in the middle, the two summers of love going head to head in a fascinating, usually glorious meetings of expanded minds.
This is a band fascinated with the past – the album cover alone shows that – and their fantastic cover of the Rolling Stones’ She’s a Rainbow, originally a B-side of single The Storm and featured on the extended edition in the single cut, a pointless 12-inch extension and a mind-bendingly brilliant live version is matched only by a rather glorious rendition of the MC5‘s Kick Out the Jams, the anarchist anthem turned into a frantic but authentic dance pop song in the BBC session version and a blasting, raw rock ‘n’ roll acid trip spectacular in the live cut. Similarly, their best songs – the aforementioned masterpiece Sons of the Stage, first single The Storm, Speed Wine, Lose My Way, Sweets – have a psychedelic authenticity and effortless pop vibe that you listen to now and realise: of course this band couldn’t have been a success in an age of shuffling neanderthal front men and celebrity DJs.They were totally and utterly out of time.
World of Twist’s time, ironically, might finally have come – too late for the band or long lost members Tony Ogden and Nick Sanderson, of course. But this seems a template for nu-psych. You owe it to yourself to pick it up.