Album: Nuisance, 1995
Justification: Cocaine, eh? There’s a reason people like it so much: every time you take it, you realise that you’re a goddamn genius. You’re going to turn the world on its ear, you are; no-one’s ever written the book/composed the song/directed the film that you’re destined to do, and society is going to be rocked to its very core. And yes, if you’re offering, another bump would be lovely.
Menswear were formed, discovered and signed (not, as it turns out, necessarily in that order) in the first flush of Britpop, during a time when coke was particularly cheap and plentiful in the UK. Coincidence?
The band was a lie born from another lie: in 1994 UK pop magazine had completely invented the story that there was a new Mod underground based around near-worship of Blur‘s guitarist Graham Coxon. For this they interviewed some Mod-ish looking young people hanging around Camden, two of whom – Chris Gentry and Johnny Dean – merrily acquiesced and talked up their awesome new band which, at that point, existed only in their imagination.
When excited publicists came a-knocking, determined to get the drop on the next big thing, the pair hurriedly got some musician mates together, called themselves Menswear, and proceeded to entertain a massive bidding war despite having played no gigs and having written no songs. Thankfully, that changed by the time they signed with London for almost a million pounds and negotiated their half-a-million pound publishing deal: when the ink was drying on those contracts, they were rock’n'roll veterans with five shows and seven songs under their belts.
In their defence, though, they did look very, very handsome in photos.
And for a moment there it looked like this perversion of the natural order of things might actually pay off. They wrote some genuinely catchy songs – first single ‘I’ll Manage Somehow’ and this one (keeping within Elastica‘s model of “when in doubt, rip off Wire“) suggested that maybe throwing money and drugs at young chancers might produce some awesome music. And as I said, they were very, very handsome.
Nuisance came out not long after and no critic on the planet accused it of being a masterpiece, although most people conceded that they weren’t expecting it to be and it was pretty solid for what it was: a rush job to capitalise on the brief window during which Britpop’s already-guttering flame was still alight. It wasn’t until the band started work on album #2 – or, more accurately, started taking a shitload more drugs on top of the already-hefty amount of drugs they were taking and expecting music to appear – they they realised that eh, they got nothing. The album Hay Tiempo!, a country album released only in Japan, staggered into the light in 1998, blinking and trembling and wondering why no-one wanted to discuss Paul Weller’s jacket choices in early Jam promo shots.
Unsurpsingly, none of the members have done anything musically worthwhile since, but two of them – Gentry and fellow guitarist Simon White – formed the management company Chris & Simon, where they look after the likes of Phoenix, Bloc Party and Cassius. And given the clearly incredible skills demonstrated during their own negotiations in 1995, that sounds like a career that plays to their considerable strengths.
SONG YOU SHOULD HAVE REDISCOVERED THIS TIME IN 2011: How very style-over-substance-totally-working-for-a-bit appropriate! It’s ‘Antmusic’ by Adam & the Ants!
AND HERE’S THE LAST FIVE…