Hands up who thought this lot had jacked in this band malarkey? Yup, me too. But they’re back for another bite at, er, this band malarkey.
Date: November 25, 2014
Forget the tabloid nonsense of the mid-noughties in which the Ordinary Boys fell foul to lead singer Preston’s dalliance with fame. Yes Preston (or Samuel Preston as he now likes to be known) appeared on Celebrity Big Brother and made a complete tit of himself by flirting with and then marrying his ‘non celebrity’ housemate Chantelle Houghton, even though he had a girlfriend already. And yes there was the time he made a tit of himself again by infamously walking out on Never Mind the Buzzcocks as then host Simon Amstell continuously ridiculed his wife’s terrible autobiography. And ok, so his marriage to Chantelle collapsed within a year and got plastered across the red tops and ‘sleb mags’ and made him look, well, a bit like a tit again. But all that is ancient history. Shit, as they say, happens. Tonight is all about the Ordinary Boys’ return; the rebirth of a band who, give or take a few absolute stinkers, were actually pretty good.
It’s the 10th anniversary of debut record Over The Counter Culture, an album that, back in 2004, absorbed the zeitgeist like a post-modern sponge and became a huge dot on Morrissey’s radar. More of him later. It’s that album’s titular track that gets things underway, a biting, snarling modern-life-is-rubbish, ennui-infused chest-beating rabble-rouser. It immediately transports us back 10 years, and we’re glad of that.
Preston is the spit of a young Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing; fringe unfurled, handsome and cool. His boyish looks of 10 years ago have given way to mature, distinguished features, with cheekbones you could hang your hat on. He is, it’s fair to say, a changed man. And who knew he’d co-wrote chart-topping hits for Olly Murs since we last saw him anyway? Yeah, suck on that, Amstell, wherever you are these days.
But while he has changed, his music, on the other hand, hasn’t changed a great deal at all. The band stick largely to their debut album, mining its depths and showcasing its big hitters with a proud sense of “Remember these songs off this record? Pretty good aren’t they!?”.
Take Talk Talk Talk, for example, a song which combines Preston’s love of The Clash and The Smiths. It’s anthemic, with the crowd singing every word, while little-known B-side Little Bubble, endorsed by Mozza himself on a compilation album he put together for the NME, is a rare but real treat, and sounds like Gene covering The Smiths. Not a hard image to visualise that.
They eschew a lot of the stuff that came after their debut. Basically shunning their ska period which flickered with good tunes but dimmed in comparison to their debut. Even on encore song Boys Will Be Boys, a song from their ska-indebted sophomore release Brassbound, there’s an instrumental break where once a horrible rap existed; Preston more interested in joining the moshpit than being a rude boy nowadays.
So the two tone stuff is skipped, as is anything from their third and commercially panned record, How To Get Everything You Ever Wanted in Ten Easy Steps, including their career nadir, the cloying, cringe-worthy ‘Ode to Chantelle’, I Luv U, a track so unbelievably bad it makes anything by The Vamps sound like The Beatles.
Thankfully for us it’s their Smithsian art which is continually aired throughout. The debut single, Maybe Someday, is Mozza gone wild, while Seaside is Everyday is Like Sunday from the other side of the coin; a blissful, joyous “pay pa pah” of a sing song.
Awkward is the pick of their new songs, continuing the lineage from that first record and hinting at good things to come in 2015.
And while Boys Will Be Boys would’ve been a fitting ending, their cover of The Ramones’ The KKK Took My Baby Away ends the gig nicely. Ordinary boys? No chance.