Madchester's high water mark.
Daryl Easlea 2007-09-10
In the two years since Bummed, the Happy Mondays had embraced dance culture. Every movement needs its high-water mark, and their third album, Pills'n'Thrills And Bellyaches was Madchester's Tewkesbury. Although The Stone Roses debut is more retrospectively adored (astonishing as it still sounds like an album of Freddie and the Dreamers' B-sides), Pills'n'Thrills And Bellyaches at the time felt like nothing you'd ever heard before; except it was absolutely everything you'd heard before; exceptionally undemanding chord structures; grinding beats; shambolic monotony – but the dance nuances of producers Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne and the influence of E as well as Shaun Ryder’s witty dystopian lyrics made the album a very serious work indeed.
Pills'n'Thrills And Bellyaches was trailed by two singles, the student disco favourite "Step On" (a cover of the 1972 hit by John Kongos) and "Kinky Afro" - probably their greatest moment – a sort of Sly and the Family Skunk. But these are not the only pleasures: "God's Cop", opens with chaotic, out of tune slide guitar and develops into a rambunctious lyrical attack on the then-Manchester Police Chief James Anderton, over a loping drum loop from "Shack Up" by Banbarra, complete with Paul Davis' synth stabs and full on vocals from Rowetta; "Donovan," Ryder's lyrical appropriation of his future father-in-law's "Sunshine Superman." Again, Oakenfold and Osborne's deftness of touch is highlighted; it is a languid, accordion-driven groove suddenly undermined by the trademark Mondays hobnails two minutes in.
Pills'n'Thrills and Bellyaches all gets a bit much toward the end, but no matter, what a hoot it is on the way there. It was obvious that this simply couldn't be sustained; one album later the group had acrimoniously imploded in a cloud of class As, Factory collapsing and their own extreme "Lazyitis."