2CD / DL
22 years on and a 2 x CD expanded edition of the pre-Britpop band’s overlooked masterpiece is released. Ged Babey knows what time it is – and declares it his “Reissue of the Year!”
The Facts right, from the press release, as I don’t want to be accused of being un-informative.
“Five Thirty were a New Mod band outta North London in the early 1990’s bridging a gap between the Jam and The Stone Roses.
(This release) includes the original 1991 album (remastered), the Air Conditioned Nightmare EP, an extra CD of B-sides and unreleased radio sessions as well as rare demos for songs from their second un-released album. The sumptuous packaging includes a 16-page booklet featuring extensive sleeve notes by band members Tara & Phil…”
Five Thirty should have been HUGE! As big as the Roses, Oasis, The Libertines or Kasabian … delete as applicable. They appeared at the end of ‘Baggy’ and split before Britpop took off. There were other great bands that got lost around this time, like Mantaray and Flinch, but Five Thirty had it all … I was too enamoured with then rising-stars / pariahs the Manic Street Preachers to become obsessed with Five Thirty, but others I know did.
Listening back to this beautiful reissue now I can see why. If it was released today it would still seem ahead of its time and world-beating. In the sleeve notes Five Thirty admit to be (partially) inspired by the (then recent success of the) Stone Roses, but to my mind they sound every bit as good. In fact, there are some guitar sonics and styles that John Squire didn’t match until the Second Coming on Bed
Five Thirty loved the wah-wah pedal and used it to the max. Maybe too much so, but the bizarre Alice In Wonderland lyricism and the funky, slinky, wonderful bass-playing competed for your attention also. Mod was a starting point with Five Thirty; The Stranglers and Sly Stone were influences too. Looking back, there really wasn’t another band quite like Five Thirty. As far as sex & drugs & poetic English Rock ‘n’ roll is concerned they invented Pete Doherty and his whole hedonistic ethos a decade before, only with superior songs. So maybe Five Thirty are the missing link between The Only Ones and the Libertines too. Perrett and co. wrote The Whole of the Law borrowing from Aleister Crowley writings and Five Thirty took Crowleys old front door on tour with them, placing it onstage at gigs (see video below).
Two songs always stood out in Five Thirtys repertoire to my mind. Air-Conditioned Nightmare and Strange Kind of Urgency. The latter is a total Mod Anthem for the Nineties; part of a lineage of generational rallying cries like You Really Got Me, My Generation, Do Anything You Wanna Do, Millions Like Us … a song about the impetuousness of youth, impatience, arrogance and confusion.
I get this feeling…
I want this feeling…
I love this feeling…
I’d die for this feeling…
A strange kind of urgency … teenage emergency.
I want tomorrow, tomorrow, I want tomorrow today.
The reggae style bassline is often likened to the Clash, but is actually more like Mark Perrys ATV and the guitar goes from flanged strumming to frantic wah-wah freakout. It sounds ancient, modern, timeless and classic all at the same time.
Air Conditioned Nightmare is a surrealist song about London. You get the pigeons in Piccadily, mentions of Picasso, Churchill and Douglas Hurd (a fusty old politician of the time) and yet at the same time stuff about UFO’s and Westward Ho! (where you still go on holiday with your parents). It’s like a mini psychedelic pop art movie soundtrack (their re-write of Lindsey Andersons O Lucky Man?) and it really does sound like the Jam on LSD!
Originally to be entitled Between the Bed and the Clock (a far better title to my mind) Bed, is a complete, lost classic album. Pure mod pop one second, twisted freak-beat groove the next, to full-on funky nonsense the next. Abstain – a ludicrous title for a Five Thirty song as they patently didn’t. 13th Disciple is a perfect title though because they were Messiahs for the New Wave of New Wave and Britpop.
The Second CD (B-sides, session tracks and demos for an unreleased second album) are actually almost better than the original LP as they cover a broader spectrum, and there is plenty of stoned self-indulgence, lyrically and musically, which, although not generally a good thing, is with Five Thirty – they are the exception that proves the rule. They were more like a Nineties version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience than the Jam, only with two lead singer song writers, Tara and Paul, constantly trying to outdo and better each other.
Barbie Ferrari has a Stones or Faces swagger to it and there’s some laugh out loud ad-libbing towards the end, and When I’m Stoned is, well, a perfect mix of “storm-in-a-bottle” Rolling Stones and Stone Roses – and it lives up to its title.
Five Thirty were Magickal, stoned, immaculate and the John the Baptists of Britpop, only without the foolishness that it became associated with.
Tara and Paul went on to form Orange Deluxe and the Nubiles respectively and I wouldn’t be surprised if reissues of their work isn’t in the pipeline. In the meantime have a “Layabout” in Bed – it’s the only place to be at this time of year.
If you’re a newcomer to Five Thirty and like what you hear on the Youtube clips hereabouts, then you won’t need me to convince you that this is one essential reissue. And if you’re an old fan of the band then you’ve probably already bought it and know it’s literally twice as good as the original album.
1. Supernova 2. Psycho Cupid 3. Junk Male 4. 13th Disciple 5. Strange Kind Of Urgency 6. You 7. Songs And Paintings 8. Womb With A View 9. Automatons 10. Wrapped In Blue 11. Abstain 12. Catcher In The Rye . (Air Conditioned Nightmare EP) 13. Air Conditioned Nightmare 14. Judy Jones 15. The Things That Turn You On 16. Mistress Daydream
1. Coming Up For Air (Abstain b-side) 2. Hate Male (13th Disciple b-side) 3. Out To Get In (13th Disciple b-side) 4. Come Together (13th Disciple b-side) 5. Still Life (Supernova b-side) 6. Something’s Got To Give (Supernova b-side) 7. Cuddly Drug (You b-side) 8. Slow Train Into The Ocean (You b-side) 9. Judy Jones (BBC Radio One session 1990) * 10. Air Conditioned Nightmare (BBC Radio One session 1990) * 11. Abstain (BBC Radio One session 1990) * 12. Strange Kind Of Urgency (BBC Radio One session 1990) * 13. Apple Something (demo) * 14. Beseech Me Baby (demo) * 15. She’s Got It Bad (demo) * 16. Barbie Ferrari (demo) * 17. When I’m Stoned (demo) * 18. Song Of No Intention (demo) *
* previously unreleased.
All words Ged Babey.
All words Ged Babey, read his Louder Than War archive here