John Bramwell: You, Me and the Alarm Clock (Townsend/Universal)
You, Me and the Alarm Clock, which has recently been re-released, is the greatest EP since The Beatles Twist and Shout – six songs of incredible beauty, written and sung by John Bramwell. Dave Griffiths reviews it for us here.
When this collection was first put out in 1989, it looked like the start of great things for John, then known as Johnny Dangerously. A fresh faced lad with a healthy head of hair and a stripy T-shirt, he regularly wowed the Southern Hotel, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, with his memorably-phrased songs of love and longing.
But as time went on, You Me and the Alarm Clock looked like a rare recording of a lost, great artist. He did appear on TV, but as a presenter on children’s TV shows that sounded like toilet cleaners – Fresh and Express.
Thankfully, John did re-emerge: as lead singer of I am Kloot, their first album, Natural History, released 12 years after You, Me and the Alarm Clock.
I’d always thought Natural History was You, Me and the Alarm Clock curdled.
On the LP, John sounds bitter and disappointed; his young idealism gone – ‘A dark star follows me tonight, filled with horror and delight’ (Dark Star), ‘God made me ugly’ (Stop), ‘Will someone, somewhere marry me’ (To You). Perhaps the forced cheerfulness on children’s TV had taken its toll or more likely he was disappointed in life and love.
But listening back to You, Me and the Alarm Clock for the first time in years, it’s not quite simple as that. It’s not all sweetness and light. The world is ‘bruised black and blue’ (Black and Blue) people are ‘down in the ditch with no hope of a cure’ (Tearing it Down) and he’s ‘stumbling through small life nowhere England’ (Junk Culture).
At the time of recording the EP, he says he was ‘living in a caravan on the edge of an industrial estate, delivering silicon-based mastics by day and drinking at night’.
On the sleevenotes, he adds: “I felt full of hope and aware of traps and these I see now were the themes of this record. They still are the themes of many of my more recent songs.”
So why is this EP so special? (It’s sometimes described as a mini-LP, but mini-LP always sounds cheapskate or reminds me of the tawdriness of mini-bars).
First of all the voice – instantly recognisable, both tender and strong, and also very northern. You can’t hide the accent of the lad from Hyde on words like ‘lumps’.
Second, the lyrics – lovely rhymes and memorable phrases. My favourite is on Tearing It Down:
“She left me a reminder of a world she left behind her/ An overcoat, a coffee cup, an old horsehair bookbinder”
Horsehair bookbinder? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, but the lines sum up wistfulness and lost love and there’s also an ace triple rhyme.
Next, the delivery – it’s difficult to make voice and guitar sound distinctive but by varying the sound of the guitar and emphasising certain phrases, John does it. He’s never predictable.
So, it’s the best EP since The Beatles. Scratch that, You, Me and the Alarm Clock is simply the greatest EP.
I am Kloot are headlining Doncaster Live on September 8 and the Ramsbottom Festival on September 15