After an enjoyable 45 minute spin a la Pokey LaFarge, I wanted something equally happy and inspiring for my upper body weights set (legs are officially on rest leave until Sunday), but something a little more, say, familiar. Something happy, but not to over the top. I’m trying to be a He-man with the iron after all. So there was one easy solution, the ‘Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches‘ album by the Happy Mondays.
This was one of the first album I ever truly fell in love with back in high school. I mean, now can you not? Just look at that album cover! It practically screams “addiction”, or “eat me up!” for that matter. Later, it would scream “Woah, man! That’s fucked up!”, but that wasn’t until much later. Anyway, I borrowed this from a guy named Simon who seemed to have a good bead on music aside from what was popular on the radio and, therefore, the dances we went to. Well, others went, I sat outside on the bleachers, drank beer and listened…but, again, I digress. I thought I pretty frickin’ cool…I still do.
Produced and released by the infamous Factory Record’s in 1990, it’s a true testament to the then popular ‘Mad-chester’ music scene. From start to finish, it’s a celebratory collage of sex, drugs, and dead-end jobs, chalked full of sweet-flavored rhythms and catchy meaningful lyrics from Shaun Ryder before he totally backslid into complete drug-addled ridiculousness later in life. Q magazine called it their “artistic peak” and a “top-hole album” (whatever that means). In 2000, the magazine placed ‘Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches’ at #31 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2005, the album was voted the 51st Greatest Album of All Time by the U.K. Channel 4 viewers.
It’s been a few years since I’ve actually listened to this album so it was interesting to see if it would stand up to the test of time. Sadly, it didn’t. Wait, it was…okay I guess. Yes, there were definitely a few cool moments to relive like ‘Gods Cop‘ which is every bit as crisp and hip as the first day I heard it, ‘Donovan‘, ‘Bob’s Your Uncle‘, and ‘Step On‘ which is actually a cover of the the John Kongos single from 1972, but cooler. The real standout, however, which I don’t think I had ever really truly given full credit to back in the day (I was probably either gone out, or passed out by this point) was the last track ‘Harmony‘, which is both trippy and seductive; great for getting lost into during the warm down sets of your workout. But all in all, that time in my life has passed and I’m the not the party boy I used to be, so while Shaun’s lyrics still amuse me, it just doesn’t have that same appeal luster and anymore. It’s still fun for a periodic throwback to the good ‘ol days however and I enjoyed it as such.