The Happy Mondays
Although they remain a cult act in the United States, the rough-and-ready northern Brits of the Happy Mondays are hugely influential on today's indie/dance crossover acts. Formed by brothers Paul and Sean Ryder in '80s Manchester, the Mondays formed at the exact moment in which post-punk was fading and early dance music was starting to blow up. Though they hailed from the same rainy climes as gloomy bands like Joy Division, the Ryders largely scoffed at that sort of existential navel-gazing. They were too busy getting fucked up and making music about getting fucked up. And somehow, they landed on the same label as Joy Division and then New Order — Tony Wilson's legendary Factory Records — and became England's unlikely dance-rock saviors. The 2003 fictionalized account of this period, 24 Hour Party People, is a comedy but accurately traces the band's hapless, haphazard trajectory to near-stardom.
Early Mondays songs were weird, syncopated, dubby, skanky guitar songs with the elder Ryder, Sean, spewing all kinds of off-key gibberish. But as the band's musicianship improved along with electronic music technology, the chaotic sound gradually morphed into a dusted dance groove that owed more to acid house than to rock 'n' roll. So ridiculously trend-predictive was this band that none other than Paul Oakenfold produced some of its early releases.
But the Mondays were proud members of a slightly thuggish, very northern English drug culture, and soon the party seemed to take precedence over the music. This was a band, after all, that flew on Factory's dime to record in Barbados only to squander its entire recording advance on crack. Still, this reunion sees the band much older and presumably wiser. Only three original members remain: Sean Ryder, drummer Gaz Whelan, and maraca-shaking hype man Bez. But this spate of rare American appearances promises impenetrable accents, freaky dancing, and all kinds of happily boozing ex-pats merrily dancing out of the woodwork.
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