I'm still wearing my Denim despite this album being close to 20 years old. This is one of those albums that, get me drunk, I'll rave about and romanticise and decide I need to find a club that will play 'I'm Against the Eighties' so I can dance to it. The album is an electronic pop-disco Casio classic. I love the way the album sounds just as much as what it has to say. Some of the sounds evoke TV sound effects now gathering electro-static in a long forgotten BBC vault.




Denim was fronted by Lawrence, whose previous band Felt created beautifully crafted songs with deft lyrical touches that few bands can imitate. They released ten albums in as many years; I cherish my Cherry Red box-set. When he returned with Denim, he brought with him a different sound to that of Felt, firmly rooted in 70s glam pop even to the extent of including a couple of ex-Glitter Band members. One of my mates adored Felt but despised Denim. No amount of persuasion would change his mind. To be fair to him it was a complete shift sonically but the similarities are plentiful. The satire, song composition and arrangement. The songs are deceptive. They sound simple but there's a lot going on. Ten tracks and not one filler amongst them.

The album is named after its opening track 'Back In Denim', a proud proclamation that Lawrence has returned, here to put 'the soul in your rock 'n' roll'. It's a rhythmic hand-clapping Glitter beat that's sets its stall out upfront. We're on a different path than Felt but are urged 'you can get it if you really try'. The album is tongue-in-cheek and playful with an underlying seriousness, especially evident in the epic 'The Osmonds' and the fuck-em-all attitude of 'Middle of the Road'.

Has there been a better song ever written in celebration of pop culture than 'Middle of the Road'? When this album appeared it flew in the face of everything that was deemed cool by the pens of the music press. At the time Big Star, Brian Wilson and Neil Young had been getting rammed in our ears weekly. If you ever get pissed off being told who and what to like, stick this track on. It's a resounding 'fuck you' to the clichéd classic albums you must own. It celebrates cool as defined by you, even if your cool is MOR.

I hate funk and I hate soul

Rhythm and blues and rock'n'roll

I hate riffs and guitar licks

I hate coke and I hate spliffs

Alright...

...There ain't a lot I can do about it though

Force-fed your so called heroes

Don't be told who to like

It's your choice it's your right

To choose who you listen to

It's your rock'n'roll

Every time I hear those last few lines they resonate long after the album has finished. To emphasise the point, a couple of refrains of 'Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep' made famous by Middle of the Road, one of the biggest selling records ever, is incorporated into the song. No digging in crates required vinyl junkies. It seems like inverted trainspotting but he's actually paying homage to the seventies mainstream pop that has suffered at the hand of collective amnesia and historical revisionism.

Lawrence then leads us by the hand through his seventies childhood in the epic that is 'The Osmonds'. It's more than just an assortment of events shoehorned into a song, it swings from nostalgia to grim recollection. The gentle guitar intro is the strongest reminder of Felt yet which is subsumed as the song builds momentum. The anger burns when he sings about the Birmingham pub bombings:

In the seventies there were lots of bombs

They blew my home town up and lots of people were killed

On the news the relatives cried, everyone knew someone who'd died

They'll never forget it for the rest of their lives

Bands are name-checked and musical nods abound throughout this song: Lee Perry, Trojan Records, Lieutenant Pigeon, John Holt, David Cassidy and of course the ubiquitous Osmonds. Lawrence personalises his decade, shouting out reminders lest we forget. Now it's written so we can't. The effect our childhood and environment has on our psyche is beautifully summed in the lyric:

I soaked it in now it's all dripping out.

It captures the essence of how we are made and how we make. Genius.

It's funny too. 'American Rock' is a note and word perfect pastiche. From Lawrence's adopted half-mumbling drawl, the story is littered with motifs like 'Jake' and 'hot September night' that follows right through to a bloody tragic end. The power chords build to a real fist-in-the-air singalong that any soft rocker would be proud of. This beat Team America's excellent piss take 'America, Fuck Yeah' by more than a decade. Oh, and despite his dislike of guitar riffs this track is full of them.

Sometimes the humour evokes more of a sneer than a smile. In 'Here is my Song for Europe' we're given an insight into the corrupt and bloated world of the music executive:

I said hello just as the time bell went

I said well where's the money

You said it's all been spent

I said well what d'ya do

You said I paid the rent

You were living in a Mayfair mews

I was living in a tent

The album is rounded off perfectly with my dancing track of choice. (I'm probably waving my hands wildly circa 3.40 minutes.) 'I'm Against the Eighties' dismisses the musical canon of 80s with an almost pastoral longing to recreate the music and the best bits of the 70s. The optimism for the future is evident in the music - the song is so uplifting - as is the attitude. He uses a 70s Jonathan Richman lyric to define the modern:

I’m looking forward to the ‘90s

Yeah I’ve got a new girl

We’re into Ravesignal III

Cos “we’re in love with the modern world”

I’m sick of winklepicker kids

Mary Chain debris

Despite being so productive during the 80s he finally comes clean. He is redefining the music he wants to make and he's going mainstream.

I’ve just had enough of that

Nah it doesn’t interest me

I’ve made a new sound

This ain’t going underground

It’s a thunderbolt crash

Concerns the future and the past

But not the ‘80s

No not the ‘80s

We’re talkin' 'bout the ‘80s.

I'm not really planning on writing about music much. I'll see what happens but for me, this album is about more than the music. It's about making art, be it songwriting, literature, film-making, whatever. You need to be ready to do it. When it's 'all dripping out' it's time to pick your tool of choice and get to work. And remember

Don't be told who to like

It's your choice it's your right

To choose who you listen to

It's your rock'n'roll.





This article originally appeared on Posterous.