Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Golden Vault’, where we delve into the annals of music to bring you a classic album. You’ll know some like the back of your hand and nothing of others. We hope to get you reacquainted with old friends and create new favourites. The album to be taken out of the Golden Vault for reappraisal this week is ‘(Come On, Join) The High Society’ by These Animal Men.
You may have thought that The Libertines, when they sauntered into our lives with ‘Up The Bracket’ in 2002, had re-invented that proudly Anglocentric, literate, band of brothers mentality with a speed skinny, beautiful loser image…bollocks. These Animal Men, scattered then throughout whatever parts of Albion they may have found themselves, must have looked on these young scallywags shouting about their drugs and their influences with the fondness of benevolent uncles; amphetamine-addled uncles, maybe, but uncles nonetheless. Channelling the glam of Bowie and the true androgynous punk of the New York Dolls - all wrapped in snotty school blazer insolence - Hooligan, Boag, Paddy and Stevie somehow managed to slip through the cracks in the mid-nineties, despite the self-belief that they probably were the greatest band in the world.
Named, apparently, for Julius Caesar’s description of the wild British (did Caesar really say that? Who cares, TAM were making their own rock’n’roll myths. They even had their own set of commandments, for fuck sake) the quartet was a “beautifully dishevelled”, Adidas-clad pouting hydra, a band that included “How can we fail/When we look so good?” on the run-out grooves either side of their debut album’s vinyl. ‘(Come On, Join) The High Society’ was that record, released in 1994 - two thousand years, give or take, after Caesar may or may not have inadvertently named them. Could he have known his utterance would bear such fruits? Probably not, but here it was; twelve slices of power pop – short, sharp, belligerent, intelligent – adorned with a beautiful model getting stuck into a newspaper full of chips.
These Animal Men found themselves lumped in with the preposterous New Wave Of New Wave ‘movement’ – “Britpop without the good bits” as described by The Guardian. Step forward and be counted, Menswe@r and S*M*A*S*H, co-leading lights of this short-lived non-event. The latter’s Rob Hague joined These Animal Men for their second and final album, ‘Accident & Emergency’, after the departure of drummer Stevie Hussey, a record that brought both a sound and image change – gone was the skinny fit Adidas and denim, to be replaced by skinny fit pinstripe trousers and leather jackets. The mascara remained. For a brief moment, somewhere between ’94 and ’97, These Animal Men played the game like seasoned pros, tossing out savvy soundbite after soundbite to a music press eager for salacious rock’n’revelry. Step forward and be counted, NME. And you know what, for a brief moment it looked like they might have just gotten somewhere…they coulda been contenders.
What marks ‘(Come On, Join) The High Society’ out for greatness, aside from the kinetic energy it glides along on, is the sheer size of the balls of the four men that made it – big, clanging balls of solid brass, to make an album this pretentious. They never hid that, though, did they? Take a listen to that title track, and High Society (Return), and marvel. Never mind all that stuff they’re singing about though, and forget that cod-reggae Sitting Tenant interlude. This is all about Sharp Kid, This Is The Sound Of Youth, We Are Living, Too Sussed? Oh, Too Sussed? you impertinent little beauty, taking Baba O’Reilly and pumping it full of spit and speed. All of them, snappy, brash shocks of Buzzcocks-referencing pop.
The Only Ones loom large…fuck, These Animal Men re-wrote Another Girl, Another Planet and re-named it You’re Always Right. A Townshend air-windmill opportunity leads to a pregnant pause coming out of the song’s lengthy (by this album’s standards) solo, before Stevie tramples all over the silence with a clattering roll; these are the audacious, borrowed moments that the band made their own. Empire Building is equally exuberant - “Come on, come on let’s get a hotel room in Paris/ With that French girlfriend who volunteered to share us” – full of cock rock posturing and giddy proclamations. It’s a race for the finish, and straight into Ambulance, just one of many examples of their fascination with smashed automobiles and body trauma. Go figure.
It’s a flawed album, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s done with such flair and unshakeable self-belief that it barely matters. Anyway, Flawed Is Beautiful, right? Like many an English band before them, they tried and failed to conquer America, but documented the attempt in all its Technicolor glory inside the booklet that accompanied the ‘Taxi For These Animal Men’ EP the following year. Think ‘Quadrophenia’s monochrome vinyl booklet updated, here with four skinny revivalists instead of one disillusioned mod. America remained indifferent, and all was quiet until ‘Accident & Emergency’ in ’97, after which the band flatlined. Pity, it was actually quite good.
In the years following the break-up Hooligan & Boag went the way of many an Anglican troubadour before them and followed the soul, blue-eyed and wide-eyed, into the short-lived Mo’ Solid Gold. Stevie held residency in a couple of bands before becoming a stage manager to The Beta Band, among others. Paddy… who knows? Mo’ Solid Gold gave way to the glam rock of Thee Orphans - again short-lived - and the punk glam of that band gave way to…well, we’ll see. The future is unwritten. Don’t be surprised though, if those supercharged souls of These Animal Men decide that the gang needs to get back out in the street. Let’s be clear though. New Wave of New Wave…that was a pile of old shite, wasn’t it?