❉ This is another gloriously packaged product from Cherry Red, writes James Collingwood.
This 3CD re-release of Senseless Things’ second album The First of Too Many is another gloriously packaged product from Cherry Red and includes a crisp remix of the original 1991 album by bassist Morgan Nicholls and a live recording of a Camden Palace show alongside the original album itself. It’s also great to see that it includes the original effervescent artwork by friend of the band Jamie (Tank Girl, Gorillaz) Hewlitt. Band members Cass Browne and Morgan Nicholls would later contribute to Hewlitt and Damon Albarn’s virtual band Gorillaz. This expanded release doubles as a belated commemoration of the album’s thirtieth anniversary and, on a less celebratory note, the death of singer and main songwriter Mark Keds early last year.
Described by an NME journalist at the time as “frothy pop”, Senseless Things’ sound is youthful and poppy whilst also being rocky and thoughtful. There was always a literate intelligence about the band, with their name taken from a line in the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar: “You blocks, you stones, you worse of senseless things” (Bowie fans may recognise the phrase from his 1973 song Time).
They would later become more politically aware with subsequent album Empire of the Senseless and would ride the early ‘90s wave of pre-Britpop indie, but the band had started as teenage friends “brewed in Twickenham” and most of the band had only just turned 20 at this time this album was recorded and some of the lyrics reflect the uncertainty of being on the cusp of your twenties. Everybody’s Gone and Best Friend are about leaving people and places behind but are also catchy tunes.
Indeed, Everybody’s Gone was released as a single and the band notched up two Top 20 singles in the form of Easy to Smile (1991) and Hold it Down (1992). Best Friend also has a catchy chorus that I believe could have made it a hit if it had also been released as a single.
American Dad and 19 Blue are melancholic about lost youth but there is also a lot of optimism in the music, particularly on the acoustic classic Fishing at Tescos. The equally catchy single Got it at the Delmar is fast-driving punk with feedback and Wrong Number has country-ish tinges to it. Chicken is a fun 20-second blackout track and the lyrics of Radio Spiteful are as colourful as the album cover.
The First of Too Many shows American inspirations throughout, not just in Mark’s vocals but also audible influences from the Ramones and the Replacements, and the band also had a mutual respect for Sonic Youth. Elsewhere, the track Different Tongues credits “Twin Peaks strings”, a nod towards the score for David Lynch’s cult TV series. It’s ironic for such an American-sounding band that they were dropped by their American label Epic after this album was released, though they would later tour the States with some success.
Senseless Things were always renowned for their live performances and came up as part of a poppy punk scene along with Mega City 4, Snuff and Perfect Daze and the live disc (tracked on a 24-track mobile recording unit) perfectly captures their on-stage exuberance. At the beginning you hear Mark say tongue in cheek to the crowd “We’re now going to attempt 102 songs in about 25 minutes approximately”. It’s not quite that frantic, but the eighteen tracks do capture the Senseless Things live experience and boasts fan favourites such as Too Much Kissing.
As mentioned before, the album’s new mix is by bassist Morgan Nicholls and it sounds great. Senseless Things would go on to more interesting things with their next album but this is an excellent starting point for new listeners.
❉ Senseless Things: The First Of Too Many (Expanded Edition) released by Cherry Red Group, 18 November 2022. RRP £20.99 (3CD Edition) / £29.49 (2LP Black And Red Vinyl). Cherry Red Records have been releasing and reissuing the most innovative and independent thinking music since 1978. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.
❉ James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre. His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1