It sparkles like a very shiny thing: glittery and bright, It's pop sheen oozing from every pore. Not what'd you’d expect from an ex member of Scarbrough's very own hair metallers Little Angels on keyboards really. But don’t let that put you off.
For an album that was criminally ignored when it sneaked out in early 2000, "Soap" is a work that maybe everyone with an equal interest in cheesy pop music and Britpop should own. Imagine a cross between the Human League, Pet Shop Boys, Sheep on Drugs, Saint Etienne and Pulp, if you can. Play this next to Coldplay, Travis, or the other alt.complaint.rock currently swamping our charts, and discover the real reason why the NME gets it wrong when they hype Stones tribute band The Strokes. "Soap" is quite simply an album that straddles both the pop and indie markets superbly. From the opening "Sugar Sweet Dreams", the camp and bittersweet tongue in cheek lyricism of Joe Northern shines through with the pop sensibilities. The inner booklet of a street map detailing all the everyday life chronicled in the album owes quite a bit to Pulp, maybe, but still, imbues this album with the same observed cynicism that its tunes never show.
While the songs show a catalogue of smalltown dreams and the everyday fuck-ups of ordinary life as the characters strive to better themselves from working in the local supermarket or the dole queue, to the so Jarvis-Cocker-you-wonder-why-Pulp-havent-done-it-yet song about contact magazines, the music sparkles and shines with a pop sensibility unseen since the likes of Dubstar or St. Etienne. It's bright, shiny, optimistic, and you’re never in any doubt that they are in fact, taking the piss completely out of all the empty shiny pop records the world over. "We’re Going Out" is an incredibly infectious, and "Teenage Mum" is a response to the Spice Girls' girlpower ethic transplanted into the real world where Geri really isn't a sex symbol after all. All the while, the upbeat optimistic cheery music drags you throw a catalogue of urban despair, dole queues and degradation of everyday survival. If nothing else, this album should be selling the millions that Britney claims as her own.
Quite how this shiny little jewel of a record got ignored I will never know. It's worth 10 of any Coldplay or Travis album. It's the sort of thing the Manics glitterati would buy up the bucketload now that the Manics have turned into spiky punkbynumbers dull boredom, if only they stopped reading the NME. Quite simply, one of the most criminally ignored albums of recent history. Look out for it in a bargain bin near you soon – because it's worth every penny.
10Graham Reed's Score