The Style Council. Uncool Geniuses.


"Yes, I know. I didn't know they would allow vegetarian chavs on this picture"

It’s quite astonishing how I was being drawn as a teenager to bands that were terribly uncool in their native Britain. Matt Bianco, after the Saturday Superstore disaster, were suddenly far too embarassing to be listened to, while Paul Weller and Mick Talbot’s Style Council were shunned for their strong opinions on vegetarianism, socialism and pretty much every -ism that was out there. Even though both bands had strong songwriters and arrangers, their respective problems (being called Wanker on air and being outspoken lefties) meant that their respective later albums tanked in the UK. The Style Council disbanded in 1989 while Matt Bianco was a little wiser and just shunned the British market and continued to publish their albums where nobody knew what a Wanker was. So the Style Council’s legacy was always a mixed one. For the majority of young, unruly guitarpop fans, the demise of ‘The Clash” was one of the biggest tragedies ever and they never forgave Weller that he would start dressing like a middle class posh boy (although as the picture on the left shows, he didn’t quite get the look at first) and have strings and percussionist on his records. Or Lenny Henry. Nevertheless, in my (then) native Germany we embraced both bands, blissfully ignorant of the bad press they were getting in the UK. A little bit of ignorance sometimes is a good thing. I of course had no clue that Weller once used to be in a band that was perceived to be the best post punk thing evah(!), but even if I’d known, I couldn’t have cared less. I liked the percussion and the brass on ‘Have you ever had it blue’, the uplifting ‘Shout to the top’ (and completely oblivious to the Socialist undertorrent) and the bleak but groovy ‘It didn’t matter’. Their biggest moment (and ultimatively downfall) nevertheless came with their last album, ‘Confessions Of A Pop Group‘. Well, not quite their last album, but their truly last album was actually not released for 10 years until Polydor decided to let the masses have it in a lovely boxset. Anyway, ‘Confessions of a Pop Group’ was a deeply unusual album that threw the music press into a bit of a tizzy. What was it? Classic? Jazz? Pretentious Tosh? Well, it was one of those concept albums, with each side (remember sides? Side A? Side B? No? Well, then you’re obviously too young to read this blog. Sod off.) featuring a completely different approach to modern music. Side A (the first five tracks on your CD) is devoid of electric instruments (and guitars, as far as I remember) but instead tickles our fancy with a mix of King Singers and Debussy, with some of the Weller’s bleakest lyrics. The other side is full of electro funk. Yup. There’s also one of their funniest songs, the cynical “Life At A Top Peoples Health Farm”, an ode to the perversions of Thatcherite Britain.

As you can tell, I’m a fan.

And if you don’t want to buy it for its brillance, it’s also excellent to read to with a glass of Chablis. Which really tells you what The Style Council was all about. A band that wanted to turn the world into a socialist, vegan paradise but in the end produced music that you would have with cheese, nibbles and a glass of Chardonnay .

I find that ironic.

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