Stackridge

Something for the Weekend

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When a long-defunct band you loved in your youth opts to give fame and fortune one last shot 20 years later, though your heart leaps at the prospect, your brain urges caution. Most listeners have sat through middle-aged reunion albums with their spirits steadily sinking, as turgid laments for the environment give way to bitter attacks on faithless ex-wives and ex-bandmembers, and current bandmembers relentlessly demonstrate their familiarity with the very latest synthesizers. But 21 years after what everyone assumed to be their final album, Mr. Mick, Stackridge reconvened -- several key members light, as usual -- and delivered one of their finest albums. This time the band was under the direction of James Warren, who left in 1973 after The Man in the Bowler Hat to subsequently enjoy considerably greater commercial success as a member of the Korgis (briefly alongside his old Stackridge oppo Andy Davis). And certainly there's a degree of Korgis-style polish about many of the songs included here, while another key influence is openly acknowledged in the anthemic "Something About the Beatles." Warren was always the band's premier melodist, however, and though Something for the Weekend would have certainly benefited from the presence of key members Davis and Mutter Slater, it boasts a consistency that was all too lacking in the band's last two (Warren-free) albums. Any fears that a commitment to polished soft rock might dilute the band's more endearingly eccentric tendencies, though, are dispelled by the splendidly surreal "Wildebeeste" and the irresistible '30s-style "Sliding Down the Razorblade of Love," not to mention the equally delightful "Grooving Along on the Highway on a Monday Morning Once" -- the kind of instantly memorable melody that Paul McCartney would have killed for in 1997. A further plus point comes in the return of Mike Evans, whose superb fiddling and occasional deadpan vocals were always a key ingredient of the classic 1970-1973 lineup. Newcomer John Miller also proved a valuable addition, both as a multi-instrumentalist and co-composer. All told, you're left feeling that this is the album with which Stackridge should have capitalized on the momentum generated by George Martin's lavish production of The Man in the Bowler Hat. Instead, this most affably English of groups embarked on two decades of squabbling and hoping the fans liked their new direction. And guess what? Just a few years after this album was released, they fell out all over again. In the immortal words of Ian Dury, what a waste.

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