Posts from 27th August 1999

27
Aug 99

92. SPEARMINT – “Sweeping The Nation”

FTPost a comment • 425 views

Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s 

Readers, creeping deadlines have caught Freaky Trigger unawares and without its master list, and so a single which I bought two days ago vaults its way into the countdown. But what’s the point of pop without ephemerality and infatuation? And anyway, “Sweeping The Nation” earns its place by right as much as whim.

I’m both a sucker for and a bit repulsed by pop records which are acts of pop criticism themselves – they always feel very insular (or maybe it’s just that my toes are getting trodden on!). Spearmint’s four-minute warning not to lose your dreams doesn’t quite escape the trap, but it’s hard to care too much when confronted with what’s probably the most fun indie record this country’s produced for ages. The most indie record, come to think of it – indie like it used to be, all Wedding Present thrashy toy guitars, all bouncing keyboards, all pledges and leaps of fanzine faith. Though sentimentally – and damn, it’s sentimental – “Sweeping”’s a second cousin of Denim’s breathless Summer Smash, it’s hardly a record with an eye on the charts. The national takeover it proposes isn’t going to be achieved through anything as vulgar as sales, more through a stealthy coup on the hearts of the people who care.

What I like best about this record, though, isn’t the feeling (I’m too cynical) or the tune (though you could hum it) or the lyrics (promising though they are). It’s Shirley Lee’s voice and phrasing, urgent, warm and clear. He’s got everything I look for in a pop singer – he’s dramatic, theatrical even, without ever being pretentious or affected. “Sweeping The Nation” kicks and flounces like ABC or Pulp or Orange Juuice or the World of Twist: a speedy, fiercely alive Northern beat. It sounds like it could have been made in ’82 or ’86 or ’90, but this kind of urgency, wit and desire doesn’t date.