Tom Ewing’s Top 100 Singles Of The 90s
The sharp London boy dialogue which bookends Weekender‘s 12 minutes sounds like Billy Liar or some other bolshy, aspirational 60s youth fable. It’s that link as much as the length which tips you off that Weekender is big stuff, a grimy and inchoate attempt to tell you What It’s Like, to cram the whole stupid mess of the 90s into one sprawling record, before it’s all happened and been cut up and bagged and tagged and historified. Weekender is an aggressive, unique record, a record that doesn’t want to be made sense of, a surly epic existing to tell you just that no matter what you’ll read about 1992 in some future pop textbook, it wasn’t like that, wasn’t nearly so neat.
That’s not to say this song’s got any kind of truth to tell. The record’s too addled and phantasmagoric for that, its invisible protagonist led by his nose through a hedonistic wonderland London by the singer, who then turns on him in disgust: “Weekender, fuck off, fuck off and die.” And that’s when the big dirty groove drops out of the song to leave a lurching bad-dream jazz meander. The hapless weekender needs the singer’s guidance but can’t ever truly enter his world, and in this sense Weekender is more political than it seems, a dramatisation not only of post-Rave London but of the classic clubland division between the people for whom it really is a lifestyle and the vast bulk of us, the weekend ravers who drop in and out of the scene at will – “tell at work your weekend tale / Still need the pressure of the daily sale”. And in the end the singer, reconciled, even sympathetic, sends the weekender on his way.
Weekender is a record about drugs and dancing which doesn’t mention drugs and can’t easily be danced to. That doesn’t stop it being as much a classic dance record as anything on this list, though – it was the culmination of a fertile, nervous period when British alternative music struggled to come to terms with the explosion in clubbing and the things it was doing to pop and to life. And Flowered Up (hyped up, loved up, tooled up scam merchants turned seers) were as perfect a faceless, fast-moving, unrecoupable pop package as any one-hit techno kids, it just so happened they were working with guitars and freewheeling, slack-arsed funk as well as the odd sample. Listening back from a non-historical perspective, though, what makes Weekender for you now is the extraordinary voice of Liam Maher, his lunatical Cockney scat coming on like John Lydon playing in Oliver!, a gibbering sound-portrait of a city, a scene, a psyche on the brink of either losing it entirely or sinking back into the doldrums it came from.