Someone, somewhere (mixmaster extraordinaire Steve M, an e-mail) mentioned Sunscreem earlier to me. I glibly shot back an e-mail saying that they were great and you should dis them at your peril.
And then I remember. Sunscreem were great. Not great in a “they are actually any good” sort of way. But rather in the way that they illustrated the realities of the great indie/dance wars of the early nineties. One the one side we had Faceless Dance Music (FDM) made by spotty teenagers in their bedroom. On the other we had Real Proper Bands (RPB) who made indie music, gigged and were – generally rubbish. One set made great, vital pop music (FDM), the others looked a little bit better on Top Of The Pops and played toilet venues near us.
Someone, somewhere (Sony Music, Soho Square), wondered if there was a way to fuse these two seeming irreconcilable musics. And we were not talking the Happy Mondays or even the Stereo MC’s here, whose hopalong grooves you could dance to but not in a eee-d up way. If only there was a band who sounded like the FDM but actually were an RPB. Thus uniting both factions.
Sunscreem was an answer. It was not THE answer, and they lasted one album with three hits. That album, 03 (like ozone) is synth heavy, treated guitars and the female voice up in the mix much like a lot of the FDM of the time. Proper songs (see all this terminology was unable to cope) we interspersed with acid-beatfest. And for the eight kids in Britain who really thought this was the perfect Frankenstein of pop, the RPBFDM heaven, it was the best thing ever. I was, as ever, one of those stupid kids.
Of course the actual answer to the war was the KLF, The Prodigy and, lest we forget, the Utah Saints: with Orbital mopping up people who hate anything that might be a novelty record. Basically Faceless Dance Musics who had killer tunes and learnt how to do it live*. Maybe sticking little lights on your glasses is not quite rock and roll, but strapping it to a decent sound system is. In wars between pop genres, the genre straddler is rarely the winner.
I still have a very soft spot for that Sunscreem record though. And I love the way that whenever it comes up on my MP3 player, it is only ever one of the two minute linking dance bits which sounded endearingly rubbish then, and sound endearingly rubbish now.
*The KLF did not do it live. But the records sounded like they were, which was a bigger stepping stone than you’d imagine.