Flowered Up A Life With Brian
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Flowered Up shone briefly but brightly for a few years. Led by vocalist, Liam Maher, keyboardist Tim Dorney, guitarist Joe Maher, Andy Jackson on bass and drummer John Tovey . But let’s not forget their answer – of sorts – to Bez , the remarkable Barry Mooncult whose job description included taking to the stage with a giant plastic flower round his neck. This was, in some quarters, not entirely unfairly dismissed as gimmicky. But gimmicky or not it saw them achieve successive top 40 singles in the shape of the popular, but only okay to my ears, It’s On and the intriguing Phobia during 1990. Their one and only album, “A Life with Brian” was arguably released too late, appearing in 1991 when baggy was beginning to already collapse under its own weight and the sounds had lost some of their initial freshness. But despite being neither a commercial nor critical success it has always struck me as one of the finest and most coherent artefacts from that period. The sound? Maher’s style was more spoken than sung and an unpredictable and truculent presence. Sarcastic while simultaneously world weary and buzzed up. Curiously one J. Strummer was involved in some lyrics for the band. Overall the music rested on strong beats, typical Madchester piano motifs [Take It has the almost platonic absolute in that regard, Crackerjack – a lovely cascading chord progression, Phobia rests upon an equally fine structure] and sometimes unexpectedly muscular guitar work from the other Maher brother – which in places tipped into near metallic territory. Add in washes of keyboards and some nicely understated touches of electronica – as with the excellent minor classic Egg Rush, a less prominent bass than many of their peers, and in its totality it works near perfectly. Which isn’t to say that “A Life with Brian” is flawless. It could have done with some pruning and sags a little in the middle. Nor is Maher’s voice an unequivocally good thing across the length of an entire album – on Egg Rush it comes as something of a relief to hear him playing off a female vocal. But those quibbles aside it works remarkably well. Their swansong, the 13 minute Weekender which took a cynical look at rave’s mainstreaming, is a remarkable piece of work. If “Screamadelica” is all bright colours Weekender by contrast is edgy and contingent shades of grey. The message seems to be that while this may be fun it’s not necessarily going to end well particularly for those dipping in and out of the scene. ‘We’re going to have a good time… Weekender’ isn’t so much a statement as a query. So, could they have taken it further? Hard to say. Perhaps not with baggy as such. But given the inventiveness [and competence] on display here it’s not difficult to sketch out alternative paths for them. Liam Maher tragically died of an heroin overdose some years back. Dorney went on to achieve a real measure of success with Republica and nowt more was heard of the others. Yet even if their output rested on an handful of singles and an album and even if only of their time they were in their own way, gimmicks and all, an oddly great band.