Waterbomb!

As the pub jukebox blares out the former soap star's version of She Paints for the umpteenth time that night, the old mod raises his glass, salutes his reflection in the mirror behind the bar, and says to no one in particular:

'See the last time I was in Glasgow there was still a branch of Flip near to Central station. I had no idea there were any left. Though in all senses it was a long way from the one that was in Long Acre. The vintage clothing store. It was where we used to get our paisley button down shirts. 5 a time. You never see them now. Anyway, McGee was well into his paisley. Maybe it reminded him of home.

'It's funny. I think of McGee and picture him still in a paisley shirt and Joe Orton cap. Everyone's got their own idea about him even now. Yet it wasn't until Rev-ola put out that compilation in 2003 that people realised that with Biff Bang Pow! he somehow came up with the best records Creation ever put out. Yeah, and I never bothered to tell him!

'Odd how by omitting his own best song in She Shivers Inside he managed to remind everyone that the first side of their The Girl Who Runs The Beat Hotel set contains one of the sweetest suites of songs ever. I can name them yet: Someone Stole The Wheels Off my Scooter/Love's Going Out Of Fashion/She Never Understood/Don't Need That Girl/She Shivers Inside. I'll tell you what; you'll laugh, but for some reason I kept that postcard someone sent me anonymously from New York with just some words on from She Shivers Inside. God! Those songs just made you ache inside with their beauty! Weird!

'It wasn't like McGee to be self-deprecating, but he played on this idea of BBP! being a bit of a hobby or a diversion. I always put that down to the influence of his self-destructive (and I don't mean in the classical rock'n'roll sense) early heroes like Dan Treacy of the Television Personalities and Robert Lloyd of the Nightingales. Guys who were so incredibly talented but were wont to scribble over their Mona Lisas with crayon or leave their Venus de Milos without clothes.

'I wish McGee had played on the idea of BBP! being an anonymous collective rather than an orthodox group. Something loose. A creative assemblage or something. I wish I had never seen them live. I remember walking out once because Ed Ball was wearing jogging bottoms.

'I can't even remember all those BBP! records. Somewhere along the line there something changed in us all. What I loved as free-spirited independence, pure gestures of defiance issued out of necessity and choice on small labels, the sound of the underground, became bowdlerised as indie pop. That ain't semantics. That's politics!

'There is a certain independence, real naturalism, in those old BBP! songs you don't hear much. It was there too with all that stuff Fence Records was putting out up in Fife when Waterbomb! came out. That series of absurd and lovely CDs full of exquisite broken up electronica, broken down blues, achingly lovely folk music and infuriating rambles which suggested deserted East Coast beaches and too much time on your hands.

'Even now you still get these high-brow mags wittering on about the avant garde. I'll tell you what; my dictionary defines avant garde as innovative and progressive. Well, listen to what that jukebox is playing. The primitive raw beauty of She Paints is more innovative and progressive than the most abstract noise, and I'll take on anyone who differs!

'Yeah, I'll still raise a glass for Biff Bang Pow!'

© 2003 John Carney


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