Up There In The North of England
Wednesday morning I posted about the Echo & The Bunnymen mailing list drive to get Ian McCulloch & co. “back at the top” of the charts by asking fans world-wide to pre-order their single through online retailer townsend-records. Figured I should check out the web site and see what it was all about. No, it’s nothing to do with The Who front man (despite how often people mis-spell Pete Townshend) but “a chain of record stores based in the north of England, (which) has been trading for over 25 years.” Some of you, no doubt, already knew that. Townsend is also now a record label and I see that one of its artists is another Ian from Liverpool. Not McCulloch (the Bunnymen are now signed to Cooking Vinyl) but Ian McNabb.
For many years, Ian McNabb fronted The Icicle Works, a group whose credibility never matched their creativity. Perhaps that’s because they were a difficult act to pin down: their singles ranged from the psych-garage of ‘Understanding Jane’ to the straight-up power pop of ‘Who Do You Want For Your Love?’ , though their biggest hits, ‘Hollow Horse’ and ‘Birds Fly (Whisper To A Scream)’ were rightfully accused of pretentiousness, and sadly I’ll never forget Jools Holland ridiculing – on Tube camera while introducing the band – the title ‘Love Is A Wonderful Colour.’ (Most people of a certain British age will instead recall, probably with equal embarrassment, breakfast DJ Mike Read confessing that that was his fave song to shag to.)
In addition, The Icicle Works gave not a toss for fashion, which meant they were rarely granted a good review and had to win fans the old-fashioned way – through constant single releases and consistently quality live shows. Musically, McNabb, and co. veered so far all over the place that no true Icicle Works fan should claim to have loved every song (‘Shit Creek’ was rightfully named) but some of the aforementioned singles formed a soundtrack to my life, and particularly to a certain love. Yes, I’m having trouble understanding Jane…
Anyway, time moves on, the Icicle Works duly broke up, drummer Chris Sharrock – one of the finest of his generation – went on to work with The Lightning Seeds, World Party and others, while I lost track of bassist Chris Layhe’s activities. I run into solo artist Ian McNabb once every few years, where we usually exchange warm hugs and equally warm memories of Icicle Works shows everywhere from Zurich to Newcastle to Liverpool and London. I haven’t heard Ian’s new album for Townsend, Before All Of This, and it’s not available through American iTunes. I haven’t been transfixed by his solo work, not even 1995’s Head Like A Rock, for which he managed to recruit none other than Neil Young’s Crazy Horse as his backing band. But I’ll always have more than enough time for him. Anyone out there care to chime in on The Icicle Works in general, and Ian McNabb’s new music in particular?