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This review is from: Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches (Audio CD)
In February of this year The Guardian newspaper ran an online poll on the Happy Mondays. They asked their readership to choose their favourite album from the group's erratic back catalogue. Did they choose this evocatively-titled LP of dance-inflected guitar rock? No, they did not. Instead they plumped for the album which preceded it: 1988's Bummed. I disagree with that decision. Though that collection of brittle punk-funk jams - masterminded by the mercurial Martin Hannett - is good, Pills 'N' Thrills and Bellyaches is far better. The 3 UK singles to this strikingly presented 10 song set provide evidence of that. 'Step On', 'Kinky Afro', and 'Loose Fit', are powerful songs that merged Shaun Ryder's stream-of-conscious lyrics and undulating vocal performances to chunky bass lines, big guitar licks, funky drumming, and light, Balearic dance beats, in a fashion that was both radio-friendly and commercially successful. They are a reflection of the shrewdness to choose Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne as the producers for their bright-and-breezy third studio album - they bring a lush, club-friendly vibe to the Happy Monday's recordings. The rest of this release from the renowned Factory Records label isn't bad either. Highlights include a conga-driven piece of sleaze, entitled 'Bob's Your Uncle', the drum-driven 'God's Cop', and 'Donovan', a light and lyrical, Latin-flavoured tribute to the 1960s folk-pop artist. Therefore, I was unsurprised to see Pills 'N' Thrills And Bellyaches included in the contentious book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die - with its mixture of daft phrases, fashion statements, and cocksure attitude, this career high point makes for an engrossing listen.