As I’ve mentioned before, I spent most of my college days in the early 90s skimming over the sounds of grunge, instead focusing on Britpop instead. And one band that very rarely gets its due is the Manchester band New Fast Automatic Daffodils. They were never directly a part of the Madchester scene, as their sound veered more towards guitar-driven post-punk than the psychedelic grindy-organ sounds of bands like Inspiral Carpets or the Charlatans, and Andy Spearpoint’s loud, growly vocal delivery was quite similar to The Wedding Present’s David Gedge. [In fact, Grian Chatten from Fontaines DC sounds quite a bit like Spearpoint now, come to think of it.] They were just as groovy and noisy as the rest of them, however, and had their own loyal following.
Their second album Body Exit Mind dropped in October of 1992, just as I was starting my senior year at Emerson and I had somehow landed the position of music director at our AM station, WECB. Our airwave reach was laughable, but that wasn’t going to stop me from pretending that the entirety of the campus (and anyone nearby) was listening in. I latched onto this record super quick and I put multiple tracks into rotation over the course of that year.
They first popped up on WFNX’s playlist in September with the single “Stockholm”, which surprisingly hit the Top 30 on Billboard’s Modern Rock chart in the US. It’s slow and stark, but it’s groovy as hell with a lot of great memorable lyrics (“No monster me, sadly no saint either”) that get stuck into your head.
Our station also acquired the Bong EP that came out soon after the album, and its title track also became a station favorite. Yes, partly because of the title (har har) but the “Ha-why-why-why-whyyyy” chorus would get stuck in your head every time you heard it. And it’s the perfect lead-off track to the album.
The teaser single “It’s Not What You Know”, set the tone for the entire album: this isn’t a blissed-out groove band, this is a band with thoughts and opinions about life. This was a band that had dropped the Madchester rave of their first album Pigeonhole and got serious. The album focuses a lot about the irritations of Not Being Where You Want to Be, which in the early 90s was exactly how we all felt at the time.
Things speed up with the odd and skittering “I Take You to Sleep”, about a man caught between mental stagnation and religious awakening and the ensuing problems deciding between one or the other. It’s a man looking for inspiration yet falling prey to ignorance instead.
My absolute favorite song on this album, however, has to be “Beatlemania”: not only because it starts off with a great bass riff, not that its title references my favorite band, but also because it’s just so freaking driven from start to finish. It starts fast and STAYS fast, even during the quiet verses held up only by the drums and bass and the occasional strum of the guitar. It’s a slow-build song that gets stronger and louder as it goes and by the end of it, you’re left breathless. It’s a song that is meant to be played loud.
Even the deep cuts like “American Money” (a growly screed about tourism delivered in a very Wedding Present-like way) and “Patchwork Lives” (a meandering Blur-like dive into suburban decay), Body Exit Mind goes out of its way to be not just topical but experimental, often sliding into minute-long segues (some no more than a few clunky treated noises, others wild and noisy jams). It’s a trip from start to finish.
This is also one of the few albums from post-college Boston days that I still listen to, to any significant degree. While some albums are great but now feel dated, and others were so overplayed that I lost interest after awhile, this album never strayed all that far from my cd player. In fact, this is most likely one of the first albums that became a staple in my Writing Session soundtracks, often giving it a spin in my shoebox apartment as I worked on what eventually ended up being the Bridgetown Trilogy. It’s not one I play incessantly, but when I do play it, I still enjoy the hell out of it.