Saturday, 30 April 2016
Oliver: Sultans of Ping F.C. - Where's Me Jumper? (25 January 1992)
Before we go any further, I should say, unequivocally, that I think this track by the Cork five-piece is rubbish. The type of song that gives "indie" a bad name. It's something only marginally better than landfill indie and that's quirky indie. A song that plays the eccentricity card so blatantly you want to slap it and tell it to stop being a twat.
I should have had premonitions from the week in April 1993 that I first bought the Melody Maker. It's inside back page carried the rantings of a character called Mr. Agreeable who would respond to the big music stories of the week by being as viciously insulting as possible. In that edition of Melody Maker, he was spewing his bile about the revived Bluebells song, Young At Heart, which had gotten to Number 1 in the UK single chart, off the back of being used in a Volkswagen advert. The Bluebells had been defunct for several years at this point and their return was not celebrated by Mr. Agreeable who lumped them, The Frank and Walters and Sultans of Ping F.C. in together as purveyors of a particularly irritating, whimsical brand of folky indie. The final line dismissal of The Bluebells - "Die twats! Especially the f***wit with the fiddle!" has stayed with me all these years. If you watch the video, you'll probably yell the same thing at the screen when he appears.
Things don't actually get off to a bad start here, with some rather clever word-play at the beginnng promising some kind of sub-Fall parody, but it doesn't take long for the track to lapse into teeth-grindingly "wacky" mode. So, why is it here?
Well, while I can listen to the track as a 40 year old and carp, I have to admit that the 16 year old me, who would have been making up those mix tapes in 1992, would have been all over this at the time, at least for a few weeks. And that's the thing about tracks like this: they pop into your ears, thrill you like an early fling and then you go off them when you look back on them in your mixtape photo album.
In terms of the Peel Show, Where's Me Jumper? belongs in that subsection of his playlists titled, Silly Contemporary Songs. These aren't the retro nostalgia trips into tweeness or point and laugh silliness like Tony Blackburn albums or the Antipodean Atrocities album with which Peel taxed David Cavanagh's patience as he listened through 1987, but rather the songs of the moment which were devised by bands in the hope of getting play on Peel's show for being quirky. Half Man Half Biscuit were the template setters for this, but they had considerably more wit, bite and virtuosity than the scores of bands who tried to follow their example. According to Cavanagh, 1982, in particular, was full of "wacky, play-that-funky music student-boy bands from the East of England". Peel was always partial to this type of music which came from bands like The Higsons. Rooted in the ker-aziness of small situations, a spotlight shone on the mundane but trying to use humour and surrealness to blow the lid of the seething mass of absurdity in suburbia. And you don't get more mundane than lost jumpers. However, despite the lack of anything inspiring in the track, the Sultans hit upon the age old law of popular music, "If you can't make it relevant, make it catchy." And The Sultans of Ping F.C do
exactly that here...damn their eyes.
Video courtesy of Threeothree33.