Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Oliver!: Wonky Alice - Caterpillars (3 April 1992)

“A big favourite of Radders of the North (Mark Radcliffe).  18 months ago they would have been from Manchester.  Now, they’re from Oldham and don’t you forget it!” John Peel after playing this track on 3/4/92.

I’d like to think that Wonky Alice based their name on a desire to parody Ugly Kid Joe.  It’s a better idea than that floated by the band’s former guitarist, Yves Altana, that the name wasn’t based on anything at all.

In parts, this track from the band’s second EP, Insects and Astronauts, ties into the blend of Northern Drama Music that Peel was playing a lot of in early ‘92 -see Red Hour and Some Paradise for further examples of this - its early verses focusing on someone whose mix of self and petty obsession either ends up killing them or leads to them casting a chrysalis around themselves from which no butterfly can either emerge, or in the case of the romance that’s hinted at in the mid section, penetrate.
If its bassline opening sounds like any number of scally Northern bands through the years, it leaves such parochialism behind with its guitar play which comes on in one 5 note refrain as though Pete Townshend had decided to set his mini-mini opera, Rael from 1967’s The Who Sell Out in Oldham.  Lyrically, it loses its way in the latter stages but it’s worth cherishing for the fact that it immortalises dour people behaving dourly in an excitingly, tender way.

The image in the video reminded me to link you through to Dave Bryant’s Indie Top 20 blog in which he not only reviews this song, but others previously featured here by the likes of Dr. Phibes & The House of Wax Equations and Th’ Faith Healers

Video courtesy of carlos rodrigues

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