Thursday, 29 March 2018
Oliver! Adorable - Sunshine Smile (10 April 1992)
I suspect that I dreamt this but when I was in my Britpop cups, I’m sure I read someone dismissing imperial era Oasis as Adorable without GCSEs.
I’m aware that this track, the Coventry based quartet’s first single on Creation Records is a sacred text to many fans of British guitar pop. I hadn’t heard it at all until about 6 months ago when I first heard the Peel show from 10/4/92. And in doing so, I join the throng of people who contend that when all the mysteries of the mind, soul, body and universe have been answered, the one unanswerable puzzle the human race will be left to grapple with will be trying to figure out just why Sunshine Smile never became even as much as a Top 75 hit, let alone the Top 20 one it should have been. My own theories, and bear in mind I’m nowhere near as invested in this band or song as much as others have been over the last 25 years, are:
1) People still wanted the real Stone Roses, not an approximation of what the Roses could have been doing in 1992 - Robert Dillam’s opening riff has a definite John Squiresque tone to it, Pete Fijalkowski comes in clear and tuneful over the top of it talking about love warmth and radiance, bassist Steven Williams has a hairstyle that’s quite similar to Mani’s. With the genuine article still eking out singles from a three year old album in the weeks before Sunshine Smile was released, there was a definite opening for Adorable to come in and seize the spotlight, but two years of legal purgatory had not quite torn people’s gaze away from the Roses and besides, once the guitars really kick in they sound like nobody else except Adorable, apart from the quiet midsection, which leads me to suspect the band had been listening Haircut One Hundred.
2) Being the bridge means you’re nowhere - One YouTube comment I read about Adorable called them “the bridge between shoegaze and Britpop”. Fijalkowski’s voice blew any number of shoegazers out of the park, he was made to be heard, not buried under the spacy thrash and he looked every inch the pop star who could have been gazing out from the front pages of Loaded, FHM and SKY magazines in the mid-90s. But it never happened. Whatever British pop music was looking for in 1992, Adorable didn’t embody it for enough people in the way that they may have done 2 or 3 years later. It’s worth remembering that 1992 was an odd year when the thought of presenting yourself as a pop star within a guitar band meant you weren’t to be trusted and to willingly present yourself as a shoegaze act was to invite open derision. Pop music thrived on scene culture for years, but if you happened to break before a scene could be comfortably built around you or you could be fitted into one, you had every chance of falling through the cracks. Ironically, by the time a scene sprang up that genuinely wanted pop stars, Adorable had become so fed up with it all that they split before they started hating each other.
3) No tastemaker ever went to Coventry - I like Coventry and have been there several times, but it would never have the same cache as London, Manchester or Liverpool. Even Birmingham has to try really hard in order to get the credit deserves. Pity Adorable. They were the most exciting band in Britain in a year where no-one whose opinion could have set them on their way, gave a damn. Spitfire would at least have known how that felt.
4) Was it the greatest love song of the 1990s or did the heroin overtones turn people off it? - It’s a tremendous piece of music and the “smile that lights up the corners of my cold room” is a terrific image, but there’s a con trick being discreetly pulled off here with themes of listless ennui and inability to feel anything being covered with a sparkly, noisy tablecloth of guitar noise. The Some Candy Talking trick for the early 1990s in other words.
But if it is a love song and nothing more, I dedicate this blogpost to my own 5ft 2in of sunshine xx
Video courtesy of AdorableVEVO