The guitar bands that rose to prominence in the UK through the mid 90s in the UK were a mixed bunch. There were a handful of thoroughly enjoyable bands, but on the whole as it was largely either ridiculously pretentious, impossibly dull or lowest-common-denominator rubbish. It was even worse for the female fronted groups, as they were either frowny and miserable or just useless .
Other than PJ Harvey, Britain hadn’t produced a genuinely talented and enjoyable female fronted rock band for years and the masses were turning to identikit mouthy girls wearing shrunken T-shirts, fronting groups of anonymous blokes with guitars. Things were bleak. Then, at what looked to be the darkest hour, when the most vital females in music were The Spice Girls, three whip smart Northern lasses decked out in leather, PVC and leopard print, with big guitars, big choruses and a bloke who played the drums staggered out of the gloom and into the hearts of those that could recognise a genuinely subversive band when they heard one.
For all their attempts to mirror working-class attitudes and experiences, the majority of Brit-pop bands had fallen short. Not Kenickie though. On At the Club they sang songs of cheap nights out, booze, partying, seducing blokes because they drove flash cars, self doubt and bitchiness. On top of this they were fun too. This earthy approach did much to hide the fact that Kenickie were far more intelligent and knowing than most gave them credit for. Yes they wrote singalong songs about partying and picking up blokes, but they weren’t afraid to acknowledge the dark underside of this lifestyle as well. Despite their girly choruses both “How I Was Made” and “Acetone” are strangely sad and moving songs and a tune like “Robot Song” is strangely unnerving.
At the end of the day though, this is a pretty accurate picture of the lifestyle of British girls who were in their late teens during the last five years of the 20th century (or at least those that I knew anyway). It has big, supercharged guitars, stomping beats, marvelous singalong choruses, songs about the joys of wearing “P.V.C.” and listening to lo-fi music.
In your car
They may have followed up At the Club with a downbeat album which saw the band end on a whimper, but this joyous debut stands as a monument to one of the great forgotten bands of the late 90s. There weren’t many bands willing to blend power-pop with girl-group stylings at he time, but in recent years there seems to have been some belated acknowledgment of Kenickie’s inherent brilliance. These days former Kenickie frontwoman Lauren Laverne is now a much-loved radio and television presenter and is probably better known now than she’s ever been. The other band members, despite each still being part of the music scene to varying degrees, little has been heard from, apart from Laverne’s brother and his bewildering array of contributions to the UK music scene over the past decade.At the Club is one of those albums that is an audio time-capsule of its time, yet anyone who journeys onto West Street on a Saturday evening can confirm that its themes have remained oddly timeless. Who knows, maybe it is finally time for Kenickie to be given the respect that they were always due.