Back in the Great Britpop Wars of the mid to late ‘90s, I used to defend my corner when it came to some of the less successful or popular acts in the genre. I could often be found in an indie boozer, sporting a skinny t-shirt (sigh), providing covering fire for the likes of Rialto, Lodger, Gene, Hurricane#1, Silver Sun, Posh and Speedy. Yes – Speedy. Remember them? No? Shame – you deserve to be beaten to death with my promo copy of Northern Uproar’s first album.
Actually, all is forgiven, as Sheffield’s Speedy were the great lost Britpop band– their debut album, News From Nowhere, which they recorded for the Arista-owned Boiler House label, was never actually released. But, fear not, for a copy has found its way to my office. I won’t tell you what I had to do to get hold of it, but let’s just say that I won’t be showing my face in any public toilets in Camden for a good while. Ah, what the hell – it was worth it.
News From Nowhere is classic Britpop, pitched somewhere between Pulp and Blur – wry, observational lyrics about love, life on the dole, and summer holiday sex, with chirpy choruses, big, swelling tunes and low-rent melodrama. Underneath the blaring brass sections and knees-up Parklife pub piano, there are dark themes lurking, including obsessional love and domestic violence (I Like You So Much) and teenage pregnancy (Heard, Seen, Done, Been – “She smells of sex and chewing gum.”)
Time For You is my favourite. A big ballad with horns and strings, it’s a tawdry tale of a juvenile criminal who’d go to prison for his female partner in crime; it’s as if Bonnie and Clyde had been brought up on a Sheffield council estate.
Sometimes Speedy remind me of Squeeze and there’s also a nod to acts like ABC and OMD – grandiose New Romantic gestures with a distinctly theatrical feel.
Their only real brush with the big time was when their 1996 single Boy Wonder got them on, err, Football Focus and the Shine 7 compilation album. Ahem.
What happened next? Alas, they were dropped and promptly split up – one of the casualties of the Great Britpop Wars. At least I made sure they got a mention in dispatches.