Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Soup Dragons - This Is Our Art (1988)

The Soup Dragons were a Scottish alternative rock band of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Named after a character in the 1970s children's television show Clangers, the group is best known for its cover of the Rolling Stones' song "I'm Free."

Many bands would kill for a song as immediately lovable as the Soup Dragons' "Soft As Your Face" from This Is Our Art; however, while the track reveals the group's ability to craft clever, hummable pop, the rest of the LP unveils the band's lack of punch. "Soft As Your Face," with its jaunty acoustic guitars and warm harmonies, outshines almost everything else on the album. On "Kingdom Chairs," vocalist Sean Dickson tries to imitate the snarl of a '60s garage rocker; unfortunately, he isn't convincing, and the group sounds anemic, unable to unleash the raw power necessary to make the song crackle. The Soup Dragons aim for the punk-pop of the Buzzcocks on "Great Empty Space," but the lyrics fail to make an impact. The band cranks up the amps even louder on "Passion Protein," veering closely to heavy metal, and they seem as if they're trying too hard to show that they're not a wimpy new wave act. The Soup Dragons are far more effective when they're gorging themselves on bubblegum like the sweet jangle pop of "Soft As Your Face" and "Turning Stone." The Soup Dragons bite off more than they can chew on This Is Our Art; nevertheless, "Soft As Your Face" and "Turning Stone" melt in the mouth like the most delicious candy.

This Is Our Art
Sean Dickson (v/g), Jim McCulloch (g), Ian Whitehall, Sushil K. Dade (b), Ross Sinclair (d)

Track Listing

1. "Kngdom Chairs" - 5:20
2. "Great Empty Space" - 3:00
3. "The Majestic Head?" - 3:34
4. "Turning Stone" - 2:47 Outstanding Track
5. "Vacate My Space" - 3:39
6. "On Overhead Walkways" - 2:25
7. "Passion Protein" - 5:22
8. "King of the Castle" - 2:46
9. "Soft As Your Face" - 3:39 Outstanding Track
10. "Family Ways" - 4:38
11. " Another Dreamticket" - 2:57


The Soup Dragons formed in Bellshill, a town near Glasgow, in 1985.The line up was Sean Dickson (vocals, lead guitar), Jim McCulloch (guitar, second voice) who replaced Ian Whitehall and Sushil K. Dade (bass). The original drummer, Ross A. Sinclair, left the group after the first proper album, This Is Our Art, to pursue a career in art, and was replaced by Paul Quinn. Most of their songs were written by Dickson, while some were co-written with McCulloch

The band recorded their first demo tape, You Have Some Too, after playing a few local gigs, and this was followed by a flexi disc single "If You Were the Only Girl in the World". Originally inspired by Buzzcocks and lumped in with the C86 movement, along with fellow members of the Bellshill Sound, such as the BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub, they went through a number of stylistic changes in their career.

The band signed to The Subway Organization in early 1986 and their first proper single (The Sun in the Sky EP) was Buzzcocks-inspired pop punk. The band's big breakthrough came with their second single for Subway, "Whole Wide World", which reached #2 on the UK Independent Chart in 1986. Dickson and McCulloch also moonlighted in BMX Bandits at this time. The band were signed by former Wham! co-manager Jaz Summers' label Raw TV with further indie hits (and minor UK Singles Chart hits) following during 1987 and 1988.Over the course of six singles (the first three collected in 1986 on a U.S. only compilation, Hang Ten), they gradually developed a more complex rock guitar sound, which culminated in their first album proper This Is Our Art, now signed to major label Sire Records. After one single from the album "Kingdom Chairs" failed to chart, the band were dropped by Sire and returned to Raw TV.

In the year following This Is Our Art their sound underwent a change from an indie rock sound, to the rock-dance crossover baggy sound, popular at the time with the release of the album Lovegod. This change mirrored that of fellow Scottish band Primal Scream, and can be attributed to the rise of the ecstasy-fueled acid house rave scene in the UK. In 1990, they released their most successful hit single in the UK, "I'm Free", an up-tempo cover of a Rolling Stones song with an added toasting overdub by reggae star Junior Reid, which reached number five. This single featured on the Happy Daze compilation.

Subsequent albums continued the rock-dance crossover sound. In 1992 they enjoyed their biggest U.S. hit with "Divine Thing" which reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit number three on the Modern Rock chart and its video was nominated by MTV as one of the year's best, though beaten by Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.

The band split in 1995 with Quinn joining fellow Bellshill band, Teenage Fanclub. Sushil K. Dade formed the experimental post rock group Future Pilot A.K.A., and singer Sean Dickson formed The High Fidelity. Jim McCulloch joined fellow Glaswegians Superstar, and has since formed musical collective Green Peppers. He writes and records with Isobel Campbell.


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