Sunday, 15 July 2018

A Bit of What You Fancy - Quireboys

Provenance: It's 2002 and I'm at the Bournemouth International Centre to see a package tour called Monsters of Rock. Here's the bill - Dogs D'Amour, Quireboys, Thunder, Alice Cooper. Sensory overload for a seventeen year-old.

In order to steel myself for the gig I had downloaded one or two songs by each artist that wasn't Alice Cooper. If I recall my Napster library correctly, it was 'Love Walked In' by Thunder, 'Spooks' by Dogs D'Amour and 'Hey You' by Quireboys. "Hey You" was my favourite of the bunch.

Every band was on top form that night, and I subsequently saw a couple more Monsters of Rock bills at the BIC. Quireboys would later play a local show at Poole venue Mr Kyps, where my friend Steve almost ran over Spike in the car park. For a few years Quireboys - along with Thunder, it should be said - seemed permanent fixtures on the dad rock festival circuit. Always in the same early afternoon slot, Quireboys would be there to gin up bleary-eyed campers with their energy and bonhomie, and it invariably did the trick. Fine band, and one Christmas I got given A Bit of What You Fancy and Bitter, Sweet and Twisted.

Review: I was five when this came out in 1990 but from what I could tell, a fair bit of noise surrounded Quireboys' entry onto the scene. From what I can gauge, these guys were either the UK's answer to Guns N Roses, the UK's answer to Aerosmith or the inheritors of the Faces' good-time raunch 'n' roll mantle. For once, unlike every band that farts out a blues lick and gets named the spiritual successor to Led Zeppelin, I can hear it.

If I had to plump for the closest analogue, it would however be the Faces. Whilst GNR and Aerosmith strove to project an edgy image, Quireboys give off more of a loveable ragamuffin vibe. The impression given is not so much that of a bunch of degenerates shooting smack in an alley with underage girls, rather a cheery mob roistering their way through a bunch of boozers. It's a good look too, as whenever the hairspray merchants in the US tried to act tough it pushed a risible situation into flat out absurdity. Quireboys, on the other hand, sound credible as toerags.

The Faces comparisons also hold up vocally. Spike has an appealingly raspy voice (one that Classic Rock magazine would no doubt call "whiskey soaked") that seems on the verge of giving out at any moment. It's firmly in Rod Stewart territory and is probably the ace in the hole when it comes to Quireboys' overall sound. It's testament to Spike's gritty delivery that a song about fleeing the depredations of Deep South slavery ('Whippin' Boy') by an all-white London band is delivered with a degree of sensitivity and emotional engagement, though I doubt such a song would be attempted almost thirty years later (rightly so).

"Whippin' Boy" is a rare pensive moment on A Bit of What You Fancy - the rest of the album is pretty much given over to rowdiness, sentimentalism and bacchanalia. Case in point - after "Whippin' Boy" you get the most gloriously on-the-nose track of the lot, 'Sex Party'. It's got about two and a half chords and the subject matter is exactly how you imagine it to be. Here's the chorus - 'Sex party / Sex party / You're all invited to a - / Sex party!'. Bob Dylan this ain't, though bizarrely both Dylan and Quireboys have a drummer in common. In the same vein you've got drinking anthem '7 O'Clock', 'Misled' and the superior 'Hey You', their highest charting single.

What I haven't mentioned so far is that despite an utter lack of originality, it's all great fun - and by and large, extremely catchy. A Bit of What You Fancy could certainly be described as mood music, if the mood you'd sought to capture is a rowdy night out, various parts ribaldry, mischief and misjudgement. Quireboys most certainly do a decent line when it comes to whipping out the onion, though 'I Don't Love You Anymore' teeters ever so fucking close to the acceptable line for schmaltz, with it's sighing regret and saccharine string arrangements. Incidentally, this does sound a fair bit like the kind of crap balladeering that Aerosmith have got down to a fine art. Both ''Sweet Mary Ann' and 'Roses and Rings', kissing cousins to Rod Stewart solo efforts like 'Maggie May', are more effective.

A Bit of What You Fancy doesn't come close to pushing the envelope, nor does it set out to be a startling artistic statement. It is, however, a fine collection of original songs played with heart and gusto. Who would like this? Well, if you can stomach the filigree of late 1980s music production, if bands like the Faces, the Rolling Stones and even Status Quo float your boat, you should give Quireboys a bash. As a bonus, the whole band seems to have adopted Keef's raffish Artful Dodger look too, which I find agreeably matched to their music. Give it a go - this winking little slice of audio debauchery might just be *puts on sunglasses like Horatio Caine from CSI: Miami* a bit of what you fancy...

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