Underrated Bands - or - Are Animals That Swim the most underrated band of all time?
Music // Jim // 30th July 2003
Everyone has an underrated band that they love to bang on about to the annoyance of their friends and family, this is particularly prevalent in males between the ages of 14 and 20. Sometimes in this difficult period your heroes can let you down by accidentally becoming successful.
One of the most painful adolescent experiences is seeing an act you have worshipped
through obscurity being accepted into the mainstream by people you really hate.
Once this happens it is quite likely that you will cast these former underdogs
aside; who can honestly say at some time that they haven’t uttered something
comparable to one or more of the following:
- “They’re so totally sold out now that the single’s at 302 in the chart.”
- “Yeah, but like the first album was the best, when they still had the original drummer and the two banjo players.”
- “They were so shit at the NEC - I saw them when no-one had ever heard of them at this gig in my mates shed and there was only four of us there.”
The truly underrated band, however, will never let you down, they will keep making records you adore to absolutely no popular acclaim whatsoever, will barely register on any cultural scale and will probably tour once every four years playing somewhere in the Outer Hebrides and a brothel in Paris. All the while you will never understand why this group of genius musicians are not enjoying the fame and success that the likes of Alien Ant Farm seem to achieve with consummate ease.
For me the most underrated band of all time has to be the mighty Animals That Swim. A non-conforming literary indie-ish bunch, ATS have made three completely sublime records that it appears you couldn’t give away with free gold.
Their first singles were feted by the music press and I first heard them on the radio, the song was Pink Carnations; it was brilliant; a spoken word account of an accident and subsequent recovery in hospital written in a surreal but observational style. I promised myself that I would get hold of a copy as soon as I could, and then promptly forgot about it.
Some months later, quite by chance, I found a copy of the album the song was on It was called Workshy and I bought it for six quid from a really shitty record shop in Bolton. Apart from Pink Carnations, the album also contains the excellent Roy the lazy sounding King Beer and the beautiful Sway With Me.
The next thing the band released was the single Faded Glamour, an epic ode to rundown town centres. This turned out to be a precursor for the forthcoming album I was the king, I really was the king . The single got good reviews in the music press and I even remember seeing the singer out of twat-band Symposium wearing the T-shirt while jumping off a stage somewhere. I rushed out to buy the album immediately, I needn’t have bothered. There were five copies in the shop, four of which were being sold at half price two weeks later. My copy didn’t leave the CD player for ages to the obvious disappointment of my house mates: “What is that shit with the trumpets that you keep playing?” They asked, “That bloke can’t sing” they continued.
Listen to the words I implored them, listen to the poetry of East St. O’Neill’s quirky ghost story, listen to the junkie-on-a-budget brilliance of Kitkats and Vinegar, listen to the world weary cynicism of the gorgeous Despatches From Lula. They listened and they hated it, I didn’t care.
Things went quiet then, I heard whispers that the band had split up. I was disappointed, but not exactly surprised, I looked on the web and aside from online record shops there was virtually no record of ATS ever having existed.
Suddenly, several years later a new record appeared: Happiness From A Distant Star, I was happier than a scouser during a CCTV blackout. After rushing home to listen to the CD (something I hadn’t done for ages) I was reminded of all the reasons why I’ve always loved ATS while listening to this album; simple but emotional music with knockout lyrics telling of close encounters with alien spaceships and slightly dodgy cake-baking uncles.
It is a great record, as are the other two - rush out and buy them now - I know you won’t and I know that Animals That Swim will never be as famous and successful as they probably deserve to be. I could go on about how great they are all day but to quote another great underrated band, life is unfair - kill yourself or get over it.
Find out more about ATS at their record label’s web site: Snowstorm Records. If anyone has any other decent links, do let me know.
Do let us know of your favourite underrated band is, and where people can find out about them. Fans of Fishbone (and you know who you are) may be well advised to stay out of this one though.