Crime of the century
The indie scene stands trial, accused of being bland, amateurish, wet and uncreative. RON ROM subjects Bristol four-piece THE FLATMATES to a gruelling cross-examination, and summons Manchester's KING OF THE SLUMS as witness for the defence.
[The first part of this feature is an attack on the indie scene of 1988. The writer focuses on the 'twee' scene, and lambastes the bands involved for their vapid, girly songs about love. He seems to believe instead that they should all be singing about Thatcher. The Flatmates are rather unfairly singled out for this crime, and subjected to a rather sour interview. The second part of the article moves on to King Of The Slums, who are more to the author's liking.]
Before we find The Flatmates and the indie scene guilty let us summon a Mancunian outfit, King Of The Slums.
They are the only new band who stand out in the class of '88.
Raw and fresh, they shine like a lighthouse above a sea of excreta because they have the strength of character to attempt originality.
The line up is unusual: violin, a guitar, a bass, drums and vocals that roll in agony. Their songs are full of odours of reality, of dreams which have died along with human spirit and industry. Their music is a growl, a charge of anger, a bubble of nihilism, evoking strong images of a despairing reality.
The violin pierces like a million screams of pain while in Charles Keigher's thoughtful lyrics there's not a "lah lah lah" to be found. Sarah, the classically trained demonic violinist, mutilates weeping melodies into poisonous noise.
Their current EP, 'England's Finest Hopes', is a collection of powerful vindictive punches that hit you in the face with lyrics like: "I snog with a real hard cow on a doorstep, entwine my days 'round slovenly gits / I had so much potential, what on earth happened to me?"
Charles Keigher is cocky, slightly arrogant and some would say, "typically Northern". He dismisses critics who suggest that King Of The Slums couldn't have come from anywhere but the North.
"We don't pay much attention to tags. We stand alone. I don't think it matters were you come from, north or south, but it does have a certain effect on the way you are. Mark E Smith, for instance, couldn't have come from anywhere but the North."
Optimism isn't apparent in King Of The Slums.
"I think the music makes an attempt at it, but the lyrics aren't exactly pessimistic."
Sarah rejoins, "Oh they are! You sing about people with no hope and nothing in their heads."
"I don't," replies Charles and argument ensues. "My songs are about striving for happiness, taking that zero point as a base to build on. I think it's quite cheeky what we do, it's a bit of a slap."
Do people need slapping?
"I think so," says Charles. "I hope so, anyway. I want people to remember us whatever. Hate it or like it, I can't handle indifference.
"The thing is, people do get hit by the violin first, which means they don't get the full effect of the lyrics. Lyrics are extremely important, you can't write lyrics that are completely disposable."
Your lyrics are very realistic.
Charles: "I don't think you can get away with doing it any other way, those things are for real, you can't make things up. I've kissed girls in dark alleys late at night and wondered to myself what the hell I was doing, y'know, that constant confusion."
What inspires you?
Charles: "Certainly not pop music, I hate it. I can't think of one major influence.
"There are millions of those awful little pop bands playing shitty pop music. It's disgusting. People inspire me though, people like Shirley Bassey and Bet Lynch - fighters who carry on, always battling through thick and thin."
King Of The Slums, the most original act this country has come up with in a long time, are the last hope in an indie wasteland.
They reflect Britain without being ashamed of the fact. Slums, decay, dead dreams, lost hopes, anxiety and worry all feature in their songs.
But, to every King Of The Slums there are a million Flatmates and if that equation remains the same for much longer, the independent scene will be found guilty and condemned to a creative death.
Sounds, March 19, 1988.
King of the Slums
Thanks to Mooney for supplying this clipping.

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