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Pianoforall Review

by Ellen Thomas (2019-05-27)

The influence of The Happy Mondays was Pianoforall substantial from their onset and continues to be felt today. Their blend of traditional rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards) with the state-of-the-art (sampling, sequencers, drums loops, and drum machines) met its apex on 1990's "Pills n' Thrills and Bellyaches," expertly produced by Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osborne. Always at the vanguard of technology and production, the Mondays expertly married the organic vibrancy of traditional rock n' roll (their early records denote an almost punk influence) with the dizzying rush of electronic dance music. Shimmering acoustic guitars, grungy electric guitars, bouncy bass, crisp drums and the aforementioned drum loops create a rich backdrop for frontman Shaun Ryder's unique (to say the least) lyrics.Realizing the importance of style over substance, Ryder eschewed the pretensions that befell many of his contemporaries and delivered his poetry in as natural and common a way as possible. Ryder knew the limitations of his voice, yet was unafraid to attack any song with vigor, be it the creaky croak of "Holiday" or the breathy "Bob's Yer Uncle." Often times, as on songs like Yes Please's "Monkey in the Family," the lyrics were delivered in a sort of half-rap, with sounds, syllables, and feeling holding sway over the vocal histrionics often associated with lead singers.Lyrically, Ryder and the Mondays were brilliant at layering lyrics in such a way as to create an impressionistic image of whatever they were writing about, be it the tale of a suspicious customs officer in "Holiday," of the anti-bigotry "Loose Fit." Never saying any more than he had to, Ryder's verses display an economy and efficiency that unfortunately eludes many rock n' roll singers. Relying heavily on in-jokes, slang, and double (sometimes triple) entendres, Ryder's painterly lyrics often take more than one listen for the true story or message to become clear. Cutting straight to the bone, there was never any room for the cloying sentimentality and banal boy/girl platitudes that plagued so many of The Happy Mondays' contemporaries. While not afraid to tackle romantic relationships, Ryder always did so with his trademark unctuousness, as on tunes like "WFL" and "God's Cop."