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Friday, June 15, 2007

Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, “Happy”

posted by on June 15 at 12:53 PM

There was a time, long ago, when MTV actually played videos by unknown or up-and-coming bands. 120 Minutes—the yet-unspoiled music channel’s weekly alternative show—was my introduction to Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Primus, Jane’s Addiction, and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. It was 1990, pre-driver’s liscense, pre-Lollapalooza, and living in suburban South Florida I was thrilled to have a peephole into the weirdo culture I couldn’t find at home.

Ned’s were British and they had a song called “Kill Your Television” (my sophomore-year high school friend/fellow budding music nerd Davin Swanson and I relished the irony of watching the video on TV). These factors made them patently cool. On top of that, their debut God Fodder was a weird, jammy, catchy, angry, dancy alt-pop masterpiece. They played with two bassists, we learned, one on the upper register and one on the lower, and their singer had just the right degree of angst and longing in his voice. And while we dug the anthemic rebellion of “Kill Your Television,” it was Ned’s other single, “Happy,” that really got me off.

Even as a naive teenager I could relate to the fantasy of perfect modern romance and intimate communication the song raises. I wasn’t an angry or dissatisfied kid, at least relatively speaking, but there was something wistful in the song and the video that struck a nerve, an ideal I aspired to without really knowing it.

I’m certainly biased, but I hear this song today and it holds up remarkably well, its perfectly balanced pop dynamic accented with all the right details. Ned’s broke up in 1994, after their second album, retiring as underground legends. But like fellow “grebo” favorites Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, they’re playing gigs again; the reunited Ned’s is set to play Glastonbury this summer. I guess you can go home again, as long as your home is an enormous field in the English countryside.

This YouTube version of “Happy” is viciously edited; the album version is about two minutes longer and has a great vocal breakdown towards the end. Still, the song thrums with terrific adolescent vitality and a complex but catchy chorus, making it the Best Song Ever (This Week).

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Grey Cell Green is better than both:

Posted by brian | June 15, 2007 1:52 PM

I'm Not Sleeping Around is easily Ned's best.

Posted by vegetable lasagna | June 15, 2007 2:08 PM

Current TV has music, supposedly they're showing Bonnaroo. I haven't looked for it on Comcast, but Current's website says channel 125 in Seattle (366 on satellite).

Posted by vegetable lasagna | June 15, 2007 2:38 PM

i had a tshirt that said "did you miss ned's atomic dustbin?" on the front and on the back "then you fucked up!". got me kicked out of the mall.

Posted by j-justice | June 15, 2007 2:45 PM

found it!!! this shirt taught me to do my own laundry so my parents wouldn't find it.

Posted by j-justice | June 15, 2007 2:51 PM

Ned's Atomic Dustbin are my go-to punchline-band. I cannot believe that the word "masterpiece" was used in this post. Wow...

Posted by eli | June 15, 2007 3:23 PM

'God Fodder,' the debut, is all kinds of excellent, full of pockmarked insect bass-lines and anthemic uplift, repeatedly splaying out like a ball of wound wires cut in half.

They just put out another best-of, 'Some Furtive Years,' which is essentially 'God Fodder' with a few later singles chucked in.

I miss them.

Posted by Fawkes | June 15, 2007 8:24 PM

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