Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Top 102 Albums. No 63. I Am the Greatest.

Top 102 Albums. No 63. 
I Am the Greatest. A House

When your first single is called Kick Me Again Jesus, you become a hostage to fate. Anyway, Jesus must have worn out the toes of his Doc Martens doing just what Mr Couse asked him to. But with the release of I am the Greatest it appeared that this divine assault and battery had merely goaded A House into the greatest resurrection since Jesus' own.
Having gained a 'major label deal' with Blanco y Negro on the wave of a number of such deals in late eighties Dublin A House followed the pattern of finding the "deal" a double edged sword. They didn't generate the level of success demanded quickly enough.

They were dropped.

However, they regrouped and found a new home with Keith Cullen's Setanta - Also home to Edwyn Collin's Gorgeous George - see Cathedral Of Sound's recent post. Collins proved to be a fellow traveller and came on board to produce the single Endless Art. But Jesus wasn't finished kicking. Although Endless Art was the most played song on British radio for a week, the record was largely unavailable due to distribution problems. The song is now remembered for the furore (in a teacup) over the fact that it's list of famous artists are all male. A 'female' version was later recorded to try to make up the imbalance.

(Not the original video, but fine work, I think. Audio on original videos online is crap.)

All rather moot, I think, when one thinks of the first line saying that "All art is useless" and realise that Mickey Mouse, who gets a mention, rhymes with A House, or Dave Couse.... one can't help thinking that the whole thing is an elaborate joke on the singer himself. Or is it a joke on art. Or is it a heartfelt love song to those who came before, paving the way for the second coming of A House.

Anyway, given the success of Edwyn as producer of the single he also did their minor label debut album, and what an album it turned out to be. Opening with a line which is as much a hostage to fortune as their first single this is an album which captures the frustration of living and creating in a world which seems to have lost all meaning and even lost interest in how to represent that lack of meaning. "I don't care what the critics say.." Indeed the song, like Endless Art and others on the album, uses lists to great effect.

The strange thing about this assault of cynicism and discombobulation and frustration and fatalism and guilt and resentment and irritation and discouragement is that the defiance makes it all rather rousing, and the hooks make it irresistible. (Although unfortunately, it was largely resisted.)

"Light a penny candle
Light a faithful candle
Light a faithful candle
Light a hopeless candle
And see through our blind faith"
(Blind Faith)

Where else can you find a song whose lyrics sound like an article by an ageing and irate rock critic about how business is killing music - with the chorus - I am the Greatest.
'Whatever happened to good music? You know in the days when you
could feel it? It was almost sexual, sending shivers up your spine. This, I believe is
because songwriters were not restricted by the small music dictatorship
which now exists. Let's hope the future holds something better than the present
and let's leave the past alone. The music business is incapable of bringing
music to the future, as it sits just waiting to pounce on any third rate trend,
milking it to death, once again putting money where the music is not. I
only wish I was born before all the great ideas were used. While I struggle to
working around this, the most annoying thing is watching other people
succeed through stealing them."

Listening to this now it has aged better than anything else from the era. It sounds better than it did then.

And I have a confession to make. I didn't buy this at the time. I only ever bought On Our Big Fat Merry Go Round. I was part of the reason this wasn't the success that it should have been. But I am ready to embrace the faith. Mr Couse, have you space for prodigal sons?


  1. This is a great lp (such a move on from big fat merry go round) and it is shame i think endless art seemed to cast a big shadow over everything else that they did (the more endless art was a bit of naff decision and slowed them down). I've not payed this much for ages so need to relisten. The next 2 lps were also fantastic with no more apologies on a par

    1. Thought this would be up your street alright. Yes a great album and I must spend more time listening to them.