Great Lost Albums of the 90s – Strangelove
Gary Page revisits a great lost album of the 1990s, “Time For The Rest Of Your Life”, from Bristol-based alternative-rock band Strangelove:
2014 has seen a raft of reissued albums celebrating the twentieth anniversary of records released in what was a pivotal year for Britpop. The music press have been tripping over themselves to heap praise on some of the big hitters from 1994. While these albums will annually grace music writers’ greatest ever albums list, I thought I would look back at a few records from that time that may not have received the plaudits they deserved and have slipped out of view.
Bad luck, band implosion, right band wrong time, there are plenty of groups with a tale of woe as to why they didn’t make it big. I’m beginning by looking at a debut album from a band that had all the right ingredients to become a monumental rock act, however fate conspired against them.
When I was in my early 20s I once sat on a kerbside with my pal, slightly worse for wear. A couple of girls walked past and I don’t know why but I proclaimed that I was in a band called Strangelove. Thinking back my toes curl up with embarrassment when I think back to this drunken, deluded statement. At the time I barely left my bedroom, let alone be part of a mildly successful rock band. At that time however I felt such a kinship with the mysterious band that in my angst ridden, young man kind of way, I must have wanted someone, anyone to know that I felt part of the gang I had discovered a few years previously.
As many people know, indie rock music in Britain was exploding during the early to mid 1990s and there seemed to be a new, extraordinary band appearing every week. I had read a review in Q Magazine of a new band from Bristol. The review of their debut album, Time For The Rest Of Your Life was nothing short of gushing. So a few days later I sloped into town to find this alleged masterpiece. I located the CD featuring a dark, slightly disturbing front cover of what looked like a baby doll. Strangely bound in string, dirty and grubby with a sad, neglected look on its face. I knew I wasn’t in for the rollicking good time of Definitely Maybe or an art school knees-up in Walthamstow with Blur, but purchased the album expectantly.
Once at home in the sanctuary of my tiny bedroom, I sat back and let Time For The Rest Of Your Life wash over me. It didn’t take long to realise that this was a very special record. The lyrics struck a cord in my fragile teenage mind with the incendiary delivery of lead singer Patrick Duff scaring the life out of me. This was my kind of band. Intense, widescreen songs that addressed loneliness in a way I’d never heard before. I couldn’t have been more in love. I adored Suede and Pulp, who wrote songs for the trash kids and the mis-shapes of the world, but I always felt Brett and Jarvis were kissing their fair share of girls and boys so I felt a fair bit of disconnect from those Indie pin ups. Patrick Duff on the other hand was just plain bitter, lonely and a tiny bit unhinged. My kind of anti-hero.
I recently returned to the record as I realised it had been twenty years since its release. I dug out the original CD as there was no fancy deluxe packaged reissue, fanfare or NME retrospective. In fact the only reference to Strangelove in the media I have heard in the last decade was from the brilliant comedian Josie Long proclaiming her love for the band. Ahh Josie, if only we were living in the same town. We could’ve gone to gigs together and you could have cheered me up with your jokes. Who am I kidding? I still wouldn’t have met her as I was in the bedroom listening to Time For The Rest Of Your Life along with Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible and the Best of Joy Division. This gives you a good indicator of the young man I once was.
Twenty years on and even though age has found me in a much better place emotionally, I’m again struck by the power of the record. Opening track Sixer builds on an atmospheric intro and explodes into a balling rage of pre-millennial tension. The chorus of “Here comes the next line, I don’t wanna die!” should have been belted out by thousands on the festival circuit in that glorious summer of ’94.
The title track is a tour de force of twin guitars, battling for the listener’s attention. In addition, the way Duff delivers the line “Christ!” is worth the purchase of the album alone. The chorus aches loneliness and alienation with the words “Inside it feels like I’m falling and I can’t let go,” and the refrain, “No one will love you in a thousand years,” is stark but reveals an unerring truth.
There are some beautifully poignant moments on the record to contrast with the wall of sound guitar attack. Kite is a strange, sweet song again addressing loneliness and isolation but in a dreamlike, Nick Drake setting. Fire (Show Me Light) even has elements of The Cure with whispered vocals, creepily double tracked with the same shouted refrain. I can imagine this album is not to everyone’s taste and maybe seen as a little over the top. The one thing I would hope doubters will concede however is that with the album clocking in at just under the seventy minute mark, there’s no holding back.
The album closes with a ten-minute rollercoaster ride of a song called Is There a Place? The fact that the band chose this as the second single from the album staggered me twenty years ago. From the outsider it seems that rather than wanting to become the next darlings of the NME, Strangelove wanted to push for something greater, however impossible it may have been and with the very real possibility of shooting themselves in the foot. The song broods and builds to an almighty crescendo of Duff screaming with seemingly his last breath on earth, “Is there a place for me? Somewhere!” The world epic is overused in 2014, but this song encapsulates that phrase and then some.
Sadly I never got to see the band live. I had tickets for a gig of theirs in Brighton when they were promoting the second album, Love and Other Demons. Sadly when I got to the venue there was a sparse, A4 piece of paper on the door saying the gig had been cancelled. I travelled back home more glum than usual with an empty feeling inside and a non-refundable train ticket burning a hole in my wallet. In the pre internet era, I never did find out why that gig was cancelled.
After the release of their third album in 1997, Strangelove were no more. Patrick Duff retreated from the music business due to the age-old demons of drink and drugs, while the rest of the band found other musical outlets to pursue. It took the singer many years to return to music, however he did return in 2004 healthy, clean and with a new perspective on life.
What he and his bandmates conjured up from those demons of youth in 1994 is a powerful document that sits alongside the aforementioned The Holy Bible and Suede’s Dog Man Star as that year’s three standout records. To take a song title from the album, I’m hopeful that will one day Time For The Rest Of Your Life will be heard and highly regarded by a wider audience. Check it out, you have the rest of your life.
Words by Gary Page.