[The Guardian, 1997]
FEEL THE NOIZE - GREATEST HITS
DON'T think. Don't even think about thinking. You can do that some other time. This is not music to ponder, theorise over, place in context. You might as well put a hand-carved onyx frame around a porn centrefold (and it's only a matter of time before somebody does, and scoops the Turner prize.) If you start paying attention, you're going to have to contend with lines like
And I thought you might like to knowMaybe those were more innocent days, or more ignorant ones. Even if they could have stood up to it in the Seventies, in the painfully aware Nineties, Slade don't withstand scrutiny.
Not even each other's. They're currently in litigation, with Noddy Holder suing his ex-bandmates for trying to use the brand name on the nostalgia circuit. Hence the wince-making spectacle of Michael Aspel producing those ex-compadres, like a clutch of particularly unwelcome rabbits from a hat, to Noddy's evident discomfort on This Is Your Life. It's also plain that the only reason for this collection's release is Noel Gallagher's choice of Cum On Feel The Noize as a b-side and set-closer for Oasis.
See what happens when you worry about these things too much? Everything gets tainted. And if Slade had one outstanding virtue, it was purity. Simplicity. Their hammer-headed riffing and pounding refined rock'n'roll to its unadulterated, dumbest essence: a beat that feels like nothing so much as getting whacked over the head in four/four time with a skip, and tunes that will outlast anything a pub jukebox can throw at them.
Between 1971 and 1974, a time ravaged by prog and pompous singer-songwriters and befouled with the decaying mess of hippiedom, Slade songs must have tasted like draught nectar to anyone not caught up in the dreadful earnestness of the age. That was a lot of people. Slade had a dozen enormous hits over a scant four years. In 1997, they seem strangely modern, the perfect band for a return to big, blissfully stupid rock'n'roll. And of course, it's that run of hits which sounds most up to date.
Cum On Feel The Noize is matchless - Oasis, with all their heroic sense of scale, have not improved on it. Coz I Luv You, Mama Weer All Crazee Now, Skweeze Me, Pleeze Me: no songs have ever been less brow-furrowingly troubled, less cogitating, more unmistakably alive. It'd be nice to think that prime Slade is the sound of feeling young, but to be honest, it's more the sound of being pissed. Those 12 songs amount to one big, happy drunk. Which is how Slade spent those four years themselves, if the transcendentally Seventies Bangin' Man is any evidence (Noddy Holder famously used to receive his wake-up calls in the hotel bar.)
After that, it's all minor oddities and those curious, reflective ballads successful bands always seem to end up writing as their careers go into a tailspin. We'll Bring The House Down and Lock Up Your Daughters, from 1981, are easily worthy of the classic rock monsters of the age, Spinal Tap. Merry Xmas Everybody, thoughtfully left to the end of the CD, was and remains an epoch-defining and unutterably great rock'n'roll number which just happens to be about Christmas. Don't let anyone tell you different. Play it loudly and defiantly, in February.
Wild wild wild.
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