Sounding like football hooligans performing a mixture of Captain Beefheart and Sly and the Family Stone, there's still no-one like Shaun Ryder and his band.
Happy Mondays' first album Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out) , was an oddity even back in 1987. Produced by John Cale , it took the punk-funk of ESG and mixed it with the moodiness of Joy Division, smearing Shaun Ryder's stream-of-altered-consciousness lyrics over the top. However, it wasn't until the release of Bummed the following year that the Happy Mondays came close to recognising their genius . Thuggish, loutish and surreal, Bummed was the era's There's a Riot Goin' On as performed by football hooligans into Captain Beefheart and Eric B and Rakim. Wrote for Luckand Lazyitis demonstrated that the Happy Mondays - and their producer Martin Hannett - were the magpies of the junk shop jam. Samples from Altamont ("You're rendering that scaffolding dangerous") andPerformance ("I like it! Turn it up!), sit with some of Ryder's best and most humorous lyricism.
Along with their peers the Stone Roses, the Happy Mondays were about to spark a British guitar pop renaissance. Vince Clarke's remix of Wrote for Luck infused more electronics into the Mondays sound and was a precursor to the Hallelujah EP in 1989. With lyrics like "Shaun William Ryder will lie down beside you / Fill you full of junk", Hallelujah lay down the Mondays' hedonistic manifesto, and painted a vivid portrait of Ryder's hustling, northern jived world.
Remixes by Paul Oakenfold, Terry Farley and Andrew Weatherall pointed the way to the Mondays' next album Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches. Paul Oakenfold and Steve Obsorne produced it, colouring in their sound with 70s soul and psychedelia inflections under a shuffling house beat. Ryder's lyrics - compared to William Blake by Tony Wilson - confirmed his position as spokesman for a generation on drugs. At this point the Happy Mondays became inescapable, even scoring a hit in North America with Step On, a rewrite of John Kongos' He's Going to Step on You Again.
However, the drugs set in and took control. Stories of crack cocaine abuse on an epic scale were far more more compelling than their final album, the critically and commercially hated Yes Please. By the time it was released the band had all but split up and remained dormant until 1995, when Black Grape (which was essentially Happy Mondays in a new name) rose from the ashes to enjoy several top ten hits. But drugs again led to the downfall of Black Grape.
The first official resurrection of the Mondays took place in 2000 with the release of the Thin Lizzy cover The Boys are Back in Town and a support slot with Oasis during their Standing on the Shoulder of Giants tour. But that wasn't enough to bring the dead back to life. The band members went on to do some high profile reality television shows instead with Rowetta (who sang with the band during the early '90s) being judged by Simon Cowell on The X-Factor and making the final rounds, honorary Monday Paul Oakenfold writing the Big Brother theme song and Bez winning Celebrity Big Brother. Shaun Ryder released a solo album and got sued by his managers who were somehow legally entitled to take any earnings from him.
In 2005, when a documentary on Shaun Ryder, The Ecstasy and the Agony was broadcast, it looked like it was all over. Both Bez and Ryder were portrayed as people who had thrown themselves against the rock'n'roll barriers to return completely burnt out. The scenes between them were like a bizarre restaging of Last of the Summer Wine.
Yet a new Mondays album is always a cause for celebration. Newly sober Ryder still has the keen surrealistic eye on everyday life in Britain and Uncle Dysfunktion is largely brilliant. The single Jellybean, is a welcome return to the slurred druggy vocals and lazy grooves that were Happy Mondays' classic mode. But the Mondays experience is ultimately summed up by Shaun Ryder (of course) as he replies to a rhetorical question on Deviant: "What do you think I am? A fucking deviant?" Yes, of course - and thank God for that.