Home Read Albums Of The Week: Black Grape | Orange Head

Albums Of The Week: Black Grape | Orange Head

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Black Grape could only have been made in Manchester. The swagger, fun and cryptic humour seem hewn from a city historian AJP Taylor once described as offering an archetypally different way of English urban life to London.

Both Shaun Ryder and Paul Leveridge, known as Kermit, came from edgy-but-cool parts of the city. In Shaun’s case Salford, with Kermit originating Moss Side. For those unfamiliar, ‘the Moss’ lay in the shadow of Manchester City’s old stadium at Maine Road, and was one of the first multi-ethnic areas in Manchester. The Moss can get fookin heavy. So we have two restlessly creative men, both from the wrong side of the tracks, neither inclined to go to art school or enroll on an MFA programme, yet loaded with street smarts and musical talent, and wanting the world. Good old punk had told every scally they could have it, and a generation of went for it in our own ways, with varying degrees of success. Shaun’s astonishing rise and fall with Happy Mondays is the stuff of legend.

Drugs, and smack in particularly, are almost custom-designed to ambush such personalities on route, to provide that distracting maze so many us struggle to navigate our way out of at certain times in our lives. But drugs also brought Shaun and Kermit together. As the friendship developed, so too did a stunning collaboration. It’s Great When You’re Straight, the ironically entitled album, which gave a nod to their hook up as drugs buddies around the grizzled fag end of Happy Mondays and Kermit’s band The Ruthless Rap Assassins. It was a storming phoenix rising from the ashes of the other projects that seemed to have run their course.

Black Grape followed this up with Stupid Stupid Stupid, which, while not hitting the giddy heights of its predecessor, had enough to moments to cement the band as a fixture. Then came Pop Voodoo in 2017. Then…nothing. Till now.

Shaun’s triumphs, struggles and diversions have been well documented. The usual contract and money hassles, a best-selling account of his life, the stunning solo albums Amateur Night in the Big Top and Visits from Future Technology, a serious and informative investigation of UFOs as an author and broadcaster, a reality TV bon vivant and finally, a life as a clean-living family man, which has supplanted his old ways. And of course, there was the reformation of Happy Mondays.

Years of hard living, however, had taken their toll on Kermit. He would develop septicemia and needed the transplant of pig’s valve into his heart. Despite this, he was battling gamely back into music. And his remarkable recovery from this life-threatening condition and operation would be the catalyst for another Black Grape previous collaboration.

The world is in a bit of a state right now, and bullshit reigns more than ever, and perversely disguised as candour. We need Manc street sass, intelligence and wit more than ever right now. Black Grape have that in spades.”