I can't, in all conscience, recommend the album Screw It! by Danger Danger. It is dreadful.
I mean it. It's absolutely dreadful. Not shocking. Not sick. Just dreadful.
But... yet... somehow...
Okay, it's like this.
You know how some albums just get you when you're young and vulnerable? I was 14, and my family was going on holiday to the United States, which I was very excited about. All the more so as my brother and I were going to be able to spend some time (again, I can't remember - it might have been a week, it might have been 2 years) at a summer camp. For guitarists.
The people we met there, mostly much older, taller, hairier, more tattooed and generally more worldly wise, were just the nicest people I had ever met. They offered to make us tea. They asked us about England. And then... we went to class, like school, except that we got to learn guitar stuff. (I remember having a very awkward crush on my blues guitar teacher, who must have been in her early twenties - a mess of dark hair, swearing and genuine enthusiasm. At the time there was a craze for 'Scratch & Sniff' stickers, that you would rub with your finger and they would smell of something - strawberries or mint or whatever. Anyway, on her Fender guitar case she had a mock-up Scratch & Sniff sticker of a vagina. I was born to go to a school with teachers like this.)
And the big story everyone was talking about was that the guest lecture was going to be given by the hottest guitar player (in every sense, so I was led to believe) in the glam-hair-rock that was popular at the time: Nuno Bettencourt from the band Extreme. Remember 'More Than Words'? Yeah, that guy. So everyone was saying 'Where's Nuno? Where's Nuno?'
Well, it turned out that 'More Than Words' had just gone massive, and Nuno was no longer available. Instead, we had a guitarist called Andy Timmons. From a band called Danger Danger.
His guest performance was awesome (again, in every sense). He was very funny, chatting with the audience, answering all the amiable heckles (including "Where's Nuno?" and "Who does your hair?") And he was mindbogglingly talented. Sure, he was a rock guitarist, but his speciality was actually a particular kind of incredibly complex jazz fusion of the style played by Chick Corea's guitarist Frank Gambale (who we also met at this camp, in the 'jello' queue).
Clearly, Timmons was an interesting guy, and I ordered the album without really giving it a second thought.
When it arrived and I got it home...
... I was a little unsettled by the cover.
Then again, Extreme had just released an album called Pornograffiti, in which they were apparently satirising America's obsession with the commercialisation of sex. So... perhaps this was ironic?
I put the tape into the tape deck, and pressed play.
Why not listen to what I heard next? See if you can also hear the sound of my jaw hitting the floor.
"The introduction to the album 'Screw It!' by Danger Danger" (sorry, I can't seem to get it to embed the MP3)
To be honest, to this day part of me is still wondering if they're an ironic parody of a glam rock band. Some sort of super-cynical art piece by students at Manchester University.
But yeah, they weren't. And still every time I hear that beginning I say to myself: "No. No no no. This is very very wrong."
I mean, this wasn't cheesy, or sexist, or tasteless... this was just off the map. This was something else entirely. This was...
Well, let me hit you with some of the lyrics.
I think about it every night in my sleep / When I'm driving in my car / Can't live without it my obsession grows deep / But I say screw it! My mum and dad do it! And that's good enough for me!
(Why would that, of all things, be an incentive?!)
So if you're in the mood for a slow poke honey, baby won't you give me a chime...
(A slow poke, you say! Why, you classy sophisticate! Let me just put down my martini and my copy of Baudelaire and see what I can do...)
It's that thing where, as a teenager, you're laughing at something, and you're laughing at it, and you're laughing at it... and suddenly... you realise it's got you. You're not standing over them in judgement. You're mesmerised, like a proverbial rabbit in the headlights.
Perhaps it was the rather intriguing:
Oh! Yeah! Gonna do it all day, do it all night! Oh! Yeah! Ain't gonna stop till I get it right...
(Those last three words being key - I always imagined some poor L.A. woman saying "No... No... You sh-... No... Look, no, I'm sorry, you're just way off...")
The redemption, in my eyes, began when it became clear to me, a certainly not over-experienced 14 year old, that these people had never had sex. Or even, like, talked to a girl. There was something strangely innocent in it.
Compare that to AC/DC. I still think that, in terms of driving rock riffs, the Back In Black album is hard to beat. But in the misleadingly-consentual-sounding 'Let Me Put My Love Into You' it has the refrain
Don't you struggle / Don't you fight / Don't you worry / Because it's your turn tonight
Sounds like rape to me, basically.
Danger Danger, on the other hand, captured the Wayne's World wide-eyed wonder before Nirvana gave the 90s its cynical voice. It was totally dumb. Totally naive. Totally clichéd. And totally, relentlessly cheerful. Which was the thing Grunge hated most, but I kinda liked it.
So much so that, on leaving school, my bestest-school-friend Bjürn and I made a mock rock video set to a Danger Danger (or 'Big Biscuit', as Bjürn insisted on calling them) song. And that song, Crazy Nites, is still something that fills me with big, dumb, pleasure.
Click here to hear the beginning of 'Crazy Nites' by Big Biscuit
So if you can put aside all sense of decency, restraint, taste and hold your nose for the most pungent of cheese, you might want to give this album a try.
And I know that's something you're capable of doing.
After all, you're reading my blog.