The minute an English toddler caught sight of the Sex Pistols on British television and registered a subconscious thought (“that rock’n’roll swindle fing looks easy i bet i can get away wif that when i get older”) somewhere between its noodle and nappy before reinserting its thumb and crawling off to do something more pressing, Britain was doomed to endure an endless series of young bands determined to top the wanton exploits and arrogant posturing of their predecessors. Self-appointed stars from the Manic Street Preachers to Primal Scream to Radiohead to Oasis have provided the United Kingdom (and parts beyond) with colorful Clockwork brats on parade, generating news stories, obnoxious interviews and, occasionally, some good — if rarely original — music.
At the start, Brighton’s These Animal Men — singer/guitarist Boag, guitarist Julian “Hooligan” Hewings, bassist Patrick Murray and drummer Steve Hussey — got by on sheer attitude. Although tuneful and harmony cushioned, the band’s early records spring from the same fountain of energetic rock/pop (spigots marked Mott the Hoople, David Bowie and the New York Dolls) that has nurtured bands from Generation X on down. Retrieved from a live BBC session, the speeding title track of the five-song Too Sussed? begins with the “Baba O’Riley” riff and then blasts along on pure adrenaline, spewing clever-sounding impending-adulthood rubbish for lyrics. The EP also contains the quartet’s first two singles: “Speed King,” an especially catchy automotive romantic tale that winks at methamphetamine users, and “You’re Not My Babylon,” an absurdly grandiose psychodrama about John Dillinger beating up his girlfriend. Despite some idiosyncrasies, the music is as programmed by history as the record’s crucifixion cartoon cover.
Come the full-length album, the quartet is revealed to be the second coming of the Only Ones — and not just because Boag replicates the guitar solo from “Another Girl, Another Planet” almost note for note on “You’re Always Right.” Putting some fight into the fey, provocative intelligence into the words and street-level life into the anthemic melodies, These Animal Men turn their Bowie Primary School education into vintage glam-pop with a moving Romantic aesthetic undercurrent. Taut songwriting, good singing, buzzing electricity and a dynamic grasp that works piano balladry (as in the Room at the Top realism of the title track and “My Human Remains”) into the band’s plans make (Come on, Join) The High Society a compelling bolt of content, not posture. The assessment of fame in “Empire Building” is remarkably level-headed, and the canny self-awareness of “We Are Living” alludes to far deeper insight than young bands usually can admit: “A supercharged skinny hellbent on his own destruction/I can’t change the world only my own generation.” The inclusion of “Too Sussed?” rolls back the carpet of progress for a few minutes, but otherwise The High Society is a fine place to rub ears. (The Taxi EP contains five songs from the album.)
These Animal Men broke up shortly after the release of Accident & Emergency.