McAlmont & Butler will, for many, be forever known as ‘one-hit wonders’, the answer to a thousand pub quizzes thanks solely to the dynamic duo’s three octave, four minute single Yes. That it’s a sensational record is not up for debate. The full-length version is particularly thrilling, all reverb ‘n twang ‘n handclaps ‘n kitchen sink thrown in for good measure.
But they have another, far less well-known track that is almost just as skyscrapingly brilliant.
During the sessions for what would’ve been the duo’s third album, aborted after Butler teamed up with his ex Suede partner in crime, Brett Anderson, for the short-lived Tears project, they recorded Speed.
It starts off slow and measured, kinda like a soulful cousin of the Jesus And Mary Chain’s Sidewalking, but while the JAMC fling a bucket of feedback and forced Americanisms over the lot of it, McAlmont & Butler continue where they left off on Yes. If Dusty In Memphis had been Dusty In East Kilbride….
Faster than the Bullet trains in the east it goes, before the guitar, electric and wired, zooms off out into the air and the female choir come in on the chorus.
Lazy folk might point to the fact that it seems to take its cue from the Yes blueprint – deliberately mid-paced with tumbling toms, a Spectorish percussive backbeat atop sweeping strings, Butler’s guitar heroics and up-strummed chords, that sensational triple-octave vocal, but that would be to ignore the fact that Speed is something of a masterpiece all by itself.
It may be mid-paced, but I swear that by the time it floats and flounces its way to the end, it’s slightly faster, slightly louder and slightly further burrowed into your brain. You won’t even realise you’re doing the measured handclaps until you catch a sight of yourself doing a Jagger pose into the mirror, feather boa ‘n all. At least, I didn’t.
It’s a shame that after being released on 7” and download, it managed only to scrape to a lowly number 193(!) on the charts.
Who knew the charts went that far back/down?
Had Speed been released 9 years earlier in 1995 as the follow-up to Yes, it’s a stick-onthat McAlmont & Butler would never have been left on the shelf alongside those other pub quiz answers Baha Men, Nena and 4 Non Blondes, even if they’re as far removed as possible from the talent-free lucky hit makers just mentioned – their recent tour had rave reviews every night. But you knew that already.