Released : 1999
You I mean, where to start. If a hundred millionth of the reverent vibe expended on fellow Liverpudlians the La’s had gone in the direction of the band Mick Head and his brother John formed after the The Pale Fountains, they’d have never been off the radio and taught in schools. Instead, as a result of decades of self sabotage and plain old bad luck, Shack remain(ed) a relative secret and Head (M) the cultest of cult Troubadours.
Fate? don’t talk to them about fate. Having recorded their brilliant second album Waterpistol in 1991, a fire torched the masters and producer Chris Allison left the only surviving copy in a hire car; by the time it had been rediscovered their label had folded. Having subsequently persuaded a major to fund it’s successor HMS Fable, they then delivered one of the finest Britpop albums ever made, only to be dismissed as trawler following copyists. Oh what to do.
Had it been put out years late like the one before HMS Fable might’ve been regarded as a throwback classic. Instead, with almost near perfect bad timing, it’s Scouseo-Byrdsian genius was promptly drowned out by all the superstar DJ’s and their block rockin’ beats. Comedy was one of it’s most straightforward ditties, made somehow better by the almost stumble in the first line, Head trying to fit too many syllables in like a terrier happily chasing a tennis ball. If being assured had never been their gift to own before here finally it was, the rambling, countryfied string section giving yer a huge extra dollop of hugs and guitars from California via Croxteth, jangling on a tune with a heart as big as Shanks. “When you cry it pulls me through” he sang, a man who’d always walked under ladders whilst singing his blues.