Today’s POP RESCUE from a potentially loveless fate, is the 1988 album The Raw & The Cooked by trio Fine Young Cannibals. But was this album a great feast for the ears? Read on…
This 10 track album opens with the unmistakeable intro to their big hit and second single, She Drives Me Crazy, a song that is synonymous with the bands name. The guitar riffs pitched alongside Roland Gift‘s high-pitched vocals really sets this song aside from other 80s hits, and saw them reach #5 in the UK singles chart. This track is a real gem with plenty of guitar, interesting vocals and beeping synth layers.
This is followed by third single Good Thing, with it’s exceptionally catchy 60’s feeling – with piano-led melody, handclaps. The track was originally used in the film Tin Men (1987) which was set in 1963, and therefore lends its style here. Oddly, the result is a song that feels really fresh despite being almost 30 years old. Roland is aided by vocal harmonies that help to lift his vocal in the chorus. This song gave the group a #7 UK hit.
I’m Not The Man I Used To Be opens with a wonderful snare drum-laden beat, and a downbeat electric organ. Roland’s vocals feel at home here but occasionally he wobbles. Musically and lyrically at times this sounds a bit like it could easily have been a Pet Shop Boys song. The song is gentle, rarely strayingThis was the fifth UK single from the album, reaching #20.
The tempo increases for I’m Not Satisfied, which sees a return for the beats of hit She Drives Me Crazy. However, the similarities go beyond this and the chorus seems to stray a bit too close. A simple bassy synth chugs along in the background. Roland gets a chance to show of his vocal range towards the end, but the song is almost over by this point. The song was the worst performing single from the album – when it was released as the sixth and final one in 1990.
We’re back to the 60’s sounding style again for next song Tell Me What, which was another song for the Tin Men movie. Roland’s vocals are at home here, and he is expertly aided by some fantastically warm vocal harmonies from his backing singers. There’s oodles of percussion and little signature riffs from the guitars here. This is a lovely 60’s styled song, but feels slightly oddly placed on this album.
Heavier guitars return for a return to the 80s, with Don’t Look Back. This was the fourth single from the album, but fell outside the Top 30, at 34. This feels like a genuine piece of 80’s guitar pop, but whilst it’s a little catchy in the chorus, it does feel like a filler and lacks a big memorable moment.
This is followed by It’s Ok (It’s Alright). Again, Roland’s vocals are a little buried in the music until the first chorus. This song is perhaps more pop than the other songs here – with lots of keyboards, plenty of ‘oooh‘ from his backing singers, and definitely turns up the catchiness in the chorus. This should definitely have made it as a single over Don’t Look Back.
Next up is Don’t Let It Get You Down, which gives us a ton of synths and quite a fast beat. Roland’s vocals are very high… perhaps a little too high. Apparently, the group asked for Prince to produce this album, and I think that this song shows off just how much they liked his sound. However, it misses the mark vocally. Instead, the record label gave them the brother of a member of The Revolution (as in Prince and the…), and a recording slot at Prince’s Paisley Park Studios. I can imagine that if Prince had recorded this song instead, it would have been so much better. It’s a mess.
Penultimate track As Hard As It Is is up next, and this sees the 1960s style return. This is organ, guitar, and vocally led. Roland’s vocals are strong, and confident here, and perhaps a little stylised (like a bargain Tom Jones). A gentle scattering of female backing vocals just help to lift the song a little. 80’s Obligatory Saxophone gets a solo in the middle before pseudo-Tom Jones returns to close the song.
The album closes with lead single Ever Fallen In Love?, which is a cover of The Buzzcock’s 1978 track. It feels like a fairly weak place to start the album’s run of singles to be honest, but the song was taken from the film Something Wild (1986). Musically it is pretty middle of the road, and Roland’s vocals are a bit a bit too short and sharp in the chorus to make this feel like a nicely flowing song. The video is pretty cool though, incorporating clips from the film, and probably helped the song reach it’s #9 UK peak in 1987.
Over all, if you remember the Fine Young Cannibals purely on the basis of their hit She Drives Me Crazy, and perhaps Good Thing, then you’re probably not in for a treat. This album seems to almost be a bit of a ‘best of’ with the inclusion of the four songs that had otherwise already been in films, giving a weird 60s/80s style.
I guess that if the group had been able to use Prince, and had not included the four movie songs, then this album may have sounded a lot different, and I’d like to think that it would have been better off for it.
Where are the Fine Young Cannibals now?
The Fine Young Cannibals won a Brit Award for both the Best Album (for this one) and Best British Group in 1990, and swiftly followed it up with The Raw & The Remix in 1990, helping to reach an even wider audience with remixes of this album.
The group broke up in 1992.
The group reformed briefly for the release of their best of album, The Finest in 1996, which gave them a #10 album, but they have not charted an album since. The album gave them a #17 UK hit with single The Flame in 1996, and She Drives Me Crazy returned briefly to the charts at #36 in 1997.
Roland went on to appear in a number of films and TV shows, but released a debut eponymous album in 2002. However, it failed to chart in the UK.
Guitarist Andy Cox continued to work in music, releasing an album as duo Cribabi in 2002 on his own label.
Bassist David Steele has also continued to work in music, and perhaps has been the most successful in producing a vast number of albums including Gabrielle‘s debut 1993 album Find Your Way (which also included collaborations with former-band mate Andy Cox).
POP RESCUE RATING
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
- 1988 UK CHART PEAK: #1
- POP RESCUE COST: £2.99 from a British Heart Foundation shop.