The late 80s were very dark days for PopJunkies. The Smiths were about to implode, The Stone Roses were mired in their dodgy Goth phase and Stock, Aitken and Waterman dominated the charts. You know it got so bad I almost bought a (gulp) Wedding Present album. Mercifully there was also El Records and gems like Choirboys Gas by Bad Dream Fancy Dress, an album that sounds like nothing else.
The brainchild of the patron saint of PopJunkie, Mike Alway, throughout the mid and late 80s El records released a dazzling array of fantastic pop records that were a wonderful stew of wit, flair, dazzling pop and gorgeous girls. PopJunkie will check out the astonishing Renaissance Glam of the Would-Be Goods (first incarnation) at a later date but until then it’s time to feast your eyes and ears on Essex’s finest contribution to the last century – Bad Dream Fancy Dress.
Alway took a couple of young likely lasses from Southend, pitched them up with The King of Luxembourg and let them fly. The result, Choirboys Gas, is one of the few truly unique albums in pop history. The whole concept can be condensed down to the opener, The Supremes, where over a Motown-esque beat the girls share their dreams of fame and fortune before descending into a barrage of caterwauling and screaming. On this form they wouldn’t even have even got to sing a second line in an X-factor audition.
Even more astonishing is title track Choirboys Gas, a kind of mini psych pop opera complete with sitars, drastic chord and tempo changes, more off beat notes and lyrics that’s laden with more innuendo than a Carry On DVD boxed set And there’s Leigh on Sea (Y-Fronts and Antique shops), quite possibly the only ever paen to an Essex seaside town which is sugary sweet enough to make you want to decamp there for good. Best of all is the album’s bonafide pop classic, Curry Crazy, where over a belting guitar riff and Bontempi style organs our classy Essex chicks screech ‘we don’t want boys we want some spicy stuff!’
Forget death metal and banging techno, if you ever want to clear a room this is the album to play. Yet you can guarantee that there will always be one smart person in the room who’ll salute it as a work of unbridled genius. ‘One day, gentleman, they will be old bags,’ goes the visionary sleeve notes. ‘But not yet. For now the Bad Dream Fancy Dress girls are in their prime, raucous and high-pitched. How can they fail with Saturday night and Nestlé’s condensed milk?’ Indeed.
Bad Dream Fancy Dress – Choirboys Gas 1989 El Records