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World Of Twist
Quality Street (Reissue) Ian Wade , December 10th, 2013 09:54

I've had over 20 years to think about it, and now I've come to the conclusion that the reason why World of Twist weren't massively famous, is that they weren't for our time. Maybe we just weren't ready for them. Of the slim catalogue of footage available on YouTube, it would seem as if they were more an apparition than a band. There are the videos, featuring furry landscapes and a big rotating ROCK AND ROLL sign and lava-lampian dream sequences. A strange Snub TV interview at a swimming baths. That appearance on The Word, where some keenly enthusiastic dancers in the crowd give it the full C&C Music Factory pantaloon shape-throw to 'The Storm', while the band, oblivious to all this – Gordon shuffling with his guitar, Adge and MC Sea Shells moving some bits and pieces about on a board and creating whooshes, impassively there working on these new sounds, these new ways, becoming a new far out.

In a band of many geniuses, this reissue is dedicated to the late train-driving Genesis nut drummer Nick Sanderson (who with King would go on and invent Earl Brutus) and vocalist Tony Ogden, who was an intense yet loose combination of Leonard Rossiter doing Elvis, with the élan of Bryan Ferry enjoying a kebab. He pretty much disappeared from view after the band's demise, having grown bored of singing himself. They were basically a Roxy Music for the ravers. Retro-futurists revelling in retro-futurism.

The most influential band Manchester ever produced? Not quite, but look at Oasis. Noel was a big fan, and they named their tenth anniversary tour 'Noise & Confusion', Liam even went on to cover 'Sons Of The Stage' (oh, which Oasis were very nearly called) with Beady Eye. Bernard Sumner may have dismissed them as "we are weird" on the rebooted Juke Box Jury, but that shouldn't put you off, he was on all the drugs back then as it was. They were too late for Madchester and too pre-Britpop before the actual Britpop came along and ruined everything. World Of Twist, along with Saint Etienne, Denim and Pulp, took niche and neglected references – Lieutenant Pigeon, Northern Soul, Joe Meek, Watney's Party Seven, Hawkwind, Keith Mansfield, Deep Purple – and crafted them into wonky beacons for equally wonky outsiders.

Quality Street, however, is not an exercise in nostalgia or full of the knowingly knowing. It took its references more as touchstones, rather than create a pastiche. Unfortunately the production managed to lathe down the bits that made the band such a live freak-out experience, leaving it as a slightly damp postscript to the their career, instead of the unignorable statement it should have been. The live favourite inclusion of 'She's A Rainbow' (no doubt a record company's suggestion of the band conceding to the baggy trope of slapping some beats beneath a Rolling Stones cover) peters out into a polite canter. Another cover, this time of Chairmen Of The Board's 'Life & Death', could've been much more menacing and as demented as the original, but loses its bollocks to sound, well, neutered and efficient. While the original single versions of 'The Storm' and 'Sons Of The Stage' commanded attention with their three and a half minutes of PURE HAPPENING, the album versions sound like a pale shadow. That's not to say the quality of the songs are weak, but the production tends to carbon date proceedings to that era and barely tell half the story.

The second disc of treats features the 'Blackpool Tower Suite', along with various sessions for Radio 1 and a glimpse into how formidable they were as a live band, especially their version of 'Kick Out The Jams'. If anything you can see why Earl Brutus had to rise from the Twist's ashes. Offering a more visceral, piss and chips vision of pub car park glam rock, possibly in retaliation to the endless palavers that caused World Of Twist to give up their quest.   

So, Quality Street then. Not quite the album it could have been, but still very far from a disaster. Think of it as an essential artefact of when big ideas and vision collided beyond the remit of its day. As Jeremy Deller's banner proclaims 'I miss the World of Twist', we've yet to see, and sadly are very unlikely to now, witness anything as wonderful as them again.