Set Adrift on Mammary Bliss
Shoe York Shoe York! Faraway from the ubiquitous Scene That Celebrates Itself,
CHAPTERHOUSE are busy re-inventing themselves in a haze of tequila and breast obsessions.
SIMON WILLIAMS flies to New York to witness the dubious dawn of... cleavage-gazing. Coney
Island babies: KEVIN CUMMENS
Andrew Sherriff, Chapterhouse
flicks the fringe
out of his eyes and leans
across the table with a
"Simon Bates said our first single
a c-- of:' record," he breathes,
"Simon Bates, that Radio One
bloke - he wrote that 'Freefall' was
'A c-- of a record' on his reaction
"The thing is that coming from a
different person. Like John Peel, a
c -- of a record could be a
compliment. But you know that
when it's from Simon Bates it
"We re laughing about it,
actually." sniffs singing partner
Stephen Patman. "After all, he is a c-- of a DJ..."
Like an innocent trip to a massag parlour, visiting America
for the first time can do strange things to the most rational of people.
The land of Big Macs and bigger wads possesses insane powers of illsuion and delusion.
Was that 'Bionic Man' Lee Majors moving in slow motion outside JFK airpost? Could that really have been numero uno fash model Naomi Campbell swanning through Chintown? Are Chapterhouse really turning into alcohol-addled, genitalsia-obsessed Monster of the Rawk 'n' Roll Road? Probably, possibly and oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...
"We did an 'in-store' in LA," confides Stephen. "We walked into this record shop and there were hundreds of people and they all started screaming! It was completely unnerving! So we
whipped out our cocks out and said
'Get down and suck it'."
Two weeks' toring Stateside is
starting to take Its toll on
Charterhouse. Unshackled from,
the media pressures and scene-
based demands back home,
Andrew, Stephen, bassist Russell
Barrett, guitarist Simon Rowe and
sinisterly reticent drummer Ashley
Bates have been flogging the
freeways and whipping the highways into shape.
Now they're spilling the beans
on the weirdo who loosened their
trailer in Washington, almost
causing the mass destruction ofthe
band's equipment; there was a
Biggies-style miniature plane flight
from Toronto to near death; and
then there was the breakdown in
the middle of the desert, which left
them stranded for four hours.
"Unfortunately there were two
acoustic guitars in our bus," moans
Andrew. "So Simon and our roadie
were playing old blues songs
throughout those four hours. And
because the van was cool inside, all
these flies were homing in on us.
But even after all the flies and the
Bob Dylan tunes, it felt like it had
been worth breaking down, just
for the laugh."
"It might have been slightly
different if we had broken down in
Peterborough, though," notes
But this isn't Peterborough. This
is New York, where anything can
happen and does so with unnerving
Chapterhouse have just dined in
Robert De Niro's crucifyingly
expensive restaurant. Where
Gerard Depardieu was spotting
nosing into a plateful of pasta. Now
we're in II Sombrero, a downtown
marguerita bar where Pixie Kim
Deal is putting Spanish muzak on
the CD jukebox, John 'I Used To
Be In The Mary Chain, Me' Moore
is practising his Noo Yawk accent,
and Chapterhouse are getting
quietly but efficiently plastered on
jugfuls of Slush Puppy-style tequila.
As drinks go, this one's looking for
a disaster to inspire. And it's hit
home base with Chapterhouse.
"They love success over here,"
belches Stephen, generously.
putting the tour into a hazy
perspective. "They don't begrudge
it like in England, where if you get
big you're shit and everything is
judged very critically. Over here
it's like, what the f-- are you guys
doing? This is amazing! I've never
heard anything like it!"
"It's true what they say, though,"
observes part-time neanderthal
sex god Russell. "Everything is
bigger out here."
"Especially Russell's cock!!"
bellows Andrew. Obviously.
A JOKE: What do you get if you
cross a herd of cattle with a Home
An answer: a bunch of shoe-
That joke wasn't funny to begin
with, but the livestock connection
is potent: to many, 1991 has been
the year wheir a plethora of well-
bred, well-off, well-soft youths
with floppy fringes and drippy
effects pedals followed each other
like sheep to die critical abattoir.
If the far extreme of 1989 was
housing estate thuggery gracing
the charts, an era epitomised by
the brickie-softening delights of
Ecstasy, then the key to the last six
months has been Apathy,
perpetuated by posh Suvverners
wali'owing in a post-rave
comedown. More flowers than
flares, more Top Of The Pops than
street-cred, Chapterhouse and
their pasty. ill-looking ilk have
dragged popular music down to
the other end ofthe sonic
spectrum. Now, as happens with
any extreme ever invented, cynics
are starting to get Very Very
And the critical barbs pierce way
beyond any musical epidermis: the
detractors complain that the
Murmurers have bugger all to say:
that's a life of bithe comfort has
turned out a Their Generation of
flabby wobblebottoirs whose only
goal in life is to escape the utter
shite of day-to-day rea!ity. The
doubters have got a point. Now
Chapterhouse are getting brassed
off with being prodded bv it.
"At the moment we're getting
shagged off in Reading because
we're not political," growls
Andrew. Almost. "You get these
middle-class kids that develop a
social conscience and decide to get
dreadlocks and attempt to
"And compIain about how much
dole money they get," sneers
Stephen, sneeringly. "It's like, yeah,
we're living on the edge, we
disagree with organised poiltics,
and then they go, 'Oi, mum --carl
you lend us a tenner?' What people
don't like about us is that we
haven't got an attitude,"
"We have got an attitude,"
protests Andrew, "it's just that it's
"It's not a rock 'n' roll attitude,"
agrees Stephen. "lt's not 'We're
the best band in the world and
everyone else is shit!' lf we said that
we'd be lying. And people want us
to lie, they want us to have some
false attitude so they can pin their
insignificance on us and feel
"People think we're really
apathetic about our music, but
we're not at all," gesticulates
Andrew, energetically. "We're
really intense about it. The music
isn't just aesthetic, it does have a
message. But the messages are
internal - everything we write
about deals with what's going on
inside of you, and to us that's more
important than about what Neil
Kinnock's doing in the local polls.
At heart I'm a socialist, but has
socialism ever worked? Is Kinnock
gonna lead England to the
forefront? I don't think so. I mean,
he's gonna disappear, whereas
what we're writing about is what
people are gonna be feeling in 200
like about Americans is that they
don't give a flying aardvark about
the band's political leanings, they
don't sneer at the concept of a mob
of middle-class kids with 50
'O'-levels between them
experiencing the same problems as
Real People (a fave Chapterhouse
debating point, that one), and they
don't force the group into
defensive situations which are
more appropriate to the Luton
Town back four.
In the States, Chapterhouse are
taken at face value. Which in media
terms means being described as
cute' in teeny mags. And the
seminal quote is: 'It's just as well
their pictures aren't as out-of-
focus as their music'!!
Britain expects, then promptly
relects. The Good Old US of A
simply embraces. Everyone.
"We've been going for four
years now," gripes Andrew, "and
we've gone through so many stages
of being labelled with things. We
We used to be paranoid about being
labelled a '60s retro band like Thee
Hypnotics. Then we were
threatened with 'Class of'89',
along with Loop. Then it was like
sub-Spacemen 3, 'cos we played
with them, and now it's.."
"The Scene That Celebrates
Itself." shouts Stephen. As it
treading on a dead cat. "Which is
based entirely upon a social
situation whereby we get pissed
with a few bands! Then there's this
misconception that all these bands
have come from listening to the
Valentines and gone out and made
records - we already existed when
'You Made Me Realise' came out.
And when that appeared we were
going, 'what a bunch of bastards!
We were gonna do that!"'
"We've been called every f-ing
thing!" hollers Russell. "l'm sure
we'll be part of the Greek Goat
Herding Scene in 1995!"
"It's like that shoe-gazing thing:
nine times out often the reason
we're looking down is due to the
fact that girls are being really
squashed at the front and their
dresses get pulled down, so you can
see some really good cleavage...
hahahahahaha!'." Andrew laughs
the nervous, slightly hysterical
laugh of a man who knows he's
drunk too much tequila for the
good of his tongue and is jabbering
himself into deeply uncool shit.
"We're not shoe-gazing, we're
cleavage-gazing!" giggles Stephen,
"There have been a couple of
gigs where people's tops have
come right down," continues
"And things have popped out
here and there!" fnarr-fnarrs
"There's all these journalists
thinking, 'Oooh, aren't they acting
really fey and coy'." snickers
Andrew. "And really we're going
'PHWOOAAARR!! CHECK OUT
Slump! Oh dear Chapterhouse
seem to have passed out in a
IT'S A rather more muted
Chapterhouse which wanders into
the blinding light of the following
morning. Shades are dragged out
to protect red eyes and ricocheting
hangovers, but what better way to
clear out the cobwebs than to
bugger offto the seaside?
Coney Island beach is the
destination for the photo shoot.
where photograher Cummins
gives the Big Wheel a gleeful
"I'm not going on that!" mutters
Simon. "I get sick looking at
The town is like a cross between
Southend and a Russian resort: an
exemplary beach cowers in the
shadow of horrendous tower
blocks; glittering waves rush
towards the kind of rotten
depicted in the spookier Scooby
Doos; while on the promenade a
wannabe cool dude flicks between
stations on his urban annihalator,
'Set Adrift On Memory Bliss' flows
out, the perfect backdrop to a
brilliantine blue sky. Mr
Wannabecool grunts his
dissatisfaction and flicks over to a
dirgey dance catastrophe.
This is Coney Island to a tee -
undermined by mankind's hapless
tastelessness, A natural beauty
corrupted by human brutality.
Which, in avery real sense
(Ameri-wankspeak 1991) is
Chapterhouse's music in a
Slowdive were once strapped to
a three-piece suite and forced to
converse in 'orrible working-class
accents until they explained the
fundamental difference between
themselves and Chapterhouse.
Twenty-seven episodes of
EastEnders later, they decided that,
while they wanted to create
something big and beautiful,
Chapterhouse were more
interested in direct pop songs.
Stephen nods sagely, digesting this
revelation, "We're into making big
and beautiful pop songs," he
"And small and beautiful pop
songs as well,"adds Andrew. "Oh,
and big and ugly pop songs. Some
tracks we just destroy everything
we've already done. We create an
atmosphere and then just rip it
down, And that's ugly, but it's still
beautiful 'cos it's ugly. D'you see?"
"Basically, all our musical
sensibilities are based on classic
ideas," perseveres the singer.
"We're really into the idea of pop
music and pop bands and teenagers
feeling the magic of it."
"But then we pervert it," blurts
an intense-looking Stephen. "You
can only really affect people by
drawing them in and screwing
them up; you give them a little
taste of what they know and want
so they listen to you, and then they
start hearing the shit that's gonna
take them where they wouldn't
have gone ordinarily. That's what
interests us, taking the mainstream
and f--ing it up."
"But we don't st down and say,
'I'm gonna write a pop song and
then f- it up'," elaborates
Andrew. "It's not definite like
"Basically," decides Stephen,
we like pop songs and we're fed
If Chapterhouse are getting
frustrated with having to justify
their floaty existence, their music is
becoming the sole raison d'ecre.
Being accused of failing in their role
as spokesmen of a generation may
be one absurd thing, but when it
comes to talking about their own
records, any smoggy grey areas are
banished into oblivion. Here's
where primary songwriters
Andrew and Stephen become
positively passionate as opposed to
defensively riled. Here's where
they claim that 'Pearl' is already a
classic song in an authoratitive
manner which suggests they're not
anticipating an argument about it,
Here's where Chapterhouse shine
like belisha beacons in a coal shaft.
They can't understand how they
can possible be pigeon-holed when
they're capable of bounding from
the dance cruise of 'Pearl' to the
sonic hurricane of 'Die Die Die'
and, as if to prove the point, their
new 'Mesmerise' EP flirts with
wimpy abandon before wandering
off to noisier, lazier and more
psychedelic territories-often at
the same time.
The absolute languor of the title
track is going to give their
detractors a field day.
Chapterhouse don't give a f--.
"We known that we've got
f--ing good taste." states Stephen.
"We're not stupid, we know
exactly what we're doing, and we
know how good or how bad it is,
We've got plans to fulfil a six-album
contract - what we've achieved so
far is a fraction of what we're
capable of doing.
"We might go out and get pissed
with Ride and Moose, but we don't
sit at home listening to their
records. We tend to get excited
about things we don't know, like
synthetic effects. We'd have loved
to have had a full orchestra on this
EP, like on Nancy Sinatra records."
"We're not saying that we're
the be-all and end-all," insists
Andrew. "We're just saying listen
to a Chapterhouse album once a
week. No, not even that much.
Then listen to a Sly Stone album,
then play a Bruce f--ing Forsyth
Chapterhouse do very peculiar
things to a crowd of natives at New
York's Danceteria. People called
Bruce throw some dangerously
violentshapes in the moshpit, the
band help the activities along by
diving into several Status Quo
lurch poses, and the screaming
holocaust of the encore, 'Die Die
Die', sends several sensitive,
scuttling offto the toilets, ruptured
eardrums spurting blood.
At the obligatory post-gig
paaarty, John 'Remember Me?'
Moore traps drummer Ashley in
the corner. Characters from MTV
peel grapes and gush profusely
over the cocktails. And Andrew
Sherriff goes directly against
universal opinion by stating that
the shoe-gazing scene will be
anything but a turkey by Christmas.
He may be pissed1 but he isn't
passed caring. Remember - the
Murmurers are only just starting to
"There's this new band in
Reading called Coloursound," he
hiccups, beamingly. "They went
into this studio and said, 'We want
our guitars to sound just like
Chapterhouse and Slowdive'
Live and let fly.
Orignally appeared in NME 12 October 1991. Copyright © NME