UNLESS you lived in York in the early to mid-1990s, you might struggle to truly get the impact Shed Seven made. Suddenly, a band from the city were in the charts, in the NME, on Top of the Pops. It might not mean much if you’re from Manchester or Liverpool or Sheffield, but it did in York.
Polydor, the Sheds’ label during their heyday, has now re-released their first three albums, remastered and all containing bonus discs of B-sides, demos, remixes, rare material and live performances. It’s as complete a picture of Shed Seven’s time in the sun as you’ll get, the absence of their TFI Friday rendition of Jumpin’ Jack Flash aside.
1994’s Change Giver is a proper debut: raw, sometimes clumsy, but brimming with excitement and potential (Dolphin, Speakeasy, Mark), while Ocean Pie and On An Island With You – the Sheds’ own I Am The Resurrection – indicate wider songwriting horizons. But nobody really predicted what came next.
Britpop may have helped the Sheds, but doesn’t fully explain how the excellent follow-up A Maximum High sold 250,000 copies and housed five Top 40 singles. By its 1996 release, Shed Seven had made a huge musical leap and were streetwise, strutting and clearly just enjoying it (listen to Rick Witter yelp “You shine like Tokyo-oh-oh” on Getting Better), with their bravado striking a chord. Going For Gold – the brilliantly opportunistic Olympic-year release – grabbed the headlines, but A Maximum High boasts much stronger material (On Standby, Magic Streets). It’s an album built to last.
When 1998’s Let It Ride opened with the bounding, beefed-up Return, it seemed the Sheds were still hitting their stride. Sadly, it was where things unravelled and, looking back, the tension between Witter and guitarist Paul Banks is evident.
Heavier in sound, lighter on inspiration, the Black Grape-esque She Left Me On Friday and Chasing Rainbows – a Sheds’ classic, but released more than 18 months previously – can’t lift an earthbound effort.
There was still Disco Down, Banks’ departure and eventual return, the fifth album saga, the legendary Barbican farewell, Rick Witter and The Dukes, and the reformation to come. But it’s this collection which takes you back to hearing a York band on the Radio 1 Breakfast Show on your way to college. And realising it really meant something.
Review by Mark Stead