BritRock Classics #2 – How to Make Friends and Influence People

Our series of the best of BritRock continues, we’ve already done the Wildhearts, now for the most upbeat band of the 90’s…

Of Grunge’s many legacies perhaps the saddest was that in the nineties it just wasn’t the done thing for bands to actually look like they were enjoying making music. Terrorvision, it appears, didn’t get the memo. How to Make Friends and Influence People, their 1994 follow up to the modestly successful Formaldehyde, was the sound of a mile-wide grin put to music. And there was clearly a demand for it as the album went gold in the UK and spawned five top 40 singles. The upbeat, bouncy nature of songs such as Oblivion (replete with Doo Wop chorus), Alice What’s the Matter and Middleman combined with big riffs and high octane live performances allowed them to straddle both the indie and rock worlds, being equally at home supporting REM as they were sharing a stage with Motörhead. 

It appeared fame beckoned. Their follow up album, Regular Urban Survivors, was even more popular still. Again they farmed a slew of hit singles from it, they won – and promptly drunkenly misplaced – music awards, and while 4th album Shaving Peaches was less well received, a remix of album track Tequila got heavy rotation on Zoe Ball’s Radio 1 breakfast show. Released as a single in a hurry by EMI it reached number 2 in the charts and gave Terrorvision their biggest hit. It seemed the public loved songs played with a smile. In truth though Tequila was little more than a cynical exercise in cashing in by the record company who had already made the decision to drop the band.

Lead singer, Tony Wright, had by this point become a familiar face on TV, presenting Top of the Pops and making regular appearances on panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He was offered other television work but turned it down to concentrate on music. Sadly the music business was changing once again and Terrorvision, with their bubbly brand of power pop were perhaps perceived as too throwaway in the po-faced nu-metal world. In 2001 they called it a day.

The throwaway tag is unfair on a band of talented and hard-working musicians. Beneath the infectious choruses lay an intuitive songwriting ability and a disparate blend of pop, punk, funk and hard rock joined so seamlessly that it appears most people didn’t even notice. A fact that wasn’t helped by the comedy northerner image the London-based press had given them. They undoubtedly made good time music but maybe for Terrorvision the good times were gone.

But while the good times don’t last neither do the bad, Terrorvision reformed in 2005 and have been performing on and off ever since. In 2009 they toured the 15th anniversary of How to Make Friends and Influence People, playing the album in full to rapturous crowds reliving their youth and in 2011 they released a new album, Super Delux. While it was never going to be the commercial success of previous albums its songwriting was a match for anything they’d previously released and certainly much more than the token gesture many ‘reunion’ albums seem to be. In the end Terrorvision perhaps didn’t influence as many people as they would have liked but they certainly made a lot of friends.

 

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