Have you ever had a happy Monday?
'Uncle Dysfunktional' is the first album release by Happy Mondays since 1992's 'Yes, Please', (an album to which the overriding critical and commercial response was 'No Fucking Thanks') and while it's a bumpy ride at best, (and it certainly ain't a patch on 'Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches') the new three-piece band comprising Ryder, Bez and Gaz Whelan do manage to squeeze in a couple of entertaining tunes. It's just a shame that the clangers ring out louder than an on-court Serena Williams in a bad mood.
The record is a return to familiar territory from the outset - funk-inflected Northern Soul - and lyricist Ryder obviously can't be bothered to try his hand at tackling subjects outside his specialist subject of drink, drugs and debauchery - but then that's what gave the Mondays their charm way back when.
However, according to my calendar, it's 2007 - and thanks to The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, rock n' roll is all about vodka, whiskey, crack and cocaine, not Red Stripe, E and hash. Lyrically then, it's possible to argue that 'Uncle Dysfunktional' sounds a bit passť, old hat and safe - a bit like when your grandparents sneaked you a can of Top Deck Shandy at family functions when you were still in short trousers. The album works better if you take it as a nostalgia trip, a faded sepia snapshot of 1992 when the world was overrun by Global Hypercolour t-shirts, glow-sticks, baggy trousers and tanked-up sweaty teenagers blowing whistles in your face for no apparent reason other than to annoy you.
'Jellybean' also reminds us that for all his faults, Ryder is a genuinely funny guy (nevermind that he's on a surrealist par with Todd Rundgren) and any sex-change/cross-dressing lyric that features the couplet "Now that I am naked, I'm a lady / And now that I'm a lady, I'm set free!" deserves a thumbs-up - even if it is a Beadle-hand sized one.
'Angels & Whores' is a semi-confessional diatribe - featuring the hardly revelatory acknowledgment that Ryder is a "drug addicted alcoholic", while the laid-back grooves of 'Deviants' and the steel-guitar twang of 'Cuntry Disco' (a truly uninspired title I'm sure you'll agree), both prove that when Ryder and his boys are on form, they're pretty hard to beat.
There are more than a couple of howlers in here to be sure. Most heinous is the triumphantly awful cover of the spectacularly awful Blondie song 'Rush Rush', a track that has no redeeming features whatsoever and is made almost unlistenable thanks to an overuse of the noun "hielo" - which just makes me think of little Al Pacino and his even littler 'little friend'. 'Rats With Wings' and 'Anti Warhole On The Dancefloor' are abysmal too, although at least the title of latter is accurate - it sounds exactly like what Andy Warhol would do if he had access to a modern day recording studio and a shitload of hard drugs i.e. he'd get fucked and craft unlistenable eurotrash-bubblegum-pop.
Musically, 'Uncle Dysfunktional' is far glossier, butterier and silkily smoother than anything else squirreled away in the Mondays/Black Grape back catalogue - which should come as no surprise given that Howie B and Quincy Jones's grandson Sammy Levine signed on as producers. The good shit is close to 'Red Hot Minute'-era Chilis; early Fun Lovin' Criminals and 'Fresh'-era Sly & The Family Stone. The bad shit sounds like Jamiroquai.
'Uncle Dysfunktional' is an average Happy Mondays album. It's not as terrible as 'Yes, Please' but it's also not fit to lick the blister pack of 'Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches'. Sure this album has its moments and it's better than anyone could have expected, but Ryder, Bez and Whelan will have to do much better than this to convince anyone that Happy Mondays are capable of competing with the chart dominating omnipotent indie upstarts - though if Ryder could give Tom Chaplin a smack in the face, I'd be eternally grateful.