Obviously it’s an age thing but so many of my favourite albums seem to be reaching their thirty year anniversary and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s a bitter sweet feeling, a double sided coin of “good god, is it really that long ago?” and a sort of smug self-satisfaction of “I was there first time around.” Not in that elitist “music was better back then” sort of way. Okay, a little bit in a “music was better back then” sort of way. But whether you fell for Goodbye Mr Mackenzies’ mercurial charms first time around or if you are coming to them afresh, it’s good to again shine the spotlight on them and this wonderful debut alike.
The Mackenzies were a band who’s flirts with fame were mistimed, guitarist Big John Duncan having already made his name with The Exploited, Shirley Manson would later go on to international recognition with Garbage. But somewhere between the punk urges of the former and the grunge-driven, alt-rock which would turn the latter into a cult figure, Martin Metcalfe lead this gang of Edinburgh misfits through a strange dark pop-rock dance, totally out of time with the fey, art school bands and baggy bores that they brushed up against.
And thirty years may have passed in the blink of an eye, the world may have changed in many ways but Good Deeds still proves to be surprisingly relevant, dealing with issues such as how the media peddle their wares, the rise of the Christian Right in the USA and even addressing ideas that we would now call fake news. Whilst they may have been overlooked by pop-pickers seeking more obvious and more easily accessible music, two tracks did have the ability to be massive, though in keeping with the hand of fate’s poor cards, even these never received the traction that they deserved. The Rattler was a track which the band had pushed as a calling card for many years, an urgent slice of pop that should have been their launch pad and the epic Goodbye Mr Mackenzie itself, a sonic killer blow which never landed properly.
Dust brooded through subdued funky grooves, Goodwill City is an infectious slice of dance-rock, You Generous Thing nods to Bowie’s Berlin Odessey and Open Your Arms is a glorious salvo of chiming guitars, twisting dynamics, their signature blend of shimmering electronic motifs and lush vocal treatments.
Goodbye Mr Mackenzie were either a band out of time or a band out of luck. They were certainly a cult phenomenon back in the day, despite being able to write brilliantly original, intriguing and trailblazing songs. With the band (minus Manson) touring again, hopefully destiny will give them a second crack of the whip and this glorious album, not to mention the band who made it, will finally get the recognition that they deserve. Fingers crossed.