C86 Show - Indie Pop

The Senseless Things with Morgan Nicholls

September 19, 2019

The Senseless Things special with Morgan Nicholls in conversation with David Eastaugh

Senseless Things formed around the musical partnership of songwriter Mark Myers aka Mark Keds (vocals, guitar) and Morgan Nicholls (bass, originally guitar), who as eleven-year-olds in Twickenham, Middlesex put together Wild Division in the early 1980s. With the addition of drummer Cass Browne (also occasionally known as Cass Cade and Cass Traitor) they became the Psychotics, playing various venues in their local area despite still being at school. Their first gig together as the Senseless Things (named after a phrase used in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and Julius Caesar) followed at the subsequently-demolished Clarendon in Hammersmith, London, in October 1986. Auxiliary members at this stage included a keyboard player, Ben, and a guitarist, Gerry, who deputised for Nicholls while the latter was studying for his O levels.

The definitive Senseless Things line-up formed in summer 1987 when Nicholls returned to take over bass, with the new recruit, former BBC clerk Ben Harding acquiring the vacant guitarist's role. The band regularly appeared at The Clarendon in Hammersmith, London playing both downstairs in the Broadway bar and upstairs in the main auditorium.

Taking their musical cue from the Ramones and the Dickies, and their spiritual lead from fellow guitar outfit Mega City Four, the quartet embarked upon a hectic touring schedule, often playing on the same bill as Mega City Four, Snuff and Perfect Daze.

The band's first releases were singles given away with issues of Yo Jo Jo and Sniffin' Rock fanzines. By March 1988 the band had attracted the attention of the BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, who invited them to record the first of three sessions for his programme. The "Up And Coming" 12" followed, then "Girlfriend" the following year, both on Way Cool Records.

Their first album, Postcard CV, was released in 1989, capturing the energy of their concerts by packing ten tracks into twenty two minutes. Record Collector called it "sprightly pop-punk/ indie with touches of Buzzcocks and the Undertones". The album was rounded off by "Too Much Kissing", which was released as a single and was to become their signature track.

In 1990 the band signed with What Goes On Records, just as the label collapsed, resulting in an abortive EP release. The band then signed to Vinyl Solution subsidiary Decoy Records, who released the four-track EP "'Is It Too Late?", produced by Jon Langford of the Mekons. The group stayed with Decoy for "Can't Do Anything", (also produced by Langford), which prefaced an appearance at the Reading Festival; the band then signed to Epic Records at the start of 1991.

The subsequent album The First Of Too Many saw the band experimenting with other styles including acoustic songs, and the single "Got It At The Delmar" entered the Top 50 of the UK Singles Chart. Allmusic praised the album's blend of "bubblegum pop" and "gobstopping hard rock", likening the band's sound to the Who and the Replacements. Two further Top 20singles followed in 1991/1992 - "Easy To Smile" and "Hold It Down". The band toured the United States, supporting Blur, and went to Japan for the first time, appearing on talent show Ika-Ten.

Cover art for the first two Senseless Things albums and most single releases around the same period was provided by comic artist Jamie Hewlett, creator of Tank Girl and later Gorillaz.

The second single from their third album, 1993's Empire of the Senseless, "Homophobic Asshole" (with promotional video directed by Steven Wells) received critical acclaim but was released reluctantly by their record company due to the band's choice of title and failed to chart highly. Follow-up single, "Primary Instinct", an equally political (anti-racist) lyric but a more radio-friendly title, had slightly more commercial success. In a further Mekons connection, the album shared its title with a track from the 1989 album The Mekons Rock 'n Roll, itself named for a Kathy Acker novel.

In 1995, the band released a final album, Taking Care Of Business accompanied by two singles, "Christine Keeler" (renamed from "Christian Killer") and "Something To Miss". The latter's b-sides included a Replacements cover as well as a song co-written with Lenie from Mambo Taxi. Senseless Things went into permanent hiatus the same year after farewell tours of the UK and Japan.

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