I’d been trying to make a go of being in a band for a couple of years and generally failing miserably when Cable walked into the rehearsal/recording place I was working at to record some demos.
It was 1993 and I wasn’t really happy with kind of music the bands I’d been playing in was making. I was massively into what was coming out of America at the time and I found it frustrating that the UK didn’t seem to have anything to offer in terms of the creative sound and experimental energy that was coming out of Washington DC, Boston, Seattle and New York.
I was given the task of laying their songs down on tape. Up until that point, the bands I’d be given the job of recording on this piddling little desk had been pretty mediocre.
I spent a weekend recording everything they had written up to that point and I was blown away. They were doing stuff with guitars that sounded like everything from chainsaws to children’s pianos and I was insanely jealous – their music was fresh, exciting, packed with energy, extremely catchy with lyrics full of word play and clever imagery. I’d heard bits of their stuff before, but that was the first time I heard every song they had written. I knew this band was going places and couldn’t believe my luck when I was asked to join not long after we finished the recordings – there’d been some disagreement between the two main songwriters in the band – Matt [Bagguley, vocals and guitar] and Darius [Hinks, guitar] and the rhythm section, so the drummer and bass player left at the same time. I joined them on bass and we sought out drummer Neil Cooper [now Therapy?] to drum for us; he was literally the only person I knew that could do their music justice in terms of what was required drum-wise.
So being a fan and a member, choosing my favourite Cable songs is easy but also a nightmare at the same time! That said, we made three brilliant records for Infectious and I like to think you can clearly hear how the band seemed to naturally evolve and grow in terms of songwriting and musical creativity.
So here are my top ten Cable tunes…
SEVENTY (Down-Lift The Up-Trodden, 1996) I think this was the first song I was involved in writing. We had done a few gigs with the existing material and it was starting to work out well, so we set to work creating some new songs with the new line-up as record company interest was growing fast. It’s an amazingly simple song and doesn’t really have a chorus, but because it was the first thing I was involved in helping to create, it has a special memories for me. I love how the song explodes into life after that fabulous intro verse that has such evocative imagery in the lyric. It’s also a big fan fave that gets sung along to in gigs, which must be a great feeling for Matt.
VERTIGO (Arthur Walker single, 1998) Until Cable reformed in 2012⁄13 I had all but completely forgotten this song ever existed. We seemed very good at writing extremely catchy pop songs but with tons of edge to them and then tucking them away on a B-side. This is definitely one of those songs and now when I listen back to it, I can’t believe it didn’t turn up on an album at least, never mind get released as a single.
HEXAGON EYE (Sub-Lingual, 1999) I never really know what Cable songs are about. Matt likes to let you guess or interpret the song in your own way. This song seems to be about the humble house fly though and contains some of the coolest word play and imagery of any Cable song. Plus who else has written a killer song about watching house flies dance above the washing up bowl in the kitchen? The guitars even sound like the buzzing of a flies wings, for crying out loud. Genius.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS (Sub-Lingual, 1999) We liked to experiment with crazy time signatures in Cable and this song was no exception. But at the same time we also tried to keep it anthemic and something you could dance to. The opening guitar riffs is still one of my favourite hooks of all time and the song seems to be about cannibalistic serial killers, which in my opinion, has hit written all over it.
ARTHUR WALKER (Sub-Lingual, 1999) This song has it all, catchy chorus and some really interesting experimental spooky sci-fi like guitar. We were never big into using effects but when we found something cool that gave a song that little extra something, we weren’t afraid to use it. Darius had bought this old 1960s Morley effects pedal that looked like a crossed between a cake tin and something out of Doctor Who, which gave us this spooky guitar sound for the intro and middle section. Particularly apt, as I think the song is about the ghost of an old explorer – another brilliant subject for a song. I think half the reason I’ve chosen the songs in this list is because they’re about something (or at least give the impression they are) a bit more interesting than the usual pop song subject matter.
SIGNATURE TUNE (When Animals Attack, 1997) I think this is the closest we got to pretending to be The Jesus Lizard. And my bass riff is awesome and sounds dirty as hell. I might be making this up, but I recall Matt telling me the lyrics are about a woman who was fired from their job at the council because they discovered she had a second job as a stripper. It was a big local news story at the time.
HONOLULU (Sub-Lingual, 1999) Remember that 13-year-old kid who stole his dad’s credit card and managed to take a plane to Hawaii or somewhere like that? I believe this song was inspired by his story. Another reason I love this song is because like Signature Tune, I get to shine a bit by introducing the song. Often you spend ages getting these really cool bass sounds only to have them drowned out by guitars. So, it’s nice to have a moment to myself. I recorded this bass part using a Music Man Stingray that had belonged to The Bass Thing from The Wonderstuff, trivia fans.
COMPRENDEZ? (Sub-Lingual, 1999) The thing I love about this song is the cool vocoder effect that we put on Matt’s vocals in the middle section. They weren’t being used at all in those days – it was pre-vocoder revival. We just tried it and it sounded amazing. I also love the ear-splitting distorted drum outro which I thought was the perfect ending to what is, in my opinion, Cable’s best record.
FREEZE THE ATLANTIC (When Animals Attack, 1997) I’d be daft not to include this song. It ‘made us’ (not that we ever really made it anyway) but it’s the song that got us noticed and I think it proved more importantly that we could write really good pop songs and didn’t just hide behind a wall of noise. We weren’t one-trick ponies. It’s catchy as hell and the chorus is a great lyric. I think I’d learned to play bass a bit by the time we made this record and so I’m proud that I came up with some quite melodic runs that seem to really compliment the guitars, which sort of twist and turn around each other in a really quirky and interesting way.
OUBLIETTE (Down-Lift The Up-Trodden, 1996) This song was always our grand finale. I think it pretty much ended every Cable show. It told the audience in no uncertain terms that this was the end of the show. I’ve never really like the recording of it on Down-Lift, but the version on the Live at Brixton Prison EP is killer. I always loved how it ends with Darius holding that dissonant screeching chord for ages before Richie comes smashing in on the drums to put the song (and the gig) to bed. I also love the crazy idea that it just switches to a completely different riff for the end section but it just works perfectly somehow.
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