As you might expect from a band whoses latest single gloriously spoofs the cover of Jimi Hendrix's 'Electric Ladyland', Onionhead are full of wit, sarcasm and eccentricity.
Ask cardigan toting axemeister Sammy what he thinks of the group’s profile-raising nudie pose, for instance, and he offers this authoritative statement: "Yeah It’s, y’know, the full monty."
It’s the full what??? "The full monty. It’s the’ name of this brilliant shop in Ashton-Under-Lyne where you can buy, absolutely everything," explains the band’s goatee-bearded token Mancunian.
"Actually," he confesses later, "you can buy bugger all there, but it’s such a good phrase anyway. Why waste it?"
Why indeed. In fact, few observations are too trivial to be stored for use at a later date by this Brum-based quintet. Spend an afternoon in the company of Onionhead and you too can discover the 19 suffixes used by English Football League teams.
Alternatively, you might just prefer to cuddle up to the band’s trio of disarmingly listenable EPs, culminating in the impressive achievements of ‘Electric Ladland’, which balances their own bruised and brooding classic ‘Honest To God’ with a ballsy romp through the Stones’ ‘Monkey Man’.
The record’s keks-off cover has earned Onionhead some long overdue national attention but, as the Industry lurches from fad to worse, It seems all too typical that a band should only come to prominence on the back of a fortuitous marketing ploy.
"In a way I’m glad we’ve been overlooked," says singer Jules, whose pipe cleaner physique belles a rich, Scott Walker-like croon. "If we’d cracked it a year ago we would have put out so many dodgy records it would have been untrue," he confides with engaging honesty.
"You only have to look at Manchester to see what can happen," says Sammy. "At the moment a lot of bands seem to be getting press and recording contracts on account of where they come from, and they’re not ready for it. In the long run, it’s not doing them any favours."
The success of brawny popsters Teenage Fanclub, on the other hand, has given Onionhead renewed confidence that their own brand of retro radicalism will soon find a sizeable audience.
It’s not so much that they sound alike, though both bands share an obvious affection for Neil Young and West Coast Americana. More Importantly, TFC’s success is based on quality songwriting, and musicianship and proves, in these days of producer-led teen pap, that intelligent 20-somethings still have a stake in the game. Like the Glasgow goons, Onionhead are welcome grit in the cosy, oyster of the emergent post-Mancs pop consensus.
"I guess we’ve just had time to mature," says bassist Sean, whose bare-faced cheeks so fetchingly adorn the ‘Ladland’ cover. "I know maturity is one of those awful words, but it’s not, as if we’re old men. We’ve only been going three years. It’s just that when you have got a bit of a history, you get that confidence. Before, we’d go on stage thinking, please like us, whereas; now it’s a case of thinking, If you don’t like us you must be f**king crackers."
Onionhead’ attachment to the unfashionable art of dues paying is certainly evident in their current live set, an uplifting mash of unabashed romanticism and jaunty, serrated jangle.
Their next move, though, is up to the nation’s record companies. Having followed the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of a YTS scheme -Indie singles and a small ‘development’ deal with CBS Publishing -Onionhead now believe, they are ready to hitch up with a sympathetic major on their own terms.
"There’s only two types of band, says Sammy. "There’s groups who’ve got to appear from nowhere, like Jesus Jones, and part of their image and appeal is that it’s instant".
"Then there’s bands like Onionhead ... and our appeal is that we can play, we can do it onstage, and we’re not going to fade away. It might not be as immediate but, slowly and surely, we’ll creep upon you."
"And once we’ve got you," promises Jules, "you’ll be hooked for good..."
Adrian Goldberg. Sounds. Jan 91
NME interview May 89 Sounds interview Feb 90
Melody Maker interview March 90 Sounds live review Dec 90
Melody Maker interview Feb 91 Melody Maker live review Aug 91
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