PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Wreckless Eric: Big Smash

One of the very few songwriters to have been covered by Cliff Richard and Die Toten Hosen, the Monkees, and Yo La Tengo. Oh, and Will Ferrell.


Wreckless Eric

Big Smash

Contributors: Eric Goulden
Label: Stiff Records
First date: 1980
US Release Date: 2007-04-10
UK Release Date: 2007-02-12
Amazon
iTunes
There's thunder in the air, I could waste myself

I don't feel too concerned about my state of health

It's too bloody hot for self denial

I won't resist, I couldn't if I tried

-- "I Wish It Would Rain" (1978)

When it was originally released in 1980, Big Smash came packaged with a second album, the US-only (at the time) greatest hits package, Whole Wide World. Three years on from his defining moment, the single of that same name, the alcoholic and self-destructive Eric Goulden was already at the very end of his record label's tether, and Big Smash came across like a last wry roll of the dice. Sadly, only a couple of the Big Smash songs -- "Broken Doll" and "Good Conversation" -- were good enough to stand the shrink-wrapped comparison with the best of Eric's previous work and the singer promptly disappeared for the next five years.

Since this new re-issue of Big Smash is similarly packaged, the same applies today. Fortunately, however, this time no-one expects Eric to disappear.

"In the early days of Stiff Records, Jake Riviera asked everybody what they wanted to be: rich or famous. I thought the answer was easy. I wanted to be famous because that was what was expected of me and, surely, if I had some hits, I’d be rich anyway. But 'famous' was the wrong answer. Elvis Costello, for instance, said 'rich'."

-- A Dysfunctional Success: The Wreckless Eric Manual by Eric Goulden (The Do Not Press - 1998)

With hindsight, the Wreckless Eric story serves as a nice metaphor for the record label. Stiff, for example, started well, went rapidly downhill, and tends to be remembered for its few conspicuous successes and a couple of good jokes rather than as the home of some of the worst sub-pub rock nonsense and embarrassing novelty shit ever to see the light of the day. Similarly, we remember Wreckless Eric for the distinctive downtrodden yearning of "Whole Wide World", the marvelous comic pathos of "Reconnez Cherie", and the oppressive minimalism of "I Wish It Would Rain". And not for the cavalier waste of vinyl that accompanied these moments of greatness.

On a convenient seat by the lavatories

In the sodium glare

We used to wait for the bus in a passionate clutch

And go as far as we dared

-- "Reconnez Cherie" (1978)

Five years after his split with Stiff, Eric Goulden resurfaced, releasing A Roomful of Monkeys with a new band, Captains of Industry, which featured two of Ian Dury's best Blockheads -- Norman Watt-Roy and Mickey Gallagher. Shortly after, he recorded two further albums with a couple of ex-Milkshakes under the name The Len Bright Combo. Needless to say, Len Bright was conspicuous only by his absence. All three records easily surpassed all but the very best of Goulden's Wreckless output -- my personal favorite was "Young, Upwardly Mobile... And Stupid" -- and it was easy therefore to assume he'd spent the intervening years cleaning up his once bedraggled act. But really, how could I know? Either way, Eric has been steadily productive ever since. He lived in France for nigh on a decade, where he recorded as Le Beat Group Electrique, and toured regularly in order, I assume, to supplement his royalties and humor his muse. Towards the fag end of the last millennium, he returned to Blighty and published a most excellent autobiography, before recording and releasing another new album Bungalow Hi; this time, for the first time in almost 25 years, under the name Wreckless Eric.

Curiously, just as Wreckless Eric returns, so too does Stiff Records, presumably with both eyes on the main chance. I'm not quite sure why Stiff has chosen to re-release Big Smash and four other equally second tier records from its vaults in order to announce its re-emergence. Maybe because the likes of Costello, MacGowan, and Suggs can afford better lawyers? Whatever, while Big Smash itself includes two or three decent songs sung reasonably well, and Whole Wide World contains everything else you could possibly need to hear from Eric Goulden's 1970s incarnation, there's really very little need to buy it while the superior Greatest Stiffs is still available on a well-known website near you.

Don't get me wrong. I strongly encourage the curious or the clued-up to check out Wreckless Eric. After all, it's just possible he's a genius. And he's certainly one of the very few songwriters to have been covered by Cliff Richard and Die Toten Hosen, the Monkees, and Yo La Tengo. Oh, and Will Ferrell. I just don't recommend starting here.

4

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.