Sportique - Modern Museums

matcd015  /  January 2002
Sportique - Modern Museums
cd   $10.00

10" blue vinyl   $10.00

digital   $8.00

other digital:   Apple Music     Amazon     Spotify

Sportique - Modern Museums

matcd015  /  January 2002

Co-founders Sir Mark Flunder & Gregory Webster really were inspired to pick up guitars by Mark Perry's original Sniffin' Glue manifesto "here's a chord, here's another...go form a band" back in 1976. Flunder soon joined the seminal "Painted Word" era Television Personalities, while Webster came straight outta Luton in Creation's Tweecore faves Razorcuts. They joined forces in Sportique in 1997, armed with intent to produce year zero new wave for anyone who still cared. John Peel certainly seemed to, and asked them in to record three sessions with him so far, along with almost singlehandedly championing their 1999 debut LP "Black Is A Very Popular Colour" and numerous 7" singles in the UK. Augmented by Rob Pursey & near legendary proto-riotgrrl Amelia Fletcher (both previously Marine Research, Heavenly, Talulah Gosh), Sportique have already produced an incredible body of work among them, and an admiring global fanbase. "Modern Museums" finds them ransacking the post-punk stylistic cabinet of Alternative TV and Magazine whilst dropping mildly obscured references to a host of modern artworks, from Keith Arnatt's 1972 "I am a Real Artist!" to Gilbert & George's LIFE/DEATH sloganeering.

  1. Modern Museums
  2. Cerebral Vortex
  3. Art & Shopping
  4. How Many Times..?
  5. The Dying Fly
  6. Suture
  7. Definition Seventy-Nine
  8. Icestorm
  9. Obsessive


Occasionally, London's own international pop underground vets Sportique can sound too close to Blur for comfort on this, their second, totally magical album. That is, assuming Damon Albarn had ever developed a humour that simultaneously deflated has own pomposity, learnt the much maligned art of brevity, managed to reference The Fall, Blondie and Year Zero New Wave (1978) and also developed a vocal style somewhere between Mark Perry, Howard Devoto and Sportique singer Gregory Webster's previous band, the bittersweet Razorcuts. That is, assuming Blur had ever learnt the meaning of true pop - they did, twice (which is seven fewer times than here on this nine-song, 24 minute album) - and that their music resonated with an infectious humour and hook lines even (Pete) Shelley would've shouted for. That is, assuming Damon had appreciated the solitary madness of TV Personalities (and not the goddamn Cardiacs) and the fact psychedelia is always at its most appealing when mixed in with one-note piano refrains. Sir Mark Flunder is a musical force here, as is Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, names that mean little to dullards and bores out in the greater world, but a Guarantee of Pop Brilliance in this burred wood's neck. "Modern Museums" is not like Blur, even a little, then. Scratch that start. Please. Ignore me. Listen to the music. Altogether now, one, two, three: "Let's all laugh at the dying fly, we'll slash their wings/and do lots of horrid things." There are so many great moments here: the spiky deconstruction of art school elitism on "Modern Museums" and the amazing "How Many Times..?" - Greg coming over all Anthony Newley shouting out Keith Arnatt's 1972 slogan "I Am A Real Artist" on the former, throwing in tons of arcane pop reference points on the latter, from Wire to Billy Childish to swirling Wurlitzer organ, with real (pretend) pop-punk aggression. The even mightier, and childishly spiteful, "The Dying Fly" ransacks a Sex Pistols riff before rushing off to pop nirvana, Greg's sense of timing more than. There are choruses and smart words and guitar chords and harmonies and jangling notes and irreverence and a pure love for music that will lift you through the Great Times as well as The Bad. Not an album for people who like to revel in gloom. "Modern Museums" is immaculate in a bittersweet, madcap, loud petulant sort of way. I want to marry it and have it's children.   --Careless Talk Costs Lives
"The key to Sportique's second album comes in the lyrics to 'Definition Seventy-Nine' "It's just like 74 again", cries Greg Webster, "I want it to be 79". And there, in a nutshell, is the spirit and philosophy of the band. For the uninitiated, Sportique is the band formed by former Razorcuts singer Greg along with ex-Television Personalities chap Mark Flunder. These days they're augmented by local indie singing legend Amelia Fletcher (Talulah Gosh and Heavenly) and her erstwhile Marine Research compatriot, Rob Pursey. Big favourites with John Peel and something of a local indie vets supergroup, then. As such it's no surprise that the band hark back to their formative era, when The Buzzcocks and Blondie were the greatest pop groups on the planet and two chords and a bit of attitude was all you needed. Check out the sneering, whining disjointed funk of opener, 'Modern Museums', sounding like a cross between new wave pioneers Wire and underground punk legends ATV. These guys know their history and they know that in these dark times a gentle reminder of certain lost genius is well in order. Wire are the primary influence on Sportique, nowhere more so than on 'The Dying Fly', a shouty, brattish, positively childish piss-take of 'I am The Fly' that should have Elastica curling their toes in shame. Elsewhere they go for Magazine's jugular ('Suture' and 'Cerebral Vortex'), a band who were a primary influence on Radiohead way back when. There are steals from the Sex Pistols and Blondie too but although the reference points are obvious and twenty odd years old, Sportique, themselves no youngsters, sound as fresh as any bunch of teeny punk-pop wannabes, probably because, with their doctorates and executive jobs, they simply don't have to try to impress anyone but themselves. It's a lesson more bands could learn early on. There are a couple of moments when that old Razorcuts tweeness comes creeping back in - the sub-Buzzcocks 'Art & Shopping' and the shambling, incoherent 'Obsessive' - but beyond that this is a marked step up from anything they've done before, with the keyboards more prominent, the guitars far heavier and Greg sounding angry, ill and ugly as sin for the most part. In their collective hearts it will always be 1979. And you know what, given some of the options, it really ain't such a bad place to be."   --Nightshift Magazine
Ex-members of the Razorcuts and Television Personalities, both legendary 80s indie troupes, are hard to come by these days. Yet here are two becoming one in the form of Sportique. Sportique make a very old skool indie sound, one where the songs change pace and time and where the ability to sing is measured entirely on how much you can sound like a spastic John Lydon. This is a good thing. And so is 'Modern Museums.' No two tracks are the same - 'Art & Shopping' is classic indie pop - chugging along with sarky vocals, whilst tracks such as 'Modern Museums' and 'How Many Times...?' make out like it's 1982 and feature links with Wire, PIL and the Television Personalities themselves. As Des Lynam would probably tell you, they don't make music like this anymore. Well, THEY do make music like this anymore, but I think you know what I mean. Twisted genius in glorious stereo.   --Tasty
The second album by Sportique dispenses with the country-ish and folk-ish tendencies of 1998's Black Is a Very Popular Colour in favor of an all-meat, no-filler overload of the other side of the band's musical personality: manic, angular post-punk heavily indebted to Wire, the Buzzcocks, Magazine, and the Gang of Four. Focusing on Pink Flag-like brevity (ten songs in barely 24 minutes) and a Buzzcocks-esque melding of aggression and sweet pop hooks, singer/songwriter Gregory Webster has created an album that is on the one hand, utterly derivative (there is not one song here that can't be traced back to an obvious source), and on the other, completely wonderful. The band (Webster, keyboardist Amelia Fletcher, bassist Rob Pursey, and drummer Max Flunder) all have roots in the late-'80s British indie scene, which was itself directly inspired by just this sort of post-punk guitar pop, so Modern Museums sounds oddly like a case of double nostalgia; the driving, insistent "Cerebral Cortex" in particular strongly recalls Webster's glory days in the Razorcuts, and "Definition '79" is practically a call to arms for those who remember the excitement of the early U.K. indie scene. The best, though, is the hectoring title track, a sneering put down of the current British art scene set to an antic start-stop rhythm that recalls both the Au Pairs and Chairs Missing. Nothing new, then, but Modern Museums is a delight regardless.   --All Music Guide
If Sportique don't quite manage to reproduce the scorching quality of their live set here, it's hardly surprising: those who know, know they're currently the sharpest and funniest live band in London. They've mostly left behind the lovelorn bit from their first LP. This one's smart, noisy, chunky postpunk art-pop, snotty as hell and whipping its nine songs in at a snappy 25 minutes. I didn't know I had such an appetite for sly, smart arsed songs about art, pop and cat torture. If I can't work out whether to refer to this as bug-eyed or steely-eyed, that's the achievement of Modern Museums.   --Chickfactor
Sportique take the British post-punk sound of the 70s and play their hearts out with it, with relentless energy, crisp guitar riffs, a tight rhythm section and raw power. Modern Museums, a mini-album on CD or 10" vinyl, is a quick power blow, with 9 songs in 20 minutes. Lead singer/songwriter Gregory Webster sneers and croons his way through songs that deal with creativity, with art's place in the commercialized world, and with the timeless themes of people and how they relate with each other. Songs like "Icestorm" display that classic perspective of the hardened romantic, still starry-eyed but a bit cynical too. "Her eyes sparkle like the stars at night/like an icestorm in July/I catch my breath and wonder how," he sings in one of those heart-catching moments of honesty, before admitting that he's singing to someone he hasn't met and never will meet. They also have a pop sense, an ear for tunefulness, as shown on spirited melodic tunes like the relationship song "Art and Shopping" which gives their style another dimension. This is rock-out, hyped-up energetic music but it isn't shallow either. It's sharp, snappy music with heart and depth as well.   --Erasing Clouds
it's been bloody ages, in fact. but the so-long trailed second sportique album has finally arrived. after saturn v, authors of the sadly underrated "skycycle" album, had seemingly imploded, sportique emerged from the relative slumber of gregory webster's solo album with popsongs so endearing and beautiful that "early razorcuts" was really the only soubriquet you could throw at them. and so we loved and enjoyed epoch-defining, timeless songs like "the kids are solid gold" and the glistening "don't believe a word i say". but now, gregory and his bands' choice of headgear having gone all the way from bowl haircuts in razorcuts days to bowler hats today (strangely via the early 90s baseball caps of saturn v), sportique have carried on developing. and we know - because we can hear them chattering away now in oh-so trendy north londinium - there will be murmurs of discontent from disaffected indie snobs as to the fact that on the evidence of "modern museums", sportique are rocking a bit, shouting a lot, they even sound like they're enjoying it, and how dare they do an album that's only 24 minutes long, and has no ballads on it ? it's not worth dignifying them with an answer. the tate-tastic title track "modern museums" combines (warning: here comes the obligatory mention in a sportique review of the w-word) a very, yes, wire-like one-chord rumble with the driving guitars of magazine... and then the bass which kicks off and then drives second song "cerebral vortex" is so insistent it reminds me of the buzzcocks' sparkling peel session take of "fast cars", before the song prangs itself into a passing organ sound that could have been played by john rivers back at wsrs leamington spa in the late 80s... yes that good. and cultural references abound throughout. much has been said about gregory's ability to wring inspiration from every decade in which he has lived, but it's all true - "i want to be totally wired" he tells us (remember the fall-esque "sport for all" ?) on the utterly flawless live favourite "definition seventy-nine" in which he so-rightly laments "it's just like '74 again... were we wasting our time ?" (before a guitar break which so-cheekily recalls magazine's "shot by both sides"), while the spirit of '76 / '77 is further invoked by the first bars of "the dying fly" (more top wire-lite) that faithfully reconstruct the opening rumble to the sex pistols' greatest recorded moment. we've said before that the chrysalis of punk is part of the whole raison d'etre of this site, and you can't tell me that the razorcuts at their "sad kaleidoscope" best - the enthusiasm, the shamble, the infectiousness - weren't somehow rooted in punk... you can't, it would break my heart.... meanwhile, tuneless yelling hasn't really been in vogue since the days of the shrubs, but in the marvellous "how many times ?" it works perfectly over the staccato guitars, until the whole song lifts off into a blinding last 30. and on the title track, gregory screams "I AM A REAL ARTIST!" before the song really snowballs into an echo chamber of guitars while he hollers the cruel rejoinder "IN YOUR HEAD!"... and all in estuary english, although i could swear that last time i looked his native luton was not quite on the thames-side... as you'll have guessed, despite the acquisition of amelia fletcher as fourth member - though it appears from the inner sleeve that she is at least excused from having to sport the aforesaid bowler hats - there are no real concessions to the patented marine research brand of hook-laden "pure" pop: indeed, not even any obvious evidence of her backing vocals that helped cement the fabulousness of "don't believe a word" (and, of course "anyone can make a mistake", but that's giving my age away)... although there is a faintly-discernible, disembodied voice on "icestorm" that may be her, or it may just be the voice of a passing angel... instead, amelia (we imagine at least from the last gig we saw) is supplying the keyboard lines. and there's a real a hint of the stranglers where the keyboard "gets a grip" (sorry) - on the brilliant "suture". on other tracks, the effect of the keyboards varies from jaunty ("obsessive" ) to spooky early-80s ("how many times...") through to earnest (that'll be "cerebral vortex"). fans of sportique's "early stuff" will have their cockles most cheered, we suspect, by the shamblier "art & shopping" and "ice storm", which both would have fitted snugly onto "black is a very popular colour". while it is the playfully acerbic lyrics, rather than the music, to the "the dying fly" (the fact that wire's "i am the fly" is irresistibly brought to mind can be no coincidence) that imbue it with "new" sportique's punky irreverence. last track is a re-working of "obsessive", which i think last surfaced on the flip to the amazing "love & remains": its pace and power (think emile heskey) bringing the album to a suitably positive conclusion. it's obvious from many of the lyrics that these 9 cuts continue to indulge gregory's own obsession - with art (in the tradition of the "appropriations" on their record sleeves). the songs pinprick the pomposity of the contemporary auteur ("if i was an artist, i'd collaborate in group shows / i'd eschew creating the object") or indeed the modern (riverbank) museum - "stick in the [B]ourgeois: fill that space"): in essence, "modern museums" is, ultimately, a concept album about art. but, believe us, it's much more challenging and enjoyable than that might sound. did u know that more people go to art galleries and museums every week than football matches ? god, you'd hardly guess it from the tabloids. anyway. south londoners we may be. we don't know much about art, but we know what we like. record of the month.   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
Fast, breezy three-chord rock songs never really go out of style, and Sportique, a band made of folks who've been doing this since the earliest days of punk, is living proof that two-minute songs with driving guitars and snotty sing-along choruses are still about as cool as it gets. Not that this is a strict rehash of anything that's come before; slightly-off-pitch vocals and start-stop Wire-style guitar and bass lines are blended with poppy rave-up organs in a sort of gleeful post-punk dance party. Sportique's members have impeccable pedigrees, coming from Television Personalities and Heavenly among others, and those two are particularly in evidence in Modern Museums' sound -- a little frothier than the one, a little harder-rocking than the other, but plenty goofy and catchy enough to do their memories justice. By the time you've gone through a half-hour's worth of lines like "She's using up my linen/ She is driving me too far...", the occasional left-field tambourine, and the album-ending chord that's completely unrelated to anything that came before it, it'll be clear that the folks who were rocking first still rock more than just about anyone who came after them.   --Splendid
modern museums is always out of its sleeve if only for the simple reason that it antagonises and provokes in a field where abrogation and compliance are the touchstones: that endless production line of deeply conservative nu metal groups and their unremitting saturation on mtv: or bland indie groups with their quest for profundity upon some vaguely verve-like tortured melody. "daddy was an alcoholic, his piss was all a-yellow". ok. it's fine in moderation. if done well, but didn't urban hymns signal a full stop, a pinnacle after which the only way is down? and sure the strokes are a welcome development but. really. they have absolutely nothing to say. their most political statement to date - "nyc cops. they ain't too smart" - they were forced to retract. that's it. that's your anger and attitude and articulation. i find modern museums a relief even if it is thoroughly post modern. cos it's indignant and impolite like punks of yore as well as being lyrically perceptive and scathing. a pop group openly displaying their opinions and hang ups like washing on a line: "if i was an artist", they sing on "how many times?", "i'd be facile, moronic and rude. obnoxious, self righteous, pathetic, ungracious and childish and crude". remind you of anyone? or on "dying fly" where they sing "lets all laugh at the dying fly" they paint a scene of moronic dead emotions, a confederacy of dunces. i dunno if they're right or wrong, they just say what they feel. the sleeve notes for "black is a very popular colour made great play of the decades and each associated style. often self mockingly: "i did the 60s back in the 80s etc" and pointing out that sportique were definitely "very 70s". so i'm guessing that they're perfectly aware of who their "influences" are. and just to mention names would only prove a self-flattery, impressing no one. i don't even think it's important. i'd like to believe that there's something much cleverer going on in the sportique psyche. that in modern museums they use pastiche and mimicry as their critical scalpel to the cultural inertia they find around them ("it's just like 74 again", on definition 79) rather than just an aping of other groups. they provide more than enough rope for the reviewers who want to hang themselves by proudly reeling off name after name from obscure art school beatniks to champions of Britpop in the belief that they've seen right through sportique and got them down to a tee. Sportique seem subtle rather than superficial, despite their sledgehammer wit here and there. "she takes me off at tangents when i need parallel lines" is a particularly nice line from suture. typically layered with meaning. but "icestorm" is just heavenly: belying the hopelessly romantic core at the heart of their frustration perhaps. and then it all comes to an end so quickly: just 20 minutes or so between the first and last song. but 20 minutes chock-a-block with mocking. a sort of splash and dash art criticism, parody cum influence. snottiness. appropriations. wining. brilliant observation. a still breathless meth-amphetamine art punk (g)rumble through the underground with the spray can of hate and love...   --Wide Open Road
Second full length from this British group, and it's a bit punkier than the last. Much of this record has the feel of late 70s punk (and attitude - see the bemoaning of boredom in "Definition Seventy-Nine"), especially the Buzzcocks, Magazine, and Wire. Hell, even the intro to "The Dying Fly" is an exact copy from the Sex Pistols' "Pretty Vacant". The guitars are fast and jangly, the drums and bass are tight and punchy, and the vocals are loud and upfront, with some occasional outbursts of shouting (on "How Many Times..?" and the title track). There's more organ on this record, now that Amelia Fletcher is a full-time member (I'm sure you already know that the band also features Gregory Webster of the Razorcuts, Mark Flunder of the TVPs/McTells, and Rob Pursey of Heavenly). The record is fairly short, as well - nine songs in 24 minutes. And even though it's purposefully retro, it still somehow sounds fresh and new.   --IndiePages
At the beginning of the '80s, both the British pop and independent charts were brimming with enough synth-pop and lightweight new wave to fill multitudes of sweet sick lads searching for eventually what was to become Blur. Sportique probably blossomed from this moment in rock 'n roll, hoping to bring the post-pop sound full circle. The band's latest effort, Modern Museums, is filled with brash, spiteful rock songs both immediate and catchy with no traces of the above. Impetuous, snarling vocals litter the band's post Brit-punk sound with poppy guitars interweaving over a strong, controlled backbeat. While Sportique falters at points ("How Many Times...?" and "Art & Shopping" both sound too pretentious for their own good), Modern Museums proves an exciting and compulsively listenable album.   --Rockpile Magazine
...Sounding something like the Fall with a touch more melodic sensibility, Sportique combines a post-punk ethos with the dirty nail spirit of Billy Bragg. "How Many Times" is a post-punkish political manifesto, "The Dying Fly" manages a sort of drunken melody and ambling demeanor, and "Suture" is a bounding, uptempo raver. Sportique is dissonant and dour, capturing the ragged spirit of the 4-track and the recklessness of early punk.   --Shredding Paper
Nearly 15 years after The Razorcuts' mid-80s run, Gregory Webster is keeping the faith via the very fine Sportique, which, on its second album, pushes things in a slightly more angular direction, as if someone slipped a copy of Wire's Pink Flag in between Webster's well-played editions of Mr. Tambourine Man and Love Bites.   --The Big Takeover Magazine
Modern art meets pop music? Well, not quite, though Sportique's mini LP "Modern Museums" certainly challenges and provokes in fair measures. Its sparse, clean sound mirrors the vast open spaces of, say, the Tate Modern. There are broad brushstrokes of punctuated guitar and nice, tasteful splashes of organ (keyboards to you). Gregory Webster's cockney snarl comes across sounding all a bit punk as does the opening notes of "The dying fly" which points its unmanicured finger at the Sex Pistols' "Pretty vacant" and indeed "Definition seventy-nine" longs for those days of revolution. In other places, it can sound a bit sixties like on "Icestorm" which reminds me of the Byrd's "Feel a whole lot better". The punkier "How many times...?" lists the usual cliches associated with artists in a most entertaining fashion. But despite its slightly aggressive edge, the songs are extremely catchy and is another fine offering in Greg's polymorphous career. My favourite moment is Greg screaming "I AM A REAL ARTIST!" no less than four times on the opening track much the same way Lydon might once have done. Whether he declares this ironically as a Britart peddler or genuinely as a musician is open to interpretation though I suspect possibly both. The sleeve has suitably modern art appeal and photos reveal the band's shameless fascination with the pork pie hat. So unlike Britart, there's certainly lots of substance and content here, more than you'd find in a work by Tracey Emin or Sarah Lucas. Anyone for two fried eggs and a kebab?   --Bad Squirrel
Between totally edged art punk and sweetest to the core melodic pop. Sounds like a guy whistle with a grin in underground after packed up a dead body of himself in a fat suit case popped up a leg a little. Sadness painted over black again.   --Cookie Scene
Un grupo de ilustres del indie pop de las últimas dos décadas sonando tan frescos y poderosos. Eso es lo que es este cuarteto británico comandado por Gregory Webster (The Razorcuts, Carousel, Saturn V) y secundado por Mark Flunder (Television Personalities), Rob Pursey y Amelia Fletcher (Ambos provenientes de Heavenly y Marine Reseach ) en el que la suma de las partes da como resultado una compacta máquina de punk acelerado que no renuncia ni al punk ni al soul. Podrían ser el cuarto vértice de un cuadrado que también incluyera a Make Up, Comet Gain y The Action Time con Thee Headcoats en el centro. Buceando en décadas pretéritas y quedándose con lo mejor de cada una (las melodías inocentes de los 60, la rabia punk de los 70, las maneras del indie pop de los 80, el todo vale de los 90...) consiguen arrancar a base de guitarrazos diamantes que publican casi en bruto, sin grandes adornos, apenas los teclados de Amelia, en aras de una mayor inmediatez. En total 25 minutos para 9 temas que demuestran que, con ellos sí, quien tuvo retuvo.   --Popchild