IN A PUNT AT WHICH ACT’S DEBUT WAS THE HIGHEST SELLER IN POLYDOR’S HISTORY, IT’S UNLIKELY THAT YOU’D THROW ANY OF YOUR HARD-EARNED AT MID-1990s MERSEY-BEAT / BRITPOP MERCHANTS CAST. BUT THAT’S WHERE THE SMART MOOLAH WOULD GO.
ALL CHANGE sold upwards of a million copies on release in October 1995, also spawning four Top 20 singles. Songwriter John Power, bass player for The La’s in a former life, found himself fronting a group labelled ‘The Who of the 90s’, and which the usually taciturn Noel Gallagher came out of his shell to proclaim “a religious experience”.
Next week all four pre-2001 split albums by the recently reformed group are being reissued as deluxe editions. The single CD and DVD package for swansong BEETROOT adds remixes, but the two-CDs-plus-a-DVD sets for smash hit ALL CHANGE, 1997 follow-up MOTHER NATURE CALLS and MAGIC HOUR (1999) contain a plethora of b-sides, BBC sessions and live recordings alongside previously unreleased demos and outtakes. More than enough, it would seem, to keep Gallagher on his knees.
SANDSTORM and ALRIGHT set the debut’s template with Minipops mash-ups of A HARD DAY’S NIGHT-era nouse and energised early The Who, but ALL CHANGE‘s standout moment is actually a ballad – the shimmering WALKAWAY. Despite hazy lyrical platitudes, it has an irresistible sentimental swell likely to make the not so meaningful briefly seem utterly profound. When used as the soundtrack for a post-match montage of the England football team’s failure to beat Germany in a penalty shootout during Euro 96, WALKAWAY chimed with its times. Everyman’s boots fitted well for Power and his very own YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE.
Additional material on the new edition includes almost all of the album reproduced in BBC session form, plus two demos which act as reminder that ALL CHANGE has been subject to ‘deluxing up’ before: the 2010 version offered a surfeit of charming early-stages material. So, to complete the more complete picture, seek out both reissues.
MOTHER NATURE CALLS, produced by John Leckie, working with an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ modus operandi, unsurprisingly failed to match the impact of Cast’s debut. The material is not as strong, despite Top 10 singles FREE ME and GUIDING STAR being amongst the band’s finer moments. A classic case of second album syndrome, perhaps, with a much shorter period of time to write and the attendant responsibilities of success adding their indelible grubby marks.
1999’s MAGIC HOUR was better – producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Belly, Foo Fighters) toughened up Cast’s sound without turning everything all the way to 11 – but the zeitgeist was already shifting towards the flat-pack mellow-out of Coldplay and Travis.
By 2001’s oddly titled and vaguely experimental BEETROOT, Cast’s days were almost done. Generally regarded as being the dud in the discography, it’s actually an interesting indicator of Power’s desire to evolve arrangements – using brass, soul and gospel – and it’s certainly not quite as bad a prospect as the band splitting up shortly afterwards might suggest.
Other than the fact that most of his material was a well weighted exercise in concise classic pop writing – Power’s instinctive gift for melody tweaked Fab Four reflexes in those of second generation age – it’s not difficult to fathom the early success. A tight unit with radio friendly songs, the band naturally embodied surging Britpop’s core tenets – lads / guitars / upbeat. A sound the merest flap of a Beatles’ wing from underachieving pioneer forefathers The La’s, for a while Cast enjoyed the luxury of far better luck and much better timing.