There it goes again, that blasted TV Anchor butter advert. Why, oh why have they used the theme from the classic sitcom Desmond’s? I swear, every time I hear it, I swish around with excitement that rather than the cliché reruns they’ve decided to air Desmond’s again, but it is not to be, just a butter advert. Far from Anchor’s bane of my life, considering they made me redundant when the Swindon plant closed in 2000, where I worked in the cheese hall for five interminable years. People thought I was some kind of expert of cheese production working there, firing all kinds of technicalities at me such as the separation of curd and whey, when all I did was prep and pack the stuff!
I could ask Calne’s Real Cheesemakers the same annoying question, if I wanted to, but I suspect the name derives from cheese’s informal definition; the eminence of being too apparently mawkish. Their debut album, Grated Hits edges this with West Country hilarity. If my hope for a chance rerun of Desmond’s doesn’t qualify me for interest its unsubtle and cringeworthy eighties cultural references, perhaps only the sound of a ZX Spectrum loading would.
Late on the off with this, the album released in November last year, it’s been a monumental twenty-seven years in the making. Twenty-seven years wasted; they’d have got less for murdering a politician. For our local music scene though, it’s a tongue-in-cheek awakening and worthy of your attention. It does to heavy metal-ish banality what The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band did to jazzy psychedelic sixties pop.
Apt that the band cite the Bonzo Dog Band in their bio, as they “formed in 1992 as a duo following the discovery of said band’s records in founding member, Egg’s mum’s record collection.” They continue to explain, “The Real Cheesemakers spent years creating top-quality nonsense and walloping the finest of cods.” They finally played to “an actual audience for the first time,” in 2011, “to some acclaim, and have since performed across the south of England, and added two new members who actually know how to play musical instruments.”
Nonsensically avant-garde from the start, said eighties cultural references from John Craven to Rick Moranis and Marathon’s name change to Margaret Thatcher’s milk snatching, get slammed in “Unicorns of the 1980s.” The blurb explains it as “the now infamous rejected Eurovision Song Contest entry, United by Cheese, and the collaboration with the Godfather of chap-hop and steampunk legend, Professor Elemental.” From here it’s a good guess this album isn’t going to take itself too seriously, and for that, it’s bloody brilliant.
Through a cascade of local refences too, from Cheddar George to the Roundabouts of Swindon, they bash out seventeen songs of confessed love for He-Man and dinosaurs, a dedication to eggs, bacon, chips and beans, pre-assumed affection for cheese, fear of psychopathic tortoises and annoyance of supermarket queuing, with a Pink Floyd-esque ballad to the weasel and a plodding brass explanation for airborne trousers. Like a snail on a lettuce leaf, I’m only teetering the edge of this odd iceberg here, I’d suggest, if you love your nonsense humour and surrealism you steam headlong into it like a Titanic crew comprising of Spike Milligan and the Monty Python team.
Because of its decades-spanning production period, the band explain Grated Hits gives “each song a slightly different feel, but offers high-end production value without overly contaminating the group’s purity and no-fi roots.”
The release topped off a huge year for the “Cheesers,” playing to a sold out Neeld Hall crowd with Professor Elemental and support slots with fellow Chap-Hop pioneer, Mr B Gentleman Rhymer. Most recently, they played with Creed Bratton from the US version of Ricky Gervais’ sitcom, The Office on a few dates of his UK tour to huge acclaim, before supporting Goldie Lookin Chain at their Xmas bash in Bristol. I’ve noted listing them at our trusty Southgate, after hearing this I’m making a beeline for their next local gig, you would too, if you’re the kind of chap who wears a kipper tie and wellington boot on your head, or not, or just when driven to on occasional weekdays.
The album is available to purchase on CD and digital download from Therealcheesemakers.bandcamp.com. The physical copy features and exclusive track, Cheesemaker Blues (live recording), that is not available on the digital version.
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