October 2000 – album reviews – Inter’s ‘Got My 9’ (“bards of the slump they may be, but Inter’s zestful intelligence means that they triumph at it”)

5 Oct

Inter: 'Got My Nine'

Inter: ‘Got My Nine’

You could feel sorry for Inter. Coming along with spry, bitingly intelligent Wonder Stuff-ish crunch-pop singles at a time when the Britpop consumers had long packed those in and turned to vacantly swaggering arena singalongs (then to bloke-next-door troubadours, then to vague boys with falsettos). And following that, getting involved with a Japanese label setting down roots in English pop, who picked and signed Inter as their flagship band and then perversely dropped them as soon as this album was released. Yeah, you could feel sorry for Inter – but not too sorry. They don’t really invite it.

Not because they deserve the frustrating ride they’ve had to go through for the past year, but because they’re too resilient to let it knock them back for too long. The band – cheerfully waspish frontman Steven Bray, two ex-Who Moved The Ground?-ers (guitarist Sid Stovold and drummer Johnny Gill) and bassist Michael Boylan – might even end up writing about the experience with less self-pity than most. After all, they’re always whipping up quick storms of questioning, sardonic power-pop to sketch stories and situations involving flailing fall guys or bewildered patsys. The British are used to being frustrated, bolshy losers, whether in the form of celebs laid low by the press (Jimmy) or the nobodies of Keep It Inside, leading cut-down lives and nursing a growing stew of resentment as likely to be aimed at their own lives as any potential whipping boy. And the prickliness and compressed fuming which this breeds is Inter’s first port of call when they’re writing songs.

‘Got My 9’ isn’t perfect. Though they’ve triumphantly inherited the Stourbridge Strut from Miles Hunt and co., Inter can slip too readily into a stream of straightforward West Coast punk (notably on both Speed Racer and Jimmy, which run far too close to that overmined motherlode), and the impressive cauldron of distortion on Boss Grasshopper buries whatever we could’ve learnt from the song. Still, there’s a couple of well-sustained lengthy epics of disaffection – Real Horrorshow and Swallow, each with dramatic power-pop opera choruses and skirling organs – showing that the band can drive their sound to more expansive places when they want.


 
And rather than wallowing in the stagnancy of despair, Inter prefer to hitch a lift on the rise of that initial anger – the precise point where “it’s sick, / but then something starts to click” – and hop off just in time to tell the story. As they display on the caustic, Lennon-style waltz of The Great Unknown, centred on a chilly-hearted hidebound man turned conman who “just stayed at home / and he missed all the fun, / ‘cos nobody gave him directions.” Bray lands some stinging blows on the traps of honour and naivety – “it’s useless to run, / ‘cos they got you too young / and your honesty’s made you a liar.”


 
Throughout ‘Got My 9’, Inter look, with indignation and a touch of reactive guilt, at the debris our dissatisfied culture throws up. They travel from the vacant celebrity of glamour models on Cherry Red Electric Blue (“look what we’ve done to you – / sugar centre through and through”) to the ludicrous aspects of self- promotion (via the ironic, ringing, radio-hit sound of Radio Finland), and give homegrown racists a firm rousting on the catchy National Paranoia. “Your national paranoia is all that’s keeping you alive – / if you had your way we would be oh so white and ten feet high… / Don’t push your poison over here!”


 
Real Horrorshow – maybe the heart of the album – is less mocking, more distressing in the picture it paints. “Revenge is scary – / you’re making it sound OK,” agonises Bray as he watches someone sinking into hatred, burdened by a dull life circumscribed by boredom and fear and by a red fringe of violence they’re too weak to thrive on. “Take your milk like every good boy… / You’ve gotta be careful cos everyone’s out for blood – / it’s gonna be murder, and you could be their first. / It’s maybe the fashion, but people get bored too soon. / And your best intentions leave you feeling cursed.”


 
Love in Interworld is equally suspect and frustrating. On Happy Ending, Bray frets “you’ve seen inside me – you’ve seen things you ought not to have known,” and sarcastically foresees any shared future toppling like a line of dominoes – “you’ve seen the future / so we both know how this will end.” Swallow, despite a passing resemblance to U2’s With or Without You, is a far more bitter piece of work, where guilty recriminations (“I know I’m not what you expected / and I know, I know, you think that you’ve been left out again,”) are struggling with vengeful bile: “swallow every accusation that you’ve built your conscience on… / Swallow this and I hope you choke.”

A finale of fading comfort is provided with Do You Feel Lucky?, which sees the grit and irritation left behind in a cloud of summery yet anorexically sad, dreamlike images of helplessness and disappearance. A pensive chorus (“every day is a day less I have to kill / I could stop right now, but you know I never will,”) which leaves you wondering whether the narrator has chosen life or a gradual slip into death.


 
Bards of the slump they may be, but Inter’s zestful intelligence means that they triumph at it. They certainly don’t deserve to be thrust back into the bargain-indie bin again as long as there’s a label wise enough to catch them.

Inter: ‘Got My 9’
Yoshiko Records, YR-002-CDA001 (5 032701 200422)
CD/vinyl album
Released:
3rd October 2000
Get it from: (2020 update) Best obtained second-hand.
Inter online:
Facebook MySpace Amazon Music
Additional notes: Inter split in 2001, with various members going on to Wherewithal and, more currently, The Dolomites and The Sound of Ghosts.
 

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