One for Friday: The Mock Turtles, “And Then She Smiles”

Right around 1990, it seemed like every band in Manchester, England got to make a record. It was like they were going door-to-door and offering recording contracts. “Thank you for buying the Encyclopedia Britannica, here’s your studio time.” There were no complaint about this from college radio. The airwaves that beamed out to the left side of radio dials were filled with trippy, loping pop gems. For a time, it almost seemed that no other style could penetrate, at least until Nirvana and Pearl Jam ushered in the grunge era and we really discovered how monotonous and homogeneous “alternative” could sound. With so many acts blasting out of one area in one relatively narrow time frame, some are doomed to be forgotten. Anyone waxing nostalgic about the Madchester scene is likely to invoke the Stone Roses or the Happy Mondays. If they’re feeling really esoteric, maybe the Inspiral Carpets will get a nod. How many people, though, bring up the Mock Turtles?

I don’t present this observation as some forlorn lament about forgotten genius. Until recently, I didn’t remember the Mock Turtles either, even though their album Turtle Soup was one I played on the air many times. Certainly when it was in our new music rotation at the station, it was almost an obligation to play it. They were from Manchester, after all. But even after it moved to the general library, I’d grab it fairly often. It was just one of those records, as I recall, that worked well on the radio. Pick any track, and it’ll work fine. It might not inspire a listener to call up with that mildly awestruck question, “Who is this?” but they’re probably going to be tapping their feet and maybe even singing along before the song is over.

I don’t mean to damn the band with faint praise. The songs all sounded good then, and still do now. In a way, this is the true pinnacle of pop music, truer to its purpose than supposed great records that are celebrated for ages, periodically venerated anew in the pages of music magazines or in breathless blog posts. It is engaging but fleeting, vibrant but not necessarily memorable. There’s a reason it’s compared to bubblegum, and a reason that’s a compliment. Sometimes a song sounds best when you only need to hear it once, coming out of a couple modest speakers and you sit outside under the sun.

The Mock Turtles, “And Then She Smiles”

(Disclaimer: Perhaps results vary depending on location, but The Mock Turtles album surely looks like it’s out of print to me. This song is therefore presented here with the understanding that it’s not available through any means that will provide monetary compensation to the artist or, just as importantly, to the proprietor of your favorite local, independent record store. Should I be wrong on this account, or even if I’m not, and I receive a request for its removal from someone with due authority to make such a request, I will gladly and promptly comply.)

3 thoughts on “One for Friday: The Mock Turtles, “And Then She Smiles”

    1. Yeah, fair point. But I guess I still prefer that to many of the bands around the same time (cough*pavement*cough) that tried way to hard to prove that they didn’t need to write a catchy song.

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