Pop music after the Spice Girls was definitely not for me. I was well into Juliana Hatfield, Beck, Juliana Hatfield, Lolita Storm, The Pumpkins and – yes – Juliana Hatfield by that point. I hated S Club 7. The ‘S’ clearly stood for ‘shite’ and I resented how happy they seemed. In hindsight, the smiles would be wiped decisively from their faces once they received their first royalty cheques. Likewise, Steps were the enemy. They depressed me. I found nothing to enjoy about them at all. MTV was a wasteland until the early hours of the morning, which was when alt rock music would take over the station. I stayed up. Insomnia made sure of it.
Then a miracle. Something utterly unlike anything before or since. Jo Whiley played a song on Radio 1 during a particularly dull college afternoon. It was the sort of rare moment when a song hits you hard enough to make you feel something. I had to take inventory of my senses. I felt…excitement. I needed to know who it was and whether or not they had an album in shops. Yes, I’d go to HMV and buy the album right away!
It was Overload by the Sugababes. Who? What? No-one knew. Years before they became a joke for their ridiculous line-up changes, they were the coolest pop group in the world. And it started with that one song. Even on a shitty radio I heard (and felt) the most amazing three-piece harmonies I’d ever heard in a pop song. Three voices, perfectly pitched together, a blend that sounded (and still sounds) absolutely remarkable. Mutya, Keisha, and Siobhan. Jo seemed to like it. She sounded surprised it was so good. I heard that in *her* voice. Pop wasn’t very cool at that point. But the Sugababes had arrived and they were going to change all of that.
The video was played on The Box. I ran up a large phone bill watching it again and again. That and late night calls to The Psychic Advisory Service. Stylish and oh so editorial, the Overload promo wasn’t like anything else. The girls themselves seemed sullen and miserable. Yes, I thought. This is the group for me. Overload went Top Ten and the Sugababes ended up on Top Of The Pops for an iconic performance where they…didn’t perform, unless sitting on stools and doing a half-hearted dance routine during the surf guitar solo counted as a performance. It was all anti-pop. And it was made for me, or so I felt. Okay, so I bought the single CD from Virgin instead of HMV. Glasgow had a lot of variety for the consumer. HMV, Virgin, Missing, Fopp, Avalanche. And not just one branch of HMV or Virgin either. Overload came complete with a b-side, the lo-fi Lush Life. I loved that as much as Overload. I still do. Sparse atmospheric garage pop, the vocals are raw yet immediately better than everything else in pop music at the time. Then the album was released to rave reviews and each one completely deserved. Years after they split and reformed, there are rumours they’re preparing their return. I saw them live at The ABC a few years ago (God, I miss The ABC) and they were perfect. I want them to be perfect again. With luck the rumours are true. It would be a good time to reassess their impact and a re-release of their debut album. I listened to it again last week and time has been very kind to the songs. I reckon the original Sugababes could do an even better album now. Wouldn’t it be great to hear those voices again years later?