(From Sounds, UK music paper, 5 October 1985.)
BANG! just brilliant
Brilliant shoot it out to get their man. Chris Roberts goes for his typewriter. Sharp shot by Peter Anderson.
"Only dull people are brilliant: at: breakfast:." -- Oscar Wilde: An Ideal Husband.
"D'you wanna get: some cakes in then, June?" -- Yout:h, a bass player.
THE MOST commonly used adjective of the 1980s (these halcyon days) is full of pop and wow! and grins and ... bigness and bang! and vigour and crystals and enthusiasm and sparkle and shrill thrilling dazzle, always has been, will be.
The group who call themselves Brilliant. ..let's do that again - BRILLIANT! ...are destined for stardumb, and we all know it.
Boy leaves dentist. Cannot verbalise. Gets lost on way to interview because when asking for directions keeps saying "Sshquiggledubadubbrrnom. Please?" Kindly old lady with hair like chewy rotten wood eventually interprets and points way to pub with Brilliant in it.
Nice June buys boy orange juice for pouring down jumper, while nice Jimmy thinks about paintings and nice Youth informs wide-eyed semi-mute that dentists get more propositions from female patients than any other medical practitioners except possibly osteopaths.
"Well, it's a very intimate thing, putting your fingers in someone else's mouth," I venture in sign language.
"Er. ..yeah," says Youth.
What Brilliant decide we will do on this significant London Friday afternoon is start here while I learn how to talk. Then when the taxi arrives we will all get in it (sounds reasonable so far) and go to the only bank that will give Youth some money. Then we will go to a sort of coffee shop off Wardour Street (I guess they wanted to be seen around town with me), where there will be these really nice cakes which l won't be able to eat.
Still, we have a nice chat.
There's nothing vicious or anarchic about Brilliant. At various stages there have been seven or eight members and yumsville singles ...but now, on the launching platform, there are two boys and one girl.
Youth saw through The Joke years back. June studied fashion at art school but left because "they kept telling me what to do". Jimmy was a very famous visionary cosmic artist in the '70s.
"We're not political, or religious," muses June. "I don't know that we've got any statements to make."
With a name like Brilliant, who needs statements? (Or records? Or gigs? Or anything except looking good, not being dreary?)
On New Year's Day I witnessed a fascinating mess at the ICA -- an aural equivalent of Jackson Pollock's firework party. All humping psycho-funk and Jimmy's lacerating Lazarus guitar and June's superbly smooth but tremulously restless voice.
A gestation of nine months and the wild and crazy has been temporarily filed away. The restyled trio are hoping to cash in on any residual sunshine with a considered chart assault in the form of a "clean, tingly" rendition of James Brown's 'It's A Man's Man's Man's World'.
So no manifestos: the aim is purely, simply, almost beautifully, to be pop stars. Brilliant.
What do you say to people who think this single sounds like Scritti Politti?
Youth: "We say FAH! It's, like, a weird song, and it's even weirder with June singing it. June being a girl."
"In case you didn't know," says June.
"It's just a phenomenal obscure classic," Youth sees fit to mention, somewhat mistakenly.
But isn't there an implicit statement in your singing those lyrics, June!
"Oh, I don't actually think of it like that. It's not anything heavy. I do have some feminist tendencies, but. .."
But first we've got a bank job to do.
"Our intention when we started was to get a really large live following," says the white jacket and nearly-bare chest and impressive state of 1985 togetherness known as Youth.
"Then we thought we'd get away from the jam/workout thing. Write some really good songs, get a few hits, then sort of weird out a bit when there's more people into it, when somebody wants to know. If you warp out once you're in the public eye they all love it, accept it instantly.
"It's an experiment to try for verses and choruses and structures in Brilliant. I know at least three chords now. It's not as easy as I thought it'd be, to make it good and not crass."
Some of Those Who Left have formed an outfit called Fresh, who are currently recording in New York. The remaining trinity have two more singles ready to reap after 'Man's World'. These are the irrepressible funk rushes of 'Be Your Lover' (formerly 'Subtle Manoeuvres') and 'Lost City Of Love'. They want to incorporate "silly choreography, shadows, loads of movement, serious stuff" in their live presentation.
Jimmy: "There'll be about 40 of us onstage." Youth: "Just an alternative to looking at musicians being boring. Everyone's trying so hard not to be uncool that they don't actually do anything. They don't know what is cool, so no risks are taken. There's no humour or energy or passion. It's just vacant."
If punk had never happened, like maybe it didn't, would you be saying the same things?
"Dunno. Hope so."
Did it make any difference to pop music? " 'Course it did, yeah."
You really think so? You don't think it's all come back to how it was? Alison Moyet! Paul Young! Dire Straits and King! Vive la revolution!
"Oh, but punk still got rid of a lot of taboos. We couldn't get away with what we're doing; it'd be too ridiculous."
"Because we're not serious enough. We're not perfect musicians. Basically you just have to have front, look good, be good."
What are you challenging?
"The mediocre. We're not that. It's exciting and new and we look different and there's a contrast of visual and musical images. We have conflicting personalities, and a clash means a spark which means something else happens."
"The contrast between me and the boys is what we're going for," comments June. "The personalities coming through with the music."
June keeps her eye on "the boys", as she rather endearingly calls them. She's the abstinent one. Every gang should have one.
"We're going to spearhead the new sexual revolution," says Youth.
Jolly good. How will it differ from the old one?
"It's all about not having sex."
June: "We're all going to be celibate from now on. I've already started and the boys are following suit. No, really! It helps a lot."
Jimmy: "It's good creatively, isn't it?"
Youth: "June's only had one lover in the last two years."
June: "It does help your creative flow."
Jimmy: "It's the tension. You have to release it in music instead of. ..through a penis."
But surely strong emotions jump out of lovemaking like fleas from a drowning cat?
June: "Well, you can have strong emotions without having sex. It's working quite well for me, so the boys have got to do it as well."
Youth: "Before Jimmy and I go into the studio neither of us are allowed to f*** for two days, or ----. And then we go in."
Jimmy: "Guitar solos are like orgasms."
Youth: "Do you ever get an erection during one?"
Jimmy: "Yeah, usually. It can be embarrassing."
Youth: "Hmm. If I stand close enough to my bass amp and press..."
Was that why you wanted to be pop stars in the first place? To procure great lashings of sex and money?
Jimmy: "And other things."
June: "I've often thought what I'd do if I wasn't doing this and I just get a total blank. This is such a high."
Would you agree that 99 per cent of the country live hopelessly blank lives?
Youth: "Blank eyes?"
Youth: "Oh, yeeeah."
June: "The last job I did, temping -- you turn into a robot from nine o'clock. You get home, watch TV, go to bed.
Then you get up again. But, like -- every day for us is totally different."
So Brilliant could perhaps suggest an alternative to the mundane and repetitive? Could evoke colour, spice, tang, gleaming white happy teeth, verve, adrenaline?
What do they think people should do while listening to Brilliant records?
Youth: "Have sex."
I thought you might say that.
Now a view into June's psyche, because in a few months from now when this Shirley Bassey admirer is as famous as Rosanna Arquette, there will be a thousand filleted questionnaires.
"If you knew all the secrets of life by the time you were 21, what would you have to look forward to? As you get older there's a sort of unfolding, but you make things more complicated with all the hang-ups and insecurities you develop and so on.
"I'm more responsible than the boys but I'd hate to feel, like, too sensible to do anything. When I see friends from school who've settled down, they think, Ooh, she's so weird, she hasn't got any children or a steady boyfriend. They think that's all there is to life because you get conditioned at school.
"The sooner women stop thinking that, the better. They're starting to realise they don't need men as much as society made them believe they did. And a lot of men find that threatening. In theory they love the idea of an independent woman, but when it boils down to it they'd actually like to have someone who stayed at home cooking and washing. If the woman's more successful career-wise, then he feels he's living under a shadow. He can't cope. A few men are honest with themselves. There is more awareness, there has to be.
"Gosh! I didn't realise I had anything to say."
Youth: "People underestimate women. Especially men."
June: "Oh, of course they do!"
Youth: "It's like... the one thing that can completely destroy a man is the one thing he's completely obsessed with."
I decide to drink my coffee without sugar.
"I don't know how Brilliant works, but it does," says Jimmy. "There's no name for it. I'm not really into music anyway. Or perhaps I am."
Youth: "Shall we get these cakes in now, then?"
Following fashion is not the same as leading style. I just said that.
"We've transcended fashion," says Jimmy. "We're just too messy," adds Youth. "But June's got her finger on the pulse. She's got her trendy brass earrings in today."
"Fashion's what you make of it," she begins. "There's all the different levels of it, from High Street to Paris, and anyone with any sense just takes the best out of it, doesn't try to recreate the exact look that someone else has dictated. You've got to use your own imagination."
"You have to sidestep," reckons Youth. "To be separate to it and have your own style. Then you get away with anything! But you're not a victim. That would be bad news."
Are you very cynical about the music biz after your wide-ranging experiences from 'Requiem' and 'Wardance' to the present day?
"I used to be, but not anymore. To be cynical about the life you choose to lead is like taking the piss out of yourself, really. You can't change the system by being cynical. If you can't come to terms with it and use it to your own advantage, then a it's sad story. You have the opportunity to do whatever you like if you're determined enough to do it."
What makes you so confident?
"We've got a masterplan."
"The brilliant passes, like the dew at morn; the true endures, for ages yet unborn." --Goethe: Faust (Part One)
Strewth, imagine how miserable he'd have been if his name was Balzac. It's about attitude, and Brilliant's is right-wing but right. They're so up. Their playful works can be "light", but go directly to the cordoned-off coronary area where Jennifer Holliday might tango with your favourite loud crashing noise. One thing -- Brilliant are now.
Another thing -if you think they're tame, wait for soon.
Jimmy lights another cigarette and says this: "I think the universe is made up of chaos."
Youth agrees. "I don't think people should look for an answer to the confusion of man. They'll just get themselves even more confused. Shouldn't think about it."
"There it is."
"Treat it as a playground, really."
This, kids, this is pop, and without it the film of your life would have no soundtrack. Several exclamation marks.
"Are we gonna get these cakes in or what?"