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Amateur Night in the Big Top

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Album Review

The Happy Mondays' greatest moments weren't always about the words, but it was always hard to separate Shaun Ryder's surrealistic, primitive genius lyrics from the beat, thrust, and import of the music. Ironic, then, that on his first official solo outing, the charmingly named Amateur Night in the Big Top, his inspired, mad verse takes second billing to the echoing club beats of it all. Not that this is entirely a bad thing. Ryder, or his producers, have kept a keen ear on the upheavals and turmoil of club culture, sometimes arriving at bracingly atmospheric beats equal parts dub and trip-hop that are never held to any one doctrine. In his glory days, Ryder would use this as a launching pad toward lunacy, but here, he rides the beat, never once propelling it with his exquisite bad taste and absurd pan-cultural irreverence. Sure, it's more interesting than the still-born, awkward, second Black Grape album Stupid, Stupid, Stupid — largely thanks to its intricate, layered production — but the end result is calculated without reaping the rewards of its precision. When all is said and done, it's not bad; but it's hard to call it good, either.


Born: 23 August 1962 in Little Hulton, Gtr. Manchester, E

Genre: Electronic

Years Active:

Shaun Ryder was the poster boy for rock & roll excess in the late '80s and early '90s, at least in the U.K. As the potty-mouthed, drug-using leader of the Happy Mondays, Ryder was voted most likely to become an international star as well as the next rock & roll casualty in pre-Brit-pop Great Britain. Ryder was born in Manchester, England, on August 23, 1962. In 1982, Ryder formed the Happy Mondays, drawing upon '60s psychedelia, '70s funk, and '80s house music. The group released its debut LP, Squirrel...
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Amateur Night in the Big Top, Shaun Ryder
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