Do you remember The Soup Dragons? If you’re from the UK and / or of a certain age (the certain age that means you actually remember buying albums on cassette), you probably do. If not, this band probably passed you by completely. Which would be a shame because, while Hotwired isn’t necessarily one of the very best albums ever, it’s a classic of my 1990s and can definitely still stand up tall today.
Although I only really listened to Hotwired, a little research shows that The Soup Dragons were more than I realized – or, at least, here in the UK they were. Nevermind that they were already six years old by the time I heard of them, or that Hotwired was actually their third LP – they’d also had a pretty decent hit in the UK with “I’m Free” in 1990. The Wikipedia says that single charted higher on the U.S. Modern Rock chart, whatever that is, but I definitely don’t remember it being a presence. I do, however, know every note of it, though I couldn’t have even told you it existed before yesterday. Isn’t it weird how that happens sometimes, as if you just absorb songs somehow without ever consciously hearing them?
Anyway, it turns out that the band had had some indie-world success even earlier than that, and – enough to secure their place in indie music history alone – were included on the NME’s legendary C86 cassette compilation. If you don’t know about that cassette, check out this great post from Indie-MP3. (Also, you can still download the whole compilation from Stupid and Contagious, though I can’t promise for how long.) The track included on C86 is wildly different from how we came to know them on Hotwired in 1992 – very much a Buzzcocks-inspired messy-punky-poppy sound which is very pleasant but, honestly, not terribly unique. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great track, but I doubt I’d have remembered it if I didn’t already love them from their later work.
I don’t know exactly what caused the change in sound, other than just the change of times and trends, but when they hit upon the sound featured on Hotwired, they made a classic album. Personally, I had no idea The Soup Dragons existed before “Divine Thing” came along and rocked my MTV. I didn’t know from baggy, or rave culture, or C86. I had no concept of British music being cool or anything in particular; I’d never heard of The Stone Roses or the NME. But I do remember this album soundtracking the summer of 1992 (along with Stereo MCs’ Connected). And you know what? It’s actually still pretty great. The sound might be a little bit dated, but not nearly as much as I’d expect after nearly 20 years – and even if it is a little dated, it’s in a wonderfully nostalgic way (rather than a cringey embarrassing way). These guys deserve to remembered fondly.