Straw – Shoplifting (1999)

FrontCover1Straw was an English post-Britpop band that released one album, Shoplifting, in 1999.
Straw was formed in Bristol by Mattie Bennett (vocals/guitar) and Roger Power (bass/guitar), formerly of The Blue Aeroplanes. Later adding keyboardist Mark “Duck” Blackwell, the group signed to Arista Records under the moniker “Please” with a different lead vocalist. They recorded an album in Boston with American record producers Sean Slade and Paul Q. Kolderie. Unhappy with the results, however, the band was dropped by the label after releasing a single, “If I Was God…” (1995, Sugarscoop Records).
When Arista kept Please’s singer under contract, Bennett stepped into the lead vocalist role, the band adding drummer Andy Nixon and re-christening themselves Straw. This newly revitalised line-up was quickly signed to WEA and issued its debut single “Weird Superman” in the summer of 1998. Two more singles and one EP were released: “The Aeroplane Song,” (charting at no. 37 in the UK Singles Chart on 6 February 1999), “Moving to California” (charting at no. 50 on 24 April 1999), and Soundtrack of the Summer (including “The World Is Not Enough” — a James Bond theme attempt) in 1999 before Straw released their first full-length effort, Shoplifting.

Throughout 1998 and 1999 the band toured extensively with Puressence, Space and Feeder alongside emerging future stars Muse and gigs with Supergrass, Alanis Morissette, Fountains of Wayne and Reef. The extensive touring and television appearances (including the O-Zone and TFI Friday) took their toll, and differences broke out in the band resulting in the dismissal of Power after the band’s final appearance of 1999 at the Glastonbury Festival. They were also subsequently dropped by WEA. They recruited new bassist Dan McKinna, and self-funded (and self-produced) the recording of several new tracks in the basement studio of Pete Thomas’ house. On the strength of this new material they were signed to Columbia in 2000 and released the 4-track EP Home Work and the single “Sailing Off the Edge of the World” to critical acclaim. A second album, Keepsakes, was slated for release later that year but they were dropped by Columbia and went their separate ways shortly afterwards.

Singles

Singles
Andy Nixon and Dan McKinna went on to play in The Jeevas with Crispian Mills of Kula Shaker and then onto The Magic Bullet Band. McKinna has been a session player for many bands including James Morrison, Ben’s Brother, Stuart Staples (Tindersticks), A Man Called Adam and Farrah. Blackwell, after producing Straw, The Jeevas and The Magic Bullet Band, continues to work as a record producer and songwriter. Bennett is currently an English and media teacher at Bodmin College in Cornwall. (by wikipedia)
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Straw’s Shoplifting was truly one of the gems of late-1990s Britpop. While the British sound had more or less turned its back on pop music (with mainstream artists like Blur shunning their pop roots for more experimental territory), it’s refreshing to hear a band as unpretentious and shamelessly poppy as Straw. From the opening notes of “Dracula Has Risen From the Grave,” it’s obvious that this album is all about fun sound clips from old movies and video games, which abound on the album from start to finish. “Weird Superman” and “The Aeroplane Song” are catchy, if somewhat conventional, anthems, while the searing “Wake Up (Miss Venezuela)” is good disco-pop. Part of the true magic in Shoplifting, however, is its depth. Straw may be a pop band, but they aren’t superficial. Tender, emotional moments like “Kill Your Boyfriend” and “We Don’t Belong” show that this band has a lot more to offer than just shiny pop tunes; they go deeper, and this disc is one that’s worth diving into. (by Jason Damas)

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Personnel:
Mattie Bennett (vocals, guitar)
Mark “Duck” Blackwell (keyboards)
Andy Nixon (drums)
Roger Power (bass)
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Tracklist:
01. Dracula Has Risen From The Grave 3.42
02. Weird Superman 4.10
03. The Aeroplane Song 4.05
04. Moving To California 6.04
05. Shoplifting 3.54
06. Kill Your Boyfriend 3.56
07. Anthem For The Low In Self-Esteem 3.29
08. United States Of Amnesia 4.02
09. Postcards From Hell 4.28
10. Soundtrack Of The Summer 4.42
11. Wake Up (Miss Venezuela) 4.02
12. We Don’t Belong 5.04
13. Galveston 4.05

All Songs written by Mattie Bennett . Mark “Duck” Blackwell – Andy Nixon – Roger Power
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