Saturday, 23 April 2011

4: Cuban Boys, “Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia” (no.4, 1999)

For the simple reason that, as Lily Allen once sang, “It makes me smile.” A dark horse contender for the Christmas 1999/millennial number one, this may well stand as the novelty hit to end all novelty hits, seeking - for the simple reason nobody else had ever previously thought to do it - to substantiate a dial-up Internet sensation (singing animated rodents) with homemade beats, old Roger Miller outtakes, urban legends from the golden age of radio (“We’re off? Well, that ought to hold the little bastards”) and snatches of dialogue from any other TV or film enterprise that came to hand.

Any old hack could have put this out under the till-ringing title “The Hampster Dance” (as, indeed, EMI originally wanted to), but it takes a bold Situationist flourish to release it under the name of an obscure philosophical tract most singles buyers wouldn’t have been able to pronounce. Then again, the Cuban Boys - mad electronic scientists, and longtime John Peel favourites - were also bold enough to try mashing up South Park with unfashionable 70s combo Kenny’s dancefloor favourite “The Bump” for the yet-more-insane “Oh My God, They Killed Kenny”, by the end of which you may very well feel like a hamster spinning around in its wheel.

I can remember feeling hugely disappointed at the time, but in the end, maybe it’s for the best that “Cognoscenti vs. Intelligentsia” (the more you read it, the more inspired that title gets) got jostled out of the top spot by Westlife, John Lennon’s re-released “Imagine” (zzzzzzzzzzz) and Cliff’s awesomely bad “Millennium Prayer”, and instead had to settle for being number one in the Peel Festive 50: after all, singing hamsters are for life, and not just for Christmas. (Also hear: “The Golden Age of Video”, 2009’s copyright-shredding YouTube megamix in which pre-eminent Cuban Boy Ricardo Autobahn further bolstered his postmodern-pop credentials.)

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