Jon Garland charts the highs and lows of the career so far of new mod band the Ordinary Boys and assesses whether singer Preston’s appearance on Celebrity Big Brother will be a help or hindrance to the band.
Ordinary BoysLike many an Ordinary Boys fan I got the shock of my life last week night when, whilst watching the television and keeping half an eye on the entrants to the Celebrity Big Brother House, I saw Preston, the band’s singer and focal point, stepping out of a taxi and strolling down the Big Brother walkway and into the House as a contestant.
I was shocked because the usual parade of celebrities that are wheeled out for this version of the reality show are often a mixture of the desperate, demented and distressed. So why was Preston doing it? What does it mean for the future of the band? And, more importantly, did the watching millions notice just how cool Preston looked as he strolled nonchalantly through the crowd, immaculate in a light-coloured 60s suit and dark blue coat – every inch a mod?
Preston’s decision to be part of Celebrity Big Brother could be seen by some as being a sign that he has ‘sold out’ for some cheap publicity, in an effort to boost the band’s fortunes.
Whatever the case, his entrance into the world of reality television does come at a ‘difficult’ time in the Ordinary Boys’ career. Feted by the music press as they burst upon the music scene in 2003, the band’s critical standing has since fallen a little, and early 2006 sees them at something of a career crossroads.
Indeed, the last twelve months have been a mixed bag for the Boys – in contrast to the year preceding them. 2004’s debut album Over The Counterculture was generally very well received by fans and critics alike, spawning several top forty singles. From the punked-up exuberance of ‘Maybe Someday’, the intensity of the title track, the thoughtfulness of ‘In Awe Of The Awful’ and ‘Just A Song’ to the full-on cover of the Specials’ ‘Little Bitch’ the album contained a plethora of excellent songs. Sounding in turns like both the Jam and the Smiths, Over The Counterculture was a very promising debut. In the album’s standout track ‘Seaside’, they had a bona fide pop classic and in its celebrations of the excitement of ‘steppin’ out tonight’, a contemporary modernist anthem as well. With an NME cover story and accompanying article in which Preston and the boys met with Paul Weller (in a similar fashion to that fifteen years or so previously when Weller himself met with another modernist icon, Pete Townshend – also for the NME), the group’s mod credentials were underlined.
To promote Over The Counterculture the band toured extensively. Playing to ecstatic reactions from the group’s increasingly fanatical following (the self-titled ‘Ordinary Army’) the Boys managed to capture the essence of the soul of their music impressively. Reminiscent of the Clash and yes, the Jam (them again!), in their intensity, the band’s performances were furious in their energy and would often end with audience and group alike drenched in sweat.
However, 2005 was more of a year of mixed fortunes for the Boys. Whilst the catchy and skanked-up ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, the first single from second album Brassbound, made the Top Twenty and inadvertently helped to hype the NME’s ‘Summer of Ska’ that was supposed to follow, the album itself fared less well in the eyes of critics and in the charts too. The Boys were obviously proud of the album’s catchier, more ‘poppy’ and soulful feel, and overall the Ordinary Army received it rapturously. However, whilst magazines like Scootering and some of the lads’ mags raved about it, the important music publications Q and NME were less impressed. To compound their problems, the group decided to release one of the album’s weaker efforts, the ponderous ‘Life Will Be The Death Of Me’ as the follow up to ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, resulting in a first ‘Top of the Pops’ appearance…and the band’s first chart failure.
The year ended on a more positive note, with a well-attended and confidence-boosting headlining tour in late Autumn followed by a slot supporting Paul Weller on his arena jaunt in December. During this time Preston talked up the band’s new material, which they had been busy writing in the latter half of the year, and spoke optimistically of what they could achieve in 2006.
However, his decision to enter Celebrity Big Brother could swing things either way for the Ordinary Boys. At the time of writing Preston has only been in the House a few days, and time will tell whether he can survive his spell under such intense public spotlight with his dignity intact and reputation enhanced.
Hopefully his higher public profile will mean that the group will enjoy a fruitful next twelve months. Whatever happens, personally I’ll enjoy watching such a devoted modernist on my television over the next two weeks or so and am looking forward to the band’s third album, which they will be working on once Preston leaves the Big Brother House.
If you’ve not caught any of their gigs yet then make sure you do so in 2006, as there’s no better live band in Britain – new found Big Brother celebrity status or not!