It was Sarah Curtis's searing electric violin that collared me initially. Instantly, in fact. Hearing "The Pennine Spitter" snarling, like an Ancoates John Cale, out of John Peel's show one evening in early 1988 (c/o their England's Finest Hopes EP), I was hooked within the first five seconds.
Though as excitingly visceral as anything that America was throwing at us at that point, Manchester's King Of The Slums sounded unmistakably English - & Northern English at that - though sans any of that misguided football hoolie patriotism that Oasis would, in time, boorishly capitalise on. Once the violin had left weals in my ears, Charley Keigher's bitingly sarcastic lyrics stepped in. A desperate sink estate underdog with a witheringly contemptuous turn of phrase, his pre-ASBO vignettes of leery bleeders, unfit mothers, unemployable backstreet nutters, dubious Hulme liaisons, hard-faced cows on doorsteps, scutty washing lines, archaic outside bogs & the silent, lurking Moors would be diluted & repackaged two decades later by those faux chavs, Arctic Monkeys. Keigher sounds like he was really immersed in the thick of it though: "I'm stood on a doorstep / The moon's full-on, the roofs are wet / I shin up a drainpipe / The Pennines are in range / I slip back down to my life in this town / My God, I'll end up breeding whippets / I am a mere Mancunian of no fixed abilities / And I'd turn on a sixpence to be led astray / My only claim to fame is I can spit with an exquisite aim". In retrospect, the only half decent comparison I can come up with is Luke Haines (of The Auteurs, etc) but he's far too knowing & nowhere near as vehement. Misanthropica, I call it.
Despite Peel championing KOTS's early EPs (there's a great Maida Vale session out there somewhere too), the uptight English music press never really embraced them, appearing to take their cocksure outsider polemic as some kind of parochial affront. In fairness, their choice of cover star for the Vicious British Boyfriend 12" - a leering Enoch Powell set atop a pink Union Jack! - probably didn't help much.
Everything King Of The Slums released is out of print, making Barbarous English Fayre, a collection of their early singles & suchlike, of cardinal importance. They're in outlandishly fine form throughout though, sadly, the priceless "King Steptoe & The Strangeways Headcase" (from Debris magazine's Head Over Ears compilation) has been omitted. If anybody can point me in the direction of that or the "Haemophiliacs On Tacks" flexi please drop me a line, I'd love to hear them both again. I might actually still have them stowed away somewhere, but that'd entail a visit to The Shed & I'm not ready for that just yet!
Charley Keigher is recording again after a lay-off of almost 20 years. He's got an official site here & there's the obligatory (& v.good) KOTS fansite to pillage too.