Cable (the greatest band you’ve never heard of)

Cable - When Animals Attack cover

Cable Who?

I first heard the Derby, UK band Cable (not to be confused with the US band of the same name), like so many other people, on the music for a Sprite advert back in 1997 – and instantly fell in love with them. They were going to be massive, take on the world and give us all the kind of music we’d be craving if only we knew what that was – fresh, vibrant, off-kilter alt. rock tracks that could keep the nation ticking over with a bounce in our step and a glint in our eye.

Only this never happened, and it’s truly our loss. Instead we got BritPop & Madchester, with Oasis and the eminently more interesting Blur posing as our guides – and it wasn’t all that it could be. Don’t get me wrong – the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, Pulp, Supergrass etc. did some truly great work, but it wasn’t the same. By its very nature, to be commercially successful the music itself had to be commercial, so instead of quirky time-signatures, middle-eights from space and meticulously evolved counter-melody, we got 4/4 hack-and-slash. We got moderate rock.

Body of Work

Between 1994 and their split in 1999, Cable created a not insignificant body of work including three albums and over half a dozen singles & EPs as well as playing three Peel Sessions on Radio 1, but from bad luck to mis-management and everything in between they never cracked the big time, with the below track Freeze the Atlantic becoming their only real success (coming in at #43 in the UK charts – just shy of that magic number 40 which might have given them access to a far wider audience, and possibly changed the way it all played out).

What re-ignited my interest was that I recently found that there’d been a Cable cover album Souvenir – A Tribute to Cable (and by recently found, I mean that I only found out recently – the cover album itself was made in 2006!) – so I hastily picked up a copy, and I’ve got to say it’s great, and has really got me listening to Cable again. Not again because I’d stopped liking them, but just because there’s so much music out there it’s easy to forget about the older stuff sometimes when each new week brings tens of shiny new albums to my attention.

I guess the thing I liked about Cable was that nothing else sounded like them back then, and nobody does to this day. The rhythms and melodies presented just genuinely do not sound like anyone else – you couldn’t say that they sound like band X mixed with band Y, because they simply don’t – in true tautology style, they sound like themselves.

So with this in mind, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about which track or tracks I wanted to put up for this post to give anyone reading a taste of Cable, and it’s hard going, because the tracks are so different, and a lot of them have what can only be called an inner beauty – you might hate them on your first listen, but come to love them on your 20th. And it’s a shame that not so many people will persevere through to find that inner beauty (which could arguably be said to have been both the reason the music is so good in the first place, and why it failed dismally to garner mainstream acclaim). After thinking it through, I’ve came to a compromise and chosen two tracks, with the second in two versions =D

Freeze the Atlantic

Let’s start with the most accessible and undoubtedly most commercially successful tracks – Freeze the Atlantic off the album When Animals Attack. Have a listen & see what you think…

Cable - Freeze the Atlantic cover

You watch the light diffuse and turn your back on home,
And you reflect on how you did it on your own,
Drift on the evening smog it’s cracked, the ceiling’s old,
You hide a smile behind fifty fingers.

Now you’re looking for compromise, and everyone’s hypnotised,
Model spectators of ball games you devised,
And there’s nothing left but glass and stones,
Spare me some change and buy me a new catch phrase.

It’s time to change your number on your telephone,
And ask the questions that you’re told should die alone,
Drift on the evening smog, it’s cracked, the ceilings old,
You hide your smile behind fifty fingers.

Pocket Promise

Now to cut to something with a bit more edge, let’s switch to Pocket Promise from the album Sub-Lingual:

Cable - Sub-Lingual cover

I’ll invade your company, cut a hole in history,
The straightest face you’ll recognise, you’ll expect a cheap surprise,
And think when my heads caved in, no x-rays and I’ll learn to swim,
And think when my heads caved in, no x-rays and I’ll learn to swim.

We’re pleased, to see, the maximum security,
You think, looks good, but nothing turns out as it should.

I’m a master locksmith, there’s nothing I won’t lift,
What’s yours is mine, what’s mine is mine,
I’ll be thieving all the stuff you’re buying.

And think when my heads caved in, no x-rays and I’ll learn to swim,
And think when my heads caved in, no x-rays and I’ll learn to swim.

We’re pleased, to see, the maximum security,
You think, looks good, but nothing turns out as it should.

We’re pleased, to see, the maximum security,
You think, looks good, but nothing turns out as it should,
I’m mobile, I’m senile, no sympathy in my smile,
You want it, you need it, you’re looking for it but you will never find it.

But now I get to do something cunning… If you’re struggling to find the inner beauty of Pocket Promise in the album version, here’s an (admittedly low quality) acoustic version of the same track recorded live in a music shop somewhere. If you never liked Nirvana until you heard some of their songs unplugged before you got it – which I’m suitably ashamed to say was the case for me – then you’re about to get the same kind of light bulb go off above your head. Hopefully you’ll get it – and it’ll make you smile as much as it makes me.

See what I’m talking about now? The inner beauty beneath the distortion, feedback and driving drums? I don’t know – I hope that you do, and if not then feel free to call me on it, and tell me that Cable failed commercially not because they were quirky and offbeat, but simply because they just weren’t very good. I won’t believe you, of course, but I’d be interested in what you have to say :)

Sell or Sell Out

Maybe it wasn’t the right time for Cable. Maybe there just couldn’t have been a time for their music to gain commercial success – because it wasn’t commercial, or immediately friendly and familiar. It’s quite possible that to be successful would have required sufficient change to dull the edge and break what was so special about them in the first place. And it’s this situation I think that left the band stuck on catch 22 – damned if they do, and damned if they don’t. Or maybe I’m just making excuses. Who the hell knows.

I just kind of wish they’d sold out a little more, so they could survive as a group. It’s like some things you do for love, and some you do for money – so if the price of continued existence is that you bite your fist and write a radio-friendly unit shifter now and then to keep the wheels rolling, then so what? If it was an artistic issue, then surely they could have kept the core of their artistic vision alive in the remixes and alternate versions, because they could certainly write a tune.

From what I understand of it, Cable stuck to their guns and did it their way no matter the cost, and the music that they left us is testament to that. The ingenuity and artistry hidden in the core, only revealing itself slowly and with time to small numbers of dedicated fans instead of immediately to the masses being both what made them great and what held them back.

Goodbye, Cable – and thank you. To a few, you changed everything =D

You want moar?

Then you’re not entirely out of luck. sublingual.co.uk is probably the most active Cable fan-site around, with interviews, press clippings, forums and all that other good stuff. And YouTube has a pretty good section of Cable videos and and tracks if you feel like exploring the archives and seeing what you’ve been missing ;)

Also, if you want to see & hear what the band members are up to these days:
– Matt Bagguley (vocals/guitars) is now the drummer for Je Suis Animal,
– Pete Darrington (bass) plays in Hudson Super Six,
– Richie Mills (drums) now does vocals/guitars in MiLLS, and
– Neil Cooper (early drums) now drums for the band Therapy?.

If you’ve got any thoughts/comments or anything else then please share and sling a comment in the post – it’d be interesting to know whether you think I’ve got the right end of the stick or the wrong stick entirely!

Cheers!

Last Chance Saloon

Still not convinced that Cable are terrific?! Try this: The [we did the music for the Sprite ad] Blues, then call it for yourself:

17 thoughts on “Cable (the greatest band you’ve never heard of)”

    1. Heya kid – yeah, I think the 10 years ago one was prolly “Drops of Jupiter”.

      I’m not sure about their recent stuff – tho the wife listens to the “Save Me, San Francisco”album, I haven’t heard it myself.

      Will give it a burl ;)

  1. hello mr. came accross this page trying to fimd somewhere to download when animals… and uplift the downtrodden. i loved cable very much and saw them play once in bristol (i think). I am currently living in viet nam and desperatly want to download t least/if not both of these albums, cable were so ahead of their time and i want to be rteminded. trouble is many website here in nam are banned i-tunes/facebook. can you please please help me out, once cable fan to another? lawry birdengne at yahoo dot co dot uk

  2. Hi there! I’ve got the same problem – I want to hear those albums, especially a tribute one. Any chance of sending it? Here’s my e-mail: <removed>

  3. Hi r3dux, I only just came across this site trying to find my missing Cable collection. is there any chance you could help me getting SUBLINGUAL, the John Peel sessions and maybe the tribute album. i could seriously appreciate any reply. sincerely Seamie

  4. Hi, I am from Derby and in a Band now with Pete from Cable. If any of you want/need anything Cable related let me know and I’ll ask Pete if he can source it. You can also listen to his New Band on Facebook etc – The Hudson Super Six. Enjoy. Cheers. Phil

  5. I hadn’t heard! That’s awesome! =D

    Unfortunately I now live in Australia so it’s be a fair old trip to catch the show!

    Would be great if Cable recorded it & flogged as a digital download or smth – I’d definitely be in for that, and I’m sure a lot of other fans would too!

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