Album Review: Hands On by Thousand Yard Stare (1992) (Polydor)


Despite being superb live and releasing a handful of brilliant early 90’s EP’s (1990’s Weatherwatching debut being the pick of an impressive early career), Thousand Yard Stare never really achieved the accolades they deserved due to what can only be considered as reverse snobbery.

Initially they just did not sit right with the working class youth of the northern parts of England, especially Manchester, who were busy forging a scene that was colloquially known as Madchester (a term coined from a mixture of Manchester and the Happy Mondays Shaun Ryder‘s propensity for shuffling about in a drug crazed state whilst only being able to say ‘mad for It’) or ‘Baggy’ (a reference to the all engulfing clothing style such fans sported) which encompassed everything from the clean crisp guitar work of The Stone Roses, through a middle ground of Inspiral Carpets and their almost psyche inflected Hammond organ sound, before finally ending up somewhere in the middle of the country where The Wonderstuff et al were being agreeably scruffy in both persona and sound.

TYS did not quite fit from both a musical perspective and culturally. Musically it was harder to fathom the reasons why they were never accepted by the only musical scene that was really able to put up any defence against what was rapidly becoming an invasion of ‘anything will do as long as it is grunge’ music. 

For in tracks such as Seasonstream they were a match for the quieter moments of the ‘Roses’, in tracks such as the quite brilliant Buttermouth (see below) they out stuffed The Wonder Stuff with consummate ease and in the excellent 0-0 A.E.T… they showed how Neds Atomic Dustbin would have sounded a few years later if they had ever bothered to get their ‘pretty on’. Perhaps this was the real problem as they flitted between the different grooves of the Madchester scene without really ever settling upon one style that a legion of fans might adopt.


They may have also suffered from the fact that they did not fit in culturally. They were a band from Berkshire, the richest county in the country (albeit they were from Slough which is the arse-end of the county) where most of the girls have names like Felicity / Harriett / Gemima and do modern dance as a recreational activity whereas most of the boys are called Bernard, Dominic or Giles and play field hockey on Saturdays. 

Both girls and boys had been eating sushi since the age of four, decades before it was even invented in the rest of the country and with their double-barreled surnames safely inscribed on their leather briefcases they left university, popped on a tube into neighbouring London and got well paid jobs in the city with a ‘chum of daddies’.

In comparison the Madchester / Baggy crowd were supposed to be working class, worked in factories if at all, thought sushi was some sort of vaginal infection and had council estate names such a Tracey, Sharon, Darren and Wayne. However just as my inverse snobbery is plainly on show in this article with my ridiculous tongue-in-cheek stereotypes, the lower classes displayed theirs by not quite letting outsiders into ‘their’ scene. In this case Thousand Yard Stare remained firmly in the outsider camp as the British class divide ran rampant.

Perhaps this sense of alienation was compounded by the fact that unlike most of the Madchester bands, there were frequent occasions where TYS would produce some of the most brilliant, insistent, jangle-pop that had been seen since the mid-80’s jangle-pop explosions had subsided somewhat. This was hardly surprising considering erstwhile production jangle-meister Stephen Street was adding his luscious production. However, perhaps it could be just that little bit too accomplished on occasions for the ‘Northern Set’. 

Tracks such as Wideshire and the superlative Thisness (see below) superbly demonstrate that this band may well have been huge if they had just had the fortune to arrive on a more appropriate scene, i.e. just a few years earlier in the mid 80’s when the UK jangle-pop scene was enjoying its heyday.


Although they are now reformed and producing some immense music and apparently killing it live (although I have yet to see them the second time around) the first version of the band eventually drifted apart very soon after their sophomore Mappamundi (1993) album.

This album shows it was way to soon.

Artist Links

Official Site


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