Unspun Heroes – My Computer, ‘Vulnerabilia’

Digging up buried treasure from the depths of our collection.

This week – Tony Naylor digs out some electronica that should have rebooted the musical world.

Thundering, pulpit-bashing, mine-eyes-have-seen-the-glory evangelical fervour. That was how, in 2002, Britain’s music journalists greeted My Computer’s ‘Vulnerabilia’. About 27 people bought it. Then it vanished. The power of the press…

In songwriting master craftsman Andrew Chester and studio boffin David Luke, NME thought it had discovered a duo whose fluid fusion of – deep breath – rock, jazz, jungle, pop, soul, punk, techno and modern classical represented a blueprint for music’s future. Supporters like Alan McGee and John Leckie, who produced MC’s second album, ‘No CV’, were enthusiastic. Still, both albums tanked.

Was it us? Did NME make it sound too good to be true? Possibly. But My Computer demanded fantastical description. What does ‘Vulnerabilia’ sound like? Like Jeff Buckley, stoned and paranoid, in a Stretford bedsit.

Like Thom Yorke’s ‘The Eraser’ remixed by PT Barnum. It sounds how Noel Gallagher might had he formed the Prodigy, not Oasis. Like a 19th century operetta written by Shaun Ryder.

Since then only Cut Copy have come close to matching MC’s post-everything elegance and, in comparison, they sound pretty timid. Not just musically – as ‘Majic Flat’ evolves from Daft Punk-produced pop smash into a baroque ambient experiment; or ‘For Somebody Else’ toggles between Nick Drake and (un)happy hardcore – but in subject matter, too. ‘Vulnerabilia’ is as much social document as sonic vision. This is Manchester after The Haçienda; an elegy for ’90s rave idealism. It’s a portrait of lives lived for dancing, dole money and recreational drugs.

Not that ‘Vulnerabilia’ is bleak; it isn’t. There is a wry tone and resilience to Chester’s lyrics. Such fortitude may explain why, after the tragicomedy that was MC’s so-called ‘career’ (a tale of record industry idiocy, bad contracts, the odd inconvenient arrest), Andy Chester has resurfaced at recreationrecords.com.

He still believes. Just as NME does in ‘Vulnerabilia’. It is a (true lost) classic.