Astonishing Transformations!! The Soup Dragons – twee to leather in 3 years (1989)

The Soup Dragons. Scottish band. Started out as C86 twee with a bit of a Buzzcocks edge to them, and moved on to the more adventurous garage sound of ‘Just Cant Take No More’. From there, they gave us the mixed blessings of the ‘Kingdom Chairs’ album, to emerge in 1989 as the snarling, strutting fusion of The Stooges, Leather, New York Dolls and Psychedelic imagery that produced 2 fantastic singles – ‘Backwards Dog’ and ‘Crotch Deep Trash’ – that never troubled the UK pop charts (unlike some of their previous output which grazed the top 100 and in 2 instances made the top 75 in the UK).

I guess – if you were to try and grasp for a metaphor – you could liken the Soup Dragons change in direction to the moment when Sandy Olsen, in ‘Grease‘, evolves from this Preppy All-American cookie-cutter Princess into the cigarette smoking, Leather Clad and High Heels trail of SEX who captivates the High School Leader of the Pack.

Anyway – to the singles!

The video for ‘Backwards Dog’ is a bit of fun – its here in all its garage punk and acid glory!!

and here are the lyrics;

Street walking little speed machine
Backwards into forwards into gasoline
Motor car driving to my brain
Backwards dog is coming just to hit me with the chain

I said i’ve gone dog crazy
Street machine running up my back

Everywhere i go i’m always ready for attack
Sweet blood shooting down my veins
Backwards dog is coming just to hit me with the chain

You get the feeling there is more than a nod towards Iggy and the Stooges with the type of lyrics that Sean Dickson, the singer and lyricist, was producing. The 12 inch version of ‘Backwards Dog’ is a bit of a triumph, as alongside the JAMC / Stooges stomper that is ‘Backwards Dog’, are a couple more head down rockers (‘Burn Out’ / ‘Kill Kill Kill Me’) and the magnificence of ‘SuperCherry’. One of the best things they did, and one of the more inspired pieces of music produced in that year, ‘SuperCherry’ seems to encapsulate the sleazy, liberated, retro rock vibe they were obviously trying to project. Set over a wash of psychedelic / garage / acid guitars, a recording of some groupies talk frankly about their agendas and experiences as groupies. It is a magnificent statement of intent from The Soup Dragons – as sleazy and drug induced as they wanted it to be, an altered-state track.

The Full track listing of the ‘Backwards Dog’ 12″ EP (released Summer 1989)

A Side 1 – Backwards Dog
B Side 1 – SuperCherry
B Side 2 – Burn Out
B Side 3 – Kill Kill Kill Me

The follow up to ‘Backwards Dog’ goes even further in the pursuit of distilling that Stooges sound into something unique to the Soup Dragons. With ‘Crotch Deep Trash’ and the B Side ‘You Can Fly’ they achieve a sound that glories in filthy rock guitars and in the lyrics, celebrates every outre rock cliche in an orgy of indulgence. “Religious Superstar” indeed. Take a look at the lyrics;

As I drive to heaven will I drive to you
As my knife goes rushing in
I will just take you as far as I can

As I talk to the devil will I talk to you
As my knife goes rushing in
I will just take you as far as I can

I’m a religious superstar
And I ride around in
Crotch deep trash
And my heaven could go missing
As I ride around in
Crotch deep trash

Listen to a preview of ‘Crotch Deep Trash’ here at last fm

‘You Can Fly’ is a blood relative of ‘Crotch Deep Trash’ – squalling guitars, crunchy guitars, LOUD guitars and a lyric, that as the title suggests, has elements of drug-induced euphoria /invincibility.

The Soup Dragons dalliance with that pure garage-acid-nuggets-stooges spirit ended within a year as they were caught up in the euphoria of the emerging ‘baggy‘ / ‘madchester‘ scene. They would go on to get a deserved top 10 hit in the summer of 1990 with a cover of The Rolling Stones ‘I’m Free’, which was nearly as euphoric as the single version of ‘Come Together’ by their Scottish counterparts Primal Scream. In a neat kind of Scottish symmetry, both of these amazing singles were in the top 40 at the same time in August 1990.


4 thoughts on “Astonishing Transformations!! The Soup Dragons – twee to leather in 3 years (1989)”

  1. Supercherry. What a track. Was a big Soupies fan in the late 80s and must be one of about 15 people to actually have bought the Hang Ten EP…Heard a few of the tracks off Lovegod before they got the “baggie” treatment, and although I’m from Manchester myself, I wish they’d stayed off that particular bandwagon and carried on in the direction they were headed. Superb stuff.

  2. I loved the Soup Dragons. My first proper gig was watching them at the Hummingbird in Birmingham in 1988 when they touring their ‘This Is Our Art…’ album. I love all the early stuff (and I too have the Hang Ten 12 inch!), but the finest thing they did prior to the ‘Backwards Dog’ and ‘Crotch Deep Trash’ releases was ‘Just can’t Take No More’. I played that incessantly. they also did a great cover of ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’, that is nearly as good as the Fun Boy 3 version. Nearly.Supercherry is indeed a work of genius, and the follow up ‘Superangel’ of the ‘Crotch Deep Trash’ 12 inch is not shabby either. After that it did start to go a bit awry, but ‘I’m Free’ is a fantastically happy summer single, and ‘Mother Universe’ suited the mood of the times. I agree with you that it would have been fascinating to see where they would have gone if they had not ridden the coat tails of Primal Scream et al and gone baggy.Good to get some feedback from another Soup Dragons fan. Thanks for posting!

  3. I decided to share my 12" of Supercherry recently and have been thanked by Sean Dickson, always thought they were a nice bunch of fellas, needless to say NME have since made their own Supercherry youtube video so there are now two copies available to stream :-

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