British musicians have had a taste for astonishing fans with their supergroups, side projects, and diverse collaborations since the 1960s. Many of these extracurricular groupings matched, and sometimes surpassed, the caliber of their original bands. British bands of the past twenty years followed this tradition, which made for some surprising alliances. Who would have ever predicted McAlmont and Butler in the midst of Suedemania following their 1993 debut?
The members of Blur have had some of the most electrifying and unexpected side projects. While more people have been dazzled by the electronica of Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz or Graham Coxon’s frenetic solo work, which is heavily influenced by American indie groups like Mission of Burma, Alex James’ collaborations have the same effervescent pop that gained Blur legions of fans. It is the opinion of this writer that Alex has had the most entertaining musical career outside Blur. Unlike his bandmates, Alex has eschewed pairing with musical artistes like Danger Mouse, Pete Doherty, and Paul Weller in favor of working with his Groucho Club mates, including comedian Keith Allen (Lily’s dad) and controversial artist Damien Hirst (both in the group Fat Les). Probably for that reason, his side projects have been more spontaneous, usually resulting in only a handful of songs. But these raucous numbers are practically advertisements for fun. I mean, when’s the last time you had fun listening to an opera about a monkey?
While there are many worthy Britpop side projects that are due our full attention, one of the best was only together for one single in 1996. Me Me Me was Alex’s supergroup that included Stephen Duffy (Duran Duran/Tin Tin) and Justin Welch (Elastica). Their 1996 single features three gloriously catchy songs that harken back to the very best of Blur. The biggest downside to Me Me Me is that there just wasn’t enough. But, it’s obvious that Alex does his side projects just for fun, so a formal album would probably kill the joyful spontaneity of their very existence.
From the ‘Hanging Around’ single, please enjoy: