‘Tis the festive season of advent calendars and countdowns to Christmas. To mark the occasion, what better way than to have a completely non-festive A-Z of Medway songs.
In 1994, four shadowy looking figures gathered beside Kingsnorth Power Station wearing protective clothing and gas masks.
The Dentists were recording their only music video, ‘Gas’ from their album Behind the Door I Keep the Universe.
The director’s idea for the video ‘wasn’t amazingly brilliant,’ says the band’s bass player, Mark Matthews:
‘His main this was about people wandering around in their hometown in gas masks.’
Gas masks! ‘Gas’! Geddit?!
The song itself is absolutely nothing to do with an outbreak of chemical warfare in the north of Kent – which probably made Matthews’ task of ‘hanging upside down at bloody Kingsnorth Power Station at half seven in the morning [in the] freezing cold’ even more annoying.
‘This cannot be rock ‘n’ roll!’ he remembers thinking at the time.
Instead, what ‘Gas’ is about is the end of love. A couple have had a good time (“Hey, what a gas that was”), but there’s no future for the pair of them (“Things just seem so wrong/and that can never change” and “When you turn around/I can see such pain”).
Most other tracks on Behind the Door… are relentlessly upbeat and optimistic. Apart from their final album, Deep Six, where the cracks were beginning show, that was the way with much of The Dentists’ songs: a celebration of limitlessness, often using the vastness of space as an entirely appropriate metaphor.
Nevertheless, even on a song about the end of a relationship, The Dentists manage to put a positive spin on things in ‘Gas’. Mick Murphy may be singing about putting an end to a doomed relationship, but why should that stop the ex-couple from taking a step back and “harbour the thoughts as you go”, remembering all the good things they had: “stop and look/it’s out of this world” he sings at regular intervals.
And while the future is doomed for the couple, that doesn’t have to be the case for the individual components of the former pairing: “They world keeps spinning every day” so let’s just make the most of it is the clear message.
Just how much solace the dumpee can actually take from this remains an interesting, unanswered question – but it remains a particularly Dentist-y way of ending a relationship, complete with jangly guitars, driving drum beats and smooth, indie-pop vocals.
Find out more about The Dentists and plenty of other Medway bands and artists in my book, Do It Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.