‘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.
Listening to ‘Losers Corner’ some 25 years after it was released as single, the song has all the ingredients of an indie classic. There’s a poetry to the lyrics that recalls both Morrissey and Ray Davies. And there’s a lilting, fairly simple melody that will haunt you long after the song has finished.
Mixed together, you have a song full of yearning and dissatisfaction and frustration set against the most heartbreakingly beautiful of tunes.
If a song like this drew large audiences for The Kinks (‘Autumn Almanac’), The Jam (‘Smithers-Jones’) or Blur (‘Charmless Man’), why, apart the whole thing about being in the right place at the right time, having the right management and having more than a little bit of luck on your side – apart from all those trifling little issues – why did the same thing not happen for The Claim?
It is, I’d dare to argue, only because a song like The Smiths’ ‘There is a Light that Never Goes Out’ is so familiar, compared with The Claim’s ‘Losers Corner’ that we feel inclined to believe the former of these is a better song. And that ain’t necessarily so.
“It seems, yes it seems, that it’s gathering speed/to find a home and a car and a new family” runs the chorus of the world-weary song. It’s a song about suburban dreariness, the boredom of keeping up with the Jonses and the futility of working hard to achieve very little.
And yes, these themes have all been dealt with by all of the above – and more – but, in ‘Losers Corner’, there is an eloquence that makes these musings seem fresh and so very vital.
“To be told you’re too old to learn a trade/to be placed at the gates of the unattainable” goes the song’s opening couplet.
The poignancy of such lines, mourning the triumph of inevitability and mundanity over the seemingly powerless and unutterably bored, is so intense that, for the four and a half minutes during which the song runs, there never have been any Kinks, Jam or Smiths. There has only ever been The Claim retelling tales of infinite tedium and sadness.
Find out more about The Claim and plenty of other Medway bands and artists in my book, Do it Yourself: a History of Music in Medway.