Celebrity siblings: it’s a funny thing.
More often than not, the more talented celebrity brother or sister is the more respected. Could you imagine Nadia Sawalha matching Julia’s performance as Lynda Day in Central Television’s ‘Press Gang’?
And while Jeremy Vine is a household name, his Daily Mail-esque persona doesn’t come near to matching Tim’s comedic timing.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the Freeman brothers.
Don’t get me wrong, Martin is a perfectly competent actor but the late 1980s saw something better. Let me tell you about Tim’s band.
But it’s their earlier material that stands out; in particular, their second single, and their first for Virgin Records, ‘Dream Kitchen’.
Unlike their later material – ‘Ray’, for instance, sounds a little bit too much like indie-dance merchants The Beloved for my liking – there’s something comforting about ‘Dream Kitchen’.
There’s an authentic sound wrapped around with genuine craft and it also feels home-made without any signs of rawness.
It’s slickly produced but there’s a real labour of love within the song: the quiet confidence of knowing that you’re producing your best material in your own preferred way, rather than being dictated by a big-name record label.
While Frazier Chorus’ lyrics about – in Freeman’s own words – “cups of coffee, or carpets/em>” helps to aid its homely and warm sound, the real answer to how the song works lies in the band’s arrangement and production.
Frazier Chorus – released during a period when the Madchester and shoegazing scenes were slowly emerging – were perhaps more unusual than other pop groups, which had indie undertones, in that most of their earlier material didn’t contain electric, acoustic or bass guitars.
There was, instead, a heavy reliance on percussion, and woodwind instruments such as the clarinet and flute. To the credit of the group, it didn’t sound either too pretentious or overly twee.
It may not have been particularly heavy on the ears, but ‘Dream Kitchen’ is a solid pop record that is also commercially sound; it’s certainly radio friendly.
Despite this friendly and easy-going sound, it failed to make a dent on the UK Singles Chart as it peaked at Number 57 in February 1989.
It wasn’t ahead of its time – mainly because ‘Dream Kitchen’ isn’t particularly groundbreaking – its release was just poorly timed.
After all, ‘Dream Kitchen’ was released in the middle of a recession, during Thatcher’s reign, and its aspiration tone and lyrics probably didn’t fit the mood of the country at that time.
Had it been released in the early-to-mid 1980s, it may have been picked up by the ‘yuppies’ in the same way that Strawberry Switchblade or Altered Images were. They may even picked up the cult fanbase that Prefab Sprout had.
Again, if it was released in the mid-to-late 1990s, it may have been commercially popular; their LPs ‘Sue’ and ‘Ray’ may have been picked up by mums in Asda who were also purchasing ‘Ocean Drive’ by the Lighthouse Family.
Loosely comparing Frazier Chorus to the Lighthouse Family isn’t a criticism, as ‘Dream Kitchen’ has the broad commercial appeal that ‘Ocean Drive’ had.
It also has the musical depth and sophistication to appeal to listeners with more highbrow tastes.
The track may not be particularly original, but there are enough quirks for it to stand out from the crowd and be a real grower.
Seeing that it also fits nicely into the band’s “nice” image, it does what it says on the tin: it really does sound like a dream.
This review was self-published in December 2011.
Gambaccini, Paul et al (eds) (1995) The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. 10th edition. London: GRR Publications.