All the recent talk about Cork film The Young Offenders, now become Cork TV series The Young Offenders, reminds me of Cork band The Young Offenders.
They had their brief time in the sun in 1998 — a guitar band with a lanky, curly-haired singer singing in Dick van Dyke’s English accent, who pitched up in London to make cartoon-ish indie-pop parodies. In this respect they were the Sultans of Ping F.C. of their generation, and I can’t think of fainter praise than that.
If sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, then parody — the humour of copying something deliberately badly — must also be down there in the relegation places. It’s no surprise that both these Cork bands wore out their welcome fairly quickly. The Sultans of Ping had one novelty hit. The Young Offenders didn’t even get that far — they were probably the only band to appear on TFI Friday and not become successful after it.
The song they performed that night, ‘That’s Why We Lose Control’, was a shouty, annoying spoof of punk and teenage rebellion. Their next single promised even less — a parody of ‘Animal Nitrate’ by Suede, with lyrics about Wind in the Willows-style animal characters, plus a prominent T. Rex reference either to imply Suede were T. Rex copyists, lean into lead singer Ciaran McFeely’s resemblance to Marc Bolan, or remind us that dinosaurs were animals too. And at this time Suede were my favourite band.
Despite all this, ‘Pink And Blue’ by The Young Offenders, the single in question, is one of my favourite tracks ever.
I like it because of its swaggering rhythm and shuddering guitars — which are reasons why I like Suede and T. Rex too — but mostly because of its thundering juggernaut of a chorus. I don’t wear earphones when I’m out running, but many’s the Sunday morning long run where ‘Pink And Blue’ just crashes into my iBrain and I have to fight the urge to scream “THEY WERE DRESSED IN BLUE!” at innocent dog-walkers.
I reckon they actually loved Suede and T. Rex just as much as I did. McFeely went on to trade as Simple Kid and make some folksier, more heartfelt music that I loved too.
And I once saw him come on stage to a totally disinterested Paris audience, as the late-afternoon opening act of a festival bill, and leave them shouting for more. Maybe he should prepare for Cork-thing-The-Young-Offenders completists to start seeking him out too:
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