For many years, I assumed that Goodbye Mr MacKenzie really only drew any serious attention posthumously, following Shirley Manson’s meteoric rise fronting Garbage. But then in 2000, I found myself residing in Glasgow, where I discovered that the Scots are hardcore and passionate in their support and advocacy of bands from their locale. So much as Big Country are fondly remembered on a broad scale, their fanbase in Scotland remains rabid, and similarly, The Twilight Sad may (deservedly) sell out the 450-capacity Brudenell in Leeds, they can sell out 2 nights at the 1,700-capacity Barrowlands back home in a matter of hours.
As the accompanying bio summarises, ‘‘Good Deeds and Dirty Rags’ was Goodbye Mr MacKenzie's first album, released in 1989. It entered the UK charts at No.16 and the band quickly attracted a large, loyal support north of the border. Incredible live shows and singles like the top 40 hit ‘The Rattler’, in particular, further cemented a fond place in many hearts’.
Admittedly, I was unaware of the impact it made on the UK charts on its release 30 years ago Wikipedia reports a number 26 placing), but then… fuck. 3 years. 1989 still feels ‘recent’ despite the fact I was born in ‘75.
What goes around come around, and while the production and the sound itself will be forever vintage 80s and irreplicable, there are elements of the sound and arrangements that sound more contemporary now than at any point in the last quarter of a century. Moreover, with the benefit of substantial hindsight, it’s perhaps easier to identify those elements of the MacKenzies that have something of a goth-pop hue, and to arguably place them within the bracket shared with not only Echo and the Bunnymen, but also Rose of Avalanche and Rosetta Stone.
‘Candlestick Park’ straddles lighter-waving anthemism and downtempo lugubriousness, through a filter of alt-rock levity and rather ironically, ‘The Rattler’ is probably one of the weakest tracks in the set.
But if there’s something dated about the album, not least of all the synth strikes on their signature tune, ‘Goodbye Mr MacKenzie’, while singer Martin Metcalfre reflects that ‘Two songs 'Good Deeds' and 'Goodwill City’ end with rants based on the received (false) knowledge of the era and seem relevant with the current ‘fake news’ obsession’. As I said: what goes around comes around, and ‘Good Deeds’ is as goth-tinged post-punk as anything else 1989. In context, The Mission and NMA (not goth but often lumped in by virtue of their fanbase) were inching towards their commercial peaks, and this was the alternative sound of the times. It’d be inevitable that ‘Good Deeds’ would stand as something of a document.
For better or for worse, the 2019 remaster includes neither the tracks off the bonus 12” that came with original pressings of the 1989 vinyl, or the extra tracks that featured on the 1999 remastered reissue, instead presenting the album’s original 10 tracks in their original running order, with demo versions of ‘Open Your Arms’, ‘Diamonds’ (previously unreleased) and ‘You Generous Thing You’.