The Twenty Fifth of May – Lenin & McCarthy


In the early 1990’s I had a ‘buy anything’ policy when it came to music. So around the same time I purchased classic albums such as Loveless and Screamadelica I also bought this, the one and only long player from Merseyside band The Twenty Fifth of May.

Quite how I first heard about them I couldn’t say. I imagine I was reading NME, Melody Maker, or even Sounds, and read a single review. And I’m sure that review said something along the lines of ‘they sound like Pop Will Eat Itself’, which was enough to send me scurrying to the record shop.

In a year dominated by baggy shorts wearing scruffy hair shufflers and effects pedal laden noise merchants, The Twenty Fifth of May were a white hip-hop band, similar to PWEI in that their songs were collages of samples and beats, with a rock sensibility. Guitars featured prominently amid the clatter of drum loops and sequencers.

It would be a massive understatement to say that they were a political band, not entirely happy with the then Tory government. They derived their name from the date of the May revolution that began the Argentine War of Independence. But the name goes deeper than that.

During the Falklands conflict the British Navy was attacked by an aircraft carrier called ‘ARA Veinticinco de Mayo’, a vessel of the Argentine Navy. But the ship had a more interesting back story. Built by the British and then sold to Argentina in the 1970’s, it was used to support the initial invasion of the Island but during the conflict returned to port for safety after the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano.

So history lesson over – you can see how this was a contentious name for a band. Thatcher’s Tory government was particularly unpopular in Merseyside, and the album Lenin and McCarthy (itself titled as a Scouse pun) alludes to many real events, particularly Hillsborough in a track which is more documentary than music.

They released a brace of singles ahead of the album, with a variety of 12” mixes, and I bought most of them. The most notable was 12” single F*ck the Right to Vote, released independently in an assumed attempt to court controversy. Packaged in plain brown cardboard, its low key release was designed to look as if it was in some way blocked by management. See below, I still have it. Amusingly, when they recorded a Peel session the track changed name to ‘Stuff The Right to Vote’, their singles also having to undergo hefty radio friendly edits.


But they were really good. They used every trick in the book to make their songs as innovative and exciting as possible. They were signed to major label Arista (so part of Sony, now known as RCA) who to my ears funded the band handsomely as the record sounds expensive, extremely well produced with careful attention to craft a well ordered, cohesive album. You get the impression though that Arista were not entirely sure what they’d signed, as the politics do dominate. Others mixed social commentary with pop music – Carter USM for example – but often with slyness and humour. The Twenty Fifth of May were more serious and unlikely to be invited to the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party.

The stand out track is single ‘What’s Going On’. It has a similar sound and structure to Beloved’s ‘Hello’, the song building layer upon layer giving it considerable clout when it’s all over. ‘Crackdown’ is also stunning, a breakneck clatter of beats and PWEIesque Buzzard guitars. But as a band they were clearly a handful. During his session John Peel makes a wry reference to how a member of the band was on remand for assault, commenting how he was not sure if that information was given to impress him or not.

It was over after one album, and despite being on a major they are all but forgotten. You cannot purchase their music as MP3’s. At the time of writing they don’t even have a Wikipedia page. It’s unlikely we’ll see a double CD 25th Anniversary re-release in 2017 (though if they did, I’ll probably buy it).

Most of the band resurfaced in the mid-90’s as Manbreak, with another expensive sounding album produced by no less than Stephen Hague, but chart success eluded them. It’s a pity. They obviously knew what they were doing, were skilful song arrangers, and deserved better. I reckon they got about twenty five quid out of me, which they’re welcome to.


4 thoughts on “The Twenty Fifth of May – Lenin & McCarthy

  1. David Somers

    I bought this on the back of hearing FTRTV on a free cassette packaged with some magazine or other. Loved it and still have it on my phone having uploaded it to iTunes years ago. Wish I could remember what the cassette was as there were some absolute crackers on it.


  2. Steve Barber

    The title of the article in NME was “The Snarling Hoods of May” I remember because i read it and bought the album on the strength of the review


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