In the 1990s, your humble correspondent spent a lot of time at Compact Disc Land on University Avenue in Palo Alto. (CD Land is long gone, sadly. The city’s first Apple Store opened on the site, and the irony was not lost on me.) There, I would browse the British music weeklies and comb the shelves for the latest import CD singles. That’s how I learned about Sunderland four-piece Kenickie. “Hey Punka” wasn’t the biggest hit off their 1997 debut At The Club, but I fell in love with it instantly. The song served as both a loving tribute and a poke in the ribs to the UK indie scene. The following demo version lacks the “never learned to play/underground cliche” couplet that raised reviewers’ eyebrows (not to mention Lauren Laverne’s mid-verse giggle that just slayed me), but it’s still pretty epic:
Laverne has become a media presence post-Kenickie, co-creating the website The Pool UK. She has hosted several TV and radio shows, and currently presents on BBC Radio 6. Bassist Emmy-Kate Montrose earned her doctorate in sociology in 2010, and is a lecturer at Goldsmiths University in London. Singer/guitarist Emma du Santiago is now Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland’s Student Union, and plays in the Cornshed Sisters. Touring keyboardist Tony O’Neill is respected for his gritty novels (not to mention co-writing the memoirs of former Runaways singer Cherie Currie and football player Jason Peter). In spite of all their accomplishments since the breakup, I’d like to think the Kenickie members would bash out a few choruses of “Punka” someday, given the chance.
By the way, after all these years, apparently I still fit the requirements to be a Punka. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.