Senseless Things

TrackAlbum / Single
Everybody’s GoneThe First Of Too Many (1991)
PonyboyIs It Too Late? B-side
Easy To SmileEasy To Smile A-side
Hold It DownEmpire Of The Senseless
ScapegoatsTaking Care Of Business
Just FlirtingHomophobic Asshole B-side
Answering MachineSomething To Miss B-side
Different TonguesThe First Of Too Many (2022)
Tangled LinesPeel Sessions
Too Much KissingPostcard CV

Embed from Getty Images
l-r Cass Browne, Morgan Nicholls, Mark Keds, Ben Harding



Senseless Things playlist


Contributor: Justine Harvey

Starting at what I’m now forced to admit is the end – the Shepherds Bush Empire March 2017 One Night Stand reunion gig.

A sell-out crowd of mainly 40- and 50-somethings as excitable as their teenage selves in the anticipation. The lights dim and the crowd hushes as the eerie theme music from the nostalgic sci-fi show Stranger Things plays. What looks like the show’s logo emerges on the screen at the back of the stage. When the logo is revealed to say Senseless Things, the crowd cheers. And with perfect timing, the band enters and strikes up the first notes of Everybody’s Gone. The opening track from the 1991 album The First Of Too Many (not their debut album despite the title), Everybody’s Gone encapsulates the Senseless Things’ sound – at once more poppy, more punky and more wistful than the contemporaries they were often lazily lumped in with. Tonight, guitarist Ben Harding is wearing a t-shirt proclaiming Punk, Not Fraggle, a nod to the dismissive NME-invented genre that they never wanted to be part of.

A fantastic way to start what would be their last performance. The end because Senseless Things singer and songwriter Mark Keds died in January 2021. This list has taken me ages to compile, the words have been difficult to write because I wanted it to be a fitting tribute to Mark and the songs he wrote.

Back to that gig …

Five songs into the set, they play the song that first introduced me to the Senseless Things. Ponyboy was a B-side on the Is It Too Late? EP and an older friend, Tom, included it on a mix tape for me. What happened to Tom (and any other biographical details about him) are lost in the mists of time, but his tape made more of an impression – I still have it in the loft. With the title ‘Pop Kid’s Pop Hits’, the tape included tracks by Alice Donut, Butthole Surfers and Mudhoney – essentially a lot of quite heavy bands that I’d never heard of. I was drawn to the Senseless Things’ reference to the lead character in The Outsiders, which had been both my favourite film and favourite book in my early teens. The song didn’t disappoint – two and half minutes of energetic guitars, a catchy refrain and another Outsiders reference in the lyrics (a motif the band would return too in their tribute to Mark Keds).

Halfway through the set, the distinctive, relentless rhythm of Easy To Smile begins. Never in any doubt for inclusion here, it was a favourite at Ku Club, Sunderland’s indie joint where much of my youth was misspent and the pink vinyl single is still one of my most prized possessions. With the refrain “You might hold your head up high, One more time” this is the one song above all others in my life that has been able to cut through the dark clouds and pull me out of the other side.

Easy To Smile was followed by Keepsake, another relatively successful single that narrowly missed out here, but it was the next song that made the biggest impression of the night. Mark pauses to swap guitars, a few good-natured shouts to get on with it, then a slower, quieter song begins, Mark’s voice raw and vulnerable. Scapegoats, an album track from the fourth and final album Taking Care Of Business, is the sound of a band that is tired and disillusioned with the music business. As the comment under the YouTube video for this performance rightly says “This is heart breaking”.


Back in the 90s seeing bands you loved on television was a big deal, whether it was a glimpse of homemade video on The Chart Show or miming along to a top 40 breaker on Top Of The Pops. The standout TV moment for the Senseless Things must be their ecstatic appearance on The Word. Whatever you might think of the rest of content aimed at a drunk post-pub Friday night audience, The Word did feature some decent bands. Hold It Down from third album Empire Of The Senseless reached number 19 (their second biggest single after Easy To Smile).

At the Shepherds Bush gig, the band are joined on stage by Jerome Alexandre, guitarist with the Deadcuts, Mark Keds’ last band, leaving Mark free to roam the stage and encourage the audience to sing along – which of course we do. The last song before the encore (yes there will be an encore) is Homophobic Asshole, a song with a worthy message but an example of the band hampering their own success as it received limited play due to the title (and even as I write this, Microsoft Word cautions me that my readers may find this offensive). To be honest, it was never one of my favourite Senseless Things songs but tucked away on its B-side was Just Flirting, a return of familiar Senseless Things subject matter – vulnerability in love, offset by a great example of Cass Browne’s drumming.

The band tore through 25 songs in total that night, but inevitably there were still some favourites that didn’t get played, so I’m breaking with my self-imposed structure to highlight a couple more of those. Answering Machine was another fantastic B-side (for Something To Miss, a single from the fourth album). Perhaps a controversial choice because this is a cover of a Replacements song, a band that was a huge influence on the Senseless Things. Mark and Cass saw each other for the first time in years by going to a Replacements gig together and that set in motion the 2017 reunion so it seems apt to include it, plus I love Mark’s vocals here.

Different Tongues is an album track on The First Of Too Many and until recently it probably wouldn’t have been a contender for this list. But in 2022, a remixed version of the album was released on Cherry Red Records, the band never having been too happy with the original album’s sound. The songs on the 30th anniversary edition are more vibrant, sometimes closer to their live sound, but in other places, clearer and cleaner. It brought new life to many old favourites but Different Tongues on this release really stood out to me. Again, it is a rather downbeat song with Mark sounding particularly vulnerable, which I do seem to favour.

While the band are off stage, a short film shows on the big screen made up of clips of the band on tour in the 90s. It then cuts live to the dressing room with the band debating whether to come back on – which of course they do.

The encore consists of three songs. first up is Lost Honey, their new single. Fans hoped this would be the start of a wave of new material from the band but, like the gig, it turned out to be a swansong. It doesn’t make my list of favourites, it sounds more like a Deadcuts record to me – not in itself a bad thing but not very representative of the Senseless Things’ work. The next two songs though are classic Senseless Things. Tangled Lines is, to use that old cliché, a live favourite – and as a band that toured relentlessly, they definitely earned the right to that. It was also the B-side to Can’t Do Anything and one of their Peel Session tracks.

Bringing things to a close is Too Much Kissing. The band’s signature song, it was always going to be the finale and what a way to end. Lyrics “The older that you get, The more goes unsaid, We don’t have the time now” written when Keds couldn’t have been older than 19 sound all the more poignant now. True to the spirit of those early gigs, fans climb on stage, dance and stage dive, encouraged by the band. Hundreds of voices sing the final lines together – “Well I hope I still believe, That this room, Ain’t the place that I’ll always return”.

RIP Mark Keds.






Wikipedia pages/discographies:
Senseless Things
Mark Keds (1970–2021)
Ben Harding
Cass Browne
Morgan Nicholls

Senseless Things website

Senseless Things at Discogs

Tributes to Mark from Jerome Alexandre & others

‘The First Of Too Many’ 3CD anniversary edition

Senseless Things biography (AllMusic)

Having written about topics ranging from baby car seats to housing policy, Justine Harvey now mainly writes about theatre buildings for work or her passion for outdoor swimming. Writing about music has made a nice change. She is on Twitter @seatinthestalls and Instagram @justinefharvey

Justine’s other posts on this site include Beth Orton, Chemical Brothers, Little Barrie, Maxïmo Park, Primal Scream, Richmond Fontaine, Wonder Stuff

TopperPost #1,089

1 Comment

  1. David Lewis
    Dec 3, 2023

    A beautiful tribute to a musician who I was not aware of but like so much on Toppermost will dig deeper into.

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