Corduroy arrived on the Acid Jazz scene in early 1992. Self-styled as the Fabric Four, they cut a striking presence with their soundtrack for the beatific generation. Dressed in black turtle neck sweaters with drawn on goatee beards, their cartoonish charm and visual style, a cross between Bop musicians and Greenwich Village bohemians, was the cat’s miaow.
Behind the flummery though, there was music that captured hearts and minds; three albums, Dad Man Cat, High Havoc and Out Of Here for Acid Jazz that drew on their unifying love of 60s and 70s TV themes and film soundtracks, then two, The New You and Clik, for V2. The Acid Jazz trilogy will be reissued later this year.

This month, however, welcomes a new album. The aptly titled The Return Of The Fabric Four, recorded in the 2Bit studio in south London between May and November 2017, takes the group – drummer Ben Addison and keyboardist Scott Addison, bassist Richard Searle, guitarist Simon Nelson-Smith – back to their Acid Jazz source with 12 tracks that score that archetypal ’60s spy film, with split screens and montages, car chases, secret agents in black specs and fawn macs and girls in kinky boots and knitted dresses. Interspersed with jazz passages, mood mosaics and a samba, it reminds us just how much Corduroy were ahead of the curve, pre-empting the mid 90s easy listening renaissance that blew up with London club nights Smashing and Indigo’s and the lifestyle paid homage to in the Austin Powers films.
But their influence stretched even further: a favourite of Blur’s – they’d play their early records on their tour bus as they were formulating their ideas for the Parklife album and British Image Number 1 – Corduroy’s imprint is writ large over Britpop’s foundations. Blur showed their appreciation, inviting Corduroy to play at their 1994 Alexandra Palace extravaganza alongside Supergrass and Pulp. They put on an amazing show, explaining why they reached Number 2 in the Melody Maker 1994 end-of-year Live Poll, despite the music paper making it very clear they hated the very idea of them.

Corduroy were a thrilling live band from the off. The Addison twins Ben and Scott had previously played in an early line-up of new positive punk group Brigandage and art-mod-yob band Boys Wonder. In 1991, after Boys Wonder had split, a friend and the host of Okie Dokie Karoke, a weekly night in Greenwich’s Up The Creek, offered them £100 to put a half hour set together for a new year’s eve show. They recruited former Dr and the Medics’ and erstwhile Boys Wonder bassist Richard Searle and guitarist Simon Nelson- Smith, another pal, who played in his own jazz band, and Corduroy were born.
“Before we did that first gig we said, “Let’s be the band in the party scene in every film we’ve ever liked,” says Ben.
The Addisons had grown up listening to their dad’s big band and film soundtrack collection, Simon and Richard were huge fans too. “For us, that music had as much impact and influence as glam and the Pistols,” says Ben. “25 people playing horns in a big band is every bit as exciting as Gibson guitars going through Marshall amps.” So they rehearsed some jazz covers of Lalo Schifrin and Quincy Jones, then celebrated the new year with a brandy alexander and a technicolour flash of cinerama. “It was supposed to be a one off, but it grew from there,” says Ben. “We got more offers to play so we started writing our own songs using chord progressions and melodies to invoke the moods found in our favourite film scores.”

A month into 1992 the four, having written an album’s worth of material in the Addisons’ front room, were recording it in a Denmark street studio for their debut album on Acid Jazz.
Dad Man Cat with its bop speak and Hammond funk set their manifesto and helped sculpt not only their signature sound but expanded that of Acid Jazz’s too, who were fresh from huge success in America with the Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai. Their 1993 follow up, High Havoc, the soundtrack to a mythical spy movie, spawned ‘London England’, a nod to Pete Townshend and a Camden Town anthem. 1994’s Out Of Here featured their scherzo cover of Motorhead.
After their Alexandra Palace triumph, they were set to go from cult band to teen idols; instead they recorded two further albums that taking them away from their instrumental soul lost their momentum, and they split.

Jump forward to 2013 and it’s another one off gig – to promote a rarities box set of the band – that gets the group in the studio together again.
“The show [at Islington Academy] went well, we did a few more and it just made sense to make a new album,” says Ben. “It felt needed. If we were to continue to play, we wanted new material, not to just keep doing the golden oldies.”
The brief was simple says Richard. “Revisit the group’s classic sound – instrumentals recorded with a spontaneous live-in-the-room feeling.”
With Ben based in Germany, initial sketches and ideas were recorded and sent to one another on phones. Then once the group got in the rehearsal studio, everything quickly took shape.
The title track is the centrepiece, the group’s calling card, “illustrating the four instruments in the band” says Ben. It’s a sound gallery of Hammond jazz, funky drumming, popping bass and subtle guitar that’s technically proficient but delivered with inimitable verve, flair and swagger. “It’s our big film soundtrack theme,” adds Richard. “Our Johnny Pate or Quincy Jones moment.”
‘Return of the Cat’, meanwhile, captures the visually evocative energy of Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith.
‘Magic Mountain’ draws on a different sound spectrum: written as a theme to a children’s TV programme that never was, it combines muzak synths with ‘ba ba ba’ vocals. The title is taken from a 70s amusement park in California.

‘Sambarella’, written by Scott, is a cousin of 1994’s classic ‘Something In My Eye’ and is compelling Brasilica-lounge. “No one goes to cocktail parties anymore,” he says, “and I wanted to evoke the mood of a cocktail party rather than a night out at The Empire at Leicester Square.”
Elsewhere we have crime jazz and music to watch girls by. In the former camp is ‘The Cleaner’ and ‘Blackmail’. ‘The Cleaner’ places the band in a classic noir setting, building a sense of drama and suspense in its masterful groove and Hammond flash: “it’s the score to Leon, who cleans up the crime scene after a hit. He’s the mopper-upper, the one who picks up the body parts”, says Ben.

‘Blackmail’, Richard’s song, is claustrophobic and intense. “The aim of the tune,” says Scott, “is to get the listener stressed out as if he or she is being blackmailed, it’s like, when’s the song going to change, when’s it going to change, when, when, when, when, before the change in the song finally comes.”
In the latter camp, ‘Snake Appeal’ and ‘The Slingback Solution’ “reflect the movements of a woman with a big hairdo and knitted dress at a party,” says Ben. The first is a cartoon 12 bar, the second a Bluenote-like slow swing that’s mindful of Ponytail on the group’s first album.

Saturday Club, the only vocal track, musically gives the Who the easy-core treatment. Lyrically, it’s their ‘Friday On My Mind’, a song for the weekenders. “Two more days of busting my brains, then I can do my thing again.”
‘Waltz For Christoph’ is, as the title suggests, a jazz waltz in honour of actor Christoph Waltz: “He’s one of my favourite actors,” says Scott, “and the music tries to emulate all the different facets of him as an actor, this short Austrian German guy who pops up in all these weird movies.”

Album closer Botany 5-0, Simon’s tune, references Hawaii 5-0 and Kojak. “In the end credits it reads Mr [Terry] Savalas’ wardrobe provided by Botany 500,” explains Ben of the song’s title. Botany 500 is a menswear label coming out of New York and the song mines the jazz fusion sounds of Herbie Hancock and Richard Tee with the yacht rock of Steely Dan and Chicago Transit Authority. It’s the perfect way to end the album.

Like all the best [imaginary] soundtracks, Return Of The Fabric Four mixes nostalgia with originality in equal parts. Vast in aspiration and musical scope, this is no genre exercise: the joy, passion and commitment in its delivery is palpable. “It’s been a great experience getting back in the studio again,” says Ben. “We’ve got a common purpose and the results are smashing.”