Uncovering the myth of Cable’s When Animals Attack film

It’s not just the outstanding music that has contributed Cable’s lasting appeal, but a more complete mythology amplified by the untimely demise that has added to fans lasting affinity rock fans feel for them.

In a world of misdirection, rumour and strange interview responses Cable created a biography that still, to this day, veers off in many different directions.

1997 is arguably the year that added most to that mythology. They started the year with a performance to prisoners at Brixton Prison (which resulted in the brilliant live EP) and ended the year with the ‘secret’ Christmas gig at The Loft in Derby, which is still one of the best gigs I have ever been to. Both of these events play an important part (at least for me) in the story of one of the most mythologised and discussed pieces of Cable’s output, short film When Animals Attack, released to promote the second album of the same name that we are currently celebrating.

These days the film is available on Youtube but for a long time it was an echo, a memory, lost to the annals of time. I remember that film being projected at that Christmas gig, with only a vague recollection of its contents. Even now getting exact information about the film is difficult.

The film, directed by Mark Adcock, was an ambitious promotional project for an up-and-coming band. It is an arthouse, abstract, black and white film with a riddle-filled ending and a soundtrack of new Cable songs from the forthcoming album.

The narrative links closely to the album’s lyrics written by Matt Baguley, starting in a prison (either a direct mirroring of the Brixton Prison gig, or a take on it) and taking the band on a quest through Wales where the rest of the movie was filmed.

It was not small in scale or ambition, with Vincent Regan (already at the point a familiar face from TV in London’s Burning, film and theatre and who would go onto bigger success in Hollywood blockbusters like 300) taking the role of an escaped convict who hearing Cable’s music during their prison performance takes the band on an adventure to unlock the meaning of lyrics.

Regan carries the film with a quality performance, and the band themselves put in admirable turns themselves stuck in a bizarre journey that with intrigue and a nice dash of tongue-in-cheek humour makes this more than a simple promotional tool. It is a piece of art in its own right, like a mini ’90’s rock version of a Beatles movie.

Discussing this film this week it is still subject to rumour and conjecture. One story relayed how the band where stopped by real police who were looking for an actual escaped convict, mirroring events in the film they were making. Of course none of this is confirmed or denied by any member of the band. Sometimes the myth is more useful than the truth.

At the time of release the When Animals Attack film featured at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, and enjoyed screenings on Channel 4, at Glastonbury and MTV’s Alternative Nation at the time of release before disappearing into the mists of time.

In the pre-internet era these brief showings etched Cable onto the minds of an audience, who may not have been fans but had a memory of the film and the music within.

It’s sits alongside another flirtation with multimedia in 1997 that, for a brief, moment took them to a bigger unsuspecting audience when Freeze The Atlantic featured as the music on a short-lived Sprite advert.

This is now also on Youtube, with comments about how people had been searching for this advert and song for years, and one fan who had gone to Our Price to try and find in not knowing the name of the song or the band but finding it because Cable has cleverly titled the B-side The (We Did The Music For The Sprite Ad) Blues.

In celebrating the enduring power of When Animals Attack, the album, it is worth remembering the bands foray into film as it displays a band that were willing to take risks.

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