THE CELIBATE RIFLES : The Turgid Miasma Of Existence (1986)

Y'know that awful dawning of grim realisation when, on a mission to retrieve something from a rarely frequented corner of your record collection, you realise that you actually parted with that album that you need to hear right now several years ago? I've just experienced that horrible feeling with reference to The Celibate Rifles. I had virtually their entire back catalogue stashed away back in the 90s but, during an exploratory delve a few days ago, I discovered that I'd flogged the lot at some point & have no idea when or why. All I've got left is their ace live LP, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ("blistering", as they say). Gutted.

Fortunately, I've found a rip of The Turgid Miasma Of Existence squirrelled away on my hard drive. Released on Hot in 1986, it's probably my favourite of their (14 or so) studio albums, evenly split between hi-NRG MC5 / Radio Birdman proto-punk thrashers & hallucinatory, droned-out ballads (a sound Yo La Tengo would get to serious grips with a few years later). Initial copies came with an additional 3-song 7", eventually compiled on the Platters Du Jour retrospective, I believe? Response in the U.S. was sufficiently positive that the band decided to get out of Sydney & book themselves their debut tour there, culminating in the incendiary CBGB's show that makes up that aforementioned live album. I was lucky enough to see them live, just the once, in 1987 around the time of Roman Beach party LP, & it was quite a night! Two solid hours of non-stop short/sharp "hits" interspersed with countless dry one-liners & insane amounts of booze (snakebite, no doubt), after which I fell asleep in a car park. The majority of their back catalogue is pretty difficult to aquire nowadays, so don't dither if you spot Sideroxylon, Les Fusiles Célibataires or Roman Beach Party gathering gust in a 2nd hand rack somewhere, raid your coffers & buy 'em.
Hot Records have since reissued this album on CD, with additional tracks, etc.



As is my wont on drizzly Thursdays, I was rooting about in a shabby bookshop earlier this week & pulled a dilapidated copy of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale off a high, rarely visited shelf. Personally, I've never understood the appeal of The Bard's lit, my only memories of his work are uniformly depressing (needless to say, I've not revisited his oeuvre since college), but Milton Glaser's unusual cover illustration immediately caught my eye. Glaser's sublime, faux-Pop artworks decorated the jackets of Signet's entire run of Shakespeare paperbacks in the late 60s & remained in print throughout the 70s. If his style seems familiar, you've probably seen his iconic Dylan profile at some point (it makes a subtle cameo in the cover to Pericles, reproduced below). He's possibly most renown for designing the original, ubiquitous "I Love N.Y." logo however, an impressive (to put it mildly!) addition to any designer's portfolio...
Richard 2
All's Well
N.B. Apologies if I've gone a little bit overboard on the uploads this time 'round, I tried to choose my favourites but most of them are so gorgeous that it proved impossible...


MEDICINE HEAD : His Guiding Hand 7" (1970)

I first heard this one on John Peel's show in the mid '90s (surprise, surprise). He'd dug it out, if I remember correctly, to highlight similarities with the work of Will Oldham's Palace, who were enjoying the zenith of their hipster kudos at the time (circa Viva Last Blues, etc). Peel certainly had a point, "His Guiding Hand" radiates a fragile rural simplicity that echoes Oldham's less priapic work & belies Medicine Head's dubious sartorial splendour: stoned & bearded polytechnic undergrads from the real ale society essentially (hey, it was a good look in 1970). Listening to it again now I can see why it promptly struck a chord with me, it still sounds peculiarly contemporary, far better than the majority of the studiously rustic, achingly devotional pseudo-folkies who have sprung up in the wake of Oldham & Alasdair Roberts. Released fleetingly as a 7" for Peel's own Dandelion label, both songs here quickly re-appeared on the band's debut LP, New Bottles Old Medicine. Said album is definitely worth tracking down, but for me it's these 2 tracks that capture that intangible "something".

Hailing from galmourous Stafford, Medicine Head were an unorthodox duo of John Fiddler (vocals, guitar, piano, drums) & Peter Hope-Evans (harmonica, jew's harp, mouthbow), though they did relent & employ additional musicians later in their career. Though their anterior releases sank without trace, their subsequent "(And The) Pictures In The Sky" single scored Dandelion's only UK chart entry - #22 in 1971. They also released an album titled The Dark Of The Moon an entire year prior to Pink Floyd's hardy perennial - coincidence? I think not.

Along with similarly schismatic bands like The Way We Live / Tractor, & Stackwaddy, Medicine Head spearheaded a largely forgotten (some might say 2nd division), Peel-championed strand of the early 1970s British folk / blues underground that Mojo & the rest of the 60s/70s nostalgia industry have yet to adequately address. For the record, I'd rather gouge my eyes out with a butter knife than read any more Fab 4, Floyd or Zep re-appraisals, thanks very much - 20 pages on Dandelion would be very welcome, however!



DMCA READ THIS: Despite once again including links to nothing but officially sanctioned sites, the following post has just been removed by Blogger for the third time. Why?

"WOODEN SHJIPS: Drunk Girls (LCD Soundsystem cover) (2010)

N.B. This'll make you hoot. Blogger have removed the following post TWICE now, without prior warning or good reason, at DMCA's request. In both instances, I was actually linking to an OFFICIAL stream & not, repeat NOT, hosting the song/file myself & thereby not, repeat NOT, infringing anybody's copyright. Conclusion: neither Blogger, DMCA, EMI Records or James Murphy's minions actually check the content of "offending" posts before spitting blood & barging in, with phasers set to "litigate".

So... I've now removed the link to those legal streams I mentioned & am posting this for the 3rd & final time. You can hear the song in question all over the internet at the click of a button or 2, or perhaps even buy it (I'd recommend the lovely 7" vinyl edition rather than a crummy DL, sanctioned or otherwise). If you've not already purchased the current, disappointing LCD Soundsystem LP I'd definitely suggest you take a cursory listen to it before committing yourself - it's a second-rate effort AT BEST. Tally ho!

Dunno whose gloriously deranged idea this was but, wow, it really paid off! San Francisco's hipper-than-thou nouveau psychedelicists Wooden Shjips pass the bucket & thrash out a grizzled take on LCD Soundsystem's terribly voguish (mwah) current single, utterly destroying the DFA template in the process. Wooden Shjips' fuzzy motorik version is actually available officially as the b-side of a limited edition LCD SS 7", so a deferential doff of the titfer to James Murphy for foresightedly sanctioning it but, really, the cover is soooo much better than the underwhelming, DFA-by-numbers original that he's probably been sulkily refusing to come out of the bathroom all weekend. Here's a thought: perhaps Murphy might consider commissioning more interesting folk of Wooden Shjips' genus to reinterpret This Is Happening (very satirical) in it's entirety as a welcome alternative to the utterly exhausted Remix Album Option? And if somebody can arrange a Suicide rework of "Losing My Edge" I'll quite happily top myself after I've heard it (you can bury me with the master tape)."

...we'll see how long this one stays up shall we?


SCRITTI POLITTI : John Peel Session 5/12/78

Another John Peel session. Scritti Politti's debut in fact, recorded on 5th December 1978 with Tony Wilson (him again) behind the desk. It's a prevailing misconception that the Peel session Rough Trade issued as the Work In Progress EP in 1979 was Scritti's first. Surprisingly it wasn't, though the same original line-up features on both: Green Gartside (vocals & guitar), Tom Morley (Drums) & Niall Jinks (bass). I've no idea why this inaugural set has been consistently overlooked as it's first-rate, very fractured & oblique, an unlikely amalgam of Canterbury prog, NYC No Wave & Marxist art school squat punk in fact. Despite Green's subsequent chagrin (he's since dismissed his music from this period as "winceworthy"), these songs wholly epitomise a thrilling, wildly experimental era of British independent music, & not rounding them up as part of the otherwise exemplary Early compilation was a colossal missed opportunity I think? It's a long journey from here to Miles Davis (via Robert Wyatt, Chaka Khan & an alleged heart attack, aged 23), but Green eventually managed it off eventually, of course...

● 5/12/78


FIRE ENGINES : John Peel Session - 23/2/81 (BBC recording)

Fire E Ad
Fire E Live
Fire Engines' 2nd session 1981 for John Peel is all over the 'net but their debut appears to have slipped off the radar. Recorded on 23rd February with Tony Wilson ("another one") at the desk, it's 4 frenetic blasts of Warholian blang & yelp are actually even more feral than their officially released counterparts, no doubt because (in the enduring spirit of the Peel session) they were performed live in the studio, sans overdubbing & with only a modicum of post-production.

The better known half of this set, "Discord" & "Candyskin" (both much more abrasive than their more familiar Pop:Aural incarnations), was released as a limited edition 7" by Domino on the 25th anniversary of their original broadcast (9th March 1981, pedants). The ferocious cover of Heaven 17's "(We Don't Need This) Fascist Groove Thang" appeared on Rev-Ola's long unavailable Fond compilation back in 1992, but was omitted from Acute's otherwise complete Hungry Beat collection (why?). Interestingly, the remaining untitled song (aka "The Untitled One" aka "No Time To Lose") has never been released officially. As Fire Engines songs go it's relatively upfront & linear, an enthusiastically amateurist D.I.Y. pop song basically, & would've made a terrific single. "Candyskin" promptly swaggered along & changed all that of course, & perhaps that's why it's remained in the archives for so long? Apologies for the slightly ropey quality btw, 3/4's of this have been mastered from a 25 year old Scotch cassette...

Their unclassifiable 2nd session. since disowned as an embarrassing failure by foremost Fire Engine Davey Henderson, is available here c/o Cliff Richard's Neck. It sounds nothing like their earlier recordings but, despite what you may have heard or assumed, is as equally uncommercial - a queasy marriage of A Certain Ratio & The Magic Band I think. Both sets are crying out for immediate release, as are Orange Juice's slew of early 80s BBC recordings (commissioned by all manner of highly uncool evening DJs, not just our lord J.P.). Get it sorted Domino.


THE DURUTTI COLUMN : Never Know (1981)

Another fantastic Facebook find. More peerless, majestic melancholy from The Durutti Column, circa LC (Factory, 1981). I've watched this half a dozen times already & am still not bored, it's such a haunting combination of music & visuals...


THE GIST : This Is Love 7" (1980)

Stuart Moxham formed The Gist in 1980, following Young Marble Giants' fractious break-up. Their debut, this brilliant double A-side* 7" on Rough Trade, can't help but leave you ruminating on how a second YMG album might've sounded. Immediately following this single's release, & debilitated following a serious motorcycle accident, Stuart descended into the financially impoverished, Eno & LSD-inspired isolationist home recording sessions that culminated in The Gist's terrific, oft-ignored Embrace The Herd LP. It's been a particular favourite of mine since I picked it up for less than a quid back in the 90s, purely on the strength of spying Epic Soundtracks' name in the credits & noticing that it was recorded at This Heat's Cold Storage studio. In spite of sketchily evident stylistic similarities with contemporaries such as Marine Girls, Stuart's music has always shrugged off any lazy accusations of twee-ism by virtue of it's abiding spikiness, a persistent emotional distance that, though vague, is attendant throughout. Disappointingly, Stuart doesn't seem too keen on the Embrace The Herd personally: "It's a symbol of my misery & lack of direction at that time. There's very few lyrics on it, for example, because I had nothing to say." Apparently he prefers the original 4-track demos. To which the only sensible response is surely "Release the demos then!"? There's a slightly painful interview here that perhaps provides some reasoning for this brittle impetus behind his music. Bear in mind it's almost 20 years old though, & that Stuart's situation has, as far I understand, improved immeasurably in the interim. Hole's cover of "Credit In The Straight World" put food on the table for a couple of years, & Young Marble Giants' recent Domino-bankrolled reformation has been ecstatically received. Crikey, a happy ending for once!

Embrace The Herd has been lovingly reissued on CD (you can buy it here) but, despite a number of welcome additions, neither "This Is Love" or the later "Fool For A Valentine"7" are included, an enormous shame as far as I'm concerned.

This Is Love

*Actually it's not a double A-side.... but it should've been.