Tuesday, October 25, 2022

family reading - the Redstockings Abortion Speakout; Stumpwork reviewed

Here's Joy Press with a fascinating - and heroic - tale of the first Abortion Speakout convened in 1968 by Redstockings, an offshoot of pioneering feminist outfit New York Radical Women. For Vanity Fair 

The first time this has happened  - father and son convergence as firstborn Kieran Press-Reynolds weighs in with the Official Pitchfork verdict on Dry Cleaning's Stumpwork

Monday, October 24, 2022

The Catburgers!

Sometime in late '86, or possibly very early '87, an advance cassette from Dan Treacy arrived with the words "this lot are great!" hand-scribbled on it.  It contained five songs from a Scottish group called The Catburgers. I played it a lot and was all set to write something on the group whenever Dan got round to releasing them via his label Dreamworld. Except the release never came out. In fact,  nothing by The Catburgers ever got released. 

I never completely forgot the tape - periodically I would rediscover it amid the clattery clutter of hard shells in the various boxes in which cassettes were stashed. Dug it out, gave it a play, and wondered whatever happened to the Catburgers.... 

A few years ago, thinking it a shame that these songs had never reached the public, I cheekily put the demo tape up on YouTube.  

These tracks are underproduced, to put it mildly. But something about the songs shines through the lo-fi scrawn and hissy murk. The Catburgers belong to that moment of groups like Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes and Beat Happening, but there's a musical element that sets them apart - perhaps it's the trace of Joy Division in the basslines you can hear in some of the tunes.  

Colour me surprised, but several weeks ago I heard from a young man called Fergus Jones, son of the singer + guitarist in The Catburgers. Fergus was in the process of putting out for the very first time some of the material recorded by his dad Robert Jones (vocals / guitar) and bandmates Stuart Macgregor (bass) and Andy Benton (drums). He'd seen the YouTube clip and was looking for decent quality audio for this phantom-EP (how I always heard the cassette, although who knows what configuration of the songs might have reached the scene, should they ever have been released.) 

And now a pair of Catburgers releases - The Dreamworld Sessions and The Rocking Horse Demos - are coming out on the Danish label FELT. The former is obtainable as vinyl and the latter as a tape. Dreamworld is also available digitally via Bandcamp.

Release rationale for Dreamworld Sessions

Swell Maps / Television Personalities affiliated C86-era indie pop rescued from sheer obscurity and thrust into semi-obscurity by FELT. The Catburgers were a short-lived Scottish group, this recording initially primed for release on Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld imprint yet placed on the perennial backburner as so many creative projects inevitably are.

Soundcloud uploads dating back over a decade ago and the odd blog/twitter post aside, the group lived on only in the memories of those who happened to catch them on the Edinburgh scene back in the day. Until now! With the help of the National Sound Archives, the original master tape containing these three tracks has been rebaked, cut and mastered for seven-inch.

‘Holiday House’ sounds immediately at home in the Postcard Records nexus, the influence of 1980 particularly tangible. Slower paced and with a touch more melancholy than its companions, the song sounds both in and out of time, as if some young teens raised on a hand-me-down diet of Pastels CDs might have laid it down yesterday.

Jowe Head of Swell Maps joins the group for ‘The Acid Tree’, whilst EP closer ‘Diving For The Brick’ sees the band ruminating on weak knees, sore lungs and stinging eyes down at the local swimming pool.

Letter from Mr Treacy to the band, indicating that I was among a very select company of media folk to receive this tape. 


Sunday, October 16, 2022



On a bit of a creative tear at the moment, Matthew Ingram has just published a new tome - a graphic novel / comic book entitled TPM

It's funny and eerie. Subtly unsettling. And beautifully drawn - the body postures and expressions of the characters, the composition of scenes, the interior and exterior backdrops, bear the distinctive Ingram line. 

Without wishing to give away too much of the plot, it involves a company whose specialty is psychic marketing a.k.a transpersonal marketing (the TPM of the title).

Without wishing to pin it down too much, TPM feels like it belongs to a mini-genre of "uncanny workplace" dramas. (Severance would be a recent example).  

Someone really should take TPM and turn it into a TV series or a long-form animation. 

You can read more about the genesis and inspiration of this latest Woebot masterpiece at Matt's blog - it's fascinating stuff, emerging as you might expect from the research into the nexus of spirituality, health, and the counterculture that led to Retreat, and to Matt's imminent publication The S Word that combines his recent blog epics with new essays.

You can buy a  hard copy of TPM direct from Matthew by sending money to Paypal address alias@hollowearth.org. Prices for one copy as follows: 

UK Standard: £13.61 Tracked: £18.79

EU Standard: £16.30 Tracked: £21.17

USA Standard: £19.46 Tracked: £23.91

It can also be bought via Amazon, where this is also a digital Kindle version on offer 

Friday, October 14, 2022

It's a Weird Premise for a Band - But I Like It.

I interviewed my favorite band of the moment Dry Cleaning for The New York Times, on the eve of the release of their wonderful new album Stumpwork - on which they've totally pulled off that tricky trick of retaining everything good about the debut but expanding upon it and making it different enough to be fresh. It was really nice to chat with Tom, Lewis, Nick & Florence when they were in LA for Primavera.  I was surprised by how hard they rocked when they took the stage - and enjoyed the visual incongruity that ensued, as captured in the snaps below.  The piece also includes some nice quotes from Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods, a friend of Dry Cleaning and an admirer. 

Friday, October 07, 2022

From Budweiser to Bodhisattva

It was great fun reacquainting myself with the uuurv of Beastie Boys for this Tidal piece on Check Your Head, which is published in partnership with the  record-of-the-month club Vinyl Me, Please. There's also a playlist I pulled together juxtaposing Beastie tracks with formative influences and fellow travelers. 

Nothing beats Licensed To Ill of course (my favorite album of that year - or maybe equal first with The Queen is Dead). But there's moments across Paul's Boutique, Check and Ill Communication that get quite close. 

Funnily enough my favorite song on their transitional third is the least-Beastlie: "Namasté", which is more like Licensed to Chill. A floaty and flickering fusion-funk jam worthy of,  oh I dunno, Idris Muhammad or somebody like that. MCA sounds like he's already a good way along The Path to Bliss. 

Another good one in their new laidback and non-bratty mode

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

RIP Cass Davies

...  of Furious Pig, of course!

From the C81 cassette compilation - must have listened to this dozens of times in my life.

Not listened to their one actual release, this EP on Rough Trade, quite as often, I confess

Another version of "Bare Pork" that has the bit on them from the booklet the NME did as a spread inside the paper,  for you to pull-out and fold-up to go with the compilation (except that when folded up, it was just a little too thick to fit comfortably in the cassette shell) 

There's actually a live document, which  - unless I'm misunderstanding the label - looks like it came out on the Japanese postpunk label Vanity. 

Remembering Furious Pig during the writing of Rip It Up was one of the things that led me to the still ongoing and endless interest in Mouth Music and Extremism of the Human Voice. Viz, this post from 2003: 

"Talking of voices, how come there isn't a compilation or even a box-set (and maybe there is and I just don't know about it) of free vocal music, extremists of the human voice? Ideally vocal performances unaccompanied by music, or at least not mediated by technology and studio techniques (you could have a whole other compilation of that stuff: "Starsailor"). You could have one disc for the avant-classical lineage: the Dadaists and bruitism, Ligeti's choral stuff (as per 2001: A Space Odyssey), Cathy Berberian singing Berio, Stockhausen's Stimmung, Meredith Monk. Another disc for out-jazz: Patty Waters, there must be shitloads of other freeform vocalese types I don't know about. (Question: why does most free jazz leave me cold when it's instruments but is totally enthralling when it's the larynx?). A third disc for edge-of-rock: Diamanda Galas, Yoko Ono, live tapes of Buckley disastrously touring the Starsailor material, Furious Pig (this great Rough Trade vocals-only outfit, did one EP for the label, had a track on C81--sounded a bit like the Pop Group as barbershop quartet, grunts and howls and infra-human mewlings, they were inspired by pygmy music), Arto Lindsay's Christmas Rose Choir. And disc four would be like world music: Inuit plainsong (there was a disappointing CD of this stuff out on Sub Rosa I think it was a few years ago, but I remember an Eskimo field-recording LP a friend had in the early Eighties, amazing breath-pulse duets that sounded like DAF or something, then they'd burst out giggling after two minutes), Tuvan throat-singing, Pygmy monkey-chant.... This is all just scratching the surface I'm sure, suggestions welcome."

So who were Furious Pig, then? 

In the words of member Stephen Kent:

"Furious Pig was a group that emerged out of the High School experiences of a group of friends and relations in Totnes, a little town in South Devon, England. Influenced by listening to an eclectic mix of early Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, The Beatles, Ethiopian Polyphonic chants, The Doors, Stravinsky and Edgar Varese, among other things, we moved to London in 1979 a year after reaching the final of the National 'Melody Maker' Rock/Folk Contest - an event at which the judges included Bob Geldof, Justin Hayward [of the Moody Blues] and Ray Coleman [editor of Melody Maker]. Needless to say Furious Pig didn't win with their stirring renditions of 'I'm Going Round the Bend' and the jarring 'In Order of Height' but Bob Geldof said we'd 'Gotta Lotta Bottle'[Nerve] playing what we played. Squatting in houses around North London we developed a form of intense acapella vocal chanting, highly orchestrated with choreographed passages. It became a cult sensation on the London and N.European club scene. We toured on the bill with bands like This Heat, The Raincoats, Pere Ubu, The Slits, The Fall, The TV Personalities. We played on the streets, in clubs, pubs, schools. At the Comic Strip in Soho we were a regular music act - playing alongside all the comedians who became 'The Young Ones' and 'Absolutely Fabulous' on TV. We scored a live soundtrack to a William Burroughs book, 'The Wild Boys'. Our session on Radio 1 DJ John Peels show so divided the listenership between those who loved and those who loathed our music that it was repeated in record time. We'd spend 8 hours a day for months working on extending our vocal ranges, often in grotesque and hilarious ways - we had fun! Rough Trade Records got us into the studio and we recorded a vocal set including versions of 'I Don't Like Your Face', 'Jonny So Long' and the 'Kingmother'. I always regretted not recording 'Frozen Tarzan' with its alternating Shouting Through Cardboard Tubes and simply Shouting choreography and its Rolling On The Floor section. However, tapes do exist......

"Furious Pig came to an end when I left to become MD of Circus Oz in Australia. However all the other band members continued recording careers: Martin Kent aka Martin Pig with a series of singles on Rough Trade and Dominic Weeks and Cass Davies with two full length LP's on Recommended Records: Het - 'Lets Het' and another with French chanteuse Hermine."

This next chunk o' commentary seems to be from somewhere else (I've taken it from an older Hardly Baked blog entry) but who knows.... 

"This is an ensemble of male vocalists from England who created their own eccentric concept of experimental music using only voices, even though there was a fair amount of existing work in this vein, mostly in the academic world (e.g. Joan LaBarbara), but also stuff like Linda Sharrock and Jeanne Lee.  This has a grass roots punk/cabaret/comedy aspect and offers both fun and musical substance. They clearly worked out a lot of creative, rehearsed parts for these maniacal songs, so it's not just some guys acting goofy.... "I Don't Like Your Face" has a large section based on Balinese kecak, which is always a good thing!  There are connections between this project and other important early 80s creative music from England like Het and Hermine Demoriane. They played on bills with This Heat, etc.  It's a fabulous slice of underground music history.

""A friend said upon hearing them for the first time: '...it’s like The Manhattan Transfer went insane and recorded music in the plough of the sicker Fugs, dis-harmonizing cries and yelps in a studio with windows left open toward the farmyard.'"

Quoth Stephen, "Tapes do exist" - someone should release them!

As Kent mentioned, after Furious Pig, Cass Davies and Dominic Weeks formed Het and in 1984 released the album Let's Het, through Woof Records (formed by ex-Henry Cow man Tim Hodgkinson + his partner in The Work, Bill Gilonis)

Here's the whole album, it's rather good - slightly closer to "palatable"

Stephen Kent, meanwhile, would form Lights in a Fat City, which I actually reviewed live at the ICA, unaware of any connection to Furious Pig. 


April 8, 1989, Melody Maker

Seem to remember the album didn't quite capture the live experience. 

And then it seems - and it makes sense - that Lights in A Fat City found their way into that whole Club Dog zone 

The missing link between 23 Skidoo and Loop Guru.