"So, what to make of it? You've read the song titles, you've read my fumbling attempts to codify the music on this release into something you might identify with but really, you just have to listen. "
Big Block 454 – Their Coats Flapped like God's Chops.
Before hearing this CD I spent a whole day just reading the song titles. I just couldn't get past them, they were that legendary. I might even nick some for use in my artwork. Get these kids...
William Henry Perkin accidentally invents mauve
Hull is full of grubby slappers
Cheetham Hill to Miles Platting (by Hovercraft)
As you might inspect after that brief perusal, the music encased within is somewhat eclectic. However it possesses a lyrical, reflective heart that is allowed to blossom in a rather melancholy way. If I was to play the reference game, it would be churlish of me not to mention Brian Eno's mid seventies releases, especially Before and After Science and Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. The track My Porcine Waste of Time also recalls fellow North West eccentrics Ceramic Hobs.
Still, there's a lot more here than mere nostalgia for a musical genre. It is extremely experimental music in that it makes considerable efforts to maintain the sharpness in its gestures and dynamics. The band never knowingly allow or omit anything that would prevent the music retaining its edge. Drastic, dramatic changes in direction and mood are commonplace.
One of the standout tracks for me is the mad stomp of Pomeranian Bullcat; which is all over the place, revelling in its own inability to tell a straight musical story. At one sublime moment the music sounds as if Fela Kuti has been taken hostage by a convention of table tennis enthusiasts, only to find a soul-mate in the guitarist from The Electric Prunes, a fellow hostage. At other times it sounds like (and I really can't do better than to lift this cod-music criticism quote from Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time series) a lot of owls quarrelling in a bicycle factory.
There are moments of sublime trippy ambient loveliness too; The Golden Age of Braking Systems on the Maryport & Carlisle Railway is just such a moment, a beautiful piano coda just about holding this fragile piece together. The trio of tracks with the title Three Alternatives also radiate an ethereal, stripped down beauty.
So, what to make of it? You've read the song titles, you've read my fumbling attempts to codify the music on this release into something you might identify with but really, you just have to listen. A great release and one you should hunt down without delay.
Words: Richard Foster.