"What I especially love about these records is their musical scope, their bravura, their range. "
Ceramic Hobs – Straight Outta Rampton, Shergar is Home Safe and Well
I loved these albums as soon as I saw them. Anyone with any decency would, really. I mean, if a band has the temerity to a put fruit and a stand pipe composition (as in Straight Outta Rampton) or a painting of a dog and a horse being friendly to each other (as in Shergar), you expect something out of the ordinary.
And that's what you get.
What I especially love about these records is their musical scope, their bravura, their range. If you were to draw parallels with painting, you could say that these two LPs are Baroque in their compostiton and execution, all grand gestures, dramatic decisive sweeps of bold, almost garish colour. Baroque also in the way that the direction of the concept is formidably single minded. Everything is lucid and sharp. Just take, for example, the opening five tracks on Shergar.
The opener, "Knights Move" is a psychotic brass band led march, accompanied by garish, Fall like synths and funny voices, relentless save for a lullaby crudely inserted half way through. It's like Cluster, only louder, more garish. This is followed by "Native American Healing", a Rammstein work out which clashes outrageously with what's gone on before, and puts an end to any smug notions you may have had after "Knights Move" in settling down to listening to an interesting concept album. "Pro – Ana Tips 'N'Tricks" continues the guitar laden work out, whilst "Safe to Heaven" is a real dippy hippy trip, it could be something culled from Screamadelica, though it's never as drippy. As always there is an active inteligence at work, with sampled male and female voices expounding an argument before disappearing into the ether. "My Judas Lover" is a frantic, sinister dissertation on the merits and pit-falls of having high expectations in a relationship. It's so paranoid and actually quite frightening, and the driving guitars don't help.
If you take these five tracks, (I know I shouldn't really, but I am trying to illustrate a point here), they serve to illustrate in microcosm just how wide ranging the musical vision is on both these lps. It is truly brilliant.
What I also love are the vignettes created, the atmospheres conjoured up; just listening to the inanity of the guy's argument on "Shaolin Master" off Rampton, and I might as well be visiting my mates back in Accrington. Great tales of frustration, such as "Amateur Cops" or "Ku Klux Klevelys", or of utter boredom, as shown on "Does He Take Sugar" are brilliantly showcased by a wide and subtle range of instrumentation. It's mood music in the best sense of the word.
Oh, and another thing. The artwork is bloody tremendous and the liner notes hark back to the glorious mid 1980s Fall, with lots of snippet information and irrelevent rubbish. No preciousness here or nice photos, just bloody minded, egoless art, bringing Faust, or Can to mind. And that's high praise in my books.