such an exhaustive listen.
Assasination Polka is a brilliant, brilliant opening to what turns out to be a very surprising album. Shuddering and thumping drums dominate, but the track is given it's charm by a beautiful sax refrain and a twinkling children's piano run. The lyrics seem concerned with assasination, or suicide, or screaming.
Forget It is another tub-thumper, but built on very jazzy, spacey lines. It has a whiff of John Coltrane, or even the Associates at odd moments. The intense, rather unhinged but always "seriously, you must realise we're not being serious, but we are serious about the vocals" vocals hop around like sparrows under the cafe table. Snowball is structured looser still; the sax puts it's head round the door now and again and has a good atonal blare, then disappears. It's all very arty, as I am sure you are aware if you have read this much of the review. Still, I'm getting into this. 2nd Hand Smoke jumps around and has some batty lyrics concerning smoking. It all reminds me of the B52s without sounding like them at all. It must be the weird question/answer vocals that somehow manage to survive the song's ever changing sonic direction. Right at this moment it sounds like a Roma record, but doubtless that will change in oh, it just has. Now it sounds a bit like Faust.
Ultratumba's six minutes start slowly before waking up and sounding like a Macedonian cover of Joe by the Inspiral Carpets. After a brief flurry it all goes quiet again, only to return with another warped take on Oldham's finest. Now it gets more like a Macedonian wedding song, but not for long as some atonal keyboards send the track into Faust territory. This all goes on for some time.
Bandit King and Queen starts as a conversation between the male and female vocalists, a conversation that is sometimes broken up by a sax arpeggio and a toy piano. Fate and thigh lines are mentioned. It does sound like a song from Fiddler on the Roof now, oh, sorry not now, now, for 5 seconds, it sounds like DAF. Now its back in Fiddler terrritory. This is all most confusing. Someone is going to find this album the most tremendous trainspotter-ish fun, I'm sure. Railroaded has a beautiful echoey introduction, for once the song doesn't hop around, rather it takes a more reflective, maudlin bent, and is all the better for it. The last track, Buncerto is downbeat, with a Terry Riley feel to it (I'm sure they have listened to Church of Anthrax). Vocals low in the mix, plaintif piano runs and mournful sax all contribute to a feeling of longing and ennui.
Well, that was quite a slog. Despite enjoying the album a lot, it's not one that is going to be played a lot chez Foster, mainly due to the fact that it is such an exhaustive listen. Still, it is interesting stuff, and you have to be glad people feel the need to make records like this. Time to cast my vote. A thumbs up, but I'm feeling a bit battered. Not incidental music, that's for sure.
Words: Richard Foster