Themes From Great Cities

It might have come to your attention that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you will just have to get used to. I will however, have bursts of creativity where I move completely randomly from post to post with no rhyme or reason. I have recently posted a few singles (7 & 12”) and the odd bootleg which have been received very well by all who visit. More of the same will continue as you, dear readers, seem to be enjoying them.

Some of the rips are my own, but many more are from other blogs and I’m just sharing the wealth. If other bloggers out there wish to share the rips from my posts, please as I do, host them yourself. To combat this, the FLAC files that are over 6 months old will be replaced with MP3 files.

Finally I am happy to re-up old posts where the link has expired. Please comment in the relevant posts comments box.



Dark, edgy, angular, masculine and very confrontational.

Rattus Norvegicus, (the Latin name for the rats responsible for the plague) is an outstanding album. It has aged well and the dexterity of all four band members is clear throughout. It comes in the form of Hugh Cornwell’s psychedelic guitar licks, JJ Burnel’s fantastically deep and pumping bass lines and Dave Greenfield’s swirling keyboard. The bands song writing ability also puts them above the verse-chorus-verse-chorus ilk of their peers. Like many other punk bands of the time the Stranglers were also great at reflecting angst. Whether it’s in ‘London Lady’ which emulates the falseness and superficial attitude of music journalists. ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Ugly’; relationship problems and sexual self consciousness or ‘Hanging Around’ a sideways look at adolescent hood in big cities.
The Stranglers, like the Vibrators, were an older band which managed to gain visibility and success through association with Britain's punk movement. Musically, the group is much more polished than some of their rawer brethren such as the Adverts and Siouxsie and the Banshees. The Stranglers' early work is most properly described as stripped-down pop played with a hardcore sensibility; with fairly lengthy songs involving frequent solo breaks, prominent keyboard usage, and occasional employment of vocal harmony set them apart from their peers.
While not the equal of their best album, No More Heroes, this album is perhaps one of The Stranglers greatest in that it reflects their malevolent attitude towards life. The songs are much rawer than their later polished and poppier material. It cleverly fits in the punk ethos of doing things for yourself and showing no concern of what others thought. How many other punk acts would have been brave enough to have a keyboard or experiment with different song structures? In a time that was made of two minute long, amphetamine fuelled numbers The Stranglers clearly stood above the rest with attitude, nous and a fantastic aptitude for musicianship.



12th May 1979 – New Musical Express (UK)

Album Reviewed by Paul Morley

Aaah! More alert and anguished young men chalking up more sanctioned and sanctimonious marks! Do not applaud them! This glistening long player contains twelve self-conscious variations upon the smoothly quirky theme, somewhere between hypnotic and indifferent, that brought the world, somewhere between hype and anonymity, the pleasurable “Killing An Arab”. For one whole album that pretty bending and doodling does a lot less than please, and a lot more than irritate. The Cure’s formula is not that marvellous, but the Cure are not just making pop music. They make thins much worse than they could be by packaging this insubstantial froth as if it had some social validity. As if it were going to alter our conceptions of what is real and what is unreal. They garnish their twelve little ditties with unreliable trickery, not content to let ordinary songs die ordinary deaths.
The lads go rampant on insignificant symbolism and compound this with rude, soulless obliqueness. They are trying to tell us something. They are trying to tell us they do not exist. They are trying to say that everything is empty. They are making fools of themselves. They are represented on the ice-cream colour cover by three by three bulky, ageing household gadgets. Lol Tolhurst (drums) is a fridge. Michael Dempsey (Bass, Voice) is an upright hoover. Robert Smith (Guitar Voice) is a standard lamp. Each song is represented on the back sleeve by a picture and on the label by a symbol.
Thus a typically dehydrated interpretation of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” is matched with a Polaroid snapshot of a slinky lady in a pencil skirt and stilettos striding along a metropolis pavement. “So What” is represented by a picture of two bags of granulated sugar spilling over the floor. All very clever stuff. All this charming, childish fiddling about aims for the anti-image but naturally creates the perfect malleable image: the tantalising enigma of The Cure.
They try to take everything away from the purpose and idea of the rock performer but try so hard they put more in than they take out. They add to the falseness. Good luck to them.
The Cure, really, are trying to sell us something. Their product is more artificial than most. This is perhaps part of their master plan, but it seems more like their naivety. The way it is, The Cure set themselves up as though they float a long way outside the realms of anything we can understand. They are scandalous, fulfilled aliens and they look down on us. What do they see? Not much that will shoot your being through with vigour or sudden understanding, but they never stop nagging. Willowy songs wallow in the murk and marsh of tawdry images, inane realisations and dull epigrams. Sometimes they sound like an avant-garde John Otway, or an ugly Spirit. Sometimes a song is as pretty as “Killing An Arab”: “Accuracy” (a target over a man’s eye) or “Fire In Cairo” (palm tree in the desert). But most of the time it’s just a voice catching its breath, with a cautiously primitive guitar riff, some toy drumming and a sprightly bass. Nowhere is there anything alarming; nowhere is there anything truly adventurous. Not that I demand adventure at all costs, but The Cure do suggest that they are on a worthwhile expedition.
Neither do I constantly demand anything that’s going to make my life a little bit better but, again, The Cure hint that they’re doing this and more. What they’ve done here is the equivalent of an album of Enid Blyton reading packaged as readings from Angela Carter. No, It’s maybe not that awful-good. it’s just that in 1979 people shouldn’t be allowed to get away with things like this(the Cure are absolute conformists to vaguely defined non-convention). There are just too many who do (Doll By Doll, Punishment Of Luxury, Fischer Z). Fatigue Music. So transparent, light and…oh how it nags.


Prayers On Fire

”Prayers On Fire” is the first LP by The Birthday Party and to this day it remains one of the most disturbing pieces of music ever made. Beginning with tribal drumming and chanting, complete with a menacing bass-line on the opener “Zoo-Music Girl” and all the way to the sickeningly distorted “parody” of a blues song “Kathy’s Kisses”, the album works like a ride to a morbid party in Hell, happening in a deranged maniac’s mind. The word “sick” is probably the best adjective to describe any track on this record; this sickness is present on every song, taking over the listener in the process.
It’s an awesome kind of sickness.
After a few spins one starts to see some sort of logic in The Birthday Party’s music. The core of it is the rhythm section, which bears the most obvious traces of blues’ influence. Guitars provide disturbing hysterical coating for the songs, little creepy melodies crawling their way into the structure here and there; and sometimes there’s hardly any melody what’s so ever and guitars just make noise, intensifying the insanity. And then, of course, there are the vocals.
It’s a bit weird to think that the ranting madman behind the mic would go on to sing with Kylie Minogue in 1996. Cave’s vocals on this are blissfully crazy and intense and it’s hard not fall in love with his performance. He shrieks, grunts, yelps and screams, seemingly loosing himself in his own world, delivering delusional nightmarish lyrics that only a mind as twisted as his could come up with. There’s hardly any singing on this album: when Nick hits an actual note it seems like an accident. For this kind of music actual singing would seem inappropriate anyway.
The Birthday Party are closer to Joy Division (only more theatrical), the Pop Group (only spookier), or Pere Ubu (only more percussive). Though present on most of the tracks, the moody piano that would dominate much of Cave's solo work is never really prominent here. Instead it's the squiggles of Rowland Howard's guitar dodging the blows of the furious rhythm section that distinguishes The Birthday Party.
Overall, this album is definitely not for everyone, unless you want to torture other people with it, in which case, there more people hear it the merrier. But if you’re keen of dark, menacing music and the perspective of listening to jazz and blues being sodomized and bludgeoned to death sounds good to you, then surely give “Prayers Of Fire” a try.