Today's collection of songs is from a band named after the hero of one of the most disturbing books ever written, 'The Trial' by Franz Kafka. However this album is neither harrowing not a trial, I salute it for the 22 (22!!) tracks of frenetic majesty, carried by the oddly languid yet simultaneously urgent singing of Paul Haig. Cobbled together in 2006 from a couple of albums as a kind of retrospective (the band only lasted about 2 years in total so there is not reams of stuff). the spiky guitar and discordant rhythms glue this recond together - in many ways the sound is oh so familiar - for that you can blame retrospective listening and newer bands such as Franz Ferdinand who 'borrow' and re-create the sounds of this time (somehow I never really got to liking FF very much though despite some entertaining singles) - it gets me thinking that it must have been something to be around in the early 80s when all these bands first appeared. But that is some regret not worth even thinking about as it involves birth and accidents of, okay so I was around then but too teeny wee to take much notice of anything not on the Top of the Pops radar. Stand out track for me has to be 'Sorry for laughing' whereby the singer apologises for laughing at someone for how they look, which despite its mean-spirited lyric is incredibly striking for being an attitude not many people would own up to. If I had to pick a fault (and be mean) I would say that I find the songs a little distant, aloof even, but after the emotional outpourings of the Associates it is not so disconcerting. Even if I haven't achieved anything today I can agree that I spent it in the company of some intriguing music.
Assisting my exploration of all things early 80s is Simon Reynold's Rip it up and start again a fine publication extolling the virtues and crazy stories behind the post-punk wilderness of the late 70s and early 80s. Prior to the bland synthesier led tribes dominating the mid to late 80s was an amazingly experimental time.... well of course there are always experimenters but judging by Reynold's book this decade had it in spades. That is how I came to learn that Scritti Politti, who I had been aware of but as a hopelessly sugary pop band so cloying I could feel my ears rotting just listening to it, were actually quite revolutionary. Singer Green Gartside did not hide his love of philosophy and Jacques Derrida and instead used the theories to craft his songs, a love of aphorias beneath the what could be considered to be rather mundane lyrics about love. So listening to one of their early efforts 'Skank Bloc Bologna' of their album intrigingly entitled 'Early' I was impressed by the lolloping bass and fragile guitars, the gentle chimes in the background and Green's fey vocals - the groove bizarrely reminds me of one of Blur's efforts although the name escapes me for the moment, but the same kind of 'itchy' melody for want of a better word, maybe fidgety would be more apt. But also with a strange laid back vibe, like there is nowhere for the group to direct their energies there being a lack of revolution in the UK at the time? Listening to 'Wood Beez' straight after from the mid-80s surprised me with its jarring difference (rather like listening to early associates and then diving straight into Billy Mackenzie's later offerings), now awash with swathes of synthesiser, the fey becomes sickening, synthesised choirs, that deadening 80s production that takes away any sense that human beings made the song... however maybe my ears have undergone a change but I rather liked it.