Sunday, 23 April 2017

Volume 15 Side 4 - Wolfgang Press, Moonshake, Spitfire, Daisy Chainsaw, Sultans of Ping FC

1. Wolfgang Press - A Girl Like You (4AD)

"The Wolfgang Press have been together now for the best part of a decade, in which time they have released a myriad of experimental work from the PiL influenced 'Burden of Mules' to last year's cover of Randy Newman's 'Mama Told Me Not To Come'. 'A Girl Like You' follows on from the success of their '91 'Queer' album".

Well, this is unexpectedly groovy and sultry - an indie take on Barry White, if you will, a short period before Pulp emerged to reinvent themselves as the bedroom activity obsessed indie disco kings.

"A Girl Like You" wasn't a hit and was generally missed by most people at the time, but its growling, seductive style completely pre-empted the tendency for other indie bands to mine the seventies for sexy disco influences. Unlike some of their overly ironic or musically inept peers, though, Wolfgang Press manage to create something that's so slickly produced that you could almost imagine it being a relic of that era. It's so smooth you could almost slip over and do yourself an injury on it. This is a work of admiring emulation rather than rude and slapdash parody.

2. Moonshake - Secondhand Clothes (Too Pure)

"Hailing from various corners of Hackney, Moonshake have quickly established themselves as one of the most innovative bands around. This, the band's second single, captures perfectly their experimentation with hip-hop beats and dub bass sounds and like its predecessor found its way into the upper reaches of the independent charts. Moonshake are a four piece consiting of Margaret Fielder on vocals and guitar, Dave Callahan vocals and guitar, John Frenelt on bass and Mig on drums. They will be releasing their debut LP on Too Pure in October '92"

And of course, Dave Callahan had previously been a member of Indie Top 20 stalwarts The Wolfhounds, who we've already discussed several times over. Moonshake retained his furious, agitated lyrical observations and vocal delivery, but pitched them against deep dub basslines and urban beats. The net result sounded like nothing we'd heard before - comparisons to Public Image Limited were perhaps inevitable, but Moonshake's ideas were much more rounded. The fury is there, but the attack is carefully directed with a calm but vengeful precision.

"Secondhand Clothes" begins like a relatively simple indie track, then gradually gets swamped with squally discordant riffs which almost resemble experimental jazz in places. The net end result is a song that slowly sucks you into its nightmare. "They smelt of ghosts... strangled all my hopes" sings Margaret Fielder about thrift store clothing, shortly before another sonic attack arrives. It's not a happy sounding record, but Moonshake produced unique and daring material which sat way outside the usual pigeonholes that most 1992 groups contentedly sat in. To me, this always sounded like an entirely appropriate and slightly frightening noise to have emerged from the rough edges of London society - and make no mistake, Hackney was ROUGH in those days.

3. Spitfire - Wild Sunshine (Eve)

"Spitfire wear tight back trousers and winkle pickers. They've got long hair and frightening confidence. They describe themselves as 'one of the most talented bands around at the moment'. The NME recently commented that Spitfire are 'sleek, fast and sexy'. Just remember, it's not the car, it's not the plane, it's the attitude".

"Wild Sunshine" does a very good job of continuing my theory that Spitfire simply landed at the wrong time - it's a wah-wah infested rock jam which speeds along like its life depends on it, kicking any doubters out of the way. Ocean Colour Scene were effectively still a baggy band at this point, but they'd have killed to have been riffing and rattling along in this determined a way five years later.

It is a track which demonstrates more "attitude" and instrumental prowess than songwriting skills, though, and it did sound slightly out of place in 1992. You can't fault Spitfire's execution - the drumming here in particular is utterly formidable - it's just they always sounded as if they were having a far better time than most listeners, wrapped up in their own noise, flicking the Vs merrily as they went along. As documented on here before, the one time I caught them live they furiously told the audience off for not enjoying their performance enough. That's proper rock and roll arrogance, folks.

4. Daisy Chainsaw - Pink Flower (One Little Indian)

"AC/DC, Bowie, Can, Dead Boys, Everly Brothers, Fugazi, The Gap Band, Hendrix, Iggy, Joy Division, Kinks, Lords of the New Church, Motown, No Means No, Orange Juice, Psychedelic Furs, Suzi Quatro, Rufus, Supremes, Temptations, Uriah Heep, Gene Vincent, Stevie Wonder, XTC, Young Gods, Tabitha Zu... with a list of influences this long and varied, Daisy Chainsaw can  be nothing else except out of this world".

Following "Love Your Money", there was an expectation that Daisy Chainsaw would continue having chart hits and eventually become a band with a large, devoted cult following. In reality, their work tended to be met with both critical derision and public confusion, and they quickly slipped back underground again.

"Pink Flower" is an example of where this problem arose from, being quite literally a song of two distinct halves - the treble-heavy uncomfortable thrash of the first part, sounding almost but not quite like "Love Your Money Part 2", rapidly followed by the disorientating and bewildered sounding post-punk ambience of the last two minutes. It's jabbering, psychotic, agitated sounding art-punk, effectively, containing as many child-like twists and turns as a Cardiacs single, and really wasn't something most indie kids felt ready for at this time.

Minor fame also seemed not to agree with the lead singer Katie Jane Garside, who slipped away after their debut LP "Eleventeen" to apparently "go into seclusion", leaving the group to release one more LP in 1994 - "For They Know Not What They Do" - with Belinda Leith on vocals instead. Later, various members would be reunited with their original frontwoman in Queen Adreena, but so far as the early nineties were concerned, their work rose up into the mainstream like a terrifying swamp hydra before disappearing just as suddenly again, leaving people with only baffled memories. Did it really happen, or was it all a dream? Oh it did. It really happened.

5. Sultans of Ping FC - Stupid Kid (Rhythm King)

" ...The Sultans follow-up to their mind-boggling debut single 'Where's Me Jumper', a pean to the horrors of losing one's best jersey at the discotheque. Their debut album will be released around September '92". 

Sounding like a cheeky Spitting Image parody of The Fall at their most absurd, "Where's Me Jumper" was hilarious for the first three listens but rapidly became very trying. How many times did your favourite indie club DJ finish the evening with its nonsensical, barking prattle? I think I counted thirty times with mine, and that's possibly a conservative estimate. No, I don't need to be reminded of how it goes, thank you. It's etched on to my memory like the five times table. Still, it was easy to dance to like an idiot by yourself, which could be a comfort at difficult moments.

Most people banked on Sultans of Ping being a joke band with only one idea to their name, but they were a surprisingly deathless force in the early nineties, continuing with a string of quirky singles which managed to land reasonably respectable Top 75 places. "Stupid Kid" is another piece of agitated adolescent observational comedy, this time focussed on pseudo-intellectual student youths who in reality have as much depth as an episode of "Made in Chelsea". "Oh yeah! I like your rounded glasses/ make you look real coooool/ make you look real CLEVER!" sneers Niall O'Flaherty sarcastically, before turning his attention to the other pretensions the girl on the end of his accusing finger has. Trouble is, the line "Most of all, you like men with big bodies" always sat uneasily with me, as if this were the most damning thing you could say about someone. Had the skinny indie star, perchance, been given the cold shoulder by the stupid but probably quite attractive kid on question, and was now throwing a bit of a tantrum about it?

Whatever was going on, this is two minutes of jabbing mockery, and isn't going to go down in the history books as being any sort of indie classic. For some of us born around the early seventies, though, it will remain almost as dominant a memory as their first single, partly due to the equally enthusiastic manner club DJs got behind it in our teens and early twenties. In retrospect, I have to wonder if my local DJ, upon seeing lots of teenagers on the dancefloor gibbering "La-la-la, la-la-la, yeah yeah, la-la-la" in unison, thought "What a bunch of pricks - I'm surely too old to be dealing with this bullshit?" And if he didn't, he probably should have. After all, what were any of us but stupid kids while dancing along to this two minute burst of punk noise? In fact, what were any of us but stupid kids in general? Perhaps Sultans of Ping were more insightful than we ever gave them credit for, beckoning us with one hand, then pointing and laughing at us with the other.

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