jueves, 23 de marzo de 2017

The Desperate Bicycles

The Desperate Bicycles were an English punk band who released a series of independent recordings in the late 1970s and inspired many other bands to do likewise. The Desperate Bicycles pioneered the do-it-yourself ethic of punk, adopting a proselytising role exemplified by their ardent exhortation: "it was easy, it was cheap– go and do it!". The group have been described as "DIY's most fervent evangelists". 

The Desperate Bicycles formed in March 1977 "specifically for the purpose of recording and releasing a single on their own label". The band initially consisted of Nicky Stephens (keyboards), Roger Stephens (bass), Danny Wigley (vocals), Mel Oxer, (drums) and Paul LeClerc (guitar). The band's name derives from a passage in J. B. Priestley’s 1930 novel "Angel Pavement": "Turning into Angel Pavement from that crazy jumble of buses, lorries, drays, private cars, and desperate bicycles…". In October 1978 vocalist Danny Wigley expressed the motivation driving The Desperate Bicycles' independent stance: "The biggest hurdle is just believing you’ve still got some control over your life, that you can go out and do it".

In March 1977 The Desperate Bicycles booked a studio at Dalston in East London to record their first single. The band possessed only an amp and a bass-guitar and the studio supplied the other instruments and equipment; "with a lot of courage and a little rehearsal" they recorded two songs, "Smokescreen" and "Handlebars". The first record was released in August 1977 as an edition of 500 pressings on the band’s own Refill Records label. The records cost £153 to produce, which comprised the three hours studio time, the price of pressing and the sleeves. The record was unusual in that it featured the same tracks on both sides and was a mono recording. The song "Handlebars" ends with The Desperate Bicycles' strident DIY rallying cry "it was easy, it was cheap -go and do it!". Roger Stephens and Danny Wrigley hawked the 'Smokescreen' single around the small independent record shops, and distributors such as Virgin and Rough Trade. The first pressing sold out within four months resulting in a profit to the band of £210. Using this money a second pressing of 1,000 was made, which sold out in a fortnight. The profit from that was used to finance the pressings of The Desperate Bicycles' second single.

The drummer and guitarist had left the band soon after the recording of the 'Smokescreen' single, with the drummer being replaced by Dave Papworth, then aged 14 years. The new line-up went back to the studio in June 1977 and recorded another two songs, "The Medium was Tedium" and "Don't Back the Front". The second single was released in February 1978 in a pressing of 1,000 and sold out in a week. "The Medium was Tedium" incorporates "it was easy, it was cheap -go and do it!" as a refrain, urging others to follow the band’s example. "Don't Back the Front" contains the lines: "cut it, press it, distribute it / Xerox music's here at last". For The Desperate Bicycles 'do-it-yourself' "meant the overthrow of the establishment music industry through people seizing the means of production, making their own entertainment, and selling it to other creative and autonomous spirits". With the profit from their second single the group pressed a further 2,500 copies of each of their singles, and also purchased some more equipment.

In the second half of 1977, with a single in the market-place, The Desperate Bicycles were invited to perform at Eric's Club in Liverpool. The band were unprepared for a live gig –"Our first purpose was just to make and sell records". But with characteristic enthusiasm and persistence they re-learnt the songs they had recorded and wrote a batch of new ones. They set up a rehearsal room at New Cross in South London in order to practice the new material. On New Year’s Eve 1977 The Desperate Bicycles hired a van and drove to Liverpool for their first gig at Eric’s Club. The 'New Cross, New Cross' EP, consisting of six of the additional songs they had written, was released in May 1978. The Desperate Bicycles performed sporadically in 1978, including a Rock Against Racism benefit with Sham 69. In July that year they released another single. By October 1979 Roger Stephens and Dave Papworth were replaced by Dan 'Electro'/Driscoll (guitar) and Jeff Titley (drums), with Nicky Stephens taking up the bass-guitar. 'The Remorse Code' album was released in February 1980, reaching number 10 on the UK Indie Chart. The Desperate Bicycles disbanded in 1981. Danny Wigley and Jeff Titley, with Dennis Burns and Cameron Allan, recorded as Lusty Ghosts on the Refill label.

The music of The Desperate Bicycles has been described as: "Spindly, fuzzy, guttural guitars through puny amplifiers, reedy, wheezy organs, out of tune electric pianos, cardboard box drums and monotonous declamatory yet somehow utterly reasonable sounding vocals". Another reviewer described them as "a shambling wreck of a psychedelic post-punk band". The writer Simon Reynolds states that the group's music "was almost puritan in its unadorned simplicity, its guitar sound frugal to the point of emaciation" or "For the Desperate Bicycles, it was as though sloppiness and scrawniness became signs of membership in the true punk elect. The very deficiency of traditional rock virtues (tightness, feel) stood as tokens of the group's authenticity and purity of intent". The Desperate Bicycles were a group of amateur musicians who remained determinedly independent. Their enjoyment of the creative and technical processes of making music is revealed in their recordings. The example they set, their energy and enthusiasm and the simple message of "go and do it!", inspired a generation of punk and post-punk bands to follow in their footsteps, in both the UK and further afield. [SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA

miércoles, 22 de marzo de 2017

Bush Tetras

New York's Bush Tetras had a no wave link, via guitarist Pat Place's association with James Chance, but the band's sound was neither frantic nor disjointed enough to be properly categorized with those bands. They played scrappy post-punk, with fellow Americans Pylon and Konk and Brits Delta 5 and Au Pairs as close contemporaries. If there's any one song the Bush Tetras are known for, it's 1980's "Too Many Creeps" -the band's most representative song and also the catchiest, made by the kind of jagged rhythms, slicing guitars, and sniping vocals that were used throughout their short lifespan. Perhaps the song wasn't quite insistent or hypnotic enough to become a smash single of the new wave era (released on the small 99 label, its reach was limited), but it could be argued that Romeo Void wouldn't have become popular without knowing about it. That band's "Never Say Never", a genius single in its own right, seemed to take a couple cues from the Bush Tetras; during a 2003 episode of VH1's Bands Reunited series, Romeo Void guitarist Peter Woods matter-of-factly confessed to being inspired by the sound of Place's guitar. 

After Place, bassist Laura Kennedy, drummer Dee Pop, and singer Cynthia Sley made their debut with an EP centered around "Too Many Creeps", signed with the U.K.'s Stiff label, and recorded another EP, 'Rituals', produced by The Clash's Topper Headon. The live cassette 'Wild Things', which included a cover of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey," was released by ROIR in 1983. By this stage, the Bush Tetras -along with Konk, fellow New Yorkers Talking Heads, and Manchester's A Certain Ratio- went outside the realm of Western music for inspiration. African and Caribbean influences played a significant role in their sound. This same year involved the exits of Kennedy and Pop and an eventual split. 

Post-breakup, most of the members went on to short-lived groups. Pop, his Tom Verlaine/John Cale-associate wife Deerfrance, and former 8-Eyed Spy member Michael Paumgardhen formed Floor Kiss; Sley and ex-Richard Hell & The Voidoids Ivan Julian had The Lovelies; Place helped out spoken word artist Maggie Estep. A while after these less significant projects dissolved, ROIR compiled all of the Bush Tetras' studio recordings and threw in some demos for 'Better Late Than Never'. ROIR being ROIR, it too was a cassette-only release. 

The original lineup got back together in 1995. 'Boom in the Night', another retrospective on the by-then-evolved ROIR, functioned as a CD version of 'Better Late Than Never', with all but one track from the earlier release included. It came out just before 1997's 'Beauty Lies', an album of new material that came and went without much notice. It had the bad fortune of predating the rocketing interest in post-punk that took hold during the early 2000s. In 1997, the Bush Tetras recorded the album 'Happy' for Mercury. Before it was released, Mercury was sold, its A&R staff laid off, and the album shelved. ROIR issued the album for the first time in 2012. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

martes, 21 de marzo de 2017

The Gist

The Gist was formed by Stuart Moxham as a side project from his post-punk/twee pop pioneering band Young Marble Giants, but their first single appeared on the racks six weeks prior to the split of Young Marble Giants, in December of 1980. 'Embrace the Herd', the group's lone LP, was released in May 1981. Reviewed favorably but not quite as glowingly as Young Marble Giants, the record shared a similar knack for dynamic but understated arrangements. A couple singles followed afterward, with the band dissolving by 1984 or so. For The Gist, Moxham recorded with a number of friends rather than a fixed set of bandmates. Former Young Marble Giants members Alison Statton and Phil Moxham helped out, as well as various people from fellow Rough Trade artists Essential Logic and Swell Maps. Moxham later issued a number of records under his own name. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC

lunes, 20 de marzo de 2017


One of the most talented and prolific bands on cult Manchester label Object Music, precocious avant-pop group Grow-Up released a pair of great lost albums, drawing comparisons with XTC, Captain Beefheart and even Weimar cabaret, but ultimately sounding like no-one else. 

In 1978, aged just seventeen, John Bisset-Smith was a student at Rochdale Art College, and an early member of the Manchester Musician's Collective. At about the same time Bisset-Smith was invited to audition for Spherical Objects, a new band being put together by songwriter and Electric Circus deejay Steve Solamar. Bisset-Smith remained with Spherical Objects for two years, recording the albums 'Past & Parcel' and 'Elliptical Optimism'. By 1979, however, the precocious guitarist was growing restless. 

Grow-Up recorded their debut EP 'Stay Awake' at Graveyard Studio on 17 February 1979. Released in April on 7" as OM 05, the record contained six short songs, four of which -"River", "Stay Awake", "Photo" and "So Long" lasted barely a minute. Grow-Up also featured on the next Object album project, also released in April and drawn from the talent pool of the Manchester Musicians' Collective. Now dominated by groups, gigs were organised on a rota basis at the Band on the Wall on Swan Street, and later the Cyprus Tavern. 

A short list of better known MMC bands includes Warsaw/Joy Division, Fast Cars, Frantic Elevators, Spherical Objects, The Not Sensibles, Slight Seconds, The Passage, A Certain Ratio, Grow-Up, Crispy Ambulance, Manchester Mekon and Dislocation Dance. A Manchester Collection, curated by Solamar and released on Object as OBJ 003, featured Grow-Up, IQ Zero and Manchester Mekon, as well as Fast Cars, Mediaters, Fireplace, F.T. Index, Slight Seconds, Vibrant Thigh, Property Of... and Picture Chords. Grow-Up contributed two of the best tracks, "You Are The One" and "Night Rally". 

In July 1979 Bisset-Smith cut his last album with Spherical Objects, 'Elliptical Optimism', and the first by Grow-Up, 'The Best Thing'. Both were recorded in tandem over five days at Pluto Studio, and produced by the band along with engineer Phil Ault. By turns touching, slapstick, humorous and barbed, the album boasted accomplished harmony, brass and woodwind arrangements, and intriguing lyrics from Bisset-Smith. 

Released in October as OBJ 005, 'The Best Thing' was some way ahead of its time, and attracted excellent reviews. The original Spherical Objects parted company in September 1979, after John Bisset-Smith moved to London to study at Ravensbourne art college. However, his place would be taken by Grow-Up guitarist Roger Blackburn, and there was no acrimony. 

With Object concentrating on album releases, the very last single on the label came courtesy of Grow-Up. Recorded at Revolution on 10 April 1980, and released in July as OM 12, lead track "Joanne" was described by the band as a 'quality pop song', while the flip featured a sequence of brief musical skits by Roger Blackburn: "Affirmation of Existence", "Reaffirmation of Existence" and "Swept Away", as well as Bisset-Smith's "GGGDADGADADAD". This attempt to enter the Guinness Book of Records went unnoticed by the compilers, and soon afterwards the original line-up went their separate ways. 

In February 1981, Steve Solamar decided to abandon his past life and identity to become a woman. Having failed to find a successor to take on Object as a going concern, the label closed down, although Solamar did finance the recording of a second Grow-Up album, 'Without Wings'. The album was recorded at Revolution in Cheadle Hulme (Manchester) in August 1981, with Stuart Pickering engineering. With Bisset-Smith now based in London, the new Grow-Up comprised two fellow students, Tony King (bass) and Harry Van Rooij (drums), along with regular guitarist Roger Blackburn.

Several tracks embrace an overt jazz feel, while overall the sound was more robust than on the Object releases. Although Solomar met the studio costs, manufacture and distribution was left to the band. The result was a disaster, and relatively few copies of the album reached the shops. "Do Choose", one of the two unreleased demo tracks from 1982 which close this double archive set, sets the scene for the end of Grow-Up. Indeed it would be another sixteen years before Bisset-Smith released another record. [SOURCE: LTM RECORDINGS

domingo, 19 de marzo de 2017

Nash The Slash

Imagine a blend of Gary Numan, early Pink Floyd, Jean-Michel Jarre, and The Stranglers and you have a sense of Nash the Slash's music. Born in Toronto in 1948, for much of his musical career Jeff Plewman zealously guarded his identity, appearing on-stage as Nash the Slash with his face swathed completely in surgical bandages. One of music's true eccentrics, he was the type of artist who appeared on an instrumental LP that billed itself as playable at any speed. 

Plewman first surfaced as Nash the Slash in 1976 as an electric violinist and mandolin player with vocalist, bassist, and synthesizer player Cameron Hawkins as FM. Rejecting the conformity of AM radio, they experimented electronically in the manner of Brian Eno. Similar to Andy Warhol and his Exploding Plastic Inevitable live presentation that helped launch The Velvet Underground, FM's hometown concert debut in Toronto blew away the crowd with an assault of visual images coupled with sound. It set the pattern for Nash's solo career, which began in 1978 with an audiovisual collaboration with painter Robert Vanderhorst, who would reappear later in Nash's career. Following his quirky vision, Nash wrote the music and played all the instruments, even handling the engineering and production at times during his first several albums. An exception was one tune that Daniel Lanois produced on 1982's 'And You Thought You Were Normal'. 

Nash regrouped with different incarnations of FM over the years. While his unconventional ideas limited collaboration possibilities, he recorded and toured with Numan. Nash scored soundtracks periodically, notably releasing a CD of his score for the 1991 Canadian cult favorite "Highway 61", which featured singer Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys in a small role. Nash's first two albums were repackaged on CD in 1997, and he continued to work on new material. However, he announced his retirement in 2012, stating on his website that he was "rolling up the bandages" given changes in the music scene and his own personal waning enthusiasm. Jeff Plewman, aka Nash the Slash, died in May 2014 at the age of 66. [SOURCE: ALLMUSIC