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Monday, September 06, 2004

THE LURE OF SALVAGE

"We need uh new broom to sweep it all clean/We need uh Beat Boom/We need uh new scheme/So break all the deadlocks and spill out the beer/ Mister Ditko was right: Mr. A is so near..." - NEW BROOM by Mr. Partridge.

Following on (sort of) from the last post is this Andy Partridge solo LP circa 1980:



(Apologies for the cropped album cover; this is all Woebotnik's fault. And my scanner.)

The sleeve-notes say: "This used to be some XTC records. It is now a collection of tracks that have been electronically processed/shattered and layered with other sounds or lyrical pieces" (which prob. sums it up better than I could). This was intended, I guess, as a follow-up to the GO+ EP (and a tax-break/loss-leader for Virgin: XTC were never exactly major players, and a mixing-desk deconstruction of some album tracks? Yeeesh. Forget it...).

Always preferred GO+ until about ten minutes ago. Listening to this for the first time in Christknowshowlong 'n' I'm a/mazed at how great it sounds. Unlike 'real' Jamaican Dub, which is all about space and the alche-magical transformation of sound into liquid, this is brittle, dense and congested; it sounds panicky and claustrophic; the ab/use of tight, multi-millisecond delay gives the drums the sort of skeletal/metal feel that I invoked in my Cliff Richards Reimagined Post. Even today, the thought of a Alternoverse Pre-Electronic Glam Analogue that uses a metallicised 'Mechinik Dancing' style riddim-section in combo with Ronno's gliding guitar-tones, pumping bar-room piano, multitracked handclaps and Eno's VCS3 set to 'Random Modulation' still gives me a stiffy.

Partridge, along with co-conspirator/producer John Leckie, created something that's (in places) genuinely forward-looking and alien just by using 'real-time' tape 'n' FX manipulation of 'real' instruments. Oh, okay, and some over-dubbing too. But it's not Dub, alright? And it's not Arthur Russell either. It's too Straight, too uptight, too damn White...and the LP's dated fairly well, I think, because they hadn't yet entered the Era of Gated Snares (Prog by Proxy) that characterised the sound of so many Mid-Eighties albums.

Some of the rhythm-tracks have been deliberately slowed down and this creates an under-tow of tension that pulls at Partridge's frantic, hyperventillating vocals...his words try desperately to escape the dragging quicksand tug of the drums and the bass, but they never quite make it: it's like one of those nightmares where you're desperately running through glue to escape an unseen, unimaginable menace...

"Work Away Tokyo Day" sounds like a lost mid-period gem by The Residents (Partridge not-so-secretly guested on The Commercial Album), and if you played "The Rotary" at Williamsburg's Aerosol Burns and told the punters it was an unsigned college band from Staten Island, then representatives of Troubleman and DFA would be duking it out to sign 'em on the spot. ("The Ro-Tar-eee! Yes-sir-EEE!") Partridge's guitar sounds like Andy Gill after an amyl binge: I'd forgotten just how truly frazzled XTC sounded in their early days.

Partridge suffered a stage fright-induced nervous collapse in March, 1982 and XTC never toured again. It was time to calm down and take it easy: the band drifted into a sort of studio-bound middle-age torpor that still produces the occasional gem, but the ragged intensity has long since gone. It's almost a shame that they're happy for History (and Mojo magazine) to recast them as quaint English Pastoralists. But, hell, who am I to judge?

Great titles on this one, too: "The Forgotten Language of Light"; "Steam Fist Futurist"; "Shore-Leave Ornithology (Another 1950)". Was it ever released on CD? I've no idea.

Play some of this LP in conjunction with the dense, (brooding,) hollow clatter that makes up most of The Associates' 'Fourth Drawer Down' and it starts to sound like a missed opportunity; a side-road never travelled.

1 Comments:

At 9:40 pm, Blogger dubversion said...

god, i really thought i was on my own with that Partridge album.. not the most focussed album ever but still a great listen..

my friend's late dad was the hypnotherapist who tried to cure Partridge of his stagefright, to no avail. but my friend still has a beautiful handmade Advent Calendar he gave her that one day i shall obviously have to steal !!

 

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