Monday, January 24, 2011

Brigandage - Pretty Funny Thing EP (Gung Ho, 1986)

And so we come to Brigandage, once described as “the other half of the Positive Punk equation, the other half being Blood and Roses.” (I forget who said that – could it possibly have been that Mick Mercer chap?). Speaking of the mighty Mick, in The Gothic Rock Black Book (Mercer, Omnibus Press, 1988), he suggests the band may have originally been named Pistolian Brigandage, but I can’t find any other references to back this up.

Coming to public attention in 1983 via the now infamous and controversial NME article by Richard North (who would later join the band on bass) and the highly questionable South of Watford doco, they would go on to release “Hide and Seek” on Dave Sexgang’s The Whip compilation (Kamera Records, 1983) before a long period of silence.

The Pretty Funny Thing EP (Gung Ho, 1986) stands as the band’s only official release. That said, the NME article mentions a song called “Hope” that does not appear to have been recorded elsewhere, so clearly either demos or bootlegs were actively circulating at the time.

Opening with the obviously Velvet Underground influenced title track, we move quickly into more “Gothy” territory. Similarities with the Blood and Roses sound are clearly apparent here, yet despite this, the real musical similarities are, oddly for a UK outfit, with US deathrock bands, most obviously 45 Grave, albeit stripped of the campy horror trappings.

Sadly, like Blood and Roses, Brigandage weren’t able to capitalize on their initial publicity and by the time this EP came out in 1986, tastes were beginning to change and one can’t help but suspect that this must have sounded quite dated.

Nevertheless though, while remaining Blood and Roses poor cousins, the Pretty Funny Thing EP does have charms on its own merits, and should you find yourself singing along to “Horsey Horsey” after listening to it, you shouldn’t be surprised.

Actual tracks from the EP are rare to find on Youtube, so "Horsey Horsey" is all we have, but a live concert bootleg filmed at Jon Fat Beasts’ Time Box  in 1986 in six parts has also been unearthed. Available evidence suggests it may have been one of their last.

Track Listing:
  1. Pretty Funny Thing
  2. One Touch
  3. Ripped and Torn
  4. Horsey Horsey
  5. I Need Something Pt 1
  6. I Need Something Pt 2
  7. Angel of Vengence

Line Up:
Michelle Brigandage (vocals, guitar), Richard North (bass, vocals), Glen (guitar), Des (Drums).

Michelle went on to fashion design, examples of which can be seen on their website - her "wake me up before you pogo" shirt made me laugh a lot - although you probably need to be of a certain age to appreciate it. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

March Violets fundraiser a success!!!

More great news on the reunion front as The March Violets announce that they’ve met their target pledge amount that will enable them to record a brand new album. Better still, having made a pledge myself, I now get a free download of the album and a T-shirt, which naturally makes me a very happy chappie.

Looks like they’re still accepting donations though, and they’ve still got lots of loot to give away. So if you felt like pledging purple, just click the link below:

Hot damn! This calls for celebrations and dancing! Here’s some footage from their 2007 reunion. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Plunder the Tombs' New Facebook Page

I know some folks can’t be bothered starting up a Google account just so they can follow their favourite blogs.

So to make life easy for you, I’ve started up a Plunder the Tombs page on Facebook. Just go to it, hit “Like” and you’ll receive a notification whenever this blog puts up something new.

Psi Com – self titled EP (Mohini Records, 1985)

Another entry in the “before they were famous” category, Psi Com being the first band to feature the talents of Perry Farrell, later of Jane’s Addiction, Porno for Pyros and Lollapalooza fame. Percussion was far from orthodox, utilizing hubcaps and car engine blocks as well as more conventional drums.

The self-titled EP was the only official release by Psi Com. Pressings were limited to 1500 vinyl copies on the band-owned label. This in itself would have made it rare enough, but more than half the original pressings were warped (and one presumes, unplayable), a factor reportedly intrinsic in Psi Com’s soon to follow break up.

It’s an intriguing album that abounds with allusions to American Indian culture, Hindu mysticism and Aleister Crowley’s system of tarot. At first glace, the cover art appears to be a girl dancing along the shoreline, but closer inspection reveals this to in fact be a corpse superimposed on the background photograph. The album itself eases in and out of tribalistic rhythms, psychedelic influences and odd  moments of introspection. Despite this though, there remains something oddly disengaged and detached about the experience that is difficult to put your finger on. Perhaps it’s easier if you listen for yourself:

Track Listing:
  1. Ho Ka Hey
  2. Human Condition
  3. Xiola
  4. City of 9 Gates
  5. Winds

The self titled E.P was later re-released on CD by Triple X Records (1993) and is still available. However, should you be one of those die-hard vinyl junkies, at time of writing a copy of the original pressing is for sale on - it can be yours for a very reasonable $1,600 USD.

Line Up: Perry Farrell (vocals, percussion), Vince Duran (guitar), Kelly Wheeler (bass), Aaron Sherer (drums).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bauhaus – In The Flat Field (4AD-1980)

Seriously, what do you want me to say?
The mere idea of trying to objectively review this one actually terrifies me beyond belief.

As with any scene, there is justifiable argument about where Goth started; Siouxsie, Joy Division, Gloria Mundi, Killing Joke, UK Decay and others all laid the groundwork, but it was Bauhaus with the deliberately toungue-in-cheek Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Small Wonder Records, 1979) that unintentionally both defined and refined a genre.

Although three-quarters of Bauhaus had known each other through various bands kicking around Northampton previously, the band coalesced when Pete Murphy was asked to join as vocalist, an inspired choice since despite a lack of either musical or lyrical experience he would go on to become one of the most legendary front men the post-punk scene would ever produce.

Initially known as Bauhaus 1919, the numerals were long gone by the release of Bela Lugosi’s Dead. Several more singles followed; Dark Entries (Axis, 1980), Terror Couple Kill Colonel (4AD, 1980), and  a cover of T-Rex’s Telgram Sam (4AD, 1980) before the band rolled out In the Flat Field (4AD, 1980), thereby releasing the first full length LP that indisputably belonged to the then nascent scene.

After so many years of DJing Goth clubs and radio shows, this seems a quite extraordinary mea culpa, but apart from compilations and the exemplary Press the Eject and Give me the Tape live album (Beggars Banquet, 1982), it’s only in recent years that I’ve ever owned an actual studio album by Bauhaus, so it’s genuinely interesting to hear this.

While I usually place much emphasis on listening to the original album under discussion, in the case of In The Flat Field this doesn’t actually add much since so much of it  has already included on many well-known compilation albums. Nevertheless, these familiar numbers set the template for everything that followed and are well worth revisiting.
Anyhow, no serious exploration of the early scene can realistically avoid including them.

Although the album does include lesser tracks like “Dive” and “Small Talk Stinks”, I do think the closer “Nerves” is frequently overlooked, is generally not included on best-ofs and rates a special mention. Beginning in a fairly nondescript fashion, this number builds and builds until the album climaxes in an aggressive and neurotic explosion as Pete chants “NERVES OF NYLON, NERVES OF STEEL” over and over again, thereby concluding In the Flat Field in a manner both disconcerting and unforgettable.

Reviews in the British press were predictably negative, most bizarrely from Dave McCulloch who, with unintentional irony wrote:
"No songs. Just tracks (ugh). Too priggish and conceited. Sluggish indulgence instead of hoped for Goth-ness. Coldly catatonic."  Sounds, November 1980.

Given the album in question, one is left in jaw-dropping bewilderment as to exactly what Mr McCulloch esq. actually thought "goth-ness" might entail. It remains an interesting review anyhow, since it is also one of the earliest uses of the term "Goth" I've seen applied to the genre.

Bauhaus would go on to release another three full length albums and numerous singles before breaking up in 1983, ironically just as the scene they had given so much to was beginning to be universally understood as “Goth”. Peter Murphy went on to a solo career best remembered for the awesome if very Bowie-esque single "Cuts You Up" (RCA, 1989) while the rest formed first Tones on Tail followed by the much better known Love and Rockets.

They’ve reformed several times since, the most recent reformation resulting in the new studio album Go Away White (Bauhaus Music, 2008). 

This project unfortunately seems to have ended badly with no supporting tour and vows to never work together again following what is now referred to only as “the incident”, details of which the band seem exceedingly coy to reveal.

Track listing:
  1. Double Dare
  2. In the Flat Field
  3. A God in an Alcove
  4. Dive
  5. The Spy in the Cab
  6. Small Talk Stinks
  7. St. Vitus Dance
  8. Stigmata Martyr
  9. Nerves
In the Flat Field has since been re-released an astonishing number of times by many companies around the world, the CD versions generally featuring numerous bonus tracks.

Line up: Peter Murphy (vocals), Daniel Ash (guitar), David J. Haskins (bass), Kevin Haskins (drums).

What’s that?
You wanted Bela Lugosi’s Dead?
Sorry, not on the album.
Then again, I guess not including it would be a bit like reviewing Led Zeppelin without talking about Stairway to Heaven, so by way of compromise, here it is, all 9+ glorious minutes of it - Goth's very own Stairway to Heaven.