Glaxo Babies – Nine Months To The Disco

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  • Artist: Glaxo Babies
  • Released: 1980 on Heartbeat Records
  • Genre: Post-punk, experimental 

Ah, Glaxo Babies. They happen to make the same strain of mutant music along the likes of The Pop Group, and why wouldn’t they? They also happen to come from Bristol, the multi-cultural city that also spawned trip-hop in the early 90s’, and brought much more joy and mischief to post-punk in the form of funk/dub/jazz mashups. There’s another group that could be counted as the yin to Glaxo Babies’s sound: Maximum Joy, who made cheerier, raucous funk, along with fellows Rip Rig + Panic. But that’s for another review anyway.

Glaxo Babies formed in 1977 with original members Tom Nichols, Dan Catsis (current guitarist for The Pop Group) and Geoff Alsopp, and subsequently brought Rob Chapman onboard as singer. The line-up went through another drastic change (a completely new line-up, in fact, with Rob Chapman leaving after recording a few tracks) before they recorded Nine Months To The Disco. As a result of this, their approach to the record became much more experimental, throwing in liberal doses of jazz, sound-collaging, funk and dub and finishing the recording of the music within a day. Wow. Hats off to these guys, because it doesn’t sound shoddy at all. Glaxo Babies put out another album, Put Me On The Guest List in 1980, and continued to record music periodically until their demise in 1990.

In a nutshell, the closest approximation of Nine Months To The Disco would be something like the result of bringing bloodthirsty savages to a disco party. Tribal drums underpinned with tight, primeval bass riffs, sans the overt politicizing of The Pop Group – but with an ominous undercurrent.

Maximum Sexual Joy has oodles of orgasmic bass and funky scratching, with what appears to be a delirious masked orgy and neanderthals having some fun tearing people apart in progress, while Seven Days has the most intense driving bass rhythm ever, with the fractured piano improvisation fading in and out throughout. The eerie synths sweep in and out of the song like a pale spectre. Free Dem Cells finally sets the party alight, and sees trebly guitars face each other in a Gang Of Four-style showdown, with the drums and bass serving as the spectators instead, egging the guitars on with glee. I love the drums on this one – the high hats sound crispy enough, mmm. Album closer Shake (The Foundations) sees them ditch the genre-bending and go full out funk, which may come as a relief for some people, although it may also come as a disappointment to other people. Just saying.

 

 

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Gang Of Four – Entertainment!

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  • Artist: Gang Of Four
  • Released: 1979 on EMI Music
  • Genre: Post-punk, dance punk

Getting their namesake from a notorious group of influential Chinese Communist Party members, who were later imprisoned for treachery, Gang Of Four belonged to a cavalry of politically-minded English post-punk bands who mixed ideology with their music (think The Pop Group and Scritti Politti). However, while The Pop Group scared some music fans off, either by way of Mark Stewart’s banshee voice or their free-form fiery jazz-influenced music, Gang Of Four made their music enjoyable for all of us by plying their jagged guitar riffs with a dance sensibility. We can’t quote Kant or Nietzsche, or deliver confounding Marxist speeches as well as these guys, but we can fucking bring the house down if we dance. Maybe a government in the process as well. All in a day’s work, eh?

If you’ve heard Franz Ferdinand’s sexy machine riffs or Rage Against The Machine’s politically-infused lyrics, then you can probably see Gang Of Four’s shadow right there. It’s not difficult to see why Entertainment! is a post-punk favourite. Kurt Cobain listed it as one of his top 50 favourite albums in his personal journal. Pitchfork (rolls eyes) listed it as the eighth best album of the 70s’.

The punk is definitely there. All angry, occasionally fuzzed-up guitar, but it doesn’t degenerate into a testosterone-charged mess. The sound is sleek and tight in the way post-punk sounds like.The funk influence makes itself felt by its rumbling bass lines. You can’t miss em’. There’s a ton of them smexy beats on Not Great Men, and on Damaged Goods where the sexual dilemma of the 2010’s manifests itself 40 years earlier (“Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you/But it’s only lust”). The controversial one, Anthrax, has a deliciously fuzzed-up intro which also resembles Franz Ferdinand’s The Fallen (or should it be the other way round?). Why is it controversial? The rather cynical lyrics, that’s why. (“Love’ll get you like a case of anthrax/ And that’s something I don’t want to catch”).

Here’s a boombox-worthy sample: At Home He’s A Tourist below.

 

 

 

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