My brother, my brother, is a drummer, a drummer, in a band from Stroud called Blurt – They break my ears!
I once bolted when confronted by Blurt’s wall of noise, it was so loud, so discordant that my flight/fight instincts kicked in and I just fled. To be fair I was only 14 and left to my own devices I had picked them to go and see out of the program at the 1986 WOMAD festival because I liked their name. They ambled onto a starkly lit stage and, from memory, without any warning lead saxophonist dude Ted Milton just started making the loudest, most discordant sounds I had ever experienced. I remember the noise was like a solid wave crashing over and into us. Two tracks later and I was long gone.
Ten years later I stumbled across a record with a funny cover on a market stall in Chester, Blurt In Berlin. The name of the track ‘My Mother Was a Friend of an Enemy of The People’ was the thing that tipped the scales for me and I wanted to show that I couldn’t be beaten. Twenty years later again I’ve just about got there. Blurt’s noise doesn’t frighten me much anymore, I find it bracing.
In fact, if you’re looking for a gentle introduction you could do a lot worse than cue up side 2 opener ‘Get’, which is a jaunty and spritely number that sounds like the unruly delinquent brother of a perfectly blameless rockin’ 50’s tune about cars and girls. It’s quite brilliant, Milton’s shrieking sax and strident vocals sit almost totally at odds with the skittering, steady rocking beats of his drummer brother Jake Milton*, but somehow it all melds perfectly. I’m also a big fan of the dark clunky machine funk of ‘Tube Plane’, which sounds a good decade ahead of its time and also completely in tune with the whole No New York crew over the pond, more so than any band from Stroud should do.
But I haven’t revisited In Berlin to paddle around in the shallow end of the pool, let’s just leap straight into the shark-infested waters of ‘Cherry Blossom Polish’ where an ominous off-key rhythmic backing gets squonked all over quite brilliantly, Albert Ayler style for a few minutes before that Mr Milton pops up to start proclaiming things I can barely make out – you end up treating his vocals like a textural noise, rather than trying to decipher them. There are definite Birthday Party similarities here, albeit far more instrumental sophistication and whereas that Mr Cave snarled, spat and howled, this Mr Milton is generally more tuneful; The Pop Group are another reference that comes to mind but Blurt are less scratchy.
As well as being an avant-garde sax-botherer and poet Ted Milton is a puppeteer too, ‘Puppeteers of The World Unite!’ is a pretty hardcore noise, it starts off like a two chord Brechtian waltz and then lurches into spasmodic blowing, tempo changes and bellowing – this is scary. Imagine going on a date with the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? this song sounds like what you’d wake up to him doing to you after he’d slipped you a Mickey in your drink. True story.
My favourite track on In Berlin is, of course ‘My Mother Was a Friend of an Enemy of The People’. From the incomprehensible chanting at the beginning of the track**, the band lurch into a groove that could almost be a slightly jazzier Stooges, which then allows the singer to rant all over the top of it in a most entertaining manner – talking, singing, mouthing off in an exaggeratedly mannered fashion:
My brother, my brother, is a drummer, a drummer, in a band from Stroud called Blurt – Liberate my ears!
I have no idea if the line is ‘liberate my ears’, or ‘they break my ears’, or even something else entirely, it doesn’t matter by this point meaning and order aren’t hugely helpful concepts here anymore, it’s all about survival now.
The last track ‘Ubu’ is also a cracker, Pete Creese and Jake Milton laying down another autistically insistent two-chord stomp, which when Milton joins in on sax ends up sounding like the Stooges would have done if Steve Mackay had been a full-on member, rather than an occasional contributor. This one will test your noise tolerances, although I do rather appreciate the snatches of the melody line from ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ that crop up here and there.
In Berlin was recorded in, umm, Berlin live on 13 December 1980 but you’d barely know it, there’s maybe one snatch of crowd noise on the whole LP, from personal experience I’d imagine that’s because the rest of the time they were just staring white-faced and stricken at the stage. You know what though, 30 years on I’d be about ready to see them again, reckon I’d last longer this time too.
Start with some gentle Blurt:
*drummer of early 70’s prog lobsters Quintessence.
**I think they’re shouting ‘Blurting!’ over and over.