For best results – play right loud! …
Christmas eh? it doesn’t half get in the way of blogging, what with all that family nonsense and goodwill to all folks type stuff going on all the time. Well rest assured gentle reader, there’s none of that happening right here.
The first time I played Electro Hippies The Only Good Punk … Is A Dead One I was terrified. It was late at night and I had just smuggled the LP into the house via the patented Auto-Delay method*. I knew them as local grindcore contemporaries of Napalm Death, Dr & The Crippens^ and Extreme Noise Terror and I wanted something aggressive, naively political and perfunctory. I lit a candle put on the LP and was exposed to … the strangest, nauseating, wibbly-wobbly music I had ever heard.
It was horrible sounding … slow … almost jazzy and avant-garde. Really not what I had been led to expect from them. It genuinely made me uneasy and bilious, reaching an apotheosis of sorts on the track ‘Freddy’s Revenge’. I had expected an all-out brutal attack, lots of ranting and thrillingly aggressive incompetence, just the way I like it, and here they were coming on like the bastard children of Flipper, Zappa and the Melvins. I may even have been a little bit sick in my mouth. Not the usual sort of thing from Peaceville Records at all.
I was so moved I snuck it back on the shelf and didn’t dare touch it again for months. Funnily enough though, I did occasionally sidle over, pull it out and hide it away again – it just made me feel ill.
Last week I finally decided that I am 1537! I am not mouse! I will tame this thing! So out it came. I would not be beaten by it twice. I lit a candle, dared to ease The Only Good Punk … Is A Dead One from its’ sleeve and assumed the crash position. Reader, I married him.
Lord knows what my mental state was the first time I listened to it, or maybe my turntable contrived to spin in at a slower speed than it should have done but this time around … no mouth sick. Instead I discovered^^ a really energizing, utterly primitive, hunk of radical left-wing aggro crusty politics teetering on the edge of hardcore punk and what would later become all sorts of interesting micro genres of metal. As always I love it when genres collide, that’s always when the interesting things happen.
Take the none-more-metal anti-fox hunting, ‘Terror Eyes’, with the ludicrous bass distortion, growled vocals and fast section. The dense bass fuzz is used cleverly to give the Electro Hippies sound some real depth in what otherwise would be quite a tinny production – the guitar being submerged within and the drums sounding a bit distant. All manner of comparatively clean-cut death dudes Stateside built their spiky-logo’d careers on this chassis. Ditto ‘Profit’, which reminds me of Bad News’ ‘Warriors Of Genghis Khan’.
Amongst all this proto-grindcore riffage are some real short sharp blasts of attitude. The politics are rabidly angry, vegan, anti-corporate and leftwing. McDonalds get roasted on ‘Run Ronald’ and ‘Scum’ as do BP on, umm, ‘BP’ which recites a litany of the company’s sins – with the most venom being reserved for the tag ‘Vivisectionists’. The fact that there are definite traces of Motorhead in both the latter tracks does Electro Hippies no harm with me at all.
The Only Good Punk … Is A Dead One serves up enough variation over 20 tracks to keep the attention without it feeling like you’ve been sitting in front of a guy with a megaphone on a long bus ride. The blurred vocals on ‘Tortured Tears’, or the actual guitar solo (!) on the 4-minute long (!!) ‘Things Of Beauty’ for example, as well as the ranting ‘Protest’. Nine tracks here are under a minute long, which is always a good omen for me.
What really differentiates Electro Hippies for me is Jeff Walker’s bass playing, it is the main melodic instrument here, the real work horse. He went on to join Carcass in 1988, the year after The Only Good Punk … Is A Dead One, redefining the extreme edges of metal even further^*. He is also the only member of Electro Hippies who had a surname, so let us in passing hail Simon and Andy too.
The original LP ends on a whopper of a track, ‘Deception’. Here the band give us a gentle intro, then the Satan-with-a-sore-throat vocals start in and there’s even the ghost of a talkie bit before it all comes crashing down, riding out again on a gentle guitar wave. At 2:53 it is the Electro Hippies’ ‘Supper’s Ready’.
It would be interesting to hear what The Only Good Punk … Is A Dead Punk would sound like with better production and a little more time spent on it, but that’s to totally miss the point. In 1987 the world was going to hell in a handcart, corporate greed and intolerance were trampling on our rights and privacies – so it was made as an anti-statement; bang it out, move on. Thank goodness we have solved all those problems now.
I like Electro Hippies wibbly-wobbly approach, it is very different from say Discharge’s more martial attack, plus they left us with a Christmas song … of sorts.
(to be revealed in the next exciting instalment of 1537 brought to you by Saab and Adidas. Don’t touch that dial folks we’ll be right back after this message from our sponsors).
^long-revered here at 1537 Towers for their tracks ‘Nightmare On Sesame Street’ and ‘Anti-Christ On Button Moon’.
*leave the contraband behind the front seat in the car until the fearsome gorgon has retired to her boudoir/been distracted and then sneak out to fetch it under cover of darkness – thus avoiding several hard-to-answer questions about how many LPs bought that month and the all-time killer ‘How many albums do you really need?‘**
**Note to fellow addicts, do not answer this question honestly; ‘All of them’ did not generate a positive reposnse.
^^note ‘discovered’, not ‘endured’.
^*and being billed by them as Frenzied Fornicator of Fetid Fetishes & Sickening Grisly Fetes, which I am sure you will agree is a fabulous job title, if perhaps a little difficult to fit on a business card.