Having already bought the singles "There goes Concorde again" and "Larry's Coming Back" I was quite excited when this collection first came out. Concorde has appeared on a few compilations in recent years and is quite well known. It's also one of the better pieces on the CD, while I got rid of Larry soon after I bought it and never regret doing so every time I hear the track on CD.
I have endured listening to this CD intermittently over the years and was still trying to convince myself it should retain a place in my CD collection while I was writing this review - mainly because it is so unconventional but I have finally decided I don't like at least half the 18 tracks, many of which are no more than curiousities.
It can be interesting but it's certainly not easy listening with stuff you're more likely to endure than to enjoy - though it's often hard to endure as well. Aspiring army intelligence officers might find "Middle of the Road Rage" (consisting mostly of the sound of pneumatic drills) helpful in getting detainees to talk, although I found it quite soothing - like listening to industrial rain.
Tunes like "Baboon Climbs the Mountain" and " Who will feed poor Prince" were perhaps inspired from 80s arcade computer games. Both are repetetive with a simple melody and a catchy chorus tune bolstered by Blatt speaking a bit and some randomly playing noisy instruments with scant regard to what else has been happening in the studio. I've caught myself singing the chorus for both of these although I was unable to proceed further.
My favourite tracks are "Which Way?"; "Punk Kissing"; "Tropical Fish in the Sink" and "Soap Opera"
It's the oldest of cliches to say they don't make 'em like this any more, but the plain truth is that they all too rarely made them like this then either. This CD collects together 6 tracks taken from the 3 singles released in the early 80's by "...and the Native Hipsters" (the band's full title) together with another 12 gems which have remained criminally unreleased for 20 years. Rumour has it there's more of this, as well... On the band's UK web site there's talk of plans to release more (and even new) material. It's impossible to simply describe the band's sound, as it varies so much from track to track. The diversity shown here is truly staggering, from the insistent horns and rhythm that drive forward the story of "Poor Prince"; the cheery singalong of "Mr Magic"; the mildly disturbing backing to "Tenderly Hurt me"; to the classic minimalism of "There goes Concorde again" itself. The band's core is William (music) and Blatt (vocals), with a wide selection of musicians dropping by to lend a hand. There are too many to list here, but if I mention David Cunningham - who worked with the Flying Lizards around the same time - this might give a loose pointer to where the band are coming from. The instruments used seem to be anything and everything that could add to the party. While no kitchen sink is credited, there *is* a "typewriter solo" in the middle of the title track. While most of the songs are centred round Blatt's vocals, "Middle of the Road Rage" features the Wandsworth Council Highways Department on pneumatic drills and William - on harmonica. The drills were recorded through "the very window that Blatt saw Concorde through". If you've never heard truly musical pneumatic drills, here's your chance. If you've never wanted to, then shame on you :-) Added to the mix on other tracks by William are various "noises". William was happy to use anything and everything that came to hand. In 1980 the 7" release of "There goes Concorde again" included a snippet of sheet music with a request to record it and send the results to the band for possible inclusion in a future project. Sadly it's unknown if this ever happened. The band's web site mentions that "Larry's coming back" was - years before sampling - to have been based on Ska record, but afraid of legal consequences the record company cried off. While the music varies from track to track, the one thing that is common to most of them ("Middle of the Road Rage" is an instrumental :-) is Blatt's vocals. Not that Blatt's singing is easily categorized either. Her distinctive vocals give each word and phrase a wide-eyed and unique charm. This is most obvious in the title track whose chorus consists of repeating the phrase "There goes Concorde again", but in Blatt's hands each repetition is given a character and emphasis of it's own. And the songs themselves tell so many stories. "Poor prince" is the tale of an Alsatian left unfed for days (the chorus "who will feed poor Prince?" takes on a much darker meaning towards the end). "Stuck" tells the story of someone who stuck their head through some railings and is "quite well held". In an old Melody Maker interview the band revealed this song contains a number of odd phrases that Blatt came out with in conversation including "don't believe in the Fire Brigade". Among the "new" songs my favourite is the "Story of two twins" in which Blatt makes up a story as she goes along (to the increased amusement of the musicians in the background). The tale ends up with a bus driven by two twins crashing into the Thames, floating downstream and then breaking the Thames Barrier "the pride of London that has just worked once and proved its worth". While Blatt increasingly struggles to maintain her composure, the musicians in the background openly crack up. As did I :-) "Mr Magic" - another new song - is as simple and as near to "pop" as the Hipsters ever got. In happier times this would make a good single. This CD is being released by the band at a bargain price. Only the un-curious amongst you have any excuse for not buying this record, and if you've read this far through the review, then why not treat yourself to one of the most diverse and entertaining releases of the last 20 years.
Like so much other wonderful stuff I discovered this via Stuart Maconies freak zone show on BBC RADIO 6. How to describe it? it's kind of like a Krautrock Shaggs fronted by a less twee Kimya Dawson and sprinkled with a special magical ingrediant known only to the Hipsters themselves. It's marvelous and anybody who doesn't like it is unworthy of ears. A classic right up there with the White Album and Yip Jump Music.
I brought "there goes concorde again" when it hit the charts in 1980 and found the sound so unlike anything i had heard before; and loved it.I got my cd from the bands own site Mecanical reclaimed music and got a lovely hand written letter hoping i would enjoy the music and William Wilding of the band was the writer.The album is marvellous and a truly unique band that deserve more attention, if your listening hipster's get recording.