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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive Josef K compilation, 26 Nov. 2006
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This review is from: Entomology (Audio CD)
There have been a few compilations of Josef K - `Endless Soul', `Young and Stupid' - as well as reissues like `The Only Fun in Town' and several live albums, but `Entomology' feels like the definitive compilation of the shortly lived/hugely influential act known as Josef K. As several have pointed out, this is very much a companion to last year's compilation of Postcard-era Orange Juice, the fantastic `The Glasgow School.'

Josef K were label mates and relatives of O J, their darker cousins if you like - as with OJ, they had clearly listened to `Spiral Scratch' and the angular joy that was Television, but unlike OJ, they were a bit darker. Their name, stemming from Franz Kafka's `The Trial', is a hint at the fact they were probably closer to the long-coated acts with a hint of the gothic at the time - `Drone' sounds like the missing link between Joy Division and Swell Maps, while the syn-drum elements and wild guitar are similarly JD on `Sense of Guilt' - one of several tracks stemming from the aborted debut album `Sorry for Laughing' (I'm also reminded a little of Paul Haig associate Billy Mackenzie). It's interesting that both Josef K and OJ abandoned their debuts, which fortunately labels like Domino are making available again.

The 22 tracks here stem from those treasured Postcard 7"s, the aborted debut, the debut proper `The Only Fun in Town', and concluding with their 1981 Peel Session - so utterly comprehensive then! Josef K's influence turned out to be quite vast for such a culty band, rumoured to have been the least favourite of the acts put out by Alan Horne. They were part of Paul Morley's New Pop formulation, touched on in the sleeve notes from Mr Morley (mine aren't complete and are sadly just an excerpt as I am working from a promo copy). Acts such as Big Flame and The Wedding Present certainly displayed the intense jangly guitar rhythms of Josef K, while in more recent years acts such as Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, and Interpol have most definitely been tapping into this realm. FF have made a bigger, more commercial version of it - but you do wonder when these acts are going to advance on Josef K, or other acts from the celebrated era we now call Post Punk. The epic `Revelation' sounds like a much more DIY/subtle take on the territory of Interpol's `Roland' (which is more overtly rock and even a bit reminiscent of The Jam), while a more subtle track like `The Specialist' by the `Pol could not exist without the precedent set here.

The most well known track is `Sorry for Laughing', which is not to say it's that well known, despite sounding like a hit single in my imaginary universe. This was memorably worked into an industrial-pop song by Propaganda, a band on ZTT who were associated with Josef K-devotee Paul Morley - the version on `A Secret Wish' is up there with their own classics `Duel' and `P-Machinery.' But for the most part, the material here probably isn't as known as it should be...

`Chance Meeting' has quite an expanded sound and distinguishes itself from the intensely angular likes of `Radio Drill Time', `It's Kinda Funny', & `Heads Watch' - I'm sure there was an Orange Juice member (or two?) on this and it feels more like an OJ track than a Josef K one. It's almost Spectoresque for the DIY indie label! - pianos and horns and stuff all over it. Haig sounds fantastic as he tells us "You lived in the past dear..." which is a line that becomes more important as we march on and gaze back at the galaxy of pop music. B-side `Pictures (Of Cindy)' is a very welcome inclusion, c'mon kids, one listen and you'll send that Bloc Party album to the nearest bin!!

The material from `The Only Fun in Town' more than stands up, five tracks including such highlights as `Fun'N'Frenzy' (which gave the title to a chapter in Simon Reynolds' `Rip It Up & Start Again') , `Heart of Song' (muscular white funk inflected stuff up there with early Gang of Four), and `Crazy to Exist', which gave the title to an earlier JK-reissue and is kind of a template for the better side of C-86.

The final single was `The Missionary', which stemmed from a Peel Session in 1981, so it's nice that b-side `The Angle' is included - setting the tone for the final Peel-derived triad of `Heaven Sent' , `The Missionary', and a cover of Alice Cooper's `Applebush.' `Heaven Sent' is a richer, refined take on their earlier sound - though you wonder if Josef K had reached the end of that cycle naturally, it's hard to imagine several albums of this stuff. `The Missionary' was a fantastic farewell, at just under four minutes it was kind of epic for them, if they ever reformed, this would have to be the last song they played. `Applebush' doesn't sound much like anything else here, a bit poppier and reminding me of someone who is on the tip of my cortex - Swell Maps? The Only Ones? It'll come to me soon...

It was a brief and brilliant career and one definitively captured here - the `Sound of Young Scotland' was fantastic and they were one of those great acts from that time alongside the Mackenzie/Rankine-Associates, Aztec Camera, The Fire Engines, and Orange Juice. They were also one of the most interesting post punk acts , one to file alongside Swell Maps, Pere Ubu, Scritti Politti, The Fall, Wire, Gang of Four, Dirk-Adam & the Ants, The Slits, Magazine, and The Pop Group (to name several, but not all). Paul Haig went on to have a neglected solo career, alongside collaborating with Billy Mackenzie on material later titled `Memory Palace', while Malcolm Ross later joined Aztec Camera and Orange Juice (`Punch Drunk' sounds like a more psychedelic take on the Josef K sound), as well as appearing on the later work of the late Mackenzie. Not sure about the others. They didn't play encores. They were a bit existential. They never got groupies. They weren't Haircut 100. They were Josef K and this is `Entomology.' Your history lesson for today then...
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Initial post: 5 Feb 2010, 13:09:11 GMT
Wherever I look on Amazon I see this Parkes guy putting in his two penneth. If you actually read his reviews, he doesn't talk very much about the album he's reviewing. Its more a case of name dropping as many other bands into the review as possible in order to make himself look as knowledgeable as possible. Tiresome stuff, and quite often incorrect I've found.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Feb 2010, 09:10:51 GMT
He was the number 1 reviewer on Amazon for five years and was interviewed in the Guardian (or similar publication... I can't remember the specifics), so clearly not everyone would agree. At any rate, I don't think you quite understand the purpose of the comment section. It was intended to be a place for discussion; for the reader to ask the author for any additional information about the product not covered in the original review. It wasn't intended as an outlet for posting nasty, mean-spirited comments or personal insults directed at the person responsible. Your last two comments are closer to trolling than the civil exchange of opinion that one you might expect to find between intelligent human beings.

If you don't like this review then write your own. That is the purpose of the site.
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