Saturday, June 20, 2009


Meet the fabulous, ultra-obscure Strip Kings, and the five jaw-dropping minutes of sonic turbulence that's Lightning Breed b/w Slow Panic. I don't have a clue who was behind this - the cover notes say it was recorded in London, but it's on a California-based label, with a big, reggae 7"-style hole in the centre. All I know is John Peel played it in 1996 and I was straight on the train to Rough Trade to bag a copy.

We're in garage revival territory - this is one seriously amped up disc, seemingly mastered at maximum volume, and the perfect soundtrack to jumping on a Honda CBX750 and chasing gaggles of screaming mods across the seafront. Last time I played it on headphones, the high-end treble of the guitar gave me temporary tinnitus. It's truly fucking brilliant, only tempered by the fact that I've never met anyone who's even heard of it. Observe how snooze-inducing drama students Jon Spencer Blues Explosion became rich and fat off their 3rd rate riffing, while the Strip Kings seemingly imploded in the nails-on-blackboard spike of feedback that rounds off side B. Should tell you everything you need to know about harsh luck.

Trends and scenes come and go but, as with the goths, the garage rock kids carry on slogging away. They'll always be there, like mice on the Underground. I kind of admire their resilience, and they have my sympathies for the Hives hijacking their scene with a pile of old pony (seriously, first time I heard White Stripes, I thought it was Smashing Pumpkins or something). How can you even equate 'garage' with recordings so Wimpy Bar pristine?? Don't be fooled - beg, borrow or steal a copy of this 45 and hear how should it be done. Just don't touch mine, swine. I think this eludes even Discogs.

I used to really love Camden; an ankle-deep sea of discarded paper plates from that £1 pizza shack, where they used to sell punters napalm disguised as 'chilli sauce'; days wasted round the stables, looking for weird books and records; the grumpy Scotsman in Compendium Books and the racks of zines and tomes about anarchism. You always used to get these idiot tourists jumping into the Lock in summer. They'd emerge from the filthy water green-faced, stinking of dead dog, shit and factory waste. They didn't even have ticket barriers in the station back then.

But then the developers rolled in, bags clinking with snakeoil, and converted Camden into Planet Bore. Make it neat and shiny - grading: mint condition. Somewhere in the grooves of Slow Panic, in the loud crackle and whirr of the run-out, I can still smell the trash.
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