Sunday, July 05, 2009
7" EXPLOSION - PT 11
In 1990, it was pretty clear to the Touch & Go label that one Big Black wasn't enough for the world, so they went and released this pretty spiffing 45 by the Laughing Hyenas. The A-side chugs along noisily enough (with some uncanny Albini impersonations), but it's the flip, Candy, that makes this fucking essential to me, channelling the spirit of "Junkyard"-era Birthday Party for an all-out, amped-up, glass-gargling cacophony! I'm guessing I must have heard this track on John Peel, because - hey, being the gushing fountain of informed musical knowledge that I am!! - I can't remember them getting much attention from the music rags. Or maybe I just picked it up cos I thought Laughing Hyenas was a great name for a band.
But you know when you hear something and you just KNOW the band have had their noses broken, scraped through 48-hour whiskey benders and left trails of demolished flats, shattered hearts and busted speakers in their wake? Not sure if Candy is a smack reference or just an ode to the type of girl who opens beer bottles with her teeth and has a black cat in a top hat tattooed on her shoulder (that's a good thing by the way), but this record's one of the umpteen reasons I never got into grunge a year or so later.
The conventional wisdom's that goths are 'miserable' - recently dead motormouth Steven Wells was always banging on about that - but I never saw what was so bad about being fascinated by graveyards. Why, I'm a big fan of graveyards myself. I'm no bigot, I'll go and talk to the dead. Goths were also big on 'snakebite and black', a most mysterious elixir that's now pretty much banned in the majority of pubs across England. Why, only recently, drinking in a Sam Smith joint in Marylebone, it came to my attention that one of my work colleagues is an ex-goth. We decided to switch to snakebite and black for the evening to toast this fact, as her boyfriend grimaced - bracing himself for a night of vomit and out of tune renditions of Temple of Love and She's a Carnival! Unfortunately, the guardians of public morals (posing as bar staff) refused to make us one. Then, no doubt reckoning we'd just concoct our own snakebites with separate pints, they told us they weren't serving cider to our table! This is what the fucking country's come to! Publicans turning away good money during a credit crunch!
BUT - if you want 'miserable', you should have seen grunge. When Kurt Cobain shot himself, I laughed, and I literally mean that. The bloke was a complete idiot - I mean, who the hell stresses and frets about maintaining their underground credibility AFTER they've just signed to a major label? He didn't exactly waste time in setting himself up in a massive house, employing a gardener and handyman to keep the place in check while he jetted off to shoot drugs with yet another bunch of temporary mates. I suppose the insidious music biz forced him to chuck his girlfriend in Seattle and hook up with a vacuous starfucker too. No, but he had a lumberjack shirt, he was keeping it real and everything!
Cobain, the patron saint of ditherers everywhere; frowning down, be-stubbled and black-eyed, from his tatty "I HATE MYSELF AND WANT TO DIE" cash-in poster. Pissed off about nothing. I passed up the chance to buy that Rednek "DEAD? NEVER MIND - NICE SHOOTING SON" T-shirt (I ended up buying the one with the Hamas guy with the rocket propelled grenade launcher, with "FACTION MAN - TERRORISM - JUST DO IT!" instead. I'd probably get grassed up by some interfering barman for wearing that now...), which is a shame, as Rednek have been extinct for years and the anti-Cobain clobber might be worth something on eBay.
Admittedly, I can stomach a few songs off 'Bleach' and 'Never Mind' NOW (mostly the bits they ripped off other bands I like) - but, at the time, it was living hell. I turned 16 and left school expecting chaos and fun - not spotty boys in German army shirts, composing letters to the NME explaining how they'd cried themselves to sleep that time the eejit collapsed after a smack bender! You know what I think Cobain's real legacy was? Prozac Nation. Anyway, doctors in the know say prozac's just a placebo anyway, which makes Wurtzel's tome literally a book based on nothing. She might as well have called it Great Daydreams I've Had.
In that context, I'm fiercely proud of my Laughing Hyenas 7". It shows that, while I've made MANY mistakes in life, missing this for a copy of Territorial Pissings wasn't one of them. I'm just gutted that Bono didn't top himself after the 'Zooropa' tour - that would have made 1994 an even better year than 2002. If you live next to a couple who have sex to Bruce Springsteen, I highly recommend Candy - essential arsenal for inter-neighbour noise wars!
In late 1992, my mate Tom convinced me to try to join the Anti-Nazi League. Some kid we knew called Mark had signed up at the St Albans branch, which struck us as a bit of a trek. We soon sussed why - the girls outnumbered the boys there by about 2:1. We jumped the train down there one Saturday afternoon, when the ANL were going to be 'on the street'. We didn't have a clue what was gonna happen. Would the boneheads turn up and attack? We'd seen the Battle of Waterloo on TV earlier that year, and the idea of a mass ruck appealed to us a bit. Not that we were particularly violent people, but we were very, very, very, very bored and it seemed like a potentially interesting way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Besides, we wanted to avenge our dads for all those old 'No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish' signs they had to put up with.
What we got was about 10 alternative kids hanging around and an older man and woman running a paper and pamphlet stall. Mark was nowhere in sight (we later found out he'd been seeing a public school girl who'd paid for his membership and he seldom turned up to any of their events). The organiser just gave us membership forms and copies of the ANL bookshop special offers. Plenty of Primo Levi, which I'd already read, and stuff about Marx, which I didn't want to. Maybe the association with Mark had damned us, but we weren't exactly made to feel welcome. Not welcome enough to hand over a fiver anyway.
Things went a bit downhill cos of a badge I was wearing (the MoD roundel - you know, like mods wear on their parkas. Seen as being a bit politically suspect, for some reason. I'd only done it as a 'Battle of Britain' wind-up - you know, boneheads wore the Luftwaffe eagle on their combat jackets, so here's the RAF - who won - geddit? Oh, never mind, I was 16). Unfortunately, I was a bit of a gobby cunt back then and I took offence to being questioned and had a verbal pop at the bloke. Tom was a bit embarrassed, I don't know if that's cos I halted his attempts to fight the fash or cos he fancied the girl with the cut-off combat trousers. I did find it funny when the ANL claimed to have opposed the BNP in Luton's 'Bury Park area'. I knew people who lived in Bury Park and they never saw any damn ANL presence. I can't imagine the Bury Park Youth Posse had much to fear anyway, the BNP hardly went down there, there were too many Asians for them to escape a mauling for a start.
The next time I went to St Albans was to see Blaggers ITA play live at the Town Hall, not so much a band as the musical wing of Anti-Fascist Action. They were barely household names, but fairly sizeable in indie circles. They'd released an LP, United Colours of Blaggers ITA, which was getting distributed in HMV and Virgin, and were getting some good reviews in the music press. Unsurprisingly, maybe, seeing as they weren't scared to revive the Stranglers' tradition of decking journos who pissed them off. I got chatting to some AFA people and they seemed OK. Well, I thought they were OK enough to give them my address.
Anyway, around 1993, the Blaggers signed to EMI, a move viewed as a complete sell-out by the anarchist members of the group's fanbase. The group argued that they were getting their message across to a wider audience - well, at least they didn't start moping about it or appearing in videos as tortured Christ-like victims of music biz exploitation. They didn't really get the chance - their LP Bad Karma kind of bombed and the music press moved on to discuss rubbish new scenes, like 'Romo' and the 'New Wave of New Wave'.
Personally? I remember them appearing on The Word, and thinking it was absolutely fucking cringeworthy. Still, I don't ALWAYS give up on people, and I saw them live again at the Venue in New Cross in 1994, the first of two times I ever stagedived (intentionally). After that, they completely dropped off my radar.
This 7" came out on a white label just after they'd signed to EMI, hence the 'Ramraiders' tag. It's basically demo versions of two good songs off their United Colours album, Ten Men Dead and Wild Side. If pushed, I'd say the LP versions are way better, but I've hung onto this as a kind of momento of the gigs. I'm not sure why this was released - demos of tracks that ended up on their EMI LP would have made more sense - I'm not even sure if the Blaggers covertly sanctioned this or not.
A while later, their singer, Matty, died of a heroin overdose. Just googling the Laughing Hyenas, their female guitarist also died - a Xanax overdose, according to one website. There's a few ghosts blowing around these grooves...I don't really listen to Blaggers that often anymore, to be honest. Their music was quite an interesting mish-mash of influences at the time, but a lot of it sounds dated now. It's also bizarre to think that they used to be openly pro-IRA and violently anti-police - given that teenagers can now wind up in court for penning rap lyrics about beheadings. I mean, for fuck's sake - it's scribble on a bit of paper! They should see some of the psychotic tosh we used to come up with during maths lessons...