The Church Of Me
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Kissing in the churchyard, I know a righteous woman

Thursday, October 10, 2002
EARL BRUTUS

Supergrass? Life On Other Planets? Don't make me laugh. No that's not a request; it's a sad statement of fact. Life On Other Planets by Supergrass doesn't make me laugh. Look at them, pathetically reverent as only musicians born after 1977 can be. Look at our Bolan riffs! No I'd rather look at Bolan's Bolan riffs. I'd rather have you seven years ago singing songs about being made to sit up straight at the back of the bus. This is a lineage which reveres Bolan as a logical aesthetic development from Howlin' Berry, not as a one-man punctum of sex. They do not wish to smash their records up and rearrange them in more interesting shapes; no they want their riffs in aspic, sickly, pallid and worthy.

Do you want to listen to Glam riffs being distended, fed through a Situationist cheese grater and erupting with only its own innate logic as fuel? If so, you must avail yourselves of Your Majesty, We Are Here, the 1996 (another one!!) debut album by thirtysomething lactating Karel Appel disciples Earl Brutus. And, what's even better, it's no longer available - so I would recommend that you try and find a copy in an Oxfam or Trinity Hospice charity shop, preferably one with a massive great cheesy shop sticker on its front. It is fitting.

Earl Brutus evolved from the real punctum in the Madchester barrel, World Of Twist, whose Quality Street album and astonishing one-two 45 punches "The Storm" and "Sons Of The Stage" should have constructed the future of Britpop.. In particular, Nick Sanderson and Gordon King are paid-up members of Earl Brutus, but all of them (including Tony Ogden) contribute in one way or another to their debut. The credits are minimal, perfectly lined up. "Thanks not applicable." Surnames only. The singer, Jamie Fry, is the younger brother of ABC's Martin Fry.

Now think what sort of an impact "Navyhead," the opening track, would have had had it been ABC's comeback record. It may even have been the record with which they needed to follow up Lexicon 13 years earlier. A grinding glam stomp with multiple drum machines competing to drown out the "School's Out" riff, this somehow gets closer to the puce formica reality of 1973 than anything that, say, Denim have done (much as I love the latter). It smells of situationist leather jackets. "I like James Brown/I like boys!" Fry exclaims. However did they avoid getting sued? "I'm never never never gonna see (or "going to sea"?) again" goes the joyfully morbid chorus as the three-note synth loop carries on forever and the song drowns in its own fake bravado.

Much of the album continues in the same fashion. "I'm New" achieves the fusion of old muck and new muck which Jesus Jones tried so hard to pin down; Glam meets drum-and-bass with a squealing car alarm leitmotif. "On Me Not In Me" changes tack for a hushed homage to Kraftwerk, though here it's the back of Keighley bus station rather than Neu Koln. "Take me to your Harvester," Fry whispers before the band suddenly explodes into multiple "Seven Seas Of Rhye" guitar fanfares before abruptly dying out to leave the "Neon Lights" blinking again.

"Don't Leave Me Behind Mate" ("what about our little band?") is a you're-my-pal-hic celebratory lament which Robbie Williams really ought to cover. In between limpid synth passages which, in their unstated subtexts, are strangely reminiscent of a revved-up Passage (hear "Taboos," one of the greatest singles of the '80s, to see what I mean), we get plenty more chunky boot rubbers like "Black Speedway," "Shrunken Head" and the near-boy band limpidity-meets-a-good-kicking of "Blind Date" (how the Dead End Kids' cover of "Have I The Right" should have sounded) before the closing anthem "Life's Too Long," which in its "on and on and on" refrain explicily calls up PiL's "Theme," together with its dual drum machines providing a rhythm which could either be Glam or disco but which finally collapse in free-form havoc. After the smoke has cleared there's not much left to express other than the Grange Hill theme produced by Alternative TV of "Earl Brutus" itself.

Stage performances have involved cheese throwing, AMM-type walls of feedback to drown out the radio, and a revolving petrol station forecourt sign saying "PISS" and "OFF." The subtext: how can we old lags be more radical than these mealy-mouthed 22-year-old JJ Cale devotees? What happened? Here is another suggestion. Which of course nobody took up, least of all themselves. The follow-up Tonight You Are The Special One appeared on Island and was rank. Since then, they continue to gig but little else has been heard from them. We need a better future, and unfinished business needs to be resolved. So rediscover them, if you would be kind enough.


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