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30 August 2011

Kevin Coyne - 'Case History' (Tapestry)

The first Kevin Coyne record was repressed on thick 180g vinyl with good remastering and a really thick, solid cardboard sleeve - really, this thing could stop a bullet. I always wanted to hear this as I've loved most of Marjory Razorblade, particularly the acoustic/bluesy songs, which Case History consists almost entirely of. I wasn't disappointed - this is a great, intense trip, consisting of songs Coyne wrote while working in a mental institution. He has a great British bluesman voice, a bit Donald Duckish at times, but with just the right taste of pain. Some members of Siren turn up on a few tracks, most notably the great opener 'God Bless the Bride', where the extra guitars are a lovely complement. In all honesty, almost every one of these songs is about mental dissolution and despair, usually with an intense steel strum and repetition in the right way. 'Need Somebody' tackles age and loneliness in a quite prescient way for a 28 year old, and it foreshadows Coyne's own descent into depression later in his career. I saw him play around 2002 or so with the Mountain Stage band from that radio show as his backing group, because I think his son was in it. I didn't really know any of the songs he played except for 'Having a Party' which at that moment represented the true failure of rock and roll - the side we never hear about. He died soon after, and I'll always remember this pudgy guy in sandals bleating out this forgotten rock classic to a near-empty room in a Pittsburgh industrial park. But back to the other end of his career, all full of enthusiasm and promise. Case History is pretty fucking great. 'Araby' gets wispy and rambling, just like the somber 'White Horse'. Many of these songs, from a guitar-strumming POV, are simple-minded and repeititive, even trance-like. 'My Message to the People' feels far longer than it is, as does 'Mad Boy', making side two feel claustrophobic and nightmarish - which is exactly the intent. Though there's nothing musically experimental happening, it's pretty uncompromising. At it's most loopy it starts to resemble psychedelic blues, closer to Ed Askew than Country Joe. But it's the voice and the lyrics that drive through everything, and I ought to listen to this one much more often.

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