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18 June 2014

Family Fodder - 'Monkey Banana Kitchen' (Fresh)

About half of this record appears on the Savoir Faire best-of CD (which we'll get to, soon) so I'm a bit disorientated by the sequencing of this, Family Fodder's first proper album, which I've listened to much less than I've listened to the CD. So the opening cut, 'Darling', while a great a-capella vocal experiment, is a bit of a what-the-fuck - as much of an anti-logical side1track1 as the forthcoming Fleetwood Mac Tusk (which starts with the naturally finishing 'Over and Over' as some sort of oddball paen to Finnegans Wake, I think, but enough of that for now). Family Fodder struck me as an utterly astounding calvary of post-punk art-school weirdness when I first heard them back in 2001 or so, but now with all the other magic that's been unearthed by blogs and reissue labels, they are less earthshattering. The tendencies between pop and experimental are held in check, mostly, and there's every imaginable influence that turn-of-the-80s British art punks were digesting. Monkey Banana Kitchen ranges from primitive indie-clatter (the sublime 'Cold Wars', aggro 'Wrong', and 'Savoir Faire', which predates Stereolab and adds a healthy dose of amphetamines) to dub ('Monkey' is the obvious one, but it's integrated into songwriting, Slits-like, in 'Symbols', a fantastic song left off the greatest hits album for some reason); straight-up reggae is attempted in 'Bass Adds Bass', which is the album's only real misstep besides the child rave-up 'Philosophy'. Romance is deconstructed in the duet 'Love Song', which looks for 'a new kind of love song'; 'Cold Wars' deals with similar territory, with the lyric 'We're just like America and Russia' reaching a new significance given recent world events. But romance is just one element - the grand brushstrokes are wilfully obscured by the strong sense of musical play throughout. Overdubs are used brilliantly - there's some bells, or a few seemingly random pianochords, or some discordant voices - and studio phasing/flange/fluter techniques are not shied away from. 'Organ Grinder' creates a eerie mood, with a cadence akin to Wire's 'French Film Blurred' and German chanting which balances 'Savoir Faire's frantic French on the flipside - it's a beautiful mix, ending in a dissipating sound bed of scraping string instruments and echoing xylophones. It's a song I've listened to a zillion times but I find something new to hear each time through.

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