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24 April 2017

Jowe Head - 'Pincer Movement' (Hedonics)

That's an aesthetic I like - a strange cover, strange title, and contents that are definitely rock music but, well... strange. But it's fun! I know Head more from Swell Maps than Television Personalities, and that makes this feel rather contiguous since these songs are murky, deconstructed and generally kinda fucked up. Plus, it opens with 'Cake Shop Girl' which is also on Jane From Occupied Europe and actually on Head's second solo LP a few years later, too. I guess he really liked that song. I do too - it's fast, nervous, and cryptic while being sort of catchy at the same time. Pincer Movement's 'Loco Train' could also be a Swell Maps song, and maybe it is - I find all those Maps compilations confusing and their entire discography beyond the two proper albums is just a blur to me. Anyway, there are only a few full-fledged 'songs' on Pincer, with a lot of little ten second interstitials tying them together.  And some are just loose structures to jam over, though it's a Swell Maps style of jamming - not guitar solos or melodic improvisations, but textural jamming, if that makes any sense. 'Quatermass and the Pulpit' is a great example of that - a looping beat, with vocals chanting 'Kyrie elision!' and percussion sounds get freaky (both acoustic and electronic), various other treated instruments whirl and jigjag, and the whole piece turns into a psychedelic gel. It could easily keep my attention for 20 minutes, yet it ends after 5 (which is a classic showmanship manoeuvre).  There's a theme set by the titular pincers - songs about sea life, crustaceans, and mermaids abound. 'Mermaid', for example, is a dubby number occasionally erupting into layered shrieks, with all manners of odd keyboards, wind instruments and other affected experiments overtop of the pulsebeat. 'Wimoweh' is a cover of 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and it's a mad descent into layered tones and insanity. 'Crawfish' appears on both sides, first the 'Son of' and then the full version, and it's probably the album's most memorable track, herky-jerky and bold. Things get borderline goofy - 'Glass Animal Colony' seems to privilege the vocal hysterics over the textures - but everything is moved through quickly, which leaves me wanting more. By golly, Pincer Movement is great, a document of an unapologetically experimental time for art-rock in the UK (1981) and one that holds up well especially against the never-ending revivals of post-punk mannerisms. The band members all have great pseudonyms such as 'Phones Sportsman' and 'Prince Empire' -- plus, 'Crawfish' is technically an Elvis cover. And this can be yours for a relatively inexpensive price - for some reason this record has never become that collectible.

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