Wednesday, September 01, 2004
For their third album (fourth if you count Acnalbasac Noom) Slapp Happy teamed up with a group called Henry Cow (who have an album called Unrest that must have made it's way to Wakefield High School at some point -- see also the Henry Cow song Teenbeat). The plan was to record two albums: one with Slapp Happy in control and the second with Henry Cow in charge. The first of these two albums was called Desperate Straights and it's recently been remastered, so you can buy it all by itself:
or together with Casablanca Moon, as pictured yesterday.
I'll bet that a lot of people who own the Casablanca Moon/Desperate Straights two-fer run, run, run to turn off their CD player after track number eleven. There's a world of difference between Slapp Happy and the Slapp Happy/Henry Cow conglomerate. Henry Cow were into super tricky time signatures, Art music with a capital A, and a high level of seriousness. Suddenly Slapp Happy don't sound like the band we knew. In the beginning I really disliked Desperate Straights.
In recent years it's grown on me a lot. But it really isn't rock by most definitions of the word. File it under progressive jazz or avant art song or something. There is one track that avoids that label: here's Strayed which is apparently Peter Blegvad's idea of what Lou Reed would sound like if forced to abandon 4/4 time and a limit of three chords per song. And the answer is that maybe Lou ought to look into that as a possibility, 'cause it works really well. More often the songs sound like Some Questions About Hats, and Dagmar is starting to sound much more German. I'm not sure I'd play this for anyone under thirty. (Strayed is from my Virgin vinyl copy which sounds better, IMHO, than the old CD version. I don't yet have the new remaster which is rumored to sound wonderful.)
The second album of the collaboration, In Praise Of Learning, was kind of marred by the fact that Henry Cow threw Peter Blegvad out (Peter claims that this was due to his inability to play in some ridiculous time signature). It's pretty much a Henry Cow album with Dagmar singing. In fact, you have to look closely at the packaging to find the reference to Slapp Happy. From In Praise Of Learning (this is from my Virgin vinyl copy so sorry for any popshissscratches) here's the original version of War, later covered by the Fall. Ok, even though it's not supported by any interviews with Mark E. Smith, my theory is that he based the Fall track (which I posted last week) on Anthony Moore's later solo version of War. Tell me what you think.
Again, I really disliked In Praise Of Learning when I first heard it. Now I definitely like War, and the textures of some of the other bits are pretty cool, but I can't honestly say I listen to it all that much. I'm not sure I'd play it for anyone under forty (and, sadly, I am but thirty-five).
If you decide to buy In Praise Of Learning, be aware that the original CD was remixed (remixed, not remastered) and doesn't sound like the vinyl. I believe that more recent CDs revert to the original mix.
Tomorrow is all about poor overlooked Anthony Moore, and we're suddenly going to start calling him Anthony More.