The Ceramic Hobs - OZ OZ Alice
ORB Editions LP040. CD
I was in Blackpool earlier this year. Its the most depressing place in England I can think of and yet the tourist board would have you believe its the nearest thing to a fun packed time you can have without breaking the law and maybe it is if your version of a fun packed time includes washing down pint after pint of overpriced lager in shit pubs. On a wet and windy day in July Blackpool felt about as welcoming as a damp slipper. Blackpool has pubs where people get stabbed just for something to do, it has a tacky fun fair and the bright lights that draw in the goggle eyed punters like zombies in a Romero film. Its a rip off dump masquerading as a fantastic fun filled bauble. It’s a cynical grockle trap. Its the place local comedian Les Dawson dubbed ‘The Vulgar Mistress’ and I hate every bit of it.
On a miserable Sunday the big pubs on the promenade had groups of desperate smoking drinkers outside all huddled together like penguins taking it in turns to face the brunt of the sleet. Odd shaped families with unruly kids dressed in recently bought leisure gear kicked balls about on a nearly deserted beach. The donkeys were nowhere to be seen. I was glad to get out of there after just a few hours but some people actually come here for a fortnight and boast that they enjoy themselves. You really should go.
The Ceramic Hobs are from Blackpool and some of the above may explain why their music is as twisted as it is. It may also explain why some of their number are well acquainted with the ins and outs of psychiatry. Under such circumstances its a wonder they actually make any music at all but when they do its a something rather special. Fluxing rock [maybe of the punk variety] with a kind of experimentalism that could only emerge from a stop/pause button on a radio cassette player it’s a world populated by the likes of Hindley and Brady, ELO, Toto, Deep Purple, 70’s confectionary commercials and local radio show phone in numpties. Some of it is played out to a background of a guitar soloing hacked out by someone who long ago sunk to his knees at the alter of Jimi Hendrix and stayed there ever since. There’s song structure and chugging chords but somehow the Hobs manage to chuck enough distortion and mayhem into it to twist it all into something that’s unlike anything else being recorded today. Its like having two stereos going at once at 1am after a night on the gravy. The Hobs are the crazy cousins of To Live And Shave in LA with Tom Smith played by a drunken Simon Morris slumped in the corner at chucking out time with his glasses hanging off his head and drool coming from the corner of his mouth - a Softy Walter on drugs made in bath tubs with a mind fine tuned to Whitehouse proportions. There really is no other band quite like them.
\There are nine tracks on OZ OZ Alice the ninth being a 35 minute segue of a previous OZ OZ Alice release [I think there was rumblings of there being a dozen OZ OZ’s before splitting the band up but I could be wrong] the previous eight are a mix of tracks that never appeared on OZ OZ 2 and 3 so this could be OZ OZ Alice 4. Nothing is ever straight forward. The rotating band membership confuse things further by adopting aliases that
would make them shoe-ins for Smegma call up - Larry Language, Kate Fear, Mr. Concrete Himself, Ging Shi-ite, Bong Ben and Ric O’Doom all lending a hand on this particular release.
Oz Oz Alice is a labyrinthine affair, as dense as a Pynchon novel and as flumoxing in parts so I feel a more detailed breakdown is required:
Starts with sample from ELO’s Mr Blue Sky before a chugging riff kicks in. Morris sings ‘I’m an Irish Jew whats it to you?’ with increasing ferocity. Wayward guitar can be heard throughout. Morris sings ‘This song is wrong’. Sample of a upper class British voice saying things like ‘where do I begin?’ Samples from 70’s confectionary advert for Cadburys Finger of Fudge.
He Thinks He Can Hear Voices:
Slow chug that contains a clip from Radio Lancashire featuring local DJ whose phone in guest fails to give the answer the question ‘Who wrote Mien Kampf’. This despite being given numerous clues - he eventually answers with Adolf Golf. May say something about people from Lancashire. Could be a song about drugs.
Bryn Alyn Ghoul Soil:
Fifty second track of things being knocked about with a barely audible monolgue.
Toto In Africa:
A song whose intro is so distorted it sounds like a record being played with a six inch nail. The Hobs are playing in the background coming in and out of focus to reveal possibly a live track. Theremins, driving beat, someone whose English isn’t his first language interviewing someone else with the same problem. Song eventually floats off on a cloud of one drum hits, roaring bass and that solo guitar over which you can hear someone playing the intro to Status Quo’s Pictures of Matchstick Men.
Shamanic noise wailings. Synth stabs. Distorts into a Clodagh Rogers song. Eventually collapses in on itself in a sea of distortion over a distant drum beat.
Fixated Threat Assessment Centre:
A submerged song fights to be heard over more distortion. Voices can be heard. Song emerges from distortion now and again. Slow tortured agony of vocals. Song appears to be slowed down in parts to make it appear as a funeral march which makes them sound like a doom metal band. Morris’ overriding monologue is long and bitter [the tattooed ‘fuck off’ on the inner lip] whilst four people have an argument - two in each channel. Wild scraping violin.
MC5 like thump and riff over which Morris sings ‘I’m your bum slut’ - I think? Probably the most straightforward track on the album.
Another sombre monologue over the bones of a slow moving trudge which dissolves into a live version of Deep Purples ‘Black Night’ without ever leaving the former behind. Monologue is like darkest poetry mentioning Bebo obituaries and Moors Murders victims. Gun shots are heard. Vocal sample: ‘Only Blackpool stands between us and revolution’. Ends in live wig out of Deep Purple’s Child In Time’ with Harris giving it the full on Gillan wails making him sound like a stuck pig vomiting bile onto his shoes. Morris sings same lines from ELO’s Mr Blue Sky as at intro. By ending OZ OZ Alice with a live rendition of the opening sample The Hobs give us a Möbius strip of demented proportions but its not quite finished or as straightforward as that for there is now ...
OZ OZ Alice:
Thirty five minutes of segued material that moves between Andrew Lilles vocal treatments, strangled punk solos, jabbering voices, nth generation live recordings and Morris intoning ‘I picked him up on me fillings’ in a mock dopey voice. Its all of the previous nine tracks mashed into one and stomped into shape with a size ten Doctor Marten boot, it’s also probably the most daring thing the Hobs have done to date.
Since the departure of long time band member Stan Batcow the Hobs have replaced shiny production values and leanings towards pop punk psychedelia with a dangerously out of control beast that looks like its being held together with hastily driven in nails, soggy string and dodgy drugs. The North West, Blackpool, all its ills and vomit and cheap beer and pointless weekend violence is as inextricably linked with the Hobs psyche and its one that requires your further investigation.
Comes in an A5 wallet with bizarre artwork by Brazilian artist Carlito Juanito
PO Box 35, Bangor
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