Ceramic Hobs - OZ OZ Alice
Poot Records. Poot43. CDR. 148 copies.
Ceramic Hobs - The Best Of The Ceramic Hobs 1986-1989
Smith Research. SRV19 CDR. 50 Copies
It would appear that the further into the mire Blackpool sinks the more crazed, unpredictable and important do the Ceramic Hobs become. You can not help but tie the Hobs up with the grotty string that is their home town of Blackpool. The Hobs are now making music that is the mirror image of what Blackpool has become; a run down seaside town full of shuffling zombies reliant on pharmaceutical crutches. Last week I was listening to these two latest offerings when I discovered that Blackpool is now the anti-depressant capital of Britain - a staggering 134,000 anti-depressant prescriptions for every 100,000 inhabitants. But if you believed the local tourist board or any of the thousands of day trippers that pile into the place year round you’d believe it to be a thriving palace of beer, sex and chips. The image I have in my head of Blackpool is of a rotting corpse upon which someone has stuck a big yellow smiley face. You don’t even have to scratch the surface anymore, its there for all to see.
Out of this psychotic mess the Hobs have somehow managed to release some of the most important music coming out of the country. Its all down to sole surviving member Simon Morris for the totally skewed spastic rock alley down which the Hobs now rattle. After years of teetering on the edge of psychedelic experimental rock it would appear that the Hobs have finally fallen in dragging with them the corpses of The Butthole Surfers, The Gerogerigegege, Wild Man Fischer and more bizarrely Deep Purple.
With Morris at the controls the Hobs have decided to bow out with a series of releases all called OZ OZ Alice. I think I’ve reviewed two or three of these [I’m easily lost and confusion seems to be a big part of the game] but this is the rawest of the bunch so far. Morris’s singing voice is one of the great unknown instruments and here its even more guttural and raw. He sings like an irate football fan, like he’s deliberately trying to ruin his vocal chords. That when he’s singing. Some tracks are monologues spoken to a background of washed out fuzz and band jams, endless riffs and TV samples - the more I hear of these OZ OZ releases the more I feel like someone trying to crack some kind of hidden code - samples of kids TV overlap each other, some tracks have two tracks going at once. All the tracks are untitled. The last two songs are covers of Deep Purple’s Child in Time and Black Knight, the first ending with Morris screaming out the chorus to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky with the latter ending with someone singing Starship AOR fodder We Built This City. Last track is found sounds; whistling, traffic, distant voices whilst the first is a song recorded straight from what sounds like a Christian TV channel via a condenser mic [all thirty seconds of it]. At its very heart lies a 13 minute riff of driven spazzed guitar, pumping drums and demented vocals thats as good as anything Faust ever did. In it Morris sings unintelligible lyrics, ridiculous over the top guitar solos come and go, monologues come and go, guitars crumble and die only to get back to their feet like dying monsters in the final reel, the wailing becomes more intense, sirens blare, gibberish is spoken, nothing ever settles.
The piece of A4 paper this disc comes wrapped in doesn't even mention the Hobs by name just some artwork and a list of starting points for conspiracy theorists [some of which I checked out and either don’t exist anymore or were never there in the first place].
I’m pretty sure I’ve heard some of this before but where I’m not entirely sure. Maybe these are tracks culled from tiny tape runs, hastily dubbed CDR’s on obscure labels, or demos that have found their way here via Hobs HQ? Compared to the last OZ OZ this feels like a mad rush, a desire to get it out of the system, a lancing of a particularly painful psychotic boil. The previous OZ OZ was a labyrinthine affair containing all manner of clues as to its existence, this is a coughed up lung oyster spat onto a piss ridden bus shelter wall, left to dry out amongst the discarded chip trays and anti PNE graffiti. Roll on the next one.
The Best of 86-89 also contains material previously heard and found elsewhere but none [as far as I’m aware] that has come straight from Morris’s own Smith Research label. As Morris states in his sleeve-notes ‘We didn’t really know what we were doing … and the results were widely variable in style and quality’. He’s right of course but even here the seeds for what we’re hearing now are being sown. Skipping past the first few whimsical acne ridden starters brings you to Happy Hour where during eleven minutes of fucking around you kind of get the idea that the Hobs were never going to settle for a straight forward intro of ‘1,2,3,4’ for very long. There is indeed much whimsy here, track titles like Bob Holness Must Die and Patrick Moore Hernia Library being testament to such [and maybe taking something from Half Man Half Biscuit along the way?] but by its end and with tracks like Big Frog the guitars and the vocals are distorted to buggery.
When the Ceramic Hobs do eventually pack it in those early years may not be looked back on with the greatest of fondness - they really were just fucking around your honour - but go and listen to the last track ‘Oh Dear What Can The Matter Be’ with its squealing feedback, lumpen drums, wailing vocals and US government spokesman warning of the dangers of LSD - its all there just waiting to erupt.
Smith Research - http://smithresearch.blogspot.com/
POOT - gordon_fucwitt [at] hotmail.com
*PNE [Preston North End - arch rivals of Blackpool FC]