Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Simon Morris - Consumer Guide

Simon Morris - Consumer Guide
168pp Hardback book.
Tegenaria Press.

One of the few people who made my brief dalliance with Facebook all the more bearable was Simon Morris. The long suffering singer/songwriter, the only surviving original member of the singularly fantastic Ceramic Hobs, Smell & Quim activist, drunk, Power Electronics fan and one of the most interesting people I know, spent his time on FB posting critiques of his favourite/worst bands, films, authors, foods, drinks and English seaside towns. And then he quit FB. And then he’d reappear again. And then he would threaten to quit FB and not do so and then he would. And then I did and that was the end of that.

His posts were of the highest quality and always led to numerous comments and active banter. For example, the merits of the entire Neil Young back catalogue could be disseminated in a series of pithy paragraphs using a straightforward language of the kind more normally found in books by Ballard and Bukowksi. On one memorable occasion he posted a piece entitled, ‘A Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships’ and in the space of a few hundred words made some kind of sense of the tangled web that, when you come to think of it, is the nub of life itself. He was the only person I know that was putting anything of worth on Facebook and it made scrolling past pictures of peoples cooking all the more bearable.

Thankfully there are people at Tegenaria Press who have seen the worth in Morris’s musings and have had the good sense to collate them all [all?] in to one rather wonderful and essential hardback book entitled ’Consumer Guide’. The cherry on the cake comes in the shape of two new works that are its beginning and end, one dealing with Morris’s personal life up to the present and the other his dissemination of the major Ceramic Hobs releases.

‘Further Back and Faster’ documents the Morris life so far; thirty pages that cover the death of friends and band members [of which there are many], Smell & Quim gigs, European Hobs dates, Sleaford Mods support slots and destructive sexual relationships; 

‘Never anything but hands below the waist. Sucking, a lot of sucking and always in public, and she needed me to withdraw so she could watch the spurt. How my mother hated her’. 

There’s the detailed account of the infamous Smell & Quim gig in Belguim where the promoter booked them, thinking they were a duo and got instead fifteen drunk Smell & Quim members on his doorstep. One was Morris of course who along with his fourteen paralytic band members, takes to the stage at three in the morning with potatoes in his underwear.

In ‘Self Critique’ we get background information on all the main Ceramic Hobs releases, which for a band who drench their work in all manner of symbolism and oblique references is truly revealing. If Morris should so wish he could devote his next book to expanding on the myriad corridors that make up their darkest album ‘Psychiatric Underground’ alone, the first track of which is covered here and gives some indication as to just how deep the Hobs really go.  After donkeys years of trying to make sense of Psychiatric Underground this is like being given a treasure map with a big cross on it.

The bulk of the book is given over to those FB posts though and is possibly the only place in book-land where within the same covers you're going to find critiques of Art Garfunkel and The Grey Wolves. How many people do you know could do that? Not only are his targets wide and varied [Pink Floyd, Joy Division, Blue Öyster Cult, Lou Reed, Dexys Midnight Runners, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Sonic Youth, Morrissey, Manic Street Preachers, The Pastels, Cocteau Twins etc] their dissemination is, crucially, absolutely spot on. Of the bands that I’m familiar with I found myself nodding along constantly, inwardly shouting ‘yes’, in an increasingly higher voice at regular intervals. Whether Morris is critiquing the Guns n’ Roses back catalogue or the novels of Martin Amis you get the feeling he knows what he’s talking about. You trust him all the way leaving yourself free to go out and seek what he suggests while leaving the duds behind.

Of more pertinent interest to readers of these pages may be the chapter ‘Underground’ where Morris tackles the few Harbinger Sound releases that have ‘beats’ on them and then theres Skullflower and the eight ‘real’ Smell & Quim albums. The correctly titled ‘Cinema’ tackles the output of David Lynch, Lukas Moodysson, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson and Sam Peckinpah and like all good critics Morris comes out with some truly memorable lines as in calling Wes Anderson ‘the Sonic Youth of cinema’. In an earlier chapter he loads his gun and fires it at Neil Campbell calling him a ‘talentless dilettante’ [Morris’s disdain for drone is well know], not a view I share but an example of his bluntness. His writing becomes belligerent to the point of this bluntness and is all the more fun because of it. In the chapter ‘Throwing Shade’ there's a series of lists all with the word ‘shit ‘ in the title. Lists that caused this reader to chuckle deep into his leather buttoned Chesterfield:

Your Favourite Bands Are Shit

Big Star - beloved by an all-male audience of unstable depressive opiate abusers, this ultra-tedious ‘sensitive’ cult act boil my piss to the limit ….’

The Clash - the single most boring rock band that ever existed …

Billy Bragg - big nosed moaning ginger tosspot …

Followed by ‘Shit Films’, ‘Shit Books/Shit Writers’ and ‘Some Mostly Shit Bands from the 90’s’, culminating in a list of ‘Shit English Seaside Towns’ and Fleetwood ‘where even the charity shops are boarded up’.

Now for the bad news; only 100 copies have been pressed with a promise that they will be the only 100 copies ever pressed. At £23.23 [including recorded UK delivery] Its not cheap but then it does have some Phillip Best words on the back sleeve.

Consumer Guide is destined for sold out cult status, a book that people of a certain persuasion will seek out and spend large amounts of money on, samizdat copies will circulate on the internet and Morris’s status as a writer of genuine freshness will be cemented. I’ve even contemplated sucking the Zuckerberg tit again. If I knew fresh words were there I'd be seriously tempted. Our only hope is that another book emerges.  


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