Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerk


The Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerk
Must Die Records. MDR032 LP. [Includes download code]

The last time I was in Blackpool I was with the Hobs main man Simon Morris. At ten a.m. on a sunny Saturday summers morning we were sharing Blackpool’s famous ‘Golden Mile’ with some seriously psychotic Scousers. They looked like they’d been up all night and were intent on making the buzz last that bit longer. Loud, feral and oblivious to passers by they seemed to be teetering on the edge of some wild chasm that would either see them fast asleep for two days an hour hence or fighting off the attempts of several police officers to arrest them. The pubs were just opening up and day trippers were appearing, some of them already with enough ale in them to see the day out but with an eye on getting plenty more down before trying to find their B&B’s or their coaches for the trip home. Simon told me that his abiding image of Blackpool was of seeing a fat lass spewing into the street at eleven in the morning whilst being comforted by her equally fat friend who told her that if she got it all up now she’d be able to get some more down later.

Tales of Blackpool drinking excess are ubiquitous amongst Northern pub frequenting types. I had a workmate who on a day trip to Blackpool decided to sleep off his afternoons drinking on the beach only to find himself dragged back toward the prom, minus toupee as the tide made its inexorable return journey. Back in the 80’s when pub trips to Blackpool were de riguer you’d all fall off the bus at ten thirty in the morning, already half cut after having been drinking since eight in the morning and drink until three in the afternoon, [before the pubs shut and you got chucked out, as they did in those days] before descending on the Fun House where you’d throw each other at the dizzying rides and slides that were aimed at kids but seemed much more fun to adults, especially those with about eight pints in them. Night times in Blackpool were perilous, hungover adventures spent trying to avoid getting your head kicked in whilst trying to get off with equally drunk females. Quiet back street pubs were sought out leaving those huge pubs on the front, the Manchester and the Foxholes, to those who preferred fighting for their beer and their manly, drunken pride. Shirts were torn and vomited on, people got lost and never made it back, women pissed in the street and black eyes were sported the morning after. On one half remembered trip I found myself venting the bladder for the last time before boarding the coach home and spotted the figure of one of our group looking the worse for wear in the corner of the Gents. Deciding it was only right to help him back on the bus I got some fellow drinkers to help me get him upright but as we neared him the smell of what can only be described as an accident in the trouser department entered our nostrils. The three of us immediately took a step back and said it would be better if he was just left where he was but one good Samaritan took it upon himself to get him back on the bus. And that he did. And whilst shitty pants slept all the way back to Gomersal in the middle of the bus the rest of us were crammed for and aft with the windows open spending a long cold journey trying to get some sleep.

Then you throw in the poverty, in a recent survey of 31 English seaside towns researchers discovered that Blackpool, despite having more visitors than any of the others on the list had the worst poverty of them all. Then there’s the anti-depressant prescriptions, the alcohol abuse, the casual violence, the fading guest houses offering bed and breakfast for £15, the shit and overpriced watered down lager served in plastic pots, the ‘doormen’ who gladly take two pounds off you for the privilege of entering their establishment. Its against this backdrop that the Hobs have created Spirit World Circle Jerk. Perhaps their best album. Perhaps the best we’ll hear this year.

At the time of writing there are eight Ceramic Hobs some of whom have escaped the grip of psychiatric help and some who are in a constant battle trying to keeping it at arms length. There’s a guitarist in his teens [I think] and in and out member Nigel Joseph who is now famous for playing the Hoover and who when I saw them once sat stage front with a guitar, his nose so close to the fret board you had to wonder whether he was playing it or sniffing it. For Spirit World they’re also joined by the likes of Large Veiny Member, Calum Terras, Lee Stokoe, Kakawaka and Jason Williams some of whom are familiar and some of whom are either complete nutters or just joining in the fun for the day.

Spirit World Circle Jerk is probably the the Hobs most complete work. Coming on the back of a series of confusing releases all called OZ OZ Alice, Spirit World at least feels cohesive in the sense that its a record with some tracks on it that all have names.

Here we have African witchcraft, German nursery rhymes, Scientology, the theme from Cheers, easy listening, The Reverend Gary Davis covers, drunken Scotsmen singing ‘I Belong To Glasgow’, people who claim to have been through stargates, Led Zeppelin lyrics, celebrities, the landlady of the Hobs local singing ‘Smile’ and obscure references to the musical Grease.

The Hobs obsession with cults posing as religion and celebrity is shown to best effect in the sing-a-long ‘The Hong Kong Goolagong’. Nut case extraordinaire and leader of ‘The Family’ David Berg’s coughing fits rendered as words brought forth the word Goolagong [an aboriginal hitchhiking demon who killed Christian missionaries] a ‘fit’ that felt to him like being smothered in female breasts and then “I’m Angelina, you Jennifer’.

The first words we hear on Spirit World are of an African; ‘in accordance with the Bible witchcraft is a reality’. Before Morris’ belts out ‘say no to the devil’ against a background of fizzing high end guitar twiddle and chugging chords. The whole thing collapses into a squeal of guitar abuse and drum rolls whilst Morris wails into a spacey echo-y end before that African voice comes back with, more bizarrely, a disco track.

Its these juxtapositions that give Spirit World its fucked up what-the-fuckness. As the two minute riff monster ‘Falling Down The Stairs’ collapses into screams ‘The Hong Kong Goolagong’ begins with a straight lift from a YouTube video of a larger than life American female trying to get us all to sing-a-long to ‘I’m John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt’. Which collapses and thence the screams and stuttering drums that are the start of the two minute  ‘Glasgow Housewife’ that includes the theme from Cheers speeded up to nonsense values.

The tile track is a James Barclay Harvest acoustic guitar strum-along, first as background with Morris talking about who knows what before it leaps into the foreground all ringing clear with wind chimes, chiming chords and high falsetto Amon Düll hippy chants.

T.A. Death is a straight forward 12 bar chug that sez its ’33 Trapped Chilean Miners part four’ 33 Trapped Chilean Miners was their last single on MDR and the precursor to all this.

But its the side long Voodoo Party that sets the hairs on end. The Hobs are no stranger to the longer track workout but never has the results been so mind boggling. A twenty minute track that at its very beginning of beginnings is a short burst of musical box tinkle, the Pearl and Dean intro via some African shamanic shaker bells before a loop of some descending four step easy listening intro music and two conversations going on at once, one from a woman who claims to have been through a star gate and the other between two blokes who may be talking about sex and then the whistling, the whistling of a happy Dean Martin, hands deep in pockets, not a care in the world whistle. Then a Burt Bacharach type composition that opens with a horn section before the voices disappear and we get the tribal drum meat of the side - the nearest the Hobs will come to the Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ with the massed Hobs singing ‘Voodoo Party’ as if dancing half naked around a large cooking pot containing the tied figure of a white missionary. At its end Morris speaks in a creepy guttural voice. There’s some live applause and Orb-ish beats, general disorientation and Morris singing ‘If it keeps on raining the levee’s gonna break’ and then the line from Eddie Grant’s reggae pop hit Electric Avenue whose ‘the feeling is bad’ has a completely different meaning when plonked in the midst of whats going on here. A rinky-dink piano section runs into samples taken from American TV newsflashes giving info on the James Homes shootout at the premier of the Batman film, the Sandy Hook shootings and the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. As the Hobs landlady sings ‘Smile’ theres a Beatles-esque crescendo of ‘Day in the Life’ proportions before everything goes very quiet indeed.

Like all great releases this has a depth that surpasses mere rock record. Even after a casual first time listen most Hobs fans, and music fans in general I hope, will realise that there's more going on here than first meets the ear. And I recommend you do investigate because once you get the bigger Hobs picture there may be some small chance that some of this will eventually make sense. Not total sense, that would be asking too much and maybe even impossible, but for a while you will be in Hobs World, in Blackpool, lost in witchcraft and cults and religion and rock music like no other, all of which need to be experienced.

Comes wrapped in 250 differently coloured silk screened covers courtesy of fellow East Coast misanthrope Dr. Steg. An essential item.

Further Reading

Must Die Records

Hong Kong Goolagong

David Berg

Angry Gay Pope

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