NME - 08/10/1983

Sleeve Notes 'Best Of'

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All Music Guide

 

NME - 08/10/1983

Blarney Haskyns Shoots The Apeshit With The Evolutionary Creators Of 'Men Like

JOHN IS one trick with three heads. He'd like to hold fourth a wile. (U can P in these johns and still walk away a Three man.)
"I've stolen from everybody without copying anyone."
"Our knack is we can make any style of music sound the same."
"We're a mixture of everything, plus Cajun."
"John writes the lyrics..."
"...while John writes the music."
What about John?
"What about John?"
Sir, you are taking the monkey.
"If it's facts you're after, we formed on the eve of the Royal Wedding."
"We dreamt of something humorous, something interesting, something that was not on the wall."
"We didn't really wanna do anything strenuous, just drink and sit in our bedrooms."
"We were inevitable."
"We had a synth, we fiddled with it. No one could play."
"Thanks for asking, it's been going pretty steady. No, we don't like to slog it out...we make the songs easy to play and take frequent sabbaticals."
John's from Leeds, makes records. Early summer of '82 was the 'The English White Boy Engineer', was Fall, was an angry banging, a tale of skilled limey and his employ in the land of apartypartheid. Presaged laughter, grit, rivvum'n'abuze.
"For a while there, we 'ad a nice little scene I believe you call it, what with ooz an' March Violets 'n' Sisters of Mersey. It were like a change from the Leeds University Stalinist Society...that's what's good, that the Sisters take the piss out of 'emselves and Redskins aren't po-faced political either, but are sort of carnival music."
Me No Kon I. You also will dig these scabby baboon toons.
"When we started playing, all the Leeds band, like MRA and Household Name, thought we were very dirty and naughty. This was because we wore leather jackets and played guitars. But we're not really naughty. When I, that is to say John, was in The Mekons, it used to be like we'd 'ave a meeting everytime someone wanted to change the bass line, and we'd then consider the theoretical implications of that change. It were daft."
Then what of the exciting nay positively pummelling 'Min Loik Moonkeys'?
"'Men Like Monkeys' is about the gap between knowledge/science/technology and ideology/belief."
Stone the crows.
"Like, the world is such that it's not capable of dealing wi'it...which is what we mean by the sound barrier."
"It's about democracy as well! Like, no one voted on inventing the atom bomb...the scientists' view seems to be that you can't vote on nuclear weapons because you don't know about them."
So it's not about primal apeshit, the "sound bubbling underground"? It's not "ahm a monkeeeah mayan"?
"Pardon?"
"This German guy came over, and he viewed it as a primal scream. Dionysian man, but it wasn't really that, though it does come across as that and it's built into the style..."
"...it's more about evolution, coz it's about monkey men clubbing together..."
But not clubhopping, right coz you guys are a filthy, absurd, visceral brew of everything that isn't safe, homogenized, anaemic – everything that's, heh, 'Safe As Milk'. I mean, you're Howlin' Wolf, man, you're Birthday Party, you're obsessive, crazy, subversive...am I gettin' warm or am I sizzlin'? Huh?
"Well, Blarney, we're not writing romantic songs, like bloody 'Horse Nation', y'know, 'I wanna go off and ride horses and be a red indian,' which is like bloody heavy metal...dunno why I'm swearing so much, I never usually swear, do I, John..."
"No."
"No."
"...must be because I'm struggling with ideas...but anyway, 'Men Like Monkeys' is the antithesis of all that Death Cult twaddle, it's logical and rational, and in that way it's not primal scream at all. We think of music and lyrics as something realistic that relate to the environment of the people who are making it...like cajun, reggae, blues...something that caters to the needs of those who make it and deals with what they understand...and, oh yeah, I think black people have a really great sense of rhythm..."
Wharrabaht poly-ticks'n'brakin' aht ovva yewsual benefit circuit?
"We're not really, er, bovered...but we do see ourselves as coming out of an older r'n'b tradition...and in a sense, the songs we're doing now, like the next single 'AWOL', are a lot closer to that than to 'Monkeys'...'Monkeys' to most folk were joost a big slab o' wieerd...now it's just like Peter Fonda B-movie drive-ins."
"I think the songs we're writing now come out of a long tradition of the British left, as opposed to the Gang o' Four comin' out of intellectual Marxism. In certain kinds of Marxism, emotions are denied."
"We're more related to our culture, not so much like The Fall, coz I think Smith's a bit fetishistic, but just closer to real things, things that concern us every day."
Eeow perlitical can pop music get? What can it achieve?
"I think The Specials did something to counter the NF, but all you can hope to do is hold a little candle aloft. All these new pop groups, though, they're just the new conservatism, getting their acts together, going out to grab what they can before it's too late."
And?
"We're not, we're pretty good...probably the best band in the world right now...the social workers of rock."
What did you say yer name was?