Bristol Archive Records Blog

Andy Fairley – Album Review

Bristol Archive Records

This is a weird one. The first three tracks come from the Fishfood entity, formed by Howard Purse and Doug White, with former Cortinas drummer Dan Swan, and a local poet, master Fairley, and these songs came out through the local magazine The Bristol Recorder, which I’d forgotten all about! That had quite a reputation. The final songs come from a secondary line-up of locals, and it’s from these, according to the press release/info sheet, which I have every reason to believe, that have achieved something approaching legendary proportions, having coalesced over time, although you need to wait right to the end to see why.

‘Dry Ice Hot’ sounds like Talking Heads gone in a wonky post-punk direction, ‘Seventeen Eels’ could be a certified edition of Play School hosted by a cheap Captain Beefheart impersonator. With a soothing, swaying bass ‘Modern Dance Craze’ at least carries you along, with some cute guitar scratchiness, but the repetitive host annoys me intensely, but that’s poets for you.

So they split up, but this Purse character, who’d gone on to be in the posh indie crossover stink of Animal Magic found Fairley again, gathering up former Animal Magic drummer Rob Bozwell and an artist called Jim Galvin on guitar. They created the final six tracks which is where the claim for amazement lies, as it reckons they predated Portishead recent work by 25 years. I dispute this. Firstly Portishead’s latest work is crap compared to their first recordings, being a pale retread, which is why it took so long to come out, and so this would make Birth Of Sharon fifteen years ahead, at best.

In a local music scene already familiar with The Pop Group the blaring, linear angst of ‘Now’ wouldn’t have sounded unexpected, surely? I can accept that people using tape samples early on, and synth which wasn’t stodgy but incorporated naturally into a heady funked indie stew was unusual but that’s as far as it goes, because this is also like an artier form of Stump during ‘Film Titles’, with fabulous drumming.

‘The Art Of Wanking’ has a brooding bass pattern, jittery guitar splashes, and some more sheltered, ruminating vocals which suit him better than the outright mental delivery elsewhere, and there’s more stylish drumming along with a groaning base on which they tilt.
The one thing I always associate arty scenes with is bleating saxophone, and that makes an unwelcome appearance in ‘Sex Is A Language.’ This stumbles on its shuffling beat, and sounds pretty crappy, like Gang Of 4 trying to have fun. Dismal. ‘Man Made It So’ is swirlier art-jazz rumbling and mumbling with more of the same tightly corkscrewed funk guitar, lightly knitted across a scrolling bass motif and gargling, anguished vocals. On the grand slurry that is ‘Volition’ they do appear to be entering new territory, with a fierce ambient undertow and some fascinating rhythmical pulses that nobody else would have been doing back then. This one track highlights something very special. It’s just a shame the others don’t come even close. It’s also an instrumental, really, which implies Fairley wasn’t a particularly vital part?


Review at May 2009

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