1980 Interzone IZ 1001
Original UK release – 1978 Broadcast Records
May Day, 2020. Not long ago, the hashtag #notdying4WallStreet was trending on Twitter, as Vulture Capitalism quite literally proposed killing untold thousands to buoy their stock portfolios. And this week a conglomeration of far-right Christians praying for the next apocalypse to spew forth from their divine vehicle’s tanning bed puckered sphincter-larynx, in a suicidal love-tryst with armed angry white men posing on the steps of capitol buildings demanding that a phantasmagorical Deep State restore their God-given right to choose between Coke and Pepsi. After the revolution comes (the real one, not this bullshit), the first edition of the New Dictionary of the Year Zero will have an entry for “alienation” displaying photos of these people with their banners equating “Freedom” with the right to wage slavery.
Since you probably cannot (or at least should not) join the May Day celebration of your choice this year, you could do worse than to listen to some Henry Cow instead. This album, Western Culture, was their swan song, and most likely their finest hour. It is less playful than their earliest work from the days of Legend (there is nothing as fun as “Nirvana For Mice” on this one), but less abrasive and difficult than the band’s collaborations with Slapp Happy / Dagmar Krause. It is at turns evocative, somber, unnerving, and thrilling, embroidered with textures
sharp round deep brittle pliant unyielding. Did Henry Cow take themselves too seriously?
Undoubtedly. “Close, but no sock.”
Where is the sock this time around? Your toes may freeze while listening, frostbitten digits an unintended consequential prophecy of the Thatcherism that was about to really put the screws to the working class (once and for all, right? or so they hoped).
In 1978, Henry Cow were deadly serious, and rightly so. They never made comfortable bedfellows with the more bombastic and commercially viable prog rockers of the first half of the decade anyway, most of whom were by now selling a yacht or two to support their cocaine / sequinned cape habits. (Those sequins are expensive, mate – do you know how many of those you go through on a multi-night engagement at Wembley?). The group formally disbanded after this one but continued to collaborate together in a variety of projects, most notably the group Art Bears, as well as venturing into new horizons. Fred Firth in particular has performed and recorded with a staggering amount and variety of musicians whose only unifying trait seems to be a kind of uncompromising devotion to their own muse. If you already know and love Henry Cow, I hope you enjoy this vinyl transfer (from the first U.S. pressing, released on the other side of Thatcher/Reagan, in 1980). For those completely new to them, you might as well start here and work your way backwards through their catalog.
History & Prospects (18:10)
A2 The Decay Of Cities
A3 On The Raft
Day By Day (18:17)
B1 Falling Away
B2 Gretel’s Tale
B3 Look Back
B4 1/2 The Sky
Recorded and mixed at Sunrise Studios
Bassoon, Oboe, Soprano Saxophone, Recorder [Sopranino] – Lindsay Cooper
Drums, electric drums, noise & sounds – Chris Cutler
Electric and acoustic guitars, Bass – Fred Frith
Organ, Alto saxophone, Clarinet – Tim Hodgkinson
Trombone, Violin – Annemarie Roelofs
Cover art by Chris Cutler
Recorded By, Mixed By – Etienne Conod, Henry Cow
Cut & pressed by NIMBUS.
INTERZONE RECORDS IZ 1001
1601 18th st. n.w. Washington, d.c. 20009
LINEAGE: Interzone IZ 1001 vinyl; Pro-Ject RM-5SE with Audio Tecnica AT440-MLa cartridge; Speedbox power supply; Creek Audio OBH-15; Audioquest King Cobra cables; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; clicks and pops removed with Click Repair on very light settings, manually auditioning the output; further clicks removed with Adobe Audition 3.0; dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced. Converted to FLAC in either Trader’s Little Helper or dBPoweramp. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.