Thursday, 27 February 2014

Ceramic Hobs - Oz Oz Alice (2010)


Remember that slightly troubled kid at school whose parents forbade him to listen to records by anyone other than the Swans and Splodgenessabounds? Well...

No. No. No.

Let's start again...


So you've just purchased a brand new shit-throwing machine. You've followed the instructions, duly bolted down all the gaskets, and now you're out in the yard ready to give it a whirl. You throw the toggle and stand in admiration as a controlled storm of stinking effluence arcs across the path, and then fuck

In a panic you remember too late where you left all the groups last night, and now they're covered in it! The Birthday Party, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra - all dripping in reeking human poo! It's a disaster! You rush them into the kitchen, bundling them all into the sink and begin scrubbing away with a brillo pad, trying to console yourself with the thought that at least no-one will be able to tell with ELO. The dog comes in, brushes against your leg and you fall, for some reason, reaching out to steady yourself and accidentally hitting the control for the waste disposal. There's a disgusting gurgle as all the bands are sucked down the plughole - even though that isn't actually how a waste disposal works - and you know it's too late. You go outside for a smoke, then come back in and disconnect the waste disposal from the power supply, then set to work on clearing out the fetid gunk of what used to be the Birthday Party, the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Pink Floyd, and the Electric Light Orchestra. You hold a gobbet to your nose and sniff, and if you're anything like me, which you probably aren't, it reminds you a bit of Oz Oz Alice; which is at least preferable to sounds like The Fall, as frequently opined by morons in reference to anything which, bearing no comparison to U2, must therefore logically constitute a Mark E. Smith rip off.

Bollocks.

The mad have by some definition become the last minority upon whom it's still apparently okay to perform dubious medical experiments; and for the sake of clarity here, by mad I mean those of the United Kingdom who have had occasion to be sectioned under the mental health act, as opposed to folks who might wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt and regard themselves as a bit edgy. Mad - a term reclaimed by the Mad Pride movement - describes those who may suffer from a variety of mental conditions to greater or lesser degrees, and is no more useful as a blanket description of a particular type of person than any other impersonal collective noun - black, white, gay or whatever. Being mad does not necessarily determine one's level of intelligence, sexual preference, creativity, employability, or how useful a person is likely to be in the wider context of society. Nevertheless the mad are the one group to whom an entirely different set of laws are routinely applied in contrast with the rest of us. Things can be done to the mad without requiring the consent of the individual, and any movement in opposition to this finds itself additionally in opposition to not only the legal system, but in some cases - so it has been argued - to the interests of both psychiatric and pharmaceutical professions.

Ceramic Hobs, a band comprising some who have themselves had dealings with representatives of the mental health profession, are amongst the more conspicuous of the Mad Pride bands, at least from where I'm stood; and perhaps unsurprisingly their music really gets in there, representing a uniquely fractured vision of much greater honesty and intensity than the usual Radiohead feeling a bit sad because they don't like working in an office type of deal. From certain angles, it's the more terrifying end of psychedelic garage - the kind with cartoons of evil mushrooms growing from murderous looking band members on the record cover - filtered through Smell & Quim or one of the more unpleasantly odiferous noise groups, and it rocks. It may initially sound like a wall of noise, or at least one of those jam sessions where everyone gets pissed off and the guitarist suddenly starts playing Pictures of Matchstick Men by Status Quo because he's bored - which does actually happen here on Toto In Africa - but the more you listen to Oz Oz Alice, the more sense it makes, or at least the more it takes shape; and by the third or fourth spin, every last distorted crackle and rustle of mangled master tape sounds like art, and good art, as in something that's been put there for a reason.

It's harrowing and bonkers of course, but nevertheless absorbing for representing such a raw and genuine vision, something that is clearly enjoying itself and doesn't give a shit as to the listener getting it in quite the same way as all those Oasis fans identifying with their idols. Also, it's funny and even somehow educational - funny not least during the deathly serious delivery of the when I'm pooing on your head section of the title track, amongst other things; and educational because sometimes it's a good fucking thing to get yourself some insight into how other people think, particularly when they think in ways quite different to whatever you're used to.

Oz Oz Alice is a mess but it's also quite brilliant; and it's the exact opposite of U2, Radiohead, and anything you will ever see on The X-Factor.

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