UFK - or Unlucky Fried Kitten to give it, him, or them his or their full title - is Andy Fraser who I met way back in the eighties when he was singer, and I suspect main songwriter, for a group called the Martini Slutz. I only saw them a couple of times, but they were impressive. They felt like a proper punk band, something that had slipped through the cracks from that first wave when no-one could possibly confuse one group with another, just before it got all spikey and leather clad and just a little bit samey. The Martini Slutz were exciting live, and exciting in the same way I always imagined the Sex Pistols must have been - a certain sense of witnessing something special that probably wouldn't be repeated, and which significantly wasn't lacking a sense of humour.
Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I learn much to my pleasure that Andy is still at it all these years later, and against all odds, his powers seem undiminished. I'd heard a couple of tapes he knocked out under the names Death in Venice and then Basement Mania way back whenever, and had come to recognise Martini Slutz as having been just one episode in the life of a man who would probably explode if someone ever kept him from producing music; and its a testament to his dedication that he's kept on apparently regardless of the volume of whatever audience may or may not be out there - not because he has no interest in this stuff being heard, but because - to probably sound a bit of a twat - he's an artist in the truest sense of the word. He cares about what he does, and the rest is mostly just window dressing.
Rage Against Florence + the Machine is the second album under the UFK banner, and it should be noted that it is an album - a proper disc in a jewel case with a barcode and a fancy sleeve - not a feckin' download or a CDR with a phone number scribbled on the blank label side. This is nice because it suggests confidence in the material, and it turns out that said confidence is entirely justified.
I suppose if I have any criticism - just to get it out of the way - the songs mostly sound as though they've been recorded on some sort of digital set up, and initially all seem to have a similar tone and pace as a result; but fuck it - it's not like Rage Against Florence + the Machine hasn't already got more soul than most of the mainstream pop shite people post up on facebook every day, so it is what it is. Repeat plays accustom the ear to all the subtle differences here - all excepting the peculiarly abrupt cutting from one track to the next - but the words draw you in almost immediately, then pull you back for more once the forty-four minutes are up. There's a touch of Ian Dury to the song writing, or at least some of that same uncanny knack for jamming the most ridiculous elements together in a single sentence and making them work like poetry.
A mushroom, very soft and gentle,
Grows through concrete - that's just mental!
UFK songs often seem to focus on details so inconsequential as to seem almost comical, but always with affection, and often resembling a thought process much like the stuff which randomly dribbles through your head while you're stuck in a café staring out at the rain. Sometimes it's as small and simple as the above mushroom; other lines usher in matters of greater consequence, folks dying or car accidents; and whilst it may be a cliché to suggest that it's all part of life's rich tapestry, it's one of those clichés which happen to be true, which seems to be the point of UFK. Bizarre characters inhabit almost magically realist situations in UFK songs with more warmth and conviction than almost anyone since maybe Ray Davies, and so Rage Against Florence + the Machine sounds kind of unique in certain respects, particularly tone and focus, although I suppose that might say more about my general listening habits than this collection in particular. To summarise with the usual pointless scrabbling about for comparisons, try somewhere between a cuddlier Sleaford Mods and Frank Sidebottom - referring here to Chris Sievey in a papier-mâché head rather than the crappy hipster film inspired by the same; or Wreckless Eric crossed with Go-Kart Mozart, but much better; or if anyone remembers Space - that nineties bunch who brought us the fucking terrible Female of the Species amongst other similarly turdlike efforts - UFK is probably roughly what they thought they sounded like, but really didn't; or it's Swans covers of Splodgenessabounds if you want. I don't fucking know. Just trust me that it's great and buy the thing.
Buy the thing sharpish too, if you're going to. UFK have recently been receiving testy cease-and-desist style communiques from Island Records suggesting sales of Florence + the Machine entertainment products may be placed in jeopardy by the title of this album. It appears that there may be reason to suspect this mostly comes from one specific record company drone needing to make himself appear busy so as to justify his job by issuing overbearing decrees to bands no-one has heard of, possibly someone still stinging from Mr. Fraser having kicked up a fuss about the recent violation of his iPod with a free U2 album. Personally I can't help wonder if it's simple jealousy because next to this, Florence sounds like some self-involved drama student hooting away in an in-house Waitrose corporate training video.