Friday, 5 June 2015

Blood Uncles - Libertine (1987)


I'm still not quite sure how this lot ever managed to slip through the cracks. Their rise and peculiarly swift fall happened to coincide with my being too skint to afford real food once I'd bought my weekly stash of Marvel comics and made allowances for beer, and so I was reduced to musical purchases selected mainly from the bargain bins and second-hand stores of Chatham. Thus did I pick up the 12" single of Crash, having a vague feeling I'd seen these Blood Uncles on the telly at some point. Astonishingly Crash turned out to be one of the best records I've ever picked from a bargain bin.

I had been sceptical given the involvement of the big-boned lad from the Exploited - whom I'd never liked on the grounds that they looked and sounded like a punk band formed by aliens based on either transmissions of Spitting Image picked up in the depths of space, or sensationalist articles from the Sun excavated from the post-nuclear ruins of the planet Earth. I had also been sceptical given the subject matter of Crash - having a wank over automobile accidents, a subject which had surely been done to death by 1987 - I mean even Sheena bloody Easton had probably cookie-cuttered out some ode to taking it up the pooper during a seven car pile up on the M6 by then; but, despite everything, Crash was a fucking mammoth single, bypassing all possible objections - not least thanks to the utterly chilling Never Happy Man on the other side - and probably the best fifty pence I've ever spent.

Anyway yes, the Blood Uncles were John Duncan, formerly of the Exploited, Colin McGuire, and vocalist Jon Carmichael - one of whom apparently went to school with my pal Alan Mason, although I can never remember which one it was. Crash made such a strong impression, slaking my musical thirst as it did during a time of severe drought, that I almost quacked my pants when I saw there was a full album. I took the thing home and it remained stuck to the turntable for the next six months. Libertine is big, grimy, gonzo rock, screeching feedback, bluesy hangovers and coughing up what's left of your innards with a vigour that makes Nick Cave sound like some sort of health nut, kind of like a stadium rock version of Foetus, I always thought; and like the best rock, it was a bit deranged with a faint tang of the laughing academy particularly in tracks such as Breakdown Express and Danny's Favourite Game - not really the sort of thing you would expect to see on Going Live! of a Saturday morning. More incredibly still, amongst the stench of gasoline, hard liquor, and prescription drugs, Blood Uncles not only managed to cover Prince's Let's Go Crazy without sounding even remotely ironic, but did it to the backing of what I'm pretty sure was a Yamaha RX15 drum machine - the sort of thing which doubtless propelled Nik Kershaw and Howard Jones to Smash Hits infamy - somehow ramped up to the kind of monstrous sound you expect from a Steve Albini production.

This group had everything - tunes, raw power, gut-wrenching pathos, and a genuinely dynamic vocalist who always sounded like his life depended on it, so I have no idea why it never happened beyond the general public having no taste. Nearly thirty years on and this one still brings me out in a cold sweat.

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