Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Lords of Acid - Expand Your Head (1999)

I've been listening to this for a couple of weeks now, and all that time I've been under the illusion of the whole thing being the work of Praga Khan - who seems to be the Super Hans from Peep Show of Belgian new beat, sort of; but now I find out there were at least three Lords of Acid, and some of these tracks are further co-credited to other artists such as Richie Hawtin, Frankie Bones, Joey Beltram, Luc Van Acker, and even the ordinarily bloody awful KMFDM, so I don't know what to think. My initial feeling was that Praga Khan is what Fatboy Slim would have been in a better world, which I say as someone who does not necessarily hold Fatboy Slim in high regard. I think the problem is that I can't separate Norman Cook from the knowledge of his being Tarquin Ponsonby-Worsnip III, the Earl of Haverford who chose a more working class name for himself after watching Billy Liar and joining the Housemartins - who would have been the worst group in human history were it not for the Beautiful South; so Praga Khan is like listening to Fatboy Slim without getting irritated or having to work out whether it's actually the original sample you're enjoying.

Anyway, whether this be collaborations, remixes, or whatever else, it has the paradoxical quality of sounding like the work of a dozen different artists whilst remaining consistently true to the vision and standard of just one individual, or maybe three, or however many were involved. There's big beat, Todd Terry-style techno, the rap metal of Who Do You Think You Are?, traditional 1988 acid, drum and bass, EBM, and even fucking reggae, and not only does it all sound like the work of one person, but the work of one person who happens to be good at everything; by which I mean when we get to the token hip-hop number with some rap dude, it sounds consistent with the rest but also like it could have sat happily on some other disc sandwiched between Rodney P and Task Force. Bizarrely, none of the toes of Acid dipped into adjacent styles suggest the work of anyone who might have been better advised to stick to what they know, so there's nothing equivalent to those bloody awful token hip-house tracks which kept turning up on rap albums at the end of the eighties.

The only flaw with this collection - which is a load of singles clubbed together seeing as I didn't already mention that - is possibly the excessive sexual content, mostly delivered in one of those dominatrix voices customarily threatening to step on your pecker, you naughty boy, and which never really did anything for me. Topics covered, or at least thematically invoked, include inflatable companions, whipping, up the bum, rubber, and sitting on your face. It's fine, and kind of liberating I suppose, but I've generally found the great majority of sex people - as Alan Partridge termed them - to be a massive jaw-cracking yawn, and this collection goes some way in that same direction, lyrically speaking. I think it's probably overuse of the word pussy. I've thought about this, in light of the fact that I always loved all those fetishy Adam & the Ants numbers, and I suppose it's because it gets a bit relentless after a while - pussy pussy pussy vagina pussy pussy flange pussy pussy... I'd say the same were it seventeen songs about penises.

Then there's Rough Sex which suggest that love is illusory and for weaklings because having it off is what it's all about. The song accordingly instructs us to think nothing of holding hands, candle light, love letters, red wine, red roses, tables for two and:

Don't think about trifle.

Honestly, that's what it says in the song with sternly Teutonic intonation. It may be one of those deals where it just seems funnier when you're not from Belgium.

Still, so long as no-one slips Expand Your Head on at a wedding involving prudish elderly relatives with heart conditions, you can tune out most of the sticky bits should you feel so inclined, leaving just the dance music, which is mostly great and bizarrely eclectic. For a while there was an unspoken assumption of continental European music being identified by its wearing purple drainpipes converted to flares by yellow triangles sewn in below the knee, and the great misunderstanding seems to have come from the notion that this was a bad thing. Expand Your Head demonstrates that this is not the case, once it's finished bumming you up the wrong 'un.

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