Sunday, 28 December 2014

Oliver: Wckr Spgt - Francis Mitterand (17 November 1991)

When this blog reaches 1995-96, I may very well regale you with tales of the days when I was in a band. We were called Extraordinary and we were a garage band.  Mainly because we never got further than the garage we used to rehearse in.  Our songs veered between heartfelt love songs and sub Blur Great Escape era "character songs" about obsessive chess players.  Had we been any good, I would have loved to try and take things further but we were hampered by a lack of talent and a lack of equipment - three acoustic guitars, a violin, a recorder,  a keyboard with the settings for animal noises on and a child's drum kit.  How on earth were we going to win a BRIT Award with that set-up?

Had we been doing it 10 or 15 years earlier we may have consciously realised that this was all we needed to put music out there for consumption, even if it wasn't going to make our fortune. Unfortunately, we were unaware of the Messthetics genre.  Coined by Scritti Politi singer, Green Gartside to define the DIY athstetic of disorganised, cheaply made but passionately felt music of the post-punk scene from the late 70s/early 80s.  Eventually this phrase gave way to the more pronounceable definition of lo-fi, music which sounded the way it was recorded, on 4 track recorders or straight onto a cassette.

This was how the "anyone can do it" principle was made available to wannabe bands long before the days of MySpace and Extraordinary would regularly tape rehearsals which would feature songs, conversations and general mucking about.  Had we possessed a TARDIS, we could have gone back to a time when cassette only material was doing a healthy trade among the curious.  The hey day of cassette only labels like Smelly Tapes, Deleted Records or Fuck Off Records.  These labels were homes to an array of bands across the UK with such memorable/puerile names as God and the Turds, Anthrax for the People and The Scrotum Poles.  An Extraordinary recording session would most likely have found its home at Fuck Off Records considering that one of its releases was of an argument between the singer and bassist of a band called The Teen Vampires, which label head, Kif Kif described as the worst tape he had ever heard, but which he felt he had to release because of its awfulness.

The cassette scene was just as strong in the USA and it was from that scene that Wckr Spgt emerged. Formed in Claremont, California in 1981, Wckr Spgt's brand of absurdist whimsy and punk attitude found its way out on a number of cassette albums through the 80s, although at the point that we meet them in November 1991, they were making their first vinyl release on the Untitled EP which includes this song, a demented paean to then French president, Francois Mitterand.  The song bears all the hallmarks of something made up on the spot due to someone working out a functioning rhyme for the name, Mitterand.  Extraordinary wrote some of our best songs this way, but while we were tied to the convention of love for the unobtainable girl, Wckr Spgt used it to query whether the President of France was physically warm enough.

Video courtesy of beardlessless.

Some more information about Wckr Spgt's exposure on the Peel show.

Wckr Spgt's website is well worth a visit, not least because all their work is available for free download there.

Messthetics can be discovered in greater sonic detail through pages such as this.

Extraordinary's contribution to Messethtics

Cassette culture was still thriving on Peel's show in 1991. Throughout November of that year, he played tracks from a cassette EP recorded by a young Missouri resident called Boone Stigall.  The EP was called Transient Man and consisted of Stigall singing rather funky tunes over his own wah-wah guitar and providing between song commentary.  Some tracks were performed live to an audience of units.  None of them would have made the cut on my mixtape

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