Saturday, 2 March 2019
The Comedy of Errors: Winterset - Horse of Mud (9 May 1992)
This track was always likely to be included here, but until a couple of days ago, I would have only been able to provide very sketchy information about it or Winterset themselves.
My notes describe it as “repetitive but the guitar modulations keep things interesting” and it’s true. Horse of Mud uses squalls of feedback throughout but does so in a way which gives the track texture and colour rather than as an excuse for feedback wankery. And that was enough for me, I had to go on the sound and feel of the thing, because the vocals had been mixed as though delivered through a walkie talkie left on the floor of the studio, so I couldn’t glean anything from the lyrics. Neither was there much help to find on the Internet. Winterset’s Discogs page condenses their output down to a promo single of Horse of Mud and the same song’s appearance alongside a track called Restore the Monarchy on a Beechwood Music sampler album called Expo1. Apart from that, nothing more to say, I thought. Until I spotted that Horse of Mud’s demo had been uploaded to YouTube. Not only that, but the uploader, puffinboy65, had also included the following nugget of information in the description box: “You can find the recorded version on eBay, but to my mind this has more of the petrified-man-fleeing-an-unnamed-pursuer-through-a-clammy-lianna-filled-jungle vibe intended by the writer”. So it was less a sludge rock update of Chestnut Mare, but instead belonged to the smaller sub-section of rock songs to be filed under the heading “Run For Your Life”. At its worst this includes, well... Run For Your Life by The Beatles; at its creepiest it includes Aisha by Death in Vegas; while its absolute peak, for me, is Driving This Road Until Death Sets You Free by Zombie Zombie. Horse of Mud isn’t out of place in that company though, with its relentless, grinding main riff sounding like the pounding of panicked running footsteps, while the feedback evokes the terrible ‘something’ in pursuit. Maybe a horse to truly run in terror from?
puffinboy65 turned out to be the composer of Horse of Mud, Martin Smith and his YouTube channel is well worth a look as it contains several other Winterset demos. Horse of Mud remains the anomaly among them - loud, distorted, heavy and menacing - the others are lighter, poppier and more accessible, I particularly like I Don’t Understand What That Means, Baby. The fun comes in guessing which ones would have been taken forward had the chance presented itself. According to Martin, there wasn’t much time for Winterset to do much more than they did: “We played probably 20 times, mostly supports in North London. Our first ever gig was with Suede!” It presents an intriguing alternative universe where Animal Nitrate remains a demo on a YouTube channel and the 1993 Brit Awards rocks out to Horse of Mud. Alas, Martin now confines his music to a spot of kareoke. When he first became aware I was going to blog about Horse of Mud, he was slightly bemused by it to say the least, “Why the fuck would anyone be interested?”, but I was interested and if this post sees even one person head over to his YouTube channel, my labours will not have been in vain.
Videos courtesy of Winterset - Topic and puffinboy65.
With thanks to Martin Smith.