Thursday, 18 May 2017

Gutters - Skullscapes

Dan b.c (vocals) is a friend of mine but don't worry, he's not so close that I feel obliged to say good things about Skullscapes nor is his so far away that I can't be bothered, which is another way of saying YES I'm talking about it because I know him and NO, him being a friend isn't influencing what I'm about to say - 

Being unused to 'reviewing' Rock albums I'm in strange territory (strange but oh-so-familiar) - those lands of long ago - you know? Back when something in Rock (the Big '77 Intervention) made it interesting again although from that we have to fast forward just a year or two to find something of what's going on here, like PiL - I say 'like PiL because they're what I hear stalking a lot of Skullscapes - in the bass and guitar - but you'll be pleased (I was) to know that Dan isn't attempting any Lydonesque vocals (who would dare?). Dan's what makes this a Gutters album rather than a PiL tribute, which is not to say, I stress, that it's totally derivative and besides, what's wrong with wearing influences on your sleeve, especially when they're choice ones? Dan's a poet first but channelling his words through the noise of drums, bass and guitar wasn't a bad move at all. Having to edit, cut, shape poetry to suit segments of sound should be compulsory for all poets - it'd teach them to cut out the waffle, the listen-to-me-because-I'm-a-poet self-reverential crap so many poets indulge in. 

In the tradition of song which demands a chorus or 'hook' Dan repeats lines - 'Electrostatic repetition' - 'Whitechapel!' etc but that's OK, what he says in the verse is worth listening to, whether the subject be London (ah, the city life) or Facebook or the art scene audience - Dan's that kind of lyricist, you know, the sometimes ambiguous kind that might make you wonder exactly what he's talking about without lapsing into stream-of-consciousness verbals and isn't mystery good? Car Psyche is a good example - it struck me when I saw them play it 'live' last year and I must say that you should see them 'live' when they next play - 'Get out of the car, get back in the car' - the car as metaphor for all forms of social confinement/entrapment? Or simply an ecological point about our seeming obsession with cars? 

What did Wire once say in their musical manifesto about 'no solos' 'no blues'? None of that here either - so if the starting point is somewhere in '79, Skullscapes doesn't come on as 'aged' for your nostalgic delight; it's fresher than that thanks to the kind of 'raw power' only those with a devil-may-care attitude can muster. Gutters care, but not in the same way as wannabe careerist Rockers do. If Skullscapes isn't anything like a 'perfect' debut, see that as an essential aspect of being free from such notions as sterile, precise (lifeless) music. 

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