Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Album: Stretchmarks - The Stretch m​-​ARKhives

'Can you imagine Doobie in your funk?' - George Clinton

'You fake the funk / Your nose got to grow' - Bootsy Collins

I like my Funk uncut, but who doesn't? However, around 1978, a funny thing happened; white kids extracted seminal fluids from the recently deceased corpse of Punk and spiked everyone's drinks with it at the mutant disco. The bands born of that experiment wouldn't be content to play Funk lite or heaven forbid 'blue-eyed soul'. Oh no. This was a different beast altogether. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Time is a trick of the mind, as Rip Rig & Panic once suggested, so I'm here in 2018 listening to music that's 30 years-old but actually inspired by music that was 10 years-old then. Geddit? There were a bunch of lads living close to the eye of the 'Madchester' storm but not about to embrace the whole Summer of Love, E'd-up, Rave on scenario, as stated in this lyric: 'no way ( i'm getting laid back )\ there's no way I'm getting laid back, I'm going to attack attack attack attack attack!\ e-sucking teepee heads' (No Way / E-Sucking TeePee heads). Too young for Punk but keen on Funk, Jazz, Improv and more, they conjured up the spirit of '78, the one that had some contorting themselves and their music into shapes formed by Punk, Free Jazz, Dub and, er, 'experimental' Rock.

At a time when white music lacked 'attack' (the E-ffect) but dabbled in the 'baggy' version of Dance music or a straight-up take on Techno, Stretchmarks got themselves into another, 1978 state of mind. You could say that, like E-heads (tee-pee heads), they were escaping reality, but who can blame them? Me, I was coming down after a decade of discovering Jazz whilst dancing to Rare Groove and Hip-Hop. At my Soho cellar bar club, a friend would tell me of the chemicals he'd ingested and describe 'the scene' but I thought 'never mind the Balearics', what about Public Enemy? 

Anyway, here on The Stretch m​-​ARKhives are a set of tunes never released at the time. 1988 wasn't the place for them and today? Yes. Why not? We can all do the time warp. It's...fun? To an old fart like me who still treasures Defunkt or The Pop Group above most contemporary bands it's a treat anyway. As the world edged towards becoming a zone of zero funkativity in 1978 what The Pop Group followed by Rip Rig & Panic along with James Chance then Defunkt did was a blast. Little did I know that Defunkt's Joseph Bowie had a brother, Lester, would provide such a source of pleasure in the next decade, or that the creator of the very words 'Rip Rig & Panic' (Roland Kirk) would do the same. One door (Punk) closed, another (Jazz) creaked open a few years later.

Sorry, but I can't help referring to my musical past, it's so intertwined with that of Stretchmarks. Despite and because of the clear influences, this is a fascinating release. All the relevant names I've mentioned are fed into the sound. No Wavers DNA are also in the, um, DNA, as in Arto Lindsay-style guitar. What marks them out as very British, dare I say, are the 'eccentric' lyrics. 'lets get weird, lets get weird, lets get weird in my kidney shaped swimming pool.' (Let's Get Weird) for instance, reminds me very much of a satirical bite Jason Williamson spits out for Sleaford Mods. Likewise, in a nonsensical fashion: 'twighlight or dawn, i'm yawning at the sudden similarity.\ lobster or prawn , i'm certainly no Jaques Cousteau when it comes to the sea.' (Puddle of Love).

Free-form, funky, raw and ridiculous, Stretchmarks proved it was possible to fake the Funk without fear of serious nose growth. I'm enjoying this album very much and that's no lie. The CD with bonus tracks is worth getting if only for Cosmic String and No Reason. You can buy it and the vinyl version on the Bandcamp page. Band member Matt Wand's words are also, as always, worth reading.

Correction: I've just learnt that only Rex, the guitarist, was actually too young for Punk.

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