Monday 16 October 2017

Various Artists - Entertaining The Invalid

I bought this CD brand new.
"So what?!"
Cheap second-hand, promos and MP3s are what I usually get, but seeing the sleeve and it's notes online I thought "I'll have some of that." Box sets I own featuring Bernard Parmegiani, Pierre Schaeffer, Dutch electronic music etc have extensive sleeve notes; I've never read them.

So here's Entertaining The Invalid, compiled by Matt Wand (formerly of Stock, Hausen & Walkman), who wrote the barley legible notes printed in typewriter-style font on brown paper. Why was that so appealing? I used to write a fanzine and this looks very much like one. I'm part of current 'indie' culture, you know. You probably don't know because being part of the true indie underground is being unknown, like all the artists on this compilation.

So I started having thoughts (a worrying phenomenon in itself) about indie culture, 'the underground', lo-fi, zines, small press art books etc. I wondered if there really was an increased interest in all that or my thinking had drifted toward the wishful side in the hope I might sell one more copy of an art book. There's something happening here, so I convinced myself. Look at vinyl sales. No, they're not a good marker. But wait, is the desire for vinyl more than hipster retroism and Dad nostalgia for what he sold years ago? Could it be a quest for 'the real'? If so, it's a deluded one. Unless the seeker wants 'real' analogue sound as opposed to digital clarity. Don't start that one. I mean 'real' as in album sleeves, for instance. Perhaps real as in a product of small specialist labels. As you know, the cost of them isn't exactly DIY democracy in consumer action. How about real CDs with sleeves designed to echo the spirit of indie circa...77? '79? (add your preferred date). Who'd have thought a CD could ever be thought of as 'real'? Before streaming it never entered our heads.

Not vinyl. No. Zines? One minute there looks like a revival, the next that zine community blog is dead, so I don't know. Anyway, as all of you who've attended small press fairs will have recognised, much of what's made is, sadly, more akin to the decorative arts than the spirit of '77. The spirit of an age is here on Entertaining The Invalid. But what kind of spirit? The 'Fuck you' 'I'm just doing this' spirit? The old 20th century spirit that kick-started zines with sci-fi buffs, 60s rebel kulture, 70s Punk, 80s DIY. 

'Stop asking questions' says The Anti-Mann on the opener, Angry Zen - right, I'm trying, but since getting this I've asked myself loads and can't stop. I ask myself what's so special about DIY culture whilst knowing the answer, then asking myself if...IF there's a bigger feeling for all that now is it a response the the potentially overbearing corporate mind control high rise luxury professional class world domination bid? Or what? Humans trying to find the human touch amongst the push-button health and safety regulated work life existence...

I'll stop asking questions. I'll say that this is the best compilation to appear this year. It's not just another nostalgia fest. Matt Wand's dug deeper than anyone; so deep it's as if he's made all the music himself and re-presented it as obscure artists. Try finding any of these. Where are/is Miracle Fat Destroyer now? Or Arthur Appliance? His/their Cheese Appliance is one of the highlights. Daft, wonky, Cabaret Voltaire...being daft. The hound-dog-on-your-trail barking on Tunnel Sickness...the video game stupidity of Joystick Jerk...fake Jazz in A Certain Ratio style Crazy Paint...Low Odour's Blue Monday joke. 

And so on, so much here to laugh at, puzzle over and simply enjoy for various reasons, not least because a lot of the tracks are really good. Get the real CD for the packaging. Available here.

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