I’ve been checking out my local library, trying to support it as best I can, having many fond memories of borrowing LPs from the Birmingham Central Record Library in my youth. The Hornsey branch bibliotek still has a very reasonable selection of compact discs, despite these slowly decreasing in number, and I got out a grab bag of selected recordings, as will be seen, which are forming the main part of my listening at the moment, and that I think are worth spending a few moments reflecting on.
To start with, there are works by significant bands of both the late sixties and the late seventies, and both of which are sadly in danger of being forgotten today. In the former decade, we have Family, the Leicester band who were one of the very first that I ever caught live. A twofer of their first two albums - ‘Music in a Doll’s House’ and ‘Family Entertainment’. Period pieces, maybe, and the principal reason for their relative obscurity nowadays (they obtained a certain cachet years back through being the main subject of Jenny Fabian’s shag-and-tell contemporary account of the touring life, ‘Groupie’) being that, ambitious and intricate though their numbers were, they couldn’t quite crack memorable tunes that stay in the mind. Even their most successful single, 1971′s ‘In My Own Time’, has, at least from this particular vantage point in time, little ‘commercial potential’. The fact that it got to Number Four in the charts is surely a testament to the adventurousness of those distant times?
From 1977 comes ‘Alien Soundtracks’ by San Francisco’s Chrome, a missing link in the chain of Industrial Music if there ever was one. Their 1979 masterpiece ‘Half Machine Lip Moves’ is a genre definer, and ‘Alien Soundtracks’ is very much its precursor, but it is only now that I have finally managed to get to hear it. Any fan of the punk-charged DIY Electronica of Tuxedo Moon (another SF product) or of Thomas Leer/Robert Rental/early Human League needs to hear this band, although, to be frank, their sheer aggression and nastiness would put them more at home in the soon-come era of Thatcher and Reagan, and Nine Inch Nails and Death Grips are perhaps more accurate reference points.
I want to spend more time on discussing the other two bands from my library excursion. Rather neatly, one of them was at its peak in the eighties and the other in the nineties (my haul thus represented four decades), but both are united by them having among the most voluminous and complex discographies of the whole rock canon, so it was instructive to hear two recordings that I was unfamiliar with from these most individual of groups - Current 93 and The Fall.