Radioactive Sparrow – The Complete Guide To Nothing (1985)

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Sits oddly in the continuity, this one, self-consciously dark and earnestly abrasive, quite unlike the albums either side, but as much a part of the true story as both. Like album 17, it features just Dai Cox and Bill Bargefoot and was originally conceived as a side project with the name ‘Bigga,’ hence the name emblazoned on the cover. But some time between  September (when this was recorded) and Christmas 1985, it was decided to count the album as part of the unfolding Kak saga after all, the precedent having already been set by Dai & Will Sessions, or even, in fact, B’Naal Emon Pip back in 1982. Bigga, incidentally, came from a bizarre piece of graffiti on a wall in Bridgend, a name writ large on a shabby wall not replicated anywhere else, apparently. For some reason Bargefoot liked it, and tried using it again in 1986 for the Gwilly Edmondez Laurie Anderson-imitating Geddy Numbers show at Chapter (album of which will appear here in due course); when booking that act, Frantz, the legendary bar-keeper asked if it was named after the Scottish Rugby player, Alexander Bigger. Answer was a disinterested ‘No,’ and the association with sporting heritage rather dulled its appeal.

Sitting between two ebulliently exuberant classics in Oh Yeah, Oh Wow and His Y-Fronts Are On The Music, one cool thing about this album is its insistent darkness, Cox and Bargefoot marrying sternly chiseled mood-riffs to the absurdly naïf-sounding bleeps of the Casio VL-1’s built-in beats. This derived from an earnestness with which the two approached the sessions, feeling duty-bound once more to forge new territories ready for the return of the band’s other half. Come December, however, the multi-coloured sprightliness would be back in full force.

The Complete Guide To Nothing also makes much use of collage, Bargefoot by this time being in receipt of Jason Davies’s cast off twin-deck tape machine, allowing very primitive 2-track dubbing to take place when editing down sessions. The bizarre array of sources includes: a recording of Cardiff’s Queen Street on a busy day; a Radio 4 documentary about Jean Rhys (Bargefoot was into her stuff) and her obsession with Jane Eyre; the B52’s ‘Toss That Beat’; and two Kak wives, Tracie-Ann and Maria.

1.     Duck Shooting In Manchester
2.     Wide Sargasso Sea
3.     Frame That Picture O’ Me
4.     Dancing Queen
5.     Brother Jo
6.     Wank
7.     Biddih
8.     Uncle Nobody
9.     Subsidies (Play It Now)


Dai Cox – all/any insts
Bill Bargefoot – all/any insts, tapes & voice

Recorded at the Old Mill, September 1985



Written by Gustav Thomas

October 30, 2010 at 5:17 pm

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