KAKUTOPIA

Radioactive Sparrow – They Don’t Really Mind The Pubes (1986)

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In a way, Heaving Stews has always retained his initial role within the group as a kind of stylistic catalyst and aesthetic mentor. Certainly, it’s true that had Boyes, Cox and Bargefoot been left to their own devices in the first 5 years, they’d have not been nearly as interesting or worth revisiting today. So, despite his absence from its recording, he considered They Don’t Really Mind the Pubes to be the band’s pinnacle for some time, serving as a blueprint for how subsequent Kak should sound. What impressed him, probably, was the post-Beefheartian counterpoint of the guitars, paring down their interplay to single-line riffing whose angularity was rounded by a Spartan sensuality; or perhaps the rugged and raw rock-band configuration bashing out music that sounds composed but whose total improvisation renders it fluid, bled and anarchic.

Leaving the bedroom and moving back into the Hut (garden shed) for the first time since Festive Sex saw the reintroduction of the drum-kit and conventional amplification. The return was largely due to the fact that Bargefoot and Boyes were concurrently resuscitating the idea of a rehearsing band (Will & Dr. Edwards) – which would meet its crushing Waterloo at the much-hyped Central Hotel gig in August – thus all the gear for a normal band was set up, ready to use.

‘Pube,’ like most vocabulary to do with sex, is a stupid and clumsy word. However, its phonetic proximity to (rhyming with) ‘tube’ is interesting – on close inspection pubes tend to reveal an almost tubular character in their greasy translucence. But its inclusion in the title, and this awkward sense of it, is apt. For all the puerility of Sparrow’s habitual scatology and pornographic humour, this album is far more gritty and grimy in handling sex-related subject matter. ‘Spitfire Jenkins’ features some bizarre lyrical content (‘Put the tubes down your tube/Drinkin’ Coke out like a straw of your fanny’) from Bargefoot after he accidentally came upon a video belonging to ‘a relative,’ called Pussy Talk. It was among several other titles that would be classed as far softer – mostly the Electric Blue series that pornlord Paul Raymond flooded the nascent video-rental market with in the early 80s. Pussy Talk, a hardcore US import, apparently illicit in its lack of certified packaging, departed from the Electric Blue sketch/tableau/set-piece model by acting like a feature film; set in a hospital, the storyline seemed less guided by opportunities to flesh out fantasy with graphic depiction of copulators, than by the pursuit of extremes that fell short of, and side-stepped, coprophilia or golden weather (no shit). Hence one memorable scene where a doctor experiments with the mingling of various popular sodas (Coke, 7Up etc.) with naturally secreted pudendic fluids by pouring the drink directly into the vulva into which a rubber tube has already been inserted, and through which he then ingests the mixed results. Boyes and Bargefoot found the movie tough to watch, for the most part, its cringeability a key device, obviously, and its vibe translates into the album’s content with similarly mixed results. The imagery in ‘Spitfire Jenkins’ translates quite well into an off-the-wall rock lyric, but Boyes’s recounting of love-at-first-sight as ignited by the first glimpse of an anal sphincter, or worse, Bargefoot/Boyes’s scatological caper ‘The 69 That Went Wrong,’ which closes out the album, are simply base.

They Don’t Really Mind the Pubes is a rare case in the Sparrow output where the master tape was lost (got broken) very quickly after recording. What survives was originally Bargefoot’s first edit to dish out to the fellow band members while he concentrated on a more complete and definitive version. Consequently there are some bizarre edits on several songs (most notably ‘Glass With Care’) where content was cut for reasons now impossible to recall (although periodic, excessive microphone feedback might have been a factor). Also, using Jason’s double-cassette machine to run off the master, Bargefoot casually and randomly dubbed material over the top at various points throughout the album: mostly, he used a letter tape from painter Lee ‘Pixie’ Williams (‘Geddy’) that mostly recounts real or imagined sexual adventures undertaken while studying fine art at Birmingham. The tape was for a long time a source of collage material and inspiration for the band, and also forms the core of a Laurie Anderson-style stage show that Gwilly Edmondez mounted with Ceri Davies and Jane Powell in the Autumn of 1986 called Bigger Geddy Numbers, where it is used alongside, among other things, Michael Tippett on Desert Island Discs. The album document of this project will be posted here shortly, because it’s quite interesting, some of it even ‘good.’

The departure of Cox by the end of the Summer to which this was Spring, while not yet remotely sensed or suspected, is retrospectively more sorry given the defining performance he turns in here. ‘Glass With Care’ is among his best performances as an improvising lyricist; his bass playing on ‘Shit-Hook Woman’ and ‘New Purple Dress’ is nothing short of masterful genius – listen out especially for how the uses he flanger in ‘Shit-Hook Woman.’

Random extras:
This was the first album to feature Bargefoot’s brother, Niklus, the original inventor of Kak’s basic methodology, in private, during the late 70s, even taking up the lead singer role for ‘Shit-Hook Woman.’ The end of ‘The 69 That Went Wrong’ has a short burst from a demo tape by a band called The Iconoclast Largeactilites, which Bargefoot had been taping over to make the edit. At the time of recording, Bargefoot had dropped out of PNL, but was living in Finsbury Park (4, Prah Road) and working as a porter in the sterilizing unit of the Ear, Nose & Throat hospital on Grays Inn Road, which is where the word ‘rhinoplasty’ was first encountered, although the song doesn’t in anyway refer to nose jobs.

Tracklisting

1.     Glass With Care
2.     Same Note For Half-an-Hour
3.     Rhinoplasty
4.     Shit-Hook Woman
5.     One Day In The Park
6.     Spitfire Jenkins
7.     New Purple Dress
8.     The 69 That Went Wrong

Personnel
Brooce Boyes
Dai Cox
Bill Bargefoot
Niklus

Recorded in the Hut, April 1986

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Written by Gustav Thomas

November 14, 2010 at 8:08 pm

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