It's June 1989. In the aftermath of the Tianenmen Square massacre, London indie nothings The Keatons decide to record and release a 7" single all by themselves, partly because it would be a gloriously independent gesture in the spirit of post-punk DIY, but more because no other bastard was ever going to ever pay for them to do it. I wasn't in the band by this point; I was struggling manfully through a clutch of A Levels, including an Economics paper which asked me to write an essay about the monopoly enjoyed by the Severn Bridge, not that the Severn Bridge itself was able to smugly revel in its enviable position. By the time the record came out I had joined the band, however, and I've spent the last 20 years pretending that the record had something to do with me whenever I imagined that would be advantageous to me in some way, i.e. never. Anyway, I may as well keep up the pretence.
This is what it looked like; I've just swiped this image from eBay because I can't find my copy anywhere, which is annoying, in fact I might even have to buy the bastard off eBay.
Two things struck me when I got my hands on it for the first time. First of them was: "Hang on... Isn't recidivist spelt with a 'c', not an 's'?" To which the answer is "yes", and the explanation is "Steve the bass player didn't know that when he sorted out the artwork". Of course, there's no such word as "recidivistish", although there should be, so I suppose we could have got away with "residivistish", because that isn't a word either. The word "recidivistish" doesn't appear in the song, either, which further complicates, some might say trivializes the issue still further. Certain band members could never be bothered to say "recidivistish" if the song ever came up for discussion, and they'd say "recid", which would be responded to with withering scorn and laughter by pedants within the group, who would insist on saying it in full.
The second thing struck me when I put it on the turntable. It's slow. I mean, horrifically slow. You need to play it at about 50rpm for it to be at the same pitch and speed it was recorded at. I've still no idea how this happened, and when I rang Steve in a panic and mentioned it, he said "yeah, I noticed that at the cut, but I was more interested in getting the record made to be honest." The b-sides are slow, too, play at about 47rpm for best results. Fortunately, thanks to the onward march of technology, I can use magic computers to restore them to Concert Pitch, which is what I've done.
(I should add at this point that if you find post-punk angular guitars in the mould of Wire and The Fall to be deeply annoying, you should probably stop reading, although you probably have already.)
This was the glorious A-side which received a glowing review in Sounds from Andy Ross, head of Food Records, not that he was sufficiently moved to give us any money, or indeed hookers. An anti-verse consisting of grown men bellowing "pick a vice", followed by an unusually chirpy chorus:
Oh I bless you, such a recidivist fish
Up to the blue deep lake, the feelers twitch
Tote en hiver
Scrawl what's on my mind
Gibberish. I remember John Peel playing it one night and the excitement being so intense that I almost did a little wee.
Neil, the singer, would write the songs on a battered acoustic guitar. They'd often consist of a nothingy two-string riff repeated ad infinitum followed by a slighly more exciting chorus. "Toys" is a good example. The longevity of this tune was quite remarkable, by which I mean vaguely interesting to about 8 people. We played it at most gigs we did, and were still playing it 6 years later at a shit outdoor festival in Jena, East Germany, when it became clear that no-one really wanted to be in the band any more and we all went home, arguing as we went. Sounds mighty, though, I think. I reiterate that I'm not on it, but I could easily have been, if I'd been in the band.
Dark Sudden Something
God, there's a lot of flanging and chorusing on all this stuff. It's a bit disorientating, like having a blindfold on in a small rowing boat and two jam jars each containing a bee sellotaped to the sides of your head. This was a song that got louder and sped up towards the end, ending in chaos and general thrashing about; 20-something men are under the erroneous impression that this makes a fantastic ending to a live set, so that's what we often did. Extraordinary bass riff from a man who pronounced fussy, flashing guitar playing to be evil incarnate, but still. A reference in the lyrics to someone called "Jenny Ginsberg". No idea who that might be, although there's a Jenny Ginsberg on MySpace these days, who has written a song called "Do I Subtract or Divide to get to I?", to which the answer is "Hahaha, no idea love, sorry."
No idea why I did the above. Sheer nostalgia, I guess. Back to work.