Fruits de Mer/Regal Crabomophone – Annual 2012 (free download)
There are two records on offer in this special-edition double 7” vinyl set; one each from the sister labels Fruits de Mer and Regal Crabomophone. It’s nice to see young people producing real physical things; it’s how the government wants the population to dig them out of our current economic hole. It’s refreshing too, that what’s being produced is so unashamedly niche and uncompromising in a climate of generic bands who attempt to please their audience without saying anything contentious or offending anyone.
Right from the off, this record is a go-er. ’25 German Boy Scouts’ by Permanent Clear Light is good atmospheric rock, with more than a hint of Moby. Its cryptic, suggestive lyrics hint at unnamed tragedy and the delayed guitar work layers atmosphere over the driving drums and melodic keyboard work. Despite being over seven minutes long, there isn’t a great deal of thematic material explored, but in the tradition of the Doors, they take a good thing, and just keep hammering it out until it fades into the distance.
‘All Stars Are Asleep’ by Vibravoid is pretty stereotypically German-sounding music – especially vocally. It’s a nice, solid psych-rock track which sounds like a collaboration between Adam Jones and Kraftwerk in their less poppy phase. In fact, if you’re really off your head, you could try playing it at the same time as Tool track ‘Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman)’.
The minimal but really effective guitar work from Vibravoid gives way to some electronic noise-making for the last minute of the track, which really spaces me out. It sets the scene perfectly for ‘Volcano’ by Red Elektra ’69, which cuts through the psychadelia like only a slice of NWOBHM or some eighties US Hardcore Punk could do. It’s everything I hope to hear from the retro stylings of the Fruits de Mer Annual – the instruments sound light, not over-produced, but the music is off-the-chain mosh-pit material. In its own stripped-down way it’s the best tune on either of these records, absolutely brimming with raw power, short-but-sweet and so visceral it doesn’t suffer for its total lack of vocals.
Fruits de Mer
The Fruits de Mer Annual starts with the crashing chords of ‘Destruction’ by Langor[can be downloaded for free at the bottom of the page ], which is a cover of the theme from the 1968 film ‘Just for the Hell of it’. It’s got the sound of 13th Floor Elevators or early Who but it’s not hugely inspiring. I’ve heard many better songs played by better bands, and there’s nothing at all original about this one. The main gripe I have with it is that lyric writing has come a long way since it was acceptable to use lines like “…from the zoo: a lion, a tiger and an elephant too” or “they’ll huff and they’ll puff and they’ll blow your house down” – especially in music not aimed at five-year-olds.
‘I’m a Man’ by The Bordellos is a cover of a song by the Yardbirds. When I say “cover”, I think it would better be described as an “acid-induced nightmare rendition” of the Yardbirds. I am not sure whether I don’t get this track with it’s out-of-tune instruments, two-bit production and general, all-round ugly noisiness, or whether there’s nothing to get, and the whole thing is just a fairly shambolic cacophony.
Never fear though – Side B comes to the rescue. ‘Thick as a Brick’ is a Jethro Tull cover by “US one-man band Jay Tausig” which puts the rest of the tracks on the Fruits de Mer record in the shade. It’s a really upbeat 3/4 track with harmonising guitar work and sounds like Blind Melon (or Treefight for Sunlight) covering Donovan. It’s well executed, it’s well produced, it’s mature, it’s funny and it’s got message. It’s very likeable.
‘In the Court of Conscience’ by Beau is a previously unreleased track from the 70s. Lyrically it’s rather interesting, if blunt and brutal at times, but musically it falls quite squarely in to the category of “done before”. The lyrics definitely make up for the simplicity of the tune – and I think it would be very harsh to suggest that it should have remained unreleased – but the danger of recreating music from the sixties and seventies is that the simplicity of the ideas, which worked so well in technologically leaner times, which defined the accessibility of genres that attracted across-the-board interest from large tranches of uninspired and disaffected youth, is that those tranches have since been ruthlessly subdivided, and catered to in minutest detail by a multitude of great bands.
Both of these records have a really retro production on them – they genuinely sound like they were made in the 60s in a cheapo basement recording studio. It’s refreshing in a world where a lot of songs are produced up down the toilet with tons of digital effects. I have respect for FdM and RC for the type of music that they put out, but the old tunes here rarely stand up their modern counterparts, and the Fruits de Mer record unfortunately seems rather tame, despite the fact that it would have been a nice little retro release 30 years ago. Despite being a respectable achievement for the people producing it, it’s perhaps a shame that the Regal Crabomophone record isn’t available separately, but to be fair, £8 for two vinyls, including P&P is hardly extortionate.
Release Date 12/12/11 (Fruits de Mer Records)