one faint deluded smile

Monday, November 01, 2004

After The Cow

It's 1978 and Henry Cow are splitting into 2 factions before breaking up completely. On one side, Tim Hodgkinson, Georgie Born and Linsday Cooper are still wanting to make difficult modern compositions with a Socialist sting. On the other are the rest of the band - Fred Frith, Chris Cutler and Dagmar Krause - who felt the need to make shorter, more emotional songs (even if they still loved the other stuff too). After the recording had finished Hodginson says "That's not Henry Cow", everyone agrees and The Art Bears were born.

Enough of the bad musical history lesson, just go to Chris Cutler's fabulous web site where he explains the full story in more than enough detail for any obsessed prog-rock officianado.

The only thing I'd like to point out about this schism is the complete irony of it all. Within 2 years, everyone in the band went on to bands / projects where songs (of one sort or another) where the main focus. For a time they all left their contemprary composer modes and just got down to playing things a bit more like the folk-rock that had enveloped them when they were younger.

The first to leave the fold was John Greaves who followed his mate and co-conspirator Peter Blegvad into the uptight jazz-rock song cycle "Kew.Rhone." Mr Mythical Beast has already regaled many of you here with some info on this lovely album but it's got so many good songs that I had to post my own favourite - the title track - where almost operatic singing loops round various intricate piano riffs and Blegvad puts his love of words to best use:

mp3: Kew.Rhone.

Most of these people would then go onto the less satisfactory 80s rock project The Lodge which seemed to be the blueprint for much of Greaves' later work. It still had moments of beauty, though:

mp3: Swelling Valley

The Art Bears had a 3 LP career but it eventually fell apart due to illness, disgust and changing priorities. Frith moved to New York where he found a whole new crew of players to associate with, Cutler continued to play with anyone and everyone who held vaguely similar ideas and Krause became one of the more prominent interpretors of Brecht. Their first album - "Hopes and Fears" - is still the one that thrills me most with it's moments of darkness and lyrical weirdness:

mp3: Riddle

The one who surprised me most was Tim Hodgkinson who turned away from his overblown avant-prog epics and subsumed himself in post-punk influenced The Work. He plays an important instrumental role in the band but most of the songwriting was done by guitarist Bill Gilonis. I only ever heard one single of theirs in the 80s but picked up a compilation in more recent times. The male vocals are as annoying as David Thomas in twitter mode but the songs and playing are as good as anything else released in those years:

mp3: Maggot Song (with Catherine Jauniaux on vocals)

"Kew.Rhone." and The Art Bears' "Art Box" are both available almost everywhere. The Lodge's album "Smell of a Friend" is a 2nd hand vinyl find, I'd imagine. And The Work's releases are difficult but not impossible to find.


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