one faint deluded smile

Friday, October 21, 2005

Eternally Theirs

clowns re-issue cover

Hey, it's been a while - too much pleasure with my new synth (more A Slow Rip coming soon) and nothing incisive to say about music but...

Along pops 3 whole cds of studio recordings by Laughing Clowns comprising all their records. Phew - that's possibly too much information.

mp3: Eternally Yours (4.75mb)
mp3: Ghost Of An Ideal Wife (4mb)
mp3: When What You See (10mb)

I only ever saw the Clowns twice. The first one was right near the beginning of their career - on the a tour organised by Ken West in a colourful tent with lots of fairgound lights and so on. A large majority of my friends at the time fell in love with the band instantly - "hey, avant rock with jazz overtones, just my cuppa" - but I found it all so dreadfully mournful. Why was he so sad? He'd been in one of the most important punk bands of all time, couldn't he at least have a smidgen of good humour? And the music just seemed so unfocussed for my tastes. I needed This Heat's angularity, not fucking "Jazz", of all things! The next and last time was at the ever wonderfull Trade Union Club but I honestly can't remember anything else about that night at all. I imagine it was just about the same as the first but with different songs.

So, all said and done, I'm not their greatest fan. I'll never get over Ed Keupper's droll vocals - they are as deeply irksome to me now as they were in the 80s. And if I never hear that rollicking, dum-de-dum-dum tempo again I'll be very happy - it certainly is distinctive, if nothing else. And lastly, the rock / jazz combination they created rarely gels for me in the way that the tamer kind (Carla Bley, for example) does.

But, despite all these misgivings, their recordings are sometimes really, really fantastic. Driven, propulsive, deranged, psychotic and with a sombre mood that's just right for these times.

The "Cruel But Fair" compilation has been lovingly put together - possibly the best I've seen so far for an Australian re-release - with great photos and an excellent booklet filled with insightfull comments from Ed Keupper and Jeffrey Wegener. Buy it via Hot records.


  • This is quite good. I only know (besides the Saints, of course) Kuepper's Today Wonder which is great in places but also a bit dragging as a whole. But I'm definately going to check out the Laughing Clowns some more. The mp3 of "Ghost of an Ideal Wife" seems to be cut short, the end is a bit too abrupt it seems...

    By Blogger willem, at 8:24 pm  

  • the ghost track does end like that on the cd! i think it's just poor mastering - the next track has a 3 second delay on it which, i think has overwritten the last little bit of this track.

    By Blogger Phil, at 8:42 am  

  • more on ghost... it actually end like that on the original vinyl as well - confirmed at the ed k. message board.

    By Blogger Phil, at 8:47 am  

  • that's some great stuff there, phil. not sure what you mean by mournful. okay ed kuepper's voice is not the most uplifting voice in the universe. but the music isn't too sad, i find. ghost of an ideal wife has got a world music feel with that soprano sax which sounds like a clarinet. when what you see has got some hints of improvised jazz (slightly reminiscent of the lounge lizards) but judging from all 3 tracks they don't sound very jazzy to my ears. i only knew kuepper from his solo songwriter album everybody's got to which i still like a lot. the juxtaposition of the almost glorious sounding music with horns and stuff and his introspective voice works for me.

    By Blogger Alexander, at 3:10 am  

  • alex - i agree, the music isn't mournfull at all. the majority of the tracks on the comp are powerfully played and sometimes infectious as well. it's just his nasally vocal phrasing and down-beat melodies that puts me off. as for jazz, well, the band has contained 2 of australia's premium avant-jazz players (on of them for most of it's existance) and wegener has often said he was influenced by jazz drummers. they sure aren't jazz but it's never that far from the surface.

    By Blogger Phil, at 6:19 am  

  • I have to more-or-less side with Phil on this -- good music for the most part (and thanks Phil for ereminding me of them again...), but there are times I think if I hear Ed's singing again I'll scream. Too affected, too annoying, too self-conscious for me.

    I probably saw them play maybe half a dozen times in Sydney and I don't think I ever thought of them as "jazz" -- just a rock band with interesting horn lines, a natural progression from what happened in The Saints. Or something like that...

    By Blogger Jimmy Little, at 11:37 am  

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