Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Lemon Kittens - We Buy A Hammer For Daddy

Lemon Kittens
We Buy A Hammer For Daddy


Released 1980 on United Dairies
Reviewed by Jim Tones, 18/08/2004ce


Released in the summer of 1980, this debut LP from the duo of Karl Blake and Danielle Dax was a very strange beast indeed.
That it was released on the newly formed United Dairies label, shows that here were people (Steve Stapleton and John Fothergill), who had no trouble in searching out great experimental music folk when they put their feelers out.

Actually, I've heard two versions of events of how the Kittens ended up on the UD label.
I read in the excellent 'Flowmotion' fanzine (in jan. 1981), that Blake and Dax had spotted the extraordinary sleeve to the debut Nurse With Wound album in the offices of Step Forward, the label which put out their own debut EP- 'Spoonfed & Writhing' and they duly got in touch with UD. I've also read that Stapleton and Fothergill heard 'Spoonfed' and then got in touch with the Kittens.....I like to believe these two things actually happened at the same time... Oh...I'm SURE they did!!

What I really like(d) about the Lemon Kittens, is the fact that they were totally locked into their recordings and you were always taken by suprise in the seconds between their tracks, it was never one style or one pattern and it was always wonderfully weird.

The album cover is an abstract drawing by Dax which bolsters the suprise of what you will be hearing- a year later she would provide similar artwork to Robert Fripp's 'Let The Power Fall' and 'League Of Gentlemen' albums (I wonder how that came about?).

'We Buy...' consists of 16 tracks of nervous energy, strange tales, odd instrumentals and devil may care compositions wrought from their bedroom pile of instruments: Guitars (broken and intact), Keyboards (mighty and tacky....a stick synth!), Squeeze Boxes, Saxophones, Recorders ....and all this to aid their extraordinary vocal chords.

Each track is a gem, but I'll pick out some...

The brilliant opener of "P.V.S." which uses the alternate vocal deliveries of Blake and Dax spurred along by what can only be described as a psychotic version of Can in a kid's nursery...

"Coasters" is a very odd song with ghostly Piano and even more ghostly Vocals from Blake with a tale of what sounds like a rare strain of flower that's been mutated into something a group of weekend ramblers shouldn't see.
Minimal and very effective.

"The American Cousin" is a walking demon Piano with goose-grease Sax smeared on the footpath.

"Evidence" has analogue sequenced-Synth lines while Dax's multi-tracked Vocals relate how they've- "mangled in order to mingle"...

The fantastic "(Afraid Of Being) Bled By Leeches" has some great Flute from Dax while tribal Drums rattle around the Vox type Organ sound, all the while Blake's voice relates a tale of an encounter with ancient religions and wailing village beasts.

"Pain Topics" is the longest recording on the album, clocking in at 4.24.
It sounds like early 70s King Crimson trussed up in straight-jackets and fed through a late 70s filter, while they dip and bob around a rubber walled cell.

"Lycanthrothene" has some great manic playing with trash-fuzzed Guitar, gooning Bass and great interplaying vocal lines, very catchy!

"Motet" is made up of processed (Blake) Voices and considering it's simplicity, is very haunting and seems to last longer than it's 3 minutes.
'Motet' was a form of expressive vocal music going back centuries and the track is testament to the way the Kittens drew from a bottomless well of influences.

By pure contrast, "Throat Violence" has Dax adding yet another Vocal contrast which sounds like Siouxsie & The Banshees brought up on Faust and Minimalism instead of Bowie and Bolan.
A very strange song with nervous breaks of silence.

The album closer is "False Alarm (Malicious)" which has a scuttering and bony synth sequence with Dax declaring "I am worried......I am nonplussed" before the scuttle synth farts a bass tone and you're left wondering what the hell has motivated these two people.

I had to let my vinyl copy go in 1984 as I needed the cash at a bad time (talk about heartbreak!).
Nowadays, this vinyl album is worth a pretty penny, but I'm not a collector, so it doesn't grate on my mind.

Dax's Biter Of Thorpe label re-issued this fine album in 1993 and you should still be able to find a copy if you look hard enough.

Lemon Kittens were a hidden treasure of the British Isles and there was nobody like them before or since.

For anyone who is into 'outsider creations', the more minimal moments of Beefheart, anything by The Residents etc., then you should be taken in by this short-lived and utterly enchanted lost duo.


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