Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Lemon Kittens - Cake Beast

Lemon Kittens
Cake Beast

Released 1980 on United Dairies
Reviewed by Jim Tones, 15/12/2005ce

Danielle Dax: Vocals, Keyboards, Tapes.

Karl Blake: Vocals, Guitar, Bass Guitar, Keyboards, Drums.

~ with assistance from ~
Ian Sturgess: Guitar, Bass Guitar. Mike Barnes: Percussion.
(courtesy of Brothers K)

This third release from the Lemon Kittens (a 12" 45 EP), is a very off-kilter sounding affair.
Well, most of their material was off-kilter, but this one seems to capture quite an intense feel, mainly due to the fact that Nurse With Wound mainman and United Dairies skipper, Steve Stapleton, was soon to be on the verge of breaking off his allegiance with John Fothergill, who, along with the recently departed Heeman Pathak, had both been party to the inception of NWW and UD.
Blake and Dax would have to find a new label (Illuminated), for their next and last release- "...The Big Dentist...".

Maybe the tensions and traumas of the situation, bled into the tracks that were recorded for this EP.

First up is a cover version of the lamentive, slightly foreboding and darkly psychedelic song- "Kites" -from 1967, which was originally done by Simon Dupree & The Big Sound.
This snappy ensemble contained three brothers by the name of Shulman, who later went on to form that uber-prog behemoth...
...Gentle Giant in 1970 (!).

Like other cover versions of the time (in the late seventies that is), by fellow underground folk-
The Slits ('I Heard It Through The Grapevine'), Cabaret Voltaire (Here She Comes Now') and Devo ('Satisfaction') to name a few, Lemon Kittens stripped down the original to quite bare essentials, especially in this case when the original 'hit' featured Gongs, Xylophone and Mellotron!

Using a sprightly but low-key drum machine and sparse manual percussion (by guest Mike Barnes), Dax enters singing those haunting words in a reverberating doom with Blake punctuating the pulse with a two-note Bass Guitar jab and later adding some solemn organ chords.
All the while the drum machine keeps things afloat.
As with The Slits, The Cabs and Devo, I loved the original versions, but these strange takes on 'classic' songs have always had a strange effect on me which is hard to describe.
I suppose it's a bit like sprinkling brandy (instead of vinegar) onto your plate of fish and chips...(no?)...
There is an odd bit in the LK cover where the voice of Karl Blake just adds a very eerie sounding- "eeeeeh"- which seems as if it has just been punched in from the mixing desk, only a few seconds, but adds to it's charm.

"Only A Rose"
This track was recorded entirely by Karl Blake.
There is great interplay with a splintered, flanged Guitar and some brilliant sounding fuzz-wah Bass, which seems to be treated by one of those 'mooger-frooger' contraptions as it growls and groans to add to the startling vocals...

"Terror of terrors, Horror of horros...." wails Blake kicking into a really pained song of anguish....

"This song's about suffusion...about confusion....about the drowning of friends....." His voice becoming more strained at his surroundings until he reaches the phrase- "....only a rooooooose!!..." and then that big bad Bass sound engulfs all, then decays out.

A descending Keyboard line, a Tape of some strange muted choir weaving in while spasmodic Drums flail about, Dax and Blake share the vocals amongst what is like a musically less grandiose, but more psychotic take on 'Udu Wudu'-era Magma...

"Walking on the roof, the roof of my mouth,
goose-stepping past the gumboils,
I'm heading north for the warm reasons.....
....to the cold regions...."

There is a shift in directions amongst the track, including very odd-
"La-La-La" vocals which play with your brain.
It must also be said, guesting on Bass Guitar, Ian Sturgess makes a great contribution to this track....which then leaves that disturbing choir Tape to bring it to it's fading moments.

As I've said , this recording seems to have a manifestation of the upheaval that was hanging over the United Dairies camp, but is an essential piece of the jigsaw in what was the brief existence of one of that eras most overlooked treasures...
...the fantastic Lemon Kittens!

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