Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Laughing Clowns - Mr. Uddich Schmuddich Goes To Town

The Laughing Clowns
Mr. Uddich Schmuddich Goes To Town


Released 1979 on Prince Melon
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 18/03/2006ce


The good news is that there is finally a comprehensive anthology on the incredible Laughing Clowns, it was recently issued by the Australian label Hot Records and it is absolutely essential. It is called "Cruel But Fair" and it contains 3 CD's with everything The Clowns recorded during their brief lifespan. I cannot praise it highly enough. This group in my opinion were one of the most important rock groups of the last 30 years, seek this collection out and see what I mean.

The Laughing Clowns were formed in 1978 by former Saints guitarist/songwriter Ed Kuepper. It was Kuepper's intention to fuse the free jazz sounds of John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler with rock & roll. Horn led rock bands had existed before (The Electric Flag, Sons Of Champlin, Chicago etc.) but they were nothing like The Clowns. Actually you can hear the genesis of Kuepper's vision in the last 2 Saints albums "Eternally Yours" & "Prehistoric Sounds", however on the those records the horn arrangements were more Stax/Volt based. With The Clowns the horn charts were definitely avant-garde jazz influenced. Perhaps this is why The Saints broke up as I don't think Chris Bailey was as into experimentation as Kuepper. After hearing The Laughing Clowns in the early 80's I was convinced it was Kuepper who was the real driving force behind The Saints, of course others will disagree.

"Mr. Uddich Schmuddich Goes To Town" was the Clowns first long player and it is certainly of the most important records of the 1970's. This record is sensational from back to front. The first 2 selections "In Front Of Your Eyes" and "Come One, Come All" are mid-paced numbers that sound a bit like The Fall if they had a horn section. Kuepper's voice has a lazy, stoned quality that is a dead ringer for Mark E. Smith. "Laughter Around The Table" is a full bore aural assault, it begins slow and brooding before catching fire in a rush of wailing horns (saxoponist Louise Elliott is incredible and plays like a female version of Albert Ayler.) High marks also go to Peter Doyle on trumpet. I should also mention drummer Jeffrey Wegener, who is nothing short of exceptional. Side one's closing piece "Knife In The Head" is a droning, haunting piece that comes close to sounding like Joy Division.

Side 2 is ever better if that is possible, it begins with the 45 "Theme From Mad Flies, Mad Flies", this song is absolutely electric, it features a propulsive riff played on acoustic bass by Leslie Millar mixed with Kuepper's funky guitar lines and dazed vocals, had The Teardrop Explodes been jazzbos they might have sounded like this. The next track "Song Of Joy" is a whole different bag altogether, this one has a raga-acoustic guitar fused with punchy horns and loose percussion. The title track Mr. Uddich Schmuddich Goes To Town" is next and it is a complete head trip. It sounds like a marriage of The Pop Group, Last Poets, Sonny Sharrock and Pharoah Sanders. This instrumental is the most daring piece on the record and I fucking love it.

The closing number "When What You See..." clocks in at 10:21 and uses every second to completely tear your face off. It begins sounding like Van Der Graaf Generator during "Pawn Hearts"album, then abruptly shifts into Chicago style horns before shifting into a Ornette Coleman style free-for-all, there is also a great tune sandwiched in there amongst the madness. The side ends leaving the listener dazed and disoriented but grinning ear to ear. File this baby next to The Pop Group's "Y" album and then set the controls for the heart of the sun.


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