Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Various Artists - In the Beginning There Was Rhythm

Various Artists
In the Beginning There Was Rhythm

Released 2001 on Soul Jazz Records
Reviewed by Jasonaparkes, 30/04/2006ce

1. Shack Up – A Certain Ratio
2. Coup – 23 Skidoo
3. To Hell with Poverty – Gang of Four
4. Being Boiled – The Human League
5. In the Beginning, There Was Rhythm – The Slits
6. 24 Track Loop – This Heat
7. 20 Jazz Funk Greats – Throbbing Gristle
8. She is Beyond Good and Evil – The Pop Group
9 Sluggin’ for Jesus – Cabaret Voltaire
10. Vegas El Bandito – 23 Skidoo
11. Knife Slits Water – A Certain Ratio

As has become evident over the last few years, ‘post-punk’ has come back into vogue, whether through reissues/compilations (The Fall, The Pop Group, TG, Gang of Four, Wire, PIL, Scritti Politti) or through bands that owe a debt to the era: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, Josef Ferdinand, Radio 4, The Rapture etc. In addition, there has been the excellent book ‘Rip It Up & Start Again’ by Simon Reynolds that focused on this era (& beyond) and will shortly have its own companion compilation released on V2 featuring The Fall, Scritti Politti, The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Associates & The Blue Orchids.

This excellent compilation released on Soul Jazz is very much a precursor to Reynolds’ compilation – sharing the same tracks by Cabaret Voltaire & the Human League (“Being Boiled” has come back into vogue, featuring also on the Rough Trade Electronica Vol. 1 compilation and also on the Only After Dark compilation from those two Duran-members. It certainly feels like a primer in post-punk, though could argue to have benefited from a wider selection of acts or a second disc/volume. It comes with a lovely companion booklet replete with Jon Savage-edited notes and some great photographs: TG with Genesis in his Nazi-phase (he even has a German Shepherd) with Sleazy looking like the kind of person who might assist Doctor Who during the Jon Pertwee years; The Slits with Dennis Bovell; an anonymous This Heat; a portrait of “Industrial England” and another of Genesis – looking very Small Faces as he visits Geoff Travis with a copy of TG’s second album.

These tracks can now be seen as standards for this era – though 23 Skidoo’s “Coup” came from 1985 when they transcended their initial TG-influences (“Vegas El Bandito” comes from their Death Factory-era and was produced by the half of TG that became Psychic TV, sounding like early Orange Juice colliding with TG) – “Coup” would later be ripped of by the Chemical Brothers for #1 single “Block Rockin’ Beats”, demonstrating that the sound of 1997 was 1985 (in the same year Radiohead demonstrated the sound of 1997 was 1978 with their update of Bowie’s “Heroes” entitled OK Computer, meanwhile Primal Scream appeared to suggest the year was 1973 as Vanishing Point’s opener “Burning Wheel” leant heavily on Can’s “Future Days”!). This Heat’s “24 Track Loop” sounds positively revolutionary pre-empting drum’n’bass and Warp-electronica – the reissue of This Heat and the new box-set are more than welcome…

While it’s probably true that Gang of Four’s best work was their initial product – Damaged Goods and Entertainment! – second album Solid Gold contained some great moments – “To Hell with Poverty” probably the best (though there is a sense that like the Pop Group they lacked any humour and were dour and right-on to a tedious degree). I like the notion Mark Stewart suggested when compilation Kiss the Future was released – that certain Pop Group-titles would have been tempered by the addition of a question mark, e.g. “How Much Longer?”, “We Are All Prostitutes?”, “There Are No Spectators?”. “To Hell with Poverty?” too? – the Pop Group’s offering here stems from the earlier Y and is the Dennis Bovell-produced epic “She is Beyond Good and Evil” which lasts from just under ten-minutes. Stewart and co predict a myriad of acts with this track – the poppier Cabaret Voltaire, Consolidated, Meat Beat Manifesto, Adrian Sherwood-produced Ministry, Tackhead, Massive Attack etc. The style of bass-playing here certainly ended up in a more mainstream form on the Trevor Horn-produced epic “Two Tribes”! And one band who nodded to Nietzsche who couldn’t be accused of flirting with fascism. Interesting that GOF’s Dave Allen and several members of The Pop Group had enough of the hectoring lyrical approach and opted out to focus more on rhythm with Rip, Rig & Panic and Shriekback.

The Pop Group’s Bruce Smith appears on The Slits’ contribution here “In the Beginning, There Was Rhythm” which appeared as a split-single with The Pop Group’s “Where There’s a Will There’s a Way” – this advanced on the climes explored on the classic Cut which makes me wonder if the deleted Return of the Giant Slits is worthy of the Unsung-treatment?

There is an electronic element to this post-punk compilation – Throbbing Gristle’s dated (syn-drums that predicted “Insight” and “Ring My Bell”) and rather demented title track to Throbbing Gristle Bring You…20 Jazz Funk Greats sounds like Jon Hassell on a blend of strong anti-depressants and crystal-meth, as Gen whispers various words. Am I alone in thinking the whispered “Jazz…Yeah!” was an influence on The Fast Show? The Human League’s debut single on Sheffield’s Fast label (which also released Gang of Four’s Damaged Goods) probably remains the best thing they did and was bizarrely a hit when re-released in 1982! Coming from the project later titled The Golden Hour of the Future, the Human League #1 were electronic pioneers and in this track there’s prediction of most electronic acts that follow and a direct part that Midge Ure & co ripped off for Visage’s “Fade to Grey”! It’s also distinguished by being the sole song to focus on the horrors of sericulture. The League’s peers/predecessors Cabaret Voltaire are also here with the relatively hard to find “Sluggin’ for Jesus”, originally released on Les Disques du Crepuscule – so probably a good thing it’s on the upcoming Reynolds-related V2-compilation. As an earlier single like “Baader Meinhof” demonstrated, the Cabs’ were proto-samplers (is it me, or is the scream just before the guitar comes in on “Silent Command” a sample of TG’s “We Hate You Little Girls”?) – and with “Sluggin’ for Jesus” they predicted the territory Eno & Byrne would get credited with 1981’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (though to be fair, Eno & Byrne began to record that in 1979) – the fusion of religion and samples and electronic rhythm was certainly present in both recordings. “Sluggin’ for Jesus” certainly set the Cabs up for the trilogy Voice of America, Three Mantras and Red Mecca – an approach concluded with 1982’s classic “Yashar” – the climax of that era and the point just before CV went meta-pop. “Sluggin’ for Jesus”, like My Life in the Bush of Ghosts can certainly be argued to predict the good (DJ Shadow, Public Enemy, “Jesus Loves Amerika”), the so-so (Consolidated, Meat Beat Manifesto, PWEI), and the bad (Big Audio Dynamite, Jesus Jones).

The compilation is book ended by two tracks from Factory-act A Certain Ratio, who have since had the compilation Early and their classic The Graveyard and the Ballroom reissued. Inspired by Miles’ key period (1969-1974) and Funkadelic, they sound revolutionary too – “Knife Slits Water” sounds like the next step on from tracks from On the Corner, while “Shack Up” applies Clinton-funk to that angular Josef K/Orange Juice/Television-thing and applied that to a Northern Soul-associated track “Shack Up.” I think this is the track they’re meant to be playing in Michael Winterbottom’s 24 Hour Party People, which I can’t watch anymore as it uses Joy Division studio-tracks to represent JD live…

In the Beginning There Was Rhythm is an excellent compilation, an ideal primer into this music scene and probably the Nuggets of post-punk.

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