Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Electric Manchakou

Electric Manchakou

AOTM #72, May 2006ce
Released 1993 on Spirit of Punk
Side One
  1. Murder (1.38)
  2. Sudden Bummer (2.28)
  3. Sexy Sucky (2.20)
  4. Cripple Death Dwarf Must Pay (4.20)
  5. Landlord (1.05)
Side Two
  1. I Won’t Break (2.11)
  2. Fucking With Four Eyes (1.40)
  3. Animal Man (2.03)
  4. She Said (1.38)
  5. Hey (3.09)

Note 1: After the past coupla months of dark metal-informed sonic wipe out, accompanied by several ingestions of various psychedelics and trips down into the underworld, I thought I’d do myself – nay, all of us – a huge favour by picking something psychically lighter than usual for Album of the Month. So, strap back and listen to this lost acetate of barely post-teen garage thunder, and let its Nth Ooziasm clear your psychic custard. And, ja mein hairies, it is the shortest LP in the world; but I think that’s because it says its bit, doesn’t labour the point, and fucks off right quick. In a world where arduously long records are the norm, ain’t it great to return (albeit temporarily) to the breathless brevity of G. Orwell’s mythical 2-minute hate song, and by morons with problems on the same level as The Ramones. Uh… er, Look Out!

Note 2: The band takes its name from the Japanese term to describe fraudulent business practise, including deception, cheating and trickery. So, now ya knows!

Cover Your Tackle With A Joey Ramone Wig

El Tel Tannier & Marc Duran

Obvious, Electric Manchakou was too fucking obvious for words. Stooges wannabees, a one trick pony, a two-single deal, case closed. Maybe so, but I’d vociferously beg to differ. For, if Italy’s London-based Electric Manchakou was Stooges-obsessed – which they most certainly was – then it certainly manifested not in the all-too-typical-ain’t-I-rad ennui synonymous with most of the genre of acolyte deadbeat artists (GG Allin via Steve Bators), but rather with the same exuberance and clean pristine confidence that the sound of The Velvet Underground informed the early songs of The Modern Lovers, or the neatnik way in which specky Buddy Holly was obsessed with Bo Diddley. That is, Electric Manchakou burned with a wide-eyed enthusiasm rarely seen down among your regular line of Dee Twatt Mung Worshippers. Led by the tall, gangly and vacant-looking pretty-boy Marc Duran, with his trusty inch-high guitar-slinging sidekick El Tel Tannier, Electric Manchakou was a brightly youthful and unworldly spark, possessed of a teen glamour and a curiously athletic and un-nerdy high school sheen of confidence. Taking drugs? Nah, not even sniffing glue just yet… still on the weekend trips of Benylin Expectorant and dad’s QC sherry. Whereas The Stooges’ garbage was ill-making enough to have had to be contained in a rusting Chernobyl skip overflowing with chemical slop, Electric Manchakou’s was in comparison a clean moulded yellow plastic waste paper basket filled with unfinished essays fused together with chewing gum and cum-ingrained tissues. Eater? No, too young and pre-pubescent even to yet be horny. The Undertones? Nere, too gauche and Jilted John-ish to be as sexy as these horny Manchakou motherfuckers - moreover, the Derry boys were just too achieving and disciplined. Indeed, it’s mighty obvious from Manchakou photographs and song content that they was just too damned busy out shagging to have wrestled much time to write such things as songs. The frivolity of The Damned? Yup, weez getting closer… So how about the secretly delighted fake ennui of the early Damned doing ‘Fan Club’? Sure that’s solipsistic and self-obsessed and proto-Emo enough to fit my Electric Manchakou analogy. Furthermore, the Manchakou may have had a thing for limited editions of 666 copies, but demonic they never coulda been. On one record sleeve, they even appeared in their winter cosies! Now, would Iggy have ever been seen on a record sleeve in his dressing gown? Never. Especially on his debut… But the cake-splattered Damned sure would. Plus, being post punk, the Manchakou was also always gunning for the clean overdrive of Alan Vega’s first two solo LPs as well. That simple Space Rockabilly that so propelled Vega’s self-titled debut and second classic LP COLLISION DRIVE is fetched up here within the grooves of the Manchakou. And, as on Vega’s COLLISION DRIVE, Electric Manchakou also employ the pure hiccupping sound of Suzi Quatro’s ‘Primitive Love’– a sound that can only be brought on by recording loudly and quickly with few instruments, each one louder than the other.

But you know what? Fuck Stooges Wannabees, this Electric Manchakou was something else again. Like Lou Reed and Ron Asheton, El Tel Tannier was one of those great punk rhythm-guitarists-who-was-obligated-to-be-seeing-to-play-lead. Moreover, the melodies of singer Marc Duran always grabbed the listener from the first instant, his asinine repetition guaranteed to insinuate itself into your brain merely seconds after it had first invaded your lugholes. And Duran never let a lyric get in the way when a scream, holler or irksome Kim Fowleyan belch could suffice. Barks, barfs, pops, screeches, any outpouring of bile-based squark would do for Duran. And maybe they were Stooges acolytes, but these barely post-adolescent Italians wanted also to be the cheerleader-dating younger brothers of BACK IN THE USA-period (clean production’n’all) MC5 and debut LP Dictators GO GIRL CRAZY (ie. parents supposedly still doing your washing, and dry humping your way to a bruised bell-end because full penetration wasn’t yet an option). But these greedy Manchakou motherfuckers wanted also to be every volume of those PEBBLES, BACK FROM THE GRAVE and CHOCOLATE SOUP FOR DIABETICS compilations (not forgetting NEW ENGLAND TEEN SCENE, natch), every Troggs single, every Buzzcocks 45; PLUS they was also (just about) grown up enough to recognise the need to incorporate that pounding ‘Declaration of War’ funk that Reichfuhrer Ronald Rank Asheton had introduced into his aborted (but oft-genius) immediately-post-Stooges project The New Order (the Detroit ‘75 incarnation that often wore full German outfits, and who were all ex-MC5, ex-Amboy Dukes, ex-Stooges). If yooz only paying attention to the Electric Manchakou singles, then perhaps you’re justified in dismissing this bunch, because the first one – 1989’s ‘Hey’ - was generic in the way that all but the most inventive songs of Metal Urbain can nowadays seem a little samey; whilst the second 45 – 1990’s ‘Animal Man’ – was (even with its catchy bastard chorus of ‘I’m an animal man, I love my shit’) another too-safe bet achieved with a pickup rhythm section, limited studio time and no proper distribution from tiny record company. But it’s a safe bet that the real reason they were ignored is because no one else was in that headspace at the time…because, gathered together across the two sides of an LP, these Manchakou dopes start to make sense.

‘R’n’r Is Such A Serious Thing’

First single was the 'Hey' 7"

Side One opens with the one-and-a-half minutes of ‘Murder’, a classic sub-Stones bozo anthem in the Speed, Glue & Shinki tradition – a song that Brain Donor covered at last September’s Bristol show with Om and The Heads. Over a too too loud fuzz riff, Marc Duran declares: ‘I’m walking down the street and I’m looking for wild shit’. In verse two, Duran’s ‘still walking down the street’ as El Tel Tannier takes up the axe and reduces a few itinerant locals to a bloody pulp. Two minutes and it’s gone. Next up, and with its raging warrior wah-wah funk and repeated chorus of ’Anticeptic You’, ‘Sudden Bummer’ is the aforementioned dead ringer for The New Order’s 1975 epic ‘Declaration of War’, this Manchakou track is barely contained by its even-more-extreme looped up drumming than the Five’s Dennis Thompson was able to bring to Asheton’s demented vision. Vocally, ‘Sexy Sucky’ is pure solo-Alan Vega hiccupping his way through a seemingly endless glossary of throwaway clichéd asides, but performed over an almost SPIRAL SCRATCH buzz-saw ramalama full of under-achievingly simplistic but charming lead guitar breaks, its relentless fast-strummed rhythm guitar also echoing The Velvets’ 1969 live double-LP. With ‘Cripple Death Dwarf Must Pay’, the Manchakou finally hit the kind of long monotonous ‘Pablo Picasso’ meets ‘Mother Sky’ drone groove you always suspect might have been a part of their live set, but might not have made it to disc. Well, here ‘tis in all its tunnel vision, replete with lupine howls right out of Joy Division’s ‘Interzone’; the sort of thing that Mono Man’s DMZ could have done so magnificently, but in reality (‘Don’t Jump Me Mother’ and ‘When I Get Off’ aside) served up all too occasionally. Marc Duran coughs up phlegm, cackles, almost barfs, then yells something about a mysterious “freak who is running wild” and you get the impression it’s the same underworld character as the dangerous sub-dude who oft populated David Johansen’s Dolls songs (especially Jet Boy-meets-Frankenstein). Side One concludes with the one minute of ‘Landlord’, musically an astute summum bonum of the entire 1960s, something like The Stooges’ ‘Loose’ conflated with a more compressed version of Can’s ‘Full Moon On The Highway’ or White Heaven’s classic ‘Out’. And utilising Grace Slick’s ‘Greasy Heart’ in a Sounds Incorporated-stylee never hurt my old band The Teardrop Explodes, so I ain’t about to rag on the Manchakou for doing precisely the same, because it remains a formula for reaching instant exhilaration.

Second single was the 'Animal Man' 7"

Side Two kicks off with the ramalama of ‘I Won’t Break’, sole lyric being ‘I won’t break and I don’t care’. Yeah Marc, whatever you say. Songs this straight forward dig such a simple trench of sound that the brief middle-section guitar solo comes over like a major work-out, that is, before Duran’s hog grunts and donkey brays kick the main riff back in. Interestingly, the opening chords of the immaculately-named ‘Fucking With Four Eyes’ sound like the kind of massive orchestral samples that Duran would employ in his later solo career. But soon we’re belting along down the same old highway, this time with a strange and frantic disco bassline. Then the barely-two-minutes duration of ‘Animal Man’ gets about as pubescent as it could ever be, lyrics being repetitions of the phrases ‘I’m an animal man, I love my shit’ and ‘I’m an animal man, I love my dick’. More howls and raging guitar wipe-outs and they’re gone. ‘She Said’ is a re-vamp of ‘Sexy Sucky’ and an obvious Duran fave as he re-recorded it for a later solo LP. Well under a half hour after it all began, this sole ELECTRIC MANCHAKOU album finishes just as they started, with the hummed voiced ‘human guitar’ solo and rising three-minute garage riff of their debut 7” single ‘Hey’. In context with the rest of the LP, this is an epic, its rising guitar riff and overloaded chorded organ doing the American garage scene the way only Europeans appear able to do. But it’s inevitably over too soon and weez reduced to spinning the same disc again and again for our kicks. Damn.

… And Afterwards?

And afterwards, tall and gangly Marc Duran re-located to Buenos Aries, where he nowadays makes weirdo solo Krautrockesque records that sound somewhere midway between L. Voag’s THE WAY OUT, a more rock’n’roll Der Plan, and those bizarre Dieter Mobius/Conny Plank collaborations. Cut-up voices and even samples of THE FAUST TAPES resound over ambient ballads of beautiful female singing, which are often heftily undermined by reedy clarinets and/or Duran’s adoption of an atonal tenor somewhat akin to Steve Martin’s absent-minded waiter voice. Elsewhere, eloquent strings reminiscent of John Cale’s THE ACADEMY IN PERIL wander in then out, as electro-reggae pulses dementedly over pseudo-sexy vocals delivered in a Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg stylee. Double-tracked speeded-up fake children sing playground poems over which Duran intones in a deeply portentous George Clinton MAGGOT BRAIN voice. Here and there, Manchakou tracks occasionally appear in dissolute form, and poems rise and scatter words around the place as chaos takes over. I’ve got three of these Duran solo LPs – 1997’s LADIES & GENT, 2003’s STURM UND DRANG, and L’AMOUR TRASH from a coupla years back, and each contains much of excellence, though virtually nothing is left of the muse that informed his Electric Manchakou days. Marc Duran’s is one of the most singular solo trips I’ve come across, and majorly supports the case for the Manchakou having been unfairly written off at the time as Stooges clones. Indeed, like last month’s heroes Tight Bro’s From Way Back When, Electric Manchakou appears to have been created by a pair of deep thinkers who intentionally set out to make the world think they was a bunch of dummies. Nice.

Electric Manchakou Discography

‘Hey’ b/w ‘She Said’/’Murder’ 7” (Innocent 1989)
‘Animal Man’ b/w ‘I Won’t Break’/’Land Lord’ 7” (Helter Skelter 1990)
ELECTRIC MANCHAKOU (Spirit of Punk 1993)

Marc Duran Select Discography

LADIES AND GENT (Innocent 1997)
STURM UND DRANG (Innocent 2003)
L’AMOUR TRASH (Innocent 2004)