Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Lemon Kittens - ...THE BIG DENTIST...

Lemon Kittens

Released 1982 on Illuminated
Reviewed by Jim Tones, 23/08/2004ce

After their debut album "We Buy A Hammer For Daddy" and a further EP "Cake Beast", both released on Steve Stapleton's United Dairies label, Karl Blake and Danielle Dax then released the second and final Kittens album on Illuminated Records, rejoicing in the full title of: "Those that bite the hand that feeds them sooner or later must meet...THE BIG DENTIST..."

The cover art drawing depicts a strange sort of burial mound capped with a small stone building....quite fitting I suppose.........or is it a gate-house to some hermetic chamber where unusual songs, melodies and noises are crafted?

Whereas their debut album had 16 tracks of brain smearing weirdness, 'Dentist' has the duo recording half that number and obtaining a slightly more fullness-of-approach kind of feel.

They brought along producer Ken Thomas (then soon to be producing Psychic TV and more recently Sigur Ros- although production credit is to both Thomas and Dax), to add a different slant on previous recordings.
The excellent madness is still there, but- dare I say it- more smoothed out....well...sort of...

"They Are Both Dirty"- begins with thundering pulses, oscillating alien bird-lizards, helicopter-like oscillations and a Saxophone which sounds like a snared mammal resigned to it's fate until (incredibly) the track changes course and fades to a slow raindropping Piano where Dax comes in with her tremolo (aah aah) vocals, not before a Drum Machine click starts and fuzz-wah keyboards spring up to make way for Blake's Guitar and disgruntled Bass making a platform for Dax to relay her tale- "I bin to a place where friends grip knives and drool..." -to where Blake let's loose a semi-strained Guitar solo not before it breaks yet again to solemn solo Piano and repeat note Soprano Sax that gets slightly jazzy......(with the emphasis on slightly!).

"The Hospital Hurts The Girl"- is a medium paced song flanked by distorted rasp-fart Sax before Blake delivers some great lyrics:

"These are not nice men mummy....
these are depraved men mummy...
I walk in circles around their bodies....
Razor to the neck like a maypole dancer..."

Now that's Pure Class!
A strange sort of musical box sound comes in from behind or is it a manic loop of a feverishly attacked glockenspiel?

"Mylmus"- the only instrumental take on the LP crawls out a wonky Organ step with even wonkier Reed lines aided by Synth washes which hold for about half the track length until blasts of Analogue Synth dirge try and drown out a kraut style rhythm. A 'whorl of sound' which comes to an all-to-soon end with the rising whistle of high end Synth.

"No Night Not Shared"
Blake begins with a bit of solo Guitar which sounds as though it was fed through a radio (is he the missing link between Fred Frith and Butthole Surfer Paul Leary?), then a Drum Machine comes in with a thump and hiss aided by two Saxes to give some light relief. In the background there is a strange tape running which sounds like a small tractor ploughing through a greenhouse and Dax's voice is fed through the effects to give it a very weird metallic sound while she sings- "Narrow room, no head height, no lamp that works..." which gives the whole sound a strange claustraphobic sensation.

By pure contrast ('contrast' being a word which is applied to the Kittens while still keeping things VERY otherworldly), is "The Log And The Pin".
A very dreamy song, Blake's vocals lend more to the ethereal feel than the Electric Piano and Sax, eventhough they are very 'above' the instrumentation.
I always imagined this track being covered by Robert Wyatt - it's just got that 'feel' to it.

A strange Tape Loop of a child's voice (or either one of the Kittens) speeded up which seems to be saying- "a chapel in the fire" or "farm" who knows?...but it sure as hell works!
This opens the gate before Blake sings- "The smell of heat in the air...the wine of the turbine in the hut"- it seems to be about a lone woodsman hunting out of survival or stupidity as it's quite hard to tell... or maybe not!..."The fact that it's animal with hair or teeth, means it could be bear or beef ".....before revealing- "...return triumphant with it's head in my hands".
These lyrics are delivered with incredible vocals.

"Oath"- weighs in with manic electric percussion and pinging buzz sounds before Blake and Dax share out the vocals and at the song's close, it could be viewed as their shared feelings on coming to the close of their four year life as a recording duo which this cruel world didn't recognise enough!!
"But as things are now it seems, that I'll go in a state of dreams... unfullfilled... sub compos mentis, La Luna in Extremis". The track then develops into an odd sort of 'swing-lounge' jaunt while the Bass Guitar walks and the whistler fades out...

"An Untimely End"- a fitting title that's for sure, as this brings the LP to a close.
A Static Synth hum pushes a wheezing Harmonica where Blake seems as though he's crouched in some look-out post and speaking into a tape recorder very secretly- "I'll do it....if I didn't have other things to do" .......and then the Lemon Kittens were no more...

It was no personal upheaval that led Karl and Danielle to finish this remarkable and very creative project of theirs, but out of a genuine mutual respect to let each other go into newer, adventurous and more 'accessable' areas.
They would guest on each others future recordings and remain in contact.

It's a shame that there were no more recordings other than 2 albums, 2 EPs plus a few other tracks floating around, but there again, we did have the Dax legacy from "Pop Eyes" to "Timber Tongue" and Karl Blake has certainly been very busy since.

As with the debut album, this LP also fetches a high price.

I'd love to see all their recordings given the remastered / repackaged makeover.....surely there's a box of lost recordings under a staircase somewhere.... ah well....

Lemon Kittens were certainly unique.

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