Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Caravan - For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night

For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night

Released 1973 on Deram
Reviewed by Fitter Stoke, 11/10/2002ce

This remarkable album began a new era for Caravan. The temporary departure of Hatfields-bound Dave Sinclair for their fourth album, 'Waterloo Lily', had indicated that any shift in their original line up would have a radical (and detrimental, in that instance) effect to the band's unique sound. Now they had the even more disastrous exodus of Richard Sinclair to deal with. The bassist's cool, octave-obsessed playing technique and whimsical vocal and songwriting style had been vital elements for nearly five years, and it was now clear that a major change of style was necessary and unavoidable. The return of cousin Dave eased the pressure somewhat, but it was the introduction of violist Geoff Richardson to the fold that was the final and greatest catalyst in the mid-70's Caravan revolution. And 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night' was the first fruit of the new expanded line up.

The great thing about the record for me is the almost constant tension between pop sensitivity and outright HEAVINESS that other bands, including Caravan themselves, have since tried to match but never came close. The key to both sides is the ever awe-inspiring songwriting genius of Pye Hastings, a man whose talent for melody would have embarrassed Mozart, and whose often risque lyrics come on like a warped neuromix of Paul McCartney and Max Miller. He's at his absolute best on this album, and that's saying something. Equally at home in wonderiff-laden prog rock epics ('Memory Lain, Hugh', 'C'thlu Thlu', 'A Hunting We Shall Go'), cheeky, foot-tapping pop gems ('The Dog, The Dog, He's At It Again', 'Hoedown'), simple and gorgeous love songs ('Surprise Surprise', 'Chance Of A Lifetime'), and even proto metal ('Be Alright'), there's no limit to Hastings' muse on 'Plump'. And he's supported throughout by Canterbury's second finest* giving it their biggest and tightest groove yet, most amply illustrated on the album's ten minute closing instrumental hypermedley that alternately rocks, soothes and rocks again, big time. Richardson's electric viola adds a new, almost cajun element to Caravan's 'til-now oh-so-English sound. And fellow new-boy John Perry can perform all the necessary bass pyrotechnics and add a new, dramatic vocal edge to boot. Check out his fluid yet tasteful bass lines on 'Surprise, Surprise', that turn a great song into a perfect one, for evidence of the former; and 'Be Alright', the nearest Caravan ever came to a rock belter, for the latter. It's almost as if the mighty King Richard had never ruled. Almost.

And tell me there are better, tenser, harder rock riffs than those in 'Memory Lain, Hugh' and 'A Hunting We Shall Go' and I'll call you a liar.**

I remain a staunch advocate of 'If I Could Do It Again' and 'In The Land Of Grey And Pink' as the quintessential Caravan LP's, not least because a Caravan without both Sinclair cousins just isn't quite the real deal for this particular fan. But for evidence of their principal songwriter at his naughty, esoteric and consistent best, 'For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night' is an essential addition to your Canterbury collection. And it's dated hardly a minute in nigh-on thirty years. Get!

(Currently available on mid-priced CD, remastered with bonus outtakes and remixes that are dead good. Sounds infinitely better than the original vinyl. As that bearded Scottish comic would say, "Still sittin' there?")

Notes re above:

* after Hatfield and the North, naturally.
** until you play me Crimson's 'Red' album anyway.

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