Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Lemon Kittens - Spoonfed+Writhing

Lemon Kittens

Released 1979 on Step Forward
Reviewed by Jim Tones, 24/01/2003ce

Lemon Kittens made some great albums and EPs as well as contributing tracks to many a strange compilation album during the early 1980s.

But it's their eruption into the homes of some lucky folk in late 1979 that deserves mentioning on this hallowed website.
The man that kick-started this DADA tandem was one Karl Blake.

In early spring of 1979, I was on a long weekend holiday with my girlfriend of the time and we went to stay with her 'penfriends' in deepest Evesham.
We were all aged between 16 and 19 years and those evenings were filled with the usual 'sessions' down the pub and then conversations back at base which went well into the night.

During one such long conversation, we were talking about the "strange things that people do" and these fine hosts started to chat about their cousin ("Karl") who was "very nice.....but very, very weird".

Amongst other tales, the one that stuck out was that this mysterious cousin of theirs used to send them tapes of his music and poetry, they had been to where he lived and told tales of electronic gadgets and saxophones and all sorts of "weird noise-making things" strewn about his bedroom, they also mentioned that he "had a band called The Lemon Kittens....great bloke ...but he's mad!".

In December 1979, whilst having a break from buyng christmas presents for the famiIy, I went into a record shop that proudly displayed the deluge of 7" picture sleeves of so many 'alternative' newcomers, chancers, underground heroes and new icons that were all hung from every wall in the shop (this was the now extinct Penny Lane Records in Chester).
As my eyes hungrily zipped over each and every sleeve, the info was jotting through my head "got that, sold that the other week, swapped that one..." etc., then suddenly it kicked the back of my retina....
ZAP! .......a 7" picture sleeve that had a black and white drawing of a grotesque woman wearing fishnet stockings, who is consuming a bowl of soup containing her severed arm....also on the sleeve were the words 'Lemon Kittens' and the title 'Spoonfed +Writhing' ......YEAH!.....it just HAD to be THEM!!

Returning home later that day, I heard a great slice of 'alternative' heaven.
This certainly was the Lemon Kittens that I'd heard about months before, this 7 track EP recorded in the bedroom of one Karl Blake in Emmer Green, Reading and with assistance from Gary Thatcher and featuring "Electronic design and instument modification by Nick Mercer" - what was going on here then??

It kicks off with a cover of "Shakin' All Over" with a stop/start frenzy and sounds like Beefheart morphing into The Residents.
"This kind of Dying"- featuring some alien lumberjack intoning some choice thoughts including....
"Like to go to the country, Eat some of that blueberry pie.....Fun and games in the woodpile...like the feel of the country girl thigh.....".

The marvellous madness coninues with "Morbotalk" where we have distorted fuzz snares and bass guitar and electronics whoop whoop whooping in and out- all these gems in glorious LO-FI folks!!

"Whom Do I Have To Ask....." has a delightful sliding plod bass with a Wasp synth that is set on 'penny whistle dentist drill' to supply the backing, Karl's vocals are really great on this gem, with equally marvellous words...
"your body is not the holy grail.....my prick is not a coffin nail...." and the frown inducing... "I sham orgasm.....Solus in Sepulchre" !!??!!

Chalet D'Amour is a (ahem) love song of sorts whose musical backing has a gently picked guitar melody and some sustain guitar following each word which is delivered in a very hypnotic vocal style and even more hypnotic imagery about the failings and doubts of an observant and maybe lost soul.......
"My girl's soooo nice, she wears pink dress, she likes strangers...
......I can't say that I do... "

(moving on to the everyday humdrum of...)

"...I buy candy, she buys ice cream, we stand eating...
...outside in the rain... we don't go anywhere....very zpeshal at all..."

Those last four words sound like the character of the bored boyfriend shape-shifting into a robot, but then the boredom is then broken by a cutting guitar refrain that slices through your scalp!

The lunatics haven't taken over the asylum......they've built it brick by brick........

There is just something SO FANTASTIC about this recording that I just can't fathom out, it's just got that great 'bedroomness' about it (although the recording is brilliant) and it's strange that in some places it sounds like Jad Fair's Half-Japanese and yet there is no way that either Fair or Blake could have heard each other at the time, they were literally oceans apart.

Needless to say, the duo of Karl Blake and Danielle Dax (she provided the stunning artwork to this debut EP and then later contributed many instruments and vocals herself) went on to finer moments on the 'underground' as it were- releasing albums on Nurse With Wound's label- United Dairies- and later both Karl and Danielle going there own separate ways into music, art and film.

Hats off to you both and long may you shine.

But this is where it all started, ...plus!...in 1996 there was a CD reissue with three extra tracks on Danielle's own Biter of Thorpe label.

It just sounds as fresh today as it did back then.

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