Imperial Pompadours—

Released 1982 on Pompadour
The Seth Man, April 2000ce
Visionary artist Barney Bubbles was the graphic designer and creator of such classic sleeves as Hawkwind’s “X In Search of Space,” “Doremi Fasol Latido” and “Space Ritual” as well as innumerable Stiff Records covers. But his vision also extended to light shows, choreography and this record, “Ersatz.” Collaborating with friend Nik Turner, Robert Calvert, Inner City Unit and whoever else was in the studio at the time, they produced a record under extreme economic conditions. Barney even designed the sleeve in affordable black and white, and kept the band (and himself, as was his wont) completely anonymous in the credits. Saving on the expense of studio time, they would record first-take versions of songs from a favourite mix tape of his after one play apiece. They would listen then record, listen then record twelve times in one quick session.

And the songs on Barney’s tape? “The Crusher” by The Novas, Little Black Egg” by The Nightcrawlers, “Brand New Cadillac”, “Black Denim Trousers And Motorcycle Boots” by The Cheers. But what wound up on the album were a string of versions rendered by a band that had little or no previous knowledge of these songs! “The Crusher” is slowed down as to render the vocals practically belching or vomiting, not sung, over spartan backing of pot’n’pan percussion, drill noises and dinky organ. “See You Soon Baboon” is all frantic LSD-rockabilly, heavy on the vocal reverbing. In fact, the reverb’s in the red on half the tracks here and if it’s not the vocals, it’s the damn guitar or some bicycle spokes being played with a knitting needle. From the “Pebbles” archive comes a classic freakout on The Fee-Fi-Fo-Plus Four’s “I Want To Come Back (From the World of LSD)” with its barked out chorus of “A-C-I-D! A-C-I-D! A-C-I-D!” over variable delay speeding. The whole thing reeks of low budget experimentalism at all times, especially when an egg timer is used as percussion on one track. “Light Show” is pure anarchy: an almost “Baba O’Reilly” type anthem synthesizer intro, but (“POW! POW!”) in breaks a buzzsaw Keith Levene riff -- sans backing -- then Nik Turner gives it some Hawkwind-styled intonation over a spare and tortured mini psycho-punk bombardment until it all degenerates into a woman shrieking over and over: “LIGHT SHOW! LIGHT SHOW! LIGHT SHOW!”

On the back cover legend “Play it LOUD you turkeynecks” the word “LOUD” takes up half the space of the jacket but you run a real risk if you make good on this suggestion and live adjacent to intolerable neighbours. Because one song can suddenly rocket into the stratosphere all noised-up after a real quiet passage. Side two is “Insolence Across The Nation” and is a surefire rent-breaker at any volume: An album side’s length of collaged sound effects, samples of Wagner and brief instrumentals backing a multi-perspective narration of the life of Adolf Hitler. It’s psychedelic/punk cabaret action, for sure and one of the narrators is most definitely Robert Calvert, slipping into “Captain Lockheed” meets “Steppenwolf” psychotic, Teutonic ranting and frothing at the mouth. The whole deal is just so twisted and unpolished, this album and the year it came out – 1982 -- are completely incongruous. An utterly twisted album of variety and creativity.