Fragments Of Broken Probes
Captain Trip 1996
This Japanese-issue CD of Deviants/Farren outtakes, remixes and alternate takes is the closest most of us are gonna get to hearing some of Mick's more hard-to-find recordings. Topped and tailed by new Farren/Colquhoun compositions, Fragments runs the gamut of Mick's work 'twixt the demise of the original Deviants and the stellar psych/jazz/metal poetry of the late 90s.
The main emphasis of the album is circa 1977/8, though. As well as the tracks Mick laid down for Terry Ork in NYC, there are versions of "Broken Statue" and "It's All In The Picture" from the Stiff-era resumption of Mick's recording career. Both tracks are reviewed in sterling terms by Seth Wimpfheimer elsewhere on this site, so I'll defer to his superior knowledge in this regard and merely say that "Picture", with its Feelgoodesque inflections from ex-Warsaw Pakt guitarist Andy Colquhoun, would have fit just great on either Mick's Vampires Stole My Lunch Money or the Pakt's Needle Time. The missing word from the first stanza of "Broken Statue" quoted by Seth is "antique", by the way; Farren trivia buffs may recognize the lines from a scene in Last Stand Of The DNA Cowboys, in which the Cowboys encounter a band playing this song in the Victory Café in Krystaleit. Creative recycling or a more fundamental identification?
"Screwed Up" is an insistent, synthetic-sounding fuzztone riff with moron-terrace chant backing vocals, Mick lamenting the dire and depressing state of contemporary TV and pleading "Farrah Fawcett-Majors come and rescue me." "Shock Horror" is mean Chicago-style boogie fronted by a nasal punk whine of a vocal which takes a kick at the capitalist media's obfuscatory tactics of burying hard news under scandal stories, soft porn and the racing results from Kempton Park. "Outrageous Contagious" is a souped-up second cousin to the old Deviants' number, "I'm Coming Home", wherein Mick requests: "Come on honey, take me home/Wanna watch you thrash and moan/Gonna love the things I do/Gonna carve my name on you" before demanding to "Break out the good old methedrine."
Between songs there are some cool sound samples from old sci-fi movies, a report on the Tunguska meteor cataclysm overlaid with sinister guitar noise from Andy Colquhoun, studio banter, and a blurred excerpt from a 1967 TV report on London's hippie movement, featuring an interview with one "Mick Farren, lead singer of the Social Deviants" who uses his soundbite to expound the patented Farren revolution-through-hedonism philosophy. A true gem from the vaults.
The Ork tracks were laid down for a couple of "tribute" albums put out by Ork in the late 70s. "Play With Fire", the old Stones put-down of a rich bitch, sees Farren's Dylanesque sneer explode, suddenly and unpredictably, into a snarling, out-of-control tirade. He retracts immediately ("Oh, no, no, I did'nt really mean that/I didn't mean that at all!") but knows that the damage is done, a touch which gives the song a vulnerability and humanity quite beyond the casual, social-climbing misogyny of Jagger's original. "To Know Him Is To Love Him" is a gloriously non compos mentis punky thrashing of the Phil Spector doo-wop chestnut, replete with Smurfs-on-acid backing vocals (yeah, I know they're on acid anyway) and proof that you can, while coked/drunk out of your head, make uproariously funny music. Finally, "Lost Johnny", Mick's paean to the ultimate One Percenter (co-written with Lemmy of Motörhead) commences with a beautiful sliding surf-guitar figure lifted from "Pipeline" and goes on to demonstrate that the dividing line between punk and metal was always more a matter of arbitrary sartorial niceties than any fundamental Kantian category shift.
Outstanding cut on the album for me has gotta be the live take of "Half Price Drinks" from Vampires, always a great song but here Larry Wallis's hard-edged guitar and Jack Lancaster's sax add new layers of mournful resonance to Mick's lyric of bummed-out desperation: "And me/I just sit here in the corner wondering/how to make it through the night." Lancaster's sax also features on the stomping live "Waiting For The Ice Cream To Melt", and anyone who doubts Mick's vocal abilities should hear this strong, commanding performance. Truly a band for whose shows one would have gone to extreme lengths to acquire tickets.
Onward and upwards. The archaeology of Fragments is bracketed by two slabs of prime space-age noise from the latterday Deviants: "Intro" features Mick intoning "Is there anybody out there?" over swirling, multi-effect feedback guitar from Andy Colquhoun. (Guitarophiles really should check this guy out: in the words of Ken Shimamoto, "his tortuous, whammy-bar laden rides are among the purest rock'n'roll pleasures this writer has experienced.") "Dogpoet", which closes the album, is the same piece extended, twisted, ripped up and recombined, while Mick recites his manifesto for the future:
Because I will tell you stories
Of bafflement and disbelief
I will weave you webs to amaze and astonish
I will tell you tales of sound and fury
Signifying … signifying whatever good goddam thing
You want it to signify
(© Mick Farren, 1996)
|Mick Farren's comments||See Mick Farren's Collected Works.|