Anthology One: Come Organisation Archives 1979-81 review by Martin Conway from Catstranglin’ magazine
The first time I clapped eyes on the Come Organisation’s early vinyl releases (hanging on the walls of a 2nd hand record shack in Notting Hill, each costing the equivalent of a month’s rent at my Camberwell roach motel) I was genuinely intrigued. Crude and sexual black and white xeroxed images had been plastered on top of plain LP sleeves - the records looked out of time, like artefacts of some lost subculture from another dimension. You couldn’t imagine what they might sound like, or even the thought of them co-existing with anybody’s record collection.
The contents of ‘Anthology 1’ are a barbed wire confirmation of the sheer textures of sound that can be achieved with a bit of creativity and imagination, and a riotous document of the first two years of the Come Organisation’s reign of terror. Kicking off with William Bennett’s punk band Come (imagine Joy Division circa ‘77 on glue), their ‘79 7” ‘Come Sunday’ and the excerpts from their ‘Rampton’ LP feature moody guitar bashing and gurgled, echoing vocals (especially on the delirious ‘Rampton 1’ and ‘Shaved Slits’). If punk rock was TISWAS, Come were more like those old electric shock warning adverts on TV, where the kid with the kite gets fried by a pylon.But it’s the 4 tracks from the ‘Second Coming’ compilation LP that really carve the blueprint for ‘extreme electronic music’. Come’s ‘In Country’ sounds like a bizarre medical experiment being conducted in theatre down a shadowy NHS corridor, with yelping, scratched-up vocals spitting and squealing down a hi-decay mic over a menacing, throbbing bass. Then, with an introductory rumble like a 20 foot hookworm bursting through the foundations of a tower block, ‘Shitfun 2’ by Whitehouse proceeds to scythe the air with serrated, eardrum-lacerating tentacles of feedback, in what’s probably the ultimate fuck-your-neighbours-off track. In contrast, the turbine jet-inspired ‘Coprophilia’ is a warm bath of mesmeric sound. However, Nurse With Wound’s ‘The Registered Nurse’ has to be heard to be believed - a 14-minute soundtrack of radio frequency signals, sampled tape loops of media-saturated conversation and general electronic chaos.
The dalek death disco doesn’t stop there: disc 2 continues the purge, with the 1981 Whitehouse/NWW collaboration. ‘The 150 Murderous Passions’, one of the best surviving examples of 20th century art in action. Not so much ‘experimenting’ as murdering rock’n’roll completely, the complete piece (split into 2 tracks) sounds like bestial torture in a MOT pit, only that’s vaguely imaginable and this LP isn’t. From the opening skewers of feedback to the masterwork’s climax of deranged screaming and studio-trashing, it’s a harsh assault course of alien noise, obscenity and even occasional moments of disorientation as the aural flu-dream uncoils itself, unveiling the sounds of road-drills, packed train stations, horns and pianos (or are they?).
And finally, there’s the 2 ‘Bradford Red Light District’ LP tracks. ‘Part 1’ is the result of somebody walking around the streets with a tape-recorder.... and that’s it, basically. 22 minutes of cars driving by and plodding around. Fucking crap, eh? Well, YOU go and do it then if it’s so easy. Or go one better and put out your own car journey...As far as I’m concerned, punk was all about smashing the rule that only ‘musicians’ or people with ‘something to say’ were entitled to slam something on vinyl and release it. Admittedly, I’ve heard a much better record by some woman called Claudia Lloyd, singing ‘Femme Fatale’ in a tube carriage, but ‘Bradford ...pt.1’’s pure front deserves recognition. Take it as ‘art’, a tribute to Peter Sutcliffe, a hilarious piss-take or the logical conclusion to Johnny Rotten and Sue Catwoman and ‘Anarchy in the UK’...
However, ‘Part 2’ has a genuinely unsettling air. Bursts of whining feedback and clatters punctuate a Radio 2 broadcast, churning out depressing muzak sludge. The feeling of listening to this track is akin to being trapped in a factory on a sunny day, tortured by vacuous sentimental muzak garbage, while realising some sort of world’s having fun without you on the outside (I should know, I worked at Parcelforce for nearly two years). The horrendous old show tunes, the insipid processed pop and ominous news reports all build up an atmosphere of emotional deadness, with the feedback screeches almost acting as tormented screams of somebody/something trying to break out. It was only when I forgot I was still listening to the CD that I twigged it: this track sums up the early 80s in Britain so well. When I was 6 in 1981/1982, the country seemed like it was being run by Jim Davidson, ‘The Professionals’ and the Daily Mail, with supposedly civilised people justifying the work of SAS butchers in the Falklands and Ulster, while also telling you how they’d love to lock up all subversives and what have you. And of course, there was the muzak, sterile and soul-destroying, more likely to push you to suicide than any violent, raucous punk or industrial group...this is a truly depressing piece, jamming the reality of boredom roughly into your face.‘Anthology 1’ is an invaluable set of archives, and a reminder of just how far the barriers of sound can be shifted back. The 2 CDs come with a glossy black booklet featuring most of the original vinyl release covers (excellently designed by Alan Gifford). To nick a quote from a newspaper review of the sculptures of art nut Lucio Fontana, ‘Anthology 1’ is the sound of ‘sex and outer space, fucking and the void’, or the genius output of a few individuals who refused to accept a future of Rod Stewart’s stinking platform boot stamping on humanity’s face forever. Blinding...
return to susan lawly homepage