The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks by Flux Of Pink Indians (Spiderleg Records)

I WATCH the postman wheel his cart down the other side of our road and wonder if eil.com can have got my order to me by today. I get a bit excited all of a sudden.

A few minutes later, he’s coming back down our side of the street. He’s a couple of houses away. I hold my breath. Come on lad, I think, you can do it.

The buzzer goes. “Package for you,” it says in a metallic Mancunian monotone.

Two seconds and three storeys later, I open the front door and take the 12-inch cardboard mailer from the unsuspecting postie. If only you knew what you‘re delivering, I think to myself, idiotically, as I thank him.

I make myself walk back up the stairs at a more sedate pace. It’s a big effort. When I get back in the flat I sit on the settee, open the package and slide the album out of its protective sleeve to reveal the savagely androgynous figures on the cover, still every bit as striking, ugly, perverse and compelling as the first day I saw them.

1984 comes back to me, disconcertingly, in a rush:

Stef, the miners strike, Thatcher, sixth form, Steve Bird’s alternative discos at the Baths, cider, fanzines, exams, Real-Eat vegeburgers, a veritable rainbow of red, green and brown lentils, Crass, Flux, the Chumbas, D&V, KUKL, CND, the bright lights of Hull, Nottingham, Sheffield, London, Darlington, Newcastle.

“Relax, don’t do it ..”

Some of us thought it would be some kind of Orwellian year zero, some weird historical nadir where everything went into meltdown and totalitarian crypto-fascists took total control of, y‘know, everything, everywhere – and at times it did seem like that might actually be happening – but really, in the end, it was just another year.

If you could somehow parachute into 1984 from now, in many ways it wouldn’t be so very different from today.

You’d find a government sitting on a sizeable parliamentary majority, and a British peacekeeping force trying to police a civil conflict which was effectively created by Britain in the first place. You’d see a domestic policy of divide and rule, with demonised, marginalised communities vilified as the enemy within, and ever greater extensions of police powers passed without comment.

Then again, nobody was yapping and tapping away on their mobiles all day long, there wasn’t a CCTV camera on every corner. Kids didn’t find themselves on a DNA database, just for being kids. Britain limited its military adventures to our little patch of north-western Europe.

Woo-hoo!

Like many people in the area, my dad worked at the steelworks in Scunthorpe, and got laid off when the coke that powered the blast furnaces (supplied by the plant at Orgreave) began to run out during the strike. British Steel, at the behest of the Thatcher junta – I‘m sorry, I still get worked up about all this shit – eventually managed to break the strike by importing cheaper coal from apartheid South Africa.

Ungenerous souls might think this was partly the idea all along.

There were flying pickets at the gates of the steelworks, police roadblocks, helicopters, mad rightwing propaganda all over the media, it seemed like proper 1984 stuff.

And this was in largely rural North Lincolnshire. It was absolutely on-top in the neighbouring South Yorkshire coalfield – and it ended up getting even worse.

Twisted Yorkshire noir supremo Dave Peace summed up the fractured, bewildering edginess of the era perfectly in his novel about the strike, GB84. Read it and weep.

It’s not like the viciousness of the government’s response to the strike came as any real surprise. We’d seen exactly what Thatcher was capable of already, in the Falklands, when she kicked off the 1983 election campaign by murdering a thousand young Argentinian conscripts, and scores of British lads who may as well have been conscripts.

But life went on – despite the weight of the oppressive totalitarian machine bearing down on us blah blah blah. It was business as usual. Most people kept their heads down and tried to make the most of the scraps thrown to them from the free marketeers’ table.

Here I go again. Check me getting all militant and Class War. Listen, whatever I say now, I was never really any kind of activist and the extent of my experience with Class War was begrudgingly buying a copy of the paper off Morbid Mark down the Furnace every now and again.

Hospitalising coppers just didn’t seem like the answer to me.

And while we’re at it, I need to pick a metaphor and stick to it. Is it a machine I’m talking about ? A table? Or a mechanical table? A hostess trolley?

If it was a hostess trolley, I was drunkenly hanging ten on top of it, surfing the tsunami of sexual smugness and emotional self-satisfaction that comes with your first real, grown-up relationship.

Although I was right next door if you looked at a map, in reality I was half a world away from the frontline of the class war tearing the North apart at the time. The first half of 1984 was all about Stef and drinking and dancing and joyous, mind-blowing sex anywhere and everywhere. I barely noticed what was happening on my own doorstep, never mind the rest of the world.

We went to see Crass, Flux, D&V and Annie Anxiety at the Marcus Garvey Centre in Nottingham at the start of May. Half a dozen of us crammed into Stef’s little black Ford GTi, bricking it all the way down that we’d get stopped at the police roadblocks which had been set up to prevent flying pickets from South Yorkshire getting to the less solid Nottinghamshire coalfield.

I remember being very struck by the fact that Derek Birkett was wandering around outside the venue, barefoot. Crikey, I thought, he’s even rejecting shoes.

Disappointed by the new material Flux played at a gig at the Marples in Sheffield the previous Christmas, I didn’t bother buying The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks. And Doug or Pete Lazerbeam or someone had bought it already, I’d heard it and I just didn’t get it. It just seemed like four sides of angry, incoherent feedback. I wasn’t particularly impressed by the new stuff we heard in Nottingham either.

Even so, it came as a pleasant surprise when my birthday came around and Stef presented me with a nicely wrapped 12-inch package containing a brand new copy of The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks. Who says romance is dead?

Buying me records was the quickest and easiest way to my heart even then. I was head over heels.

The problem was, Stef didn’t attach quite the same level of importance to the giving and receiving of vinyl as I did. She chucked me a few weeks later, in the middle of the precinct, just outside the market, on a Saturday afternoon. That evening, miserable and reckless, I went off with some sophisticated older girls and smoked my first spliff.

I inhaled. And then I exhaled. That first fluttery, mellow wave that passed down the length of my body from head to toe was the one highpoint in an otherwise shite day.

Maybe the fact that it was a present from Stef is the reason why I never really listened to the album that much, even before it went west (whenever and wherever that was). But I hope I wasn’t as sappy as that. There are plenty of better reasons not to listen to The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks.

Hearing it on a wet Wednesday morning 24 years later, the album sounds like a big blast of anger and frustration from an entirely different time and place. It’s often confused and incoherent, wilfully extreme and uncompromising.

There’s a bit at the start of Love Song, which is about domestic violence, where a woman screams over and over again, accompanied by a clipped, military drum beat. It’s genuinely distressing. I feel like Brian in Spaced, listening to his tapes of torture and despair. I turn the volume down a bit.

I heard that Derek Birkett was listening to a lot of avant-garde free-jazz face-painters the Art Ensemble of Chicago when Flux recorded the album. It makes sense, hearing it now. But there are also moments of messy rat-tat-tat-tat thrash that recall wobbly Bristol squat punks Disorder, shifts in the sound that remind you of the haphazard sonic genius of the Fall, even occasional snatches of proto-punk funk that bring to mind the sparse rhythms of Joy Division.

And, in amongst the squalls of shrieking, whistling feedback, yelling, shouting, and cut-ups of spanking flicks and Steve Wright In The Afternoon, the album’s multi-layered production reveals a quantum leap in the depth and spatial acuity of Flux’s sound. It sounds every bit as out there as it did when it was released.

But in places there’s a hectoring, badgering, slightly patronising tone I don’t remember so much from their first album Strive To Survive Causing The Least Suffering Possible (though I haven’t heard that for years either). It’s all a bit holier than thou. It’s not a lot of laughs.

It wasn’t meant to be, of course. Flux were trying to push back the boundaries of their art, and simultaneously trying to make it less about the medium and more about the message. And as it turns out, I now realise the album isn’t quite the impenetrable wall of noise I once thought it to be – but it doesn’t work for me, even after all these years.

It’s telling that 1984 found the two leading lights of the anarcho scene releasing albums – Flux and Crass with Yes Sir, I Will – which largely confused and even alienated their audiences. And still do.

Focussed, impassioned and genuinely innovative though they were, both albums now seem like last desperate acts of impotent fury, almost like admissions of defeat. Both bands had never made as much noise before – and never with so little effect.

It’s a little bit sad.

The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks. Great title, not so great album.

Hold on. Wait a minute. Didn’t it used to have a gatefold sleeve? Wasn’t there a lyric and info sheet? eil.com didn’t mention anything about that.

The fucking cunts!

See also: Flux interview*1 (1984) and Flux interview*2 (2008)

POSTSCRIPT:

A while after the album was released, prompted by a complaint about a window display, Eastern Bloc in Affleck’s Palace was raided by Greater Manchester Police, at the time headed by the noted religious maniac James Anderton aka ‘God’s Cop’ .

A number of albums – including Penis Envy by Crass and Frankenchrist (complete with HR Geiger Penis Landscape poster insert) by the Dead Kennedys, as well as The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks – were seized.

Eastern Bloc’s owners were charged with displaying ‘Obscene articles for publication for gain’ – which is particularly ironic in the case of The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks, given that most of the album, even down to the OTT sweary punk rock title, was all about asking: What is more obscene? A little profanity or a society that is built on violence?

Happily, it never went to trial. I think. But I’m not sure. I’m trying to track down someone who worked in the shop at the time to get a bit more first-hand information but it’s proving to be a bit harder than you’d think.

I ended up going to see Flux, Chumbawamba, KUKL and D&V on a few dates of a tour they did in support of striking miners later in the summer of 1984, and interviewed everyone on the bill – except the Chumbas, who I‘d interviewed far too often already.

The D&V interview is a big blur, but I do remember being wedged in the back of a transit van outside the Leadmill trying to give Bjork, Einar and the other members of KUKL a hard time about not being vegetarians, and then sitting in the venue itself trying to give Flux a similarly hard time about The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks.

I must’ve seemed like a right irritating little twat.

The bad news is the D&V and KUKL interviews may well be lost in the mists of time. Foolishly, I gave them to a couple of so-called mates to publish. Doug of Fungus Sandwich and Armstrong of Testament Of Reality punkzines, hang your heads in shame for not archiving your output.

The good news is I stuck the Flux interview in the fanzine I did when I first arrived in Darlington – and I do archive my output. Of course I archive my output. Did you ever seriously imagine anything else?

Unfortunately, my ambitions of being a hardnosed interviewer far outstripped my actual abilities at the time, but what the heck. It’s a little piece of history and, I think, pretty interesting – even if I’m kinda missing the point most of the time.

So stand by for that vintage long lost Flux interview, landing right here some time in the next couple of weeks. With a bit of luck …

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13 Comments

Filed under hip replacement, punk rock

13 responses to “The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks by Flux Of Pink Indians (Spiderleg Records)

  1. What a great write up – sums up my feelings about the album (and why I can’t face listening to it again) quite nicely – there isn’t much about on Flux (certainly compared to Crass, Chumba and Conflict), so I’d be very interested to see the interview…

    What I think is interesting about the album and “yes sir” is that they seem like the end of the line, the uncertainty leaking through and bridges back to punk being burnt. I still have a soft spot for the Flux ‘Uncarved’ album with Adrian Sherwood tho…

  2. oh yeah, and have you been checking the Kill Your Pet Puppy blog? Possibly a bit london-centric for you but it’s a great resource (and exercise in gentlemen of a certain age reliving their youth, ha ha).

    http://www.killyourpetpuppy.co.uk/news/

  3. undeleted

    Thank you kindly John.

    I’m not going to be listening to The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks that often but you know what it’s like, I had an itch I needed to scratch.

    And Uncarved (funny you liking that one, what with the name of your site) is definitely on the list, as is the first album.

    Can’t wait.

    I’ve not been checking KYPP so much (that busy punk rock layout hurts my old eyes) and yeah, you’re absolutely right, it is a bit too ‘London-town’ for me.

    I saw some comment about the Mob just being important to ‘druggies’ in east London, which kinda summed it all up. I never did have much time for that kind of scenester nonsense in the first place and I have even less now.

    But there’s a lot of good stuff on there as well, so maybe I’ll make a bit more of an effort from now on. Us fanzine-kids should stick together, I guess.

    I wish they’d do something about that fucking layout though ..

    That Flux interview will be up in the next couple of weeks, promise.

  4. westclifftransition

    I remember when Fucking Cunts first came out, I didn’t like it at all, and told Derek Birkett as much when I bumped into him at the Anarchist Bookfair that year. He advised me not to listen to it as a punk album but to listen to it as a jazz album.

    I took his advice and changed my ‘listening head’ and then ‘got it’ straight away, especially when Derek had made the Art Ensemble of Chicago link explicit, to the extent that I remember playing all 4 sides straight through with headphones on, then playing one of the sides (The one with ‘The Falklands War’ on it) over and over six times in a row, I found it that mind-blowing…

    But then I always had an interest in free jazz that ran parralel (and in fact pre-dated) my inerest in anarcho-punk.

    Its a shame that 20 odd years later ex-Flux members have disowned this album so vehemently, describing it as having absolutely no musical merit, etc (eg, in Ian Glasper’s book)

  5. undeleted

    Thanks for the comment Westclifftransition.

    I enjoyed reading the Tao of Women and the Zen of Sucks piece you linked to, fascinating stuff. I may have bought one of your fanzines once upon a time.

    And I think you’re just about the first person I’ve ever come across who likes Yes Sir, I Will.

    I dunno. Maybe I should give it another listen sometime.

    But not right now ..

  6. undeleted

    I changed my mind about Kill Your Pet Puppy. It’s very cool and I’m a bit of a knob-head sometimes ..

  7. Another great piece…and brings memories flooding back…I actually remember seeing you, I believe, the day after your girlfriend and yourself parted company……my father was a lorry driver and delivered steel from the local works and was affected by the situation at the time.. I remember him being a big labour man and having many meetings at our house organising this and that to ‘smash the system’ as he would put it…..As for Flux I think I saw them at a small venue in Hull, off Beverley Road….Recently I picked up a 12″ remix by Optimo (JD Twitch) and a fantastic punk mix CD by JD Twitch from the fantastic Picadilly Records.

  8. undeleted

    Thanks for all the great comments Waka. Was I a bit miserable the day after? I remember being gutted about it.

    Was that the Adelphi or the Welly where you saw Flux?

    Big, big feature coming up on that 10″ Of Fear thing. As soon as I can finish writing the fucking thing.

  9. I think it was the Adelphi where I saw them… lived in Hull three times in past life’s..god know’s why! but I seemed to have an infinity with the place….apparently worst fucking place to live in England according to stats by the govt. Mind u I did live in Bransholme, regarded by many as Colditz’s..I use to go see many punk bands, Chron Gen, Anti-Pasti, Discharge, Anti-Establishment, Born B.C. etc,,then have to fight my way home, on the last bus, with all the trendies wearing their Fila’s, Tacchini’s etc,,,I was only 14yrs old and my mother knew nothing of it, as I was living in lodgings, as I went to Trininty House School…It seems like yesterday..

  10. Before I disappear for the night and drink too much red wine, do u have any articles of the amazing Butthole Surfers……once again my fantastic memory reminds me of that time when u saw them in Leeds, I believe, and Dom Robs, and Macky tagged along and u did a backstage interview with them..and apparently they were smoking one skinners…..I could of come along but had sailed to shores away and missed that one…would be good to see that article….

  11. undeleted

    Thanks again for the lovely comments Wak. You can definitely come again.

    In answer to your question, yes, that interview is up on the blog. Look in the interview section. There’s also a piece about spectacularly failing to interview them in Manchester last year, in the features bit.

  12. undeleted

    Most inappropriate spam comment ever?

    If you are indeed a person and not some kind of bullshit-bot, maybe you could use this new knowledge and perhaps reconsider working in the security industry? It must be a miserable existence, making a living out of fear and mistrust of your fellow man. Give it up. Free yourself. You’ll feel better for it.

    Here’s an idea: why not use your invaluable insider knowledge to utterly destroy the surveillance industry in Thailand? Maybe this will restore your karmic balance ..

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