THE SHOP ASSISTANTS tend to get lumped in with all the jingly-jangly stuff that made up most of the NME’s C86 cassette, but they just sound very punk rock to me. All of my Shop Assistants records went west a long time ago but we do have this short Q&A from 1986. Singer Alex answered the questions.
Tag Archives: 1986
THE STRANGEST thing about Uncarved Block is just how much everyone seems to hate it.
Flux of Pink Indians’ first album – the snappily-named Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible – was a very likeable kind of angry, knockabout Crass punk with tunes and feedback.
By contrast, their second, The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks, was a very unlikeable maelstrom of feedback, shouting and no tunes whatsoever. And that was kind of the whole point.
Even so, the greying, befuddled online remnants of the anarcho-punk community seem to prefer The Fucking Cunts to Uncarved Block, the band’s third album, an ultra-accessible collection of loose-limbed dub funk with lyrics inspired by Taoism.
“Uncarved Block was the most unexpected of the band’s three studio albums, delivering more polemic allied to dance and funk rhythms that left their previous audience totally nonplussed,” says some guy off the internet. “It was a dreadful effort.”
Uncarved Block is, it seems, “largely uninteresting”, “self-indulgent rubbish” and, according to Flux guitarist Kev Hunter in The Day the Country Died, “nothing to do with punk in the slightest, a completely neutered record with no balls at all. Trumpets and bongos on a punk album? Arty-farty shite, I’m afraid.”
You have to peer into some very dark and dusty corners of the internet to find another view.
THOUGH it’s now routinely derided by the latest crop of fat, bitter and aged pop historians – that’s my gig, thank you very much – the NME’s C86 cassette was an essential purchase for those of us not in thrall to the emerging sound of hip hop.
A ragged and patchy but essential overview of some of the best bands working the UK’s vibrant DIY live circuit at the time, C86 featured contributions from the likes of Primal Scream, Stump, the Pastels, the Shop Assistants, Big Flame, A Witness and Miaow. As well as being musically diverse, it also featured a number of women among all the little white boys with guitars. Radical.
Of course, I’d been into a lot of the bands on C86 for ages before it came out. Cool huh? Well, I thought so at the time – but I’ve been wrong about this kind of stuff before and no doubt I will be again.
I was writing odd live reviews for the NME and was fully immersed in fanzine culture, as well as still being an avid listener to the venerable Peel, so I was hearing a lot of new music one way or another.
I bought Let Them Eat Bogshed on John Robb’s Vinyl Drip label and absolutely loved the weird, jerky guitar pop of the Hebden Bridge funsters, so I decided to put them on in town.
Taking my cue from my fanzine, Airstrip, I renamed the Henry’s function room the Hangar and booked the Membranes for the first gig and Bogshed for the second. Both gigs were big successes, although they were probably a bit unusual for the bands themselves.
Rather than the happy-go-lucky indie Last Of The Summer Winos I’d expected, Bogshed were actually Scousers (apart from drummer Tris King) who just happened to live in Hebden Bridge, and they were as miserable as fuck to boot. I was quite taken aback. True, it was a pretty shit venue, most of the crowd had never even heard of Bogshed before and were too busy skinning up to really get excited by the band’s performance, but apart from the Membranes, the last band who’d played here were Theatre of Hate four or five years before.
People knew how to react to their mates doing a load of well-worn cover versions but proper bands like Bogshed were another matter entirely. I actually thought they got a pretty decent reaction given that hardly anyone knew their stuff. They were probably used to going to shit-hole towns and finding people were so grateful that anyone had made the effort to visit that they just went bananas. And while that sometimes happened in Scunthorpe, it didn’t tonight.
Anyway, after the gig I paid them the full whack and somehow cajoled them into doing an interview for the fanzine.
They weren’t happy.
* * *
Postal interview alert!
FACT: Jon Langford was a founder member of the Human League.
Fact: John (Philip) Brennan shaves 11 times a day.
Fact: John Hyatt has one enormous giant hand and one normal-sized hand.
Fact: If you haven’t heard the screaming geetar-noise pop of the Three Johns and liked it, no, loved it, then – I must be frank – something is lacking in your life.
The Three Johns alphabet
A is for Abstract Records
“Level-headed, non-wholemeal independent home of gifted young politicos (attractive), ready to compete with Marillion on the doorstep of Jonathan King’s 1986 ugliness revival”. “Two interested, tolerant, fun people”. “Capitalist scum”. (see Pop Music)
B is for Beefheart
A person worth listening to. He is much better than everyone.
C is for Crowther
“Indeed”. “Exhumed face of insidious corporate TV fascism”. “Ex-host of Crackerjack (a very old chap)”.
D is for drum machines
“Drummers are often terminally mis-represented as loud, ugly, stupid drunks whereas they can often be very fat, loud, ugly, stupid drunks”. “They need paying and stuff”.