|Edgar Broughton Band|
[The Guardian, 1999]
EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND
SING BROTHER SING
LET'S get one thing straight here. I am not about to try to rehabilitate prog rock. Much as there's always one last, dubious loaf on the supermarket shelves after the bank holiday gannets have been in, so prog remains unclaimed by those semi-ironic revivalists who've battened onto everything else in sight. Still, it's only a matter of time before Gong, Henry Cow and Gentle Giant are dragged out to bore and confuse yet another generation of those most vulnerable members of society - the drug-addled and easily led.
So allow me to get my retaliation in first. Every criticism you've heard of prog is true. It is the most joyless, godforsaken and knuckle gnawingly dull musical genre this side of jazz-rock, its kissing cousin. You'd have more fun eating your furniture than you will subjecting yourself to such tripe. Your arse will ache, your teeth will spontaneously rot, your eardrums will, more in sorrow than in anger, go numb. Don't say I didn't warn you.
There are, of course - there are always - anomalies. Edgar Broughton Band were an anomaly and a half, closer to Beefheart than to Genesis, and closer to dementia praecox than to either. They're best remembered for their manic invocation, Out Demons Out, a counter-culture exorcism gleefully squawked along to at the turn of the Sixties by flocks of chemically concussed hippies, who probably don't remember it too well at all, come to think of it.
In the normal course of things, EBB's second album would stand merely as a weary example of beardo wackiness, and Lord knows it doesn't lack for that. But Sing Brother Sing is also a genuinely deranged piece of work. It scrabbles at the windowpane of lucidity like some rabid thing trying to claw its way back in. That may not be your idea of bliss, but it makes for compulsive listening.
In an era when freakishness was merely another norm, Edgar Broughton Band were no ordinary freaks. Even by the standards of the day they were a trio of fearsomely ugly teabags. Like many of their peers, they were former public schoolboys, but somehow they escaped the most fey excesses of that cabal to immerse themselves in snarling, buggered-up blues of the first water. Drummer Steve Broughton, brother of Edgar, had honed his talents smacking concrete with a sledgehammer during the construction of the Warwick bypass. Edgar himself played the guitar like a one-armed man trying to wrestle a mongoose through a laundry mangle.
By the time they recorded Sing Brother Sing, in 1970, their instruments sounded as if they were coughing up blood. Christ alone knows what the poor stoned bastards who comprised their audience made of it when There's No Vibrations But Wait! first ricocheted around inside their brain pans. This was a song which not only saw Can coming, but anticipated Talking Heads and Brian Eno, on Remain In Light and My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, by the best part of a decade. Round and round it went, looping its preposterous cut-up lyric across a disjointed and frankly al ing rhythm worthy of Funkadelic in their earliest and strangest incarnation. It was probably about sex. But it's very hard to tell.
In fact, most of this album is probably about sex, and about drugs, and suggests a dwindling ability to distinguish between the two - whether presumed on the part of society at large, or a fact in the case of the band in particular, I wouldn't care to guess. I can only admire a group who, at the height of rock's solemn fascination with mystical babble, could dedicate to a goddess such a deadpan couplet as
AphroditeVibrations makes this album worth owning, and there's more besides. The stompalong gibberish of Momma's Reward; charmingly hamfisted music-hall ricky-tick on Officer Dan; and Psychopath, whose overblown characterisation of a child-menacing nutjob, far from seeming sinister, is evocative of a time truly more innocent than ours, when you could get away with this kind of nonsense. When it comes to authentic oddball status, many are called but few are chosen. Sing Brother Sing confirms Edgar Broughton Band among that happy, fruitcake few.
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