Sunday, November 19, 2017

ALL THE FIXINGS: Frogs, SPROUTS, Clogs & Krauts

I confess to always feeling and being a little bit lost when this yearly staple comes around, not even sure entirely for what the thanks are being given for. (Is it the right to be free from your colonialist oppressors and for free speech? Good luck with that!) And all the fixings is what you eat with your turkey, right? Over here we eat turkey a few weeks later, for Christmas, a meal so set into tradition that I, for one, am glad it comes but one a year. I don't know what you guys eat with it, but it is the sprouts that cause most concern to many of my compatriots. Brassica oleracea, the brussel sprout, that miniature cabbage that, when boiled to buggery, has all the taste and texture of a dirty dishcloth. Thankfully, unlike bread sauce, chestnut stuffing and roast potatoes, there are a host of songs about this most flatulent of vegetables. Well, one, and strictly, not even that, a mention. In not even a song, just in the name of a record.

The Rumour were a terrific band, a collection of already rock-hardened veterans from the UK pub-rock circuit, corralled together as the tightasthis backing band of Graham Parker, tight yet loose, somewhat similar in style to a british Little Feat. Just too early for punk, Parker swept his howling wind into the decaying inspirations of early '70s rock music, with a return to snappy, angry songs, morphing the styles dismissed by prog into an aggressive and raucous joy. Good as his songs are, great they became with the inspired backing of Brinsley Schwarz (of the eponymous band) and Martin Belmont (ex-Ducks Deluxe) on guitars, Bob Andrews (also in Brinsley Schwarz, the band) on keyboards, Andrew Bodnar on bass and Stephen Goulding on drums. Like the Band, the direct comparison, I think, deliberate, all could sing. And, as was de rigeur for the day, they got their own deal, producing 3 LPs in their own right.

Max was the first, sturdy meat'n'potatoes rock, very much in the vein of Parker, including a great cover of Duke Ellington's 'Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me', alongside some self-compositions and one from Nick Lowe, another alumnus of Brinsley Schwarz, the band.

But it was the 2nd record, 1979's 'Frogs, Sprouts, Clogs and Krauts', that really gave them a character of their own, albeit one that failed to set the charts alive. The title a play on their respective ancestries, within a mongrel UK, with french (frogs), belgian (sprouts), dutch (clogs) and german (krauts) blood represented in their veins. The theme was loosely around that of the new Europe, the sense of hope following, shall I call it, BRENTRY (sic), six years before, a pole apart from todays ill-considered BREXIT. On Stiff records, it required a certain quirkiness to be included within that roster, sounding nothing like their earlier release. I loved it, never finding anyone who has even heard (of) it, let alone liked it, to this day.

A 3rd album appeared in 1980, 'Purity of Essence', a bit of a backward step, stylistically, depending upon which version you heard, it being markedly different in the versions related in the US and the UK. But the writing was on the wall. Andrews left the band, as in the backing band, the same year, ahead of Parker dispensing with all of them, bar Schwarz, the year later.

An afterword is the more recent regrouping of the band, again behind Graham Parker, in 2010, as part of Judd Apatow's feature film, 'This is 40.' To my knowledge this led to no leaderless band material. Pity, but I can confirm they were as solid an outfit as ever, with GP, based upon a live performance I caught in 2015.

Spread the Rumour!

blog comments powered by Disqus