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Monday, 24 January 2011

Review: Pink Military - Blood & Lipstick (Released 1979 on Eric's)

First put online on the Head Heritage website in 2004

One upon a time, a striking young lady named Jayne Casey, together with her brood of mates,  would become one of the first gaggle of youths which would fly the fundamental flag of the 'new wave' in the City of Liverpool in the mid to late 1970s. Already tuned in to what was happening regarding new music and styles from New York-past and present, Casey was ready to open eyes and ears- as well as ruffling the feathers of many a passer-by in the city centre with her creative and outrageous flair in clothes, hair and make-up.

She formed Pink Military (originally named Pink Military Stands Alone) after the disintigration of one of Liverpool's most notorious 'Punk' bands, Big In Japan, who collapsed under the weight of it's motley bunch of characters in 1978.
Before forming any groups, they were the first regular, ever-present bunch that would take root in Liverpool's legendary Eric's club, run by the late, great Roger Eagle (together with Pete Fulwell and Ken Testi) after he moved on from that snakepit of the 70s great unwashed- but a great place all the same- The Liverpool Empire.

I can still recall seeing Big In Japan on TV as guests on the TV show- 'So It Goes', the cathode showcase of Granada TV man and soon-to-be up and coming Factory label boss Tony Wilson. The B.I.J. sound was such an unbelievable racket (at the time), a shaven-headed female singer screeching something about 'drowning' with an equally odd looking bass guitar 'player', also shaven-headed with two lone plaits dangling over his twitching forehead.

Holly Johnson (for it was he), Bill Drummond, Ian Broudie and Budgie- would seem to find their own separate channels and reap the rewards soon afterwards.
Casey was always 'on the ball' as regards new ideas and directions, but has never been fairly championed as someone who possessed spot-on talent and insight into the many things she has been involved in and contributed to, over the years.

Eagle and Fulwell had also set up Eric's 'the label' and put out this 12" (45rpm) EP.....number 002.
A real lost gem indeed.

Pink Military had a few line-up changes, but this release sees the line up of: Roy White (guitar), Steve Torch (bass guitar), Nicky Cool (synthesizer), Tim Whittaker (drums).

They had first released 'Buddha Waking / Disney Sleeping' as Pink Military Stands Alone which was recorded live at Eric's in 1978 and released by The Last Trumpet (a fanzine that was a bridge from the old to new guard in Liverpool circa 1976).
The four tracks (two per side) were written by Jayne and Nicky although the 'arrangements' are credited to Whittaker, with Production credits going to Noddy Knowler and Roy White.
In later years, Casey would look back on these times and state that how hard it was, as a female, working in the all-male 'rock' environment.
The urge to be in more control and have a definate voice- although as much as the contributions from everyone on the credit board displayed here- it was Casey who had the get-up-and-go to start the ball(s) rolling.

When you think of it, there weren't that many female personalities in 'the scene' in Liverpool at the time and Casey didn't have the equivalent bolstering back-up that Siouxsie Sioux had in London for example, what with the Slits, Polystyrene, not to mention the likes of auntie Westwood.
However, she battled on...

"Spell Bound"- (now there's a title, ironically), is a precise little opener with a distinct psyche feel. Jayne's nasal vocals give the song a strange restraint amongst the echoed plinks of synthesizer and positive, but mild punch before she howls a great- "awwwlright!!" and White let's rip with a bust of shredding guitar.

"Blood & Lipstick"- has a nervous but jolly white funk stride and even more nervous, off-key vocals- but would they suit the audio jig-saw so well if they were bang-on pitch?
Maybe it was her way, amongst the male-muso throng, of laying down her own ground in more ways than one.

Not bad for starters, but it's side two of this EP which has the real deal.

"Clown Town"- is a fantastic track and one of the best tracks I've heard from that period. Why?, well, it's the 'possibilities' that it conjures up, not to follow suit to all around you. Within it's few minutes, this track conjures up a great dark feeling with a healthy nod to other areas- very 'post-punk' indeed. It starts with an echoed drumkit and guitar shuffle then stops, then a synth-organ setting gives it an eerie kind of dub-krautrock feel. The rhythm kicks in with a great not-quite-in-tune bass which runs along to splashes of single fuzztone guitar lines. 
Casey's ideas were well ahead of the technology of the time.
Her vocals are great on this, the reverberation on her vocals does lend them a more full sound... then the track stops halfway through- you could call the next bit 'a mixing desk solo', as it shoots out little patches of dub-deranged drums, guitars, synths and vocals, all separate of each other, then a return to the song and a frantic build up to the end with a free-form sort of finale that sounds like Henry Cow (honestly, it does!).

"I Cry"- is driven by drum machine and has eerie sounding vocals and even more eye-opening lyrics-

"Hey little boy...walk with me...I'll show you something you'll long to see....."
This track also forges in the direction that would be the next phase in Jayne Casey's life (as well as becoming a mother), but not before another single- "Did You See Her" and album "Do Animals Believe In God"- both released in 1980.

Her next musical operations were to be under the name- Pink Industry.
Teaming up with another liverpool musician/artist Ambrose Reynolds (bass guitar, synths, tapes), they would record some classic and truly unsung albums and EPs.
In fact, it's the Pink Industry stuff that is the TRUE unsung label I'm waving, I just think that it started to form with the 'Blood & Lipstick' EP- not fully formed ideas, but she just needed that right combination, she would soon find that special someone to 'gel with' on her new venture....

Reynolds also recorded a great one-off mini-album in -"The World's Greatest Hits"- which featured recordings of assassination reports (the kennedys etc.) set to his minimal compositions of bass guitar-dominated rhythmic tape experiments- not to mention the startling cover art which portrayed the American flag, but instead of stars and stripes, it had revolvers and stripes- a very striking image indeed.
This was originally released on the New Hormones label, then later released on his own label, Zulu Records. There was also an album, about the same time, recorded by Bill Laswell in New york called "Basslines", this sounded strangely similar to 'Greatest Hits', as it used the same minimal instrumentation, plus the main features being the bass guitar, drum machines and tapes (usually preachers or snippets of radio speech), in particular, the track "Upright Man" could have appeared on the Reynold's album and it would have fitted in perfectly, although Laswell had worked on Eno and Byrne's landmark "Bush of Ghosts" album a few years earlier.

It was Zulu Records that would serve to release Pink Industry.
Jayne and Ambrose would team up with Tadzio (guitar, keyboards) to weave out some truly memorable tracks which would grace the albums- "Low Technology", "Who Told You, You Were Naked" and "New Beginnings" etc..

But alas, the world didn't want to know, even with a couple of great John Peel sessions and a couple of great compilation packages coming out a couple of years after the original album releases, it was not to be.
Jayne Casey would later move on to become heavily involved in running Liverpool's club phenomenon- Cream- which became a very big success.

Good on her!

Written by Tim Jones october 2004

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