EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND

OVERVIEW:

One of the most unique bands in rock history! Edgar and co. began as a Beefheart-inspired weirdo blues ensemble, but on album three they suddenly began to merge their heavy blues anthems with avant pop, folk, prog, glam, and just about every other early 70s genre going strong at the time. They became so gleefully shape-shifting it seems impossible to sum up their sound succinctly. It must have been insanely tough to market them, and that’s probably one of the main reasons they’ve grown unfortunately obscure. But Broughton ranks with some of the wildest and most eccentric band leaders of the classic rock era (a bit Arthur Brown, a bit Ian Anderson, a bit Ray Davies, a bit Zappa — you get the idea), And the band’s catalog is full of killer jams, great guitar tones, and tons of showmanship. They never put together a truly obvious masterpiece – but they got closer than most bands, and made some great records. Get to know ’em!

THE ALBUMS:

Wasa Wasa
Sing Brother Sing
Edgar Broughton Band *
As Was: The Best Of The Edgar Broughton Band (Singles Compilation) *
Inside Out *
Oora *
Bandages *
Parlez-Vous English?
Superchip: The Final Silicon Solution
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WASA WASA (1969)

C+

The Broughton Band’s debut is a mightily sloppy and sorely underwritten psycho-blues record that fuses heavy Hendrix-isms with scary Beefheart-isms (with some Arthur Brown-isms on the side). But, alas, it lacks the virtuosity of the first guy, and the charisma of the latter two. Remarkably, this is almost unanimously voted as THE essential Broughton record. It may, indeed, be the rawest sounding Broughton record, but who cares about all that if it comes at the expense of good hooks and innovative ideas? All I hear on this record is an amateurish and indistinct version of a sound that was soon to blossom into brilliance. These songs go on too long, there are practically no dynamics, no melodies, none of that distinct theatrical gritty thumping heaviness that Edgar was soon to perfect on his upcoming singles. This album bores the living daylights out of me, and though it has a couple strong and entertaining moments, I’d say it’s easily the worst record the band ever put out. Rawness for rawness’ sake has never interested me – the band at this point was in the same school of dirty British menacing druggy blues-slop that produced Pink Fairies and The Deviants and perhaps led to American proto-punkers The Stooges and their ilk, but I have to come clean and say that I don’t really like that school. Is it inherently cooler and more raw to record with out of tune instruments? Maybe. But take the closing 14 minute epic, “Dawn Crept Away.” Besides the fact that the song goes nowhere, putting the focus squarely on Broughton’s rambling psycho Beefheart vocals but hardly providing him an engaging context with which to ramble, it also sports a repeated generic heavy blues riff played COMPLETELY OUT OF TUNE. Seriously, the guitar and bass are so far apart tuning-wise I can hardly listen to the track. It sounds like shit. And sure, fans of this style will probably call me a square for saying this – “It’s SUPPOSED to sound like shit” they may shout. But all I can do is tell you what I’m hearing. And I’m hearing a shitty sounding out of tune track. Out of tune instruments don’t necessarily equal menacing blues evil to me. They can just as quickly conjure up images of amateurish Chuck Berry fans twiddling away in a garage while high on glue. I certainly have no problem with bad-ass dirty guitar tones – as a matter of fact, I love them when they’re employed well. And obviously some out of tune-ness can work great – see half of Zeppelin’s catalog, or early Kinks, or MOST rock n roll and soul records. But on this song the rhythm section hardly kicks or swings, and the lack of tuning makes no sense. It’s just heavy loping stuff, sort of Sabbath-y in a way but less focused. Dopey crap, 14 minutes of it. On later records, Edgar becomes a formidable many-voiced vocalist with total control and mesmerizing powers, but here he just sounds like a kid imitating an old blues dude. Opener “Death of an Electric Citizen” and “Why Can’t Somebody Love Me?” are both generic gross sounding blues numbers that the Magic Band could have performed with ten times more wit and majesty. Taken together, those two numbers and “Dawn Crept Away” equal about half this record, and I can’t stand ’em. LUCKILY – the rest of the album is way better. The best track by many miles is the two and half minute shot of adrenaline “Evil,” the only catchy song of the album even if it’s essentially a Hendrix rip. It’s one of the few times on the record where the sloppiness WORKS, as the tempos are jumping a bit and the band is exploding a scary pop hook into my brain. The other time it works is on the early Mothers of Invention-esque “American Boy Soldier,” a yucky sounding doo wop anti-war parody. Zappa probably would have provided a better melody and some more “tricks” to keep the listener from zoning out – these guys aren’t quite as sophisticated at this point. But it’s a fun track, and since it’s satirically inclined, the awful playing and production works in its favor (a la early Zappa). “Love In The Rain” has a truly heavy blues riff, and while neither “Crying” or “Neptune” leave a big impression on me, they’re respectable dirty weirdo-blues tracks. In the end, this is an FORMATIVE work. A weak start. Not a definitive album. Allmusic seems to believe all the later Broughton records pale in relation to this one – that the band would never again achieve the scary atmosphere and unhinged quality of this their most important record. I’m here to set the “record straight.” This is a very underrated band – and I love most of their work – but they will get MUCH better at scary atmospherics, bad-ass heavy blues riffery, and song-writing.
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SING BROTHER SING (1970)

B

A major step up from the debut. My critical facilities can definitely get behind this record, even if the band hasn’t yet cozied up to the part of my brain that craves actual songs. There aren’t very many inviting moments on this album, but I can at least understand why a fan would call this their best work (whereas I could never fathom someone saying that about the debut). The band is in transition from the boring ugliness of the debut, on their way towards the craftsmanship of their later work, but they’re still playing it ugly. However, everything jumps up a notch on this one – the believability of Broughton’s psychopathic front man persona, the production quality, and the songwriting/concepts. There’s also far more quirkiness in the instrumentation, and more idiosyncratic moments in general. The thumping “Broughton” sound that I appreciate so much on the later records hasn’t yet come into focus, but it pushes through the gauze a few key times on this record. The most obvious example: “Momma’s Reward,” a dark bluesy riff monster with an amazing repetitive groove and fantastic guitar tone. It’s the most appealing track on the record from a purely musical perspective. But this isn’t a purely musical perspective kinda album. The BEST track overall might be the totally disturbing “Psychopath,” with some of the best evil killer-POV lyrics I’ve ever heard and a section about butterflies that must be heard to be believed. It’s pure theater – the song itself is really just a riff and spoken words – but it’s pretty mesmerizing nonetheless. Otherwise, things range in quality. The neat opener “There’s No Vibrations But Wait” uses some cool phrasing ideas on top of fairly rote un-grooving blues funk voodoo jamming (I’m keen on the chanted “negative negative” hook). “Officer Dan” is another Mothers of Invention scary comedy number. I’m also quite partial to the sleazy folk ballad on side 2 – “Aphrodite” – a rougher example of a style Broughton was soon to latch onto for the next record (“Aphrodite — in your see-thru nightie” is a hell of a naughty line!) Parts of the album do nothing for me – I can never remember anything about closer “It’s Falling Away,” for example. And I really wish the band put a little more energy into their melodies and presentation. But of the two early Broughton albums, the two “pre-sell out” albums you might say (if you disagreed with me about the true peak of the band), this is clearly the big dog. Weird, scary, and fractured, there aren’t very many records that sound like this one. But better things were on the way….
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EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND (1971)

B+

“Strings? Horns? Melodies? Thoughtful arrangements? A self-titled album? All points lead to sell-out, Edgar, you traitor. Who do you think you’re fooling with this record?” Now, if I were a huge fan of the first two albums, those might have been my words upon this album’s release in 1971. But I’m not a fan of the first two albums. I’m a fan of THIS album, and a huge fan of the albums immediately following it, and therefore I have no problem whatsoever with Edgar’s sharp change in tone, sound, intent, and energy. There can be no denying, however, that what we’re dealing with here is a “cleaning up” of the earlier sound – perhaps you could say a “lightening up” or “commercializing” of that sound. The Beefheart schtick gets dropped almost entirely on this record. There are acoustic guitars all over the place. There isn’t one frightening or unhinged moment on the entire thing. It rarely rocks. It’s the closest thing the band ever put out to a singer-songwriter album, and I’m sure it lost them some fans at the time. Only a portion of the album truly floors me, but the entire thing works and it’s certainly been constructed with love and attention to flow and nuance. Edgar dials back his mean blues voice so extremely you can barely believe it’s the same singer! This is not really the most exciting album in the band’s catalog, and I find myself a bit bored by half of it. But let’s talk about the non-boring half first. In the middle of the record the band stacks by far the three best tracks. They’re all three brilliant, distinct, and sure spot holders on my list of the all-time best Broughton tunes. First up comes “Don’t Even Know Which Day It Is,” a bluesy hooky beast of a rock song with a great tightly played riff, a killer vocal performance, and all sorts of fun band interplay. A beefy classic. My absolute favorite comes next – “House of Turnabout” – an electric folk-rock song. It sports a very traditional melody, but the delivery is so bad-ass, and the song drives so hard, the melody end up sounding totally unique.  Love it to death, I do. Then there’s the amazing 6 minute “Mad Hatter,” a mid-tempo groove with another great vocal melody and tons of cool bluesy pop vibes. Catchy, memorable, warm, and instantly engaging – surely you can tell we’re already miles away from the first two albums!? None of the other tracks reach the level of those three, but they’re all nice in their own ways. The band bravely opts for a slow-building string-laden psych-folk-country opener (“Evening Over Rooftops”) – it seriously sounds not one iota like anything on the first albums. With its Western movie lady backup vocals, and repetitive verses, I get a bit of a late-60s Dylan vibe (yes I’m talking about “Self Portrait,” which I happen to love). “Birth” is the most bad-ass straight blues rocker on here, with Edgar bringing in a milder form of his Beefheart-y gruff voice. But this time he’s singing against a much more put-together track – and there’s even a harmonica solo! There are a couple slight acoustic folk numbers on here (“Poppy” “Thinking Of You”), a hippie-ish group sung mantra called “Piece of My Own” and an overlong generic blues tune (though it has some cool horn parts) called “Getting Hard/What Is A Women For?” The latter has a funny (hopefully) tongue-in-cheek misogynistic title, but it’s not a great track – too straight bluesy for my tastes – and it goes on for 7 minutes! The album closes with the near instrumental mock epic “For Doctor Spock,” which sports some amusing vocal passages at the end but never really lifts off. So there’s a good amount of lesser material on here, and the band was still in the nascent stages of respectable rock making. Audiences didn’t seem interested in this newfound style, and as the band continued to improve upon it, they strangely seemed to lose the attention of critics and fans. I don’t understand it – I think this band just got better and better during this period. This is the first REAL Broughton record as far as I’m concerned, and I fully agree with their decision to go self-titled.
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AS WAS: THE BEST OF THE EDGAR BROUGHTON BAND (Singles from late-60s/early 70s)

(No Grade)

A greatest hits record that includes a handful of early non-album singles. Since the band did indeed produce some incredible non-album singles, I thought I should mention ’em on this page! Probably their most famous ever song, the dark and twisted hippie mantra “Out Demons Out” employs the same Arthur Brown-psych blues formula from the debut. But the chanted hook RULES on this tune, and the song’s disturbing atmosphere can’t really be denied. Granted, it’s just a bunch of people shouting the title over and over while the band jams on a rudimentary blues rhythm and Edgar leads the sermon with a bunch of spoken exorcisms. But as a piece of weirdo-blues-theater, it’s probably the peak moment of the early sound. There’s also the “mash-up” single, “Apache Drop-Out” which cobbles together an old Beefheart tune and a Shadows instrumental for an aggressive and disgustingly great piece of kick-ass dirty blues. If the first two records sounded more like THIS tune, I’d be a happy camper – it just seems like a real refinement of that early vibe. The haunting folk tune “Hotel Room” would have fit perfectly on the self-titled album. Great chorus, great subtle arrangement, great “feel.” There’s a dreamy, sexy quality to the track that sounds very unique for the band, though there are some horrifying lyrical ideas in there. “Up Yours” is a goofy political satire with sing-along chorus that goes: “MOUTHFART to you, MOUTHFART to you, and all of you in Whitehall!” The mouth fart noises are supposed to mean “Up Yours!” Get it!? It’s a throwaway tune, but fun for a listen. Finally, there’s the original B-side of “Hotel Room” (what a great single package that was) – “Call Me A Liar” – a fantastic pumping chuggin’ blues pop song that sets the stage for the upcoming “Inside Out” material. If we put these singles onto an EP, that release would be one of the best things the band ever put out – perhaps THE best. So make sure you hear these tracks if you’re into these dudes.
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INSIDE OUT (1972)

A-

This is a lop-sided album: the first side is a near masterpiece and the second a bit forgettable and disappointing. In the end, it’s still a winner and one of the prime selections in the Broughton catalog. For me, the first 7 songs on here represent the peak of Broughton’s powers. They’re tough and bluesy, but also catchy and musical – they exist in a perfect middle ground between the earlier and later sounds. Among them reside perhaps my two favorite Broughton classics – “I Got Mad” and “Gone Blue” – both thumping, stomping, groovy blues-pop anthems with great energy, creative arrangements, and beautifully twisted vocal performances from Mr. Broughton. The latter brings the old psychopath persona into the context of a bad-ass rock song with genuine hooks – “I Love That Little Hole In The Back Of Her Head” is simultaneously the scariest, funniest, catchiest moment in the band’s entire career. The big “IIIIIIIIIII Believe In You” opening phrase from “I Got Mad” also deserves extremely special mention – what a bizarre and incredible way to begin a vocal line! In addition to those two brilliant highlights, we get the killer opening medley “Get Out Of Bed – There’s Nobody There – Side By Side” which begins as a melodic melancholy folk song before kicking into a forceful and catchy blues rocker in the classic Broughton vein.  These guys have really found a way to play blues rock in a totally fresh manner – when people mention “blues rock” to me, I usually turn away for fear of boring guitar solos, generic melodies and rhythms, and little to no eccentric quirkiness in the delivery. But Broughton manages to keep it bluesy and gritty while bringing in weird arrangements, oddball vocal performances, and actual pop smarts. It’s quite amazing, really. Moving on…”Sister Angela” is a short but gorgeous little harmonized folk song….”They Took It Away” a fun groovy funk-blues thing…and then there are two “ballads.” The first is “Homes Fit For Heroes,” a weird almost glammy acoustic guitar driven political number (I don’t talk much about the band’s lyrics on this page, but Edgar was often very politically charged). “Chilly Morning Momma” is the better of the two, with its great dynamic shifts from folk to heavy blues and memorable vocal melody. THEN the album takes an unfortunate downward spin into a more moderately successful level – the songs just don’t assault me with their awesomeness on the latter half of this album. “The Rake” is another blues thumper – fun and entertaining, but slight when compared to the earlier ones. Then there’s the album’s really major sore spot – the 11 minute blues fest “It’s Not You.” THIS tune sounds more like your standard festival early 70s blues rock – there’s not nearly enough going on in the arrangement or melody to capture my attention for 11 minutes. It’s a good blues tune, well performed, and it would probably be a highlight on a lot of other similar/lesser band’s records…but it just falls flat for me here. The album closes with a decent haunting folk ballad called “Rock ‘N’ Roll,” but it can’t wipe away the bad taste in my mouth generated after listening to the overlong blues work-out tune. Even with its flaws, this is a big step up for the band – a consolidation of their sound – and it contains some of the best material they ever produced. I highly recommend it, even if I can’t fully endorse it as a classic record. CLOSE though – probably close enough – and totally worth your time.
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OORA (1973)

A

The most ambitious, expansive, varied, and entertaining Broughton record! It may not be the most consistent, but it’s high points are incredible. Plus, it shape-shifts so much that the lesser moments give way quickly to the great ones. The band really shoots for an Abbey Road-like vibe on this album, with suites all over the place and lots of fun genre play. With its theatricality and progressive inclinations, I can understand why this record wasn’t universally accepted at the time  among Broughton’s remaining early fans (who must have been rather appalled by the backup choruses, horns, and pop suites on this album). This is a warm and generous record – the psychopathic menace from the old days is gone, and he’s been replaced by a pop craftsman with penchant for big 70 rock opera showmanship. This is very much a 70s record, in line with the early 70s Kinks and Who albums, belonging to a time when bands could get away with big silly conceptual stuff. Though I guess Edgar didn’t really get away with it! But I personally LOVE this vibe, and I think these guys pull it off magically. And they don’t totally neglect their raunchy blues side – this isn’t an actual concept album or anything like that, and it’s got some real grit in its veins. It’s still fairly rootsy with lots of acoustic guitars and blues melodies. I’ve heard people compare it to Neil Young – I don’t quite get THAT unless we’re talking about Neil at his most elaborate! The album starts off with a classic – “Hurricane Man/Rock N Roller” – basically two songs smashed and blurred together into a suite, the first of three such extended pieces on this record. The tune moves from horn-laden hooky blues pop to Who-like rock opera passages to melodic folk-pop stuff. It’s got female back-up singers, multiple voices taking lead, lots of dynamics, lots of fun melodies and riffs…a great track! The album takes a weird detour next with the experimental art-blues track “Roccococooler.” It almost sounds like something off of “Sing Brother Sing,” lacking as it does a proper melody or identifiable structure. Very unique, but one of the lesser moments on here. Later on we get the glammy piano pop number “Oh You Crazy Boy!” which sounds flown in direct from “Hunky Dory!” “Things On My Mind” is a classic Broughton thumpy blues popper with great guitar parts. Then there’s suite number 2: “Exhibits From A New Museum/Green Lights.” For me, this is all time great Broughton tune. Granted, it’s very obviously just two unrelated songs smashed together. But they’re both awesome. “Exhibits” grooves along with great melodies, and a brilliant female-sung “ba ba ba” chorus hook that’s sure to please the whole family! “Green Lights” is an acoustic folk ballad that sounds a bit like “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” It’s beautiful and simple and contains a fantastic middle 8 section. The album ends with another big medley – this concluding epic opens incredibly with the great funky sorta Stonesy “Face From A Window.” The middle of the medley isn’t quite as good, though it’s very well arranged. But it picks up at the end with “Slow Down,” a heavy blues rocker full of great drumming and guitar work. These songs don’t seem particularly related, and they sometimes sound like fragments rather than completed compositions – it’s this aspect that lends the record that generous Abbey Road comparison I made earlier. A really awesome album – a should-be classic and one of the most entertaining albums in my collection. AND it’s made even BETTER on CD with the fucking great Zeppelin-esque bonus track “Sweet Fallen Angels.” That’s one of the most rocking and catchy tunes in the whole catalog – why the hell was it left off the record!?
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BANDAGES (1975)

A-

Another excellent and underrated record! This one is almost as good as its predecessor, but unfortunately it’s held back in the end by a few weaker tracks.  I find it nearly impossible to describe where the band has taken its sound at this point – the blues element is still there, sometimes even heavily so, but the arrangements have grown incredibly odd and sometimes even proggy. This is really more of an experimental pop album than anything else. The glam quotient shows up heavily once again, but this record is less warm and classic rock-y than “Oora.” It’s just…weird. You get the sense the band really wanted to push into new territories and change up their sound, commercial success be damned. They drop the suites from “Oora,” but they bump up the genre-play and sound-shifting to the point of nearly losing any sort of identity. I don’t know how this was marketed back in the 70s – I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be responsible for that campaign – but we’re enough removed from its release to be able to discuss it on purely musical terms. And on that level its fantastic! The record opens with the amazing blues groover “Get A Rise.” I say “blues” but what we’re really dealing with is a simple blues idea coupled to an ever evolving arrangement that moves from weirdo pop to heavy guitar blues and back again. It’s got a female chorus and a bizarre treated piano. There’s a moment in the middle of the track where Edgar and co. play an EXTREMELY straight generic blues riff, but it’s clearly meant to be joke! That shows you how far removed they’ve come from those early records. Anyway, great opener. Next up is the bizarre Native American influenced folk song “Speak Down The Wires,” which begins as an atmospheric folk song and suddenly shifts into a goofy tribal dance of sorts with “Indian” vocals. I can’t say I love the song – but it’s surely entertaining! Then the album gets REALLY great with two Broughton classics. “John Wayne” is one of the best and most creative tracks the band ever put out – it starts out as an excellent and more typical-Broughton  thumping blues pop tune, and then moves into a Krautrocky groove section that reminds me a bit of Bowie’s Berlin records. The band had NEVER attempted anything like that before, and it works great! “The Whale” is nearly as good – a super slow building acoustic folk song that opens up into a powerful rocker 3/4ths of the way through. When Edgar says “I Think I’m Gonna CRYYYY” at the end and the drums kicks in — pop bliss!!! There are two powerhouse heavy glam anthems on here. “Love Gang” is one of the beefiest songs in the catalog, worthy of peak-era T.Rex. Killer guitar tone, incredible vocal performance. Then comes my personal favorite – “Signal Injector” – which reminds me a bit of Robert Calvert’s late-70s Hawkwind work. The hooks rule, the guitars rock, the band sounds great, the track kicks my ass. The rest of the album drops in quality a bit – but not much. “One To Seven” is the proggiest thing on here, with some excitingly tight instrumental sections. It never fully comes together for me as a composition, but it’s very well done. “Lady Life” is a pretty acoustic ballad, though pales in comparison with some of these other classics. The album ends on a very disappointing note – neither one of the two closing tracks (“Fruehling Flowers (For Claudia)” and “I Want To Lie”) do much for me. But at least they continue to push the band into new territories – the former goes for a guitar solo-y, latin-grooving Santana/Clapton sorta thing, and the latter’s a moody rhythmic slow-buidling drone. Even with the lesser tracks, this is still a key album in the band’s catalog – a near classic – and I highly recommend it.
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PARLEZ-VOUS ENGLISH? (1979)

B-

The band split up after “Bandages,” but they returned four years later with this completely bizarre record. At this point, they were using the name “The Broughtons” for legal reasons – but this essentially still the same group. The same in terms of personnel, that is. Because something has DEFINITELY changed in the music department. I have no clue what the guys were going for with this album, but they’ve drastically altered their sound here. There’s basically no blues or grit in sight. They’ve upped the keyboard quotient considerably. The arrangements are all milked for weirdness and quirkiness, and there’s even a bit of fusion thrown into the mix. This is basically a prog-pop album in the 10cc vein, but it’s not nearly as well-written as early 10cc. It ends up hovering somewhere around mid-level Rundgren/Utopia range. Which isn’t to say it’s an AOR sorta record – but it’s probably the closest thing the band would ever release to that. Some of Edgar’s guitar tones definitely bring to mind 10cc all over this record, which is very cool. And there’s an obvious Eno/Bowie influence on here, which is also cool. But the big drawback is that these songs just aren’t catchy enough. The band still sounds great, and the oddball arrangements make for a mostly engaging listen. But the material almost universally falls flat – not one track stands out as a truly great tune to me – so that we’re left with more of a curiosity than anything else. Edgar has stripped the sound so completely of its rawness and bluesy roots that I’m flummoxed as to where to place this in the context of the band’s catalog. It’s far too weird and off-putting to be called a sell-out, but perhaps it was just a very weird band’s ATTEMPT at selling out that created this undefined mess of a record. Anyway, this is a considerable disappointment and not essential listening for Broughton fans. But there are still some pleasures to be had if you do find yourself in its grip. The only track here that I could maybe see making my “Edgar Broughton Mix-Tape” is called “Revelations One.” It’s a fusion-rocker that sounds a LOT like mid-70s Rundgren, with a bit of Zappa thrown in. It does indeed rock, and displays some heavy virtuosity. It’s just a lot of fun, with all this crazy ugly shit flaying around in the arrangement. Otherwise, the first three songs on here provide mid-level pop entertainment even if they don’t achieve genuine lift-off. “Little One” is a mind-boggling way for a band like this to start off a record after a 4 year break. It’s basically a novelty song, sung in a goofy Cockney (?) accent. It’s got some fun hooks and a cute avant-pop arrangement. It reminds me of “Come Dancing”-era Kinks. There’s a little break in the middle of the song filled in by a keyboard making a fart noise – probably the funniest moments in the catalog!!! “Waiting For You” has a nice melody and a really cool synth-bass/heavy drum rhythm section that reminds me once again of Berlin-era Bowie. That might actually be the best overall pop song on here, even if the previously mentioned fusion experiment excites me more as a total track. “Drivin’ To Nowhere” is a groovy experimental glam song that’s practically a DIRECT nod to Berlin-era Bowie. Even the vocals sound like the Thin White Duke. The rest of the record failed to win me over even after repeat listening. “Down In the Jungle” is another glam rocker that ALMOST works, but it’s got some obnoxious production issues and the track never really goes anywhere. Then there are some really tasteless choices on here, like the corny children’s choir on the mock-patriotic anthem “April In England” or the super lame adult-pop chorus of closer “All I Want To Be.” Ultimately, this isn’t the sort of mediocre album that makes you wince in shame for having loved a band’s earlier work. It’s clearly still the work of a creative and intelligent group. I just wish the songs were better!
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SUPERCHIP: THE FINAL SILICON SOLUTION (1982)

B

And I thought the PREVIOUS album was weird! The final Edgar Broughton Band record has the distinction of being easily one of the strangest records I’ve ever heard.  Imagine a British “Joe’s Garage” played more for scares instead of laughs (“Joe’s Garage” is of course Zappa’s insane late 70s dystopian sci-fi comedy concept album). This is the only true concept album in the Broughton catalog, and it commits fully to its vision of a horrifying Orwellian future where a corrupt government implants computer chip into citizens to control them. This framework provides Edgar the opportunity to elaborate with all sorts of cautionary politcal ideas, which he does in an absurd and theatrical manner. This album reminds me a LOT of Ray Davies’ “Preservation” rock operas, though it’s not as catchy or musical. But both projects reveal their creator’s concern with concepts and lyrical ideas at the expense of “real” song-writing. Roger Waters fell prey to similar traps, and there’s a lot of that Waters’ political horror story energy on display here. And of course, this album is an obvious precursor to “OK Computer,” especially with all the scary inhuman computer voices popping up all over the place. Musically, this is similar to the previous record in certain respects. Quirky pop songs with oddball arrangements, a fair amount of Zappa-isms (even more this time out), and no gritty blues rock to speak of. There’s an even greater reliance on keyboards here, and this is very close to a straight synth-pop album at times. But it’s all so strange and melodramatic – sometimes it even reminds me of someone like Klaus Nomi! The most immediate issue with this record is the sensation that Edgar wrote the lyrics first and had to wedge melodies into the ideas. As far as I’m concerned, there are only two real stand-alone songs on here. They bookend the album and thankfully they’re both awesome! “Metal Sunday,” the opener, rocks harder than anything else on the record – it’s one of the only songs with a genuinely killer guitar tone. It’s also got a fantastic choir-sung chorus hook and a goofy-scary Broughton vocal. The album ends with the anthemic “Goodbye Ancient Homeland,” which sports a gorgeous vocal melody and an engaging chug-along synth-pop atmosphere. That one is intended as the “light at the end of the tunnel,” albeit in an ironic fashion, and it serves its purpose well with a nice big memorable hook arriving after a ton of twisted horror songs. So what about those other songs, then? This is so much a “of-a-piece” kind of album that it’s difficult to isolate individual tracks for discussion. When I first heard this record, everything save for the bookend tracks sounded like total messy garbage. I had no idea what to make of the other tunes. They’re hardly “tunes” at all! But repeated listening definitely allowed this record to grow on me to the point of eliciting my genuine appreciation if not complete admiration. It’s just so bizarre and lovingly crafted, and obviously a passion project for the band. There are some tracks that deserve special mention…like the title track, which is just a synth pop groove atop which Edgar recites the terrifying exposition of the “story” in a mock-happy news reporter voice. “Who Only Fade Away” and “Innocent Bystanders” both contain insanely wacky melodic ideas that teeter on the edge of camp but manage to remain scary and grotesque. “O.D. 47660/1162/11800” is the most Zappa-esque thing on the record, with some pretty direct nods to Frank in the busier parts of the arrangement. And “The Last Electioneer” isn’t much of a song, but it’s truly frightening and provocative from a lyrical perspective and it creates an unsettling atmosphere. This is surely an unusual swan song for the band – and I’m surprised they never made another record! The creative juices were clearly still flowing, and Edgar was still hamming it up all over the place. In any case, this is definitely worth hearing for its uniqueness, but I imagine it might scare most people away before they even get to track 3! What a crazy band.

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  1. What a great critique of one of my favorite bands. My personal favorite is The Meat Album but pretty much anything up to and including Oora is required listening for anyone interested in albums full of pleasant surprises

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