, November 3rd, 2010 12:25
Rip it up and start again is a notion that has fared better in theory than in practice. With three decades now passed since the birth of the once fluid genre known as post-punk, its defiant, cut all ties with the past sensibility has been hobbled by its very own history. The early-naughts revivalists spent most of their time plundering the era's surface signifiers for use as window dressing on otherwise identikit indie-disco templates. There have been notable exceptions to this rule, Liars and more recently Factory Floor, for example, but the vast majority sound as if they spend their days lazily trolling AllMusic.com in search of fresh references instead of disruptively kicking against the boxes they're willingly being tossed into. Rip it up and start again? More like look it up and do the same.
It's perhaps fitting then that original post-punkers Family Fodder have named their new album Classical Music. They and their peers late 70s, early 80s work is now held up as canonical by those who fail to see the irony in such an act.
Not that this appears to be of much concern to Family Fodder. During their original heyday (the band broke up in 1983 before reforming numerous times over the years) tracks like 'Debbie Harry' and 'Dinosaur Sex' tipped a hat to This Heats' stern experimentalism while simultaneously embracing a playful and wry absurdity that sought little outside reference or approval.
Jump forward almost 30 years later and Family Fodder show no sign of losing their mischievous streak or penchant for dwelling in a world of their own singular creation. Opener 'Primeval Pony' finds vocalist Darlini Sing-Kaul (Daughter of original Fodder vocalist Dominque Levillan) speak-singing over a Vangelis style synth melody. It's an atmospheric opener that feels far removed from the afro-dub infused experimentalism that marked Family Fodder's most feted work. And yet, the sound of band mainstay Alig Fodder suddenly cutting in with "And now, a field music recording by a local ethnomusicologist", followed by the sounds of church bells ringing off in the distance should remind long-time followers that this is still the band who once sang "Dinosaur sex, you make me feel like a Tyrannosaurs Rex."
It's a gloriously gauche moment that more recent practitioners of anything bearing the 'post' pre-fix would never attempt. It simply doesn't fall within the acceptable confines of most under 30-somethings' stabs at noisy experimentalism. Follower 'The Onliest Thing' continues in this vein with a blast of cello strings, fuzzed out guitars and Alig and Sing-Kaul chanting 'When you're lonely, I will hold you, cause you're only, a little baby'. 'Don't Get Me High' is Family Fodder doing straight up psychedelic-pop while 'Death and the Maiden' is a swirling, string filled rumination on mortality. But, it's the afro-pop of 'What ever Happened to David Ze' – a tribute to the assassinated Angolan singer – that will be celebrated by some as an album highlight while only serving to confound others in search of something to temporarily pose against.
Classical Music is a big, beautiful, magpie of a record. One made by a band who offer a reminder that true musical freedom, the kind that post-punk in its purest form should rightfully stand for, demands that you continue to look forward and defy expectation, even when the fashion pendulum once again swings your way.