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Officer!
Dead Unique Jody Beth , June 2nd, 2014 02:15

Dead Unique is the previously unreleased 1995 album of Mick Hobbs's long-running Officer! project. Hobbs had played guitar and bass in Henry Cow affiliates The Work, was a fixture of This Heat's Cold Storage studio, and later joined Half Japanese. Looking at these and other credits of his (Zeena Parkins, Family Fodder), Officer! is a natural progression. So seamless is the transition, in fact, that The Work's Tim Hodgkinson appears on Dead Unique, as does Half Japanese's Jad Fair.

First, the bad news. The album's more intriguing than it is out-of-the-ballpark successful – Rock In Opposition meets Television Personalities is a fascinating recipe, but ultimately these songs feel like ideas that are still being worked out, instead of fully-formed classics-to-be. At an hour and six minutes, it comes close to falling victim to CD-itis, that nineties-era malaise of padding out the disc to provide the appearance of giving customers their money's worth.

Luckily, that intrigue does pay off at several points throughout Dead Unique. 'Shrug / Good' offers Weimar-style droll vocal jazz with a nudge and a wink. 'Biteman,' though too brief at 1:54, haunts with its downtown clatter and dubby, slipping-through-time voice processing. A melancholic rock & roll saxophone croons over an off-kilter drum pattern on 'V.I.M.' like remnants of a lost late-seventies Lou Reed track. The chipper 'Nardis' (the 2:01 one, not the 5:24 one) adds a layer of Homosexuals cheekiness to the Revolver-worshipping sincerity of U.S. power-pop. The 5:24 'Nardis' turns the riff from 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' into a celebratory spy-skronk, and it's very nineties, like something Tzadik would have been in the market for at the time.

Another highlight is the minimal avant-metal guitar strut over 'Bugs in Amber,' dampered slightly by the competing ongoing monologue that features a deliberately irritating cod-accent of someone playing at being a hyper-nasal Middle American.

If Dead Unique feels like a for-the-fans release, that's fine, because it's for fans of a fairly diverse range of bands and musical ideologies: RIO, UK post-punk, gnome-folk, twee, and several decades of New York experimentalism. Blackest Ever Black are right in believing a hunger exists for such sounds in 2014, and although it's an imperfect collection, here's hoping it gets the recognition it deserves.

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