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High On The Hogs: Artists On The Genius Of The Groundhogs
Patrick Clarke , August 5th, 2021 09:59

Artists including Brix Smith Start, Luke Haines, Underworld's Karl Hyde, reflect on the overlooked genius of Tony McPhee and The Groundhogs, and pick their favourite albums and tracks


Wolf People’s and Large Plants’ Jack Sharp on Thank Christ For The Bomb (1970)

I first got into The Groundhogs when we started the band Wolf People back in 2006. We did a session for Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone and he said we reminded him of them. Joe [Hollick, Guitarist] went out and bought Thank Christ For The Bomb after that and we both obsessed over it for months, learning parts and playing it in the car on the way to gigs. It provided the perfect soundtrack for bombing up and down the country on tour in Joe’s old Volvo. To us it was the perfect form of no-bullshit rock music, and it seemed to represent a genuine counter-culture away from the big preening 70’s bands that were their contemporaries. They were steeped in the blues and had obviously paid their dues playing with John Lee Hooker, but there was also something very British about them. The lyrics are sometimes criticised, but I absolutely adore them. It’s so honest and genuinely, unselfconsciously weird. The imagery is fantastic, especially in songs like ‘Garden’, where Tony describes dropping out of society and letting his garden go to seed.

I love the straightforward simplicity of the arrangements; just Tony’s guitar, bass and drums. He manages to find ways to explore the riffs and create little variations on each one, without fancy ornamentation or extra instrumentation. The album was a huge inspiration to us at the time, and I still refer back to Tony McPhee’s playing and songwriting in almost everything I do. In fact, I often had this album in mind when I was recording the songs for the Large Plants album that I’ve just finished, mainly in the ways that they incorporated riffs and self-referenced the melodies throughout the songs. Listening again while writing this I can hear so much that I’ve borrowed from this album in all the project I’ve done since, it makes me wonder why I’ve never covered any of their songs!

There are no weak tracks on this album, it’s full of memorable hooks and strange little turnarounds. I should also mention that this album gets seriously heavy! There are parts that are almost proto-metal or proto-punk. Tony’s lead playing is breath-taking when he lets go and takes off, and Peter Cruickshank and Ken Pustelnick are a formidable rhythm section. I bet they were an unbelievable live act, I would have loved to see them around the time of this album, and I can imagine them blowing The Rolling Stones offstage when they supported them.

This is one of those albums I think I will always come back to, always find something new to enjoy, and will continue to inform my playing and writing for a long time to come. Long live the Groundhogs!