Folk Devils - Beautiful Monsters - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Folk Devils - Beautiful Monsters

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2016-09-16

Stop me if you’re heard this one before but Folk Devils are one of the most criminally forgotten Post Punk groups of the 80’s. While they remain a big influence on Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, for many today, they were just a blip on the radar, if even that. Their heyday was brief but blistering. I would rank them up there alongside The Cramps, Gun Club, X and the likes of The Scientists and Birthday Party. Filling the gap between The Flesh Eaters' debut and Honky Tonkin' era Mekons at times. They were Alt. Country before there was such a term. A bastardized amphetamine fueled mix of Punk, Blues and yes, Folk. The band folded in an inglorious haze of drugs and alcohol after only one album, Goodnight Irony. Founder, Ian Lowery soldiered on in various projects until his death in 2001. Bassist Matt Whiteley soldiered on as well, with what he describes as the “absolute bloody madness” of heroin addiction until the robbery of a chemist in 1991 landed him in prison. After his release, he eventually pursued an academic career and is now criminological researcher and tutor at Cardiff University.

This is a furious collection of demos and singles that surpass their out of print studio album in terms of raw edge and intensity. By way of introduction you’re asked to, “shake hands with dead Hank.” It’s a driving opener chronicling the death of someone long forgotten, doped up singer named, Hank Deadwood. “Your records don’t sell no more, your records don’t sell no more”, Lowery chants, bringing Violent Femmes to mind.

‘Beautiful Monsters’ could serve as the band’s mission statement. Beginning with slow burning menace, the band suddenly break into a swampy, infectious riff. Lowery sounding like a vengeful Robert Smith taking a chainsaw to the Blues. Then we have this very Television like moment when everything drops to a whisper. “So beautiful, so beautiful” Lowy croons as the song comes to its end.

 ‘Art Ghetto’ is as furious as anything the Pop Group cut. “Why don’t you go write a song about it,” Lowery sneers. Musically, its Peter Gunn meets PIL. Lyrically speaking, its a clear indication there’s something going on upstairs. In contrast, ‘Brian Jones’ Bastard Son’, is a swinging little number full of piss and vinegar. “My mother was a faithless nun, I’m Brian Jones’ bastard son,” Lowery declares. It serves as both ode and satire. Live, it must have been quite the crowd pleaser.

 “I’m not the kind of people I want to meet,” Lowery growls on ‘Nice People’. His conviction such, that he might just be telling the truth. The band takes on Thatcher’s England with the vicious ‘English Disease’. “Murdered by boredom, frozen by degrees, you got the first symptom of the English Disease” the chorus goes. “Now that my dreams have all come true what is there left for me to do?” 

 ‘Buffalo Roam’ is a standout on this collection. The epitome of what Folk Devils did best. A dark chronicle of working class desperation and addiction worthy of a seriously pissed off Lou Reed. “She dreams of death in a river bed…She’s a pregnant angel with a broken heart…Scum mixed with foam, why don’t you turn it into a poem, Where the Buffalo Roam.” It’s the band at their most snarling and outraged. 

‘Wail’ is a devilishly witty little slice of Psychobilly that goes from a whisper to a wail. Proving that the band not only had style but a sense of humor. None of which prepares you for the longest cut herein, ‘Evil Eye’. Clocking in at over 7 minutes, this is the kind of brooding, atmospheric number, The Cramps might have cut sometime in their Psychedelic Jungle days. Lowery’s delivery very Lux Interior, tossing out bon mots like, “Don’t you put no pennies on my evil eye.”

 As for the rest, from the pulsating, ‘Illiterati’ to the drunken man at the piano balladry of ‘Happy Face’ every twisted cut is a keeper. Outside of a collection of BBC recordings, Beautiful Monsters is about the only thing in print of this ingloriously devilsh band. Do not hesitate. A real find. Fans of any of the bands I've mentioned will flip over this stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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