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Western Culture

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Album Review

The group's fourth and final studio LP, Western Culture remained for a long time Henry Cow's hidden treasure. Two factors were instrumental to its occultation (and one more than the other): first, it was not released by Virgin like the other ones; second, it did not have the "sock" artwork common to its brothers. East Side Digital reissued it in the 1990s, giving the fans wider access to it, but they had to wait until January 2002 for a definitive CD reissue on ReR Megacorp, complete with extensive liner notes and three bonus tracks. Obscurity aside, Western Culture remains one of the group's strongest efforts in the lines of composition, especially since the unit was literally torn apart at the time. Side one of the original LP consists of a suite in three parts, "History & Prospects," written by Tim Hodgkinson. The opener, "Industry," stands as one of Henry Cow's finest achievements, the angular melody played on a cheap electric organ hitting you in the face so hard it makes an imprint in your brains. Side two features another suite, this one in four parts and by Lindsay Cooper. While Hodgkinson's music leans toward rock, energy, and deconstruction, her writing embraced more contemporary classical idioms. Filled with contrasting textures and delicate complicated melodies, these pieces showcased another aspect of the group's sound while foretelling her later works. Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer performed a cadenza of sorts in "Gretel's Tale." The ReR reissue adds "Viva Pa Ubu," the only vocal track, a rock song closer to the material found on In Praise of Learning, plus an alternate version of "Look Back" and the one-minute "Slice." ~ François Couture, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1968 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Englan

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s, '70s

The progressive rock genre spawned many groups that became top-grossing arena acts — Pink Floyd and Genesis are two — as well as many who progressed right into obscurity. Henry Cow were one of the best known and most widely traveled English bands of the progressive era (though only a cult favorite in the U.S. and actually more popular in Continental Europe than in their home country), and their music has aged amazingly well over the ensuing decades due to the group's diverse influences...
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Western Culture, Henry Cow
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