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Album Review

The U.S. misunderstood a lot of foreign bands during the '70s and '80s. Ask fans of Gang of "I Love a Man in a Uniform" Four or pre-stadium Simple Minds, and they'll be happy to bitterly confirm it. Ask the average music fan who came of age during Scritti Politti's mainstream peak and he or she is likely to recall a one-hit wonder (wrong), a Color Me Badd precursor that appeared out of thin air (wrong again and yet again). Cupid & Psyche 85's end-to-end brilliance is another argument, but when that album was on the charts, few stateside listeners knew that Scritti Politti had a history. Several years before "Perfect Way," Scritti were post-punks who made frail political songs with guitars as linear as a balled-up entanglement of holiday lights, a rhythm section as slantwise as it was dubwise, and boyish vocals as sweet as they were hesitant. Though the voice of central member Green Gartside would eventually lose the latter characteristic, it seems to have remained a part of his personality. This disc, a compilation of his group's first four singles/EPs, wouldn't exist if he hadn't been badgered so much. Reading his liner notes that double as a disclaimer, it's not hard to understand why, because he's not off base when he says, "It sounds like some anti-produced labour of negativity, kind of structurally unsound and exposed, by design and default." However, it's these factors that help make the songs unpredictable, exciting, and ultimately thrilling — hear the lazy lurch and hypnotic spirals in "Skank Bloc Bologna," the barely controlled tangents and tempo shifts in "Is and Ought the Western World," and all the retractions and stammering in "Messthetics," all seemingly happenstance works of sloppy borderline genius. "Hegemony," just as crucial, begins as a sprightly love song to a woman with an exotic name ("The fairest creature that ever I have seen") before turning into a seething rant against, well, hegemony ("You are the foulest creature that set apart a race"). It's not all leftist ideals and prone seams, though, with the inclusion of "The Sweetest Girl" and "Lions After Slumber," two glorious nudges toward the bright-eyed soul that was bubbling under the whole time. The sound of the recordings, mastered from vinyl, is vibrant enough to trick listeners into thinking that the masters were never "lost."

Customer Reviews

a gray & twisting masterpiece

An album to get lost in. A labyrinth of ideas, where the music is as strange & disorienting as the words. Listen to it long enough and these strange, angular stopping & starting songs will get inside your head and under your skin until they become riddles, and you spend the rest of your life chasing the answers. A skeleton key to the next great sprawling novel, waiting to happen.

it's called "taste"

Such lame self-promo from Ark Studios (above) Smart listeners know that these recordings are just fine, in fact they are of the perfect quality for the mood of the music, as the artists intended. get bent.

Yet further proof of the value of a producer

This album is on par with every poor demo band coming into any basement studio anywhere. It is the sheer raw ideas in need of structure and musical discipline.

Biography

Formed: 1978 in London, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Scritti Politti is the primary vehicle for Welsh singer/songwriter Green Gartside. Few figures in pop music can claim Gartside's distinctive credentials: an artist who began in London's subcutaneous underground in the late '70s but ultimately rose to the top of the U.K. pop charts, a serious devotee of linguistic structuralism who can hold his own in a conversation with his friend, arch deconstructionist Jacques Derrida, and a handsome, dreamy-eyed...
Full Bio