Animals That SwimVer en iTunes
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An eccentric, hyper-literate cross between Scott Walker, Tom Waits, the Teardrop Explodes, and Ride, Animals That Swim were slightly too weird for mass consumption, but their oddball, half-beatnik/half-psychedelic pop was a refreshing response to the early days of Brit-pop. Formed in London in 1989, Animals That Swim were originally a duo of brothers Hank Starrs (vocals, drums) and Hugh Barker (guitar). Trumpeter Del Crabtree joined next, followed by a third Barker brother, guitarist and keyboardist Al, and bassist Tony Coote. Crabtree's mellow but fragmented trumpet style, kind of like a free jazz version of Chet Baker, quickly became the group's most distinctive feature, seconded by Hank's dramatic vocals. After three years of woodshedding, Animals That Swim released their debut single, "King Beer," on their own Beachheads in Space label. This single, like its follow-up "Roy" (a surreal tribute to the late Roy Orbison), was chosen as Single of the Week in Melody Maker. The positive reviews and decent sales of these two self-released singles led to a one-off deal with the experimental indie Che Records, who released the 10" Fifty Dresses EP in early 1994. Elemental Music, a spin-off of the larger indie One Little Indian, then signed the band to record their first album, Workshy. Featuring tracks from all three previous releases plus some increasingly more bizarre new material, Workshy garnered more-than-appreciative reviews in the U.K. press as well as pretty good sales for an indie release, although it all but disappeared immediately upon its U.S. release. A fine second album, I Was the King, I Was Really the King, was released in 1996, but it didn't receive the same critical attention or sales as the debut. Animals That Swim broke up the following year.