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David Lance Callahan

English Primitive II

    The follow-up to last year’s first volume, English Primitive II continues the themes introduced previously in a harder, more electric and psychedelic style.

    The songs were mostly recorded during the same sessions but, if EP I showcased the ‘songs of innocence’, this new set comprises ‘songs of experience’. Callahan's lyrical themes here are frequently the sleaze and corruption of our ‘betters’, the intentional and unintentional brutality meted out on those weaker and the sometimes perverse ways in which this happens. There are moments of reflection among the broken mirrors, but they allow scant solace or reassurance. Dressed in another of Scottish artist Pinkie McClure’s witty and detailed stained glass creations and recorded at home and under a railway arch, EPII rises above its origins and invades the wider world, in all its colour, gritand glory. Each song serves as a monument to its internal tale – in fact, the whole LP is as much a collection of musical short stories as it is an album of songs. Opening with Invisible Man, the impression of a regular person with hidden grievances, biding his time and waiting to lash out is given. Waves of distant samples ebb and fall as the warped guitars swell and crash behind the main themes. We don’t know when this explosion will happen – we only know it will.

    A sleazy celebration of Britain’s position as the laundering capital of the world follows in the form of Beautiful Launderette. It’s good that we keep everything nice and clean for the whole planet, isn’t it? Business as usual, keeping the globe turning – that’s our role and we love it. The Parrot rocks like only a prolonged evisceration of governmental mouthpieces and their court stenographers can. It’s a thankless task making sure that the powers that be retain their authority in all things and patrolling the borders of what is allowed to be said and believed, but somebody’s got to do it. If you’re providing a service, you’ll need to present a united front against the grievances of the public, so you’ll need The Scapegoat. Mistakes and accidents can’t be the company’s fault, so you’ll need to pay someone to be publicly and repeatedly sacked to make it appear as if you’re solving problems and getting better. Lessons will be learned, going forward. The disturbing tale of Bear Factory begins side two and is the real-life story of the murder of one of the singer’s primary-school classmates in the 1970s, and true in every detail. The victim’s body was never found but the killer justifiably imprisoned for life. A more ancient scent of death pervades The Burnet Rose. This ground-hugging plant covers the graves of the victims in a seventeenth-century plague village on the Yorkshire coast to this day, commemorating their sacrifices when all around have forgotten. It’s this particular songwriter’s favourite flower. Orgy of the Ancients describes the intimate intricacies of ageing politicians and the press as they decide whether to go to war. In grotesque scenarios worthy of Caligula, they decide the fates of our children. And it’s not even half the truth. To finish, the songwriter looks back to an admired predecessor, when he sets William Blake’s famous poem London in a groovier setting than we’re used to – in the form of London by Blakelight. If London swings, it’s from the Tyburn tree. 


    Invisible Man
    Beautiful Launderette
    The Parrot
    The Scapegoat
    Bear Factory
    The Burnet Rose
    Orgy Of The Ancients
    London By Blakelight

    David Lance Callahan

    English Primitive I

      Uniquely of the many acts which came to public awareness through the lauded C86 compilation, David Lance Callahan has pursued a career of consistent brilliance and stark originality. After a run of fine albums with The Wolfhounds, outstanding work with Moonshake and collaborations with members of Stereolab and PJ Harvey (among others), Callahan has outdone himself on this long-awaited solo album, the results of which merit the sort of deep dive best explained with with ample time and a quality turntable. Whether English Primitive I is a product of the past year's isolation or of a long-simmering brew only now ready for dissemination is something Callahan has yet to reveal. Whatever its origins, English Primitive I is the work of a massive talent.

      Wolfhoundian riffage offered enough ramshackle charm to somewhat obscure Callahan's darker, more penetrating writing. Likewise, Moonshake's musically bi-polar approach disguised his underlying political impulse. Here Callahan's lyricism finally, indelibly, proves him to be among the finest British pop craftsmen. This is his masterwork, a mélange of what has been called "mutant Eastern, West African, folk, blues and post-punk influences" . . . an improbable cross-cultural gumbo, yet one which coalesced into a swirling, kaleidoscopic psychedelia of emotion unlike any other record in this era. As with any recording favouring the avant-garde –works like Balaklava, Brian Jones Presents The Pipes of Pan at Joujouka, and The Heart Of The Congos– one might expect that the impact of English Primitive I will be revealed slowly, over a much longer span of time than the the too-often workaday product of today's independent music scene. With this album, Callahan takes his place alongside cult heroes Robert Wyatt, Scott Walker and Cathal Coughlan as a prime example of seemingly limitless artistic expression.


      1. Born Of The Welfare State Was I 
      2. Goatman 
      3. Foxboy 
      4. She's The King Of My Life 
      5. She Passes Through The Night 
      6. One Rainy September 
      7. Always

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