Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flash Metal Sucide: The Bomb Party

1986, Abstract Records

Start At the Bottom, Don't Work Your Way Down
Ask any 40-something Brit-rocker with a wild, druggy stare, greasy, stringy hair, or a beat-up, puked-on leather jacket (or all three, seeing as they usually come that way) if they remember what “Grebo” was, and they will grin widely, stroke their scruffy chin, and say, like, “Fookin’ hell! The Bykers, mate!” or “Greee-bo Guru!” or “Toss off, bender!” or something equally British and enthusiastic. Although it’s reign in the pages of the UK pop weeklies of the day (NME, Sounds, Melody Maker ) was brief, “Grebo” was a far-reaching musical phenomenon from the late 1980’s that still resonates among scuzz-freaks and psyche-metal galactic cowboys to this very day. And the music still packs a powerful, debauched punch, too. So, just what was Grebo, and is there any chance at all that you, the young, intrepid flash metal blastronaut, might be a Grebo yourself? And what does any of this have to do with the Bomb Party?

Well, the Bomb Party invented Grebo. They are the Patient Zero of the whole movement. They were dirty, cosmic, all-fucked-up, half-Satanic creeps who played narcotic, goth-dirge flash rock and wrote songs about suicide and murder and Jesus. So did lots of other bands in England back then, but the Bomb Party was the first, and most certainly, the scariest. They sounded like a bunch of fucking DEAD PEOPLE who just clawed their way out of the grave and picked up guitars. Their music sucked all the light out of the sun and spit back blinding black rainbows of murk and misery and spent shotgun shells. They were death n’ rollers way, way ahead of the curve.

I'd Use My Fingers, But My Name's Not Ivan

The Bomb Party formed in Leicester, England, in the mid-80’s in the same way most freakbands in the UK did – they met in art school. Leicester, a large city in the heart of England was not previously known for it’s rock n’ roll exports (well, except for creaky old 50’s revivalists Shawaddywaddy, maybe) and it hasn’t been since (unless you want to count Cornershop), but in 1986, it boasted the Bomb Party, evil spacepigs Gaye Bikers on Acid, and greasy motor-rockers Crazyhead. And since all three were kinda dirty, and loud, and possibly stoned out of their gourds, a movement was born.

“Grebo” is actually the name of an African tribe from Liberia. Loosely translated, it means “monkey leaping people”. How some clever bastard from the NME chose the term to label a bunch of filthy local rock n’ roll bands is one for the ages, but there you go. Despite being from different parts of the country, King hell sleazemaster Zodiac Mindwarp was thrown into the mix, as was serial killing gothmonsters Junior Manson Slags, and beatbox culture-vultures Pop Will Eat Itself, who pretty much signed Grebo’s death warrant early on by including a song called “Oh Grebo I Love You” on their 1986 debut, the Poppycock EP.

The Poppies, being all slap-happy and shit, ultimately strangled all the menace and grue and 70’s drug-disco weirdness right out of Grebo, and just year later, the Brit press was throwing the term at the Wonderstuff, and Mega City 4, and all these skinny indie-rock motherfuckers, rendering it useless. Of course, us Yanks weren’t there, so the Wonderstuff couldn’t hurt us. We just STAYED dirty and greasy, and we kept listening to sleazy, leather-clad guitar-chug like “Drugs”, long after the NME announced that this party was over. The party is NEVER over, man. Rock n’ roll doesn’t know when to go home. And so, Grebo endures. Which brings us to Bomb Party's  finest hour, 1986’s masterpiece of gutbucket sourfuzz, “Drugs”.

Our Love Is Pushing Up Daisies, That Means You Do Not Exist
The Bomb Party had two EP’s out before “Drugs” (“Ray Gun” and “New Messiah”) but they were not widely distributed, and never really reached US shores. “Drugs”, on the other hand, was available just about everywhere in 1986. Much like the real thing. Interestingly, the cover has “DRUGS” written in letters three times the size of the band name, so many people thought that was what the band was actually called. Not only is it a confusing cover, but it’s an ugly one, too – a dead-eyed mannequin stares off into space, resting her head on an obscured Union Jack. A battered, bloody guitar lays across her chest. Ugh. It looks like a dimestore goth record from 1978. Luckily, the actual band photo on the back looked cool – denim, leather, dark shades.

Plus, they had a hot, peroxide-abusing chick, and in the credits, they claimed the album was recorded in “Alaska, Easter 1986”, which seemed so weird, even IN 1986, that you just had to hear what the fuck was going on. Plus, the first song was called “Kill Your Wife”! Nihilism and black leather has always been one of rock n’ roll’s greatest combinations.

Musically, the band’s closest cousins were the Gun Club, the Cramps, Beasts of Bourbon, and Tex and the Horseheads – the Bomb Party played grungy, stripped-down death rock with sub-rockabilly riffs and goth-gloom cool. And they were strange, too – “Don’t Die Keith” is such an off-kilter, primal gut-stomp of a funeral song, the mind boggles as to just who Keith was, and why they thought he was gonna die. Over a pummeling bass riff, Jesus snarls, “Dying is dangerous, you can’t trust your buriers/They’ll steal your gold teeth and piss on your soul, Keith”.  It’s the creepiest intervention you’ll ever hear.

A lot of the songs on Drugs seem to be about the Bomb Party’s friends, whether real or imagined – there’s the lonely, suicidal Susie of “Susie’s Party” (“Susie had a party and no one came/ Ever since, she’s never been the same”), mad strangler Johnny, of “Johnny Took Her Breath Away” (“Johnny took her breath away/With an electrical cable”), the less than zero “Johnny Nero” (“Johnny Nero is a twat”), and even the infamous “Kill Your Wife” (“Get a knife/Kill your wife/Get a crowbar/Kill your grandpa”) is dedicated to Denis. I’m sure Denis was thrilled by that.

The whole album is just one long murder ballad, really, with bad-cowboy guitar slinging, crazy, hopping-mad whiskey howls, and midnight moans of pain and ecstasy. It still sounds as lethally doped-to-the-tits now as it did in ’86, and the really sadistic death rockers, like “Zombie Head” and “Our Love is Pushing Up Daisies”, are just pure evil. “Drugs” is authentically NASTY rock n’ roll, the kind of stuff you could base an interstate killing spree or a murder-suicide pact on. It is one of the most depraved rock records of the 1980’s.

Suffice to say, it’s a must-have.

I've Been Around And I've Tasted Dirt, And That's The Color Of My Shirt
Despite it’s gruesome slasher-rock sound and it’s anti-social lyrical tendencies, “Drugs” was a critical and commercial success for the Bomb Party, and they went on to play at several high-profile Euro rock festivals, as well as release two more albums, “Liberace Rising” and “The Last Supper”, before quietly imploding in the early 90’s, along with most of the former Grebo Gurus.

PWEI went on to become the Brit Beastie Boys. Zodiac Mindwarp, in case you haven’t noticed, is still the king of rock n’ roll. At least one of the Crazyhead dudes is in Zod’s touring band; another one of ‘em might drive the van. The Bykers are certified cult-rock gods (at least around here) and have splintered off into a zillion different flavors of freak. The Junior Manson Slags turned into noisy cyberdelic man-machines Creaming Jesus, and then I think they built a rocket and shot off into space. And the hairy, scary Bomb Party? Are they back in the graveyard, feeding the worms and writing death ballads from beyond? Are they strung out on the streets of Leicester, selling old Junior Manson Slags bootlegs for smack money? Did they sell out to the Man, and make a million dollars?

Naw, nothin’ like that. Drummer Mark Thompson went on to form grebo supergroup G.R.O.W.T.H. with members of GBOA and the Janitors. They released an album, “For Lack of Horses They Straddled Dogs” in 1994, but broke up soon after. Nowadays, he paints backgrounds for raves, among other art-y things. Bass player Sarah Corrina is in weirdo-cowpunks the Mekons, guitarist Steve Gerrard is a well-known UK club DJ, and vocalist Andy “Jesus” Mosquera is a painter. All of which is nice enough for them, but leaves us with very little in the way of blood and gore to remember ‘em by. So let us just drop the needle back down on “Drugs” one more time, and remember those glorious days when filth was in, and death was only the beginning.
“Well one man’s fish is another man’s crab, I loved you for real baby, when you were dead on the slab…”


- Sleazegrinder, still Grebo after all these years

1 comment:

Romi Orchids said...

Great post.

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