Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The Strange Case of the £3.99 Double LP and Micky Bubble's Slippers.
The Harbinger Sound Sampler
Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life
The Lowest Form
Mark Wynn - A Tenner? I’ll do it Myself.
Beau Travail/In a Car. 7”
If you were to purchase either of these releases [and I do urge you to do that, your life would be all the better for it] which one would cost you the most? A double LP versus a single? No contest. Except that the double LP has been released by Harbinger Sound with the words ‘Pay no more than £3.99’ on it. Words not seen on a vinyl release, by me at any rate, for about thirty five years and the heyday of certain indie/punk labels who didn’t like middle men making money out of their music and, more importantly, wanted to get their music to the fans as cheap as possible.
Record labels are businesses after all and like all businesses their aim is to make money and maximize their profit margins. That means charging as much as possible without the consumer thinking they’re being ripped off. I don’t mean all record labels of course, just those housed in shiny buildings run by people in suits who have no interest in music. In the early 90’s when the quest for CD World Domination began in earnest the sight of a new release costing £17 wasn’t that unusual. A release whose manufacturing costs ran to about 50p with the artists getting what? Certainly not as much as the record company. Now that CD’s are on their way out and vinyl is the new thing witness the ugly sight of the £40 LP. Plus ça change.
The answer to all this of course is to put out a double LP for less than the price of a pint. And as hard as it is to believe, word reaches these ears that Harbinger Sound actually made a measly few pence profit on each copy sold, profit that no doubt disappeared instantly on advertising and beer for all those involved. If you love the music it can be done and Harbinger really do love the music. As do the people on this double LP who no doubt gave their music for free with the promise of free beer, or free records, or slots on tours ringing in their ears. Feel the warmth. Hate the £40 LP.
For £3.99 you get 20 artists and bands to listen to and investigate. Bands and artist that cover a vast sweep of Harbinger Sound from its very early days to its most up to date so you get a track from Jap noise supremos Pain Jerk, [or if you prefer PainJerk] to today's gob slobberers Sleaford Mods. So that’s everything from Jap noise to electroacoustic experimentation courtesy of Mark Durgan to Phil Julian’s modular synth work to current German Post Punk practitioners Pisse and Karies to Swiss Post Post Punk Improvisers Massicot to Steve Ignorant’s delightful [despite my earlier reservations] acoustic tunes to I still don’t like them despite everyone else liking them Circuit Breaker to vintage UK punks Chaos UK to speaker shredders Consumer Electronics to Sudden Infant to hardcore merchants Lowest Form. Punk too from Berlin screamers Toylettes and long running French outfit Frustration. York’s very own Mark Wynn has a track called ‘Michael Bublé’s Slippers’ and there’s a synth outfit I’ve never heard of before called Future Commuter who we must assume are future signee’s. Fun also in the shape of John Paul, last seen enunciating Notts style over certain Sleaford Mod intro’s with ‘Sissy and Ada [Red Version]’ and if those words mean anything to you then you know you’re in the right spot. Worth getting just to hear John Paul call Jackson Pollock, Jackson Bollocks. Harbinger faves and L.A.’s original 1978 punk band The Urinals get a slot just because their Harbinger Sound faves and not because they’ve featured on the label and that's what you can do when its your label.
Harbingers subtle aim is to introduce those who bought this release purely for the exclusive Sleaford Mods track Fat Tax [and very good it is too] to the delights of lots of other bands and genres of music they probably never knew existed. Its an excellent pressing too which makes the £4 price tag even more laughable. More please from John Paul who has the chutzpah to make it and Future Commuter whose online presence is minimal. As ever with Harbinger Sound the future looks bright.
This being Harbinger Sound though there has to be grit in the oyster and the ‘curse’ has struck once again. Not a sinking gig or a double booked venue or a busted exhaust when you've got a gig 250 miles away and three hours to make it in but a mix up in the labeling department meaning that the Durgan/Julian tracks don’t match the vinyl. Hey ho. Keeps you on your toes. There’s no download either obvs, or CD version or limited C90 for those who can't get their head around the fact that cassettes are nothing more than quirks in the space time continuum and with these all being exclusive tracks there’s bound to be some pissed off punters. Just remember this costs but four quid. If you think that's grounds for moaning you've got serious problems.
On the twice as expensive seven inch comes the Mighty Wynn with ‘A Tenner? I’ll do it Myself’ which by all accounts is walking out of German record shops unaided and gaining Wynn a wider European audience in the process.
Wynn is the stick thin DIY punk troubadour in a child’s tiara giving you a moody stare. Stripped to the waist in skinny black jeans he sings and talks catchy existential songs that mention Dewsbury, Batley, Manchester, charity shops, Lidl and hair. Listening to the five songs here I can’t help feeling that in a different era he’d have been selling thousands and would’ve been on Top of the Pops every month. ‘Massive Song’ is one of his best [and at 3.38 one of his longest] and may be about a builder turning up to do some work one afternoon. I can see him now in a tent at Glasto winning over a small but enthusiastic crowd, his songs coming in quick burst to the accompaniment of a backing tape, making the audience shrink back and then lean forward accepting him in to their hearts. Those pubs in his home town of York might have seen the last of him.‘Sex Legs’ has a full on spazzo guitar solo, ‘Michael Makes a Phone Call’ lasts a mere one minute and one second and is an acoustic strum-a-long song about Michael making a phone call. As with every other Wynn release to pass through these hands every inch of the sleeve is covered with his own handwritten stream of consciousness thoughts as well as photos of himself gurning and posing half dressed, this time with a parasol. An instant classic. Even if it does cost twice the Harbinger comp.