4 May 2009

Foreheads in a Fishtank - Buttocks


Label: Stuf
Year of Release: 1992

When I uploaded Foreheads in a Fishtank's absurd and largely overlooked single "I Want to Masturbate at Castle Donnington", I really wasn't quite expecting the flurry of interest which emerged. You can read the original entry plus the subsequent comments here. One of the great things about keeping this blog is how unexpected some of the fanaticism for certain bands is. You can upload some really obscure cult sixties single which is much loved in clubs everywhere and get one nod of thanks, and then you upload a noisy, dischordant, awkward and nasty bunch of mothers like FIAFT who were famed during their careers for playing to two men and a dog in just about every provincial town, and suddenly its like a love-in. I'm really glad that some of these bands managed to gain some sort of cult status and that people have affectionate memories of them, but where were we all when they really needed us, eh?

In a sense, I perhaps shouldn't have been surprised by the response. The band cracked John Peel's Festive Fifty, always a sign of an act with a healthy following of people with a keen ear for the unique and beserk moments in music. On top of that, they signed to Some Bizarre not long after this self-issued album, and went on to receive mixed reviews for the follow up "Yeah Baby Wow", which nonetheless attracted some Radio One evening play.

I've just finished freshly listening to this (their debut album) whilst converting it to MP3 for the first time in at least ten years, and one thing that leaps out about it is the motorway pile-up of ideas in each track. Basslines wobble like the bingo wings of old ladies, the drums appear to be looping for a rival Manchester band at times, whilst guitars distort, clatter and clutter up the mix and the vocalist screeches slogans like a stuck and wounded parrot. "She blows smoke from her nose and says IT CURES KIPPERS DOESN'T IT?!" he seethes at one point, bafflingly and seemingly apropos of nothing. On top of all this, samples creep in relatively unobtrusively and in a way that doesn't once smack of gimmickry which, for an early nineties indie band, was a fairly serious achievement. Lest we forget, the likes of Pop Will Eat Itself frequently used samplers in the aggravating manner over-excited toddlers might press the audio buttons on interactive museum exhibits.

Nonetheless, the album isn't without flaws. The way each track seems to end suddenly and without any obvious conclusion gets irritating over a whole listen, as if their collective imaginations on this debut didn't quite extend to outros. Also, whilst the sheer aural assault has its definite charms, like four musicians from entirely different genres trying to cover Captain Beefheart out-takes, across 45 minutes its relentless noise and awkwardness starts to jangle on the nerves, particularly when the mid-LP sag of "Brains" and "Hospital" arrives. Those who are prepared to listen all the way through will discover a delight in the form of "Luxurious", though, the nine-and-a-half minute end epic which almost sounds as sorrowful as it is downright sadistic and aggressive. It gradually segues into a morose ambient outro (so they could write them sometimes, then) with distorted samples burbling away underneath, which is simultaneously depressing and tranquil in a way I can't begin to articulate. Its too cheap sounding for me to make a case for it pre-empting Boards of Canada, who would doubtless laugh at its roughness and simplicity, but the mood created is disquieting in a very similar way.

"Buttocks" hasn't particularly aged much, but then that's possibly because there aren't that many equivalent acts out there to compare FIAFT to in the first place. The fascination with sampling and oddly funky rhythms does datestamp this effort slightly, but whilst the likes of Jesus Jones and EMF were attempting something life-affirming and youthful with wild samples and beserko guitar riffs around this time, FIAFT were like their parallel universe comedown cousins. Whilst the former parties were youthful and pretty, FIAFT were like the pictures in their attics, with peculiar burns and bruises on their bodies, painful sexual diseases, a singer in trauma about the foulness of the decadence, and a drum machine which refused to consider anything too frantic. The sexual demands in "Luxurious" sound like men on their last legs in a desert begging for water, rather than making it sound in any way like a desirable state of affairs.

I'm not massively surprised that the majority of the British public gave them the elbow, but whilst its tempting to think of the band as a joke, ridiculous song titles and all, I'd be more inclined to regard them as overlooked artrockers with an unhealthy interest in the crude, the cheap and the revolting. This album isn't for everyone, then, but it should definitely be given a bit of time by anyone with a pair of patient ears.

1. British Telecom Suck
2. I Want to Masturbate at Castle Donnington
3. She Loves You Yeah
4. Happy Shopper
5. Sex and Drugs and
6. Trantula La
7. Brains
8. Hospital
9. Sylvester's Mother
10. Luxurious

(This album is shortly to be remastered and reissued, and the band have requested that any downloads to it should be removed from this site.)


pokerface said...

Fabulous discordant weird band , saw them a few times in london at the monarch Camden Ive still got a 4 track cd of theirs with a fabulous version of haircut 100s favorite shirt

Anonymous said...

THank yOU! ThaNk YoU! ThAnk yOU!

Excited over the prospect of listening to this again!

Anonymous said...

IF you ever saw this band live -with vast ammounts of smoke and white lights ,with Stikky engineering,at max.volume in somewhere like the pink toothbrush,rayliegh-supporting the shamen {as i did },only then could you really understand and apprieciate what they were all about. They should have been massive!!

Miscellaneous Fugitive said...

I was originally attracted to this recording because of the dementedly exciting song titles. The music failed to disappoint, and manfully maintained the extreme levels of musical madness with admirable aplomb. The curious mixture of restrained screaming (trust me, it's possible) and exotic sample madness are a sublime mix.

I empathise totally with the Happy Shopper song - many was the cry of disgust upon biting into a digestive and realising that somehow they'd perfected the art of creating a 'biscuit' so perfectly similar to, yet infinitely different from, a delicious chocolate McVities.

Buttocks, if you'll forgive me, must be spread. Apologies for the image.

HPrice said...

Oh gawd would you believe it. I closed my eyes and picked out a record from my (not very large) record collection and what did I pick out?? None other than Buttocks, my friend. How cool is that?

Anyway, listening to it now brings back the way I always thought that Happy Shopper really said, or rather screamed, everything I hated (and still hate) about "domestic bliss". You are supposed to get mellower as you get older. I think I'm going to get less so thanks to returning to such great records as Buttocks.

And now I learn they did FIAFT did more than just one album. Fabulous! More noise-distortion and songs about domestic cleaning products may be hitting my poor ears soon. Fantastic.

Should have been a bigger band though. But then again would fans of a truly cult band like FIAFT want that??

Anyway, thanks for putting out Buttocks, FIAFT. It really was a breath of fresh air, and was a great way of annoying and scaring friends, family and neighbours alike.

Best wishes

HPrice (Christchurch, NZ)

Anonymous said...

Actually guys nice though it is that you are downloading our music for FREE it is actually illegal as the music is copyrighted..

Also the sound production is very poor, something we are trying to re-master at present.

If you would like to contact Foreheads in a Fishtank and discuss the use of their music then please visit their facebook page and leave comment.

I trust you understand that we are currently trying to be in control of our own music and downloads.

Yours Jeff Forehead/ Foreheads in a Fishtank

23 Daves said...

Hi Jeff,

Apologies for this - the links to both these downloads have been dead for a couple of years now, but I'll remove the links so as not to cause any further confusion.

I do still have mp3s of "Happy Shopper" and "Castle Donnington" live on the site, and I'll remove these when I get home (it's a bit tricky from where I'm sat at the moment).

If you want to drop me a comment giving me links to an official website or download sources, I'll be sure to add it to the bottom of this entry.