We've already covered Earl Brutus' independent label years on here, (and here) and as ever, there's not much I can add to my original assessment of the band. For me, they were a beacon of hope in the late nineties as British alternative guitar-based pop and rock largely began to congeal into a syrupy, nostalgic mess. They sounded unlike other bands, pulling in Krautrock, techno, unholy slabs of glam rock and punk into one bundle, and coming up with something that sounded new and enticing.
If their earliest years consisted largely of material which was quickly recorded and the aural equivalent of a quick smack around the chops, their Island material sounded more considered (with the exception of one or two tracks) and none the worse for it.
Year of Release: 1997
1. The SAS And The Glam That Goes With It
2. Midland Red
3. The Scottish
This single was the first out of the major label vaults, and sounded brilliant from the screeching collision of angular guitar riffs and mechanical skidding noises at the start. "YOU ARE YOUR OWN REACTION!" the band screamed in the chorus, and created a lyrical list single which, far from being a list of grievances or commandments a la Scroobius Pip's "Thou Shalt Always Kill", was Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire" gone to la-la land. "TV Chefs - Quiche Lorraine Attitudes" they sneer disapprovingly one minute, then state "Hair Design By Nicky Clarke" the next.
Quite berserk and quite brilliant.
Year of Release: 1998
1. Come Taste My Mind
3. Nice Man In A Bubble
4. William, Taste My Mind
Follow-up "Come Taste My Mind" is no less absurd lyrically, beginning with the information "I wear the clothes that make you cry", but is rather more formulaic than its predecessor, being a straight-ahead glam stormer the band tended to specialise in, rather than a track which skidded all over pop's Formula One racecourse before crashing in flames halfway round the circuit. Some music critics predicted a hit, but even at their most simplistic, the band were clearly too much for Mr and Mrs Woolworths.
Year of Release: 1999
2. Teenage Opera
3. England Sandwich
The single "The Universal" followed "Come Taste My Mind", but is still available on iTunes in all its two-CD with extra B sides glory, quite astonishingly. This, however, isn't. After the band were dropped by Island, their management company Fruition decided to have one final stab at getting the band's material the respect it deserved, and released the double A-side "Larky/ Teenage Opera" without any major backing. To be honest, it's a fine double-header, "Larky" being a list of comedy catchphrases and advertising slogans sneered out over glam chords, complete with the chorus of "You won't live forever".
"Teenage Opera" resembles Blur's "Song 2" in places, but is so replete with peculiar samples, muttered phrases and clicking rhythms that it's like listening to that song through some peculiar kind of vortex. Meanwhile, the official 'B side' "England Sandwich" is a marvellous cut-up of prim, dispassionate British television samples set to Iggy Pop riffage.
There's little doubt in my mind that Earl Brutus were completely unique, and whilst it's sometimes hard to envisage quite where they would have gone if their recording career had continued from this point, Nick Sanderson and his friends certainly left a hell of a legacy before he died last year.
Please click on the titles to download the singles.