Thursday, 9 October 2008

Floppy Boot Stump

When Stump sprang to life in the mid-eighties, they came like a breath of fresh air.
And for a while they were one of the best kept secrets of the London underground scene.
So I was able to see them in intimate venues such as the Marquee Club and Dingwalls.

An awful lot of mid-eighties' music was all very nihilistic and full of doom and gloom. The mainstream scene had gone back to its pre-punk state, and it was as if the late seventies hadn't really happened.

Everybody was feeling oppressed by Thatcher's regime; now post-Falklands and reveling in the destruction of the mining industry (which was pretty much the death knell of Trade Unionism in the U.K.) and brimming with the kind of nationalist pride and arrogance that many of my contemporaries found repugnant and alienating.

And then came Stump!
A band full of subversive joy and colour

Their sound was quirky, funny, intelligent and masterfully performed.
Beefheartesque in its syncopation, but so, so tight. And rather than a Howling Wolf style growl coming at you, Mick Lynch's delivery was more reminiscent of Andy Partridge after a mega-shot of vitamins.

They became a cult over night. And more and more people were turning up at the gigs; many of them adopting a clone-like appearance of Lynch (he sported a natty hair horn, rather in the manner of TinTin) and emulating his every jerky St.Vitus-like movement; which I must say is really the only way to respond to Stump's music.

And then they appeared on national television, via Channel 4's cult music show The Tube.
And damn. The whole world found out about them

So, the secret was out, no more intimate gigs; now selling out 2,000 plus venues.

You can read all about the band's rise to fame and their rapid disintegration on Kev Hopper's (bass player) excellent site.
He has also made all of his own music available for free there.
So go there and check it out.

But in a nutshell, what happened to Stump was what happened to so many bands.
They put out their music, usually on a small indie, or in Stump's case their own label, Stuff;
they gain attention, a major takes an interest (Chrysalis, in this case), they lure the band in with a contract, take control, and it then all goes down the pan.

But anyway, Stump in the early days were a magnificent band; and they certainly brought me a whole load of pleasure.

Quirk Out is without doubt their finest product.
It really captures the dynamism and peculiarities associated with their soft, elastic, bendy kind of sound; often instigated by Hopper's seguing, fluid bass notes (apparently he was a big fan of Percy Jones who played with Brand X and occasionally with Eno).

Juxtaposed with Chris Salmon's angular, dissonant, metallic guitar and McKahey's intricate drum patterns their sound was both immediate and novel.

But they could also do hum-along tunes, and the deferential homage to their roots: 'Our Fathers', has a a wonderful melodic drive, yet still retaining a quirkiness.
They were never a pop band. And that is what Chrysalis failed to recognize.

The most challenging piece on the mini-album is 'Big Part Actor'. A choppy and belligerent chant, accompanied by the most angry of slide guitar screeches; reminding me a little of Beefheart's later Magic Band Virgin period, with albums such as Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream for Crow.

Along with Quirk Out I have included their 12" release 'Chaos'.
This was taken from the only album they made with Chrysalis, A Fierce Pancake, and was one of the best tracks on the album; but the difference and mediation of their style is readily apparent; their sound far more tamed and watered-down.

I have really included it for its original flip side.
'Ice the Levant' is one of their very early songs, and again is a fine return to form.

The final track is a neat bit of musique concrète, entitled 'Safe Sex'; something that was on the mind of many back in the late eighties.
(Interestingly enough, for those that are interested in such things, Stump dedicated their album to Wilhelm Reich!)

Similar in construction to Roger Waters' 'Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict', 'Safe Sex' with its rapid montage of squirts, breaths, groans, squelches and beats is quite mindblowing.

Makes my dogs go ape.

Play it on your cans: ooh it makes you spin...

Sanctuary Records have recently released a Stump Anthology, including the excellent sessions they did for John Peel (Peace be Upon Him).
So, if you like this, or find it interesting, go out and buy it.

Stump - Quirk Out (1986)

Tupperware Stripper
Our Fathers
Kitchen Table
Everything in its Place
Big Part Actor

Stump - Chaos 12" (1988)

Ice the Levant
Safe Sex

Both ripped from vinyl @256kbs
O, and if anyone was wondering, the quality of this rip is excellent: very little surface noise.
So, go get them both here.


brilleaux said...

Thanks for the Stump. have been looking for this for a LONG while. Cheers.

The Deuce Project said...


This is Josh from DM/The Deuce Project. I've got a private journal I want to invite you to but I don't have an e-mail address. If you dig, send me an e-mail at the address over on the deuce project website.

I hope all is well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the download. Stump was the very first live band I saw and they were great. I saw them perform in an old pub in Southend. There was a sort of mosh pit at the front with a load of skin heads jumping about. Great fun.

roy rocket said...

Don't suppose they were supported that night by Edward Barton?
He really made the stump gig go with a bang.
Shanti, roy