an ever-expanding archive in memory of a lovely feller and talented geezer
RED CRAYOLA / SCRITTI POLITTI
Nottingham, April 1979
by Andy Gill
Both Red Crayola and Scritti Politti appear to approach their work with enthusiasm and investigative commitment, and are to be applauded as such.
Neither, I'd imagine, would be caught saying silly things like "And isn't that what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be all about?"; and they've both got the products to prove their point, 'Wives In Orbit' and 'Skank Bloc Bologna' being a couple of last year's more successful - and listenable - attempts to shed new light on the shadowy assumptions of "good ol' rock 'n' roll".
Theirs is a truly revolutionary impulse which, rather than using the medium merely to trundle out predetermined polemic, sees its obligation more in terms of giving the wheels a complete overhaul and, if necessary, replacing them.
Never mind the bathwater, let's get rid of the baby!
An ambitious task, yes; and this, the first date of a tour the very existence of which is something of an achievement, can best be viewed as an index of failure, a ratio of intention to actuality. Not surprisingly, both outfits have quite some way to go before getting close to that perfect, unattainable one-to-one.
But then, nothing's worth doing unless it's impossible, eh?
Scritti Politti were ragged and tentative, obviously unsure of themselves, but brave enough to ignore 'Skank Bloc Bologna' in favour of more recent material.
Scritti Politti's use of reggae is one of the few instances of that form being adapted rather than just applied by white musicians. And the fussy percussive flurries, stilted bass lines and insistent guitar syncopation combine to produce a peculiar nervous jerkiness, a discomfiting tension between hesitancy and forcefulness. They were justifiably well-received by those who came to listen, despite the indecipherability of most of their lyrics.
The tour is undoubtedly the most speculative enterprise of its kind in ages, and also the most enjoyable and thought-provoking I've seen so far in '79; one deserving more than merely open-handed praise.
If you missed it, kick yourself.
(thanks to Nothing Else On for his major contributions to this archive)