By Jordan Mooney.
Every so often you can come across an incredible album by happy coincidence. It’s a rare but delightful occurrence, and since I started writing about my interests (these being the usual things such as music, animation, film..um…Victorian Folklore…) it’s becoming increasingly common.
It’s under these circumstances I came across a delightful band that dubs itself, and I quote here, “Garage rock, gypsy jazz, sexual over-excitement, Violence and Torch Song Piano”. If that’s not a winning combination, I don’t know what is.
I found Lazarus and the Plane Crash while researching a study about the Victorian demon and terrifying, bouncing, screaming chunk of 1800s folklore, Spring Heeled Jack. This is no place to plug such things, so I won’t, but while researching the subject I came across many alternative songs about this bizarre legend, one of which really took my fancy. This was a track on the album I am about to review today. It was a time of little money for me so I settled to listening to song, taking notes and leaving on my merry way. Cue about two months, one hundred plays and I finally get off of my rear end to take purchase of the release.
Patching together a frankenstein’s monster from Joe Coles of the Guillotines and Stephen Coates, the ‘The Clerkenwell Kid’ of The Real Tuesday Weld, this band is definitely not lacking in talent – and it seems to be on a mission to prove it with possibly the most bizarre set of songs ever to be encoded on a plastic disc.
Ladies and gentlemen, this album is a very, very odd piece, and as a result, simply fantastic. It is insane, rather terrifying in its own right, and should probably be kept under close observation. Regardless, we’re going to enter the padded room face first. Before we begin with the dissection, I have managed to drag Mr. Coles, kicking and screaming in his strapped jacket, into the harsh light of a bulb in the interrogation room… It’d probably we worthwhile warning you all that what follows will be no plain interview. Perhaps best to avoid reading it to the kiddies!
Joe Coles: How to answer that? We’re a Doberman full of jockey’s foreskins, a helicopter eating itself…. I couldn’t explain what we do, but following our last show a girl came up to us and said “I don’t what just happened, after that show I’m not sure if I feel turned-on or religious, it was like drugs” I’m happy with that!
COTW: It’s fairly evident there’s a lot of eccentricity in Horseplay. Is there anything in the creation of this rather…odd beast that contributed to this, or are you all just that little bit bonkers?!
JC: I find myself being described as eccentric more and more. I don’t think I’m crazy, but I sometimes think the world does. Maybe it’s right. Everyone’s crazy. It was all recorded up in Stephen’s attic in Battersea. We always recorded at night and the atmosphere there was pretty intense, you can feel that on some of the tracks. The building was supposedly haunted by a jilted lover who hanged herself in the 60s. I don’t know if I believe that, but we did find her diary up in the attic and it was pretty fucking dark stuff. Under a floorboard we found a cassette of somebody whispering, and if you listen very carefully you can hear it on some of the tracks. The words on the tape are inaudible. It’s very unsettling.
COTW: Was it always planned to make an album quite this… alternative?
JC: That was never a consideration. Being who we are it never could have been a boyband sound!
COTW: And do you feel the result was what you were aiming for? Is there anything you would change or improve?
JC: I don’t know if there was an aim. It grew naturally. It’s the bastard son of me and Stephen Coates: a hybrid, a Frankenstein’s monster.
Once it’s finished, there’s no going back. I like the album, and I haven’t found one by anyone else that’s similar, so that’s a good thing.
The next album will be rawer, more stripped down and little more dirty. Half pounding sex songs and half strange night time songs.
COTW: It must be said, we had a bit of difficulty tracking you down – you don’t have a gigantic web presence – seemingly no fixed online abode, save your bandcamp page. Is there a specific reason for this?
JC: My ineptitude at promotion! Ha ha, thanks for pointing it out! If you’re reading this, book us or buy our album..There, that was a good piece of promotion just there. To be honest, all our intensity goes into the performances.
COTW: There’s some very odd themes in Horseplay, starting with overlords of village celebrations, later touching upon Victorian Folklore…it strikes as all being a rather ‘English’ affair. Would you care to talk about the ideas thrown into the cauldron?
JC: I’m English and grew up with all of our strange folklore. As a child my room was on the third floor, so I knew I was safe from bogeymen. That was until I read about Spring-Heeled Jack.. The idea of a leaping, laughing ghoul terrified me. That’s why I sung about him. The lyrics are improvised rather than worked out on paper, so I am often surprised at the things that come of my mouth, all the junk of a life waiting to be puked out, so all these things that have fascinated or scared me fly out.
There’s lots of obscure references in the lyrics, clues, riddles if you listen carefully. It’s the same with songs by The Cramps, there’s a lot going on there if you pay attention.
COTW: It would be fair to say the visuals and design are, like the music itself, a touch…striking, mental, bizarre…with Ouija boards shaped like lower torso of the fairer sex shipping with your album, and a music video containing, to give a few examples, mismatched eyes and mouths, some incredibly odd costumes and classic cars. Are these all part of the same thematic? What sort of thoughts went into such a…varied concoction?
JC: We wanted the album to be more than just an album. To do make something physical that a download couldn’t compete with. It was either going to be an aeroplane sick bag or a Ouija board. Considering the band name it would have been too literal to make it a sick bag, so it became a Ouija board. The idea for the nice hairy pussy came from the artist who produced it, the very talented Catherine Anyango.
The brief I gave for the video was that it should not be boring. I wanted the viewer to be over saturated, overwhelmed and that’s why there’s like 30 different scenes and costume changes. I got to do some great stuff during the shoot like drive a 1920s racing car, collect bins and lead charging civil war soldiers. During the filming somebody lost a finger firing a flare.
The oogly eyes are a visual reference to a Cramps’ video. The Village Fete video was made by Rob Flowers and Tim & Sally Stevens, a pretty amazing team, the video is testament to their rich imaginations.
COTW: What sort of music have you been listening to lately- is there anything you would recommend to somebody whom enjoys Horseplay?
JC: Fred Lane is seriously good, and sadly over-looked. His lyrics are insane, the music is wildly unpredictable. I’d recommend listening to his track Rubber Room: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdJ7MPn4azs
I found this track today which I love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lh-E0yLTp_8
Big Jay MaNeely is great too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSfvk4xv6Yw
COTW: What future plans do you have for the band? Another album, more music videos, a tour, perhaps world domination? ..Murder…?
JC: More! More! More! We’ve got some pretty wild ideas for the live shows, you’ll have to come and see us to find out what!
Thank you very much for sitting down with us Mr. Coles – we look forward to hearing more from you!
And there it ended. I watched in horror as the doctors came in with a syringe in their hands, wrapping their arms around his and dragging him back slowly into the plain, white room he calls home. I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was fair. I scratched my head, sat down, and pondered…
Then I realised I have an album to review.
Leaving the building, I’m pretty sure a woman in one of the cells gave me her number. I’m not sure how to feel about that.
So…let’s begin, shall we!
Before I start it may be worth nothing that I have no idea how accurate my thoughts and ideas are when it comes to reviewing this album! It’s all rather complicated – and mostly improvised – which means this is more what songs bring to mind rather than a firm consensus!
The entire release skits between different stages of excitement, violence and drunkenness – we start off with a thick, pulsing bit of double bass (my favourite albums all have this instrument involved. Coincidence? I think not) and a screaming bit of triumph from the very talented Joe Coles in KIng of the Village Fete, who seems to be striding from character trait to character trait, between hedge trimming, knobbly knees contests and being a combination of Desperate Dan, Bruce Lee and a Christmas tree. Repeatedly reminding us he’s ‘Crazy’. It paints the portrait of somebody who’ll work up a following like the Pied Piper of Hamilton, followed by his fellow weirdoes, seducing women as he goes. You’re scared of him, you’re intimidated, but you’re enthralled. It’s pure insanity, painting the portrait of a very broken mind dancing around a maypole with the medallions of a thousand victories around his neck.
This is followed very promptly by Mating Dance, equally bizarre, coated with European Polka on a vicious concoction of absinthe and whatever was in the bottom of that gypsy’s back pocket, stuffed with the maniacal ravings of somebody who’s cracked and effectively wants a go. It then slows down – but only a touch – to a bit of accordion accompaniment to some self-reflection on the subject of mortality.
The Clay’s A-Calling strikes as a street performer outside a graveyard in the late Georgian period, his horse and cart parked next to him. He doesn’t seem particularly terrified of the matter, after all, what will it change? He’d just prefer another drink at the village pub, complete with thatched roof, just across the road. He’s considering how many people will be mourning, how it’s his one foil, the pain of the eventuality. But hey, that’s that. There’s a rather more emotional twist, in the idea of being a spirit locked in a ‘fleshy case’ – touched upon very lightly. But it disappears as quickly as it’s mentioned.
Next up is Horn for the Whole Damn World. The album immediately pumps up the insanity. It’s pretty much as you’d expect. This chap is far too excited. There’s an obvious…um, rhythm to it. It’s all nearly illegible. I imagine this being a very normal looking guy walking down the street – drowning in his own sexual insanity. He’s shaking, but only slightly – nobody notices, but everything that passes, he wants it. Behind it there’s a normal, even somewhat elegant, old fashioned sounding song…but you’ll be lucky to hear it behind the tortured screams of a man’s sex drive.
Next comes another slow down in tempo and a bit more self-reflection, although this time far more level headed, on the concept of battling, with Violent Men. – it stops its mental little exploration of sex, violence and oddity and instead halts briefly into a smooth, luxurious ballad. It’s a dip in the band’s excitement, and you just know that in a moment it’s going to throw itself at you again and claw at your face.
And it does with Naked and Nasty. It tackles you to the floor, laughs at you, spits at you and tells you to turn around. Right now. This guy might want you, sure, but the song’s pretty much leathering you from the off. It screams, shouts and licks the inside of your lug-‘ole. An incredible bit of electro-blues mixed with some good old fashioned rock guitar and basically being crude. The guy’s been lonely long enough, but from the sounds of it he’s um…getting the frustration out. But that’s okay…it’s beautiful, beautiful, beautiful…apparently..!
Next comes what one can’t shake off as a reminder of some Bowie. I’m Going Deaf is full of theatrics and a fair bit of glam, seemingly telling somebody he’s basically drowning in his demons – all of which is being pumped into him by relationships and friendships. These people are talking away at him, and he just doesn’t care anymore – he’s lost the ability to hear it and would rather continue as he is. It’s all a bit sad in its own way, but it does nothing to mark down his gleeful appreciation of finally kicking it all back.
Naked and Nasty, still echoing in the background, comes right back to us in a slower, filthier little rendition. Now less disturbing and more ‘get me the hell out of this room right now’, it’s thick and sloppy, crooning away at itself in an empty room coated with a substance that’s probably inappropriate. I think it’s a bit of a ‘morning after’ situation. He’s lit up a cigarette, sat in a corner and isn’t sure whether he’s regretting it or wants it again ten times over.
Next comes the track that introduced me to the band, Spring Heeled Jack, based upon a very real piece of insanity from Victorian London and Battersea, told from the viewpoint of a man dressing as a bouncing demon who can breathe fire and chase off the London Cavalry. Mixed in with the beat of the springs hitting the floor, garbled speech from..Japanese women? (No, I don’t understand that, I have to admit) It’s pure, unadulterated glee and foolhardy violence, mischief and self-appreciative enjoyment in what this terrible scoundrel has caused. He’s basically here to spread terror, and he loves every minute of it. He doesn’t care if you understand – it’s all game…Can’t be denied; He makes it sound a bit of a lark.
The penultimate track, Two Frankfurters, marks the album beginning to slow down. The frenzy is almost over and it’s beginning to slip a little – the hangover’s setting in. Another mark of somebody’s woes in relationships built from nights fuelled by lack of awareness. The pain of reintroduction…followed by the enjoyment of what comes afterwards. Despite the enjoyment, despite the thrill, the song maintains a constant regret.
The album then speeds up again for the final tale – to another reintroduction, this time coming back to the ‘Tiger’ – ‘My Little Tiger‘ is a fairly simple track compared to the rest of the album. In fact, it would be fair to say the final two tracks lack the insanity, the true craziness the rest of the album premieres for us. It seems as if the album is running out of steam, but I think it’s more pulling out slowly so as not to hurt us. Innuendos intentional. The Tiger is simply a very talented sexual partner, and our ..um..protagonist? Is ‘burning to see her again’. The question is, have the songs gotten more normal, or have we gotten used to the belligerent breakdowns?!
And it’s here the album finishes. And leaves us feeling a touch dizzy, disorientated and…perhaps a touch worried for our health. As all great pieces of art should.
This album is a one off. I’m certain I’ve never heard an album just so…odd as this one. It’s all like the profiling some sort of incredibly belligerent mental disorder, and good grief, it does an incredible job at it. This is one of those rare albums that will always have a good time prepared for you – while it might strike some as perhaps a little too odd, a little too…bizarre – which, to be fair, I can’t argue with, it does a top-notch job at producing entertainment. It’s well put together, well played and for all of its crude outlook shows a very good head. I fully recommend it.
Music video: ‘King of the Village Fete’
Horseplay, by Lazarus and the Plane Crash, is available on Antique Beat records. As previously mentioned the album is available in a special edition, wrapped up in a fold out Ouija board designed to resemble the fairer sex’s lap. Get it purchased and we need never mention it again…although, doubtless, we will.
Their fine goods are also available at their bandcamp page for listening if you’re intrigued but simply too terrified to let them into your home…