Glass Hymnbook (1980-1982) (Glass Redux)
This retrospective compilation is very early post-punk, the Northampton band having formed in 1979, the year in which the very notion of post-punk (or “new musick” as it was first coined) was first being talked about, and its ideas being explored. Guitarist Richard Formby would move onto work on In Embrace, Spectrum, The Jazz Butcher and more, before becoming a studio producer. Vocalist Alex Novak would move onto The Tempest, Attrition and his long-term project Venus Fly Trap. But there and then they were experimenters in noise and emotion, taking on board the contemporaneous sounds of PIL, Joy Division, fellow midlanders Bauhaus et. al – alongside the psychedelic kraut bands (primarily Can and Neu one can presume).
The heady mix saw strange, often bleak, gothic lo-fi abstraction poured forth from the studio. Over three singles and a compilation track they briefly burned strong before the individuals moved onto other, equally-interesting projects. John Peel supported the trailblazing Relgious Overdose debut 45: the drum machine-heavy, hypnotic dirge of ‘25 Minutes’, which came backed with the industrial fuzz of ‘Control Addicts’. The second single ‘I Said Go’ bought the kraut influence to the fore in the unsettling 5/4 rhythms and complex vocal arrangements. It could have been a hit, in a certain light. ‘Alien To You’ continued the serious ambience of the earlier single, with some avant-garde, Vini Reilly-esque spiky guitar lines alongside Novak’s vocal in-and-out flights of fancy. Also from 1981 came the synth-led new wave of ‘Blow The Back Off It’, which appeared on a Glass Records compilation – and was good enough/should have been a single itself. ‘The Girl With The Disappearing Head (I’ve Got To Adjust To It)’ was the final A-side from 1982, the band now confident enough to be putting out 7-minute songs of jittery punk-funk that holds it’s head up well against their competition of the time. New drummer Pete Brownjohn does some striking patterns throughout.
It’s their final B-side, ‘In This Century’, which cements their legacy though. After almost two minutes of abstract noise (drum machine, triangle, violin, real world sounds) the songs kicks in with their most affecting song; a hypnotic, funereal off-beat jangle that would not have sounded out of place on Closer. There are four bonus tracks to round up this release, of which the ten minute demo version of ‘In This Century’ is the most exciting revelation. ‘Hazaal’ and ‘Talk Talk’ are unreleased recordings that stand up in comparison to the released songs, and only suffer a little for the demo quality of the recordings.
It all builds up to an impressive work of a band who freely admit they were making it all up as they went along. Bold, experimental sounds from a Northants past that can be treasured by all in this excellent compilation. Make sure you pore over the visuals in the CD case too – they create another world of their own.
Glass Hymnbook (1980-1982) is out now