The music of Blah Blah Blah
BLAH BLAH BLAH started out during the late 70s punk explosion creating sounds that were deliberately anti-music, anti-cool and above all totally unique. Improvising on electronic instruments they ventured where no-one else dared go. Their credo never to repeat a single number (even live) meant that everything was recorded for posterity. Each session unearthed enough golden nuggets to make the journey worth it. These gathered nuggets were then released as albums. In the 80s they appeared at the 1st Leeds Futurama Festival and were briefly grouped with the Futurists, sharing live bills alongside fledgling electro-poppers Depeche Mode and chanteuse Marc Almond. The division of live audiences into Blah haters and Blah lovers, often caused near-riots. They eventually retired from the limelight following an attempted live arson attack on band members by a nice fellow in the audience at their thirteenth gig in Stevenage. If you mixed The Residents with the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band and Captain Beefheart you might end up with Blah Blah Blah – whimsical, weird and totally barmy. The influence of nursery rhymes, sea-shanties, trash literature and TV, and instruments sounding like something that’s escaped from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
UK PRESS MONTAGE: (from Sounds, Melody, Maker, NME, 1979-1982)
<< What's this? Jaywick jazz ?! One lion, two moles, two zoo keepers, improvised music, no rhythm? Can I take it, this excercise in free thinking? The grunting vocals, the vibrating rubber bands and noise of someone banging on the ceiling. Amusing digs at the modern warrior accompanied by electronic squonks and bips. They consist of one womble two cats and two traffic wardens and specialise in lurching blahism (hyperbolic and frothy sounds) making unwelcome and ugly noises to the chagrin of many. An eccentric band of experimental musicians with a bizarre brand of rock disguised by weird noises. The worst jazz cords ever invented, excruciating tones through various noise devices may bring chortles of laughter from the loopy denizens on the extreme arts fringe. Dressing up as rocks with manes of electronic gadgetry and wind machines, this is an experience in pop - creepy then crawly examples of the emaciated psychedelic or psychic escapist elements of post-punk music. I wouldn't play this to my dog! >>
(well, DJ's and Journalists like to think they know best...)
ROCK's REAL WEIRDOS? (Dave Simpson, The Guardian)
Blah's live performances saw them raiding the dressing up box long before the New Romantics adopted their fine foppery. Among other things, they performed as Elizabethans (complete with ruffs), as zoo animals (plus keeper) and rocks (yes really – made out of chicken-wire and stiffened, painted fabric). From their first gig at the televised 1st Leeds Futurama Festival to their last at Stevenage Community Hall Blah divided their audiences into Blah-haters and Blah-lovers. The haters booed and threw things while the lovers cheered and threw things. At their last gig, a member of the audience succeeded in setting light to the streamers on one of the band member's costumes. Coincidentally, at this exact moment a wind machine whirred into life onstage turning the struggling flicker into raging flames and engulfing two of the band, who staggered offstage to a spray of CO2 extinguishers. The audience loved it but the band never performed live again.
And just in case anything good came out of the session, it was to be taped. So they started playing whatever came into their heads and out of their hands and mouths and discovered the joys of improvised music. They became Blah Blah Blah - two keyboard players (Martin Croxford and Vicky Jones) one bassist (Chris Andrews), a guitarist with a mane of wires leading to effect pedals (Peter Wiggins), and a man with a microphone (Ian Smith). There was no drummer to be seen but synthesizers and guitars covered in fablon…
In Blah Blah Blah's music we hear disparate sounds coalescing. In their songs and soundscapes dissonance and harmony stalk each other and sometimes fight. This is a band that dared take music to lengths others backed away from and (like The Fall) defined itself in stark contrast to those that pandered to the fickle demands of the music business and beat music. If this all sounds arty, it is consciously so (after all, three of the band were straight from art school). But we mustn't forget also another feature of Blah Blah Blah's music – that of humour. In the world of manufactured cool that is the music business, humour has never carried much weight. The words of many of their songs (it would be wrong to call them lyrics) are rich with a humour that is sometimes dark, other times just plain quirky. Just listen to the opening chords and lines of Liquidizing Chickens" - "I've been out liquidizing chickens again…" delivered in a vaguely northern drawl or browse the song titles for proof. You can find lots of animals in these songs. If you are looking for influences, each member of Blah Blah Blah would give a completely different list. Some would be straight forwardly musical - Can, Beefheart, Zappa, The Bonzos, The Incredible String Band, Carl Denver, nursery rhymes and the Musicals of Bernstein et al. - but there are also other influences here – those of Dada, Art Brut, the mad poetic imagination of Nietzsche and the sci-fi films of the 1950's. Today, we need the refreshing influence of Blah Blah Blah more than ever before. We need them to help us remember that alternative routes do exist, and that music doesn't have to be a polished product to be relevant. We need them because they are true originals and because true originals are hard to find. Blah Blah Blah ploughed a lonely field and are unlikely ever to have a broad appeal. Their music is not easy to listen to. It isn't always pleasant. It makes demands of the hearer, to actively engage with the music. Blah Blah Blah may not always be conventionally musical, but they are consistently imaginative. They show us an alternative vision of music as art and an adventure full of discovery, fear, surprise, the mundane, the humorous, ugliness and beauty. Thanks for visiting our site.
Ian Smith, Martin Croxford, Vicky Jones, Peter Wiggins, Chris Andrews.
From the WFMU's PLAYLISTS: