Beauty Doesn't Come Any More Strange
Life's like that. You find yourself settling into a comfortable groove when something completely out of the blue jars you and jolts you off in a new direction, leaving you mumbling 'someone's not read the script.'
So, moving seamlessly from my soul sojourn, I was getting very jazzual. Recent purchases like Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi, Sun Ra's Lanquidity, Wayne Shorter's All Seeing Eye and Donald Byrd's Blackbyrd had all hit the spot. Chancing upon contemporary gems, like Missy Elliott's 'Freakthing' and some new breakbeat stuff like DJ Zinc was an added bonus. I was happy like that.
I was absolutely determined to steer clear of the sordid sentimentality surrounding the 25th anniversary of the Rough Trade shops. I had no wish to see a reformed Raincoats, Young Marble Giants or Vic Godard. Nope, I was into jazz. I didn't do nostalgia.
Then I noticed a new CD of the complete recordings by Kleenex/LiLiPUT. Damn! I did do nostalgia after all. For, for me, that Kleenex single 'Heidi's Head' / 'Ain't You' from 1979-ish was one of the pivotal Rough Trade moments. A fold out paper sleeve that became a poster of the four very striking Swiss sprites who made such a strange, singular noise that was at once harsh and edgy. In many ways it defined the way pop rules were being cut up and pasted together by so many femme-centric visionaries, from The Slits, Raincoats, Delta 5, Prag Vec, Au Pairs, Essential Logic; to the Marine Girls and Malaria; to ESG and Bush Tetras, Ut and Lydia Lunch.
I was aware that due to corporate pressure Kleenex became LiLiPUT. I am, however, ashamed to say that apart from a couple of great singles, 'Split' and 'Eisseger Wind', I know next to nothing about what became of the group. I remember reading a Greil Marcus anthology with a chapter on a LiLiPUT LP, but it was news to me.
So, all credit to the people at Washington's Kill Rock Stars for putting together this double CD, covering the early absurdist punkist statements of Kleenex through to the two LiLiPUT LPs. I guess it seems appropriate for it to roost alongside Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Frumpies, Sleater Kinney and Heavens To Betsy. Nevertheless it does only serve to underline how the earlier firefoxes so radically constructed a pop that implicitly rejected male traditions. In so doing they created a wonderfully liberating, joyous, illogical noise. As the man said: "Less structure!"
Great as it is to hear the Kleenex noise again, it is the second CD, containing the two later LPs which is the revelation. The music here is as great and as unique as the Slits' Cut and the Raincoats' Odyshape. Rhythms are thrown around, guitars and violins scraped, voices utter profound nonsense that sounds all wrong and so right (language is a rhythm too!) and anything is banged and blown. For did not Augustus Pablo decree the most beautiful music ever shall be made with a kid's toy?
Almost inevitably, the liner notes are penned by Greil Marcus, with the short endorsement of Kim Gordon naturally too. I will never be the holy Greil's greatest fan, but photos of Emmy Hennings and Michele Bernstein from Lipstick Traces, in the links to the dadaists and situationists and whatever, share the same natural, not obvious, ineluctable glamour as Kleenex/LiLiPUT exude in the photos preserved down the years.
Perhaps it is part of my problem, but I still find, say, the LiLiPUT ladies or the Raincoats infinitely more beguiling than the latest r'n'b diva dressed to kill or undressed to thrill. There is, after all, little more attractive than the unique.
So, if perchance anyone out there from Kill Rock Stars or elsewhere comes across this, can I plead the case for the salvaging of the back catalogues of Delta 5, Essential Logic, and re-release of The Return Of The Giant Slits.
Okay, now I've got that out of my system I can get back to my new copy of Alice Coltrane's Eternity. Beautiful, Beautiful music! So strangely beautiful!
© Kevin Pearce 2001