Monday, 10 August 2009

This Ain't No Disco

I was warned, but little could prepare me for just how weird Patrick Cowley and Jorge Socarras' Catholic really is. This music is so different to Cowley's famous disco productions (Menergy, Mind Warp etc) it's really quite ridiculous... and delightful. Somebody I know likened it to Roxy Music, but this turns out to be way off-base - it's nowhere near as sane as that would suggest. If anything, the music on Catholic, a kind of recalcitrant lo-fi post-punk, suggests a kinship with New York experimentalist (and Stones Throw fave) Gary Wilson and the raw, pre-Eno Devo anthologised on Rykodisc's two Hardcore Devo collections. Sounds to me like there's a bit of Chrome in there too, especially in the maladjusted stomp of 'In & Out', but that could simply be my fetid imagination at work.

The vocals of queer activist Jorge Socarras are utterly deranged throughout. Personally, I like 'em, but they may evoke for some unwelcome memories of the punk singer from Driller Killer, the guy whose insufferable warble drives neighbour Abel Ferrara to grisly powertool moida. Cowley clearly had no problem documenting extreme states of being - the hypersexual robodisco usually associated with the NY producer exudes the heady lust of late 70s club culture while Mind Warp is allegedly a sonic allegory of his deterioration from HIV - and Catholic is suffused with an atmosphere of druggy dislocation.

I was trying to think of something contemporary to compare this album to, but it's a tough one... Philadelphia/New York synthesists Cold Cave come close, but even they're more disco than this, and a hell of a lot more conservative. Catholic is pretty unique, all told. Thank Odin for albums that were originally shelved only to be issued years later - see also Six Finger Satellite's excellent Half Control, reviewed by yours truly in The Wire #307 - and endless props to Macro for putting out one of the best new/old albums of 2009.

PS. I've just been alerted to the material Cowley released as part of Indoor Life - thanks Marcus! Sounds kinda like Devo fronted by Alan Vega... but I'm hearing Vega all over the place lately.