The Second Disc welcomes back our roving musical correspondent Ted Frank! A recent visit to Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival inspired Ted to revisit the debut album of short-lived British band The Mothmen, recently reissued and expanded on CD and vinyl! You’ll want to “Pay Attention!” to this alternative gem.
Having recently attended the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago’s Union Park, it was a reminder of that expansive, mercurial sound that comes when the calendar hits June’s solstice! On June 1 of this year, just a few weeks shy of the beginning of summer 2015, On-U Sound released a new remastering of The Mothmen’s 1981 lost post-punk classic, Pay Attention!, which is an album that certainly deserves attention and fits the summer bill just fine!
Pay Attention! is a fine example of early-’80s UK D.I.Y. post-punk music; it’s filled with angular melodies, frenetic energy, opaque lyrics, and, often times, jazz-like explorations. Think of bands like “154”-era Wire, Gang of Four, Can, and even Joy Division and you have and idea of what to expect when approaching Pay Attention! Sure there are dark shadings here, but the album’s epic reach (the album’s concluding track, “Mothman” alone is 20 minutes!) should satisfy any summer time “jonesing” for a rhythmic, jam band session. Additionally, this reissue includes six (occasionally pop-sounding) bonus tracks, three of which have gone unheard until now.
Pay Attention! is an album of craft and density. It is an album that has the kind of innovative tendencies and energies of an album like Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain. This is an album that is experiential. Founding band members of The Mothmen may have assembled from Manchester groups that included the comedy/satire band Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias and the first line-up of the English post-punk band The Durutti Column, but The Mothmen sound is very different from those two units as well as the band Simply Red, which The Mothmen rhythm section of Chris Joyce and Tony Bowers moved onto later in the 1980s.
Listening to the Denmark-based punk band Iceage perform at the Pitchfork Festival, I could not help but think of bands like The Mothmen who certainly paved the way for them. True, The Mothmen may have disbanded over three decades ago, but there was a similar sense of angst in the air at Pitchfork and it was cathartic! Bands like Iceage may not feature Bob Harding of The Mothmen’s multi-instrumental approach, nor Mothmen guitarist Dave Rowbotham’s dense guitar sound, but the carnival that was Pay Attention! still resonates in today’s hybrid music scene. After all, today it is nearly more punk to open sound up into soundscapes (largely thanks to Radiohead’s Kid A) rather than fill tightly-packed, fast melodies. In some sense, Pay Attention!, an album of varied textures, was both of its post-punk era and also ahead of its time! Pay Attention! finds itself today somewhere between Iceage and electronic artist Nicholas Jaar – it’s a wild ride!
- Afghan Farmer Driving Cattle
- Animal Animaux
- Not Moving
- Please Let Go
- Tardis (Sweep is Dead, Long Live Sweep)
- Change Direction
- Vegetable Man
- Does It Matter Irene? (Radio Session Version)
- Return of the Mozabites
- Paintings of a Cave
- Afghani Dub