Henry Cow - Western Culture

Year of Release: 2001
Label: ReR Recommended
Catalog Number: ReRHC4
Format: CD
Total Time: 43:56:00

May 06, 1979

Dear Virginia,

I must apologize for not having written in so long, but these bloody people refuse to spare me the time to do what is absolutely necessary. As if the centre of all this nonsensical activity were to be me!

Leaving my daily menial tasks aside and the insufferable torture to which these croons are subjecting me, however, I just had to write and point you in the direction of a band that I have only recently discovered and that is bound to change the way in which modern music is perceived, I'm rather sure: Henry Cow. Although I have recently been informed that these chaps have actually been around for quite a while, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to them by means of a relatively new album called Western Culture. Before advancing further, I do urge you to buy this as soon as possible ... it is sure to wake you up from all the garbage that you have been listening to as of late.

Perhaps you've caught a glimpse of the name in the American Rolling Stone and other such magazines, but I just can't stand these stupid critics who do not want to come across as part of the Anglo-Saxons' recent display of utter musical imbecility. I can just picture them akimbo and completely confused while listening to this brilliant group (whose music, I confess, can be quite challenging to hear at times) and then sitting down and writing some bloody nonsense finishing with the obsolete phrase "Dig?" Ah, bastards they are and bastards they will always be!

Anyway, this Western Culture is... you must listen to it ... even if you have to rob a copy from somewhere. There is a bit of very modern chamber music and free jazz spread throughout the whole album, but Henry Cow have brilliantly destroyed all conventional conceptions and brought about a whole new perspective regarding rock music. It's avant-garde enough to get the old fools at cultural organizations to pay a few good quid for it, young enough to be interesting, and intellectual enough to keep stupid people away.

I don't quite think I could attempt to describe the music of Henry Cow and purport to be successful, nor could I stop myself from trying. You see, it's just too bloody tempting! Side one of the L.P. is a three-piece suite called "History And Prospects," and it would certainly be hard to find a band that can conjure images of machinery working away and dark, grimy cities that would fit a Soviet art film denouncing our capitalist Western culture so well. Side two ("Day By Day") seems to be more reflective and more orthodox in that its jazz, chamber, and rock structures are a bit more recognizable, but the organized chaos still remains. Ah, bloody hell! You already know how bad I am when describing art. Just get the bloody thing and say hello to the family for me!


From: Virginia Tipton
To: Jack Tipton
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2002 5:43 PM
Subject: Hello again!

Hi Jack! How are your children doing? (last I heard Tom had a terrible cold) It has been a rather awful day here with the rain and all, and I thought I'd sit down and write you before I forget.

I was just going through my letters a few days ago (don't laugh, you know I am sentimental and nostalgic after all) and found one from 1979 where you desperately urged me to buy a record from a band called Henry Cow. Trying to be funny, bordering on scurrilous, and prove how you were an insufferable snob back then and would listen to the damnedest of noise only to call yourself a bloody intellectual, I bought Western Culture (which happens to have just been released again). At first listen I thought I was moments away from giving you a nasty surprise next Christmas, but it turns out that the CD is in fact rather good!

I don't know if you recall ever having written the letter, but I think your description of the album was remarkably accurate, if too brief. That first section, "History and Prospects," I found to be quite intimidating after getting familiar with it. One can almost picture walking through dark alleys where the fa?ades of buildings are almost crumbling and life is incredibly dreary, or industrial machinery whirring, jangling, and overcoming one in monolithic amounts of noise. Of course I don't believe that Henry Cow only made noise, but their very avant-garde and challenging compositions certainly bring up these images ("conjure," as you have always been fond of saying, =) ). It's like sitting down and listening to a slightly creepy acoustic guitar introduction and then having a wall of sound tumbling upon you, having a thousand unexpected changes occur here and there, volumes swaying up and down, and awkwardly threatening harmonies overwhelming your intimacy. I could see why Henry Cow never quite became stars, but they were extremely talented and I believe that anyone who gives them half a chance is in risk of becoming addicted!

You are probably still listening to all your Frank Sinatra records and would find this music quite dreadful today, but you have, after all, been quite boring these last few years. Perhaps you should buy this album and bring back memories of young people who were willing to explore the extreme barriers of music regardless of appeal, of idealists whose music was an attack on conformism that hardly ever gave respite. To pique your interest, the new release even happens to have three additional tracks, two of which are very interesting instrumentals and one that has female singers almost chanting like in some crazy African ritual, something that you would have adored in your twenties. ;)

Well, just like I bought it (although rather late, I confess), you could do it, too. Both "suites" (as you called them) are rather good and got my mind toiling away at understanding what was going on several times. After listening to it a thousand times, I finally understood that, although I still think you listened to a lot of garbage and called it "genius" because you wanted to sound intellectual, you did know some bands like Henry Cow that were actually quite good... Strange, isn't it? It's just like with James Joyce (still the only good writer that you ever recommended to me) =)

Say hello to Julie for me!

From the editor: having received these epistles from Mr. Marcelo Silveyra, he included a brief statement that noted that only the ReR version contains the mentioned bonus tracks. Thus, one must check carefully before purchasing said title.

Similar Artists: Art Bears, Zamla Mammas Manna, Thinking Plague

History and Prospects: I. Industry (6:57) - II. The Decay of Cities (6:56) - III. On the Raft (4:01) / Day by Day: I. Falling Away - (7:39) II. Gretel's Tale (3:58) - III. Look Back (1:20) - IV. Half the Sky (5:07) / Empty track (1:30) / Additional tracks: Viva Pa Ubu (4:28) / Look Back (alt) (1:22) / Slice (0:37

Tim Hodgkinson - organ, alto sax, clarinet, Hawaiian guitar
Lindsay Cooper - bassoon, oboe, soprano sax, soprano recorder
Fred Frith - guitars, bass, banjo, soprano sax
Chris Cutler - drums, noise, piano, trumpet

Additional musicians:

Anne-Marie Roelofs - trombone, violin
Irene Schweizer - piano
Georgie Born - bass
Dagmar Krause - vocals (3)

Leg End (aka Legend) (1973/1999)
Unrest (1974/1999)
Desperate Straights (1975)
In Praise Of Learning (1975)
Concerts (1976)
Western Culture (1978/2001)
Stockholm & Göteborg (2008)
The Road, Vols. 1-5 (2009)
The Road, Vols. 6-10 (2009)
The Studio, Vol. 1-5 (2009)

Genre: RIO

Origin UK

Added: May 18th 2002
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website: www.ccutler.com
Hits: 672
Language: english


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