‘Olly obble moogle stonk, waaa aaah!!!!’ ‘Grrrrrr ahhhhhhh ah!’
The subject of a thousand impressions by yours truly when I worked in a music shop (one manageress not letting me go home until I did one), grindcore was the epitome of the underground in the late 80s. ‘Fiercely political lyrics, grinding guitars, extremely fast tempos and often very short songs’ (as reported by Wikipedia), this musical style (usually released on Earache Records) left its mark on all who heard it. The songs also had a penchant for graphic medical detail:
“Oozing chyme reeks as your duodenum is hacked
Secreting gastric juices, enzymes melt your faecal tract
Torn major arteries, your corpse with blood is drenched
Your mouth is ripped inside-out as your oesophagus is wrenched
Maggots and grubs bore into the mouldy remains
Masticating lymph, caked blood and cankered decay
Maturating brains play host to the grisly fete
Stuffed anal passage, served on a plate
Purulent torso is a perfect maggots meal
Spilt cerebrospinal fluid is sucked up with zeal
Botulism vitiates the emulsifying bile
Liquidized gall bladder.” [Carcass, Maggot Colony]
The bands who purveyed it either split up or modified their sound to a less extreme version. John Peel, of course, went to see them and booked them for as many sessions as he could.
ENT [Extreme Noise Terror] were amazing. So were their fans. Any track more than 20 seconds long was greeted with derisive cries of ‘too long, too slow’ or ‘fucking prog-rockers’ from the faithful, most of whom looked as though they had but recently risen from shallow graves alongside the A12, the arterial road that runs from London to Ipswich. The only disappointment for Sheila, William and me was that the band weren’t loud enough. We wanted to leave the show with blood trickling from our ears.Well, one thing led to another. At one of those Ipswich gigs, ENT were joined by the even faster Napalm Death; at another by the short-lived but murderous Intense Degree. All three bands recorded sessions for my radio programmes and most of the tracks they recorded ended up on the Hardcore Holocaust compilations. Almost everyone I knew who heard these compilations, or tracks from them, thought they were all crap. A result, I thought. Then along came Carcass.
Who could have failed to be appalled by titles such as ‘Exhume to Consume’ or even the essentially meaningless ‘Empathological Necroticism,’ both recorded and broadcast repeatedly by the BBC? [John Peel, Loud And Proud, Guardian Unlimited, December 12 2004].
But apart from him, who would actually listen to this for any length of time and enjoy it? One of my co-workers opined that it was release for stressed-out businessmen: I just bought it to piss my noisy neighbours off the day after they had blues parties until 4 a.m. In the end result, it was a musical phase that was a kind of catharsis for the sugar-sweetness of the Stock Aitken and Waterman era, and in that respect it served its purpose admirably.
I say that grindcore was ‘almost’ not in the Festive Fifty. True, Peel stalwarts such as Bolt Thrower and Sore Throat were never voted for in the Fifty, but the genre almost broke into the mainstream when Extreme Noise Terror (pictured above) and KLF collaborated on a grindcore/thrash version of 3 a.m. Eternal and performed it live at the Brit Awards, before Bill Drummond firing blanks into the crowd, announcing that the KLF had left the music scene, and then the band delivering a dead sheep and buckets of blood to the after-show party. Here is that Drummond/ENT performance in all its glory:
This song reached #44 in the 1992 FF, and was the sole entry for both of these bands. To keep it company, as grindcore songs are invariably brief, I have included two other tracks. I was inspired to write this entry by a kind Korean guy who has written what appears to be my first fan e-mail (notwithstanding all the lovely comments by my readers and fellow bloggers-keep ‘em coming please). His name is Seung Ju, also known as Nick, and he cites John’s ‘unique musical taste and passion’ as well as the fact that there is no DJ on this planet like him as his reasons for liking him so much. Can’t disagree there at all, Nick, and I will be practising my Korean on you soon. As John might have said: ‘Nick, just for you, the band you told me you were listening to, Carcass, and the immortal Napalm Death’.