Monday, April 16, 2012
apb - Jaguar
In many ways, apb is as responsible for The Ripple Effect coming into existence as any band out there.
I don't know when it was that Pope and I first discussed the idea of The Ripple Effect, but our intentions weren't grand. We never set out to be a "big" music site. We didn't want to publish news or "hip" viral videos. Really, all we wanted was to review the enormous mass of CD's and vinyl in our own collections with a pointed eye towards those bands that never seemed to get their fair shake of fortune and fame. Music that should've caught a bigger ear than it ever did. We wanted to make ripples.
When that first review published in October of 2007, launching the Ripple upon the unsuspecting world, our first article was Something to Believe In, the killer punk/funk compilation of rare singles from Scottish underground post-punk legends, apb. It was only natural. I'd been burning apb into anyone's brain who'd give me a moment of their time for decades. At KSPC FM, apb was always heavy in my rotation, getting a spin at least weekly. Led by the explode-my-mind manic funk bass and school-boy vocals of Iain Slater, the pacemaker solid and crisp funky drumming of George Cheyne, and the epileptic spasms of punk guitar from Glenn Roberts, there's never been a band who sounded like them. If you stepped into the station at the right (or wrong) moment, you'd see a very compromising image of your disc jockey, Racer X, flailing around the studio in some uncoordinated white-boy-tries-to-funk dance, thumb thumping away on an imaginary bass, ass going in several wrong directions all at once. And if that didn't frighten you to death, I don't know what would.
But back in 2007, Something to Believe in had recently been celebrated in a deluxe-edition reissue, and as interest in the band was rekindled, a live set from the BBC was unleashed. It seemed like time was right for a reunion of the mad punk pioneering Scots.
And as fate would have it, right after I wrote that first review, George Cheyne contacted me with the news that the band had recently reformed and released their first album in more than 20 years. That album 3, proved that the crew still had it in all the right places. The punk was punkier, the funk was . . .er . . .funkier. Everything was tight and rocking and damn if it didn't feel good having apb back.
Now, I gotta reveal my bias here. I have everything apb has ever released. I mean everything. Every 7" single on those tiny UK indy labels. Every 12" single and EP. Their albums, their test pressings. In fact, I have more apb 7" singles than drummer George has or even knew existed. So, I'm far from an impartial judge here.
But then the goal of the Ripple was never to be impartial, damn it. Our goal has always been to bring light to those bands and albums that just need to be heard. And believe me, Jaguar is one of them.
From the first bass thump and staccato slice of guitar that starts "Cradle to the Grave," this is the classic sound of apb post-punk funk roaring back to life. Ironically, blasting out a song about the indignities and lost dreams of getting older, apb sound positively time defiant. Iain's bass leads a bouncing funky swath that Glenn explodes into wide paths with his chopping blitz of chords. George buries his head and keeps that motoring onslaught on a straight line right to that place of punk funk nirvana. I dig it when the song jumps into hyperdrive for the bridge after the main verse, Glenn bringing a huge Gang of Four Andy Gill attack to his guitar. All leading up the the manic build before the centerpiece lyric "And you know you're not as young as you used to be." This is vintage apb. Could've appeared on any Oily Records or Red River release from the early eighties in the best sense of that thought.
Now, before we go any further, we gotta look at our words. Writing about apb isn't an easy thing because the way they merge big looping funky bass and drums with the pure staccato spams of punk guitar and energy means that I gotta write "punky" and "funky" a million times. There just isn't any other way to describe the alchemy of their fusion. So, from now on we're gonna create our own vocabulary. Can't use p-funk cause that terms already taken so I'm gonna go with Fu-punk. Weak I know, but it's all I got.
So, having coined the fu-punk term, apb bring it on full-force with "Down at the Store," ramping up the pace and the angular slash of the guitar, and bringing in the smatterings of classic punk apathetic nihilism and materialistic discontent with a surprising romantic twist. After Iain's bass rumble and George's fist-tight beat, Glen chops the chords to pieces. Iain rails "There is no motivation anymore/every thing is sold out at the store/the outside world is a crashing bore/everything is sold out at the store/except true love."
"Electric Boy" immediately follows next with dense and heavy descending chords through it's chorus and ass-groovy fu-punky verses. This is a huge, huge song for apb and unlike anything I'd heard from them before. And dig that polyrhythic percussion breakdown. That's a band burning nitro in all cylinders.
"First Dance" percolates out next as funky as apb get, with its finger-mad bass thumping, drum attack and stinging guitar sounding like something that could've appeared on the classic "Dancability 12." Then comes the big change. I'd heard a rumor that there was a guest vocalist coming, but I gotta say it still caught me by surprise. After grooving to apb for so many years, the sound of a voice other than Iain's rather thin, nasal tone sounded as out of place as former President Bush being offered a Rhodes scholarship. Just didn't compute. No offense to Jim Sheppard, but his work on "First Dance" and the title-track "Jaguar" just seemed like an interesting idea gone wrong. But only for a moment. On repeated listens, the mix of new vocals over that classic apb fu-punk settled in my ears and found a home. It helps that "First Dance" is just an electric slice of danceable funk and that "Jaguar" explores new territory in a mid-tempo, electro-funk vein. Either way, both songs stand proudly in the apb cannon now and Jim's voice adds texture and his own nuance.
Still, I have to admit my pleasure when "Tangle Wires" pounds out next with a nasty Undertones-esque punk directness with Iain's nasal whine firmly back in place. "You Give me Pain" rounds out the 7 songs with another masterstroke of unfettered apb fu-punk perfection. Shotgun bursts of guitar searing under Iain and George's pure funk mettle. High energy, high fun, with a touch of classic snottiness. A new apb classic.
I'll be the first to admit that apb may not be for every one, but damn, if they aren't the one for me. 30 years on, and I still haven't tired of the band. And if they keep pumping it out with this much timeless energy, I bet I've got another 30 years to go.