Friday, December 23, 2011

The Deviants: "Ptoof!"

Back in the days of free festivals there was an ignoble tradition of the ad hoc band that would appear from somewhere or other and take an eternity to set up a bunch of bashed up amplifiers and a barely functioning PA system. Eventually they would get out their guitars and start playing something barely recognizable as music and stoned people would lurch about to it. Hawkwind set the template but the tradition started here – with The Deviants. This, their first album, was recorded in 1967 with £700 of Nigel Samuel’s money and pressed up in a limited edition of 8000 copies, housed in a luxurious poster fold out sleeve and sold via mail order through International Times. Oh, if only it was chock full of great music, if only it was the great underground masterpiece. It ain’t and it isn’t. Mick Farren had everything going for him - the looks, the clothes, the attitude, the street cred – but he couldn’t sing for toffee. That’s not to say this record isn’t entertaining - it is. As a bona-fide 1967 curio it’s worth the price of admission but the period humour hasn’t aged well – the attempts at self-referential irony are teeth-grindingly embarrassing – but there are some rather touching moments, such as the acoustic numbers “Child Of The Sky” and “Bun” which really don’t sound quite like anything else of the period. The blues based “Charlie” is simply appalling but the “heavy” freak-out numbers possess the odd moment or two of genuine menace. If only it were sustained then we could legitimately point to this record as being the progenitor of UK Punk that revisionist critics wish it was and claim it to be. Amateurish it is, but amateurishness itself is not a virtue unless it reveals hitherto unsuspected talent. Sadly, this is not the case with The Deviants - or any of their mutant children: Pink Fairies etc. Compared to the likes of Syd Barrett’s Floyd, or the Soft Machine, this is just a bunch of bullshit. But hey! Don’t let me spoil the fun. It’s not about the music, after all. It was an Event, a Happening of sorts, and on that level it’s still quite funny – if extraordinarily paranoid. The cover was a genuine bit of period pop art. Too bad they can’t re-issue THAT.

1 comment:

  1. I like this album and you have hurt my feelings.