Lost My Head For Drink - Bloodloss (Dirty Knobby/SubPop)

lost-my-headFourteen years old by now, "Lost My Head for Drink" sounds both ahead of its time and retro, and has an elusive timeless quality. Who else puts out such a fabulous mixture of mellow tunes and stifling ferocity? Rock discovered parallel with caustic, free-flying jazz? This version of Bloodloss is its own genre. Simple as that.

No? Look, you know that famous American painting Nighthawks at the Diner? Well, this lp is like that, but more real, more gritty, less smooth but a lot more emotional and substantially more fucking elegant. Ennui and boredom be buggered, in "Lost My Head for Drink", Bloodloss have a classic LP.

Now, there's no cd as yet, which is just fine because "Lost My Head for Drink" reminds me of hearing a seriously progressive, feet on the ground lost '70s classic. A sensation enhanced by slitting open the plastic wrap, sliding out the record in its paper sleeve, and carefully sliding out the vinyl itself and placing it on my worn and shitty turntable.

Bad news - the cover is utterly awful. On the other hand, this fits right in with most '70s record sleeves, especially the hand-drawn ones. The rear cover shows a torn-up blac-and-white shot of a blurry Bloodloss laid down over what looks like a photo Ren once took of my then-local train station. Because "Lost My Head for Drink" elegantly references so much Stooges (Funhouse, including the tracks everyone seems to skip) and free jazz (no names, figure it out) it would be wonderful to see a simple, properly designed cover - hell, Mingus Mingus Mingus, with our hero scrunched into a kiddie kart springs to mind, as does the "Fun House" gatefold. But this, dear friends and disbelievers, is to quibble.

"Lost My Head for Drink" is a mighty record, and one which you should have in your collection. No, a download is not good enough, and nor, when it arrives, is a CD.

Speaking of Ren (again) for a moment, he's disproportionately all over "Lost My Head for Drink". His sax and guitar is instantly recognisable, as is his heavily disguised voice, and his obvious smeary make-up provides a transient depth and poignance the LP's face would otherwise be without. However ... I've seen all of these gentlemen perform, and it's clear to me that first, without Martin's considerable balancing input (his drums are fantastic, intelligent as well as impulsive) and Guy's elusively hypnotic bass-lines (powerful and subtle, difficult combination to achieve) Ren would just be wailing and growling with the wind riffling through the holes in his jeans. It also occurs to me that, had they been able to sort themselves out, Bloodloss should've toured this lLP. You can hear how, in the excitement of treading the dirty boards, the jazz would've roared and the stops would've had either an ugly, pinpoint accuracy or a dervish genius. The balance would've been different.

"Lost My Head for Drink" is also a template for a killer live show.

Which brings me to Mark. Who is a bona fide Rock Star. You may even have heard of him. And who, therefore, you would naturally expect to dominate his fellows with cokey fingers and snotty sulks. But no. Mark's work here is very good, even fine, but not to the fore. If anything, Mark Arm taken a relatively rear seat, which is an incredible thing for a Rock Star to do. Given that he was very taken with Ren, Martin and Guy as the forceful guts of Lubricated Goat and wanted to join them immediately, resulting in not one band but two (Monkeywrench is a different kettle of prawns) I can only suggest Mark must feel privileged to be part of Bloodloss.

When Ren turned up in Adelaide in the early noughties, he had several things with him. One of which was a burn of this LP, rather different since it hadn't been finished (some vocals, some sax etc) and with a few tracks not on this lp if memory serves (no, I'm not going to check. Piss off) so the CD of "Lost My Head for Drink" will be even more remarkable than it is now.

Knowing the disarray Bloodloss were in when they made this LP, I expected a shed-load of angry skronk laden with tuneless sax.

Imagine my surprise and delight ...

The first side is nightmarish. I won't name songs here, discover them for yourselves, I'll give you a few quotes just to hint...

From the opening track we know we're in for a sophisticated story of desolation and lonely recognition of failure. On its own, that sounds like it's utterly miserable - no, girls and boys, what we have here is mesmerising, uplifting, joyous ... the levels of obvious self-realisation layered in are all the more remarkable - hell, the (unattributed, so I s'pose that's Mark) sleeve notes indicate that these songs aren't just songs. There's real emotion, real experience here; 'Don't make me get up again!'

I love the Can/ Beefheart nods in the second song. "This is all I've got, all I'm gonna be ... if I had wings, if I had fins …"

Ren's sax is spot-on in the third song. In fact, Ren hits the spot each and every time throughout the lp. It's magnificent - really, especially since he's self-taught. The guitar here is just superb ... elegant and rough. God, the guitar doesn't just nod to the Stooges, it even nods to the Easybeats' "Sorry".

The fourth song begins like purposeful jazz-fusion. I have to confess I hated most jazz-fusion, mostly because the jazzers had no idea about rock 'n' roll. Here we have a bunch of acid-rockers also hooked on hard jazz. 'Do you wanna see a grown man's brains melt down?'. Yes, factories stink, and yes, I've worked in one. Fortunately the place has now been razed to the polluted dirt. More enjoyable than Patti Smith's drawly - and over-rated - "Piss Factory" (maaan). The wah and sax, burning with distinct intent, raging over an addictive, hypnotic rhythm against ... our own stupidities, our own human condition.

By now I'm reeling. What I'm hearing is better than the disc Ren brought back - I'm travelling on a dark journey beneath the bypasses of the everyday, mingling with the jobless poor, the cold unemployed.

The last track on side one (I love writing that phrase, so I'll write it again) side one (there!) is a measured, pull-you-in beat mixed with expert sax and Ren's distinctive helpless self-hate. But ... it's not that simple, it's not just self-hate at his condition, but a regretful recognition as well. And there's more, but I'll leave it to you to dig a little deeper.

It strikes me that if you're looking for song to leap out and make you dance or jump up and down in a crowd, you should be told to keep the fuck away. All the songs here entice you in with slinking rhythm, beguiling, devastating wah guitar and sax. Guy's bass lines are simple but strongly poetic. He goes to the meat of the matter, and you follow, whether you like it or not.|

And then, come side two (again, come side two) they fake us out. Maybe we're in for more of the same. It's as if what happened on the first side was a teaser, in fact. "Why did I take this road? Why did I take this path? Wide open road, wide open mouth. I can't drive this hotrod." Incredibly eloquent, incredibly sad. Helplessness in the face of addiction. Now this is a track which, live, would wipe the floor with any of their previous bands. Here we are, deep in the heart of ... I'm choking up. Sorry.

And then ... we're slip-sliding along into Bland's lyric, and the title track. "I lost my head in the South China Sea, there it is on the shore, staring back at me." This is where redemption slots into place, folks. Horror and humour, a "bland" trait (ever heard Salamander Jim's 'Black Car"? Should've been a hit).

Typically Bloodloss, they jokingly create a sort of lost glam song next, but forget the lyrics. Another hit, but in very traditional Bloodloss form, they don't pursue it. Bastards, really.

By the time of our 10th track we're into backstreets noir territory again dragged in, fascinated, hypnotised, wondering where we're going next, this time via Lunch's "Queen of Siam", with sardonic deadpan doggerel taking the place of lyrics. Mr Bland, I presume? 'Have a stroke with a smile', indeed.

The second to last track is almost hysterical in its apparent irrelevance to what's gone before, but in the context ... it makes sense, the jazzy brawl more akin to their Truth is Marching In recordings ... it's almost like they're attempting to return to normal.

Whatever normal is for Bloodloss, the last track swaggers with laidback menace ... "the fog rolls in and the fog rolls out ... now I'm without'" It's a perfect end to the lp, implying they've reached an end but there's a lot more to come.

"Lost My Head for Drink" is a minor classic and it deserves a much wider audience than the pissy number of LPs issued. Although I'll still be listening to the '80s Bloodloss in 20 years, that's partly my background, that period is as much a part of me as my hair, nails and teeth, and I reckon I could probably rub along without them.

But this little bleeder, I'll be also listening to because it stands alone without my background.

If you're expecting skronk you're gonna be disappointed. If you know you dig intelligent music pushing itself to find real expression, you're about to get excited all over again.

Album of the week I listened to it in.

rollingrollingrollingrollingrollingrolling

Six fucking bottles, Barman. Six. You hear me?

Tags: punk, punkrock, subpop, bloodloss, lost my head for drink, jazz

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