For a while at the end of 1980 this was my best album of all time. It was the perfect mixture of one chord guitar thrash, whiny vocals, underground synth drones and clockwork toys – with the odd moment of sublime pop melody.
On Friday mornings the kids usually come and hang around in my study when they’re supposed to be getting ready for school. But today, with Jane From Occupied Europe on repeat play, they kept their distance. Eventually 10 year old came in and said she’d been listening to it from her bedroom. She told me about two songs she liked (‘Cake SHop Girl’ and ‘Whatever Happens Next…’ I think).
10 year old: I like it. It’s nice and rocky. But the singing is terrible. It’s a bit scary. Do they sing badly on purpose? But this is good. (She was referring to the 8 minute instrumental ‘Collision With a Frogman vs. the Mangrove Delta Plan’ which is like a theme tune for a spooky kids TV series that never got made)
Then she went off downstairs to brush her hair.
At quarter to nine 7 year old came up to say goodbye. I asked him what he thought of Swell Maps.
The kids dance funky style then wiggle their hips, jerking their arms about like little robots. Then when the vocals start they both look at each other with pained expressions and start laughing.
10 year old: That was good until they started singing.
7 year old: Why are they singing like that?
They continue to look troubled as the jerky chorus comes in, then start laughing again. 10 year old starts to tell me about The Little Mermaid, the Disney film, and they both start to do some sort of fishy dance. It’s the two basses sound that they like, though can’t quite explain it. 10 year old starts a robobtic, hippy jive but looks concerned.