Officer! - Earlier Music [Klanggalerie - 2018]Earlier Music is a collection of material from the early 1980s recorded by Officer!- the decidedly wonky & sonically unwell British project helmed by Mick Hobbs( Half Japanese). The CD offers up twenty tracks in all- these move from unbalanced singer-songwriter fare, very off-kilter 80’s pop, unhinged folk rock, world music touches, and generally avant tinged genre blending. The release appeared late last year on Austrian experimental music label Klanggalerie, who in the past have reissued works by the likes of The Residents, Renaldo And The Loaf, and Un Drame Musical Instantané- so it’s the perfect label for this release.
I only have very,very vague memories of the band Half Japanese- and these where neither negative, or positive really. What pulled me into this release was reading the product description on Klanggalerie webpage, and playing the samples there. And I must say it really topped my expectations- this is classic wonky & unwell songwriting of the classic kind- mixing together often amusing & embittered with life lyrics- with off-kilter, just off-key, and un-harmonically bent music backing- all topped off with an often very British feel & sentiment.
Seemingly Officer! existented on & off from the early 1980s to the early 1990’s- with Mick Hobbs the only constant, he was joined by a revolving line-up that took in the likes of Antoine Gindt, Bill Gilonis(The Work), Daniel Koskowitz(Hellebore), & Patrick Q-Wright. The material on this CD, as its title suggests, is from early on in the band's career. Taking in two releases- 1983’s 8 New Songs & 1985’s Rough. With the twenty tracks each running between a minute & five-minute mark- with a total CD runtime of fifty-nine minutes.
Proceedings open in fine wonky 'n' manic form with the just under a minute of “Join The AA”- which sees clip, clop & bash blend percussion & roughly twanging guitar, all topped with Hobbs vocals which sounds like a speeding Syd Barret. As we move through the disc we come to “Way” with its Off-colour blend of horn & piano fairground pomp, topped with wailing/ pained sing song joint male vocals. Then there’s roughly jigging & earthy folk of “Kalenda Maya”- with droning strings, jointing penny whistle & waving female chanted vocals. Or much latter the snapping percussion, haphazard piano jiving, & wondering male vocals of “Boxers Vs Wrestler”- which from time to time stops for weird spoken word punch-lines. Really it’s a release that wonders all over the musical map in such haphazard & wonderful glee.
I must say I was very much taken by Earlier Music, and I think if you enjoy odd & wonky song-writing that liberally darts all over the music map, the you will too. Let's hope Klanggalerie reissue some more of Officer!’s back-catalogue down the line.Roger Batty