Last summer, we reviewed Modern Camping Songs, a quirky cassette from a pair of Stourbridges (or almost a pair, as one eighth is missing). The follow-up continues in the same vein, unapologetically weird yet clearly creative. While last year’s cassette was compared to the movie Moonrise Kingdom, the new work is akin to Ed Wood, the story of Plan 9 From Outer Space and other bizarre space-age productions.
Many different styles are represented, and even different recording levels. The tape kicks off to a Public Service Broadcasting-style sampled groove, with deep bass, synthesizer, banjo, a telephone, screams and a lion’s growl. From there, the album turns to the electronic arena (of course ~ one isn’t going to record a country album about alien abduction!). “Mattachins” provides the beeps and brass that one might associate with a black-and-white sci-fi film, followed by gurgles and glockenspiels. The final seconds contain barks and meows from a child’s toy, à la Twink. The kitchen sink is probably in there too. The listener begins to realize that One And Seven Eighths is willing to use whatever is within reach in order to entertain; and entertain they do.
The album grows darker as it continues, wandering into dark ambience and drone (“An Accordion Under the Subway”, “And All I Remember Was The Sound Of The Dripping Tap”, “Landing In A Nearby Field”). While the contrast created by these tracks may keep the duo from our Happiest Music chart this year, the additional depth is a welcome sign of progress. The playfulness resurfaces on Side B, with the Atari pinging of “They Didn’t Include Me In Their Little Joke” and the toybox rhythms of “Dreams of Lennie Bennett”, followed by the laughter and sound effects of “Now Please Leave”. (Bennett was an English comedian and game show host.)
We recommend that listeners skip over “Alien Abduction and Rectal Probing”, because really, how many Uranus jokes are still funny? “He Spends So Much Of Her Time Alone” is unnecessary, but not offensive; it’s simply a vocal track where none belongs. Wipe your minds of these in order to enjoy the rest of an otherwise instrumental album. In contrast, the track between these two contains a repeated three-word phrase (“rain came out”), but its delivery is so spooky that it adds to the mood, rather than sidelining it.
As Ashley Cole and Graham McElroy continue on their strange journey, we recommend further explorations of unusual territory. Now that camping and outer space have been covered, perhaps the next tape will take place in a zoo, or a circus, or an amusement park. The duo (-1/8) is carving out a very peculiar niche, and we’re enjoying their journey to an unknown destination. (Richard Allen)