INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Trouser Press JUNE 1981 - by Robert Payes
ROBERT FRIPP: THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN / BRIAN ENO & DAVID BYRNE: MY LIFE IN THE BUSH OF GHOSTS
Welcome to Drums And Tape Recorders, in which studio genius vies with ensemble playing in an attempt to get the most people dancing while simultaneously stroking their brain cells. Pussyfooting it sure isn't...
After the somewhat arbitrary funk-plus-Frippertronics of God Save The Queen, The League Of Gentlemen - an offbeat moniker; bassist Sara Lee is definitely no gentleman! - is reassuringly in-context. Lee and drummer Kevin Wilkinson supply driving if somewhat perfunctory rhythm, while organist Barry Andrews devises ginchy hook and swell that defy the limitation of Farfisa organ. On top of this, Fripp rips out brittle, bristlingly concise guitar runs ranging from Stax/Volt playfulness (Heptaparaparshinokh, which is easier to play than to say) to Crimsonoid menace (Minor Man, with a yelping Beefhearty vocal from cover illustrator Danielle Dax.)
Fripp's production is as straightforward and gizmo-free as a demo tape's, if aurally superior. Unfortunately, The League play on only eight of the fourteen tracks; the remainder consists of Andrews experimenting with the Frippertronic loop on his organ, and a trio of Fripp tape collages which juxtapose J. G. Bennett lectures, female orgasm, two women giddily reciting "ding, dong and Fripp," and other equally relevant bits. Next time, how about more ding dong and less Fripp? (Or is it the other way around?)
The Eno/Byrne collaboration places the funky density of Talking Head' Remain In Light in context, using semi-standard funk riffs as foundations for strange and fascinating music. The two principals take no individual credit for specific instrumentation, combining their talents instead into a synergetic whole. Eno employ the recording studio (his real "axe") to enhance, alter and pile up track into crystalline fortresses of solitude.
My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts' unconventional vocals are "found" voices post-synched to the music. Thus the exploding no-wave clatter of America Is Waiting supports the treated voice of an irate radio announcer, and Regiment sets the holy wails of a Lebanese mountain singer to an effortless Busta Jones/Chris Frantz funk vamp.
These matings occasionally produce sardonic results. The throbbing rhythm of Help Me Somebody throw a secular light on its bootlegged radio evangelist's exhortations. Moonlight In Glory blurs the boundary between revival meeting and voodoo ceremony. This is not to imply that the entire record bops; Eno obeys the law of entropy, and by the end of side two the songs are treading the dreamy, no-rhythm path of Music For Films.
"America is waiting for a message of some sort or another," mutters the pissed-off radio host on the album's opening track. Maybe the message is that a bunch of iconoclastic Anglo-Americans can make us think and dance - two actions which have never been mutually exclusive .