Wild Mercury Sound

Feed Your Head With Prog. And Sufjan Stevens

John Mulvey

Another Thursday morning just behind the Tate Modern, but today we are riding our goblin ship guided by a mermaid. Yes, the new issue of Uncut has arrived and the free CD is on our fancy new stereo. It's called "Fill Your Head With Prog", and it's just about good enough to convince you that punk was nothing more than a minor local disturbance. In 1978, surely, the only place to be was the Deeply Vale Festival with a flagon of Owsley's Peculier, watching Steve Hillage play "Hurdy Gurdy Man" for the best part of a month?

I exaggerate of course, but only a bit. Allan has put together a terrific CD, I think (and I'm not just saying that because I work for him, I promise), which forces us to rethink our prejudices about prog. This is unambiguously progressive music, but it's not much like the turgid pomp of people like ELP either.

Instead, a lot of the stuff collected here has a fluency, humanity and invention which is really appealing. I'm particularly taken with The Way We Live and Tractor, two manifestations of the same Rochdale collective who push the British psychedelic aesthetic into a place which is at once gnarly and graceful.

Some stuff here I know already, but is terrific to here again. Aphrodite's Child's "The Four Horsemen", in which Vangelis and Demis Roussos rampantly invent The Verve. Wigwam I wrote about here, and I posted something about White Noise a while back, too. We just discovered, incidentally, that all the panting sex noises on the White Noise album were genuine, covertly recorded by David Vorhaus whenever he got someone into his bed. Charming.

Best of all, the one track I find unlistenable - by the utterly wretched Van Der Graaf Generator - is right at the end, so I never even have to bother skipping it. I know this all reads a bit like magazine hype, but please give it a listen and, if Sham 69 still sound preferable to you, tell me what a pitiful hippy I am.

One more thing today. An excellent new track by Sufjan Stevens has appeared online here. Unless you've heard a few of the rockier tracks on "A Sun Came", you'd never guess this was Stevens, since it forsakes chamber pop for a cranky garage rock that's reminiscent of Pavement circa "Wowee Zowee". I like it.


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