Wild Mercury Sound

New Rave '97: The Lo-Fidelity All Stars revisited

John Mulvey

In these heady days of New Rave and such, it was heartening to be reminded this morning of the last time British bands tried to pull off that trick. "Warming Up The Brain Farm: The Best Of The Lo-Fidelity All Stars" turned up in the post. And amazingly, ten years on, it sounds great.

The Lo-Fis, if you missed them first time, were a bunch of faintly shady gents who sloped out of the big beat scene with a kind of malign, acid-tinged brand of indie-dance. It was easy to be a sceptic about them, not least because they were fronted by a chronically paranoid man called Dave who adopted a moody street poet persona and went by the name of The Wrekked Train.

We didn't call them New Rave back then, of course. Someone at NME came up with the idea of summoning up a scene around them and the often hilarious Campag Velocet. Skunk Rock, we called it. The indie nation, however, were far too busy listening to Travis and the Stereophonics at the time, probably. History, I would have guessed, couldn't have been kind to them.

But as I write, "Blisters On My Brain" is playing, a propulsive disco rant that samples the Breeders' "Cannonball" and is fantastic. Next up is "Battleflag", their intense hijacking of an old Pigeonhed track, which I remember being obsessed with back in the day, and which I suspect I'm going to be hammering for the next week or two.

The late '90s was a weird time for music, I seem to remember, because while there were just as many good records as ever, most of them were very hard to write about for the music weeklies. The Lo-Fis were a gift to us, because they had massive self-conscious attitude, very daft names and music that fused the current dance scene with rock'n'roll classicism in a very seductive way.

As a result, plenty of people were very keen to dismiss them as hyped chancers. The Wrekked Train skulked off just as they were edging towards popularity, leaving his bandmates to soldier on and do implausibly well in America without him. They made another album, which I don't remember as being much good. When I get to the tracks from it on this comp, maybe that'll prove to be a revelation too.

But how nice to discover that something which seemed so ephemeral, a daft fad, has aged so well. Have a good weekend, everyone; I know I promised a bunch of previews this week (notably Robert Wyatt) that I haven't got round to writing. Next week, trust me, I'll do my best. The Super Furry Animals album is meant to be on its way, too.


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