Sunday, November 14, 2010

Scientist: An Exercise In Nostalgia

I recently experienced a moment of Proustian remembrance, (it is remembrance Sunday after all). No Madelaines were involved though, only music which, along with food or taste, has to be the most evocative form of self-expression. Anyway, I digress. Scientist has just released a new album on Bristol dubstep label Tectonic 'Scientist Launches Dubstep Into Outer Space.' Now I haven't even got around to listening to it yet, but no matter. Quite apart from anything Scientist has ever worked on, or how influential he's been, (good article about/interview with him in this months Wire), what I've missed are the sleeves.

Like a lot of music lovers of my generation, I went through an intense reggae phase. There were many reasons for this: the close affinity that punk had for reggae, their dual rise to prominence, Bob Marley's arrival on these shores during punk's golden period and his recording of "Punky Reggae Party" as well as the explosion of Jamaican artistic talent, harnessed to a large extent by Virgin's Front Line offshoot. I could go on . . .My discovery of weed as a life-enhacing substance helped a lot, as did John Peel, whose devotion to Misty In Roots in the early eighties was as intense as his championing of The Fall. In any case, it seemed a natural progression from punk. Black music was what I gradually fell into during the eighties and beyond, reggae being the first form I embraced, soon to be followed by jazz and then african (bit of an umbrella term there I suppose. Just to say that King Sunny Ade and Fela, different though they were, formed my first excursions into the music of the dark continent.) Apart from Probe in Liverpool, the best record shop I have ever had the pleasure to spend lots of money in, Reaction Records in New Brighton was the place to go. Run by two hippies confusingly called Rob and Rob, it could always be relied on to have most of what one wanted in times of desperation.

This isn't a Scientist love-in, I didn't even have many of his releases, just one or two. The one I had that I remember most was, I think, the record that marked his arrival into comic book sleeve design, 'Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires.' A dub album, pure and simple, and from what I can remember a very uncomplicated piece of work. Predictably heavy riddims offset by moaning and crying as vampires sank their teeth into the necks of virgins and other willing victims. All I think about when I remember that record is what a battering the cover took as it was the skinner upper's weapon of choice. My bedroom was a regular opium den in those days, and the size of my mum's house! It was/is really small. I'd go up to my room with some mates and we'd get wrecked, hitting the knives on a calour gas and rolling joints on sundry album covers, all under the glare of my red light bulb.

So, I haven't even played the new Scientist album yet, but that isn't really the point, is it? It's often enough to have these things in order to remind us first hand about what things were like and how, if we can be arsed, they can be again.

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