30th May 2014
As I have written elsewhere, somewhere or another, this is not the band on Wikipedia from Southend On Sea that does Hendrix covers – this is in fact one of the most important bands to come out of the Manchester Music Scene in the late 70s. The detailed, and very interesting, history of the band is eminently captured by Stephen Dobson in his biography of Ian Moss – The Man Who Killed The Hamsters, so I recommend that you acquire said book as it covers, in some detail, the formation, and several splits and reformations, of the band. However simply put, and as a brief introduction, three young lads, and a restless merry go round of bass players, from the eastern reaches of the Manchester conurbation decided to form a band that would challenge the conventions of the music scene, would ditch musical ability as a presumption of being able to, or indeed allowed to perform, and would rattle an awful lot of cages in doing so.
What you have here is a selected anthology of the bands output, it is not a complete history. It includes – the original recordings with Grant Showbiz for an album that never materialised; the intervening work with off-shoot band The Nightwatch Men; a radio session; two songs from the penultimate gig, and “versions” of Hamsters tunes by Sicknurse and Fall Fan Dave. The album closes with a lengthy spoken word piece by Steven Middlehurst – one of the bands founders and drummer/vocalist. The original recordings have been rescued from their somewhat parless state, mended, fettled and re-mastered, where possible (some tracks are decidely lo-fi) to create the most comprehensive collection of Hamsters related material all in one place.
Having had the pleasure of being at three of the bands final gigs I can attest to their unique approach to rock and roll and performance. It is of some regret that I never get to see them in the early days as the reviews, views and recollections all speak highly of the anarchic heart of their work. Most notable I think is the revelation that the band were deemed by John Peel too dark and disturbing to consider for a session, or indeed radio play.
As for the music – well you need to decide for yourself. If I was to be pressed to describe it I would say it veers between the cack-handed and the totally exceptional – sometimes within one song. It ignores the accepted norms of the “rock” (or indeed punk) world and gleefully explores areas and avenues that virtuoso’s and musos would have had trained and practised out of them. It says more about the original spirit of punk than any leather clad desperado with spikey hair ever could do. Someone once said that they hung somewhere between The Fall and DAF – I can see that. My best comparator I think is from the literary world – for me the band nestle somewhat haphazardly between Kurt Vonnegut, William Burroughs , Alan Bennett and Tony Warren.
With 25 tracks and over 90 minutes of music this is an excellent selection and a fitting last word on the strange and wonderful world of The Hamsters.
Available from Friday May 30th here