ALEXEI SAYLE : Cak! (1982)

And now... a rather drastic change of pace. It's probably a symptom of encroaching old age but, having grown up in the 1980s with The Young Ones & The Comic Strip on VHS repeat, I still find Alexei Sayle's early routines sporadically hilarious. Cak!, recorded live at London's Le Hot Club De Cairo, was released in 1982 by short lived comedy label Springtime (they also put out Amnesty's Secret Policeman's Ball recordings & The Comic Strip's LP), & old farts will recognise large portions of it from Sayle's weekly appearances on The Young Ones, wherein he played various members of the deranged Bawolski family. However, it's interesting to hear it here, incorporated into an unexpurgated late night club set rather than conveniently chopped up/toned down for post-Watershed (just!) BBC2. Am not sure what your average 20 year old would make of it nowadays though, particularly the surfeit of Shirley Williams jokes!

On reflection, it's difficult to disagree with "alternative" comedy's initial detractors, who dismissed most it as little more than a lot of obscene shouting, but much of Sayle's early material has retained it's splenetic bite. Strip away the acerbic Scally accent & the too-tight suits & his comedic debt to the suburban surreality of Spike Milligan (albeit injected with a generous dose of unforgiving political cynicism, & with the substitution of Benito Mussolini for Adolf Hitler) & early Python becomes apparent. His subsequent, marginally more sophisticated Emmy-winning TV series Stuff still inspires very fond memories for me, as does the brilliant, alarmingly underrated - & totally forgotten - Paris sitcom. The latter, a 1994 C4 vehicle for Sayle written by Graham Linehan & Arthur Matthews (Father Ted, Black Books, Big Train, The IT Crowd, Hippies), still hasn't been released on DVD - outrageous!!


A CERTAIN RATIO : Knife Slits Water 12" (1982)

Sit me down in a pub, ply me with gassy lager & get me rambling on about Factory Records, & it'll only be a matter of time before I'm drunkenly arguing the case for The Durutti Column & A Certain Ratio being the label's definitive acts, rather than youknowwho.

Though the majority ACR's records were, in retrospect, actually rather patchy, I'd still put forward 1982's Sextet LP as one of Factory's finest releases EVER. An uncanny hybrid of grainy xeroxed ethnicity, oddly detatched Chic-isms & ghostly Miles Davis inferences, it's without a doubt the band's masterpiece. This subsequent 12" release features a totally re-recorded version of that album's highlight, the opiated sub-zero funk of "Knife Slits Water" - a noticeably gentrified rendition that extends the running time to 10 minutes, with a far slicker backing track (pre-empting the uninviting academic self-absorption of their "lost" A&M period perhaps), & a brand new Donald Johnson vocal replacing the recently departed Martha Tilson's earlier, eerier attempt (does anybody know what she's done since?). Though I'll always prefer the original LP take, there's no denying that this drastic revision sounds terrific, & that ACR were way ahead of New Order & the like when addressing the dance floor (at The Hacienda or further afield). It's closer, in fact, to contemporaneous chart worriers like Pigbag or early Lynx, though far, far superior. B-side is the disembodied 11-minute mutant disco suite, "Kether Hot Knives". Unknown pleasures indeed.

Link removed: Both sides of this single have since been reissued - on Les Temp Modernes' extended edition of I'd Like To See You Again, & Universal Sound's Sextet CD.