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Articles 84-86

Record Reviews

Gig Reviews

Articles 87-89

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Reviews

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Sounds

11th August 1984

By Andy Hurt

 

JESUS FREAKS

OKAY, so there are only six titles on 'Good And Gone' and it does play at 45 rpm, but this record thoroughly deserves its place among the album review pages, heralding as it does the arrival on disc of the Screaming Blue Messiahs, a new trio of been-around-a-bit geezers who brazenly fart in the face of fashion with their (be prepared to wince) rhythm and blues! – I know, I know.

There's no dodging initial comparisons with Dr Feelgood, a link that's underlined by Vic Maile as producer.

'Good And Gone' should really be regarded as a companion piece to the Messiahs' live blitzkrieg, but SBM still fare far better on record than did their Oil City predecessors, and in the substantial form of Bill Carter there's a mad axeman awesome enough to put the fear of God into anyone.

The 'album' splits 50-50 into the camps of rhythm and blues with the staggering masterpiece 'Someone To Talk To' opening affairs on side one.

This song is a total justification of the Messiahs' existence, and if they disappeared forever tomorrow they will not have laboured in vain. It's hard not to pick up the needle before track two and play this scorcher over and over again until that coronary finally catches up with you. A song to die for.

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Stylus Magazine

15th December 2004

By Jason Pettigrew

 

SOME OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS

The Screaming Blue Messiahs – Good and Gone [Good and Gone EP] 

I have fond memories of seeing Screaming Blue Messiahs guitarist Bill Carter conduct himself like a hybrid mutant of classic British six-string abuser Wilko Johnson (who vertically karate-chopped his strings in lieu of actual strumming) and freakish wrestler George “The Animal” Steele (who liked to chew up turnbuckles in the ring). While shored up by bassist Chris Thompson and tireless drummer Kenny Harris, Carter would beat the living shit out of his collection of Telecasters, as well as himself (I once saw him slice his thumb meat on an A-string at a gig), while spitting out crazy non sequiturs, seemingly one step ahead of state hospital orderlies. The Messiahs’ stock-in-trade was delivering a brand of jagged, chewed-up roots rock, spat back in the face of Americans over the course of three albums on Elektra. Their unhinged ferocity is the biggest reason why I’ve never cared for much of anything in the vein of insurgent country/y’allternative, or whatever they’re calling it in NYC and Nashville these days. (I do know that NO DEPRESSION magazine majordomo Grant Alden is a huge SBM fan.) This track, from their UK-only 1984 debut mini-LP of the same name, is a blast of angular, pub-rockin’ roots fury, approximating the Gun Club jamming with Captain Beefheart and Gang Of Four’s Andy Gill in one of those wide, gurney-accommodating hospital elevators. To slightly paraphrase Jim Thirlwell: if you’re gonna get down, get down and prey…

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Reviews

Melody Maker

19th April 1986


By Colin Irwin

 

OLD, GIFTED AND BLUE

This is the album The Clash meant to make when they recorded "Cut The Crap". No messing... the Messiahs are ugly brutes who don't pansy around with pretty production techniques or shrinking pretensions of art – they have the primitive basics of rock music in sharp focus and they don't take any detours in delivering it. No frills here, just thrills.

There are many allusions to be drawn in their sparse ferocity... Talking Heads on 'Talking Doll', the Stones on 'Wild Blue Yonder', early Clash on 'Smash The Market Place', The Skids on 'Let's Go Down To The Woods', and the thread of modern urban blues binding the rest of it all together.

You don't need to interview them, you don't need to analyse, you just know... the Messiahs understand. They have a gut instinct for the roots of blues and R'n'B and from that sure base they can confidently blast their way through Bill Carter's extraordinarily powerful selection of songs.

Their most arrogant aggression as they pound through the numbingly percussive 'Talking Doll' is astonishing for a band of relative inexperience and there's a perversity about 'President Kennedy's Mile' and 'Clear View' that aligns them as much with oddball American bands like SWANS as with the more obvious R'n'B tradition.

The final track, the truly momentous 'Killer Born Man' even recalls The Fall as Carter hoarsely chokes his way through a veritable barrage of garbled imagery while the rhythm pounds menacingly on. There's something very exciting about a three-piece band with their hackles up and 'Gun-Shy' doesn't even knock at the door before it boots its way into your living room.

With the writing clearly on the wall for the pin-up bands, it needs an album as strong as this to explode the current lethargy of pop music. 'Wild Blue Yonder' and 'Just For Fun' should be enough to jolt some heads, while the true grit of 'Twin Cadillac Valentine' and 'Killer Born Man' on side two should really drop them for the full count.

A great album.

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Unknown Vancouver newspaper

1986
By Tom Harrison

 

Socio-political rockabilly? Yeah!

Rhythm and blues with a punk snottiness? Sounds great. Bald white Bo-Diddleyisms? Meet Bill Carter, guitarist and singer for Screaming Blue Messiahs.

Comparisons for this English band have ranged from Dr Feelgood to The Clash and, naturally, I have a few of my own. SBM aren't as boozey and bluesy as a pub rock band is expected to be, nor does it write and perform at the larger-than-life scale The Clash operated on. They fall in line with such mid-to-late '70s bands as The Stranglers (Carter has Hugh Cornwell's sneering demeanor), 999 or The Members. Hard hitting, trim and fit rock and roll energy.

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NME

10th May 1986

By Andy Gill

 

TALLY HO!

The cover of The Screaming Blue Messiahs' first mini-album/EP 'Good And Gone' captures their music perfectly: a posse of WW2 Grumman fighters cruising above the clouds, sleek, swift beasts on the warpath, looking to swoop down out of the sky and devastate. I hadn't realised, until I heard 'Gun-Shy', just how very sleek they've become. The sound on this LP is more compressed, less raucously aggressive than on their earlier records; it's been chopped and channelled to a more streamlined form, a real low rider that looks as good as it moves. On the strength of this album, I'd say the Messiahs are going to be very, very big indeed.

Like ZZ Top, they've learnt their disco lessons well: the majority of the tracks on 'Gun-Shy' chug along at an eminently danceable array of beats per minute, which, allied to their power-trio line-up, successfully duplicates the Texan boogie baron's hit formula. In place of ZZ Top's tumbleweed wit and irony, however, they have a kind of refined anger that's peculiarly post-punk British; they may lack the long beards, too, but singer/guitarist Bill Carter substitutes the Brit equivalent, a shiny shiny pate.

'Smash The Market Place' is the most overt, straightforwardly angry of the songs on offer here. It's where Carter's annoyance most closely approaches that of 'Mad' Joe Strummer, both in terms of subject matter – dig that great rock-dogma title, the envy of even an X-Moore! – and vocal styling, here hoarse and unrefined.

Carter's lyrical concerns can be quite bewildering. "Suck on that dummy, you holiday head / It must be something you ate", he snarls on 'Holiday Head'. The major part of the LP's like that, a diffuse array of discontent spread over ten tracks, culminating in the semi-hard-rock-rap of 'Killer Born Man', a summation of sorts which contains lines as cryptic as "I'm not going to make like Buckminster Fuller". In what way, one wonders? Like Lydon's PiL and Fier's Golden Palominos, there's a reclamation of hard rock going on here, a picking up of the thread that got woven into heavy-metal penile dementia a couple of decades back. More than those two outfits, however, Bill Carter exemplifies the changing role of the guitar in the heavy-rock power-trio format: no longer do we have the solo tour-de-force of a Clapton or Hendrix, which paved the way, ultimately, for HM; today's six-string virtuoso, courtesy improved studio technology, must fulfil, as Carter does here, a variety of textural and ambient functions, as well as provide the instrumental focus. In this respect, he's aided immeasurably by the ability of both drummer Kenny Harris and bassist Chris Thompson to move into any aural space left temporarily vacant, as when the former launches into double-time drums on the mighty, rolling 'Twin Cadillac Valentine'.

In a year in which the goods are coming mainly from overseas – PiL, Palominos, Prince, Chills – The Screaming Blue Messiahs have produced one of the greater British offerings. They've swapped the bludgeon for the stiletto, and they're cutting up a treat. Just watch 'em fly!

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Rolling Stone

No. 485

23rd October 1986


By David Fricke

 

The Screaming Blues guitar of strumming bald Messiah Bill Carter is unlike anything else in Brit rock's current lexicon of popular twang. Compared to Big Country's Celtic reveille and the cathedral clang of innumerable U2 clones, Carter's stabbing leads and the angry rumble of his rhythmic chording sound like a crawl through broken glass. Against the fierce backbeat of bassist Chris Thompson and drummer Kenny Harris, Carter fires bursts of staccato chord fire and accents his haranguing vocals with jet-stream phasing and feedback squeals. In one song, a knockout rocker called "Talking Doll," he plays chiming harmonics over what sounds like a car backfiring before he jolts into harsh chords – all in the first fifteen seconds. What makes Gun-Shy more than just a dynamite sound-effects record is Carter's knack for fashioning solid tunes out of his thrash. His fat, serrated chords and nervous tremolo lines in "Holiday Head" gel into taut, Clash-style rock. "Smash the Market Place," with Harris and Thompson galloping hard behind Carter's catscratch fills, could be a great, lost London Calling outtake. (There's more than a taste of Joe Strummer in Carter's outraged bray.) "You're Gonna Change" is actually a Hank Williams hit from 1949, but Carter customizes the song with a heavy blues stomp and rippling guitar that sound like Captain Beefheart knee-deep in Delta mud.

All this guitar dementia makes it hard to decipher Carter's lyrics, but his six strings speak volumes about the Screaming Blue Messiahs' fighting spirit. Even in "Let's Go Down to the Woods," when he sings, "Let's go down to the woods and pray/Pray, pray for a brighter day," Carter makes it plain with his sunburst chords and the sarcastic cluck of his rhythm guitar that nothing gets done on bended knee. And Gun-Shy is just the thing to get you on your feet.

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The Washington Post

18th July 1986

By J.D. Considine

 

Messiahs: Good Ol' Guitarwork

For all the talk these days about synthesisers, digital samplers and all the other electronic musical marvels, it's still hard to top an electric guitar as the essential rock instrument. Even in Britain, where the pop market often seems hopelessly in thrall to novelty, the guitar remains bottom line for most bands.

The Screaming Blue Messiahs, in fact, seem virtually all guitar. Sure, there's enough drum and bass behind this power trio to give 'Gun-Shy', the band's American debut, plenty of dancefloor punch. But it's Bill Carter's guitarwork that sets the tone and dominates the sound. Carter is basically a rhythm player, not a soloist, and he employs a big, beefy sound reminiscent of Belefegore or Killing Joke. But where the others rely on a stripped-down new wave approach to rhythm guitar, Carter has a taste for rock classics, sneaking country flourishes into 'Twin Cadillac Valentine' and underscoring 'Smash The Market Place' with stinging Bo Diddley licks.

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NME

28th June 1986

By William Leith 

 

The Wild Blue Yonder (WEA) This little stretch of contained brutality hardly ever peaks or troughs, but just tears up everything in its path – a consistent volley of kidney-punches and spleen-jabs rather than any flashes or flares. It's a pair of sneering guitars in rather vicious counterpoint with a snare-drum and lines like "When the killing's done". It doesn't really stop, it just gets fainter and fainter, on its way to tear somebody else to pieces.

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Reviews

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Sounds

31st October 1987


By Ann Scanlon

 

IN TOP GEAR

Sometimes good guys don't wear white but, fronted by Bill Carter, The Screaming Blue Messiahs come across like the meanest and darkest of them all.

Back, after a long silence, with dual openers 'Sweet Water Pools' and 'Bikini Red', the Messiahs appear to have fled the madness of the city and taken refuge on safe and starlit beaches.

But that's on the surface only. The post-'Gun-Shy' Messiahs are as obsessed as ever with concrete, cars and homicide only this time their psyche is more deranged, their delivery more manic.

Take the dance destruction of 'All Shook Down', the slow grind of 'Big Brother Muscle' or the effortless rock 'n' roll of '55 The Law' which features Michael Ryan and Jerry Lee Lewis in a suburban breakout: "I didn't like my neighbours so I blew them all away, didn't like my neighbours on such a nice day".

'Too Much Love' and 'Sweet Water Pools' both reek of a similar desire to escape and annihilate, but 'Bikini Red' reveals a sharp sense of humour as well. This is drawn out on the combat Clash crunch of 'I Can Speak American' and more immediately on 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone' and 'Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge'.

That said, the song this record is most likely to be remembered for is a distinct departure from anything the Messiahs have done before. It's the closing 'Waltz', a eulogy for Carter's mother and a fine testament to love and life.

The Screaming Blue Messiahs might never get round to wearing white, but their hearts are still beating in all the right places.

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Q

January 1988

By Andy Gill

 

Screaming Blue Messiahs: Bikini Red

WITH THEIR LAST album Gun-Shy, The Screaming Blue Messiahs suggested that, with a little focusing, they might easily grow into Britain's equivalent of ZZ Top – an '80s high-tech boogie crew more at home on in-car stereo than living-room hi-fi.

Bikini Red consummates this possibility, laying down the kind of fluid powerdrive they only achieved on the two or three best tracks of Gun-Shy ('Holiday Head', 'Clear View', 'Wild Blue Yonder'). It's the best driving album since the likes of Eliminator and Afterburner, made all the more effective by the slightly off-centre, disturbed British worldview of singer/guitarist/crazy baldhead Bill Carter.

Carter all but lives in his big American muscle car, apparently. It shows. Bikini Red opens with a few words exchanged as you strap in beside him, followed by a few hammered chords of Gershwin's 'Blue Rhapsody', and all of a sudden you're barreling down the outside lane with 'Sweet Water Pools', the G-force pressing you back info the contoured seat. You'll be there for the duration of the album. Even the low-key, haunting title-track (mysteriously chosen as the first single) has the internal sodium throb of the road, with almost subliminal cop radio and siren noises to complete the effect.

It's the uptempo cruisers that really go some, though; things like 'Big Brother Muscle', a pure speed song whose brilliantly discordant screech of a guitar solo captures the white-line fever perfectly. Or the speedball rockabilly of '55-The Law'. Or 'Jesus Chrysler Drives A Dodge' – what a title! – which hammers along regardless whilst first one guitar line goes discreetly barmy, then the other wigs out completely. Lyrically, Carter's devised his own kind of free-associative street poetry for these songs, the street in this case comprised of burnt rubber and blacktop receding to infinity, rather than the picturesque brick-wall of punky photo-opportunity.

There's something about Carter's stridency, however, and that generally hectic pace of things throughout, that summons ghosts of Strummer and The Clash, especially on the medium-paced 'Lie Detector'. But Carter's too indebted to the USA to be that bored with it. 'I Can Speak American' depicts him as a cheerful victim of Yankee cultural imperialism, speaking American "like Charlie Chan, Lois Lane and Superman", whilst a marimba sound bounces around the mix, accenting the song towards Latin America, and Carter pulls out another stinging, metallic guitar break.

It's got hit written all over it, as has the hugely enjoyable trash-culture paean 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone', which comes complete with snatches of Bedrock dialogue, Fred calling for Wilma in his best foghorn roar, and a catchy chorus of "Yabba Dabba Doo Time". Car tunes to cartoons: The Screaming Blue Messiahs have all the essential requirements for survival in the modern world. Strap yourself in.

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Rolling Stone

No. 514

3rd December 1987


By David Browne

 

On their first full-length album, last year's Gun-Shy, the Screaming Blue Messiahs came across as the great white hope of British punk. On that record, and on their 1984 U.K. EP Good and Gone, the Messiahs – guided by the neurotic, nuclear-obsessed themes of their dome-headed frontman, Bill Carter – merged rockabilly, dub and thrash into one throbbing mass.

Bikini Red, the group's second album, finds the trio continuing and refining its attack, from the razor-sharp riffs and frenetic yelping of the opener, "Sweet Water Pools," to the aptly named finale, "Waltz," wherein the band engages in a gentle 3/4-time sway. Throughout, Carter's reverb-drenched guitars alternate between frenetic bursts and controlled riffing, harnessed by the rhythm section of bassist Chris Thompson and drummer Kenny Harris. And Carter still comes across as a sort of British equivalent of Pere Ubu's David Thomas when he shrieks out lines like "I need a medicine man to make me feel good!"

In the subject matter of his new songs, though, Carter is taking a decidedly different tack from Gun-Shy. Like any number of British Isles rockers before him – from John Lennon to Bono – Carter has clearly been taken with life in America. In "I Can Speak American," a propulsive dose of demented rockabilly, he boasts of his kinship with "Lois Lane and Charlie Chan and Superman" and even inserts a caustically sung bit of Ella Fitzgerald's Thirties hit "A-Tisket a-Tasket." Elsewhere, in "Jesus Chrysler Drives a Dodge" and "55 – the Law," he revels in symbols of American pop culture, while "Waltz" opens with a recording of an oily Southern preacher. And in "I Wanna Be a Flintstone" – with its thundering "Yabba-dabba-doo time!" chorus – Carter clearly takes delight in lustily pleading, "Kiss me, Wilma!"

This emphasis on American kitsch, instead of the apocalyptic brooding of Gun-Shy, makes for a somewhat less urgent record; there's little here to equal the sinewy "Let's Go Down to the Woods" from the first album. But thanks to muscular production from veteran sound man Vic Maile, who engineered the Who's Live at Leeds and worked on the earlier Messiahs records, Bikini Red is looser, funnier, more studio savvy (thanks to a few sound effects and the occasional keyboard part) and equally enjoyable.

The title track is a jumble of atomic-explosion imagery and double-dealing intrigue; simpler raveups, like "All Shook Down" and "Lie Detector," let the band revel in sheer brute force. Punk influences rear their rebellious head in Carter's John Lydon-like sneer on the thrashing "Too Much Love." Yet despite such moments, and comparisons of the Messiahs to the early Clash, Bikini Red proves that the Messiahs – and Bill Carter in particular – are anything but bored with the U.S.A.

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Sounds

9th January 1988


 

SINGLE OF THE WEEK

The Screaming Blue Messiahs - 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone'

 

There were quite a few contenders in the frame for Single Of The Week, but all but one were eliminated. Barry White's effort is a beautiful vintage saloon which is only really new by dint of being fitted with a replacement gearbox. As for Belinda Carlisle, she raises the dead but you bought it weeks ago. U2 are 75 percent Godlike but tiresome. Basia and Deacon Blue are thoroughly commendable but the album versions of their singles are better. Test Dept almost nosed it, but, whereas the B-side tickled my fancy, the A limped.

No, though I would normally dismiss 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone' because it's a track from the diamond-like and dizbusting 'Bikini Red' album, it snatches the honours by virtue of a new tune buried here on the flip.

As for 'Flintstone', I always suspected that in quieter moments Bill Carter is a couch potato, and this is a tip-top hoedown hymn to the single greatest role model for family life in the American-speaking world. It's a hoot and far too mob-handed to be branded as some vile 'Star Trekkin' novelty.

For the real goods, flip over to discover further rumination on the all-consuming eye as hitched to a sound the dear old Three Johns would be pushed to match. 'Jerry's Electric Church' skewers TV evangelist Jerry Falwell from poop-chute to laughing-gear on a gleefully plunged dynorod riff. This is no less than he deserves, for probably more than any other single figure, Falwell is responsible for instigating the creeping censorship that besets the Anglo-American alliance. And people send him enormous cheques to intercede on their bahalf with the Commie-bashing Almighty! I wish I'd thought of that particular scam myself.

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Unknown publication

1988

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Record Mirror

16th January 1988


By Roger Morton

 

I Wanna Be A Flintstone

As somebody funny once said, 'Yeah man, I really dig the 'Stones... Fred and Barney, they're cool man'. *  Well, here they are, petrified in vinyl by another baldhead, the Messiahs' Bill Carter. It's a wihizzy piece of Bedrock boogie, all raw bursts of guitar and silly lyrics, and it's all over and done with in the time it takes to write 'yabba dabba doo'. Slightly more substantial is the B-side's thrust at TV evangelism, 'Jerry's Electric Church'. There weren't any baldies in the 'Flintstones' were there? (Well, there was Mr Slate, Fred's boss at the gravel pit)

* (It was Stephen Wright, for the record) 

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Reviews

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New York Times

26th November 1989


By Jon Pareles

 

"I woke up this morning / Bent on destruction", Bill Carter yowls to open the third album by the Screaming Blue Messiahs, and for the next 38 minutes his band fills the air with mayhem. Mr. Carter uses his guitar as a blunt instrument, slamming out power chords or leads that sound like tires squealing on a blue highway; behind him Chris Thompson on bass and Kenny Harris on drums stomp and bash. In Mr. Carter's songs, speed and violence are the only alternatives to self-deception and despair – a brutal world view, but one that makes for savage, vital rock-and-roll.

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Alternative Press

December 1989

By Jason Pettigrew

 

The phrase "Rock and Roll" has been thrown around so carelessly over the years that its meaning has been diminished. Go to any shopping mall-located record store and ask the sales clerk exactly what REM, Richard Marx, Aerosmith and Depeche Mode specialise in. After he takes his finger out of his nose, he'll grunt, "Uh... rock and roll?"

Somebody kidnapped rock and roll and held it hostage. I'm not so sure who it was; corporate sponsors, record executives, Guitar Player magazine, video directors, image consultants... I'm not pointing the finger at one entity. All I know is that somebody stole rock and roll, and in its place, put in compost.

Now there have been some fine individuals who began to free rock and roll from the indentured servitude of those listed in the above grocery contempt list. However, those individuals fell too, and went down kicking and (ahem) screaming. I'm not naming names because I will never know when one of Paul Westerberg or John Doe's friends may be reading.

TOTALLY RELIGIOUS is a circular saw through the ropes tied to rock and roll's captors. Ten cuts of rotating blades at different speeds. The rhythm section of Kenny Harris and Chris Thompson form the perfect airstrip for Bill Carter's frantic vocals and Telecaster dogfights. The Messiahs take traditional R&B and rock and roll structures and revitalise them with a maniacal energy. I'll use my patented metaphor: "the Screaming Blue Messiahs sound like Bo Diddley babysitting the bastard child of Squeaky Fromme and George Thorogood in a little house located right near the mouth of hell."

The band's patented sense of urgency remains intact. Slower pieces like 'Here Comes Lucky' and 'Wall Of Shame' are chilling in the way Leatherface's family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre were having a blues revival on the back porch between bites of head cheese. Carter's fascination with automobile metaphor ('Four Engines Burning', 'Nitro', 'All Gassed Up') complements his guitar abuse/acumen. 'Watusi Wedding' boasts some lethal slide work, and the absolutely brilliant 'Gunfight' is the perfect soundtrack for a violent altercation (bar fight, high speed car chase, etc.).

Now that the Cramps' psychosis quotient has been diluted by their Las Vegas mentality, the Gun Club's liver gave out, and the Blasters are MIA, it's great to be excited by rock and roll records on a major label. It's TOTALLY RELIGIOUS, alright. Get your ass to church now.

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Melody Maker

18 November 1989


By Steve Sutherland

 

APOCALYPSE NOW

While most of us carry Clint away from the corner video shop, walk a little taller for an hour or two, then drift back into our daily slouch, Bill Carter can't shake the vigilante disease. For days, weeks, years he's been waking up in the morning with guns in his head and whenever that guitar winds up in his hands, it turns into a carbine, a Magnum or Colt.

Bill is a sick imaginary psycho American, a man on a fantasy mission from God. Bill sees the apocalypse everywhere, suns explode in his eyes and consequently Totally Religious is the album Sigue Sigue Sputnik would have made if Tony James had ever harnessed the power to match his promises, the record Joe Strummer would still be making if he hadn't gone soft. It's the blues radioactivated, an Arnie OD, a trip to the stalls that went kinda weird when the hero blitzed the villain and he bled all over Bill's suit. Bill's seen 'Repo Man' a dozen times too many. He can't remove the stains. This is the result.

It was Eldritch who got me into The Screaming Blue Messiahs. If ever I thought about them, which was seldom bordering on never, I assumed they were cartoon pub rock. That 'Flintstone' thing didn't help – adrenalised idiocy, a tangent on punk as daft and dumb as Oi. But the man in black insisted Bill Carter was some kind of seer, at very least a man with a wry grasp on his madness and, as usual, Eldritch was right. Totally Religious is pretty much everything everybody else around here is claiming for The Stone Roses or Birdland. It's witty, wild, hot-under-the-collar, spaced-out, dangerous, a blast. It's burning.

Totally Religious opens fire with the mightiest triumvirate imaginable. If travis Bickle had been on the ground crew of flight command at a nuclear airbase when the good lord saw fit to speak through him, 'Four Engines Burning (Over The USA)' is what would have happened.

'Mega City 1' is the best Judge Dredd song ever written, Bill striding down shimmering back alleys with his trusty guitar slung low and cocked, while 'Wall Of Shame' is a desperate repentance over a massive riff on the lam from the Sisters. The horizon's melting as out hero takes a good long look in the mirror and declares to the no one left to listen: "I'd sooner have a hole in my head / Than to be what I want to be." It's awful turned awesome.

The rest of Totally Religious can't quite hack it in the same blistering ozone but 'Watusi Wedding' is the Beach Boys neatly fucked up, 'Here Comes Lucky' is the bleak leading the meek through a towering R&B inferno and 'Big Big Sky', a bombed-out hoe-down, viciously lays into the hopeless American dream. The formula's obsessive, unrepentant, hilarious in its horrific realisation that "Time is winding up..."

Totally Religious is 'Dr Strangelove' on record, a hollow laugh at the void because laughter's all that's left. Bar pointless, gratuitous, glorious revenge. Bill Carter knows full well that the future is finished, washed up, DOA. But, if he has his way, somebody's gonna pay.

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Q

November 1989


By David Hepworth

 

The last Screaming Blue Messiahs record, Bikini Red, had a distinct undertone of poker-faced humour, particularly to the fore on their first (distant) brush with the charts, 'I Wanna Be A Flintstone'. This was a near as they've got in their five year career to giving the general public a handle on their severely-cropped rock 'n' roll, which currently resides in the not-noticeably crowded terrain between Doctor Feelgood and Captain Beefheart (vintage Clear Spot). Such is the price of not swimming with the tide.

Totally Religious certainly doesn't give an inch on the deeply stroppy approach of their previous three records and tracks such as 'Big Big Sky', 'Gunfight' and 'Nitro' may be the kind of rock 'n' roll it's tempting to get lost in but they're not grounded in a particularly sunny world view. Leader Bill Carter eschews melodies for staccato hooklines and dog-like howls, underscored with razor-edged guitar, metallic harmonica and every vacant space crammed with rousing noise. At their best they have a fix on the dynamics of rock which is all their own and a way of putting frustration to music which ought to be the province of groups who haven't yet begun shaving. Too old and craggy for the moshers, too dour for the metal crowd and too damn noisy for the grown-ups. The Screaming Blue Messiahs have everything but an audience. Totally Religious may not provide them with one but it's to be hoped they persevere.

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SBMFM

On SBMFM radio are Mega City One and Gunfight from the sound desk,Town & Country Club, London 1989.

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