Saturday, July 31, 2010

Current 93 - Crooked Crosses for the Nodding God (1989)

Sorry for the lack of updates. July has been a crazy a month. I will try to get back on the ball in August!, but for now enjoy this Current 93 review.

Current 93 is the name former Psychic TV member and all around weird guy David Tibet records under, assisted by whatever motley crew of UK underground musicians he can manage to round up that week, the most frequent of whom is Stephen Stapleton, of Nurse With Wound. This dark partnership has resulted in many many fine albums, since both men are notoriously prolific and seem to have more than enough creativity to spill over onto guest appearances on other albums.

Crooked Crosses for the Nodding God is one such album in which Stapleton's presence in particularly felt. The whole thing is basically a remix/reworking of the 1987 album "Swastikas for Noddy" with some fresh recordings thrown in to liven the proceedings. The result is one of Current 93's most engaging records, that nicely bridges the gap between the band's violent, industrial past and its present tendency towrards overly gentle folk meanderings. Tibet rambles on about his Gnostic faith enough to be interesting, but there also room for his other interests such as the sheer hoorrific creepiness of children's nursery rhymes and ven a couple of cover tunes.

Tibet's voice is very unusual and his alternations between overly melodramatic whining (sometimes approaching outright crying) and gutteral growls take some getting used to, but if nothing else it's unique. Never fear though, there are a number of guest vocalists to round out the album, including John Balance (Coil) Rose MacDowell (Strawberry Switchblade) and the obligatory incomprehensible babbling of Boyd Rice (NON).

The tracks are mainly short and run the gamut of sounds from straight recitations with sound effects ("He Is Everywhere Nowhere") to traditional folk tunes with a sinister edge ("Oh Thou Coal Black Smith") to industrial stomp-rock ("Looney Runes") to nightmare inducing pastiches of music boxes and children singsonging lyrics about evil things that lurk in dark heart of the woods. There's even a Blue Öyster Cult (????) cover shoved in there!

For me, this is the Current 93 record that has everything: Beautiful melodies, religious themes, Halloween spookiness and most importantly a sense of surreal fun. Tibet has a tendency to be a rather serious chap, and it's a rare moment whn he seems to be able to laugh at himself. Stapleton's sense of whimsy combined with Tibet's vision make Crooked Crosses a must have addition to any Current 93 collection.