No.8 The Rezillos
Can't Stand the Rezillos
(Sire Records, 1978)
Emerging from the depths of Scotland with an outstanding single, I Cant Stand My Baby, on their own Sensible label during the dying days of 1977, The Rezillos were a high-octane cartoon beat-combo, the first of their kind since the new wave broke big until The B52s appeared late the following year. Signing to Sire records, home of The Ramones and Talking Heads, their punk credentials were firmly in place and three more 45's were issued, Flying Saucer Attack, Top Of The Pops and Destination Venus, the last two released during and after the album. That album, Cant Stand The Rezillos, proved to be a hit-and-miss affair but its high points were so good that the lesser tracks have been sent to bed early with no supper. They dont spoil the party. And a party record it is unstoppable, joyous nonsense played loud and proud.
Fans of trashy garage music from the early-to-mid sixties, The Rezillos kick their one and only long player into action with a remake of their screwball science-fiction single Flying Saucer Attack. Faster still than the single version, lead singer Fay Fife (probably not her real name) belts out the vocal with thick Scots accent intact but it adds to the charm. 'Laser beams and gamma projectors, there'll be nothing on earth to protect us when they appear through the stratosphere youd better lock yourself inside!" The aliens are everywhere, and only fuzz-guitar and pounding drums can deter them. Like so many of these songs, Flying Saucer Attack is a lost bubblegum classic- lost in the sense that only punk fans may be aware of it, or indeed of The Rezillos. Ludicrous singer Eugene Reynolds is whinging like a twatty kid to his mum on No, the next track.
Fairly standard punk fare, this, with chugging, distorted guitars and Reynolds fervid complaining, it lasts only a couple of minutes before the first of three 60's cover versions pop up: Somebodys Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight was a b-side from 1969 to an obscure single by Fleetwood Mac, masquerading under a silly name, Earl Vince And The Valiants. The Rezillos version starts with howling feedback, then after the drums crash in, Reynolds' deep growl snarls out the violent roll-call of riotous events with cackling relish, his mirth clearly audible. Great fun and very much of its time (1978, not 1969!).
The big hit single (number 17 in early August 1978) on the album was Top Of The Pops. Ripping-off the tune from an ancient children's rhyme (here we go loopy-loo, here we go loopy-lye) its a fabulous fun romp with music business in-jokes scattered throughout. "yes, its the nations premier TV show we all grow up with and then despise as we get ancient. Take the money! Feed the box!" shout the boys, "everybody's on Top Of The Pops" answers Fay, with an appealing, bobby-soxer lilt. "All right, so you made the grade, hold tight to the buck you made, youve been rated for contemplative peak-viewing time." With such a catchy tune and zealous performance it was no surprise it became a hit single - and a word here about Jo (John) Callis, the man who wrote 90% of the bands output. Clearly a gifted individual, after the demise of The Rezillos he would go on to join the later, successful line-up of the Human League, with whom he would co-write such massive hits as Dont You Want Me.
The comic-book obsession continues with 2000 A.D. "I look to the future for a paperback culture" sings Reynolds with conviction. The guitar plays long, yearning high notes alongside its usual punk noise. It Gets Me is another punk-by-numbers filler, but nonetheless is full of gleaming pop hooks, with Miss Fife wailing away about what is hip and what is clearly not: "you talk so much it's uncool."
And so to one of three high points on the album, the punk standard that is I Cant Stand My Baby, a re-recording of their sizzling debut single. Pulverising guitars bash through the track, with the drums going simply mental! Let me hear records, let me hear Brahms- what the hell is it all about? Who cares when the music is this sensational!
Glam-rock drums a la Suzi Quatro establishes the second cover-version, the Dave Clark Fives pre-Gary Glitter stomper, Glad all Over. Apart from resounding tom-toms and a now trademark verve, The Rezillos version has little to commend it. But never fear! Because here is the classic track from the album, the one and only My Baby Does Good Sculptures! Insistent bass, pummelling drums and crackling guitar lead us to Eugene Reynolds insane vocal. Something of an art fan, it seems he's attracted to his sculptress vamp for purely aesthetic reasons: "don't like my baby for her pouting lips, dont like my baby for her curvy hips - I love my baby cos she does good sculptures yeah!" The pace is absolutely frantic, the band tearing through the song with joyous glee. Massive echoed drums, a simply evil cackle from Reynolds and powerful slashes across the guitar, lead to both Fay Fife and Reynolds whooping in unison in a frenzy of tension, heralding one of THE guitar solos of the New Wave, a fantastic moment of such outright excitement it is impossible to describe in tedious print, Ill just say that when you think the guitar can go no higher, it goes higher! Wow, etc.
After that, I Like it, a competent but frankly pointless cover of an old Gerry And The Pacemakers hit, couldn't be anything less than an anti-climax, which of course, it is. Jo Callis' description of a bad hair-day, Getting Me Down, follows. Fife and Reynolds exchange the verses, such as they are. The rhythm is as old as the hills, employed on ancient jazz records as far back as the 20s, but the song serves its purpose as a filler for the album.
That's not how you would describe the next track, Cold Wars, an amazing pop song of real atmosphere which was briefly intended as a single before being pulled from release, and now very collectible I would have thought. Iron curtain goings-on abound to the soundtrack of spooky singing from Fay Fife, booming drums and above all attractive, twangy guitar that recalls great spy-film themes from the past. The middle section provides a thrilling sense of drama, with the whispered lyric: "a footprint in the snow is to where I must go", and we are blessed with another tasteful but eccentric guitar solo.
Bad Guy Reaction seems to be an excuse for Eugene Reynolds to ham it up gloriously, as the bizarre narrator of this otherwise fairly ordinary punk rant. And that's the album. The Rezillos didnt last long, sadly. A wonderful single, Destination Venus, and a badly recorded live album followed but by then the band were no more. Although it is partly sabotaged by the inclusion of a few fillers and cover versions (as mentioned earlier) the good bits are just irresistible. Check it out on CD: The Almost Complete Rezillos.
SJ review No.9 The Only Ones