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Folk Devils - Profile

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 30 / 9 / 2016

Folk Devils - Profile


Anthony Strutt introduces us to his early heroes The Folk Devils, a seminal 1980s post-punk act whose only album, 'Goodnight Irony', has been recently re-released alongside some session tracks on a collection called 'Beautiful Monster'.

Back in the 1980s, in the days not just of vinyl but when you could buy Sisters of Mercy records in Boots, a long-term friend of mine worked (at the start of our friendship) in the Our Price in Brent Cross. He would come home with armfuls of the stuff, purchased from the reduced-price bins, one of which turned out to be the Folk Devils. They were fronted by the now-deceased Ian Lowery who was a million miles away from being the sort of frontman that you might expect to come across in a band at the time. I never saw the band live, but their energy on their less then a handful of releases - and their three 'Peel Sessions' - spoke volumes. Every one of their singles was a ball of fury, while being very aware of what was happening in the world. The Devils were truly indie, releasing their first two singles on their manager's label. In those days, the indie chart was the Alt. chart - alternative music for the alt., student, forward thinking among us. The Folk Devils were not an indie band just in the sense that they released stuff on an indie offshoot of a major label - there were lots of those. The Folk Devils were never going to headline the Town and Country Club or top the indie charts but they sold very well, and their gigs came over more like punk events than what the crowds of 1983 were worshipping, sticking posters of Morrissey on their walls. Looking at the album, it starts with their first single. 'Hank Turns Blue' was their calling card, a surefire rockabilly punk infusion of pogoing underground noise unlike anything else around it. 'Chewing The Flesh' is stark and filthy dirty: you can feel the sweat running down the musicians' skin as they play. 'Beautiful Monster', the follow-up to 'Hank...', is much more thought-out, slowly building like sex, intense and edgy, its journey lasting almost two minutes before Ian's vocal joins in. It was as uncommercial as the early Fall and just as addictive. 'Art Ghetto' kicks real ass, gritty and on fire, and it's not hard to see why John Peel fell in love with them. 'Brian Jones' Bastard Son' was very often echoing around the house my friend and I shared house in Hendon. This is again a slower, more relaxed song, almost a slow blues of hypnotic grooves to sway the mind. 'Nice People' is almost the bastard version of Echo & The Bunnymen's 'Do It Clean', a swampy blues, covered in dirt and shit. This is real music for real punks. 'English Disease', again somewhat like the Fall, has its poetry pasted over with dark chords and drums that are a million miles from the colourful stages of 'Top of The Pops'. 'Where The Buffalo Roam' is a fast one, a rockabilly punk anthem worthy of the Cramps, all chunky riffs over a throbbing bass that wants to invite you into its wall of chaos. 'Wail' is almost 80's Goth, quite dancey in a cyberpunk fashion. 'Evil Eye' ends the actual released vinyl, again very complex, echoing the darker side of the 1980s again, definitely a closing number of a live set that would leave you drained and wanting more. The CD is topped off with a set of demos that show, finally, to the world that the Folk Devils had so much more to give.

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Folk Devils - Profile

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