Release Date: Jul 24, 2012
Record label: Finders Keepers
In Rip It Up and Start Again, Simon Reynolds' masterful chronicle of the post-punk years, Virgin Prunes singer Gavin Friday recounts how he once staged an art exhibition at a Dublin gallery which involved a replica vagina made of raw meat surrounded by fresh turds, and turned up the heating "until the smell was outrageous. " It's almost ironic then that the iconoclastic music of Virgin Prunes and their contemporaries north and south of the Irish border should now be preserved almost as a museum piece itself. Strange Passion: Explorations In Irish Post-Punk, DIY and Electronic Music 1980-1983 comes complete with encyclopaedic liner notes via Cache Cache, an offshoot label of archivist imprint Finders Keepers, seemingly intended to get historians rubbing their hands with glee rather than choking back vomit.
Conceived and presented very much as the catch-all it is rather than any kind of uniform portrait, Strange Passion's focus on obscure, experimental Irish acts caught up in the original spirit of post-punk is yet another example of the curatorial impulse run rampant in music -- another lost scene to dig up and celebrate in concert with the thousands newly codified around the world. But there's a strong, varied energy that's showcased as a result, with youthful ideas and a sense of trying something different slamming up against a political and cultural atmosphere that was barely welcoming of it. It's only appropriate that the most famous act featured would be the Virgin Prunes, whose chaotic, seething rage and theatricality pretty much define an explosive reaction to said atmosphere, and "Twenty Tens" is a fine slice of just that.
Post-punk was so fractured and localized that it's perhaps unsurprising that tiny pockets of activity continue to reveal themselves. Still, this collection of tracks culled from Irish post-punk, DIY, and electronic musicians circa 1980-83 carries an uncommon weight, sounding less like a footnote and more like a series of essential transmissions from a set of socially and politically disenfranchised musicians. It marks the first release for Finders Keepers' new offshoot label Cache Cache, which promises to reissue "shyly excitable electric pop music.
Nostalgia is a strange beast, especially when felt most keenly for a time and place that one has never really known. A distinct desire to walk the streets of Belfast in 1982 borne of hearing a three-minute piece of music 30 years later is surely not a healthy thing, but any compilation capable of evoking such emotions deserves some sort of credit. Strange Passion is the year’s latest in a string of discs (from various labels) collecting obscure and forgotten ‘80s music (e.g.