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STUMP (Buy CDs by this artist)
Mud on a Colon EP (UK Ron Johnson) 1985
Quirk Out EP (UK Stuff) 1986
The Peel Sessions EP (UK Strange Fruit) 1987
A Fierce Pancake (Ensign/Chrysalis) 1988

This wacky British quartet plays Beefheart-inspired avant-pop with goodnaturedly surreal lyrics. The low-budget Mud on a Colon is shambolic and unfocused, with little to distinguish it from scads of less-talented UK indie combos. But the subsequent Quirk Out, smartly produced by Hugh Jones, is a delight, channeling the band's boundless energy into a more disciplined and rewarding direction. Highlights include the hiccupy Yank-bashing caricature "Buffalo," the quasi-vulgar litany-of-bodily-functions "Everything in Its Place" and the uncharacteristically melodic, introspective "Our Fathers."

A Fierce Pancake (the US version reprises "Buffalo") strips away still more surface kookiness, revealing some memorable melodies and genuinely inventive instrumental work (particularly from guitarist Chris Salmon). And, while vocalist Mick Lynch's absurdist lyrics are as full of puns and non sequiturs as ever, they're also cogent statements — as in "Chaos," which bemoans Britain's sinking-ship economy via a metaphorical sea chantey, and "Bone," which builds a convincing case against human evolution.

"Buffalo" also appears, in a January 1986 live version, on The Peel Sessions EP, along with three other tunes.

[Scott Schinder]