One of England’s most daringly experimental post-punk bands, 23 Skidoo are friendly with the members of Cabaret Voltaire; the two outfits once entertained thoughts of merging. But while 23 Skidoo’s early avant-dancefloor style was similar to the Cabs’, they’ve always maintained a closer link to both free-form improvisation and non-Western idioms, especially in their later work.
Seven Songs (which lists eight tracks, has nine and was reissued with twelve) is a near-brilliant fusion of funk, tape tricks and African percussion. The band switches gears effortlessly between different-yet-accessible dance tracks like “Vegas el Bandito,” the ethnomusicology of “Quiet Pillage” and sound collages (“Mary’s Operation”). Tearing Up the Plans continues in much the same vein.
On The Culling Is Coming, 23 Skidoo gets too obscure for its own good. The first side, recorded live at the WOMAD Festival, is a mish-mash of tape loops, random percussion and primitive horn honks which sound like dying animals and add up to third-rate Stockhausen. Side Two utilizes Balinese gamelans (tuned gongs of a sort) and sounds better thought-out. Urban Gamelan is a stronger album, livelier and less esoteric. As the title implies, real gamelans aren’t used, but glass jugs and carbon-dioxide cylinders are. 23 Skidoo will never enjoy wide-scale popularity, but they are an earnest, disciplined band which makes uncompromising music. Just Like Everybody is a compilation.