Lauded in Britain but virtually unknown in the States, this Bath-born/London-formed quintet’s first LP is a most impressive debut. Merging elements as diverse as the Doors, Gang of Four and Big Audio Dynamite, Eat created an instantly familiar record that ultimately sounds like no one else. From the spaghetti western blues crunch of “Tombstone” and “Walking Man” to the swampy rap of “Stories” and “Things I Need,” Eat marries hip-hop technology to an ersatz bayou-bred instinct. Lyrically, Sell Me a God conjures up seamy abstract imagery in the tradition of scuzz-poet Jim Morrison; what may read as pretentious drivel on paper sounds just right. (The CD adds two sweaty funk tracks and a strong, hard take on the Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City.”)
But misfortune frowned upon Eat, and the group collapsed in 1990, the twin victim of lineup defections and singer Ange Dolittle’s debilitating heroin habit. Three years later, a recharged Dolittle re-emerged-with the same rhythm section (drummer Pete Howard and bassist Tim Sewell), two new guitarists (Jem Moorshead, Max Lavilla) and the remarkably assured Epicure. Replacing Sell Me a God‘s bayou atmospherics with a dozen glossy, vaguely psychedelic pop gems, this is one of the decade’s greatest rock albums that no one’s heard. An obvious bid for commercial superstardom, the disc abounds in oblique yet lyrical references to Dolittle’s addiction (“Tranquilliser,” “Golden Egg,” “Fecund”) set to churning anthems with soaring choruses. A meaner R.E.M.? More like an INXS that matters.
Dolittle threw in the towel during Eat’s abortive first US tour, which found this extraordinary live act playing to empty rooms. He soon bounced back, fronting a band called We Know Where You Live, which consisted of most of the Wonder Stuff, minus singer Miles Hunt. In an incestuous development, a post-Eat Pete Howard (who was in the Cut the Crap-era Clash) hooked up with Hunt, Senseless Things bassist Morgan Nicholls and (briefly) Cult guitarist Billy Duffy in Vent, playing steely yet anonymous Therapy?-style hard pop.