Crazy times and the enormous reach of rock’n’roll have made the challenge of turning conscious weirdness into a commercial property increasingly difficult, one that few neophytes are equal to. As arbiters of grebo, the dirty, ugly Bykers, a post-pop-culture quartet from Leicester, cross leather-clad Mad Max apocalyptics with late-’60s London people’s-band values to forge a forward- looking/backward-thinking image.
Produced by Jon Langford (Three Johns/Mekons), the 12-inch Everythang’s Groovy EP is plodding and dull, with unnecessarily silly lyrics that attempt to combine ’60s underground memorabilia with punk’s aggressive snottiness. A feeble attempt, but the band survived, seemingly propelled by the strength of its name alone.
If Nosedive Karma demonstrates a bit of maturity, it brings the band from, say, fourth grade to sixth. The use of sound bites from Star Trek throughout the record is one of its more unappealing features; the samples’ haphazard placement makes them seem like an end in themselves. “Don’t Be Human Eric, Let’s Be Frank” stands out as the Bykers’ best tune up to this point, a catchy pop- punk ditty that tries to tell a semi-intelligible story with a minimum of nonsensical ’60s references. (The first two EPs were later reissued as Groovedivesoapdisch.)
Drill Your Own Hole was produced with maximum gimmickry (and, compared to the band’s previous work, supreme ability) by Alex Fergusson (ATV/PTV) and includes a cover of a song by radical hippiedom’s legendary Edgar Broughton Band. The intentionally chaotic noisy guitar rock (dressed up in wah-wah and moronic solos) shows some improvement in skill and lyrics (which still rely on drug culture jokes); the selfconscious posturing is spottily ear-catching but basically horrible.
Stewed to the Gills suggests that the post-grebo Bykers might have finally learned a lesson; in lieu of TV snippets and antiquated lifestyles, the quartet takes subtle jabs at current pop and underground culture, shrugs off fancy production (Langford again did the honors) and surrenders to sloppy musical technique. The result is one of the most remarkably disjointed mock-concept albums ever, a creation of purposeless nonsense for nonsense’s sake, fraught with casual, easily missed micro-parodies. Bravo.
Come 1990, and the cavalier Bykers seem to care less than ever. In the case of Cancer Planet Mission, however, that very lack of forethought produced an uncommonly likable platter of noisy trash. Although you’re not likely to find anything useful in its grooves, there’s a whole lot of real good nothing going on here. The scattershot mixture of filthy grunge-metal, swampy, reggae- like dub and adrenaline-laced punk is utterly unfathomable; the songs are surrounded with frightening bits of sampled noise (industrial and otherwise), ethnic music, and whatever they could pinch off TV.
The Janice Long Session (recorded in ’87) contains radio-broadcast versions of three songs from the first two EPs and one from Drill Your Own Hole.