Inner City Unit

  • Inner City Unit
  • Pass Out (UK Riddle) 1980 
  • The Maximum Effect (UK Avatar) 1981 
  • Punkadelic (UK Flicknife) 1982 
  • New Anatomy (UK Demi-Monde) 1985 
  • The Presidents Tapes (UK Flicknife) 1985 

If you can accept the notion that Hawkwind was the original punk-psychedelic-heavy-metal-dada fusion band, then it makes perfect sense that saxophonist Nik Turner should lead the humorous Inner City Unit, a devolving London five-piece whose music is so far over the edge that it almost defies comprehension. Taking mind-expanding drugs is theoretically essential to appreciation here, but the frantic and funny rock-with-horns of “Watching the Grass Grow,” “Space Invaders” and “Cars Eat with Autoface” (all on Pass Out and, in alternate versions, on Punkadelic) update the Hawkwind legend with style and energy that anyone can enjoy. Had the Bonzo Dog Band spent the ’70s attending muddy rock festivals, this might have been the outcome.

The first side of Punkadelic dredges up different takes of four Pass Out songs; the album (subtitled “Revaulting from the volts”) also contains five previously unreleased compositions, including the band’s earliest explorations, the wacky “God Disco” and “Disco Tango.” In a gambit truly worthy of old hippies, “Bildeborg” has two bandmembers singing different lyrics and melodies in the left and right channels.

ICU pokes gentle fun at Turner’s back pages on The Presidents Tapes, an amusing but somewhat disappointing album. Singing topical songs like “World of LSD,” “Big Foot” and “Stonehenge Who Knows?” the group uses organ, flute and production effects to evoke the period. Despite the flashes of satirical inspiration, too many normal-sounding tracks and a shortage of left-field sax noise keep The Presidents Tapes from being a revelation.

[Ira Robbins]