One of the Pop Group’s numerous offshoots, Rip Rig + Panic was a jazz-funk fusion band that left art-punk behind musically but retained a similarly irreverent sensibility. Named after a Roland Kirk LP, the band appropriately featured saxophone/piano free-for-alls. They were not as anarchic as their jazz inspirations, though; repetitive bass licks (Sean Oliver) and stable percussion (Bruce Smith) are great aids for more centrist listeners.
The band’s most appealing aspect is its high-spiritedness. Beyond absurd titles, Rip Rig + Panic leaps around stylistically from (short) track to track. Tranquil piano (Mark Springer) solos and silly chats provide respite from screeching sax (Gareth Sager), Arabic and Far Eastern touches and hard-edged vocals (a very young Neneh Cherry and, on God, ex-Slit Ari Upp). Attitude, the band’s most accessible album, comes closest to normal songs, while maintaining a zany eclecticism. Far from forbidding, Rip Rig + Panic keeps the show rolling with deft musicianship and oddball humor.
In late 1983, Rip Rig + Panic reorganized as Float Up CP; Sager (playing guitar and keyboards) and Oliver co-produced the sextet’s sole album. The material on Kill Me in the Morning is straightforward funk/soul/jazz, with the rough edges left intact in just the right places. But this outing lacks the diversity of the previous band’s work, and Cherry is its only star: she sings up a storm, even when the sexual metaphors (“Chemically Wet,” “Joy’s Address”) get a bit trite. The band chugs along behind her with energy and panache, but there’s nothing unique or catchy enough on Kill Me in the Morning to make a lasting impression.
Springer made a solo record. Cherry went on to huge stardom under her own name. Sager formed Head. Oliver, who co-wrote a 1987 hit (“Wishing Well”) and did sessions for Terence Trent D’Arby, died of sickle cell anemia in March 1990.