• Stretchheads
  • Five Fingers Four Thingers a Thumb a Facelift and a New Identity (UK Moksha) 1988 
  • Eyeball Origami Aftermath Wit Vegetarian Leg EP7 (UK Blast First) 1990 
  • Barbed Anal Exciter EP (UK Blast First) 1991 
  • Pish in Your Sleazebag (UK Blast First) 1991 

The voice is inhuman, reminiscent of nothing so much as Sesame Street‘s Grover with electrodes affixed to his genitals; over a mindbogglingly fast skittering racket, it’s yelling “In my life/I was disappointed,” then letting loose with something that sounds like a Tourette’s sufferer speaking in tongues: BLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLBLDZUUUUUHHHH! The band is Glasgow, Scotland’s Stretchheads, the weirdest, fastest and heaviest thing ever to come cartwheeling out of the British Isles. Bassist Mac (no last names were ever given), guitarist Andy, drummer Richie (later replaced by Jason) and the aforementioned vocalizer, who went by the handle P6, had a rather limited aesthetic, but they squeezed it until the tube begged for mercy.

The Stretchheads’ first album, Five Fingers Four Thingers, introduces a band that’s instantly diagnosable as hyperactive, hungry and completely strange. Not to mention Scottish: the country has produced an entire school of high-speed, percussion-heavy, jabbering bands, including Archbishop Kebab, Dawson, Badgewearer and the early Dog Faced Hermans (note the song title “Long Faced German”). Kylie Minogue’s pop hit “I Should Be So Lucky” gets Stretchheadized so thoroughly that it’s impossible to tell from the rest of the songs unless you’re listening very closely; the originals sound of a piece at first, but eventually their scratchy, screechy rhythms resolve themselves into bizarre but smashing hooks (the best belongs to “Shape and Cleanse”).

The band’s greatest record is Eyeball Origami Aftermath Wit Vegetarian Leg: four speed-crazed songs (all but one of which they subsequently rerecorded), each one faster and crazier than the next. P6 makes some truly unbelievable vocal noises, the drums are faster than human hands can generally move; gratuitous but totally enjoyable sound-collaging and inner-groove madness add to the fun.

With Pish in Your Sleazebag (whatever that means, it sounds really gross), the tape-play becomes high-intensity studio trickery. A few tracks have dub-style wipeouts, and there are lots of heavily manipulated between-song interludes — maybe to make up for the shortage of an album’s worth of songs. There are a couple of great new ones, though, particularly “Acid Sweeney.” There’s also a rerecording of Eyeball‘s “Incontinent of Sex.” As usual, the song titles are priceless: “3 Pottery Owls (With Inuendo),” “Mao Tse Tung’s Meat Challenge,” “HMS Average Nostril.” The CD version appends Eyeball Origami Aftermath, a 1990 12-inch with a longer version of the album’s plodding, super-heavy “Housewife Up Yer Fuckin Arse Music” and a remix of elements from the album that leads into a cut-up of the theme from Rhoda; it also has completely messed-up indexing (maybe the band’s habit of sticking a million fake endings in every song confused a technician).

Stretchheads’ final recorded bow was the six-song Barbed Anal Exciter EP. Compared to their earlier records, it’s more barbed, just as anal and not quite as exciting. The sound is thick and friction-filled, but the band seems to have slowed down a little, and the inferior remake of Eyeball‘s “New New Thing in Egypt” is unnecessary. If it were the only Stretchheads record it’d be priceless, but if you’ve heard another one you’ve heard a better one.

[Douglas Wolk]