Enough Is Never Enough / Some Like It Hot / Your Sin Is Your Salvaton / Whirr / Roles / Breakdown
Assault On Precinct 13 / The Tower Falls / Possession / Living For Tomorrow / Spit Upon Your Grave
The one and only album by Kill Your Pet Puppy favorites and ex Campbell Buildings, Old Street Fire station, St Monicas Hospital, Bayston Road squatters Blood And Roses.
This release was recorded well after Kill Your Pet Puppy had ceased to exist in fanzine form as the band had originally faded away with the departure of Richard Morgan the drummer of the band towards the end of 1983, sadly Jez the bassist got run over and died in a traffic accident involving a bus in Islington shortly after.
The studio engineer (for the debut Blood And Roses 12″) Ralph Jezzard stepped in on bass, a guy named Parrot joined the band on drumming duties sometime in 1984 and the band begun performing live again in 1985 with the new members. The first gig with this line up was a decent performance down the Ambulance Station down the Old Kent Road, a gig which Blyth Power also performed. This concert as well as various other Blood And Roses material (including the debut 12″ record) is available on this site if you care to use the search function and enter Blood And Roses.
Although in my opinion, the material on this LP is not quite as vital as a live performance by the band (or indeed the debut 12″) when first listening to it, the tracks do sound better after repeated plays. I thought the LP on first listening was slightly overproduced and with the addition of synth drums on some tracks it was less like the garage band riffs we were used to and it seemed to edge towards a more pop oriented 1980′s product. There are many moments of greatness on this LP though. ‘Some Like It Hot’, ‘Your Sin Is Your Salvation’, ‘Roles’, ‘Possession’, ‘Tomorrow’ and of course ‘Spit Upon Your Grave’ are all decent fare.
Blood And Roses worked on sessions for a never released second LP but alas I do not have those tracks on tape. The band finally gave way around the time of these sessions when Lisa became pregnant and (I assume) she decided to take a break from all the recording and touring with the band, and of course take a break from all the baggage that came with the bands day to day existence (baggage which is well known to fans and friends of the band).
Many Happy Returns to Lisa, the singer and record sleeve artist for Blood And Roses (left in picture with Cory) whose birthday it is today. Hope you have a nice relaxing day. Thanks to Phil Ritchie for the photo.
After purchasing this LP from Ugly Child Records in Walthamstow (in the same building of the much loved and much missed Small Wonder Records) I bumped into Kirk Brandon who I promptly got to sign the inner sleeve of my copy of this Blood And Roses LP. I can not recall why he was in that area of London now as my memory has slightly faded somewhat. It certainly would not have been for a Spear Of Destiny concert as I am sure I would have attended one in that area if indeed they were performing.
Text below courtesy of Andy Martin, thanks to him as usual for all the effort:
That it has taken me 27 years to have in my collection any music by Blood & Roses is surely perverse. I knew both Bob Short and Lisa Kirby from my days as an unlikely secretary of April Housing Co-op and I met Richard Morgan, the first drummer (who tried – without success – to convince me that Magazine really were a group worthy of my attention). I think I met Jez James, too, but it was also so dark in that terraced house in Yoakley Road, Stoke Newington, that I could never tell who I was talking to. (“Do any of you have any rent for us? You do know you’re 2 months in arrears.” Brief shuffling of feet from Bob accompanied by slightly guilty grin. “Oh, er, sorry Andy, not this week.”) So why has it taken all this time for me to appreciate what they contributed to pop music, especially in a decade as starved of anything decent, interesting or relevant as the 1980s?
First: in the 1980s I was so completely submerged within my own private hell (still not recovered from nearly 2 years in a psychiatric hospital, realising I was queer and loathing it) that only truly psychotic music could break through the mental turmoil in which I suffered – i.e. The Pop Group, Throbbing Gristle, The Lemon Kittens and Five Or Six (to give 4 examples). Punk rock was always utterly irrelevant to me (middle class spoiled brats playing at being rebels only appeal to the homicidal side of my nature) and the few genuinely working class people involved in the scene never seemed to bother being in bands.
Second: the group appeared to be adopted by the Kill Your Pet Puppy collective (as I perceived it – probably erroneously) and at the time I had an extremely turbulent relationship with that crowd – you see, I possessed the social skills of a rhinoceros (and probably still do – that I have hardly any friends will attest to that) yet these colourful characters actually dared to have parties and enjoy themselves in spite of – or perhaps to spite – Britain under Thatcher. I was unable to forgive such blatant decadence! After all, it was our duty to fight the good fight, to engage in the struggle and be forever frothing at the mouth with much wailing and gnashing of teeth while we locked ourselves in darkened rooms to plot the revolution. What an utterly boring bastard I must have been back then, unlike the supremely cool, windswept and interesting chap I am now.
Third: I was in a two-bit little pop group that I think I suspected was always destined to go nowhere very fast indeed and when Blood & Roses came along and showed us how it should be done, well, maybe I was just a little bit jealous.
Fourth: through no fault of the group, the music press (very briefly) developed a fascination with the group and decided to market them as New Goth Thing (oh Jesus, give us a break) and exaggerate the Crowley Connection. In fact Bob Short did possess books by the miserable magi but, unlike so many other people during the previous 2 decades, he actually read and understood them (in so far as anyone can genuinely comprehend a book by Crowley). My heroes were people like Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan and Patrick Moore so anything even remotely associated with magick, UFOs or the supernatural (I naively made no distinction) I simply dismissed as irrelevant to me.
I heard one cassette of five or six songs, recorded at Starforce Studio (where Twelve Cubic Feet also recorded their one album and where The Apostles recorded their 1st single) most of which I did enjoy – especially Tomorrow – but that was it. Important note for anyone new to this group: you will occasionally see their name linked with outfits such as Southern Death Cult, Sex Gang Children and Brigandage – ignore such associations immediately. There is absolutely no connection between Blood & Roses and all those other wallies. Also, there is nothing ‘Goth’ about Blood & Roses. How could anyone familiar with the group ever have concocted such an absurd relation?
Enough Is Never Enough
The Banshees, Tubeway Army and UK Decay all pretended to enter this territory but ultimately they failed because they were all too consumed with their own image and they cared too much about what the managers and suits actually thought about them. Blood & Roses prove what is possibly if you Do What Thou Wilt in spite of (i.e. with complete indifference to) such irrelevant arse-holes.
Some Like It Hot
Wasn’t this the title of some ancient Yankee film? I’m allergic to Hollywooden garbage so I can’t comment. Take a 1960s pop piece by, I don’t know, Petula Clark – douse it in LSD and hurl it into a dungeon. Now it’ll sound like this and you can enjoy the experience properly.
Your Sin Is Your Salvation
Unlike 90% of bands at this time Blood & Roses often gave the bass guitarist something interesting and inventive to play and this is a fine example. Add to that the tendency of the drummer to avoid the standard backbeat and top it off with occasionally odd harmonic twists and you end up with a gloriously strange anthem like this. Of course at the time I failed to appreciate stuff like this because I was too busy listening to Ornette Coleman, desperate (with complete justification) to avoid anything even remotely associated with punk rock.
One of the most inventive and unusual pieces the group ever recorded – virtually avant garde in fact. Complaint: it’s far too brief and merits a further 2 or 3 minutes at least.
This enters the arena bristling with New York Dolls but (thank Pan) soon becomes far more interesting and vibrant than that motley crew. Turn those vocals up, for crying out loud! Not one of my favourites, perhaps because musically it’s too conservative for my tastes.
So what are all those odd voices in the background then? Probably something notoriously iconic that I ought to recognise but only when the vocals enter is my interest aroused. There’s a curiously rhythm and blues element to this but transplanted into the 21st century. It’s as if a group of aliens tried to play a cover of a B B King piece on instruments designed for an utterly different purpose entirely. The bass guitar is somewhat lost in the murk but the bludgeoning drums compensate.
Assault On Precinct 13
Question: why cover tedious old crap like this when you can write much more intriguing and inventive stuff yourselves? That said, they breathe new life into this music and, to be fair, there can’t be many groups who have recorded covers of not 1 but 2 John Carpenter film themes…and done it well, too. It does lend variety to the proceedings since this is an instrumental in all but name – a heavily disguised wordless vocalise drifts over the top of the churning chaos but this piece still needs an extra something to lift it out of the limitations of the chord progression that must have been old fashioned even when it was first written.
The Tower Falls
One of the more interesting lyrics (but then I’ve not encountered any Blood & Roses lyric that I’d call boring or derivative), this is another contender my usual complaint so here it is: TURN THE BLOODY VOCAL UP! Not one of the more musically inspired pieces, this is still a chugging, grumbling juggernaut of a piece that merits another fag and another tequila.
More thundering, tom-heavy drums (that’s what we want) with twisted, spiteful vocals drifting gently over the top (carry on, chaps, you’re doing well) and that trademark odd harmonic change – so what’s the problem? Like many of these pieces, it struggles against the wall of reverb that threatens to drown it in chaos.
Living For Today
Musically similar to Possession, this takes over from it and pushes the envelope into pure pop (and there’s no criticism intended there – quite the reverse). This is actually immensely powerful but the sweetness of the tune skillfully disguises the fact. Complaint: it fades out – I detest fade-outs! That caveat aside, this remains one of the stronger cuts on an album that still doesn’t actually contain any track you could call weak.
I first heard this on a cassette in a dramatically different arrangement and I have to admit I still prefer that earlier version. Even so, this is still (possibly) the best pop song the group ever wrote. With considerably less reverb (except on the vocals), this would be a contender for the ‘a’ side of a single. UNIT may well record a cover of this piece (based on the first account of it) because I’d forgotten to what extent this song is a brilliant slice of triumphal, in-your-face, devil-may-care ebullient joy.
I Spit Upon Your Grave
In 3/4 time complete with piano, this is not an ideal piece with which to complete an album. However, for once, the vocals are loud enough to do justice to the singing. Note: most bands have 1 or sometimes 2 prominent players in the ensemble who are obliged to carry the limitations of the others; with Blood & Roses, there are no passengers – everyone is willing and able to contribute a performance that merits attention and this piece provides an excellent example of this fact.
The trouble is, whenever a pop group (or a writer, artist or film maker for that matter) cannot be easily labeled and categorised by those feeble minded miscreants who are employed to write about such people, the public have shoved in their faces so much ineffable twaddle that everyone (even the group) becomes perplexed and confused. I do remember the day Blood & Roses appeared on the front cover of the NME (and, I think, 1 or 2 other glossy magazines). In retrospect it was an excessively damaging development – the group was given an identity totally inappropriate to what it was actually about and the audience was thus completely misled. Had they been allowed to evolve at a more gradual pace, perhaps their ascent to the glory they deserved would have finally happened. That they were only able to release 2 singles and 1 album (whereas all that dismal and utterly irrelevant punk rubbish from Crass to The Exploited unleashed a torrent of vinyl, most of which was dire) is a damned shame, frankly – a case of quality rather than quantity.
Early incarnations of the group included No Allegiance (a good name for a group – one I nearly adopted except it sounded a little too close to punk) which changed into a symbol, a splendid hybrid of a swastika with a hammer and sickle. That was followed by “ “ which is my own favourite – that would have caused much consternation among music journalists and punters. Their next name was ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ. After that rich heritage I found their ultimately adopted name Blood & Roses a complete disappointment. It refers to an old lesbian vampire film (I think). If there is any justice in the artistic world, the tracks from that Starforce Studio demo along with pieces from the cassette Life After Death (especially Scenario, Mummy, Product Of Love, Paradise and Curse On You) will also be remastered and issued on CD.
If there is one major complaint I have to make about nearly all these recordings it is that the production is peppered with extraneous effects and reverb most of which are quite unnecessary. It is as if the 4 musicians struggle desperately to be heard through all this noise which clutters up so many supremely memorable pop songs. I once saw the group play live (I am unable to remember where) and their work was far more exciting and vibrant than any of it sounds on record. Of course, anyone unlucky enough to have heard any recordings by The Apostles will realise that for me to criticise another group for their production is akin to Pol Pot complaining to the Hong Kong police about their occasionally excessive use of force.
Dear Richard Morgan: it is time for me to repay a debt. On our own tracks Asian Invasion, Thalidomide and The Phoenix recorded by UNIT you will hear the drum pattern you used on Tomorrow recycled, revamped and reconstituted but always recognisable. Imitation is indeed a sincere form of flattery (but I still think Magazine are crap).
There is good news – Bob Short at least is still creatively active, in film as well as in music. A couple of years ago he sent me (as electronic files) some tracks his new group had recorded – unfortunately our computer refused to play them so his new music still remains a mysterious entity at present. What happened to Lisa then? A singer of her ability and calibre ought not to languish in the relative obscurity of a 1980s pop group, however fondly remembered. Anyway, along with Five Or Six, 23 Skidoo, Twelve Cubic Feet, Cold War and Part 1, we can add Blood & Roses to that hallowed elite company of groups who were simply too unusual or too inventive to be appreciated properly at the time they were active.
Andy Martin 2010