"Culling" was the manifestation of Skidoo's great new change in direction following the previous year's Independent Chart-topping "Seven Songs" which had seen the band on the verge of (some sort of) independent / crossover pop stardom. A surprise to critics and fans alike, the uncompromising (to say the least) "Culling" also served a secondary role as a release that would counterbalance the label's increasingly squeaky-cleam pop image following the recent success of the Paleys.
23 SKIDOO "The Culling Is Coming" OPT 023
A new album released by Operation Twilight and distributed through Rough Trade.
Release date: February 4th, so please, no reviews before editions appearing February 2nd: Control yourselves.
TRACKLISTING A) Appearance at WOMAD 17 July 1982
( ...lock groove... )
Healing For The Strong
TRACKLISTING B) Recorded with the Gamelan Orchestra at Dartington Hall
Both sides are 23 minutes in length
Sounds February 19th 1983
23 SKIDOO "The Culling Is Coming" (Operation Twilight: Opt 23) * * *
I suppose I should feel responsible for this, as an early Skidoo enthusiast. I must say that after hearing it, I still can't dismiss the proposition that Skidoo are one of the few acts I would cross the road for; it's just that "The Culling Is Coming" is an awfully long, most would say impossible, road to cross.
There's always been a thrill to Skidoo. They were like an elastic band you could stretch ridiculously far.
With "Culling" that elastic gets close to snapping point. "Culling" is a densely packed, closed and clenched gist of a record. It's wilfully overlong, and in this sense above all it slightly chips away at what Skidoo had set up previously. It's the culmination of something (the aftermath of a break up?), it's angry (about what?) and it's also at one and the same time a period of transition -- that good old rock cliche, the truth of which 'difficult Skidoos will deplore!
There's nothing very definite here, again giving credence to that later supposition. One side was recorded live at last year's Womad bash, it is fairly typical (!) of the Skidoo's live performances of that period: thrusting sucking belching noise with a 'lock groove' in the middle (after the stifling "Stifling") that is the neatest trick (and kick) on the album.
The second side is the Hari Krishna side, "recorded on the Gamelan Orchestra at Dartington Hall" -- recorded on ....? The last piece of explanation is one of many mysteries on "Culling" that would perhaps be better if it was not (a mystery -- bit too Toyah for our Highgate heroes).
Sure, moments of brilliance occur: but, overall, sitting unmoved by "Mahakala", irresistably wanting to giggle at "Flashing" (influenced by the proximity of Highgate Woods?) and wondering what the hell "G3 Insemination is" and, more to the point, why 23 Skidoo don't come out and tell us -- overall the thrills are at a minimum while obstensibly the wooliness is more and more a-coming.
Right now, cynical music press writer that I am, 23 Skidoo remind me of a magician who has done one baffling trick with his hands and who, mystified himself by how he did it, tries to repeat it by going through fairly the same motions but without whipping out a bunny at the end.
It's still great to watch, but the third peformance (will the lost information be regained?) should prove, thrill-wise, crucial. I'm still watching. (Dave McCullough).
Melody Maker February 5h 1983
23 SKIDOO "The Culling Is Coming" (Operation Twilight: OTP 023)
Sometime last year, more by misleading coincidence than deliberate design, popular music and 23 Skidoo crossed paths. Their superlative "Seven songs" mini-LP was rhythmically direct enough to be loosely dubbed funk, and un-asked-for resonsibilities were heaped on this flexible lot to prove they were worthy new pioneers.
Skidoo didn't last the pace -- indeed didn't play the game, wouldn't join the race but shed, instead, two of the members once accepted as their public image and simply did something else. And, whatever you think of "The Culling Is Coming", it certainly is something else.
There's been a change since Alex, Johnny and Fritz usurped the controls -- if the critics loved to see Skidoo as house-training their listeners towards greater humanity by rubbing their noses in society's waste, now they'll say the boys have stepped in the shit themselves.
This is uncompromising stuff, so way off beam that any (maybe imaginary) effect they seek to achieve is thwarted by the album's complete refusal to ease the listener into its atmosphere. Initially, at least, the only way to attempt familiarity with "The Culling Is Coming" is to puff yourself up with conceit, pretend that you like it and look upon your decision as part of an exclusive subversive hip conspiracy -- you and Skidoo versus all the freaked-out squares who don't dig the joke. Whether further listening confirms or confounds this mental conundrum should decide if the record cuts or is simple a con.
The first side, recorded at WOMAD in July '82, is typical of Skidoo's strategy, replacing the expected percussive assault with tape-looped phrases segueing in and out of focus, electronic twitterings and squalling ethnic wind instruments all clawing at each other like an orgy in an abattoir. The plan -- to touch the core of tribal ritual by dispensing with bongo motions others see as "ethnic" is cute but the particularly ugly lock groove half way through the side necessitates the listener taking off the stylus and the act is more apt than symbolic.
After the groove comes, perversely and purposely, the album's best track. "Healing For The Strong" is a more insidious series of percussive wrigglings against a backdrop of implied turbulence -- a just reward for those with the fortitude to have persevered so far!
The second side, recorded with the Gamelan Orchestra at Dartington Hall, is more of a clue to '83 Skidoo. Almost purely percussive, they explore the road to Bali, substitute calm for antagonism and tap anciennt, sinister, organic sources rather than scurrying around for novelty's sake. It's everything that's good and bad about Skidoo all at once, secreting brooding threats and flirting with monotony on the quest for the repititious hypnosis of mantra.
Strangely, it works because it appreciates the volumes silence speaks and plumps for a brave simplicity instead of courting much of the first side's epilepsy for outrageousness's sake. Now that I no longer pretend to understand it, "The Culling Is Coming" chills me, I feel its force. Skidoo will probably giggle at that -- after all, nobody ever said it would, or should, be easy. (Steve Sutherland)
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