Monday, 25 September 2017

Opera for Infantry - Hopscotch (1984) C60

Opera for Industry were the first band to write to me and ask if I'd like to release their tape. I think they got my address from Colin of Family Patrol Group. The tape was called Hopscotch, and it was a bit rough, but nevertheless a fair bit more convincing than any of my own efforts in the same noisy direction, so naturally I said yes. Then they changed their name to Opera for Infantry as acknowledgement of their residence in Amesbury, Wiltshire, a town full of squaddies and camouflaged types; and then they started their own label and released a million tapes, including one of mine; and then they eventually became the Grey Wolves.

Just for the record, and seeing as this one has come up a few times, and I feel I'm in some sort of position to address it having known these people on and off for the last three decades, albeit at a distance - I always understood the whole point of the Grey Wolves to be protest mounted by means of a sort of sensory overload, bombarding the audience with horror upon horror to the point at which there is no choice but to react - which is more or less directly stated in their Cultural Terrorist Manifesto; and this is why they've been accused of extremist right-wing sympathies from time to time, because they've made use of imagery suggesting the same but, I would argue, towards entirely different ends to those from which such imagery has been appropriated. In other words, the point is to inspire a positive reaction against the authoritarian status quo not by educating you, as Crass might do, but by scaring the living shit out of you. Whether or not such tactics work or are at best badly misjudged is another thing entirely, but that's how I've always seen it.

Anyway, Hopscotch was their first album, so far as I'm aware and is fairly revealing as to where the lads were coming from. Confrontational electronics was kind of a new thing at the time, and those dabbling were still very much experimenting rather than just forming Whitehouse tribute bands, which came a bit later. To me, Hopscotch always sounded like it owed at least as much to Reality Asylum and the other, noisier works of Crass as it did to Gristle and the like, particularly Winds of Mauthausen.

Hopscotch is a racket, and a primitive racket amounting to two blokes with a Jen SX1000 and a ghetto blaster making a noise in a scout hut, the hard electronics equivalent of Link Wray or something, I suppose; but I'm surprised at how powerful it still sounds, all things considered.

I've cleaned it up as best as I can, editing out all the clicks and pops of turning the tape on and off with what sounds like a cheap Woolworths cassette in the deck. Also, three different inlay cards are included, a homemade version forged from swinging mags in which the initial cassette was presented to me for my consideration, a photocopied one which came with the master tape they sent once I said I'd like to release it, and the overly fussy fold out Do Easy tape cover.

1 - Hopscotch
2 - Winds of Mauthausen
3 - Repetition
4 - Hopscotch Revisited
5 - Playing with Fire
6 - Propaganda
7 - Black Christmas

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