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National Health - Of Queues And Cures CD (album) cover


National Health


Canterbury Scene

4.26 | 372 ratings

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Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars Less accessible than its predecessor, the band's self-titled debut, "Of Queues and Cures" is an astonishingly accomplished, mature album of elegant, variegated jazz-rock, featuring a cracking combination of musicians belonging to the Canterbury circle. This can be seen as the missing link between Soft Machine's drier, somewhat cerebral take on the genre, and Hatfield and the North's more mellow, laid-back approach.

"Of Queues and Cures" is a mainly instrumental album, with the sole exception of "Binoculars", an 11-minute-plus song about TV addiction featuring Pip Pyle's inimitably ironic lyrics and John Greaves's wry crooning. In my opinion, Greaves (formerly of Henry Cow) is the real star of the album, his fluid, stylish bass lines meshing seamlessly with Pyle's intricate drumming patterns, and stamping the musician's individuality all over the compositions. His vocals on "Binoculars" remind the listener of the sorely missed Richard Sinclair's, though by no means possessed of the same smooth, almost sensual quality.

However, the most striking feature of this album is the stellar quality of the musical composition, which offers moments of sheer auditory pleasure. Needless to say, there is nothing easy about it: it is the kind of music you have to listen carefully to in order to fully appreciate it. Putting the album on as background music is only a waste of time and electricity - this is something you need to savour and digest. The four members of National Health are supplemented by what comes across as a mini-orchestra, including cellist Georgie Born (a future permanent member of the band), a horn section and the ubiquitous Jimmy Hastings (a Canterbury stalwart if there ever was one) on flute.The addition of those elements adds richness and texture to a music which is complex, yet never self-indulgent.

It is not easy to describe the individual tracks in detail, since it wouldn't do them complete justice. Two-part "The Bryden Two-Step" is very much a showcase for Stewart's skills as a keyboardist and Pyle's military-style drumming, somewhat reminiscent of the opening track of NH's debut, the magnificent "Tenemos Roads". The credits are equally split between the four members, with guitarist Phil Miller responsible for the album's most accessible song, "Dreams Wide Awake", featuring Stewart's 'mad' organ at the beginning (check the hilarious liner notes for details. Greaves signs instead the album's other 'epic', "Squarer for Maud", a wild ride through different musical moods which goes from the soothing to the positively dissonant.

Though not quite the masterpiece Hatfield and the North's "The Rotters' Club" was, "Of Queues and Cures" is a very rewarding (though also demanding) listen - especially for those who are keen on exploring some authentically progressive, technically proficient, yet far from soulless music.

Raff | 4/5 |


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