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Henry Cow - In Praise Of Learning CD (album) cover


Henry Cow



3.95 | 168 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars The ghosts of Henry Cow's old Canterbury influenced are well and truly exorcised with this album, which is the second part of their collaboration with Slapp Happy (the other half being the Happy-helmed Desperate Straights). After the opening War, which features Dagmar Krause's vocals over an unusually accessible and catchy instrumental performance, the album goes full steam ahead into avant-garde free jazz-influenced territories.

The frightening sonic soundscapes evoked are designed with an avowedly political intent - to shake people up and challenge conventional ideas of what rock music is, and to express a Marxist message. Like all true revolutionaries, of course, Henry Cow are more radical than Communist regimes of the era would have been comfortable with, but then again the point isn't so much to defend Soviet bloc implementations of Marxism - most Western Marxists would argue that the Soviet system corrupted the idea of Communism anyway - so much as it is to act as a critique of the very foundations of the capitalist system.

The consequence of this is that the album places a heavy emphasis on avant-garde noise, free jazz, tape experiments and other bizarre sounds, the point being to challenge the very idea of what makes music "music". All quite valid, all quite important to expanding our musical pallettes, but personally I just don't find the album particularly interesting to listen to. I certainly don't demand that my music be accessible, or soothing, or make me feel happy about the way the world is going, but aesthetically speaking I don't get on with the album. It is doubtless a major achievement, and anyone chasing up the Rock In Opposition scene will doubtless want to listen to it sooner or later, so I'll extend the rating to three stars, but buyer beware: this isn't easy going, it will require several listens to digest, and by the end of that process you may find - like me - that you feel that it just wasn't worth the effort.

Still, I really dig War, and it's convinced me that I need to look into Slapp Happy's work in the future (apparently it's an outtake from the Desperate Straights sessions, which is why it sounds so different from the rest of the album), so there's that.

Warthur | 3/5 |


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