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Slapp Happy - Slapp Happy / Henry Cow: Desperate Straights CD (album) cover


Slapp Happy



3.85 | 71 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Absorbing the egghead Rock in Opposition of HENRY COW must have been as much of a challenge for the Slapp Happy trio as it likely was for their fans. But, like the hats they sing about in the opening track here, this was clearly a band aspiring to higher things.

Slapp Happy with Henry Cow was a more lighthearted ensemble than Henry Cow with Slapp Happy (see: 'In Praise of Learning'), almost as if the parent band set the agenda for the project at hand. This first collaboration (by a matter of weeks) still shows a lingering influence from Slapp Happy's earlier Krautrock associations. Listen to the simple yet insistent beat of 'A Worm at Work', or the sideshow circus melody of 'Apes in Capes', and tell me that a little bit of FAUST didn't rub off on the group, in particular the eccentric song collages of 'The Faust Tapes', released two years earlier.

Meanwhile the album wanders happily all over the avant-rock map. Songs like 'Riding Tigers' are almost (but not quite) Rock 'n' Roll, while the title track resembles a semi-Jazz Fusion orchestration of a minor Erik Satie objet d'art. But the thorny rhythms of 'Bad Alchemy' are pure Henry Cow; ditto the 8-minute epic 'Caucasian Lullaby' (well, it's an epic by Slapp Happy standards, anyway). The latter track closes the album on a repeated variation of near-ambient ascending scales, sounding like one of the Cow's more bovine improvisations, although I suspect it was all carefully notated throughout.

It also proves to be an exception to the very succinct organization of music. None of the remaining songs is allowed to outstay its welcome by more than a few stray seconds, and most of them clock in around the two-minute range: in 1975 the antithesis of Prog Rock scale and ambition. The very brevity of each selection, and of the album itself, may prompt newcomers to undervalue it, but don't be fooled: the music here is as demanding as it is playful, and all the more valuable for embracing both ends of that spectrum.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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