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HENRY COW

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Henry Cow biography
British progressive pioneers HENRY COW was the leading group of the Rock In Opposition* (R.I.O. for short) movement, initiated by their drummer Chris CUTLER. All members of HENRY COW have been involved in collaborations with Canterbury groups and artists at one point or another, and most of them still are. Their music aged amazingly well over the last 20 years due to diverse influences: some of its roots in the Canterbury school, most notably early SOFT MACHINE, other influences (FRANK ZAPPA, BELA BARTOK, KURT WEIL...). The group functioned more or less as a collective, with a true group identity that changed from album to album as members came and went.

HENRY COW's first album, "Legend" (read "Leg End"), is considered by many their most accessible, and makes a good starter. Their sound draws on modern classical music, jazz and experimental music. "In Praise of Learning" was a collaboration with SLAPP HAPPY, which featured in the addition of a real vocalist (the infamous Dagmar KRAUSE), Pete BLEGVAD and Anthony MOORE. However, they sound nothing like HENRY COW. "In Praise of Learning" and "Concerts" are more noisy albums with a fair dose of improvisation. "Western Culture" is the final HENRY COW release, and it represents the next logical step from "In Praise of Learning". "Western Culture" seems the obvious choice as their best album being essentially jazz-tinged modernist classical music for an extended rock band instrumentation but it contains outstanding music: some fantastic, frenetic drumming, biting guitar work, and the usual array of saxophones, clarinets, oboes etc.

After disbanding in 1979, HENRY COW members got involved in multiple side and solo projects:
- Art Bears
- News From Babel
- Slapp Happy
- Tim Hodgkinson
- Fred Frith
- Chris Cutler
- Cutler and Frith
- Cassiber
- The (ec) Nudes
- Skeleton Crew
- The Science Group

* Rock In Opposition (R.I.O.) defines a c...
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ConcertsConcerts
Remastered
ReR Megacorp 2006
Audio CD$21.98
$38.00 (used)
UnrestUnrest
Rer USA 2005
Audio CD$14.81
$14.95 (used)
Leg EndLeg End
Rer USA 2005
Audio CD$13.49
$11.68 (used)
Western CultureWestern Culture
Remastered
East Side Digital 2002
Audio CD$13.01
$7.93 (used)
Vol. 6-10-Road (40th Anniversary Box Set)Vol. 6-10-Road (40th Anniversary Box Set)
Box set
Rer Megacorp 2009
Audio CD$76.82
$82.67 (used)
Vol. 1-5 Studio (40th Anniversary Box Set)Vol. 1-5 Studio (40th Anniversary Box Set)
Recommended Records 2009
Audio CD$75.00
$69.99 (used)
In Praise of LearningIn Praise of Learning
Rer USA 2008
Audio CD$14.75
$21.88 (used)
Vol. 1-5-RoadVol. 1-5-Road
Box set
ReR Megacorp 2009
Audio CD$69.94
$76.99 (used)
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HENRY COW discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

HENRY COW top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.12 | 197 ratings
Legend
1973
3.46 | 134 ratings
Unrest
1974
3.94 | 151 ratings
In Praise Of Learning
1975
4.24 | 183 ratings
Western Culture
1979

HENRY COW Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.59 | 50 ratings
Concerts
1976

HENRY COW Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

HENRY COW Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.03 | 17 ratings
The Road: Volume 6 - Stockholm & Göteborg (40th Anniversary Boxset)
2008
4.56 | 21 ratings
The Road: Volumes 1-5 (40th Anniversary Box Set)
2009
4.32 | 19 ratings
The Road: Volumes 6-10 (40th Anniversary Box Set)
2009

HENRY COW Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.67 | 3 ratings
In Concerto
1977
4.25 | 4 ratings
Unreleased Orckestra Extract
2006

HENRY COW Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.94 | 151 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

4 stars During their recording sessions for Unrest in Virgin's Manor Studios, Henry Cow were introduced to a German avant-rock band Slapp Happy. This group invited Henry Cow to guest on their new album Desperate Straights. Despite stylistic differences, the two decided to carry on playing together. In 1975, they joined forces to record an album with Henry Cow's material and named it In Praise Of Learning. Soon after, the bands started touring Western Europe for nearly two years continously and played alongside Robert Wyatt.

In Praise Of Learning is a milestone in Henry Cow's catalog. The band's dissonant free-jazz approach of Unrest is being estranged with more of "pure" avant-rock quality being put in the foreground. The contemporary jazz influences are by no means uncommon, but they are just a part of the musical extract. Although to a lesser extent, the band still shows some of their older chamber music elements, which played an important role on their previous releases. Even some Krautrock-inspired electronic effects are introduced. In addition, the band is becoming a lot more politically-oriented. We were able to catch just a glimpse of Henry Cow's political views on their debut Legend, specifically on "Nine Funerals Of Citizen King". Chris Cutler's left-wing lyrics deal with problems of social injustice as well as the ruthless music industry.

Anthony Moore, the keyboardist of Slapp Happy enriches the band's sound by adding organ as well as various electronics, while Phil Becque deals with synthesizer parts. Although it is not entirely felt, the wind section is extended with an addition of trumpet player Mongezi Feza, the comeback of Geoff Leigh (who played on Legend) on woodwinds and Peter Blegvad (who also played guitar). These combined with Lindsey Cooper's woodwinds give more of a jazzy, rather than chamber feel. Dagmar Krause, Slapp Happy's female singer adds a unique quality to the group's sound with her emotional soprano vocals. These work very well with the lyrical themes, as they picture an ordinary woman, who talks about class war. Other than that, Henry Cow's sound remains unchanged with Fred Frith's distorted guitar timbre and folk fiddle, Tim Hodgkinson's jazz-influenced piano, Chris Cutler's accurate and percise drumming or John Greaves' steady basslines.

This album contains six tracks. These are not very varied, really presenting only two or three different stlyes, but they all contribute to a very interesting and a unique whole. "Living In The Heart Of The Beast" is Henry Cow's own 15-minute suite, which opens with a dissonant distorted guitar and going through many different moody phases, it closes with a jazzy march, that brings some of more mainstream progressive rock acts to mind. I feel like this is the most representative piece of the album, both musically and lyrically. "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners" is another longer track with a very smooth jazz-rock feel, leaded by solo piano. "Beginning: The Long March" or "Morning Star" (named after a British socialist magazine) present the more experimental side of Henry Cow's sound with more of an ambient electronic free-form approach. All in all, the band organized their album time very profficiently.

In Praise Of Learning is an absolutely exceptional work with a distinctive, unique sound. This album could be the closest that Henry Cow got to being a progressive rock band and so naturally In Praise Of Learning should be quite appealing for fans of the genre. Fairly inaccessible, this recquiers much more than one or two listens to appreciate fully, But I assure you - this will be a very rewarding journey. Highly recommended, a masterpiece! 4.5 stars!

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 Unrest by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.46 | 134 ratings

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Unrest
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

3 stars The return of the sock!

After releasing their debut album Legend, Henry Cow were organised a tour with a German experimental band Faust. In addition, the group was offered to play with Mike Oldfield (whom they met while recording Legend) on the BBC session recordings of Tubular Bells. It was at that time that Geoff Leigh left the band. He was replaced with a female oboe and bassoon player Lindsay Cooper, who had previously played in a folk rock outfit Comus. In early 1974, Henry Cow returned to Virgin's Manor Studios to record their second album called Unrest.

It is known that there were many tensions between the members while recording this album. This is very much reflected in the music. Unrest is really a game of two. Side one presents a rather familiar Henry Cow sound with just a few new touches. The Canterbury-style jazz influence is substituted with a darker avant-garde chamber-like feel to it. Free-form elements previously being just a portion of the group's musical extract are being embraced to a much greater extent. Side two is said to have been fully improvised based loosely just on little themes that the musicians brought in. It's really a shame, because it feels like that material does not lead to anything and does not contribute to a whole in any way whatsoever. And they could do much better than that! "Bittern Storm Over Ulm", "Half Asleep; Half Awake" or "Ruins" are very decent tracks, but their potential glory is overshaded by side two's experimentation on pieces such as "Upon Entering The Hotel Adlon" or "Deluge".

As previously mentioned, Henry Cow's sound on Unrest is a lot darker than on Legend. The fast-paced jazz passages are virtually gone and are replaced with slow, dissonant, experimental bassoon and saxophone parts, which must admitt are more typical of Rock In Opposition or Avant-rock than the things the band did on their debut. Despite the changes, we are still capable of observing the group's classic elements: Fred Frith's fuzz guitar tones, his violin, Tim Hodgkinson's piano, Chris Cutler's percise drumming or John Greaves' basslines. However, the "magic", the claw and the true spark of their first album is absent.

All in all, Unrest is a bit of a let-down after Henry Cow's excellent and promising debut release. It's by no means bad or unambitious, but monotonous and a bit lacking. That is not to say that I wish the band would put aside their musical exploration and carry on playing old tunes, no. I think though, the group didn't particularly pick the right direction with their material. Thankfully, much better things were to come. Nonetheless, this is an important album in Henry Cow's discography and deserves attention. 3.5 stars!

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 Legend by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.12 | 197 ratings

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Legend
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by ALotOfBottle

5 stars Henry Cow was formed in the summer of 1968, soon after two Cambridge University students, Tim Hodgkinson and Fred Frith, met in a blues club. The two quickly found they shared common approach to music and started performing as a duo. In a short time, they were joined by a few other musicians and after various personel changes Frith and Hodgkinson recruited a bassist John Greaves, who would stay in the band for a longer period of time. It was around 1971, when Henry Cow started functioning as a proper band, playing at numerous music festivals and taking part in John Peel's "Rockortunity Knocks" contest, for instance. The band took their time to observe ever-changing musical trends and constantly learn. By and by, the quartet was joined by Geoff Leigh on woodwinds and Chris Cutler on drums. In 1973, the quintet signed a deal with Virgin to record their debut, which they called Legend (or Leg End as it is often called).

Legend comprises diverse musical styles including post-bop and free jazz of Ornette Coleman or Rahsaan Roland Kirk, 20th century classical music of Arnold Schoenberg or Benjamin Britten, as well as some material of their contemporaries - Soft Machine, Gentle Giant, King Crimson or Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Henry Cow's music is demanding and complex throughout, full of exceptionally clever detailing. The band's sound is rich in countless free sections, odd time signatures, unconventional arrangements, and unusual sounds.

All of the previously mentioned characteristics are executed in a proficient way. Virtually every musician appearing on "Legend" is a multiinstrumentalist. Tim Hodgkinson handles most keyboard parts and can be often heard playing clarinet and saxophone. This becomes evident on Hodgkinson-Leigh sax duel on the opening track "Nirvana For Mice". Fred Frith's guitar tone varies from highly saturated and almost synthesizer-like to clean and glassy. Frith also plays violin, which is an important element of the band's music, giving it a feel of Bartok's violin concertos. Geoff Leigh laid down flute, clarinet, recorder and saxophone parts. John Greaves is capable of fantastic grooves, while Chris Cutler's drumming is characterised by astonishing precision. With all of that in mind, without a shade of doubt, the musicians of Henry Cow present phenomenal musicianship and musical know-how throughout the whole work. The sounds of the so-called "toy instruments" such as a pixiphone are not uncommon and enrich the album, giving it even more of a unique sound.

Henry Cow's Legend consists of ten tracks. Varying from melodic to improvisation-based, most of them are instrumental. That is with an exception of "Nine Funerals Of Citizen King", which includes charming harmony vocals and bright political lyrics. The track brings Gentle Giant and King Crimson to mind at times. The "Teenbeat" trilogy is highly influenced by free jazz, while "Tenth Chaffinch" is an experimental, beat-less electronic work-out. Overall, the tracks have a much-needed diversity, which saves this album from sounding monotonous, sterile and "ho-hum".

All things considered, Henry Cow's debut album is a consistent and a very mature work. Borrowing from many different genres, Legend sounds like no other record. Not quite Canterbury scene, not quite jazz-rock, not quite progressive rock - Henry Cow occupy a strange territory of their own. Experimental, complex, vigorous, original, eclectic and one-of-a-kind, in short - a beautifully twisted masterpiece, five stars.

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 Western Culture  by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.24 | 183 ratings

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Western Culture
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by GKR

5 stars How do we speak without words?

HENRY COW fascinates me. Its a constructed band aware of their own social construction, trying to explain the world in gestures (sometimes with actually words). The band, when decided to use lyrics, produced one of the most aloudly speaking poems of the late-capitalist society, "Nine funerals for the citizen king".

As one of the unique (and almost only) marxist bands that was formed in the seventies, HENRY COW was also aware of what made HERY COW be HENRY COW. And its here that they produced with heart what is the instrumentation equivalent of Demetrio Stratos singing. Full expression without saying a word. Full humanization of thoughs through metal squalid sounds. If the tracks' titles already give us the hint of what each song is about ("Industry", "The decay of cities", "1/2 the sky") and the sides are also named (a-side: History and prospects; side-b: Day by Day), a good experience is listen to the album without knowing the titles - you'll probably get a correct answer, as their playing lead you into the idea.

Only in ART BEARS we can see how they perceived revolution as a whole, but in "Western Culture" we perceived... well... everything else.

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 Legend by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.12 | 197 ratings

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Legend
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by TerryDactyl

4 stars And with a great reeling squonk, the Mighty Henry Cow are born, and it seems to have been a rather difficult birth, of course there's tons of weird facts about how it came to be, and there are many discourses upon how difficult a band the Mighty Henry Cow are, but to my ears the very first time I heard the Mighty Henry Cow, they sympathized and stretched in to fit so perfectly that the only thing I could say after the ravishing was "Where have you been all my life?" as I lit a Kool Mild and took a slug from my bottle of Olde English.

It's like John Coltrane sometimes, other times not so much (Coltrane is better than the Mighty Henry Cow but only because he happened to be a walking god among men) mostly because the Mighty Henry Cow ARE a rock band of some stripe, though the stripes might be vertical or horizontal, depending if you are knocked on the floor by their brilliant beaming ugliness.

Also there's guitars. Coltrane had no guitar. the Mighty Henry Cow would make two really wonderful records, then acquire Dagmar, of whom I'm not incredibly fond, and remain not quite as good as this before disbanding. I can't give either this or the next album Five stars because they aren't quite five star affairs, but for what it's worth, This record kicks asps, and rattle snakes too. Try it and you may I say listen to 'the Cow every day.

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 Unrest by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.46 | 134 ratings

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Unrest
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by claugroi

1 stars This is the first time I rate an album 1-star. The reason is that it deserves so. This album goes against everything I consider to be music. And I'm not even talking about GOOD music, but music in general. It seems to me that the guys arrived in the studio and said "Ok, let's record a new album. Hit anything that makes any noise, but be sure not to hit it with rhythm. Let's make the most chaotic music ever".

No sense of rhythm and melody are to be found here. Also, the sounds are too dissonant. One thing is producing a very jazzy album with sparse and light instrumentation or an eclectic prog album with lots of counterpoint and dissonant layers, but this goes beyond that. It really trespasses the limits of music and becomes sheer torture.

Some reasonable moments do exist, but only for some seconds. For instance, the piano intro of Half Asleep, Half Awake and some oboe or bassoon notes here and there, but most of it is pure improvisation with no goal at all. It seems they just turned the mics on and played anything, literally anything. That's not music to my ears. Music should be a sincere and deep expression of one's artistic inner feelings. There's a big difference between that and making any noise you can. Not even Solemn Music and Bittern Storm Over Ulm, which are the ones that resemble actual songs the most, are enjoyable.

I'm really sorry for this rating. I know some people like this (some even rated it 5 stars, a huge blasphemy in my opinion) and I tend to recognise a band's effort even in the poorest albums, but I just can't stand this.

Some people might say to me I need some time to understand this album and, consequently, enjoy it. Well, I've been listening to this record since 2009 and I don't think I should give it any more tries. I guess I just don't like it and that's it.

All in all, a very dark and unpleasant album. Stay away from it.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.94 | 151 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars HENRY COW had joined forces with the German trio SLAPP HAPPY as they collaborated to make the album "Desperate Straights" under the SLAPP HAPPY name. "In Praise Of Learning" sees this collaboration continue only this one is released under the HENRY COW name. This collaboration would end shortly after this album was released. Still this melding of the two bands makes "In Praise Of Learning" quite different from their previous two studio albums. More avant-garde i'd say plus having Dagmar Krause on vocals changes the mood completely. I am used to her vocals from the ART BEARS albums but those who haven't heard her sing before don't usually view her participation as a positive. Including guests we get eleven musicians involved with the making of this record. SLAPP HAPPY would fold after this recording when Dagmar announced she was staying with HENRY COW as the COW would tour a lot the following year or so. She would return to SLAPP HAPPY though as witnessed on their 1980 release "Acnalbasac Noom".

"War" is only 2 1/2 minutes long and was composed by the SLAPP HAPPY duo of Moore and Blegvad. Both Blegvad and Krause sing on it and Dagmar is quite passionate here. I like the brief instrumental sections. "Living In The Heart Of The Beast" opens with Frith ripping it up with some dissonant guitar leads. Krause comes in vocally and I like this song already much better than the first tune. It settles down before we get some more aggressive guitar. A calm follows with piano and Dagmar returns in a reserved manner. It turns dark before 3 minutes as we get a complex instrumental section that really impresses. Vocals are back before 4 1/2 minutes. Another calm a minute later as the vocals stop and the sounds become intricate. Vocals are back and they do get passionate at times. Another calm before 7 1/2 minutes with organ. Violin joins in from Frith after 8 minutes. It will kick in again but settle back quickly. This is so good ! Vocals are back before 12 1/2 minutes as it stays fairly relaxed. Great, great track composed by Tim Hodgkinson.

"Beginning- The Long March" like the final track "Morning Star" were joint efforts by the two bands. The first is experimental throughout as various sounds come and go. I like this instrumental a lot, it's a real trip. "Beautiful As The Moon-Terrible As An Army With Banners" is a Frith / Cutler composition. It opens with reserved vocals and a laid back sound with plenty of piano. It does become a little more passionate then settles back before 3 minutes. It picks back up before 4 minutes with an excellent instrumental section. Dagmar is back late. Another excellent track. "Morning Star" ends it as we get dissonant horns and random drum patterns to start and more. Avant is the word and it continues throughout. An adventerous instrumental to close out the album.

A very solid 4 stars. I really enjoy everything about this except for the short opening track.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.94 | 151 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Henry Cow - In Praise of Learning (1975)

Among us are those listeners who want an adventure with a bite. They indure the layers of sophistication, the psychedelic effects and sheer heavyness of the music. They have often found VdGG's 'Pawn Hearts', a few King Crimson classics and perhaps had some experience with Magma. As a great next step I would like to recommend giving this specific Henry Cow record a couple of spins, for it is a great avant-prog record that will satisfy listeners of the beforementioned bands.

Henry Cow is known as one of the bigger English avant-garde groups. All musicians involved (and especially Fred Frith on guitar, Tim Hodgkinson on organ and Chris Cutler of drums) are of the highest level, making the music as professional and well performed as the best of Magma line-ups - an almost unmatchable level of musicianship. On this third record the band cooperated with female vocalist Dagmar Krause, who in style shows some resemblance to Peter Hammill when it comes to pronounciation and intensity. The political anti-war lyrics are written in poetic English and fit the developed atmosphere of the music.

The album opens with the short acid track 'War' with hellish vocals by Krause and Canterbury-like vocals of Glegvad. However, on the first side the centerpeace, the fifteen minuted avant-prog epic 'Living in the heart of the beast' steals the show. On side two a shorter but equally impressive doomish avant-prog track 'Beautiful as the moon, terrible as an army with banners' is accompanied by two avant-garde compositions that might initially put of some progressive rock listeners.

'Living in the heart of the beast'. What if Peter Hammill's evil twin sister was to line up with Lizard-era Robert Fripp, backed-up by Christian Vander's bombastic and doomish artistic vision in a recording studio in the center of Canterbury? Add some layers of avant-garde exploration and you might have an idea why this piece is such an highlight of the progressive genre. Heavy, sometimes atonal, brooming, exploding, dark and profetic in lyrical style. I would like to add some words of admiration for the brilliant ending section that reminds me a bit of the kick I can get out of Mahavishnu's 'Hope'.

Conclusion. This record falls between the border of eclectic progressive rock and avant- garde, yet serves best of both genres. A great daring record that should not be skipped by listeners of eclectic prog, Canterbury, zeuhl and avant-garde/rio. Five stars.

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 In Praise Of Learning by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.94 | 151 ratings

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In Praise Of Learning
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Henry Cow was always a difficult band to pin down, and even more so after joining forces with the avant-pop eccentrics of SLAPP HAPPY. The collaboration was no doubt mutually beneficial, but sometimes it just brought out the weirdness in everyone involved.

That much is obvious after hearing the first demented verses of "War", the opening cut off their 1975 album together. Hearing it for the first time, I was immediately reminded of the "Laughing Song" (from the 1978 "Duck Stab!" EP) by THE RESIDENTS, at the time an all but unknown group but certainly not unfamiliar with either half of this double ensemble.

So, what to call the augmented band? Slapp Henry? Happy Cow? Neither label does justice to the awesome cacophony of the awkwardly named "Beginning: The Long March", or the even more challenging "Beautiful as the Moon - Terrible as an Army With Banners". The former title references Chairman Mao; the latter The Song of Solomon, which ought to show you the scope of their combined erudition. Henry Cow's agenda typically leaned to the far left, but don't worry: their music was even more radical than their politics.

And Dagmar Krause was certainly a unique vocal stylist, to say the least. Her contributions here may seem almost superfluous at times, especially next to some of the truly powerful instrumental experiments. Check out the final, epic moments of the 15+ minute "Living in the Heart of the Beast", offering an exciting alternative to the other kind of Symphonic Rock in vogue at the same time.

This was never an album designed for casual entertainment. But of course there's no such thing as a casual Henry Cow fan, right? Their music demands a level of committed listening sometimes lacking even among the most adventurous Progheads. I can't say I'm always up to the challenge myself, but judging at least from other reviews here at Progarchives there are plenty of dedicated listeners more than able to fill in the blanks.

"In Praise of Learning"....what an appropriate title. Sometimes the curve can be steep, but the rewards will always match the effort.

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 Unrest by HENRY COW album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.46 | 134 ratings

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Unrest
Henry Cow RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Henry Cow was always a group positioned very near the event horizon where music and noise overlap, and that boundary was further blurred on the band's aptly titled 1974 album. Unrest, indeed: this is music tailor-made for sleepless nights.

Imagine a modern chamber orchestra, masquerading as a rock 'n' roll band and commissioned to improvise the score to an experimental ballet, juxtaposing oboes, clarinets, bassoons and violin against the usual array of electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. That might give you a vague idea of their sound, but I doubt it.

There are moments here, mostly during the second, more improvisational half of the album, that might leave you wondering who is more insane: the septet of players actually performing this racket, or yourself for willingly listening to it. The opener 'Bittern Storm Over Ulm' bounces forward on an awkward but not unattractive melody, in my limited experience maybe the closest the Cow ever came to a legitimate pop song. But all bets are off after that uneasy truce; check out the bizarre, pre-verbal chanting in 'Linguaphonie' for proof.

And what exactly is creating that distorted buzzing hum, in 'Ruins' and elsewhere: synthesizers? Maybe some sort of electronically fuzzed horn? I suspect it's Fred Frith, up to his usual tricks. What that man does to a guitar almost borders on abuse, god bless him.

In the end the album is easy to admire, but harder to actually enjoy...at least for anyone not schooled in advanced musicology. I'm not suggesting you need to be a complete brainiac to appreciate Henry Cow, but it couldn't hurt. A four-star effort with two-star popular appeal: hence my fickle three-star recommendation.

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