Desperate Straights

Released

If its successor, In Search of Learning, has Slapp Happy in service to Henry Cow, then Desperate Straights is its inverse, the articulate and ever-curious musicianship of Henry Cow placed at the feet of thirteen songs, mostly written by the Slapp Happy’s Anthony Moore and/or Peter Blegvad, with singer Dagmar Krause at the centre of the material’s subtle subterfuges. The songs here regularly pull the rug from under the listener’s feet: follow a melody along its course and you’ll reach a point where it takes you in an entirely unexpected direction; choral voices battle it out with surrealist brass interjections; percussion clatters its way through a thudding, pulsing two-note riff-storm. But you can hear, in its rough joins and forced cohesion, that this collaboration was always going to be brief and explosive.

Jon Dale