This is absolutely belter: a genuinely never-before-heard collection of punk-funk oddballs by Stretchmarks, the short-lived but dead good Manchester band fronted by Matt Wand and Rex Casswell of plunderphonic pioneers Stock, Hausen & Walkman and fuelled by a rhythm section with previous form for both Nico and Blue Orchids. It’s the kinda stuff Manc-y wet dreams are made of - funky as f*ck, feral and devilishly effective, and totally set to light up a lot of grins on those familiar with Mancunia c.1989-1991 as much as classic Material, Pere Ubu, ACR, ESG.
Pulled together from live recordings of shows at The Millstone, basement sessions down in Withington, and from various rehearsal sessions in rooms across the city, The Stretch m-ARKhives contains the best of this bunch’s efforts during the period that everyone putatively associates with baggy kids and ecstasy pipes. Basically, Stretchmarks were a sort of antithesis to what they called “the ‘baggy plague”, and it’s fair to say with hindsight that their live-wire mix of funk chops, punkish vocals and electronic blatz succeeded in creating an excellent alternative to the usual suspects. Only thing was, at the time, only a few people gave a flying fxck about Stretchmarks and they never made a proper record to prove their anti-thesis.
Fast forward nearly 30 years to now, and, by all rights, Stretchmarks should find their audience in a scene that’s been primed to tell wave goods from wave bads after a decade absorbing YouTube rips, blog posts and a deluge of reissues. Hence it should be easy to detect their flashes of devious genius inside, from the mad mix of upclose whisper and distant holler on the roiling Puddle Of Love, thru to the nipped Afrobeat-punk meter of All The Same, the free jazz mind splash of No Way, and the helpless madness of Let’s Get Weird with its bestial grunts and instantly memorable lyrics intoning “let’s get weird/you and me/in my kidney shaped swimming pooooool.”
Ultimately, The Stretch m-ARKhives is yet another example of how history always favours the winners, in this case The Cranky Tuesdays and The Bony Losers, at the expense of the interesting crud that happened beyond the sight of scenesters and there mainstream, of which this LP is a perfect example.