Boomkat Product Review:
Does it get any rawer than 18 y.o. Graham Lambkin & Darren Harris’ pre-Shadow Ring recordings as The Cat and Bells Club? Expect detuned chazza-shop guitars and coffee cups for drums on a long-overdue insight to one of outsider music’s most enigmatic, uncompromising units.
Originally planned for release on Lambkin’s (now defunct) Kye Records in the early ‘00s, The Cat & Bells Club’s unleashes a menagerie of gonzo misshapes recorded straight to boombox in his S.H.P. studio-cum-bedroom at his parents’ house in Cheriton, a tiny town in Hampshire he shared with soon-to-be fellow Shadow Ring member, Darren Harris.
Inspired by early Marc Bolan, The Incredible String Band, Whitehouse, The Godz, and early Forced Exposure mailing lists, and articulated ad hoc on the jankiest kit, these recordings document two young minds thwarting boredom in a picturesque but typically anodyne english town. Aside to a few “songs” included on The C&B’s ‘1991 Pre-Shadow Ring Recordings’ 7” in 2010, the vast majority of this archival dredge is only known to a “handful of hangers-on, inner-circle drinking allies and the most devoted of fans”, with the complete collection revealing them like the spirits of Sam Esh and Burroughs inhabiting a couple of adolescent rural oddballs.
The Cat & Bells Club cadged their moniker from a misheard lyric in The Incredible String Band’s ‘The Iron Stone’ and would take that band, as well as Bolan’s early T. Rex works and more outré inspirations as jump-off into a backwater mythos involving the daily life of Chriton and anthropomorphic animalculæ. Lyrics are delivered in a mix of oblique and barely heard, or droll poetry, accompanied by typewriter on ‘Raven Chest’ or a TV playing in the background on the deadpan ‘Father’s Dead’, and more often driven by spunky, semi-folk-bloozy yanks of a found guitar.
They were clearly never intended for a mass audience, yet surely beguile and compel outsider tastes with a punkish undoing of english quaintness that uniquely gets under the skin. It reminds us to the nascent buzz of making daft tapes with mates and ideally captures a pair of dare-to-differ souls in their element, undistracted by social media and just making a cruddy racket for the sheer craic of it.