Several Odd Moments Prior To Lunch or Ten Truly Great Nurse With Wound Albums - No. 2) Rock ‘N’ Roll Station, 2a) Second Pirate Session and 2b) Who Can I Turn To Stereo
Arriving on the shelves (remember those days?) shortly after the death of Kurt Cobain and within the throes of Britpop, the title of what was the first brand new NWW album for two or three years certainly raised an eyebrow. Had Stapleton and chums cast a weary eye on the musical landscape east of Cooloorta and decided to show the youngsters how it was done?
Of course not. Taking its title - and indeed, its title track - from a recording by Vince Taylor and Stapleton’s friend Jacques Berrocal, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Station” is actually one of NWW’s most coldly electronic albums. Most of the album consists of absorbing, hypnotic rhythm tracks that pulse and flicker away to themselves while the other elements are tossed around them like tumbleweed. It’s a dry listen to start with but repeated exposure opens it up, proving that, once accepted on its own terms, the album has a magnetic pull and, in places, even a bit of genuine funk.
But the real boo came later. There was enough material to compile a further volume and “Second Pirate Session” makes it clear that the aridity of RNRS was completely intentional as this is where the fun starts. Based loosely around the same basic rhythm tracks, “SPS” skips its way through the source material with a much lighter heart and, perhaps, a more obviously Woundian spirit. In the sleevenote to the reissue, Stapleton says that these tracks were never fully completed but that they benefited from the stripped back nature of the results, an odd suggestion given that RNRS wasn’t exactly maximal. But still, he’s right - there’s a freshness to “SPS” which justifies Stapleton’s expressed fondness for it. “Optical Illusion Pad” looks forward to “An Awkward Pause” with its slinky wah guitars and slight waft of patchouli oil and “Chuggin’/Codfish/Phantom Limb” builds wonkily to a head of static before plunging into a vivid nightmare of half-remembered lullabies. The highlight is the brilliant “Subterranean Zappa Blues/My Saxy Baby”. Basically a cover of Zappa’s “Trouble Every Day”, an inidentified male vocalist turns in a spirited Capt Beefheart impression while the rhythm tracks becomes increasingly processed and hallucinatory behind him, culminating in a priceless solo which I shan’t spoil for anyone who hasn’t heard it. Then it merges into a cheering blowing session and the enjoyment is obvious. Top this off with some guitar scree (“Ernest Needs A Kidney”) and you have one of the most necessary outtakes releases you could hope for.
And that’s not all. Stapleton returned to “Two Golden Microphones” and extrapolated the exceptional “Who Can I Turn To Stereo” (no “?” on any edition, btw). He has often bemoaned the relative lack of affection for this album and he’s right to feel sore at its neglect. This may be simply a matter of presentation - it would be easy to view it as a “remix” album rather than a brand new set so maybe a few folks passed on it for that reason. Anyway, it’s incredible. Using text from an exquisite corpse game that was running on the Brainwashed NWW website, Stapleton, Colin Potter and pals construct a wild, unpredicatable series of variations, asides and additions creating an end-to-end listen that is amongst the most enjoyable in the NWW catalogue.
Taken together, these discs showcase Stapleton’s ability to take an idea and run in so many directions with it that most of us can barely keep up, let alone enjoy the same freedom of thought and sonic alchemy. Visit or revisit as required.
(nb - there is also 2d) Stereo Wastelands, an outtakes collection from “WCITTS” originally a limited release, now appended to the parent album in a 2CD package. It doesn’t have the same consistancy as “SPS” and whilst there are planty of enjoyable moments, it’s clear SS’s sense of direction was in better form when “WCITTS” was being assembled as all the leftover pieces are loose, fragmentary and much less satisfying than the completed album)