A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, Section 25, Blurt: ICA, London

THE FACTORY roadshow has taken to bringing their own clown to put on between acts, his name’s Kevin Hewick and he attacks his dopey revelations with the gall and disturbing naivety of Jonathan Richman.

His songs might be genuinely meant, but it’s difficult to tell when his rhyming is so appallingly funny. At present the few songs he gets between sets is enough, unless you have the misfortune to cross him in the corridor.

Blurt are the other Factory oddballs. Led by performance artist Ted Milton on sax, the ungainly trio (made up by a loopy guitarist in oversize trousers and a ruthlessly rudimentary drummer), they cross Captain Beefheart’s racing subterranean nonsense funk with the highbrown intensity of James White’s over-the-top blowing, and still manage to amuse. That’s down to Milton’s facial contortions matching his heavily echoed sax mugging and mock primitive singing.

It’s rumoured that Milton was at one point mooted as replacement for Mark Stewart in The Pop Group. Now that would have been fascinating, but for now Blurt’ll do fine.

Section 25 are the sort of band that work well in theory but are less interesting actually to listen to. Their austerely wrought rhythms are minimally embellished by a guitarist more interested in sound than conventional technique, and their bass-playing singer intones monotonously mainly one-line songs with only slight variations. D.A.F. do this sort of thing far more exotically, but given their self-imposed limitations Section 25 can be surprisingly effective, as on one song that works up from a “I want your body/I want your mind” chant to an awesomely frightening intensity.

And their singer has a skull to match Eno’s or Howard Devoto’s — if that’s any consolation.

Durutti Column (a.k.a. Vini Reilly plus backing rhythm tape) perform guitar instrumentals that are on the surface as shy as their composer. But underneath, there’s a subdued strength at work that draws the listener deeper into the pieces. Vaguely classical in approach, Reilly layers flurries of delicate notes onto restrained rhythms; most touching is ‘Requiem For A Father’, with its variable emotions fluctuating between anger and sadness.

A Certain Ratio’s confidence has increased in proportion to their ability, a fact perhaps underlined by sensible Simon Topping’s present willingness to dance about like Jerry Lewis auditioning for the Afrika Corps, what with his sombre uniform, goggles and cap.

They’re great, much improved even since their enjoyable gig at the Scala only six weeks ago. Now their darkly fertile funk is more purposeful, perhaps losing some of its nagging amateur charm of old; but the resourceful adventurousness that lead earlier to brash experimentation of dual trumpets and/or whistles set against Peter Terrell’s electric noise, is followed through to occasionally overlong, usually valuable improvisations.

And when they get too carried away, there’s always Donald Johnson’s intense, chatterfunk drumming to hook onto.

© Chris BohnNew Musical Express, 28 June 1980

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