What was it then? The Factory association, the trail of JOY DIVISION support slots or simply their name? I wish someone would let your reviewer in on why the critics took such a delight in dousing poor old CRISPY AMBULANCE in scorn and setting light to them.
Because, to paraphrase HUGH CORNWELL, it seems the only thing CRISPY AMBULANCE were trying to do was play some rock ‘n’ roll. And, despite the deafening jeers, they did it rather well too. Even now, anyone capable of prising open even the tiniest portion of their mind will find plenty to enjoy with 1982’s great “The Plateau Phase” and the live “Fin”, to name just two previous highlights. “Fin” even contains a very decent cover of THROBBING GRISTLE’S “United” and very few rock bands have the guts to reshape Mr. P. Orridge’s back catalogue to this day.
And, improbably, “Scissorgun” – the first signs of life from CRISPY AMBULANCE this side of Y2K is yet another reason why you should give shelf room to this much-maligned Mancunian gang.
With all four Crispies back in harness – ALAN HEMPSALL (vocals), ROBERT DAVENPORT (guitar), KEITH DARBYSHIRE (bass) and drummer GARY MADELEY – “Scissorgun” was recorded during January/ February 2002 in a Longsight, Manchester studio with 808 STATE’S GRAHAM MASSEY doing the desk chores.
He was undoubtedly a good choice, too. In places, you can detect his influence – in the sequenced thrum that underpins the mighty opening track “Step Up” or the wonky loop that introduces “The Drop” and some other subtle textures – but mostly he wisely lets CRISPY AMBULANCE do what they do best and ensures “Scissorgun” touts a distinctly live in the studio ambience that plays to the band’s strengths.
Although we don’t need to dwell on the Factory aspect too long, the CRISPY AMBULANCE rhythm section is cut from the same fine cloth that typifies the label’s roster and it’s good to hear Messrs. Darbyshire and Madeley in such rude health. Darbyshire’s fluid, probing basslines are positively subterranean and crucial, whilst Madeley’s spinning drums on tunes like “End Game” spur the quartet on to some superb sonic violence.
And talking of which, the exhilarating, yobby edge to Alan Hempsall’s vocals remains an endearing aspect of CA’S make-up. There’s an element of implied violence which always keeps you on your toes and it’s brilliant the way he invests lines like “There’s something coming over me I can’t quite reconcile” (“Loupgarou”) or “I’m on the ceiling, stop me I’m reeling” (“End Game”) with a vein-bulging psychosis. To these ears, the only Manc voice in years he recalls is the equally under-rated MARK HOYLE from DUB SEX.
There are a couple of places where “Scissorgun” fires blanks. Its’ air of ritual menace aside, “Re-Animator”s relentless pounding sees the word “TUNE” in neon lights and rushes headlong in the opposite direction, whilst despite having one of the year’s best titles, “Even Now, In Heaven There Are Angels Carrying Savage Weapons” is an undistinguished instrumental. However, in “Loupgarou”, “Step Up”!”, “End Game” and “Parallax”, CRISPY AMBULANCE have moulded their actually fiercely distinctive sound into something live, livid and kicking for these greed-fuelled 21st Century days.
Bloody good to have you back, boys