ne of the most comically antagonistic bands of recent years, in retrospect it's maybe not too surprising that Mclusky didn't last particularly long; I imagine it's only possible to sustain that level of spittle-flecked invective for so long before imploding. Having a song called "Fuck This Band" indicates a certain self-destructive impulse. Mclusky ground to a halt last year, without ever attaining the recognition/notoriety they perhaps deserved, or indeed the improbable Top of the Pops appearance everyone secretly hoped they were capable of; in some parallel universe "our old singer is a sex criminal" would've been a defining TotP moment.
Too Pure have now unleashed the retrospective collection promised when the band broke up, and it's a pretty straightforward affair, comprising the 12 A-sides the band released over five-odd years, with optional limited edition bonus discs of B-sides and out-takes. At the time of writing the three-disc edition doesn't seem to be particularly difficult to find, nor much more expensive than the single one, so let's just plough through the entire goddamn thing until strange stuff starts coming out of our ears, hm?
As you'd expect, the first disc is particularly relentless, opening with the long-disowned "Joy." Admittedly, it’s not their finest hour but it’s sets the tone well, moving from the very quiet guitar intro into deranged shrieking soon thereafter. "To Hell With Good Intentions" is maybe their defining moment, that ridiculously menacing fuzz-bass bend at the start heralding one of the most impressive assaults of lyrical dick-waving ever heard, while the aforementioned sex criminal sing-along from "She Will Only Bring You Happiness" also shows a glimpse of the more tuneful bent that seemed to get increasingly drowned out as their career progressed.
Some of the b-sides and out-takes further showcase that less directly confrontational, almost art-pop tendency; at points they're even strangely reminiscent of Blur and Pulp. Naturally, it's all rather hit-and-miss; Mclusky are perhaps not best experienced in the form of twenty-two consecutive B-sides, and Falkous' entertaining liner notes claim that some of these songs are so bad that the mixing process reduced him to tears. That said, it's hard to begrudge their being provided as a gesture in the direction of the faintly sinister, glassy-eyed completists of this world, particularly when it just comes as an inexpensive bonus on top of a collection of stronger material.
Some of it's good as well; "Rock vs. Single Parents" and "whiteliberalonwhiteliberalaction" are both actually better than the first two singles featured on the main disc. Elsewhere, there's an atonal combination of shouted vocals and guitars on the chorus of "The Habit That Kicks Itself" that almost turns into something astonishing but then like, doesn't (an interesting half-formed idea's better than a tired one), and "The Salt Water Solution" caps off a stultifying drone of a song with an unexpectedly great coda of "what's wrong with getting what you want" that evokes a similar kind of wistful tone to the unjustly neglected early album track "Medium Is The Message." "If the bits that suck didn't suck...," and all that.
The last disc closes with a recording of the infamous final London gig, a brutal testament to the tension that appeared to be consuming the band and also to the unnerving efficiency with which they dispatched their various foolhardy hecklers over the years. The thing with Mclusky is that while they were inconsistent, not always living up to their song titles (with titles like "Dave, Stop Killing Prostitutes" and "Reformed Arsonist Seeks Child Bride,", this is a near-impossible task), when they were on form their belligerence had a righteous quality that made them seem like a potent anti-stupidity weapon—like if The Onion was an insane Welsh rock band. Having these odd-looking lunatics on the fringe delivering verbal beatdowns to sundry deserving targets was always in the end a strangely reassuring prospect, and it's nice to see them get a send-off that manages to show a different side to them while still ending with an appropriately demented blaze of glory.
Reviewed by: Fergal O’Reilly
Reviewed on: 2006-03-24