February 4, 2009

I was in a club in the early 1990s. Andrew Weatherall was DJing. In the middle of a techno set he dropped in Coup by 23 Skidoo. Most of the luvved up clubbers hadn’t a clue what it was, but it had the place bouncing.
 A great dance record, like Le Freak or Family Affair, Coup could get any party (block)rocking with its beats.
 Back in 1983 it was the “fuck you GI” intro sampled from Apocalypse Now that made it seem so radical. OK sampling wasn’t exactly new – CV and TG had been doing it for years, but this was so hip. They were just the coolest band around for a while (I remember seeing them at ULU and feeling such a hipster because I had the same top on as Sketch – not that anyone noticed). The Neville Brody record sleeves added to the mystique.

The two- base sound also made them the most danceable band in town . Last Words, IY , Kundalini  and Coup in its various formats were explosive.

Then they just lost the plot, or decided to turn their backs on commercialism, whichever way you want to see it. The Culling is Coming was challenging to say the least – sounding like they’d given all their instruments away and started again with tin cans. I can’t imagine anyone, bar the odd buddhist monk, ever even sitting through one side of this. Urban Gamelan was no better to these non-Indonesian ears. 

If ever a band intentionally dropped the baton then 23 Skidoo did in spectacular fashion. It wouldn’t have been such a surprise if their early records hadn’t been so damn funky. The point seemed to be a rejection of  any Western musical tradition.

In 1986 they made a comeback of sorts with Assassin, which was a return to form embracing the hip-hip beats of NY. Then they disappeared again until 2000 when they released the eponymous 23 Skidoo. Sadly the world was no longer listening.


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