The Jazz Butcher: New Invention
‘New Invention’ was recorded in February 1989 and was the only single off the Big Planet Scarey Planet album. I seem to remember Pat introducing this around the time of its release as ‘a song specifically designed to overthrow the government’, and while that introduction has a healthy dose of self-mockery in it, this and the album pursued the condition-of-england idea from Fishcotheque with greater directness and aggression. I like the lyrical richness and the implication that there’s more to be said than can be packed into one song — it’s the lyrical equivalent of pushing the guitars into the red zone — especially when we get to this passage:
Grace and hailstorms, trains and brainstorms,
All-night bus rides, brand new life forms,
Ancient Rome in your very own home,
Sex on the phone — I can’t see for the pheromones.
For Big Planet Scarey Planet the band returned to John A. Rivers in Leamington Spa, and the sound is notably different from the cleanness of Fishcotheque. At times there’s a psychedelic shimmer to it that anticipates Levitation, the band that bassist Laurence O’Keeffe would join a few years later. The vocals sound different too, with Pat unleashing anger on this song, and delivering a different tone, a cold fury, on the almost-spoken ‘Bicycle Kid’ (‘evil little fucker put his pet through the window …’).
Why I came to like this less wasn’t because of its failure to overthrow Margaret Thatcher, but the feeling that some aspects of the production were distinctly of their time: the digital reverb just a bit too pronounced; too much top end and not enough bass; snare drums sounding too big. After the next two albums, Cult of the Basement and Condition Blue, this already sounded dated. Condition Blue had big songs, but their magnitude didn’t feel like a trick of the mixing desk.
Having said all that, re-listening to ‘New Invention’ to write this, I found it’s not as drenched in reverb as I remember it, and the sheer energy of the song, verbally and musically, has impressed me again.