(The) Mudguards - On Guard
Seditionary art music and hypnobeat from (The) Mudguards, the (very) English duo of Nelson Bloodrocket and Reg Out, a properly f****d bricolage of end-of-the-pier agit-pop, nauseated industrial cut-ups and the kind of demolished-man techno that transports you to an alternative universe where E was never invented.
Active in East London and Essex between ’81 and ’93, and inspired by quintessential English working class entertainment – music hall, skiffle, drinking songs and broadsides – (The) Mudguards’ theme, or rather career-long obsession, was the “commodification of dissent”. In fact what makes their work special, and more resonant today than that of your typical sloganeering anarcho bleater, is their awareness of their own complicity in the things they despise, and all the self-loathing that comes with it. VERY relatable. But though in some ways it transcends history, this stuff was born of a very specific time and place. As Johnny Cash-Converter writes in his brilliant sleevenotes, the backdrop was one of genuine civil unrest, with Mrs T gleefully overseeing “the dismantling of welfare and the deliberate creation of poverty as a social control mechanism.”
Intense corporatisation, and the attendant feeding frenzy of land-grabs, sell-offs and privatisations left large swathes of industrial Britain looking like Tarkovsky’s Zona, empty spaces that would, for a time, be repurposed by the resistance: squats, warehouse parties, experiments in communal living and/or communal oblivion. It’s in this milieu that (The) Mudguards established their hunt-under-the-wreckage praxis, “maximum content with minimum hardware”, creating improvised installations/performances with noise-makers and visual props built from re-appropriated scrap, vintage sound equipment and circuit-bent electronics.
This was the era when post-punk, industrial and noise scenes and sensibilities were overlapping with the arrival of electronic dance music: and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a band or project who capture that brief confluence of disparate things quite so brilliantly as (The) Mudguards. One minute they’re plainly and openly addressing Harold Wilson and the state of the National ‘Elf, the next they’re unspooling narcotic/neurotic minimal synth raga like a dole-queue Monoton. And somehow, despite their preoccupation with class war and the treacheries of the state, they retain a sense of humour – well, if you find Ceramic Hobs funny…
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