Birth Control - Plastic People. 1975 Germany

Birth Control were one of those bands that managed to survive the various musical movements of the 1970s and 80s. In order to do that, a group must be flexible and change with the times - for better or worse. Birth Control were always an outlier when discussing the best music of the Krautrock era. In reality they were more of a UK/North American styled hard rock band, one that avoided the trappings of phasing, cosmic tripping, and long psychedelic jams. By 1973, Birth Control tried their hand at more commercial material, including dragging along a horn section, to mixed results. Then the obligatory live album brought out the band's inner Deep Purple. And now it's 1975, it's Germany, and you do what?

You go prog. Not Krautrock styled prog mind you, but the UK variant of such. Eloy went forth with Power and the Passion, and Jane coughed up Fire Water Earth and Air. And so Birth Control came out with Plastic People. When considering their pedigree, and the fact they weren't really ever the best at what they did, one would presume Plastic People would fall on its face, in an almost laughable Spinal Tap way. Wrong again. Birth Control pretty much blew away the competition (it was Eloy who ended up with egg on their face).

This is an album I'd owned for many years without much recollection, until about 6 years ago a focused listen while driving through South Dakota (there isn't really much else to do...) opened this up for me. Tonight's listen just reinforced that experience. It's a blend of their hard rock past, mixed in with solid songwriting and real progression in the compositions. The title track is 11 minutes, and seems half of that, which is a good sign. 'Tiny Flashlights' is brilliant, perhaps the best song in Birth Control's entire canon. There's some really great synthesizer work throughout the album in addition to the usual organ/guitar display. Even a track with a dumbo title like 'Rockin' Rollin' Roller' is much better than it seems at the beginning, and the song is memorable in a good way. I see some bellyaching around the band's use of commercial styled singing and "lounge" moves. To me, that's another half point positive, as I really appreciate the melodicism brought forth, and works well as a contrast to the otherwise mathematical complexity. It's not that dissimilar to how the American groups approached progressive rock in the mid 70s. BTW - there are only horns on one track for those who break out in hives at the mere sound of them.

It's been ages since I heard my copy of Backdoor Possibilities, but barring an enlightening listen (similar to the one I had here), then Plastic People would be my definitive choice as Birth Control's best album.

Personal collection
LP: 1975 CBS
CD: 1995 Columbia

Not only is Plastic People an excellent album, but the original gatefold cover is also fantastic, and I have it displayed on my "wall of faces and eyes".

For whatever reason, the Columbia CD switches the places of 'Rockin' Rollin' Roller' and 'Tiny Flashlights'. Odd.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Skywhale - The World at Mind's End. 1977 England

Skywhale's sole album is one of the rare non-Canterbury UK fusion albums that sound more in line with what was happening over the Chan...