Jumping Someone Else’s Train?

Rhyl – "the home of The Alarm". Now, at last, comes a true heir to their long abandoned, once majestic throne. North Wales’very own REM industrial jazz covers band, The Shite Stipes, have been ripping up the Rhyll supper basket scene with their particular brand of Athens soaked rapid eye movement interpretation for over 18 months.

Singer & lead angle grinder, Mikhail Stipe, said the band utterly & comprehensively refuted recent accusations in the Rhyl Evening & District Telegraph that they were cashing in on garage punk blues minimalist pop phenomenon, "The White Stripes".

"We’ve been banging away at this for years, you know? As far back as when Jack & Meg were married, possibly. Colm came up with the name The Shite Stipes back when REM was big, see? It’s a play on words, see?"

The Shite Stipes have recorded 3 lp’s for Conway based Sympathy For The Welsh Tourist Industry Records;

The Shite Stipes – 1993
Be Still – 1996
White Blood Sells – 1999

When The Shite Stipes say they play REM cover vershuns, what they mean is they deconstruct them wholesale. They quarry their sound from the very guts of their influences, a vast open cast mine, a desolate tract of weeping ex-real estate, smouldering in a new space. What do they sound like? Imagine The Pop Group tackling Rip Rig & Panic with Pigbag at the controls, take away the instruments, the narrative & the melody, & the Shite Stipes is what yer left with. With the aid of only dynamite, blasting caps & raw bloody nerve, they blast chunks out of the very bedrock of the establishment we have come to know & love as the avant guard (sick). They take a snatch of Buck here, a breakbeat of Berry there, a dollop of Mills also & buckets of Stipe to go, Sager/Stewart style. It may be a phrase, could be a refrain, possibly a haunting arpeggio or simply a whip crack snare – this five strong ensemble come on like a less commercial Pere Ubu rubbed up the wrong way by acute Test Department. The band swap "instruments" with glee, all equally non-proficient (inept?) on any of them. They claim to be up for "having a stab" at Stockhausen for Liverpool fanzine, Fuck The Beatles’, forthcoming musique concrete remix project – ReHaSh!

Live, the band are workmanlike; overalls, safety masks, boots, hard hats. A fluorescent riot of orange & yellow "see you" jackets, under the constant scrutiny of a watchful health & safety roadie, stage right. Using nails for plectrums, their barb wire strung gtrs howl constant wailing feedback dredged decadently from the 100w Gibson Humbucker pickups riveted to the aluminium bodies of their axes.
Mikhail retches fervently in metronome, Colm & Boff chase their tales, tripping over leads, 110v transformers & each other for over 2 hours, 5 minutes & 17 seconds. Striking images of striking miners picketing a colliery somewhere, interspersed with shots of Sperm Whales spouting jets of water from the backs of their heads, being cunningly tracked by wailing ships with massive harpoons & sonar. Images of tinned fish & bottled oils are flashed up on a blood red screen that covers the entire length of the pub wall. The Shite Stipes come on like a Celtic Devo covering God Speed You Black Emporio Armanini T-Shirt amidst the sparks from the grinder, the dry ice, the strobe lights & the constant jackhammer drill of the mic-ed up Kango.

The gig ground to a premature truncated finale. The blue phase of the nearby electricity substation was taken out by the abnormal load being drawn by the Red Lion, Conway, causing considerably more inconvenience to local residents than it did to a jubilant Shite Stipes. Their fee for the night’s performance had also been retained by the Red Lion management until estimates have been forthcoming for the extensive damage to the stage, staircase & skreeded "dancefloor" area. It had, to cap it all, been an incredibly slow night on the bar (although the motor related lubricants concession in the disabled toilets had done well).

As we were ejected from the premises Colm turned to me, smiled & said, "Whadya reckon, then?"

"Bullshit, man.", we said, "Absolute Bullshit", & we larfed. Absolutely.

Jean Encoule Nov 2001

contact - the needle & the damage done