Uncle John & Whitelock

Uncle John & Whitelock

Uncle John & Whitelock

Uncle John & Whitelock are:

Jacob Lovatt
Raydale Dower
Matthew Black
David Philip
Jamie Bolland

Uncle John & Whitelock

LP/CD: “There Is Nothing Else” (GFM Productions)

Recorded @: Rodchurch Recordings, London & CaVa Studios, Glasgow in 2005.

Mixed by: Frederick Baggs & Geoff Allan (who doubtless felt the same way John Paul Jones did the day Butthole Surfers turned up at the studio).

“There Is Nothing Else” is a very apt title for the debut LP by Uncle John & Whitelock. Firstly, because the above information is all that is available from their website (apart from some graphic drawings of human anatomy) - & secondly, because I haven’t heard anything remotely like this in eons.

The words wilfully & eclectic are often bandied about – rarely with any real need. All bets are off when it comes to Glasgow’s (?) Uncle John & Whitelock – a more individual group of performers simply don’t exist on the planet right now. “There Is Nothing Else” is extraordinary. A fuzzed out, fucked up, 21st century urban blues. Vocally eccentric beyond belief – a compendium of Nick Cave & Captain Beefheart shot through with Ian Curtis - musically somewhere between the Bad Seeds & “Live At The Witch Trials” era Fall.

Apparently designed primarily for vinyl, “There Is Nothing Else” is divided into 4 distinct sides:

Side 1 - Instrumental “The Fold” opens the front door to Uncle John & Whitelock’s house with a film scored piano & the threat of impending violence. Be afraid. Be very afraid. “Black Hat” isn’t far behind - & cordially introduces the trademark Uncle John & Whitelock sound, demanding you attention with menaces. “2 Fiddy” opens with a bass lower than Wayne Rooney’s IQ & swirling Hammond organ before the vocals tell tall tales of drug fantasies, rape fantasies & world fantasises (as far as these ears could tell, anyhow!) until collapsing into a mad dub loop. “Hospital” rides another storming bass line – the music hits the laser so hard that you can still hear it even when you turn the volume down as low as it can go. “Whalin’” closes Side 1 with a bad case of the blues so dark they can only be described as black.

Side 2 – “Hard Rain” seems unduly preoccupied with the colour black as well, a bit like the depressed artist in the Fast Show. “Aleister Crowley”, meanwhile, is absolutely evil (& extremely funny):

“Aleister Crowley, he got so lonely  
He never phoned me”
The song ends with the sound of someone ‘speaking in tongues’ (oh, all right, some backwards tape effect voices) as abruptly as it began. Uncle John & Whitelock obviously have a finely tuned sense of humour. “Bless” is almost touching by comparison, ahhh. “Tony” appears to be the tale of an acrophobic schizophrenic outsider who or may not be our prime minister. “40 Degrees” closes side 2 in a hail of implied regret.

Side 3 – “Baghdadi” (possibly a single in the past, I think they’ve had a couple, the geezer in Tempest just looked a little vague & said: “Nah, mate, that’s gone”. It took him 5 minutes to dig a copy of the CD out from a dark recess below the stairs, so I wasn’t going to push it!) begins with some vaguely eastern wailing before raising the topical issues of oil, war, NEOCON agendas, US expansionism - & ultimately - UK complicity. Possibly. It’s impossibly groovy, none-the-same – one to push that neck to! The drolly-titled “Dead Cheerful”, however, is truly disturbing:
“You sent me a j-peg of that beautiful face,
& two-page diatribe on how you hated and despised the human race”
Wrap ourselves up in this flag? Take all the pills in your bag? Eh? It ends with a betrayed husband gassing his wife & her lover as they fuck in the back of his Volvo. All over a meandering piano-led blues. “Black Milk” is decidedly more fonky. A Bad Seeded workout with handy guitar stabs, neat organ drops & a twin vocal attack. “Palmer” starts like the theme tune to a Hollywood remake before the vocals come in & you realise that it’s the bizarrist cover of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love” you’re ever likely to hear. It shouldn’t work. Not even on paper. Not even in the confined auspices of a controlled experiment. In a professional laboratory. But it does. Magnificently. Spookily. “(Reprise)” takes the same approach - & the same song, for that matter – but this time nails it with an Arabic instrumental bent - & duly closes Side 3.

Side 4 – The rockin’ side, apparently: “The Train” rolls down the proverbial stereo trackage like a refugee from the rockabilly home for the totally deranged – honky tonkin brilliance of the darkest order:
“This Train ain’t bound for glory”
“Maryhill Vibe” rocks out, tapered also. No idea where Maryhill is – but that singer sure don’t like it none. “Backyard” moves rapidly down a similar route 666 until it crashes & burns in a riot of sample clashes. “1000 Knives” slides along like a rattlesnake down a lubricated rollercoaster aided & abetted by a knife-sharp guitar figures & series of whoops & hollers:
“When my job’s done,
there’ll be none of you left alive, 
rivers of crimson running all over this land”
That’s just was I was thinking, Travis. “Don’t Let Me Die” closes Side 4 with the most conventional number present: an engaging piece of acoustic led, stumbling, back-porch, country-bum blues.

Then it’s all over. 65:34. I haven’t listened to an LP that long for a while. Almost twice the length of my perfect sound scenario. What can you do?

All you can do is sit & scratch you head & muse, trakMARXists: what the fuck was all that about? Before sticking it on again - slightly more in awe of it than you were the first time. A process, let me tell you, that increases exponentially with each repeated listen. I haven’t got a fucking clue who Uncle John & Whitelock are – or what the fuck they’re going on about – but I do know I love this LP very much indeed. So much so I took the tMx bunker copy home & stashed it with my nearest & dearest. I don’t do that very often.

Go check Uncle John & Whitelock out soon – before some buffoon or other starts telling you they just made the noughties answer to “Trout Mask Replica”. It could happen.

Jean Encoule – tMx 24 – 03/06
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