Monday, 14 September 2015

"Third World War" by THIRD WORLD WAR [featuring Terry Stamp and Jim Avery] (2015 Esoteric Recordings Expanded CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Tired Of Licking The Government's Ass..."

Every now and then you hear the first track of an album and you stare back at its entirely unrepresentative cover in disbelief. Who is this? And why haven’t I heard their ahead-of-its-time musical genius before?

The band name sucks for a start - and that negative-tinted photo of some snotty five-year old kid on some inner city estate somewhere screaming his downtrodden proletariat head off don’t help either. There’s a woman being caned in a cartoon on the rear – no doubt some snot-nose upper-class male chauvinist type giving a serving wench a damn good trashing because she put the soup spoons out in the wrong order. You then glance back at the band name again (Third World War for God's Sake) and imagine some dreadful Prog diatribe on 'the kids man' buggering off to Narnia before the Russians drop the bomb. But instead what you're getting is a razor-sharp Proto Punk album about 'real life in working class England issued in early 1971 on Fly Records (home of T. Rex and John Kongos) - all spitting and snarling when most people had never heard of the word 'punk'.

Third World War's self-titled debut album (sometimes known as "Ascension Day" after its opening track) is a brilliant album – a sort of hard-hitting musical hybrid between The Stooges, Television and even The MC5 (it's like 1976 and 1977 but five full years before the event). The lyrics paint no hippy dreams of where they live and what their future prospects are either – it’s all 'power to the workers' and echoes of Wormwood Scrubs and ripped up phonebooths (as another English poet would say some years later).

Then there's the voice of principal songwriter TERRY STAMP grinding out venom like "...Let's free the working class...we're tired of licking the Government's ass..." His larynx is not pretty either – course and gravely and yet amazingly right for the band's sound and politics – a sort of Captain Beefheart meets Eddie & The Hot Rods - growling at angry unemployed teenagers on the roofs of buildings where he urges them to "...pull your grenade pin and I'll pull mine..." (how thoughtful). There are delightful song titles like "Get Out Of Bed You Dirty Red" and "M.I.5's Alive" (any wonder the BBC wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole). Then there's Stamp's 'guitar' sound that he refers to in the liner notes of the LP as 'chopper guitar' because it zips along - sounding like a more 'choppy' version of Dr. Feelgood's Wilko Johnson circa "Down By The Jetty". There's also a hint of a snotty dangerous Bowie riff when he rocked it out in 1971 and 1972. Even American hardcore rocker Steve Albini from Big Black and Rapeman has name-checked the album as a seminal influence. Impressive eh? It bloody is and are the poverty lines...

UK released August 2015 – "Third World War" by THIRD WORLD WAR on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 2512 (Barcode 5013929461246) is a an Expanded CD Remaster with two bonus tracks and pans out as follows (48:13 minutes):

1. Ascension Day
2. M.I.5's Alive
3. Teddy Teeth Goes Sailing
4. Working Class Man
5. Shepherds Bush Cowboy [Side 2]
6. Stardom Road-Part I
7. Stardom Road-Part II
8. Get Out Of Bed You Dirty Red
9. Preaching Violence
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Third World War" – released February 1971 in the UK on Fly Records FLY 4

10. Ascension Day (Single Version) – non-album version issued as the A-side to a UK 7" single in 1971 on Fly Records BUG 7 (B-side was the album cut "Teddy Teeth Go Sailing"). Rare copies came in a 'lyrics' picture sleeve.
11. A Little Bit Of Urban Rock – non-album version different to the one on the 1972 "Third World War II" LP. It has altered 'toned down' lyrics and is a different band to the LP cut. It was released October 1971 as a stand-alone UK 7" single on Fly Records BUG 11 with the album cut "Working Class Man" as its flipside.

It's a damn shame Esoteric didn't repro the rare UK 7" single picture sleeve for "Ascension Day" with its 'lyrics' cover - but they have reproduced all the words to the album which came on a rare insert with original vinyl LPs (and the non-album single). The 16-page booklet features illuminating liner notes by veteran writer MALCOLM DOME who has conducted frank interviews with Terry Stamp about the fate of the band, their European tours (they were big in Germany and Finland) and the album's influence that stretched all the way to the USA even though it wasn't released there.

All songs were Terry Stamp and Jim Avery compositions except "Stardom Road Part II" (Avery alone) and "Get Out of Bed You Dirty Red" (Stamp alone). Jim Avery came from the Sixties Mod act The Attack and later joined Thunderclap Newman - while Terry Stamp put out a solo LP after Third World War's demise in 1975 on A&M Records called "Fatsticks". The remasters from original analogue master tapes by ROB KEYLOCH and BEN WISEMAN (at Church Walk Studios and Audio Archiving respectively) are fantastically good – full of piss and vinegar – as suits the music. And with the album being a listed rarity at £60 or more (if you can find one) – this genuinely cool 2015 CD reissue by Cherry Red's Esoteric Recordings is a very tasty reminder of what was missed first time around.

The album opens with the incendiary "Ascension Day" where lyrics like "...load your magazine clip...I'll load mine..." thrilled open-minded radio programmers at the BBC (well maybe not). Immediately your struck by the gritty voice that predates Punk by six years (it was recorded between September and November 1970) and that treated 'choppy' guitar sound Stamp gets that lends the whole wallop a sort of New Wave feel. But it's the amazing "M.I.5's Alive" that really takes you by the scuff – 8:05 minutes of guitar-chugging harmonica-driven 60ts Garage meets Television doing "Marquee Moon". Even at that length it doesn't overstay itself and lyrics like "...bawling down the a breach of faith and national disloyalty..." reminds you of another angry band in 1977 who didn't spare the bollocks either. As TWW let the guitars rip and the harmonica gives the song a Them-on-speed vibe - it's hard not to throw embarrassing shapes in your living room (fabulous stuff). "And there's people out of work here...there could be a riot here..." Stamp warns on the weirdly jaunty "Teddy Teeth Goes Sailing" where it sounds like Kevin Ayers doing a vicious whimsical ditty. Back to the hard-hitting 'chopper' guitar of another winner "Working Class Man" which features Bobby Keys (of Rolling Stones fame) on Saxophone as the song freaks out towards the end.

Side 2 opens with "Shepherds Bush Cowboy" – a song about untoward propositions in a pub on your third pint of Guinness and a fight with a skinhead in a betting shop (delightful). The uncharacteristically gentle acoustics of "Stardom Road Part 1" comes as a genuine shock after all that thrashing - a sad and hurting song with lyrics about the music business's attitude towards gay men. It's "Part II" picks up the pace drastically - suddenly sounding like a band on a mission and at 3:47 minutes (and perhaps a different title) – could have been a revolutionary single from back in the day. Back to belching and burping whimsy with "Get Out Of Bed You Dirty Red" where "...the Communist Party shakes your hand...and you can play in our red band..." It ends on the heaviest Stooges moment of the album – huge distorted guitars introduce the anti-religion song "Preaching Violence" where the words take no prisoners – "...the bog-wall shines...anti-Government signs...go let your Molotov off...God Loves you..." Wow!

The singles are a weird one – "Ascension Day" is fabulous and sounds years ahead of its time - but the cod Pub Rock 'n' Roll of "A Little Bit Of Urban Rock" sounds derivative and terribly dated. Apparently it's a re-recorded 'clean' version for 45 – different to the more hard-hitting cut on their 2nd and last album "Third World War II" which appeared on Track Records in 1972. Fly hated the 2nd record and refused to release it - but Pete Townshend of The Who liked the band and got it released on Track. Terry Stamp went on to put out two further albums on CD - "Bootlace Johnny And The Ninety Nines" in 2004 and "Howling For The Highway Home" in 2007 on his own label, Burning Shed.

Interviewed for this release Terry Stamp admits that perhaps if the band had 'glammed' it up a bit then maybe more in the UK would have 'gotten it'. So I’ve Marc Bolan'd up this review because this is a band and an album that deserves rediscovery (even if it means putting a red in your bed)...

This review and hundreds like it are part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series. 
Check out the e-Book with over 2000 e-pages of good info and choice suggestions...

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