Wrangler – LA Spark


It’s not often a great album comes along, that is to say, one I like so much I have to listen to it until something snaps. Music is like girlfriends. As a youth, I used to weep in butchers shops, er sorry, no, as a youth I used to constantly be on the look out for a girlfriend (even if I thought I wasn’t.). Eventually you would find one who is great and you’d hang on to her until you just naturally started to look for something else. Eventually this behaviour stops, it saps your energy. The great thing about music is you can be a slag and keep fucking around, it doesn’t have to stop.

So you keep looking and eventually you find something and you spend the first two weeks in bed before you have to start to get to know each other. I’m in bed with Wrangler at the moment and their album LA Sparks. I came across Wrangler because a friend told me about them. He recommended this hot chick… Long time six by seven producer and friend Ric Peet was doing front of house for LoneLady (check out her album Hinterland its’s brilliant) and he came round and we were talking about Cabaret Voltaire. Stephen Mallinder is of / from /made Cabaret Voltaire. Wrangler is three people; Stephen, Phil Winter and Benge. Sort of Stock Aitkin and Waterman from the underworld. (There are some links below).

Me and Ric are both the same age. In 1980 I was 15 and I was into Rock. I spent most of my time working my way through Deep Purple and Black Sabbath back catalogue records and going to see the new rock bands of the time like Iron Maiden and Saxon. Around that time there was the New Modern Romantics movement of fashion and music; I hated it. The strange thing was that I was living in Germany back then and, even though I didn’t know it at the time, I was a Kraftwerk fan (I was also buying Disney and Pinky and Perky Records), but I had been collecting Kraftwerk records since Autobahn came out. The last Kraftwerk record I bought was Computerworld in 1980. I should have gravitated towards all this new synth music but I didn’t. I liked Kraftwerk because I thought they were funny, I was a kid. Believe me, ‘Farn-Farn-Farn-Auf-Der-Autobahn’ is hilarious when you are ten and later, Robots was even funnier.

New Romantics weren’t funny, they were deadly serious and it was music that girls liked!! Unfortunatly I lumped Cabaret Voltaire in with The Human League and Adam And The Ants and Haarschnitt Einhundert, without even listening. I was wrong. If you think Cabaret Voltaire are that sort of band you need to go and listen to their stuff. For me, they are one of the most interesting bands ever to come out of the UK. I have to listen to the whole of their album The Conversation now and again just to flush my system out and be able to think straight again, in musical terms. It’s like listening to Hallogallo, just strap in every now and again and you’re guaranteed to always hear something you never heard before.

Which brings me onto Krautrock because for me LA Sparks is the perfect Krautrock album. Let me explain. Too many people think that to make a Kraut album you just use the Dinger beat. I’m sick of it. Krautrock was an idea. Like all the best bands, you need to nail the metaphor and hang the music on that framework. I worked with Julian Cope for years, who was a self proclaimed ‘expert’ in Krautrock after writing the highly personal book Krautrocksampler (he actually told me he made most of that book up: “How the fuck was I to know what Faust were thinking of when they made their second album? I just thought ‘What would Odin do?'”) and he too would instantly puke at the sound of a new band playing that beat (we’ve all done it, it’s like jamming Roadrunner for three hours in the rehearsal room).

I was in Germany during the Krautrock years, it was a very small movement as I remember. The krauts my older sister was hanging around with were into Barclay James Harvest and Pink Floyd. I once read somewhere that Krautrock was ‘most German music shops selling out of bongos’.

I remember seeing a band in Munich at the time at a free festival. I was travelling up from a holiday in Germany. It could have been Can or Faust for all I knew. The guys looked cool and my Dad muttered something about ‘long haired fucking louts’ as he looked at them with interest. It sounded and looked like Deep Purple trying desperatly to jam out a B-side after taking too many drugs. I think it had an effect on me, I never forgot it.

This Wrangler album has the same effect. It’s not the B-side Deep Purple thing, it’s the statement of intent, it’s hung on a clearly defined metaphor, it’s proper Kraut, it’s beautifully excecuted and it sounds brilliant, from front to back.  Me and this record are gonna be fucking each other for many weeks. Go and buy it please.

Some links:

My own Electro-Kraut project Twelve

Wranglers Facebook


Phil Winter


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