Astral Glamour

by The Homosexuals

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about

Pitchfork Review

As cultural constructs such as "punk" traverse the dimming corridor of history, they're revised in unfathomable ways. Temporal distance hews away their ambiguities until they fall into orderly, narrative rank and file. In our collective memory of historical events, some players are canonized, others are diminished, and the process that separates them often seems arbitrary. With punk rock, this process of selective forgetting has at least one discernible component-- the most heralded old punk bands are the ones that mainstream rock critics ordained as the movement's standard-bearers. Most of us remember The Sex Pistols, The Clash, X, The Germs, The Ramones, Wire, The Fall, and Black Flag. But how many remember Crime? What about The Adverts? What about The Homosexuals?

Perhaps The Homosexuals, who evolved from a band called The Rejects, were never in the right place at the right time. But this seems unlikely, considering that The Rejects were opening The Roxy for The Damned, The Jam and Wire in the late '70s, which is pretty prime in terms of the punk zeitgeist. Perhaps their name scared away cultural dilettantes slumming for a more mannered radical idiom, but this is also improbable: The Sex Pistols didn't seem to have much trouble cementing their legacy. Perhaps The Ramones' tri-chord sing-alongs were just more memorable than The Homosexuals' adventurous, eclectic song structures (and "Gabba gabba hey" does stick in the brain a bit more than "Ivory elbows/ Deny shads edge"). Nevertheless, in our current climate of rampant historical salvaging, it seems likely that every shooting star in the fleeting firestorm that was punk will be plucked from the obscuring swarm and bronzed for posterity. The Homosexuals are the latest to come (back) down the pike, clothed in new fire: reissued, remastered, repackaged, and finally, remembered.

The triple-disc Astral Glamour clocks in at a whopping 81 tracks, and documents every salvageable mote of music The Homosexuals committed to tape or vinyl from 1977 to 1984, including multiple versions of many tracks (guitar mixes, vocal mixes, live versions, instrumentals). Most of the first disc's songs appeared on the posthumous 1984 Homosexuals LP and The Homosexuals' CD reissue that was released earlier this year. So it's the second and third discs that will get exhaustive collectors all hot and bothered-- they're brimming with tracks restored from decaying LPs and an ultra-rare tape of which 10 known copies exist, plus demos, singles, unreleased tracks and alternate versions unavailable anywhere else. Handsomely packaged in a gate-fold case with a 32-page booklet of photos, posters, lyrics, and commentary, Astral Glamour might be the collection by which the best punk band that no one heard finally get their due.

The Homosexuals epitomize the British post-punk style of the late '70s (why didn't Rough Trade pick this up?), combining the brainy word collages and winding guitars of Scritti Politti with the manic energy and bizarre flourishes of The Pop Group. Even remastered, Astral Glamour raises shitty production to an artform, and the tinny guitars one associates with old punk records achieve effects of depth, texture and distortion that are startling. But what really distinguishes The Homosexuals from their numerous peers is the remarkable diversity of their output, which maintains its vigor and cohesive mien while exploring different methods of construction and tone: ramshackle pop, mangled dub, rock shredding, garage funk, Afrobeat, and gutter psychedelia.

"My Night Out" blasts off with chaotic guitars and babbling, affected vocals reminiscent of The Pop Group's "We Are All Prostitutes", before collapsing into a streamlined pop/punk anthem. The title track evokes Entertainment!-era Gang of Four, with its melodic bass licks and trash-funk guitars. "Hearts in Exile" has a squalid grandeur as it moves in and out of the speakers, a ghostly, vanishing version of the Psychedelic Furs' sweeping paranoia. "You're Not Moving the Way You're Supposed To" reworks New Age Steppers-style ragga-punk with plinking harmonics and euphoric rock breakdowns. The twinkling piano and amorphous atmosphere of "Nursery Chymes" predict The Walkmen 25 years before their advent, just as "In Search of the Perfect Baby" seems to auger the disturbed and dilapidated opulence of Frog Eyes. The complete songs are strung together with wispy motes of ephemera, such as the fractured dub of "Symbols I Love" or the electric stutter and flux of "Black Noise", which rolls into the twangy, laddering funk of "Ants on Parade". Taken alone, any song on Astral Glamour is engaging. Taken together, in all their multiplicity and ambition, they cohere into a monstrous and shambling mutant before which one just collapses slack-jawed and cowers.

As David Berman put it, "Punk rock died when the first kid said/ 'Punk's not dead.'" Maybe so, but as limb after limb is plucked from the wreckage, it's leaving behind one exquisite corpse. The three-plus hours of material ranging over Astral Glamour unites The Homosexuals' fragmentary oeuvre to reveal them as punk visionaries who were at least as questing, untamed, and ultimately listenable as any of their more renowned contemporaries. This is the sound of history revising itself toward perfection.

— Brian Howe, August 17, 2004

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released May 25, 2004

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The Homosexuals London

"The Homosexuals were, one of those late-1970s UK garage-punk bands that deserved to reach a wider audience alongside icons like the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and all the rest."
-Marc Hogan, Pitchfork

"I just had the closest thing to a religious experience since my bar mitzvah... The Homosexuals played the most dynamic, explosive set I've seen in a couple years."
-The Washington Post
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Track Name: Hearts In Exile
Silent friends now
out of uniform
bloodshot eyes advertise
advertising isolation confirmed insomnia
at your meeting weekly
the messengers of radio
of Kenya
of Zion

Hearts in exile, hearts in exile
Hearts in exile, hearts in exile

Empty continents
demobilized by
stunted handbooks
reserve exercise ground
exercise ground

Politicians never rearrange pink triangles
out of tune barrel organ
horn-rimmed protection
feeling hippodrome happy, happy, happy

Hearts in exile hearts in exile
Hearts in exile hearts in exile
Hearts in exile hearts in exile

Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts
Track Name: Astral Glamour
Global pupils radiating interference
Piccasso!
Lamborgini, coke, and dry martini
Astral glamour semen in the region
Immaculate!
Condescending, gaily rendezvousing, gaily rendezvousing
Ooh-way ooh-way ooh-way!

Rapid channel racing
turbine interfacing
Rapid channel racing
turbine interfacing

Say goodbye to telephone sexy (bye-bye)
Flags fly, fair’s fair with barriers shining
Laughing virgins, virgins, virgins, virgins
Vertical and white
So foreign and mobile tonight!

The ladies are waiting
Yes, the ladies are waiting
Ladies in waiting
Ladies in waiting
Ladies in waiting
Ladies in waiting
Ladies in waiting
Ladies in waiting
Waiting
Waiting
Track Name: Hearts In Exile (Full Mix)
Silent friends now
out of uniform
bloodshot eyes advertise
advertising isolation confirmed insomnia
at your meeting weekly
the messengers of radio
of Kenya
of Zion

Hearts in exile, hearts in exile
Hearts in exile, hearts in exile

Empty continents
demobilized by
stunted handbooks
reserve exercise ground
exercise ground

Politicians never rearrange pink triangles
out of tune barrel organ
horn-rimmed protection
feeling hippodrome happy, happy, happy

Hearts in exile, hearts in exile
Hearts in exile, hearts in exile
Hearts in exile, hearts in exile

Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts in exile
Hearts