Kill me, Ishmael- Blimpy boy
Now only celebrated for their victory in a four-legged race against Johnny Ramone, Johnny Rotten, and Johnny Thunders; Kill me, Ishmael were key players at the ferocious orgy that was the conception of punk. Their rouge-soaked antics and disgust of traditional musicianship broke new ground; and their explosive live acts could involve anything from shows that lasted seconds with the band members dressed as barnyard animals, to mad affairs during which the band uttered ‘lugubrious,’ before biting the heads off any cocker spaniels thrown on stage. Concertgoers were often left deaf, bloodied, and impregnated.
KMI produced 99 studio albums, all of which were largely neglected by the general public and critics alike. From their debut Candles for a troubled youth to their final album, a tribute to their fallen singer, Dust don’t mean a Hoover, they never stopped pushing the boundaries of their one-chord sound. Despite their longevity, they never entered the charts, but did attracted a cult following, with dedicated fans proudly strutting around town, sporting corncob pipes and carrying harpoons.
Their thirty-second EP, Blimpy boy, was the first produced with Kunterblast records and recorded in Berlin with producer MacAtic. Blimpy boy was KMI’s first attempt to modify their sound and image to conform to the subtler themes popular with indie bands of the 90s, with less emphasis on the sexuality, chauvinism and drug culture that had previously dominated their output. Guitarist Arthur Dinga dubbed this new music as ‘castrated love songs’. This saw the band ditch their extravagant codpieces, but not their raw energy. This new direction towards a less offensive image is also realised in the cover art, depicting the band at the New York public library shooshing a Nazi, a bishop, and a giant spider. This is in stark contrast to the explicit imagery of their other albums, and was the first not to be sold in foil wrapping.
The opening track, Squid in the sink, a heavy rocker by singer/drummer Louise Fester and guitarist Arthur Dinga, was very much in keeping with KMI’s signature sound up to that point. However, the story of an ill-fated relationship between a street thug and a marine biologist broke new ground lyrically, with the focus on a misplaced cephalopod rather than bodily fluids and broken heads. This became a popular opening number for the band, most notably the performance at their concert at Chumley Park, during which a giant inflatable squid crushed a lay preacher. Dinga performed his guitar solo underwater. Fester had also intended to sing under water, but found it impossible. She had to be revived several times in the attempt.
Tea for thee was written by bassist Sidney Beaterback, a touching tribute to his dying liver. This number is a much more restrained affair than anything KMI had ever previously attempted, with 4/4 timing and a piano present in the studio during recording. The lyrics that bookend the chorus inspired by Beaterback’s adoption of Eastern religions (all at once) and the classic novel by Augustus Feathersnatch (a favourite of Beaterback’s), Cantilever in my knapsack. The spiritual and literary references also represented a departure from the band.
Plucky duck, a heavy heavy number written by Dinga (who also provides lead vocals for the first time), was inspired by his early career as a cockney flower girl, and one old lady who just wouldn’t give up her purse. Unfortunately this was his last time the world would hear Dinga’s whining falsetto. His untimely death would come 3 months after the album’s release, after which he was replaced by Jerry Heave, who couldn’t replicate the signature KMI sound until he found the same Pog Dinga had used to strum his guitar. At the Arthur Dinga memorial service, held at the guitarist’s favourite playground at a fast food emporium, you could hear the children sing “P-P-P-P-P-P-P-P Plucky Duck, O’ she’s a Plucky Duck. Wha’ a plucky Ol’Duck” as they went down the slide. A touching tribute.
The final track is the two-and-a-half-hour instrumental masterpiece Ornate Coleopteran, rivalling a classical symphony in the quality of the suits adopted by the musicians. It was conceived during the band’s time in a broken elevator, during which they claim to have had a group hallucination brought on by too much camomile tea. It features the widest suite of instruments of any KMI tune, with the guitar, bass and drums combined with a bassoon, distressed hamsters, moans, tin foil, ice-cream trucks, and banjoettes in stunning cacophony. In concert, being too complicated to play live, they would put on the recording as loud as possible, and play a game of strip poker for the audience’s amusement.
This album is further proof that, whilst not producing a blip on the radar of critics or the general populace, KMI’s importance in the history of rock is considerable. Their music will surely be remembered alongside Beethoven, Bowie, and Brubeck; which is more than can be said of any of those throwaway ‘hits’ produced by their contemporaries.
I think the praise from Pete ‘Dirty’ Glandthorpe, the glam-rock legend from Jan Falls Down, says it all. “YEATHEBESTTHINGREALGOOOODLIKEATIGERWITHNEWSNEAKERSMANIMEANASSOONASILISTENEDITWASLIKETHISTHAONLYTHINGOOOHMAMA”
Enjoy the recording. Kids, if you wish to keep up, play a G-chord as fast as you can, occasionally allowing your fingers to slip as if you were a drug-addled teenager with a poor attention span.
-Porko Sandflake, Stationary Pebble.