Brinsley Schwarz Cruel To Be Kind Review

Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Their new puritanism made them more inclined towards a pint and a copy of the Evening...

Chris Jones 2004

Often cited as the precursors to punk, Brinsley Schwarz's music bears little resemblance to what followed. First-comers to BS via Cruel To Be Kind will be shocked at how laid back and jaunty their music could be. This band wasn't interested in updating the Stooges. They shared a love of Gram Parsons, Chuck Berry and great pop and soul and gazed with horror at a world filling up with glitter and 10 minute guitar solos. Their new puritanism made them more inclined towards a pint and a copy of the Evening Standard than a handful of quaaludes and the Tibetan book of the Dead. Yet it was their strict adherence to the ground rules of rock 'n' roll that paved the way for the pub rock circuit that spawned hard-hitters like Dr Feelgood and Eddie and the Hot Rods, and eventually provided a fertile breeding ground for seminal acts such as Joe Strummer's 101ers.

Cruel... is a companion piece to Hux's earlier collection of BBC sessions and finds the band at its 1972-5 peak. This was the period in which bass player Nick Lowe honed his burgeoning writing skills. The boys had paid their psychedelic dues in their previous band, Kippington Lodge, and now felt obliged to set the world straight again with their blend of denim-clad country rock and funky R 'n' B. Following a well-documented false start at the hands of record company hype (with a plane-load of British hacks flown to New York to be undewhelmed by their bottom-of-the-bill performance at Madison Square Gardens) the band had settled into an expanded line up (with the great Ian Gomm on guitar) and a period of golden (if underappreciated) productivity.

Live cuts and sessions, preserved for posterity (as John Peel says in his sleevenotes) by people "who gave a s**t", ring with joyous harmony, deceptively simple arrangements and boozy bonhomie. Here you'll find Lowe's finest early compositions such as ''Egypt'' and the haunting ''Don't Lose Your Grip On Love'' as well as first airings for later solo classics such as the title track (Lowe's biggest US hit) and Ian Gomm's ''Hooked On Love'' (later to appear on THE most underrated album of all time -Summer Holiday).

Younger ears may find it hard to negotiate the basic country rock vocabulary, but after two or three tracks the sheer effervescence wins you over and you realise why they were not only beloved of their peers (Paul McCartney was a fan) but also still retain legendary status. While Lowe continues his notable career the others now reside in semi-obscurity. They deserve better, and this album will show you why...

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