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Jah Wobble I Could Have Been A Contender Review

Compilation. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

A sprawling compilation of all things Wobbly, from PiL to Evan Parker and beyond...

Peter Marsh 2004

In 1978 John Wardle's cavernous bass announced the arrival of Public Image, and kicked off a long chequered career that's seen collaborations with talents as diverse as Pharoah Sanders, Brian Eno, Evan Parker, Jaki Liebezeit and Natascha Atlas. This sprawling3 CD set is a timely reminder of the huge scope of the Wobble canon; it's sometimes easy to forget he's there, but every year or so he'll appear with a new band or project, usually stuffed full of unlikely (and sometimes inspired) combinations of musicians.

Wobble's loping, earthy bass pulse is at the centre of everything he does, whoever he does it with. Fittingly it's the mighty "Public Image" that opens this set (which is otherwise compiled un-chronologically). With PiL, Wobble proved himself to be one of the few white musicians capable of assimilating the influence of reggae (witness the Clash'sfeeble efforts in comparison) and then doing something different with it. In turn, his low-end theories informed the work of a whole bunch of bands eager to start again after the punk rock wars.

Wobble's been one of the few veterans of those wars to carry on pushing himself (and occasionally the patience of his audiences). In the process he's engaged with ethnic musics of several persuasions, gone ambient with Bill Laswell, done a bit of cosmic jazzdub improv, remixed Eno and fashioned settings for William Blake's poetry. Unsurprisingly, not all of these experiments have come off, but even the woolier stuff Wobble comes up with sounds ok on this compilation. And though what was maybe revolutionary a couple of decades ago sounds a bit creaky now, no doubt there's some bunch of spotty youths lurking round the corner ready to recycle the dub-funk collisions of records like Snake Charmer to a new generation of hip young things.

As disc three drew to a close I was left with a renewed love of all things Wob. He might not hit the spot every time, but as a one man dubmachine, eccentric visionary and spiritual traveller, he's hard to beat.This compilation's as good a place to start as any, and anything that features the desolate beauties of Pil's "Poptones" alongside a song of praise to the A13 and a slice of meaty dub for bamboo mouth organ and french bagpipes has got to be worth a listen.

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