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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Sidi Bou Said June 7, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Sidi Bou Said are a fascinating group of women, Claire Lemmon, Gayl Harrison and Melanie Woods (and one man(?) I think, Lee Howton, at the start of their career and for their first album), who appeared and then faded away during the 1990s, informed by the Pixies, psychedelia and elements of prog rock. It would be difficult to argue that Throwing Muses were not also an influence, but there’s something all their own in the gleeful, near scatological, approach both musical and lyrical. Lyrically they were positioned in a strongly feminist discourse.

The Allmusic review of their second album Bodies is a single sentence:

Bodies shows the group as staunch environmentalists and concerned with women’s issues, while still displaying their own British wit and identity.

Okay, that sort of sums it up, but there’s a lot more to them. And even the Allmusic description is notable for what it leaves out rather than what it includes:

Brits Claire Lemmon (guitar, vocals), Gayl Harrison (bass) and Melanie Woods (drums, vocals) formed Sidi Bou Said, a band in which a British folk ideal is blended with standard alternative pop/rock. The trio has released a debut album and 1995’s Bodies.

Certainly their quiet, loud, quiet loud, dynamic owes a lot to alternative rock, but… there’s something else going on in there. Every once in a while something close to surf rock appears to wander through individual songs, or prog, or psychedelia or… And that prog influence? Big Yellow Taxidermist (unfortunately not available online) combines both the surf rock sound and prog elements. This latter was amplified, perhaps, by the fact the group became good friends with Tim Smith and the Cardiacs, and indeed he produced their second album, Bodies. It is to Smith’s credit that this manifests in a very low key fashion. The Cardiacs are one of my favourite groups – but their unique hyperactive abandon isn’t evident here – Sidi Bou Said are a much more measured outfit, for all that they swoop and soar. And so there may be elements of prog, repeated complex patterns and phrases, but these add tonality rather than swamping compositions.

Wormee, Hyde and Ode to Drink below come from Bodies, Twilight Eyes and Three Sides come from earlier.

It’s dispiriting to discover that none of their albums are currently available, either as CDs or download. As a group I think they deserve much better than that.

But, perhaps no surprise that drummer Melanie Woods who also did vocals has wound up as part of the extremely interesting psychedelic/prog Knifeworld in the late 2000s – another group coming soon to TWIMBLT.

Wormee

Hyde

Ode To Drink

Twilight Eyes

Three Sides

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1. Phil - June 7, 2014

Blimey – who were these people and why have I never heard them before? I felt bad enough about having missed out on the Breeders, but at least I knew who they were; this lot passed me by completely. Amazing stuff – thanks!

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WorldbyStorm - June 7, 2014

Phil, I’m delighted someone else likes them. I think they were very obscure, I only found out about them through the Cardiacs/Tim Smith connection. The third album is different to Bodies, perhaps a bit more prog like, but more angular in a way. The first I’ve never heard, appears it was deleted really quickly.

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