|The Age, Melbourne, 7 Oct 2005|
|Who's Laughing Now?|
|by Michael Dwyer|
Michael Dwyer regrets walking out of a Laughing Clowns gig, but frontman Ed Kuepper understands.
IT'S 1913 in Paris. I'm at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. As the rest of the uncomprehending audience howls bloody outrage, I leap to my feet and shout "Bravo! Magnifique!"
In another dream, I'm at the Newport Folk Festival in '65, nodding approval at Bob Dylan's new electric direction. Then I'm at the Manchester Trade Hall in '66, physically taking issue with the daft pleb crying "Judas!".
So it's kind of painful to recall that night at the Sydney Trade Union
Club 25 years ago when I walked out on the Laughing
Jeff and Ed
"That was never the intention. Weird for the sake of it is do-able. In fact, it's too easy. Melody was always the thing I was aiming for. To me, a lot of it seemed to be pretty accessible."
The appraisal is largely supported by Cruel,
But Fair, a new triple-CD
retrospective of the Laughing Clowns' complete recordings.
But, pointedly unlike most of their early '80s contemporaries, the Laughing Clowns' sound and energy remains so unique as to be almost untouched by time.
"I didn't want to be a contemporary band in the sense that the underground of the time was largely synth-electronic," Kuepper says.
"It ranged from experimental to pop, but there was a certain sound and approach a lot of people were using that was considered the valid underground. I didn't want to be part of that."
Kuepper's prolific recording career has been distinguished, to say the least, by a wilful drive to stake his own territory. Both the Clowns and his incarnation of the Saints were characterised by an almost self-sabotaging lack of compromise.
Both broke barriers, polarised critics and ended in acrimony. The easy
path has always seemed an anathema to Kuepper.
"I suppose everything I've wanted to do myself has had to work in a way that I can identify as having some sort of reason to exist."
In his Cruel, But Fair cover notes, Kuepper recalls one of the first Laughing Clowns shows in '79.
"I wouldn't say we had a walk-out halfway through the show," he writes, "it was more like a stampede. It was anarchy. A riot. Things were being thrown at us."
Like Stravinsky and Dylan before him, one wonders how he held onto his resolve. A less focused musician might be tempted to think, "F--k, they hate us, we must be terrible."
"No, I just thought 'F--k, they hate us, what a bunch of morons'," Kuepper laughs.
"It made things hard for a while, to get work. Initially we'd had a reasonable amount of interest because of my Saints connection. But it kept us going, really. It got us more focused on getting a record done."
Cruel, But Fair follows last year's three-disc set of Saints recordings from Kuepper's tenure of '76 to '78. Next up is a similar retrospective of his solo work, This is the Magic Mile. But relax, he's not preparing for eternity yet, he says: "It helps to clear the decks for some new activity."
Cruel, But Fair is out on Hot Records.
|Copyright: the owner.|