The text here has been extracted from gig reviews. They give an interesting insight into the band's early days of playing live. Scritti Politti rarely played live after 1980.
Venue: Acklam Hall
Lineup and order: Scritti Politti, Prag VEC, Cabaret Voltaire, Red Crayola
Review by Ian Penman, NME magazine
Scritti Politti played out their first gig in a maze of nervousness without a proper set.
Not properly consulted (they claim) over their billing and not properly prepared themselves, they asked the audience to regard their appearance as an "open rehearsal". They won sympathetic respect and three offers of support slots on projected national tours.
Highly strung but low-key is an appropriate description of both Scritti Politti and Red Crayola.
The Crayola duo slipped on discreetly after an interval about as long
as Politti's 15 minute set.
Both Red Crayola and Scritti Politti appear to approach their work with enthusiasm and investigative commitment, and are to be applauded as such.
Neither, I'd imagine, would be caught saying silly things like "And isn't that what rock 'n' roll is supposed to be all about?"; and they've both got the products to prove their point, 'Wives In Orbit' and 'Skank Bloc Bologna' being a couple of last year's more successful - and listenable - attempts to shed new light on the shadowy assumptions of "good ol' rock 'n' roll".
Theirs is a truly revolutionary impulse which, rather than using the medium merely to trundle out predetermined polemic, sees its obligation more in terms of giving the wheels a complete overhaul and, if necessary, replacing them.
Never mind the bathwater, let's get rid of the baby!
An ambitious task, yes; and this, the first date of a tour the very existence of which is something of an achievement, can best be viewed as an index of failure, a ratio of intention to actuality. Not surprisingly, both outfits have quite some way to go before getting close to that perfect, unattainable one-to-one.
But then, nothing's worth doing unless it's impossible, eh?
Scritti Politti were ragged and tentative, obviously unsure of themselves, but brave enough to ignore 'Skank Bloc Bologna' in favour of more recent material.
Scritti Politti's use of reggae is one of the few instances of that form being adapted rather than just applied by white musicians. And the fussy percussive flurries, stilted bass lines and insistent guitar syncopation combine to produce a peculiar nervous jerkiness, a discomfiting tension between hesitancy and forcefulness. They were justifiably well-received by those who came to listen, despite the indecipherability of most of their lyrics.
The tour is undoubtedly the most speculative enterprise of its kind in ages, and also the most enjoyable and thought-provoking I've seen so far in '79; one deserving more than merely open-handed praise.
If you missed it, kick yourself.
THE tradition of the angry young idealist, full of righteous fervour, self-righteous condescension towards those at odds with his or her volatile beliefs, and a mass of confused rhetoric and contradictions, goes on forever.
Tonight the location for this is a London University Union dance, but few people are dancing because on the stage Scritti Politti are playing and it is impossible to dance to them.
You've probably heard of Scritti Politti due to one of our more idealistic young scribes who constantly declares they are one of the principle forces of change trumpeting away at rock 'n' roll's reactionary Wall of Jericho. But the only wall that looked ready to tumble down on Friday was that of a bank of amplifiers behind them.
"'Ere Jack" toss us over some gaffa tape quick. The PA's falling to pieces," a roadie shouts during one of Scritti's atonal doodles.
These are the most clearly stated words throughout the set. Originally they'd just strutted on and plugged in, considering it pointless to get any sort of sound balance. The bass player is pumping out his patterns at twice the volume of the guitarist's feeble sound. The drummer, a white guy with a ridiculous Rastafarian head of hair, sporadically works away at a lethargic reggae beat.
The guitarist announces that every number they intend to play in the set has been specially prepared for the gig and never before played. But this statement is soon contradicted by the yelps of recognition greeting some songs and requests from the audience which the guitarist readily agrees to perform.
It makes no difference to me either way. Scritti appear so passively laissez-faire about their vocation that they rarely choose to play together, and, on Friday's showing, I wonder why they bothered at all.
They pointlessly meander around and play so lethargically that the limbo they find themselves in is totally bereft of any virtues. As far as lyrics go, I couldn't hear one word the guitarist was rather feebly singing, and his playing was simply a gross waste of a decent instrument.
Bands like Scritti Politti are irritating; they came over as smug, lazy and directionless. Their apathy towards such conventions (one can already hear them yawning at the word) as tuning up and working as a unit so that their sound and vision is clear, makes them both condescending and redundant. Or to quote Tom Verlaine: "It seems you have something to say. Why don't you say it?"
The full extent of Scritti Politti's wretched impotence was driven
home when The Pop Group took the stage.
The kind of press Scritti Politti attract gives the impression they're so abstract they can probably switch dimensions mid-set and have a political invective that makes a nuclear fission seem like a poke in the eye.
Believe me, I'm surprised - not to say stunned - that they shatter all these preconceptions.
They're warm, animated and instantly accessible, providing some of the brightest moments of the whole evening. Working loosely as a collective, Scritti tread a very fragile edge between an expansive, articulate music and imminent collapse. (Quite literally! Guitarist Green, at 23, has just been warned he's in line for his second heart-attack). They keep all options open by playing a piece of music once and then either revamping or discarding it completely, so God knows if this set's typical.
Tonight they play completely absorbing, experimental songs like 'The Watusi' making brilliant use of the accents and shades of their loose dub framework with thick cottonwool Wobble-styled base, crackling electric drums (synthesized?) and restrained carefully-interwoven graphic guitar. I've rarely seen any band create so much space within such narrow confines and then put it to such exhilarating use.