Saturday, 16 February 2013


Crystal Grenade
Carol Hodge was last seen in November 2011 on stage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.  She was holding the hand of the one-time Crass vocalist Steve Ignorant as they closed both Ignorant’s world tour and his career of singing songs by the one-time Kings and Queens of anarchopunk, with a massively emotional version of Bloody Revolutions.  Even watching it on YouTube brings tears to my eyes, so I can only imagine what it would have been like being in the audience, or even more on stage. Carol joined Ignorant’s world tour half-way through after the previous female vocalist had dropped out for family reasons.  And she had some pretty big shoes to fill (I suppose if I was clever enough I should make some sort of reference here to Crass’s notorious song about Chinese footbinding, but I can’t think of one).  And she filled them righteously.  After all, having to perform songs made famous by the doyen of anarchopunk, Eve Libertine, cannot have been an easy task.  One of my favourite moments from the tour was also from the last show, when Eve joined Carol on stage for a particularly blistering version of Shaved Women.

But what happened next?  Steve went back to Norfolk and the lifeboat crew of which he is a member.  He occasionally puts his head above the electronic parapet to write about a charity event of the aforementioned lifeboat crew, or a visit to a UK Subs concert but seems to have left that part of his life behind, for a while at least.

I wondered what had happened to Carol, so the other night I looked her up on Wikipedia and found that she has not one, but two, interesting new projects on the go.  The first is a band called Wrecks:

WRECKS are a stoner rock/punk 4 piece formed in 2012 in Manchester, UK.

Fronted by Carol Hodge, best known for her stint on vocals with Steve Ignorant on his Last Supper world tour in 2011 (performing the songs of CRASS), WRECKS feature Pierce MacMahon (La Haine) on drums, Lucas Martin on bass and Pete Wilson (Steve Ignorant's Last Supper, Bad Taste Barbies) on guitar.  

I listened to two of their tracks this morning, and their song Not is particularly impressive. I find it hard to classify, but their self-description does not do them justice. Hell, you just have to check them out for yourself.

Carol’s other project is, if anything, even more interesting.  She has adopted the personality of Miss Crystal Grenade; an existentialist Victorian artist, singer, and freak show performer with a peculiarly deformed hand. Accompanying herself on piano, and with some songs featuring multi-tracked vocals (presumably by her) this music fills the same sort of cultural territory as did the recent BBC detective series Ripperstreet; a gloriously aesthetic re-creation of the latter days of Victorian London. In Miss Crystal Grenade this slice of ur-historical synthesis now has the perfect soundtrack.

It’s impossible to categorise with any degree of satisfaction.  The nearest I can come to her vocal phrasing is – of all people - Elton John’s eponymous second album, where he sang against strings produced and arranged by Paul Buckmaster. But the songs sound nothing like him, and there are no strings, merely some gloriously rococo piano. Then again, bits remind me of Dead Can Dance.  But they sound nothing like them. Does that even begin to describe the music I have been listening to all morning?  No, of course it doesn’t.  But it will have to do.  Luckily, through the magic of the internet, you can hear it for yourself with only a couple of clicks of the mouse.  Come on; click away!  I guarantee that it will be worth it. 

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