(4 / 5)
Seminal Blackpool post-punk band’s entire early discography in one box set. A cracking 99 tracks on five discs. The Membranes came to embody a style of abrasive, off-kilter post-punk music which might best be described by the motto “Death To Trad Rock” (later the title of a book and compilation CD by head Membrane John Robb).
Formed in Blackpool, Lancashire in 1977, the initial line-up being John Robb (bass guitar), Mark Tilton (guitar), Martyn Critchley (vocals) and Martin Kelly (drums). Critchley soon left, with Robb and Tilton taking on vocals, and Kelly moving to keyboards, with “Coofy Sid” (Coulthart) taking over on drums.
They were the first band to be signed to Alan McGee’s Creation label but the deal fell though when McGee could not afford to pay their studio bill for the “Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder” single The band relocated to Manchester in 1983, and “Spike Milligan’s Tape Recorder” was issued on the Criminal Damage label, which met with a positive critical response but distribution problems limited its impact.
They have influenced a vast range of bands across the world, attracting heavy fans such as Big Black (Steve Albini), Sonic Youth, Pussy Galore and Butthole Surfers. The Membranes are the first band that Steve Albini worked with outside Big Black.
This new box set includes their five albums recorded for various labels across the 1980s (on Criminal Damage, Creation, Constrictor, In Tape, etc.) as well as all their singles, B-sides, EPs and extra tracks. Most of the tracks appear on CD for the first time, from their contribution to the “Blackpool Rox” EP in 1980 through to their final recordings for the band’s original incarnation in the early 1990s. The 26-page booklet includes sleeve-notes written by John Robb (now an established author and journalist, behind the Louder Than War magazine), alongside a wealth of visual material.
After an extended hiatus began in the early 90s, the band reformed in 2012 and released their first new album in 20 years, “Dark Matter/Dark Energy” on Cherry Red in 2015. This was supported by tours and festival dates including Glastonbury and Green Man. A brand new Membranes album is due out on Cherry Red in Autumn 2017.
By Christopher Weston
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’