The Stockholm Monsters

How Corrupt Is Rough Trade?

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Perhaps it's cynical to say so, but it seems undeniable that after the Stockholm Monsters' wonderful full-length debut, Alma Mater, went unfairly ignored upon its 1984 release, this 12" single was designed to stir up a little controversy. First there's the title, an unprovoked slam at Factory Records' biggest rival in the U.K. indie sweepstakes. Then there's the cover, a 1920s vintage photo of a naked pubescent girl. Then there's the "mistake" on the label, the A-side of which is printed over labels left over from Factory Benelux's last single, Section 25's "Crazy Wisdom," for maximum collector-geek value. It's all a bit calculated, frankly. It worked, anyway; this was the group's second charting hit and their first since their 1982 debut single. "How Corrupt Is Rough Trade?" may well be a rant against that label, but honestly, the song is so noisy and unstructured that it's impossible to tell. Trading the low-key indie-jangle of Alma Mater for a mix of doomy bass, incomprehensibly raving vocals, and an incongruously pretty, ambient-style piano part, the song is an incomplete-sounding, half-baked mess. But the B-side, on the other hand, is terrific. "Kan Kill" is a lengthy, atmospheric mini-suite starting with an uncredited snatch of some 1930s ballad and moving into a hyperactive set of polyrhythms and just barely audible found sound. About halfway through the seven-minute song, it slowly mutates into a neo-psychedelic guitar pop song that recalls fellow Mancunians the Chameleons. Finally, it fades out to the sound of squealing tires and bouncy syn-drums. It's all very odd, and over three times more interesting than its flip side.

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