Peter & the Test Tube Babies

Cattle and Bum/Live in Manchester [DVD]

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A welcome DVD repackaging for the first (and best) two Peter & the Test Tube Babies video releases, 1992's Cattle and Bum mockumentary, and a 1993 concert film that immortalized a show from the band's raucous infancy. Of the two, the live show, shot at Gillies nightclub in Manchester in September 1983, is the most powerful, a straightforward bludgeoning that captures the Test Tubes just one year into their recording career -- and, therefore, at the height of their earliest mad excitement. Still delighting in such proto-Oi! delights as their debut single, "Banned From the Pubs," and the ill-fated chat-up anthem "Run Like Hell," the band was also introducing the then-newly released "The Jinx" single and, naturally, a healthy stash of songs from their imminent debut album, The Mating Sounds of South American Frogs. It's probably not to everybody's tastes, but the sight of an entire punk audience enthusiastically joining in to sing "I Never Made It to the Bog in Time" is one that is not easily shaken from one's mind. Cattle and Bum is a more informative experience, assuming such a phrase has any place in the Test Tubes' laboratory. A compilation of live, television, home movie, and promo clips shot between 1983 and 1992, its highlights include a couple of tracks reprised from the Gilles show, two more from a show at the Brixton Fridge two months later, a Spanish TV performance from July 1988, and a maniacal Gary Glitter cover from Essen, Germany, in December 1991. And it's all a far cry from the anodyne collections of pristine visages that most bands unearth when anthology time comes around. Bloopers are not, after all, the sole preserve of TV actors and movie stars -- put a band in front of a camera and, sooner or later someone's going to trip over a lead, demolish a drum kit, knock over their microphone, or get the song's words wrong. As Cattle and Bum progresses, it swiftly becomes apparent that such accidents are only the tip of the Test Tubes' mountain of mishaps. But they encapsulate some excellent performances as well, leaving one to wish that more bands would take this kind of approach to their history.

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