An archival recording from a early-1979 concert in London, Entertaining Friends is a fine blast from the band's classic lineup. On one hand there's no immediate reason for its release; some of the group's most deathless songs aren't here (a slightly later show might have included the astonishing "I Believe," which would have been amazing to hear with John Maher kicking out the drumming jams live). Meanwhile, there are no particular rarities present, while the performances are generally fine and fierce without being revelatory. These are really all quibbles in the end, though; Entertaining Friends is an hour's worth of some of the best music of its era, with Shelley in beautifully worried voice and the group tackling things with nonstop energy. The final songs of the concert make for a collective nod to the past in ways, with three of the songs from the Shelley/Devoto era taking a bow, including "Orgasm Addict" and a wonderful "Breakdown." For all that the quicker, punchier pop numbers defined about the band in the public eye, it's great to hear some of the edgier, stranger numbers here taking a bow, such as the nervous wreck of "Fiction Romance," the stuttering chug of "Sixteen," and the quirky stop-start collapse of "Noise Annoys." The rampage of "Moving Away From the Pulsebeat" is another winner, a great showcase for John Maher in particular, but the whole band sets up an especially powerful Krautrock/punk mantra, especially toward the instrumental conclusion of the song. Shelley acts as general MC/raconteur for the evening, introducing the show as the equivalent to the Eurovision Song Awards and at times catching himself laughing during songs, while Diggle gets a lead turn with a strong run through of "Harmony in My Head."
Entertaining Friends Review
by Ned Raggett