The Deviants

The Deviants 3

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The third and, for the time being, final Deviants album is also, according to frontman Mick Farren, the record that they should never have made. Writing in his 2001 autobiography, Give the Anarchist a Cigarette, Farren observes that even the album's title encapsulated the group's state of mind -- "so creatively tapped out we couldn't even come up with a snappy name for the damned record." He is being harsh. While The Deviants, No. 3 can in no way be compared to either of its predecessors, or to Farren's own magnificent solo album Mona, it is still a fascinating glimpse into the state of the British underground in 1969. A few of the songs are indeed as unrehearsed (and certainly undeveloped) as Farren has since complained -- "Death of a Dream Machine" is little more than a jingle, when it ought to be a masterpiece. But it's also a considerably more coherent album than the group's speed-freak monster mash reputation might allow you to expect, and it doesn't even sound that horribly dated. At its most seething, "Billy the Monster," the sinister Zappa-esque chant with which the album opens, captures the archetypal hippie-freak. Then, skip over the somewhat Airplane-y "Broken Biscuits" and "First Line," and you reach "The People's Suite" -- and what could be more brilliant than a suite that lasts just two and a half minutes? "We are the people who pervert your children, lead them astray from the lessons you taught them": Again, Zappa hangs heavy over the proceedings, but if the tabloids of the day ever needed to have their worst fears confirmed, the Deviants were pleased to oblige. Musically, The Deviants, No. 3 hangs in a void somewhere between the early Edgar Broughton Band, with whom they enjoyed the wildest rivalry, and the incipient Pink Fairies, to which all the members bar Farren soon fled. Culturally, however, it is a brutal reminder of that moment when the '60s dream teetered on the brink of the precipice, and the planet went to hell in a handcart around it.

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