The first incarnation of the Glaxo Babies was a rather noisy, doomy post-punk outfit connected to the Y Records axis of the Slits and the Pop Group that broke up after a spate of releases in the early '80s. Three-fifths of the original lineup (singer Rob Chapman, guitarist and keyboardist Dan Catsis, and drummer Charles Llewelyn ditched the saxophonist and the bassist) re-formed in 1985 to begin recording new material, but it wasn't until this 18-track compilation of studio recordings and home demos recorded in the latter half of the '80s and released in 2007 that their work reached an audience. It is a truism that the later '80s work by post-punk bands is almost always wretched, due to a lack of ideas, a misguided desire to stay abreast of current trends (which almost always meant sequencers and booming gated drums) and/or a loss of that indefinable something that made the band interesting in the first place. The surprising thing about Porlock Factor: Psych Drums and Other Schemes 1985-1990 is that this material largely surpasses the better-known songs of the Glaxo Babies' first incarnation. Aside from the genuinely great 1980 single "Christine Keeler," the original Glaxo Babies were never a particularly unique or inventive band, but this reunion lineup was inspired by a wider variety of acts including Wire and members of the Canterbury prog scene. (The liner notes mention Llewelyn was a part-owner of a studio that was used by folks like Robert Wyatt and various ex-members of Henry Cow and Quiet Sun.) The resulting blend of songs like the genuinely poppy, danceable "This Way Out" and the wistful, dreamy love song "Tracy's Face," with more experimental material like the psychedelic "I Know a Joke" and a minimalist synth-dance remake of "Christine Keeler" make Porlock Factor: Psych Drums and Other Schemes 1985-1990 a varied and entertaining listen. However, the four scratchy home demos at the end are strictly for the most die-hard fan.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason