Album Review: Folk Devils – Beautiful Monsters; Singles and Demo Recordings 1984-86

Filed firmly under the criminally ignored banner during their lifetime, a brief flame that was snuffed out almost as soon as it has caught fire in the middle of the 80’s. It’s a light that didn’t look likely reignite either, despite this (and previous) retrospectives, due to the death of frontman Ian Lowery back in 2001, but plans are afoot for the band to play live once more. Despite their monkier, Folk Devils dealt in gritty and pulsating rock and roll that carved its own place in the alternative music of the time alongside Gun Club, Godfathers, King of the Slums – even Gene loves Jezabel and the like.

Collected on their new release, Beautiful Monsters – Singles and Demo Recordings, out on the brilliant Optic Nerve imprint, are the key tracks from the bands (most) active years, alongside (as it says on the tin) demos and session tracks – although sadly no BBC sessions included. Still, after hearing even just the singles – the twisting Spiritualized-like (Jason Pierce reputedly cites them as an influence) Beautiful Monster, the Alt-punk/folk/country stomper Hank Turns Blue, English Disease (lead track of the bands Fire & Chrome release) with its razor like chords and with Lowery barking out the vocals, you realise that this is a band that backed up their fearsome live reputation in their releases, which still have the energy and venom that many bands (both then and now) search for.

Away from there though, its still strong, with the demo’s providing some real lost gems, the turbo fuelled Nicotine Tan blasting its was forwards, and Tight Sleep tightroping between punk and alt-rock, with Mark Whiteley’s bass walloping along while Lowery delivers his most unabashed vocal. Throw in the likes of Brian Jones’ bastard son, all honky tonk pianos and (almost) pedestrian lollop scuffed up by slashy guitars and Lowery’s delivery, and you’re onto something very good indeed.

A band much in need of reappraisal, given the chance to cast their influence far and wide once again. We’ve missed you.

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