So this is what happens when you combine Marxism, art school, and post-punk London, 1979: A rickety, alien pulse, as made by a band that insisted on printing the production costs of every single on the sleeve. Scritti Politti may have spent the height of their career as the 80s' wooziest, most dubbed-out synth-soul act\xD1but they started miles and miles away from that, and this Rough Trade compilation of their early work can nearly break your brain. Singer Green Gartside even goes as far as adding an over-apologetic note to the package, calling its contents "structurally unsound" and "a bit winceworthy" and hoping you'll at least find it "interesting." And geez, Green: How could anyone not?
Because while Scritti appear here as a classic bass/drums/guitar trio, the music they're making is relentlessly mindbending. The early cuts aren't so much "songs" as they are tipsy Frankensteins that lurch slowly along for a few yards before falling down again. The bizarro scratching patterns of Gartside's guitar aren't so out-of-bounds for post-punk, but the way they mesh with Nial Jinks's lazy, dubby bass might be-- and the shifting tick-tock rhythms of the drums serve the exact opposite purpose of an anchor. As far as post-punk goes, it's as disorientingly "difficult" as anything the Pop Group ever did, and those guys were trying to be difficult. Scritti, on the other hand, start off sounding like they've only every heard three records-- by the Heartbreakers, King Tubby, and Aretha Franklin-- and they're just making everything else up.