Monday, March 03, 2008


THE 85TH GREATEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME: DAWSON - How To Follow So That Others Will Willingly Lead LP (1992/Gruff Wit)
Well, okay, I'm being a little facetious here; this isn't really the 85th greatest album of all time, even though I listed it as number 85 in the list I published a year or so ago. That Top 100 list wasn't really in any order, though I stand by the entry: this is, at the very least, in a top 100 somewhere as being one of my fave albums of all eternity and amen to that etc. I thought I'd discuss it since it's also one which very few people seem to've ever heard of. In fact, one Michael Row of Pig State Recon blog wrote to me after I published the list and noted to me that Dawson were the one band or artist I had mentioned whom he had never even heard of. So, lemme tell you something...
I first heard of the group in late '92 when I read a review for the album in Maximum Rock 'n' Roll which mentioned - in relation to the group's sound and approach - the Minutemen and Gang Of Four. My eyebrows raised. Browsing throughout the rest of the reviews, there were also entries for discs by Badgewearer and Whirling Pig Dervish, two more Scottish bands on Dawson's Gruff Wit imprint - a label actually run by Dawson's main man, Jer Reid - and once again the likes of The Fall and the Minutemen were mentioned in said reviews. Before you could say "music-obsessed dork with a socially-challenged personality disorder" (and I think I've overcome at least part of that description in the 15 years which have passed), I chucked a few pounds of legal tender in ol' blighty into an envelope, addressed it to Gruff Wit and told 'em I'll take whatever they've got. A few weeks later I got a bunch of LPs and 7"s in the mail and I thanked my obsessive personality for at least steering me in the right direction on this occasion .
But let's talk of this LP... My copy comes in a hand-spray-painted fold-out sleeve in a plastic slip and contains a plethora of pamphlets, posters, political rants, lyric sheets and all kinds of ephemera crammed within its walls. DIY, kiddo. I have never seen another single copy of this LP, so I can't vouch for how different other versions may be, but I'll presume that there are no two identical copies. I don't thrill at this hand-made/DIY nonsense as much as I used to - maybe I'm just too jaded - though when the music holds up on its own two feet as this good, the personal touch given in its presentation makes it all the more sweeter.
Dawson do sound, in parts, a whole lot like the Minutemen and Gang Of Four, but so do a lot of bands. Such scratchy-guitar/funky bass/political-slogan schtick is beyond cliche at this point in time, though Dawson add a whole lot more to the stew, so much so that, in general, I can't pinpoint them as sounding like anyone else in particular. This LP is split into two schizophrenic halves, if only to prove such a point. Side A is a collection of short, fast and fairly "heavy" hardcore-ish post-punk which combines truly ace musicianship, insane twists and turns and a white-hot rhythm section which borrows heavily from the Watt/Hurley stop-on-a-dime school of songwriting. If you do like, say, Minutemen, The Pop Group or even early Boredoms, you'll find something to chew on here.
Side B takes a radical detour: 5 long(er) tracks which jumps from style to style like a totally different group - dub, a kinda free-jazz guitar noise piece with spoken samples on top, and two ending numbers which feature no guitars or bass whatsoever: just rambling percussion, whistles, whoops and screams. If you think that possibly amounts to "filler", you'd be wrong. Upon first playing this very LP, I flipped. I figured I'd just discovered the World's Greatest Band Whom No-One On Earth Had Ever Heard Of. Outside of the likes of Badgewearer and Whirling Pig Dervish, and their hombres The Ex and Dog Faced Hermans, there was no context to place them in. The band - a Scottish three-piece - appeared to exist within their own universe. They booked their own tours, released their own astonishing records, and yet few people cared. That was amended some 9 months later when the good folks from NYC's God Is My Co-Pilot released this and Dawson's previous LP - Barf Market: You're Ontae Plums (must be a Scottish thing) - onto one CD entitled Cheeze Market. If you can locate a copy of this CD, or indeed any of the band's original vinyl, then you can count yourself lucky indeed. In the last three or four years in which I have been wasting my life and money on the likes of ebay, I have never seen a copy of any such item listed.
Which brings me to the grand finale: I actually own the master DAT of How To Follow... and every other Dawson record. That is, except for their final LP from 1993, Terminal Island. I have been in the possession of these DATs and master reels for over three years. Jer is still trying to track down the Terminal Island master, and I get a feeling I might have to just do the thing off vinyl, much as I don't want to. One day, before I drop dead, that pesky Complete Discography double CD will come to fruition. Until then, keep on searching, I say.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've bought two used copies of Cheese Market off of Amazon.com, after reading your posts on Dawson here. One for me and one for my brother-in-law. Awesome stuff. It looks like there's currently one on there for only $8.80--if you're reading this and don't already own it, what're you waiting for???

Mrow said...

Crimony - you've stumped the panel yet again. Comparing bands to Badgewearer and Whirling Pig Dervish is as meaningful in my world as talking outmeal to your new haircut.

BUT I do get your gist here sir, I really do. I look forward to the LexDev reissue. But wait: Terminal Island isn't a reference to the industrial-nightmare/penal colony of an island located due south of The Minutemen's beloved San Pedro, now is it? Could be.

Dave said...

Two copies?! Geez, I haven't been looking hard enough. I'll keep a lookout.
MRow: I know that comparing one unknown band to two other unknown bands doesn't quite work, which is why I threw in The Fall, Minutemen, etc. Badgewearer - hence their name - are HEAVILY influenced by the latter, whilst WPD are definitely in The Fall mode of things. Perhaps a Best Of Gruff Wit Records 2CD is in order?

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE a Best of Gruff Wit comp! I tracked down a couple Archbishop Kebab records after reading that same post where I first saw you mention Dawson, and they're great. I'd been a Dog Faced Hermans fan for a long time, but never realized they had any kindred bands aside from The Ex.

Anonymous said...

I picked up How to Follow... LP for £6 a few weeks back from an online store. Has received a great number of plays. The bassist is now in a band called Tattie Toes www.myspace.com/tattietoes who are great live but not something I'd get much from at home.

Anonymous said...

Dawson 85th best LP & first 7" available at X-Ray Barbecue blog.

John Robb Goldblade said...

try some of The Membranes records as well,,,they were the daddys of the scene...if it was a scene...

John Robb Goldblade said...

ha ha ha i was only joking!
the Dawson record is better than anything we ever did!

Morgão Papelão said...

One of the best bands I ever saw. On their last U.S. tour the added a 2nd percussionist who played a dryer drum. Terminal Island was impossible to find even when it came out. I'd appreciate a copy of it...

Anonymous said...

Loved Dawson and have fond memories of numerous gigs in Glasgow in the early ninties (including the one in the picture).
The best gig I've been to was when they supported Fugazi at the Barras.
Barf Market was my favorite album.

Anonymous said...

BTW just to correct an earlier comment, the bass player from dawson doesn't play with Tattie Toes. The Tattie Toes bass player is Howie Reeve who has played in lots of bands/projects including Maxton Grainger with the dawson drummer (Robbie). Howie has also played in various collaborations with Jer from dawson which is maybe where the overlap confusion lies. Maxton Grainger released a 1o" a few years ago (on drink milk records i think).