90: Cloreen Bacon Skin

Unreleased (1983) / Crystal Ball (1998)
My first listen of the Crystal Ball album took me back to being five years old again. I’m a kid staring at a mound of birthday presents. There’s some I’d hoped for, some less so, and one weird-looking, confusing gift three times the size of the others. Naturally this is the one I fixate on. Since then mates with more experience of band practise have dismissed Cloreen Bacon Skin as a jam session – nothing special, they’ve heard loads. But nah I know it’s more than that. It may only be a drum kit and bass guitar but the way it builds is straight out the techno playbook, years before the Belleville Three came along. Plus techno has always been too four to the floor for my tastes. This beat spoke to me in my first language of boom-bap hip hop. And the vocals. It was my first exposure to Jamie Starr. His old-man voice in full extempore flow is my spirit animal and last year’s release of Cold Coffee & Cocaine may awaken the same fascination in a new generation of Prince fans. To anybody’s protestations that Cloreen Bacon Skin is not a song, I’ll concede that point. It’s not. It’s molten funk, fresh from the forge prior to being hammered into the rough shape of a song. Listen to Soulpsychodelicide or The Time’s Tricky if you want to hear it sculpted into a familiar form. I prefer the red hot rawness. The liquid, untempered spontaneity. As the Crystal Ball liner notes reveal even the title was thought up a split second before you hear it. It’s rough, and even chaotic at times but like Nietzsche once wrote, you need chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. And that dancing star is Cloreen’s finest daughter: Irresistible Bitch. Hearing her conception isn’t the greatest moment on Crystal Ball but it comes a close second.