Unspun Heroes – Artery, ‘Oceans’

Digging up buried treasure from the depths of our collection.

This week – Luke Turner on the post-punk obscurity that warmed the young Jarvis Cocker’s cockles.

It was not being forced to wear lederhosen as a teenager that inspired Jarvis Cocker to form a band. Nor was it a liberating, if fumbled, encounter with a housewife on the floor next to a plywood chiffonier as David Bowie played on the Dansette. Instead, it was seeing an unhinged performance by Artery in his hometown of Sheffield.

The narrative of post-punk is dominated by Manchester and London, and Artery have spent the past two decades largely unknown outside of John Peel Festive 50s and Cocker’s record cabinet. Released in 1982 as Sheffield turned to pop, ‘Oceans’, Artery’s debut, is a curious, misshapen exploration of all that made them fascinating; Artery always were cut from stranger cloth than most.

Indeed, that’s if they were wearing any cloth at all. They’d shoot promo pictures that featured them hanging upside down from a tree, and during one gig frontman Mark Gouldthorpe climbed, naked, onto a balcony high above Sheffield. Police called; gig over. It’s this feeling of a group unhinged that dominates the seven, often narrative-led songs that make up ‘Oceans’. ‘Into The Garden’, for instance, is a grandiose proto-gothic mix of one-two beats and slashes of lightning prog guitar backing lyrics about taking an “identical twin sister” for something sordid behind the geraniums.

‘The Slide’, on the other hand, knocks cowbells together with prowling crunch for something that’d sit nicely on a hypothetical ‘DFA Comedown Collection’, Gouldthorpe snapping about razorblades and moaning “I don’t want a wife”, as if staring disconsolately at some cheap band of gold that entraps his finger and his life. Elsewhere there’s the drunken, woozy ‘The Clown’ and the swirling heart attack of ‘Afterwards’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5slkWZwPRY

There’s a happy new beginning to ‘Oceans’, too. In 2007 Cocker persuaded Artery to reform for his Meltdown Festival. Reinvigorated, they reissued this album and embarked on new material as deranged as that from their forgotten heyday.