’40 years after the fact and Planet Grot’s STILL ahead of its time’ - Leonard Phillips (The Dickies)
“an incomparable talent and a true original -a man who often borders on genius” - Louder Than War (UK)
‘The work of Ashley Reaks here deserves to be heard as being in the same league with other adroit British and US wordsmith musicians of a certain stripe – Creme and Godley, Blegvad and Partridge, Martin Newhouse, Robyn Hitchcock, Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Daevid Allen’ -Stereo Embers (USA)
‘Ashley Reaks flaunts the kind of maddening genius usually reserved for Dutch impressionists who puncture their ears. - Penny Black Music (USA)
This Is Planet Grot
Compassion Fatigue (1-8)
Artist, musician, and comedian Ashley Reaks is a man of many interests, and this comes across on his album Melancholia – an interesting blend of ominous musical backdrops over African and Indian influenced beats, with a bit of punk thrown in for good measure. Imagine Nine Inch Nails if a mellow Trent Reznor took interest in world rhythms. To keep things from becoming dull, Reaks has included a few tracks that go in unexpected directions. There are three instrumental tracks on the album that all sound as if they are drawing from different gen
res respectively, but are still excellent nonetheless. There are also the songs which would have to be likened to spoken word. On these tracks, Reaks recites prose eloquently, if somewhat perplexingly, over mesmerizing grooves. Amongst these She Burns stands out with its Indian-style trills erupting between Reaks’ stanzas. Melancholia is perfect for a person suffering from just that. Ashley Reaks has crafted an album of mellow, calming sounds, excluding I’ve Got Everything (That Nobody Wants), which blares during the middle as the most obvious example of his punk influences yet. If this album doesn’t spur some sort of positive emotion, then it probably wasn’t heard properly and deserves another listen.
Coren J. Cogdell
Here’s To the Good Life
A Conglomeration Of Jockstraps
The first time I encountered Mr Reaks was in the nineties when he was playing with Francis Dunnery, telling rude jokes in-between numbers. Second time was when he was fronting the short lived Younger Younger 28s-; perhaps the greatest pop band never to have made it from Yorkshire. I didn’t even realise this bizarre collection of poetry, songs and sketches was Mr Reaks until I investigated his My Space account. If you imagine a blue version of comedian John Shuttleworth you’ll have an idea of where the melted mind of Reaks comes from. The street interviews will have you stitching up your burst stomach, on hearing life meaning questions such as “Where do you keep your collection of pigeon erotica” and “Do you think there’s a satanic message in line dancing!” Meanwhile, in the sketch ‘Football Results’, we are informed that “The match between Derek Griffiths and Morning Sickness was called off due to a tremendous spaniel on the pitch”. School boy humour aside, there’s some snazzy production going on here and a lot of thought has gone into this release. The poem “The Earth Swan Sings Again” is inspired and beautiful. John Shuttleworth would no doubt be pleased that he has inspired Yamaha ditties here such as “Keith Wilson” ( a love song to a hypnotherapist) but less impressed that the catchiness of “Milk Is Not Your Uncle” will evoke punch the air moments to rival his own greatest moment “Pigeons In Flight”.
David Wright – Talk Magazine
ONE of the Harrogate scene’s most talented, if unorthodox, forces for nearly 20 years now, A Conglomeration of Jockstraps leaves you with the conclusion that artist/musician/poet Ashley Reaks is as bright as a mathematician and as daft as a brush. Over the course of these brilliantly barmy 25 tracks, many of them lasting less than a minute, you will be in turns amused, horrified, bored and, occasionally, moved. Though the style goes off in multiple directions, the content is consistent, the philosophical approach established by the opening two tracks. ‘Football Results’ has Ash reading the football results like any tea- time Saturday TV broadcast – until the scores are suddenly infected with wicked interjections of non-sequiturs and smut.
‘Margaret Sweat’ opts for spoken word poetry to a spooky electronic background. It could be quite lovely until its lines of lyrical beauty are hijacked by brutal imagery, bad language and pornographic references. Reaks may delight in undermining his own literary streak and galloping command of English language with shock tactics but he’s far from a one tricky pony. Amid the blizzard of daft voices, backward tapes and musical pastiches, he throws in a couple of tracks to let you know he can write a good tune if he’s in the mood.
‘Do The Horrongoden’ starts like any throwaway 80’s synth pop hit by Blancmange until the chorus when amazing rapid-fire call and response semi-religious Arabic chanting turns the normal into the truly remarkable. ‘This Is No Life’ is a catchy pop-punk gem full of blazing guitars and a Foo Fighters-like chorus. But melody isn’t really the aim on this album where the deep and the deeply silly rub shoulders, where tunefulness is undermined by ugliness and the juvenile and adult battle for control. There’s an over-riding obsession with religion, sex, manners and morals that suggests the real aim is to strip away the thin veneer of civilisation to reveal the depth of abnormality that lies behind what we take to be the ‘normal’.
‘A Conglomeration of Jockstraps’ sits in a long lineage: the films of David Lynch, the monologues of Ivor Cutler’s ‘Tales From A Scottish Room’ series, the music of The Bonzo Dog Band, the records of The Residents, the cut-up novels of William S Burroughs, the Christmas broadcasts of The Beatles for their fan club (1966-67), the radio humour of The Goons, all the way back to the1920s artists Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp. This is serious stuff – up to a point. Despite the occasional vocoder effect that makes him sound like Professor Stephen Hawking, Ash owes as much to Frank Sidebottom as Dada, as likely to mock Geoff Capes or Steve Cram as try to explain the meaning of everything, as likely to burst into laughter at his own wit as say something profound. Surreal or subversive, a Yorkshireman never loses his sense of humour. Graham Chalmers
YY28′s – ‘Soap’
It sparkles like a very shiny thing: glittery and bright, It’s pop sheen oozing from every pore. Not what’d you’d expect from an ex member of Scarbrough’s very own hair metallers Little Angels on keyboards really. But don’t let that put you off.
For an album that was criminally ignored when it sneaked out in early 2000, ”Soap” is a work that maybe everyone with an equal interest in cheesy pop music and Britpop should own. Imagine a cross between the Human League, Pet Shop Boys, Sheep on Drugs, Saint Etienne and Pulp, if you can. Play this next to Coldplay, Travis, or the other alt.complaint.rock currently swamping our charts, and discover the real reason why the NME gets it wrong when they hype Stones tribute band The Strokes. ”Soap” is quite simply an album that straddles both the pop and indie markets superbly. From the opening ”Sugar Sweet Dreams”, the camp and bittersweet tongue in cheek lyricism of Joe Northern shines through with the pop sensibilities. The inner booklet of a street map detailing all the everyday life chronicled in the album owes quite a bit to Pulp, maybe, but still, imbues this album with the same observed cynicism that its tunes never show.
While the songs show a catalogue of small-town dreams and the everyday fuck-ups of ordinary life as the characters strive to better themselves from working in the local supermarket or the dole queue, to the so Jarvis-Cocker-you-wonder-why-Pulp-haven’t-done-it-yet song about contact magazines, the music sparkles and shines with a pop sensibility unseen since the likes of Dubstar or St. Etienne. It’s bright, shiny, optimistic, and you’re never in any doubt that they are in fact, taking the piss completely out of all the empty shiny pop records the world over. ”We’re Going Out” is an incredibly infectious, and ”Teenage Mum” is a response to the Spice Girls’ girl-power ethic transplanted into the real world where Geri really isn’t a sex symbol after all. All the while, the upbeat optimistic cheery music drags you throw a catalogue of urban despair, dole queues and degradation of everyday survival. If nothing else, this album should be selling the millions that Britney claims as her own.
Quite how this shiny little jewel of a record got ignored I will never know. It’s worth 10 of any Coldplay or Travis album. It’s the sort of thing the Manics glitterati would buy up the bucketload now that the Manics have turned into spiky punk-by-numbers dull boredom, if only they stopped reading the NME. Quite simply, one of the most criminally ignored albums of recent history. Look out for it in a bargain bin near you soon – because it’s worth every penny.
Graham Reed – Drowned In Sound
Soap, measured against the two albums it most resembles, seems destined either to tower over an era in the manner of the Human League’s Dare, or to vanish into the terminal obscurity enjoyed by Denim’s Back In Denim. Either way, Soap is something of a classic. Musically, Younger Younger 28’s are thieves blessed with consummate style: a game of spot-the-reference played with this dizzyingly post-modern record will end with several sheets of paper filled with names including Soft Cell, Prince, Chic, the Shangri-Las, Kenickie, ABC, Pulp and the Ronettes.
Lyrically, frontman Joe Northern–whose gruff baritone is neatly counterpointed by the sweetly tawdry backing vocals of Liz and Andie–obsesses about the sort of people whose lives are regularly scrutinised in docu-soaps shown after midnight, and often writes, with richly endearing incongruity, from a female perspective: “Sugar Sweet Dreams”, “Teenage Mum” and “Julie” are all studies of hopeless dreams of escape from squalor. Soap is a rollercoaster of styles and moods that, appropriately, is largely set to music that sounds like it was made to be played in fairgrounds. It ends with a startlingly effective reading of “Inbetween Days”, the Cure’s peerless elegy to ennui. Quite how, or if, Younger Younger 28s are ever going to follow this is anyone’s guess, but it hardly matters.
Andrew Mueller – The Independent