Officer! is the brainchild of Londoner Mick Hobbs. His musical roots are in the fecund RIO scene of the late ’70s and early 1980s, initially as guitarist in The Work (alongside Bill Gilonis, Rick Wilson and Henry Cow’s Tim Hodgkinson), and subsequent related groupings The Lowest Note, The Lo Yo Yo, and The Momes. Over the course of the decade he became closely associated with This Heat and their Cold Storage studio in Brixton, working with the likes of Flaming Tunes, Family Fodder, Catherine Jauniaux and Zeena Parkins, to name but a few.
The Officer! project formally surfaced in 1982 with a cassette tape entitled Eight New Songs By Mick Hobbs. It marked the blossoming of a singular writer and improvisor, with a gift for plangent melody, ingenious arrangement and lyrics at once caustic and courtly, playful and profound (two songs from this tape, ‘Life At The Water’s Edge’ and ‘Dogface’, have been remastered for a limited edition 7” release on Blackest Ever Black in 2014). The Cold Storage-recorded Ossification LP arrived a year later, followed by Cough (1985) and Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes (1988). Megaphone Records, responsible for Ossification’s recent 30th anniversary reissue, rightly describe it as “one of the most unusual, pleasurable and character-filled ‘pop’ records anyone has heard…a timeless anomaly in the history of recorded music.”
By the start of the 1990s Hobbs had joined Jad Fair’s Half Japanese (he continues to play in that group as well as Strobe Talbot, a trio with Fair and Benb Gallaher). In the early months of ’95, Half Japanese were in Baltimore to record their Hot LP; Hobbs stayed on to cut the bulk of the songs that comprise Officer!’s Dead Unique – songs drawn from a rich store of material written and refined in the seven years since the band’s last outing – with a talented assemblage of local and visiting musicians. Returning to the UK, Hobbs brought the tracks to producer Julia Brightly to mix at her 16-track home studio in Bethnal Green; by the end of the summer, Dead Unique had taken shape.
And then? Nothing. For reasons that no one, least of all Hobbs, can remember, Dead Unique was shelved, all but forgotten about until 2012, when Blackest Ever Black chanced upon it while trawling the Officer! archive maintained for Hobbs by Andrew Jacques. Two years later, the album was made available to the public for the very first time, with a full 2xLP, CD and digital release on BEB.