“When asked to play at BEB’s London celebration of their ‘5 wretched years’ of existence, Officer! wasted no time in hesitating to say ‘yes’. Their performance at the Institute of Contemporary Arts involved the recruitment of sons and daughters who might have preferred to be left alone to get on with their own lives. A comment made on that balmy September evening has resulted in a fatwa being issued, and a policeman placed on guard outside the front door of band-leader Mick Hobbs’ humble south London home. The performance was carefully recorded and has been lovingly mixed by Deerhoof’s John Dieterich. It’s due to be released as ‘Never Mind The Bucket’.
“And now, with a performance headlining another ‘Blackest’ event at London’s Café Oto announced for the 27th July, it’s a larger than ever Officer! ensemble set to appear on this occasion. The venue’s possession of a dozen music stands has suggested a 12-piece group on the night, so be ready for a tuba, ‘cello and zinc bucket augmenting the peculiar sound these Officer! people produce.”
– Mick Hobbs, July 2, 2016.
Blackest Ever Black’s marked its fifth anniversary in 2015 with events at the ICA in London and Berghain in Berlin. The former featured an unforgettable performance from Mick Hobbs’ Officer!, the shapeshifting group’s first in twenty-odd years. For this show Hobbs was joined by longtime collaborators Mary Currie of Flaming Tunes (voice, shruti, theremin, glock) and Joey Stack (keyboards, voice), with Tilly Bean on bass, Ed Bernez on drums and Lydia Fischer contributing flute, trumpet and baritone horn.
The setlist comprised songs from Dead Unique, the “lost” 1995 album by Officer! which Blackest Ever Black released in 2014, a smattering of earlier classics (including ‘Life At The Water’s Edge’ and ‘Dogface) and heart-rending covers of ‘Beguiling The Hours’ and ‘The Best Weapon’ from Mary Currie and the late Gareth Williams‘ peerless Flaming Tunes album.
The show was recorded, and has been beautifully mixed for release by Deerhoof‘s John Dieterich, with a couple of overdubs from Jeroen Visser (baritone sax on ‘Dogface’) and Bill Gilonis (guitar on ‘Shrug’). Mastered by Noel Summerville, the LP is co-released by Blackest Ever Black and Hobbs’ own Life & Living Records in a strictly limited edition of 300, with artwork by Li Williams.
We’re very pleased that Mick Hobbs will be returning to the stage with Currie, Stack and a significantly expanded ensemble for an Officer! gig at London’s Cafe Oto on July 27, 2016, with support from Af Ursin and Carla dal Forno. More information and tickets here.
Officer!, for those of you unacquainted with the project, is either Mick Hobbs alone or Mick Hobbs with friends. Now recognised as a key figure in the tangled history of London’s DIY underground, the mercurial Hobbs cut his teeth in the RIO scene of the late ’70s and early 1980s, initially as guitarist in The Work (alongside Bill Gilonis, Rick Wilson and Tim Hodgkinson), and subsequent related groupings The Lowest Note, The Lo Yo Yo, and The Momes. During this time he became closely associated with This Heat and their Cold Storage studio in Brixton, working with the likes of Flaming Tunes, Catherine Jauniaux and Zeena Parkins.
Officer! formally surfaced in ’82 with Eight New Songs By Mick Hobbs: it marked the arrival of a singular writer and improvisor, with a gift for plangent melody, ingenious arrangement and lyrics at once pointed and allusive, playful and profound. The Cold Storage-recorded Ossification arrived a year later; Megaphone Records, responsible for the LP’s recent 30th anniversary reissue, describe it as “one of the most unusual, pleasurable and character-filled ‘pop’ records anyone has heard…songs that contain the spirit of pop, rock, medieval, avant-garde, R.I.O., The Work, Family Fodder, This Heat, Look de Bouk, Legendary Pink Dots, Henry Cow…a timeless anomaly in the history of recorded music.” Two further Officer! albums followed in the 1980s (Cough and Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes), before a lengthy hiatus. In 1995 Hobbs, by now a member of Jad Fair’s Half Japanese, cut one last Officer! album in Baltimore and London, but it was shelved, for reasons no one seems able to remember; this “lost” album was finally issued by Blackest Ever Black nineteen years later, in 2014, under the title Dead Unique.