LIVE FROM THE GRAVE by Uncle Stiltskin
Drugs. The results are back from the lab and it’s conclusive that drugs can be held responsible for making good music. Just think of the art we’d have been denied if every recording artist had been a total square. We probably never would have even heard of The Beatles if it wasn’t for John Lennon’s debilitating addiction to poppers. Even on a grassroots level, the idea of getting through a primary school rendition of Three Blind Mice on the recorder without cocaine coursing through your veins is just not realistic.
What is less reported however is that sometimes drugs can be bad which brings us to this album released by the estate of the late Uncle Stiltskin.
For those un-indoctrinated to the oeuvre of the man affectionately known as ‘Grandmaster Smack,’ Uncle Stiltskin was a tempestuous character, just as well known for his erratic behaviour as for his dissonant, exigent and unpopular music. In 1982 he broke a contract with Virgin Records by refusing to release his album on physical media instead preferring to shout it from his bedroom window for only those who cared enough to hear it. It was this action which led him to claim in a failed lawsuit in 2009 that he invented The Cloud.
This album (initially titled A Lovely Trip before his sudden death prompted a change of direction) sees Uncle Stiltskin take, as he describes it on the opening track Christ Alive! ‘enough acid to dissolve a bear in a skip.’
Although it starts brightly, the record is predominantly a slipshod collage of upsetting imagery from an overstimulated mind on its last metaphorical legs (though a mind walking around on a pair of literal legs is an image that features prominently.) I don’t know how to classify this album but if I had to pick a genre it would be: ambient horror.
It remains unclear whether he intended to end his life through making this album as artistically this wouldn’t be beyond his ambition, his life and career ending in tandem. The highly improvised closing track I’ve Absolutely Fucked This does subtly hint at the notion that he wasn’t entirely satisfied with how the closing hours of his existence panned out and the feeling is mutual with anyone who has the misfortune of listening to this. Rest in peace.