Luna Kafé e-zine  Luna Kafé record review
coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 95 - 07/02/04

University Of Errors
Jet Propelled Photographs
Cuneiform Records

The previous output from this on and off university was featured here at our menu in December 2002. Now prof. Daevid Allen has searched his archieves and blown dust off some of the publications of his youth when he was attending the Soft Machine faculty for a couple of terms back in 1966-67. This is of special interest to me since I spent quite some time last year diving into one particular song that used to be part of the Soft Machine set at the time, check out the Luna K. article of November 2003. The song is called "Memories" and, yes, here is yet another recorded version - the 14th to my account so far.

Here's prof. Allen's own account:
"This album is a remake of Soft Machine At The Beginning / Jet Propelled Photographs. Originally a demo produced by Giorgio Gomelsky, it was the only Soft Machine album on which I appeared. However I had a bad hair day on guitar and always dreamed of re-doing it with perfected guitar parts. Now, with the University of Errors, it has at last become possible. However, it is Josh Pollock's guitar playing that is featured here because his playing is currently better than mine & as Laurie Anderson once said, "aestetics are the ethics of the future"."

The remake includes all the nine songs from the original Jet Propelled Photographs demo sessions/album. In addition four other early Soft Machine songs are given a treat: their debut single "Love Makes Sweet Music"/"Feelin' Reelin' Squelin'", the only recorded output by the combo released before Daevid left, "Hope For Happiness" that later appeared on the Soft debut album Volume 1 in 1968 and "We Know What You Mean (Soon Soon Soon)" featured on a John Peel Top Gear session recorded in December 1967 and released officially for the first time only last year on the Hux Record's Soft Machine BBC Radio 1967-1971 album.

Although all the songs were written more than 35 years ago, the remakes sound surprisingly contemporary. The recordings have not been changed substantially compared to the originals apart from the guitars that are present all along and gives some of the songs a heavier stamp than the originals. The original demos were recorded in a hurry - in only three days - and are marked by the haste. At first I thought the new versions sounded as if they were recorded too hastely too. Some of these songs have been performed live for a couple of years and I guess the University board wanted to keep a live feel here & there.

Afters some spins, the recordings sound more convincing. Josh Pollock's guitar work is terrific throughout. The University of Errors started as a little punk outfit, a nice one with a twist. Here are some Jimi Hendrix elements, too (whom Soft Machine shared management and toured with in the early days), a few psychedelic excursions and even conventional guitar playing in between. I forgot about the characteristic Soft Machine fuzz organ sound after a while. The pop elements of the songs have not been lost, either. A couple of nice vocal harmonies and choruses give reverberations of the 60s, not least "Save Yourself" with amusing vocals and hard guitars.

To me, the only disappointment of the album is the rendition of my special baby "Memories". The guitar treatment is great, but Daevid doesn't sing as convicingly as he does on the other songs and as the lyrics deserve. It seems the song - originally sung by Robert Wyatt - doesn't quite fit his voice. Also, he doesn't sing all the verses included on the Soft Machine demo recording. Daevid is more comfortable with his own and Wyatt's "You Don't Remember" and some of the songs penned by Kevin Ayers. "Feelin' Reelin' Squelin'" in particular stands out. The song changes from the happy go lucky to some eerier parts where the deep Ayers-alike voice of Josh(?) really works. Creepy, almost! "Shooting At The Moon (aka Jet Propelled Photographs)" is another playful Ayers goodie with with a long and occasionally far out electronic guitar mayhem solo, sort of. "Hope For Happiness" has a slow and Gong alike floating start until it moves into punkier and poppier terrains and even more guitar madness. "She's Gone" doesn't sound sad as the original. On the contrary, Daevid seems quite happy that the mother of his girl and not the girl herself (as in the original lyrics) has left!

All in all, the new Jet Propelled Photographs album is a breath of fresh air to both the Soft Machine and the University of Errors catalogue. It does most of the songs fuller justice than the original recordings.

Check out information and sound samples at the University's home page whereas anything on Daevid Allen can be found at the GAS pages.

Copyright © 2004 JP e-mail address

© 2011 Luna Kafé