All credit to you if you’d heard of Lack Of Knowledge prior to this re-evaluation of their work. Who are they? They formed in the early 1980’s. But that is where usual convention ended and legend began. Rules for success these are not: they never sent out a demo tape to a record company, had no manager, no transport, no booking company for gigs, no roadies and only rehearsed twice in a proper rehearsal studio. When they did play live the guitarist (who can’t sing) sometimes sang the title track of the latest album.
…and a royalty cheque for £24
This is a reissue compiling their debut release, The Grey EP (Crass Records, 1983)and first LP Sirens Are Back, released in 1984 on Corpus Christi. They had limited success at the time; records played by John Peel, three singles, one album and a royalty cheque for £24. But not the success of a band you’d have expected to be feted over 20 years hence, until you appreciate the taut post-punk of this collection that is.
The closest reference point to clumsily place this alongside is Unknown Pleasures_-era Joy Division, particularly in its sparse but menacing rhythm section and bleak lyrical focus. The first four tracks in particular, which made up _The Grey EP, present visions of a nightmare dystopian future (or present?) of suicide bombers, arms factories and nuclear war (“The aftermath of too many wars, the last man in Europe stumbles through the wreckage of somebody’s life, somebody’s home, down the streets that used to ring now silent”).
…dramatic time-changes, acoustic guitar and Gang Of Four punk-funk all creep in
The distinct sound of this opening quartet continues into the subsequent album tracks, mostly obsessed with future wars than anything else (see “Tank Trap”, “Last Victory” or “Weapons Range”), and its interesting to see how they developed their musical template with their first long-player — more dramatic time-changes, acoustic guitar and Gang Of Four punk-funk all creep in during the last 10 songs.
Ultimately Joy Division (and perhaps very early New Order) remain the main influence, and whilst this makes the album sound derivative in places it’s worth as a reissue is provided by LOK’s obscurity, the music’s underlying menace and it’s use as a time-capsule to prove that music in the the mid-eighties was about more than Wham! and Spandau effing Ballet.