Stump: “A Fierce Pancake” Is There When It’s Time For A Mental Palate Cleansing [part 1]

Chrysalis ‎| US | CD | 1988 | VK 41641

Stump: A Fierce Pancake US CD [1988]

  1. Living It Down
  2. In The Green
  3. Roll The Bodies Over
  4. Bone
  5. Buffalo
  6. Chaos
  7. Alcohol
  8. Charlton Heston
  9. Heartache
  10. Doctor (A Visit To The)
  11. A Fierce Pancake
  12. Boggy Home

I first heard Cork’s amazing Stump when The Tube was imported to a monthly MTV slot in  the mid-80s. The band performed a song entitled “Censorship Stripper” and I kept the tape. Interesting. I thought that was a great title for a song, but little did I know at the time that it was Channel Four nixing the actual title of the song; “Tupperware Stripper.” In England you couldn’t use a brand name in a song as constituted advertising. Of course, I only found this out ages later. I next encountered the band when I happened to catch their arresting video for the song “Charlton Heston” on MTV’s 120 Minutes.

I thought at the time that the song was highly eccentric, but that was before I heard the whole album! “Charlton Heston” was a deliberately odd song; built upon tree frog samples and a percussion block with a touch of jazzy bass for rhythm. It almost had the kind of skewed sound that “Time Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” had! Mick Lynch carried the vocals and his freeform lyrics adapted references from the film “The Ten Commandments” into a gleeful, if irreverent, rubber biscuit of a song. If that makes any sense…

The instrumentation was almost folk music with a thin, twangy hoedown guitar and light shadings of organ chords. On the face of it, it was not all that eccentric… except for that tree frog rhythm that the entire song was built upon. The Tim Pope directed video, was of course, ideally suited to the sounds. With Lynch emoting grandly, the rest of the band kept things toned down. Very down as I recall that some of the band members sported theatrical looking age makeup. Duran Duran, this most definitely was not. Still, the almost novelty aspect of the song warned me off as much as I was drawn to it. I can’t honestly say that I recall seeing it in stores of the time, but suffice to say that I did not run out and buy the album.

< insert twenty year span…>

It was in 2008 that I was in Victoria, British Columbia visiting with chasinvictoria and his wife. Of course, we went music shopping! It was at a great store called Lyle’s Place, that I ran across the CD of “A Fierce Pancake.” Naturally, I snapped it up without hesitation when I saw it in the used bins for C$10.00. What greeted me on playback was a lot more challenging than “Charlton Heston.”

The opening salvo, “Living It Down” dumped the listener in the deep end right up front so that there was no sidestepping the issue. This was almost berserk sounding music that featured the various instruments playing to their own, odd meters; coalescing in ways that made early DEVO really sound like The Rolling Stones in comparison. The guitar was twanged and plucked with what might have been odd, acrobatic fingering. Was that the alien uptwang of a musical saw I noticed? The notes sounded pitch bent as often as not. Stuttering rhythmic tattoos of the drums would intermittently interject sometimes motorik energy while around them and the vocals, the music bed sounded as if it had been ripped apart and stapled back together.

Bassist Kevin Hopper was also responsible for samples and much of this music was so dense with alien sounds that it formed a sonic miasma where little was discernible as one instrument or another. It could sound like a crate of furniture being dumped down a stairwell, in all honesty. That said, it did reach out and grab me by the lapels; stopping short of delivering a head-butt.

Next:  …Into The Rabbit Hole

About postpunkmonk

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10 Responses to Stump: “A Fierce Pancake” Is There When It’s Time For A Mental Palate Cleansing [part 1]

  1. SimonH says:

    Was entertained by Stump but wouldn’t say I was a fan, however what’s amazing is that this was a time when a major label would sign a band as out there as they were and that they had the integrity to carry on doing what they were doing!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – It’s kind of hard to believe at a time this album came out when the UK seemed to be nothing but house music! It would have made more sense in 1980, I think. But it would have been a very different album then.


      • SimonH says:

        I think although house and DJ culture was taking over, many of the labels were still looking to the weekly music press for tips, so a band like Stump who were getting some press must have been viewed as a potential seller. As a write that I feel kind of incredulous and very nostalgic for such a world!


        • postpunkmonk says:

          SimonH – That the band sold 50,000 copies of “Quirk Out” over half a year (it reached #2 on the indie charts) on their own got Chrysalis to sign them. Anything that sold that well now would be number one on the album charts! We live in a sick, diminished world!


  2. Jon Chaisson says:

    I adore Stump. They were so wonderfully strange. I especially loved that “Buffalo” was deliberately out of key.

    Somewhere on YT there’s a fantastic video of the three guys in the band trying to search for the lead singer sometime in the 00s as they’d all lost touch, and ended up finding him in some pub in the middle of nowhere. :)


  3. postpunkmonk says:

    SimonH – That the band sold 50,000 copies of “Quirk Out” over half a year (it reached #2 on the indie charts) on their own got Chrysalis to sign them. Anything that sold that well now would be number one on the album charts! We live in a sick, diminished world!


  4. jsd says:

    Stump are fantastic. I have “The Complete Anthology” and it’s almost too much at times! Equal parts Beefheart weirdness and catchy indie pop/rock. I don’t know how they made it work, but they did. Their early stuff has been collected under the title “Does The Fish Have Chips” and is available on streaming services. If all you’ve heard is A Fierce Pancake, this is well worth checking out. Some of my favorite early Stump tracks are: Orgasm Way, Ice The Levant (full Beefheart), Tupperware Stripper, Our Fathers (almost completely straight rock ballad/anthem!), Kitchen Table (best opening line ever: “Down on the kitchen table the cat is licking me and giving me his tapeworms”), Everything In Its Place (“I tell you God put your bottom on the bottom of your bum so you don’t end up with feces on your faces/And behind your duodenum are your kidneys and between them they take the piss out of your other places”), and Bit Part Actor.


  5. Mel Creighton says:

    Thou shalt not boink thy neighbors wife. What a line! “Lights- Camels-Action”!


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