One of the fascinating players in the Post-Punk explosion was Lora Logic [a.k.a. Susan Murphy] who was moved to join X-Ray Spex as a teenager after seeing their want ad in the UK press. Like few female musicians of the time [Lene Lovich also comes to mind] she played saxophone. Her time in X-Ray Spex was brief as she was fired from the band before they recorded their first album. I first heard her when The Stranglers asked her to play sax on the frenzied, kinetic “Hey! [The Rise of The Robots]” on their game-changing 1978 album, “Black + White.” Around the same time, she had formed a band with classmates in college; Essential Logic.
The 1978 self-released 7″ [“Aerosol Burns”] got noticed by Rough Trade [a perfect fit of artist and label] and they released the Essential Logic debut album, “Beat Rhythm News…Waddle Ya Play?” along with a brace of singles. By 1982, the band had split up and Lora Logic released the radically different “Pedigree Charm” solo album which marked the end of releases for Lora as her lifestyle issues at the time saw her turn to a Hare Krishna community to radically change her life. At the same time, ironically, her former X-Ray Spex bandmate Poly Styrene also found herself at loose ends as well and they were both living at the ashram together.
Last November 25th, Hiss + Shake Records released an all-encompassing Essential Logic/Lora Logic boxed set in the UK. The American release will happen on January 6th, 2023. The stylish foil and black box contains five LPs and a bonus 7″ single in addition to a 20 page booklet of liner notes, including an introduction by Poly Styrene’s daughter, Celeste Bell [Dir. “I Am A Cliché” 2021]. All of her vintage late 70s/early 80s recordings are here, along with an unreleased 1997 album by a new Essential Logic lineup [including Gary (Blondie) Valentine and Dave (Bad Manners) Farren] that didn’t make it out of the studio.
Amazingly, the box is capped off with the brand new Essential Logic album, “Land of Kali” as produced by Youth [a.k.a Martin Glover] of Killing Joke. This is her first released album in 40 years. Essential Logic was one of the many bands that I never really encountered at the time in ways other than name, so this box represents an authoritative look at exactly the sort of music that continues to fascinate me 40+ years later. What does it contain in detail?
Essential Logic: Logically Yours – UK – 5xLP + 7″ 
Disc 1: Essential Logic – Beat Rhythm News [Waddle Ya Play?]
- Quality Crayon Wax OK
- The Order Form
- Shabby Abbott
- World Friction
- Wake Up
- Alkaline Loaf in the Area
- Collecting Dust
- Pop Corn Boy [Waddle Ya Do?]
Disc 2: Lora Logic – Pedigree Charm
- Brute Fury
- Horrible Party
- Stop Halt
- Wonderful Offer
- Martian Man
- Hiss and Shake
- Pedigree Charm
- Rat Allé
- Crystal Gazing
Disc 3: Essential Logic – Aerosol Burns & Other Misdemeanours
- Aerosol Burns
- World Friction
- Tame the Neighbours
- Music Is A Better Noise
- Fanfare In the Garden
- Rather Than Repeat
- The Captain
- Stay High
Disc 4: Essential Logic – No More Fiction
- Essential Logic
- On The Internet
- Under The Great City
- No More Fiction
- Love Eternal
- Barbie Be Happy
- Not Me
- The Beautiful and the Damned
- Do You Believe in Christmas? [with the Krishna Kids Choir]
Disc 5: Essential Logic – Land of Kali
- Prayer For Peace
- Alien Boys
- Mother Earth
- Never Know
- Charming Every Cupid
- Sky Rocket
- Fallible Soldiers
- Land of Kali
Disc 6: Essential Logic – Prayer For Peace 7″
- Prayer For Peace (Full Length Version)
- Beyond (Full Length Version)
The opening track, “Quality Crayon Wax O.K.” threw down a wild gauntlet of sound! As if one could imagine a wild mashup of early Roxy Music and Sun Ra with Lora employing a highly theatrical style of singing with an unfettered vibrato used to a highly theatrical effect. Not for nothing was she credited with “warbling” instead of the more typical “vocals” on the album credits.
Radical meter shifts and jump cut arrangements lent the music a bracing, almost overstimulating effect. Making it, almost tiring to listen to at first. This music does not let you coast along in one’s listening. I found myself actively engaged no matter what. But before long, the essential freedom of the music succeeded in re-wiring new dendrites in my brain that saw me accommodating the radical ethos of the music by the second pass. But that first pass was a doozy.
The first third of “The Order Form” was a morose sax-driven instrumental before shifting gears [and tempos] to become something more upbeat. Ultimately climaxing in Zappa-like sax runs and backwards tapes. The abrupt changes of tone/tempo/and form on “World Friction” managed to stretch the unpredictability of this music to its limit. At 2:19 after what seemed like a medley of six different songs, there was another hard splice where the music approached Reggae rhythms and tempos with the last minute of the 7:13 track diving into Dub territory. Phew!
Just when it couldn’t get any more difficult, the pacing allowed for the closest thing here to commercial Post-Punk stylings on “Wake Up.” By the time of “Albert” I found myself thinking that Lora’s vocals were possibly analogous to those of Nina Hagen from around the same time. There was a similar disdain for any meeting of expectations even as the song became [surprisingly] tightly focused in its coda. Where would she go on the next album?
As we would soon find out, in the intervening four years that filled the space between her two albums with a handful of singles, the evidence on “Pedigree Charm” showed Lora Logic’s head in a very different space. The opening “Brute Fury” seemed of a piece with “Beat Rhythm News” with a multiplexed intro of dueling saxes, but at the 0:45 mark, the last note faded while the Disco/Funk music bed took over; showing that by 1982 Lora Logic could have been signed to Ze Records, since this was prime Mutant Disco of a brilliant type.
Vocally, Lora was curtailing her willful eccentricities to streamline her singing and to stake out a place in the left field of Pop. Certainly a way downstream from the Avant Garde affectations of the earlier music on the first album. “Stop Halt” was of a piece with anything from Ze Records or A Certain Ratio at the time. This material grooved but from a consistently abstract and surprising point of view. The single “Wonderful Offer” with the sizzling rhythm guitar and bass of Phil Legg vying with the tenor and soprano saxes, synth and glockenspiel of Ms. Logic actually demanded dancefloor habituation! I cannot believe that Ze Records didn’t license this for release in The States in 1981! If this was not the perfect conception of Mutant Disco then what is?
The Funk got sizzling hot with the complex yet compulsive rhythms of “Hiss + Shake.” The intensity of the fevered beats of the track when juxtaposed against the high, trilling, multitracked vocals of Ms. Logic managed to coalesce into something utterly new and thrilling. This was music which in the period after TVLKING HEVDS seemingly fractured for good, would have gone a long way towards making me forget that band and follow what Lora Logic was doing instead. On this second album she had made as huge a stylistic and artistic leap as anyone since Simple Minds had done a few years earlier. Which is to say that she should have been at the front of my mental queue in 1982. I’m only hearing it now, but it’s truly better late than never. “Pedigree Charm” was an album I remember seeing in the bins but being in the dark at that time, I sadly never picked it up. Please don’t make my mistake.
Next: …Youth Of Today
I remember once reading Lara Logic and Poly Styrene working together was a bit like Lydia Lunch and James Chance working together, it didn’t work. Awesome music all around though!
secretrivals – Yet they did it…twice. Would James Chance and Lydia Lunch have ever found themselves living in the same ashram?