Restaurant For Dogs was the resulting band following the US tour of The States with Barry Andrews as a member of Robert Fripp’s League Of Gentlemen. Being in America, Mr. Andrews decided to wallow deep, and while wallowing in the cultural detritus unique to the former colonies, he chanced upon the Weekly World News and like for many of us at the time, it became somewhat of a focus. After returning home the notion that forming a band versus being a player became foremost, so with that a goal, Restaurant For Dogs was the outcome. The band’s name? Taken from the Weekly World News of course; spinning the tale of a fancy restaurant that catered only to dogs in …New York City. All the better to outrage their readership over this development and the resulting Tribulation. Nowadays, of course, Gourmet canine service restaurants are a dime a dozen in these, the end times. Food and Wine [or is that whine…] lists at number one, a local bistro, Posana, where I’ve broken bread, albeit without our late dog-ter in tow.
In any case, Restaurant For Dogs was a brief stopover for Barry Andrews on the way to Shriekback [and fate] about a year afterward. At first in a four piece configuration but eventually swelling to a six person sprawl. Kevin Wilkinson [ex-League Of Gentlemen, pre-China Crisis] was the drummer along with Dave Mark [bass] and Bruce McRae [guitar, vocals] rounded out the lineup at first. Then after Dave Marx realized he wasn’t cut out for something so removed from the mainstream, there was an influx of extra legs into the band. Clare Hirst [Belle Stars] on sax, Sara Lee [ex-League Of Gentlemen, pre-Gang Of Four], and the singular Carlo Ascuiti [pre-Shriekback-ish] on vocals only he could perform.
Restaurant For Dogs: Restaurant For Dogs – UK – CD 
- Stepping Out [With The Human Animal]
- Old Tribe
- Freak [demo]
- Freak [Townhouse Version]
- Ignore Authority
- Big Laughs
- Pages Of My Love
- Dark Horses
The first track told us like it was with a vibe that seemed to mate the artfunk leanings of The Pop Group with the more solid grooviness of The Blockheads. Hearing this really laid bare the logic in Y Records [label run by The Pop Group’s Manager, Disc O’Dell] having signed Shriekback for their earliest recordings. The long, dense, jam featured the interplay of vocalist McRae juxtaposed against the prominent element x of contrasting vocalist Carlo Ascuiti in not only his normal stentorian [possibly operatic] role, but also capably producing an infant’s cry. Through it all, the rhythm section nailed it down on track as much as such a sprawling construction could hope for. The impossibly pitched, almost Thereminesque [is that a word?] synths in the long coda seemed to threaten to go off in another tangent entirely before the track faded away to the sound of Ascuiti’s heavy breathing.
One could hear the suggestion of threads to led to Planet Shriekback a little more clearly in “Old Tribe” with an extended Funk jam that stretched the limits of how much tension music could hold without a release. The vocals were split this time between Mr. Andrews and Ascuiti, with the former still “finding his voice” while the latter projecting as if he were a cantor in a Latin Mass.
The famous deconstruction of Chic’s “Le Freak” we’d heard earlier on the Barry Andrews “Lost Pop Songs 78-80” CD. Which was the demo of the track; chopped and sifted of vibe with a substitution of drone instead. Dance music for utter stillness. What was new here was the fully produced Townhouse “single version” where the boot really got on the neck of the song! Terrifying, relentless thunderdrums that sounded ripped [screaming] right out of PiL’s “Flowers Of Romance” album nearly obliterated the vocal lines which were buried in the mix in any case. When I found out that it had been produced by Nick Launay, who had done the honors on the aforementioned PiL album of that year, it made utter perfect sense! Needless to say, Warner Brothers dropped them immediately on hearing the track.
A frisky rhythm guitar figure distinguished “Ignore Authority” but it eventually resolved into a polyrhythmic drone with exhortations of small talk of the brief, punchy, “hang loose” variety from McRae. Ascuiti added vocalchant datanoise to further erode the notion of “song” from the track. The break where all instrumentation save for some overactive güiro and percussion dropped was completely from left field. But it can be said, that was clearly the goal.
The one vivid outlier to more familiar territory was the insistent rhythmic insistence of “Fruit,” which would eventually ripen into the track “Feelers” in a year or so. On occasion, whenever a tune even adjacent to Pop would happen, as on “Mice,” the perverse, Brechtian vocal delivery chosen for almost all of these songs would assure that no one could ever accuse Restaurant For Dogs of the deadly crime of “Rockism.” As the almost pitiable, loping, near-groove to “Big Laughs” would clearly demonstrate.
In this company, the preposterously tuneful “Pages of My Love” did stick out, like a sore…thumb. With McRae actually crooning the ode to onanism. And sounding close to Paul Heaton as well. But before we would get soft and mushy with pop songs, we had tracks like “SILENCE” to remind us of how to divert from cliché. With Andrews wary of technique and even songform at this juncture, he was more interested in Eno-esque music creation systems, such as the conceit in this one with the spoken word lyric taken from a book which outlined descriptions of various sonic events and their commensurate decibel levels. Over a dronefunk backing track.
Restaurant For Dogs was an important, if messy, transitional step for the Barry Andrews who had left XTC and had recorded a couple of inconclusive singles, only to find himself in Robert Fripp’s last step on the Drive To 1981. Fresh from the League of Gentlemen, he took the notion of keyboard drone, as well as that band’s tight rhythm section [mandatory for such an ultimately chaotic enterprise as this], and made of it a foundation of Restaurant For Dogs. Eventually, filling in the margins with associates who would come to also take part in the next big thing; Shriekback.
That it didn’t fulfill the brief of the next direction fully, was down to its basis as a guerilla R+D field exercise and important first step. Capably captured on these recordings, which run the gamut of live and studio settings. Given that back in the day only the “Pages Of My Love” B-side ever reached the waiting world, it is certainly makes for an arresting ear opener!
This album of Shriekbackish spelkunkery was mooted as a crowdfunding premium for the new Shriekback album, so the single pressing that was manufactured and sent out to pledgers had a few left over remaining for sale to all and sundry. Yours for £10.00/€11.39/$12.38 but time is running out. Act quickly if you have an interest. At the very least, craven speculators might notice that self-released Shriekback CDs go out of print quickly and shoot up in price. Hit that button, as ever.
interesting stuff. always liked a bit of Barry Andrews, also on Iggy’s Soldier.
the press music reviews – And as I recall, it was down to Mr. Andrews being friendly with Simple Minds that accounted for their semi-legendary appearance on that record. They were both recording at Rockfield Studios in Wales [Empires + Dance for SM] and Andrews would see how they were doing. One thing led to another, then Bowie showed up and was looking for vocalists. Giving Jim Kerr a top anecdote to this day.
LikeLiked by 1 person