Faust / Henry Cow

Steve Lake

Melody Maker, 6 Oct 1974

The current Virgin Records tour, which began at Reading Town Hall, is a fascinating study in contrasts. First there is Henry Cow, a people's band in the true sense of the term, making conscious moves towards audience involvement, all flashing smiles and good humour.

And then there's Faust, perpetuating their early Velvet Underground mystique; the stage swamped in darkness save for the occasional eerie flickering from television sets that are the band's 'props'.

On this night, the humble Cow suffered slightly from unfamiliarity with a new P.A. system, and some of the finer points of their free improvisation were lost in the Hall's barn-like accoustics. Most satisfying was the riffy "Teenbeat", with it's usual generous helping of the Fred Frith guitar, which never fails to amaze.

Faust were something else. I mean, hoow do you assess the stage presence of a band that you can't see? Shadowy figures could only just be perceived as Faust sat hunched over electronic consoles and conventional instrumentation, spasmodically offering spoken vocals in a choice of three languages - English, German and French.

And, if the strain of performing get too much of a grind, why the players would take it in turns to flip petulantly at a pinball machine, placed stage right for Faust's own amusement.

The music itself, incorporating many repetitive devices, seemed to be based on the old Zen premise that says if something is boring for sixteen minutes, try it for thirty-two.

Faust and Henry Cow are both well worth investigating. Together they provide a total musical experience that is too valuable by far to miss out on. Catch this tour if it comes your way, a better balanced concert bill would be hard to find.

Steve Lake, "Faust / Henry Cow", Melody Maker 1974, © Melody Maker