Where The Hell Did They Go #2 - The Lo-Fidelity Allstars


22 Jun 2006, 21:52

"Dear god, the patient's best intentions have sadly faltered..."

It would seem that this, the opening lyric on the Lo-Fidelity Allstars' debut album How to Operate with a Blown Mind, has ultimately become somewhat more ironic than they originally intended.

In the beginning, there was skunk-rock
After forming in mid-1996, the Lo-Fi's burst onto the scene with their wickedly original debut in 1998. At that time, electronica's big-beat sub-genre was at the apex of its popularity and the similarities between the Lo-Fi's and other contemporaries such as Fatboy Slim and Propellerheads led to them being conveniently lumped into this genre by many critics.

In reality, the Lo-Fi's were in a genre all of their own and in some ways ahead of their time. The full-band setup they employed live was later popularised by the likes of Basement Jaxx and The Freestylers, and reflected a strong influence from rock and crossover acts such as The Happy Mondays.

Thus, others coined the title 'skunk-rock', reflecting the amalgam of rock, electronica, dub, funk and big-beat that comprised the Lo-Fi's sound. And mad. Lots of mad. The band’s initial line-up coined bizarre names for themselves, including the Wrekked Train (vocals), The Many Tentacles (keys), The Albino Priest (turntables) and The Slammer (drums).

How To Operate With A Blown Mind
The Lo-Fi's had some serious good fortune with their debut album release. Not only did it come while big-beat was firmly in the public eye, but more importantly it was on the Skint label. With label-mates Fatboy Slim and Bentley Rhythm Ace tearing up the charts, Skint had enormous commercial momentum and the Lo-Fi's no doubt benefited from this.

But let that not detract from the album – one of 1998’s most original and vital releases and still probably one of my personal top 10 albums. The utterly incoherent spoken-word of Warming Up The Brain Farm opens the album and thematically sets the scene for what follows – a journey through the Wrekked Train’s bizarre vocal imagery and the band’s funk leanings and impressive musical range.

Vocally, the album is populated with the sort of scatterbrained lyrical dementia that would make Beck proud. Musically, it varies from disco-funk (Blisters on My Brain, to post-rock I Used To Fall In Love, to hip-hop Battleflag (featuring Pigeonhead), to their own unique interpretation of soul Will I Get Out Of Jail?.

A diverse record indeed, and their depth was illustrated by the range of excellent b-sides that also appeared during this period. Disco Machine Gun Part II (many tentacles pimping on the keys) almost outshines its predecessor, Blisters on My Brain, with some seriously eponymous and altogether funky keyboard work from the Many Tentacles. Gringo’s Return To Punk Paste saw them spinning off on a turntablist, b-boy tangent and Puppy Phat: Number One switched schizophrenically between discordant vocoder wah-funk and shimmery beach-side soul.

Dissension in the ranks
Not long after the release of How To Operate…, the Wrekked Train and Sheriff John Stone both left the band on the eve of a major tour. Given the prominence that the Wrekked Train’s vocals were normally afforded, this was to have a significant impact on the band’s musical direction, although not for some time. As to the why, well it was just the standard story of creative differences, and the Albino Priest assumed vocal duties.

In 2000, the band released a mix album, the second in the On The Floor At The Boutique series. Nothing if not eclectic, the mix veered from hip-hop (Blackstreet’s No Diggity and some old-school Boogie Down Productions) to electro (including labelmates the Space Raiders) to some old-school soul. Two new Lo-Fi’s tracks featured – the typically claustrophobic intro “You’re Never Alone With A Clone” and the 50-second closing smash of “Bootsy Call”.

Don’t Be Afraid Of... A Change In Direction
Another two years passed before the Lo-Fi’s released their second album Don’t’ Be Afraid Of Love in 2002. Arguably a more accessible record than its predecessor, Don’t Be Afraid Of Love incorporates more pop hooks and a generally brighter tone, while ditching most of the vocal distortion that characterised the Lo-Fi’s earlier sound.

Personally, I find the record a bit too damn cheerful in places – I guess I liked the Lo-Fi’s more when they were unabashedly and viciously insane. However, it does have some very enjoyable moments. Opener What You Want combines elements of the Lo-Fi’s earlier sound with a bit more dynamic variation to good effect. The sublimely funky Deep Ellum… Hold On features Jamie Lidell doing his best impersonation of funkmeisters such as George Clinton and Bootsy Collins... and then Bootsy himself pops up on On The Pier.

The record is a wee bit soft in the middle and suffers from some poor sequencing but closes on a high with the dual epics of Sleeping Faster and Dark Is Easy.

Back into the ether
And then, they just kinda vanished. Nothing in the news for four years. Nil.

However, their website http://www.lofidelityallstars.co.uk/ remains fairly active with Phil (The Albino Priest) engaging in monthly bouts of Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs-dissing, and there are some decent remixes available for free download too.

Actually the website is worth visiting just for some of Phil’s rants. My personal favourite:

Hello everyone, hope you are doing well. I am writing this at 6am, hungover, so I apologise if it is more shrouded in self-pity than normal. Nobody understands me, I might have to get Chris Martin to write me a song about it, record it, sell it, sing him happy birthday and buy a boat and call it ‘Your Dreams Lie Crushed Beneath Us’”.


According to Phil, a new album was slated to be done by the end of March, but there’s been no news on that since. Perhaps he’s been drinking too much of that cheap wine again, which ties in with his description of the new sound as “Drunk Funk”.

Having said that, he’s also described it as sounding like “The Flaming Lips meets How To Operate..., boolocks, sounds like neither, yet exactly like them, I think.” Seriously Phil, no more cheap wine for you!

Let’s just hope it does eventuate, that it kicks ass, and that there is no faltering of the intentions of this patient.


  • drd00m

    I have heard of the Lo-Fidelity Allstars before, but I really don't recall ever listening to any of their stuff before. I'm a bit intrigued right now, and may just see if I can get that How To Operate With a Blown Mind album.

    28 Jun 2006, 2:56
  • Grizz

    Oh and they headlined a local small festival here late last summer. But i didn't go as i wasn't as musically aware as i am now :(

    28 Jun 2006, 12:33
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