|ICU Family Tree
Thanks to Graham P. for this survey of an entire branch of the Hawkwind lineage...
Inner City Unit were one of the revelations of the early 1980s, at least for those Hawkfans who
discovered them: the spirit of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band revived and dressed in punk clothes. Nik
Turner formed ICU Mark 1 in 1979, recruiting (Judge) Trev Thoms on guitar and shouty vocals and Dino
Ferrari on drums, both former members of Steve Took's Horns, plus Dead Fred on keyboards and Mo
Vicarage on synth. Through numerous line-up changes, ICU Mark 1 produced two strong albums
(Passout, Maximum Effect) and a decent outtakes set (Punkadelic), along with various singles and live
tapes. Two years later, it all came to an end: Nik and Fred joined Hawkwind. Two years later though,
Hawkwind sacked Nik, again, so he and Fred resurrected ICU.
ICU Mark 2 included guitarist Steve Pond, with Dave Anderson also playing bass on the first album (New
Anatomy). An EP (Blood and Bone) and one more album (The President's Tapes) followed, and they
also contributed to Barney Bubbles' Ersatz LP (see below). All too soon though, they splintered and were
gone. Their brief and inglorious history is recounted in more detail at http://www.innercityunit.com.
Since then, Trev Thoms formed his own version of ICU (with Dino Ferrari on board for authenticity) and
Trev and Nik have staged various "reunion" shows - but there has been no new ICU material until the
recent release of the Fury of ICU live album (to be reviewed elsewhere).
Judgement and Thunder
When ICU mark 1 folded, Trev Thoms formed the Atom Gods. Their LP "Wow" has only ever appeared
on vinyl although the Judge has recycled songs for other projects, including the "Revolution and
Rebellion" compilation. His "Judgement and Thunder 2" (volume 1 is a cassette) on the other hand
compiles some ICU tracks along with a fair chunk of the "Imperial Pompadours" vinyl LP "Ersatz",
featuring Barney Bubbles, Bob Calvert and members of ICU.
Revolution and Rebellion is a CDR available from Judge Trev's own
Real Festival Music. The ICU tracks are generally not the best but the
Atom Gods stuff is worth a listen. The CD kicks off with the Atom
Gods' "Atlantic Waves". Here, the judge does his best terrace foghorn
vocals over the top of some meaty riffing and this one also has a bit of
a tune. Also present are "Dolfins" (see above) and "Bashing up the
Rich" (see above but no real tune). These songs are intermingled with
three of the least tuneful ICU Mk1 tracks in the catalogue: "Blue Rinse
Haggard Robot", "Bildeborg" and "Cars Eat With Autoface". As a
further reminder of who made all the noise in ICU Mk1, also get three
like-minded thug anthems from the Judge's version of ICU: the remake
of "Skinheads in Leningrad", "Rituals and Sodomy" and "Dogrot". The fourth song from the latter source
though is the rather superior "Battle of the Trees". The CD finishes with the Atom Gods thrash-athon
"China", from the second (AtomGod) album (see below): not great but less teeth-clenchingly awful than
most of the War Machine tracks.
In contrast, the Judgement and Thunder 2 CDR cherry picks some of the better ICU tracks - as well as the
original version of "Skinheads in Leningrad". The punky â€œSpace
Invaders" is followed by the sublime "Two Worldsâ€�, the delightful
"In the Nude", the aforementioned SiL, the pleasantly deranged "So Try
as ID" (a remix of the already left-field "Solitary Ashtray") and the
somewhat iffy "Epitaph (for the Hippies)". Then, and most
interestingly, there are four cuts from the long out of print (and
expensive) Imperial Pompadours LP, brainchild of Barney Bubbles.
The first two cuts, "Fungus" and "World of LSD" were recorded is
somewhat more coherent form for the ICU "Presidents Tapes" album.
Here they are rough sketches, mildly amusing on first hearing. "King B"
on the other hand, with its sleazy macho boasting over painful
feedback, is more sad and sinister than humorous.
"Insolence across the Nation" is a collage of spoken word, adapted from Mein Kampf, and incidental
music, some by Nik and crew but rather more of it being Wagner records played in the background. Both
the Hitler character and the track as a whole become increasingly deranged. By turns unlistenable,
interesting, inspired and just plain creepy, it sounds like nothing else on earth. Is that Bob Calvert's voice in
there? It certainly sound like it - and the reviewer on Julian Cope's Head Heritage website clearly thinks so.
Barney Bubbles lives on through his unimpeachable conceptual artwork (recently compiled in book form) -
and through Nik's tireless championing of his fallen comrade. The Imperial Pompadours music though is a
minor footnote and it seems highly unlikely that it will ever get an official re-release, especially so given the
doubtless unauthorised samples - so credit to the Judge for making
some of it available in affordable form.
The Judge retained the Atom Gods name (mutated into AtomGod)
for the brainless metal album "History Rewritten" (released in 1991
on Communique Records, CMGCD 004), which features much
violent abuse of the fretboard, and other heavy metal staples such as
jackhammer drums and lyrics about death and destruction (see song
titles like "Rot In Burning Hell"). Sadly it is let down by an utter lack
of anything remotely resembling a decent song.
Maximum Effect and Krankschaft
The rump of ICU Mark 2 formed the short-lived Maximum Effect, who released the 7 inch single â
€œEspaÃ±a". Obviously it did nothing and when, some years later, I wrote to Steve Pond to ask if he had
any left, his response was "are you kidding? I have a loft full... send me your address" and indeed he sent
me one. A gentleman!
As The Maximum Effect, otherwise known as Krankschaft, Steve Pond and Dead Fred also became
backing band for Robert Calvert in 1986, giving rise to the Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall album and
the Live at Carlisle Stars & Stripes download (now out on CD, twice: see below).
Steve and Fred re-emerged under the Krankschaft name for the 2008 Calvert tribute concert (Live 28-9-
2008), and this set is available as a free download on the ICU / Krankschaft web page. It kicks off with a
reasonably sprightly version of "Evil Rock" and a passable "Teen Ballad of Dino", both from the Hype
album. However, their takes on RC's rather dodgy latter day releases are pretty awful. Okay, the source
material is not great but the versions of "Acid Rain", "Ned Ludd", and to a lesser extent "Worksong", here
are as lumpen and horrible as any I've heard. Acid Rain may be deliberately discordant but it is no less
painful for that. Things pick up with a decent live version of â€œQuark", followed by "All The Machines
Are Quiet" - one of Bob's better later songs. â€œMichael Moorcock calls from Texas" is what it says on
the tin, introduced by Nik Turner, except the phone link up didn't really work and you may (over the
course of seven and a half minutes of waiting around) be moved to reflect on Mr Turner's organisational
abilities (especially if you bought a ticket for the cancelled Hawklords gig at the Roundhouse in June!).
"Test Tube Conceived" exudes just the right degree of menace and the set closes with the rather good
"lost Calvert song" (I think it means a poem of his which they later set to music), "Ode To The Sun",
with Nik guesting on flute.
Krankschaft are presently recording a studio album of Bob's songs, two outtakes from which are available
as downloads (a competently poppy version of Quark and a rather lame euro-disco version of Spirit of the
Age). Also on the website is a "new" version of "Michael Moorcock calls from Texas" with some cocktail
music and Nik reciting "The Black Corridor" (NOT "Space is deep" guys) over the aural debacle.
Steve Pond also continues to record under his own name, with numerous tracks available for download
from Steve's MP3 page. A mixture of his own material and cover versions, it is mainly pleasant but
lightweight pop rock, although it includes a rocked up version of Kylie's "Can't Get You Out Of My
Head". Also present are whimsical tunes like "Christmas at the Zoo", which might suit Bob Kerr's
Robert Calvert and The Maximum Effect Live At The Carlisle Stars & Stripes (Stereo Records
Mono04) / Robert Calvert and Maximum Effect - Live At The Stars And Stripes, Carlisle 1986
In previous reviews I have highlighted the lamentable audio quality of Voiceprint's live Robert Calvert
albums (all now apparently deleted), while pointing to the relatively high quality available on the Live at
the Carlisle Stars & Stripes download available from the Doremi (ICU / Krankschaft) website. Now,
suddenly, two versions of this concert are out on CD simultaneously and both apparently derive from the
same chrome cassette.
The Voiceprint side of the story seems to be that their recording engineer was once Calvert's tour driver
and general gopher and, taken at face value, it is certainly good to see this stuff out on (double) CD at
last. Also on the second CD are some Calvert solo demos (not pre-tour rehearsals as the sleeve notes
Steve Pond and Fred apparently didn't know anything about the Voiceprint release until it was advertised
and presumably weren't best pleased to discover that their concert recording, which they had made
available as a free download for ages, was now being sold by Voiceprint. Hence Steve and Fred went
back to their own DAT copy of the chrome cassette and did some serious cleaning up, made sure the
whole concert was presented in the right order, added an 18 minute version of their tribute song â€œOde
To The Sun" and put their double CD for sale on their website. I'm trying to keep this as neutral as
possible here to avoid saying anything libellous but I know where my sympathies lie!
Played back to back, the two double CDs of course mostly cover the same ground but it has to be said
that the Krankschaft issue is boasts a markedly superior sound quality, is better presented, and is cheaper.
Presumably it also puts some money into the hands of the musicians who actually played on the album.
Having negotiated the politics, what about the music? Starting with the Krankschaft version, the album
certainly starts strongly, with "Orgone Accumulator" and "Evil Rock",
which are pretty good considering the absence of a real drummer or,
apparently, much of an audience. Thereafter it is something of a
curate's egg, plenty of good stuff interspersed with segments of
unremitting tedium. The various phases of Calvert's solo careeer are
represented. From Lockheed there are decent outings for "Catch A
Falling Starfighter" (interpolating an uncredited "Song of the Gremlin")
and "Aerospaceage Inferno". Lucky Leif is represented only by "Ship
of Fools", one of the songs that is not well served by the band's
minimalist punky arrangements. Hype contributes the above-mentioned
"Evil Rock", the strange â€œLord of the Hornets" and the passable "Teen Ballad of Dino". The two newer
solo songs are also among the best, namely "Radio Egypt" and "Diamond Mine". Somewhat surprisingly,
Calvert and the band manage to inject some heart and soul into the unpromising material from Freq (â
€œNed Ludd", "Work song", "Picket Line" - "All The Machines Are Quiet"). Where things hit rock bottom
though is with the soulless computerised songs from Test Tube Conceived (the title track is pick of the
bunch, "Acid Rain" just excruciatingly horrible, "On Line" and â€œTelekinesis" somewhere in between).
However, the set is also liberally sprinkled with plausible renditions of latter day Hawkwind classics,
namely, "Quark Strangeness and Charm", "Days of the Underground", "Damnation Alley", "Robot", "Psi
Power", "Spirit of the Ageâ€� and "Flying Doctor". Last up is the rather fabulous 18-minute lost
song/tribute song "Ode To The Sun": totally out of keeping with the rest of the album but sufficiently off-
the-wall to be interesting. The musical references range from early seventies Tangerine Dream (the
opening sequencer passages) through mid-period Stranglers (the wistful chorus) to ICU and the Hawks
themselves. The spoken poetry passages sound too formally structured to be Calvert's own words and I
don't think a rock band has seriously tried to mix beat music, poetry and (synthesised) orchestration since
the Moody Blues did it in 1967 but this indulgence can be forgiven. The track really comes to life as
Calvert delivers a classic anti-government [polemic] and the track enters its space rock section. The
music subsides again to a gentle pulse and there is a spoken word coda. The take home message? Buy
The Voiceprint release sheds two tracks ("Evil Rock" and "Catch A Falling Starfighter", although "Gremlin"
is bolted onto "Aerospaceage Inferno") and varies the sequence. The
sound is noticeably poorer. What about the extra tracks? All feature
Calvert singing along to pre-recorded computerised backing tracks.
"Hidden Persuasion" appeared in a very similar but better sounding
form on Blueprints from the Cellar, the same goes for â€œRewind"
(which is dreadful) and "Diamond Mine". â€œMarathon Man" is a
longer and better sounding version than the one on Blueprints. "Three
Little Words From A Fool" is totally unfamiliar and is unusual in the
Calvert canon in apparently being a love song. Finally, "White
Dynasty" is another unfamiliar song, apparently a critique on his birth
country of South Africa. For Calvert completists the last two songs
and to a lesser extent the other demos make this a necessary purchase
- but buy the other version first!
More Nik Turner Guest Appearances
Nik Turner, meanwhile, continues
to crop up on all kinds of albums.
The Babylon Whores' "King
Fear" is bog standard death metal,
ranging from the devil-fixated
"Errata Stigmata" to the rather
more palatable "Sol Niger". Nik
plays flute on "To Behold The
Suns Below" and on the title track
but could not be said to have
imposed his character on the
Another fleeting NT appearance, again on flute, is on the progressive/pastoral/new age album "Muzak" by
the Portuguese group Saturnia, which is pleasantly inoffensive, not unlike the Floyd at their most
pastoral. Nik guests on "Organza". Both albums are far too monotonous and a mix of both is probably
needed to avoid falling asleep.