Music Review: In a Primitive State of Neurotic Irresponsibility – Scant Regard
Album on release
Reviewed by Guy Sangster Adams
From a 1950s teenage Americana of high school hell cats, jet propelled hot rods, a rumble on the docks and riding the wild surf, to the men with no name in the Wild West of the late 1800s re-envisaged through filmic Italian eyes in the 1960s. From the impeccably elegant and achingly sexy Spy-fi representation of 1960s London, to a Brutalist trip to Newcastle with Michael Caine in the early 1970s, and onwards to the late 1970s/early 1980s and an electronica rendezvous in the industrial German city of Düsseldorf, before a train ride back across Europe to an England popping with a newly synthesised sound. With Scant Regard’s second album, In a Primitive State of Neurotic Irresponsibility, with a slide along the fretboard of his Teisco guitar, one embarks on an highly evocative, time-travelling journey through a collage of genres, an inspiring and exhilarating fusion that melds flash-backs with the present moment, to create a perfect resonance for today.
Scant Regard is the alias and solo project of Will Crewdson, the London-based guitarist, writer, and producer, and the success of the hybrid Scant Regard sound, which he terms Spaghettilectro, is a testament to his explicit talents in all three of those creative disciplines. His stated intent for Spaghettilectro is that it “strives to fuse raw electronic beats and moods with the smooth, soaring sounds of [Ennio] Morricone’s biting guitar-scapes” which is then mixed up with “a little Link Wray style rock ‘n’ roll swagger”.
This is certainly carried into In a Primitive State of Neurotic Irresponsibility’s opening track, and as such, perhaps, its statement of intent come cri de guerre, I Make no Bones. Which starts with an impelling rhythm of crackling, running boots feedback, dissolved by a swirling Link Wray riff, this is a street fighting track, punchy beats, fingernail string slides that sound like knives being sharpened, and power chord stabs. It brilliantly reinvents and transports the spirit of Wray’s highly influential 1958 track, Rumble (on which he first showcased his distortion and feedback techniques and which is cited as being the first track to use the power chord), to the metropolitan streets of the 2010s.
This is followed by Scant Regard’s fantastic, epic, VistaVision, cover version of Kraftwerk’s 1978/1981 single, The Model, which also, in its smoky down strokes and impelling locomotive rhythms, has echoes of Kraftwerk’s earlier single, Trans Europe Express. Coupled to which, Scant Regard has met Iggy Pop and David Bowie in the dining-car and returns a little Lust for Life and glances from Station to Station with flair and affection.
Intriguingly his cover is far less voyeuristic than the Kraftwerk original. The subject has turned the tables, and is far more of a femme fatale; from the glowering, pouting, intro, through the Spaghettilectro riffs, this is a soundtrack chosen by the model herself; rather than, “she’s a model and she’s looking good”, if Scant Regard’s instrumental had lyrics they would be, “I’m a model and I’m looking good”. Adding further layers to the story, there are also in the plaintive glissandi and the tremolo sustains echoes of Roy Budd’s theme tune to the 1971 British gangster film, Get Carter, directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine. This model has a backstory that for your own safety it may be a good idea not to delve to deeply into.
With the second cover version on the album, The Normal’s Warm Leatherette, Scant Regard also pulls off the very difficult feat of bringing brilliant new layers to a track that not only already had a great original but also a very successful cover version by Grace Jones. His wonderful reimagining of the song brings it very much into the modern moment, with the lyrics, which were based on JG Ballard’s controversial novel, Crash, about symphorophilia / car-crash sexual fetishism, seemingly intoned by an increasingly demented and aroused sat nav, as the track builds faster and faster through spiralling guitar and mesmerising beats, before ending abruptly in oblivion.
Alongside these tracks, for me the other particularly stand out song on the album is the wonderful Misguided Missile, which whatever the intended target of its title very much hits the mark. It’s as though Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Love Missile F1-11 has collided with The Tornado’s Telestar knocking it into an alternative orbit, or perhaps sending it on a slow fall to earth with a message of satellite love from the stars. The track tilts its hat to Joe Meek, and also carries the continuing echoes of Roy Budd’s Get Carter theme, and adds some Spy-fi elegance and thrills with a hint of Laurie Johnson’s theme to The Avengers television series. Throughout Misguided Missile Scant Regard skilfully manipulates a palette of emotions and tells a compelling short story in a variety of riffs, beats, and atmospherics.
This is true of the album as a whole. Although predominantly instrumentals, such is the richness of Scant Regard’s musical storytelling, and so myriad are the images and emotions that fill one’s head and one’s heart whilst listening to the album, that it’s a shock to realise that these fantastic short stories have been told without words. Upon listening to it you may well find that it already is, but I urge you to make In a Primitive State of Neurotic Irresponsibility the soundtrack to your life.