WHO? A warm and wonderful avant-garde band -Art Bearswere anEnglishavant-rockgroupformed during the disassembly ofHenry Cowin 1978 by three of its members,Chris Cutler(percussion, texts),Fred Frith(guitar, bass guitar, violin, keyboards) andDagmar Krause(vocals). The group released threestudio albumsbetween 1978 and 1981, and touredEuropein 1979. Well, whatever you think after hearing this, you won't be able to say it ain't interesting.
The first album fromDagmar Krause,Chris Cutler, andFred Frith's post-Henry Cowproject is one of the art rock masterpieces of the 1970s. It's as politically potent asHenry Cow's more strident work, but couched in more poetic and provocative terms. Opening withBertolt Brecht's "On Suicide," withKrausedeclaiming the playwright's bitter lyrics in her semi-operatic style to the wheezing accompaniment ofFrith's harmonium, the album continues in that uncompromising vein.
Finding distribution on the Residents' Ralph Records label, the Art Bears' second album consists of 12 songs of various tensions: rest vs. speed, improv vs. pulse, space vs. density, Dagmar Kraus's vocals vs. everyone else. As usual, Chris Cutler's lyrics tell political allegories through medieval-tinged stories: slaves, castles, and wheels of fortune (and industry) dominate. A guaranteed lease breaker if played often enough.
On The World As It Is Today and its predecessor, Winter Songs, the Art Bears move away from the long-form art rock of Henry Cow and get much, much more politically explicit: song titles like "The Song of the Dignity of Labour Under Capital" and "The Song of Investment Capital Overseas" almost sound like Monty Python gags today, but if any humor was intended it was clearly meant to be mordant. Frankly, the lyrics are so overwrought and portentous that it's hard to take them seriously. But the music is something else again.