Josef K, Entomology

Alex Naidus

By Alex Naidus

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

In 1980, the same year the Ramones entered Hollywood (Rock n 'Roll High School) and the Clash released a bloated three disc-er (Sandinista), Josef K, an Edinburg-based post-punk band, recorded two albums in three weeks, scrapped one because they thought its production was too glossy, released the other (their only full-length) and then split up. If post-punk's reigning credo was "Rip it up and start again," Josef K was its case study.

The restless half of the Scottish Sound.

Along with Edwyn Collins 'crooning, quirky pop group Orange Juice, Josef K defined early-'80s indie's Scottish Sound. The band was willfully arty (they were called TV Art before settling on the Kafka-referencing Josef K) and stoically anti-careerist. Entomology compiles tracks from across their brief, bright discography: from Sorry for Laughing (the abandoned album) to The Only Fun in Town (which actually saw release), a few singles for the legendary Postcard Records and their parting 1981 Peel Sessions.

Musically, Entomology is urgent, fractured and raw. Many of the tracks are skeletal, frenetic punk: "Heads Watch" rides a hypnotically repetitive, chiming guitar riff and skipping and tripping drums; "Drone" is an off-key, vaguely punk-funk frenzy. Singer Paul Haig doesn't attack with punk snarl, though; the vocals are studied and slightly dour, like a slightly chirpier Ian Curtis.

Some of the most thrilling moments on Entomology come when they finally pump the brakes. The swooning, swinging shuffle of "It's Kinda Funny" is an early highlight, with Haig & Co. sounding uncharacteristically playful, and "Chance Meeting" plays the part of refreshing, charmingly sing-song romp. Throughout, the band sounds sharp and forceful, a flash of striking creativity and skill caught, as if by accident, on this incredible collection.