Sunday, June 17, 2018

Classic Album Review: Gary Clail & On-U Sound System - Emotional Hooligan (1991)

This one isn’t a classic in the mainstream sense, but it does qualify as something of a cult classic for a certain generation …
Emotional Hooligan is often heralded as Gary Clail’s debut album, but that fails to take into account a number of projects he’d previously been involved with as part of the wider On-U Sound collective.
And if we’re being honest, while Clail may take the credit as “the artist” in this instance, all those familiar with the work of uber producer Adrian Sherwood will be well aware of where the real art exists.
This album is an odd beast in that it is essentially the same set of musicians who recorded the End Of The Century Party album a year or so prior – at least the core of that collective, with dubmeister Sherwood at the controls – yet this one was released on the Perfecto label (as opposed to Sherwood’s On-U Sound vehicle) and curiously enough, this release was far more successful from a commercial standpoint.
Again, it is Sherwood’s standard template to the fore – dub, roots reggae, techno, funk, morsels of post-Punk, and Gary Clail “singing” (mostly ranting) politically relevant lyrics over the bass heavy kaleidoscope of sound. There’s a dance flavour to most of this work, with techno pioneer Paul Oakenfold recruited to remix 12” versions of the singles ‘Beef’ and ‘Human Nature’ (hear Oakenfold's mix in the clip below).
Emotional Hooligan was released around the time of the first Gulf War and references to the Persian Gulf and Middle East tensions are sprinkled throughout, George Bush Senior apparently fooling nobody in his quest for oil and the steps he’d take to get it.
Other issues like poverty, racism, social injustice, and greed are, as always, tackled head on, without fear nor compromise, and evidently nobody was safe from scrutiny when it came to this politically savvy bunch.
Outside of the aforementioned singles, both of which are outstanding, other highlights include the self-explanatory opening track, ‘Food, Clothes and Shelter’, which sets the tone of things to follow, plus ‘Escape’, and ‘Rumours’, while the closer, ‘False Leader’, which features sampling from a Big Youth track, is my pick of a very consistent set.

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