Stump were a uniquely aberrant Irish/British foursome active in the mid to late ‘80s. After some success in London with the Mud on a Colon EP, the Quirk Out mini-LP, a Peel Session, and a track on NME‘s famed C-86 compilation, they were picked up by Ensign Records to make 1988’s LP A Fierce Pancake, a supremely screwball statement-of-purpose, at turns and at once absurdist, whimsical, and dark. The performance that brought the band to Ensign was their appearance on The Tube, wherein they performed their song “Tupperware Stripper” as “Censorship Stripper,” probably in a dodge against trademark concerns.
The band initially caught my ear in 1988, with the preposterous single “Charlton Heston,” which featured croaking frogs for a rhythm track and the facepalm-worthy refrain “Charlton Heston/Put his vest on.” But when I heard the whole album, the mere zaniness I expected turned out to be a veneer for some truly mind-bending and aggressively awkward Beefheartian experimentation. The guitar and bass playing here are a few leagues beyond merely idiosyncratic–indeed, there are many passages where one can’t quite tell which instrument is which, and if U.S. Maple didn’t have some Stump in their diet before they set upon their own deconstructions of rock tropes, I’ll eat my foot. The madcap persona and lyrics of singer Mick Lynch must have made it all seem like a joke to some listeners, and sure, it IS mighty fucking daffy to have the chorus of a single consist of a bug-eyed man with Tintin’s hair shouting “LIGHTS! CAMEL! ACTION!” But then you hear songs like “Living It Down” and “Heartache” and you say “whoa, damn.”
Stump split by the end of 1988. A Fierce Pancake was deleted in 1990 and has never been reissued in physical media, except as part of a complete anthology CD set from 2008, which is itself also out of print. In spring 2014, Cherry Red UK will be releasing Does the Fish Have Chips—Early and Late Works 1986-1989, which encompasses all of their recorded output except the LP. So just listen to the LP and enjoy some of their videos here.
Stump, A Fierce Pancake, full album
This last one sounds too poor to really represent the song properly, it’s a live fan-cam thing shot from behind the P.A. But in one respect, that’s a boon here, inasmuch as all you can really hear is the astonishing bass player Kevin Hopper. Who plays like this? The man is brilliantly mental.