The Performing Ferrets' debut vinyl single, Brow Beaten, rubbed shoulders with Orange Juice’s Falling And Laughing one night on John Peel’s wingding in 1979. Maidstone’s The Performing Ferrets went on to much smaller things than Orange Juice, but Hyped2Death’s retrospective, No One Told Us, reveals a band that deserved more than the 364 album sales they achieved in their career.
Their ramshackle amateurism – at times the serendipitous collision of a kazoo, a broken tambourine, plastic sandals, a melodica and some suitably wayward guitar – mines the same rich seam as the Modern Lovers’ proto punk, The Feelies’ new wave drive, the awkward bedroom punk-funk of The Go-Betweens’ Send Me A Lullaby and, perhaps most obviously, The Fall’s agreeable discord.
With only three releases between 1979-82, the 28 tracks on this comprehensive compilation offer a scattergun approach to the Ferrets’ recording history, but there are more hits than misses in this inviting exploration of one of DIY’s best kept secrets.
Intriguingly, and rather pleasingly, Ferret guitarist Steve "Star Boy" Maguire and Chris "Drummer Boy Coich" Fenner later joined Miaow. Who were great. But I’m sure you know all about them.
Dry Rib also get the Messthetics treatment. The CD would be worth buying just for Ed Ball’s sleevenotes:
"Rob Vasey's guitar style of blurred chord stylings coupled with continuous tremolo arm pre-empted My Bloody Valentine (or anyone else) by the best part of a decade. [He] wasn't like Eric Clapton or Paul Weller in way/shape/form... Which could only be a good thing because, he superseded these fellows for sheer guitar innovation and songscapes that neither could even conceive of...”Combining contemporary diary entries and a balanced view from almost 30 years’ distance, Ball provides a compelling account of one of post-punk’s should-have-beens. At its best, the music is no less persuasive, capturing as it does the TVPs’ rudimentary assault with the more accomplished mod-stylings and psychedelic dalliances that would become the hallmark of the Groovy Cellar scene.
Your view on whether Dry Rib were a complete artistic success will depend in part upon your tolerance of Beefheart’s excursions or John Cale’s experimentations. Check them out here for yourself.