Greetings, miscreants and malformations. Welcome back to SCARE-RIFF-EYEING: Musical Abominations Horror Fans Should Be Killing For and Dying Over. With this installment I plumb down, the furthest yet, into the depths of sonic darkness with legendary British anarchist deathrock punks RUDIMENTARY PENI.
Starting in 1981, founding members Grant Matthews (bassist/lyricist) and Nick Blinko (guitarist/vocalist/lyricist/artist) met through a mutual friend. Blinko was already recording with a project titled The Magits, a two-person avant-garde synth act, which soon fell apart, allowing him to align with Matthews. With the addition of Blinko’s friend Jon Greville (drums), they started a band that reflected their collective political beliefs as well as embodied a punkier sound, which they were becoming more and more interested in. So, with a love of bands like The Damned, Discharge, and Wire, the trio of Matthews/Blinko/Greville took the name Rudimentary Peni, and another chapter in the history of punk rock began as the group that would spawn an entire generation saw its beginning.
Almost from the outset, Rudimentary Peni were plagued with severe personal problems, and in a cruel twist of fate, themselves came to embody the tragedy and pain represented in many of their songs. Only two years into the band’s career, Grant Matthews was diagnosed with cancer prior to recording their first full length album, the now classic Death Church. The ailing bassist/vocalist actually wrote some of the songs for the long player while in the hospital, hooked up to life-support machines. Matthews fought and eventually beat the disease, thankfully, but has stated that since the battle he has “never been able to shake the sense of mortality.”
Misfortune struck again when, a few years later, Nick Blinko succumbed to mental illness and was diagnosed as delusional. This lent to speculation as to what degree that may have influenced his very bizarre artwork and disturbing music. Nick Blinko’s desperately nightmarish illustrations have always graced Rudimentary Peni’s EPs and LPs. His work, to me, is something like Edward Gorey hanging out and dropping acid with Salvador Dali, then they read Poe and stare at Heironymus Bosch paintings.
This is the world Rudimentary Peni also created with their music, written and co-written by Matthews and Blinko, which ranged from thrashy-punk ragers with a distinctly cockney edge to mid-tempo dark anthems that dripped with depressive angst and inner turmoil. These screams were truly from the belly of the beast. If you want the real stuff, from a pure source, this is it. My personal favorite Rudimentary Peni album, the aforementioned Death Church, features happy little tunes like “Dead”, which illustrates, with brutal simplicity, the catastrophe that is world starvation –
Three quarters of the world are starving – The rest are dead – Overdosed on insensitivity – Nail varnished to crosses
Or “Flesh Crucifix”, which casts its grim gaze on the atrocity that is animal vivisection, experimentation, and exploitation –
Carnivals are like tombstones – Cremating animal carcasses – Creating animal shit coffins – Carnivals are like tombstones
Rudimentary Peni cull a good deal of terror from their unflinching examination, and utter damnation, of the real world as well as the human refuse that litter and corrupt it. For the more literal minded horror fan, Rudimentary Peni also drew inspiration from the hallowed H.P. Lovecraft and indeed recorded an album, titled Cacophony, dedicated entirely to songs based on stories by the paranoid writer from New England. With titles like “Nightgaunt”, “The Horrors In The Museum”, “Beyond The Tanarian Hills”, and “Imps Of The Perverse”, Cacophony is the most seriously minded horror punk album this writer has ever heard. And the most brash. Brace yourselves, brave musical explorers, there is no trace of the cutesy doo-wop of The Misfits here. In this place only the ear-shattering wail of abject darkness will you find.
To add to the mystique, the band’s creative dynamo, the troubled Mr. Blinko, is rumored to now be living in a psychiatric hospital, but the validity of those claims remains unconfirmed. Still, he manages to write, draw, and record the occasional EP, recently releasing The Haunted Head, a 200-page novel, which includes a one-track CD featuring a song unreleased by Rudimentary Peni, and one of the white index postcards he wrote the actual book on. It’s all very Sid Barret-esque, isn’t it? I, myself, need to get off my arse and order one up. (You can get more info at the official Rudimentary Peni website.) Full of his beautifully twisted, subversive art and limited to approximately 350 copies, The Haunted Head is sure to become a rare and valued collectible. Plus, it looks brilliant, no matter.
As a band, Rudimentary Peni’s influence is almost unfathomable in its importance to the brainier side of heavy music, being a lynchpin inspiration for acts such as the atmospheric hardcore/art gods Neurosis to progressive thrash pioneers Voi Vod, as well as pretty much every crust, protest, and anarchy band. Strangely, there is very little record of Rudimentary Peni as far as live performances, pictures, or video. However, the misery, anguish, fear, paranoia, and madness Rudimentary Peni gave voice to is timeless, which is why their music will remain immortal.
Discography: Rudimentary Peni EP (Outer Himalayan, 1981), Farce EP (Crass, 1982), Death Church LP (Corpus Christi, 1983), Cacophony LP (Outer Himilayan, 1989), Pope Adrian and the 37th Psychristiatric CD (Outer Himalayan, 1995), Echoes Of Anguish 12″ (Outer Himalayan, 1998), The Underclass EP (Outer Himalayan, 2000), The EPs of RP 12″ (Corpus Christi, 1987 – has first two EPs re-issued)
See also: Discharge, Crass, squatters rights, anarchy, Neurosis, mental disorders, Edward Gorey, outsider art, The Damned, urban decay, The Anarchists Cookbook.
Recommended enhancers: Camel straights, Rum and Coke doubles, vegan food, candlelight, Afghani hashish.
Check out two videos below for a peek into the twisted, decadent, and decayed world of Rudimentary Peni and the nightmare logic, in pen and ink, that is Nick Blinko’s artwork.
My favorite Rudimentary Peni song – “Flesh Crucifix”
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