Sunday, 7 March 2010

Epic Folly Of The Month #1: MARCH-The Cult Of Narita

Strange to relate as it is to experience, this is the second time in two posts that Riot have featured in this blog. It's clearly not like Riot have been a particular influence on Teeth of the Sea musically, or indeed as if Riot were a particularly amazing band. Their significance musically has pretty much been limited to being filed away in the darker and more tangled quarters of my brain as one of the acts on one of the early Donington bills (was it the first one in 1980 with Touch and Saxon and Priest and that lot?) Yet a darker, more bizarre form of immortality looms large for Riot, and it's all down to one of their sleeves. Any attempt to describe this 12-inch-wide abomination to anyone usually falls flat, as words really can't do justice to the jaw-agape effect of trying to work out quite what the fuck Riot and their label were thinking.
I mean, really.

'It's kind of a sumo wrestler, only with the head of a seal (or is it some kind of bird?) standing with a machete on a pile of skulls, with a plane hurtling towards it from behind on a kamikaze mission.' However, there's something about it that's so startlingly compelling that I've now bought this album twice on vinyl, the idea perhaps being to keep one to listen to and then buy one of those vinyl frame things and hang the other one up around the house.

Moreover, I still remember the moment when I first saw the 'Narita' sew-on patch pictured at the top of this post, in the window of the Kard Bar in Newcastle. It was like stumbling upon as close as I'll ever experience to a Heavy Metal Holy Grail.
Kard Bar

The Kard Bar, which lurks on the periphery of what used to be the old biker distict of Toon near Westgate Road, is a deeply strange place: Certain parts of it, particularly in the realm of the window display, have not changed in the slightest since round about 1989, and much of its stock, if the amount of 'I Shot JR' merchandise still standing proud is anything to go by, is even older. These days it survives as a kind of rock memorabilia shop that's semi-rebranded itself as a head shop of the 'Take Me To Your Dealer' variety, the like of which one comes across all-too-infrequently in this financially lean day and age. It's also almost certainly the only place in the UK one can still happily purchase for £1.80 (as documented above) either a Sad Cafe sew-on patch, or one proclaiming 'Snoopy For Prime Minister'. Or indeed, one with a badly woven picture depicting a Sumo Wrestler with the head of a seal.

The record? Oh, right, well, it's kind of a serviceable, spirited slice of blue-collar late-70s hard rock. There are some ripping tunes on it, particularly the lean, gritty rocker 'Kick Down The Wall' (which for some reason always reminds me of goth/cock-rock crossover merchants Bang Tango ten years ahead of their time (it's the chorus)) and the harmony-laden instrumental title-track, which rollicks along in a manner not altogether unlike 'Transylvania' by Iron Maiden.

In a rather more ill-advised move, there's also a cover of 'Born To Be Wild' on there. Somewhere on this planet there must be a killer song that's been dealt a more vicious and remorseless hand by cluelessly inept cover versions than Steppenwolf's biker anthem, but who knows which one it is. A cover of 'Born To Be Wild' is the Achilles heel of The Cult's otherwise magical 'Electric' album. It's the one that Lizzy Borden have wasted countless minutes of my life by essaying badly on the legendary movie 'Decline Of Western Civilization Part 2-The Metal Years'. Furthermore, it's yet another reason why Slayer should never be allowed to cover anything anymore, lest they gormlessly change its lyrics and hammer it out like an extreme metal pub band.

Cruel lord, not even the combined might of Ozzy Osbourne and Miss Piggy can do it justice.

Yet all hail Riot regardless. Despite the word 'Narita' generally being associated with the site of Tokyo's international airport, this sleeve alone has meant that its six letters have now attained a strange kind of mystical significance. Utter the word 'Narita', and you risk summoning not only a near-religious awe, but a certain volatile cocktail of fear and incompehension. And long may this seal-headed spectre haunt our dreams.

Jimmy TOTS x

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