For those concerned that protest is no longer in the musician’s vocabulary comes the vinyl reissue of McCarthy’s 1987 debut I Am A Wallet. This generous version includes double LP (13 bonus tracks!) plus reproduction of their first 7” single, ‘In Purgatory’, full size booklet and various posters. Not only is this the band that birthed Stereolab but it inspired the Manics, Nicky Wire calling it “the most perfect record, a Communist manifesto with tunes”.
It has the trebly indiepop and the guitar attack of the C-86 era but it also has Malcolm Eden’s class-conscious, dogmatic SWP-style lyrics that attack parliamentary hypocrisy (‘An MP Speaks’), the royal family (‘Charles Windsor’ - “you’re on the way to the guillotine”!), Thatcher, natch (‘The Wicked Palace Revolution’) and the ruling class, double natch (‘The Procession of Popular Capitalism’). Points too for the magnificent ‘The Vision Of Peregrine Worsthorne’, channelling William Blake to convey the toff’s horror of the working class in under 3 minutes of sublime jangliness.
The album plus bonuses fly by with pace; 14 of the tracks are less than 2 minutes and only 4 break the 3 minute barrier, though the latter include the magnificent skittery post-punk of ‘Frans Hals’ and the powerful percussion and stinging guitars of ‘Red Sleeping Beauty’. ‘In Purgatory’, that debut single, sounds more like early ‘7 And 7 Is’ Love, a blast of garage guitars over in a breathless two minutes and 3 seconds.
At times the polemic overpowers the poetry (‘In The Dark Times’) and it becomes preachy but you never went to McCarthy for comforting love songs. There’s an urgency, passion and rage about I Am A Wallet that reflected the political discontent of the 80s and still feels as in tune with the times in 2015.