As a music lover, I find myself delving into a wide variety of genres to satisfy my tastes but what if an album came along that managed to do that all in one, every genre chucked in and the kitchen sink to boot?
Released back in July 2008, “Fantasy Black Channel” is the debut album from Nottingham four piece, Late Of The Pier. A genre-hopping masterpiece that crams more ideas into its 42:47 minute run-time than most bands have in their entire career. It seems only right that the album gets a nice vinyl reissue to celebrate 10 years since its release. Now’s the right time to re-evaluate this cult classic LP.
I use the term re-evaluate loosely here as for me, it’s been almost ten years since I first heard this record. In fact, this is an album I put on at least three times a year to fully relish in its insane glory.
For most, this is a record that’s likely to have slipped by unnoticed at the time of release. I believe a contributing factor for this was the band gaining traction off the back of the NME coined ‘Nu Rave’ sound. This saw bands like Klaxons and CSS (who had dance elements to their indie music), being claimed as pioneers of this new glow stick friendly sound.
However, as all fads do, Nu Rave fell on its arse pretty quickly. The hype and interest for LOTP’s debut had almost vanished by the time of its release, even though it received critical acclaim and was on numerous end of year polls. By the time 2009 rolled in, the band had largely been pushed aside.
One Hit Wonder
I could use many a descriptive word for this record. It’s something a listener needs to experience for themselves. To sum it up best as I can: A journey through space and time with Gary Numan and Roxy Music.
I’m really just touching off the influences there; there’s so much going on with this record, it’s hard to absorb on first listen.
We discover Pink Floyd via the way of cosmic disco on “Bathroom Gurgle”. Get chucked into a full on metal rock out with “Whitesnake”. We f ind ourselves transported to the tribal woods with “The Bears Are Coming”. A track which sees the band literally using pots and pans as percussion with a sprinkle of old computer game sounds mixed to perfection.
This album was sadly a one hit wonder and a follow up never emerged. The only releases after this were a double A-side single “Blueberry/Best In The Class”, two equally brilliant songs that should have made the album but serve as a nice epilogue.
Whilst I would’ve loved to hear more from the band and where this intergalactic music lesson went next, I feel that they achieved everything with this one record and the double A-side single.
They left no musical stone untouched and at times, it very much plays like a greatest hits compilation. This was their statement: these 15 songs committed to wax, always permanently brilliant.
Currrently, there’s a danger with current trend music sounding dated when listened to later on. That can be said of the Klaxons debut album (“Myths Of The Near Future”).
Whilst still a great listen, it has a time and a place feel to it. On the other hand, “Fantasy Black Channel” feels as fresh and exciting as it did when first released. I think this is partially down to the way the band expertly paid tribute to many different artists and sounds.
Even now, I feel on what must be my fortieth listen, I still find something new that I hadn’t heard before. The production from the band and Erol Alkan was clearly well thought out and you can tell that effort has gone into getting the best out of the band’s unique sound.
Whilst there will always be some footnote in history with that one song that you might have heard somewhere but not know who it is. For me, they created an album that I’m proud to consider one of my all-time favourites and is a must recommend to people.
It’s nice to see the record reissued and hopefully, it will push it out to a few more people. One thing’s for certain: the cult legacy for the album will always be there.
There’s been some demand for the band to return and make new music, however, this doesn’t appear to be on the cards. Sadly, drummer Ross Dawson died in 2015 and the remaining band members are all involved in other projects.
As a fan, yes, I would love to hear more but I think it would potentially tarnish the legacy of this one superb album. I know bands can get better as they progress. But, when you’re this good with your debut release, you’re better to quit whilst you’re ahead. Late Of The Pier did just that.
If you stumble into your local record shop, charity shop or even online. If you see a strange looking album cover with instruments laid out on an island and a guitar resting on an ironing board. Take a chance and pick it up. It’s likely to become one of your most treasured and unusual records.
“Fantasy Black Channel” was reissued on vinyl on 18th January 2019 by Phantasy Sound Records.
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