Paul Rooney is an obsessive auto-didact of a certain age, weaned on back-street pop culture he’s upended, rummaged through, then rolled around in on the doorstep of his defiantly red-brick northern English local. Or that’s how it appears from this magnificently surreal 12” single, released on delicious raspberry-ripple, joke-shop blood n’ lipstick coloured vinyl through Berlin’s SueMi Records. Anyone who witnessed Pass The Time Of Day, which this Liverpool born, Edinburgh College Of Art trained chancer curated at Edinburgh’s Collective Gallery in 2004 will get the idea. Then, Rooney and a crew including Arab Strap and Mark Leckey explored music as a distraction from the everyday, a way of getting ‘out of it.’ There’s previous form too, playing in eponymous John Peel band, Rooney.
By hub-capping the title of his first release in seven years from The Fall’s 1986 B-side, ‘Lucifer Over Lancashire,’ acknowledged within the record’s gothic absurdist narrative, Rooney sets his store for these six segued cut-ups from the off. Lucy is a lonesome sprite locked into the record’s grooves like some chatterbox ghost in the machine. Under the spell of the mysterious Alan, Lucy regales her captive audience with half-absorbed local myths Chinese-whispered by Alan as hex-inducted gospel. The effect is not unlike Caroline Aherne’s schoolgirl single mum character from ‘The Fast Show,’ ‘Our’ Janine Carr, bending your ear with some rubbish picked up off her incontinent Nan.
Lucy’s naïve but considerable supernatural force manifests itself through a spindly country n’ north-western guitar backdrop, bent out of shape by primitive white indie dub alchemy. The gobby splurge of Lucy’s sub-Samuel Beckett babble is possessed by Satanic messages normally found in backwards-spun Beatles records. Also mixed up in there are fellow northern souls John Cooper-Clarke and carrot-topped pseudo-soulster Mick Hucknall from Imply Red (sic). One of ‘Lucy Over Lancashire’s closest relatives is ‘The Imperfect List,’ Big Hard Excellent Fish’s hard-faced piece of 1980s Scouse ambient melancholy, later used as intro music by Morrissey. There’s the same sense of sad, trapped, utterly desolate resignation found in Lucy’s last words before vanishing into the run-off groove after 16 and a half minutes of woozily incessant clatter. Lucy might feel less lonely if she ever heard ‘Clowntown,’ an even spookier piece of subverted post-punk by Pink Military Stand Alone, led by another Scouse sister, Jayne Casey. Casey had fronted Big In Japan with Bill Drummond, often wearing a lampshade on her head. ‘Clowntown’ was a melodramatic shriek extended by lo-fi studio techniques to sit perfectly next to the late-night Dub played by Peel. The first and only Pink Military album, ‘Do Animals Believe In God?’, was produced by early Simply Red bassist Tony Bowers.
‘Lucy Over Lancashire’ cries out like a D-stream banshee to be heard full-blast in some under-age fleapit. As it is, its prophecy was fulfilled in November 2006 when it was aired on BBC Radio Lancashire’s avant-rock and roots reggae show, ‘On The Wire.’ If that sounds like a happy ending, for Lucy it’s a curse.
Neil Cooper is a writer and critic