Cutting a Rope
Fudge Tunnel’s first movement celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, but the paint still feels very fresh. The Nottingham trio’s brand of noise rock—plenty of distortion, molten tempos and ritual abuse of instruments—has been oft-imitated, but never truly replicated since the release of Hate Songs in E Minor. The band’s contemporaries aimed to add rhythmic complexity to the canvas of noise; kindred spirits like the Jesus Lizard and Helmet probably had a longer shelf life simply because they were digestible. Whether it was an act of self-sabotage or unrecognized genius, Fudge Tunnel were committed to making music that was often unflinchingly, ruthlessly ugly.
Of course, guitarist/vocalist Alex Newport, drummer Adrian Parkin and bassist David Ryley were also the ultimate ironists. This becomes indelible in the album’s liner notes, where the trio mocked the Rolling Stones by dubbing themselves “The Sphincter Triplets,” invited fans to bribe them with cash and peanut M&M’s, and skewered the early ’90s trend of impossibly long “thanks lists” with this blunt invocation: “If you expected a mention and didn’t get one, don’t worry, we probably don’t like you.” The band’s warped sense of humor is also reflected in its choice of cover material: Their chopped and screwed version of “Sunshine of Your Love” (the intended album closer) simultaneously desecrates the original and states the case for Fudge Tunnel’s arrival as a power trio in the mold of Cream.
The great leap forward between Fudge Tunnel’s early EPs and Hate Songs in E Minor owes a lot to the experience of working in a proper studio with high-quality equipment and veteran personnel. According to the band, producer Colin Richardson—who had worked on soon-to-be classics from Bolt Thrower and Carcass—was essential in helping Fudge Tunnel achieve the sound they’d all heard in their heads. Growing comfort in the studio also allowed for continued experimentation with Einstürzende Neubauten-esque mechanical noise from power tools and pickups, audible at the beginning on “Hate Song (Version),” the tail end of “Sunshine of Your Love” and everywhere in between.
Tracks like album opener “Hate Song” and “Tweezers” certainly offer echoes of what was going on across the pond in the burgeoning American grunge scene—Fudge Tunnel enjoyed This Is Spinal Tap and drop D tuning as much as anyone else. But Hate Songs in E Minor is not grunge. It’s not hardcore, either, despite what “Soap and Water” might suggest. And it ain’t quite metal, a label the band rejected from the start. So, here’s the story of the Hate Songs in E Minor, an album that embodies both sides of Black Flag’s My War on every single song—a remarkable study in contradictions.
Need more Fudge Tunnel? To read the entire six-page story, featuring interviews with all members who performed on Hate Songs in E Minor, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.