> THE LEMON KITTENS Profile By Piero Scaruffi & Andy Kellman
The Lemon Kittens were two young multi-instrumentalists involved in multimedia art-performance/theater: Danielle Dax, a fan of electronic music, biblical mysticism and middle-eastern vocal music, and Karl Blake, a veteran jazz musician. Their music harked back to Canterbury’s jazz-rock, to Brian Eno’s avantgarde rock, and to the nonsense quality of much British rock.
The EP Spoonfed And Writhing and the album We Buy A Hammer For Daddy are cacophonous and chaotic, although the melodies are often charming and pastoral. With the EP Cake Beast (1980) the tracks began to expand and assume complex structures. The band’s style matures on the full-length album Big Dentist (1982). The eleven-minute piece They Are Both Dirty is a dissonant circus of grotesque Dadaistic gestures. For three minutes Blake indulges in all sorts of acoustic and electronic sounds. Then Dax begins to hum accompanied by a piano. As the music returns to a clownish fanfare, she intones an operatic litany. Guitar noises and tribal drums take over, but the end is solemnly-performed funeral music. Blake’s and Dax’s collage art is still naive, but certainly full of surprises. Blake displays his penchant for absurd, neurotic jazz in Mylmus, and then weds it with lunar synth-pop in No Night Not Shared.
By Piero Scaruffi, 1999
Lemon Kittens were founded in Reading, UK, in the late 1970s by Karl Blake. By placing an ad in the Sept 1979 issue of Industrial News, he met Danielle Dax, who would initially provide artwork and then later become a full partner in the band.
With no “proper” musical skills upon their formation in Surrey, England, the Lemon Kittens epitomized the “anything goes” spirit of late-’70s post-punk in the U.K. Karl Blake, who cut his teeth in numerous outfits prior to the Lemon Kittens, started the band with Gary Thatcher and a revolving cast of others (which at one point included future Alternative TV leader Mark Perry), but at the time of the release of their first EP in 1979, the seven-song Spoonfed + Writhing 7″, the group’s lineup featured Blake, Thatcher, N. Mercer, Mylmus, and Danielle Dax. The group was whittled down to a duo of Blake and Dax by February of 1980; the other three members had fled, making for the group’s 16th different lineup change since initialization in April 1978. Blake and Dax then decided to operate primarily as a duo, with help coming from whoever whenever they needed the assistance to perform. Later in 1980, Blake and Dax released We Buy a Hammer for Daddy on the United Dairies label (their labelmates included fellow oddballs and noise-mongers Whitehouse and Nurse With Wound), an album that featured the duo swapping a wide variety of instruments.
The Cake Beast EP came out in February of 1981; Dax left after its release to begin a successful solo career, which Blake took part in sporadically throughout the ’90s. In late 1982, the Illuminated LP Those That Bite the Hand That Feeds Them Must Sooner or Later Meet…the Big Dentist (best referred to as The Big Dentist) became the group’s second full-length. Blake rounded up a new group of cronies, laid the Lemon Kittens to rest, and began the Shock Headed Peters.
By Andy Kellman