Deep fried funk-core-delia
As the late 80s rolled into the 90s the entire UK seemed caught up in a state of funk fried attitude. From the ravers to the acid jazzers metal funkers to the psychedelic groovers, it just didn’t mean a thing if ot didn’t have that… well, funk actually.
It was into this burgeoning phat planet that three Nottingham lads (two called Nick, one called Alex) emerged in a band called Blue Nirvana. They had a couple of songs, one called ‘Dragonfly’ (very Jane’s Addiction) and a whole bunch of riffs. But no singer.
Meanwhile a singer called Martin had returned from a holiday in Singapore to discover his band, The Box Disciples, had left him and taken his gear. Like any sane individual he went straight out to Nottingham’s Rock City with a latex toy on his arm, with the sole intention of getting pissed… instead he got a new band.
A few weeks later and those Blue Nirvana riffs had turned into a bunch of songs and that Blue Nirvana name had become the far superior Crunch Bird. And so Martin Crunch, Alex Crunch, Nick One Crunch and Nick Two Crunch create a melting pot of hardcore, funk and psychedelia, called it funk-core-delia, and set about converting the massed metallers, veggie punks, ravers and funkateers of the UK. The chemistry between the foursome won over fans everywhere they played.
The band’s first offering was the metal thrash attack of ‘Serious Cookin’ with its brat rapitude and searing guitar licks owing just a little to LA’s RHCPs and a few others besides. Also recorded at this time were the unwittingly groovebound ‘Dog Wrestling’ and the horn driven rapture of ‘Soul Funktion’. The mess around Crunch Bird Theme Tune (‘Crunch Bird… My Arse’) was recording during a ten minute break from the sessions!
The next offering ‘crunchychunkyfunkythang’ found the band flexing the metal funk muscles while also pushing down avenues indebted to the hardcore attack of bands like No Means No on the finger bursting ‘Derek Shaw’ and the politico-humour of, erm ‘Humour’. Finally ‘Chicken Grease’ fused psycho-drama horns with slap(stick) bass and slippery guitars.
The follow up ‘Cosmophobia’ found the band exploring are far groovier and laid back terrain and introduced producer Mark Spivey to the Crunch Bird fold. The lead track’s eco-lyrics and psychedelic swing echoed the obsessions of the times while Crunch Bird’s energised funk developed an more assured gait on the Nottingham rap of ‘Shark Funk’ and the anti-Americanisation rant of ‘Freak Our Nation’.
By the time Crunch Bird laid down their next slice of Spivey produced magic they were positively chilled brilliant. The twisted Bristolian-dub-funk-jazz action of ‘United Sound of the Crunch’ ushered in a new looser vibe, its spoken rap and harmonised melodies only acting as a decoy from the blistering white noise attack of the guitar driven outro. The same session also gave rise to the Starsky and Hutch homage ‘Huggy’s Place’ and the media-at-melting-point rolling attack of ‘Vision Off’.
Next up came Crunch Bird’s coup de grace, ‘Death to False Metal’, a song that fused all of the band’s musical loves (hip hop to acid jazz, blaxploitation funk to post punk noise, house to blues rock) in an elongated jam that sounded like a party that never wanted to finish. Once again featuring Spivey at the controls, introducing Adam Crunch on percussion and featuring sax and backing vocals from some guy with a beard and some girl with a voice (names lost in the mists of time), the song became a live favourite for the band. In honour of their new found love of the organised chaos of jamming they also laid down a track called ‘A Great Day for an Up’ during these sessions. Loose limbed, shapeless and largely verse-free the song not only showed the band’s hit and miss ethos (little planned, the vibe was everything) but also revealed cracks that were beginning to show in their make up.
The final moment in the Crunch Bird story came in the shape of a live session at BBC Radio Nottingham. It represented the first time the band had been asked to record a radio session and in a fit of self destructive stupidity they performed ‘Beatnicked (50 Ways to Say ‘Fuck’ on the Radio)’, the first new track they’d written since saxophonist/ flautist and backing vocalist Della Crunch had joined. The BBC weren’t overjoyed.
And then it was no more…
At their best Crunch Bird were a rough-around-the-edges explosion of ideas; a joyous and random celebration of music’s deep-down rhythmic essence. And when they locked on to this, and forgot about self imposed restrictions they were almost untouchable.
… and they looked bloody good too!
CRUNCH BIRD – Robotic Buddha Psychedelic Guru (1991)
Death to False Metal
Beatnicked (50 Ways to Say Fuck on the Radio) – BBC Session
United Sound of the Crunch
Freak Our Nation
Soul Funktion (Horn Mix)