CHRIS MORRIS Blue Jam (Warp)
Chris Morris has long been the caustic alternative to cosy old alternative comedy. His 1997 Channel 4 series "Brass Eye" contained, to my mind, the greatest comic moment of all time in the form of the "Cake" episode, in which Morris drew finger-wagging testimonials from dim do-gooders such as Bernard Manning and Noel Edmonds regarding the eponymous intoxicant, which, as Morris kept insisting, was "a made-up drug". Earlier this year C4 let him loose again, with the late-night series "Jam", and its even later-night remixed counterpoint "Jaaaaam". "Jam" broke the mould in terms of form alone: it ran for 25 minutes without a commercial break, almost as if no advertiser would want to be seen associating with it, had no theme tune and for credits the viewer was referred to an internet site. The content could perhaps be described as anti-comedy, real life situations given a kind of absurdist spin that made you seriously question whether you should actually be laughing, all set to a background wash of ambience and trip-hop that seemingly cooed "Do not adjust your set", acting as a signpost back to reality. Office discussion the morning after each episode suggested that Morris had pulled off something even more important and convention-shattering than "Monty Python's Flying Circus" had in its day.
In between the two television outings was "Blue Jam", a Radio One series that provided the first outing for the "Jam" template, and from which the content of this CD is drawn. The fact that there's a high degree of commonality between the radio and television material proves how malleable, and truly multimedia, the concept is. And it loses nothing by being presented without pictures: the sketches that never made it to television are no less memorable for it.
It's hard to pick highlights: just about everything on "Blue Jam" is a success. Bestest bits, though, would include "Club News", hilarious despite being little more than a rave generation update of Monty Python's "Rock Notes" (there's just something about the image of "Cerys from Catatonia ironing beans in the background"!) and the atrociously savage "Morton Interview", in which Morris winds Diana's biographer up like the proverbial clockwork orange before asking him to comment on a mythical computer game called "Last Chase" - in which the player takes the role of a member of the paparazzi - subtitle "Snap the dying bitch". All of this wickedness laps up against a balmy background provided by the likes of Brian Eno, Propellerheads and Aphex Twin, amongst many others. Which rather explains what it's doing on Sheffield's techno purist Warp label.
"Blue Jam" isn't a total and utter success: some of the briefer skits ("Lamacq Sting", "Mayo Sting", "Moyles Sting", "Hobbs Sting") demand a degree of preknowledge of Radio One DJs that I don't posses, but, minor black mark aside, it's as astoundingly perfect as we could have dared hope. Short of a DVD release of the entire "Jam" and "Jaaaaam" series, or even archiving of the remainder of the Radio One tapes, the job has been well done. And it's an object lesson in how to create a comedy album that demands repeated listening, a trick that arguably only The Bonzo Dog Band (who, tellingly, are sampled at one point) have pulled off successfully before now.PETER COOK/CHRIS MORRIS Why Bother? (BBC)
Spoken word albums might not be natural territory for Feedback, but I'm allowing this one through the net on the grounds that both of the protagonists have been involved in something vaguely musical at one time or another. This disc documents a series of conversations originally aired on Radio 3 in 1994, in which Chris Morris interrogates Peter Cook's eccentric aristocrat Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, a character who dates back to "Beyond The Fringe". Although less of a sickeningly surreal multimedia experience than Morris' "Blue Jam" album and "Jam" and "Jaaaaam" television series, Cook's angular, insightful ramblings demand repeated plays to be fully appreciated. Casual listening only skims the surface of the absurdity on offer - in fact with half an ear it sounds unnervingly like standard interview fodder. Pay close attention and you'll be rewarded with hilarious observations about Eric Clapton, the Rodney King riots, eels, bee-keeping and the fossilised remains of the infant Christ, amongst many other off-the-wall topics. Not for everybody, but if you too have hammered your copy of "Blue Jam" the delights of "Why Bother?" will undoubtedly prove impossible to resist.