Hardly a household handle here in the US, Jowe Head held down tenures in two UK cult favorites – Swell Maps and Television Personalities. On top of his work with those two outlets Head (better known to his mum as Stephen Bird) released several solo albums that sewed up his bent and fractured pop. Cabinet of Curios collects cuts from his his extensive solo career, culling from 1981’s Pincer Movement, 1986’s Strawberry Deutschmark and 1989’s Personal Organizer. Tracks from that first record stand in stark contrast to the brittle post-punk of Swell Maps, though it seems all solo efforts from that band wound up in verdant and unique pastures, Bird just did it with a certain sense of humor that’s missing from some of his contemporaries.
That humor separates the solo work from his longtime run with Television Personalities as well. Though he’d add a touch of experimentation to their catalog, his solo recordings push the needle much further into DIY eccentricities. While sparse bedroom hijinks feel almost pat at this point Jowe Head held down his own territory in the ’80s spanning ground between the shaved and shorn pop of Chris Knox and the clattertrap psychedelics of Deep Freeze Mice. The collection doesn’t limit itself just to early works, however. It cherry picks from bits of his bands The Househunters and Palookas as well, both bands capturing the nervy essence of Jowe Head’s songwriting.
In 2008 Bird started up Jowe Head and the Demi-Monde and continues the project to this day. In fact a good deal of the collection cherry picks the band’s CD-rs and limited releases then throws in a cache of unreleased tracks as gravy. Its unlikely that you’ll find a more complete picture of Jowe Head’s ecstatic world view outside of the 1994 comp Unhinged. For the casual fan of Television Personalities or Swell Maps this might only come as the title might infer, a curio and nothing more. For the true diggers of post-punk oddments and DIY roots, this is a gem with plenty to offer. Every RSD there’s one that slips through the cracks and this year, Jowe Head takes the prize.
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