Essential Logic

Fanfare In The Garden (Kill Rock Stars)

Jul 9, 2003 at 4:00 am
Lora Logic entered the music world as X-Ray Spex's teenaged saxophonist. That's her discordantly wailing away behind "Oh Bondage Up Yours!" the Spex's signature song and the DNA for a thousand riot-grrrl bands. It wasn't long before she was kicked out of the band, supposedly because she once got a better review than singer Poly Styrene. Undeterred, Logic formed Essential Logic and recorded a series of brilliant releases for Rough Trade. Fanfare In The Garden collects the bulk of this work on two CDs.

The first nine tracks -- both sides of the 1978 "Aerosol Burns" début single and most of Essential Logic's only LP, 1979's Beat Rhythm News -- will leave you disoriented and breathless at first listen. Logic's voice is a deadpan warble one moment, low and mocking the next. Punky reggae vamps are fractured by violent staccato attacks; tempos lurch forward or change in midstream with no warning; catchy melodies hold the chaos together. The rest of the band follows along telepathically. It's amazing that Lora Logic wasn't even 20 years old when she wrote these songs. It's no wonder we haven't heard any Essential Logic soundalike bands: How does one copy a song like the cryptic "Popcorn Boy," which packs free-jazz freakouts, mutant country-western and nursery-rhyme chants into a scant four minutes?

Essential Logic managed to eke out three more singles before splitting up in 1982. Far less schizophrenic but no less compelling, tracks such as "Music Is A Better Noise" and "Moontown" function as deviant dance-punk. Logic soldiered on for a while longer, contributing to a few Red Crayola tracks (the best of which, "Born In Flames," appears here) and releasing two solo records, the Chic-ish "Wonderful Offer" single and an LP called Pedigree Charm. And then, having followed her former bandmate Poly Styrene into Hare Krishna, she seemed to disappear.

What we didn't know is that she kept writing songs and making recordings. In 2001, two EPs of late-'90s Essential Logic material surfaced on the Vitaminic and Peoplesound websites. Fanfare compiles both these EPs, along with a few unreleased tracks from 1983 through 1991. Astonishingly, this material is nearly equal in quality to the earlier tracks -- she lost none of her knack for a catchy tune, and her jarring sax still has the power to enthrall. "Basically we're alone/But you better pay attention to detail," Lora Logic sang in 1979, seemingly resigned her own obscurity. Fanfare should go a long way in correcting that historical error.