Hemulism Loves: The Diagram Brothers

For the first in a sporadic series highlighting bands and musicians which we believe to be unfairly overlooked or simply fancy have a quick shout about, we have chosen the short-lived conceptual Manchester post-punk band The Diagram Brothers. We think they’re great and hopefully by the end of this article you will too.

Metronomic post-punk beats, stabbing discordant guitar and thudding, emotionless lyrics about advertising, neutron bombs, seal clubbing and bricks. The Diagram Brothers were different by design, intent from the outset to set themselves apart. Their sound was an artificial construct of carefully selected discords and intentionally simplistic lyrics. Every decision they made as a group was meticulously democratic. They called their unique brand of manufactured anti-pop “Discordo”.

The Diagram Brothers started as they meant to go on. Their first single, We Are All Animals (1980) was a barrage of monosyllabic lyrics, deformed bass riffs and stabbing, atonal guitars. Bricks (1981), gained the band an influential new admirer by the name of John Peel (the band caught his attention by sending him the single attached to a brick). They’d go on to play a total of three sessions for Peel during their brief three-year lifespan.

The LP Some Marvels of Modern Science (1981) followed, an album that stands alone amongst its post-punk bedfellows, drained as it is of transparent political or social commentary, vocals largely content with delivering the lyrics in a detached and dispassionate fashion and songs in which every chord has been meticulously crafted to grate the ear in just the right way.

Stuffed with hilarious, bone-dry wit and occasional bursts of surrealism, not to mention tunes that are as catchy as they are discordant. Some Marvels of Modern Science is, in our opinion, a damn near perfect album and the continued obscurity of the Diagram Brothers even amongst fans of alternative music is simply tragic.

Their final EP (bar a peculiar stab at the German market via a re-recorded version of “I Didn’t Get Where I am Today by Being a Right Git”) was 1982’s Discordo. It pushed the band’s sound in a new direction via the addition of synths and brass and seemed like a fine statement of intent, but by this stage the band were all ready to move on and a second LP never materialised. Still, in just 3 years the Diagram Brothers had left an impressive and utterly unique musical legacy.

You can read an entertaining and insightful interview with the band looking back at their brief but fascinating career here: http://newhormonesinfo.com/category/diagram-brothers-interview/

Some Marvels of Modern Science + Singles was released in 2007 on LTM.

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