The Infinite Jukebox: Age of Chance’s ‘Kiss’

The best Prince covers are easily the ones where you know nothing about the original. Of course, if you’ve only ever owned one Prince album, even if that’s Sign O’The Times, that aspect is easy, but just think of ‘Nothing compares to U’, or ‘Manic Monday’, not to mention the little known but still brilliant Hindu Love Gods cover of ‘Raspberry Beret’.
And then there’s the Age of Chance…
The first time I heard ‘Kiss’, I hadn’t a clue what to make of it. How I even heard it, I don’t know because I’d stopped listening to Peely by then. It just stopped me in my tracks like a street-mugging, and it’s still a jolt of electric energy and easily one of the best examples of pulling a song apart by ripping off its arms and legs with wild horses and suturing them back together in a way nobody could have imagined. Just what the hell was this?
Well, this was, to use Age of Chance’s own definition, Crush Collision, a musical style I have never heard any other band perform. Before I got the album and found that out, the best I could come up with by myself was Heavy Metal Call-and-Response and it isn’t even Heavy Metal…
A music teacher friend of mine once described music as “organised noise”. What the Age of Chance do is to break the concept of organisation down as far as it can go whilst remaining recognisable as music. The staccato, inconstant drumming, constantly disrupting any kind of rhythm, the thunderous guitar, hammered out on one undifferentiated chord, these leave the only vestige of the tune Prince wrote in the hands of the singer, or rather shouter.
But the song is not a song, not in the hands of the Age of Chance, it’s a bludgeon of sound, stripping any sense of melody out of the aural experience. The only remnant of tune is conveyed by the raucous chorus, which may have been sinuous and slinky in the Prince original, but is here a defiant chant, negating any suggestion that the band are performing a song (I have never knowingly heard Prince’s version and I have no wish to mar the purity of the Age of Chance’s barrage by ever doing so: the disappointment would be massive).
In fact, there’s an underlying air of glee, a joyful sense of anarchy to the band’s approach. They’re ripping the song to pieces, rebuilding it in a completely different form, overwhelming as they charge towards the listener, shaping the world about them in a way that it has never been done before. If only they were plugged into the mains, the band give off the sense that they could light Leeds for a month.
If the band were a part of any musical tradition it was the brief Industrial music phase also championed by Peely in the early Eighties, exemplified by Tools You Can Trust. The Age of Chance had clearly heard them, but where Industrial Music built itself out of percussion almost exclusively, Crush Collision had greater ambitions, more polyphonic rhythms and a sense of hurtling inevitability, as if they were sculpting their sound out of granite rather than metal.
If only they’d lasted. One album, two Peel Sessions, 12”ers and remixes and b-sides, all linked by that charging sound, those epic chants. Partway through recording a second album, ‘singer’ Steven-E (Elvidge) quit. The album was re-voiced by his successor, but Elvidge’s voice was an essential component of that sound and, despite limping on another three years, the spell was broken. Age of Chance were one of those bands who exist in one line-up and in which no-one can be replaced, and especially not by a smooth, sweet, soul voice. On top of those rythyms?!.
There isn’t anything else that sounds remotely like this that I like, and there was only ever too little of this. Sometimes you wonder if the world isn’t ready for some bands, and sometimes you wonder if some bands just have too narrow an audience. Count me in that niche, if that was what they were: some grooves are too good to get out of.

2 thoughts on “The Infinite Jukebox: Age of Chance’s ‘Kiss’

  1. I loved this version of Kiss, and several of the EPs they released around the same time.

    Also a great admirer of Hindu Love Gods (for those who don’t know, Warren Zevon backed by three quarters of REM blasting out some blues songs plus Raspberry Beret). Great fun, and th erecord that made me realise that the reason I’d never fully embraced REM was Michael Stipe, who wasn’t part of this.

  2. I love REM and I got into uncle Warren with Sentimental hygiene, because Berry Buck Mills were on it. I do know the original of Raspberry Beret, but i prefer the HLG’s

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