The Cat & Bells Club LP
In 1992, under the guise of the Cat & Bells Club, eighteen-year-old Cheriton residents Graham Lambkin and Darren Harris self-released three tapes—two yellow cassettes and one pink—documenting their earliest musical efforts at S.H.P. studios (Lambkin’s bedroom in his parents’ house). The lowest of all lo-fi recordings, these tracks were laid down live, directly into a boombox with no overdubs. Relieved of their academic expectations and plunged into the workforce, the duo aspired to enter the annals of rock history, making their own primitive teenage overtures to Marc Bolan, the Incredible String Band, Whitehouse, and the Godz. Lyrically and spiritually the Cat & Bells Club had much to do with Bolan’s early Tyrannosaurus Rex project, but with a hyperlocalized Folkestonian twist that nonetheless maintained his penchant for chevaline. While much of the Club’s repertoire comprised freeform instrumental try-outs—untuned charity shop guitars and coffee cup drum kits—a number of songs featured Lambkin’s original lyrics, read by both members of the band, dramatizing the comings and goings of anthropomorphic animals and musing abstractly on the minutiae of daily life in Cheriton (their native C-Town).
Taking their moniker from a mishearing of “the jester’s bauble, cap and bells,”’ a line from Incredible String Band’s “The Iron Stone,” the duo operated for a brief year under the increasingly esoteric influence of the Fisheye mail-order and then fledgling Forced Exposure fanzine, and from the airwaves via Radio 1’s John Peel show. This collection was compiled by Lambkin in the early aughts for an unrealized release on his now defunct Kye label, but barring a few tracks on a retrospective 7″ issued by Siltbreeze in 2010, hardly any of these recordings have been heard beyond a handful of hangers-on, inner-circle drinking allies, and the most devoted of fans. The Cat & Bells Club set the stage for what was to soon follow, when the group changed its name to the Shadow Ring—the rest is history.