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LiLiPUT (Kill Rock Stars)

Wednesday, Mar 7 2001
For decades, the Zurich-based art-punk ensemble Kleenex has held a peculiar fascination for high-minded music listeners. From 1978 to 1983, this all-woman combo released a series of screechy, off-kilter records that placed it amongst other purposefully difficult bands such as the Slits, Wire, and Pere Ubu -- groups that mocked rock music while demanding to be taken seriously. With grating, exuberant, faux-naif recordings, Kleenex indelibly established itself as the sort of band that chases off the easily annoyed and endears itself to the hipoisie. It also joined the Salvation Army, Red Crayola, and the K-Tels in the ranks of rock's great trademark infringers: Once the attorneys for Kimberly-Clark had huffed and puffed long enough, Kleenex gracefully altered its name to LiLiPUT (and hoped that Jonathan Swift's estate would look the other way).

With great press and poor distribution, LiLiPUT's scattershot releases -- particularly its early singles on Rough Trade -- picked up powerful cachet on the collector nerd circuit. Until now, record-swap robber barons and online auctions were the best bet for finding the group's efforts. Luckily, Kill Rock Stars has now made the full LiLiPUT/Kleenex catalog available to the rest of us. This two-CD set tracks the band from its stuttering, joyfully monosyllabic early singles ("Ü," "Split") through later, artier angularities (two full-length LPs). The collection makes a powerful case for LiLiPUT/Kleenex as the godmothers of European post-punk. Midway between Yoko Ono and Gang of Four, these bilingual riot mädchen were as uncompromising, inaccessible, and thoroughly hilarious a band as is imaginable.

Naturally, countless bands that nobody has heard of have followed LiLiPUT's musical example, including Ut, Fire Party, and Slint in the '80s, and Bratmobile, Deerhoof, and Chicks on Speed in the '90s. Even today, idiosyncratic acts like the Gossip pay tribute to LiLiPUT by making loud, raunchy records that you can't help loving. Music like this doesn't have to be pretty or nice; it just has to make the plaster rattle before the walls cave in.

About The Author

Lawrence Kay


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