The Homosexuals lived and played in London in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the evidence suggests that they were magnificent—as potent and visionary as Wire or Pere Ubu. So how come nobody’s ever heard of them? In part because they’d do anything to avoid the obvious, to the point of perversity. Their name could barely be printed on a fanzine cover; they never really made an album, and nothing by them was even on CD until this year. Two singles, one sleeveless EP, a pile of pseudonymous releases and side projects and cassettes (all heretofore condemned to collector hell by their radiance and rarity)—really, most of what’s left of them is their ephemera. The Homosexuals’ Record, a posthumous collection of half-disintegrated work tapes (mostly slammed out live in a friend’s studio after the Police had left for the night), finally went digital a few months ago, but Astral Glamour is the total experience: three discs’ worth of everything extant involving two of the band’s three principals, guitarists Bruno McQuillan and Anton Hayman. (The third, bass monster Jim Welton, a/k/a L. Voag, a/k/a Amos, deserves his own anthology.)
If you’re prepared for a rewarding slog, go for the longer set: Appreciating the Homosexuals for the process band they were means confronting their fondness for the unfinished or finished-and-then-de-finished. Astral Glamour is loaded with promising jams, fragments, perky melodies detourned by freakishly mannered singing, appearances by a Uruguayan painter, progressive tilts at sideways riffs, and seven unfinished instrumentals recently overdubbed with McQuillan’s attempts to remember the words. Occasionally, the band blows a hole through the middle of the target, just to prove they can: the Dada disco incinerator “Soft South Africans,” the 94-second art-punk slalom “Vociferous Slam,” a dance song called “You’re Not Moving the Way You’re Supposed To” with an enormous chorus, maybe some others. But much more often they deliberately mis-aim, or move the target, or frame the target as an art installation and question its ontology. Even their first single, “Hearts in Exile,” was proleptically altered: deepened by a savage dub mix that washes away all but a few shreds of guitar and makes McQuillan’s squealing harmonica and condensed, imagistic lyrics seem like they’re being reeled in from the void. (A more straightforward, previously unheard mix is on both new releases as well.) Most of these songs are deliberately broken; possibility spills out of their fractures.
The Homosexuals [in Exile], featuring original Homosexuals frontman Bruno Aleph Wizard, play the Knitting Factory July 23 and Tommy’s Tavern in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, July 24.