ALBUM REVIEW
Dominic Valvona




Extradition Order  ‘American Prometheus’
(Blang/Gare du Nord/HLP19/I Blame/Jezus Factory) 20th February 2020


Willed on by a whole quintet of label facilitators, the first album in a good few years from the excitable and soulful no wave Warrington troupe Extradition Order is a poignant return to the American history books. Dedicated in part to founding member Nick Boardman who passed away in 2018 (his legacy permeates this album, whether as a guiding influence or through his bass hooks and singing), the Order’s vessel this time around is “the destroyer of worlds” polyglot genius behind the fateful A-bomb Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer. Taking the album’s title from the Oppenheimer biography of the same name, American Prometheus is a guide to a visceral concept of the lamentable, profane and hysterical. Just as the band did with their both pining and erratic opus to the Kennedy dynasty on the 2015 Kennedy LP, the extended cast of unfortunate and listless wives, lovers, set adrift family members, rivals and enablers are given a voice in the linear story of this incredible scientist; one who, as it turns out, had quite the checkered and controversial life story.

From the very outset, a gilded pathway was laid out for the privileged N.Y. city born physicist, as succinctly raved-up on the opening meeting of post-punk and northern soul ‘Daddy, Give Me Your Money’: A rattle and roll party-ish rambunctious union of James White, Dexys and the B52s. Money and connections aside, you still need that beautiful mind and Oppenheimer had the genius gene in spades. Obviously, and for good reason his CV is overshadowed for his integral part in putting together the apocalyptic atom bomb – two of which, the Fat Boy and Fat Man, were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the summer of 1945; covered by the Order on the raucous with theatrical bent ‘Fat Man, Thin Man’ -, but beyond that he was also instrumental in developing theories on black holes and quantum field theory. Oppenheimer would go on to denounce the bomb he helped create, suffering recriminations throughout the remainder of his career for speaking out. It also didn’t help that in the paranoid age of McCarthyism that, though never openly a supporter, he donated to many left wing causes. He also seemed to be orbiting those circles and even had affairs with two paid-up members of the cause. Famously, Oppenheimer would not only lose his security clearance but be snubbed, three times, for a Noble Prize (1945, ’51 and ’67). A link back to Extradition Order’s previous interest, JFK would, before fate cruelly took its cause, offer him a lifetime achievement award as a sort of conciliatory gesture of recognition.

 

American Prometheus presents the portrait of a fallen figure, an emotionally charged evisceration of a complicated man. Of course there’s many parallels to be drawn with the here and now. Songs such as the hooting ‘America First’ – Funboy Three lose the plot with early Adam And The Ants and Richard Hell – and brassy soul number ‘Manhattan’ both resonate with current themes of bullish political isolationism and sexism; the first, a reference to the isolated sloganism of that original movement of American Nationalism (which in its 1930s appeasement of Hitler and aggrandizement of such anti-Semitic national heroes as Charles Lindbergh, attempted to stand alone outside the international community), the second, the plaintive tale of the highly educated, articulate and “sexual” Kitty Puering, stifled and limited, stuck mothering two children on the Los Alamos military base in New Mexico after marrying Oppenheimer (another sorry tale in itself, Kitty originally started an affair with the scientist whilst already married; pregnant with Oppenheimer’s child, she would divorce her husband and remarry in quick time).

With colliery soul requiems, prowling hints of Blurt, cheerleader Grease rah-rah and bursts of My Life Story, The Pop Group, Style Council and The Mekons, Extradition Order blow open the myths and dramas behind the conflicted Oppenheimer: warts and all. American Prometheus is another mini triumph from a band that manages to bridge the fury and wrath of punk with the contorting squawks and funk of no wave and the brassy heralded romantic yearns of northern soul: good going guys. Expect to see this one in our albums of 2020.



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