Horn of Plenty presents Best Forgotten, the first-ever survey of early tapes by avant-anarcho-punks The Apostles.
Founded in London in 1979 by a rotating cast of characters who came and went around its eventual frontman, Andy Martin, The Apostles were a product of their moment; a group of friends grappling with the political, racial, and cultural tensions of the time. Embracing unfettered creative experimentation, while exploring the personal as poetic, themes of queer liberation, radical leftism, and anti-racism, Best Forgotten – drawn from tapes recorded within the limited means of bare necessity in Islington & Hackney squats between 1981-1983 – offers a rare window into this lost world. 40 years on, within an eerily similar political and economic climate, its message remains as relevant and urgent as it was then.
Imbued with immediacy, the artefacts of lo-fi and DIY, and the spirit of chance, the material comprising Best Forgotten captures a fledgling band evolving through various line-ups, styles, and techniques with the means at hand: ramshackle instruments, rudimentary electronics, basic tape recorders and boom boxes, bookending a period of constant experimentation that defined their early years. While associated with other anarcho-punk bands of their moment like Crass, Poison Girls, Conflict and Flux of Pink Indians, this 86 minute collection of rare material – incorporating the early tape collages of fellow traveller Ian Rawes (later famed for his London Sound Survey project) and other avant-garde practices and approaches – sits more comfortably with the output of experimental post-punk bands like Lemon Kittens, Alternative TV or The Door & The Window.
While interest in the Apostles’ activities has only grown over the years, particularly after being namechecked by Ty Segall in a 2014 interview, these early explorations have largely remained inaccessible until now. In a 2009 article charting the band’s history, Andy Martin gives these early tapes a mere footnote and stated that, in his opinion, they are ‘Best Forgotten’. With respect, we beg to differ.
Our take: The short history of 80s anarcho punks the Apostles on their Discogs page sums up the band’s unique approach very well: “The Apostles were an experimental post-punk band who developed within the confines of the 1980s Anarcho Punk scene in the UK, but did not necessarily adhere to the aesthetics of that movement.” While the Apostles eventually, once they moved from releasing cassettes to vinyl, evolved into a somewhat more conventional anarcho-punk band (I wrote about their excellent second single, Blow It Up Burn It Down Kick It Till It Breaks, in our Staff Picks section a while back), the tracks on Best Forgotten compile an earlier era for the project when they sound less like a band at all, and more like a container for a wide range of musical experiments. In that way, this era of the Apostles reminds me of groups like Alternative TV, Television Personalities, and Cleaners from Venus… all of them very different from one another, but united by the approach of following their curiosity and pushing at the edges of their respective sounds. Best Forgotten does a great job of documenting that approach, feeling less like an album and more like a documentary, and while it’s hard to imagine anyone saying that Best Forgotten contains a wealth of great songs, it is rich with vibe. It practically smells like a squat in early 80s London, cold and damp and desperate, but at least with the free time to get weird and creative (even if the means to document that creativity are of the make-do variety). I imagine this era of the Apostles’ music flies way over the heads of Conflict and Crass-loving crusties in both their time and ours, but this is tailor-made for punk intellectuals with a taste for the artistically confrontational music of groups like Alternative TV (particularly their second album, Vibing Up the Senile Man), Virgin Prunes, and early Cabaret Voltaire.