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If you thought Henry Cow was a pretty political band to start with, you may be even more taken aback by the Art Bears, which was put together following Henry Cow's demise by former Cows Chris Cutler (percussion), Fred Frith (guitar, violin), and Dagmar Krause (voice). On The World as it is Today and its predecessor, Winter Songs, the Art Bears move away from the long-form art rock of Henry Cow and get much, much more politically explicit: song titles like 'The Song of the Dignity of Labour Under Capital' and 'The Song of Investment Capital Overseas' almost sound like Monty Python gags today, but if any humor was intended it was clearly meant to be mordant.
Frankly, the lyrics are so overwrought and portentous that it's hard to take them seriously. But the music is something else again. Cutler and Frith are natural collaborators; Cutler's drumming always rides a very fine line between the scattershot and the funky, while Frith bounces his horror-show guitar noise and carnival piano off of Cutler's grooves with manic abandon and fearsome inventiveness. And Krause's singing is just as inventive; she whoops, croons and screams her way through the density of Cutler's lyrics without a hesitation or misstep. Easy listening it isn't, but it's sure worth hearing. Frith fans, in particular, should consider this album a must-own.