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MOLLY HALF HEAD (Buy CDs by this artist)
Sulk (UK Playtime) 1993 (Columbia) 1994
Dunce (Columbia) 1995

This Manchester quartet, whose complex arrangements and skewed pseudo-poetry have roots in the members' avant-noise origins, produce an intricate and original post-punk roar. But despite superior instrumental chops, it's singer Paul Bardsley who remains front and center. Second only to Mark E. Smith in the Potentially Annoying Vocal Affectation Pantheon, Bardsley is fond of pronouncing almost all of his consonants as z's. That idiosyncrasy aside, Sulk is a revelation. Moody yet muscular, it manages to blend the tuneful dynamics of grunge with Bardsley's Smith-like inscrutable dada-esque scribblings ("Green hits a hole that just about buries me/Peeling spuds was taking five/Sad therapy? No."). The domestic blisters of "Barny" and the scarily obsessive "Taste of You" highlight a stunningly assured debut filled with songs that try to say something in a way only some listeners are likely to understand.

The more challenging sophomore effort, co-produced by Craig Leon, rocks harder as Bardsley waxes even less intelligibly (imagine a drunken Zima pitchman singing the lines "In grimstitch snortel form you can't be nursed/It's time to learn to take your soup with fork"). Here's one band for which lyric sheets are mandatory — if all but useless.

After the end of Molly Half Head, Bardsley and his songwriter partner, Phil Murphy, formed a band called Wireless.

[Doug Brod]