Album #89: Asbestos Guitars – Isolation Tapes

  • Released: 2020
  • Origin: Leeds, England
  • Label: Self-released
  • Best Track: Flexitime

Does this count as an album? Dan Hyndman from Mush, who released one of my favourite records of 2020 so far, has kept himself occupied during the lockdown by writing and recording a collection of tracks from home and uploading them to Bandcamp, under the name Asbestos Guitars.

And yes, other than that it has no physical release, I class it as an album by every metric. It’s of album length, has ten tracks that are intended to be played in the order they’re listed, and carries a theme – a very topical theme at that.

A fate also suffered in recent weeks by the likes of Cable Ties and Riz Ahmed, it’s unfortunate for Mush that the release of their politically charged debut 3D Routine has coincided with a time when nobody is really talking about politics, even though it’s a subject far from irrelevant to COVID-19. In response, and put together in just ten days, Isolation Tapes is a collection of what Hyndman describes as “poorly recorded jams” that represents perhaps the most bang up-to-the-minute musical account of the world in its current state.

You can tell that from titles like ‘Lockdown’, ‘Curtain Twitcher’, and the wonderfully scuzzy opener ‘Covid Cash Cow’. Hyndmans distinctively goofy vocals, reminding me of characters from The Ren & Stimpy Show, make it hard to discern the lyrics, but you certainly get the gist. ‘I’ll Pay Your Fine’ seems to be aimed at wazzocks ignoring the lockdown, and the Pavementy ‘Flexitime’ is probably the pick of the tracks – good enough to be in Mush’s main canon for me.

“Poorly recorded jams” they may be, but the collection has structure. ‘Covid Cash Cow’ sounds like an opener, ‘Primitive Science’ like a closer, the lower-tempo tracks are somewhere in the middle and the thing is punctuated with a couple of instrumentals. Sure, it’s a bit cobbled together and rough around the edges, but what do you expect?

I’ve known artists to delay and deliberate over their albums for years in a quest to make them absolutely perfect, and come up with something far worse than what Hyndman has done in his bedroom, with a few instruments and a tape recorder, in less than a fortnight.

The full album can be heard here, and why not bung him a donation? I will when I’m less skint.

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