The Muffins

Open City (1985)

A compilation of material recorded from 1977-80. For the most part, these songs capture the band during a transitional period, between their earlier Canterbury influenced days and their later RIO direction. The first seven tracks are taken from their 1980 demo tape and although there are a few remnants of 1978’s Manna/Mirage, songs like “Antidote to Drydock” and “Under Dali’s Wing” are far more abrasive and avant-garde than anything found on that album. Two of the coolest songs here, “Vanity, Vanity” and “Dancing in Sunrise, Switzerland” are outtakes from Fred Frith’s “Gravity”, an excellent album on which the Muffins played as one of the backup bands. The next songs include a few live pieces and improvisations as well as “Expected Freedom”, an outtake from Manna/Mirage that sounds quite different than anything else they’ve done. With the track listing in reverse chronological order, it’s interesting to end things with the fourteen minute, very heavily Canterbury influenced “Not Alone”, apparently one of the first pieces the band wrote. Incredible that they were making such first-rate music so early in their formation, even if the influences were obvious. One thing to note is that the sound quality on this compilation is fantastic the whole way through, even the live songs. It’s a great album that works well as an introduction to the Muffins as well as being of interest to people who are already familiar with them.