Can't Get Started

by Pete Um

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    17 track selection by NOCHEXXX of various Um works with hand screenprinted sleeve, lyric sheet and sleevenotes in thick PVC sleeve.

    Pete Um
    Can't Get Started
    Grist 0005

    It takes a while to enter Pete Um's world: his songs are brief, dense and ramshackle; he revels in a reviewer's dismissal of his live act as "grindingly awkward shithop", and wears his self-doubt on his sleeve. Can't Get Started is an ironic title, for Um is prolific across videos, blogs and music. But this 10", a condensed Best Of, is a remarkable, coherent document, an excellent introduction to Um's misfit creativity. Whoever compiled this, possibly associate Nochexxx, interviewed alongside Um for an article mapping the Alternative Cambridge music scene (The Wire 325) - has selected melancholy gems rather than eccentric freakouts. These 17 songs don't waste your time, and repeated listenings underscore Um's talent for crafting poetic vehicles carrying memories of Holger Czukay and Syd Barrett.
    One of Barrett's last songs was "Wolfpack", and here is Um's "Wolves", in which the pursuing pack seems to be music itself. In spite of its howling and chanting, the song is delicate, a study of vulnerability. The subject recurs in "Built To Spill", and "You Will Never Let Me Fall" has Syd-alike vocals, bathed in reverb and quivering guitar: "I'm a slow bomb, I'm a sad boy, but I will cure myself before you cure me." Once you accept Um's ad hoc working methods, realisation dawns that there isn't a weak track here, and if there's a fault, it's that everything is too short. Um has an answer for that too: the sexual innuendo of "That's Too Close", in which a girl with sparkly lipstick chides him for not making his songs longer.

    Clive Bell in The Wire

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I saw No sun no more I was withdrawn Here, then gone What I did, done Quick but not rare Here, then not there Seems not, but is, fair I opened my curtains to the night.
In hot South West In olden day They punched & took his food away They never seemed to get the gist Belittled him & chained his wrist And then one day the sun came up And he was down & burned & cut His situ he did analyse His status he did redefine He'd been working with the world And keeping his own flag all furled And now perhaps he'd fight for him For not to do would be a sin In point of fact In lieu of truth I have and am a wasted youth Who stares in shock at thirty six I've caned my stock of teenage kicks I'm sorry if I stole all yours Whilst we were staring at my floor My fatal floor.
Each way they get me I go down And there's nothing round to bring me round Maybe I'm unconscious, maybe dead Maybe I have death inside my head Maybe all my memories are lies Maybe I never lived and I will never die My, life is hard.
There may be times When your spirit is strong And others will sense that you can't do no wrong And they'll sit by your side And map out your life You must listen to them Let those others decide Because you are a fool A babe in the woods With the meat-eating trees You can't come to no good You'll tilt at a mill Cos you're all built to spill You will You will You will.
But three days hence Before my underwear is soldered And three days then till the breakup of the marriage Twixt yours untruly And that grinning uber-banshee But no ex-girlfriend Will be really super-sorry.
You can't take art to mend a man So why did I misunderstand And place my soul in the muse's care To perish on the waiting-room chair I may endure in flesh, it's true But I'm deader than a dodo, dude.
Rainy day women & easy men I can tear it all apart I just can't put it back together again. I live with myself For it seems that I must I'm one of three or four I know I can't trust.
Princes of the night don't sell their souls We princes do not think in terms of goals Ambition is a mortal trait we spurn The riches little people seek to earn Are shiny toys to keep a babe amused Our concerns are very much removed And yet they are bound up with all of you. So we say: Die, die, die. Yeah we say Die, die, die.
The bit-rate of my heart Sank from the start Until I was more machine Than an awkward teen.
I don't know what I'd do without you.
The circle is shrinking and I'm in it's centre The music is wolves howling to enter Auction house booty flexes in spaces My shelving collapses from records I chase That which you wish for turns on you man My fate death by drowning in all that I am. I can feel it. I don't understand it. Wolves.
She's got glittery lips She bumps my bicep with her tits And I won't take her up on it I won't even think about it While she's going on and on About the thing that's wrong About my brilliant songs They're too short - they should be more... ...long.
Put your heavy load aside Let lager be your yellow bride Your worries are too numerous The sum's too hard for some of us Perhaps tomorrow, not today We'll wake up in a different way And feel no pain and no regret Not need the liquid's dull effect to shield us from the judging sun That shows the world what we've become.
Even in these quiet days Cold comforting from lazy praise My records rot in Henson's house We all scratch at the sneagle louse The veg box lands on Wednesday We juice the fruit in groups these days I shouldn't tax my poor pen hand The mouse attacks, this cat is banned I Ebay in our Doctor Who We cluster round in sets of two Meal falls meally to the floor Corn and pulses, meat and more.
If you feel you value truth I would advise getting loose If you want to do a song Just try not to take too long You can jam by yourself You don't need nobody else We all individual You can edit out the smell You can fuck with luck You can walk like a truck You don't need to follow fashion With your pants full of passion You can show them where to go By walking out the door You can smile like a knife You can change somebody's life You can, you can, you can.
T'is the first day of the new year And the charcoal in my heart stove Has been caned by love for poison I'm a variable, I'm a booze droid I'm a slow bomb, I'm a sad boy But I will cure myself before you cure me I am a Taurus & I owe it to you You have given me the whole world And your love gives me a Ready brek defence I can afford to go half mad For you will never let me fall You will never let me fall.
I am not so special You know they laugh at me at home But thankyou for your kindness And now have to go My art is like your labour And I have many songs And I have toiled my whole life through Which wasn't very long.


released June 19, 2012


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Pete Um Cambridge, UK

"A master of the miniature electro-acoustic song-poem, a form he has more or less invented and crystallised himself, his work displays a sardonic wit combined with a healthy misanthropy, in marvellous micro-collages of voice, instruments, samples, and electronics."

-Ergo Phizmiz
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