The Cravats’ one, great musical handicap was that they were indescribable. Incisive, innovative musicianship was everywhere, yet the songs themselves defied comparison to anyone else’s. The lyrics, meanwhile, were uncommon, vivid, and forcefully-delivered, so reviewers (both friendly and hostile) focused on those. But the part that burrowed straight for the wee chunk of your brain marked “fight or flight” on the meat-cutters’ chart was the unsettling throb and lurch of the massively-amplified sax, guitars, bass, drums, and whatever other alien sound-forms and distortions The Cravats felt like heaving into the mix.
Their devoted record-company, Small Wonder, had no idea how to present them, either, but they kept on releasing Cravats records long after they’d bid adieu to the rest of their visionary catalog (among them The Cure, Patrik Fitzgerald, Crass, Poison Girls, Menace, Bauhaus, and Fatal Microbes). Peel played and played them, recording four Cravats Peel sessions 1979-82.
The Cravats formed after a Stranglers show in Birmingham in 1977: they borrowed £400 from Shend’s mum and self-released their debut 7” Gordon in July 1978. Small Wonder liked the single so much that they picked up 500 copies and booked the band into the studio with producer Bob Sargeant; the result was the Burning Bridges single, soon followed by Precinct. Next, the band relocated to Torquay for a full week in 1980 to record their first album – on an 8-track in a hotel basement: The Cravats In Toytown made it into the Top 20 in the independent charts. Two more Small Wonder 45s followed, You’re Driving Me and Off The Beach, sandwiched around their first project with Penny Rimbaud (who succeeded in making them even darker with ‘Rub Me Out’).
Despite their collectability, the Small Wonder records remained un-reissued until Penny Rimbaud obtained the recently discovered multi-track Toytown masters and re-interpreted and remixed them in his own unique, eccentric style, as Alice’s Adventures In Toytown.