Let’s start with the short version, though it will probably just confuse things. Officer! is a collective of one, or two, or more musicians, non-musicians, trouvères, friends, acquaintances and strays who, since 1983, have given life to the songs of Mick Hobbs.

The longer version is simple enough. Officer is Mick Hobbs. Often with Felix Fiedorowicz. Sometimes with Bill Gilonis, Rick Wilson, and other alumni from The Work, Family Fodder and like-minded, late-seventies bands. This loose scene, which we’ll call ‘RIO-for-lack-of-a-better’, was the hard-edged, precociously experimental sixth form, from which Officer! emerged, with fistfuls of poetry, ready to strike out on its own. 

As the world would soon hear, Officer!’s take on things was a little gentler, no less political, and – despite the Yellow Pagean roster that Officer! would eventually amass – a whole lot more individualistic than its little-c collectivist forebears. Where The Work, Mick’s former band, had scratched and bitten its edicts onto vinyl, Officer! adopted the language of personal experience, while quoting cheerfully from medieval love songs, Mao Zhedong and Christian spirituals. 

First came 8 New Songs and Cough, two cassettes that a few well-meaning individuals still consider the purest expression of Mick’s ramshackle worldview. Then came Ossification, an opus, and Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes, its long-lost, lime-green cousin.

Then, for a while, everything went quiet, as far as the rest of the world was concerned. Mick joined The Momes, then Half Japanese, and did a bit of production here and there. But despite all this, Officer! kept going, behind closed doors, in recording studios, or at the very least, in Mick Hobbs’ head.

In 2014, finally, the doors opened, and the world was allowed to hear some of these recordings, and nestle down, again, inside Mick Hobbs’ head. First there was Dead Unique, an album recorded in the nineties, with an American configuration of Officer!, but shelved for reasons too convoluted or boring to explain. Then came reissues, two live resurrections, and a bona fide live album, mixed by Deerhoof’s John Dieterich.

And now, at the cusp of a new decade and potential apocalypse, Officer! has stirred itself into life once again. With complex arrangements and a simple, stirring melody, ‘Brexit means Toxic’ is the Officer! of old, tackling the worst of society’s modern innovations. Let the past serve the present.

Oli Pyper

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