Released 20 years ago in November 1998, this hard punching single from the Lo Fidelity Allstars reached number 36 in the UK singles charts. Signed to Skint Records, the group were a lot more than just 'big beat'. They were hotly tipped for big things in 1998, and excitement was brewing around their dark, eclectic brew of disco-punk.
That year, they released their superb and underrated debut album 'How To Operate With A Blown Mind', a genre-fusing masterpiece that has become a cult classic. With a sound that fused hip hop, soul, alt-rock, techno, funk and house music, their sample-heavy electronic constructions were dubbed "skunk rock" by the members of the band, originally formed in Leeds before relocating to London and then moving to big beat capital Brighton.
'Battleflag' began life as a remix of a song by American outfit Pigeonhed, which turned out so well that it developed into one of the key tracks on '...Blown Mind'. A chunky slab of hip hop funk with fierce, foul-mouthed rap lines, superb use of analogue synths and hard crushing beats, the track is another fine example of the Lo Fidelity Allstars knack for invigorating, raw edged grooves. The Albino Priest (aka Matt Ward) explained "The Pigeonhed remix was the first remix we ever did and we wanted to make it a good one. When we started we tried to keep some of the original music but none of it apart from the vocals fitted with the ideas we had... We only found out recently that there was a Prince lyric included in the Pigeonhed vocals and we got fucked over and delayed by legal red tape. We ended up deciding to re-record the whole track without the offending lyric.”
The re-recorded version of the track and its B sides turned out to be last recordings to feature vocalist and punk poet The Wrekked Train (aka Dave Randall), who quit the band due to alleged disagreements over musical direction. Keyboardist Sheriff Jon Stone (real name Matt Harvey) also departed from the group, who would revert to a tidier, somewhat less edgy sound for their future releases.
'Battleflag' didn't do as well in the charts as it deserved to here in the UK, but it was a major hit on American alternative rock radio, reaching number 6 on the Billboard Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart. In 1999 they were the best-selling British band in America, shifting over 400,000 albums.
They returned in 2000 with the 'Ghostmutt' EP, followed by the more commercial-sounding 2002 album 'Don't Be Afraid Of Love'. After a change of record label, they were back in 2009, releasing their third LP 'Northern Stomp'. There hasn't been any new material since 2015's 'Fire Reigns' single and the 2016 track 'Darkness Rolling'. Nothing much has been heard of The Wrekked Train, apart from an appearance on 'The Snow Falls' from The Baldwin Brothers' 2006 album 'The Return of the Golden Rhodes', and a vocal contribution to 'Rest Easy' from Half's 2016 debut 'Here Lies'. Founder member Phil Ward also releases music as Lord Warddd, as well as occasionally playing DJ sets under the Lo Fidelity Allstars name. The group's drummer Johnny Machin sadly passed away earlier this year.