I wish the ape a lot of success.
Stereo Sisterhood / Blog Graveyard:
- After The Sabbath ; All Ages ; Another Nickel ; Bachelor ; BangtheBore ; Beard (R.I.P.) ; Beyond The Implode (R.I.P.) ; Black Editions ; Black Time ; Bull ; Cocaine & Rhinestones ; Dancing ; DCB ; Did Not Chart ; Diskant (R.I.P.) ; DIYSFL ; Dreaming (R.I.P.?) ; Dusted in Exile ; Echoes & Dust ; Every GBV LP ; Flux ; Free ; Freq ; F-in' Record Reviews ; Garage Hangover ; Gramophone ; Grant ; Head Heritage ; Heathen Disco/Doug Mosurock ; Jonathan ; KBD ; Kulkarni ; Landline/Jay Babcock ; Lexicon Devil ; Lost Prom (R.I.P.?) ; LPCoverLover ; Midnight Mines ; Musique Machine ; Mutant Sounds (R.I.P.?) ; Nick Thunk :( ; Norman ; Peel ; Perfect Sound Forever ; Quietus ; Science ; Teleport City ; Terminal Escape ; Terrascope ; Tome ; Transistors ; Ubu ; Upset ; Vibes ; WFMU (R.I.P.) ; XRRF (occasionally resurrected). [If you know of any good rock-write still online, pls let me know.]
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
THE THIRTY BEST RECORDS OF 2008: Part #4
15. Christina Carter - Texas Working Blues (Blackest Rainbow cassette)
Following the recorded output of Charalambides / Christina Carter can be a frustrating business. Anyone who’s seen the Carters live, or heard their best records, will know the extraordinary depths of power and catharsis their music can draw upon. But pick the wrong selection of product off the shelf, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re the most pretentious and self-involved musicians who ever walked the earth. For instance, Christina’s ‘official’ release for 2008 – ‘Original Darkness’ on Kranky – seems to me to be an unsatisfying and difficult affair, piecing together disjointed musical fragments and spoken word monotone into a confounding and uncomfortable failed(?) experiment. This micro-label cassette release meanwhile (no I don’t actually own a copy – I copped a sneaky download), is just plain beautiful - one of the most engrossing and satisfying solo Christina joints to date. In contrast to recent stark, brittle outings, the sound here is instantly warm and welcoming – maybe that’s deliberate, to suit the songs, maybe it’s just the fuzzy, analogue cassette factor. Either way, it’s a winner. This is exactly the kind of music I always WANT Christina to make, and those familiar with her work will know the score by now I’m sure; dense, happy spiderwebs of heavily effected, finger-picked electric guitar notes hanging in the air like bright yellow smoke, tracing ghosts of divine melodies that never quite seem to coalesce, whilst sustained vocal syllables cut through like hot knives, comforting and settling, telling you exactly what’s up, even when you can’t make out the words. To say nothing of some of those star-gazing Garcia-esque solos you always assumed Tom was responsible for on the Charalambides records. Blessed with more in the way of form than is often the case, this is fascinating, wholly honest and idiosyncratic songcraft with a strange, non-linear psychedelic desert drift that recalls nothing so much as the testimonies of earlier Texas psyche-blues travellers Cold Sun. I think this would sound amazing whilst stoned; y’know, where you get into that headspace where you’re listening to music, and the spaces between the notes seem to stretch out, becoming more important than the notes themselves..? This is the kind of record that gets you to that stage whilst sober. “I want to use my voice for good, however small the good, in this world of foolish dreams”, Christina sings on ‘Preserve Our Face’, and so under the spell are you by that point, there’s nothing to do but to spit our a slurred, delay pedal “HELL, yeah” from deep within yourself, and slip back down to dig the sunrise, or something.
Mp3>A Blind Eye
14. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash (Matador/Domino)
Back in May, I said:
“Were this not the work of a man with so much history and expectation still hanging over him, we might even be able to appreciate it for what it is. And what it is is an extraordinary, bold and deeply STRANGE concoction of sweet, stoned fuzz and vertiginous audiophile thunder, cross-pollinating full band progressive rock blowouts with more hallucinatory, laugh-out-loud wordplay than ever before, all assembled like some grand architectural folly, with Malkmus’ perfectionist production aesthetic searching the studio console as usual for some manner of rock perfection that is never quite ‘old’, never quite ‘new’, but is certainly pretty oblivious to the social/cultural context of making a record in 2008. The results are meandering and monstrous in equal measure, an hour or so of genuinely multi-faceted, imaginative music that makes perfect, goofy rock n’ roll sense but is at same time completely off the map, answerable to nothing except the inscrutably odd logical-musical pathways of the hallowed Malkmus brain. Previous solo Malk escapades may have paid reference in passing to such comfortingly dusty fetishes as Turkish psych, obscure folk rock and European prog, but it’s only on ‘Real Emotional Trash’ that he’s really dared to step fully out of his own ‘indie’ shadow, putting together the kind of powerhouse band you kinda suspect he’s always wanted to have backing him up (that’s veteran Jicks Joanna Bolme and Mike Clark, with Janet “she-is-so-awesome-we-don’t-even-need-to-bother-pointing-it-out” Weiss taking over on drums of course), and playing a brand of big-in-every-sense, capital letters Rock Music whose central axis veers between CLASSIC on one hand and WEIRD on the other, and proceeds to take no prisoners.
[ … ]
There’s a definite feeling on ‘Real Emotional Trash’ that this time Steve’s got his Orange amp and his boutique fuzz pedals and fingers itching to get busy. His scrabble board keeps on delivering the goods, he’s got a band behind him who could chase Robert Fripp round a labyrinth all day, and he’s gonna fuckin’ JAM, regardless of what anybody wants or expects. And I for one say: bring it on Steve, I can dig it!”
Well, don't know about you, but here at the end of December, he's still got me "dancing like a pitbull, minus the meat".
13. Hotpants Romance – It’s A Heatwave (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
“You said my lipstick was the best you’ve tasted / c’mon baby let’s get wasted!” Yes! Hotpants Romance are here, and their album - 12 songs in 17 minutes - is nothing less than inspiring in it’s wrecked, Ramonetastic, homemade pop splendour. And they cram a pleasing amount of variety and ideas into that seventeen minutes too; “Shake” and “Blow My Fuse” are the perfect grrl-garage party anthems, like if Thee Headcoatees had shaken off Billy and learned to play their own instruments, whilst “Effing & Jeffing” and “We Used To Meet” lurch more toward shrieking, electrifying noise-punk, and “I Don’t Wanna” is the purest and most touching forty-five seconds of DIY pop yearning you’ll hear this year. It’s always a thrill to hear a band who set enthusiasm at ‘10’, technique and musical know-how at ‘who cares’, and kick your ass into remembering that that’s exactly how it should be. Can’t sing? – just shout! Got a guitar? – whatta you waiting for, hit the fucking thing! And if you’ve got the songs in your head and the awesomeness in your heart that these girls have, you’ll be the best band in town within minutes. Magic. With a fucking ‘k’, if you must.
Mp3>Effing & Jeffing
12. Congregation - s/t (Bronzerat)
This year, Congregation played for a capacity crowd of about twenty people in the really nice vegetarian cafe down the road from my work, and they were very loud and very good. I enjoyed it when a late-working co-worker walked past the front window and stared in with a classic ‘these damn beatniks with their rhythm & blues!’ type expression. Congregation also brought out their first album this year, and it is also very good. It’s got a real professional sounding production job and, whilst my initial instinct would be to want to hear this band in a more garagey live-with-one-mic set up, it works well for them. There’s some big echo, heavy delay and slap-back on the guitar, some overdubs and suchlike, but, most importantly, Victoria’s songs are allowed to stretch out into some darker territory than is communicated by their live show, with a very real sense of vicious depression creeping in between the more raucous r’n’b footstompers; songs such as “Dose Of Hell” and “Never Forgive” deliver as their titles promise.
Reviewing Congregation’s first single, I ventured: “This is some vitally genuine, minimal electric blues right here – not ‘genuine’ in the sense of paying cack-handed homage to some never-existed traffic jam of blues cliché, but genuine in the sense that it’s music with guts and heart, wrought from exactly the elements it needs to hit your own personal spot, wherever you are in time & space, and not or note nor beat more.”
And, after seeing them at 2007’s End Of The Road festival (although probably with memories of a couple of other shows I saw them at in mind too), I got a bit carried away and cranked out the following; “Benjamin Prosser is a shit-hot rhythm/slide guitarist, playing consummate electric blues and boogie that raises the spirits of Bukka White and John Lee Hooker, recalling just how propulsive, spine-chilling and flat-out awesome this sound was before the late-‘60s generation drove it headfirst into formalised, shrieking self-parody. Victoria Yeulet sings sweet, subtle and impossible to ignore, with the commanding authority of an Irma Thomas or a Bessie Smith. A bass drum thump and Victoria’s leg bells bring the mama-heartbeat. Basically, Congregation jam together some of the best elements of some of the best fucking music ever made, and bring it straight back to us, ragged and powerful in a way that never goes out of fashion. ”
I think all of that still basically holds true, so why repeat myself? I think these guys are fucking great, essentially.
Mp3>Hard To Bear
11. Howlin Rain - Magnificent Fiend (Birdman)
Earlier this year, I said:
“Howlin Rain’s less-is-NOT-more restatement of the grandest ‘70s rock truth is a thing of absolute beauty when it comes together, and it’s a shame that the rabidly enthusiastic review I had planned of their ‘Magnificent Fiend’ album ground to a halt upon the realisation that however, well, magnificent the record’s first side may be, the second half sadly loses it’s focus a bit and drifts off into confusion. But on those three hefty tunes that open proceedings – BOY HOWDY, do they ever get it right!
The way than Ethan Miller has grown into a singer is in itself a wonder – from being the babbling, echoplexed drunk nearly ruining all those early Comets On Fire jams a few years ago, he’s now got his tonsils exactly where he wants them, moving effortlessly between a laidback Jerry Garcia croon and a fearless Fogerty bark as the music dictates. And thankfully, in Howlin Rain, that’s exactly what the music dictates. Take all the best bits of early ‘70s ‘Dead and Creedence, add a heroic dose of Blue Oyster Cult’s skyscraping high concept weirdness and a healthy reverence for the dusty, meaty tones of the Hammond and Fender Rhodes, combine with a spirit of positive and reckless invention, as opposed to aimless pastiche, and happy days are here for one and all!
And the lyrics – dear god, the lyrics. Let’s just say that if those of us who value truly extraordinary and inexplicable rock lyrics were to band together and form a club (and perhaps we should), there’d be little doubt that Ethan Miller would be getting our annual grand prize (perhaps the much-coveted B.O.C. medallion?) for this one. The Moorcock-inspired ‘Dancers At The End Of Time’ is pretty cool, but ‘Lord Have Mercy’ takes the biscuit. Whatever headspace Miller inhabits that allows him to belt out stuff like this without fear of ridicule, I want to get there. Lord have mercy indeed.”
So for any aspiring songwriters out there wondering how to do a real proper chorus…
“Mrs. Amelia Underwood,
Carry my heart in your hands!
Jesus will shine on your journey,
Into the Hollow Lands!”
…is how to do a chorus.
I’d pass on Howlin Rain’s advice on the verses too, but it’s still blowin’ my mind too heavily man. Listen and learn.
Mp3>Lord Have Mercy
Friday, December 26, 2008
THE THIRTY BEST RECORDS OF 2008: Part #3
20. Lords - Everyone Is People (Gringo)
Lords’ first album from a couple of years back gets my vote as one of the unexpectedly amazing, inventive and ass-kicking British rock records of the decade. Beginning from their assorted backgrounds in muscular post-hardcore, the three gentlemen of Lords essentially set about dragging their music back through the wilds of gutbucket blues, ‘70s boogie thunder and chaotic jazz-inspired chops, and emerge all the stronger for it, and with a bit of genuine emotional character to boot. I mean, imagine: a heavy rock band who claim they’re gonna fill in the gaps between ZZ Top, Fugazi and Charles Mingus…. and then proceed to actually go ahead and DO IT. ‘Everyone Is People’ finds them refining their approach a bit – the performances are tighter and more reined in than the debut, the production is punchier, with heavier low-end, although they still take it easy on the distortion, which is cool. As before, guitar-tones are essentially clean, but achieve massive heft through the foolproof method of playing really fucking loudly through really good amps. There’s less flailing, bebop drumming, fewer sideways thinkin’ Zoot Horn Rollo guitar licks, and the vocals are perhaps less effective, occasionally resorting to the blooze clichés and Tom Waits crackly phoneline effect that the band’s debut so masterfully side-stepped. All of this would be disappointing, were it not for the work Lords have instead put into THE RIFFS this time around. Oh my lord, THE RIFFS flatten all, like the elephant on the cover. Tunes like “The Things We Do For Money” and “We Shook The Royal Throne” just step right up and demolish that wall of self-deprecation that forbids mild-mannered guys from indie backgrounds from really *rocking the fuck out* in obvious, glorious, unapologetic, fashion, and there’s some real classic “eat this!” back and forth soloing between the two guitarists to enjoy in places too. Naturally though, even in their most out-and-out rockin’ moments, Lords have still got group dynamics and inventiveness to die for, and a wild sense of good humour, resulting in an eventual brew that resembles…. uh, I dunno…. The Magic Band kicking the shit out of Queens Of The Stone Age or something? Put on your Gnarly Man-Rock Hat, just for a minute if you find such things distasteful, and the conclusion becomes self-evident and objective: this shit RULES. No further questions.
Mp3>The Things We Do For Money
19. Birchville Cat Motel - Four Freckle Constellation (Conspiracy Records)
18. Birchville Cat Motel – Gunpowder Temple Of Heaven (Pica Disk)
That there are a lot more people than there used to be out there making long-form drone music of one kind or another is no secret. That some of them have a tendency to poison the well somewhat by putting out lots and lots of it without much concern for quality control, encased within £££-harvesting limited edition, mysterioso formats, safe in the knowledge that this kind of subjectively experienced music is more or less immune to conventional critique, is hardly news either. In fact, as a gripe, it’s getting pretty old, and I should probably can it in future. I wouldn’t want my more rockist (guitar pop-ist?) tendencies to obscure the fact that I do actually listen to a lot of drone / ‘new music’ stuff, and take great pleasure from it. As you may have gathered from my write-up of the Rhys Chatham record, I’m becoming ever more of a sucker for stuff that approaches the musical equivalent of science fiction’s ‘Big Dumb Object’ theory. With this in mind, it is my considered opinion that, for all of his dozen or so annual releases under three or four different names, it is New Zealand’s Campbell Kneale who is the real KEEPER when it comes to the contemporary expression of this kind of music. Or at least, in the process of picking up bits and pieces of his discography here and there, I’ve never heard anything that’s been less than completely extraordinary, and 2008 has been a particularly good year for his Birchville Cat Motel mothership, with two new bone fide masterpieces to add to the trophy rack.
‘Four Freckle Constellation’ continues the work began by the truly astounding (sorry about all the superlatives, but what else can you do?) ‘Scream For Me Long Beach!’ / ‘Our Love Will Destroy The World’ material from a few years back (think Kevin Shields if he’d just kept on going further and further out after ‘Loveless’; think HOOVER OF THE GODS). It ditches the percussion and leftover rock DNA though, concentrating instead on arcs of screeching high end mic feedback and dense, tamboura-ish guitar distortion, ala Matthew Bower’s Sunroof project. As is ever the way with this shit, each track is punishing at first, but within two minutes you’ll hit the comfort zone and your ears will stop itching. Then you can switch off your attention, start doing something else (like writing this review), BUT – this is drone sufficiently powerful that it refuses to stay locked in the background. Ten minutes tops before you find yourself flashing toward gleaming, spectral vistas of…. fuck knows what, but it’s something a mile high and pretty solid, made of diamond, metal and molten lava, approaching fast over the lunar desert. Advice for life # 1: nobody who’s ever uttered the phrase “music to take drugs to” knows what the hell they’re talking about.
‘Gunpowder Temple Of Heaven’ is even better. A single 46 minute piece that seems to go for the jugular of taking on LaMonte Young, Conrad, Riley et al at their own game, it begins as a disconcerting mass of warped radio voices and looped casio-fuzz, but before long a central theme emerges and it sounds …. hmm, how to put this… It sounds as if Campbell Kneale died, and he went to heaven, and they said to him “so, what do you do then?”, and he said “I’m a musician”, and they were like “Oh really, we’ve been waiting for one of those”, and he was like “well then, show me what you’ve got!” And so they lead him to a cathedral organ of cosmic scale and construction – pipes climbing high across the length of the milky way, divine light shining from within, cherubim and angels flitting majestically between them, establishing homesteads, towns and cities scattered across the instrument’s galactic expanse. And so he steps up to the keyboard, cracks his knuckles, tries to vaguely remember the fingering for a real killer minor chord in the upper register, and HOLDS IT DOWN. The result? Perhaps the only time you’ll ever get a chance to say that something called ‘Gunpowder Temple of Heaven’ is appropriately named. Advice for life # 2: To all kids everywhere hunched over delay pedals thinking they’re blowing minds: fuck that dead-end shoegazer bullshit, this is how it’s done.
Mp3>Damn Infinity Hairpie (from ‘Four Freckle Contellation’)
17. Pierced Arrows – Straight To The Heart (Tombstone)
Scarcely more than a few months after breaking up Dead Moon at the end of ’06, Fred and Toody Cole were back in business with a new name, a drummer and – perhaps – new sense of purpose, and on the basis of this ‘debut’, business is good as ever. Fans of Dead Moon will know exactly what they’re getting here, and in fact this is the group’s strongest set for a while, certainly their rawest. Fred launches straight into freaked out anti-war tirades on ‘Guns Of Thunder’ and ‘Black Rainbows’, guitar fuzz set to ‘NASTY’ for a real guttural, heavy psyche sound, but it’s Toody’s ‘Caroline’ that’s the real stand-out, another fist-pounding, self-mythologing hymn to halcyon teenage days and long-lost chances. ‘Shades’ meanwhile is a great, desperate blues, another in a long line of blood-curdling songs that seem to be about the Coles’ own relationship. And, as ever, it’s a mystery how they keep it together so well as a band and as a couple, with Fred on stage spitting blood every night about how “..she plays me like that bass guitar!” A totally wrecked cover of Neil Young’s ‘Mr. Soul’ is another highlight, maxing out the original’s ‘Satisfaction’ steal to great effect. “The Wait”, “Up On A Cloud” and “Lost” are all absolute killers too, captivating enough to stand alongside anything in the Dead Moon back catalogue. And that’s yr lot. So, if you’re in search of innovation, or indeed a fifth chord or a competent guitar solo, do yourself a favour and look elsewhere. But for the rest of us, this is straight ahead, gut-level outlaw rock n’ roll, like red diesel for the stripped down Mad Max buggy that’s gonna get you through the post-apocalyptic wasteland. And it’s great to still have these guys with us keeping the engine running.
Fuck it, this is an amazing album, and I’ve put it WAY too low in this lame top 30; have two Mp3s:
16. Electric Wizard / Reverend Bizarre split 12” (Rise Above)
Yes, I’m afraid that’s actually the cover. Sorry.* When I ordered it off Rise Above’s website they said I was getting the ‘censored version’ too, so god only knows what these antisocial deviants actually wanted to put on the front. Anyway, it certainly proves that Electric Wizard have access to vaults of grizzly ‘70s horror that make my own stash of old Redemption VHS seem rather pale by comparison – but would we expect anything less? Electric Wizard is as Electric Wizard does, and “House On The Borderland”, the side-long weird fiction epic they turn in here, is probably the best thing they’ve done since reforming as a four-piece. When I first played it, my flatmate came up tell me to turn it down cos the bass was making the floor shake, so that’s certainly a good sign. If not * quite * as heavy and hypnotic as the glory-days of ‘Dopethrone’, it’s certainly a welcome bloodthirsty lunge back toward the sick psychedelia of ‘Come My Fanatics’, complete with droning b-movie organ and howling wah-wah leads adding some pallid colour to proceedings. As an attempt to capture the cosmic dread of Edgar Hope Hodgeson’s extraordinary novel in deafening doom metal form, it’s pretty groovy. Admittedly, I don’t remember Hodgeson mentioning any of the “priestesses of black magic” or “apocalyptic rites” about which Jus Osborn grimly intones here, but unimpeachable b-movie logic dictates that if he had found room for them, well the whole thing would have just been EVEN BETER, so we’ll let it slide. On the flipside meanwhile, Reverend Bizarre, Finnish True Doom stalwarts commanded by one Albert Witchfinder (seriously), turn in a characteristically funereal take on Beherit’s ‘The Gates of Nanna’, which gives them a great opportunity to break things down mid-song for an “ave Satan, ave Lucifer” shout-out to their infernal lord & master. I love Reverend Bizarre, and the way they manage to walk a fine line between utter austerity and earnest dedication to gothic despair on the one hand, yet on the other hand they’re so self-consciously goofy and OTT, with their slow motion drum solos, giant crucifix necklaces, faux-gregorian chanting, it’s… beautiful. Unusually for The ‘Rev, who’ll gladly drone on the point of utter tedium on their own albums, their track here is a bit short to justify a whole side of vinyl, so they bulk things out a bit by reversing it and sticking the backwards version on the end. Genius. Old school doom doesn’t get much better than this disc, anyway.
*Seriously, I hope nobody’s angered or upset; I know I’ve got no justification for perpetrating such nasty & degrading imagery, even when it is viewed through the comfortingly kitsch lens of ‘70s euro-horror. I considered not posting the cover, but on reflection decided that would just seem censorious and sensationalist, and would have sent you all straight over to google image search to find it anyway.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
THE THIRTY BEST RECORDS OF 2008: Part #2
25. Rhys Chatham – A Crimson Grail: For 400 Electric Guitars (Table Of The Elements)
Yep, FOUR HUNDRED. Glenn Branca may, allegedly, have done the ‘guitar army’ thing first and, arguably, with greater sonic imagination, but it’s Chatham’s ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ compositions (also see: ‘Guitar Trio’, ‘Two Gongs’ etc.) that have brought a more ferocious, single-minded WEIGHT to the table. Whether that becomes a weight of transcendence or annihilation can be hair’s breadth decision for the individual listener, but one thing’s for sure: his shit is heavy. When rock fans such as myself are drawn to recordings like this, we inevitably tend to approach them in sweaty-palmed anticipation of an unfathomable, brain-imploding multiplicity of string-mangling Thurston Moore caterwauling. And we are, equally inevitably, disappointed, then eventually awed, by the extent to which a legion of axes, split into battalions playing carefully scored overlapping tonal patterns, end up sounding not like guitars as we know them at all, but quite a lot like a more conventional, acoustic orchestra, as the timbre of individual instruments is lost within the vast space of the concert hall, their rock-power nullified as they are melded into a hive mind of pure sound, like a living string synthesizer the size of Antarctica. Particularly amazing on this recording is the way in which massed overtones seem to linger in the rafters, imitating the sound of human voices, like ghostly choirs of altos and sopranos, fading out just beyond the grasp of our ears. It has been argued in some quarters that the compositional element of Chatham pieces such as this one is somewhat unsatisfactory, and indeed, Crimson Grail’s rote cinematic swells and distant, ambient melodics cannot really be said to represent the spearhead of the avant garde forty years after the hey-day of New York minimalism. But whatever. The sound itself is incredible, leaving no space for such mealy-mouthed cerebral whining as it swallows you whole. I mean, c’mon – four hundred electric guitars, four hundred amplifiers, reverb the size of Jupiter – YOU WERE SAYING, Mr. Critic, it seems to bellow, as the learned musicologist crumbles to dust beneath the force of Chatham’s cosmic bombast.
24. Fucked Up – The Chemistry Of Common Life (Matador)
Say what you like about Fucked Up, they sure know how to start an album. An ominous 1972 vintage flute solo rises from the silence, glimmers of feedback and fuzz build up as it fades, then WHAM, the fucker explodes into about half a dozen overdriven guitar lines, a pulse-racing motorik beat, a gutteral “WaaaaaaGGGGgggggHHhhhh!”, and … they’re OFF! A shoe-in for ‘intro of the year’, for sure. From there on in though, ‘Chemistry..’ initially seems like something of a confused and underwhelming record, after the motherlode of 2006’s colossal ‘Hidden World’. Sure, the guitars (lots of ‘em) keep on chugging, the drums keep on pounding, Pink Eyes keeps on ranting on about god knows what, but in the process of cutting the umbilical cord to their hardcore roots and advancing into a more amorphous kinda studio-bound punk spacerock, the band seem to have lost some of the fearsome urgency that fuelled their earlier work, and instead sound like they’re driving blind, keeping the riffs and the 4/4 flowing on autopilot without a clue as to their eventual destination. And for all the careful attention that’s clearly gone into recording and layering them, the guitars sound neutered and over-polished, lacking the crucial centre of ferocity and off-the-cuff violence that makes for good hardcore. Then, on the second or third listen, it CLICKS. What have we basically got here? Three chords, one beat, a singer intent on spouting gobfuls of incomprehensible wisdom at all and sundry, weird multi-layered noise and electronics, general feeling of some rough n’ ready rock dudes attaining escape velocity and pillaging blindly through the multiverse? – this is HAWKWIND for the 21st century, dude! And suddenly it all makes the most wonderful sense. Long may the, uh, Fucked-Lords fly.
Mp3>Son The Father
23. Sic Alps – U.S. Ez (Siltbreeze)
Usually it annoys me when people insist on comparing all these new zero-fi scuzz bands to Guided By Voices, because, y’know, GBV’s original line-up were recording lo-fi through necessity rather than through affectation, and furthermore, they put a lot of work into making their records sound clear, and interesting, and great, rather than just sitting back and taking pride in sounding as shitty and half-assed as possible. Sic Alps though, to their credit, really DO have a mode of operation going on that begs a GBV comparison, simply with regard to banging out tons of short, easily melodic, lyrically confounding songs, and piecing them together into cohesive and intriguing albums amid bursts of weirdness, failed 4-track experiments and flatout noise. Obviously their songwriting isn’t half as hot as Pollard and co (whose is?), but I don’t think they’re really trying to compete in that race, which is fine. Both bands may betray a heavy ‘60s influence, but the sound Sic Alps are aiming for is quite different. Often, they seem to be gunning for some groovy beatnik-bluesy shuffle, like 'Subterranean Homesick Blues', Aftermath-era Stones or the really early Magic Band stuff. Which is awesome! And at other points on ‘U.S. Ez’, they’re hitting on a more spaced out line of reverb-drenched psyche-pop, which is really very nice too. I definitely get the feeling that if these guys had made it to the studio and got in an outside producer instead of recording at home, they would have emerged sounding more like, say, the Black Keys or the Brian Jonestown Massacre than anything Siltbreeze or basement-dwelling noise scenesters would touch with a bargepole. Just cool, solid, easy-going retro-styled rock n’ roll, essentially. There’s a real nice, positive energy going on here that I’m down with, not to mention some great riffs, weird words, hair-raising noise and captivating melodies. They use the limitations of their lo-fi-fu in a kinda pleasing fashion too, exploring distorted, decaying drum thwacks and distant amp hum in a way that’s warm and fuzzy and analogue-mysterious, rather than abrasive or irritating. So, yeah, this is GOOD STUFF right here, sorta nicely, sloppily pleasurable – in many ways, the diametric opposite of the more confrontational end of the ultra-lofi spectrum. The musical equivalent of sitting down in a comfy chair and drinking some beer and forgetting to shave. It’ll be a joy to hear what they get up to in future. More of the same I’m guessing, and that’s just fine.
22. Moss – Sub Templum (Rise Above)
It’s been a hard-fought battle for thee ultimate in glacial metal sludge over the past few years, but all bets are off – Moss have won the doom arms race. Taking their initial cue from Burning Witch’s torture chamber approach to metal convention, Moss’s secret weapon is their bloodyminded refusal to bow to the extremity of their own art, their ability to keep their amplifiers shackled to the mast of song form, even as the basics of rock band ‘dynamics’ threaten to collapse through sheer hellish lethargy and weight of noise. What I mean is: when you listen to Sunn 0))), you’ve always got the ‘ambient’ escape route; zone out, treat it as a drone; relax. Listen to Asva, and you’ve got their different compositional ‘segments’ and experiments in sound to keep you occupied. Listen to Moss on the other hand, and they refuse to let you forget for a second that you’re FUCKED. As the sub-neanderthal sub-bass creeps outta the tarpit at a BPM approaching single figures, for five, ten, twenty, thirty minutes at a stretch, the drummer keeps on drumming – painful, heartbeat defying chasms hanging between each snare thwack – and worse still, the singer keeps on singing – inhuman howls of pain that seem to linger in the air indefinitely until the dude’s poor throat seizes up. Jus Osborn of Electric Wizard is at the controls, bringing the kind of sickening heaviness that his own band has been lacking of recent, and it’s good to have it back – a total cocoon of roaring, misanthropic noise-comfort. But The ‘Wizard are practically a party band compared to these guys. Moss aren’t the only band to gleefully take doom metal to it’s further extremes, but, for all the mish-mash of esoteric imagery adorning their album sleeves (I spot medieval alchemy, freemasonry, thelema, Seal of Solomon – the usual suspects), they’re one of the only bands to do so whilst reminding you at every turn this is still music made by *people*. People who are still, on some level, trying to sing you a song. LOOK HOW WRONG IT WENT, and tremble.
Mp3> Dragged to the Roots
21. Toumani Diabate – The Mande Variations (World Circuit)
When I found myself getting into Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate’s ‘In The Heart Of The Moon’ a few years back, I naturally assumed it was the late Toure’s contribution I was digging the most, he being the blues-based guitarin’ guy and all. But now I suspect it was probably Diabate who brought the lion’s share of that record’s otherworldly yet utterly earthbound beauty, as a similar beauty is chronicled in pretty much every second of the man’s solo work, of which The Mande Variations represents something of a motherlode. It’s certainly been his highest profile release in the West thus far, appearing during the year in which African music started to make some serious inroads back into 1st world musical consciousness, and presenting nearly an hour of Diabate’s unaccompanied Kora playing. And, once you’ve heard it, there’s not much more to say, beyond an acknowledgement that this is amongst the most pure, peaceful, heart-stoppingly beautiful music you will ever hear; the testimony of a man who has dedicated his every waking moment to mastering these nine strings, and to drawing from them the most graceful, satisfying sounds available to us here on earth. It’s melodies, harmonies and purely expressive tonal explorations seem to carry a power that is universally applicable, able to stop any music lover, from any culture, dead in their tracks. Music like this exists on a plain above and beyond any thorny griping about the convoluted politics of Western youth adopting African musical idioms, about the reductive labelling and marketing of ‘world music’, about the phony lure of ‘exoticism’, or whatever else. This is music for everyone, no explanation offered, and none required. Everything you need to know about it, you can find within it.
Monday, December 15, 2008
THE THIRTY BEST RECORDS OF 2008
I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve been exposed to more of it, because I’ve taken more of an interest, or simply because there’s been more going on that’s hit the right buttons for me, but regardless – 2008 has been a fantastic year for new music. THE THIRTY BEST RECORDS OF 2008: Part #1
Whereas 2006 and 2007 found me listening mostly to old records and reissues, and struggling to scrape together a decent end of year top 10, this year I could easily have knocked out a list of fifty records I’ve enjoyed. Compromising slightly, I’ve got it down to a list of thirty really good ones.
And, for the first time in Stereo Sanctity history, I've put them in order too. I'm not sure why really; I guess there's just been so much stuff worthy of love this year, I felt the need to establish some kind of hierarchy to outline precisely which records had the biggest impact on me personally, and to stop the results just looking like a big, confusing mess of disparate music, or something. Obviously my numerical placements are pretty much arbitrary, as I realise that putting a recording of a symphony for 400 guitars next to a South London punk band next to one of Africa's most accomplished musicians next to Jonathan Richman and trying to decide which one is the best is a ludicrous proposition. But no matter, I've done it anyway!
Naturally this means I’ll have to count things down backwards, from #30 through to #1, split across six different posts that I’m gonna put up over the next couple of weeks, which will look slightly confusing if you’re reading ‘em all in one go, but c’mon, you’ve all got your GCSE maths (or nearest local equivalent), I’m sure you can figure it out.
Oh, and, er, THE RULES, as it were: everything I’ve heard during 2008 that was released in 2008 on a longer format than a 7” single, and that consisted primarily of music being released for the first time, has been considered for inclusion. So EPs, 12”s and other miscellaneous misshapes have been included, but no singles, and no reissues or compilations of previously released material. This means that possibly my overall favourite release of the year – Comet Gain’s singles & rarities comp ‘Broken Record Prayers’ – hasn’t made the cut… but that’s probably just as well, as trying to condense the essence of it’s twenty song motherlode of howling, singular expression into a couple of hundred words is somewhat beyond my writerly skills, at least until I’ve had a chance to live with the thing for a little longer.
And so, with these caveats in mind, we say: Hey, Ho! Let’s Go!:
THE THIRTY BEST RECORDS OF 2008: Part #1
30. Michael Yonkers & The Blind Shake – Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons (Farm Girl Records)
You may recall my write up of Michael Yonkers’ debut LP ‘Microminiature Love’, on which he indulged his yen for DIY electronics and guitar vivisection, resulting in a mixture of detuned blues primitivism, suburban shut-in nihilism and all-out racket that rendered the record not so much ‘off the wall’ as ‘circling round the ceiling, shrieking like a robot hummingbird’ in the musical context of 1968. Well since then, Yonkers has been remained an elusive figure through necessity rather than choice, his recordings and live appearances sporadic since an industrial accident left him partially disabled during the ‘70s. But, on the basis of this new outing recorded with garage-rockers The Blind Shake, age certainly hasn’t mellowed our man, and his peculiar and terrifying sonic imagination remains undiminished. Coming on like a cacophonous mixture of Cleveland proto-punk, Sabbathian metal thunder and industrial circuit-bending skree, ‘Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons’ finds Yonkers and his collaborators still mercifully oblivious to any notion of canonical respectability, genre convention, or indeed sanity, as his perpetually dissatisfied songs see him taking umbrage with everything from non-specific liars n’ cheaters to the laws of organic chemistry. I recommend playing this one on the stereo at work, just to see the beautiful look on your colleagues’ faces as any hopes might harbour that you’re actually a productive, upstanding citizen with whom they can meaningfully communicate fall away in an instant.
Mp3> Carbohydrates Hydrocarbons
29. Cheap Time – s/t (In The Red)
Not much to say about this one. It’s just a killer album of noisy, punk-ass, home-recorded power-pop. Fourteen songs, each one loaded with exactly the kind of hooks and windmilling guitar licks you wanna hear (or I wanna hear them anyway), thirteen of them clocking in under 2:30. Nice! Echoes here of the songs that actually rock on any given Sloan album, The Nazz, Buzzcocks, Redd Kross – you know the score. All busted out on four-track with mega tape compression and weedy, yelped vocals, and they don’t piss about dragging every mediocre tune out to four and a half minutes like most power-pop outfits either. If Cheap Time are lacking anything, it’s character; tracks fly by in a pretty uniform fashion, and lyrics are mostly pretty inconsequential, but who cares, let’s rock!
Mp3> People Talk
28. Cars Can Be Blue – Doubly Unbeatable (Happy Happy Birthday To Me)
Cars Can Be Blue are, for me at least, the kind of band the ‘skip’ button was invented for. The duo’s more straight up, 100 second guitar/drums pop-punk blasts are vicious things of wonder, directed straight to my musical pleasure points. Three chords, killer melody, zero instrumental fat, a GO GO GO pace and lyrics that alternate between bitchy, cynical insecure ranting and heart-rending straight-to-the-point honesty in a thoroughly beguiling manner more akin to The Queers or Bratmobile than their supposed indie-pop peers. If all 16 songs on here were as good as the opening one-two punch of “Sun Blows Up” and “Coattails”, they’d be top ten, no questions asked. Unfortunately though, CCBB have also built their notoriety largely on a tendency toward one joke potty-mouth comedy songs and skits which are, well… absolutely dreadful to be honest. I mean, that kinda stuff’s not really my scene at the best of times, but CCBB’s contributions to the oeuvre really seem to suffer from a drop in musical standards and a loss of the charm of their better material, rendering them merely kinda tedious and nasty. So for every song here that’s GREAT, you’ve got one that’s kind of ok, and then one that’s just…. NO. The brilliant twelve minutes or so of this record is still some pretty special kinda brilliant though, so here’s hoping for more of it in future.
Mp3> Coat Tails
27. Jennifer Gentle – Effervescent Land EP (Heron Recordings)
If the old, two-man Jennifer Gentle sounded like an alien Syd Barrett impersonator trying to get to grips with earth technology, their current quartet line-up is more like the ten armed, helium-voiced hindu monster spirit of Syd himself, freefalling back into our dimension with enough sugarcubes to kill an elephant and a whole load of new tricks to show off. What the new incarnation has in common with old though is that it still makes about the most utterly joyful, hyper-imaginative, lunatic psychedelic pop available to us on this mortal plain, as revealed to great effect on this splendid four-tracker. Seeing these guys in the flesh for the first time was definitely one of my favourite gigs of the year – just breathtaking. Everything about their music is so, so WRONG, from the affected, temper tantrum shrieking, to the ham-fisted Morricone dramatics, the prog-afflicted mellotron excursions, multiple kazoo solos, wacky slide guitar licks, blaring feedback… dear god, how do these strange Italian men manage to combine it all into something so wondrously RIGHT..? Pop from another dimension in which the Olivia Tremor Control were slaughtered Giallo-style by full moon crazed loons, who didn’t mean any harm, it’s just… it’s just what they do.
26. The Mountain Goats & Kaki King – Black Pear Tree EP (self-released tour 12”)
A great example of two artists with their own highly distinctive working methods getting together in the name of mutual appreciation to make something together, each shedding an interesting new light on the other’s work. John D. brought along a handful of top notch songs, oft recalling the desolation of ‘..Get Lonely’ with an added dose of morbid apocalyptic imagery, along with his new-found fondness for hammering away dramatically at the piano, Nick Cave style. Kaki meanwhile brought her expressively muscular guitar style, her gift for killer arrangements and sound textures, and her hesitant, dislocated vocal harmonies. The result: six very strange and beautiful songs that sound like both, and simultaneously neither, artist. Some pleasantly head-scratching subject matter is on hand too; ‘Roger Patterson Van’ chronicles the death of the bass player from the band Atheist (thanks, wikipedia), whilst ‘Thank You Mario, But Our Princess Is In Another Castle’ appears to be written from the point of view of one of those frogs or mushrooms or whoever the fuck it is that Mario rescues at the end of each level in Super Mario Bros. And it’s a far more earnest and well-developed character study than you’d suspect any song written on that subject by a sane individual really should be, too. I think ‘Supergenesis’ might be about a video game character too – a troubled, pixelated warrior snake it would seem: “feel the wet leaves pressed against me / cling like drowning men / try to hoist myself upright, again, try again..”. I know Darnielle has never been one to do things in half measures, but he might want to consider cutting down on the Nintendo in future. Despite such eccentricities though, these six songs share a rich vein of low key brooding weirdness that I feel renders them this year’s best soundtrack to pondering historical oddities in dilapidated autumnal churchyards.
Oh, and I’ll take this opportunity to note that Kaki King’s album ‘Dreaming Of Revenge’ is really, really excellent too, and should definitely be in this top 30 somewhere, except I can’t think of anything in particular to say about it, and I’m not entirely sure it was 2008. It’s a splendid piece of work anyway, and if I were her I’d be pissed at having been left off the list in favour of a bunch of trashy rock rubbish, and would boycott this blog forever.
Mp3> Black Pear Tree
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Regular readers will be aware that, regardless of whatever else I’ve been into at one time or another, I’ve always maintained an interest in exploring the myriad mysteries of psychedelic music, in the widest possible sense of the term.
And, as the nights draw in, the shadows climb the walls by mid-afternoon and the marvels of the internet allow me previously undreamed of access to information on, downloads of, and even affordable legit sources for, all manner of esoteric recordings both hallowed and unheralded, you’d better believe that PSYCHE has been back on the menu in a big way recently.
So, here is the first volume of what will perhaps be an irregular series of compilations charting some of the high points of my ear-explorations, featuring some stuff I’ve only just discovered mixed alongside tracks I’ve been digging for years.
Some of the artists and tracks represented will probably be familiar to psyche-fiends, others hopefully less so. I was tempted to use this space to run down some explanatory notes on these songs, but on balance I think it’s probably more appropriate to keep things mysterious. And, should you wish to find out more about any of the artists represented, a fascinating session of google-aided research is surely guaranteed. I’ve also tended to avoid the inclusion of any lengthy drone tracks or side-long freakouts, simply in order to be able to represent a wider variety of music within 80 minutes (yeah, you can put this fucker on a CD), whilst still providing some (what I hope will be) tantilizing tasters of pure sound and cosmic jazz in amongst more song-based material.
One of the best things about making psychedelic comps is the unexpected themes and synchronicities that can arise from your seemingly random track choices as you listen back after a few glasses of wine, providing the mix with it’s own unique atmosphere… if that doesn’t sound too pretentious.
For instance, whilst they’re not featured directly, the strange legacy of Roky Erickson, Tommy Hall and the other 13th Floor Elevators hangs heavy over this comp. Obviously I took the title from one of the final verses of their immortal ‘Slip Inside This House’ (“two-eyed men with mystery training / finally feel the power of thule”), and in addition to Oneida’s punk rock resurrection of that particular reality-defying classic (although they leave out the lyrics I’ve just quoted, maybe just through exhaustion), the spirit of Texas’s weirder underbelly lives on via the unique observations of Roky collaborator and electric autoharp entrepreneur Billy Miller, with his band Cold Sun, and also in the strangely similar latter-day psyche-drift of Houston’s own Christina Carter.
Journeying outward from there, it appears that, despite contributions from as far afield as Peru and New Zealand, the majority of tracks here are American, and, taken together, they could almost be seen to represent some kinda journey through a woozy, hallucinogenic alternate USA… a USA you could perhaps travel via the ‘underground railroad’ that a young Fred Cole seems so desperate to board in The Lollipop Shoppe’s song…? MYSTERY TRAIN(ing)!
So - slightly to the East of the Lone Star State, The Surrealistic Pillow give us a wonderfully naive glimpse of that strange moment when Jefferson Airplane and Doors records started to hit Louisiana’s high schools, whilst Tommy Jay keeps things in the confederacy with his account of the Battle of Fredericksburg, and teenage genius and WCPAEB alumnus Michael Lloyd gives us a Hollywood superbrat’s skewed take on the conquest of the West, via his ‘68 studio project The Smoke. Up the coast a little in ‘Frisco, the recording that opens proceedings gives us a rare early ’66 account of psychedelia’s ground zero. Alice C. provides the New York connection (via Bombay, the centre of the universe, and the eternity of her own soul), and, hey, even the UK’s Stone Angel chime in to take us on a mist-shrouded cliff walk through H.P. Lovecraft’s Other New England. Then all that’s left is for Philadelphia’s Fursaxa to issue her ultimatum to the city of angels, and we fade out on the spectre of Gary Higgins, trawling the back roads of Litchfield County, CT for his lost love as the cops – and reality - close in….
And imagine, some people say I overthink these things.
1. The Merry Pranksters, Grateful Dead & friends - acid test recording
2. The Smoke [U.S.] - Cowboys & Indians
3. Oneida - Slip Inside This House
4. Greg Ashley - Legs Coca Cola
5. Cold Sun - South Texas
6. Alice Coltrane - The Sun
7. Vibracathedral Orchestra - He Play All Day
8. El Polen - Mi Cueva
9. Tommy Jay - I Was There
10. Christina Carter - Blind Eye
11. The Left Handed Marriage - Limousine
12. Anthony Davis - Section 2 (Sustained Tones)
13. The Lollipop Shoppe - Underground Railroad
14. The Surrealistic Pillow - I Like Girls
15. Tall Dwarfs - Lurlene Bayliss
16. Stone Angel - The Bells of Dunwich
17. Fursaxa - Surrender, LA
18. Gary Higgins - Looking For June
(95mb .zip file)
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
TRULY, WE ARE BLESSED.
Those Dancing Days play at Goldsmiths Student Union.
Tuesday November 25th
'breakfast in the ruins' posts on the Plan B forum:
"Wow, Those Dancing Days were FANTASTIC last night! One of the best live bands I’ve seen in ages…. If there’s one thing I don’t like about their records (and that’s a big IF) it’s that they’re a tad over-produced, so I’m so, so glad to have seen them totally rocking all those incredible songs live to a half empty hall of about a hundred students (and about eight people over twenty sticking out like sore thumbs) on a freezing Monday midnight. As is obvious from the records, their drummer is INCREDIBLE – she looks about twelve and rocks out like John Bonham doing session work for ’80s Madonna. And the rest of ‘em are no slouches either – not much in the way of show(wo)manship, but that’s fine with me since they’re busy playing the living hell out of their songs and looking like they’re loving every second of it. The intro to every single song, even album tracks and b-sides, got an immediate “yes! I love this song!” reaction from me and/or others in the crowd, and it’s the first gig I’ve been to for ages that had a proper, spontaneous encore. Not to mention dancing on a Monday night. Shrug ‘em off if you like, but in their own way Those Dancing Days are DIY as fuck – no gimmicks or hype bullshit or pandering to genre/gender/age-based preconceptions, just five cool, characterful girls working hard to make the biggest, best, skyscraping, optimistic pop music they can imagine. WOW. Dear Diary, I LOVE THIS BAND SO MUCH, etc.
The gig seemed to be running on East London Time, so I didn't get home on the buses until 2ish and feel like I just done got up and died on the spot this morning, but, wow, it was worth it."
Mp3> Those Dancing Days – I Know Where You Live
Friday November 28th
Shrag and The Loves play at The Buffalo Bar.
(I didn’t get a chance to write anything about this one, but rest assured both bands were really terrific, and I had a great time.)
Monday December 1st
Hotpants Romance play at The Windmill, supported by The Understudies, Horowitz and The Give It Ups.
(Headliners Cars Can Be Blue had to pull out because, appallingly, UK customs wouldn’t let them into the country and kept them detained for 48 hours. Can you believe that..? Fucking hell.)
Tuesday December 2nd
'breakfast in the ruins' posts on the Plan B forum:
"So I had a fantastic time at the gig last night.... attendance was pretty low, I guess what with the headliners having cancelled, the fact it was a freezing Monday etc., but the folks who were there brought a great atmosphere with them (talk about cliquey - I think I knew nearly everyone in the room, by sight if not necessarily by name :D ).
Hotpants Romance were an absolute inspiration! Proof positive that knowing how to play and fretting (no pun intended) about tuning and guitar sounds etc. doesn't matter a DAMN so long as you've got the energy and smarts to get on stage and just *be awesome*.
They're like Swell Maps if they were girls and didn't bother with all the arty stuff, or like early Magik Markers if they were a pop band, or..... actually, no, those are crap comparisons! They're like the Ramones is what they're like! Really, really early, pre-first album Ramones, before they got their shit together and when they used to argue between each song about what they were gonna play next. I guess that all sounds kinda patronising, but...uh... IT'S NOT; in my world at least, this makes for a totally radical band of the highest order. And their songs are amazing too - I mean, obviously they've got their whole trashy pop-punk thing down, but they've also got a really odd, sweet, kinda introspective angle on things, ala The Marine Girls - just killer, real life sentiments expressed in as few words as possible - wow.
I lent the guitarist the only plectrum I own, and she never gave it back, so now I'll have to take a special trip out to a guitar shop to get some more. But no matter - as a hopeless fanboy, I'm honoured to have been of service.
It was great to catch up with Horowitz too – those guys are heroes. So dedicated to what they do. That being: loud guitars, beautiful melodies, geeky references, choruses designed to make me melt. Heartfelt, homemade power-pop. Fantastic, as it always has been and always will be.
Vivian Girls tonight - what a great eight days it's been, musically speaking!"
Mp3> Hotpants Romance – Blow My Fuse
Mp3> Horowitz – I Need A Blanket
Tuesday December 2nd
The Vivian Girls play at The Windmill, supported by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Betty & The Werewolves and The Bridport Daggers.
Wednesday December 3rd
'breakfast in the ruins' begins typing the following into the “reply” box on the Plan B Forum, but thinks better of actually posting it:
"Vivian Girls were stunning last night. They were so loud! My ears are wrecked this morning. Every time I move my jaw distant bells start ringing. It was so incredible to stand at the front and let those amazing songs just envelop me completely. And they have *so many* amazing songs - loads of new ones that aren't on the album. They're such an incredible presence on stage too; I was kinda worried that maybe it would be a case of the real life band being crushed by the expectation that all the hype has thrown their way, but they're such a positive, relentless force, such a massive noise, so determined to smash their songs into everyone's heads, it's just... [speechless].
I love their album to death, but now it just sounds like some muffled reflection of their actual reality. Maybe it was just all the noise and excitement, but when they played "Tell The World", I got kinda religious and started thinking, ok, y’know, this actually everything I love and strife for and believe in, *happening right in front of me*. My own personal vision of God, if you will. It was probably the closest I’ve felt to heaven for many months.
Beat THAT for hype.
And they didn’t even play “Where Do You Run To”!
Obviously Betty & The Werewolves were fantastic in support too, and should not be overshadowed; bouncing around to their set was an absolute blast. They’re such a perfectly realized band – every song just an absolute femme-punk gem at hardcore tempo with radical riffs and guitar breaks, frenzied rhythm strumming, sweet harmony vocals.... wow. Also, much respect to the bass/lead vocals werewolf for her carefree pogoing. She’s quite tall, and the stage at The Windmill is pretty small, and a bass guitar is a big thing to swing around in mid-air, so it must take some serious dedication on her part to the noble art of jumping up and down. I mean, I was playing in the same spot the previous evening, and if my feet had left the ground I suspect a catastrophic pile-up of leads, band members and equipment would have been the immediate and ugly result, so that in itself is fairly awe-inspiring.
Anyway, it’s an absolute travesty that circumstances have contrived to make this only the SECOND of the many, many gigs Betty & The Werewolves have been playing this year that I’ve actually been able to witness. I’m definitely gonna have to make a more concerted effort in future. Any Londoners reading, take heed – these guys are the best band in town, and every day that passes on before you go to see them is a day wasted. Thank them in your prayers tonight.
This year’s indie-pop new big things The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart were a late addition to the bill after their support slot with The Wedding Present got cancelled, and they were pretty good too I guess. They’ve definitely got a more powerful sound going on than most other “indie pop next big things” I could mention, but, like many current Amerindie bands, it’s maybe a tad too slick for my tastes. They sound kinda like they’ve started work from a blueprint of *exactly* what they want their band to sound like – in this case, variations on MBV’s “Paint A Rainbow” with arch, Interpol-ish vocals and hypnotic spacerock basslines – then practiced like fuck and tweaked members, equipment, songs etc. until they’ve got it DOWN, then hit the road/studio and waited for the love to roll on in. Admittedly, it’s a great blueprint, so if my brief X+Y=Z above floats your particular boat, well, get on down to the harbour, cos they do it better than anyone, and their set is very enjoyable, but…. y’know. It don’t touch base with my soul. I’m probably just being unduly cynical though really – I ended up having a brief chat to the singer/guitarist afterwards, and he seems a really good guy. I’m sure they’re actually as genuine in their intentions as any other band, and I shouldn't leap to such foolish music journo-ish assumptions.
Opening act The Bridport Daggers were pretty cool too actually, if perhaps a tad out of place on this line-up (and out of place is as good a place to be as any). Chiming, overdriven guitars, twisted Scientists-esque swamp-rock racket, vicious rockabilly rhythms, two guitars and no bass - good stuff.
What a fantastic evening of deafening, joyful music."
Mp3>The Vivian Girls – Tell The World
(I’d post a tune by Betty & The Werewolves, except they’ve only put out that one 7”, and I don't have a digital version.)
And I just got myself a ticket to see Mika Miko headline a late-running seven band bill in Stoke Newington next Friday …. I’m psyched to have gotten a chance to finally see them! So that makes what, six amazing female-led punk and/or pop bands in the space of a fortnight…? Will my fragile heart be able to stand it?? – watch this space.
- 05/01/2004 - 06/01/2004
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