Tunin' the motor, like a weekend boater
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Monday, June 29, 2009
Ambivalent Rock Star Dreams # 5: Wilco
Every now and then, I have a vivid and comically surreal dream featuring a musician or band – almost like a little mini-series going on in my sleeping mind. Oddly, given the unhealthy proportion of my waking thought that is dedicated to music, these dreams are never about musicians I actually like, or indeed musicians I actively dislike. They are always about people whose work I am entirely ambivalent about. For instance, I have previously had dreams featuring The Hives, Nick Cave, Kyuss and Scott Walker (ok, obviously I do like Scott Walker a lot, but the dream presented him in his contemporary ‘reclusive genius’ mode, which I enjoy a lot less than his ‘60s pomp, so I’ll still count him as “ambivalent”).
I used to enjoy blearily recounting these dreams on forums (fora? – whatever), but since I’ve given up posting on forums, I might as well annoy everybody by doing it here instead.
Last night I dreamed I was a new member of Wilco. Wilco in this dream didn’t resemble the real life Wilco though – in fact they were just two guys, who looked like they might have been in The Faces in the ‘70s or something, and me. We were sitting in a beautiful, ornamental Chinese garden, and the lead Wilco guy was explaining to me that, despite the fact that everyone always assumes they put a hell of a lot of work into their records, they actually just record any old crap that comes into their heads as quickly as possible, and spend the rest of the recording time/budget lazing around by the pool, or whatever.
Fine with me, I thought, I don’t like Wilco much anyway. There was a little tape recorder on the other side of the garden, so they decided they might as well just lay down the whole new album in one go and be done with it. “We’ll just say it’s a formal experiment or something”, they said. I was playing this strange instrument that was kind of like a fretless bass, only with thin, non-bass strings and with extremely wide gaps between the strings. I wasn’t playing a bass line; more like some twiddley, sitar-ish modal bits that seemed to magically fit in with whatever the other two guys were playing. The lead guy sang some made up blather in a gruff sort of voice, then shut off the tape and declared the song was done. I walked around the garden for a bit. End of dream.
Friday, June 26, 2009
News in Brief.
Apologies as usual for the lack of recent words here. By my own shambling, lethargic standards, this past week or so has been pretty busy, and yesterday in particular was a strange and somewhat frantic day, with news of celebrity deaths coming at rate of knots, as I found myself seeing through an evening of no money, no food and much free beer.
So, in the absence of any proper writing, here’s a… bunch of stuff:
1. Sky Saxon died yesterday.
Mysterious to the end, his age was unknown and the ailment that killed him remains unidentified. To wax lyrical re: the extent to which The Seeds ruled and the almost subliminal influence they wielded over the direction of both mainstream and underground rock from the late ‘60s onward would seem somewhat redundant, assuming I’m speaking to an audience who’ve ever taken an interest in good, weird rock n’ roll. I guess I’ve always envisioned Sky Saxon in his prime almost as a cartoon character, the ultimate fusion of punk and hippie, marauding down “The Strip” swinging his love-beads, ranting slurred diatribes against The Man before heading to Pandora’s Box to blow some wretched losers like The Doors off the fucking stage with a set of pre-Monks, pre-Fall grinding, semi-improvised visionary mayhem.
Everybody knows “Pushin’ Too Hard” and “Can’t Seem To Make You Mine” of course – indeed, the latter would definitely be my tune of choice should I ever stumble upon some mythical garage-punk karaoke bar of my dreams… not that I’d have much of a chance of replicating those incredible, lovelorn “Aaaa-AAAAWWWWwwwwww!”s; simply one of the most genius vocal performances of all time. But The Seeds were also one of the only Nuggets bands who successfully managed to channel their initial energy into making great albums too – “The Seeds”, “A Web of Sound” and “The Future” are all totally wonderful, nutzoid LPs that demand a place in anyone’s collection.
Saxon’s resurgence in the past few decades is a bit more problematic for me, given his ongoing association with The Source cult, but he still managed to play his barmy, mysterioso awesome dude role to perfection. I mean, this is the guy who, when somebody in the early/mid-sixties presumably asked him to come up with a new stage name, immediately blurted out “SKY SAXON”, for no apparent reason. What a hero. R.I.P.
Good obit by Nels Cline, via Arthur, here.
2. The Gories are back!
Well, I mean I knew they were back since they dropped the news about that joint, one-off European tour with The Oblivians last year, but still. Man, The Gories! As you’ll recall, I got so over-excited listening to The Gories a couple of years back, I even drew a picture of them.
There’s an absolutely terrific feature on the history of the band over at the Detroit Metro Times – a great example of the kind of straightforward, well-constructed overview I’d love to be able to read about more of my favourite bands of the 80s/90s/00s. (Thanks to Jessica Hopper’s blog for the link.)
There’s a lot more to The Gories than the ‘garage revivalist’ tag they’re often stuck with, so if that descriptor has ever put you off taking an interest, I’d recommend firing up yr last.fms or spotifys or whatever it is you kids have these days and taking a listen to their debut album ‘Houserockin’ – the sound of three untrained bozos in a shed making what’s pretty much a working definition of The Best Music Ever.
Here’s what happened the last time they quit the stage:
3. Veronica Falls
Veronica Falls – an ensemble previously known as The Draculas, before that Sexy Kids and once a faction of Glasgow’s The Royal We – headlined last night, and verily did they blow me away. With their dense Velvets strummage, minimal floor-tom/snare pounding, dreamy girl/boy harmonies, killer tunes, Flying Nun-esque understement and eerie graveyard atmospherics, it’s hard to imagine a band who could tap more perfectly into my current tastes. And that’s BEFORE they played a swoonsome cover of Roky Erickson’s ‘Starry Eyes’, casually breaking the Michael Jackson news to the thirty or so onlookers in the process. They were really something: go listen and befriend.
4. Sonic Youth Raid my Dreams
News at eleven: the new Sonic Youth video is like some kind of dream I’d probably have.
In fact, scratch ‘probably’, I think its entire stock of imagery is ripped straight from my nocturnal mind circa 2003-2004, thus rendering it unintentionally haunting viewing, for me at least.
It’s a great video, although I fear the band missed a trick by rather snootily portraying themselves as vague ‘overseers’ of the radical girls’ scheme, rather than placing themselves (with a wink & a nod) amongst the yuppie-cognoscenti victims.
It’s sad too that the song pretty much goes in one ear and out the other. Oh, hey, it’s another short, punky Kim one. I’ll file it with the rest.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Alex Chilton & The Box Tops on "Disc-o-Teen Halloween Special", 1967.
What can I say; I wish TV was like this 24 hours a day.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
HOLD A DESERT, FEEL ITS HAND:
Mystery TRAINing Volume # 3
With the heat of the summer already comin’ on etc., it’s convenient that the third instalment of my vaguely thematic psychedelic compilation series concerns itself with THE DESERT.
Truth be told, I’ve never spent much time in the desert. I’m told it can get pretty psychedelic though. If I were in the desert, I think I would probably want to listen to some lengthy passages of really bad-ass heavy rock, so verily you will find some of them within. The more obvious inclusions aside, I particularly commend Northwest Company’s ‘Grey Skies’ to you – proof that, whilst the vast majority of early ‘70s open air festival blues jams may have sucked ass, there is much to be said for the 5% that went TOTALLY RIGHT. Nod those heads!
And I’d want some eerie, beatific drones too. They’re good for the desert. Yes, definitely some of those. Keijo comes from Finland, so I don’t know what the hell he knows of the desert, but…. he seems to fit in nicely.
Similarly, Jamaica’s no bloody desert, but nonetheless it seems like high time we introduced some dub into this series, so take it away King Tubby. What an astounding record! Same can be said of Haiti, but that hasn’t stopped me throwing in an OMGFamazing slice of horror movie voodoun psychedelic soul/folk/other from Exuma The Obeah Man. Hopefully by the time you get to that point in the comp though, you’ll be stumbling ‘round death valley after dark searching for the hole leading to the centre of the earth to sit out the forthcoming apocalypse, so who cares.
West Africa now - that’s the place for desert! So I couldn’t resist the opportunity to throw in a tune from everybody’s favourite Saharan outlaws Tinariwen, lying down some shit with a couple of guitars and hand percussion to make everyone else in the world who’d claim to be ‘funky’ go weak at the knees. I’ve actually been burned recently on a couple of ‘60s/’70s African reissues that were recommended to me as fuzzed out, psychedelic masterpieces but were actually pretty dreary. As with British/American ‘60s stuff though, it’s often the one-off mystery singles that come through where the album artists fail, and as such, OH MAN - Ofo The Black Company! I don’t know who they were or what they thought they were doing, but… OH MAN - Ofo The Black Company! What more can I say.
The Country Joe & The Fish track by the way is from the soundtrack to the counter-culture western ‘Zachariah’, in which they play an outlaw gang called The Crackers. The bit where they play this song is the best thing in the whole movie. No, scratch that, the best bit is where Elvin Jones shoots three guys with the same bullet and then plays a four minute drum solo. But CJ Fish definitely come in second. The James Gang rocking out in the middle of the desert with big amp stacks comes in third, and, sadly, everything else in the film is pretty crap.
Anyway, I seem to be straying from the point a bit, so let’s wrap this up:
I think everything on this compilation is awesome. Burn it onto a disc, put it on somewhere as you stare into a vast open sky and feel your toes sink into the sand or whatever, and I hope you’ll agree.
1. Grouper – hold a desert, feel it’s hand
2. Country Joe & The Fish – we’re the crackers
3. The 13th Floor Elevators – livin’ on
4. “The Happening” radio spot
5. King Tubby & The Aggravators – I trim the barber
6. Tinariwen – dualahila ar tesninam
7. Ofo The Black Company – allah wakbarr
8. John Fahey – the portland cement factory at monolith, ca.
9. Charalambides – the good life
10. Northwest Company – grey skies
11. The Grateful Dead, Merry Pranksters & Friends – peggy the pistol
12. Keijo – stellar wind
13. Bhagavad Gita – long hair soulful
14. “Satan’s Sadists” radio spot
15. The Jesters of Newport – stormy
16. Exuma – mama loi papa loi
17. Dead Meadow – beyond the fields we know (live)
18. Moe Tucker – blue, all the way to canada
19. Greg Ashley – apple pie & genocide
(90mb .zip file)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
March/April/May ’09, Part # 3:
* * *
Psyched To Die – Sterile Walls EP
Going by the cover, track titles, band name and lyrics sheet, one could easily mistake this for a generic hardcore release, but it’s actually an unusual and thoroughly enjoyable exercise in pre-h/c American punk rock. Sure, there are fast tempos, gang shouts and some mosh-riff sections, but there’s also loads of warped guitar hero soloing, comprehensible vocals high in the mix, trebley, clean sound and a nervy, over-caffeinated quirky kinda energy, recalling The Weirdos, Pagans and ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’ era Dead Kennedys. Total Abuse – Demo 06
Songs are blasted out tight as fuck, machine gun style, each one wrapped up in about a minute, like the New Bomb Turks with less fat, and the lyrics offer relentless nowheresville nihilism throughout. Composition & vocal duties seem to be split between different band members, so, uh, at least they must share a common goal I suppose, even if it is total hatred of everything. “Sick and tired of the free-range life / the outside world is a fucking mess” contributes bassist J Nixon on the title track, “pretending to be crazy’s the only way out / and I won’t even have to fake being depressed”. Guitarist Mike Yannich, not to be outdone, gives us ‘Permanent Solution’; “I got a permanent solution / living life is just a waste of time / I gotta find a fucking way out”. Nixon wins outright on the hilarious ‘Onward Armageddon’ though, managing to sing “People think of the apocalypse / and dream up stupid fantasy bullshit / about being in the small percentage of survivors / and piecing society back together”, before concluding “I don’t want to be part of no post-apocalypse / I wanna be one of the people it hits!”
Perhaps my favourite song here though is drummer Brian Yannich’s ‘Five Year Plan’, which perfectly captures the spirit of classic Descendents loserdom. As all the smarter punks knew well, this I-hate-everything-and-I-hate-you shtick can turn to self-parody pretty quickly, and these guys sound frighteningly honest when they bring things down to earth to sing “Couldn’t cut it in college / work for minimum wage / I see old faces from high school / they think that I’m a waste” ; “My friends are all getting married/ buying suburban homes / I just sit here complaining / in my room all alone”. Not exactly the most original sentiment that’s ever been expressed in a punk song, but these things can still cut hard.
I guess it was defiance in the face of this kind of terminal failure and depression that was at the heart of late 70s teenage punk – or at least the raw, Californian variety that informs Psyched To Die – and, 30 years down the line, we can still hear it pretty bluntly put by bands like this, for whom adult life apparently hasn’t brought much in the way of improvement.
Total Abuse – Demo 06(Even Worse)
Whoa. Demo-tape-reissued-on-7” action here in a similar brutalist lo-fi hardcore vein to those Sex Vid records that so thoroughly kicked my ass last year. And if Total Abuse lack the brooding, knife wound negativity of Sex Vid, in fact sounding almost cheery by comparison, well they more than make up for such deficiencies with sheer THUNK, taking their triple-speed Sabbath-weight riffage and flailing skronk bursts straight from The Book of Ginn and somehow imbuing it all with an immediacy and momentum that this music has lacked since their hero was still knocking it out pre-‘Damaged’. Nothing new here, but after nearly three decades of identikit eight song h/c 45s, bands like this can still seem like fresh air in a stale cavern. Go figure. Vivian Girls - Moped Girls b/w Death
For my money, the recording here is perfect for a band like this – scuzzy and muffled in a GOOD way, just like the early ‘Flag stuff, only with the levels cranked the way they *should* have been on ‘My War’. The guitars are solid brick wall roar, the drums sound like they’re being torn from the overdriven bass-bins of the terrifying, lunatic-driven car that’s about to mow you down from behind. Musicianship I suspect is tight as a whip (the drummer fucking kicks it), but there’s so much bass fuzz and degraded roar it wouldn’t make much difference either way. Song titles: “Breathing Down My Neck”, “Enraged/Pissed”, “I Can’t Live Like This”. Indeed. Things reach their apex at the end of side # 1, sounding like the noise a brave eight year old might hear whilst pushing his ear against the concrete wall of the utterly terrifying underground rock club that his mum has told him never to go near because the patrons might EAT him. Fascinating, repulsive, violent, wrong and irresistible.
Side # 2 actually lightens up a little, playing to the gallery by slowing down for some headbang/mosh pit worthy groove sections on almost pleasant chord sequences, and demanding yet another ‘Flag comparison with good ol’ Rollins shout-alongs on the choruses of “I Give Up” and “Ain’t Got No One”. That said, Total Abuse’s gallery is probably largely comprised of leering indie tourists such as myself in search of total destruction, so you can’t blame ‘em for wanting to give us the finger and give the h/c faithful what they paid for.
Vivian Girls - Moped Girls b/w Death
Yeah, it’s yet another non-album 7” from Vivian Girls, yet another one they’ll be able to shift by the bucketload until the hype spotlight moves elsewhere. And why not, eh? It must be nice to be able to immediately press your latest creations onto little artefacts like this, knowing you’ve got the interest & appreciation of a sizable audience to make it worth your while. And it’s not like there’s a quality control issue or anything – the tunes are still great! In fact, for all that they may be derided in certain quarters as lazy, self-satisfied so-and-sos, VGs are becoming a pretty consistent and prolific outfit, maintaining an admirable cruising speed as regards the essential band-business of making lots of songs, and making them all good. Wake The President / Je Suis Animal split 7”
Their second album is due out in a couple of months, and word is that, in classic 2nd album tradition, it’s going to be a more nuanced affair, slowing down the frantic punk of their earlier material in favour of more classic rock/pop inspired slow-burners. Seeing as how regular readers probably got pretty sick last year of hearing me harping on about my love for the first album’s stunning “Where Do You Go To?”, this strikes me a potentially welcome development. It’s also a shift in tone that seems to be clearly signalled by this 45, with both sides staying strictly mid-tempo, both featuring hazy, uncertain guitar solos and hinting at a beguiling mixture of self-conscious girl group pop (‘Death’ has a beautiful Shangri-Las spoken opening) and hypnotic desert jangle, executed with the kind of singular, indefinable spirit that made fans of this band fall for them in the first place, and that their detractors will likely be scratching their heads over for all eternity. I mean, yeah, obviously I could tick the same crit boxes as them and acknowledge that the Vivian Girls music is formally unremarkable, technically adequate at best, that they probably haven’t done the legwork to justify global indie-fame… but do you think I care, when their music makes me shiver, changes the weather, throws pictures into my mind, makes things better, the way pop music should?
Sadly, it’s the recording that lets them down to a certain extent here though. Put bluntly, these sound like big songs recorded on the cheap, sounding flat where the the LP roared. The lo-fi approach is cool n’ all, don’t get me wrong, but as the Girls move toward a sound with less flat-out distortion, more harmonies and more subtle, reverbin’ depths, I don’t know if the old ‘one take / one mic’ set up is really serving them best.
(Electric Honey / Lucky Number Nine)
Wake The President / Je Suis Animal split 7”
I think I quite like Glaswegians Wake The President. Quite is odd, because they sound a lot like The Smiths, and I hate The Smiths. I guess it’s a bit like how I really liked Camera Obscura’s first album back in the day, despite the fact I (at the time) hated Belle & Sebastian. An example of an unassuming little band taking on the more easily enjoyable elements of the sound in question, without the preciousness or cultural baggage of their precursors perhaps? And crucially in this case, without the distraction of an overbearing vocalist whining on incoherently like a self-important parish priest cursing god for the indignity of having to deal with two blown tyres in the same week. (Hate mail welcomed in the comments box, Moz fans – I loves ya really).
So yes, Wake the President are definitely perched at the more tweedy, un-rocking end of the indie-pop spectrum, so it is to their credit that here they turn in neither a snorefest nor a groanfest, but a really nicely turned out, toe-tapping couple of minutes of this-sort-of-thing, thankyouverymuch. The singer’s delivery is natural and engaging, the rhythm section is all prim and bouncy and the tune is pretty catchy. The guitarist wants to be Johnny Marr so much it hurts, but unlike Johnny Marr, he turns in a wicked little solo towards the end. File under “hard to dislike”.
Je Suis Animal’s side is an altogether more curious prospect, marrying early Sonic Youth ‘building the tension’ guitar lines to an arch, sing-song Laetitia Sadler style female vocal that seems almost entirely disconnected from the band’s backing. Music and vocal proceed to stalk each other as the track develops, the guitars appearing to triumph at around the two minute mark with a dramatic stabbing-you-over-the-dinner-table Blonde Redhead noise-out, before the singer reasserts herself with another run through the song’s cyclical chorus, and we’re out. I say, this doesn’t seem like very ‘indie-poppy’ behaviour at all! Count me officially INTERESTED in whatever Je Suis Animal are up to.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
To celebrate the fact that I've finally got my own internet connection again, here's a new 8-Track.
THEME: The '60s may be pretty thoroughly picked over, but there is still tons of great, great music from the late '70s / '80s / early '90s that remains unfairly stuck in out-of-print obscurity, some of it never even issued on CD, surviving only as weblog-posted vinyl rips consumed by geeks like me, rather than the wider public who deserve a chance to enjoy it. So, er, here are some of my favourite examples of such, I suppose. Enjoy, and on the unlikely off-chance you've got some of these artists' master-tapes mouldering in yr basement: give it a thought, huh?
Monday, June 01, 2009
March/April/May ’09, Part # 2:
Part #3 coming up before you know it!
Graffiti Island / Rapid Youth / Old Blood / Male Bonding split 7”(Paradise Vendors Inc.)
Four way transatlantic split between some up and coming art-spazz-noise types, with a big ol’ lysergic alsatian on the front! Nice! Of the four groups represented, I’m only familiar with Male Bonding, who I caught live one time and quite enjoyed. A quick listen to this one might save me wasting a few sweaty evenings up at Barden’s Boudoir though, right?
So let’s see….
Graffiti Island: Wow, I take back all my expectations, this is AWESOME. I mean, really awesome! Sounds kinda like… Nodzzz if they were totally evil? Ok, maybe not, but man, this is some wonderful, weird-ass mutant nerd-rock with fuzzed-out swooshing noises, odd-ball lyrics, strong rhythmic backbone and a killer tune – real deviant Cleveland vibe, like Electric Eels hectoring meets early-Pere Ubu art-noise-pop? Their song is called “long-necked tribe”, and it’s actually about a tribe of people with long necks. Right on. I wanna see these guys, and shake them by the hand too, if possible/ advisable.
Rapid Youth: Oddly, sounds quite similar to Graffiti Island – especially the singer’s voice. Not sure I like this one quite as much though. The guitar is somewhat over-busy in it’s high-end doodling, and the vocals verge into a kinda Liars-esque chant thing that’s a little annoying. To further my Cleveland state of mind, it sounds a bit like Paul Marotta’s work in The Styrenes, if you get me. You don’t? Well fine, you’re not missing much, and I’m just being an obscurist bore.
Old Blood: Christ, this is rather less welcome. Overloaded no-fi sound that pushes all the harsh frequencies ala Times New Viking, but unlike TNV I don’t hear much pop or positivity worth digging for beneath. The drumming literally sounds like somebody banging on some bins with a stick, which I’d usually be into, don’t get me wrong, only nobody in this band sounds like they give a fuck, so I don’t see why I should either.
Male Bonding: Wheee! Rocking, high-energy dual guitar cartoon prog-punk here, served with a mischievous grin. Far more light-of-touch and good-of-feeling than the name ‘Male Bonding’ would tend to suggest, but with all the rock muscle and low-end fuzz present and correct. Actually reminds me a lot of Deerhoof – same undeniable rad-ness, only less precocious and annoying. Result! I’m not sure I could stand listening to these guys for very long at a single sitting, but their songs are short, and so are their live sets, so it’s not like they’re not asking anyone to. Gentlemen to a fault!
CONCLUSION: Hey, all in all, that was a great listen, and a lovely surprise. I kinda expected a lot of ‘rainbow vomit’ types with squelching pedal noise and bad, self-indulgent drummers, but actually at least half of it takes a trip down some interesting, non-conformist punk rock avenues, and, in Grafitti Island’s case, a pretty damn exciting one. All that, and I bet I just managed to wreck some idiot’s one-search-result googlewhack thing by laying down ‘lysergic alsation’ in my preamble too. I don’t think it even is an alsation. I’m not into dogs. Rock on!
Yeah, I confess, I bought this one just based on the cover art. I mean, a record that looks like this has got to be a hit, right? (Ok, if you share my aesthetic sensibilities, a record that looks like this has got to be a hit.) It was only then that I noticed it’s on Epitaph; oh well - could go either way. As it turns out, it’s none too great – kinda watered down Rocket From The Crypt on the a-side, with a flat recording nullifying whatever life used to be in the big guitar riffs. The song never really makes an impression; singer sounds like he’s trying too hard. The b is better, in that it’s a total rip-off of ‘Sweet Jane’, which is always welcome. I kept waiting for them to spoil it by launching into a big, dunderheaded chunk riff….. and they held out for so long, I was just starting to think they’d bring the whole thing into harbour safely, but no, the predictable ‘hey, let’s go loud and sing all gruff’ bit cleaved into view to sink my hopes. Basically I suspect this record is the work of lifetime card-carrying Rock Dudes trying to write pop songs and then realising they’ve got no idea how to make the deceptively simple geometry of pop work for them. Oh well, you live and learn. Gimme Foxburo Hottubs any day!
Sounding like a ready-made support band for Thee Oh Sees, I must admit that Florida’s Jacuzzi Boys press a lot of the right buttons with me at present, and it’s swell to find an actual, physical copy of this 7” after surviving on a few downloaded mp3s for a while. Totally spooked-out, propulsive garage-psyche is what Jacuzzi Boys do, and if that description already has you reaching for the bat-phone then their warped 12-string jangle, overdrive pedal lead vocals, droning echo, inscrutable harmonies and admirable lack of quirk should be right up your alley.
Maybe it’s reading too much into things to say there’s a distinct Florida feeling to this band’s music, an atmosphere slightly suggestive of the state’s queasier, weirder cultural legacy? Like the almost hallucinatory turquoise on some rotting roadside motel in bright sunlight? If somebody took acid in a Hershel Gordon Lewis movie, it might sound like this. Great cover shot only drives home my point, with the band bearing lanterns, looking sinister. They have another 7” out called “I Fought a Crocodile”. I love it.
“You just had to find the most horrible record in the shop, didn’t you?”, said my friend Pete in regard to his 7” as we sat in the park surveying our respective purchases the other day. And yes, apparently. Yes I did.
It was the lyrics as printed on the back of the sleeve that sold me I think. Opening lines of ‘Wormwood Star’ are:
I knew it right from the start
That your were born to be a witch
Should have carved ancient sigils
Across my chest
‘Freak Out the Squares’ meanwhile opts for:
Why don’t you and me get together
And cut each other with razorblades
Trip down naked, huff some butane
Find a strip mall to invade
Sounds good to me! Whilst I’ll save both you and Kim Phuc the embarrassment of a full transcription, suffice to say, both songs get progressively more ridiculous(ly wonderful) from thereon in. In fact, all in all this single represents the greatest feat of laugh-out-loud, sleazy, nihilistic, batshit teenage sociopath-styled lyrical derangement I’ve encountered since I gave up listening to Cannibal Corpse. Respect, of a sort, is due.
I’m not sure what my favourite bit is. I’m torn between the line “you can take an average Friday night / and turn it into rights of pain!”[sic] on the A-side, and “Gonna fuck on Ronald Reagan’s grave / we’ll wipe our shit, piss and cum / with the American flag!” on the B. Shocking stuff huh readers? I trust you're appropriately 'freaked out' by these daring iconoclasts.
So, can Kim Phuc possibly measure up musically? Well… ‘Wormwood..’ gets off to a good start, sounding like The Scientists playing ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, but overall both of the tracks are somewhat meandering and leave something to be desired, as the musicians attempt to form an uneasy truce between classic Stoogoid punk, brooding death-rock ambience and endless tension/release metal-core breakdowns, emerging in a deeply unsatisfactory position where the best elements of all those forms have gone AWOL rather than compete with the singer’s tuneless, self-harm obsessed death-freak ranting. He sounds quite serious about it all, bless him. Social services have been informed.
I was kinda lukewarm on Liechtenstein when I saw them live last year. So, your sound and aesthetic leans heavily on Kleenex/LiLiPUT, I thought to myself. Well that’s just great. But if that’s ALL it does..? Needs more… SOMETHING… to really make an impression. Thankfully, that ‘something’ is provided in spades on this fantastic single, which I’ll admit has really blown me away. And what’s more, it doesn’t sound very much like Kleenex/LiLiPUT either. So that’s me told, with my lazy stereotyping of central European female post-punk trios.
What it does sound like in places though is all-time Flying Nun girl-pop heroes Look Blue, Go Purple, and that’s a BRILLIANT thing to sound like. A backbone of suppressed fury and serpentine suspicion, hidden and soothed behind layers of tidal guitar jangle, nursery rhyme melodies, cavewoman thump. Listening to a-side ‘Everything’s For Sale’, it finally makes sense that Liechtenstein are turning up on so many indie-pop bills too, as the song revs up like a more ascetic, militant Shop Assistants, ending with a few rounds of three-part ‘sha-la-la’s. But it’s b-side ‘The End of the World’ that really elicits the LB/GP comparison, a quiet, heartfelt, gritted teeth vocal holding ground beneath a reverbed swirl of ‘What Goes On’ strummage. And, as if to taunt me, 50 second bonus track ‘Low Sugar / Low Fat’ totally brings the LiLiPUT. “We look good when we’re undressed”, Liechtenstein chant over staccato bass and muted trumpet, an oblique/obvious protest as perfectly formed as any ‘Pink Flag’ nugget.
Scarcely six minutes of music here, but within it I think we can hear the whole essence of a great band, playing some defiantly UN-twee pop, with dignity, substance and self-belief.
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