Tunin' the motor, like a weekend boater
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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
THE FIFTY BEST RECORDS OF 2009: Part #6
25. The Super Vacations – s/t(Shdwply Records)
I blathered a bit about this one earlier this year:
“Super Vacations provide a perfect example of a group turning the limitations of home-recording to their advantage, assembling a beguiling psyche-rock sound from the palette of slightly warped rock n’ pop elements at their disposal. Their debut album burns through sixteen songs in about twenty five minutes, each of them a swirling wonder of crisply recorded hi-hat n’ snare grooves, twangin’, FX heavy surf guitar, hazy layers of psychedelic jangle, occasional bursts of chaotic space-fuzz washout and ultra-compressed vocal tracks that range from pristine, chanted harmonies to distorted answering machine skree. […]Then, about halfway through the album they seem to get bored of all the dreamy, haunted psyche and throw down some of the truly groovin’ surf instrumentals that the lead guitar & drums have been hinting at throughout, sidestepping the pitfalls of redundant Dick Dale pastiche and instead recalling garage-racket oddities like The Nick & The Jaguars’ “Ichi-Bon No#1”, with a gleeful mix of rough-hewn rockin’ and out-of-control tremolo, and a lovely sense of Ventures-esque melodic purpose. Fab gear! Add a propensity for “let’s turn this fader all the way up and see what happens” type mixing desk experiments and more alien-planet reverb than the devil’s own bathtub, and Super Vacations start to sound eerily like they're channelling the last cloud of psychic detritus to escape through Joe Meek’s fireplace before the forces of darkness closed in.”
Yeah, that about does it I think.
Mp3> Mr. Mystery
24. Impediments – s/t (Happy Parts)
Hey, remember The Replacements doing “Staples In Her Stomach” and “Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out”, with Westerberg spitting stupid/smart non-sequiturs outta the corner of his mouth, before people started to ruin things by telling him he was a genius? [If you don't: education time.] That’s exactly where we’re at with Berkeley’s Impediments, shamelessly mixing sloppy, fuck-off-and-die punk rock with the kind of antediluvian Stones/Dolls raunch that by rights should never be allowed to fly in this day n’ age and ending up with one of the most enjoyable rock n’ roll records of this or any other year. In terms of subject matter, there’s some really great, twisted song-writing talent going on here, and by way of example Impediments seem to be working through a series on all the Vs that are want to afflict impressionable young men - “Vom”, “Violence”, “Vagina Envy” – but the obvious stand-out is “You Want A Square”, an absolute jewel of a song that sees our spurned singer sneering through lines like “you want a guy likes Hall & Oates / rides ponies but he’s not riding goats”. It occurs to me that whether they’re taking aim at an unreconstructed ‘80s square H&O fan or a newly minted ‘hey-those-guys-were-geniuses’ hipster, the result is the same, and just as righteous, hopefully offering succour to every surly, leather jacket clad drunk in a thousand mile radius. Like ‘..Square’, just about every one of these songs goes out in a totally gratuitous barrage of ‘one-more-time!’s and Stinson-worthy ‘will-he-make-it-back-in-time-for-the-chorus’ stunt hero guitar, but they sound like they’re having so much fun it would take a hard heart indeed to try and make them rein it in. Damn, what a great band.
Mp3> You Want A Square
23. Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours (Melodic / Aaarght!)
I know this album’s really 2008, but it only got a UK release this year, and I heard it this year, so it stays in the picture. Named after an electrical component, Melbourne’s Eddy Current Suppression Ring set about making guitar/bass/drums/singer rock music with all the utilitarian purpose of a dude fixing your TV. Initially I didn’t think much of ‘em – lots of four minute plus songs where the singer barks a handful of repeated lines over time-keeping rhythmic backing – kinda boring. But repeated listens bring out the near monolithic grooviness, persistent inventiveness and inspired noise-wrangling of their mid-tempo headnodders, cramming themselves into your consciousness until you’d be hard-pressed to deny that the Eddys are getting SOMETHING right in a way precious few other bands are at the moment. Check out the messily spectacular un-solo the guitarist throws into the middle of opener ‘Memory Lane’, or, in fact, the way he manages to do something really cool and unexpected with his trebly, overdriven strat sound in just about every one of these songs, without ever detracting from the overall momentum. Check out the irresistible ‘works outing beach party’ vibe that the singer’s persistent fitness instructor enthusiasm brings to ‘Sunday’s Coming’ and ‘Wrapped Up’, or the way that the rhythm section just…. y’know, rocks it like a rhythm section should, adding an explosive force to simple paranoid/political screed ‘Color Television’ and token instrumental ‘That’s Inside of Me’. Eddy Current are just a great, unpretentious band, reminding us that, when all the right elements are in place and the feeling is solid, four guys playing guitar/bass/drums/sing can still be a real event.
Mp3> Which Way To Go
22. The Coathangers – Scramble (Suicide Squeeze)
Sounding like a veritable Rorschach test of female alt-rock influences, this second LP from The Coathangers switches at various junctures between spiked ESG post-punk, belligerent Le Tigre stomp-alongs, Mika Miko dual vocal punk rock and Softies sweetness – not that I suspect The Coathangers care a damn for such tiresome comparisons and gender-defined baggage. No, they’re too busy just having a great time, writing songs called ‘Arthritus Sux’ and ‘Killdozer’, and laying down weird studio jams full of sci-fi sound effects, audio gags and dialogue samples to pad out their album. My kinda ladies! It may sound like an odd thing to say, but in era when a lot of bands routinely turn in albums of the “here are twelve songs in our signature style” variety, there’s something absolutely delightful about ‘Scramble’s bloody-minded quirk and inconsistency. Cultural precedent does not lead us to expect an all-girl punk band to start goofing off like the Bonzo Dog Band, and it’s a blast that they do. And in between all that, we’ve got a wide variety of A-grade material to enjoy here too – ‘Dreamboat’ and ‘Sonic You’ are absolutely perfect swoonsome crush songs, and ‘Gettin’ Mad & Pumping Iron’ and ‘Bury Me’ make for furious blasts of good natured riot grrl carnage. One of my favourites is ‘Stop Stompin’’, a song about their obnoxious upstairs neighbour (“why don’t you put on some slippers, mr. lead foot?”) – and frankly, any band with the suss to stretch a conceit like that across three minutes and come out with a really great, funny song is richly deserving of our attention.
Mp3> Stop Stomp Stompin'
21. The Clean - Mister Pop (Merge)
What a lovely surprise in the year that I started to make kiwi pop my bread and butter – a new album from The Clean, and it’s actually really good! It seems like the Kilgours and Robert Scott have all been doing a lot of listening and growing and palette-cleansing since the band’s last few scrappy, disappointing efforts in the late ‘90s. No one in a blindfold test would ever guess that ‘Loog’, with it’s phased female vocals and drifting organ textures, was the opening cut on a new Clean album – it sounds more like some forgotten krautrock luminaries scoring a decadent love scene, but it also sounds GREAT, and that’s what counts - and hey, a lot can happen in ten years. Hamish Kilgour has always been one of the best post-Mo Tucker rock drummers around, and his perfect less-is-more timing is at the heart of all these songs, fusing with David K’s distinctively serpentine guitar and the relaxed, melodic sensibility that Scott has perfected in The Bats, turning dreamy ditties like ‘Are You Really On Drugs?’ and ‘In The Dreamlife You Need a Rubber Soul’ into perfectly realised nuggets of psychedelic pop, transcending the drearily obvious drugs/Beatles references of their lyrics and sounding genuinely blissful - kind of like what I hoped all those ‘paisley underground’ bands might sound like, before I heard them and realised they were crap. ‘Tensile’ is another highlight, taking the krautrock influence a few steps further with a night-driving motorik pulse, Eno-esque synths and mechanised deadpan vocals, but it still can’t help but fall back on an inherently upbeat spirit, sounding less like a menacing trip into the unknown, more like quietly falling asleep in the back of a car driven by someone you trust. It seems to me that several other iconic underground bands (naming no names) have all come out with albums this year that were practically suffocated by their relentless *niceness*, and The Clean are treading similar territory here, but somehow, they manage to pull it off where others have failed, keeping things memorable and inventive throughout. With new sounds and new ideas being thrown into just about every song, it’s perhaps telling that ‘Factory Man’, the most obvious attempt to recreate the jangly NZ pop sound of the ‘80s, is also by far the least successful track here. ‘Mister Pop’ sounds like the work of a gang of collaborators who have aged well and travelled far in their down-time, bringing back a new sense of consistency and open-mindedness to their old band, and creating one of the most comforting, surprising and just plain lovely-sounding records of the year in the process.
Mp3> Asleep In The Tunnel
Monday, December 28, 2009
THE FIFTY BEST RECORDS OF 2009: Part #5
30. Finally Punk – Casual Goths(Germs of Youth)
I didn’t go much on Finally Punk when I initially gave them a listen online, but I regret not making the effort to go and see them when they were in the country last year, because this LP, helpfully compiling their recorded output to date, is a total blast. I don’t know whether or not these 28 tracks are presented in chronological order, but I suspect so, as you can practically hear the band developing over the course of the album, from total temper tantrum fifty second spazz-fests at the start of side one to far more coherent, manic surf-punk in the Bratmobile mould by the end of side two. It took me a while to put my finger on what Finally Punk most remind me of. Some of the earlier tracks like ‘Johnny Depp vs Gator’ and ‘Redneck Gout Club’ are so hilariously trashed and infuriating they put me in mind of a girl gang answer to The Icky Boyfriends, but by the time we’ve made it past their cover of ‘Negative Creep’ at the halfway point (and hey, thanks for reminding me what a stupendously fun tune that is), the rickety, confrontational post-punk lurch and ranting, fuck-this-shit vocals have taken on the shape of something that I’m SURE already lurks deep in my boxes of old CDs and 7”s and – yes, that’s it! – GOD IS MY CO-PILOT, right there! I suppose bands like Finally Punk must get royally pissed off at aging nerds like me, taking in their unique and off-kilter style which has no doubt grown naturally from the personalities and shared humour of the band’s members and their friends and social context etc. etc., and coming out with “yeah, that’s really cool - y’know there was this band back in the ‘90s that used to do the exact same thing – hey, I’ve got their albums somewhere, I’ll do you a copy, you’ll like it”. But hopefully there’s more to Finally Punk than just entertaining the likes of me by sounding like God Is My Co-Pilot and The Icky Boyfriends. There’s more variety here than that, and some of the later, longer cuts are just fantastic songs – ‘Primary Colours’ hits with a musical and lyrical depth that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sleater Kinney record, and disturbing tunes like ‘Missle’ and ‘Know Age’ take a more convincing stab at conveying the frustrations and fears of imminent victimhood young women have to put with than most earnest acoustic types who’d tackle such subject matter. That said, spasmodic, ranting rave-ups like ‘Boyfriend Application’ and ‘Dear Diary, Men Are Pigs’ are still my favourites – funny, angry, energised and fucked up, the world ALWAYS needs bands like Finally Punk.
Mp3> Boyfriend Application
29. Mean Jeans – Are You Serious?(Dirtnap)
“I was born in a leather jacket / the doctor called me a faggot / I’m fucked up but I don’t care / I ain’t never gonna cut my hair” - alright! Mean Jeans look like Buddy Bradley’s fucked up hometown loser friends from the New Jersey chapters of ‘Hate’, they list Wyld Stallyns in their top friends on myspace, and they sound like they’ve never owned a record that’s not by The Ramones. Stereo Sanctity says: WHERE DO I SIGN? Their vocalist may have learned to replicate Joey’s vowel sounds perfectly, but there’s no hiding the fact that Mean Jeans are pure Johnny n’ DeeDee, with any hint of ‘60s pop or emotional fragility hidden deep beneath the non-stop blitzkrieg riffola – this is stupid-head, steamroller pop-punk dedicated to the joys of eating, sleeping, rock n’ roll and getting fucked up. Such an approach sometimes comes with a downside, and indeed, the middle section of this album does kinda fall into a slump of toxic, cheap cocaine binge identikit over-EQed sludge, but even at their worst, Mean Jeans are still a ton more fun than Wavves oe whatever in the white-suburban-delinquent-trash stakes, and when they’ve got a good pop tune to cling onto – which is most of the time – they’re freakin’ unbeatable, busting through hits like “Born on a Saturday Night”, “Throwin’ Stones”, “Total Creep” and “Case Race” as if the spirit of da bruddas is keeping watch over their stoned-ass shoulders, making this record absolutely the best no-brainer, guilt-free pogo action since… god knows when. To anyone who still rues the day The Queers started to get too mature with all that Beach Boys stuff: you have a new favourite band.
Mp3> Steve Don't Party No More
28. Sylvester Anfang – II(Aurora Borealis)
Sylvester Anfang are a trio of sinister gents from Belgium, who I imagine are usually to be found lurking in a haze of smoke, sniggering at outsiders for their ignorance of obscure krautrock LPs. And when they’re through doing that for the day, they like nothing better than to utilise everything at their disposal to create the perfect soundtrack for your next acid-fuelled Satanic orgy. Musically, they’re pretty open-minded fellas, but wherever they roam, this atmosphere always seems to remain at the heart of their work – you get the feeling that in Sylvester Anfang’s world, if it doesn’t evoke images of writhing, hypnotised priestesses raising ceremonial daggers above a blood-drenched altar, it ain’t worth shit. I actually saw these fellas play a few years ago, supporting Jack Rose. I was at the height of my “fuck all this free noise bullshit” period at the time, but they nonetheless still managed to impress me as they scrabbled around the floor, tinkling bells and abusing fuzzboxes with occult precision, demonstrating an uncanny ability to turn even the randomest blurts of sound into a pulsing, cohesive whole. The band’s earlier records and tapes have tended to concentrate on the kind of unglued improv I saw them performing that night, but for this double LP they’ve really upped the ante, inviting various guests on board and emerging with a veritable smorgasbord of styles complementary to their overall aesthetic, taking in endless, sickening psyche jams, forbidding, moog-heavy droning, Attila Csihar-style coffin chants, stuff that kinda sounds like a Hammer soundtrack run through an echoplex, and even some hair-raisingly uncool mutant blues hoedowns. The overall impression is akin to a European gothic horror version of one of those classic Acid Mothers Temple double-headers: too much of everything, conveniently sliced into segments for the terminally zonked. Just drop the needle, dim the lights, and before you know it you’ll be transported to a darkened basement full of gory Technicolor, twisting double exposed photography, bleeding skulls, gratuitous boobs and grinning, robed hippies proffering hits from bone-carved hash pipes.
27. Brilliant Colors – Introducing…(Slumberland)
Brilliant Colors’ two EPs showcased a delightfully shaky, Beat Happening-esque approach to homemade rock n’ roll, but for this debut LP they’ve tightened up considerably and upped both the speed and the fuzz, turning in a beautiful white-light half hour of high energy punk rock – as perfect an equation of melody, velocity and noise as I’ve heard this year. Of course, because they’re girls and play songs with tunes, the world will have Brilliant Colors down as ‘indie-pop’, but to my mind ‘Introducing..’ is just a brilliant punk record. Each song blasts off like a ramshackle rocket, with maxed out distortion cutting across ramming speed snare/hi hat drums, yelped, repeated phrases yelled at the top of their voices – “shake!shake!shake!shake!” and “ask me!, ask me!, askme!askme!” – a totally joyous energy blast in the spirit of The Avengers or the first Saints album, in which the substance of individual songs scarcely matters so long as you’re still getting from A to B at maximum speed with air in your lungs. That the album ends with a punked up new version of their previous super-hit “Should I Tell You” seems like a deliberate gesture – those EP tracks are what they *could do then*, this album’s *where they WANT to be* now. Can’t think of much more to say than that, but in my headphones at 8:30 in on a freezing morning this is an absolute beauty.
26.Thee Oh Sees – Help / Thee Hounds of Foggy Notion / Dog Poison(In The Red / Tomlab / Captured Tracks)
Knocking out three albums and a DVD’s worth of product this year, small wonder Thee Oh Sees have effectively become my ‘default music’ this year – the band that fills the gap whenever nothing else particularly springs to mind. Taken individually, I guess none of these records are as good as last year’s terrific ‘The Master’s Bedroom..’, but they’re nothing if not consistent, and I’m a fan of needlessly proliferating releases, so this landslide of effortlessly galumphing garage-psych riff-pop gets the thumbs up from me. ‘Help’ is, I suppose, the proper official album, with harder guitars, tighter playing and better production, and if it fails to manifest the hoped for leap forward in songwriting, it’s still a veritable riot of weird, chaotic rock n’ roll, with little surprises like the flute-rockin’ on ‘Meat Step Lively’ popping up on a regular basis to save the day. The defiantly non-Velvets aping ‘..Foggy Notion’ meanwhile is a CD companion to a largely frivolous DVD that features the band playing some tunes in unusual locales (by the side of a motorway, etc.), and it presents a quieter, stranger and altogether more enticing side of the band as they rework some of the rave-ups from their other releases as ghostly, reverb-heavy creep-folk, with excellent results, by and large. ‘Dog Poison’ follows suit, adding a bit of flagrant Fall worship and sounding kinda like a demos collection more than anything. I like demos collections, and, as we’ve gathered, I’m happy to cut John Dwyer and his pals WAY loads of slack in view of the extent to which their signature sound appeals to me, so we can notch this one up as another great LP. Plenty of flute on it too! I don’t know what the hell kind of point Thee Oh Sees are supposed to be making at any point in their voluminous output, but I sure do like the sound of them making it. If I had a talk show, they’d be the house band. So best be glad I don;t have one.
Meat Step Lively (from 'Help')
I Can’t Pay You To Disappear (from 'Dog Poison')
Saturday, December 26, 2009
THE FIFTY BEST RECORDS OF 2009: Part #4
35. The Loves – Three (Fortuna Pop)
Ah hell, what can one say about The Loves? They were here a few years ago, recording wonderful sessions for Peel as a gaggle of bubblegum pop crazed Welsh teenagers, and they’re still here a million line-up changes and the best part of a decade later as a gaggle of ‘adults’ doing more or less the same thing, and it’s still fucking brilliant. Basically, if you’re in a band, and your set-list doesn’t look like this.. 34. Peaking Lights – Imaginary Falcons
…better find out what the problem is, and FIX IT. Ask The Loves, they can probably advise.
Mp3> Ode To Coca-Cola
34. Peaking Lights – Imaginary Falcons(Night People)
33. Boston Spaceships – Zero to 99 / The Planets are Blasted
Peaking Lights is Aaron Coyes and Indra Dunis (she used to sing and bang drums in Numbers, if you remember them; I don’t know what he used to do). It’s difficult to really explain the appeal of their first proper album, but I do know I’ve played it incessantly – far more than a lot of the other albums on this list, if iTunes is to be believed. And I’m confident that if you have a copy, you’ve probably played it incessantly too. It’s hard not to. Anchored by cheap, comforting drum machine and electronic burblings, phased out wordless vocals and beautifully enticing guitar and keyboard textures, I’d say Peaking Lights essentially resemble, oh, I dunno – a version of Harmonia raised in the ‘00s tape-trading underground, making soothing sounds for a very weird baby..? Try that out for size. I keep biting my tongue, because I don’t want to say that this album is pleasant; that’s the worst back-handed compliment there is, and it wouldn’t speak for the frequent invasions of hissy, metallic scuzz or warped echo labyrinths into this music, the stuff that’s constantly jumping out, demanding your attention. But Peaking Lights manage to pull off something here that has eluded most makers of long-form psyche/drone/whatever music through most of the decade – namely, they make music which is welcoming, harmonious, non-snobbish and, well, happy, but that also never cops out and fades into ambient boredom or druggy new age drek. Layers of instrument/noise are built up carefully and deliberately over the central metronomic pulse, so that they complement each other perfectly, fusing into songs (they do occasionally resemble songs) that are just lovely, lovely patchworks of sound, drifting off and around and taking you places and coming back again and smiling and gurgling at you and letting you know you’re safe, like crazy electronic lullabies from a warm, caring place. It makes me happy before I go to bed on weekdays, like hot chocolate – I’m gonna go put it on again.
Mp3> Wedding Song
33. Boston Spaceships – Zero to 99 / The Planets are Blasted(GBV)
32. Micachu & The Shapes – Jewellery
The period immediately following the final dissolution of Guided By Voices in 2005 will likely be remembered by devotees as Bad Times In The Church Of Bob (a song title I hope Mr. Pollard will get around to one day). Verily, it did hurt to see our hero, his energies now free to dedicate wholly to his solo projects, knock out album after album (six a year? one every two months? – I dunno, I lost count), each more dispiriting than the last, each trying vainly to stretch fragments of the kind of inspiration he was blowing his nose with and discarding fifteen years ago across twenty or thirty tiresome stabs at tunes… or else twelve four-minute plus trad-rock groaners. Was ANYONE other than the reviewers still listening? Well, you may have noticed I’m speaking in the past tense, which is perhaps a tad premature, but I’m crossing my fingers here as I say, rejoice ye faithful: these two discs from Bob’s new trio Boston Spaceships are pretty damn good. Not quite up to the level of a turn of the century GBV album, needless to say, but our man seems to have brought a renewed sense of energy and, most importantly, some killer tunes to these sessions. Maybe not many for the greatest hits (unless your greatest hits is pushing beyond the seven disc mark), but we’re talking at least a 60-80% hit-rate here, and that’s good enough for me. Generally speaking, ‘Planets Are Blasted’ seems to concentrate more on the bittersweet, mid-western janglepop end of the Pollardverse, with ‘Dorothy’s A Planet’ and ‘Queen of Stormy Weather’ hitting all the buttons that used to make critics reach for the erroneous R.E.M. comparisons, whilst ‘Zero to 99’ instead revs up some of the ol’ windmilling, British invasion thrash and Sydian quirk, and I mean, who the HELL would imagine he’d still be getting mileage out of all that after all these years? If the answer’s not you, just take a listen and tell me keepers like ‘Exploding Anthills’ and ‘How Wrong You Are’ lie. I know I’ve largely spoken in numbers and percentages in this write-up, rather than my more characteristic impressionistic blathering, but Pollard’s borderline autistic comings and goings have long given his fans reason to learn to speak in the most heartfelt and emotional numbers and percentages known to man, and it’s good to have him back on-message.
Dorothy’s a Planet (from ‘Planets are Blasted’)
Let It Rest For A Little While (from ‘Zero to 99’)
32. Micachu & The Shapes – Jewellery(Rough Trade)
31. Chain & The Gang – Down With Liberty… Up With Chains!
As you may have gathered by now, this blog is not a big advocate of chasing ‘originality’ in music for its own sake, but that’s not to say that we don’t like it when something genuinely new-sounding marches in of its own volition. As such, let us welcome the arrival of Micachu & The Shapes with a superb album that stands out as one of the best slices of experimental pop since people started casually throwing the phrase ‘experimental pop’ around. Much of Micachu’s palette of sound seems to stem from East London ‘urban’/club music and the early ‘00s ideal of commercial/avant pop, with throbbing, distorted bass pulses and menacing, chopped up drum programming thundering around all over the place, but these elements are mixed roughly with a sharp strain of art school DIY pop, as characterised by the weird, otherly tuned plunkings of Mica’s home-modified acoustic guitars, random looped racket from vacuum cleaners and kitchenware and a sense of oblique, emotionally raw lyricism that sits at the heart of just about all these songs. There’s something Beefheartian about the way Micachu puts her songs together – attempting to derail that ‘ol’ mother heartbeat’ with a mix that pushes harsh frequencies, jolting discords and maximum clatter. Also like The Captain, she manages to marshal a collection of sounds and techniques that would be absolutely insufferable in the hands of any other musician, but her surety of purpose helps steer the whole strangely articulate mess to a more than satisfactory conclusion, with her songs throwing out stinging vignettes of distrust, infidelity, disappointment and all the rest expressed through weird, brute simple modern day imagery (titles like “Guts”, “Golden Phone”, “Calculator”, “Curley Teeth” and “Worst Bastard” tell their own story), leaving you unexpectedly moved and involved with these semi-abstract tales, just as surely as Beefheart’s batshit ramblings always, somehow, manage to hit the heart of the matter when you least expect it. To write off the astonishing creative energy behind ‘Jewellery’ simply as the product of “talent” would scarcely do justice to the possibilities Mica and her pals are bringing to the table here.
31. Chain & The Gang – Down With Liberty… Up With Chains!(K)
Observing the unsavoury developments of the past decade, Ian Svenonious and his comrades have clearly taken some time out to reconsider their strategy and develop a whole new concept in “the responsible use of rock n’ roll”, the musical/aesthetic results proving as didactic, lateral, inscrutable and inspired as ever. In whoe name, Svenonious seems to be asking, have the corporate and governmental atrocities of the twenty-first century been committed? In the name of freedom, of course. And what is it that has stopped us, the citizenry, from rising up against the prevailing system of exploitation and brutality? The freedoms that the system has provided us with of course; the ones we’re loath to lose by biting the hand that feeds us. Thus, the only remaining route to change: ‘Down With Liberty… Up With Chains!’ Befitting this new austerity, Chain & The Gang have traded in the queasy, anything-goes funk/glam/psyche stew of Weird War, and retreated back to the DIY pop bosom of K Records in the cold North-West, recording an album with seemingly little more on hand than a drum kit, Calvin Johnson at the controls, some bass or acoustic guitar (rarely both at once), and the girls from Finally Punk dropping in for some backing vocals. The results, it must be said, are a mixed bag. Some tracks come off as hokey, undercooked jams, begging for a few more instruments or a more developed melody to render them worthwhile, but hearing Svenonious taking advantage of his new ensemble’s open spaces to let rip on some stream of consciousness jive is an absolute joy - “What Is a Dollar?” and “Interview With The Chain Gang” are cool as fuck, and album centrepiece “Deathbed Confession” is just about the best song he’s ever written. And when Svenonious is on form, the rest of the band seem to follow suit, throwing together some riotous, threadbare soul and ‘60s-influenced pop on the best tracks, fusing inevitably into the same flaming, declamatory fun-fests that have helped keep us hooked on Svenonious’ output over the years. As ever, those who like their party music and political statements to be clearly sign-posted and delineated will be infuriated beyond words by Chain & The Gang’s glorious jumble of sounds n’ symbols, but as the man himself says; “What’s my stance? Y'know I like to dance… and smash things up when I get a chance”.
Mp3> Deathbed Confession
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
THE FIFTY BEST RECORDS OF 2009: Part #3
(I'm gonna try to get this whole deal done before January 4th by the way, so stay tuned!)
40. Slasher Risk - スラシア リスク (Obsolete Units)
I only just got hold of this CD, so probably haven’t given it sufficient listening time to wax lyrical, except to confirm that it is a pleasingly varied affair, signalling many potentially rewarding recording directions from this duo, whose freeform skronk-terror I initially had down as potentially un-recordable. Good work everybody! So, a quick table of contents: #1: five minutes of gloriously knuckleheaded heavy metal thunder, #2: eight minutes of a chiming, wintry dual guitar cosmic ambience, reminiscent of something off Charalambides ‘Our Bed Is Green’, #3: six minutes of industrial cacophony, like the sound of something going very wrong in a very dangerous factory, #4: a twenty seven minute live set of brooding no wave skyscraping and exhilarating stalk-n’-slash sonic violence, and #5: two minutes of Japanese street sounds and subway announcements. Depending on his or her aesthetic preferences, any open-eared listener is guaranteed to find at least three of these five disparate selections to be TOTALLY KILLER. So, let’s have a contest -- which of the above do you reckon I’ve selected to post as an mp3 below? Why not write down your choice on a piece of paper, then hit the download button and find out if your right? C’mon, it’ll be fun!
39. Grass Widow – 12” EP (Captured Tracks)
Like many of the new generation of American bands, Grass Widow throw together a bag of long naturalised elements from surf, punk, psychedelia, ‘80s guitar-pop etc, and invest the results with a sorta indefinable strung out, haunted quality. Unlike many of their contemporaries though, Grass Widow go about all this with a great deal of care and self-confidence, making sure that the four tracks they’ve here submitted to Captured Tracks are invested at all times with tightly wound instrumental interplay, captivating, folk-chant harmonies, killer less-is-more guitarwork, a definite sense of emotional coherence and… well, y’know, all the stuff that makes young people playing songs on guitar, bass & drums good, essentially. ‘Lulu’s Lips’ in particular is a winner, evoking some blissed out 5am nightclub loneliness moment perfectly, drifting vocal refrains hovering over an ESG-worthy rhythm workout and an endless practice amp echo of that guitar slide from ‘Rockaway Beach’. And the other songs are great too – ‘Tattoo’ sounds like a female Wipers falling through a Proustian time tunnel, ‘Thirsty Again’ is like a rainswept 6am journey to the beach to go surfing, just after they’ve left that club from the other song. No fooling - this EP is a solid and beautiful thing in a way that even some sensible old curmudgeon who’d never give in and shell out for yet another oversized, overpriced and poorly pressed 12” EP by some overhyped teenagers on Captured Tracks will be able to nod sagely and appreciate. So bite yr tongue and wait ‘til it’s reissued on an early singles CD comp after their debut album proper wipes us all out next year.
Mp3 > Lulu’s Lips
38. Psyched To Die – Sterile Walls EP (Grave Mistake)
I may not have quite realised it back when I reviewed this 7” earlier this year, but after downloading the mp3s on a whim and sticking them on my player for a quick walk to the shops, the truth became clear: THIS BAND RULES! Psyched To Die do pretty much everything you could ask for from a punk-as-genre band in 2009 (or 1982 for that matter), kicking off like a dynamo for eight songs that have the decency to knock you on your ass, get their point across and end. In terms of pure velocity and rage, you could file ‘em under hardcore, only they’re not regimented or boring enough to stay enveloped for more than a few seconds at a time, given their penchant for relatively clean-toned, fast-moving riffing, strangulated Greg Ginn leads, wiry pre-h/c energy and – joy of joys – comprehensible vocals, all topped off with a palpable sense of all-consuming frustration and misanthropy that spills over into not-half-as-dumbass-as-you’d-expect odes to atomic war, mental health-based incarceration, media brainwashing and the like. I wouldn’t have believed anyone could take these hackneyed ol’ elements and make them sound so fresh again, but… here we all are. Punk rock satori, pretty much.
Mp3> Five Year Plan
37. Jacuzzi Boys – No Season (Florida’s Dying)
It’s hard to write about Jacuzzi Boys without invoking their Florida heritage. As I’ve gone off about when I’ve written about them previously, their music seems to play straight into the same “weird Florida” vibe as their state’s rich heritage of exploitation moviemakers. They seem to rise from a world of swamp ghosts and mutant gators, of turquoise swimsuits, surfboards strapped to the top of broken down Cadillacs and radioactive technicolor blood, a world where twilight and blinding sunshine are indistinguishable, and the beach party goes on forever as the casualties pile up. Putting such flipperies aside for the moment though, any garage-trash aficionado would be forced to agree that Jacuzzi Boys are a good example of that odd sub-set of the music that people in the cold parts of the United States simply don’t make. I loved their singles, and this album delivers big-time, with thirteen bursts of pretty much definitive psychedelic punk, executed in the spirit of the 13th Floor Elevators or the ‘80s Flaming Lips, taking simple four-chord rock n’ roll and somehow rendering it impossibly, pupil-dilatingly weird. The dumbest Spring Break frat boy around could probably get his head around Jacuzzi Boys’ killer rhythm section, sweet, almost classic rock, lead guitar moves and seemingly endless faith in the ‘Louie Louie’/’You’re Gonna Miss Me’ turnaround. But what would he make of the manic tape echo that seems to crash in and out of their songs at random intervals? Or the foggy fuzz burbling somewhere deep in the mix? And what of their lyricist’s somewhat… unorthodox.. approach to getting his tales of haunted cabins, ruined birthday parties and bad acid across to the dance floor? These are just some of the things that help make “No Season” the perfect soundtrack to dancing with a mutant jellyfish girl on a flimsy wooden jetty – and it’s a soundtrack I think we could all benefit from keeping within easy reach.
Mp3> Island Ave.
36. Circuit Des Yeux – Sirenium (DeStijl)
Over the past few years, the figure of the “delay pedal lady” has become a prominent fixture in weirdo music, to the extent of becoming an accepted categorisation in its own right, rather than an occasional anomaly. From early adopters like Fursaxa and Christina Carter through to Grouper, U.S. Girls and Pocahaunted, there’s probably some fiend somewhere penning a retrospective history of the ‘movement’ for a broadsheet paper as we speak. It should go without saying that the above practitioners all represent a way of doing things that I greatly enjoy, but it is nonetheless interesting to note that 2009’s most exciting addition to this shaky pantheon seems determined to fuck with whatever reductionist conventions the aforementioned broadsheet fiend is ready to lay at her door, by way of one of the most challenging, puzzling and unsettling LPs of the year. If I start trying to disassemble the music of Indiana-based Circuit Des Yeux, picking out elements of her haunting goth-girl baritone and internal mic level string/piano/snare mutant blues bleedage from the implacable fog that constitutes ‘Sirenium’ … well, that wouldn’t really be doing things justice. To drag up some creaky old reasoning, ‘Sirenium’ isn’t atmosphere-over-content so much as the atmosphere IS the content, with sheets of drifting, mystifying sound laid thick over whatever core song was once present, like layers of lace gauze over a burn victim’s face. As such, it’s hard to really discuss the album as anything other than abstract impressions – impressions that can’t help but form a Twin Peaks-like netherworld of suburban confinement, strange, atavistic beauty and stark, violent terror. Whatever subjective impressions it’s all meant to convey, it’s hard to deny that the result is completely captivating, and it’s more than a little inspiring to think on what it represents in the continuum of DIY/homemade music – one girl and her laptop, in a house, making astonishing, otherworldly sounds pretty much just from herself and a few bits of junk left lying around in the living room.
Monday, December 14, 2009
THE FIFTY BEST RECORDS OF 2009: Part #2
45. Crocodiles – Summer of Hate (Fat Possum)
So maybe it was just me, but it seems like everything I heard/read about Crocodiles in advance of giving this album a spin was fairly negative. Folks said that they were dull, arrogant hipsters, that their live show sucked, that they were just yet-a-fucking-nother aimless J&MC rip-off band jumping the lo-fi/whatever bandwagon a year too late, etc, etc. All of which may be true for all I know, but I’d just like to take a moment to say: actually, I think this album is pretty damn good. And I don’t think it even sounds that much like the ‘Mary Chain, contrary to every Crocodiles review ever written, except maybe for a bit of ‘Honey’s Dead’ era drum machine and sunglasses-after-dark shape-throwing. Oh, and that blatant steal of the verse phrasing from ‘Head On’ on ‘I Wanna Kill’, but I don’t mind a bit of stealing – after all, if you listen to bands like this enough, you learn that stealing is danger and danger is cool! Anyway, to my ears, what we’ve got here is a pleasingly ambitious heap of theatrical synth/guitar LA power-rock executed on a 4-track budget, with wave-yr-arms stadium choruses, sleazy fuzz riffing, maniac echo-abuse, strung out Lynchian dream-pop, weird druggy noise bits and lots of songs that are probably about strutting around neon-lit streets in a leather jacket, lookin’ for danger. In a straight to video movie. In 1986. Um… actually I’m making it sound pretty bad here, aren’t I? A Primal Scream support slot probably beckons. I don’t care. I like this. All the sounds on it please me. It’s good. Feel the danger!
Mp3>Soft Skull (In My Room)
44. Pens – Hey Friend, What You Doing? (De Stijl)
Ha ha – the guy from Pitchfork hates Pens. Yep, they really get him riled up, to the point where he loses it and yells about how they “can’t play”, thus disqualifying him from music crit discourse forever. Good times! Anyway, even if we take him at his word, it’s bullshit – Pens aren’t some primitivist art project, they’re a punk band, and they can play drums in time and play guitar and keyboard riffs over the top and shout real good and what the fuck more does he want? Something that’s boring and knows its place, I’ll wager. Something that’s not a bunch of one minute explosions of distorted-to-fuck self expression speaking of teeth-grinding frustration and lunatic hedonism, clawing back a sense of the same anyone-can-be-a-rock-star-now ethos of punk rock that brought us The Germs, The Ramones and the 70s-era Fall, most likely. What Pitchfork guy is probably trying to convey in his own ignorant fashion is that Pens certainly aren’t easy listening, and that their trash compactor assault course of a debut album will likely drive you up the wall, if it hasn’t already driven you out of the front door on a mission to end the evening sitting on a distant kerb crushing lager cans into your forehead. It certainly won’t inspire you to sit at your laptop nodding politely and penning a positive review, that’s for sure. Unless you’re me, I suppose. TWO THUMBS UP!
43. Liechtenstein – Survival Strategies in the Modern World (Slumberland)
As you may recall, I was mightily impressed by an earlier single I picked up from this Swedish trio, deeming them to possess “..the whole essence of a great band, playing some defiantly UN-twee pop, with dignity, substance and self-belief”. Subsequently, this 10”, nine song almost album initially left me a bit disappointed by comparison. In blunt terms, this one’s a lot less post-punk, a lot more indie-pop. Less stern, more cutesy; meh. That was a really dumb conclusion to jump to though, because this is a real grower if you give it some time. With its bedroom closet sound, thin, DIed guitars, shimmery vocal harmonies and super-crisp reverb, ‘Survival Strategies..’ could easily pass for a lost artefact by some obscure early ‘80s girl band. And if Slumberland had fraudulently marketed it as such, I’m sure we fans of such things would all be holding it to our hearts as a holy relic of all that era’s goodness, as Liechtenstein survey the landscape and pick up some wallflower reserve and heartbreaking unhappiness from The Marine Girls, some strident tough love melodicism from The Shop Assistants, pop sass from The Mo-dettes, and just a touch of LiLiPut’s strident agenda-setting still creeping in at the edges. Beyond the wishy-washy sonics and cozy genre references though, repeated listens reveal a kernel of genuine anger and disaffection beneath Liechtenstein’s songs that still really sets them apart. The lyrics might not jump out and get in yr face like I hoped they would, but the fragments that do cut through the harmonies are brutal and disconcerting enough to give pause for thought, especially as the band quietly twist a cinematic moodiness into the pop framework, via the distant, Morricone-ish whistling of ‘Sophistication’ and the brooding guitarwork of my favourite song here, ‘Wallpaper Stripes’ – all frozen breath on the bus window and 6am cigarettes on the runway, like The Marine Girls ‘Flying Over Russia’ blown up into Fellini-scale widescreen. Also worth a mention is ‘The End’, a beautiful, bereft 3/4 acoustic lament whose speechlessly gorgeous melody recalls Ellie Greenwich’s ‘You Don’t Know’ or Carole King’s ‘Crying In The Rain’. More proof, lest I should doubt further, that Liechtenstein are a very good band indeed.
42. Mastodon – Crack the Skye (Reprise)
By rights, Mastodon should suck by now. Two albums since they signed to Warners, three since the astounding “Leviathan” when people started proclaiming them the natural successors to Metallica, and they waved goodbye to their death/grind past, setting out upon the treacherous path toward longer songs, a cleaner sound, ‘progressive musicianship’, and collaboration with Bruce Springsteen’s producer. Yep, much as I loved “Remission” and “Leviathan” (best metal album in, like, forever, dude), the omens for their continued relevance do not look good. So it was more out of curiosity than with fiery conviction that I picked up “Crack the Skye” second hand. Then I put it on, and ‘Oblivion’ burst forth from the speakers, and… I felt my hands describing familiar patterns in front of me, I felt my neck involuntarily start to nod back and forth, tossing my hair into my eyes…. I was air guitaring, like I haven’t since I was fourteen. Spread the word: “Crack The Skye” ROCKS, in ten foot high capitals. Sure, songs may ramble on past the ten minute mark and have – cough – ‘mature themes’, like Opeth or something (like, I don’t think any these are even about monsters, man), and I could definitely do without the quiet bits and Neurosis style angsty, operatic vocals, but when Mastodon get down to the essential business of layering up mountains of huge, volcanic, time-shifting RIFF, with elegiac lead lines crashing down atop them like the angels rising over Mt. Sinai, they still blow the doors off the joint. Listening to this, I can imagine their corporate label boss – who I imagine being, like, some old school Lou Adler kinda dude who makes a big show of caring about the music - standing outside the studio smoking his cigar as the band work out some multi-octave middle eight in 7/14 time or whatever, and thinking, yep, we sure signed up the right boys this time. Those who fear the spectre of progressiveness (and there is much good reason to) need not fear, as Mastodon prove here that they have the necessary skill and good taste to adopt the King Crimson approach to prog, eg, being really, really fucking GOOD and playing mighty, intensely focused music that is fun and uplifting to listen to, with self-indulgence excised at the planning stages (or at least, kept within carefully monitored boundaries). Everyone in this band is a powerhouse, and they’ve all got enough discipline to stay on-message at all times, with face-peeling results. Mastodon still make me want to raise my fists triumphantly, and go “GRRR!” and daydream about mountain ranges and commanding legions of tanks, and, yes – air guitar. Say what you like about metalhead fourteen year old boys, being one was fun.
41. Zola Jesus – The Spoils (Sacred Bones)
Although operatically trained, Nika Roza Danilova most frequently favours a deep, resonant tone reminiscent of a ‘60s soul diva on her solo recordings as Zola Jesus. When listening to the dense fog of distorted sound being slowly forced into the shape of songs around the anchor of Danilova’s voice, I find it hard not to picture some Tina Turner of Martha Reeves figure, all set for her big TV appearance, with the bandstand set, the lights burning and the cameras rolling, only to find as she steps up to sing that the floor has fallen away to reveal a bottomless, starry void, and that the brass section has transformed into a sticky mesh of floating cobwebs that are encircling her, stopping her from falling. Then the mics are feeding back everywhere, and the audience are ghosts, and the steady hand of the drummer has been replaced by a menacing robot crocodile that’s stalking closer, eating up the backing singers. But she’s used to taking things like this in her stride, so she goes with it, tailoring her performance to fit in with the overall vibe of hallucinatory terror. In fact she could get used to this – it’s kind of a blast. By rights, you’d expect Zola Jesus to deal in lonesome, emasculating dirges in the lineage of Nico, Diamanda Galas et al. The elements from which she builds her musical style are instant shorthand for fragmentation, distance, confusion, loss, entropy… and an imminent collapse into gothic cliché. But, brilliantly, there’s no negativity or angst in these songs at all – each one conveys instead a feeling of exultation and wonder, like a romantic sunset-on-the-baloney moment, preserved forever in bedroom portastudio overload, each with the degraded skeleton of a massive, Ronettes-level pop smash hiding deep below the surface. And OMG, Wikipedia says she was born in 1989 and has been releasing music since ’06! Why aren’t all angry 17 year olds making a great noise like this? Verily, it is a deep and comforting and righteous listen.
Monday, December 07, 2009
Jack Rose (1971 - 2009)
I was bummed out yesterday to learn of the untimely death (by heart attack) of Jack Rose.
I've probably spent more time than is strictly healthy listening to his solo records and his work with Pelt over the years.
A great musician, and by all accounts a great guy. I don't have much more to add, but there is much remembrance and such from people with more to say to be found over at this post on Arthur.
So long, Dr. Ragtime.
Jack Rose - Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
Dr Ragtime & Pals - Linden Ave. Stomp
Pelt - Calais to Dover
Sunday, December 06, 2009
THE FIFTY BEST RECORDS OF 2009: Part #1
50. Kitchen’s Floor – Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress (R.I.P Society)
If I had a cynical, sardonic companion to whom I played all my new musical findings for approval, s/he would probably have knocked this one down with something like “god, you’ll listen to any horrible crap made by teenagers hitting guitars won’t you?” And s/he would have been right. But regardless, this album by a thoroughly unschooled song/noise making trio from down under is strangely compelling, despite frequently sounding like an internal mic recording of some fourteen year old Fall fans having a tantrum in the basement. Despite? Perhaps I mean “because”. Anyway, for those who are still reading, Kitchen’s Floor are fantastic, sounding like a really bummed out Beat Happening if they’d been raised on The Dead C and the really early Clean stuff. There’s a certain strain of Jandek-esque miserablism running through proceedings (see: both band name and album title), but once you get over that, the infectious joy of hearing some kids who’ve clearly never had two music lessons to rub together picking up the cheapest equipment possible and just fucking banging it out with complete self-belief wins through, turning songs that consist of little more than two alternating notes and one yelped expression of total boredom (“I AM IN A ROOM!”, that sort of thing) into furious, multi-faceted creations that’ll stay in your head for days. And, almost inevitably, there are at least a couple of *amazing* pop songs buried in here too, patiently awaiting your attention. Punk rock indeed.
49. The Strange Boys - The Strange Boys & Girls Club (In The Red)
Sloppy, shit-kicking Texans who want nothing more out of life than to jam on ‘The Kink Kontroversy’ and ‘Bringing It All Back Home’ pretty much endlessly? Sounds like hell for a lot of you out there I realise, but bring it on I say! Usually when people start throwing around phrases like “good old fashioned rock n’ roll”, they’re inevitably applying them to load of old bullshit music that probably sounds like it was recorded by studio musos in the mid 80s. They SHOULD be applying it to bands like The Strange Boys, doing a pretty much *perfect* recreation of that magic window circa ’65 when our assorted white boy heroes were at the peak of their punk-ass, flickknife r-n-b swagger n’ jangle, but before they all got distracted by fancy production, taking drugs, being called geniuses and writing rambling, smart-ass songs about things other than sex. No book learnin’ or multitrackin’ to get in the way here – just a timeless good time, pretty much. Not exactly a great songwriting record, but the playing and the sound hits the sweet spot every time. If I ran a drinking establishment, I’d put this on repeat in the background throughout weekday evenings, and life would be good.
Mp3> This Girl's Taught Me a Dance
48. Our Love Will Destroy The World – Stillborn Plague Angels (Dekorder)
To say “it’s been a quiet year for Campbell Kneale” would be kinda funny, seeing as how he’s blessed us with this LP’s worth of impossibly dense, mind-crushing, soul-wrenching sonic destruction, a record that would stand as an unprecedented statement of maximalist terror in anyone else’s catalogue. But this is Campbell Kneale we’re talking about, so the reaction is more like “what, only one?” Having apparently retired his Birchville Cat Motel moniker for the time being, this first outing as Our Love Will Destroy The World veers closer to blanket bleakness of Kneale’s Black Metal inspired Blackboned Angel project, but with a bit more treble, concentrating on merciless arcs of toothache feedback and violent industrial skree. As ever with Kneale’s harsher work, there is beauty to be found within the details of the assault, from the aching string textures of “Chinese Emperors and the Army of Eternity” to the wasp swarm raga of “Over Prehistoric Texas”. In this case though, it quickly becomes an uncomfortable sort of beauty, carrying with it the feeling of holocaust and mass extinction/transmutation hinted at in the album’s title, rather than the prettier concerns of the track titles. A dark, dark, overpowering, inhuman sound like nothing I’ve wilfully subjected myself to since hearing Tony Conrad scrape out the shape of his own insect-machine apocalypse in St Giles church way back when; like a soundtrack to things the human mind and body can neither endure nor imagine. I guess anyone who buys this probably knows what they’re in for, but still, handle with care.
No Mp3 because the tracks are very long, and I only have them on vinyl.
47. Wino – Punctuated Equilibrium (Southern Lord)
Ah, Wino. It’s good to have him around. Like a stoner metal Billy Childish, you can be confident that anything Mr. Weinrich puts out will revel in its ‘more of the same’ totality, mixing up a few absolutely killer new concoctions with equal proportions of filler, rehashes of old material and general timewasting – but it’s all Wino, so it’s all good, and I think this first ‘solo’ disc carries a better hit-rate than the Hidden Hand ones I picked up, even if it rarely soars to the heights of his career-best period in Spirit Caravan. So we get a few unconvincing stabs at punk tempo, a few songs dedicated to espousing his conspiracy-based political beliefs, and an instrumental called “The Women in Orange Pants”. But we’re still here, cos Wino is a mighty dude whose very being overflows with the holy spirit of rock n’ roll, and whose every ringing note conveys complete belief in the righteousness of his amplified path to enlightenment. So when he announces “last night I dreamed, I was makin’ love in the sky!” on ‘Release Me’, you don’t feel inclined to doubt him, and when he launches into a typically breathtaking harmomelodic wah-wah solo a few minutes later, you feel like you’re about to join him. Sweet holy head-banging from here to eternity…. yeah, it’s good to have him around.
Mp3> Release Me
46. Hollows – s/t (Addenda)
A rather mixed bag of an outta-nowhere debut from these Chicagoan Girls In The Garage devotees, but whatever, it still packs a punch. Personally, I reckon some of their songs are rather too (I hate to say it) twee for my tastes, with sing-song organ lines and chirpy vocals taking a garish, pastiche-y approach to girl group tradition that sits poorly with my current belief that such things should be deadly serious. But all is forgiven when they hit the fuzz pedals and launch into furious Halloween dance party burners like “Skeleton Woman” and “Do the Scarecrow” with gregarious abandon, sounding like the greatest freakin’ high energy trash band you ever heard (or alternatively, like my Finnish garage-punk heroines The Micragirls). I don’t think Hollows are supposed to be, like, a horror-themed band as such, but this spook-show vibe gradually seems to pervade the whole album. The intro to “Shadows In The Dark” sounds like the theme from The Munsters for christssake, and hey, is it just me or are the lyrics to otherwise sappy-sounding ballad “Muncie, IN” all about a baby getting mutilated in a car crash and reassembled as some Frankenstein creature..? Good grief, I’m almost shocked! Meanwhile, cuts like “Johnny Appleseed” and “Mary Goes To Law School” see the band’s kooky doo-wop side meeting their ghoulish Back From The Grave mojo halfway, and emerge untarnished as just plain great, funny, raucous pop songs. So yes folks, step this way, hold your breath through a few rinky-dink organ n’ drum machine moments, and a whole barrel of fun times awaits with Hollows!
Mp3> Skeleton Woman
Friday, December 04, 2009
The 50 Best Records of 2009? : Introduction.
A couple of years ago, I could barely be bothered to right a “favourite albums of the year” list – with a couple of notable exceptions, it just seemed like a drag, distracting me from dredging up yet more old punk and psyche stuff to get into. Last year was a pretty great year for finding new stuff I liked though. I wrote a top 30, with numbers, for the first time ever, and it seemed to go down well. And 2009 – well, wow, 2009 has been a monster. It seems like there’s a whole new universe out there plugging into all the obscure variations of guitar/racket/trash/song music I love, and I’ve been sitting right here in the big city, with a broadband connection and money in my pocket, trying to keep track of it all.
So putting a list together this year, I’ve come up with a top 50, and even then it’s been hard work trying to figure out which records stay and which get kicked off the bottom. Ok, so the ‘music industry’ has continued its grim descent this year, some of our big indie heroes have turned out total snoozers, and sadly some my chosen stars from last year’s list have produced disappointingly dreary follow-ups (no names mentioned). But that aside, it’s been one HELL of a year for music, just like it always is if you’ve got the energy to go out and find it.
So, just like last year, we’ll be covering this in batches of five, spread over the next month or so. Included for consideration will be any release featuring music released for the first time in 2009 that features more than four songs OR is bigger than a 7”.
Apologies as ever for all the great stuff I inevitably will have missed, and will discover halfway through next year, or in twenty years. As always, numbers are pretty much arbitrary and I don’t think that the girl group pop album I deem to be no.37 is objectively better than the industrial noise opus I put in at no.39 or whatever, but it’s easier and more fun to do it this way than if I just listed them all in alphabetical order.
One more note before we commence: I’ve left two albums – The Flaming Lips “Embryonic” and Oneida’s “Rated O” – off the list, not because I don’t like them, but just because they’re such startling, unwieldy monster records that I just don’t know WHAT to make of them yet. Perhaps they’ll be future classics, perhaps I’ll just keep cringing until they go away, but either way – too soon dudes. Gimme time.
Clear? Ok, so my internet connection is pretty intermittent at present (thanks Virgin), but once it’s sorted out we’ll get this show on the road!
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