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 ; Destination:Out (R.I.P.) ; Did Not Chart ; Diskant (R.I.P.) ; DIYSFL ; Dreaming (R.I.P.?) ; Dusted in Exile ; 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 ; Last Days (R.I.P.) ; Lexicon Devil ; Lost Prom (R.I.P.?) ; LPCoverLover ; Midnight Mines ; Musique Machine ; Mutant Sounds (R.I.P.?) ; Nick Thunk :( ; Norman ; Peel ; Plan B (R.I.P) ; PSF ; 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 29, 2015
Brain dead, total amnesia,
Get some mental anaesthesia,
Don't move, I'll shut the door and kill the lights,
And if I can't be wrong I could be right,
All good clean fun,
Have another stick of gum,
Man, you look better already,
Motörhead, remember me now,
Fourth day, five day marathon,
We're moving like a parallelogram,
Don't move, I'll shut the door and kill the lights,
I guess I'll see you all on the ice,
I should be tired,
But all I am is wired,
Ain't felt this good for an hour,
Motörhead, remember me now,
Lemmy’s closeness to death has been a bit of a running joke for what seems like years now, but I don’t think anyone was expecting the hammer to drop quite so suddenly. So long, Lemmy the Lurch; Farewell, Count Motorhead.
In the period since he took on the mantle of mainstream celebrity’s token unredeemed rock n’ roll bad-ass a few decades ago, Lemmy memories and anecdotes have come thick and fast, too numerous to catalogue – easily enough to keep a pub conversation going through several full nights.
From the ‘Kerrang’ cutting we used to have pinned to the wall in my old student house, in which Lemmy’s thoughts on various armed conflicts (“that was a fucking horrible war that was… brother against brother..”) were crow-barred into a sidebar fluff piece under the title ‘Lemmy’s Top Five Wars’, to sitting in a balcony seat watching Motorhead play in the early ‘00s, noticing that I could see straight into the backstage area, and being astonished / faintly disgusted to observe various young ladies hanging around in obvious ‘groupie’ attire – in the twenty first century! In bloody Leicester! With a band of pensionable age on stage! (They were great that night incidentally, but then you knew that.) Throw in your own stories in the comments box below, should you wish, and we’ll keep it rolling.
Whatever qualms you may have about Lemmy’s lifestyle though, and regardless of how much he gratuitously traded on his ‘image’ over the years, he always managed to come across as immensely likeable – a straight talking, non-fool suffering sort of good bloke… if admittedly one who in an alternate world might have found his niche issuing commands from the top of a tank turret rather than from in front of a amp stack.
It was great fun to hear him presenting a one-off show on Radio 6 last year. He didn’t say much, but every strained declaration of “this is a bloody good rock n’ roll track” or “I always liked this bloke” carried more gravitas than hours of blather from most other DJs.
Enough of all that bollocks though, let’s get to the music – that being an approach I feel he may have appreciated, however efficiently reheated tales of boozing and whoring might have paid the bills.
I’m afraid I can’t contribute much here with regards to Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister’s early days playing in various hard-touring r’n’b and freakbeat bands through the ‘60s. My sole knowledge of The Rockin’ Vickers comes via the track ‘It’s Alright’ – a bare-faced rip off of The Who’s ‘The Kid’s Are Alright’ enlivened by a sloppy, rough-ass sound and a truly weird/wild guitar solo - and I’ve never got around to checking out Sam Gopal, with whom he played for a while.
As such, our default entry-point here is Hawkwind, for whom Mr Kilmister – in collaboration with drummer Simon King - acted as a veritable rocket up the arse, propelling them from their early hippie meanderings toward the genre-defining space-rock juggernaut heard on ‘Doremi Fasol Latido’ and ‘Space Ritual’, and thus essentially keeping the engine running on some of my favourite music of all time, his presence as indefatigable bass-monster and last-man-standing pace setter (not to mention vocalist on the odd chart-topping number the others couldn’t be bothered to sing themselves) providing an absolutely vital part of the legend of one of the greatest bands of all-time.
Lemmy’s assorted anecdotes and gripes about life in Hawkwind were priceless (look up the excellent BBC Hawkwind doc on Youtube for further details), but before we get distracted by those, let’s move on to Motorhead, formed of course in ’75 under the # 1 all-time best ever band name ‘Bastard’ (and only changed after somebody pointed out that they’d never get on Top of the Pops with a band called that).
Having previously only been familiar with the hits, I’ve actually been playing a bit of catch up with this unfeasibly mighty yet ever-eccentric band in the past year or so, and have been enjoying it a great deal. As a great aficionado of mid-‘70s British freak-rock, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that my favourite era is probably their embryonic period with Larry Wallis (ex-Pink Fairies and of future ‘Police Car’ non-fame) on guitar.
At this stage, with Larry also contributing quite a bit on the singing and song-writing front, Motorhead seem to have been torn two ways between the mechanized heavy metal blitzkrieg for which they would shortly become known, and what I can only describe as a kind of ragged, socially conscious, anthemic pub-rock, as exemplified on Wallis-penned tracks like ‘City Kids’ (b-side of their blinding first single; pick up a copy if you ever see one), ‘On Parole’, and the anti-music biz tirade ‘Fools’.
Fascinating though this period may be (it’s best heard on the early recordings comp ‘On Parole’, and crosses over somewhat into their superb self-titled debut LP), Lemmy’s unbeatable mission statement of seeking to produce “very basic music: loud, fast, city, raucous, arrogant, paranoid, speedfreak rock n roll ... it will be so loud that if we move in next door to you, your lawn will die” speaks for itself, as does the subsequent Motorhead catalogue, following the departure of both Larry and drummer Lucas Fox in ’76, and their replacement with ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke and the late ‘Philthy’ Phil Taylor shortly thereafter.
At this point, my fancy wordage grinds to a halt, because what can you say about Motorhead that a quick spin of ‘No Sleep Til Hammersmith’ won’t render blindingly obvious?
Thus far, my trek through the back catalogue hasn’t got much beyond ‘Iron Fist’ in ’82, but if ever a band was critic-proof, well…. here ya go. How many times is it worth restating that Motorhead rock to about the furthest extent that human endurance allows, that all three members of the aforementioned ‘classic’ line up are fucking legends, and that, from this point onwards, Ian Fraser Kilmister, whatever kind of human being he may have been at heart, took to his ‘Lemmy’ persona like a pilot with a freshly waxed moustache jumping into the cockpit of a Spitfire, never looking back.
Skip forward forty years, and earlier this month, I happened to follow a link on XRRF to this gossip piece, reporting that Lemmy was sick of rude journalists asking him when he was going to kick the bucket:
"I'm sick of the fucking, 'Are you going to die?' line of questioning. It's getting really old, that question. I’m alright. I'm going out there and doing my best.
I have good days and bad days but mostly I've been doing alright. The last tour of the States was very good."
"I don't do regrets, regrets are pointless. It's too late for regrets. You've already done it, haven't you? You've lived your life. No point wishing you could change it.
I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out. I like to think I've brought a lot of joy to a lot of people all over the world. I'm true to myself and I'm straight with people.
Death is an inevitability, isn't it? You become more aware of that when you get to my age. I don't worry about it. I'm ready for it. When I go, I want to go doing what I do best. If I died tomorrow, I couldn't complain. It's been good."
It’s hard to argue with any of that. I’ll skip further superlatives, but he was a fucking good rock n’ roller, and he gave a huge amount to those of us who love this music. I’m glad he made 70. R.I.P.
Monday, December 28, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
5. With The Dead – s/t LP
Well I remember the fateful day, all those years ago, when I first checked Electric Wizard’s ‘Dopethrone’ out of the library. Returning home and putting it on through headphones with no particular preconceptions, I was reduced within seconds to a quivering mass of pupil-dilated, headbanging stupefaction, and a certain part of my life was changed forever. THIS is what heavy metal should sound like, THIS is what I want and need from it. It was (and is) beyond words. As the band themselves chant on their ode to Conan the Barbarian, as if pre-emptively carving their own epitaph: you think you’re civilised / but you will never understand.
When encountering vintage Electric Wizard for the first time, the things that will tend to immediately grab the listener’s attention will be Jus Osborn’s inhumanly fucked, super-saturated guitar tone, and the tormented, breathless rasp of his vocals. A full appreciation of the extent to which the other two guys, toiling away in the rhythm section, were responsible for the music’s power takes more time to acquire. As such, it was only natural that, when Osborn reconvened the band about a decade ago with what turned out to be a fairly fluid line-up subbing for the band’s original line-up of Mark Greening (drums) and Tim Bagshaw (bass), I was on board from the outset, hoping for the best.
Through an increasingly unsatisfactory new catalogue of increasingly mediocre material, I kept the faith and looked at the nice cover art, but eventually, the penny dropped. One dire trudge through last year’s truly dreadful ‘Time to Die’ set, combined with contemplation of a number of public feuds and disagreements and general childish, negative vibes emanating from the band’s press and PR, and I finally pulled the plug. Like many other fans I suspect, my good will is exhausted and I’m outta here.
And thus the question rings out: with the ‘Wizard disgraced and deposed, who now step up to claim the Dopethrone?
With perfect timing then, arise Sir Greening and Sir Bagshaw, returned from their respective campaigns in Ramesses and 11 Paranoias, and here to reclaim their kingdom, proving in the process that they never really needed Jus in the first place.
With Bagshaw handling both bass and guitar, and bulked up to trio / ‘proper’ band status with the addition of label boss and no-introduction-needed metal legend Lee Dorrian handling lyrics and vocals, With the Dead released their debut LP with little advance fanfare a few months back, and, whilst I admit I have not subsequently carried out a full survey of reactions from within the ‘doom community’, I can only imagine that, broadly speaking, they happily fell of their knees in supplication before their new masters. (I certainly know I did.)
From the opening blast of full-spectrum, gain-ripped sludge that tears across ‘Crown of Burning Stars’ following the inevitable creepy, sampled intro, ‘With the Dead’ is legit - a compromise-free, undiluted return to the kind of lumbering, punk-spirited and flat-out terrifying heavy metal carnage that Bagshaw and Greening previously helped to perfect on ‘Dopethrone’.
If Dorrian’s slightly more nuanced (‘professional’, perhaps..?) vocal delivery isn’t *quite* as throat-rippingly malignant as Osborn’s was at it’s peak, and if Bagshaw’s guitar doesn’t dissolve *quite* so often into blackened, producer-worrying noise, this LP still represents at least 90% of the unholy spirit that animated that aforementioned classic, retooled and reenergised as if the intervening fifteen years had simply been an extended fag-break.
A welcome point of human contact amid the cliffs of towering, sub-bass oblivion conjured by Bagshaw & Greening, Dorrian’s previous gig fronting Cathedral helps him invest the psyche-tinged Egyptian death-goddess anthem ‘Nephthys’ with a kind of arch, cosmic dignity, even as his plunges gamely into familiarly necrotic depths on ‘Living With the Dead’ and ‘The Cross’, unabashedly recall the kind of frenzied, morbid teenage scribblings from which the whole aesthetic of heavy metal was first born.
To hear a gang of middle-aged men indulge in such stuff is admittedly kind of ridiculous, but, wedded here to the genuine menace conjured by Bagshaw and Greening’s stygian wrecking ball grooves, sounding like the rampage of ‘Sabbath’s Iron Man extended from its pulp sci-fi origins into the blackness of a gruelling torture porn ordeal, it is also revealed to be actually kind of awesome, in much the same fashion that ‘Wizard’s gleeful, hate-filled excesses used to ring so true back in the day. By the time closing epic ‘Scream From My Own Grave’ whites out on a glacial, one-note dirge accompanied by plentiful samples of some, well, screams from the grave, even the most skeptical of doom fans will I think find themselves thoroughly satiated.
Direct, unpretentious and heavy as a planetary extinction event, ‘With The Dead’ is hands down the best post-‘Dopethrone’ music I’ve heard in years. It is exactly what heavy metal should be. If you like heavy metal (of the Sabbath lineage, at least), you will fucking love it. Simple as.
‘With the Dead’ can be obtained on vinyl & CD direct from Rise Above. They seemingly have no truck with digital releases, so we recommend you do the decent thing and take the plastic.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
6. BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah –
This one got a good airing here back in May, and my wholehearted enjoyment of it remains just as inexplicable as it did then.
When I wrote the review, I thought I might be on the verge of a full-scale immersion in Ghostface’s latter-day work, but unfortunately, tracking down both volumes of the ‘Twelve Reasons To Die’ series he put out in collaboration with Adrian Younge soon put paid to that idea. In short, they are… not good. As bloated, rambling and sluggish as you might fear from a washed ‘90s hip-hop veteran - a realisation which of course only serves to make ‘Sour Soul’ all the more remarkable, and increases even more my appreciation of whatever magic BadBadNotGood pulled in these sessions to get Ghost back on such whip-smart, mic-wrecking form.
From the aforelinked review:
“A couple of months ago, I was pretty flabbergasted when I switched on the radio prior to doing some washing up, and heard what appeared to be some 100% certified prime Wu shit blazing out, riding over backing that sounded like nothing so much as some vintage Italian movie music. Holy wow. Confused, I assumed it must be some kind of mash up or remix or something featuring some old verses I’d never heard before, but no – turns out this is Ghostface in the here and now, cutting loose over tracks provided by a rock-band-plus-orchestra unit called BadBadNotGood – a gang of slick cats who basically sound like they’re warming up waiting for Isaac Hayes to come in and start giving the orders.
I don’t know whether it is this unconventional backing that’s inspired Ghost to get off his arse and tighten things up (“got my swagger back an’ all that!”, he announces exultantly at one point), or whether, against all the odds, he has just remained really fucking good all these years, but basically, during the best moments on ‘Sour Soul’ (of which there are many), he sounds like he’s fallen straight out of a time warp, tone and flow nearly indistinguishable from the glory days of ‘Ironman’ and ‘..Cuban Linx’ - the same menacing webs of reflective, dual-layered imagery piling up left, right and centre as the ‘cinematic’ backdrop allows him to expand the scope of his gangsta vocab into surrealistic vignettes of twisted crime story excess, still spat out with the pure, break-neck viciousness of a dude half his age, leaving the kind of “respectability” that neutered so many of his comrades still kept way out on the distant horizon, despite the ‘class’ musicianship and tasteful b&w cover shot.
It may be a bit of a push to try to claim that Ghost approaches, I dunno, William Burroughs or Abel Ferrara in using deplorable attitudes and bad behavior as a jumping off point for excursions into the artistic unknown, but he’s certainly more on the same page with those guys than he is with the vast majority of his contemporaries in music, and beneath the surface braggadocio of his verses lies a whole world of the weird.
As in the classic Wu material, his talent for smacking you in the chops with off-piste cultural references faster than your mind can process them makes for a head-spinning joy on ‘Sour Soul’, adding a nightmarish undertow of clandestine paranoia to his crime-brag narratives, whether claiming his kilo-shifting kingpin “sent Ichabod Crane on his horse ride”, or warning would-be victims of CIA harassment that “pure alkaline and flouride’ll fuck you up / I seen spaceships flyin’ out of the back of a truck”. Meanwhile, we just try to catch our breath before the next allusion to some act of stomach-churning violence or abuse, fed back second hand like a grim, urban legend harbinger of the societal collapse-based apocalypse than all the Wu’s darker material seems to be pulling towards… assuming it hasn’t already been reached and surpassed, whether in inner-city USA or just the back alley graveyards of Ghost’s imagination.”
Available to buy directly from Lex in the U.S. Consult local dealers elsewhere.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
7. The Ethical Debating Society –
New Sense LP
My disjointed thoughts on this one were explored at length here back in September. The text in the extract below has been amended slightly for the purposes of clarity and grammatical correctitude.
“For all the glib comparisons I’m throwing around though, it’s worth stressing that there is absolutely no ‘imitation game’ business going on with EDS. Very much the polar opposite of the kind of band who exist primarily to launch reenactments of the members’ record collections, they seem determined to sound like no one except themselves, and their corresponding embrace of what for want of a better term we’ll call ‘the DIY ethic’ is crucial.
Though they’ve captured a fantastic sound on this record [..] such technical accomplishments are off-set by the band’s oft-stated belief that everyone can/should do this. Not an original sentiment by any means in the realm of punk/indie/whatever, but one that comes across here in the very bones of the recording & performance.
Like all good punk records, there is no mystery or unseen wizardry to veil the band’s methodology. What an eager young listener hears here is exactly what they hear when their own band goes into the practice room, overlaid with a few years worth of commitment and hard work. And what an older, more jaded listener (hi!) gets meanwhile is the renewed realisation that there’s no magic formula or secret code to the way guitar lines crash together and drums roll and stutter to light whatever fire it is that illuminates our favourite records; the magic is all just there waiting for some people with the guts to pick it up and run with it.
As noted, Ethical Debating Society won’t save the world, flay the greedy rich or tilt the tilt axis away from imminent self-immolation - just as no isolated pocket of individuals can, or can be expected to. But as small-on-global-scale gestures go, I think they’ve done their best, and for giving us one of this ugly new era’s first and most definitive blasts of a kind of music that speaks to a hope beyond endless benefit gigs for no-hoper splinter groups, and that might carry the potential to get us reasonable, everyday people stoked up with a bit of fire and excitement as we trudge through whatever travails face us day by day, they deserve all the ham-fisted plaudits I can throw at them. As far as punk rock goes, it’s just as it should be.”
This remains a great album. My second favourite cover art of the year too.
Listen and buy via bandcamp.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
8. Jack O & The Sheiks –
(Red Lounge / Secret Identity)
As you may recall, stepping out on a Sunday to see Jack Oblivian backed up by Memphis band The Sheiks proved to be my favourite night out of 2014, so when I caught a glimpse of this live LP from the same personnel, naturally I snapped it up. Thanks for the memories, Red Lounge and Secret Identity records.
Whilst the set within, recorded at their hometown’s Burgundy Ballroom, is unlikely to really turn the heads of anyone not already fond of this kinda spluttering, sweaty, easy-going deep south r’n’r, but what can I say? When the moon is up and the chips are down (or whatever), it hits me just right.
In part, this good feeling is minted by Jack’s newly minted persona, his gravel-crunching voice, shambling ‘aged’ demeanour and hat wearing tendencies all suggestive of some down at heel, garage punk Tom Waits – minus of course all the mountains of bullshit that surround that particular individual. This worries me somewhat, particularly on sticky moments like the slightly overwrought cover of Ronnie Love’s ‘Chills & Fever’, but I dunno – somehow he’s got enough charm to make it work.
Though the addition of some big ol’ vintage organ sound to the mix adds a certain ‘retro soul revue’ feel to proceedings, Jack’s cracked, uncouth demeanour and The Sheiks preference for grizzly Mudhoney-ish fuzz ensures that proceedings maintain an authentically raw, desperate flavour that seems to me far preferable to the more mannered moves of Jack’s fellow Oblivian Greg Cartwright with his Reigning Sound project. Without needing to say a word on the subject, Jack O’s very presence ties him to the dingier, more damaged side of his city’s rock n’ roll legacy.
In between slabs of goosy, half cut r’n’b (‘Old Folks Boogie’ is a particular ripper), Jack’s best self-penned songs here stand out as quiet masterpieces of kicked-out-the-door-at-closing-time American rock n’roll – fleeting gestures of futile majesty that, for a few bars here and there, hit a straight up bullseye on that particular, ineffible brand of accidental, fucked up grandeur that grabs my heart like little else.
A few ringing chords and a melodic grab at the sky, ‘Flash Cube’, ending side one, is little short of breathtaking. ‘Black Boots’ is a Brill Building-worthy stomper pulled through a hedge of Chilton/Falco grit. ‘Little War Child’ (a clear highlight from last year’s Oblivians comeback album) manages to mug Springsteen in a dark alley and steal that shit back for the people, whilst Jack’s apparent favoured theme tune ‘Honey, I’m Too Old For You’ stands out above all, bedraggled and poignant as you like.
One imagines Jack Oblivian would prefer to shrug off such achievements, feign embarrassment at such over-heated praise, but then, of course he would – that’s the culture, that’s what his elders and betters did, that’s the way to be. Where’s the fun in writing a good number if you’re just gonna spent the next six months just pointing at it, hoping someone notices? Pour another shot, fix that wonky G string, wave it goodbye and plough straight on into the next one.
After all, what is rock n’ roll supposed to be in essence, if not raw, heart-felt, cathartic and fun? The music herein is all those things, without any shills trying to sell it to you as such, and without its creators even needing to acknowledge it. The great thing about this Memphis/deep South rock n’ roll stuff is the feeling that, at it's best, there’s no put on whatsoever - it’s just what these guys do. And that’s nowhere so true as here, so if you can find it, dig in.
Buy from Red Lounge Records.
Friday, December 18, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
9. The Necks – Vertigo LP
So I like The Necks very much. That much we know.
Very much an ‘always the same / always different’ sort of proposition, this is a group who seem so consistently able to find new ways to wring extraordinary sounds from the guts of their basic piano / bass / drums set up, it’s almost frightening - but for ‘Vertigo’ at least, the novelty arises initially from something more palpable. Namely, the fact that, after several decades of functioning as a natural ‘CD band’, it feels strangely perfect to actually have a Necks album whose two twenty minute-ish ‘sides’ are designed to fit so nicely on a vinyl LP. They’re moving (backward) with the times I guess. Kinda weird when you think about it, but hey – as long as rubes like me keep happily dropping twice as much for forty minutes of big plastic disc as we would for eighty minutes of little shiny one, you can’t fault ‘em on the economics.
Anyway, side # 1 kicks off in notably sinister fashion, with droning bowed bass rumble, cascading dissonant piano chords and short outbursts of falling-down-the-stairs drums gradually coalescing into a kind of fugue that puts me in mind of dark, nocturnal alleyways - towering tenement shadows, a distant moon stuck between vertical lines, enlivened by the occasional shock of crooks knocking over trash cans [uh, that’ll be the drums then – down-to-earth ed.].
Only after a good ten minute or so do some beautifully complete, melodic phrases begin to creep into Chris Abrahams’ trademark ‘falling raindrops’ piano runs, suggestive of peace and normalcy, reminding us that, onerous and threatening though it may be, this state of mild anxiety is a constant - as natural as any rainforest idyll.
Gradually – always gradually of course with these guys – knob-twisting, siren-like electronics start to slide in from god knows where and the piece develops into some kind of long-form crescendo, an extended string ‘suspense chord’ ringing out as if The Terminator just materialised in that same alleyway, before things fall away again to leave what sounds like a frantic, rotorblade tremoloed tape loop, over which the musicians continue to circle each other as if waiting to be the first to jump out and shout ‘boo!’
And, basically, I could carry on like this through ceaseless paragraphs of blather, but I don’t know exactly what that would prove. Suffice to say that, for the attentive listener, there a surprise round every corner on ‘Vertigo’, and we haven’t even got to side # 2 yet.
For what it’s worth, the second half is an inexplicably calming experience, despite the prominent presence of a continually repeated sound –courtesy of some of Tony Buck’s array of homemade percussion devices, I’d imagine – that puts me in mind of someone digging a grave in the centre of a cathedral in the dead of night, to say nothing of what I assume to be additional effects processing adding drifting clouds of distortion and artificial reverb. Oh, and there's a killer locked groove at the end as well. (I swear, the first time 'round, I listened for over five minutes before noticing anything was amiss.)
Where 2013’s ‘Open’ was a masterpiece of calm, there’s a heavy feeling of unease about this one that never really lifts, surpassing even the rattling urban chaos of 2011’s ‘Mindset’ (one of my favourite prior Necks discs) whilst still somehow remaining rooted in the organic rise and fall that they’ve made a career out of perfecting, even amid the jarring jolts, handbrake turns and abrasions.
Possibly not so suited for getting yr ambient groove on and dropping off to sleep as some older Necks outings then, but I increasingly feel like the group are at their strongest when working in this slightly more risk-taking and aggressive (relatively speaking) mood, making ‘Vertigo’ another unmitigated aural thrill ride for us of the sprawled-on-the-floor-eyes-closed-with-headphones set.
Listen & buy straight from the band via bandcamp.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
10. The Heads –
Time in Space double LP
For many years, I waited in vain for The Heads to unleash a new, perfectly formed psychedelic masterpiece to rival their ‘Under Sided’ album from 2002, feeling routinely disappointed each time I picked up a new disc by them to find it filled with murky practice room jams.
Then I realised I’d been wasting my time. Rule # 1 of appreciating Bristol’s finest fuzz warriors is to realise they ARE those murky practice room jams, and to learn to love them for that, greeting all their output with the same idiot grin that a dedicated ‘Deadhead greets each new tour bootleg.
‘Psychedelic’ though they may be, cosmic transcendentalism and oneiric visions of Eastern splendour are not exactly The Heads’ bag. Theirs is a psychedelia of black-walled basements plastered with random bits of gaffa tape; of over-flowing ashtrays and never-ending cans of Red Stripe; of petrol fumes, melted 9V batteries and dubious smelling amp cabinets that you will no doubt have to carry up a fire escape at some point. Insofar as their records can be said to represent any aesthetic at all, they represent the craft and physical stresses that goes into actually making music like this in the first place.
No bullshit whatsoever from these guys – their creative process, random as it may be, is front and centre for all to see, most likely captured via a couple of roughly placed mics plugged into some portable four track in the corner of wherever the hell they’ve convened to work out a few riffs after work, and the results speak for themselves vis-a-vis their consistently high levels of scuzzy, head-wrecking brilliance.
Despite its status as an self-acknowledged ‘odds & sods’ collection from a band who deal almost exclusively in odds & sods collections, ‘Time in Space’ is actually one of their most varied and rewarding collections of such material to date. Culled from “studio outtakes, rehearsal takes, radio sessions and live recordings”, it’s a little bit like The Heads’ equivalent of Can’s ‘Lost Tapes’ perhaps, and verily, highlights abound.
The following come straight from my notes after I played both discs today:
‘Long Gone Live’ on Side # 2:, splattered noise jam of warped tremolo fuzz and knob-twisting, gradually acquires a weighty head-nodding rhythm before collapsing back into animalistic abstraction and duelling wah-wah laser blasts.
‘31st’ – a flattening, no nonsense riff rocker, up there with the band’s best.
‘World of Keys’ on Side # 3 starts off uncharacteristically with a brutal, lumbering fuzz organ / drums thing, like Satelliti or early Oneida or something, before ‘Coming Round’ is classic Heads gear, sounding like Mark E. Smith fronted Loop?!
‘Steak & Riffney Pie’, opening Side # 4, is just CLASS – an appropriately named rampage of head-banging stoner perfection, saved from collapse into the sludge-lake by some admirably enervated drumming.
And so on. You get the idea, I’m sure. Well over half the tracks here are gifted with in-jokey/self-descriptive titles that sound like they’ve been scribbled on a tape inlay card or file name as reminders for the next practice (‘Backwards Doom’, ‘DAD GAD’, ‘Poppy’), and there are, inevitably, some bits of self-indulgent weirdness that some may argue might have been best left in the drawer.
‘Bemmie Underwater’ for instance sounds suspiciously like the track ‘Return of the Bemmie’ from the ‘Under The Stress of a Headlong Dive’ album fed through some cheesy sounding phaser, but if you ask me, even the silliest bits here function as grist to the mill of The Heads overall epic/squalid vision, as demonstrated when even the aforementioned track starts to sound pleasantly demented once someone lets off a ripping (un-filtered) solo over the top of it as the effect on the backing track is ratcheted up into dub-like abstraction.
In short, there is nothing revelatory hidden within the grooves of ‘Time in Space’ to explain to the uninitiated why fans of this band continue to clamber over the prone bodies of their fellows to nab discs like this from merch stalls, or besiege online retailers in much the same manner, but.. what can you say, really? Basically this is just a load more of The Heads doing what they do, and by this stage in the game, if you’re in, you’re in, with no further explanation needed.
The old Heads website appears to be dead. They have a facebook page, and a bandcamp with a few random bits and pieces from their extensive catalogue. Rooster Records (operated by the band) has no web presence. Some UK shops & distros appear to still have copies of ‘Time in Space’ at the time of writing.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
11. Ashtray Navigations –
A Shimmering Replica LP&CD
Back in the early ‘00s, when I began freaking out over releases by assorted heavy hitters in the sphere of proper psyche / drone / UK underground / whatever, Ashtray Navigations always passed me by for some reason. I certainly remember seeing tons and tons of CD-Rs and the like by him/them doing the rounds via distros etc, but for whatever reason, I just never bit.
Then, earlier this year, I found I already had two other VHF releases in my virtual shopping basket, and, grokking the link for ‘A Shimmering Replica’ sitting next to them, I found myself pathologically unable to resist the label’s promise of “100 minutes of exotic fuzz raga moods”, and decided what the hell – better late than never.
So then – what delights are available for the Ashtray Navigations first-timer within this visually appealing and budget conscious LP plus CD package? Well, if they don’t exactly match up the press snippet above (I hear very little raga going on here), the tracks on the LP certainly do represent a rollicking compendium of jerry-rigged, punk-minded homemade frippertronics, which certainly does me nicely. Piled up, jammed out wreckage of fuzz guitar, eerily bright synth swooshes and chronic delay knob twisting all sit astride minimal, Suicide-esque drum loops, side #1 showcases a sound that resembles ‘No Pussyfooting’ recreated by a gang of MDMA-abusing unemployed garage mechanics, before side # 2 blunders into the realm of some kinda deconstructed mutant disco, like Peaking Lights hunkering down in the shadow of some druidic megalith.
So that’s all quite lovely really.
True revelation though came when I finally got tired of revelling in the glories of my renovated hi-fi speakers and slouched over to the computer to check out the tracks n the CD. Here it seems, Phil Todd and Melanie O’Dubhshlaine have stuck some of their slightly more unglued, less crowd-pleasing pieces, and whatdoyaknow, I liked them even better. ‘Quite Village’ and the magnificently titled ‘Seventies Concorde Proboscis’ in particular are some of the most enthralling, synapse-tickling psyche/noise tracks I’ve heard in years – strange collages of scruff and noise that sound, at least in part, like fragments of an audio diary of a trip to Kathmandu, a badly warped Amon Düül album and the soundtrack to an old BBC Quatermass serial, as chopped up and reconstructed by some dangerous yet visionary lunatic.
So that’s even lovelier.
With this all fresh in my mind when I was visiting Japan back in September, I found myself purchasing a limited edition Ashtray Navigations triple LP entitled ‘A Tribute To British Rock’ for the equivalent of about four quid, no doubt contributing considerably to the destruction of our suitcase’s wheels as I dragged the bloody thing back to its original home here in blighty (sorry Satori). And lo, the catch-up begins.
VHF are here. Ashtray Navigations are here. Your preferred independent record vendors may still be holding copies of ‘A Shimmering Replica’.
Thursday, December 10, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
12. Vibracathedral Orchestra –
Rec Blast Motorbike LP (VHF)
& Unnatural With Pain-Relief LP (Krayon)
So, gee whiz, it sure has been nice to discover this year that Vibracathedral Cathedral are back at full strength, and apparently as prolific as ever.
A few months back, my much-abused laptop keyboard had this to say about ‘Rec Blast Motorbike’:
“Thankfully, skillfully-wrangled chaos still eventually predominates, with waves of gnarled mystery soon piling up like jabbering goblin-spirits around the speaker cones. The start of side two throws us straight back in at the deep end of classic Vibracathedral intoxication, sounding like a Moroccan night-club being blasted through a space-hulk afterburner, coiled tentacles beating out a rhythm of pure noise, like a window into some sanity-challenging Jabba the Hut mushroom trip. Fans can chalk this one up as a solid gold bit of action for sure.
Side # 2 is a blast throughout actually; I absolutely love the last piece here (‘Precinct’) too – bold signifiers of ‘psychedelia’ (Doppler effect electronic whistles, rich splurges of fuzz, tinkling organ mess) splattered about like someone just took a knife to a Chocolate Watch Band master reel for some Jackson Pollack-inspired aggro – a spell-bindingly detailed & evocative blare.
Oh man, did I just type all that? Well I guess it stands as evidence of this record’s psychotropic efficacy, if nothing else. Because after all, this is Vibracathedral Orchestra, and they’re not going to let you down in that regard, any more than the London Philharmonic are going to forget to tune up one day and bugger up a Bach tracking session. ‘Rec Blast Motorbike’ is, as ever, proper psychedelia, taken straight to its ecstatic conclusion, and as such you should get on it whilst you still have the chance.”
‘Unnatural With Pain Relief’ meanwhile only turned up on my doorstep last week, so hasn’t had much of a chance to sink in yet amid all this end-of-year / pre-xmas palaver, but on first impression, it sounds sprawling, dissolute, elegiac and flattening, whilst the track on the B-side has an entire paragraph for a title. A glorious oppositional racket.
‘Rec Blast Motorbike’ can be sampled and bought straight from the (U.S. based) VHF, or otherwise can be sought out via your preferred local suppliers of such material.
‘Unnatural With Pain Relief’ represents the final release on the UK-based Krayon label, and can be acquired at an unbeatable rate directly from them. (As an aside, Krayon’s other releases are also going for a song prior to them shutting up shop for good, so do yourself a favour and dig in – there’s some great stuff there (I particularly recommend the Moon Unit LP) and you can get their entire discography for about the same price as one of those fancy Led Zep reissues [probably].)
Wednesday, December 09, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
13. Noveller – Fantastic Planet LP
Though it is technically a solo guitar record, the sheer amount of outboard processing utilised by Sarah Lipstate on ‘Fantastic Planet’ means that for long stretches, the sound’s origins in wood and strings remains largely unguessable, as gentle electronic tone clouds rise and fall much in the manner of an Eno ambient record, or of feel-good drone practitioners like Growing or Windy & Carl.
Nonetheless though, the primary use of electric guitar is what gives the sound its guts, with the inherent aggression buried in the instrument always managing to awaken us from sky-gazing reverie, as reverberating low end twangs, echoed pick scrapes and sinister bursts of crystalline fuzz can’t help but break through the flashing LEDs now and then, shaking speaker cones, keeping us grounded where we belong.
Spaghetti Western-esque fuzztone menace cracks like thunder across the tranquil surface of ‘Into The Dunes’, and, from the bead curtain-swishing fragments of light twinkling through ‘No Unholy Mountain’ to the alien mothership roar of ‘Rubicon’ and the eagle-cam desert sky guitar heroics and Tangerine Dream synth shuffle of ‘Sisters’… well, you get the idea, I’m sure. Each cut here presents its own engrossing miniature universe - proper psychedelia, aiming at the micro-cosmic detail of the most unlikely hippie DMT boasts.
Though it veers dangerously close to po-faced post-rock tendencies for a moment or two here and there, ‘Fantastic Planet’ for the most part is an incredible achievement - a collection of brief, carefully wrought vignettes rich in both conventional melody and the kind of strange, beautiful, intricate detail that rewards full headphone immersion - like a movie close-up such as the one depicted on the album’s cover that just keeps getting closer and closer, clearer and clearer until a whole new abstract realm is revealed.
A precise and assured recording that throws off ideas and possibilities in all directions whilst remaining as comfortable and ingratiating as music can be, Lipstate’s work serves as proof positive that feeding your plank through several thousand dollars worth of electronic boxes doesn’t necessarily have to result in self-indulgence and sonic mud.
'Fantastic Planet’ can be investigated on Bandcamp here, and is available in the UK from Fire Records.
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
14. Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts –
It’s funny, if I were introduced to the music of Jeffrey Lewis for the first time today, I’d probably run a mile. His whiny, nasal voice, anxious confessional folk-punk stylings and quirky indie comic book sensibility… these are really not things I have much tolerance for in music at this point in my life. But, given that I’ve been listening to Jeffrey’s records and watching him playing consistently wonderful and engaging live shows for almost the entirety of my adult life, it’s safe to say I’m in for the long haul.
He is one of the constants, and getting a new album from him is like receiving an unexpected visit from a particularly energetic and charismatic old friend. You might get kinda frustrated as he potters about your living space, rambling on about things you have very little immediate interest in, but goddamn, it’s still nice to have him around.
As is par for the course with Jeffrey Lewis ‘solo’ LPs, ‘Manhattan’ is about 50% genius, and 50% inexplicable, head-scratching nonsense, so let’s keep things positive and concentrate on the former.
Opener ‘Scowling Crackhead Ian’ is excellent, one of the richest and most poignant songs Lewis has ever written, and as it drifts into the more abstract concerns of ‘Thunderstorm’, followed by the frantic, hollering abrasion of ‘Sad Screaming Old Man’, things are going very well indeed. The lengthy centrepiece track ‘Back to Manhattan’ is also beautifully realised and very affecting, and if much of side two rather fails to deliver (from my POV, at least), well we’ve still got a lot of great stuff to get stuck into here.
Crucially, I see the aforementioned songs as expanding the range of Jeffrey’s recorded material in two significant ways. Firstly, he is going here for a kind of ‘world building’ approach to song-writing (similar to something like, say, Lou Reed’s ‘Street Hassle’ or The Kinks ‘Muswell Hillbillies’) that I think works very well for him. By framing his autobiographical concerns within a broader picture of the people, places and memories that surround him in his New York home, he adds great depth to the material, largely managing to avoid the self-pitying solipsism that made much of 2011’s ‘A Turn In a Dream Songs’ such a chore, whilst still keeping his own observations and experiences centre-stage. Without wishing to sound too much like the pompous tutor in some song-writing masterclass, this is great work, and the best songs here are easily comparable to the level achieved by all those classic singer-songwriter LPs we love so much from the ‘70s, in spite of Lewis’s default jokey self-deprecation.
Secondly, ‘Manhattan’ also finds Jeffrey working out a rather lovely new sound around which to build his songs, with the best cuts here often bypassing his trademark assaultive strumming and/or shaky-fingered double-time picking in favour of a kind of cloudy, meditative psyhedelia, incorporating gentle organ sounds, droning reversed textures and ambient street recordings, often presented alongside some appropriately laidback Terry Callier/Jerry Garcia type noodling. Again, this suits the songs brilliantly – in fact it often sounds like Jeffrey has finally nailed the kind of approach he’s been searching for for years through his often slightly wayward psychedelic experiments, meaning that when he switches back to his conventional acoustic stylings, it often sounds quite jarring.
Clearly, we’re listening here to a guy who has little interest in reiterating the mutant nerd-punk blasts of old hits like ‘Time Machine’ or ‘..Kill the Ghoul’, and, whilst god knows he certainly doesn’t need another reminder that he’s getting a bit older these days, ‘Manhattan’s better half proves that – cough – “maturity” is beginning to suit him very well indeed. I can easily – almost inevitably, in fact – see him following in the path of those ol’ 70s 'cult' songwriter dudes [insert your preferred names here], spinning odd, frustrating, intriguing and secretly marvelous LPs out into the uncaring universe for many moons to come, whilst hopefully also continuing to rock the pants off us, in the, uh, “live arena” on a regular basis too [double checks start time for next week’s gig].
Jeffrey Lewis can be visited online here, and, being on Rough Trade and all, I’m sure ‘Manhattan’ can be located wherever discs are dealed.
Monday, December 07, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
15. Lonelady – Hinterland LP
Now here’s a thing: a Radio 6 endorsed, post-punk/arty-pop inclined Mancunian artist on a major-indie label whose music I actually quite like.
An unlikely occurrence I realise, but nonetheless, ‘Hinterland’, ‘Bunker Pop’ and in particular, the single edit of ‘Groove It Out’ (represented on the album as a longer, moodier but still exceptionally cool jam) all had us dancing ‘round the kitchen like a god ‘un, in precisely the manner that programmers of aforementioned radio station might have intended.
My initial assessment was that Lonelady sounds a bit like what might have happened if Madonna, rather than making a break straight for fame and fortune in her early days, had instead headed downtown and rocked up at Ze Records – all slinky, club-bound neon pop hits, sailing on a sea of reverb, mixing sinuous Chic-esque funk with big ESG hooks and outbursts of startlingly dissonant, post-punky guitar-work.
All of which is just swell, but, considered as an album, ‘Hinterland’ expands considerably on this reductionist breakdown, offering up a more expansive - nay epic - exploration of Julie Ann Campbell’s particular aesthetic concerns. Broadly speaking, these would seem to include the reclamation of derelict or culturally ‘dead’ industrial/urban spaces as places of life, joy and creativity, with particular reference to psychogeographical type travails around the barren outskirts of her native Manchester. Speaking as someone who has never even visited Manchester to change trains, I can’t really comment on how well she manages to capture the ‘feel’ of her home city, but regardless, ‘Hinterland’, both in sound and lyrics, certainly conjures visions of the kind of ‘un-places’ – sprawling carparks, towerblock-shadowed courtyards, empty warehouses, echoing, white-walled ‘exhibition spaces’ - that everyone in the UK will be to some extent familiar with.
More remarkably furthermore, despite dipping its toes in a bit of grim Ballardian alienation here and there, the album largely succeeds in re-envisioning these spaces as positive, comfortable, even FUN, places in which to exist, live and make things – a fresh and even somewhat challenging rejuggling of aesthetic clichés that immediately gives Lonelady a massive advantage over those still insisting on shilling some thoughtless agenda of frowning, Joy Division-y post-industrial pessimism.
As played out as Lonelady’s reliance on the “post-punk/’80s experimental pop as default” status quo may sound on paper, her work thus becomes strong enough to break down the barriers of that insidious “presenting the past as the future” pose. Rather than thinly veiled retro play-acting, she instead seems genuinely out-of-time, forcing us to recall an era in which radio friendly dance pop could explore big ideas, introduce jarring new sounds, and offer a vision of a sleek and propulsive new world, open to all.
That Campbell somehow manages to pull this idealist vision alive and kicking from the hollowed out ruins of 21st century late capitalist waste is a pretty cool achievement that somehow makes complete sense. And did I mention that it has really fucking good playing & recording on it too, and is great to dance to? Because that helps too.
Lonelady can be visited on Tumblr, and ‘Hinterland’ can no doubt be acquired from your groovy independent retailers of choice.
Saturday, December 05, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
16. Royal Headache – High LP
(What’s Yr Rupture?/Distant & Vague)
Given how much I loved Royal Headache’s first album, I put off actually listening to their follow-up for nearly six months, so scared was I that it would break the spell. A tad drastic perhaps, but the ‘difficult second album’ syndrome (perhaps we should rephrase that as ‘difficult second RECORD’ in view of some bands who barely make it through an EP before the good feeling implodes?) has burned me so many times in recent years. Naturally this curse always hits song-based pop/rock groups hardest, especially if they attain a certain level of hype or popularity, and as such, the rough, impassioned energy of RH’s debut seemed to leave the gates so wide open for a bout of “lost in the big studio / short of material / daunted by expectation = will this do?” ignominy, I almost couldn’t face it.
Finally getting round to it a month or so before compiling this list, I hit play with a heavy heart, but breathed an instant sigh of relief when the frantic, mid-fi strumming of opening track ‘My Own Fantasy’ hit. Sounds like you dodged the bullet, guys. ‘High’ may not recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle brilliance of the group’s debut, but it’s a solid follow-up, and under the circumstances, that’s as much as we really could have asked for.
More than anything, I get the feeling that this record represents RH’s vocalist, the questionably named Shogun, taking the reins as the band’s natural leader, but, on reflection, maybe that’s not such a bad thing. One of the things that made their debut stand out was the fact that he is one of the few remaining singers in an indie/punk/whatever band prepared to step outside the mumbling/monotone comfort zone and, as we say in the biz, ‘give it his all’, cutting the crap and aiming straight for Otis/Sam & Dave style perfection. That he doesn’t get within a million miles of the cheap seats of their hallowed ballpark, he’d no doubt be the first to admit, but it’s nonetheless exhilarating to hear him try, belting it out like a youthful, half-cut Bob Pollard in a “falling flat on his face and get up for more” type manner that will forever sound good when set against a backdrop of up-tempo, major chord punk rock.
It’s fair to say that there’s a fair chunk of stuff here that doesn’t quite work, with comparatively extended song times, slower tempos and questionable signifiers of ‘epicness’ all boding poorly for the future, and leading to a few tracks I’ll be happier skipping over on repeat listens. But then, late in the album, ‘Carolina’ crashes in and succeeds in actually melding those very elements into a convincing piece of Teenage Fanclub-level greatness (albeit Teenage Fanclub with a bellowing Pollard wannabe on the mic), so hey – maybe there’s water in the well yet.
It’s also fair to say that Royal Headache still sound quite a lot like The Jam in places – a tendency that oddly becomes even more noticeable as their sound begins to, uh, ‘expand’. But, hopefully I’ve now reached the stage in my life where I’m man enough to say “you know what? I really like The Jam” without shame, and in fact, I guess if you were to imagine Weller & co letting their soul-boy side run free and laying down some high energy love songs n’ shit in comparatively lo-fi conditions, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what makes ‘High’ worth a listen, despite its faults.
In-between a few slightly flat, over-cooked numbers, the best cuts here – in particular, I’d put a big shiny arrow next to ‘Need You’ – definitely pass the acid test for second album material with flying colours. That being: if I were to hear them on the radio whilst doing the washing up and had no prior knowledge of the band, I’d still be liable to kick over the chairs, jump around in a fir of ill-coordinated joy, and declare it dancing time. I know #1 to #16’s a bit of a tough fall, but second album for a band like this is always a tough call, so props to Royal Headache – they’ve made it out the other side with road ahead and the motor still running.
Listen & buy digital from the band, or check your local dealers for a hard copy.
Thursday, December 03, 2015
The Best Records I Heard in 2015:
Intro & #20-#17 Run-down.
Well, as you may have gathered, life rather ironically got in the way of that ‘collective deathblog’ post I had planned, and now suddenly it’s December, which means a desperate scramble to keep up the schedule on my inevitable ‘records of the year’ count-down, so that we can get the majority of it out of the way before the gongs chime on NYE and beat fans consign their 2015 LPs to the storage boxes, looking hungrily toward the meagre scraps of The Future, etc etc.
Before we get started on that then, let us simply note that the past few months have seen the passing of Allen Toussaint, ‘Filthy’ Phil Taylor, Steve MacKay (of ‘Funhouse’ sax blurting fame) and Cynthia Robinson (trumpeter & vocalist in Sly & The Family Stone). All of them were awesome, and their respective contributions to the world of music are greatly appreciated, at least in this house. If you need further elucidation, well hey, you’re on the internet - youtube, wikipedia etc await. Whichever one of those names you type in, you can be guaranteed a fun trip.
Right then, moving on – 2015! Bloody hell. Loss, entropy, blind continuation in lieu of a plan and an increasingly desperate struggle to hold onto scraps of the traditions and institutions that actually make life worth living – and that’s just been my cooking. But seriously folks, life (personal) has been blessed with love, companionship and comfort and as life (planetary) reaches a new low almost daily, and, music-wise, I guess the year has followed a now-familiar pattern of spending the first third feeling largely disengaged, wondering where all the good music’s gone to, then building up steam again in the middle third, and spending the last few months of the year so besieged by great releases and gigs that I’ve barely got time to process them. Does that annual cycle ring true for anyone else I wonder, or is it just me?
Anyway, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover here, so best cease talking bollocks and just get on with it: a top twenty list, culled from everything new I heard this year. As luck would have it, I didn’t really encounter many two song singles or random, one-off download tracks or anything, so this year it’s an all in list, encompassing EPs, tapes, downloads and other non-album formats, and excluding only a few things that were put out by friends of mine (and are thus disallowed for ‘conflict of interest’ reasons).
A quick run-down of numbers #20 – #17 follows here, and #16 – #1 will each get their own post over the course of (fingers crossed) the next 30 days. Clear? Ok, let’s go!
20. Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower tape (Invisible City)
April, I said the following:
“‘Stratospheric Tower’ comprises a veritable motherlode of deep space void exploration, touching upon Tangerine Dream’s synth limbo, Alan Splet’s landmark space drones, perhaps even a touch of Badlamenti’s sublime ‘Twin Peaks’ mind-meld on the epic closing track…. but, basically, always falling back upon the spirit of anyone who ever plugged a short wave radio into their mixing board in the hope of capturing something a bit creepy, and aspiring to leave all traces of human consciousness quadrillions of light years distant. (And christ, who can blame him).”
Listen & buy from Invisible City.
19. Sang - Mon Oblidat 7” (La Vida Es Un Mus)
Not much to say here, as the readily apparent qualities of the music on this 45 make redundant ‘guess the influence’ games happily unnecessary.
Like all great riffologists, Sang’s guitarist has a knack for generating lines that sound knuckleheadedly obvious yet also confoundingly original at the same time, prompting a distant “why didn’t I get that one first?” itch in the back of the mind of every listener who owns a guitar.
As his certifiable killer riffs arise from amid bursts of tormented processed feedback, sounding like vicious animals chomping at the bit, the rhythm section delivers a relentless mid-tempo h/c beatdown, vocalist Marta shrieks unholy like a deranged giallo heroine about to dismember someone with a bread knife, and for a few all too short minutes, I’m in an exhilarating and happy place; that being on the receiving end of that bread knife, more than likely.
Aggrieved and forward-thinking noise-mad hardcore? Yes please guv. Nuff said I hope.
Listen and buy from La Vida Es Un Mus.
18. Dregs – Demo Tape (Muscle Horse)
2014’s best records run-down.
Some of the same songs are revisited here, and they are still bloody brilliant, and there are some songs too, which are also brilliant. Possibly the fidelity suffers slightly for being put through cassette, but if you care about that, you’re probably not PUNK (captials) enough to own this, so there.
I don’t know if there will ever come a time when ferocious, d-beat/sludge influenced female-led hardcore won’t sound both necessary and hugely enjoyable, but suffice to say, we’ve certainly not reached such a time yet, and in the meantime, Dregs remain exemplary purveyors of the form. Nod sagely along with me, and mutter “great band”.
To fill further space, I could start off again on my pedantic gripe about how a ‘demo tape’ is no longer strictly a ‘demo’ once it is released and sold to the public…. but frankly I suspect Dregs would be liable to flatten me if I attempted to waste their time with such rubbish, so I’ll shut up now.
Listen via bandcamp, buy from Muscle Horse.
17. Wymyns Prysyn – Head in a Vise LP (Drugged Conscience)
That said, I still enjoy this record very much, and wish the band the very best. To avoid similar blunders to the last time, let’s just say that it is great American punk/indie-rock/whatever that is driven, angry and persuasive, and, barring some rather inelegant use of reverb, it should remind listeners of a certain age of the glory-days when Dischord did new releases, people didn’t argue so much and Steve Albini actually did something useful now and again. Oops, there I go again. Totally recommended anyway, with no bad blood intended whatsoever.
Listen & buy from the band.
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