Tuesday, 31 July 2007

VARIOUS – BUFFALO 66 THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK (WILL RECORDS)


VARIOUS – BUFFALO 66 THE ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK (WILL RECORDS)

For quite a while I found myself obsessed with the movie Buffalo 66. When it first emerged on satellite TV it was only ever shown in the early hours and more than a couple of times I would find myself cutting drunken nights short to head home and watch it on Sky. The film arrived in my life at a time where all the pieces fit. Like Billy Brown I felt that things generally represented something of a lost cause, everyone around me was just as fucked up as me and that revenge was the key. In Buffalo 66 though, despite all these negative connotations, it all still seemed cool and adventurous. Perhaps by listening to the music on this record I may find my own Christina Ricci also.

In the end I wound up paying almost £20 for this CD on import buying it from the soundtrack section in the Virgin Megastore on the corner of Oxford Street. Over the years however it has proved worth every penny.

Much like the movie the soundtrack begins with “Lonely Boy” by Gallo himself, a song that fails to stop short of creepy considering its author but with this it manages to retain a strange kind of beauty with a sentiment that could be seen as self pitying coming from a different direction. For once this entails positive baggage and more a declaration of self awareness as opposed to wallowing in sadness. The peace that accompanies this piece is a rare angelic expression from an individual so awash in a desperate mindset and situation.

Soon several tracks of harrowing ambience (“A Wet Cleaner”) and urban beats and grind (“Drowning In Brown”) serve to give both the movie and soundtrack some kind of pace/groove/rhythm, a pulse that drives proceedings forwards and on.

Right now as I write this I am playing this record very loudly with the windows open in the hope that it annoys the neighbours. This is a contention that feels rather apt to this release at this time. And now I am genuinely great moment playing desk keyboards to “Heart Of The Sunrise” followed by rum drunkenly singing along to “Sweetness”. More of that later.

I genuinely believe that this album is a magnificent piece of work, a record worthy of the opinion that Gallo probably has of it. Within it manages to perfectly convey and express the emotion of such exciting troubled times in a manner that manages to squeeze out emotions from the listener as designed and intended.

Towering on the record are the prog rock selections, the cuts from King Crimson and Yes. This all comes from Gallo’s odd appreciation and fondness for music of such ilk (which once saw me suggesting that my boss should work with Gallo for some credibility). Due to the connotations of the use of “Heart Of The Sunrise” in the movie a whole new meaning and intensity gets drawn and attached to the song. Seldom rarely in film has a song been stapled to a sequence in such a powerful and exciting manner. With this appearance a whole new level of credibility and coolness is lent to the track, a feat that would be pretty impossible to muster in more cynically driven hands. It is Yes for fucks sake, a favourite band of beards the age of your dad.

Eventually the record comes to a dour close with another of Gallo’s workouts (as opposed to the upbeat ending in the movie that comes from Yes). It’s a mixture gesture with a mixed judgement.

This was the sound of being truly indie cool at the turn of the century.

Thesaurus moment: arsehole.

Vincent Gallo
Buffalo 66
Will Records

Monday, 30 July 2007

FMB – JAMES (GOLDROCKER)


FMB – JAMES (GOLDROCKER)

This was a very strange discovery on eBay. In the early nineties Channel Four had a TV series called The Next Big Thing which along with The Real World was one of the very first reality TV shows and this particular example followed an indie band called FMB when British indie was very much the kind of fraggle rock of Mega City Four and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (as your parents) that was very studenty and very grungy. This was an era in which indie bands did not appear to be afraid to make a noise and were genuinely an alternative music option, rightly disliked by parents and somewhat strangers to the Top 40 and mainstream pop coverage who would occasionally dent these media outlets in what would seem something of a victory to those not quite on the more popular rave ticket and likely to be frown upon and picked on by society in general. There was however strength in numbers attached to being part of this movement.

FMB were a fun band, too homely to really “make it” and gritty and real enough to appeal to the legions of indie fans often awkward and snobbish about their music selections. Unfortunately however in the industry nobody would touch the band as the TV series was seen as the kiss of death as it made them also appear slightly contrived, getting something of an undeserved leg up when at the time there were literally hundreds of bands that could be featuring on this new vehicle, TV show, bands that had already been slogging away for several years and to be honest more deserved such coverage. This was way before Simon Cowell and sunlight had yet to be let in on the magic of the music industry and such TV shows were not yet considered as corrupt as they are now.

So now over fifteen years later I discover that the band reformed and recorded their “hit” from the series with view to giving it “a second go.” My god this would appear to be an error of astronomical proportions. People have grown up, people have moved on.

Listening to FMB now is a weird experience. I must concede I thought the band were cool when I saw them on the show. This was about three years before we started Gringo Records so I didn’t really know the true/full ins and outs of independent music.

It is weird listening to this song now. I don’t recognise it. The rock is gone, the energy is gone but what remains is the chorus but the hook is now caked is overblown catastrophe. When stuck with me from the TV show was the NME review that ended “future mayhem beckons.” No it doesn’t. What instead occurs is a whitewash and a glib example of trying too hard. This is the sound of a band pandering. At their age they really should have known better.

Did they learn nothing with their previous adventures? Too little too late.

Thesaurus moment: recede.

FMB

Sunday, 29 July 2007

SEBADOH – HARMACY (DOMINO)


SEBADOH – HARMACY (DOMINO)

This I think is where Sebadoh hit the right balance and made the album of their career. Whereas usually the smart money goes on Bubble And Scrape being their defining moment, Harmacy really is an astonishing accomplishment as a nineteen song collection devoid of any filler but instead some of the strongest tracks the band ever delivered. This should have been the record that saw them on Top Of The Pops and touching our hearts.

For the longest time Sebadoh were one of the best kept secrets of the grunge era. They were on Sub Pop (in the US) but nobody seemed to be paying attention to them, preferring instead to concentrate on the modern day hair bands with metal leaning tendencies. I guess in many ways Sebadoh were hardcore punks that had gone soft, opting instead to concentrate now on songwriting with didn’t really fit the flannel shirt bill. Also they wore glasses and at that point real men did not wear glasses. Originally they were supposed to support Nirvana on their tour in 1994 but when Kurt did what he did that plan all went to pieces and any plan for exposure and miniscule domination was no longer going to happen.

Harmacy arrived in 1996 and it felt like perfect timing. With a new movement of home grown US inspired talent making waves suddenly lo-fi was hip (although this record does not necessarily sound overly lo-fi). When the band toured the UK in October that year and I saw them at the Astoria the record had already been a summer hit for me and now I was making new friends and seeing a band with statue.

There is quite a definite line on this record between the Lou songs and the Jason songs. Basically Lou crooned and Jason rocked. Together as I said above both styles royally complimented one another and something of a new perfect record had fallen into place.

Proceedings begin with “On Fire” and Lou crooning his scrappy sentiments with great sentiments in away that was OK for the white boy indie blues generation to buy into without looking stupid or immature. Or so we thought. It shouldn’t work as an album opener but somehow it just does.

Things pick up royally as “Prince-S” displays a more direct side of the band, still the victim but no longer falling so easily as before. By the end of the track the engine is truly revving and the album is underway.

With “Ocean” things get playful and silly in both music and verse. I swear he is still singing about his dick and some nonchalant lady making life hell but at least now the chops are light-hearted and verging on comical, a point that is emphasised by the whining cry-baby video filmed in front of a true heavy metal audience. Thank god there is a sense of humour at the heart of this record.

By the fourth track “Nothing Like You” you get the feeling that you have been put through the emotional wringer enough already. Somehow proceedings manage to get even sappier than “On Fire” but in the likelihood of the listener being lovelorn and failing to get his end away it serves its purpose. Later Lou strikes again with the track “Willing To Wait”, which can be taken either way depending on the disposition and timing of the listener. Teenage Fanclub were getting away with it at the time so why shouldn’t Sebadoh.

“Crystal Gypsy” provides the first real noise workout, blowing away the cobwebs that will have emerged from the first four tracks on the album. It swings from side to side like a temper tantrum of the most righteous kind.

As “Beauty Of The Ride” kicks in it arrives with a real flourish the pace of the record increases even further as the song sounds like a natural single pitching a kind of urgency that to this point of the record had been drastically lacking in proceedings.

“Mind Reader” maintains the strength of the middle order as the streak remains heavy and bounding, almost sounding like a drunken toddler on some kind of Lego rampage. Still you can’t help but think he is singing about his dick and some prick teasing woman.

The second side opens with “Zone Doubt” and perhaps the best sync of pop hooks and awkward sounds that appears on this record. Quite frankly the choruses here are to die for, the kind of stuff that snags me and makes me feel young again. This is the true magic of Sebadoh.

Concentrating on the noise tracks “Mind Reader” presents the most lo-fi proposition of the record in the most agonising song of the album with yet another song about the suffrage of his dick and the lady making its life hell. There really does seem to be an underlying agony to this record, the celebration of rejection for the skinny, geeky guy getting sand kicked in his face by the smart lady in glasses that likes twisting indie rock stars around her little finger. Indeed “that’s the worst thing you could do.” This could easily have been a Pavement song. Likewise “Love To Fight” that follows quickly afterwards manages to sound like The Jesus Lizard. This is at times quite dirty stuff.

Things close out strongly after “Perfect Way” takes the sappy route and “Can’t Give Up” is another lumpy song of heart attack and hooks. “Open Ended” then offers some kind of introspection manipulating the best of both worlds from this record, building to a real climax in the process even if it doesn’t really reach any kind of philosophical conclusion.

The instrumental “Weed Against Speed” plays out like a closing credits accompaniment that expounds no words but with its aching tempo changes in its playing along with the song title serves quite explicitly with its intentions. Perhaps this is where the hidden conclusion of the album is housed, maybe this was the point at which the band had it all worked out.

By way of one last shock to the system Sebadoh sound as if they are falling down the stairs as they fire out a cover of The Bags “I Smell A Rat” at a frenetic pass displaying that they can still run with young pups and indeed the big dogs. They needed to with Courtney Love briefly sniffing around.

Harmacy is one of those great records that sits in your collection and sadly often you forget about until every now and then something jogs your memory as to the utter class of the record and how fond you remember the times. The summer of 1996 in rose tinted glasses was an exceptional time for me and when I finally saw Sebadoh playing live supporting this record suddenly I was on my way to beginning a lo-fi record label with some new friends. Times seldom got any better.

Thesaurus moment: medicinal.

Sebadoh
Domino

Saturday, 28 July 2007

CAT ON FORM – DEMO


CAT ON FORM – DEMO

Cat On Form were a dense Fugazi influenced act from Brighton that wound up being signed by Southern, which came as a surprise to many of us who had been plugging away in/at the circuit for some time before them.

This is the two track demo they sent to us at Gringo Records complete with letter touching base. Unfortunately it reached us too late arriving just as things had stumbled.

The vocals are more Guy than Ian and there feels a healthy dose of Huggy Bear attached to proceedings as much like the rest of us at the time they were trying very hard to “keep it real.”

Listened to now five years after the event it makes for pleasant pine. I always though “Oh No! Telephone Rings” was a dopey song name but the actual song is frantic in a superior manner caked with lots of jagged stops and drops paired with some meticulous playing and ample amounts of urgent sounding shouting. Following comes the equally amusingly moniker “Back Off Man, I’m A Scientist” which is a real gut churner of a shanty chiming like a grandfather clock and scoring a sad expressions all even before the screaming dual vocals come in. Pretty good.

All in all this represents a time in the early noughties where DIY bands influenced by grunge and US indie were stepping into hardcore territory Fugazi style without actually necessarily harbouring the garbage squat punk mentality. In other words in comparison to Maximum Rock N Roll fodder (briefly in the UK represented by Fracture etc) this was a scene all too middle class to ever really be punk, a scene set in the underclass and fucking staying there. There was no future in it, just giving it a go.

Thesaurus moment: read.

Cat On Form

Friday, 27 July 2007

SIX BY SEVEN – THE WAY I FEEL TODAY (BEGGARS BANQUET)


SIX BY SEVEN – THE WAY I FEEL TODAY (BEGGARS BANQUET)

Hailing from Nottingham Six By Seven where a strange proposition, a band that never quite seemed to find a single identity as they proceeded to spread themselves quite thinly in search of some kind of success and acclaim balance, of which they both good in relatively successful degrees but not really enough to make a long career out of.

Perhaps the band tried too hard. Certainly I recall in interviews how the singer (name not remembered) liked to boast of the band’s scary background in Nottingham and how violent his background was. Having friends in Nottingham you were able to believe the stories about the place but not necessary his position in the partaking of such moments and there laid the rub. They were convincing no one. Six By Seven were ultimately a band that did not fit in which was a bad thing when you sensed that they so wanted to.

This was their third album by which time I think their opportunity/chance had passed them by. Never really accepted by the rock audience in the way say a Muse were in a way despite their alternative noise leanings (badly executed) they were slipping into Mansun territory with elongated pieces that would seen them gazing at their shoes and a dozen record label procured pedals.

It is not to say that they weren’t without their moments as this record indeed pulls out of the blocks in impressive fashion but it is in a blustering manner rather than a devastating one. More or less everything they did felt like a business decision.

With tracks such as “Flypaper For Freaks” there is a genuine visceral charge attached to proceedings (likewise with “Speed Is In, Speed Is Out”) but when things begin to droop they do so in negatively spectacular fashion as they severely peter out.

A song such as “Karen O” displays the worst kind of jagged sound being sculpted and reduced into some kind of Marillion territory. Later when things attempt to become deep and meaningful with “American Beer” it just feels cheesy and overblown with an overriding sense of trying too hard exhibiting vocals that actually remind me of Peter Gabriel at his most trite.

Over the course and duration of the album they wheel out a number of lengthy and fuzzy noise tunes but these don’t ever really seem to go or get anywhere. Perhaps it might work on a Primal Scream record but there the sound would be equipped with beats to bolster and shoulder the abandon through.

If I hadn’t already heard it done better it might have been less shit.

Thesaurus moment: fish.

Six By Seven
Beggars Banquet

Thursday, 26 July 2007

GUNS N’ ROSES – YOU COULD BE MINE (GEFFEN)


GUNS N’ ROSES – YOU COULD BE MINE (GEFFEN)

This really was the last throw for hair metal in many respects. GNR were the final warriors living out that poodle lifestyle that just about still came with a bite when they did it. At the time it was easy to hate Guns N’ Roses because quite frankly their fans were idiots.

Smart comments aside this is a song that holds up surprisingly well. At a time when memory looks back on hair metal as being one trick and embarrassing, distance looks on at Guns N’ Roses in good favour, especially considering the joke of a tribute band the brand has now turned into.

Creaming with vitality there is a sustained sense of attack lent to the extended intro of this song. Just as things were about to get overblown here was one point where the playing lived up to expectations without taking things too far and wrecking the record. It is testament to the music that it is a good few minutes before the vocals of Axl land on proceedings seemingly intent on turning the air cheesy.

It has been funny to hear the opening bridge of this song appear in various hipper indie and alternative rock hits through the years. I swear you can hear this song is both “Freakin’ Out” by Graham Coxon and a couple of the more direct early Oasis tunes. Such is the universally stonking effect of this composition. This is a passage of entrance where it seems every member of the band is given their moment to shine.

With the recurring logo and fonts used there almost feels something regimental about the packaging.

Of course it is an embarrassing gesture to actually play this out loud now. What on earth are the sentiments behind this record? Is it really an ode to some lucky lady that she might be given the opportunity to be a heavy metaller’s girlfriend if she plays her cards right? Yeah the early nineties were quite a confusing time then too.

On the flipside is “Civil War” which I seem to remember was later released as an EP in its own right as the bottom of the Use Your Illusion barrel was being scraped. It definitely begs the question as to why would a person want to eventually buy a song that has already been used (thrown away) as a b-side. Then again clocking in at 7 minutes 38 seconds in a strange way there is a perverse VFM element to it. Such was the money making machine that was Guns N’ Roses back in the day (all shits no giggles).

In a strange way not bad for a record featuring the future of governor of California rocking a sawn off shotgun on its cover. We live in a strange world.

Thesaurus moment: product

Guns N’ Roses
Geffen

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

MUDHONEY – THIS GIFT (SUB POP)


MUDHONEY – THIS GIFT (SUB POP)

Sounding initially like an angry dog playing with its toy in an aggressive manner this is without doubt one of Mudhoney’s finest moments, a true accomplishment that sees them at the height of their powers effectively combing the gnarly fuzzed up sound to full effect while Mark Arm’s words come in loud and clear with some of the most sinister sounding poetry he has ever been able to author.

With a whammy bar be effectively executed with view to causing a commotion the guitar sound is truly unique, distorted in a manner that so many mimics have attempted but never been able to achieve. At this point I feel I am gushing as much as the amplification.

What “This Gift” is is obvious. It is also slightly disturbing signifying a real intention to do bad things. All of a sudden in the cold light of day you begin to wonder just how it is that the band are getting away with saying things like this. It is a really thick paste of sarcasm and irony that fill the lyrical content of this machine being hyperbolic and potentially truly offensive to anyone that isn’t in on the joke, which I guess is just where the rebellion lies. I can’t imagine ever playing this to/with a girl and getting away with it and likewise when I was younger and playing this as loud as the volume would allow me I now wonder just what it was my parents were thinking. How come I was so aloof to the lyrics at the time? Perhaps it was down to the glory of the guitars and the confusion clouds that came with.

This single is up there with “Touch Me I’m Sick”, if not better. This is grunge not garage and when the video features a series of buildings falling down it perfectly matches the mindset of its audience at the time. Truly a record that sounded as if it could accompany the world falling down, scarily almost twenty years down the line it still sounds as huge an achievement as ever. For once the music of the scene matched the hype.

On the flipside appears “Baby Help Me Forget” which is actually a song originally by Mr Epp (the original band of Arm and Turner). It is brief and startling, unsurprisingly compact and fuzzy with not necessarily the nicest of message.

Thesaurus moment: rape.

Mudhoney
Sub Pop

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

ALICE IN CHAINS – ROOSTER (COLUMBIA RECORDS)


ALICE IN CHAINS – ROOSTER (COLUMBIA RECORDS)

Rooster is the centrepiece of the diamond of the Alice In Chains catalogue: Dirt. Coming with some kind of Vietnam war back story you are purposely led to believe that there are hidden depths to this epic, a meaning bigger and on a larger scale than most Alice In Chains songs. From the off the song carries itself in a distinctly looming manner that gives proceedings a very majestic feel held in captivation.

In Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell here were two very talented songwriters sitting comfortably in both metal and alternative rock circles/modes. Here were/are two players at the top of their game able to do things with their given instruments (voice and guitar) that truly sounded unique and served to make them stand out in a crowd of latecomers, chancers and wannabes. I don’t think you could go as far as to actually describe Alice In Chains as a grunge band but with them wearing the right clothes, talking about dark subjects and being the right place at the right time they definitely held a respectable stake in the era (they just lacked indie Sub Pop cred).

Not being an American it is kind of tough to get behind the sentiment and experiences being described in the song. When however Cantrell hits a power chord it easily resembles an explosion in anybody’s mind. That said in these with so much of being spent fighting a relatively invisible enemy in the Middle East it wouldn’t be too much of a reach to suggest that a whole new generation of “Rooster” types are waiting to retire in disgrace. With this in mind this song retains something of a topical edge, possessing as much meaning for some as did upon arrival in the early nineties.

Elsewhere on the disc is “Sickman” which was one of the more disorientating selections on Dirt, very dark and very druggy. Again as the song gets sucked up and put through some kind of desperate wringer it is the truly amazing vocal talents of Staley that come to the fore while the playing almost resembles some kind of psychedelic heavy metal.

The final track on the disc is “It Ain’t Like That” which was a song that actually appeared on their previous album Facelift and was probably most likely included here as it was a song the band were seen performing live onstage in the movie Singles.

At times this was definitely a great band.

Thesaurus moment: syndrome.

Alice In Chains
Columbia Records

Monday, 23 July 2007

TEENAGE FANCLUB – EVERYTHING FLOWS (PAPERHOUSE RECORDS)


TEENAGE FANCLUB – EVERYTHING FLOWS (PAPERHOUSE RECORDS)

There are few singles of the indie genre that are warmer than this song. With this song the Fannies are able to muster a genuine sense of longing with lines such as “I think about it everyday.”

It is perhaps this element that is most endearing about the music of Teenage Fanclub, how it feels prematurely old age but at the same time comforting and reassuring, still cool in the least way likely. Their songwriting is top notch able to convey the most earnest of feelings while accompanied by the perfect match of music that serves their personas spot on. Regardless of all the Big Star and The Byrds snipes this is one of the most genuine acts ever to grace the independent genre, all with skills to match.

“Everything Flows” has come to represent their set closing track in recent years. The structure of the song seems to take on two strides as the opening declarations of sensible reminiscence later move onto a prolonged but even tempered close that is perfect for extending and dragging out in a live setting. This song never loses it and neither do the minds attached.

One of their earliest singles the song comes with a wicked set of b-side tracks including a warped drum machine wig out by the name of “Primary Education” that sounds like Pavement subdued and stuck in a foreign country. Following comes “Speeder” which is a wonky instrumental run out that could follows the same cue as the previous track and could easily have been Mudhoney playing with children’s instruments. The final track is a Neil Young cover in the form of “Don’t Cry No Tears”, which at the end of the day is what they are good at.

The other cover on this record is that artwork from Jad Fair that makes up the sleeve. Tremendous stuff.

Thesaurus moment: toasty.

Teenage Fanclub

Sunday, 22 July 2007

BEASTIE BOYS – ROOT DOWN EP (CAPITOL)


BEASTIE BOYS – ROOT DOWN EP (CAPITOL)

Released quite a while after “Ill Communication” dropped the Root Down EP is an interesting ten song release seemingly put out to capitalise on the continued success and longevity of the album it came from.

A genuine mixed bag of items the first three tracks are variations of the title track with a Free Zone mix that adds the almost dark gothic beats that started to surround the scene around the period and a PP Balloon mix that completely dismantles the instrumentation of the song giving it a sparse and minimal expression interrupted by the occasionally expertly inserted sample.

The track “Root Down” itself appeared on the album as a juggernaut of a track sounding like a panicked early morning journey on the New York subway serving as some kind of declaration of defiance and announcement as to how they roll. As the name checks fly in the percussion rules supreme as the thumping bass serves up true motion.

The remainder of the EP takes the form of live tracks record in Europe during 1995 serving up a sweet mix of live reinventions of old favourites (“Time To Get Ill”, “The Maestro”), even spikier versions of their hardcore songs (“Heart Attack Man”, “Time For Livin”) and blissed out flabby extensions of their funk instrumental workouts (“Sabrosa”), all of which benefit from being exhibited in the live setting off the back of these performances.

A live version of “Something’s Got To Give” delivered in the vocal style of Frampton and caked in Atari 2600 sound clips closes the EP before launching into a brief hidden and apparent Hebrew version of “So Whatcha Want?”

Thesaurus moment: shrewd.

Beastie Boys
Grand Royal
Capitol

Saturday, 21 July 2007

CLINIC – FUNF (DOMINO)


CLINIC - FUNF (DOMINO)

Many years ago I got really drunk after a Clinic show in Colchester and I wound up riding my friend’s post bike into the side of the Clinic tour transit. The sound that I made at the moment of collision was probably “funf!” Upon impact (which I swore to bystanders I was capable of avoiding) the Clinic players jumped out of the van and surrounded me. To this day I thank them for enquiring about my wellbeing rather than slapping me silly, a response I realistically deserved. Their reaction of “he’s just pissed” I feel was a lesson for us all.

With that in mind, this collection of b-sides and rarities is the kind of listen you employ on a day where you are feeling grateful and clement. Clinic have always been one of those near mainstream teasing weirdo bands like the Super Furry Animals that have managed to juggle a brilliant balance between Radio One airplay and maintain enough credibility to play All Tomorrow Parties.

This compilation is most definitely Clinic; skewered guitars cut though sheets of sound as the mostly instrumental fanfare appears to be a modern take on an era bygone in a seedy and investigative manner. I think the key to Clinic’s appeal has always been to make retro sound modern by bringing much vitality to their methods.

Considering this is a batch of odds and sods (technically off cuts) it is a tidy and compact little record with a hell of a lot to be taken from it ranging from the glam stomper “Magic Boots” to the playful US hardcore sounding “Nicht” through to “The Castle” which is the track that best represents the “sound” of Clinic with it’s song built a industrial generator-esqe noise and a heavy Hammond organ that sounds stolen from a cathedral.

Smartly the album closes with an apt finale in the form of “Golden Rectangle”, seemingly a Parisian surf song similar to Faith No More’s version of the Midnight Cowboy theme, there is true orchestration in Clinic’s music.

ANNUALS – BROTHER (ACE FU/VIRGIN)


ANNUALS - BROTHER (ACE FU/VIRGIN)

Something of a buzz band last year, for a long time it looked as if Annuals were (successfully) going straight after the legion of followers that find themselves satisfied by the proto weirdness of Arcade Fire. And now with major label backing they just might be about to get there.

Lurching acoustically, the single opens in a very majestic manner using techniques that bands such as Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips have made a pretty penny out of executing for many years now. Once the song kicks in, it elevates into something of a genuine stomper with a truly mesmerising series of distorting effects. It is hard to grasp any idea as to just what may be playing on their mind as the spurt of energy and noise is a truly brief and cobweb clearing experience connected to their male sibling in ways they only know.

The b-side “River Run” is a boogie-woogie affair that a person could just imagine Jools Holland wanking all over if (when) performed on Later…. one Friday night in the not to distant future. Again it is more neo-psych in a pop direction that could well be accused of playing out as some kind of weird tribute to the fortieth anniversary of Sgt Pepper, complete with exploding wardrobe and running water sound effects. Hopefully there is a Monty Python-esqe sense of humour behind that is so overtly zany.

In this current musical climate, it seems a good time to be producing music such just like this.

ROBERT POLLARD – SILVERFISH TRIVIA EP (PROM IS COMING)


ROBERT POLLARD – SILVERFISH TRIVIA EP (PROM IS COMING)

A true hero of lo-fi recording and song writing, Robert Pollard consistently releases new material but unfortunately cannot be accused of regularly consistent releases. Ever since the sad demise of Guided By Voices the former school teacher has been in full on overdrive producing some of the most diverse releases of his lengthy career. Perhaps dissolving GBV lent him some kind of freedom fuelling his muse.

His first release of 2007, Silverfish Trivia is a seven song opus display how year in year out the former Guided By Voices dependably manages to come up with different and fresh sounding variations on the indie pop song form.

Opening with “Come Outside”, this is a string led lo-fi symphony, perhaps the theme music to the decadent elder statesman of indie rock that Bob Pollard has grown into over the years (equally though, it could be used as the theme to a remake of Black Beauty I feel).

Described by some as an adventure into prog for Bob, the EP often leaps into the grade A song writing of abstract references (e.g. the X-Men and the Wicker Man) and killer hooks and the Postal Blowfish palate is finally satisfied.

Without doubt the highlight of the EP is the seven minute epic “Cats Love A Parade” which would not sound of place on a Flaming Lips record. I believe this must be the lengthiest GBV related track in history as it saunters with grace, desire and wonder taking in all the classic Robert Pollard poses before taking a wonderful Pavement-esqe sidestep to insure things do not become staid or boring. Perhaps an exercise in the expression of the legendary intoxication that goes hand in hand with this music, this is almost narcotic.

Book ended by a string led outro this is a reassuring nod that stars can shine forever.

DAN DEACON – SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS (CARPARK RECORDS)


DAN DEACON – SPIDERMAN OF THE RINGS (CARPARK RECORDS)

Much as the album title suggests there is a lot confusion attached to this record, a spliced up infantile nine track bundle of joy and agony all at the same time. If Warren from There’s Something Like Mary ever made or had a favourite record album, it might well sound like this (im)peach.

In some circles Dan Deacon is being taunted as the new Wesley Willis but as affectionate as that comparison might be (and he does appear to have something of an obsession with snakes that can only end in tears) often I more reminded of soundtracks that Mark Mothersbaugh creates and produces along with the most oblique of Beck’s releases.

Sounding if it came straight from a child’s playroom this is an infuriating listen, amateur and immature but you get the impression that this is how it is intended to be. With the knowledge that Mr Deacon is a man that is revered and (I am told) classically trained, this record feels like the result of a persona that is the musical equivalent of Borat which very much makes the listener the mark, the chump and ultimately the cheated.

If think the best employment for this record would be to be used in hospitals to bring children out of comas, it has to be said that this record is not without fun quirks but if you can emerge at the other end of this record without feeling nauseous nor suffering from a migraine, you are a much stronger person than I.

Dan Deacon
Carpark Records

BARR – SUMMARY (5RC)


MICE PARADE – MICE PARADE (FAT CAT)


On the same day that I begin reviewing this record I find/buy an old Philistines Jr seven inch in Music And Video Exchange for 5p not realising that there is a relation between them and Mice Parade.

With a name that is derived from an anagram of leader Adam Pierce’s name, Mice Parade are something of indie veterans with this being their fifth album. And this is a tough record to review as it proves a really tranquil experience which unfortunately sees the music slipping into the background of my day.

A much layered affair, this is a relaxed and slow building selection. Playing out like a travel companion in the midst of some deep conversation, the swift time changes and insertions of any instrument at their disposal, The Mice Parade have produced a record that glides successfully combining elements of folk and noise with strongly crafted songs.

Listened to on a Sunday morning in the summer is when this record feels most comfortable, I find myself transfixed with the blessed ease the protagonists appear to have with life.

Featuring guest appearances on vocals by Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab and Kristin Anna Valtysdottir of Mum that perfectly compliment the almost Dando/Grohl-esqe pitch of Pierce, it is not too hard to envisage how this record sounds, not least with the knowledge that Doug Scharin (June Of 44/Rex/Him) can be counted amongst the band’s numbers.

Over the course of the nine tracks it ranges from the delicate dream state of “Double Dolphins On The Nickel” (sadly not some kind of Minutemen tribute) to the out and out drone of “Snow” and the very Tortoise/Sixtoo-esqe mathematics of “Tales Of Las Negras”, where Sadier makes her appearance.

An album of far flung beauty, in a world where so many are attempting folk-tinged electronica and falling flat on their faces, here is a timely reminded how sweet the cherry can taste.

Thesaurus moment: sumptuous.

Mice Parade

BILLY RUFFIAN – MY SECRET LIFE (FILTHY LITTLE ANGELS)


GALLOWS – ABANDON SHIP (WARNERS/BLACK ENVELOPE)


I have truly been fucking shocked at hearing this record on daytime Radio One. I could literally not believe my ears as the old school emo hardcore flew out the FM and I was transported back to the future.

It is nearly ten years now since I was buying seven inches by bands that don’t just sound a little like this band, they sounded EXACTLY like this band (well, this single at least). Actually the reality is that Gallows sound exactly like such DIY heroes from back in the day as Bob Tilton, Tribute, Beacon etc etc. At one point, if you went up to Leeds it seemed like bands sounding like this were growing on trees and Subjugation Records were selling their records through their distro.

So what on earth has happened? I feel it is a truly strange climate these days that sees bands in the (near) mainstream sounding like bands from “my roots” and I truly cannot decide if this is a good thing or a bad thing. And at the end of the day, who is it that can claim to have won the war? Did the majors get wise to the innovation of the DIY indies (ho ho) and cash in on it? Have the underground labels been ultimately proved right in their ideas as to where music (especially rock) was going? Regardless, I know which demographic will be sleeping on a big pile of money tonight as opposed to sleeping on the floor.

I suspect I am the last person at the party to hear this record as I understand the album was originally released on such an indie (in Nottingham?) is now being majorly overhauled by Warners (all for a price). At the end of the day however it is just still really distracting to hear my record collection from ten years ago being played on daytime FM when I thought that was the most cutting edge sounding shit that would forever remain marginalised. Truly, where is the (music) world heading? Kids today!

Thesaurus moment: disconcerting.

Gallows
Warner Music

DERIDE – TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT (SELF RELEASED)


With a pleasantly fuzzed up dirty Soundgarden-esqe guitar sound, this Myspace approaching band sustain my attention for exactly 22 seconds until the Ian Astbury style vocals kick in and spoil the show, reducing proceedings to little more than dated hair band cock rock middle class white man blues grunge rock of the most hormonal kind. That surely can’t be a good thing.

With a name that I keep confusing with Deidre (Barlow?), The Police lifted “S.O.S.” insertion into the first song only serves to extend the painfully commercial aimed intention and unoriginality of this CD. And then track two sounds like the Manic Street Preachers in the most AOR of modes.

Deride are a managed band destined to play pubs and rock clubs for eternity. I could go to the rock bush outside right now and pull two or three of them of the vine in a moment. Actually I am currently shitting a band like this out of my arse right now!

Sent by their management company (they’re managed!), unfortunately I was not supplied with a bio sheet to go with this CD so I have to make my own up with my imagination. And my limited imagination only serves me to believe that in their part time these guys are bricklayers after being the kings of the school in their formative years. Their record collections contains every CD Kerrang has given five Ks to in the past ten years. And with a demo cover that features a strewn bottle of Jack Daniels, packets of fags, unused Durex, some bird’s bikini top (or undies, I just can’t tell the difference these days), a rolled up twenty pound note and a circle of powder that may or may not (probably not) be blow – I don’t think you could mistake these guys for being emo. I wish I had never been sent this.

Thesaurus moment: obsolete.

Deride
MepWeb Management

Friday, 20 July 2007

BLACK FLAG – DAMAGED (SST RECORDS)


BLACK FLAG – DAMAGED (SST RECORDS)

Damaged is an astoundingly good record, one of the tightest examples ever of a unit firing on all cylinders able to maintain a deadly and economical ferocity that simply blows away anything that dare resembles an obstacle.

This was the record that gave birth to Henry Rollins. After a batch of singles this was the first Black Flag studio record proper and from the off it blitzes without flinching on the none too subtle “Rise Above” that serves as a rallying call to anyone looking to stand up for themselves when feeling in a stifling situation and circumstances. It is genuinely possible to tap into the energy and sentiments of this record almost immediately and very easily.

With Greg Ginn playing like his guitar is on fire, the hooks are super heavy and painfully blunt as they jolt the listener from out of their seat and serves them with an aural slap in the face and sometimes a kick in the groin with almost each song beginning with his trademark feedback.

Clocking in at 34 minutes the 15 songs represent towering examples of hardcore where the intensity actually manages to sustain longer than the power bursts of songs that populate the releases of most bands of the early eighties era. In Damaged the world sees Black Flag at its peak, at the height of its powers with probably the best line-up it would ever enjoy.

The most poppy moments of the record appear in the form of the “Six Pack” and “TV Party” singles both of which over the course of the band’s existence would experience numerous recording and be packaged and repackaged in a number of manners.

It is interesting to note that the majority of the songs were already in place prior to the arrival of Rollins and such his lyrical involvement at this stage was minimal in comparison to how he would later domineeringly be regarded as one of the main songwriters of the genre.

The album can generally be broken down into three types of Black Flag song: the poppy, quirky (as in “TV Party”), the intense outburst (as with “Police Story”) and the midtempo crunch of the two title tracks, which on this record displayed the most nightmarish visions.

Songs such as “Thirsty And Miserable” and “Depression” are the gnarly driving force of the album, the songs that punch holes in the wall where proceedings might otherwise experience a lull. I can’t help but feel as the Black Flag sounded matured that these were the tracks that fell by the wayside in preference to more intricate compositions that Ginn so strived to be playing.

For me this is easily one of the heaviest albums in history. At no point does the guitar sound ever feel weedy (as crime often committed by punk bands) and with the general ferocious landscape of the album it is easy to tell that this was an act walking it the way the talked it, living the life that they were singing about. And that was why none of them made any money (from this band).

If you have never heard this album you are lacking your stripes.

Thesaurus moment: halting.

Black Flag
SST Records

Thursday, 19 July 2007

CAT POWER – YOU ARE FREE (MATADOR RECORDS)


CAT POWER – YOU ARE FREE (MATADOR RECORDS)

In the latter months of 2006, I found myself going through a very difficult period and this was truly the record that got me through it. “You Are Free” is one of those painfully personal albums that feels almost voyeuristic to listen to. Whereas a few years ago I was able to give my mother “The Greatest” as a birthday present, to an outsider this car crash could quite possibly make Chan Marshall appear to be the weirdest honeytrap alive.

It opens very solidly with the horribly explicit “I Don’t Blame You” with its confession via accusation feel. Cleverly the track makes you think that she doesn’t want to record this album, she has to.

The tone lightens with “Free” and some kind of declaration that there are choices in life. Personally despite the upbeat feel the song smothers itself in it’s too hard to believe conceit. Regardless of this Marshall voice sounds so carefree and light, dizzying in a strangely deluded manner. She ain’t fooling anybody. At times it almost reminds me of “Rubber Ring” by The Smiths with the manner in which it places so much importance in and on the value of music.

Avoiding “Good Woman” as it is a dud, “Speak For Me” plunders in at fourth spot playing out like a song that gives off the sensation of spinning around in circles as it builds to a heavy fall. Sadness accrues.

He War” is the hit single of the piece. This is the initial peak, the song you immediately head to the first times you listen to the album. Landing just afterwards is “Shaking Paper” that comes accompanied by some chilled out drumming and subtle distortion broaching the mantra of “a good thing coming.” This song serves as the aftermath response to the antics of “He War.”

Following comes “Baby Doll” that continues the free motif of events slowing question “don’t you want to be free” over the most delicate and minimal of guitar playing. Once again Chan’s voice dominates proceedings as its legacy of wonder appears to be searching out of answers to implausible queries to hostile situations.

During my tough period (as noted at the beginning) the song that indulged me most was “Maybe Not.” As doubts filled in my head over the pretend/potential apple of my eye of that moment this song served to fuel the doubt in my mind about proceedings. There is a true resignation to this song, a genuine sadness that carries through to anyone paying attention to Chan’s mind. With this she is The Cooler.

Harsh revelations come along in the form of “Names” as a piano line accompanies a really harsh line of confession and description of people that have truly lost their way. How much of this is to be believed is debatable but in the manner that it is delivered and described it does come wholly convincing in a form that I have never witnessed in a song ever before. This quite possibly might be one of the most clearly explicit songs I have ever heard. This will not help you get through a hurricane.

After plunging to such depths to album trails off with a trio of downbeat snuffers. Closing track “Evolution” reads like some kind of ultimatum as a looping morose piano spreads thick across Marshall’s closing whispered salvo and the instruction “better make your mind up quick.”

I have to concede that this record went for my jugular and grabbed the whole thing. Had I taken the time to study the album when it was released I may have matured as a person soon as the depths of despair it appears to exude are the kind of stuff that should be treasured in the most warped of manners. Emerging from these experiences it comes as no surprise that as an artist the lady Cat Power is somewhat tortured but as her records become happier she does appear to have come out on the other side a stronger person. Whether that makes her records better is another thing but probably producing another album as hard as this could take too much toll on both the performer and the listener.

Amazing.

Thesaurus moment: grievous.

Cat Power
Matador Records

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

THE STOOGES – FUN HOUSE (ELEKTRA/RHINO)


THE STOOGES – FUN HOUSE (ELEKTRA/RHINO)

We live in a world where for the best part of a quarter of a decade this record was generally ignored and failed to gain the full plaudits it always deserved. Listening to it now for such a brief record it contains as much power, energy and personality than most modern bands manage to squeeze into a lifetime and career.

As with all classic albums that have served to inspire just about every possible comment about this record has ever been made. So with that in mind here is my take on the album.

I have to concede I was late arriving to the party on this one. For years I insisted that The Stooges was their best album mainly off the back of containing “I Wanna Be Your Dog” but also the lesser lauded “Real Cool Time.” Then I wound up discovering a gnarly vinyl copy of Search And Destroy in a used record stall in Clacton’s indoor market which quite frankly possibly scared me away from purchasing any more Stooges records for a long time. A brief flirtation with Metallic TKO did not serve me or the band very well.

Unfortunately I got into Fun House too late. The reunion happened and I shrugged my shoulders with nonchalance and indifference even though my favourite ever musician Mike Watt was on board playing bass.

Funhouse opens fucking well with the pulsing and menacing “Down On The Street” that sets out the band’s stall early on, hanging in the air before a right hook punctuates proceedings and the song explodes into action in the form of a riot.

Following quickly is “Loose” and perhaps the most masculine number in the history of song with its explicit intentions of “stick it deep inside” and promiscuous gestures. If you can get away with singing this song to a lady without getting castrated you should marry her on the spot.

The barrage and assault on the senses continues with perhaps the most famous song on the album in the form of “TV Eye”. Here is where the riffs are at. This is another dirty dirty song.

Ironically after being so explicit and down right rude a sense of remorse and self flagellation interrupts proceedings with “Dirt” which goes beyond introspection and into destruction. The slow groove which takes place definitely upsets the momentum of the record and brings an even darker tone to the table suggesting Iggy is not a very happy man.

The assault on the senses resumes with “1970” which plays out like a combination of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and “1969” but also serves as a state of the nation address for the state of mind of both the band and its audience. Well Iggy screams “I feel all right” it feels delivered in a sense of defiance rather than reassurance. As Ron Asheton flies off into the ether the record finds itself back on track with a vengeance.

The album plays out with two saxophone drenched jams in “Fun House” and “L.A. Blues” as proceedings reach a blood stained conclusion. The Doors never got as good as this. And neither did Iggy’s solo career.

Every home should have a copy.

PS Rhino please re-released the seven disc Complete Fun House Sessions boxset.

Thesaurus moment: granite.

The Stooges
Elektra
Rhino

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

PAVEMENT – WOWEE ZOWEE (BIG CAT)


PAVEMENT – WOWEE ZOWEE (BIG CAT)

The third full album from Pavement is easily their best. It is a truly expansive effort covering many bases and ticking several boxes. I know people that wrote this off as country rock but is a very feeble and glib description, one the individual later subsequently ate in a word sandwich.

This is one of the most versatile and durable records of the grunge-era. Most would say that by the time this album came out the alternative nation had long since died and returned underground but unlike those who fell Pavement stayed in the game longer than most.

A deceptively intricate album, Wowee Zowee is eighteen tracks of blissed out weird that I always pretty coherent until the day that I listened to it in the changed context of over the office stereo at the studio Trevor Horn owns (Sarm) and suddenly it sounded like the weirdest thing ever held up against such generic pop music. For some reason that stereo made the record sound like the strangest set/collection of songs in history, playing out like somebody’s decent into madness. This served as a timely reminder of how goofy and oddball the most celebrated of music tastes in my life could and would be viewed by a bland white outsider. Ultimately though this shouldn’t have been too much of a shock to the system after reading an account by Paul Morley of the time he suggested The Fall to Horn for ZTT.

Staring out with “We Dance” it is immediately obvious that Malkmus is confident that he is on to something. The loser mentality of the lyrics come as a celebration of the rejected odd and as the words touch many nerves of the listener the lyrics find themselves naturally imprinted on the psyche and the scene is set.

Rattled By The Rush” echoes a similar selection of sentiments with a slacker mentality and summertime breeze, which cripples the listener, dragging them away from tidying their room and combing their hair. Filled with resignation and some wonderful rhyming schemes this is perhaps the only song to ever effectively and efficiently employ a car horn as a key central instrument.

Track three “Black Out” establishes the seasonal feel of the record with the opening declaration of “Sunday drive….” and suddenly you begin to question the age of the author, considering premature dementia. Fortunately though as the song takes off it leaves the ground and never comes back.

With the mantra of “We’ve got the money” Pavement almost appear to be setting out to offend with “Brinx Job” as a smug sarcastic tone of wealth rears itself as a aural smile. With its rubberband jibes the hopefully faux (and not faux pas) mockery makes the song feel like the song equivalent of The Idiots.

“Grounded” is the first truly great song on Wowee Zowee. As delicate teardrop guitar licks open the song a Wintery and Christmas atmosphere is born from the opening lines of “doctors leaving for the holiday season, got crystal ice picks, no gift for the gab”, whatever that actually means. The song eventually builds to breaking point at which time the wash of guitars comes over drowns the audience in the most drenching manner. This marks the album’s true arrival.

An incendiary agenda next takes over as an angry rant against the industry caked in vicious distortion rallies in the two odd minutes of “Serpentine Pad” that literally rips through any possible lethargy on the part of the listener.

Generally considered the finest track on the album “Father To A Sister Of Thought” is indeed an emotive swoon that plays on elements of horse riding subtly in the wild western. This was the record that once soundtracked my worst car accident/incident but that is another story for another time.

Closing side A comes “Extradition” which is a question mess of a song that purposely falls apart halfway through as an invisible set of credits trickle down a non-existent screen in the hot and stuffy hotel room of some seedy Asian control. When the song resumes it sounds like the aftermath of bad sex and an argument.

In a contrary manner side B opens a frenzied attacked in the form of “Best Friends Arm” and (sordid) sentiments that could be taken (mistaken) for affection. It is perhaps as loose as the album gets and capped with a trademark Pavement break.

The words “come on in” resound as “Grave Architecture” takes to the podium in the jerkiest of manner. This is the track on the album that most resembles an epileptic fit and the sound of a band struggling to get out just what is on its mind. The frustration is tangible. You suspect that this is Prince Charles’ favourite track on the record.

“At & T” opens deceptively calmly until some crazed maniac (Spiral!) begins playing a line that appears to send Malkmus into swings of insania and it would appear a very accusatory frame. As he talks of room service and ends with the mantra of “whatever” you can’t quite fathom what kind of person is being addressed with this tome. By the end he is screaming and not for joy it would seem.

Bouncing ball near hardcore becomes the subject of the day with “Flux = Rad” as its frenzied attack on the senses experiences crazed drumming akin to Animal from The Muppets and a busted up guitar sound as impressive as the most overloaded four track while the lyrical content is the stuff of a true control freak.

In stark contrast “Fight This Generation” immediately follows in a much less passive aggressive and more submissive almost depressed tone that facially urges the listener to accept their lot while also rejecting all that is buying sold by the maniacs in control. The message to “fight this generation” then “fuck this generation” is not a nod to nihilism more a warning to be suspicious of those making a buck off the back of our bowel movements. In a way this could even be aimed at Douglas Coupland and all those chancers that were found cashing in on our misery during the final decade of the 20th century.

Thankfully the mood returns to something somewhat more upbeat as “Kennel District” offers some kind of fuzzy optimism despite asking the question “what didn’t I ask?” on our collective behalf. This feels like a love song even if it isn’t one. A wounded aftermath ensues like a burnt day at the beach.

As things begin to head towards an end and climax the record slows down to its most subdued as delicate chimes dominate proceedings with Malkmus holding court and sending out an apparent warning of stifling elements that will ultimately serve to undo. The song plays out like a firework display as it dies down before sporadically exploding and building to the heartiest of conclusions.

The drunk sounding six minute opus of “Half A Canyon” is the finale of Wowee Zowee as it encompasses all the prime aspects of what has just come before it, playing out like an overture of “Pavement: The Musical”. As the direction swings and changes halfway through the band begins to growl as the threatened epic horror ending occurs and the screams are to be taken literally and once through on the other side there will be slacker blood.

Coherence rains as once more pretend closing credits accompany the rather jointed pop effort of “Western Homes” that sits at track 18 with its acknowledgement that times have a changed (not necessarily for the best).

There is not a more solid collection of eighteen songs in the history of music. The alternative rock era never managed to spew out and make a more era defining statement in such a vague manner. If you do not own this album you do not like music.

Thesaurus moment: wonky.

Pavement
Big Cat

Monday, 16 July 2007

NEW YOUNG PONY CLUB – ICE CREAM (MODULAR/UNIVERSAL)


NEW YOUNG PONY CLUB – ICE CREAM (MODULAR/UNIVERSAL)

In an environment in which the New Young Pony Club really probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously, their laid back and methodical approach to proceedings is the kind of shower that makes for an enjoyable if not purposeful listen.

It is fairly obvious the crowd that this band is aiming (or being made to aim) straight for and at a time where CSS have been hitting the glossies, New Young Pony Club seem to think that they can also grab a fix.

Visually and attitude wise you sense you are dealing with some kind of modern model of X-Ray Spex, a spiky outfit tapping into the sound of the time without actually fully fitting in or plundering the senses so overtly or directly.

Bleeping like a computer this obvious choice for a single serves to strengthen their nonchalance of cool in an effort of echoing the voices of their audiences reluctant to dance but feeling obliged to anyway.

The b-side here is the demo version of Head In My Voice which almost sounds like a sedate early Hole song before the nose jobs, record deals and deaths coupled with a resounding post punk sound that can/would/will perfectly soundtrack many hep sipped drinks in the most exclusive of establishments inhabited by the silliest of soundtracks.

It could be easy for a thirty plus year old man to be intimidated by this record, to dismiss it as pap but taken face value and forgetting the immediate legacy is already gains it is a good way to end the day.

Thesaurus moment: decorous.

New Young Pony Club
Modular

Sunday, 15 July 2007

THE GO! TEAM – GRIP LIKE A VICE (MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES)


THE GO! TEAM – GRIP LIKE A VICE (MEMPHIS INDUSTRIES)

From their second, their first recorded as a band unit, Grip Like A Vice is the first single and continues in the vein of car chase siren music coupled with savvy pop rap vocals and big beats.

Over the past couple of years I have found myself very much FOR The Go! Team even when those around me have denied them as being little more than Brighton/London Beach chancers pressing all the right indie hipster buttons in order to score points in a most no-brain method/manner.

Personally for the redeeming qualities within The Go! Team are dynamics second to none in this current music climate thanks to chunky rhythms and a genuinely decent flow from Ninja on vocals that make the songs they nail impossible not to move to.

The one flow I would pitch at The Go! Team is how they appear to have struck their familiar slightly too early in their career which as a result often unfortunately makes a number of their songs, including the singles, sound somewhat samey and sadly lacking in adventure. In the past I have made the smart remark that the band resembles the rap of Vanilla, Jade And Ebony from the beginning of Ghost World which despite being bitchy I do feel does occasionally hit the nail on the head.

Fortunately the b-side cover of Sonic Youth’s Bull In The Heather does display a playful sense of adventure and fun in an exuberant manner. The result outcome is both faithful to the original and individual in its execution adding a new spirit of lust to the song when the effort could easily have turned nasty and been a disaster judging by the band’s previous failed efforts at pulling off a Sonic Youth sound.

Yay for effort.

Thesaurus moment: pounding.

The Go! Team
The Go! Team interview
Memphis Industries

Saturday, 14 July 2007

THE PSYCHOTIC REACTION – A MOMENT OF CLARITY (DEMO)


THE PSYCHOTIC REACTION – A MOMENT OF CLARITY (DEMO)

I have to concede from the sheer sight of this CD I was expecting a really horrible metal band but instead it is a chunky sounding indie rock band where all instruments sound as if they have been recorded at levels too high in the mix which makes this pleasantly as far from crisp as is acceptable. Perhaps by mistake they have tapped into a sound that they should quickly make their own.

Labelling themselves as “gentleman amateur”, their own created genre of rock that surprisingly hasn’t been snapped up by the NME yet, the two songs plod along like from a quirky band you fear you might see playing in your local forever, until you get off your arse and leave your hometown. This is a band that you have to outgrow.

With a bass sound that sounds like moving furniture and a Hammond that sometimes sounds as if it is playing a different song this is almost a classic piece of indie rock that bands just do not seem to invest in making any more – the almost bombastic chorus hooks reminding me of earnest early nineties bands around the circles of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and Mega City Four, music to some ears but not to others.

As I griped above this is not resoundingly modern music it is more the continuation of something that is waning more in popularity by the year. In times where indie rockers seem to be more interested in finding their beaten down white man blues sound from their middle class surroundings, the quirky celebration of student rock has never felt more rejecting. It would be fun for the Psychotic Reaction to find fame but not really likely.

Thesaurus moment: antediluvian.

Psycotic Reaction

Friday, 13 July 2007

HAVANA GUNS – N.Y.C.S. (CIGARETTE MUSIC)


HAVANA GUNS – N.Y.C.S. (CIGARETTE MUSIC)

With an obvious penchant for New York, this lush sounding London five piece are of the female fronted indie pop breed looking to update on the Blondie. I would not say this kind of band is uncommon but it is rare you actually find an act that successfully manages to pull the feat off.

The band remind me most of all of Sleeper, which is either a sound ten years too late or one just ready for a return/revival. Lyrically however the band are, dare I say, somewhat tepid revisiting grounded topics that have been ploughed to death through the seven ages of rock that there apparently are although the French twinge on the lyrics does lend them some kind of wonderful.

Ultimately though the guitars too dry for me, not clean just bland lacking force and energy – this is pop music that is just not popular.

Thesaurus moment: barren.

Havana Guns
Cigarette Music

Thursday, 12 July 2007

SHELLAC – 1000 HURTS (TOUCH AND GO)


SHELLAC – 1000 HURTS (TOUCH AND GO)

This record arrived perfectly timed both personally and culturally. Basically 1000 Hurts represents what was going on at the beginning of the millennium, while anger was still stoked and the fear of 9/11 was yet to still take over. At this point we almost felt fearless and definitely capable in our desire to carry the flame in the name of independent rock and do so with a real snarl.

1000 Hurts is a harsh record. That is an understatement. Coming after Terraform here was a set of ideas with more focus and direction, a record that was ripe and had an audience aching to receive. The moment was still spiky and the individuals involved still had some fight to match their intellect.

Over the years I have tried to sell the idea of Shellac to metal heads as being the hardest music imaginable but never have I been quite able to snag the sale.

The album opens with its title and catalogue being read out. Everything about this package is made to look analogue and organic, especially the packaging that in a way looked straight out of the studio, straight out Abbey Road from its mastering. The vinyl box (no sleeve) alone was as huge a statement as anything. Like a fool when the record was released I ordered the CD version only to discover in a moment of depressed realisation that the LP came with a CD of the album inside. Luckily I got my order changed before it was despatched. This was the first time any such gesture was made, one that appeared to serve and display just how cheap and nasty the CD format is and how overpriced and overblown it must be if a band and indie label could include a copy on that medium for nothing. Needless to say we all were tickled and excited.

It begins with “Prayer To God” which is without doubt the most explicit and pummelling album opener in the history of record music. As to where these sentiments come from is plain terrifying as Albini takes up the mindset of the most bitter and scolded individual looking to take revenge on not only the man that stole his woman but the woman herself. Not since Rapeman had his words ever sounded so vindictive. To accompany such horrors and a raging chorus/mantra of “fucking kill him! Fucking kill him! Kill him, just fucking kill him!” is a jagged twang of a wooden sounding guitar being bent to the point of destruction.

The ride continues in a similar manner/mood/mentality/methodology as “Squirrel Song” begins with the declaration “this is a sad fucking song, we’ll be lucky if I don’t bust out crying” as the cymbals of Todd Trainor take a real battering in response. Are so many squirrels a hallucination? This ain’t no metaphor, goddam this is real.

“Mama Gina” follows sounding like some kind of horror story shanty, a detailed description of a death in the family and the response that it causes in the process. The winding guitar line sounds almost like some electric Hitchcock score, especially when Weston’s bubbling bassline comes to a boil. As the tragedy reaches tears the whole event kicks off and the unit fully explodes into action creating the kind of aftermath you would experience of a car crashing into an elephant. An elephant dancing maybe.

From hear the record falls apart with “QRJ” which feels like the stereo has slipped off its dial and fallen between stations. As Albini’s guitar begins to sound like a chiming Grandfather clock Weston takes centre stage scrapping away at what debris remains. The result is filler. A bridging track seemingly designed to lend the listener a migraine and disgruntled demeanour.

Things get back on track with “Ghosts” and another haunted escapade. Again Weston’s rules the roost for the early portion of the track before it gets reined back in with more descriptions of dancing and the expression that comes with. As the song builds tighter it begins to clobber all in its sight before stepping up a gear as the pace reaches some kind of celebration.

There is a self loathing tone attached to the opening of side two and “Song Against Itself” as Bob does the honours until Albini comes rasping in as another confrontational execution occurs. Despite this intrusion Weston still wins.

“Canaveral” is one of the more visceral and direct moments of the Shellac back catalogue. Putting himself in the place of a cuckolded husband again a pure hatred spews forth endeavouring to question and pummel an individual (“I won’t say his name”) encroaching negatively on/in the narrator’s life. Indeed “what you think could make him stick his cock in my wife?” These are some of the most clear and direct lyrics I have ever experienced leaving no room for confusion only the propagation of ideas and scenarios. Eventually the story ends with the suggestion human arson (“fertilise the rice in China with the cinders of his remains”) before a nasty bassline comes in as starting a new country (a cult) gets suggested with “enough stamps and money there and they’re all have Oswald’s face.” Just where are these ideas and concepts come from?

By this point if the listener does not have a headache the introduction of Todd Trainor to vocals is one designed to serve to hurt. As ever he sounds fucked up while probably still looking like Dot Cotton in the process. On “New Number Order” as multi tempo track plays out in the background he takes on the taste of actually changing the order numbers. This truly is a desire, statement and exercise far surpassing the skills of mere mortal men.

Tenderness returns to proceedings with “Shoe Song” and a track that always perversely reminded me of Slint. The apparent likeness for me comes in the rousing climax of the song coupled with the generally compassionate manner in which the vocals are shipped all culminating in a very “Good Morning, Captain” like “I miss you” bellow.

The record climaxes with Albini, Weston and Trainor calling you out. “Watch Song” is their fight song, complete with chops that sound like fist jabs and a bassline resembling a descending boot. I remember the first time I heard the band play this (ATP 2000) and at the time it thoroughly reminded me of “Kool Thing” as its entrance intro carries a similar kind of sequence. In a world of being passive aggressive the orchestration attached to this song thoroughly matches the emotions that come attached to such a state. As ever the track loops and lumbers its way to the finish, taking a break to stamp out some kind of fire held within. As with all good things they leave it to Todd to close things off.

A few months later I would be going through some kind of weird breakup/rejection and this record became my almost permanent soundtrack, the score to my snarl (a score that never got settled). I even scratched out a plan for a ten chapter novella based on these songs and indeed called 1000 Hurts. Later inspired I would also begin a list of 1000 Hurts for my fanzine No Pictures. This list never got finished.

This was how it was all supposed to turn out and be.

Shellac
Shellac interview
Shellac live
Touch And Go

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

TIME ZONE – WORLD DESTRUCTION (CELLULOID RECORDS)


TIME ZONE – WORLD DESTRUCTION (CELLULOID RECORDS)

When this song was used as the opening track to season four of The Sopranos it was placed perfectly. As Tony walked down his driveway in his bathrobe to collect his newspaper post 9/11 it just felt like the perfect statement of the times.

For years Time Zone felt like the great lost track. A video of the song exists, which is indeed the first time and place I heard it, but seldom does it appear on MTV. Sometimes I felt that I had imagined the song – a hip hop track from the early eighties with a full strength John Lydon spitting over it. Had the rap/punk crossover happened years before I had realised?

Arriving shortly before the Run DMC/Aerosmith crossover this is often credited as being the first rock and hip hop crossover and it was all downhill from here. This is a truly towering song, one that defined the age and pushed a message too heavy for mass consumption. This was the nuclear age.

Produced by Bill Laswell (Material) the pairing of Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon was a righteous idea, two major heavyweights from the first generation of the most exciting music movements of their era combining respective gifts and processing so much power in the despatch.

Born in 1984 it is frightening to consider the age of this song now but incredibly pleasing and satisfying to note that it has aged very well, managing to remain sounding fresh and relevant. This was the fruition of true innovation from the hands of experts.

Immediately from the beginning it packs one hell of a thump as the Zulu chant exchanges blows with the punk oik squall running in tandem with some kind of mutated harmony. The words being spat out are rapid fire, as the song bridges you are relieved because as a listener you are finding you require a breather yourself. Listened to now around a quarter of a century later the lyrics are genuinely cutting, repeatedly hitting the nail on the head in the most accurate of measures, it almost feels like the Nostradamus of alternative of music. Perhaps we were always doomed from the start.

This record still requires elevation.

Thesaurus moment: source.

Time Zone
Celluloid Records

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – THE MAN DON’T GIVE A FUCK (CREATION RECORDS)


SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – THE MAN DON’T GIVE A FUCK (CREATION RECORDS)

I bought this version of the song when I was freshly unemployed from blogging, quite frankly I had nothing better to do than spend money I did not have in an effort to rail and rally against the system and hate any and all form of authority. I probably even bought this one day either on the way to or from signing on.

In many ways this record was the dream ticket for me but I’ll be fucked if I realised it at the time. Having already purchased the single when it first came out (complete with Robin Friday cover et al) a new live twenty minute version really wasn’t what I was itching for at the time. Shame on me.

It opens in the best way possible, with a Bill Hicks sample looping and looping pummelling home the revolutionary declarations that Hicks was so special at dispatching. “All governments are liars and murders” indeed.

The song arrives like an alien landing, the spinning and circling audio then submits, giving way to a “Stairway To Heaven” like opening until the beats kick in. When the song finally explodes into action it tastes like a devastating blow to the senses, a smack of warped Hammond lifted from better times and a chilling mantra that will fester a negative attitude within moments.

There is a stomping glamour attached to proceedings, a party atmosphere that really shouldn’t be associated with such a nihilistic message. The swing of the track is pretty reminiscent of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition. Often during the process the song appears to stop for breathe before bouncing back stronger and firmer, mesmerising anything sitting around as the hard beats of a nasty rave serve as the ultimate of bridges.

By the time the song returns having come full circle all is love and the band has sounded like a revelation and revolution all in one foul swoop. Exceptional and excessive, masters at work.

It all ends with an air raid siren and the suggestion of a warning that should be heeded.

Thesaurus moment: intimation.

Super Furry Animals
Creation Records

Monday, 9 July 2007

THE JESUS LIZARD/NIRVANA – PUSS/OH THE GUILT (TOUCH AND GO)


THE JESUS LIZARD/NIRVANA – PUSS/OH THE GUILT (TOUCH AND GO)

With hindsight this is quite probably the best/greatest split single and also quite possibly the beginning of the end for one of the bands.

This record was supposedly being arranged for release before Nevermind broke so when it came out it was almost as if it had been something of an afterthought for one of the bands and something of a sheepish first time appearance for the other.

It was always The Jesus Lizard track “Puss” that wiped the floor with the Nirvana off cut. In “Puss” you have perhaps one of the greatest 100 songs of all time possessing guitars so dense and solid but still fully under control it serves as a rare example of a real bulldozer of band playing/performing at the height of their powers. Later in the middle of the song and there is that drum break this was a moment that proved just painful when listened to through headphones late at night so that the parents would not overhear and become terrified of the frenzied horror brand of music their son was now listening to.

The whole way through David Yow’s vocals just sound truly insane exhibiting the eloquence of a man on an extensive criminal rampage. “Give me something to stop the bleeding” – is one of the great opening lines of any record, just what the fuck is he singing about? As you delve further into the words of the piece, of the coherent moments you are able to pick out the chorus of “get her out of the truck” only serves to further confirm that something horrific is going down on this scene and in this man’s mind. Of all those metal bands that had their lyrics analysed and disembowelled never once did I ever hear anything like this in a song. As Yow’s vocals are split between headphones it feels and sounds as if there is a devil sat on each shoulder. There’s something very damaged about this band.

As you pick yourself up off the floor and head to the Nirvana you have to concede that you are being met with something of an anticlimax. Here was the biggest band in the world being taken apart by people sharper and weirder than themselves, this was a giant killing.

The Nirvana “Oh, The Guilt” was almost a demo. Famously recorded during the same session at the “great” “lost” Nirvana “You Know You’re Right” the sad reality was even though it wasn’t a bad song it didn’t sound like a band that was on fire and did bear more than a passing resemblance to another song called “Curmudgeon” that had appeared on the b-side of “Lithium”. This was not why Nirvana had sold millions of records or why we loved them, they had no changed the face of music with material like this.

Upon release there was a frenzied buzz about this record and the limited edition nature of the quantities. On the week of release me and two friends skived off school and headed up to Colchester on the train to purchase the record from a shop called World Class that also specialised in an amazing line of live bootlegs while behind the counter Ben the owner would bob to rave and jungle music with a scary coolness and menace. The night before the video for “Puss” had played on 120 Minutes on MTV and there truly was a real buzz surrounding this release. With the "be quick or it will be gone" mentality/nature of the release I was actually heard aloud debating whether it might even make number in the charts.

In the end it reached eleven in the UK charts making it one of the major new release entries that week and producing the now infamous brief clip of The Jesus Lizard’s video on Top Of The Pops. It felt like the victory was ours.

Needless to say the single dropped like a turd out of the charts the following week and suddenly it was almost as if it had never happened. For months, almost years later CD single copies of the record remained available at inflated prices, especially in April 1994.

With amazing cover art from Malcolm Bucknall and the painting “Old Indian And White Poodle” that perfectly compliments the music held within, this is/was a single in a league of its own.

How green was our fucking valley?

Thesaurus moment: comet.

The Jesus Lizard
Nirvana

Sunday, 8 July 2007

MORRISSEY – SUEDEHEAD (EMI)


MORRISSEY – SUEDEHEAD (EMI)

It feels so weird and joyous to consider that this was ever such a popular, mainstream tugging single. This was probably one of the songs that made me dislike Morrissey so much when I first heard him but with hindsight I was, with the rest of his oeuvre, taking him and it for too much face value.

With a title taken from one of the most masculine and confused pieces of literature, there are words here to match those sentiments, to echo the message and convey the unabsorbed pain that is being expressed as nuisance.

This is an apologetic anthem that transcends sexuality, genre and gender. The celebration here is in loneliness and the failure that has resulted in this complaint and condition. Outside today it is a sunny day but still cold and chilled with it, which isn’t a bad metaphor for this song.

Soon the sorry turns into sickness though and implied stalking becomes part of the agenda and obsession prevails. This really isn’t a healthy song to be buying into and thus came/comes the utter appeal of wearing your emotions on your sleeve, even joyfully indulging in them when they are at their worst as the natural human condition is to bring a person down, down to your level.

This is his James Dean song, that essential first solo single that needed to present him as composed and powerful. Mission accomplished.

Thesaurus moment: stalker.

Morrissey
EMI

Saturday, 7 July 2007

BIS – THE SECRET VAMPIRE SOUNDTRACK EP (CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND)


BIS – THE SECRET VAMPIRE SOUNDTRACK EP (CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND)

If there was one single/release that kick-started the indie scene in the mid to late nineties it was Bis with their lo-fi stomper “Kandy Pop”. Seemingly coming out of nowhere here appeared to be the weirdest band ever to appear on Top Of The Pops, Big Breakfast and a whole host of other mainstream entertainment shows. Within days they appeared to have leapt out of their bedrooms and straight into our homes via the television and radio. It may have only lasted about five minutes and soon the adult world had kicked them back into touch but the brief explosion was enough to send the smart kids into some kind of excited frenzy.

The post-grunge years were killer on the small-town music fan. After having something really great that was available and within touching distance suddenly the sense of fun and adventure had been grabbed back and put into the hands of all the parent approved Britpop bands that were dancing on Kurt Cobain’s grave within six month.

Seemingly in response to this Bis came down from Scottish pushing their version (the latest version) of the DIY ethic and a seemingly flatlining indie scene was suddenly rejuvenated again.

There is a ripe energy to “Kandy Pop” that sounds just as good today as it did back then. Manda Rin sounds like Kathleen Hanna as eagerly constructed and impatiently awaited hooks really sting the listener. The spiky sentiments of the song are strangely self assured considering the scene they were at the top of the tree of. Relenting and affirming this was a true oasis.

With “Secret Vampires” they nailed a genre years ahead of its reinvention, comparing and repainting a nation of shut ins as something actually more cooler than they were. The boy-girl vocal exchange tasted like Blur exchanged for Huggy Bear.

The “teen-c power!” anthem ultimately proved a sad declaration housed in a wonderful piece of titular indie white boy hip hop rhymes. This was a band with so many hooks that any plaintiff could only take offence at the gestures being presented to them. Taking notes and cues from the success and failure of Riot Grrrl here was great notion that just needed a bit more backbone and experience. They had enough kids in their hands and just didn’t really know what to do with them.

Closing comes “Diska” which sounded almost like Devo in nappies several years before Disney provided that abortion.

Everything about this package was great. The sleeve looked like a fanzine extract with just enough colour to make it glam on the correct scale. These were last throws.

Thesaurus moment: spry

Bis
Bis interview
Chemikal Underground