Wednesday, 31 October 2007



This is a record that always makes me think of Christmas. I actually got the CD for a present in 1992 and it was one of those scenarios where mum just gave me the money to buy it from the shop (Andy’s Records) and I would hand it over where she would wrap it up and hand it over to me a couple of month’s later on Christmas Day. However I knew where she had put it so whenever she went out shopping or something I would sneak into her bedroom and listen to tracks until I heard her returning home.

Singles was a strange film. At the time I loved it and naively I thought the lifestyle on screen was something I could aim and aspire for. No one was ugly in the grunge world. I even might be able to travel to Seattle one day to drink coffee and she all the badly dressed beautiful people making great music and living amazing lives. Can you tell that over the years I have adopted some kind of cynicism towards the piece? And this is probably to my detriment.

The bands on show here were certainly from the more photogenic and glossier side of the city, acts that were already all signed up and were about to make it the show regardless of their coverage from the movie although certainly it didn’t hurt. Then there was the appearance of Paul Westerberg as the alternative rock troubadour who didn’t necessarily have links to the Seattle grunge scene. And then there was The Lovemongers, the nepotistic inclusion of Cameron Crowe’s wife’s spin-off band contributing a live version of a Led Zeppelin song (“The Battle Of Evermore”) which certainly begged the question: why?

Regardless the album opens on a high as Alice In Chains rumble into proceedings with “Would” which remains probably their finest moment. Here was a band being caught at its peak in a motion that was very “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” as their video explicitly implied the movie Singles (including a shot of the poster) without necessarily featuring clips from it (instead clips of people who looked like they should be in it).

To their credit Pearl Jam follow and chip in with two very decent cuts in the form of “Breath” and later “State Of Love And Trust” (which they also opened their MTV Unplugged set with). Whether you give any attention to these songs is a given, at the time most people with passionate were either split into a Pearl Jam or a Nirvana camp while those who liked both were really tourists stopping over before moving onto the next shiny thing. Personally I like both of these tracks here. “Breath” sounds invigorating to me, somewhat representative of the time and when I was young and somewhat more optimistic. I never got the aspect of grunge that was about wallowing, for me it was about being different to all those around me that were making me feel miserable. Whether this conceit was contrived by record labels or genuine from the band was not obvious at the time, all I knew is that it felt like a better direction to take. Both these tracks feel and sound optimistic, which meant more than anything else.

Chris Cornell also got in on the act as he provided various pieces throughout the film including a strange acoustic instrumental version of “Spoonman”. His proper contribution to the soundtrack “Seasons” is quite a piece of work as he plays unaccompanied and delivers an expansive dose of reflective reasoning that boded well for his eventual solo career that never really delivered. Of course Soundgarden had to be on the record also and after the longest introduction of any song in the history of grunge “Birth Ritual” truly chunders out of the blocks in relentless manner and proved substantial enough to feature them in the movie performing the song at a show while Campbell Scott gawped into the abyss deep in thought. What was he thinking?

When Paul Westerberg turns up it is blowing a harmonica. Against so many hulking and distorted guitars this felt wrong as The Replacements were not necessarily early torchbearers of this movement (although I am sure many might disagree). That said “Dyslexic Heart” does fit comfortably into the scheme of things with regard to the romance element of the movie and the lyrics are expertly penned, memorable and easily recounted/recalled. I seem to remember at the time on his morning Radio Five show (back when they played music) Danny Baker would regularly play the Westerberg tracks from the soundtrack and neglect the beef in the sandwich. “Waiting For Somebody” is slightly more sappy and thus less effective but certainly at the time when the wide world was discovering REM wholesale songs that were not so blunt and abrasive were certainly acceptable.

As noted above the song to raise most eyebrows in this collection is the cover of “The Battle Of Evermore” by the Lovemongers. I guess Heart were from Seattle but being married to the director was unforgivably nepotistic. That said with mandolins raining on proceedings (an instrument at the time now made cool by Peter Buck) the ladies made a pretty good stab at sounding like Percy Plant. All in all a pretty decent effort but on that failed from being more crushed velvet than flannel shirt.

I think the presence of Mother Love Bone really displays most which side of the bread this record is buttered. When the scene was beginning to kick off initially the band was just something of a footnote in the history of Pearl Jam to a large extent, not necessarily students of the Sub Pop way of doing things. Sure they were signed to a major label but they were just rock, almost glam, not a band looking to carry the burden of a generation. Then again who was? For starters though their contribution here “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” opened with a piano line. There were no keyboards in grunge. Sadly in a time of the anti-star Andrew Wood just appeared to be too brash and too poncy. And then he went and missed most of the party altogether. Green River were always better anyway.

Indie credibility resumes with contributions from Mudhoney and Screaming Trees. Sure they were on major labels by this point but their contributions screamed of remaining true to the course as Mudhoney drop “Overblown”, a thoroughly sarcastic take on proceedings and blatant message to the masses that they are being duped. Likewise Screaming Trees offer up a great selection in the form of “Nearly Lost You” which is just a genuinely balls out, glorious piece of Seattle rock. It’s a heavy heavy tune that tangles the pulse with a serious of heart stopping hooks and thumps.

In many ways Mudhoney should maybe have enjoyed more coverage regarding the movie considering that Matt Dillon’s fictional band Citizen Dick (seemingly him fronting Pearl Jam) had a big hit with “Touch Me I’m Dick”. There is apparently a recording (re-recording) of this song (so say the movie credits) by Citizen Dick however who makes up such a band is not disclosed.

Realistically homeboy Jimi Hendrix had to make an appearance in the movie, Seattle being his hometown and all. Here we get “May This Be Love” which is a trickling, loving slab of song displaying him in a mellow mood. It doesn’t sound out of place.

A final curveball gets thrown in at the end as Smashing Pumpkins deliver the eight minutes plus “Drown”. This was not a band from Seattle, on a major label or strictly on Sub Pop (although there was a single). They were not necessarily connected to the scene and, in a lot of cases, not strictly welcomed or entertained by it either. Corgan had enemies within these ranks. So then just how did they get on this record? Gripes aside I actually do like this song in the same way that a fair few Smashing Pumpkins songs are guilty pleasures for me (once the stinkers have been weeded out). Listened to with a clear conscience this is a glorious and soft sounding track reminiscent at times of Mercury Rev that does not make eight minutes feel indulgent and goes through many waves of joy over the course of its appearance. It’s a good way to close even if seems foreign.

It’s been a few years now since I last watched Singles. I have to admit I am afraid to revisit it, fearful that it won’t have aged well and will feel like a mockery of my supposed youth, my supposed era. How green was my valley?

Thesaurus moment: pretence.


Tuesday, 30 October 2007



With a well aimed and focused trajectory the spasmodic delivery of “Girl You Want” (aka “Girl U Want”) is the kind of catchy trickery that could potentially induce insanity in the listener. More or less it is the sound of a stereotype nerd wittering into your ear, in other words this is the sound of band on fast forward.

Playing at the height of their abilities this is a band delivering hardcore vocals to a new wave sound while retaining/maintaining their identity. This song is as much pop as it is a hep anthem. To some casual/lazy ears at the time this might have sounded like a sped up version of The Cars but that couldn’t be further from the truth as Devo even at this stage in the game were still changing things and evolving, taking on board the environment around them and looking to subvert it as much as ever. This is a song about longing for the girl, not actually getting her. Who wants to hear about the guy (the jock) with the success rate, don’t we have people like that shoving their personalities down our throat on a daily basis in the real world? With this song Devo represent us, the audience of battlers and those wrestling with toil looking to be set free. This is not strange, its nature.

Turning over the disc features “Turn Around”, a song that has subsequently been made somewhat more famous through its cover version by a heavyweight act. It is actually fairly reminiscent of “Whip It” with its spasmodic beats and silly intentions. Mothersbaugh telling me “take a look at yourself” is a funny gesture that could be taken two ways. As ever there is something of a hidden meaning in the tune that renders an otherwise bubblegum track subversive and important. Not that it matters. Strong stuff.

Unintentionally Tokyo.

Thesaurus moment: hanker.


Monday, 29 October 2007



This is the Cat Power album that I once gave to my mother for a birthday present. I figured the country tinge of proceedings might appeal to her. I was wrong.

Initially well received by me, I personally now find this record a tough sell. Perhaps it was just representative of a time where a red haired potential loved one was driving me insane as this record came coupled with You Are Free to shoulder/soldier me through the season.

Having left it alone for a couple of years returning to it now, having seen her doing these songs badly live, I can’t help but find too much of this record flabby and indulgent. The tone is too downbeat to stomach. Right from the off as Chan cries into her beer it fails to convince me that these emotions are still real within her world.

It is with “Livid In Bars” that she loses me. There is nothing more unattractive than a female wino (and this is coming from a person that lives in Essex). This track is overblown and as far removed from attractive as an orchestration can get. I do not believe the person behind this song is necessarily looking to better themselves via these means. Drink aware.

Before I get onto the good stuff I need to rant about the bad stuff. “Empty Shell” is country music hell to me. Why would anybody choose to listen to music like this? Likewise the crooning of “Where Is My Love” also fails to convince. If this is your front no wonder your “love” has fucked off. And don’t fake being upbeat as with on “Islands” which ultimately is slide guitar hell. “After It All” then performs a similar kind of feat for bar room piano and whistling in song. Stop!

From here saving the day comes half a record of great songs. Firstly there are the traditional Cat Power standards in the form of “The Moon” and “Hate” which sound distant, disturbed and distracted in the manner of her old classic material. Here I feel convinced that there is more going on beneath the surface. These are songs that sound like tears, like crying fits waiting to happen. You can almost touch the desperation. Here she achieves the modern blues that made her career viable.

As far as upbeat tracks go, the potentially cheesy horns of “Could We” manage not to spoil proceedings as a breezy gallop engulfs the record and demonstrates that Chan does indeed have a happy place sometimes.

Likewise “Willie”, despite being sad in nature, is fairly upbeat in execution and issues a healthy dollop of empathy that sees the listener siding with the characters of piece hoping for success, victory and all the best. This represents and describes a tough life/existence I can associate with as the haunting clarinet points towards a peaceful conclusion eventually.

The highlight of the piece arrives in the form of “Living Proof”. I have to concede the song is enhanced by the video of Chan as Britney being crucified in a hip hop world with a high school mentality that is not easy on females, often unkind and unsympathetic to their plight. On this song everything comes together, everything goes right. The track represents the expression of an optimistic and forgiving person, hopeful that things are going to improve within a relationship when it does not necessarily appear forthcoming in the distance. The slog and vocal yearn for some kind of sign and direction proves a pained declaration and thankfully the presence of a warm Hammond adds an air of optimism against the elements. With “Living Proof” Marshall manages to construct easily one of the finest songs from her songbook.

The record concludes/climaxes with the epic “Love And Communication” with its descending tone which serves as a recap of the album that just passed. As the song drops further, chiming strings and subtly dark guitar couple with strangely upbeat keys as yet more declarations of affection are expressed and drowned in sound. It is a song that expresses as many questions as it does conclusive observations but perversely it ends proceedings on a fairly upbeat note, much in the face of such failure for motion and connection.

The Greatest is an incredibly frustrating piece of work, regularly promising to be great but also often slipping into too many traps that hold it back.

A whole lotta love.

Thesaurus moment: emote.

Cat Power
Matador Records

Sunday, 28 October 2007



I don’t think anywhere else in the history of music does a song fade in with such a cavalier manner, it is almost as if the band are too quick for the studio and producer (on this occasion being Conrad Uno).

With jerky ramshackle guitar parts unique to themselves and Arm’s vocals as nasal as ever this most certainly sounds like Mudhoney’s drunk period. Its very loose and as the title suggests stocked with slide guitar.

“Let It Slide” is another quick paced and infectious execution of a single with laidback sentiments and an intension to uncover lies suggesting that the band be somewhat more worldly and knowing with regards to global expansion of their music scene at the time. After the conscious decision to stay on Sub Pop for one more record this could almost be an accusatory song pointing fingers in various directions towards people that may have leapfrogged them in the process of selling out.

At the end of the day as it comes with a video of the band generally frolicking without a concern in the world the whole tone of the song comes over as some kind of positively snide and nonchalant take on developments housing what appears to be a distinct lack of concern.

On the reverse the band delivery up childhood photos of themselves on the sleeve while on vinyl comes “Ounce Of Deception” and an alternative version of “Checkout Time” which now comes more fuzzed up and darker than the original with more Arm echo on the vocal.

Thesaurus moment: offer.

Sub Pop

Saturday, 27 October 2007



At some point I think there was a hope that all records were going to sound like this because this sounded like the future now. The Rich Man’s Eight Track is a crushing record of accusation and hostility seemingly purposely exhibiting a desire to weed out the waste of the crowd by pummelling everything and anything into submission that stands in its path. This was the brief sound of early industrial music while it was blue collar prior to mutating into a Goth movement and losing the plot.

The Rich Man’s Eight Track is a CD compilation that takes in the Atomizer album, Heartache EP and “Heartbeat” single. The title of the album is a sly dig by Albini at the compact disc format comparing it to the failed format of the seventies, no doubt reflecting a hope and prediction that the new digital format was set to fail also.

With some kind of ironic twist the record opens with “Jordan, Minnesota” which, as per Pigpile, was the track the band would drag out as its explosive set closer. Placed at the beginning of the piece it is no less devastating (if slightly briefly). This is the music that drum machines were born (if not necessarily designed) for. And somehow, just to be that extra bit annoying, the guitars manage to sound like bagpipes.

In essence this is the sonic equivalent of being shouted at for an almost an hour over the course of seventeen tracks. There is a large degree of bile attached to proceedings, serving up a kind of sensation that echoes shaking some sense into an individual.

There are so many great tracks to choose from in this collection. The highlight of the piece is without doubt the suburban angst cum pyromaniac mantra of “Kerosene” with its disillusioning repetition that ultimately points towards sticky gestures. This was the updated version of no future, now served with an extra portion of malice and sonic bombast.

Also in amongst the flurry is perhaps the most upbeat sounding of all Big Black songs in the form of “Passing Complexion” which is a rapid fire jig that contains a machine gig riff destined to get stuck inside your head for the remainder of the day once swallowed whole.

All this and the record has only been rolling for four songs.

On the whole the record is a tough listen to take all in one hit. The influence it had one future acts sounds obvious. “Strange Things” sounds very much like Ministry before Ministry as “Heartbeat” sounds very like The Jesus Lizard before The Jesus Lizard. At the same time nods go in the opposite direction as “Bad Houses” sounds like an evil version of Kraftwerk.

Often at times the record appears to be sound of a sociopath (maybe even psychotic) mind on songs such as “Fists Of Love” which appears to resemble the sounds of domestic violence in full flow while “Bazooka Joe” feels as if all human emotion has been voided as it sounds as robotic as it does psychotic. Then the band reels of its list of “Things To Do Today” which gradually becomes terrifying with each line.

The record remains pummelling until the wire as “Black Grinder” scoops another perversely upbeat riff placed beneath seemingly more threatening words from Albini until it finally and fully closes on “Pete, King Of Detectives” that sounds perversely like a drunken early Depeche Mode playing ping pong as I relentless mad man makes heavy claims over the top.

This is an experience everyone should be made to endure.

Thank Roland.

Thesaurus moment: scold.

Big Black
Touch And Go

Friday, 26 October 2007



Released in 1995 this felt like something of a golden era for indie songwriting and how the music world was changing for the better. Teenage Fanclub had always been lucky enough to benefit from the grunge movement having made a noisy record with Don Fleming and getting signed to Nirvana’s label in the US. There was also something of a stronger link between Scottish indie bands to the movement than their English counterparts it seemed. Whether this was down to Eugene Kelly and The Vaselines is debateable but just as possible was the fact that there was a genuine earnest feel to certain Scottish acts that just was prevalent in their English counterparts or the weak kitschy acts that seemed to trivialise things.

A year or so after this EP came out Scotland took over with regards to being champion of true indie rock in the UK as Bis, The Delgados, Mogwai, Arab Strap and Chemikal Underground shone very brightly for an all too brief moment. You would like to think that Teenage Fanclub helped serve as a bridge between the grunge movement and the lo-fi/DIY scene that eventually followed.

This EP arrived as something of a stopgap between albums. At this point Teenage Fanclub could do no wrong, Grand Prix had been both a critical and commercial success (a career peak) and airplay was something that still came relatively easily for them. Here they took aim at four of the best songs of their catalogue and presented them in acoustic form. The quality on show represents yet another high watermark by the band.

The record opens with “Don’t Look Back”, here no longer electric but still this version would not have been out of place appearing on Grand Prix. Yet again in adult nursery rhyme style this was a song that felt immediately memorable. The words and meaning were universal, provided your world was about indie and not having a girlfriend. When the words “I’d steal a car to drive you home” the words were intended to make the heart flutter, which they indeed did.

Everything Flows” follows in acoustic form that adds a new dimension of clarity to proceedings and perhaps a calmer, denser emotional aspect to the song. As the chorus kicks in its cacophony of confusion a fluttering percussion accompanies proceedings with a collection of strange instrumentals before a harmonica brings the song home.

Some weird “take with you man” looped sample moves the EP onto a banjo happy/heavy “Starsign” and its shrugging suggestions about finding happiness in small things culminating in some kind of conclusion akin to the more things the more they sound the same. There has always been a sense that this is the kind of music to old with and few tracks more in their cannon display this so explicitly. This is a song that makes you feel sure you will find happiness in the end.

“120 Minutes” closes proceedings with a pained run out that proclaims (for me) too many things that Raymond doesn’t want to be when the return of being his friend feels like something of a limited trade and pay off. Norman would get away with it though. Still there is lots of love remaining however.

You bless it I’ll eat it.

Thesaurus moment: naked

Teenage Fanclub

Thursday, 25 October 2007



A long time ago in a galaxy that now feels far far away bands would regularly release their singles on twelve inch vinyl that would lend breathing space for the inclusion of warped new variations of said songs bringing a whole new art form to music releases.

As we all (should) know Grand Royal was the record label run by the Beastie Boys back when they were at the height of their powers. Initially it was an ultra cool lifestyle magazine best known for its mullet celebrating article (“Mulling Over The Mullet”) before it became their own imprint and eventually a fully blown label with the expected exotic roster of the cool and the hip. Alas it was a thing too good to actually exist and maintain as a going concern in the real world.

Collecting up seventeen remixes and hidden gems the reworked tracks on show range from the hardcore days (“Cookie Puss”) onto Paul’s Boutique (“Hey Ladies”) up to Hello Nasty (“Intergalactic”) with goodies such as “Rock Hard” and “In A World Gone Mad” thrown in for further yuks.

The compilation opens with the Soul Assassins treatment of “So Watch Cha Want” which turns the vibe very Cypress Hill from the off, not least for the guest appearance. Meanwhile “Drum Machine” does exactly what it says on the jar in the most vibrant of fashions sounding like a combination of the Top Of The Pops theme and Art Of Noise. Don’t tell me these guys do not know how to have fun.

Coming up next is the AC/DC sampling classic “Rock Hard” where Newcastle never sounded so good. This song would have been so perfect on their first record beefing up what was something that was perhaps a bit too brat heavy and could have done with a bit of manning up.

From here we get exposed to the “Original Mix” of “Jimmy James” (which I never really thought differed that much from the album version and then unfortunately we arrive at the Fatboy Slim remix of “Body Movin’” which I always thought was a true abortion, a genuinely awful stab at a Beasties track. What were they thinking?

Things get back on track with the disorientating “In A World Gone Mad” which resumes a sense of cool seriousness to proceedings.

In impressive line-up to proceedings gets further improved as Handsome Boy Modelling School do a job on “Negotiation Limerick File”, making things muddy and classic and in essence pulling things back from the sound of Hello Nasty to their more live orientated era of Check Your Head and Ill Communication.

The “Green Mix” of “Sure Shot” offers up a roving jazz bassline that lends the track a new groove and smoothes over the edges. The reworking of “Intergalactic” makes an already clumsy song even more robotic in its movements. You decide whether this is a good thing.

Eventually “Root Down” turns up with its “PP Balloon Mix” which realistically only serves to slow down and hinder the track. Conversely though the “Buck Wild Mix” treatment of “Get It Together” with its Q-Tip guest turn may slow the track down but gives it a dark edge and midnight feel. This works.

Despite the remix the nuisance call classic “Cookie Puss” still sounds like it has the bassline from “Push It” by Salt N Pepa to me. I defy you not to have this likeness taint/tarnish this track for you.

Ultimately it’s a mixed bag. Throughout the beats are good which makes for a good party record but when listened to closely and intently often many of the “classic” tracks have not necessarily been improved upon. A lesser outfit would not be able to get away with this kind of thing. Thank God we’re not flying a plane here.

Thesaurus moment: multifarious.

Beastie Boys
Grand Royal

Wednesday, 24 October 2007



There is a strange sense of euphoria attached to Arcade Fire, one that feels unexplained and often unexpected. For a band that looks so unappealing there is quite a magnetism to their being.

“Rebellion (Lies)” is a real triumph of music with its basic layering of motions that gradually build into something very successful and affecting, effective in the most generous of measures.

With the mantra “every time you close your eyes” the engine steps up as a crushing pulse invigorates the tune and serves as some kind of rallying call to optimism. This is a song that I am able to listen to over and over without growing bored or cynical, instead it races through my mind like pure lifeblood, lending a welcome energy to my being and a signpost to potential success. Yes, this single is that good.

Arcade Fire themselves are something of a mysterious proposition. From one perspective they look like gypsies, then from another like look steam punks before eventually settling in on the eccentric dollar. They are from Canada after all.

In a time where Flaming Lips have given the audience a patience and a reason to indulge in lengthy, layered workouts when it comes to rock music all that is required is for bands to deliver hooks as sumptuous as this band.

I feel young again.

Thesaurus moment: lift.

Arcade Fire
Rough Trade

Monday, 22 October 2007



This is one of those songs that is defined by its music video which adds a whole dimension and weight to the meaning of the song that might not necessarily be there otherwise. Displaying the couple that everyone always wanted to be there is a definite element of perfection attached to this song.

Until I saw this video I had tended to consider Air something of a novelty act, an electronic outfit dealing in fromage. There felt little in the way of substance, instead smartly and tactically tailored elements built to appeal to the most base of emotions. However with “All I Need” suddenly Air felt glittery.

Featuring Beth Hirsch on vocals “All I Need” is a saccharine ode to a love one that thankfully manages to keep on the right/correct side of good taste, not labouring over/with the fat elements of joy and remaining lean and effective without becoming too wet. The brush strokes that cradle the track add a haunting sense of affection as the voice attached soothes the tone. Eventually this sound begins to resemble a bubbling caress pointing and leading towards musically a happy place. Then arrives a sparking pay off and one of the most glorious and tender moments in modern music is sealed.

Towards the end of the video (directed by Mike Mills) things get soppy as the boy says something nice and the girl threatens to start crying. This triggers some kind of additional emotional toll placed to the piece, distinctly reminding me of somebody I used to go out with who I once told “I like it when I make you cry”. She hates me now. She is now a lesbian.

All I need is for someone to just take the time.

Thesaurus moment: heartache.

Virgin Records

Sunday, 21 October 2007



The Judgement Night soundtrack probably represents the moment/point in which the music world was most enthusiastic for rap rock fusion as the project pulled together eleven of the most exciting rock and metal acts to collaborate with ten relatively high profile hip hop acts to varying degrees of success and mostly interesting results.

When the movie Judgement Night eventually emerged in the UK several months later it was a very disappointing accompaniment to what was such a strong concept. The movie featured the still minor Jeremy Piven who was already a motor mouth while the villains of the piece came in the form of Denis Leary who had a henchman in Everlast from House Of Pain. Suddenly the pieces from the origin of this record were coming together. The hero of the day was to be Emilio Estevez. Was this really a man that listened to rap without a fuss?

It is interesting now to contrast and compare the various contributions to the collaborations and which artists won out on their respective days. There are a few tracks that display a perfect sync (such as Faith No More and the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. in addition to Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot) but the whole album isn’t necessarily great.

Things kick off with Helmet jamming with House Of Pain on “Just Another Victim”. In many ways this is a perfect coupling as two sets of hyped young white men with short hair that like to shout a lot come together to produce a piece of aggressive music. However the final piece doesn’t necessarily sound all that different to other Helmet songs of the era and when House Of Pain drop in at the conclusion name checking Harvey Keitel amongst other items it feels taped onto the end. Rock wins.

Following comes the collaboration between Teenage Fanclub and De La Soul where the former appear to hardly make a peep. Teenage Fanclub always seemed to struggle when put up against harder rocking items (such as the bands on this record) and on this occasion De La Soul kind of dominate proceedings in laidback fashion. Rap wins.

When Living Colour and Run DMC come together it is a collaboration you suspect could have occurred much sooner. From the off it heavily recollects the legendary pairing of Anthrax and Public Enemy but it just lacks the crisp spit of Chuck D and Flavor Flav. In the end though there are no real surprises attached to this record. Run DMC have been using rock with their rhymes for years and Living Colour are not necessarily stretching or testing their skills with their contribution. A draw.

Biohazard and Onyx prove something of a dream match and after this track they even later worked together on a later version of “Slam” by Onyx. For a while back there Biohazard was one of the leading outfits in the hardcore rock rap scene, albeit an act considered slightly one dimensional and even Neanderthal. Personally though for a couple of records I thought they did what they did very well with heavy as hell slabs of metal that backed up their posturing. Onyx was also a pretty snappy proposition but their shelf life wasn’t as lengthy, perhaps they were too real. Certainly I found myself stealing one of their CDs (Bacdafucup) from a market stall in Soho once. At the end of the day the song sounds straight from a Biohazard record. Rock wins.

The Slayer and Ice-T collaboration is actually a trio of UK Subs covers and it does not necessarily sound a million miles away from Body Count. With accusations in later years being tossed towards Slayer as being racist this displays evidence to counteract such suggestions. Ultimately though the tracks are stifled by being cover versions. Score draw.

Far superior is the Faith No More and Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E collaboration, which without doubt is the most famous track to have come from this compilation. With dark video in tow, on “Another Body Murdered” both acts play to their strengths and produce the highlight of the album, a pulsating and energising piece of rap rock that puts the rest of the genre to shame. Everybody wins.

Afters things get chilled out and weird as Sonic Youth scrape their guitars and Kim Gordon whirls a mantra over a Muggs beat as Cypress Hill bring their rhymes to the game. Cypress Hill actually benefit from a female accompaniment but other than that the Sonic Youth involvement is minimal (although the get the last word). Rap wins.

Following from Seattle comes the Mudhoney and Sir Mix-A-Lot collaboration as the neighbours fart out pretty stock appropriations of their wares but ultimately it totally works as the pieces perfectly sync together as rap’s true one trick pony gets lurid and dirty much in the same way that Mudhoney play their guitars (albeit in restrained fashion). Its galloping and pulsing stuff, Lukin makes for a natural at doing a hip-hop bassline, probably without even knowing. We all win!

In a similar vein Dinosaur Jr and Del The Funky Homosapien glue together unconventionally as the pair of them phone in their elements of the track and happily make a real breeze of a track even if the construct suggests mild effort. A scoreless draw.

Therapy? and Fatal arrive as something of a curious inclusion. Who on earth in American would have known who Therapy? were? And to this day I am still wondering who the fuck Fatal were (or are). With this in mind it is very much Therapy? who dominate proceedings echoing their earlier, more experimental efforts. It also reminds slightly of the Biohazard and Onyx effort, not necessarily a good thing. Rock wins.

The album ends with Pearl Jam tagging up with Cypress Hill making their second appearance on the compilation. Again Cypress Hill lay on the track thick and quickly make it their own joint. Apparently at the legendary Nirvana MTV Live And Loud concert when Cypress Hill supported they dragged out Pearl Jam for a live version. Eventually Eddie Vedder makes an appearance on the track but he sounds like he is speaking in tongues. What is going on? Rap wins.

Legend has it that there was an extra collaboration from Tool and Rage Against The Machine but word has it neither act were necessarily happy with the results. Perhaps the fact that it was two rock bands knocking heads on what was a rock rap collaboration record may have had something to do with it.

With Nu metal still a few years away and grunge still just about remaining in the game this compilation managed to capture the alternative rock spirit of the time, a spirit that was open to rap but only, it seemed, when it was aggressive. The film was rubbish but the soundtrack was good.

Thesaurus moment: join.

Judgement Night
Epic Records

Saturday, 20 October 2007



This was a surprise when it came out. As Public Enemy appeared to be mellowing and grounded despite adopting a more mid tempo riff this song still carries a lot of weight and intensity displaying that this act was very much still in the game.

Early menace in the record comes from the form of the whispered introduction before Chuck D is soon laying into an audience living out a hip hop lifestyle that is as much media invention as it is reality. Public Enemy never really got into the East Coast v West Coast nonsense, they were never gangsta and never pro-violence. As a result this generally made them the thinking man’s hip hop act.

“So Whatcha Gonna Do Now?” asks a lot of questions of the listener. I think the general tone of the song states that the band have matured and moved into a smarter place and now is the listener about to do so as well? Its all a very dark ride. Chuck D is going off.

Sinister horns beckon in the chorus the mantra of “rap, guns, drugs and money” gets thrown out as if it were a feasible reality. There is stench. More realistic however is “talking that Gat talk, walking that catwalk”. We see right through.

Following comes a more subtle “Drive By S##t” mix where the words are clearer even if the lessened backing is more hip. Said lessened backing then follows as an instrumental track. Not necessary.

The release ends with an airing of “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos”, their classic cut from six years earlier on It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. With it’s Isaac Hayes sample the inclusion of it here is somewhat curious. Was the intention to get it onto twelve inch vinyl? Was Chuck trying to comparing it to the work of now to question how far we have come (or rather not). At the end of the day there is no doubting the quality of the tune, only what it is doing here. Was Chuck envisaging an upcoming draft towards the Middle East?

Still it.

Thesaurus moment: clarity.

Public Enemy
Def Jam Recordings

Friday, 19 October 2007



I never quite jumped two footed into the post rock scene and as it gracefully mutated towards folk music and struck up some kind of middle ground hybrid I have to admit I found myself removed even further.

It is no secret that Papa M is one of the many recording aliases of Dave Pajo who cut his teeth early and deep as a member of Slint before later moving on to play with such heavyweights as Tortoise and Stereolab before taking a more curious step with Zwan and experiencing a whole different kind of ride at the hands of a real joker. A good experience I sense was no had by all.

On his own the music that Pajo produces is most graceful, taking guitar arrangements to a new place and combining modern and classical interoperations in a way that is both fruitful and pleasing. Cynicism aside this guy can drink from my canteen any day.

This is post-rock as chill out music, minimal and explicitly able to build a base for a smile in/on the listener.

It was one afternoon when walking through Leicester Square that I finally click with this record. With coffee in hand and my walk soundtracked by the pulsation of “Drunken Spree” not even the freaky sight of a shirtless man on a chilled October day could possibly ruin proceedings. This is “European Son” done the happy way. The menace and intensity maintains as there is no cumbersome posturing or negative ending attached to the show. It stands out.

This is a record that manages to climb the chancers of the ilk immediately displaying width and invention in the piece as “Roadrunner” serves to remind me of Boards Of Canada while “Arundal”, the track that bookends the record, is indeed the song from the Hamlet advert.

Despite its country picking “Plastic Energy Man” reminds me of “Can’t Find My Way Home” by Blind Faith. Later the voicemail checking of “Crowd Of One” makes for an equally evocative and intrusive despatching.

Ultimately this is a satisfying ride, not least for making it through the fourteen minute “I Am Not Lonely With Cricket” that swallows up the entirety of side three. Mammoth and maddening.

Now, just what is that mark on the sleeve of my copy?

Thesaurus moment: better.

Papa M
Dave Pajo interview
Drag City

Sunday, 14 October 2007



When this was released as the second single from Nevermind it sealed the deal on just what a great thing was happening. For anyone that was suspicious of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (which I think I have to admit I probably was) this was tamer song but no less weird or catchy, almost as if it came from under water. Here were sounds that I had never heard before or had anyone else of generation for that matter.

The intent of the song seemed to be to scream and celebrate individuality and to the lesser popular kids at school this was more than music to their ears, this was a clearer more defining anthem. It was a good look for people that looked bad.

With another beautifully turgid video in tow I remember one time watching MTV were the gormless host was quoting Kurt as saying that in order to get the unique guitar sound on this record he used piano strings in his guitar, the worst that he could find.

There was always less shouting attached to this record which I guess helped make it more accessible to the squares in addition to the slackers that just thought all the noise and aggression of Teen Spirit cried of too much effort.

Of course over the years we have all discovered “Eighties” by Killing Joke and the more than passing resemblance but there is no arguing what Nirvana did with the piece was a far superior effort.

When it comes to their single releases, this just might be the song that was their actual masterpiece.

Thesaurus moment: dunk.


Saturday, 13 October 2007



Recorded at the legendary CBGBs in New York in December 1993 this is actually a surprisingly solid and well recorded live set captured at a time when the band were not necessarily quite at the height of their powers or most in demand. Indeed on this night in question they weren’t even the headline band playing support to The Damned of all people.

This live recording represents one of those prized and rare moments of the live album ilk as it actually manages to capture the intensity of both the performance and the atmosphere in general. As the set carries on you can hear in the voice of Yow just how much he starts to lose patience with the crowd, often scolding them for their moronic behaviour.

“Glamorous” opens proceedings with its thunder punch blows and steady entry into the set. With each strum Duane Denison fires out a message of arrival to all the squashed New Yorkers in the toilet castle of punk.

“Please hold your apples to the end of the set.”

Even though it is only half of the Yow live experience on show his between song banter and apparent behaviour really exudes and makes this recording. As the incendiary version of “Dancing Naked Ladies” begins to pummel all in sight as the lumbering bass runs over ears like a harvester mowing a field Yow tops it all by screaming “I think I’m gonna fucking throw up.” That is how you introduce a song!

The man really is an Uncle Touchy as he later explodes at the audience in a hyper aggressive manner asking them why they are so violent (“Killer McHann”). This is the prettiest pot calling the crappiest kettle black.

The aural harassment and abuse is spread over a very strong fifteen song selection. The set really hits its stride as the dizzying magnificence of “Fly On The Wall” kicks off an unforgiving barrage of The Jesus Lizard “hits” as “Boilermaker” couples with “Puss” tears into proceedings full on even if the band don’t quite nail the latter (in my opinion live they never did or could).

Wheelchair Epidemic” beckons towards the end as “Monkey Trick” teases an ending out of the night and gets a final few licks in on the crowd (and vice versa).

This set will have blown The Damned off the stage.

I believe that there is a live video recording of this set also named “Show” but being pre-internet days there is very little information to be found although I do believe once reading about a guy saying how he used to rent it from his local video store and I am positive that I once saw one of the tracks from the video on an episode of Beavis And Butthead while they waxed lyrical over the bare-chested shenanigans of Mr Yow.

The world would be a better place if this were available on DVD.

Thesaurus moment: lost.

The Jesus Lizard

Friday, 12 October 2007



With an all star lineup there is something incredibly sumptuous about a compilation record beginning with a track by The Jesus Lizard followed by one from Shellac. In order to draw such an astounding set of artists you get the impression that the cause must be something worthy.

Lounge Ax was a music venue in Chicago that played a key role in hosting many of the cities legendary acts (many of whom were Touch And Go artists). It also featured prominently in the movie version of High Fidelity (for those curious enough to check it out on video). Unfortunately the venue experienced complaint and harassment from city officials when a new yuppie neighbour (NYN) moved into a condo behind the venue around January 95. As ever the squeaky wheel gets the grease and causes most trouble as after persistent complaint over noise the city and police begin to get heavy becoming sniffy over club licences and issuing penalty tickets when being called out to sight on nights of shows. In other words someone somewhere really hates noisy indie rock. With no end in sight for the problem (and no indication that it will be going away) the people at Touch And Go clubbed together to compile this record with view to assisting in covering the venue’s legal costs and its not seemingly forced relocation at the hand of one grumpy neighbour ruining it for everybody.

Here fourteen very cool and recognisable acts lend their wares to a cause close to their hearts in a manner that represents why the networks of US indie rock have often served as an exemplarily example of how to act.

Thankfully there is a distinct air of quality that comes with this collection as in the words of The Jesus Lizard effort it is “Uncommonly Good”.

The Shellac track is “Killers” which over the years has probably come to represent the best known contribution to this record as people over the years have gone to great lengths to search out their songs.

From here Sebadoh deliver a classically noisy number with “Whole Hog” before the clambering June Of 44 do their bass heavy take on Slint. June Of 44 is always good.

When Guided By Voices turn up it is with their wicked brand of disrupted pop that on this occasion sees them in quite a psychedelic mood with “Beneath A Festering Moon” that could quite happily originate from the same clouds as Sgt Pepper.

Bad Livers then bring bluegrass and country. Surely a yuppie neighbour would be partial to this. Seems not.

The ever reliable Yo La Tengo bring something unique and new to the record with a Theremin and saxophone laced noise workout a million miles removed from their potential harmonies and slick distortion. They live and breathe this shit.

Towards the end Tortoise threaten to steal the show as they supply a definite highlight with the delicate “Restless Waters” which lends a glimpse into the potential beauty of the area and the potential to surround all with goodness.

Rachel’s conclude the album as they do their string thing as if soundtracking the closing credits of a Hal Hartley movie in stirring if distracted fashion.

This is an album of width and girth, of many styles and voices all linked together by the essential social centres that are great venues in great cities which in this case was Lounge Ax.

LAx good. NYN bad.

Thesaurus moment: manifold.

Lounge Ax
Touch And Go

Thursday, 11 October 2007



There has been something a real void to indie rock since The Delgados went away, they may have been a bitch with many faces but they were something of a consistently great presence, not least for being an act that had so tangibly “made it”.

During those times Emma Pollock was something of an understated powerhouse, often looking as if she was holding more cards to the organisation than she was letting on. All in all which makes it a real pleasure to report how rewarding and fulfilling this single is.

Reminding me greatly of Tanya Donnelly, especially were she a big fan of keyboards, this slice of indie pop makes for a refreshing antidote in response to the current torrent of depressed downbeat lady angst female songwriters that are healthily shifting units at the moment.

On the flipside “A Glorious Day” is a more personal, solo affair perversely reminding me of Julie Delpy at the close of Before Sunset, a truly genuine (or genuinely true) song regarding yearning in the most sophisticated and dignified manner (in actuality a musical reading of a poem by an exterior influence).

As a precursor to the upcoming album this reason to be very excited for what lies ahead in the future.

Thesaurus moment: pleasant.

Emma Pollock

Monday, 8 October 2007



Once again opening with a trademark bassline “Divine Hammer” is another angelic sounding charge powered by the blistering engine room of McPherson and Wiggs and promptly led astray by the wicked talons of the witch sisters Deal.

In many ways this one of the most representative songs of The Breeders sound. Within the space of two minutes and forty one seconds it houses the various great traits and elements that always made the band the exciting prospect that they were: frenetic urges, breezy delivery, devilish harmonies and confused lyrical contents. Then it grabs its second breath.

Here is a song that when offered to the mainstream and friends is one that could not possibly prompt revulsion despite being from a distinct source of misbehaviour. In essence this was the alternative nation going undercover, being sneaking and undermining naysayers without a musical clue. Mission accomplished when mission impossible.

Moving onto the b-sides out hatch “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” which is a Hank Williams Jr cover in addition to “Do You Love Me Now Jr” which is a different version of said track from Last Splash only now featuring Mr J Mascis on backing vocals. He croaks.

God bless The Breeders.

Thesaurus moment: beatific.

The Breeders

Saturday, 6 October 2007



Flying out of New York, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are quite a multifaceted proposition and their popularity should not really be of any surprise to most people even though in practise over principle some of the stuff they are doing is not necessarily the usual staple of their apparent audience.

I have to concede that for the longest time I had the Yeah Yeah Yeahs down as chancers, phonies crowbarring their way into an established scene/movement where the books are mostly closed. For far too long I suspected a lot of what the band was doing was for show. With all the dressing up by Karen O and funny haircuts sported by her colleagues they were just too fashion conscious to contain muso indie cred. Fortunately the records (the music) do hold up to scrutiny.

Another thing that I think initially put me off the band was the manner in which Karen O’s voice reminded (and still reminds) me of Chrissie Hynde, which is quite far removed from the most credible thing in music. This is of course when she is not doing her shrieking witch impression.

Fever To Tell is the record that houses probably the most famous Yeah Yeah Yeahs song in the form of “Date With The Night”. Despite the warbling it is explosive and incendiary. Perhaps my best recollection of this song was a night when I was DJing at an event called the Green Man Roundabout Festival and I accidentally played this song to the most positive response all evening. Go figure.

Ultimately Fever To Tell is a frustrating album caked in style over substance and many attention seeking gestures. As a result of this the true worth of the record (mainly the playing of Nick Zinner) gets sensationally/spectacularly overshadowed and often overlooked.

From here “Man” is just plain weird with its odd posturing and unconvincing might with “Tick” is sound of a princess throwing a fit/strop prior to holding her breath until she gets want she wants. “Pin” then feels like a necessary nod to the abstract scene the band had to be within at the time. If nothing else this truly is the album of monosyllabic song titles.

The eventual noodling of “Maps” serves as a tricky display of desire to expound minds at a more measured pace, which does not necessarily equate to overriding appreciation for the listener.

Towards the end it comes together on “Y Control” as all parts rise to a sum greater than their sole/soul. Unfortunately following “Modern Romance” feels like the revealing of the dull outfit suspicions have always suggested this band could/might be.

I guess the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are just one of those bands I will never “get”.

A group of Asians have just boarded my tube carriage with a big angry looking dog. I’ll listening to and writing about this record now. It will take sterner stuff to give me courage to approach it in one stops times.

Thesaurus moment: casuistical.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Tuesday, 2 October 2007



With a dense rumble in the distance signalling its arrival, the fizzled feedback opening serves as a crushing block of sonic destruction. In other words a very big thing just started on your stereo.

Hailing from Pennsylvania Bardo Pond are long time purveyors of some of the noisiest music known to man as they push various buttons and barriers in delivery a sweeping assault on the senses that deals heavily in juxtaposition.

The most striking collision is the soft and delicate female vocals seemingly warring with the elements as they endeavour to pierce through the heavy cacophony in the name of some kind of tranquillity.

The mass feedback and high octane noodling very much recollects Sonic Youth in full flow before whirling into classic Psychedelic territory, seemingly lifting the listener to higher climbs as the song endures, grows and matures. This is music you can genuinely get swept up in.

Lapsed is seven songs strong, seven songs that are the length of a full album. You do not come away from this record feeling short changed, more just changed. I have heard and seen the band compared to Black Sabbath but if they ever got this I think Ozzy would have been chewing off more than the heads of bats. He’d probably be gnawing off his own arm for escape for starters.

There is a distinct altered states element to this ride. As with most stuff in the Space Rock genre you can’t help but imagine some kind of warlock akin to Alan Moore at the helm, certainly the vibrations of the piece are akin to being lifted by a rocket. Whether there is much longevity in the enjoyment of such a sound is open to debate (and perhaps NASA).

“Tommy Gun Angel” opens proceedings and to this day remains as one of the most recognisable Bardo Pond tracks. The mental imagery that goes with such a din is that off rockets firing from a shuttle and rising up to the sky.

As the record moves onto “Pick My Brain” the record feels gloriously as if it is some kind of slow motion freefall able to mellow any moment. Please come down.

Eventually it all culminates with the fourteen minute epic “Aldrin” that feels like a ride/glide through the desert, aided and abetted by forces and traps far beyond man. This distance travelled with this song is quite the journey as the vocals drop in with view to making all else feel somewhat insignificant in its indignance. After the slow gradual build up it is at the 10.38 mark where the track truly ignites and erupts as it shoots the listener up into the stratosphere. This is the glory.

This record is a true piece of work; one of the loudest objects ever set in sand and planted on CD. Confusion ahoy.

Thesaurus moment: stentorian.

Bardo Pond

Monday, 1 October 2007



For me personally this was an insanely well-timed album. I don’t really think that this record was necessarily aimed at me or people like me (certainly my friends hated it) but when it came out in 2002 it represented changing times for me.

The actual first time I heard this record in full it was at a mystery house in Exeter. I was on tour with Hirameka Hi-Fi and Electro Group and after their show at the Cavern that night without a place to stay a punter called Andy offered to put us up. This was a mistake. God bless him, Andy seemed in awe of us and in a drunken state would not stop talking about it. It seemed he wanted to go into music management in the worst way but truly we were not the people to be asking. He had professional ambitions and a band called Loose Chippings that could play the entire first Strokes album.

Eventually alcohol consumption came coupled with drug consumption as the stand in Hirameka drummer remained passed out, face down on the floor of the living room. With a laptop and internet at our disposal Andy decided to show us some bestiality porn featuring a horse fucking a woman. It was at this point the Hirameka bass player began to freak out. It was eventually after many plays of this album by The Streets that he fucked off to bed around 4AM.

A few weeks later I was buying the album during one lunchtime and potentially buoyed on by this that evening I found myself being pulled by some scary girl at a nightclub called Route. These truly were times.

Even though we joked how Mike Skinner sounded like Steve Wright on “Has It Come To This?” the song was still strong enough to pull it off.

The first time I heard “Weak Become Heroes” it reminded me so much of “The First Big Weekend” by Arab Strap and this was the early money track, the one that perhaps mislead and caused me to think that there was something different or more to The Streets. Regardless of the aftermath and how I would later view Mike Skinner this was an amazing song, easily one of the best of the year as it pulled together a very tangible description of events on a night out that came with a very positive message at time when things in such environments were tense (as they still are).

As “Let’s Push Thing’s Forward” kicks in the album begins to get rolling as the rude boy soundtrack helps cater more tales of adventures in social commentary. Later large strings change the tune as “Same Old Thing” describes drunkenness and urban boredom.

“It’s Too Late” listened to now suggests the later crimes of “Dry Your Eyes” but done in a less cringeworthy manner. Part of this guy was always wet.

With “Don’t Mug Yourself” Skinner hit gold really pulling together the words in magnificent fashion snagging both the lad and the urban dollar in the process. This was his battle of the sexes, a war that he was evidently losing. This was the track everyone liked.

Eventually “The Irony Of It All” arrives as the comedy track displaying Mr Skinner’s smartness. There was always a huge dose of smugness attached to proceedings here as the song switches from the lairy thug probably listening to this record to the Playstation playing stoner seemingly soundtracked by Sgt Pepper. Personally I always thought both characters sounded like proper cunts.

From here we arrive at track eleven “Weak Become Heroes” and the prize track and event that the whole record has been building to. Still now it fills me with a pleasure and glow as Skinner’s lyricism peaks early in his career with damn near perfection.

Ultimately you feel that Skinner considers himself somewhat more enlightened that he actually is/was but as documentation of the weekends of our youth and the monkey shines that come with this is generally a blast. The guy is almost two years younger than me for fucks sake.

Completing the package is impressive cover artwork displaying the glowing neon beauty of modern urban decay and the living standards that modern life has reduced us to. We’ll soldier on.

Thesaurus moment: tackle.

The Streets
Locked On
679 Recordings