Friday, 25 April 2008



This is a helpful record to own when you are in your teens.  It is useful to know that there are other angry people out there, respectable and successful ones, adults.  To feel a surge in emotion towards the people and places that batter you is normal, indeed it can actually be healthy.

Black Flag was an amazing band.  When producing material such as this legendary punk acts such as the Sex Pistols and the Ramones couldn’t touch them on their best day.  Of course the longevity wasn’t there but for punk burning wasn’t a bad thing, you can only be at your most intense for so long.

The Nervous Breakdown EP was the first release on SST Records and thus it is a huge piece of punk rock history.  Few records have ever started so strong.

The first case of an actual nervous breakdown I ever encounter was that of a car mechanic called Basil that lived down my street when growing up.  He used to repair my car and put it through MOT for me.  Then one day during the week before Christmas with the brakes grinding we asked him to check the pads.  I swapped them over and said they were OK.  A day or so later I crashed my car at a set of traffic lights on the way to Colchester.  I just ploughed into the back of a van that stopped when the lights were yellow.  I vividly remember “Father To A Sister Of Thought” being the track playing on my car stereo at the time.  The van in front was fine but the front of my car was pancaked, a borderline write off.  And with my tail between my legs I drove into town to meet up with a girl called Jackie for a date who promptly did not bother to show.  It was a double whammy that ruined the Christmas of 1995.  Now I’m not saying that my mechanic’s nervous breakdown was responsible, but he was.  Ever since the term “nervous breakdown” has not been one to take lightly.

“Nervous Breakdown” the song is an amazing piece of energised work.  It is one of the most direct songs ever anywhere in the history of music.  Talk about getting to the fucking point.  In the space of just over two minutes rock music is changed forever.

Following up is the even tighter “Fix Me” a track enabling a full on rant rallying against the punk situation.  With a focus on “some day” the desire is to get good now neglecting the conventions apparently attempting to be installed by third parties.

The jarring guitar sound of Greg Ginn maintains with the angry “I’ve Had It” which effectively exudes the emotions of a frustrated individual at the end of their tether about to erupt.  It all ends with the threat “I’m going to explode….” sung in capital letters.

Finally “Wasted” closes the EP with another perfectly formed track that fails to break the minute mark.  In an effort to be offensive it delights in its declaration of being wilfully lazy and inebriated.  It plays into stereotypes with its self description (self analysis) exuding poor self esteem and else esteem.  From this both the author and the listener take strength.

In a matter of minutes and just four songs the band squeezes in the equivalent content of another band’s entire album.

Thesaurus moment: neurasthenia.

Thursday, 24 April 2008



Here are two guys very close to my heart, when they describe themselves as “righteous” the emphasis is very much on the “right” of their moniker. Packaged as if written and recorded by a couple of hicks, you gotta wonder what lies in the deep and dense plots of most rural Cambridgeshire from where this record originates.

Early confusion rains on the compact disc (technology has sure arrived with a vengeance in their town) as the booklet states four compositions but the CD reads as only containing two. Already I am in a kafuffle.

The muddy sludge that arrives with this record sonically reminds me of Earth and other such hateful doom mongers from that scene of distortion frenzied slo-mo metallers in addition to messy sounds that have been known to emit from types such as Mudhoney and Bardo Pond. If you have ever seen the movie Broken Flowers and the malice filled final visit Bill Murray makes to an old flame, that whole episode is sound tracked by Dopesmoker however this could just as happily take its place in sitting next to such frustration.

Clocking in at 25 minutes this is an exceedingly dirty sounding recording reminiscent of a recent golden age where guitars were turned to eleven and played with contempt as the instigators relished offending the audience in a devil may care manner akin to most aloof of heroin addicts. If I could place this record at the heart of a scene it would be in the midst of fully blown shit storm sound tracking a day of drinking beer, eating meat and firing guns. As one of their song titles acknowledges, they don’t believe in punishment, they believe in “Gunishment” (a level of humour you will either tap into or you won’t).

As to where exactly this music and attitude slots in with regards to the grand scheme of things is another question but for now I am happily impressed by the pleasant surprise of receiving the dirtiest piece of dirge driven doom perfect to get high and wasted to. The musical equivalent of Ritalin and just like the pill, I want more.

Thesaurus moment: menace.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008



I can still remember the buzz that attached itself to the release of this record. The summer of 1993 was far from my fondest or greatest moment and it came with very few highlights as I step towards the abyss unguided and without friend or influence. I had locked myself into a small version of the world (a smell version of existence) that was just not plausible in the grand scheme of things.

As the summer came to a close and I shambled towards the age of seventeen and almost an adult one of the few optimistic and exciting gifts was the prospect of a new Nirvana record and when this the first single finally surfaced I can still remember the buzz on MTV for the first play of the weird video and how it did indeed sound very different to Nevermind (and Bleach). I have to concede at first I felt disappointed, it sounded weird on purpose and my gut instinct was that this was not very good. I would be a fucking liar if I told you I knew who Steve Albini was at the time and so are the majority of people who make comment now to that extent.

Even if the guitars (worse) and the drums (better) sounded different there was no denying the quiet loud quiet dynamic remained the same. This was a visceral and natural reaction to the world around me. The line “I’ve got a new complaint” particularly resonated.

It was actually the b-side “Milk It” that created most interest for me. The song is just a big defiant charge going from one extreme to the other and fully exhibiting the new method in which the rhythm section had been recorded and how towering it now sounded. There was no song on Bleach or Nevermind that sounded like this one.

The single plays out with “Marigold” which proved the first (and only) Nirvana song with Dave on vocals. At first it seemed/felt like a good thing but ultimately you can’t help but feel it encouraged the drummer to act/perform above his station. That said I really liked the song, felt it was tender and beautiful again not like anything the band had previously recorded. He put a spell on me.

Somebody said the other day that one of Kurt’s ideas for the video was to have him fucking William S. Burroughs. Is that really true?

It had been a tough summer.

Thesaurus moment: recur.


Monday, 21 April 2008



There is still something undeniably exciting about pulling a seven inch out of its sleeve to see the Sub Pop label and huge jukebox hole cut out of the middle. I am already satisfied.

Along with Times New Viking, No Age represent the great white hope for this year, a couple of fully paid up snappy noiseniks looking to override all at their disposal as soon as possible. This is the return of lo-fi.

There is a youthful feel to this release, a flighty shout of optimism and playing seemingly that borders on inept when really a trained ear knows it is supposed to sound that way.

“Eraser” is a brief blast of nonchalance with its swirling mini My Bloody Valentine guitars coupled with Superchunk sounding vocals which all in all struggles to make sense standing on its own, this not a very listener friendly choice for a single. This however appears to be what the No Age attitude is about, being difficult, brattish and selfish.

The three songs housed on side B make more sense echoing an adventure of Robert Pollard as his most obtuse and challenging. Certainly they are as productive as Mr Pollard, in more than one way.

No Age appear to have two kinds of songs in their arsenal – plodding noise work outs and fiery pieces of snarl that contain the fattest hooks known to lo-fi man. This release is most definitely an example of the former when really their best material would seem pasted in the latter.

Thesaurus moment: fleeting

No Age
Sub Pop

Sunday, 20 April 2008



The blunt throw that is the first Pavement album is a startling affair.  My route into the band was all wrong.  I saw them at Reading 95 before I had even heard any of their records.  It is quite possible that I saw them before I had even seen or heard “Cut Your Hair” on MTV.  All I knew is that this was a band from America that supported Luton Town.  Finally I borrowed Wowee Zowee from Clacton library and recorded it onto cassette.  Later I would also find, borrow and copy Westing from the library.  What was this shit?  Eventually I hooked up with my future Gringo Records cohorts at a Urusei Yatsura gig and finally heard Slanted And Enchanted one Saturday morning in Halstead while hanging out with Joe from Lando.  It was like nothing I previously knew.

Pavement was always unique.  On a clear day they sounded retarded but to the trained/tuned ear/eye they were magnificent.  They were belligerently loose, one big intellectual in-joke not necessarily open to observers and outsiders.  They looked normal but didn’t act it.

A key early memory of mine attached to this album was during my rookie year in accountancy.  I had just hooked up with my record label buddies and my head remain firmly in indie rock.  However during the name I had to learn what to do with numbers/figures in Frinton-on-Sea and teaching me was a young Jewish girl called Elaine who god bless her had missed out somewhere on the personality stakes.  She was stagnant and frigid and not necessarily the best person in the world to be teaching anything.  And there was me not necessarily the best person in the world to learn anything.  Then one day when I fluffed a bank reconciliation and she became visibly annoyed by this putting right my work for me out of instinct I stared out the back window of the office and without realising began singing “I’m trying, I’m trying” as per “Conduit For Sale!”  This stopped her in her tracks and revealed me as the idiot that I am.  What could I do though; I spent most bank reconciliations thinking about The Simpsons.

Indeed it is “Conduit For Sale!” which closest resembles an existing Fall song in “New Face In Hell” from Grotesque.  However when the dust settles it is “Two States” that is aesthetically the track most likely.  His voice even sounds like he is coming from the north of England.

Elsewhere on “Zurich Is Stained” it is exhilarating in the way that Malkmus casually allows room for the listener to finish his line “I am the one…” with “who fucking loves you”.  Don’t tell me that was not intended.

At times there is a subtle euphoria attached to the process.  I won’t believe anyone that tells me they don’t feel a thing off the back of opener “Summer Babe (Winter Version)”.  It’s the sound of sunny freedom and a moment at a festival when not surrounded by twats and jerks.  Here is the love.  Similarly the charge of the accompanying “Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite” leads a jubilant charge with its responsive backing (“I’ve got a message for you” etc).

There is a terrific energy attached to this record.  The underlying fizz of the distorted offers a blistering charge.  As tracks such as “Perfume-V” motion with gusto they hang in the air with suspense and excitement.  Similarly “No Life Singed Her” is frenetic eventually sounding like a child throwing a tantrum or fit.  Motion suggests Malkmus might not be above such things.

“I was dressed for success.  But success it never comes”

When the band split up first time round they ended on the track “Here”.  Delivered in what feels like slow motion it seems to sum up an attitude and era.  In reflective measure it resembles failure snatched from the jaws of victory.  For me this is the slacker ethos in song.  In execution the band barely sound like they can be bothered as Malkmus speaks of bad jokes and running out of money subtly it becomes a whine.  In subsequent years the song has been executed appropriately and placed in such positions within teenage angst movies less commanding and credible.  “Here” was a dilution from the off.

Despite such an apparent sense of duty the band appears to abstain from responsibility on “Zurich Is Stained” as calmly the disclaimer “but it’s not my fault” is sure to be added to the message/note.

With smarts and knowing the record retains a royal pace right to the end.  Appropriately it begins to wind down with “Fame Throwa” and a cryptic salute.  From here the equally confusing “Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era” offers another come down before lazy close of “Our Singer” proves the perfect absolute ending.  It tucks the listener in and sends them to sleep.  Band and beneficial bed bound both.

This is how it’s done.

Thesaurus moment: formed.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008



This was most people’s introduction to Helmet.  The song came with a bright, appealing video and a dense guitar sound while also housing an almost harmonic vocal in contrast.  Here was the alternative nation as done New York style.

As with all good Helmet songs “Unsung” opens with an explosion of activity as Stanier drops in a solid beat as a playful baseline shakes proceedings before Page Hamilton’s guitar erupts in the style of an incoming train crossed with a screaming elephant.  Then nature takes its course and the song taps into pure velocity.

“Unsung” was a song perfect for the era.  The track is heavy but the band is normal looking, like people an exec could work with.  Of course there was always more integrity to the act than that but generally Helmet was an act that appeared undemanding and happy to allow the music do the talking.  And talk it did, to a generation that was feeling low and unappreciated, in other words unsung.

Backing things up here is “Better” which was also taken from Meantime and displayed/expressed equally passive aggressive traits and gestures coupled with chunky blocks of guitar.  It’s a song with frothing fizz too masculine to be more than an album track or b-side.

With that the final two song of the single were live tracks taken from Chicago in July 1992 in the form of the sibling “FBLA” and “FBLA II”.  It actually makes for interesting sport to contrast the two tracks side by side considering they came from different albums and different eras of the band.  Even performed live the former is much more abrasive than the latter not that the second be soft.  Here they are wickedly served, a granite exploration of how things had evolved.

“Unsung” will always be the song Helmet are known for.

Thesaurus moment: glide.

Sunday, 13 April 2008



The debut studio album from Liz Phair is quite the bold and breathy effort.  With a title that makes nods to both the Rolling Stones (Exile) and Urge Overkill (Guyville) it is a work relating to and reporting the sense of isolation felt by a lady in small-town America.  Her description was of expressing a state of mind and a place where “men are men and women are learning”.  Indeed Phair was even heard as saying that this eighteen song monster was a song-by-song reply to Exile On Main Street.

Liz Phair became part of the Chicago indie scene although the accelerated critical and commercial success of this record storming out the blocks prompted something of a negative response from more seasoned characters.  The alternative scene was never comfortable with success.

Exile In Guyville has quite the lo-fi sound.  Stripped down and impressive these songs were laying the tracks for artists such as Cat Power and assisting/enabling female front ladies to go it alone.  Indeed she and Chan Marshall share a sense of stage fright and enduring awkwardness.

The cover is flash, perhaps a bit too flash for an indie record.  In her gesture it feels overtly sexual in a manner that say Juliana Hatfield would never dare.  And the colour scheme of black and white with purple does feel very much of the time in a mainstream manner.  In other words this artwork is something Madonna could have used.

Exile In Guyville bore two singles in the form of “Never Said” and “Stratford-On-Guy”.  The former is the embodiment of a simple response to common accusation while the latter to this day remains one of her best known songs with its offering of urgency, big chorus and air stewardess music video.

Elsewhere in the mix is the fun “Fuck And Run” with a chorus that accidentally sounds like “fuck Enron” in addition to the haunting and staid “Shatter” which draws the listener in then draws them out.  And finally of note is the near stomp of “Johnny Sunshine” which takes an oddly angelic direction disrupting the show.

With a subtle rumble there are clean and restrained nods to Riot Grrrl sensibilities without actually throwing such emotions over the cliff.  There are elements that do remind of PJ Harvey and Courtney Love but it is very soft with that.  More so her vocal delivery reminds/sounds much like Mary Timony of Helium.  You suspect in despatch there was a demographic consciously being purposely include and not alienated in approach.

Ultimately its all very accomplished and solidly put together manning a number of subjects not necessarily or usually addressed, Liz was not shy in saying shocking things.  However it is all a bit passive and laidback in execution when really what wanted was more bite.  It is just too much Chrissy and not enough Courtney.

Thesaurus moment: dispassionate.

Saturday, 12 April 2008



This record is such a stinking piece of shit.  It represents everything that is wrong with modern guitar music and what is sold to youth culture and indie rock.  The band itself is bad enough, a real limp dick proposition playing guitars that feed so low down the mix they are barely present.  It is a gesture that seems as if the band is almost frightened of their instruments as all focus is put onto the words of the wiggling frontman that is saying absolutely nothing at all.  Briefly I heard this band and Johnny Borrell mentioned in the same breath as Kurt Cobain.  And briefly I became depressed knowing that all was lost as a result.

So now, here we have this: “In The Morning”.  Over the years Oasis may have stolen wholesale from The Beatles, Kasabian have tried to be everyone and Coldplay turned into Level 42 but no degree of pinching was ever as flagrant as this.  “In The Morning” is musically an unofficial three-minute version of “Marquee Moon” by Television.

What do I care?  Well, probably because people know this and do not know and acknowledge the original.  These "cool licks" that people are eating up, they are stolen goods.  And this is a band dining off the royalties.  There needs to be justice.

Razorlight is a band that is so utterly fucking shit.  Taken from their second album, this single was released as a seven-inch and two CD singles.  That means somewhere; some poor fucker kids are buying this three times on top of wasting their parents’ money on the album as well.  This is how economy fails, how nations go bankrupt.  Why do people buy inferior products, cheap (and not so cheap) knock offs without question?  Why do people just roll over and die?  This is modern youth culture.  And Razorlight has to be held responsible to some degree.  They serve no purpose.

Do I really need to listen to this song again to review it?  OK, first let me do so without music.  Reading the lyrics, the words are quite removed from those of Tom Verlaine.  The first line goes “I don’t know what I’m doin’ wrong”.  Ripping off Television perhaps?  “The songs on the radio sound the same, everybody just looks the same” – take a look in the fucking mirror!

However things perk up for the boy: “last night was so much fun”.  Suddenly it seems he realised he is rich and managed to snag some sex (“now your sheets are dirty”).  That or he shit the bed, which is a plausible theory backed up by his next question: “remember when you were young”.  Then menacingly he goes on about not “remembering a thing in the morning”.  Is this suddenly a song about blacking out?

Eventually the lyrics fully turn to mush as the line “are you really gonna do it this time?” appears uttered twenty times (according to the lyric sheet I am reading off the internet).  Who this guy, fucking Rain Man?

On that note let me take this to the MTV focused video.  It begins in a dead room and the drummer taking his seat behind the kit.  I once showed this guy where the toilet was at a place where I worked but that’s another story.  With that the music begins with the stolen trademark (should be trademarked) “Marquee Moon” noodle.  Then comes the vacant expression of a gormless tool.  Hello Mr Lead Singer with your misguided enthusiasm.  From here blankets are lifted to reveal further blank embodiment and a dead social club inhabited by zombies.  Even the band acknowledges this is its advance.  Then arrives the “Marquee Moon” breakdown/bridge followed by more Verline-esqe noodling until it all ends with the band making out like crap bandits, shysters to the end.

If music is to ever recover, ever crawl out its current slump, shit such as this must be exterminated.

Also the more gifted but less recognised Built To Spill already did a far superior single called “In The Morning”.  Can’t this band even come up with original song titles?

And finally with two major labels attached to the sleeve: THIS BAND IS AND NEVER WAS INDIE!

Thesaurus moment: fraud.

Thursday, 10 April 2008



For some this is as monstrous as music gets.  This is a big song that elevates with volume, one that can grow to earthshaking proportions.  You just must not take it too seriously.

In many ways this was the first official display of the Metallica rebirth.  Toned down ever so slightly, with Bob Rock the producer of Bon Jovi on board their sound was smoothed out and sanded down to make them somewhat radio friendly without too much compromise or lose of edge.  This is five minutes frenetically chugging heavy metal.

It begins with anticipation and an appropriate introduction to what lay ahead.  There is nothing subtle or fake about this delivery.  And considering that the time was the birth of alternative rock, the guitars are incredible smooth and clean sounding.  Perhaps to its detriment.

This material feels more driving, better paced than the thrash that came before it.  Here was a band not bold enough to take their time, to smash all posts without feeling the necessity to do it all at once.  They knew that this was the biggest sound on the planet.  Hey, it even comes with a break to allow for pyrotechnics to explode.  “Enter Sandman” came with stadium written all over it.

At the time there was none more black and over the years few metal acts have received the recognition that Metallica have.  And this is quite a feat considering how easy they make it look and sound.

The concept of “Enter Sandman” is of nightmares.  When released Freddie Kruger was still very much in the public’s consciousness and the horror they were able to derive from such an association served them well, even to the point that the band was able to cheesily place a girl reciting a prayer into a break.  For any other act this gesture would have killed the song but Metallica got away with it off the back of already bludgeoning the listener through sheer bloodymindness.

Of course there is a guitar solo.  Every metal song has to have a solo but the manner with which it is placed here proves not to spoil the show as it arrives more as a matter of fact indulgence rather than a centre stage display of (feeble) authority.

On the flip is a cover version of “Stone Cold Crazy” by Queen.  It all feels a bit soppy as Metallica increase the volume and toughen up the guitars in galloping fashion as Hetfield does achieve some kind of accurate and faithful variant of the Freddie Mercury vocal delivery.  This can be a camp band even if it does strangle itself with guitar solos.

The final track on the disc is a demo version of “Enter Sandman” in instrumental form where the USP appears to be the ability to chug away at a dense rhythm.  Its no frills, no nonsense and very amusing to note how basic the drums are when stripped down.  It’s as if Lars learned to play using ice cream tubs.  This version has charm.

Regardless of what I say or write this song is cast in stone and will forever be recognised with a legendary status intact.  It cannot be defeated.

Thesaurus moment: apex.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008



Urge Overkill was always an act caked in personality.  Taking in their being based on the photo of them on the front of this Sub Pop Singles Club release for May 1991 is a succulent thing, almost a joke.  All in all they look like refugees/casualties from Warhol’s Factory.  This is how they do in Chicago.  Always have, always will.

This seven inch arrived on fluorescent green.  Its amazing looking vinyl, the kind of look that works when sipping cocktails at a swanky club.  Here be the insinuated existence of Urge Overkill.

“Now That’s The Barclords” is three minutes of classic new wave that sounds very much like Elvis Costello is full flow complete with big hook and rocking chorus.  The intention to paint and envisage a better way of being for the listener and on the outset it is mission accomplished as reflection is made in a positive direction.  In execution the band does not rewrite or reinvent rock music but the offering is sufficient enough to improve any day, any moment and give the listener something to spring to in solid affection/attention.

On the flip is the altogether wider and more philosophical “What’s This Generation Coming To?”  This is a song that sounds straight from the Steve Albini school of rock offering jagged stabs and audible consideration.  In its questioning the intention appears to be to offer a different way, a separate mode of thinking and a more blustering existence to attach.  It really is possible to take all this from one rock song.

Urge Overkill are OK.

Thesaurus moment: prim.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008



This is an amazing song.  This is THE Tindersticks song, the one that defines their careers and the benchmark all their other material looks up to and attempts to reach, to attain such perfection.

Many years ago in my hometown of Colchester the first explicit pawn shop appeared situated near the train station, the place where people sought and found escape.  The shop was a prototype Cash Converters and among the items was a rack of CDs.  These discs were of bands doing songs I did not recognise.  Much like everything else in the shop, they were of no worth; they were the reject of items of sad people.  At a time in nineties it seemed like every music act in existence had a CD.  Then finally I found two discs by bands that I recognised: Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and Tindersticks.  I could only afford one so I purchased the former of the fact that their singer was Shirley Manson of the then hot Garbage and Big John Duncan was their guitarist that subsequently went on to play with Nirvana and be part of their road crew.  With hindsight it was a most insane decision considering that the Tindersticks CD was “Travelling Light”.  For years I held regret towards my purchase decision that day.

The positioning of such a song in a pawn shop is funny and almost strategic one.  In clichéd fashion it was the result of someone real travelling light, stripping their belongings and moving on.  This was stupidly appropriate.

The first time I heard “Travelling Light” was on the old Mark Radcliffe graveyard shift on Radio One in the mid nineties.  At the time this was not the sort of track I would usually listen to but after just one listen its class was undeniable.  Sure Mark and Lard would mock Stuart Staples’ voice but it was born of affection and envy.

“Travelling Light” is classic songwriting.  It sounds like the kind of song, if you were lucky, you would hear your parents play when growing up.  It is mature, melancholic and masterful.  This is not a band, it’s an orchestra.

The subject matter is timeless.  It’s about exit, the end of times, the loss of love.  That is if it was ever there in the first place.  The vocals are tender and affectionate while also resoundingly pragmatic and realistic.

Accompanying and complimenting Stuart Staples is the wonderfully pained voice of Carla Torgerson from The Walkabouts.  The Walkabouts was a country tinged band on Sub Pop and these credentials served to lend everything more weight.  As I say, this song is their hit, their height, the high water mark of their career.  A song that leaves you scarred while wanting more.  You want to experience such highs over and over but at the end of the day such a life is not sustainable.  The listener’s reaction is both awkward and amazing.

A perfect journey.

Thesaurus moment: baggage.

Monday, 7 April 2008



For many years this soundtrack was unavailable.  There was a version sat in racks but it was a cheap knock off, a chancer reinterpreting the realms of Vangelis.  Then finally after a dispute lasting several years Vangelis relented and in 1994 the correct version of the record came out.  Mum bought me this CD for Christmas that year.  I’m not convinced that she realised the consequence of the work and to be honest I don’t know why I even requested it.  Most likely I was going through my latest Blade Runner appreciation period enjoying the frosty demeanour of Harrison Ford which I probably still had not yet realised came from being a replicant.  Until this point the soundtrack had been an orchestral adaptation performed by Jack Elliott and the New American Orchestra back in 1982 at the time of the film’s release but now we had the goods.

Blade Runner is a graceful movie.  Even now it looks current, modern and conceivable.  The grime makes it genuine, the urban decay is tangible.  It was the first cyberpunk movie and easily the best science fiction to realistically represent life in the future as being grubby and exhausting.  The tone is future noir so with it needed to be the appropriate degree of sophistication and intrigue, something subtle to stop the heart.  Enter Vangelis from Greece.

Vangelis is a world famous composer.  He has always been known for his use of synthesizer and manipulating ambient structures into emotive ones often using a subtle build of bombast.  Coming into this project was off the back of winning an Oscar for his work on the Chariots Of Fire score and working closing with director Ridley Scott the requirement/intention here was to capture the isolation and melancholy of the main character Deckard.

Not all of the score has aged/worn as well as the film.  It remains an often claustrophobic and amazingly ambient work but the occasional bum note and testing tangent is experienced and evident.  The overwrought eights saxophone blasts, especially on tracks such as “Love Theme”, hurt the work and its intention.  The composition and key play at times now sound retro but there is no questioning the atmospherics that retain the feel of something royally modern.

It renewed execution this soundtrack features a number of scene samples with add a new texture and tone to tracks.  From the off this is evident as during the “Main Titles” Ford/Deckard deals seriously with technology in forceful fashion and deep noir style before the expansive sounds of Vangelis’ synthesizers drop in and carry the work away, whisking things with wonder.  This is the sound of the inner workings of intelligence.

The general tone of the orchestrations is of a dry ambience that comes in waves.  Often twinkles cascade into driven electronics as sparks of external gestures glisten, sparks such as Rachel’s queries during “Wait For Me” and the ethereal female vocals coupled with the drip piano of “Rachel’s Song” constructing very modern blues.  The latter method is again used very effectively in “Memories Of Green” as an almost jazz score stirs a shared sensation.

At times I am reminded of Angelo Badalamenti as a seemingly stationary vibe and smart drone subtly churns into proceedings holding menace and often a sense of surprise.

Light relief arrives in “One More Kiss, Dear” and a crackly track sung by Don Percival being run through a gramophone.  In a most digital world, it takes something analogue to conflict emotions.  Vocals are later used again as Demis Roussos appears on the track “Tales Of The Future” which disorientates in a manner that reminds me of Nusrat Ali Khan efforts on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack.  Unfortunately it sticks around too long to maintain credibility.

Ultimately this is a resoundingly downbeat score but then what else would you expect from noir?  When the “End Titles” drop the stark exit is almost industrial in orchestration as a sense of going on the run is captured.  Then in contrast “Tears In Rain” concludes the album with delicates drops accompanying the Roy Batty/Rutger Hauer shutdown/expiration speech, recollections so vivid and fascinating there can be no doubting the humanity of these machines.  It happens to us all.  Outside it just started to rain.

This was groundbreaking music, a score which much like the movie it came from felt cold, mercenary and mechanical.  Time to retire, there is no afterlife.

Thesaurus moment: inclemency.

Sunday, 6 April 2008



If ever I want to bore you about indie music I will recount to you how the first ever gig I attended was Babes In Toyland supported by Trumans Water and Maniac Squat the Colchester Hippodrome back in September 1993.  Double guns.

Released in 1998 here we have a seven inch single housing two bands with a lot in common and it is aesthetically pleasing.  With a bond that spreads across the Atlantic, here is a band from San Diego via Portland playing nice with a likewise from Brighton finding themselves being released on an Essex record label.

Trumans Water are a crazed proposition, all shout and lo-fi much in the manner of a Pavement wig out which can often sail quite close to a Jesus Lizard sound.  Their first number here “Anti-Person-From-Porlock” is a confident stride that plays out like a band on a bungee rope.  There are invisible forces pulling them back as all in the region are affected.  Trumans Water are the kings of stormy weather.  When the vinyl skips its not always clear whether this is the band delving into repetition or technological nostalgia failing.  As the latter persists, that’s what you get for doing 33rpm on a seven inch, the track truly proves antisocial serving to annoy my neighbours throw an open window on this sunny day.  The band’s second offering “Atom Spear” serves equally hideous juices with a scratchy and broken instrumental only the damaged could dance to.  Think Devo in the foulest of moods on the shittiest of days.

Exhibiting common sense the I’m Being Good contribution “Waste Of Bullets” runs at 45rpm and may or may not be reference to The Terminator’s opinion of Axl Rose at the conclusion of the “You Could Be Mine” video.  Not a million miles removed from the sound of Trumans Water, I’m Being Good offer a lumpy accolade and a screamy exhibit reminding of the Flaming Lips and Magoo at their most wonky with a wisp of early Mogwai thrown in for good measure.  There is no chorus, just corruption.  With distortion heading the agenda once more repetition is key as broken grooves represent broken dreams.  This is a sonic sandwich slowly melting.

What a ride.

Thesaurus moment: partisan.

Saturday, 5 April 2008



Without question this one of the most beautiful pieces of film music ever composed.  It is also one of the most recognisable as captured in its creation are the stark and startling elements of two different worlds naively clashing and composing.  There is a real rough romance attached to this despatch as through harsh realities a glorious tone prevails.

This isn’t so much a song you listen to, it is one you sail on.  It is regal and deep.  As the strains enter your ears and inhabit the brain you find yourself transported to various prior places and states of mind.  This is one of those songs that will move a person towards memories.  Without words to get in the way and complicate things, the song serves as a pulse guiding the being to beautiful places and their own variation of Sarasota.  This is brain candy.

Midnight Cowboy is strange movie.  It is unique in how it is grubby and dark but still is able to find beauty in the slums of New York.  It is about having a dream and the foul reality of not realising it.  There is adventure is delusion.

On the flipside of the seven inch is “Fun City” which is another drifting composition from Barry that evokes the city with a piano and bass combination gliding across the ruins of the main track.  As strings cascade and an eventual horn enters proceedings it reminds of moments spent with Travis Bickle in a time not far removed from Ratso Rizzo.  Nothing is without complication.

As with the movie, time stands still.

Thesaurus moment: longing.

Friday, 4 April 2008



This is a very solid 16 band 16 song compilation released in 1992 of some genuinely great bands covering Dead Kennedys tracks.  It was made to celebrate the 100th release by Alternative Tentacles and its 10th anniversary.

The Dead Kennedys was always a strange band with a sound that didn’t necessarily comfortably fit in with either the classic punk of the late seventies or the emerging hardcore scene in the early eighties, their guitar sound was almost.  However with Jello Biafra at the front spouting political discourse and rhetoric the band were both pioneering and a pain.

It says a lot that represented on this compilation are thrash metal, funk, rap, grunge, indie, country and all girl bands doing all kinds of variations on DK songs ranging from hip-hop to skiffle to acappela by acts from Brazil, France, England and Canada.

The song list is instantly recognisable as bands don’t shy away from the hits.  “Holiday In Cambodia” is tackled by Sub Pop act Sister Double Happiness who unfortunately do not necessarily bring much to the plate with their odd brand of alternative rock.  Elsewhere Michael Franti and The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy completely rework and nail their take of “California Uber Alles” which features samples of Biafra’s vocals sped up suddenly sounding like Feargal Sharkey.

Probably the best known cover on this compilation is the Faith No More rendering of “Let’s Lynch The Landlord” which later appeared as a b-side on their single “A Small Victory”.  With a huge sense of fun and adventure the track becomes a skiffle song driven by the sound of an accordion as Mike Patton chooses to ape the vocal range of Elvis instead of Biafra.  There is some very Nick Cave about the treatment.  And certainly this version feels vastly superior to the more straightforward take offered by L7 later on in the record.

As far as genre hopping goes, many of the acts do a fine job remaining both faithful to the songs and their own style.  It is not hard to imagine what Napalm Death and Sepultura do to “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” and “Drug Me” respectively.  Likewise Mojo Nixon brings his customary meta redneck approach to “Winnebago Warrior”.  It’s a perfect fit.

The most striking departure comes from NoMeansNo and their almost barbershop approach to “Forward To Death” which feels quite the inappropriate juxtaposition.

Tribute albums tend to be tough work as limit source material can clash with shoddy line-ups.  There are no such issues here.  This is fresh fruit.

Thesaurus moment: panegyric.

Thursday, 3 April 2008



This is the sound of Mike Ladd punking out.  He is known for being partial towards Bad Brains and here it shows with a thumping, rapidly delivered rattle of a hardcore song that comes with a charging horn driving things forward.

Mike Ladd is a smart man, a published man, with a knack for words and incisive observations.  As he rolls through this single we leaves the listener’s ears ringing as the brain tries to keep up and pick up on every smashed reference being disposed.

“Wild Out Day” is a wrong party.  Its about the life that we are currently leading and the one that if we are not careful (not guarded) might begin enjoying a bit too frequently/much.  There is a barbed repetition attached to proceedings and the description of an existence containing subtle threat/danger.  It reminds me of Plan B but Mike Ladd was doing it first.

Taking a more expected approach “Jet Pack” lands on the flipside with bubbling funk bass seeing Ladd casually and coercing the listener to like his seductive stance and appreciate his review of the motions.  And then it comes coupled with a P-Funk chorus/hook.  This is how to get atomic; seldom does hip-hop taste so smooth.

This is what can be produced/made when your worldview be clear and untainted.  There is a luxury attached to these pieces even though in construct they hold little in common other than sharing an author.  Here you hold smart music.

Cool customers still pay.

Thesaurus moment: facilely.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008



Words From The Genius was the first album to be released by a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.  Pre-dating Enter The Wu-Tang it came out in February 1991 and presented a much different version of Gary Grice who would soon come to be known as GZA.

It goes without saying that this is a strange sounding record somewhat removed from the collective sound of the Wu.  I guess the starkest difference is the lack of martial art film samples and reference.  Here was a young man without rocking up with an earnest rookie effort.

And it’s actually a pretty good offering sounding very 90s in a most healthy way.  It opens with a siren but it’s a passing siren, one that does not drive or consume proceedings.  He wasn’t into heavily criminology or the hard bop.  This was not the chronicle of a thug life.  Indeed with its bounding beats and jazz sample accompaniments this wasn’t a million miles away from what De La Soul were doing at the time.

To date there have been three versions/variations of this album with adjustment in the order of the tracklist and an explicit change in cover art on the two post-Wu Tang reissues in 1994 then 1996 which transformed the smart, clean cover art to something more grainy with a completely different suggestion.  The makeover does not necessarily rub.

Having adopted the moniker The Genius naturally there is something of a high brow, intellectual approach to proceedings.  At this point he flow was not as heavy as it would later be flowing out in a style similar to KRS-One and Michael Franti.  That said there appears no lack in confidence on his part; such doubts were saved for the listener.

Its interesting to contrast the opening track on the original version (“Come Do Me”) with the one used for the 1994 reissue (“Pass The Bone”).  The former is self referential and silly, almost pop rap while the latter with its drug reference brings a kind of fresh celebration that appears barely considered first time round.

Referring to my notes I have highlighted more stand out slip ups than successes.  “Phony As Ya Wanna Be” shares a sample with Will Smith and “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” (although The Genius did use it first), “The Genius Is Slammin’” references Mr T, “Words From A Genius” refers to his rhymes as poetry and having a female chorus hook of “go Genius, go Genius” on “Who’s Your Rhyme Hero”.

“Life Of A Drug Dealer” does succeed in reminding me of The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy exhibiting social conscience through narrative even if does feel a tad naïve in the process (not least with the Shaft comparison/references).  The stark declaration “this is the life of a drug dealer” does remind heavily of the eventual “that’s the life of a crimey” which later came on “Can It Be All So Simple”.  Then the good intentions maintain with “Stop The Nonsense” and “Living Foul” with the suggestion of some housecleaning.

The album does actually manage to close in strong fashion as the issues remain sensible/serious and the pop hooks dissolve, save for a final silly stumble and the ending of “What Are Silly Girls Made Of” and “Superfreak”.  Despite that this you can see why the powers that be deemed it worth salvage and fresh promotion following his full mutation into GZA.

Good game good game.

Thesaurus moment: suggestion.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008



Although most would dispute it, the singer songwriter buck appears high right now, a strong stock in a bear market on its way into recession. As a result this will always spew up acts on strong record labels that have seldom been heard of before but come with a sound very familiar. Matthew Ryan is one such act.

Despite this he does have a Wikipedia page but it (the information) fails to enthuse, especially held up against the music coming out of my stereo. This is a very adult sound in a medium I do not desire to entertain mature thoughts towards.

For this review I prepared more notes than the average release, a random and scatological set of musings on a record I really could not find or derive genuine scorn or joy from. I think the problem is the distinct lack of energy and danger I was able to summon from the record and its sound which as a result tapped into a lack of passion for me, which I do not doubt is in Matthew Ryan’s heart or sensibilities, more it may just be a criticism of my own ears. However there is a doubt that is cast by such things and quite possibly/probably I am not alone.

Ultimately this is the kind of record you are more likely to hear at the Latitude Festival as opposed to the All Tomorrows Parties festival and that is the rub, I would dare suggest it is not originating from the most flexible or free thinking of genres and subsequent audience that comes with, in other words not for an audience under the age of 35.

As the country tinged soft rock album reaches a close with its final track of eleven you suspect the best home for such a track (“Closing In”) would be underneath the closing credits of a movie such as Beautiful Girls (not necessarily a bad thing). The journey ride for me mainly consists of music aimed at (appreciated by) grown up Pearl Jam (and distinctly not Nirvana) fans who appreciate tracks that veer into U2 and Springsteen territory before heading home after a tough day on a plastic range.

Now I will never listen to this CD ever again.

Thesaurus moment: unseasonable

Matthew Ryan
One Little Indian