Wednesday, 25 June 2008


I really can’t remember if I bought this CD myself or whether mum bought it for me. It was probably the latter and would probably have been from Woolworths in Clacton. It arrived during the hardest year of my life and the most difficult period as the summer of 1993 proved something of challenge as I exited school, spewed out into the real world with no real education, hopes or prospects. For a long time all it felt like I had was the music around me which helped take my mind of being stuck in a Podunk village in Essex terrified of what the world had for me (or rather what it hadn’t).
In Utero is probably the best of the three Nirvana studio albums. With Steve Albini at the helm managed to better harness and capture the real sound of the band while in comparison Butch Vig (then Andy Wallace) only appeared to gloss it, at times potentially declawing and defanging it. Bear in mind that this was the big record that highlighted how Albini’s credit would regard him as “recorder” rather than “producer”. Whether these were the best songs in their catalogue is open to debate but certainly these were the best sounding.
There was so much rumour regarding their album ahead of time. Again as with Nevermind and Andy Wallace, as reports filtered out that DGC were not necessarily completely happy with the sound of the record Scott Litt was eventually brought in to “soothe” some more of the friendlier tracks. This event however came after stories/tales/rumours that people at the record label had described the album as “unlistenable” and it was looking like their was going to be two versions of the album in the record label friendly CD and the band approved vinyl version. In the end it never quite came to this and (almost) everyone were just about happy with the outcome.
The first thing that is noticeable is the sound of the drums. These are the Albini analogue drums, the part of any band’s sound that has become his trademark. For whatever music crimes Dave Grohl has since committed in the name of crowd pleasing cheesiness on this record his playing sounds immense.
Listened to at the time of being a spluttering teenager the opening words of “teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old” were such tangible poetry. “Serve The Servants” is a great album opener, probably a better opener than “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because it doesn’t see the album shoot its load immediately. With a huge crash the jarring procession begins in a powerful exertion. By the time the song reaches the chorus the listener is sold.
The intensity continues with “Scentless Apprentice” which provides one of the heaviest moments in the Nirvana songbook and career. Noted for being the first Nirvana track to contain equal song writing shares it begins with a drumbeat lifted straight from “Immigrant Song” and it never relents. Again the guitars sound very different to both Nevermind and Bleach as the song is soon chewing up the scenery with a riff to wreck any occasion before the sound descends into the mania of the chorus as Cobain’s vocals are as insane as anywhere else in their arsenal. As the song nears conclusion it begins bending strange shapes in a freshest manner. This is easily one of the best Nirvana songs for ageing without wrinkles.
In Utero is not quite the singles album that Nevermind managed to ultimately be. Only one song had a video attached to it (“Heart-Shaped Box”) while two tracks were squeezed together for a double A-side affair (“All Apologies” and “Rape Me”) and sadly a final single (“Pennyroyal Tea”) just didn’t make it out in time before Cobain killed himself. Of the quartet “Heart-Shaped Box” proves the most angular but remained faithful to the quiet loud quiet formula that was in a way their trademark.
“Rape Me” is not a good song. In some supermarkets in America the sleeve of In Utero was actually changed to rename this song “Waif Me” apparently but even away from such nanny state inclinations the language of the song is a bit silly in its self loathing. Sure the words sat comfortably against the bleak worldview of Cobain both before and after his death but as an individual grows over the years the passion and impact of this song just does not, indeed it actually becomes quite difficult to listen to and take seriously which is a shame as the song structure itself is another decent slab of the new Nirvana sound at the time. Were the supermarkets right to be so offended in the first place? Then there was the controversy with the song at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. Moving on.
Thankfully the album soon picks up steam with “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle”, a song quite similar sounding to “Serve The Servants” in its motion and delivery. Here it would appear that Cobain be comparing the treatment and apparent madness of his wife Courtney to that of hounded thirties/forties actress Frances Farmer. How little did he know. With a chorus of “I miss the comfort of being sad” this was seemingly a declaration of despising popularity in addition to being dismissive of being happy. It works on so many levels, whether intentional or not this was a person that appeared to know his audience.
As with the bookends “Polly” and “Something In The Way” on Nevermind here came “Dumb”. This song never really resonated with me, it was too light and soppy. I would happily quote “my heart is broke but I have some glue” when really I just still wanted to destroy. And then with that the first side comes to a close.
In the grand tradition of beginning side two with a blast (“Negative Creep” and “Territorial Pissings”) the breezy “Very Ape” plunders into proceedings with a guitar sound that first rattles and then begins to whine like a wind instrument as the momentum of the song cheerily builds to rousing declaration of “I’m very ape, I’m very nice”. With great lines such as “if you ever need anything please don’t, hesitate to ask someone else first” really sums up for me the slacker mentality and true inclinations of Generation X. I always wondered if “Very Ape” came from the comic book Eightball which had its own branding of Value Ape.
With this comes “Milk It” the second heaviest blast on the record and the possessor of the most menacing basslines that Novoselic would ever deliver in a Nirvana shirt. The eventual explosion of guitars is far from subtle as it cuts through proceedings and endangers species (“I own my own pet virus, I get to pet and name her”). The line “look on the bright side of suicide” would prove somewhat troubling six months later.
“Pennyroyal Tea” was another song that seemed so meaningful to Cobain but as with a few other selections on this album it fails to age well. I think it is in the gestures of self loathing that ultimately prove difficult to maintain in any walk of life. To choose this song as a single would seem a belligerent decision even though the “Leonard Cohen after world” reference might appeal to a new crowd of people (our parents).
To this day “Radio Friendly Unit Shifter” remains one of my favourite Nirvana songs. I fear that in the mind of Kurt this makes me something of a mark as for him (as per the song title) this song was an obvious no-brainer as the name suggests it may have been written on autopilot. Then again a song as good as this is not going to be an easy composition. I think the synch for me was the live version from the MTV concert that opened with the band emerging to squeals of white noise and feedback before Dave did a click track and suddenly the band tore into the number at the drop of a hat creating one of the most exciting and explosive openings to any live set anywhere in the history of music.
From here the albums ends with the pairing of “Pennyroyal Tea” and “All Apologies”, two singles (albeit one eventually not released) and two of the older songs from the collection. “Pennyroyal Tea” never really did it for me, it was too dry and too down. As I say the Leonard Cohen reference is nice but it aches too much in self-loathing, casting feminist imagery that in this case you can’t help but picture written with regards to Courtney. Similarly “All Apologies” hasn’t aged well. Again most people’s first experience of the song was one year earlier at Reading 92 and by the time it reached this recording the lyrics had been changed and it just didn’t feel as special as it initially did. It remains one of the sweetest and most earnest songs by Kurt but through its existence the song only appeared to get lighter with each variation/version (culminating with being a highlight of the MTV Unplugged set). I just like the noise is all.
Tacked onto the end once more the band drops a hidden track, although this time around it is less of a surprise being included in the tracklisting. “Gallons Of Rubbing Alcohol Flow Through The Strip” arrives with the disclaimer “devalued American dollar purchase incentive track” and sarcastic suggestion that it wasn’t necessarily supposed to make the final cut. Unlike “Endless Nameless” their famous hidden track this is something of a more cohesive jam along the lines of Velvet Underground that sees Cobain mumbling out some “lyrics” that equally sound made up on the spot. It’s a hazy affair but ultimately it rocks and isn’t an act of diminish or devaluation at all. Silly fucker.
With that it all ends on a noisy high. In Utero is without a good record. I think it has a better sound than the other two studio records and some of the heaviest material in the Nirvana cannon but it probably doesn’t have the song writing hooks of Nevermind. Dare I say that I feel a few of the songs here have not aged handsomely (I’m looking at you “Rape Me”, “Dumb” and “Pennyroyal Tea”). That said were my record collection on fire this would be the Nirvana record I would reach for.
Thesaurus moment: zenith.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


Straight away I have to come clean and admit that this mini album is a few years old now but only a recent discovery for me after experiencing several exhilarating live performance. Not owning this release until now ultimately is several years my loss as I genuinely love the release.

Spread over seven tracks Scorpio Scorpio is a mean motherfucker from Australia, very much in the Mark “Chopper” Read mold with no mould, a one man assault system with a twisted sense of humour and a vocabulary turns the air blue.

The life of a one band as described/explained by Leo Sayer many years ago is a tough and lonely road of existence. It is made even lonelier when you are selling drugs and performing bank jobs. To combine drum n bass with guitars in this manner truly is something of a criminal act, like an Australian Devo on crystal meth, packing to settle nerves.

Scorpio Scorpio is the king of the infectious blast of aggression, slamming/smashing electro music fires through in a lo-fi industrial style as jagged guitars like parchments of AC/DC feedback with hooks aplenty.

The real strength of the release is in the lyrical content that is spat out like bullets – this is pure poetry in its execution. Opening track “Utility (You And Me)” verges on pure pop perfection, following the announcement “fuckin’ turn it up”, Scorpio Scorpio calls out the listener “have a go” before using the basic genius principle of having a chorus including “na na na na na.” It just works!

With song titles as “Ayatollah Rock’N’Roller” and “Cobra (Knobya)” it would take a very stone faced person not to find humour in this record, the type of person that may have experienced a fatality at the hands of Mr Scorpio Scorpio himself. There are no innocent bystanders connected with this music, especially when “Cobra (Knobya)” is concerned.

The one sad flaw of this record are the high fidelity qualities, they are sadly lower than such a collection deserves. For some this could prove a spoiling point but for others this may even make the music.

Thesaurus moment: schismatic.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008




For the longest time I staunchly defended Helmet, long after their alternative credibility had since dried out.  Then again this was never necessarily a band that was cool, they were just hard.

Helmet was always something of a social butterfly when it came to the alternative rock scene of the nineties.  They started out in New York rubbing shoulders with the Amphetamine Reptile acts (indeed the label put out their first album Strap It On).  Then when the majors came knocking with a huge cheque they found themselves lumped in with the grunge acts even though geography would expose otherwise.  I remember one particular MTV News segment where they covered and suggested the New York hardcore scene was about to take over from Seattle grunge including clips and soundbites from Biohazard and Pro Pain in addition to Helmet and Sonic Youth.  Yeah, as if any of those acts were ever going to break.  Indeed the cover art with its start red reminds of those blood splattered Unsane affairs.  Then after the sun set on the alternative nation and it had been rinsed dry by the majors and MTV, Helmet suddenly found themselves very much a Kerrang (as opposed to NME) band maintaining a staunch following and even slight credit/blame for pioneering the nu-metal sound.  Then there were (and still are) Page Hamilton’s digressions into jazz and the avant garde while John Stanier eventually ending up as the drummer for Battles brings a whole new element to their expansive playing existence.  In other words, Helmet was a band with depth.

Few albums open so thunderously as Meantime and the veritable sonic whirlwind that chews up proceedings and churns the stomach with “In The Meantime”.  This is the sound of band turning the ignition.  And when the dust audibly settles Helmet truly takes over.  It is worth noting that while the rest of the record was produced by the band, recorded by Wharton Tiers and mixed by Andy Wallace, this track was done by Steve Albini.  Let the Nirvana comparisons begin.

The record remains relentless.  Moving on the band truly masters the art of serving up slab upon slab of hard edged guttural guitar smarts.  Then every now and then Hamilton loosens the leash prompting the listener to drop their guard only to be yanked back into proceedings with even more ferocity.

“Give It” was always a stand out track for me, even before I discovered the Eric Bogosian pacing in his apartment having a meltdown video.  This was like heavy metal reggae to me with its slow pace and hard gesture.  And piercing through all this remains the wise words of Hamilton seemingly caked in empathy not least with the great mantra “self help self help confidence”.

“Your will to speak clearly exposed too much.”

To this day “Unsung” remains the most recognised Helmet song.  And it’s definitely a solid selection containing all the exciting elements that made the band a more worthy proposition than dissenting voices would allow as it surfs/sails the fine line between a heavy as hell hardcore metal onslaught and alternative strides exhibiting bruised gestures and fond declaration.  This song is everything that was good about Helmet.  It opens with a thumping pulse, Stanier’s unique snare sound and Hamilton screeching his guitar with feedback that sounds like an elephant’s roar.  Then as the song powers forward the jerking stop-start motion is resounding blunt as it all works to a soaring and stirring chorus.  It is quite the irony that a band derided by music snob ultimately be known for a song entitled “Unsung”.

And then the album gets heavy.

From here the pace steps up as the amplification appears to rise.  “Turned Out” is the most brutal track on offer in this album.  In a weird era of nineties neon gloss Hamilton focuses on well dressed individuals orbiting his environment as a magnificent breakdown eventually builds towards a focus attack on Downtown Julie Brown for some reason.  I guess Club MTV was just representative of everything they hate(d).  Again there is irony here considering that Helmet was often considering one of the most conservative looking metal bands on the scene.

Personally I will always have “You Borrowed” as it was the earworm playing in my head on the afternoon that I passed my driving exam (at the third attempt).  This track has one hell of a catchy riff, the kind of thing Beavis And Butthead worshipped at the time.  There is no discounting this song on any level especially when the force comes coupled with yet another prized vocal delivery from Hamilton in anthemic fashion (“trust the dying breed”) complete with call and response chorus.  It even has firebrand breakdown that builds into one of those trademark Helmet solos that remain on the right side of cheesy.  It smelts to the end.

“Every day’s the last day no one sees you.”

With songs entitled “He Feels Bad” and “Better” sat side by side it is with a heavy heart that much of this music is delivered.  For me there remains a definite white man blues vibe and certainly in the low and lazy manner in which the rhythm maintains I still feel a reggae come the latter half of the record as more rough optimism shines through.  There is an education here to be had if the listener decides to invest.

Following “FBLA” on Strap It On, the penultimate track arrives in the sequel “FBLA II”.  This is really quite removed from the precursor offering more lumps and another exploration into modern existence using heavy tools and artillery.  As the band hovers at the mid point gearing up for one final assault you have never felt in safer hands.

Without missing a beat “Role Model” closes the album packing up proceeding in appropriate fashion opening with the line “assume my stance” and further address to audience to not fuck up and get things wrong.

This record remains amazing.  Nobody made being ordinary sound so magnificent.

Thesaurus moment: concrete.

Monday, 16 June 2008



Reservoir Dogs was a huge movie.  It changed so much.  Quentin Tarantino landed on Hollywood during a great time for culture.  Coupled with grunge rock suddenly there was a rebellious streak with an independent mindset smashing through.  Perhaps the early nineties were merely about the marketing men finding a way of selling such product or maybe there was a genuine wind of change.  Regardless to be a teenager and exposed to things such as these were priceless to my development.

I missed Reservoir Dogs at the cinema.  And due to the BBFC refusing it a video release, it was there for a long time.  Unfortunately I was still in my final year at school and technically would not be able to get in.  Eventually my dad managed to get a pirate VHS copy from a person at work.  And even that was not without effort.  However I finally had my hands on the goods and with the movie still running regular adverts in the newspapers I was able to place a bespoke sleeve on the case.  On surface level this was a fine film for fans of violence and swearing but for film geeks this was gold.

For the first few years of my career in accountancy I would wear a black tie to work.  I wanted to look like the gang, be one of the misters.  However one day while helping a client do some photocopying he passed on his regards.  He thought I was in mourning.  Then later on my Gringo Records friends completely burst my bubble when Tom pointed out that I actually looked like a bus driver.  I wonder why we were never close friends.  The problem was that the goods in the opening sequence soundtracked by “Little Green Bag” by the George Baker Selection is one of the coolest things ever filmed in motion picture history.  In my mind in my black tie that was what I looked like.  The reality was I did not.

Music was key in the movie.  It gave a weird grounding with a sharp seventies attitude while being solidly fixed in the now.  There was a maturity to these songs and sounds as if you big brother were driving things.

As per in the movie dry comedian Steven Wright serves as the DJ taking the listener on an adventure managing with his dialogue to turn the mundane cool.  At this time every word and term uttered was like touching something and turning it to gold.

In addition to these spoken accompaniments this disc features two clips from the movie itself which were always great tracks to drop into compilations for an added gloss of cool.  Of these it is the Mr Brown interpretation of “Like A Virgin” by Madonna (“Madonna Speech”) which members of my generation would memorise and recite with glee.  Knowing such things was credibility in a can.  I still remember one of my Gringo Records colleagues declaring how cool I was for merely owned an Edward Bunker novel.

The songs here are strange and weird, pleasantly obscure and taken in another context terminally naff.  A song such as “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede is very bubblegum, gloriously naïve and not necessarily the first thing you would associate with curdling violence.  There’s a weird message of love being purveyed here.  It is perverse.

Tarantino is a smart man.  He always was and is likely to always be.  On that note “I Gotcha” by Joe Tex is the perfect accompaniment to capture and hostage of an enemy.  “I’ll teach you to play with my affection” indeed.  The man is essentially a bush league James Brown but used this way his work is so fucking effective.

A left field inclusion is the two tracks from the band Bedlam who at time of release appeared to be something of a going concern nobody had ever heard of.  Their cover of “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf is relatively competent but then their song entitled “Harvest Moon” that isn’t a Neil Young cover is downright confusing.  With investigation it turns out that Bedlam was a band from Nashville fronted by Jay Joyce that were conveniently signed to MCA.

The most famous song from the soundtrack is “Stuck In The Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel.  Most people of my generation knew the song before it appeared in the movie but never in the dark context it now owned.  Suddenly it was a song you could lose an ear to.  And yet held on its own it remains a wonderfully sweet song with the best intentions and loving longing.  The relationship in the track is one to one much like the dance occurring onscreen when it appears in the movie.  To change the entire meaning of song in one foul swoop is quite the feat by Tarantino.

The movie and the album both close on “Coconut” by Harry Nilsson which feels a very goofy way to end what was such a serious and intense session.  Perhaps its placement was tactical to serve as some kind of outgoing therapy for the viewer/listener.  Evidence of a sense of heart and a sense of play.

After this release soundtracks were never the same.

Thesaurus moment: novel.

Sunday, 15 June 2008



I knew this record before I had even heard it.  Everyone knew this record before they had heard it.  Indeed I would bet that the majority of people aware of this record have never actually listened to it at all.

For longest time I would begin my emails with “Hi, how are you?”  This was not me inspired by or copying Daniel Johnston, this was me replicated Kurt Cobain and his t-shirt of a simple frog that asked the question.  I didn’t know it was an album cover, for me it just embodied a certain naive simplification of the world that came with alternative rock and the grunge era.

Subtitled “The Unfinished Album” this is Johnston’s sixth album, which originally arrived in the form of a self-released cassette.  And to an untrained ear it is something of a mess, much like most of his early output.  It is juvenile and scatological but there is also a drive and a charm that seeps through and causes the listener to pay deeper attention to the work.

Johnston is an artist you can either approach whimsically or literally.  And for the sake of time today I will listen in the latter.

This record was made when he was 22 years old.  And it shows.  His balls do not appear to have dropped as his energy levels are at a painful high, you can’t help but imagine he would have been a nightmare to be around.

It begins with a dark lullaby of self pity in “Poor You” before “Big Business Monkey” arrives sounding like a Ween song being played on a cardboard box.

The much covered and celebrated “Walking The Cow” keeps things running on course with relentless further and confused remorse.

You can see why Matt Groening likes Johnston as there is a real rubberband reality attached to proceedings, right down to the twanging sound made by cheap instruments employed.  The distinct fine line between immaturity and self loathing continues with “I Am A Baby (In My Universe)” as he continues to work within his own world, his own mental Springfield.

A quick succession of tracks less than thirty seconds long suggest life more as rehearsal than the functioning real deal as Johnston works very on the “saw what you see” methodology of composition.

The angst is all in the song titles quite frankly: “I Am A Baby” comes followed naturally by “Nervous Love” before the sad resulting resignation of “I’ll Never Marry” is then accompanied by the nagging message “Get Yourself Together”.

The quality improves as the record goes on and with “Desperate Man Blues” and “Keep Punching Joe” Johnston turns miniscule lo-fi crooner as he sings along to Johnny Dankworth records in a very effective fashion (complete with full on self introduction on the latter).  Not that the creativity offered improves the tone or mindset of the piece.  Indeed “Keeping Punching Joe” is quite aggressive.

“Hey Joe” here is not a Hendrix cover; indeed it is almost a strange take on “Hey Jude”, albeit one sung with tears.

Continuing the chemistry and experimentation “She Call Pest Control” offers a weird kind of Beat poetry that sounds straight out of some San Francisco coffee house in the fifties, a broken kind of Ginsberg.

It all ends with “No More Pushing Joe Around” which sounds like a defensive playground rap seemingly delivered by a person that has just learned how to stand up for themselves (“he’s up and punching now”).  Then we get a weird outro and its done.  What cost?

There is a cliché statement attached to teenage angst/depression that goes “it gets better” and it’s a comment that also serves Johnston’s music output well.  Approach with caution and fascination only.

An unhappy accident.

Thesaurus moment: mar.

Saturday, 14 June 2008



I actually received this CD single as a Christmas present in 1992.  That feels insane.  Were we really once so poor?  Did we really place such value on music?  Better times through and through.

After the token bliss of “Nothing Else Matters”, this single saw them back doing what they were always best at.  In many ways this track wasn’t all that different to “Enter Sandman” but that doesn’t mean it was without power or purchase.

Basically you either buy into Metallica or you don’t.  There isn’t anything necessarily complicated or demanding in what they do, its just a big noisy proposition pushing the right buttons in a black t-shirt.  And that is the kind of stuff that appeals to angry teenage boys.  Internally their minds of screaming, so externally it makes sense for their forms of expression to resemble/echo such emotions.

“Wherever I May Roam” is another lumbering beast of a track.  It opens with a spine tingling sound that equally could be a sitar as it could be the cleanest, clearest of guitars.  Regardless it lends the track something of mysterious tone, one of being lost somewhere, maybe a desert.  Suddenly the roaming sentiment unsubtly makes a lot of sense.

It doesn’t take long for the Hetfield growl to drop as wistfully declarations are made that flutter off into the distance ahead of more staunch licks that quickly replace such gestures.

This song is over six minutes long.  How the hell does that happen?

The lyrics appear to be about love and the lengths that a man will go to in order to establish such a bond.  And the overwrought lines sound like a person going through hell, which is probably what the listener is going through as the spotty little oik wearing denim and leather is just not getting anywhere with the obsession of his life and the lady he is stalking.  Am I being too harsh?

Holding that thought inevitably two thirds of the way in the song showcases the latest Metallica guitar solo.  Was that really necessary?

On a positive note the crawling manner in which the song begins does remind me of Tool and a style that was still yet to receive wide recognition.  All in all it serves as a grand display that the band was moving in the right direction.  However by the end of the song old habits were ruling the roost and depending on how much you like the band, this was either good or bad.  Personally it fails to stand up as an evolutionary move and thus a loss of six minutes from my life that was not necessary.

Moving on next on the release is a live version of “Fade To Black” which offers equally grimacing emotion and a horribly slick guitar sound.  The remorse is wholesale but when the chorus arrives, contrary to the desolate lyrics that come beforehand, there is genuine pay off in the style of “One”.  It’s a solitary refinement.  Then comes the cackhanded resolution.

As per the Metallica releases of the time the disc ends with a demo version of “Wherever I May Roam” that sounds very springy and twangy with incomplete vocals/lyrics and drums that sound as if they are being banged out on a bread bin.  Not necessarily confidence inspiring and perhaps would have been best left in the archives.

“Where I May Roam” is ultimately a slow burner of a song, a growling example of excess and subtly rowdy sentiment coupled with a harrowing gesture of obsession.  Not many people (many acts) could get away with such execution.  Hetfield truly thinks he’s Aslan.

Thesaurus moment: overwrought.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008



Saturation is the fourth studio album by Urge Overkill and the first they released on a major label.  It is regarded as an explicit effort to have a hit record.  In other words it is essentially the sound of a band selling out.

Released in the summer of 1993 this was ahead of the band’s exposure via Pulp Fiction so at the time they very much were still something of a curiosity and acquired taste.  They came with cred but whether they came with chops was another issue.

It opens with a big rock sound and “Sister Havana”, one of the two tracks (along with “Positive Bleeding”) that were released as singles.  There is nothing shy or modest in these gestures.

For me Urge Overkill always inhabited a strange space.  From a purely musical standpoint I can’t see why future Kings Of Leon didn’t latch onto them first.  Person they were too far ahead of the game.  Then there are the elements that echo/resemble Afghan Whigs in less subtle fashion.

As the album progresses it feels tough to assess where it was actually aiming.  This was a still era of angst, a few months before their label mates released In Utero, but here was an unabashed party band explicitly nodding at the light side of the seventies.  Who ever wanted that?  For a band that had evidently earned their indie stripes it all just sounded wrong.

It is not until “Woman 2 Woman” (track five) that I finally hear something that like.  And that is what sounds like a metal take on the Ramones.  With that a warmth exudes on the next track “Bottle Of Fur” as the band finally seems to get going albeit in a vibe that still screams Kings Of Leon to me.  Then a positive threesome is completed by the frenetic “Crackbabies”.

The highlight arrives in the fuzzy “The Stalker” which feels the one true pure representation of the movement and the moment.  Its stocked and heavy in a befitting manner even reminding me of the sound L7 at their best would inhabit.

Despite “Nite And Grey” opening with a sample from Hawaii Five-0 and there being a track entitled “Heaven 90210” humour is sadly in short supply.  Essentially it is just too much about dick.

Saturation is the right word.

Thesaurus moment: suffuse.

Sunday, 8 June 2008



In a world where too often pretension appears to rule too many roosts it is sometimes easy to be charmed by a release coming towards you that feels as if it is being played out of the sheer joy of recording and expression.

Hailing from Sweden, Nybakat are an infectious four piece presenting breezy jazz compositions in a very earnest and tune filled manner avoiding falling into avant garde pitfalls in preference to serving the listener with a delightful manifestation.

Translated into English, Nybakat is “just baked” suggesting that the music held within is fresh, delivered in a modern style and freedom of current composition. There is a sense of fun that oozes from this album and although it is not necessarily at the expense of the listener you do get the impression that it might be the players that are having slightly most enjoyment from the playing of the music.

As I listen to this now the sun is out in full force and accompanied with these strains it all serves to add a new degree of joy to proceedings.

Unfortunately as with most jazz it doesn’t fail to fall into the cheesy as arrangements become too traditional and ethnic for close minded ears, too upbeat and jolly serving to fall into such fromage traps. From a universal perspective it begins to feel out of touch with regards coming from a slanted perspective of proceedings, of soughting adventure and experimentation. It’s the clarinet’s fault, this is not an instrument that should be leading.

From here the album struggles to regain its early composed euphoria as all remains light in some kind of tainted eighties US TV comedy show opening credits style as opposed to an awakening and morning after motion. I can’t help but feel the variation/version of my head being represented here is just an all too clear one.

The addition of vocals to tracks comes as a mixed blessing, sometimes adding a new level/sense of humanity while at other times lending a monstrous degree of snobbishness.

Happily the album ends on a high with “Varvindar Friska” towering in majestic fashion, adding a downbeat air that feels so missing but desired of this record. As ever throughout the process I find myself experiencing a whole host of conflicting emotions and the need to listen more intently for something I sadly just do not think is there on this occasion.

So close.

Thesaurus moment: taxi.

Mindoors Music

Wednesday, 4 June 2008



Black people.  When the Wu-Tang Clan arrived they were terrifying.  They were the baddest rappers in history and even though the early coverage in the UK was little more than a few minutes of weird clips on The Word, we knew their names and soon we had their record.

My introduction to the album was the cassette copy my friend Benfield lent me when we both worked shit jobs at Texas Homecare.  He had desires on being a hip-hop DJ and with that came a record collection more savvy than mine.  At the time I was driving a shit car with a shit stereo and after work when I drove us home we’d play the tape even though the speakers could not take it.  With so many groundbreaking moments provided he would intricately point where and how the beats on this record won.

Enter The Wu-Tang is an economic calling card where every track is rock solid and concise, successfully serving to introduce each member while not revealing too much and spoiling things too soon.  Every track on this record could be a single, albeit foul mouthed singles (indeed four of them actually were).  This was music for those with a strong stomach and subtle nonchalance for justice.  You could afford to cast a blind eye but definitely not a deaf ear.

At the time RZA was still also known as Prince Rakeem as he was clearly the driving force serving as producer, mixer, arranger and programmer.  The dirty beats were his and no one had ever heard anything like before.  In his words the Wu = the way and the Tang = the slang.

Protect ya neck.

Described elsewhere as “a dense and smoky fusion of New York crime rap and kung-fu mysticism” it doesn’t take long for the gang thug mentality to smash its mark on proceedings with tales of urban underground.  At a time when rap groups were rarely numbering more than three members, here was nine solid individuals all skilled, talented and prepared enough to take the lead.  Indeed in the case of Method Man and Raekwon they were chomping at the bit to grab the wheel.  Before this act extended crews were considered something of a liability but here it was the strength.

Side A is entitled the “Shaolin Sword” side.  It begins with “Bring Da Ruckus” and the kind entrance song others could only ever dream of.  Within seconds of their arrival they have turned the air blue and sent the puritans running.  The beats are dense and very effective while the rhymes rain in on a new level of aggression, ferocity and intensity.  In an effort to be the first to mark their mark it is one huge pile up of a track as Raekwon and Ghostface Killah kick the door in.

“Shame On A Nigga” was Hank Kingsley’s favourite track.  In a way you can see why with its flighty execution and grand military hook that introduces Ol’ Dirty Bastard live and uncut.  This track has real flow, lines that the surf and bounce off.

Forming like Voltron.

It is with “Clan In Da Front” that you finally experience some clarity as GZA rhymes with the first track to contain a coherent chorus.  Here was yet another mission statement introducing the kings of the yard.

Gritty and raw with “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” opens with an eavesdrop, the insight into the lifestyle of the Wu-Tang and the delights and dangers that come with.  Its bloody and explicit.  From here comes the beginning of the actual song with a dense snare that my Ford Escort stereo could never accommodate even at a low volume.  As the verses begin a spooky tone grips proceedings as the various members collaborate in the most coherent manner yet in a constant drive and solid flow.  There aren’t necessarily hooks or a real chorus but the narrative and journey are there.

Some kind of delicate remorse grips proceedings as “Can It Be All So Simple” opens with a haunting sample of Gladys Knight talking about the “good old days” from her song with The Pips “The Way We Were”.  Then as reality kicks in Raekwon and Ghostface Killah return to duel and exchange verses on gang life as immediately a close bond is being displayed between the pair of them.  The dedication list is almost endless.

At the close of the song the listener is offered another calling card, a clear introduction in the form of the two minute “Intermission” and a radio interview as Method Man leads something of a roll call describing each member.

Their arrival was timed to perfection; the placement was the right time at the right place.  This wasn’t by design is was the climate, the fortune of being around in a hip-hop golden era and rising just before the huge wave and big rap year that was 1994 when singles were still being released off this record.

“Right now we ain’t gettin’ what we want….right about now, I ain’t braggin’ or nuthin’, but yo the Wu got sumthin’ that I know anybody wanna hear, I know I been waitin’ to hear.”

And with that the record arrives at Side B and the Wu-Tang Sword.

It feels strange being a white man stood in my kitchen “rapping” along to “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’”, if the authors saw me, the authors would laugh then mock me.  The song does contain one of the strongest vocal hooks anywhere on this record.  And with that comes “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit”, another track my car stereo could not handle.  It’s a track says what it does on the tin and contains another killer hook/chorus.

At this point comes perhaps the two most important tracks on the album.

“C.R.E.A.M.” plays a similar card to “Can It Be All So Simple” tugging at nostalgia with a slow paced stand out track running on the wave of an organ sample (taken from The Charmels) that sounds like a buzzing influence acting as an earworm.  Opened up by Method Man the world and its sister knows the letters stand for “cash rules everything around men” as needs are expressed and dreams desired.  This is a song that sounds so majestic while carrying a strange combination of social comment and superficial statement.  A song about money is always going to run the risk of feeling tainted.  However in the grand scheme of things the Method Man intro/hook is regarded as one of the most sampled deliveries as the track features what is probably the largest contribution from Inspectah Deck on the record.

“Method Man” the track begins with one minute of “torture motherfucker” and truly the most vile banter which my work colleague used to think was “funny”.  I guess it is a bit absurd to talking about “sewing your asshole shut and keep feeding you and feeding you” but who knew with these guys at this stage.  Then with that we get something akin to a ring announcement and Method Man bounces in and delivers a very strong solo joint.  “Method Man” was originally the b-side to the first single “Protect Ya Neck” but soon it overtook it as the more popular track.  Not bad for a track with a ghetto Sesame Street tone.  His star was already on the rise before the album even dropped.

The aforementioned first single “Protect Ya Neck” follows in the line-up with everyone except Masta Killa involved rapping over startling and unnerving strings and atmospherics subtly bedding proceedings in a most effective manner.  “Protect Ya Neck” is a track without a chorus, without a hook, it is just one long barrage of brutality.

As the record reaches the closing stages “Tearz” drops with very aggressive gestures pounding over what appears the most explicitly Asian sounding backing on the record which reminds of the eventual RZA work on the Ghost Dog soundtrack.  Then it nails with a killer sample featuring soul singer Wendy Rene singing “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” providing an exclamation mark hook.

“Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber – Part II” rounds things off with a return to the “Clan In Da Front” refrain as the track purrs and sails off into the distance.

Then with that album is done and Wu-Tang has officially arrived.  As I say Enter The Wu-Tang is a rare record where every song would be good enough to be a single.  Unfortunately with every song being so thick in explicit language and hostile gestures the irony is that none of the tracks could work as singles without heavy attention and alteration.

The CD version comes with the addition of the “Method Man (Skunk Mix)” which ultimately isn’t too far removed from the original track now coming with added electronics and a bigger bass thump.  Essentially it offers nothing other than a workout for your speakers.

For me there always felt something genuinely frightening about the Wu-Tang Clan.  Their existence transcended the east coast west coast thing going on at the time.  Whereas those acts appeared to be jockeying for turf that had become corporate and commercialised, the menace of the Wu just felt bedded more in reality.  A word commonly used to describe their brand was gutter which was identity the unit chasers pursuing the mainstream and riches were keen to avoid.

Not many rap records hold the presence of this.

Thesaurus moment: mob.