Wednesday, 27 August 2008


With a landscape of already so many live bootleg CDs the sad event of Kurt Cobain committing suicide suddenly sent fans into frenzy foraging for more product than ever. With both a live video and MTV Unplugged album released, eventually at the end of summer 1996 this seventeen track live compilation was culled together by the remaining members of the band with a fresh set of footnotes from Krist Novoselic.
It begins with an intro of the band soundchecking. Even their soundchecks were fucking awesome it would seem. Truly this is a funny state of affairs but also in many ways it does reflect them band’s appeal at its most visceral.
From here the album tears into a swirling version of “School” that does not disappointment as it wonderfully hangs in the air prior to crashing through in joyfully incendiary manner. The track is culled from a November 1991 performance recorded at the Paradiso in Amsterdam which supplies four of the tracks present on this album. This set was actually released in its apparent entirety on a bootleg entitled On Stage In Europe.
The running order of the compilation actually proves pretty close to the setlist sequence of the band at the height of hype and mania. Early run outs of “Drain You” and “Aneurysm” run pretty much in the position they would have on any given night proving powerful and zippy introductions to the band and their wares. Both always proved particularly powerful in a live setting when compared to their studio equivalent. These songs always packed ten times the punch of anyone around them.
Obviously “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is present and during its opening the audience can be heard screaming. Its not quite the “In Bloom” video but it is screaming all the same, something record labels would have to pay millions to create with the only difference being that this is genuine and honest, true and fair that later again returns during a quiet moment on the second verse. This was a song that the band would come to eventually despise and subsequently ruin live on purpose but the performance here is the band firing on all cylinders and delivering a devastating blow.
Elsewhere the record delivers “Lithium”, “Heart-Shaped Box” and “Sliver” as a supply of career covering inclusion of singles. Indeed “Heart-Shaped Box” proves another track that inducing screams from the crowd.
Then Kurt drawls his way through “Spank Thru” before succumbing to the reality that it takes more than his messing around to ruin such a decent tune.
Unsurprisingly it is the version of “Scentless Apprentice” that provides the hardest hitting moment as the power chords benefited from the extra live guitar via Pat Smear as the Zeppelin “Immigrant Song” like drums pound the track into another dimension. This version is the one from the MTV New Years Eve broadcast in 1993 recorded in Seattle which remains one of the greatest video recordings of the band. Then two tracks later “Milk It” dishes out a similar set of dynamics as Kurt sports more silly vocals on the verses before christening the chorus.
The version of “Negative Creep” present here is towering artefact that displays how the new band dealt with and often improved the older material as they came into their own with lashings of reluctant fame and popularity.
Not quite the “(New Wave) Polly” as featured on Incesticide, the live version of “Polly” present here is a chugging and natural continuation of the track dragging it into the fully amplified live setting. With the additional noise comes increased volume in Kurt’s vocals as the song retains meaning now geared with more anger.
Storming to the finish a relentless take on “Breed” tears through prior to their famous debut of “Tourettes” at Reading 92 where jokingly they introduced the song as “The Eagle Has Landed”. Just like “Freebird” only without the flab and rednecks.
The record closes in much the same manner as many sets of the period with “Blew” as a voice rings “thank you for your patience” and the song serves as something of a farewell wave to the crowd as the guitars whistle in a panicked fashion as their eventual demise would appear nigh. For some reason the song just sounds like the closing theme tune now with hindsight. And with that, it is over.
An additional bonus is to be found on the fourth side of the double vinyl LP version of this record where various gig outtakes and stage banter play out that serve to make the band sound catty as they dealt with the various elements of a baying and occasionally hostile crowd/audience. Not a moment that has garnered major fanfare for the band but definitely worth a listen.
I fucked up and never saw Nirvana live. We were going to go to the Brixton Academy shows in early 1994 with Sebadoh and The Raincoats supporting but for obvious reasons they didn’t go ahead and forever I had missed out. I once saw Nearvana and despite being bricklayers by profession their set was great. These are songs that are almost impossible to wreck or ruin.
Not many of my CDs have cracks in their cases from overuse but this is one such example.
Thesaurus moment: sturdy.

Sunday, 24 August 2008



One of the strongest electronic beep records you will ever hear, the new record from Elite Barbarian achieves a certain kind of ambience ordinarily/usually harboured by the most strung out and sensitive of electronic acts without using such barbed sonics.

Tickling like the insides of a ZX Spectrum and playing out like the soundtrack of several Atari 2600 games; over the course of 58 minutes the album takes the listener on a journey of unexplored confines electronic beats/beeps often coupled with crazed sick piano licks.

The author of the album is Ben Page who as a member of both Rothko and Rocket No.9 is a seasoned and accomplished composer of modern ambient extracts often emerging from improvisation and instinctive desires and trajectories.

The real strength of this record is the manner in which it achieves being both relentless and relaxed at the same time, tempered and tenacious in its brute meditation. As the atmospherics grow so does the intensity as sonic layers reminiscent of raindrops, pulses and bubbling machinery scour your consciousness almost feeling transient as it interrupts the flow of your immediate activities.

Listened to as a whole the album merges into one great body of work not strictly to be swallowed whole but to accompany any mindset or duty that requires a holding hand to assist concentration and clarity.

By the time it reaches the 16 minute climax “Let’s Go Back To Morse Code” you sense you are coming to the end of being subjected to some kind of subliminal intake and that it is actually quite possible that the beeps could well be pieced together Joe Bonham style to forge together some kind of alien message. You’re unlikely to hear this record at parties, only funerals.

Thesaurus moment: static.

Elite Barbarian
Front And Follow

Thursday, 21 August 2008



Females are difficult people.  You cannot predict them, it seems impossible to please them and it takes a really schooled mind to persuade them.  And this is the cold truth being addressed with “Jealous Again”.

The second Black Flag EP (third SST Records release) is another four blast of energy and fury.  It pretty much picks up where Nervous Breakdown left off with the main change now being Ron Reyes handling vocals instead of Keith Morris, not that their styles are million miles off from the other.

“What can I do without being yelled at?”

“Jealous Again” accelerates with an immediate visceral lurch.  The conversation occurring is the accused turning into the accuser.  It’s a common narrative, the kind of argument that takes place weekly, occasionally daily, within certain pair dynamics.  Here is the sound of stifled freedom coupled with jealous wife syndrome in full execution.  By the time Ginn is soloing two thirds of the way in it all feels headed towards some kind of resignation that this is just how it is going to be.

“It’s not my imagination, I’ve got a gun in my back.”

Up next is the barely minute long “Revenge” exhibiting hard reality crossed with wish fulfilment in dealing with the authorities standing in the band’s way and busting up their shows.  Gangsta rap was seldom so concise, precise and brutal in dealing with the cops.

“You’re an American.”

“White Minority” is quite the song.  I guess from one stance/perspective it could be taken as their version of “White Man In Hammersmith” but equally in a very brutal and dangerous way it sounds just about as right wing as a song could get.  Of course its not what it appears to be on the surface.  A band such as this could only ever be in a position to apply pressure upwards.

“I don’t care what you think.”

Increasing the aggression the heavily dismissive “No Values” offers the listener pure nihilistic representation, giving a set of lines and set of rules to spit in the face of their supposed oppressors.

“We know you stole our song.”

The extended play ends with “You Bet We’ve Got Something Against You!”  This is a harsh instruction, a threat condensed into fifty two seconds.  It is slow, plodding and pounding.  In short it sounds like being punched in the head.  Fortunately it is the band and the listener that is doing the swinging.  With vocals now delivered by Chuck Dukowski there seems an extra rub attached to the ceiling.

This is the sound of being nagged at by those near and far.  Relations and society will always have opinions to throw at you.  Don’t take them on board.

Thesaurus moment: nark.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008



I bought this mid price album one day with the last few coins in my pocket.  It was a used copy from Time Records in Colchester and thus I was able to afford it.  And as a result I had to forgive and forget the creased booklet.

When I discovered real music I must concede much of my education came from MTV, which back in the early 90s actually played videos that actually featured real people playing real instruments and making real music.  The flagship show was always 120 Minutes and for a young newbie it representing a world that was terrifying.  The acts were scary and so were the people that liked it.  At the time grunge was breaking and thus this music was somewhat more salient to the audience than any other era past or present.  And during the daily advertisement for the weekly edition of 120 Minutes Babes In Toyland would feature singing “He’s My Thing” being somewhat representative of Riot Grrrl and revolution.  I heard that clip of the song for what felt a million times.  I was hooked.

“He’s My Thing” is the lead track on this mini album cum live album.  Following hot on the heels of the successful Fontanelle it is five studio tracks followed by an eleven song live set recorded at CBGBs in New York in April 1992 entitled Fontanellette which I suspect may have been from where the live footage of the “Bruise Violet” video was taken from.  And “He’s My Thing” is quite the relation to “Bruise Violet”, very similar in execution and a proper punk onslaught from the band.

All in all this is a release that doesn’t make much sense coming so close to the release of Fontanelle.  Was it belief that the band was so hot at that moment there was a decent buck to be made?  Was the material considered THAT good it would be wrong not to release it?  Or was it some kind of get out of contract act/obligation?

Moving on with the studio efforts “Laredo” contains a literary reference in the form of a nod to Tra La La from Last Exit To Brooklyn while “Istigkeit” serves as something of a trademark angry Bjelland lullaby that inevitably speeds towards oblivion.  And with that “Ragweed” featuring Lori on vocals is lumbering involving some kind of avant garde break for declaration while “Angel Hair” offers escape in a trademark Babes In Toyland vehicle which sits comfortable with everything else they do.  This is their sound.

And on the subject of sound the live recording is very good, very solid.  CBGBs always had a good recording system in place and I know other bands that recorded live albums there.

Kicking off with “Bruise Violet” (obviously) here is a band that sounds like their record suggesting that either Fontanelle managed to capture this live sound or that they were a dull live act.  I prefer to think the former.

From here Bjelland screams and gurns her way through proceedings as Lori thumps away as both elements perhaps serve to dilute the might of the guitar offering something of a subtly more whimsical take on proceedings.

By the time the band is playing “Magick Flute” they have royally warmed up and as the echoed trauma of “Real Eyes” fills the venue it offers an uneasy sensation.  Then in the aftermath Lori adds a disturbing drunk mantra which I still remember clearly from the night I saw them in Colchester.

Soon they are lashing out with “Spun” before it all ends with an uncompromising pairing of “Mother” and “Handsome & Gretel”, two songs that truly define the band.

It’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live here.

Thesaurus moment: dessert.

Monday, 18 August 2008



After the raging success of Reservoir Dogs, Quentin Tarantino was the coolest being on earth.  His first movie was so explicit and challenging that you couldn’t even see it on video so for my generation you either had to lie about your age and sneak into the cinema or get somebody to obtain a pirate video for you (at the time there were some pretty decent copies being copied off laserdisc).  And with all the hype still hanging into the air, prolonged by the floodgates of US independent movie being smashed open, suddenly his second movie was about to drop.  Then a barely completed version of the film won big in Cannes and suddenly it was huge all over.

As with his first movie, music was key to Tarantino’s second film.  Dramatic moments were punctuated by the songs surrounding it.  And once more it wasn’t a traditional film score, it was pop songs from a different era coupled with obscure and amazing gems.  In selection you sensed these choices were often as important to a scene as the lines.  For such effort Tarantino truly earned/deserved his executive album producer credit.

In an interview attached to a special edition of the soundtrack he states that the music for a script/film is one of his earliest considerations when sitting down and beginning the creative process.  He states that the music “triggers me into the personality of the piece” giving it a rhythm.  It is also during this interview that he reveals that he originally wanted to use “My Sharona” by The Knack for the sodomy scene.

There is something of a surf rock vibe attached to the happenings on screen.  The sweeping cool of a laidback guitar being restrained perfectly fits into climate.  Serving up such sounds were unsung classic acts such as The Tornadoes, The Centurions, The Revels, The Lively Ones and Dick Dale.

When the record dropped the world suddenly discovered the dizzying screaming charge of “Misirlou” by Dick Dale.  As the song kicked off the movie, kicks off this album, for a short while it represented the most exciting and driven thing in music.  Without warning the track was appearing everywhere: on television advertisements, backing montages and storming from stereos that general would never touch music such as this.  And Dick Dale was good value for it.  As reward for his efforts his career receive a huge shot in the arm with the most hedonistic example being his appearance on Later With Jools Holland being surrounded by a crescent of monitors and amps.  Around that time he also made a great appearance on the old night time Mark and Lard show on Radio One where he pretty much claimed to have invented all rock music ever and taught Jimi Hendrix everything he knew.  This man alone could have had his own movie.

More in tune with Tarantino’s previous soundtrack Kool And The Gang soon arrive with “Jungle Boogie” which is a painfully fun track that accompanies a painful period.  With that things remain smooth as “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green enters the fray as it becomes evident that this time round he was playing with a bigger budget when it came to the music.  There’s not much more you can add in description of these two songs, they were already perfect without the hip context.

Another enormous track arrives in the form of “Son Of A Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield.  Even in such seedy zones as the underworld loving tracks like this still come through.

The use and juxtaposition of “You Can Never Tell” by Chuck Berry is genius.  If you listen to the words accompanied with what is occurring onscreen, it is just strange.  The song itself is gorgeous, a wonderful/wondrous description of a wedding coming with the blessing of the elders at a time when such play is inappropriate.

And on that note another big scene occurs with the Urge Overkill cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” playing a bit part in scoring the moment.  In the era of alternative rock this was as close as Tarantino got to grunge rocking out to a lush take on a favourite song.

One of the most startling tracks on the album is the Maria McKee “If Love Is A Dress (Hang Me In Rags)”.  After hit the upper ends of the charts with her commercial abortion “Show Me Heaven” from Days Of Thunder (ironic coming from a Tom Cruise movie considering Tarantino’s interpretation of Top Gun in Sleep With Me).  This track however is quite a different kettle of fish, it’s a song that seeps with sadness.

As with the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack things go goofy towards the end and the hillbilly singalong of “Flowers On The Wall” by The Statler Brothers which sounds like a song straight from Hazzard County or Smokey And The Bandit with the picking banjo sound.  As Butch takes strength from the song using it to score an attempt to maim things suddenly become slightly more serious when you discover the act was the backing vocal group for Johnny Cash.

Littered throughout the album is an abundance of dialogue tracks from the movie.  These were some of the most popular tracks on the Reservoir Dogs record and the inclusion of these moments were now what set soundtrack albums aside from other compilations.  These soundbites serve as incentive.  It was always very cool to have Samuel L. Jackson screaming verse from your stereo.  It was the hipster equivalent of finding God.  And a most explosive manner to close the album on.

As with the movie this album was just cool, much larger than the sum of its parts.  What a time to be alive.

I think I was given this CD as Christmas present.

Thesaurus moment: modish.

Sunday, 17 August 2008



There was something about the Folk Implosion that made them seem like astronauts when this song made them “big”.  Shitty astronauts but astronauts all the same.  The music video was truly weird, the pair looked barely awake, unimpressed by the fact that people suddenly liked them.  Were these the grown up version of the kids from the movie of the same name?

It opens with oscillation followed by a snare sound clear as day before a bugging bass line steps in and never relents.  This could almost be a hip hop song.  Then Barlow drops in with his slack declaration as eventually Slint-esqe chimes serve to haunt to show.

And indeed I was something of a misfit, borderline space cadet when this single dropped.  The hollow alienation and unrequited rebellion suggested by the vocals in such a laidback lazy manner were really appealing.  This was the Grand Royal era and to be cool you just had to reference the right things.  You needed no end product, just to know where the good stuff was at.

Keeping with such unpredictable mentality the band follows with “Cabride”, a weird piece of micro jazz that expertly offers one soundscape from a certain corner on a summer day.  It exudes movement both physically and mentally.  Even with the pace switch it offers thump.

Resuming some kind of white geek lo-fi hip hop vibe the charging mantra of “Nothing Gonna Stop” offers a pulsing retort to the cynicism and sarcasm of the lead track.  It exists to make you move, to tap into what youthful energy remains attached to your being (which for me appears to be diminishing by the week).

Final track here is “Simean Groove” which is another trip hop type offering that replaces vocals with the sounds of wolves howling seemingly hungry and on the prowl.  As the music rolls in a straight line it is simple and very effective, the sound of an evil deflowering.  It’s a prelude to assault.

There is a time and place.

Thesaurus moment: bodeful.

Saturday, 16 August 2008



Surprisingly menacingly sounding, this is Pavement in superior mode.  Maybe Malkmus was angry in its construction, angry like me as I buy this CD on eBay for pounds only to discover one of those unmoveable Cash Converters stickers on the back of the case with permanent marker attempting to disguise the fact that the disc was for sale (sold) for 10p.

“Brick Wall”.

Released on 25 November 1992 in between Slanted And Enchanted and Crooked Rain Crooked Rain it marked the on record debuts of both Bob Nastanovich and Mark Ibold (Spiral Stairs had previously played bass on S&E).

“Sick Profile”.

It arrives and expansive and shaking.  “Texas Never Whispers” initially resembles the sound of an alien invasion with broken streams of distortion and noise until the song looms into a menacing strobe.  Without missing a beat Malkmus reels off a shopping list of pointy observations and relations until the band and music finally catches up and repetition kicks in.  There is a warm hum to such nastiness.

The drift persists with “Frontwards” and what initially appears a pleasant drive before resorting back to a slow, bodeful approach.  It has a hook in defeat.

“Annual Report”.

“Lions (Linden)” opens with a plink then a plonk as a roaming baseline steers a jagged bout of guitar noodling as Malkmus meanders with his wording.  Both bent and linear.  Its Trumans Water territory.

Closing on a happy note the misleadingly titled “Shoot The Singer (1 Sick Verse)” is a mellow outro, a calm jaunt that exudes a placid weariness.  There are riddles in these scribbles.  It closes on the mantra “don’t expect, don’t expect”.

Further enhancing their fractured demeanour the rooster “Jim” artwork is actually a defaced cover of the self titled album by a lost band called Ambergris and not Old MacDonald’s Farm as vaguely stated.

Thesaurus moment: fortify.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008



One of the greatest moments on Larry Sanders was the visit of the Wu-Tang Clan to the show and Hank Kingsley approaching them asking “hey, where’s Dirty Old Bitch” after having already commented to his assistant played by Scott Thompson: “my god, they look like carjackers”.  It made for a very strong argument against white people listening to rap.

Russell Jones was the wild man of the Wu-Tang Clan.  And The Dirty Version opens in appropriate fashion like a crazy fool fronting a slum opera.  Its all about the introduction, about the perception and persona.  This man had a reputation to live up to and the pressure was on not to disappoint.

This is the second solo album to come from a Wu-Tang member following Enter The Wu-Tang and often like the man it is quite mess, ramshackle and incoherent.  It helps the record that RZA was on board to produce and direct most of it but there is a definite/certain haze attached to proceedings.  The crazed style of ODB was always going to be difficult to hardness.

The record hits hard early on with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Brooklyn Zoo” which are two very solid hot hits with superior structure and exceptional arrangement.  Certain sections could consider the former somewhat misogynist but do these people expect from hip hop?  He likes it raw and he is not embarrassed to admit it.  And maybe he should?

“Brooklyn Zoo” is an altogether more swank proposition with a party vibe and emphatic bounce.  This is the sound of riding a dragon but being in control.


You sense at times this record required a bit of hand holding.  Making appearances are six of his fellow Wu members in addition to a whole host of female voices airing a full range of emotions from playful and satisfied to utterly horrified and enraged (as on the aural war zone that closes “Goin’ Down” which occurs surreally wrapped around “Over The Rainbow” from the Wizard Of Oz).

Ol’ Dirty Bastard was an original.  You see and feel his influence in crazed southern acts of this era who he in effect laid the tracks for, albeit in a less disgusting manner.  Still here was a man not above critique holding lyrics that could just as easily be described as “disgusting” as well as “street poetry” while at other times he was just on a rant.

When dealing with these songs you need to bear in mind that this was a man arrested for wearing a bulletproof vest.  This persona is not strictly an act, more an exaggerated version of a very big personality.

Considered by many most exciting when “drunk as hell” he held a stand out cadence that at times was borderline scat and very much an instrument in itself.  In the words of those around him he was just “not himself when sober”.  This after all is a record with a track entitled “Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie)”.  Quite frankly what we had here just may have been the hip-hop Shane MacGowan.  If there was one member of the group that was loved, it was Ol’ Dirty.

At this point in proceedings the CD I was listening to has just died, skipped on track 13 which is “Brooklyn Zoo II (Tiger Crane)”.  It all feels appropriate; the record has reached some kind of intoxicated haze as my mind wandered to dirty climates and rotten times.  The spirit of Ol’ Dirty Bastard just crashed its way into this review seemingly with an instruction of “pay attention or fuck off”.

And now with that the disc just started back up as if haunted.  Bizarre.

Then it ends with some slick interplay with RZA on “Cuttin Headz” and one of the most disciplined workouts on the album.  He could be harnessed but only when necessary and good.

This is a scatological record, by no means generic or cohesive.  Often experimental in execution with his wayward and slanted approach there is almost accidental innovation here, a party approach that was not necessarily present in the rest of the Wu universe.  If nothing else he offered light relief.

At worst it wastes your time but at best it blows your mind.

Thesaurus moment: paradigm.