Sunday, 21 December 2008



The Folk Implosion was a much underrated side project.  In some ways it can be seen as Lou Barlow’s Style Council, which would make Sebadoh his version of The Jam while God only knows what Weller’s version of Dinosaur Jr is.  And I don’t think that is too radical an opinion to hold being that both spin off bands still hold great songs akin to those of the main going concern, its just they now come laced and greased with a nice range of extras.

This is the second Folk Implosion album.  Released in 1997 it came post the notoriety that came with their contribution to the Kids soundtrack and just as the world was catching up with haunting scream of Slint, Folk Implosion seemed to suddenly drop that element in an effort to keep to their own agenda.  That said “Insinuation” maintains that type of measure in authoritative fashion still scaling former heights.

Dare To Be Surprised is perhaps one of the last great pop albums from the post-grunge era of US indie rock.  Balancing both the sonics and songwriting it’s a big achievement.

There is a cute urgency from the off as Barlow chisels a speedy vocal onto “Pole Position” before a tasty series of guitar noodles over a basic drum beat immediately adds an exciting pace to proceedings couple with a killer hook and chorus.

From here the record takes things at it’s own pace bubbling and percolating along in an angular motion.  And Barlow’s voice is perfect for such atmospherics as the wonderful drifts off in fantastic directions.

Dare To Be Surprised offers a satisfying amount of variety.  With “Checking In” the act is downright trip hop and mellow seriously channelling Barlow’s tender side while delivering a bassline that feels like being in the desert.  Nice rhyming scheme too, smooth.

Unsurprisingly a number of tracks do sound like Sebadoh including “That’s The Trick” which arrives with guitars that sound like moving furniture followed by a big of a shout to emphasise the chorus.  Then “Ball & Chain” serves up much the same offering in a grand, slow tempo pop song with a killer hook that would not have been out of place on Harmacy.

“Burning Paper” arrives as another sweet and tender expression of yearning similar to “Checking In” and then in typical lo-fi fashion the band promptly includes “(Blank Paper)” which sounds like an early instrumental demo working of the track.  Now that’s pretty slack.

Something that is noticeable is the manner in which the vocals/lyrics are delivered.  On tracks such as “Cold Night”, “Fall Into November” and “Barricade” they are almost nursery rhyme, even occasionally cheesy.  There is real sprite to this apparent found freedom.

The record closes with “River Devotion” which really does sound like the type of song you might hear during the closing credits or montage of an upbeat movie.  Ordinarily I might suggest that be a bad things but not this time.

This is a genuinely understated masterpiece worthy of rediscovery the next time you need some soul.

Thesaurus moment: score.

Sunday, 14 December 2008



As a Bukowski scribed sample of Mickey Rourke drawling in Barfly opens “Nothing No More” it captures one of my all time favourite quotes about people – “I just seem to feel better without them around.” The astute use of this statements add a whole new level to the pummelling assault that is Extreme Noise Terror revealing depths that are not distinguishable on the surface. These samples are littered all the way through the course of this album.

Peel approved and endorsed, ENT have always lingered on the fringes of greatness as much as they linger on the fringes of society. Perhaps best known for their association with KLF and attack on the Brit Awards in 1992 (particularly upsetting Trevor Horn in the process) ENT are owned by the metal crowd which begs and probably answers the question as to why this band does not appeal to a Melt Banana either. Despite the two bands’ output not being wholly different, the reality is the uniform is just wrong.

Over the course of nineteen tracks ENT do what they are best at: pummelling the senses and spitting out crazy instructions in the least vocally coherent fashion known to man. To say to this is a real rush is a ridiculous understatement as on the right day in the correct frame of mind this is as exhilarating as music gets.

Hailing from Ipswich, home of the prostitute murderer and quite frankly the cheesiest football club in the country, that kind of rural home vibe rubs off in the outback goofiness of this record compared to these times. This ain’t what the cool kids are listening to but when was a track called “Rat Hell”?

The day I purchased this CD I bought it with view to impressing a Chinese lady I was meeting for the first off the back of her Gumtree. As I stood outside Karen Millen at Covent Garden awaiting her arrival I patted this CD in my pocket and pondered “this will serve me well all right.” Forty minutes later after she had failed to turn up my arse was out of joint, which is pretty much the sensation you are left with coming away from this record. She turned up in the end, which like ENT, is better late than never.

Thesaurus moment: devastation.

Extreme Noise Terror
Extreme Noise Terror live
Osmose Productions
Power It Up

Saturday, 13 December 2008



In many ways Kool Thing was the first Sonic Youth swing at scratching the mainstream.  Now on a major label their music gained real push.  And the results were infinitely worthy.

Kool Thing is an exhilarating and pulsating jaunt.  It is also quite droll and surface sarcastic as the band exhibits an immediate knowing on arrival at the big stage, the show.

This is a Kim song with a message (as most of hers tend to be).  It came from an interview she conducted with LL Cool J for Spin magazine in which the pair clashed.  Going into the interview supposedly she was a fan but then it transpired they had nothing in common personally or professionally.  She liked The Stooges and he liked Bon Jovi.  She was a boy, he was a girl.  Then we really went did it by stating “the guy has to have control over his woman”.  Basically she could only conclude that the New York rock and rap scenes “might as well exist on different planets.”  Enter Chuck D to make amends who just happened to be at Greene Street studio when required.

The guitars are positively tethered.  In other words just as they begin flying, a jarring tug on the strings is made creating a crunching response from the guitar akin to a screaming animal.  This is what makes the Sonic Youth sound so inventive and uncomfortable.

With genuine bounce the song is actually pretty breezy considering the aggression attached to the lyrics and meaning.  And when Chuck D drops in with a few wise words heard by an indie audience he might as well have been Louis Farrakhan.  The conversation sculpted between them during Kim’s spoken section is equal part awesome equal part cringe.  That said her closing spoken declaration of “when you’re a star, I know you will fix anything” is exceptionally sarcastic.

And with that the song flies to an amazing climax.  This is four minutes of near perfection.

In addition to the video featuring a purring Gordon looking alluring while playing with a cat (as opposed with her original designs on dressing like a tooled up Black Panther), the song both gained and lent real cred appearing in Simple Men by Hal Hartley.  Arriving at the one hour, four minute and forty eight second mark a frustrating Martin Donovan emerges from his pick up kicking his baseball cap screaming “I can’t stand the quiet!”  This leads to an internal shot of a bar where first Elina Lowensohn dances ferociously to the track as she is slowly joined by Bill Sage and Donovan followed by Karen Sillas and Robert Burke as at that exact moment the coolest people on earth danced undisrupted onscreen.  Then one fast cut later the same characters sit discussing Madonna exploiting her sexuality in an exchange not necessarily essential to the plot.  This was it, as good as things got in a superior era.

Remaining loyal to New York the band covers “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” by the Neon Boys on the b-side as they rev up early music and words from Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell.

Thesaurus moment: imperturbable.

Thursday, 11 December 2008



Cracks In The Sidewalk was a six band six song twelve inch compilation put out by New Alliance for its first release in 1980.  New Alliance was the label set up in California by Mike Watt and D. Boon from the Minutemen with their friend Martin Tamburovich much fuelled by the DIY ethos of neighbours SST Records.  Indeed this selection features a number of acts that either had or would have records released on the label as well as featuring artwork by Raymond Pettibon, Greg Ginn’s brother.

Similar to another New Alliance compilation Chunks, this record is best known for being the home to “Clocked In” by Black Flag which for years was a staple in their set and indeed what Henry Rollins recollects as being the first song he sang with the band.

Cracks In The Sidewalk appropriately opens with the Minutemen being the first band to appear on the label’s first release (it being their label after all).  “9.30 May 2” is the expected exciting clash of Captain Beefheart construct and Wire efficiency.  Barely longer than a minute D. Boon gets in some solid yells as it all bubbles along nicely eventually asking the question: “what does America mean to you?” to the response “America means everything to me”.  This is not them speaking with their own voices.

With that follows the aforementioned “Clocked In” before Saccharine Trust drops in with “Hearts And Barbarians” which houses a heavy bassline sounding like an Australian/mockney version of the Dead Kennedys exhibiting concerns about the end of the world.  The literal take on lyrics is refreshing and wonderfully verbal.

The second side begins with the warped stylings of Kindled Imagination who offer a minute of rattles and childish gestures with “Cowboy & Indian Scene”.  It’s a very frustrating sound.

Things remain warped with Artless Entanglements offering some kind of No Wave free jazz in the form of the horror show that is “How’s The Blood Taste?”  It is very much the sound of somebody out of their mind attempting to assault while barely being able to insult you.  The screams are audible but the aggression unmeasured and unlikely to be assumed.

Sharp Corners close the compilation with an equally free jazz feel exhibiting a lightweight take on James Chance serving to infuriate anyone not in on the joke.  Horns are played like birthday treats.  It’s a broken scene.

I love this record.

Thesaurus moment: pavement.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008



If you have ever laughed at a Derek And Clive record/routine you will have acknowledged just how funny and satisfying swearing and being crass can be. In times of such hellacious judgement and subtle political correctness squashing almost every form of art containing an element of edgy humour or anything that challenges the status quo, you just need to blow off steam and go all out to offend with view to weeding out.

When Bob Weston pointed out at ATP that the audience resembled an “indie rock Taliban” he was very much onto something, he was also probably wondering to himself “what are they hiding?” I sense your average guitar wielding may frown upon and fail to see the humour in such infantile musical exploits.

For a release to contain a “libel-free radio edit” this is generally a sign of good things in the bad taste stakes, an indication and suggestion of a person taking lyrical risks being playful in delivery.

Very rarely these days do you encounter releases that are enjoyable and challenging, that are genuinely likely to cause offence and sting with a true cavalier approach and attitude of being so carefree and callous? Ultimately Kunt (and Little Kunt) is only saying what we are thinking but delivering it with skill in a manner the majority of us could only dream of. This is visionary poetry.

Thesaurus moment: indelicate.

Kunt And The Gang

Tuesday, 2 December 2008



Succeeding where, say, Erase Errata failed, Mika Miko plunder through a barrage of Raincoats and Slits influenced sounds with the greatest of success able to achieve some kind of coherence that can so/too often alienate the listener from such base expressionate recordings.

As Mika Miko are fully aware, the introduction of saxophones into a punk song is a guaranteed short cut to post-punk cred and so as a result what we have here on number three of the latest edition of the Sub Pop Singles Club is a very deliberate and concise statement of affairs and nod to being a going concern.

In a climate where Magik Markers are able to get away with murder, here is what I would class a band that is a mid point between The Shaggs and Magik Markers, a comparison that would likely not be received very positively but said/stated with no insult intended. Hey, I could have said they remind me slightly of the band from Gene Simmons Rock School TV show.

By the time you reach the Black Flag cover on the flipside they have rendered the song unrecognisable causing me to question if it is even a cover at all. This is primal.

Thesaurus moment: instinct.

Mika Miko
Sub Pop

Monday, 1 December 2008



The Unnatural Helpers are a beautiful breed of hardcore influenced and garage band knowing rock stars. This flippant seven inch of four tracks is the second release of Sub Pop’s latest singles club which is already paying out dividends.

Reminding me of Some Velvet Sidewalk, this loose and dirty piece of punk exhibits how Sub Pop have always been able to continue to churn out with reckless abandon exciting punk bands that are one step above, having dined early on the fuzzy cheeks of Mudhoney and learned how to use their instruments in a manner that not only stings but it stabs as well.

Of the four tracks, all of which fail to break the two minute mark, “Connecting” (the shortest of them) is a prime slab of punk marching with the almost Mark Arm-esqe vocals leading the line, punch and piercing as the large hooks loom heavy, punching like a starving boxer fighting for a cheeseburger.

At a time when our lifestyles have caused every single second to have increased in value it is somewhat gratifying to have an act operating at a level of such efficiency.

I’d buy that for a dollar.

Thesaurus moment: economic.

Unnatural Helpers
Sub Pop