Wednesday, 29 April 2009



With her backing band The Shapes the debut album from Micachu is a wretched mess of ideas and systematic hooks that sound autistic and extrovert.

Not very easy on the ear on first listen the fifteen tracks on display here display a sense of adventure not so common in modern (accepted) music and in many ways actually reminds me of those wonky early Pavement EPs that could often be rendered into nothing more than glorious noise. Rather than hulking lo-fi guitars here Micachu exhibits a more eclectic arsenal of instruments in reckless abandon (many homemade and very unorthodox) suggesting a personal leaning and preference towards Beck and a poison combination of whitey folk hip hop.

In her voice Micachu displays something of a hybrid of Kimya Dawson and a drunken teenage Polly Harvey (especially on “Guts”) as the music drips in Bjork weirdness but in a favourably M.I.A. crossed with Captain Beefheart influenced manner. That is not forgetting the Raincoat-esqe tone of sarcasm.

Produced by Matthew Herbert the rhythms hold surprisingly well considering what they are manufactured by as something of a paper thin version of legendary musical strangeness, sounding like a true outsider even if she is not necessarily one. That said, the times the songs fall on their arse they do come with something of a passing resemblance to The Shaggs in delivery and mentality.

You can tell the young Micachu has listened to music all her life as she rips off the intro to The Champs “Tequila” on “Calculator” probably without even realising it.

The highlight of the piece is “Worst Bastard” with its genuine pop hooks and tasty sentiments that provide real attitude and a flow that energises.

Ultimately the results are mixed as songs begin to lose hooks in preference to extensive meandering and exploration making the album something of a patience tester but equally unique in execution and definitely something to search out in the name of adventure.

You may hate me for “recommending” this record.

Thesaurus moment: intrepid.

Accidental Records
Rough Trade

Tuesday, 28 April 2009



There is so much pleasure to be taken from this year’s Morrissey model and the empowering confidence that is exuding there from. This is Morrissey in a defiant mood, indulging in ageing disgracefully and looking to offend with it.

With a sleeve that features Morrissey draped around a statue of Johnny Ramone, there is a punkish ferocity to proceedings that musically, dare I say, actually reminds me of early Fugazi. After only a few bars the track is already crisp and snapping with true bite, no surprise then that it was chosen as the opening track of on “Years Of Refusal”. This is something I cannot recall having heard from Morrissey’s band before. Why the sudden rise in tempo? Did something happen to his heart rate? Is this urgency real? Is he dying?

Once established as a more sprightly outing than usual the lyrics kick in as our man gets all defensive and accusatory opening with the greatest of lines in “I’m doing very well, I can block out the present and the bad now.” Take that disbelievers, within the first two lines of his new album he has told you to fuck off. He then ups the stakes with the inflammatory retort “I know that by now you think I should have straightened myself out but you drop dead.” These are fighting words. This is a man that will take you on and win. He should be running a pub in the East End and he knows it. I want to tap into his defiance. And fast.

“There is no love in modern life.”

At time when the musicians of this era seem to resemble old school boring politicians that people would vote in and keep their fingers cross for, this truly is a supreme being in this environment. This cuts to the bone with a poetry others can only dream of nearing.

Its great when heroes live up to their billing and reputation.

Thesaurus moment: heavyweight.


Monday, 27 April 2009



For a while now there has been something of a subtle buzz regarding this band and in reality it all seems something of an exercise of style over substance but a style such as this, compared to the current defining fare, I am very happy to find myself being suckered in and lapping it up like a kitten licking milk.

I always wanted to date a reformed goth, a lady with a dark demeanour but obviously one that would not be laughed at in the street by teenagers. My ideal goth lady would possess a finely tuned sense of humour in addition to a pretty good record collection including records by The Cure (the good ones and the bad ones). Now if you added to this equation the lady being Asian, chunky and with a killer fringe you have something and someone I could get very excited about. Suddenly you see how I (and not I alone) have been suckered in my An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump.

Musically there is a restrained, undistorted Jesus & Mary Chain feel to the band with primal Moe Tucker-esqe drum beats and patterns coupled with looping guitars and a tribal sounding delivery in both the vocals and lyrics that are goth in a Lydia Lunch kind of way, unashamedly taunting in content.

By the time we reach the cover version of “100%” by Sonic Youth a distinct No Wave tone appears to have found its way onto the b-side (named the “Inside” to the a-side’s “Outside”) followed by the most expressive song of this restrained release in “The Past Between Us”.

This band would have been a perfect goth band for 4AD in the eighties but now, I’m not so sure. Here’s hoping for good things however.

Thesaurus moment: mode.

An Experiment On A Bird In The Air Pump
Trouble Records

Sunday, 26 April 2009



Chunks was another New Alliance compilation, the third record put out by the label.  Featuring trademark Raymond Pettibon cover artwork and production by in-house producer Spot, the label was very much arm in arm with SST featuring a number of it acts in the line-up.  Released as an album but running at 45 rpm following on from Cracks In The Sidewalk it features twelve tracks by the great and the good, the eventual has-beens and never-weres.  It is most notable for being home to “Machine” by Black Flag which was a track that would eventually find its way home to SST on The First Four Years compilation.  Elsewhere of note are tracks by naturally the Minutemen, the Descendents, Saccharine Trust and the infamous Nig-Heist.

There is a large element of lifting the lid attached to this release.  It is fun to note that only two songs go past the two minute mark so the listener is not likely to get bored.  This is the first time I have heard of The Cheifs, Peer Group, Vox Pop, Slivers and Artless Entanglements and it is also quite possibly the last.  Lets investigate.

The record opens with “Global Probing” by the Descendents.  The early version of the band was somewhat more revved up than they eventually came to be known (which was the band Green Day lifted from heavily).  There is a rattle to their being and an uncomfortable chant come chorus time (“it’s all in vain, if you don’t stop, you’ll go insane”).  At this stage there was still much work to do.

Moving on the horribly spelled The Cheifs pleasingly deliver with the snotty “The Lonelys” which features a set of Germs/Darby like vocals coupled with a fizzy, loose drive not a million miles away from the sound of Ginn’s guitar.

San Pedro’s finest the Minutemen arrive and raise the bar with their offering “Clocks”.  On cue their track is nimble and compact, a forty one second punk funk instrumental work out.  The musicianship towers even if the song does not.

With that the aforementioned Black Flag work rant “Machine” screams on proceedings.  As per the band at the time it is more angst and declaration of defiance in the face of authority and the man.  “Machine” is a slow build, a rant that builds into a true swinging rage at an imagined manager.

The Stains present here I believe is the version that was fronted by Jesus Fixx.  Regardless their offering “Sick And Crazy” is a high octane punk plunder that revs and burns in ecstatic and effective fashion which races to the finish.

Peer Group represent something of a pleasant mystery existing as some kind of keen collision of Pere Ubu and the Minutemen right down to the vocals which sound very much like D. Boon.  Their song here “I Saw That Movie” is a bendy and angular.

The second side of the record opens with Vox Pop (featuring future members of The Germs and Angry Samoans) delivering a fizzy almost prototype Riot Grrrl blast with “You’re My Favourite”.  Its favouritism that comes with a catch.

Experimental oaf Ken promptly arrives on the scene with spacey noodling and near spoken word vocals in a Jim Carroll style.  “Purposeless Attitudes” swirls and disarms offering escapism through torture.

Picking up the pieces comes Slivers with an odd sloppy track entitled “Sport” that is driven by a stock saxophone piece accompanied by a stroppy Darby Crash-esqe vocalist delivering in nursery rhyme fashion in obtuse Fall fashion.  Beneath it all plays out a noise that can only be described as sounding like masturbating.  It’s messy.

The great Saccharine Trust gifts “A Christmas Cry” opening with the line “so this is Christmas” while being the antithesis of John Lennon.  This war will never be over.  The song exhibits the experimental, arty side of the band with its anti-rock jazz gesture and sound of things collapsing around them.  With its spoken word narrative here is another act that feels touched by Jim Carroll.  And then it all concludes with the declaration “give thanks because you have not yet felt the wrath of God”.

Stinking things up slightly, Artless Entanglements offer a joke country ditty in the form of “Dildos, Bondage And Toys”.  It’s silly and comes with the chorus of “lets get wet, make lots of noise”.  That might be a take.

It all ends with Mugger’s band The Nig-Heist.  This was a band described as “one of the most explicit and vile acts to exist”.  To be honest that is something of an overstatement/overestimation but the intention is there as nihilism rules with numerous gestures of “fuck the world, fuck you all”.  “The Nig-Heist” as a track is their calling card, their manner/method of introduction.  It’s a song about finding and apportioning blame.  It’s neither playful nor fun.

And with that twelve bands pass with twelve songs in absolutely no time.  If only more music was as short.

Thesaurus moment: apprehend.

Monday, 20 April 2009



I’m not actually sure that this was released as a single. Indeed the copy/version I have appears to be some kind of radio promo that I purchased on eBay for an amount not necessarily value for money. My woes then continue as I place the one track CD into my player and it is according to my mini stereo a blank CD. What are these people doing to me?

This is the lead track from The Eternal, which is the band’s first album on Matador now that they have been freed from their evil corporate contract with the devil of Geffen (who appeared to turn into Universal towards the end).

Clocking in at just over two minutes it is a relief to hear the band pulling together to stoke a coherent, relatively structured song that focuses on the ride rather than the mechanics involved. You always need to know where something originates from in order to enjoy it.

Ultimately Sacred Trickster proves a fruity and lively lead track with vocals from Kim that eventually become awash with glorious distortion gummed guitar. As she recounts moronic questioning along the lines of “what’s it like to be a girl in a band” it suggestions some form of frustration as the lyrics feel as cut up as ever with the agenda most definitely remaining music first and words second. And then there is still time and room for a big fuck off hook.

In a world where music is barely being released on physical formats now and singles are now all but in this the past despite the quality of this song you still would not be likely to hear it on the radio.

Thesaurus moment: muliebrity.

Sonic Youth

Saturday, 18 April 2009



It was thanks to Perry Farrell’s unique sounding vocal delivery that it was always possible to spot a Jane’s Addiction song from a mile off. After the waterfall like opening of Farrell falling down and delivering his announcement yell Dave Navarro takes over playing through the storm as if her were revving the largest engine fuelled with napalm.

Re-released to coincide with Record Store Day (and probably the song’s appearance on Guitar Hero 4) you always felt that the timing of Jane’s Addiction was just too early and after the huge contribution (and investment) that they made with Lollapalooza and the creation of the monster version of alternative rock that exploded with Nirvana, geographically the gods were not smiling on them as they missed out on the Seattle rush.

Lifted from “Nothing’s Shocking” I still swear today that the influence of this record is far more reaching than people remember, realise or acknowledge. At school I seldom made friends with people in the year above me but as I wore my favourite Mudhoney wrestler t-shirt the lank haired greaser in a Jane’s Addiction shirt in the year above always gave me the thumbs up and nod of approval.

Compared to their alternative rock counterparts Jane’s Addiction were pretty clean in comparison. Navarro’s playing is incredible and there is no doubting his talent or credentials as the guitar on this single is relentless and grandiose all at the same time, which with hindsight may have meant they were just too well polished to be cool from the indie standpoint of the alternative nation and then with Farrell’s vocals and general appearance they were just too weird for the metal crowd. As I said bad timing and bad positioning.

Thesaurus moment: midst.

Jane’s Addiction
Warner Records

Thursday, 16 April 2009



This is actually a much better song than initial plays would suggest. Held within the depths and layers of the experience is an intricate system of textures that subtly serves to expound on the strengths of each instrumentalist involved. I believe the official term for this record is that it is a “grower.”

“Zero” is the kind of indie song that stays around for years. On a good day the Yeah Yeah Yeahs seem to inhabit a space that delivers a sound that quite confidently rubs shoulders with the width of the New York sounding ranging from the pop of Blondie to the noise of Sonic Youth. Whether taking the best parts of both and creating something more cohesive and salient is good thing or a horribly derivative gesture is open to debate and would vary on what kind of listener to grill.

From my perspective initially I did not click with this song but subsequent repeated plays on daytime Radio One drummed the song into my consciousness as the subtle moments gradually turned into sledgehammer blows of noise pop with hooks that dug deep.

Possessing a very satisfying and pleasurable intro it gradually builds to something of an exhilarating resolution that glistens and pulses with orchestral somersaults as the band yet again finds its way towards producing something very unique and industrious.

Flipping over there is an Erol Alkan rework that sees the track injected with breezy bleeps and a bouncy sense of fun that makes things frenetic and displays the range of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs capabilities and how they have managed to broaden their horizons and sniff up against the mainstream. For the win.

Thesaurus moment: nadir.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Wednesday, 15 April 2009



Agoraphobic Nosebleed is one of those bands that most people in the UK would have heard of through their tracks being played by John Peel. That guy was amazing for pushing such slabs out of noise through the stereo, turning Radio One into something rebellious and truly anti parent. There is absolutely nothing about the station these days that even lingers near being so edgy.

This is the band’s fourth studio album and again it rides the line of more metal than hardcore being grindcore. For years the band has been infamous for its song titles and we are not let down here as such poetry as “Dick To Mouth Resuscitation”, “White On White Crime” and “Druggernaut Jug Fuck” makes the grade.

Unsurprisingly it is pummeling and relentless stuff that really requires a fine tuned and trained ear to truly appreciate the nuances of such a gnarly game and genre as ultimately the music is the kind more likely to generate annoyance and anger out of the majority (your parents, your neighbours) and enjoyment for the minority.

On face value this is an obnoxious racket but within the content there are several nods to current affairs and issues discussing a real curiosity and concern for the state of the world. In “Timelord One (Loneliness Of A Long Distance Drug Runner)” comes a subtle nod to an English Tom Courtney kitchen sink drama movie classic from the sixties while “First National Stem Cell And Clone” addresses that old chestnut and national sticky wicket. Now if only you could understand the lyrics without having to consult the booklet or look online.

Born in 1994 and hailing from Springfield, Massachusetts there is a kind of Simpsons vibe to their work, one of dark humour delivered with a sledgehammer blow providing the perfect soundtrack to wandering around a supermarket to.

I was agoraphobic when I was younger (but that’s a story for another time).

My neighbours are currently banging on the wall, time to turn this shit up.

Thesaurus moment: busted.

Agoraphobic Nosebleed
Relapse Records

Tuesday, 14 April 2009



A happy song for happy people. I’m not really sure where this is supposed to fit in with the everyday running of the world but as an ode to an individual on a summer day it could well serve as a spring to action for the dozen or so individuals that listen to this band and its music.

Vetiver are friends of Devendra Banhart, that annoying flash in the pan from a few years ago that acted as skag to the indie kids when dabbling in and sampling folk. For most this is not much of a recommendation.

I can’t really work out why this kind of music is popular with the indie masses. It is slow and uneventful (and for the most part unenlightened). I suspect in order to appreciate this record you need to be happy with your lot, accomplished or devoid of aspiration just happy to poodle along allowing your parents to pick up the cheque along the way and never feel any consequence for your actions. This is the aural equivalent of begging.

The name Vetiver is apparently derived from the grass (no, me neither), perhaps a gesture of the food stuffs the mooing mob audience is ingesting whilst listening to this music.

Hippy shit.

Thesaurus moment: vacant.

Bella Union

Monday, 13 April 2009



Coming in a beautifully package pink vinyl form Mark Sultan charges in like a swami with a true rock and roll gesture sounding a cross between Buddy Holly and Billy Childish. The spirit is strong in this one.

I’m not really sure as to why or how but this sound seems to be making something of a return in certain circles at the moment. As distinct as it is it is also disturbing.

Mark Sultan is a Canadian musician that has been playing in various garage bands for years under a whole range of different names. His most recent persona was the excellently named BBQ and with this release appears to be his latest regeneration Dr Who style.

The flipside features a ghostly Joe Meek number that eventually goes out of its way to destroy itself and cast a dark shadow over all that involved in the affair of playing and listening to this record. This is the bite of rattlesnake.

The wicked cover art, Luscious pink vinyl and the fact the release came on Sub Pop were ultimately the elements that saw this purchase and sadly not the musical content held within. Try again.

Thesaurus moment: bluff

Mark Sultan
Sub Pop

Tuesday, 7 April 2009



To sport a unique, individual frontman appears to be a rare treat and real talent these days.  In Eddie Argos, Art Brut have gold.

Art Brut is a band that it is easy to adore.  They’re lumbering and frenetic, poppy and punky and contain a sense of play that very few of their peers possess.  They’re cool but they’re also clowns.  They’re not dogged down with haircuts or the desire to impress.  The recollections contained within their material do not scream of victory, they reek of battle and moments won and lost.  And most important of all: they have a sense of humour.

The strength is in the lyrics.  There is nothing flouncy in what they say, what they do.  What Argos writes and sings about is real life.  He is not bogged down in metaphor, his couplets state gut instincts.  His lines get to the fucking point, there is a fine economy in his words and thus its easy to ingest and easy to relate.  For this he must be honoured, such output is rare treasure.

“Alcoholics Unanimous” is as messy as its name would suggest.  Drunken affairs are what fuel Friday nights and relationships at a certain point in your life, its unavoidable, inevitable and inescapable.  It’s not all bad, just mostly bad.

This is a band that takes its name from a definition used for outsider art.  Such mentality suggests a wide influence and array of fervour that may not necessarily appeal to a mainstream audience.  The best things in life are often the worst.

Thesaurus moment:

Monday, 6 April 2009



There is definitely something about The Hold Steady that appeals to my Guided By Voices sensibilities along with the idea and concept of rocking out while also being a reckless grown up in the process. The Hold Steady are the brand of rock that God himself designed in a message/effort to insert some excitement back into guitar music and listening to their records or watching them live the enthusiasm of their music genuinely transmits to the listener in the form of energy and excitement.

This seventeen track live album documents the culmination of the busiest and most successful period of the band’s existence. The CD comes coupled with an exuberant DVD documentary that serves well to portray the Hold Steady live experience as being one of the most thrilling and earnest live shows of the past few years.

The DVD opens with footage of their lost weekend in London a couple of Januarys ago and having been present myself at the Saturday night Borderline show I was able to witness first hand the ferociously positive manner in which the set was delivered and how drunken and sweaty their performance could be. Personally for me it represented one of those perfect Saturday nights where party seemed/felt plausible and optimism flew high.

Opening with “Stuck Between Stations” by the close of the first song you can already sense and smell the emitting from their performance.

A Positive Rage is the perfect description of this band and the live experience attached to their existence. Somehow in his delivery Craig Finn manages to accomplish the feat of vocalising with both a smile and a sneer as he the method resembles more melodic speaking rather than conventional singing. The song topics sting and amaze, they are pretty bleak in content but also ablaze in some kind of resignation of that is how things are and this is the way to deal to with them. The optimistic cynicism of this band is the key to its existence and popularity, these may be dumb and primal songs musically but lyrically they border on genius.

As “Massive Nights” kicks in it is a true stadium rock display of celebrating a tangible club/house party. Here is a rock band steeped in with a tradition one foot in classic rock and another in hardcore. The licks are large and so is the ferocity.

The interaction between the band and the audience comes through on this album as basically the Hold Steady are one of those bands that just make you want to pick up a guitar and rock out but everyone knew that anyway already.

Thesaurus moment: efficacious.

The Hold Steady
Vagrant Records
Rough Trade Records
Frenchkiss Records

Wednesday, 1 April 2009



Long Division With Remainders is an ambitious project from Front And Follow records that involves a number of exciting electronic musicians all jamming and reworking four pieces of music and moulding them in their own fashion.  It is similar to the Root experiment done by Thurston Moore a few years only, only more ambitious.

This is the first entrant into the series.  It comes from Helen Watson who is described as a “cultural icon to many”.  It is no secret she is the wife of the person that runs Front And Follow, which certainly will not have hurt her chances at being involved.

Her version of events arrives with minimal scales and a percolating sound that slowly/gradually builds to a shot of white noise akin to the arrival of a train.  From here it becomes a more sombre and sedate affair with a pulsing arc sounding like the spaceship from Close Encounters Of A Third Kind that crescends into a full on invasion.  The result is aural debris.

For the third track succinct strings dominate proceedings giving the pace an almost festive feel prior to somebody in the room suddenly switching on a dot matrix printer and amplified blender.  This is the sound of very noisy neighbours.

The first version comes to a close with more overdriven instrumentation that serves to make one weapon sound entirely like another.  The gloom and menace is overwhelming as what appears to be a cowbell rings with regularity seemingly indicating nastiness to come.  Duck and cover.

A perfection adoption.

Thesaurus moment: infraction.