Wednesday, 30 September 2009



As ever Male Bonding invade the joint with scratchy guitar and a reckless sense of adventure. Today with their contribution to this split single of “Year’s Not Long” they up the tempo/pace from their usual trudge before winding up in some kind of circling frenzy that revitalises proceedings before the band launch into the final leg of their energy infused declaration of fuzz. The increase in speed does not serve them well as it feels as if it dilutes their temperament gives them something of an upbeat sound that doesn’t snap as effectively as previous efforts from them.

The Eat Skull effort sounds as if it has been recorded from a television using a cheap cassette player. It is a real spinning top of an affair of warped funfair surf guitar music that almost sounds like a Hammond organ and vocals delivered in an equally dizzying fashion and crashing expletive. This is fat person go-go dance music, made to look ugly when really under the masks are clean faces and stupid but cool hairstyles. “Heaven’s Stranger” would make good theme music to a camp television show about a one legged crime fighter.

A nuisance to the industry.

Thesaurus moment: haze.

Male Bonding
Eat Skull

Wednesday, 23 September 2009



A more raw and earnest album will be impossible to find this year. Sounding like a cross between a female hardcore band and The Shaggs, this serves to remind me why I fell in love with crude lo-fi guitar music in the first place. This is the less is more principle in action and thriving.

Pens follow in the great traditional of band scratchy, primal lo-fi bands where the passion and desire far outstrips the mechanicals on display. They’re not angry enough to be Huggy Bear, they’re not crazy enough to be Bette Davis And The Balconettes and they’re not skilful enough to be Sleater-Kinney but certainly there are slight elements from each within their songs and sound which makes for an individual and fresh batch of compositions.

Purposely na├»ve there mere name of the album along suggests a kind heart and ritual curiosity within their ranks. The album then gets rolling with a track entitled “Horsies” which is a basic gang singalong akin to a playground patty cake. By the time the drums come crashing the charm has oozed to an uncompariable degree. Perhaps the band should have named themselves Crayons instead.

Everything is slightly distorted with this record. By design this is probably a tactic executed to hide technical frailties and gives uniqueness to the sound but regardless it is a system that works, giving the band the kind of stars and chops they require. Often the guitars are a huddled fuzzy mess and the drums sounds like they are being bashed out on a biscuit tin but the key is that the songs are still there, the hooks are genuine and exhilarating. Once upon it felt like all records sounded as exciting as this one.

A song such as “1-2” pleasantly reminds me heartily of early Dischord seven inches and the more exciting moments of Free Kitten. Elsewhere the excellently named “Fukufuckinfuk” truly accomplishes the Huggy Bear vibe while “Freddie” contains the kind of vocal loops that are excitingly dizzying.

Racking up fourteen tracks, most of which barely make the two minute mark, in many ways this is the perfect record for a band such as Pens to be releasing as their first effort (i.e. a young band cutting their teeth). This is the real sound of teenage expression. Buy into now before this kind of art is finally lost.

I’m reviewing this while watching Predator.

Thesaurus moment: energy.

Pens live

Tuesday, 22 September 2009



The sound of Times New Viking is truly fucked up. They are out of tune and they don’t even sound as if they are playing actual instruments, more using appropriations of what instruments should sound like. All in all this is a record that sounds as if it were made out of cupboard.

As a result of this the reality that there is a drive behind proceedings says a lot about the determination of the band and the apparent strength of their songs in the sole/soul, bloody minded desire to see things through until a hook is found. I guess this has been what lo-fi ingenuity has always been about.

With drums that sound like they are boxes falling down stairs, the hardest hook to arrive first is the chorus refrain of the title track “Born Again Revisited” as the song descends into true dementia, a refreshing voice from the back raises her hand and lends the song a kiss.

In sounding so bad and awful there is true invention in the process. The fact that the sound has been rendered so sharp and nasty but yet remains (just about) listenable indicates that there is no off switch on the genius button here.

Ultimately it feels as if this muck is some kind of response to the horrible slickness that no comes with the digital age, the bland anonymous cold feel of listening to music through a computer. As we now reach the Skynet era of music and how Kraftwerk appeared to once predict songs being manufactured by robots this is in many ways as pure a statement of/in music as you can get as they purposely apply a recording technique akin to the playing technique of The Shaggs. With its transgression this is a true blessing.

To be found are genuinely rocking joints that come in the form of the optimistic sounding “Move To California” and the Germs echoing opening “I Smell Bubblegum”. It’s definitely not all great but certainly is fun.

This is the sound of what Guided By Voices would be like if they were hoodlum kids packing more than just guitars and sticking scissors into open electric sockets. Any band that has a 36 second song called “Take The Piss” cannot be bad or wrong.

These songs were born to be heard on vinyl.

Thesaurus moment: scuff.

Times New Viking
Matador Records

Monday, 21 September 2009



In many circles this is considered the best Black Flag album.  Certainly it is the most compact and economic bust out 16 songs in only 26 minutes.  And they aren’t just hardcore bursts of energy; they are tastily crafted balls of anger sewn into solid songwriting that does not exhibit an ounce of fat.  Greg Ginn described what they were doing as “modern blues”.  It seems he already had one eye on legacy and tradition.

Essentially it’s a compilation but to refer to it by such terms feels demeaning and severely missing the point.  Early into Get In The Van, Henry Rollins states that “in my opinion the finest Black Flag record released is The First Four Years compilation.  Its all the singles and compilation cuts that the band made before I joined. The record spans three singers that came before me.  Its 34 minutes (sic) and it’s about three full length albums worth of anyone else’s music.  It is the densest batch of jams I have ever heard on one record besides the Fun House album by The Stooges.  When you put it up against what’s out there today, its hilarious.  These bands would have been eaten alive at a Black Flag show.  Music has mellowed out to the point where it just doesn’t interest me anymore.  And I’m not a snob either, I just can’t forget what I know.”

“Self as cell, body as cage”.

The onslaught kicks off with “Nervous Breakdown” and the subsequent additional three tracks from the EP which was the first SST release.  It features Keith Morris on vocals who always offered a more snotty, swinging style than Mr Rollins.  “Nervous Breakdown” is a concise explanation of circumstances referencing the anxiety and energy that comes with being a punker.  The playing is wickedly tight with slicing hooks that punch proceedings as the words pierce the senses and serve the mind.  Early Black Flag was such a well oiled machine.

The following tracks from the first EP are equally stonking and astonishing.  “Fix Me” possesses the finest countdown ever in music and within a minute so many expressions and emotions are displayed in relentless fashion.  The next track “I’ve Had It” succinctly represents the frustrated mind with threats of “I’m going to explode” in heavy emphasise.  And then there is the pure joy of “Wasted”, of delirium and reckless abandon.  The manner in which Morris drags out the hooks and chorus makes the words bigger and more powerful than they ought be.  Within a few listens, you already know these lyrics by heart.  The words were already it just took this band to bring them out in you.

Up next is the “Jealous Again” EP and five tracks of frustration.  “Jealous Again” is a solidly condensed one way conversation, a brief interview with a hideous man/woman.  In the words of Rodney Dangerfield: “I can’t condone it but I can understand it”.  Continuing the frustrated flow the equally aggressive “Revenge” arrives like a war-cry and disgusting declaration.  This is the sound of a person getting things done.

Then we arrive at “White Minority”, a song the word problematic was born to be strapped/tagged onto.  It is a rant about being the underclass, a section of society where race isn’t necessarily an issue when the main consideration is survival.  I have compared it to being their version of “White Man In Hammersmith” but that song never had the ferocity or hook of this rocketing explosion.  A great song and very bold holding gestures that could worryingly misappropriated by right wing wrong ‘uns.

Remaining on the Jealous Again EP, “No Values” follows which is another crushing track from the off unleashing a ferocious first few lines of “I don’t care what you think, I don’t care what you say”.  It is a song that truly motors and pummels all in its path as the band plays out the part of a crucified nihilist.  And with good reason.  Then finally this section closes with the slightly slower tempo “You Bet We’ve Got Something Against You” which also serves to bulldoze surroundings and the bystanders inhabiting.  With Chuck Dukowski booming condemnation on his sole singing role it verbally busts heads open.

Track ten is “Clocked In” which originally appeared on the New Alliance compilation Cracks In The Sidewalk which was the first release by the label run by the guys from the Minutemen (D Boon and Mike Watt).  “Clocked In” is also legendarily the song Henry Rollins jumped onstage and sang with the band when he was merely a fan and not a member.  It is a ninety three second blast of griping about doing menial work and being tied to a clock.  Again the Ginn playing is spacious and chunky, happily going way out when it comes time to provide one of his weird solos.  And even though it sounds like Rollins singing, it is actually the first vocal workout by Dez Cadena on the record (Rollins ain’t anywhere on here).

The original version of “Six Pack” brings in the next three tracks from what was the third Black Flag EP.  To be honest the Cadena sung variant doesn’t sound much different to the form Rollins later owned on Damaged.  “Six Pack” is a celebration of denial, escapism and wilful disregard.  It is the band rocking satire big time.  From here things move onto “I’ve Heard It Before” which is a prolonged threat that exists like a bomb with a lit fuse.  When it eventually arrives the track explodes as another aggressive dismissal and heated message.  Closing the EP is “American Waste” a song about positioning and celebration of the fact that the band knows its place in the grand scheme and is fighting to ascend on its own terms when really knowing the game is rigged and a big win is beyond their realm/means.

“Machine” arrives screaming as another track that previously appeared on a New Alliance compilation (this time the twelve song twelve band Chunks).  It’s a swift blast very much playing one note with the declaration of raging against the machine long before it became vogue.

With that we enter the final release of the compilation and the Black Flag take on “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen.  In the process of making this a staple they mutate the words and amplify the riff sculpting it for their own needs.  Then with that it all ends on “Damaged I” and an early workout of what would later become the title track of their debut album.  “Damaged I” the song was described by Simon Reynolds in his book Rip It Up And Start Again as a “slow-grind as drawn out as the death throes of a wound animal”.  This was where the band was heading.

At this point many argue that when Henry Rollins he ruined the band.  There was certainly something of an audible change between these tracks and those of Damaged.  Whether this was increase or decrease is down to the tastes of the listener.  Black Flag the band changed music forever.

Thesaurus moment: effectual.

Friday, 18 September 2009



Released in February 1994 the second Pavement studio album is so good they named it twice.  With Gary Young now out and Steve West in the band took an organic change of direction away from the abrasive and more towards classic rock.

Even if things were now more polished on a surface level the band retained the loose sense of adventure that set them apart; keeping them sloppy and effortlessly cool in an era when such expression was key.

It opens in appropriately ramshackle fashion.  Even the song name is ramshackle being “Silence Kid” but due to the messiness of the artwork it has come to be known as “Silence Kit”.  In execution is contains seemingly the sound of switching things on, of tuning up and get in the position/mindset to rock.  It’s a beginning on many levels.  Then like a jumbo jet it soars over proceedings.  From the off Steve Malkmus is soaring in solid fashion ahead of pulling/bringing it all back before the end so as not to allow the listener too much comfort.  It is the sound of being submerged.

“I wouldn’t want to shake their hands”.

Motion maintains as the drive of “Elevate Me Later” lifts proceedings in laid fashion as the fizzy distorted gestures raise the roof with the revelation that “there’s forty different shades of black”.

This is quite melancholic and dark album at times.  The song “Newark Wilder” has often supplied me with morose lines during failed moments.  The lines “it’s a brand new era and it feels great, it’s a brand new era but it came too late” remind heavily of “Here” from Slanted And Enchanted and the aftermath remorse attached to defeat and frustration.  As the words pile up and riddle in tongue as sense of whimsy grips proceedings in an almost theatrical formation.

In the past Malkmus has been quoted as saying with Crooked Rain Crooked Rain he said they thought they were going to make an indie Eagles record.  In a way the intention was a west coast response to the noise rock from the east dominating the genre.  From one perspective it was taking back riffs.

“Songs mean a lot when songs are bought, and so are you”.

Cut Your Hair” is in many ways the band’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  Its their rocker and most recognised track.  It has an amazing video which seems to encapsulate everything they are about right down to Malkmus seeing himself as king and shedding a tear in the process.  The song is actually about being in a band from the beginning to the end, through the good times and the bad.  By the end the song is exploding into the kind of dense wall of white noise you wanted every Sonic Youth song to be.

Coupled with this is “Range Life” the other single from the album expressing more bemusement at the reality of being in a band.  With a Mamas And Papas piano line and a Neil Young drive this is the sound of feeling like an outsider at Lollapalooza.  After years of trying to reach your people they arrived only to discover these people were shit too.  Perhaps this was another symptom of arriving late but really what did Pavement have in common with the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots?  Everything if you listened to MTV and all the other stuffy media outlets cashing in on the moment.  This was their way of taking the bull by the horns and walking away.

The other big song is “Gold Soundz” which stars them almost sounding optimistic.  There is message in this movement, explicit in letting off the listener in lowering their expectations and standards.  This is a track that is fucking loved.  And I don’t understand that.

Elsewhere there is a more genuine jubilation in “Unfair”.  With his words Malkmus is relentless with a fully formed flow that could almost pass as hip-hop.  And the band follows in kind as a kind of rollercoaster ride creeps to the peak eventually letting go as all hell lets loose.  It’s a triumph.

“There’s no survivors”

As with Slanted And Enchanted things begin to wind down towards the end.  The chilled declaration of “Heaven Is A Truck” continues to suggest their minds be elsewhere as one final prod of play arrives in the bouncy whirling outro of “Hit The Plane Down”.  With that “Fillmore Jive” closes with another declaration and gesture towards sleep.  There is definitely a running theme in the grand mind of a slacker.

This is a summer record through and through.

Thesaurus moment: anfractuous.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009



The Male Nurse were this amazing Fall-esqe spiky lo-fi band that hit the DIY scene around the same time as Bis, The Delgados, Urusei Yatsura and Mogwai et al. Sharing a guitarist with The Country Teasers they sported one of the scariest and most awkward looking frontmen around.

They put out a few singles but when they recorded a session for John Peel in June 1997 it revealed them at their most demented as the stand out track “My Own Private Patrick Swayze” describing a scenario that could only be derived from the most disturbed recesses of the human mind. The whole season was great but it really was this song that stood out and astounded and set The Male Nurse several pegs higher than the latest crop of The Fall wannabes.

Proceedings begin with the singer Keith Farquhar declaring that he has his “own two feet high Patrick Swayze living under his bed at night.” Through the ensuing verses what happens to this little man gets described in great depth, not least the reality that the two foot high Patrick Swayze would get regularly measured and if he grew he would be in trouble. Next the narrator describes how his favourite item of clothing for the two foot high Patrick Swayze is the “Elvis gear.” Finally at night Swayze would apparently be found serving cocktails “wearing men’s but women’s stockings and suspenders” but eventually being wrapped up in gaffa tape and being the prize in some demented game of pass the parcel. Fantasy in indie never got so explicit or spectacular. You can bet neither Pete Doherty or Kasabian ever wrote songs like this.

Tapes of this session/performance rapidly circulated and in my own experience occasionally served as car singalong music in a decrepit Wayne’s World style.

Sadly the band missed the boat on this momentum and by the time the song was finally released as a single it was long after the enthusiasm for the Peel session had died down and even then it felt as if this version of song (unsurprisingly inferior to the session version) was laboured and rushed out. The band never even released an album.

Elsewhere on the record “Deep/Fried” is a real departure from the band away from their original scratchy guitar roots moving onto tinny drum machine beats and keyboard hopscotch pierced by nonsensical repetitive lyrics. In many ways this would prove to be their song most in the spirit of The Fall.

Today as the news of Patrick Swayze’s passing on the same day as Keith Floyd filters through here is my backwards tribute to a very bad actor.

Thesaurus moment: inspired.

The Male Nurse
Guided Missile

Tuesday, 15 September 2009



Sounding like the Weezer take on grunge this is a relatively clean affair when I had been led to believe that this would be the return to superfuzz.

Believe it or not once upon a time circa the early nineties a hell of a lot of indie bands sounded like this, bands that were too clean for Kerrang but packed enough punch in order to alienate themselves far enough away from the charts and too much mainstream coverage.

There is an air of a good Senseless Things song and a sharp Mega City Four one attached to this one sided seven inch (one side for reasons known only to the band and their label).

You would like to think that the “Traynor” reference is to Todd Trainor, which would be cool, but there is nothing really in this record that would suggest anything so savvy. Instead all signs appear to point to a sound that will eventually soften and have any nasty, rebellious edges ironed out as the band, if they are lucky, will find themselves being picked up by good management and a major in the style of say a Nine Black Alps only to find themselves being dropped one record later. At least it is not pop punk or dad rock.

For a band sending out such negative vibes you really do not sense any such malice in their delivery or voices. Suck it in, toughen up.

Yours sincerely.

Thesaurus moment: lambs

Dinosaur Pile-up
Friends Vs Records

Monday, 14 September 2009



With screwy sounding surf guitars and vocals delivered in the style of a teenage Mark E. Smith the relentless brawl of Male Bonding is a fun step back to the lo-fi scene of the late nineties that felt capable of taking on all comers using instruments akin to items made from cereal boxes. In a world that sometimes appreciates raucous, loud and distorted guitar explosions when soughting a pay off, this is the stuff of kings.

The comparison that immediately springs to mind when considering Male Bonding is The Yummy Fur crossed with an aggressive Vampire Weekend; I think they might more appreciate a nod towards the No Age element of their stylings. Regardless any band that states that the Drowned In Sound forum is “like an indie British National Party” (as in Loud And Quiet magazine) cannot be all bad even if the jibe just stretch Mick Hucknall.

On the flipside Cold Pumas provide something altogether more atonal. Caked in white noise with machine drums straight from the nearest factory pounding its way to dysfunction, piercing shards of jagged guitar then arrive and enter the mix as a device to confront. These people playing on this record are not men, they are a well oiled machine pumping out sounds in a most efficient fashion on a production line of noise with the sole purpose and intent of putting the listener at ill ease and to make them move (convulse) involuntarily. Health never sounded this good.

Thesaurus moment: noisome.

Male Bonding
Cold Pumas
Faux Discx

Sunday, 13 September 2009



It is always a relief to discover that a legend of the scene still “has it.” Split over a sexy side and a noisy side Lydia Lunch once unveils yet another set of vocal styling. Spread over six songs this beautiful piece of twelve inch vinyl is a nasty and distinct return to form. With James Johnston and Terry Edwards on board there is little chance of this sounding bad.

Proceedings open up with “Another Man Comin’ (While The Bed Is Still Warm)” and the greatest song Royal Trux never recorded. Herein Lunch is almost rapping as she sounds more like a hip witch than ever and dirty with it. The collision is heavy bass, dark Hammond and jagged guitar stabs make for a funky soup.

Soon saxophones are added to mix as a nightmare smoky lounge scenario broaches proceedings all in a Bad Seeds setting. By the time the Sexy Side comes to a close the saxophones sound as if they are initiating some kind of rabid violent act of female empowerment.

The Noisy Side lives up to its billing providing a more dynamic threesome starting with the aural drowning that is “Baby-Faced Killer”. The sentiments do not improve any as a distortion heavy cover of Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons” attempts to melt my stereo. Soon the reality of proceedings hits that the quality of the music is far outweighing the standard of the words being spoken. Regardless of this fact it still falls/comes together as positive but hostile musical act.

It is now Sunday night and I am still writing this fucking review long after I have purchased it. In the distance some bozo is playing “Radio Gaga” by Queen at some ridiculous volume and it is making me sick. With view to drowning it out and representing on my own behalf I am playing this at a creasing volume and plainly it just work. Now I await the feeling of a boot being thrown through my open window as the person that just turned off his Queen record retaliates. Oh course that person needs to finish borking their partner first.

Thesaurus moment: decadent.

Lydia Lunch

Tuesday, 8 September 2009



Long considered the lost heroes to indie rock the Polvo sound is a mish mash of various grand rhythms, inventive in a way that very few bands of their ilk accomplish as it routinely tugs as the heartstrings and consciousness of the listener.

Polvo are a band that do not overdo it, their compositions are very organic, paced and lengthy and difficult to clearly compare against any of their peers and colleagues. The playing exemplary as the rhythm section provides a driving pulse which allows the guitar parts and vocals to meander and adventure, exploring new sounds and methods of creating unique explosions of expression from guitar.

Many consider them math rock but that’s a tough sell, I just don’t think the pace of the piece is quite set that way. The band that mostly springs to mind as I listen to this is June Of 44, who in some ways felt like a Slint sibling. Elsewhere when things become fuzzy there is an air of Bardo Pond on a small scale attached to proceedings. With “A Link In The Chain” it even enters some kind of strange Sebadoh territory.

Spread over eight songs this is their fifth album and their first for twelve years, which proves to be a worthwhile. The album flies out of the blocks with “Right The Relation” which is a chunky distorted piece of work with an upbeat chord sequence and the kind of impassioned and heroic vocal delivery that you thought was cool before you knew better.

It genuinely feels like a long time since I have heard a band making music like this. There is a truly cavalier sense to proceedings as it feels like this is a band making music that they like without any intention of playing to or for their audience. As a result the songs maybe longer and more meandering than is necessary but the apparent sense of sincerity outweigh any such concerns. There feels a lot of drive within this record.

With “Beggars Bowl” there is a real intensity within the thundering noise of a band sounding as if it is moving an entire building. Imagine Helmet at the top of their game not so eager to get into the guitar solos. It is that plus wonder.

Seldom does guitar music sound as adventurous and optimistic in this era. This is a band not lost to hairstyles.

Thesaurus moment: recoup.


Sunday, 6 September 2009



The sixth version of the LDWR EP comes from Barnaby Oliver, a UK born composer/sound artist who can currently be found in Melbourne.  The movie On The Beach was filmed in Melbourne and if you are not familiar with the work, it dealt with the fear of the unknown, the fallout that was approaching and the catastrophe inevitable.  Naturally it was a film that dealt with apprehension and dread.  A description that could easily be applied to the nature of these tracks too.

It begins with what could be the sound of wind amplified.  Maybe this is the drifting cloud of radiation as suggested above.  Motion suggests.

There is something quite barren about his version of track 2.  It sounds like the combination of harsh winds and a Geiger counter as it is easy to envisage being lost in the desert and being attacked by insects.  All in all it is quite an uncomfortable listen and experience.  And this all comes from quite a minimal motion where the dynamics rain subtle to the extreme.  This is a man messing with heads.

The barely one minute long version of track 3 exists seemingly in the form of a helicopter assaulting the listener.  This is an exaggerated take on the original track, a real defiant gesture towards the source material.  No whether that be of love or hate is open to suggestion.

It ends with a shrieking version of track 4 that rattles the stereo from left to right and back again.  The disorientation is illuminating, gradual then painful as nothing feels assisted in its wake.

Thesaurus moment: vibrate.