Saturday, 26 June 2010



As ever the latest Fall album is the best since their last and it almost feels obligatory to describe it as a return to form now.  For the win everybody.

This is my modern soundtrack for walking through carnage, for the hairy and hectic times that I find myself having to get through Colchester High Street.  Muck on the streets are akin to the music on these sheets.  There is a clutter here both of the physical and of the mind.  More people should listen to Mark E. Smith, he’s certainly been around long enough to have seen everything.

Smart comments aside, this is genuinely a very good album.  I appreciate the ridiculous manner in which it opens with “O.F.Y.C. Showcase” as if it were some punk musical laying out its wears.  As absurd as this notion be, for this record I sense Mark E. Smith is really working hard.  Thanks Domino.

From here the record literally marches forward with “Bury Pts 1 & 3” that stomps in excruciating fashion, initially being delivered in muffled bootleg fashion until the correct version (correct part) comes crashing through along with enormous hook to match.  Everything about this song works.  Each player sounds solid and amazing with an incredible amount of presence.  It’s a recording up there with the best work of Albini (especially the drums).

All but two tracks on the album weigh in at over five minutes in length.  There is real width to the compositions and often Smith takes quite a while to arrive on the scene as some staunch repetition lends much to the groove and drive of the record.

The floating degradation of “Chino” wins the day as stand out track as it hovers over proceedings with menace and motion.  Fortunately it later ends on the comedown of “Weather Report 2” where Smith almost sounds laidback recounting what he sees around him, musing on the past.  Then there’s abduction and the closing whisper “you don’t deserve rock and roll”.

As ever with new albums by The Fall this is their best since the last but this time it really is, several times over.

Thesaurus moment: appurtenant.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010



This was huge fucking record which over the years has only maintained its intensity, even appreciated in stature.  Faith No More were already good when it arrived but now they were great.

Before this album Faith No More had been lumped into the funk rap metal movement most represented by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  As Mike Patton rapped his way through “Epic” in bright colours it was all too pleasing and amusing, satisfying on a surface level that rendered the band somewhat accessible and disposable.

In many ways Angel Dust represents something of a change of the guard within the band.  The metallic leanings of their previous three albums (seemingly favoured by Jim Martin) now made way for a denser, more adventurous sonic assault which appeared more Patton’s style.  This is just an incredible album where everything falls into place, where every experiment works and each deviation into new territory pays off.  At a time when grunge and industrial rock was storming the pages of Kerrang! the band expertly pounded such elements into their armoury while maintaining a keen balance of horror and humour in addition to holding onto genre departure altogether.

Now here comes the rub.  At the time I was good friends with the biggest Faith No More.  As I staggered through the final year of school I suddenly found myself hanging out with a guy called Glenn who adopted Faith No More as his chosen band and promptly proceeded to shove them down our throats both tainting and over killing the act not only for me but also Metal Dan who was hanging out with us at the time.  I owned the album on cassette but he had it on CD which meant he could safely blast it to a volume and frequency my stereo would not allow.  His copy of the album had “Easy” on it while mine didn’t.  Suddenly my appreciation of the band was inferior in everyway.  So be it.  And with that for years I steered clear of the band and this album long after my friend had exited my life.

I cannot recall the point I picked the band back up.  I can recall the day I finally bought the album on CD and that was on drunken Saturday night in Leicester Square after an AFC Wimbledon game when my friend Stevo and I snapped up various discs from the HMV Trocadero sale.

Now given a second life and listened to with a mature set of ears a new degree of appreciation seeped into my being.  Equally it was around this time while I was still doing Gringo Records that Phill the bass player from Reynolds and the guy recording all our acts at the time always expressed his appreciation and enjoyment of the band.  And Phill was a musically schooled person.  By this stage the band was no longer cool and releasing albums no one was really getting excited about but Angel Dust remained regarded a monster.

This is very much an album about juxtaposition.  On the front cover is a beautiful swan while on the back is a slaughtered cow.  Indeed the title can refer to both magic and the height of aggressive narcotic.

“Do you often sing and whistle just for fun?”

On that theme it opens with the pulsing/thumping “Land Of Sunshine” and positive promise of good times.  You then realise that this is a song about the elderly taking drugs and entertaining escapism (“fortune is smiling upon”).  Then it moves onto a series of questions from an L. Ron Hubbard Scientology audit/personality test.  On that note you would be forgiven for thinking you were subject to being brainwashed.  And as it descends into delirium Patton declares “here's how to order”.  Does the listener realise they’re listening to a religious record?

With that the record moves onto “Caffeine” which was apparently written by Patton during a sleep depravation experiment.  And the manner with which he barks his way through proceedings makes this quite the plausible prospect.  Opening with a sample of animal sounds (barking/howling) taken from the movie A Rose For Emily it is a tightly wound track featuring a fit from its singer.  A breather finally arrives when the band takes it down and Gould’s bass suddenly rumbles as creepy effects play out and Patton stands with accusation “but its so easy for you, there’s always one thing”.  This is Hitchcock and Hermann for the grunge era.  “Relax its just a phase, you’ll grow out of it”.  Who is this psycho we are listening to?

The first single on the album is “Midlife Crisis” with features some fine vocal gymnastics and staunch mood changes as the song refers to what it says on the tin apparently addressing Madonna and the overexposure she commanded back in the early nineties when she was teaching my generation about dirty kinky sex.  It contains the rousing line “I’m a perfectionist, my perfection is sham”.

With “RV” the band does something wonderful: it accidentally introduces its audience to Tom Waits.  From one perspective it is easily the best song of the album swaying in a first person narrative that is awesome representing awful.  Built around Bottum’s piano piece it’s a damaged celebration of slobbery (“my world, my TV, my food”) which eventually builds in hideous remorse in the chorus with the drunken gesture of “I hate you, talking to myself, everybody’s staring at me, I’m only breeding”.  As the track progresses the voices slowly becomes more agitated transferring disgust from its own reflection to the world before it.  Before long it becomes a cry for help finally ending in resignation and resolution with the line “I’ll just tell then what my daddy told me, you ain’t never gonna amount to nothing”.

“Smaller And Smaller” is another sailing moment.  Originally inhabiting the working title of “Arabic” it audibly builds in front of the listeners ears playing out like the Faith No More version of “Kashmir” interrupted by aboriginal chant samples and more Hitchcock screams until it eventually comes into port.

Lightening the mood the eventual fourth single lifted from the album “Everything’s Ruined” is an upbeat bounce perhaps the song here closest to previous work and The Real Thing.  With its easily memorised lines, crashing riff and huge chorus hook it’s a wonderful celebration of disaster.  Less optimistic is “Malpractice” which follows opening with drums that sound like rockets and playing thought sounds like all out warfare and carnage.  Displaying menace at its most massive “Malpractice” is relentless as Patton screams his way through in death metal fashion until a Kronos Quartet sample drops it prior to being promptly pummelled and dismissed by the tank like approach of FNM.  Its an act assuming casualty.

“Write it a hundred times.”

The second side begins with “Kindergarten” which feels almost calming in comparison to the manner in which the first side ended.  It is indeed a song that addresses maturity and childish things.  Then on that note we get “Be Aggressive” a song about oral sex with a cheerleader chorus spelling out the song title in Sesame Street style after Patton rants “I swallow, I swallow”.  I always found this song uncomfortable and slightly too cheesy for its own good.  Somehow a filler track was chosen as a single.

And on the subject of singles “A Small Victory” arrives as the most graceful and lush exhibit the band is ever likely to offer.  As Bottum fleshes out and carpets the sound Martin facilitates a chug which Patton characteristically pounces on proceedings surfing an oriental sounding base singing about the appreciation of occasional winning while accepting that losing bothers when it is part of the agenda (“it shouldn’t bother me, but it does”).

“They sum it all up in a sentence.”

The arrival of “Crack Hitler” then “Jizzlobber” sees the album ending in dense fashion akin to the final hammer blow that wins a war.  The positioning of two such solid songs late in the order reminds of how strong the b-side of Nevermind is.  “Crack Hitler” is a weird waltz detailing the delusion of second rate Scarface referring to himself as “Crack Hitler” while “Jizzlober” is just one hell of a rally with screams of “smiles! bruises!” ahead of all going incoherent and hostile.

With that album ends with perfection and the sumptuous outro of “Midnight Cowboy” which plays out like closing credits.  This was a bold song to attempt, not least by what was previously considered a funk rap metal act.  And with Bottum steering the ship dare I say they better the original.  Seldom has an album ended better.

And on that note along comes “Easy” on the re-release version of the album upsetting the apple cart.  The song stands out like a sore thumb.  As far as what comes before it, the track makes little sense but being a classy rendition of an old favourite it affectively serves as a unit shifting add-on.  There is no debating it being a very good version of a very solid song only the context in which it is positioned/offered here.  Oh well, whatever nevermind.

Angel Dust is as good as modern rock music gets, it is perfect.  It’s a positive experiment into expanse.  This should have been the future for guitar.

Thesaurus moment: brobdingnagian.

Friday, 11 June 2010



Red Monkey was a far better band than history will recall/remember/record.  They were a prickly proposition from Newcastle that played jagged post-punk very much in the fashion of Huggy Bear and Gang Of Four with the odd math gesture to match.  In performance they infused an energy that felt foreign to the lo-fi indie movement of the time which really lifted them up as something special in the scene.

Their origins were tied to the Slampt Underground Organisation which meant solid connections with their U.S. counterparts, specifically Troubleman who co-released some titles and opened various doors/opportunities that lesser skilled acts of the time were not exposed to.

This four song seven inch was a release typical of the time, only the quality was head and shoulders above than what else was around.  This was a time when people in guitar bands could still sound angry and ferocious in an earnest, almost political manner and have an audience.

The artwork of the piece is thoroughly DIY, appearing as if run through a photocopier at the cheapest rate, much like the Riot Grrrl scene of a few years earlier and the brief fanzine nation resurgence that occurred in the mid nineties.  The characters of the cover are immediately recognisable as Slampt characters to the trained eye.  This was a gang with a profile and identity.  And to further reiterate the DIY ethos inside the sleeve declares “this 7” was recorded Wednesday 5 February 1997 at 1st Avenue, Heaton by Dave”.  Can you remember/recall what you were doing that day?

It clatters into life with the inquiry “if you’re scared of questions, why are you here?”  This was a band only for the brave as its jarring execution aimed to burn many.  Then by the second track the stabbing blows and stop start dynamics exhibit gestures The Jesus Lizard would be proud of.

Moving on “Red Prawn” maintains the intensity and elastic assault as wayward time sequences and angular decisions keep the listener’s ears on their toes.  This is as epic as lo-fi could ever dream to get.  Then finally the gesture of “Not Only” full sums up the Red Monkey experience.  This was a band that was so much more than everyone else.

This kind of music should only exist on vinyl.

Thesaurus moment: purposeful.

Thursday, 10 June 2010



Back in 1998 Thurston Moore created a project entitled “Root” whereby he composed a piece of music and then fished it out to a number of friends and musicians for them to do with what they wanted, all in the name of creation and art.  Naturally the results were mixed but the whole process was inventive and unpredictable.

Following up in much the same tradition the ever creative good good people at Front And Follow have put out a whooping four songs into the world for anybody up to the job to molest and manipulate all the name of pushing things forward.  Here in this four disc boxset (this work of physical art) are the fruits of the fourteen versions sprung by so many up and coming artists.  This is free range.

The fourteen artists involved range from tried and tested electronica artists through one man wrecking machines to happy and gifted amateurs with an idea in their head, passion in their heart, hunger in their belly and a PC at their disposal.

The collection opens with the original four pieces from HELEN WATSON that are slow and subtle string arrangements suffering from some kind of Mouse On Mars-esqe bleep fever.  MRS WATSON is one half of the Watson Marriage Experiment, the brains behind the Front And Follow record label that engineered this project.

Having suitably impressed the people at The Wire magazine with his debut album Curious Memories, SONE INSTITUTE chips in with Version 2 and his trademark kaleidoscope interpretation of the truth.  These tracks play home to the collision of classic jazz sounds, of bands so big and grooves so deep they could serve as a foundation for your soul.

Up third is the first contribution from American, Washington D.C. to be exact.  The motions of BLK w/BEAR are heavy and disturbing; slow moving like an electronic version of Earth or Godspeed You Black Emperor.  This is a dark proposition that sonically stretches the four tracks to the point of despair.  A perfect soundtrack to black images.

In contrast to the previous version, when CATS AGAINST THE BOMB offer Version 4 it does so in a very playful manner that springs to mind the lighter side of science fiction.  If the previous effort was the soundtrack to Alien, then this is what’s required for Battle Beyond The Stars.  The cinematic touch is enhanced by the elements of early sonic chirps that feel like Hitchcock.  An amazing picnic.

Version 5 echoes the choices of the first collection as ISNAJ DUI takes a studied and modern composition approach to proceedings employing enhanced classical tools.  This is a hazy and disorientating take on the project that keeps things mild and amusing while concealing another element behind its back.

For the next set of remixes LDWR looks towards Australia as UK born composer BARNABY OLIVER cooks up a drifting and suffocating set of associations that suggest the cruel hand of nature and the danger that comes with.  By the end the version is gyrating causing the listener static strain and an unearthly discomfort.

I have to concede my favourite set of the collection is the four reworkings by KEN PEEL for Version 7.  To the project his brings a “lounge electronica” approach that, of all things, reminds me of the Denison Kimball Trio.  These are tracks upholstered in velvet with swing piano and chilled jazz drum beats which create a smooth texture to go all noir to.  It’s a cause for comfort.

The second half of the experiment opens with the pummelling emissions of Colchester’s own THE ABOMINABLE MR TINKLER.  Version 8 proves one of the most broken contributions to the programme.  It is also one of the most nail biting as a heavy dose of suspense leads up to an inevitably messy conclusion to the tracks,

Version 9 sees LDWR return to Australia for its manipulation via the duo of VOLUME = COLOUR.  A longstanding multimedia collaboration, for their remixes they have employed a series of outsourced individuals to each bring their own touches to the new works.  The results are stubborn and erratic as numerous punishing blows are dealt out in the name of frenzy.

Also from Australia, SUSAN HAWKINS provides the next EP bringing in daggers of destiny via classic orchestration and modern manipulation.  There is something very natural and organic in these interpretations, not least with the sonic howls it exudes.  Then it becomes pleasant, reassuring and cradling.

From Leeds, THE TRUTH ABOUT FRANK deals out a blunt series of groaning machinations that provide a gnarly industrial drone for the eleventh version.  With this ghostly distortion and heinous feedback skim over proceedings before an eventual intervention occurs.

With this SPOOL ENSEMBLE deliver Version 12 from North Carolina.  Extracted from a laboratory workbench the results are scatological as seemingly arcade machine bleeps clash with more generic electronic sounds to muddy the canvass and bend the original tracks to illustrate man made errors.  Bobbins.

The penultimate contribution arrives from TAGCLOUD who also originate from Washington D.C.  This is one of the quietest versions, a subtle reflection on the process that caused people in my presence to ask whether I “was in mourning” for listening to such music.  There is certainly something ethereal about it.

The project comes to a close with the vast recollections of LEYLAND KIRBY.  Very much in keeping with his recent work as The Caretaker and in his own name, his versions of distant journeys with delicate piano pacing and a general air of menace and beauty to that found in Badalamenti’s work on Twin Peaks.  There’s no hurry here, just a lot of sensuality.

And with that fifty six solid tracks pass through my consciousness leaving their brain on my mark.  It is incredible to think of the number of people that were involved in this project and how so many made something out of nothing.  This is the future model for independent music.

Thesaurus moment: legacy.

Monday, 7 June 2010



This is something of an uncomfortable throwback. As I listen to the seven inch with the sun gloriously shining through my open window I find myself very tempted to close said window for fear of my neighbours witnessing me listening to such a song.

This is not healthy music. The singer songwriter genre is a true minefield, an area where the good is hard to distinguish from the bad because on the whole most of it sounds bad.

Micah P. Hinson is an artist I am supposed to like. In a way he is half David Berman and half Johnny Cash but beyond that there is very little to grasp onto (and nothing has got me so far).

Check out the sentiments: “take off that dress for me.” This guy is begging for sex, he is debasing himself, acting like a pussy in search of satisfying his needs. And the sad truth is that presented with this song the fevered ego from the apple of his eye will probably comply as she finds his advances charming and wayward compared to the usual alpha male route of being rutted that she is akin to. Am I wrong about this?

By now I am so fucking bored of the singer songwriter format, of the way it exposes my generation of being both po-faced and selfish, of egocentric and generally hinting of being chock full of control freaks. This is a marketplace that is drowning, filled to the brim of so many variations of the same thing with only subtle differences and certainly not enough in itself to truly stand out from the flock. Do you remember that scene in Animal House where John Belushi grabs the guitar of the prick crooning on the stairs and smashes the instrument to pieces? That should be performed on so much music right now.

I might be wrong.

Thesaurus moment: sly.

Micah P Hinson