Saturday, 31 July 2010



It takes a certain person of a certain demeanour to spew out such a frenzied delivery of bouncing clean expletives.  As a result you cannot help but connect immediately with such abandon.  And this comes from a person that apparently suffers from abandonment issues according to a certain Californian lesbian.  Unlike Mclusky I like this band.  Whereas the Grange Hill felt like a lot of hot air about nothing, this band feels realised and accomplished.  Their sound is rounded and for once a UK band actually manages to tap into and achieve the noisy guitar sound that generally only US indie rock bands can muster.  British bands that sound like this never make it but at least Future Of The Left is giving it a bloody good attempt.

The album opens in frenetic fashion that reminds of Drive Like Jehu before the fuzzy intensity of offensive bass playing adds a rare weapon to the band’s armoury, an element seldom seen in the genre.  By this stage the order of the day feels very much that of Girls Against Boys.

This record pulsates like a well oiled machine.

For track 3 they display the wacky side of dark humour with “The Hope That House Built”.  It’s a plodding number that exhibits a set of vocals and sensibilities akin to Jello Biafra.  Whether that is what’s need at this time is another question but certainly its relatively unique to this outfit.  And ultimately tracks championing a “hopeless cause” will always be something to appeal to a certain demographic.

Future Of The Left is a band that offers a surprising variety of sounds even if their influence and origins are relatively obvious and clear.  For example on “Land Of My Formers” the opening baseline is clearly that of The Jesus Lizard and that is a tremendous thing.

The pick of the onslaught are the tracks “I Am Civil Service” and “You Need Satan More Than He Needs You”.  In the first instance the band is positively charging in a most effective manner crushing the head of the listener with hard guitars lines and equally tough lyrics such as “if I eat what I fuck and if I fuck what I eat, am I worthy?” all in the style of great lost UK bands such as Ligament and Macrocosmica.  Then the latter track is one long crazed pounding rant more robotic than rock.  It’s a truly horrific interlude.

The variety maintains with the garage rock of “Stand By Your Manatee” followed by the wholesale lift of “Saints” by The Breeders on “Yin / Post Yin” (a very Fall song title in itself).

“Drink Nike” is fun anti accepted convention slam that expresses a sarcastic confusion and half hearted dismay towards people and an attitude that will never change.  Its nailing their flag to the mast of the alternative nation but is there enough for it?

If Future Of The Left are someone’s favourite band that’s great.

Thesaurus moment: other.

Friday, 30 July 2010



To collaborate is a great thing.  The meeting of minds to create a new object from a fresh perspective is what lifted man from playing with his own shit and scrawling it on walls to eventually painting on canvas.

As reviewed in full last month with my description of the final box set, the Long Division With Remainders project has taken in fourteen different artists all chipping away at the same slab of sonic stone and this tidy little sampler collects one track by every artist involved from each of their four song EPs/Versions.  To recap:

The first version is by HELEN WATSON who here is represented by her interpretation of track 4, a sparkling and dense drone that strides like a wave rattling speakers with desolate cowbell and bass.

Next SONE INSTITUTE offer their version of track 2 which is a playful exploration into frequencies and eerie theremin sounds attached to a delayed groove that transcends proceedings and warps the pallet.

Moving on Washington D.C. artists BLK W/BEAR etch in a pulsing and menacing discreet piece of sonic destruction that feels like being lost in space without a paddle.  There is a darkness to their version of track 1; you can hear it from the glitches.  Your ears pop and soon also will your heart.

Offering a degree of light relief CATS AGAINST THE BOMB drops a fifty eight second that sounds windswept and fatal; this is the sound of plummet.  This was his interpretation of track 4.  The worst of times often arrive before the best of times.

The fifth selection arrives from ISNAJ DUI and a return to modern composition techniques using traditional instrumentation.  This version of track 1 retains the percolating pulse of the original while adding distant sounds of fun times.

BARNABY OLIVER arrives and immediately sets in place a disorientating regime with his version of track 4.  Its an overwhelming experience that in the wrong hands could lead to despair.  However not today.

Version 7 of the project produced by KEN PEEL provided one of my favourite set of tracks.  His take on track 1 here is a piano led sinister swing of classical sadness.  The journey is a progressive one that glistens as contradictorily one of the more upbeat selections of the Long Division With Remainders project.  It’s a motion that heightens any moment.

Colchester’s own THE ABOMINABLE MR TINKLER discloses a fractured take on track 3 with subtle drive and less subtle interjections.  Its an unnerving weave of hysteria, suitably sonic from a land that thrives on busted corruption.  Again the bedding of the piece makes me think of classic electronic science fiction soundtracks and in this case John Carpenter’s origin score to The Thing.  Then arrives the drum and bass as all peace ends.

The VOLUME = COLOUR piecing of track 2 is a stop start exploration into pacing and distortion in a free form style that reminds of Stockhausen and Zorn before finally succumbing to the imminent menacing conclusion of a dizzying status.  A welcome random collage.

From Australia SUSAN HAWKINS offers one of the few vocal moments of the project as she whispers into her version of track 3 where large and heavy piano notes signify a hard motion.  Layered with scintillating bass, it is a very ambient moment.

THE TRUTH ABOUT FRANK take things slow with their translation of track 4.  Building graciously it suitably ascends before cascading with large slabs of sound and a shattering echo suggesting claustrophobia in their work.  As wave after wave laps the listeners mind and subtle rhythm maintains driving proceedings to a natural home.

Equally disorientating, the SPOOL ENSEMBLE variety of track 2 shadows the industrial theme of the original version while enhancing a war with technology.

The penultimate project offering via TAGCLOUD is a swift and distance plantation.  As a muddied vocal signal is unearthed a question of its origin arises.  A sense of mystery flows to this version of track 1 as pace is reduced to a heartbeat with the fear of it turning into a heart stop.  The motion is measured, discreet and frustratingly unrevealing.  The trick is to keep the listener wanting.

The final piece comes from LEYLAND KIRBY and it is a huge offering clocking in at over ten minutes.  This adaptation of track 3 is suitably mesmerising as a chilling clang accompanies a sparse drone and repetitive trickles that offer some hope as the pounding intensifies representing a deep seated menace moving towards the end of existence.

So there you have it, a wonderful time spent with random selections from the Long Division With Remainders experiment.  This isn’t necessarily the manner/order with which these tracks were originally designed to be listened but as a varied exercise into sonic escapism, this assortment is enough to sell the adventurous mind.

Thesaurus moment: illustration.

Front And Follow

Thursday, 29 July 2010



Imagine Morton Subotnick condensed and reformed then you begin to get a rough idea of what Silver Apples is about.  It is kaleidoscope of bleeps and rhythms, of man wrestling machine without there being a clear victor.  It’s a freak orchestra, not necessarily always fun but constantly bionic.

Silver Apples were electronic music pioneers.  They were producing music in the sixties that some acts still cannot make today.  Straight out of New York they were originally a duo, even a trio if you include the bespoke piece of engineering (“The Simeon”) that made them such a unique outfit.  But sadly it never really happened for them.  Sometimes you can be too far ahead of the game, too niche and innovative.  Then after three albums the band was no more, prematurely put to bed.  However over the years people began to catch up and discover their music.  Silver Apples finally ripened.

Unfortunately the original pairing of Simeon and Dan Taylor is now due to Taylor’s passing but with steam in the engine Simeon and The Simeon now proudly continue to carry the Silver Apples name.  And this four song EP was released in 2008 as part of music’s most played down comeback.

Early on a disarming swirl greets the listener as “Beethovan Jambalaya” the first of the four new tracks pulsates and inserts its energy in solid mental confines.  From here some kind of non-human language and exchange occurs as a gift to the sonic lords is offered.  It is a mesmerising experience, looping like the aural equivalent of a magic eye picture (do they still produce them or did it cause too many cross eyed fatalities?).  Today, the computers win even if Simeon is ringing/squeezing The Simeon for everything he has (including sample of a Nazi rally anthem).

Then the circle completes, the descent achieved.

Time has been kind to Silver Apples and the technology of today compliments the innovation of their hour.  With this in mind the experience enlarges as the biogenic pulse of “I Don’t Know” splashes over proceedings.  It’s a hostile, seeming accusatory piece that would not be out of place on an Alan Vega record.  Perhaps Simeon isn’t such a sweet old guy after all.

“Purple Egg” provides an incredible mish mash of sounds opening like a Kraftwerk track prior to discovering its groove and eventually sliding into something of a nursery rhyme vocal approach.  Its swinging, its upbeat.  Its come a long way.

The EP closes with “The Gremlins Of Hamlet” and a groaning amount of hard beats coupled with synth waves.  Again there is an underlying Kraftwerk tone to proceedings as the race to the finish offers something of an exciting sprint.

Care free and glorious, harmony between man and machine remains a wonderful thing.  Real legends never die.

Thesaurus moment: wisdom.

Friday, 23 July 2010



This felt awkward.  This was the first Faith No More release (discounting the collaboration with the Boo Yaa Tribe on “Another Body Murdered”) since the success and power of Angel Dust and painfully it just felt flat and lightweight.  Its not that it’s a bad song, its just an average song, one that induces a response of indifference.  And being that Faith No More were now a heavyweight proposition, expectations at the time were sky high as sadly the song succumbed to not matching up.

My most vivid memory of this song is when they performed it on Top Of The Pops.  Obviously even if it wasn’t amazing it was still successful and as the band mugged it on primetime television complete with unrecognised guitarist being bland the cameraman and director really took a shiny to Puffy regularly zooming in on the guy on drums with crazy hair.  All parties were in the process of being distracted.

“Digging The Grave” is a three minute charge showcasing Patton’s vocal range over a solid beat as at regular interval huge hooks demonstrate their damage.  Put up against the nightmare scenarios plaguing their prior material it is throwaway.  It is pop, very clean and you come away with the chorus immediately memorised.  When Patton begins screaming towards the end things just about become interesting.

With a snarling blue cartoon dog penned by Eric Drooker adorning the cover this is a surprisingly bright single.  Why the band suddenly so on board?  What happened to dark military images, the photos of slain animals?

Pre-empting the release of the album it is somewhat telling that two of the three extra songs (“Ugly In The Morning” and “Cuckoo For Caca”) are taken from the record also.  Does this mean that the general standard of the album is barely b-side?  The signs were all there.

“Ugly In The Morning” is a ramble of a song expressing remorse and a nice little wig out as it enters the chorus but it just does not sustain.  We are subjected to Patton speaking in tongues towards the end but its done in a manner that’s just a mess.  Then “Cuckoo For Caca” is just infantile, a song born from legend of Patton shitting in hairdryers while on tour.  Really it is just “Jizzlobber” from Angel Dust with crap lyrics and an annoying baseline.  It hardly delivers the brown note.

The other track is “Absolute Zero” with actually makes me think of “The Power Of Love” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood in its vocal delivery as the words echo and dissolve into the air as the music seldom passes the chugging stage.  Its not a completed track.

Why do things have to change?

Thesaurus moment: recommence.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010



Repo Man is easily one of the greatest films ever made.  For a start it combines science fiction with hardcore punk.  And I cannot think of another movie that has accomplished such a feat.  That is the world’s loss.

Legend has it that the movie was partly funded by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees on the provision that it didn’t contain any punk music.  The executive producer did not get his wish.

“Wow! That was intense!”, “A repo man’s life is always intense!”

Not only is this a great soundtrack, it is also a great punk compilation.  The lineup is astonishing with Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop with Steve Jones, Suicidal Tendencies and Fear all dropping fantastic tracks.

Music plays a huge part introducing the personalities of many characters in the movie.  Early on it is established that Otto and his buddies (including the prototype for Napoleon Dynamite) are suburban punks with more attitude than prospect and a lousy sense of morals to match.  And these serve Otto well as he finds himself at home and equipped to fit the role of repo man.  As his aimless friends continue to “commit crimes” he uses his punk tools to grind out a shady living.  Now if that isn’t DIY, I don’t know what is.

Two classic songs play quite the pivotal part in the maturing and transcending of Otto.  First there is “Institutionalised” by Suicidal Tendencies that plays out in the background of a house party as he loses out in love, heinously backstabbed by one of his buddies.  Then later while he sits on his own drowning his sorrows he finds heart and strength in singing “TV Party” by Black Flag.  The force of the track helps pick him up and drive onwards and upwards.  This is how punk energises, a reality most people don’t appear to understand.  Unlike the pop charts, this is music that matters, that can turn a life around and empower the individual in a most magnificent manner.  Who can lose when your heart is racing?

By this stage both the movie and album have opened heroically with Iggy Pop and Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols on guitar unleashing a thumping and driving title track that expertly runs in tandem with the credits and the theme/scheme of the moment.  Its trademark all over.  With the tone established, there is no way to recover.

The version of “TV Party” by Black Flag here is different to the one on Damaged.  Pleasingly it champions a new set of TV shows including the A-Team.  It’s a sign of moving with the times and of an enthusiasm for the process and the moment.  This was a movie that celebrates them and their like.

“Institutionalised” is the career track and moment of Suicidal Tendencies and its appearance in this film and compilation highlights just how ahead Alex Cox was in 1984.  This is an incredible song, one that has always flattened whenever I played it when DJing.  It has to be said that over the years Mike Muir’s band has been written off as some heavy metal headache/nightmare but early on they were a great hardcore act.  Sure this rant cum rave does hint at their rap rock leanings but it does it so effectively.  For anyone that has experienced teenage angst (which should be everyone) few works/pieces of art have ever captured the anger and aggression attached to it, towards meddling parents even if intentions are best.  Just three tracks in, the album is better than anything else around at the time.

From here the album maintains as the Circle Jerks and Fear suitably snotty contributions with “Coup D’Etat” and “Let’s Have A War”.  I think it has been the distinct lack of sensitivity attached to early eighties west coast punk that appealed to me.  The nasty, mean sense of humour exhibited is the kind that I pay, buy and subscribe.  The Circle Jerks in particular are favourites of mine not least for the distinct tone of Keith Morris’ voice.  This then returns as they deliver the sarcastic lounge of “When The Shit Hits The Fan” which saw them appearing in a bar scene performing said song in the style of Ween-like proposition before falling over.  “I can’t believe I used to like these guys”.

A dirty proposition exudes from the Burning Sensations cover of the Jonathan Richman track “Pablo Picasso”.  Suddenly a historically mild song is downright snotty, bitchy and the perfect soundtrack for cruising.  Imagine a horrifically condensed version of “Peter Gunn” fronted by a squished Iggy Pop turning tricks.  Gnarly.

There is a great punk and Mexican music tone attached to the score and this comes from the involvement of The Plugz who supply three tracks to the album in addition to having done the score to the film.  Having been raised on Love And Rockets comic, I can only attached my knowledge of that lifestyle to the origins of the quirky and blissful splurges onto the record that range from playful ska to a Spanish surf version of an Elvis song then onto post-rock that pre-dated post-rock.  Their closing theme music (“Reel Ten”) is particularly fantastic, all science fiction and gloriously futuristic despite being born of punk instruments.

“Managing a pop group’s no job for a man.”

Late on Juicy Bananas masterfully take on the repo code of Lite (Sy Richardson) and build a weird proto funk spoken word disco groove around his commands.  Live and learn but all costs do not mess with this man.

The movie also scores additional punk cred in housing a cameo by Stiff Records’ band The Untouchables who appear as the scooter gang.

What more can I say?  How much more should I fawn?  This was my youth, a period of my life I never want to grow out of even if it harms and pains my personal development.  Kids today, they don’t have such ground level rebellion.  Their heroes (and subsequent soundtrack albums) ain’t worth a shit.

I am home.

Thesaurus moment: perfection.

Monday, 19 July 2010



The Warriors is a lowlife masterpiece.  It represents a curious confusing of period and time as it mixes the urban funk of pre-hip hop New York while claiming to be part of a gang war torn future.  It is tense from the off as the unexplained motions of the gang called The Warriors appears very serious stuff.  And to emphasise this we are treated to an appropriately affecting score.  By the time the train arrives at its destination you are scared.

It pulsates from the off.  I will concede taken out of context many of these tracks may not necessarily work.  It may not harbour the bulk of the David Shire soundtrack of “The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three” but it certainly encapsulates the era and the sounds fuelling the conflict.

The hero of the piece is Barry De Vorzon who delivers the driving instrumental score that carries The Warriors across the city towards Coney Island.  The three pieces are truly original/individual pieces of work splicing an odd hybrid of funk, disco and future sounds in keyboard play.  Even though proceedings are filled with menace, they still come with a glow.  And thus was always the success of the movie: as rotten as things became, it always looked great.  Stylistic everyone involved really tapped into a unique process, one that definitely appealed (and still does today).

In addition to his score work here, De Vorzon also found himself involved co-writing “In The City” with Joe Walsh that was later re-recorded by The Eagles after being considered so good.  To me it sounds like a countrified Warren Zevon having gone through a (then) modern studio blender.  The build up is very much in the same style/region as “Lawyers, Guns And Money”.  It my not necessarily fit the vibe of gang warfare but it suits the time.

The other starring track of the album is “Echoes In My Mind” which is a slick soul work out very much appropriate for the suffocating and paranoid fear of the gang’s situation.  In true cinematic fashion after a subdued opening it builds to a high string pay off in lo-fi Shaft fashion.  This scene got swagger.

Of course it’s not all amazing.  A few tracks are downright awful but others crash through with kitsch value.  The cover version of “Nowhere To Run” by Martha Reeves And The Vandellas from Arnold McCuller is horribly lightweight and never likely to work anywhere.  Also the overtly sexual sentiments of “Love Is A Fire” by Genya Ravan feels juvenile when considering it is being used to express gang members emotions but certainly this is (and was) not the only time such pieces have been used in such a context.  And the less said about the bar room boogie of “You’re Movin’ Too Slow” by Johnny Vastano the better (although it does win with kitsch).

It all ends with a crash with Desmond Child earnestly exuding “Last Of An Ancient Breed” which emerges like a second rate Springsteen singing over the Top Gun theme.  In theory that should sound awesome but really it does not.  The real Bruce Springsteen is cheese enough.  Time to turn things off.

In contrast to the record’s failings, the sprinkling of sound clips from the movie at the end of tracks is something that never hurts.

This truly was a time when guitars could be used to express the sounds of the streets.  Better times.  That said, the songs sound better in the movie.

Thesaurus moment: desiderate.

A&M Records

Saturday, 10 July 2010



The Normal sound holds up.  It’s the minimalist noise of a bratty lo-fi electronic artist combining an equal affection for Kraftwerk, Suicide, sandpaper and crashing through the barriers in a most sonically assaulting manner.

Over the years it feels as if every electronic artist I have been friends with has covered “TV OD”.  In many ways it is just the perfect track, simple but punchy, annoying and catchy, not least for the use of demented repetition.  It is a song that could take years to construct but only minutes to learn.

The Normal was Daniel Miller, the man who went onto formed Mute Records.  Indeed in DIY punk fashion the label was set up specifically to release this single.  And the rest they say is history.  In many ways this seven inch was pioneering.

Miller was heavily influenced by the J.G. Ballard book Crash which he felt portrayed an accurate glimpse of the impending future.  Such pessimism feels rife in these two songs that were intended to represent driving through dense urban surroundings, an influence of motion that would have been heavily felt particularly from Kraftwerk.  All in all he manages to describe the worst journey in the cheapest family car.  Also the notion of television becoming all encompassing and corrupting is not necessarily that fractured from the reality we have arrived at.  Miller was a man with early foresight.

Taking conventions to new places, ultimately this is a celebration of talent and technique over resources.  To essentially celebrate something as cheap and tacky as “Warm Leatherette” really is not a gesture of high or mainstream ambition.

More extinguished than distinguished, often the most importance is in the simple.

Thesaurus moment: now.

Thursday, 8 July 2010



It was genuinely sad news to hear that Frank Sidebottom (or rather Chris Sievey) had lost his fight against cancer a few weeks ago. When news initially broke that he had unfortunately got the disease the fact that he was continuing to perform on the live circuit suggested that he was going steamroll and power through the illness. Sadly this was not to be.

Originally I thought Mark Radcliffe was Frank Sidebottom or vice versa but soon it became apparent that they were both birds from the same tree, from a rich Manchester scene with a staunch and glowing legacy. Frank Sidebottom was a hilarious creation, a lo-fi character that was always around but never seemed to quite get the breaks or the right vehicle with which to work his magic. Undaunted however he kept plugging away in a manner that should serve as true inspiration to anybody in either comedy or music that carries on regardless in the face of slack apathy.

Prior to this year’s World Cup beginning Frank was already pushing his World Cup single (hey, he might as well, every other schmuck was) and as soon as his passing was announced immediately people on Twitter began suggesting that his fan base get together and attempt to fire the single to the top of the charts. Quickly some kind of campaign began to take place and before long a realistic amount of followers looked in place to get the song a decent chart positioning. Unfortunately things then took a turn for the worse as it was discovered that Sievey had passed away without leaving any assets and it appeared that his family would not be able to afford a fitting funeral for such a treasured performer. With this the Twitter campaign took on a different role and within days £21,000 had been raised for his send off.

Now the time has come to release the single. Originally it was supposed to be “3 Shirts On Me Line” but I sense/fear that that song was never correctly recorded in time. Instead the good people at Cherry Red have quickly pulled together this digital single of typical Frank delivery in the style of George Formby gone chipper, Manc and mental. The song barely lasts a minute but that’s not the point, its Frank! Under such circumstances who can deny? The other track is “The Robbins Aren’t Bobbins” which is his ode to his beloved Altrincham. It sounds like it’s from a different era, which is perhaps/probably is.

Seldom do charity records feel worthwhile but for once this release does as it represents tribute to a genuine and truly entertaining individual that is a sad loss to the profession and industry. For years I have vowed never to open an iTunes shop account but especially for this release I did. With proceeds going to cancer charities here is hoping that the record places high on Sunday 11 July (World Cup Final day). It will, it really will.

Take care.

Thesaurus moment: frolic.

Frank Sidebottom
Cherry Red