Saturday, 27 November 2010



The Queen Is Dead is a fascinating record.  It is multilayered and speaks with as many personalities.  It holds in its hands the power to be devastating tapping direct into underdog emotions, describing and harnessing in a manner that brings purpose to bleak situations.  It is a record about drawing strength in the face of desperation and so much more.

As an experiment today I will listen, analyse and attempt to review this record just after a break up has occurred and my moments are raw.

The third Smiths studio album is a bleak and damning excursion coupled with emotionally absurd humour.  As with so much of their material there are a lot of laughs if you look for them.  Sure there is loneliness and melancholy but Morrissey makes it a shared experience offering opportunity to at least lighten a load a little.  And coupled with that is an amazing base layer provided by Marr running ragged and wayward in a most efficient fashion.  It is expansive in its pessimism

The original name of the album was to be “Margaret On The Guillotine” tapping into the anti-Maggie sentiments of the era.  Of course such a title would be perceived as treason in certain sections.  As if “The Queen Is Dead” sounds any less aggressive.  Even in the eighties Morrissey was already pining for better times.

“Take me back to dear old blighty.”

It is actually the voice of Cicely Courtneidge that is heard first singing as an excerpt of a 1916 song about four soldiers longing to return home from the trenches of war-torn France.  With that Morrissey is soon setting up shop and charging into action offering a history lesson quizzing “has the world changed or have I changed?”  He understands legacy if not solution while the adjoining sonics merge sensually offering a piping pulse.  “The Queen Is Dead”, even back then.  On the other hand Courtneidge was the original mum in On The Buses.  Here nostalgia is currency paying for an exhilarating passage.

Intuition was the key.

This work is broad and scatological.  For every scathing moment there is a sympathetic one.  For every downbeat gesture of solace there is an upbeat execution.

And upbeat didn’t necessarily always work with the near country cheese of “Vicar In A Tutu” bounding along and the lumbering “Frankly, Mr Shankly” only being saved by the snarling sentiments in Morrissey’s words.  At the time he appeared to hate Geoff Travis as much as normal people hate Simon Cowell now.  Then again these two songs have been described as “legs-in-the-air comedy”.  The other happy sounding track arrived in “Cemetry Gates” and its carefree skip around graves both physical and metaphorical.  With Oscar Wilde on your side, why not?

The other side winding track was the single “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” which coupled with “Bigmouth Strikes Again” served as Morrissey addressing the industry in which he operated and the art he feared misappropriated.  On defensive mode it is something of a confused struggle and dare I say a root of ones bitterness.

Northern England is well represented on this record.  This is not an album that could or would be made be committee.  And in that I mean trends and fads took longer to reach Manchester, if at all.  This is original material not fashionite.

When asked by Tony Wilson why he wanted to be a pop star Morrissey answered “many reasons, it doesn’t make life worse”.  Damn, this was actually pop music.

“Why are you alone tonight?”

Back to my broken heart and allowing me to wallow this evening is “I Know It’s Over” and the sensation of being suffocated by the pain of separation.  As Morrissey sings “I can feel the soil falling over my head” the ending of this relationship does indeed feel like being buried alive.  This could kill me.  We all wallow.

“If a double decker bus…”

And now in the aftermath I can only hold onto the memories, hold onto a torch.  For that I have “There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out”.  A lesser man might send a departed love a link to this song.  Of course it’s a gesture that only ever works in the movies but Morrissey being Morrissey he actually pulls it off in this track making it seem almost acceptable to pine in requited fashion.  Quite frankly (Mr Shankly), what else is there a Smiths fan could/can do?

“I have just discovered.”

The album closes with “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” which too feels something of an ode to my exiting love with her being big boned and all.  Let’s just say that this is a record that explicitly speaks to me and for me.

In 1986 when the record came out I was just discovering football via Liverpool FC, Jan Molby and Mexico 86.  I had no idea that The Smiths existed being only nine years old.  Nine years later however I worshipped the band.  Too little, too late.

Rough Trade released the record with full knowledge that the band was leaving the label.  It reached number 2 in the album charts, second only to “So” by Peter Gabriel.

Morrissey was quoted as saying writing was an “absolute physical necessity”.

I live in a bed-sit.

Thesaurus moment: witch.

Thursday, 25 November 2010



This is one of those songs I can listen to on repeat play over and over.  It is just a perfect song, a wonderful accident.  Acts can write and record songs but it requires a special kind of alignment for everything to come together in this fashion.

The Will Always Negates Defeat.

“The W.A.N.D.” is an exhilarating composition.  It begins with a heavily distorted procession building a ripped anticipation ahead of the dam bursting and Wayne Coyne swooping in to the lead the charge (“we got the power now motherfuckers”).  And from here the positive drive is relentless right up to the echoed exit.  Being dizzy should never be a chore.

Moving on the expansive and glistening seventies sound of “You Gotta Hold On” maintains a thrive vibe before the single ends with “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (In Anatropous Reflex)” which is a stripped down piano play of the previous single.  It adds maturity but removes power and pace.  Swings and roundabouts.

The single peaked at #41 in the charts.  I bought this CD single from Sister Ray on Berwick Street in London at 4.52PM on 19 July 2006 for £2.99.  It was back when I was working at Sarm Studios for Trevor Horn in accounts.  That day the weather was particularly warm that the boss just let us go home as offices can be unendurable.  On the way to central London I boarded the tube at Notting Hill and just as I sat down a cranky old lady told me off for sitting in the priority seat of a next to empty carriage.  It was a weird experience where only amusement should emerge.  The Flaming Lips should be viewed in such a way.

In keeping with their hip approach to proceedings one of the two music videos features a pillow fight between two roller derby players from the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls (Lux and Venis Envy).  A comfy fit.

Who knew at this stage of their career they would be able to come up with the second best song in their arsenal.

Thesaurus moment: theurgy.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010



Quite frankly I am surprised that I actually bought this album.  Jay-Z maybe the biggest hip-hop artist in the world but that is never a guaranteed seal of approval, just a mark of much exposure.

A white guy reviews hip-hop.

In music history there have been three black albums: Spinal Tap, Metallica and this one.  Spot the odd one out and why.

Generally Jay-Z is an artist that has passed me by.  As I hint above, he has tended to strike me as being something of a mainstream commodity, a performer more rich in product than talent or material.  That’s the problem with first impressions you never get to make them again.  So, despite the pop is he any good?  He’s certainly radio friendly.

The Black Album is/was his eighth studio offering.  It was also his “retirement” record.  How the fuck did he put eight records out without making a dent on my consciousness?  Longevity is a rare thing in hip-hop.  Material is regularly milked but rarely do artists make it into double figures on albums.  What am I missing in this guy?  His fame crept up on me.  I thought he was painfully average when actually he is/was huge.

Jay-Z is music that actually sounds good played through a set of tinny mobile phone speakers.  Maybe that’s the secret.

In a moment of clarity I must concede that the popularity of Jay-Z confuses me.  His voice is funny but his rhymes and flow are good.  On a surface/superficial level he should not endear.  It would appear that I bought this CD as part of a 3 for £20 offer at Virgin Megastore.  I have no recollection of the transaction or what else I bought on the day.

Sometimes he sounds like a tranny.  And what’s the protracted cough about?

It begins with an “Interlude”.  What the fuck is this?  There is no interlude in thug life.

The sticker attached to the product states that “Change Clothes” and “What More Can I Say” are the heavy hits on board.  The former, a song about the importance of getting dressed, is plagued by a cheesy hook and the latter by a cheesy tag and Gladiator sample.  Lets start again.

Jay-Z came from the projects.  A boy like me could never understand how he lived, what he saw.  He speaks about struggles in a manner with which others do not.  In his mind hip-hop is the blues.  And this is why he’s friends with Chris Martin?  For the record Martin has said his favourite track on the album is “Lucifer”.  So that song must suck then.

One step forward two steps back.

On the Pete Rock remix “December 4th” was the first song to stand out for me.  With his mum (sorry, mom) offering wise words and a history lesson this is her perspective of the creation of Jay-Z.  The remix comes with a tasteful haunting accomplishment while the album version comes with a cheesy flag waving sonic backing.  This man is not subtle.  And that just might be his undoing in my mind.

Let’s chainsaw.  He laughs but I don’t read a sense of humour.

“Encore” was produced by Kanye West.  Being from an indie rock background it seems weird to me that an album houses almost a different producer on each track.  Elsewhere turning nobs and pushing buttons be The Neptunes, Timbaland, Rick Rubin and even Eminem.  Have these guys never heard of the too many cooks concept?  This was originally intended to be the first single.  Really?  It’s a song that appears to feel the need to add its own applause and worship.  It does however have amazing flow.

Apparently he achieved “it” with this record.

From some angles “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” is as good as it gets.  The piping eastern flavoured sample offers a broad hook and flexes the waves of the listener’s mind.  And then the hook is Jay-Z telling his people to pick themselves up and keep plugging away.  There are more inspirational manners.

“Threat” falls into the cliché of exhibiting gunshot samples and the sound of a crazy man launching them.  This is not the Wu-Tang Clan, it does not convince.

Finally I find a truly great instant occurs with “Moment Of Clarity” as it builds with effective drive and sinister source through a layering strings mixed with majestic beats.  The grab is in the hook that rises above so much flab and debris exhibited elsewhere.  At least I see why people believe in the man.

And then with that we get to “99 Problems” and his hard hitting throwback.  Smashing a sound so distinctly old school Def Jam and Rick Rubin in many ways the track is genius.  At a time when hip-hop became so intricate in composition it lost a lot of bite and edge so with this unsubtle sledgehammer he cracked it.  It’s a sound dismantle of the climate/environment.

The second half maintains momentum with “Public Service Announcement (Interlude)”.  With a deep piano intro and speech sample it genuinely explodes with another description of his purpose.  But the front don’t fuck it up, the electric shock of the organ sample feels like lightning shot from his soul.  Good work.

“Now back to our regular scheduled programme”.

He almost had me.

The record returns to pop with “Justify My Thug” and a dumb molestation of a Madonna song.  That and a Bill Haley like rock around the clock.  This track is just a fucking whine despite his declarations that he never felt sorry for himself.  Its so easy.  Shooting dogs, killing cats – that’s not cool.  And quit with the ringtone type frequencies.

Faltering at the finish “Allure” is the sound of a silly man being sensitive and sympathetic while more gunshot samples fire in the peripheral.  Is this work really a war zone?

The Black Album concludes with “My 1st Song” and some kind of offer of assurance.  The casual guitar decorating proceedings works against the rapid rhymes of more tainted confession.  He sure loves himself, how does he fit in Beyonce?  I guess with a shout out.

Jay-Z has said that this album marked an era.

I hate how the record has its Parental Advisory sticker on the sleeve, the actual artwork instead of wearing it as a sticker on the case.  Stuck and physically sealed its owned almost as a badge of honour.  Grow up like the only people supposedly allowed/entitled to purchase the piece.

This is an album designed to sell millions and little else.  Swag.

Thesaurus moment: something.

Monday, 22 November 2010



This is the dirty sound of sorrow.  I found the CD single in the bargain bin at Andy’s Records back in the day which feels an apt place to make such a discovery.

Royal Trux is a rare positive combination of indie rock and the blues.  The sadness feels vengeful not victim.  This is a hard act, not an easy fix.  There is no such thing as an easy fix.

“You’re Gonna Lose” comes saddled with sad notes.  Its delivery feels like an aftermath, like the quivering meander of a defeatist internal monologue echoing the message the world strikes us down with.  It does however offer space for the protagonist to switch/turn tables and be the one performing the scolding and dismantling of hopes.  In defence comes offence when an individual finds themselves cornered, not least when Jennifer Herrema emphasises “I’m talking to you”.

This is the sort of song you need in your pocket when you’re wounded.  As Herrema makes various statements and declarations she is immediately shot down by associated guitar licks which eventually override into vocal/verbal retorts from Neil Hagerty and the others.  It’s all about beating the individual down and bursting bubbles.  When JFK is mentioned it is with disillusion.  Then towards the end you can literally feel the effort that is put into the last large lick.  It’s a hard life.

On the other side the vibrant “Hibiscus” benefits from loose informal percussion and dense distortion in guitar accompanying the Herrema snarl before all breaks out into jam while a live version of “Hot And Cold Skulls” recorded by the BBC conjures up visions of burnt summer Saturday afternoons on the festival circuit.

Who knew we had it so good?

Thesaurus moment: mislay.

Saturday, 20 November 2010



At some point I thought all music would sound like this as we emerged head first into the 21st century.  This should be the sound that accompanies our new fresh sterile cities, way of life and existence in general.  I love this music, it doesn’t demand too much of my being and effort, which at the end of the day is much appreciated as already enough aspects of the world appear intent in tearing me apart.

The music of DJ Krush is minimal but pleasingly effective.  His way offers a very helpful and useful mental workout.  The drive is subtle but also explicitly intensive, helping to furnish and score any task or mindset.  It works on many levels slowing down systems while speeding up mental environments.  The repetition of the beats serves almost as some kind of ignition and pulse for manoeuvre.

This is the kind of music you would expect to exist in cool Tokyo basement clubs lit by neon appliance and attitude.  It expresses a motion and state of cool where time is not of the essence.  Where one track ends and another begins is true grey area.  Kakusei is a single piece of work best taken as a whole to streamline the chore of existence.  Often it ticks like a bomb as the results feel endless.  Whenever an album begins with “Intro” and ends with “Outro” you can be sure you are listening to a singular piece.  It follows a grand jazz tradition.

Turntablism heavily subscribes to the cut-up methodology made famous by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin which was later adopted and adapted by many electronic artists such as Scanner and Bomb The Bass.  In deconstruct DJ Krush achieves reconstruct.

As a constant/persistent beat flows through standing out are tracks such as “Deltaforest” which engages downbeat piano drops and frequency distortion as garnish and frill.  Later on “1200” smoky little jazz inserts cater a heavenly tone/feel while it is on tracks such as “Crimson” and “85 Loop” where the beat is felt hardest.  Later less subtle is the flowing saxophone and orchestra strings of “The Dawn”.  Eventually it is “Final Home” where folding train samples and the drums of distant movement offer most urban suffocation.

A Slow moving vehicle.

Thesaurus moment: abatement.

Thursday, 18 November 2010



This is a painful and legendary live album for all the wrong reasons.  In many ways this is the sound of a band committing career suicide as they opened for Nine Inch Nails at London’s roughest mainstream venue.  As the story goes the set came at the end of a very long, exhausting and draining tour.  This was their final night and all they could do was make a statement of how they were feeling and transfer the state onto the audience.  Sure this was a belligerent thing to be doing but sometimes it is all you have, all you feel like do and cannot help but feel a certain degree of contempt to your situation and those around you.  Had I been there at the gig I may have felt anger and disappointment but taken as a historical piece/recording this is truly an amazing piece of work, truly uncompromising and in the same league as Metal Machine Music as a polarising gesture and release.

Right now this is my number one album to annoy my neighbours with.  I do not derive an inch of enjoyment from listening to the disc, its all about the sonic and noise pollution, about freaking people out and making them feel miserable and uncomfortable.  People do such things in everyday life using a variety of measures and methods, I just happen to play really horrible sounding “music”.  You can’t spell “antisocial” without spelling “social”.

Ultimately I guess this release is mainly about cutting off your nose to spite your face, to express you current emotional state using an element of sacrifice that contorts the listener to a state of unknowing voyeur.

That’s twenty six minutes and forty seven seconds of my life I won’t be seeing again.

Go fuck yourself.

Thesaurus moment: hate.

Digital Hardcore Recordings

Sunday, 14 November 2010



I used to know a fat girl from Manchester who was obsessed with this band, she bordered on wanting to have the lead singer’s babies.  Later she would jump a member of a different band from Nottingham and cause concern of unleashing an STD in Leicester.  Rumour was that the sleeping bag that they shared had to be burned (had to be destroyed).  She then got a job in a bank, lost the weight and reeled out a pretty decent and impressive set of Facebook photos.  In other words she grew up and left childish things such as Braid behind.

Braid were emo before emo turned silly, went goth and got silly haircuts.  That said beneath the exterior it would seem attitudes were much the same.  Don’t cry.

“I’m Afraid Of Everything” is a terrible song title and sentiment to unleash on the world.  And then the fuckers place the song in the middle of a three song release.  It’s the meat in an emo burger.  Not to worry though as to large extent all three songs on this release sound the same.

So why am I giving this release such a hard time?  I guess for me it just represents a really bad time in my music education, a moment when people were insistent that this was some kind of pinnacle and peak in playing.

I whine but I’m not proud of it.  I don’t record music about it.  Occasionally I’ll write about it but the key element is that I will sprinkle it with a heavy dose of humour whereas this kind of earnest display of emotion seems to lack such abandon and humility.

Poor old Braid, it’s not their fault.

Thesaurus moment: wet.

Thursday, 11 November 2010



For their fifth studio album Liars have bounced back with a fangled array of weaponry.  After a few diversions and distractions they are now back to their art-punk funk fresh.  Here is an act with Butthole Surfers tones with a death rattle now exercising a Beck like slacker vibe.  Or rather in their own words: “acting awkward, clumsy, uncoordinated.”

Being Australian in New York must be a strange thing.  Your accent already makes you stand out but when it’s served from a frame that towers above the herd as from a distance you look like the car crash combination of Gibby Haynes and Luke Skywalker, there truly needs to be method in your madness.  Angus Andrew lives up to that old adage: never trust a man with two first names.

Liars is a band that bonded over a love and appreciation for acts such as PIL and Gang Of Four which is an appreciation that has always seeped through in their most majestic moments.  Then their playfulness and general dishonesty, as derived from their moniker, has caused complication and annoyance.  This is an act that appears to take glee in toying with its listeners/audience.

Sisterworld is a subtle and jerky offering.  What kind of sick and twisted sphere is this?  For extended periods it is sedate as the creepy warm vocals of Angus insinuate the awful.  As with all good things, it’s not an easy listen coming with a drunk, menacing emerge.  Indeed tracks such as “Here Comes All The People” are downright horror movie paranoid.  Then there is the cult like chants of “I Still Can See An Outside World” which prompts the question: from where?  Ultimately it is a frustrating listen as a slow moving vehicle that often requests too much patience in the listener.  In other words, it is selfish.

Sometimes the new direction works as with the Krautrock of “Proud Evolution” and the near trip hop swaying swings and pulse on “No Barrier Fun” but it’s the destruction and devastation that you just want so much more.  A track like “Drip” just goes in one ear and out the other.

The high times prove few and far between.  “The Overachievers” stands out with its crazy motoring surf guitar haunted house ride sound while “Scarecrows On A Killer Slant” supplies the sound of bubbly and bouncing slaughter and Manson like delights.  It all begs the question: who are these people out to get?

I don’t know, exiting I am just left with the impression that here is a band that thinks they’re being smarter than they actually are.

Thesaurus moment: forestall.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010



This was a highly anticipated single.  When it arrived Pavement were now solidly established as favourites in indie rock minds with a penchant for American noise.

It begins with what sounds like a horse rearing or an elephant screaming ahead of the beast abating and bouncing on a bum note.  Pavement guitars always sound like none other.

Like an eager beaver I bought this on both seven inch and CD single.  My memory recollects that this was one of the last big releases to appear on the Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley Radio One Graveyard Shift before their career spiked and briefly went into a weird oblivion.  The same could possibly have been said for Pavement at the time as soon Blur (and specifically Graham Coxon) discovered American lo-fi gave their profile a genuine mainstream push.  From here each time Pavement toured the UK they did bigger venues as people that you didn’t want liking Pavement suddenly liked Pavement.  They were on the stereo.  And for some reason my CD single version always faltered.  There was too much dust on the lens.

On this song the band sounds very confident and knowing.  Both musically and lyrically the unit has tapped into what it likes and the results are expert.  Magnificently the words are both matter of fact and memorable.  There is even room for a little conversational call and response.  It’s a song that will always supply a smile.

Moving on “Westie Can Drum” emerges prodding with almost rap vocals.  It runs a bit like “Coffee & TV” by Blur eventually becoming an extended wonky work out that ends in screaming.  “Winner Of The” in contrast offers an upbeat plod that sounds like conversation in its weird harmonies while remaining classic Pavement.

One of their best singles ever.

Thesaurus moment: oil.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010



Tim Key has been slyly lingering for a few years now.  I have seen him do stand-up, appear in plays (the very fun “Party”), read poetry on Newswipe and perform “music” in a most sardonic and downright abrupt/blunt manner.  Not that he is playing any instruments, more he is quipping over the tune while criticising those playing around him.  Such is his demeanour.  He reminds me of the clever kid at school that disliked everyone.

I have friends who really hate Tim Key.  He polarises many like a bear with a black nose and a white body.  Often he looks like somebody just beat him up.  Perhaps they did.  This is very much a mentality I associate with.

Released on vinyl and download this is a rare object, an album that contains as much studio bickering as it does actual music content.  This is meta music that you can either hate or enjoy but generally before even playing it your opinion of this piece will probably already be formed.

The premise is what it says on the tin: Tim Key with a string quartet on a boat being recorded just like on the Zissou ship in Life Aquatic.  From here Key dips into his ample body of poems as the band illuminate the ambience of the piece.  If Wes Anderson made a record (a good record) it might sound like this.

As a piece of work it covers a lot of ground.  Often the poetry is high brow and entertaining stuff, as are the classical arrangements/accompaniments.  Then there is the bickering between Key and Tom Basden.  Their exchanges sound straight from a comedy podcast and in the banter tradition of Derek And Clive records (sans swearing) as the latter’s participation in recording is teased in a Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington style.

This feels quite a unique record.  There are elements of Ivor Cutler coupled with the surreal meta poetry of a most pompous artist somewhat in the style of a Ricky Gervais creation.  Multilayered this is perhaps often irony spread on irony, truths presented in a manner of pretend when really they are the pure thoughts of a person at their worst.  It’s good to be bad.  And dark.

“I have hired a floating studio.”

Immediately the performance, for that is what it is, addresses death and dining (“I’m marrying dead Claire” Edward announced at the annual curry”) followed by lesser subjects such as dogs, pipes and feeling itchy.

It doesn’t take long for Key to concede this is just an album of a man in a tracksuit reading poems made possible from the money left over from another project.  Where’s the need for people to pressure themselves?

Clocking in at thirty tracks a lot of ground is covered including driving, war, doctors, eggs, goats, plastic surgery, money, dealing with giants, yawning on dates, lies, jumping out of a plane, all of which are addressed in Key’s trademark droll and awkward fashion.

On track 28 is suddenly occurs to Key and Basden that the string quartet (“the treacherous fiddlers”) have abandoned the recording, abandoned ship.  With this Basden finally gets his moment and goes solidly solo with the surprisingly “Lord’s Moment”.

Finally it all ends with “Waterloo” (poem #705) which would be the hit single attached to the album were such a ridiculous conceit entertained in this record.  All encompassing it describes the process of meeting a lady for a date at said train station detailing going down to the South Bank to watch a film with all the grief attached to being stood up.  It is a most painful insight into the existence of being a modern single, about having faith.  As days turn into weeks then into months even in death the man involved remains waiting.  When the date eventually arrives it is too late.  It is always too late.  Sadness accrues madness.

If you like albums that sound like studio outtakes you will like this.  If you like cohesive readings of masterful poetry you will not like this.  Here, for better and worse, is a unique work.  Poems in the Key of life.

Thesaurus moment: priggish.

Monday, 8 November 2010



The world would be a crappy place if it were not for cranky old father figures giving us shit and demanding (not necessarily commanding) our respect.  I genuinely believe it is in human nature to enjoy being pushed about, to have somebody else pick up the ball and run with it for us while at the same time dragging our carcasses along with them.

Whatever Michael Gira says this is a fucking reformation.  Do not be wet or deluded.  So here he is now after a very credible solo calling.

Taking a shortcut I could be forgiven for saying that at a surface level this sounds like a cross between Iggy Pop and Lou Reed fronting an obtuse version of the Bad Seeds.  This is no doubt a description Gira would fucking hate.

The record opens with the near ten minute gesture of “No Words/No Thoughts”.  I guess the intention to offer something medative as slowly a sonic cathedral grows into a pulsing disarray designed to disarm and alarm, to pluck victims and reduce expectation to rubble.  So this is the flipside of Christian Rock.  And it is ugly.

As much as I despair at the posturing of Gira I can help but feel a strong affinity with the man for the mere fact he has a song entitled “You Fucking People Make Me Sick”.  Even if the song does not live up to the name it is a strong indication of what his and his audience’s mindset is like and the perspective of the world being expressed with the album.  Sure the song builds to weird horror movie theatrics but the intention is there.

And I guess therein lies the power.  When the sonics and the song writing collide it is a wonderful and powerful thing, especially on “My Birth” as the song thumps and swings as if sawing someone open in order to drag another soul into the universe.  With the trademark Swans repetition driving the motion all is pummelled.

There is something of a congregation feel to the vibe.  “Reeling The Liars In” sounds very much a preacher cleaning house prompting a person to question how much of this is spiel and how much is real.  Then the full on Bad Seeds vibe of “Jim” is all about taking a man to task, bringing him back in reductive fashion.  Very Thirlwell.  Where once was flight now is fight.

Over the course of eight songs a lot of ground is covered.  A steady pace maintains right up to the end as all remains slow and menacing with instruments screaming in resemblance of the lost souls being addressed.

With its brooding string section and massive march “Eden Prison” ensures the album culminates in destructive fashion bringing a blunt sensibility to the end of an existence.  Here is the grandest orchestra.  And with that the damaged croon of “Little Mouth” runs out like a set of David Lynch closing credits for some reason reminding me of being lifted up to space in a Chevrolet Malibu at the climax of Repo Man.

Ultimately this is a tough record, the uncomfortable listen that Gira and co designed and engineered.  Eventually it clicked with me but after too many listens.  I stuck with it and it grew on me.  It would like to say that it captivated me but it didn’t.  If you want an album that is going to make you work, here you go.

A deaf rattle.

Thesaurus moment: anathematize.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010



This is one of the hardest comedy records in existence.  Carlin is quite frankly on fire nailing so many issues with a classy ferocity that so few inhabit.  Recorded in 2005 and released in 2006 this was his eighteenth album and his thirteenth live special broadcast on HBO which is an incredible body of work from a comedian that is unlikely to be matched.  Carlin survived so many greats as his topical stance coupled with a strategy for the long game.

Recorded at Beacon Theater in New York his gravely voiced address is awesome from the off as his introduction as “A Modern Man” is a rapid dose of poetry contrasting current tongue twisting jargon often rendering it as nonsense and contradiction.  In just under four minutes Carlin highlights how the human condition has been conveniently tucked into little boxes in the most reductive fashion.

“I got 341 days sober and next year is my 50th anniversary in show business, let’s do a fucking show.”

Carlin was always a most tight and professional act.  There isn’t the looseness in this performance that comes with so many comedy heroes but there is a sharp and focused execution.  The bits here are more like essays, well crafted and thoroughly nailed by the point of presentation.  This performance is watertight.

Life Is Worth Losing is a dark exploration into contemporary life and appraisal of the awful.  The album features Carlin at his grizzly and gruff best, taking aim and hitting many targets in execution.

The show title is born of a ferocious drive for live.  Soon Carlin is addressing suicide with the rational perspective “where do you find the time?”  On that note he goes through the working process of “The Suicide Guy” and the exhausting amount of effort it takes to plan such a deed and act.  He highlights the fact that men are four times more likely to commit suicide even though women attempt it more.  In other words (his words): men are better at it.  If you have ever been pushed to such a point in your life this material is golden as you can’t help but associate with it and appreciate the dark humour tied to such times.  The manner with which he enters the mindset is uniquely insightful, realistic and very funny.

As the set continues Carlin keeps things light reviewing human behaviour and stating how it would take little more than the removal of electricity to turn society upside down.  If nothing else, his message is that life is fragile and cannot afford to be wasted on nonsense, especially reality TV.  And bearing this was recorded in 2005 he prediction of “The All-Suicide Channel” feels even less exaggerated in this climate.

“Dumb Americans” is his rally call, a cool word in the ear of the listener advising precaution and promoting personal empowerment in the face of so much corporate and government control.  He refers to the USA as having been turned into one large shopping mall.  His frustration and anger exudes as he tears into the docile consumer culture that has engulfed the western world.  By the end of the address he stating how the owners of the country are the people coercing such lifestyles.  Without hesitation Carlin states that politicians are only in place to give off the illusion of choice.  No, everything and everyone is owned.  And the owners want more.  What they don’t want is an educated and informed society that questions such truths, reality and critical thinking (“that’s against their interests”).  No, what they want are obedient workers, “people just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork but dumb enough to passively accept increasingly shittier jobs.  “It’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it”.

With his “Pyramid Of The Hopeless” bit, Carlin heavily reminds me of Bill Hicks and his terminally ill stunt people concept but taken to the extreme.  Surely these two are not the only people to have noticed how cheap the value life has become.  Still, the idea of rebranding suicide as “extreme living” might have something going for it before long especially if coupled with the popularity of “scarfing” (also known as autoerotic asphyxia).

In many ways he appears to become crankier the more the set continues as by the end he paints his greatest disaster scenario.  As he predicts another dangerous fate it feels good to be in on the joke, prepared and modestly protected.  The “Coast-To-Coast Emergency” that closes the set is a broken down nightmare born from a sharp imagination.  And his point being: don’t fuck with nature.

George Carlin was a master of picking apart his surroundings and lending a fresh perspective and vision to the subtle beauty and horror that stands beside us everyday.  In dark and enthusiastic fashion there was always the intention to lay convention to waste, to illuminate and change minds.  Life Is Worth Losing was the final show released/broadcast during his lifetime, a life that was full of victory.

Thesaurus moment: perspicacity.