Friday, 28 January 2011

VARIOUS – KURT’S CHOICE (NME)



VARIOUS – KURT’S CHOICE (NME)

Kurt Cobain always expressed impeccable taste in music when referencing influences and heroes.  For a cover mount CD from a magazine this is a significantly/substantially better compilation than is usually offered.

Appearing in 2004 to mark the tenth anniversary of Cobain’s death, the NME accompanied a cover piece with this thirteen-song collection of the good and the great.  The considered with care selection ranges from the obvious grunge co-conspirators Mudhoney then digs out the blues inspiration of Leadbelly through to the proto-punk of Iggy Pop to the actual punk of Bad Brains and the hardcore of MDC to the emo mutation of Dischord hardcore in Rites Of Springs (and a future Fugazi) into the birth of the alternative nation and grunge precurse of Butthole Surfers and Melvins with a side step to acknowledge strong female acts in The Slits and PJ Harvey and kitsch oddball in The Vaselines.  In other words the disc displays a wide field of quality in independent acts.

It was always such references and gestures that made Nirvana more than a mere Kerrang! band.  In many ways it was what kept them indie as they became the biggest act on the planet.  I genuinely believe in the term The House That Kurt Built because were it not for his reference I would only have heard of two or three of these acts at best/most.

Any record that opens with “Touch Me I’m Sick” is likely to be a good one.  Then it feels quite perverse to hear such mucky sentiments placed next to the optimistic emo straight edge motions of Rites Of Spring and “For Want Of” which quite frankly has aged very well.  Key to the construct is the urgency that retains.

Remaining on Dischord, Faith follows with their more straight ahead hardcore coming from the point things were becoming more melodic on the label.

Ensuring Iggy Pop is included, a live version of “Louie Louie/Hang On Sloppy” from 1980.  Obviously this isn’t prime Osterberg and while the audio cuts in and out subtly there is still clear fire and fury in the performance.

Opening up modern wounds the Melvins next launch a fifty second assault on proceedings as sometimes that is just as much is required from King Buzzo and co.  Then in more measured and jarring manner “Sweat Loaf” by the Butthole Surfers arrives screaming “Satan! Satan!” while revolving like carousel round one of Black Sabbath’s best riffs.  The drugs do work.

MDC pops up next with the pointed “John Wayne Was A Nazi”, a song title clearly appreciated by Cobain and his objectionable, anti-establishment attitude.  John Wayne really didn’t do very well out of punk rock all considered as it was in Repo Man that Tracey Walter suggested he was a “fag”.

An appreciation for post-punk and angular invention is represented by the inclusion of Gang Of Four then The Slits.  Both provide tracks that pulse and jiggle, decide on directions against anything expected.  Continuing a “Typical Girls” theme, The Slits move onto “Dress” by PJ Harvey and he original acts of jarring effigy.

As the collection colludes towards conclusion it offers two tracks Nirvana covered but could not have been more different.  The original bubblegum version of “Molly’s Lips” by The Vaselines fiercely displays and expresses the manner in which Cobain would construct his songs and frequently insert repetitive lines both in chorus and verse.  The real wonder however is whether Cobain knew that the song was about actress Molly Weir who played Hazel The McWitch in the kids TV show Rentaghost.

With this we arrive at the original of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” by Leadbelly.  Even though Cobain tried to make it his on the Unplugged performance, the overriding angst exhibited by Huddie Ledbetter is something than can not be bettered or broken.

Following in a flurry the hardcore classic “Banned In DC” by Bad Brains closes the compilation with a time change and sense of reckless abandon all coupled with a guitar solo that sounds like a police siren.   Anyone with ears likes Bad Brains.

Whether this actually what Cobain would listen to in one sitting is open to debate but there definite elements in each track that you can see filtered into his own material and being.  And it’s a better set of influences than most acts scale.

All that’s missing is Sonic Youth.

Thesaurus moment: presume.


Monday, 24 January 2011

KRISTIN HERSH – CROOKED (THROWING MUSIC/FRIDAY BOOKS)


KRISTIN HERSH – CROOKED (THROWING MUSIC/FRIDAY BOOKS)

To instigate an argument between hipsters and heads I used to pose the question: Kristin Hersh or Chan Marshall?  Invariably this was never a question cleanly answered, there were just too many elements influencing proceedings such as cred points, age, attraction.

Kristin Hersh is quite an intimidating character.  Coming from tough origins her ability to remain resilient, relevant and generally around is the mark of stern and strong stuff.  All along she has retained a look/stare that could kill.  And with her words it probably has.

Crooked is the eighth solo album from Hersh which coupled with so many Throwing Muses records makes for quite the body of work.  And with that the album comes packaged as a hardback book with amongst lyrics and artwork an essay by her about each song.  This is not a lazy lady as in construct she also produced the record while playing all the instruments.  Here is how you multitask.

With time her voice has deepened reflecting age and the experience that comes with.  And as I flick through the book I discover that she has four sons.  This is a superwoman.

I must admit that I am surprised when I remove the shrink-wrap and crack open the book to not discover a disc of any kind inside.  This truly is a different era.  So this is how an artist gets round the end of the physical format.

Lyrically Crooked feels quite the narrated intrusion as Hersh offers an explicit post-mortem of testing times at the hands of unhealthy influence.  Often it feels like therapy for both the author and the listener.  Lines such as “you’re very clean, I give up” and “Why put the light on at all” in “Glass” reveal quite the scenario, quite the situation and intention.  Then the delivery of the title track’s opening “hold the flashlight under your chin, closer as the lights dim” are some of the darkest words heard all year.

It is on “Sand” when Hersh skates finest motoring with jangly guitar and stretching vocals all sewn up with a curling hook that’s contradictory and effective.  Musically even if the pace is mostly mid tempo often there is exhibition that imposing and grand.

With “Moan” she reaches a unique place sounding like Mazzy Starr covering “If I Think” by Mudhoney.  Meanwhile “Fortune” proves very conversational and confessional as words come in waves especially with such statements as “you cost a fortune, you cast a shadow” which is certainly a sentiment most people can place on a pairing and moment in time.

The eventual outro of “Rubidoux” serves as an expansive haunting freeway this whisks the listener away to a conclusion.

Crooked is an incredible work coming at a much appreciated time.  The pain that is transmitted is translated to electric ends.

Thesaurus moment: anfractuous.

Throwing Music
Friday Books

Thursday, 13 January 2011

PAVEMENT – QUARANTINE THE PAST (DOMINO)


PAVEMENT – QUARANTINE THE PAST (DOMINO)

When acts regroup it helps to have something to push/promote when hitting the stage/road.  Too many times such compilations are ramshackle efforts thrown together in hast with a distinct lack of care.  Such releases are blights, stains on a band’s career discography (a clear example being The Fall).  And housing a title such as Quarantine The Past you sense Pavement and their people fully know this (they are of high IQ after all).  However despite such a depreciating record name, with perhaps the best appellation for such an album thoughtfully constructed this 23 track selection is devastating.

In many ways Pavement have never sounded better.  There has been a real clean up job done on these tracks in order to give the compilation a cohesive flow and the result has been to up everything and make it glow.  That’s not to say it has been cleaned up and ruined in a traditional sense, the songs now just feel more weighty than before, they contain more clout.

Cut Your Hair” was the first Pavement song I fell for.  It was weird and unlike anything else I had ever seen.  It was goofy but did not compromise any might.  It was frightening and fucked, a joke you were ever in on or excluded from.  A song able to alienate as much as it could delight.

In similar fashion songs such as “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” and “Grounded” perfectly capture what it feels to be enjoying freedom in a season.  Loud, fuzzy and breezy in all its lo-fi excellence the movement of the music feels akin to being on holiday.

The term Quarantine The Past is taken from the opening track “Gold Soundz”.  The sloppy optimism of the track never sat right with me.  Apparently this was the best single of the nineties.  Pavement was not music about presenting the best possible version of yourself.

Present here are all the great singles thankfully not offered in chronological order.  Some are great, some are good.  Some should have not been singles while others exist in novelty.  For me Pavement tracks were always representative of the climate and season.  Broken hearts retain and maintain as the process always stung.

In my opinion their best record will forever be the wonder of Wowee Zowee and from that we are given “Grounded” and “Fight This Generation”.  The singles from the album are missing!  Then again they were slow, stoned and dethroned (although “Father To A Sister Of A Thought” is for me the song that I crashed my first car to).

Stereo” represented something of a change, a new focus, a new era.  Remaining wonky as expected it added a blistering Sonic Youth type wig out sensibility as if it were expected.  That’s not the say the song is not great, only that it felt like a gesture that was demanded/commanded.  Also from that record comes “Shady Lane” which features Malkmus at his wordy best and brilliant.

Elsewhere influences such as the aforementioned Fall are felt on the very abrasive “Two States” while “Range Life”, with its Smashing Pumpkins/Stone Temple Pilots goading confusion at Lollapalooza and the alternative nation has always sounded like Neil Young to me.  Then there is their explicit tribute/ode to REM on the “Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence” where affection exudes and humour thankfully prevents it from becoming sickly.

Career spanning to their credit they do not avoid/ignore the messy noise of “Mellow Jazz Docent” and “Box Elder” as it rubs shoulders with laidback smooth selections such as “Heaven Is A Truck” and “Shoot The Singer”.  What is very impressive however is the inclusion of “Unfair” and “Embassy Row” which I always considered very similar, very much from the same page.

The final song Pavement ever played when quitting first time round was “Here”.  The first lines of “I was dressed for success, but success it never come” feel telling in both the aftermath and context of the era.  They were losers from the off.  It’s funny to consider they were making such a declaration on their first record.  In time it has been attached to weaker product in the form of teenage angst film but regardless it remains the sound of drowning and works well when times aren’t working out.

As I say compilation albums aren’t exactly indie rock, more a cry for help.  With the band reunited and no fresh product to support, management and owners need to do something with their catalogue (their investment).  Sure the implied intention is to offer a snapshot of nostalgia but was this necessary?  Not after the deluxe reissues of the album it was not.  But whatever nevermind.

“Wake up to people so tall to you”.

When it closes with “Fight This Generation” you can’t help but feel an era misunderstood the message and slipped into failure.  Certainly most of my friends didn’t seem to get it.  There will never be a noted band like this again.

Now which fucking joker included “Jai Ho” from the Slumdog Millionaire in the illegal download of this album I used for review?

Tale Of The Tape:
Watery Domestic – 2 tracks
Perfect Sound Forever – 2 tracks
Slay Tracks – 1 track
Slanted And Enchanted – 5 tracks
Wowee Zowee – 2 tracks
Brighten The Corners - 4 tracks
Terror Twilight – 1 track

Broken biscuits.

Thesaurus moment: utter.