It's been some time. There are several explanations, none of which are particularly interesting. It's guilt which brings me back to this blog. Not Catholic guilt... perhaps it's Protestant Work Ethic Guilt: the sense that I should be doing something creative, laying my thoughts onto screen for no other reason than pure selfishness (and audience adulation, let's face it). But here I am. I hope your 2016 has been kind to you thus far. It has been very gentle with me., and that is sweet relief.
I haven't really ever written about this on the blog before - frankly, because it's none of your damn business - but the story may be a reasonable segue way into music open for discussion. So, for the past 8 months I have been a partner in a record store in Melbourne: Round And Round Records in Brunswick. When I left my previous position at a record company last July - walked out that damn door - I was left with my dick in the breeze, so to speak, and no idea what to do. My two good friends who owned/operated the shop - my favourite musical retail outlet in Melbourne, I should add - offered me a stake in the business, and I took it. There are many other details to add, but this is not a confessional. I am happy, scraping a living from it and it would be nice if you'd drop on by. My head is in a very good place, and I'd like to use this opportunity to get more regularly, uh, 'creative'.
The shop is a mix of 50/50 new and secondhand vinyl; there was a time when it sold CDs (and even DVDs!), but since at some point many in the general public decided they didn't want such things, those formats were stripped from the shelves. The market did the talking, although we (or at least I!) remain unfazed regarding musical formats, as for myself, the music itself is really the only thing worth discussing.
So, approximately 6 weeks ago, an old friend of mine came in and sold off a box of old records. I've known this gent for roughly 15 years, used to play in bands with him and generally know his taste in music. It was a big pile of punk/goth/noise goodness, and right in the pile was, gulp, two LPs by God Bullies. I hadn't given them much thought since Bill Clinton was President, but I was happy to purchase them for the shop, figuring the Great Grunge Revival was/is right around the corner and that some 40-something putz with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a head full of worry would grab them, toot sweet. The Great Grunge Revival is yet to hit, of course, but in the meantime, I wound up purchasing the two LPs in question, and hopefully that's the strangest fucking thing I do all year.
I should clarify here: I rarely ever take home secondhand LPs from the store, for two simple reasons - 1) It makes sense that the good secondhand arrivals should hit the shelves for the customers and not for my own gratification at home; and 2) I need more records like I need a hole in the head. But in this case, something odd happened. I kind of laughed when the records first arrived: Dog Show?! Fuck! I bought that when I was 18 and sold it by the time I was 25! The late '80s/early '90s... they could be a cruel period. Yes, I do recall buying Dog Show when I was 18 and being distinctly under-impressed by it, although I desperately wanted to like it, given the good press it had received and its label Amphetamine Reptile's then-rep (this is 1990, folks) as one of the world's great taste-making recording imprints. Its mixture of sample-heavy clunk-rock with thin production and tastelessly metallic guitar sheen left me colder than a fuckin' iceberg and I dismissed it as a whole lotta hype about nothing much at all.
Despite this questionable history with its wares, I found myself, over the ensuing weeks, giving them some serious air time when I was in the shop. My workmate found its hilarious, if perhaps a bit disconcerting. He did, at the very least, promise me that if a totally boss collection of Surgery and Chokebore LPs came in, I could get first dibs. I felt a curious sense of nostalgia for a record I thought was a steaming pile of shit 25 years ago. And I haven't even mentioned my fondness for their debut full-length, also in the secondhand pile, Mamawombwomb, which I was giving similar airing on the stereo system. It came to be that no one bought them in the (mere) three weeks I gave them shelf space - and in fact no one paid any interest in them whatsoever - and I decided I would purchase them and give them a home myself. It was probably some point around here when I lost my mind.
God Bullies formed in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the mid '80s, and released four LPs before splitting in the mid '90s. The last, Kill The King, was released in 1994 on the Alternative Tentacles label, while War On Everybody from 1991 was similarly released on the AmRep label and for me ranks as their best (though I don't own the thing - I streamed it via a certain platform [take a wild fuckin' guess]). Their guitarist was David B. Livingstone, who also happened to be an editor/published of Your Flesh magazine (one of the better post-Forced Exposure rant mags of its day) and indie band booker in the midwest. Their singer was 'crazy man', Mike Hard. I don't know much about Mike except he was apparently 'craazee' in a rock-singer kinda way, but, you know, everyone was back in the day. There's this clip here you can see, which has the band in full flight, but I'd recommend you don't watch it, if you're at all partial and/or curious about the band. I know, it's so tempting, but honestly, it's a hamfisted, overcooked semi-embarrassment which looks like a band trying too hard. Correct me if I'm wrong, dear readers, but quarter of a century later, from the comfort of the other side of the world, it looks like a parody of a grunge-era noise-rock band. I'm sticking to the audio side of things.
Mamawombwomb goes lighter on the sampling and possesses much better production than Dog Show, and it's the stronger of the two. If I was to dumb it down to a catch-phrase, and you know I will, I'd say that they approximate some sort of meeting point twixt the Melvins, Buttholes and Killdozer. From the first, there's the rifferama; from the second, the psychedelic 'crazy' angle; and from the latter, a thick slice of midwestern sludge. I think the Melvins, Buttholes and Killdozer are all streets ahead of God Bullies in terms of musical, innovative and creative endeavours, of course, which might prompt the question - why fucking bother? - and I can't really answer that. Why bother getting out of bed every day? I don't know. Maybe there's more God Bullies records to buy. Overcome with a sense of nostalgia from when I was young, dumb and full of cu- hope for the world? That's a distinct possibility. No, it's a probability. But there remains those two LPs: Mamawombwomb and Dog Show. I like 'em. The clunkiness and thin production of Dog Show don't grate me like they used to. Instead, what I hear is a basement-level midwestern shit-rock which I'm giving a B+. Right now, that's good enough.