Monday, December 27, 2004

PEOPLE ARE STRANGE...

Here’s something so strange it took me a few full minutes to properly digest it and believe it. My wife received a digital camera for Xmas, a Samsung V3 w/ 3.1 megapixel. Make any sense? Didn’t think so. Me neither. Anyway, she was mucking around with it all day on Xmas at various relatives’ places, and only yesterday got time to sit down and put the disk into the computer to download the photos. She called me into the room as she was doing this and pointed to the screen, asking if I knew who these people were. It was a photo of END. End, you ask? Why, the Greek Black Metal band I wrote about here. I asked her why she had taken a photo of End. I mean, it’s just a black and white photo of three ugly dudes caught in the “howling” pose with corpsepaint and six-inch forearms studs. Not really something to frame and put on the dining room wall. She said she hadn’t, that it was a sample photo, along with a sunset, supplied by Samsung on the disc.

I didn’t believe her. I figured she must have taken a photo of them from one of the CD booklets I had lying around, or that she had downloaded it from the net. When I realized that the quality of the image was too good for a photo, and that the probability of her searching out pictures of End (whom she’s never heard of and could care even less for: her enthusiasm for Black Metal runs at zero and below) and posting them in this file were likely nil, I suddenly came to the brainiac conclusion she wasn’t fucking with my head. Someone at Samsung was!

Somewhere in their lab is a Black Metal geek having a real nyuk-nyuk with his ridiculous gag: putting a picture of an obscure Greek Black Metal group in the software for thousands, maybe millions, of digital-camera purchasers worldwide to see. The picture in itself is from the inside cover of the debut album, and is called “end.photo.doc” (or something like that), but answer me this: why End? Why not Burzum? Darkthrone? Emperor? You know, one of the "big" names. Just when you thought life couldn’t get any stranger, it does.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

It’s hot, hot, hotter than hell outside, so today I shall stay indoors and kill some time listening to that fandangled Homosexuals box some more, a stack of Mingus CDs (having just rented and watched the Beneath The Underdog DVD) and maybe later on even get down to listening to the tapes I just got from Tim over at Music Chamber. The tapes in question are part of Tim’s “Invisible Jukebox” experiment he’s giving to anyone who’ll accept (I took the bait, of course). I gave two of the cassettes a very quick fast-forward run-through last night – which is probably cheating – and didn’t recognise a single tune or artist. Perhaps come Xmas day, a dull day for me by anyone’s standards, I’ll sit down and put my uninformed thoughts down to type for Tim, but until then…

I wish for a friendly discussion here – the comments boxes have again temporarily bombed (what the fuck am I paying Squawkbox for?!), though they’ll be back up soon – you know, in the spirit of Christmas. That’s pretty rich coming from me, I know; god knows I’ve started enough shit-throwing in my lifetime, but in my never-ending quest to achieve true Dorkhood, I’ll list some of my all-time favourite shows, and then list a few true-to-life gigs I wish I’d been able to attend. In that spirit, you shall do the same. You’ll hesitate at first, feel like a complete asshole, then succumb to the nerd within and contribute. You know you want to.

BEST:

Massappeal/My Heart Bleeds For You/God/The Dorks, May 1988, Prince of Wales
MHBFY and the Dorks sucked. The former were lame punk/metal who eventually gave members to one of the most abominable Australian bands of the ‘90s: Caligula; the latter were an inexplicably popular local crossover outfit whose “hits” at the time were “Evil Wicked Goats From Hell” and “Buddha”, a song detailing the joys of smoking copious amounts of bongs. I await the eventual reunion with baited breath. I was there for Massappeal and God. First ever gig, I was 16 and scared as hell, though seeing the similarly-aged God on stage eased my nerves. Massappeal were still in their earlier, ‘Flag-ish mindset and yet to take the leap into the funk-metal hell of their early ‘90s output.

Meat Puppets, Melbourne Uni, 1992.
I’ve detailed this before.

Rollins Band, Corner Hotel, January, 1989.
Ditto.

Sonic Youth, Corner Hotel, January, 1989.
And again.

Boredoms, Corner Hotel, 1997.
Maybe you should just read this.

Hard-Ons, several times and places, 1988-’90.
Before they over-stayed their welcome by a decade and became a bit of a running joke, the Hard-Ons, at least for the teenage punker set, were it. I haven’t played a single tune of theirs in ten years, but let me wipe my eyes for a minute and say this: the memories are still there.

Testicle Candy, Empress Hotel, 1999(?).
TC were a short-lived outfit featuring Ray from the Hard-Ons and Oren Ambarchi of a thousand different musical units. And a few other people. The Empress is a Melbourne establishment known as being the home of every musical wet-blanket in town. If you wear a cardigan, glasses and sing songs about lunchboxes and picnics, you may just be able to nab yourself a show there. Don’t bother putting me on the door. TC came to destroy, and that they did. The bar staff had no idea what they were in for. Tables were turned, chairs thrown, equipment destroyed. Panic was everywhere. TC were ordered to never come back. Everyone left with a smile on their face as the owners mopped up.

Love, Corner Hotel, 2003.
Arthur Lee – he’s still got it. Note-for-note remakes of all the classics played with genuine passion. Sure it’s a rock ‘n’ roll cabaret/nostalgia act, but it’s one done to perfection.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 2003.
Speaking of old geezers who still have it… Greendale, the show, was much better than expected. It was a little bit pantomime, sure, maybe even shades of Spinal Tap’s Puppet Show gig were present (especially in the ‘Bowl’s environment), but the encore, THE ENCORE!! 45 minutes of the most blazing, messed-up rock-noise to ever hit my ear drums in a live setting. It was IT, kiddo. A friend of mine – fried on a cocktail of booze and mind-bending weed – was staggering around, hands clutched on head, saying the most outrageous things that I must quote them: “What the fuck is this?! This is like Fushitsusha, man, like fuckin’ Guru Guru! This is insane!”. Headline the next day: “Area Hipster Completely Loses Cool At Neil Young Concert”. He occasionally reads this site and will kill me when he reads this. His name is Neil.

Wire, earlier this year, Corner Hotel.
Again, the old men came out to teach the young ‘uns a thing or two about a thing or two. Supported by the homicide-worthy Front End Loader, who played to an overwhelmingly hostile audience (serves ‘em right), Wire cut out the disco antics of their ‘80s output and nailed it with a barrage of recent material which, live and in your face, sounded like a long lost Minor Threat bootleg. Song after song of it. They sneered, they gyrated. We applauded.

Bored!, Sarah Sands Hotel, 1990.
This was the classic Hemensley/Nolan line-up, both out of their minds that night on various illicit substances. The show in itself only lasted about 10 minutes, but it was the best 10 minutes I ever saw them play. Hemmo, two songs in, became increasingly annoyed with a mohawked buffoon up the front who was slamming violently into everyone, so he took off his bass and swung it brutally into the upper body of said punker. I winced as I watched. Ooh, that’s gotta hurt. He’s down. Next song starts. He’s back up again, and up to his old slampit tricks. Tim once again swings his bass and knocks him down for the count. Tim then totally cracks it, throws his bass to the ground, grabs the 5-foot-high stack of amps on stage and begins rocking them. This gets the attention of the nervous bouncers. He sends them tumbling and an earsplitting noise hits the room. The bouncers have had it with Tim. They make a leap for him, Tim scatters off the stage, runs through the crowd and bolts out the door, bouncers not far behind. Gig is over. Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll.

Dictators/Ronnie Spector/Joey Ramone/Murphy’s Law, NYC 1999.
This was at, I think, Coney Island High, a seedy dive in St. Mark’s Place. I went there on my own, since Jason from Perfect Sound Forever, whom I was staying with, insisted on going to a goddamn Pavement gig! Jason, you spoilt New Yorker, you! The place was stinking hot and full to the rafters with old-time NYC scenesters. I stayed near the back, sipped my beer at a leisurely pace and awaited the great New York Rock Experience. Ronnie Spector was OK; Joey Ramone a more-than-passable nostalgia trip (he was ill at the time, give him a break!), though the Dictators tore the place up in grand style. Pure fucking magic. I love the Dictators’ first LP but can take or leave the rest of their schtick. Live, they ripped the roof off the place. Murphy’s Law? I didn’t even know they were on the bill, and they headlined! Watched two songs (before I finally realized who they were: “New York fuckin’ City! We’re Murphy’s Law!”) and hightailed it outta there.

Daniel Johnston, Austin Uni, 1999.
Just Daniel, bloated and extremely nervous and fragile-looking, and a piano in the café. One of my weirdest gig experiences. You felt like hugging him after the show. Beautiful stuff.

Terry Riley, Knitting Factory, NYC, 1999.
Sax, tablas and piano. A strange set-up for a minimalist, perhaps, but the results were hypnotic. A sparse audience, I found myself seated next to… ta-da!... La Monte Young and his wife! I said an awkward “G’day” and the conversation began and ended right there.

Masonna, What Is Music? Festival at the Punter’s Club, 1997.
This little Japanese guy comes out on stage, wearing flares and a silk shirt, long straight hair past his shoulders, armed with only a mic on a stand and an army of effects pedals at his feet. Suddenly he jumps on a series of pedals, screams into the mic and flails around like Iggy/James Brown for half an hour, making an unearthly racket. A noise guy with a sense of showmanship: rarer than hens’ teeth.

I FUCKIN’ WISH

Black Flag/Saccharine Trust/Big Boys/Dicks, Raoul’s Austin 1982(?)

Black Flag/Mission of Burma, Peppermint Lounge NYC, 1980.
Dez-era ‘Flag tearing it up; Boston’s finest warming the stage.

Minor Threat/Trouble Funk/Big Boys, DC 1983.
HC-meets Go-go. What a bill!

Dead Kennedys/Half Japanese, 9:30 Club DC, 1981.

Misfits/Necros/GI/Void, Wilson Centre DC, 1982.

Minor Threat/Faith/Void/Artificial Peace/Iron Cross/Double-O, Wilson Centre DC, 1981.

Flesh Eaters/Die Kreuzen, Irene’s Milwaukee 1982/3(??).

Dead Kennedys/Circle Jerks/Flipper, San Fran 1980.
This is the gig the Teen Idles were supposed to play support to, but instead got bumped to the following night warming up for the Mentors!!

Ugh, there’s too many of these things, and believe me, I would have liked to have seen more than just early ‘80s HC in my life. On to the discussions…
THE HOMOSEXUALS – Astral Glamour 3CD
I only just bought this yesterday and have given the entire set a spin probably twice, three times at best, but I’ll give a brief, possibly premature, review.

The Homosexuals were a band I had never heard of until Jason Willett from Jad Fair’s band raved on about them to me on their tour in 1997. We had hours to kill in the tour van and the amount of verbal crap we both spilt on music and favourite bands could fertilise a football field for a year. He is not a man of few words, and nor, for that matter, am I. His words regarding the band as I printed them in a fanzine at the time: “This record proves that when you’re the best in the world at something – the absolute best – no one gives a shit.”

I don’t know whether the Homosexuals were “the best” at what they did, because what they did defies categorization. But whatever classification one may care to throw at them, the truth is this: this 3CD set is one of the most eclectic and inspiring surprises I’ve come across since that other one from a while back. The surprise element comes from the fact that I have a handful of Homosexuals songs on tape from 5 or 6 years ago (given to me by old compadre, Richard Mason, who writes a gushing review of this in the latest Ugly Things), and said tracks never left much of an impression on me. So why would a doubting Thomas splurge on a 3CD set when he remains unconvinced from a teaser? What the fuck, it’s Christmas.

Essentially a part of the UK DIY movement of the late ‘70s/ early ‘80s, the band was a mixed bag of ages and influences. Bruno McQuillan, whom I suppose was the leading figure in the band, came of age in the late ‘60s and spent a good portion of the next decade mucking about in squats, taking drugs, jamming with friends and listening to dub reggae, only finding the nerve to start a band “for real” when punk hit. And to cut a long story short – for the long version and related nonsense, one needs only to stop here – after a brief stint as the Rejects, they regrouped as the Homosexuals and spent a good eight years releasing and/or recording a plethora of some of the most curious and baffling tunes to hit a tape machine.

You’ve got 3 CDs, 81 tunes and over 3 hours of music here, so any attempt at summation is going to cut corners. What struck me first with their music is the heavy Gong/Robert Wyatt influence. Not a mention of any such sounds is made in the liner notes, though I found the resemblance uncanny, especially in the pot-smoking pixie, Daevid Allen-esque vibe of the earlier material. Stew it up with a bargain-bin lo-fi mix of the Pretty Things and Hawkwind, a dash of Buzzcocks-style power pop and murky dub, then serve. Now that’s just the first disc. Throughout the other two there’s also blind stabs at disco, afro-beat (“Woman/Man” – a killer), retarded heavy metal, angular krautrock, psychedelia, musique concret, no-fi folk, flower-pop and a few dozen other pigeon holes. I could go on and on. I won’t.

To dumb it down to the essentials: if the sounds of the Swell Maps or This Heat have ever set your blood racing, the music of the Homosexuals will give you a bump in the night. The most staggering element of the band was their ability to write great songs. This is not art-school disaster territory. I played it to my wife yesterday and she started humming to it. Yes, nearly every song played collapses or transforms into something completely different before completion, but there lies the beauty of the Homosexuals. This set is a treasure chest, an excellent document beautifully and informatively presented. Ask me again in a year’s time whether I consider the Homosexuals to be “the absolute best”. Now let me digest further…
RUDOLPH GREY/BLUE HUMANS – Incandescence CD
I’ve been meaning to write at least something on this guy for a while. Rudolph Grey is a musician everyone should know about, and a very interesting guy as well. First of all, he’s a white “rock” musician I’d assume to possibly be in his early to mid 50s by now, who made his name firstly playing No Wave destructo tunes w/ Red Transistor (w/ Von Lmo) in the late ‘70s and then switched to a more free-form sound with the Blue Humans in the ‘80s, an outfit featuring various free jazz legends in its troupe, most notably Beaver Harris and Arthur Doyle. Secondly, he’s also a writer and renowned film expert, and indeed wrote the classic Ed Wood bio, Nightmare of Ecstacy, which was then made into the equally excellent Ed Wood movie (Grey is credited), the only watchable flick Tim Burton is ever likely to make. Thirdly, he released a pile of discs on the fantastic New Alliance label, the imprint originally set up by Mike Watt and later purchased/managed by SST (and if anyone has any New Alliance LPs/CDs/7”s sitting around they’d like to get rid of, contact me). OK, and fourthly, finally, I used to be in contact with Grey about 5 years back and he was initially intended as the debut release on Lexicon Devil (the label), but things fell apart when I felt that he was asking for way too much money for a recording (which was nothing compared to what Arthur Doyle asked for at the time), and this was also when the Australian dollar was worth about 48 cents in the US. I’m not knocking Grey, though; he has a right to ask for some bucks after being ripped off by New Alliance, and definitely after the Live In London 1994 CD on Blast First, which he informed me was nothing more than a bootleg, himself not even aware at the time that it was being recorded, let alone to be released on a supposedly “respectable” indie. But anyway, that’s Rudolph…

Incandescence, on the UK label, Shock (which was run by writer/musician Stefan Jaworzyn), is my fave RG pick of the litter, and, temporarily forgetting just how many RG 7”s, LPs and CDs I actually have: Incandescence, Mask Of Light, Clear to Higher Time, To Higher Time, Live In London, Live in NY 1980 and a 7”, I suppose that’s a statement which means something. This is more of a CD-EP – ugh, what a stupid concept – than a full-length recording, since it features only one track which runs for 22:54, but it stands as the best 22 minutes and 54 seconds of sound he ever laid to tape.

The line-up here is Beaver Harris, an on/off member of various Cecil Taylor Units, on drums; Jim Sauter of Borbetomagus on sax; and Grey on guitar, live at CBGBs, June 23rd 1988. Unlike most other RG recordings, his guitar work here has a more “psychedelic” edge which his other albums lack, his New Alliance discs conveying a more jazzy approach Grey took from years of listening to Sonny Sharrock and Ray Russell platters. There’s plenty of echo and phasing, and sure there’s an army of distortion whacked on for good measure, though the murky, low-end nature of the sound works perfectly to his advantage, the song gaining a kind of swirling, enveloping sound as it builds to peaks then slowly unwinds, only to do the same again. I mean, none of his records are bad – not at all, boy-o – but the trebly frenzy and unphasing attack of RG’s music; the guitar, saxophone and drums working ferociously together in an orgiastic commotion of free jazz, improv and noise guitar, can be wearing, and not the kind of tunes likely to get a party of one started. But that’s OK: Rudolph Grey is not party music; it’s music listened to for unique textures and sounds. Now, having said that, I won’t be playing Incandescence at a bash any time soon, though it remains my first choice for when I require some Blue Human Aktion.

Grey has laid low over recent years – or at least I haven’t seen his name pop up anywhere for the entire millennium thus far – and I don’t think a single disc of his currently remains in print (Live in NY 1980, on Audible Hiss, will likely be the easiest one to find, though), but he’s a musician who most definitely does not deserve to be pushed under the musical carpet and forgotten.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I’m basically on Xmas break now, kicking back and enjoying a bit of free time. Maybe a little too much free time, as this thought just hit my mind: what are some of the strangest gig pairings you’ve heard of? That is, actual gigs which happened. Here’s a small sample:

Dead Kennedys/Sun Ra – apparently they played together in San Fran, ca. 1980.
Sex Pistols/Pretty Things – London, 1976
Germs/Love – LA, 1978.
Minutemen/REM – 1985 tour. That’s probably not so strange, though I still can’t get my head around it.
SVT/Teen Idles - never heard of SVT? Me neither. They were a "New Wave" band featuring Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane! The Teen Idles, Ian MacKaye's pre-Minor Threat punk band, supported them in DC in '80. Go figure that one.
Crass/Dire Straits – apparently played a gig together in the late ‘70s, or so the liner notes to Crass’ Best Before 2LP says.
Black Flag/Venom – somewhere in the US, 1986. Man, what a crazy bill…
New York Dolls/Lynyrd Synyrd – did a brief tour – as in a few shows – in the early ‘70s and, surprisingly, apparently got on OK.

All right then, mail ‘em in…

Thursday, December 16, 2004

BGK – Nothing Can Go Wrogn! LP
That title isn’t a spelling error on my behalf, that’s as it’s written on the cover: a pun on nuclear power and its threat to humanity as we know it. This is, after all, Holland’s BGK. I had to laugh when I pulled this out of the shelf today. I first had this on tape when I was 15. A friend at school – the only other person in my year with a penchant for HC – taped it for me at the time, and it always reminds me of him and his goddamned homemade BGK t-shirt. The guy loved this record; so much so, he spent almost a week slowly tracing the detailed cover art (a cartoon picture of a scientist [actually a skeleton] posing in front of a nuclear power plant as all hell breaks loose), cutting out all the different paper parts for the different colours, and then painstakingly screenprinted each layer for an entire day to make the perfect BGK t-shirt. When someone goes to that much trouble, you know you have to accept an offer for a taping, if only in the name of good manners.

I’ve never much cared for “classic” European HC. There’s some good stuff there, I don’t doubt it, as I do have a hot, and totally ancient, tape of various Swedish bands collecting dust somewhere in my vicinity, though I think my hostility was originally borne from myself purchasing Raw Power’s goddamn awful Screams From The Gutter LP as a 14-year-old, an LP I traded in toot sweet. The buck stopped there: once burned by the continent, I made it my duty to only bother with the Yankee stuff. Still, BGK delivered the goods in spades with this LP. With my worn-out cassette coming to a premature end, I spotted a cheap, secondhand copy of this LP in 1990 and grabbed it before it disappeared forever. Well, it’s back in print on Alternative Tentacles as part of a Complete Discography deal, and has been for a few years, so don’t sweat it. I doubt you will.

The first thing you have to get your head around with this album is that it was made by angry Europeans in 1986. Therefore, they hate everything about America. If you’re feeling a little sensitive about such things, I’d advise you to keep away. I mean, these guys had a major beef with the US of A, of that there is no doubt. To confirm this, the Thank You list is like a who’s-who of right-on radicals of the day: MDC, Jello, Tim Yo, Reagan Youth, The Ex, Dicks, etc. In general, I care little these days for the political nature of music, so I’d like to discuss the actual music instead.

This was a period when the shadow of Discharge still loomed large over the punkers of Europe, and BGK were no exception. The basic ingredient is this: apply the two-chord thrash of Why?/Hear Nothing…-period Discharge and embellish with the accent of your native tongue. That isn’t to say that BGK were mere copyists. Why, far from it! Throatsman Rene has the barking vocals down to a tee, though the music is a little more eclectic. A little. For one, there’s a few token dirges, slabs of guitar noise which were probably written after a hard night on the cider and a flogging of My War’s B-side. There’s also a surprisingly melodic mid-tempo track as the closer, “Sad & Saintly”, a number you can sing along to without having to raise your voice, and of course in between all this is a smorgasboard of 2-minute, buttocks-shredding HC which passes you by at the speed of light. Truth be told, this album puts a fire under my ass at this point in my life like I never would’ve predicted 17 years back. It’s a scorcher!

Let’s have a song-title rundown so we can gauge the levels of angst present: “Pencil Pusher”, “Civil Terror”, “Pay To Die”, “Computer Control”, “TV News (Distorted Views)”, “Institutional Mentality”, “Injected Insanity”, “Youth For Crime”, “The Greatest American Zero”… the list never ends! The clincher for me remains track 5, “Jonestown Aloha!”. It starts off with an utterly generic guitar riff (you can picture the guitarist furiously moving the chords up and down the neck), then explodes into one of the most menacing oompah/two-step drum beats and takes off for the sky, Rene screaming his lungs out about something or other. Halfway through it dissolves into a faux funk beat for a few bars, a trick which usually falls flat on its face and embarrasses most participants - though they pull it off – and then rages back into the storm for another verse and chorus. Over and out.

BGK were pretty hot for about two seconds in their day, especially since they toured the US at the time, but have generally been forgotten since. More’s the pity: this is a fine disc, and if you like to party hard, fight the pigs and get down to the sounds of Discharge, Minor Threat, Void, SSD, Negative Approach and their ilk – short, fast & loud – you might want to add Nothing Can Go Wrogn! to your Xmas basket.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

BLAH BLAH BLAH…

Xmas time… it kinda loses its magic once you grow up. I don’t hate it, I just don’t need it. Work parties, obligations, copious amounts of alcohol consumed. It’s a hard life. In the meantime, I’ve had to zilch time to aimlessly meander on this blog about all the great music clogging up my life, until now.

THE GROUNDHOGS were a UK hard-blues combo headed up by one Tony McPhee in the early ‘70s, a kind of “people’s band” in the mode of the MC5, Hawkwind and the Edgar Broughton Band. An outfit w/ a weird combination of current-day fans (you can count the likes of Ian MacKaye, Stephen Malkmus(!), David Tibet, Stephen Stapleton and various Ugly Things contributors in there), they’re a group I’ve heard of for years, but have only recent been exposed to their amazing sounds. Start with their Split LP from 1970 and work your way down from there. I scored a cheap, secondhand copy last week and have given it a thorough hiding with the needle ever since.

The history of post-1960s “blues-rock” is not a pretty one. When I think of “blues-rock”, I think of the tiresome, indulgent ‘70s crapola which lit the fire of overweight, tracksuit-pant-wearing, socially-challenged deadbeats worldwide. We’re talking John Mayall, Rory Gallagher, Free, etc. There’s also the absolute worst elements of Led Zep’s “blooze” shenanigans one has to contend with. In short, outside of the hard R & B experiments many a Brit/US (and elsewhere) moptop engaged in throughout the mid ‘60s, blues-rock is not a genre I have much time for.

The beauty of the Groundhogs is that, like Hendrix, they took the basic elements of the blues – the riffs, time signatures, pounding drums – and caked it in a sea of guitar distortion and took their songs to glorious and occasionally ludicrous peaks of aggression. The highlight for Split is “Cherry Red”, the first song on the B-side. It has a fairly standard Muddy Waters-style riff and beat present. In lesser hands, it could bore a man into a coma. With McPhee on board, and an airtight rhythm section working in perfect unison, the track becomes a heaven-sent slab of proto heavy metal/punk with a riff you wish would never end. Interspersed with spastic outbreaks of guitar freakouts flying in every direction possible, it’s a 5-minute song I only wish was at least twice as long. My quarter-arsed too-hot-to-live band will attempt to demolish it this Saturday night in front of actual human beings. Wish me luck, I may just need it.

Most unusually, at least for UK blues-rock, McPhee also has a really good set of pipes. It’s not a growl or a howl, and definitely doesn’t sit with the painful-beyond-human-description Clapton school of white-boy facial contortions, but more closely resembles the throat of your average cool early ‘70s UK art-punk/metal/rock screamer, a la Twink/Hawkwind. I haven’t spun the A-side as much as I should, yet, but the B-side is a start-to-finish winner all the way. “A Year In The Life” possesses an awesome drone and McPhee’s sorrowful vocals; “Junkman” is a rambling semi-acoustic number which sounds like it could’ve been lifted off Hawkwind’s debut; and “Groundhog”, more traditionally “blues” than anything else on the disc, still possesses enough dirt under its nails to easily hold the attention of a diehard cynic like myself. The Groundhogs: my new favourite band for the next 48 hours or more.

END. That’s the name of the band. They are/were a black metal outfit from Greece, of all places. You can blame Oren Ambarchi for getting me into these guys. I had no say in the matter. He simply throws the CD in front of your eyes, tells you they’re a band to be reckoned with, and before you know it you’re walking out of the store (that’s Metropolis, by the way) a poorer man. Well, it’s not quite that easy: I always give such things a listen first, but this time he was right. End “rock”. Much like Burzum, if you were to not let on that this was a group of gentlemen decked out in ridiculous corpsepaint and mile-high studs with a penchant for howling at the moon and singing songs bemoaning their hatred for humanity and their love for the Dark One, you’d convert your average “noise-rock” schmuck in a second. But for me, it’s the make-up and studs – and their Greek heritage… I mean, these are Greek kids aping the Odin-worshipping antics of Norwegian Black Metal. Go figure that out – that make End what they are. And that is, a really fucking unreal rock ‘n’ roll band. Maybe they’re in reality just a bunch of smirking u/ground hipsters having a dabble and the joke’s on me. I don’t know, and care even less.

Upon purchase, I thought their two albums were fairly contemporary, but now I notice a songwriting credit given to the year 1995 in the notes to their second CD, so who knows when these came out. For the record, their albums are imaginatively titled End and End II. Both are housed in the standard black/white/grey artwork one expects from the genre, with II featuring a handsome booklet on corrugated-style mat paper. Here’s a sample of the lyrics from the song “Humanitarianism”: “Heyy… human slut! / I’m here again! / Do you still have your brain in your nuts? / Do you still have your eyes? Your grave-roots? / Heyy!... human slut! / Listen to me! Slut! / Your carnage stinks! / You stink deceit! / What a throne little human! / What a throne! / Do you really enjoy it? / To reign from a crapper?”. Well, do you still have your grave-roots? OK, so it’s not Tolstoy, but a point has been made. And if you know that point, you’d better write to me and let me know.

Sure, this is pretty dumb stuff, possibly as low brow as a man could get, but I’ve always held the belief that sometimes the greatest of rock ‘n’ roll can also be the most stupid. Not always, and End are most certainly not “one of the greats”, though they float my boat for the moment, and that’s good enough. The music? A mixture of Burzum/Darkthrone-style wall-of-noise guitar treble, screeching, necro vocal howls and amazing blastbeats (with a drummer who actually doesn’t sound like he’s belting away on old cardboard boxes). Brew that in with several, token “atmospheric” tracks featuring acoustic guitars, keyboard washes and ghostly cries and animal grunts, and even the occasional Swans-ish stomper, and you have the two albums by Greece’s End. I figured I’d run the black metal well dry after only half a dozen purchases – you know: stick to the classics and leave it at that – but as with just about any genre, you find these little cracks, and sometimes it’s the bands no-one seems to care about which are making the more interesting music. Well, duh. For some, this kinda schtick is a headrush into a truly bizarre, alien subculture, and for others it’s the most goddamn ridiculous pile of brainless, unlistenable dogshit one could imagine. You can decide for yourself, because I know which side of the fence I stand on.

For info from an almost unreadable web site (dark green and black don’t really mix), go here.

ROCKET SCIENCE programmed Rage last Saturday night so I sat up with a few friends to watch it. That last statement will mean nothing to just about anyone non-Australian reading this. Rage = long-running late-night music video show on Friday and Saturday nights, which usually on a Saturday has a guest host playing their favourite songs. Rocket Science (RS) = guest hosts for the night. RS feature several veterans of the Australian undieground music scene, most noticeably ex-members of bands like the Philistines and the Martians (amongst others), and are, strangely enough, kinda "popular" down here. Since I know Roman and Dave from the group – and that’s no boast; you know, anyone who made it their part-time occupation to hang around the GB and/or Tote (two seedy Melbourne music dives) throughout the ‘90s would know these guys – I was keen to see what they picked. Rocket Science, as a band, I can take or leave. Standard-fare garage rock with nary a spark to be seen and not a hook to rest on, their music puts me to sleep, though the tunes they picked for the show didn’t.

I missed the first 45 minutes, but got there in time to see God’s “My Pal”, live in the ABC studio from 1988. I had that performance on video for years from when it was originally on at the time, and it was a treat to see after what must have been a decade-long absence: high school-period Joel, Tim, Sean and Matty awkwardly ripping out the teen anthem of the day, a song which, weirdly enough, has metamorphisised into some kind of “Australian indie classic” almost on a par with the Saints’ “(I’m) Stranded”, and one which may be playing at a semi-cool nightclub near you.

The rest? Your typical Birthday Party and Scientists clips (if I see “Nick the Stripper” one more time…), though at least the ScientistsCountdown performance from 1981, when they were still merely an eccentric power-pop band and were yet to explore the depths of their fuzz pedals, was a sight to behold.You also had your predictable selection of friends’ bands they probably felt an obligation to play (I won’t mention any names); a hilarious Cameo video featuring a codpiece and a lycra bodysuit (I’m going to have to find that 7”) and even a little Boredoms and Merzbow, which may shock some, but let it be said: the individual members’ musical taste in RS is far more eclectic/eccentric than the actual music they create. A good night in!

Monday, December 06, 2004

What the heck happened to my comments boxes?? They've disappeared! There's obviously a bug in the Blogger system, so be patient and they'll come back any day now. When they do pop up again, how about some correspondence regarding my obligatory BEST OF 2004 list I'm about to punish you with? This list is going to be a bit shoddy, only for the simple fact that I don't really have a great deal of access to all the new music being released these days, at least not in the same way as I did when I was working in music retail. Nowadays it's all word of mouth, and I don't have the time or money to blow on everything new and exciting coming out, and I'm not willing to gamble like I used to. I'm guessing I've missed out on roughly two- or three-dozen really great records here, and maybe those Tom Waits, Boredoms and RTX albums were fucking great (or maybe not), and perhaps my life is worthless without that Brian Wilson Smile album, but I wouldn't know: I haven't heard them yet. Here's my two cents, for the moment at least...

ART ENSEMBLE OF CHICAGO - Tribute to Lester CD
SUNNO))) - White 2 CD
ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE - Mantra of Love CD
REIGNING SOUND - Too Much Guitar LP
THE FALL - Country On The Click CD
ELECTRIC WIZARD - We Live CD

BEST REISSUES:

ZOLAR X - Timeless LP
FLESH EATERS - No Questions Asked / A Hard Road To Follow CDs
ALBERT AYLER - Holy Ghost 10-CD box
HALF JAPANESE - Loud & Horrible CD
KINKS - Village Green Preservation Society 3-CD
ELIZABETH COTTEN - Shake Sugaree CD

I NEVER GO TO THE MOVIES, BUT FOUR FILMS I ENJOYED IMMENSELY:

The Passion Of The Christ
Shaun Of The Dead
Dawn Of The Dead (remake)
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Yes, I'm aware of the fact that the above film list is the most absurd round-up of cinema ever written, but really, I enjoyed all four films for very different reasons. I have as much belief in the Holy Trinity as I do the Yeti, but Passion of the Christ was a story well told. Unbelievably brutally so, but a fine movie I squirmed through and walked out of a very rattled man who was glad for the experience. Both 'Dead films are perfect mirrors of each other, essentially saying the same thing in vastly different ways. The Metallica pic was a great example of When Stupid People Make Lots Of Money, and a laugh-fest I intend to see again one day.

You got something to say? Well, go ahead...

DIE KREUZEN – Land of Treason/Pink Flag 7”
I’ve bought probably half a dozen – tops – 7”s since the mid 1990s. They are not a format I prefer. They’re expensive and you get little bang for your buck. I consider myself an Album Man. Of course, I do have a healthy stash of 7”s collecting dust in the spare room (very inconveniently placed on the bottom level of a bookshelf… right behind a mountain of miscellaneous crap. You have to really want to get to them if you’re hoping for a singles binge), though I rarely ever play them. When I was first riding the punk rock gravy train as a young teen, I bought a stack of the things, as they were usually all I could afford. In that time, I bought some classics and, yep, a whole load of crap, too. Come ‘round to my place some time and I’ll play you a few timeless tunes by Adrenalin O.D., Splat Cats, Total Chaos and the Subsonic Barflies (actually, that last one ain’t bad). It was a sign of the times: you’re young, enthusiastic, don’t know your ass from your elbow and are willing to take a few blind stabs in the dark if the cover looks cool. The thing is, unlike my CDs or LPs, I’ve never sold a 7”. After all, outside of the collectible ones – which I’m sure I have a fair number of – they’re not really worth anything, and what the hell, they take up so little room they don’t bother me, even if I hardly ever play the things.

The second phase of my 7” buying spree was in the early ‘90s, mainly focused around the kind of music Ajax was distributing at the time (hey, I’m just being honest). Again, if you’re looking for any rarities by Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Dead C., Ramleh, Refrigerator, Sun City Girls, Monster Truck 5, Jonestown, Bugskull, Mike Rep, Crawling With Tarts, Blowhole, Azalia Snail, Goosewind, Royal Trux or Donkey, I may be the guy to help you out (I await the onslaught of enquiries). And then it stopped. My interest in the then-current u/ground scene dried up to a big, fat zero by mid decade and I ceased purchasing any quick-fix singles. It’s not likely to start up again any time soon, but in the meantime I’d still have to hail this 2-tracker from Milwaukee’s finest sons, the 1990 covers 7” by Die Kreuzen, as my fave of that decade.

Released as a stop-gap between their Gone Away 12” EP and Cement LP, it stands tall as one of the very few 7”s I tend to rip out for a 6-monthly reappraisal. Every time it passes with flying colours, I give it an A+ and file away for the next rainy day. A double A-side, it features the ‘Kreuzen lads paying homage to their adolescent punker roots in covering two killer tunes from their forebears: Wire and the Germs. You’re right, that’s a pretty easy way to start off: cover two really great songs and hope for the best. Y’ see, the magic of this single is the fact that both versions surpass the greatness of the respective originals. And given the awesome stature of the originals, that’s either yet another case of myself suffocating on my own hyperbole, or something which should tickle your interest.

“Pink Flag”… it’s a great song, though hardly my favourite from that album. I’m an “Ex-Lion Tamer” man myself, having always been of the opinion that the hard-as-nails cockney vocals on the title track held it back from true greatness. It sounded contrived at best and plain fucking annoying – I vote for a little of both – at its worst. After all, this is Wire, not Sham 69. Leave your bovver-boy accents at the door. DK gave the tune a Midwestern swing which lends the song a certain momentum lost on Wire’s take, and substitutes Colin Newman’s George & Mildred twang with Dan Kubinski’s sweeping, Ozzy-like drawl (which I guess is as cockney as you get, but bear with me here…). By song’s end, when all is collapsing, Kubinski is letting out an unearthly screech which crawls down your back. It’s a beautiful moment.

The Germs, man, the fucking Germs… they don’t make ‘em like that anymore, and if they did, I’d probably be the last guy to discover them anyway. Yeah, I’m a fan, and if the bomb ever hits I’m taking my copy of (GI) down to the bunker, but until then I can also enjoy DK’s take on “Land Of Treason”, one of the many great songs featured on that very disc. There’s nothing wrong with the Germs’ version of “Land Of Treason”, of course. It is, after all, one of their own tunes, but DK took it one step further. Their rendition is a goddamn musical wreckingball. Once the opening chord is struck, you know you’re gonna have to twist, shout and shake it all about. Tight as a nun’s bun, the band hurdle their way through the beautifully monotonous verses like a well-oiled machine, then reign it all back in for the bridge. The song in itself doesn’t really possess any kind of chorus; it’s just line upon line of Darby’s garbled poetry until the singer sounds out of breath, though Kubinski’s screeches and howls his way through it like a man possessed, never letting up until the song disappears around him. I’ve flogged this side a thousand times and it never ceases to amaze: Die Kreuzen out-Darby’d the Germs. Take a bow, I say.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Apologies for the woeful lack of entries of late. It’s a hectic time of year, and I ain’t got the spare hours to chew away in front of a computer screen blabbing on about a bunch of music most people will never care less about (their loss, of course… Sorry, had to add that in). I’ll be off work for a break likely from this time next week onwards, so hopefully then I’ll pull my finger out and get some thoughts on screen.

Before I go, let me ponder the obvious: what in god’s name are the “critics” speaking of when they utter the phrase “U2 are the world’s greatest rock band”. I’d be able to laugh if such a phrase wasn’t so omnipresent in reviews for their latest album. Why am I reading these reviews? Like I’ve said before: when bored, I’ll read just about anything. And that includes flaming a-holes writing about the latest U2 disc. I, for one, didn’t think U2 had a thing to do with “rock” music. I don’t even consider the band to have anything to do with the process a musical unit goes through when writing and performing rock ‘n’ roll. They’re more like a corporate brand stamp which gets inked on a vaguely similar product that’s spat out of the bowels of a record company every 2 to 3 years. I know, I know, tell me something I don’t know. It’s just that, you see, all this loathing bubbles to the surface every 2 to 3 years…

Good news here for those who care: the long-promised Tar Babies CD on Lexicon Devil will be out and about mid January. It’ll feature the Face the Music and Respect Your Nightmares EPs, their demo, some comp’ material and 4 or 5 previously unreleased early tracks. Liner notes by Bucky Pope himself and fully remastered by Melbourne-via-Chicago nob-twiddling maestro, Casey Rice. Primo early-80s jackboot-shaking HC from the US of A, it sounds fucking ace.

Also, the Oil Tasters reissue is going ahead and should be ready by late January/early February, if I’m very lucky. Never heard of ‘em? Try here.

FIVE COOL ALBUMS TO LISTEN TO WHILST DRIVING THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS ON A STINKING HOT DAY (as I did today)

1) PERE UBU – Terminal Tower/Modern Dance LPs
2) MOTHERS OF INVENTION – Freak Out! LP
3) CHARLES MINGUS – Black Saint and the Sinner Lady LP
4) DAWSON – Terminal Island LP
5) BOB DYLAN – Bringing It All Back Home LP

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

CHARLES BRONSON – Youth Attack! 10”
COMBATWOUNDEDVETERAN – I Know A Girl Who Develops Crime Scene Photos LP; Duck Down For The Torso 10”
I paid little to no attention to any kind of hardcore in the 1990s. By the end of high school, I was pretty much over it as a musical force in my life, bar the essential 80s stuff I’d spent my teen years listening to. There’s probably a handful of great bands I missed out on, and maybe one day I’ll get around to listening to them, but for now they remain names I know yet bands I’ve heard little of. For instance, last night a friend of mine (who’s a good six years younger than me) asked me what I thought of Born Against. I could only say that I knew of them, had read about them in fanzines at the time (which would be the early ‘90s), but, and not to sound like too much of an old fart about such things, they were a band that came a little too late for me. People tell me they made some killer albums. They could be right.

Skip to the end of the ‘90s and I found myself working in a predominantly hardcore/punk-oriented record store for a living (yeah, take a wild guess). This’ll be a breeze, I smugly thought, I can wax lyrically to all the young kids about the glory days of HC, when bands like Negative Approach and the Dicks reigned supreme and when MRR was almost readable. I’ll bore them to tears with my third-hand stories of Black Flag’s endless tours, the DC Vs. Boston straight-edge wars, the halcyon era of Chi-town punk when Naked Raygun and the Effigies would play double bills. I’ll be King of the Kids! Well, to put it bluntly, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Kids didn’t give a fuck, and they probably just wondered who this clueless old relic was and how he managed to land a job in their favourite record store. Every day The Kids would come in and quiz me about some new power-violence band from Kansas who just put out a split 10” with that Estonian crust outfit, or that new emo (a term I hadn’t used or heard since I was a 16-year-old Rites Of Spring/Embrace fan) group on Vagrant everyone’s talking about. The first few months, I must admit, were a little dispiriting, and I felt like a fish seriously out of water, blundering its way through a pond it had no business being in.

After a while I finally found my feet. I made it my duty to research all this music I’d completely ignored for nearly a decade, buried my head in a library of Short, Fast & Loud, Punk Planet and Heart Attack! fanzines (you things you gotta do for work…) and at least felt confident enough that I wasn’t humiliating myself in front of a horde of teenagers on a daily basis. Of course, you didn’t have to care all that much about this music, but it wouldn’t hurt that you had the vaguest idea of what you were talking about when attempting to recommend a HC disc to someone (I should mention that the shop did/does also carry a wide array of indie-rock, jazz, noise, etc which I felt a certain cockiness in handling). But anyway!... Amongst all this, I did actually manage to find a crop of contemporary HC bands whose existence I was not only aware of, but whom I actually liked as well. Not only that, but at the ripe age of 29, I found myself in the unlikely situation of purchasing a handful of HC discs I’d grown fond of.

I still know little about Charles Bronson (CB) or Combatwoundedveteran (CWV). CB hailed from Chicago and were around from approximately the early to late ’90s and put out a swag of 7”s, EPs, 10”s, split EPs and probably a couple of 9”s for good measure. It’s all collected on a Complete Discography 2CD which you’ll likely find on the ‘net somewhere. Two CDs of this stuff is probably way too much listening for this kind of music, so I say stick with a 10” or two and that’ll keep you satisfied for a lifetime. Smart-alecs all the way, CB almost amounted to being a HC parody or tribute outfit, aping and taking the piss out of every early ‘80s HC clichĂ© they could find, but they at least had the wit and musical chops to what in lesser hands would result in little more than a one-joke gimmick (a little Crucial Youth, anyone?). Taking their cues primarily from the early DC (Void, Minor Threat), Boston (SSD, Gang Green, Siege) and Midwestern (Necros, Negative Approach, early Husker Du) scenes, CB toasted up a hilarious, fist-shaking array of blistering noise played 1,000 mph, with even this 10” containing 20 songs which are over before you get the chance to sit down and enjoy them. It’s pretty goddamn blistering stuff, and nostalgic as it may seem, they put a fresh face on a well-worn formula which even managed to win over a grumpy old turd like myself. Ace, bold, black & white graphics, whirlwind Huskers cover (“Punchdrunk”) and laugh-out-loud song titles (“Marriage Can Suck It”, “Fuck Technology, I’ll Keep My Pocket Change”, “Let’s Start A War So I Can Sing About Stopping It”, “I Just Can’t Avoid The “Void” In Avoid”) make this a swish package I have no intention of trading in anytime soon.

CWV hailed (hail?) from Florida and feature members of another band worthy of a spiel or two, Reversal of Man. Again featuring some impressive graphics, this time in full, eye-dazzling colour – those HC kids take great pride in their packages – both of these discs are platters I like to spin when the urge for pure energy (and not much else) takes hold of me. I Know A Girl…, from 1999, is a rougher recording where the songs, much like CB, are almost over before they start. Righteosities are screamed, indignations are proclaimed, governments and betrayers are cursed and drums flail at the speed of light. Less nostalgic in approach than CB, CWV sound contemporary yet overwhelmingly good, and never make the mistake of merely blurring into grindcore or power-violence. This is HARDCORE done just like the pioneers used to. You know, just like the olden days…

Duck Down… is a 4-song EP from 2001 or ‘2 (little details are listed regarding dates) which I actually bought well after my tenure at said store had expired. Gee, I guess you’d call me a “fan”! Again gracing cover art fine enough to hang on your wall, CWV took a slight detour here and dedicated the A-side to a wall of noise, samples, guitar feedback, pounding, offbeat drums and the occasional incomprehensible lyrical scream. Straight-down-the-line punkers thought it was a joke, and not a funny one at that. Me, I dig the hell out of it, and if you don’t like it, there’s always the wall-shaking screamers on the B-side to allay your fears. I purchased this over two years ago and haven’t bought any HC since. Still, the other week, I did find myself fumbling through the CWV section, just wondering if they were still around and had released anything in the meantime…

Monday, November 22, 2004

WHAT A FUCKING IDIOT, PART ONE

It's a good thing this is only a blog governed by myself for personal amusement. If I was employed and being paid for this, I'd be sacked for my shoddy workmanship. Tom Troccoli wrote below and corrected me on an embarrassing error I made in regards to his LP. The guest vocalist on "The Girl From the North Country" is not Dez Cadena, but John Doe of X (under an alias). Dez sings on the Lightnin' Hopkins cover. There ya go. Wish Tom a happy birthday whilst you're at it.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

THE BOTTOM-FEEDING 25 ALBUMS OF ALL TIME…

I’ve been getting a few emails and points of discussion regarding the Top 50 Albums list I printed a few months back. The main thrust of the emails has been, as predicted, “What about this…?!”, “I can’t believe you listed that and not this!” or “You boring, stuck-in-a-rut, stuck-in-the-past old cunt”. Other than killing some room on the site and pointlessly listing 50 albums I happen to really like, that was the point of the exercise. But, in the never-ending quest for lists, lists and more lists (I know you love ‘em), I’ve just put together my “Bottom-Feeding 25 Albums Of All Time” list below. They’re the additional 25 which, well, probably should have been somewhere within the original Top 50, but for whatever reason were cut out. These are all great, too, and I welcome any and all exasperated comments coming my way.

I don’t feel any urge to explain a single title unless someone wishes me to. Hopefully next time I then won’t be listing an additional 10 album not listed above, then 5, then 1. That, in effect, would make a killer list of 91 Essential Albums, but I really don’t think such a thing is necessary.

51) RESIDENTS – Not Available LP
52) AC/DC – Back In Black LP
53) TOWNES VAN ZANDT – First Album LP
54) BIRTHDAY PARTY – Junkyard LP
55) CUL DE SAC – ECIM CD
56) THE FALL – Hex Enduction Hour LP
57) THE BYRDS – Younger Than Yesterday LP
58) NAKED CITY – Torture Garden LP
59) AMON DUUL – Disaster 2LP
60) BIG STAR - #1 Record LP
61) BAD BRAINS – Rock For Light LP
62) KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN – Hymnen 2LP
63) TIM BUCKLEY – Live at the Troubadour 2CD
64) PATTI SMITH – Radio Ethiopia LP
65) MAGMA - Kohntarkosz LP
66) JOY DIVISION – Unknown Pleasures LP
67) THE KINKS – The Village Green Preservation Society LP
68) JOHN CALE – Paris 1919 LP
69) MODERN LOVERS – s/t LP
70) TYRANNOSAURUS REX – Unicorn LP
71) ORNETTE COLEMAN – Science Fiction LP
72) NIRVANA – Nevermind LP
73) TELEVISION – Marquee Moon LP
74) HUSKER DU – Zen Arcade 2LP
75) THE SAINTS – Eternally Yours LP

Thursday, November 18, 2004

TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG – s/t LP
Stop your snickering, I can hear it from here. I wish to discuss this album for essentially one reason. It’s not that it’s a great LP; hell, it’s not even a good one, but it’s one with a few points of interest. Why did I dig this out? Because I was in a discussion with a local record-store owner earlier in the week, a man reputed as just about the biggest Bob Dylan nut in Melbourne, and of course we were discussing the music of Mr. Zimmerman. Is my life such a pathetic sham that I would willingly engage in such activity? In a word: yes.

So, for what ever reason, I brought up this album in question and uttered the line: “The best ever Dylan cover was actually played by Tom Troccoli’s Dog, the band featuring non-legend Tom Troccoli, Greg Ginn and Dave Claasan, sung by Troccoli and Dez Cadena of Black Flag.” He gave me a quizzical look, screwed his face and kind of ignored my comment. I reiterated my point: TTD’s rendition of “Girl From The North Country” – in which Cadena plays Johnny Cash to Troccoli’s Dylan - is not only the finest Dylan cover I’d ever heard, but it in fact surpasses the greatness of the original. We to-ed and fro-ed and then agreed that I’d bring my copy of the album into the store one day for him to make up his mind. Maybe he’s just humouring me, but come one day, I will do such a thing.

TTD was released in 1985 on – what else? – SST. Troccoli was a ‘Flag roadie, Claasan a general hanger-on amongst the SST crowd, and Ginn was and is a man who needs no introduction. I bought this for about $5 when I was 16 or 17, for obvious reasons. If you ever pay more than that, you should have “Sucker” permanently tattooed on your forehead and be exiled from humanity. It enjoys the reputation of being a deleted turkey/bargain-bin-filler which probably next to no-one on this planet could care less about. File it alongside your October Faction discs. Such platters, for many, spelt the death knell for SST aficionados: Ginn had pulled one bucketbong too many and let all concepts of quality control fly out the door. I don’t agree with such a stance, but I can see where the nay-sayers are coming from.

For one, the first sign of a lousy record is this: the only redeemable songs present on said disc are covers. That’s this album in a teacup. Forget about the rest of the LP, this album contains one fantastic song and one I’d sum up as pretty cool: the Dylan number and a version of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Play With Your Poodle”. The rest is not totally worthless – Troccoli could play a mean Kirkwood/Ginn-inspired guitar (Ginn actually plays bass here) at times – but the songwriting is fairly weak, and even when a track gets some momentum, such as on the ender, “Patience”, everything falls apart within 2 minutes, leaving another 5 minutes of aimless bong-hit jamming. The rest is not even worth discussing.

So, that brings me to “Girl From the North Country”. I never heard the Nashville Skyline version of this ‘til roughly 10 years later when I was in the midst of a Dylan obsession. It’s a great disc, one maligned and/or misunderstood in its time, though the vocals of Troccoli and Cadena leave Dylan’s constipated yodeling and Cash’s coma-like drawl for dead. For real. Cadena could bark like a monster in the ‘Flag days, though, other than here, his attempts at singing have mostly been an embarrassment. Listen (or try to listen) to any DC3 album and you’ll tell me I’m right (again, DC3 only ever played two good songs, and they were both covers: Mountain’s “Theme From An Imaginary Western” and Hawkwind’s “Psy Power”: not a good sign). But here – right here – the man sings like a goddamn angel. His husky rasp is the perfect foil for Troccoli’s keening cry, and yes, I have played this to doubting friends in fits of alcohol-induced delusional behaviour (when it’s PARTY TIME: Hey, dude, break out the Troccoli disc, it’s a smoker!), and they’ve all agreed: this is better than the original. A keeper – for that one song.

Holy shit, did I just write 5 paragraphs on a goddamn Tom Troccoli’s Dog LP?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

My god, what a slack bastard I am. I seem to spend all my time rattling on about some nonsense or other on everyone else’s sites, in the meantime leaving mine to rot like a discarded plant. Let me talk about something I watched on television on Sunday night. It may be of interest to a few of you. There’s an American show called MURDER TRAIL which gets shown down here a couple of nights a week on late-night TV. Each week it documents a different serial killer and their evil deeds. I never miss it. I also listen to Throbbing Gristle and even the occasional Boyd Rice album. I do not, however, wear a trenchcoat or combat boots. Does that still make me a loser? I thought so. Anyway, the Sunday night episode concentrated on the man known as The Trailside Killer, aka David Carpenter, a fulltime loser who killed approximately 10 women in San Francisco ca. 1979-81. I’d never heard of the guy – and hey, I know my serial killers – so I stayed up late for the occasion. There was one moment which really caught my attention and almost made me lose my breath: it was the mention of “bank robber Shane Williams”. Now that name will mean nothing to many and possibly something to a few.

Shane Williams is known in underground rock circles as the guy who corresponds (or at least corresponded) with just about anybody and everybody who’ll give him the time of day. This is because he’s spent probably 25 of the last 30 years of his life in prison. That’s an approximation, but likely near the mark. He also used to write a column for the defunct Flipside mag and is generally known as “that punk rock bank-robber junkie guy” who’s often the butt of people’s jokes (just read an old Motorbooty or Forced Exposure for reference). When I was publishing fanzines back in the early to late ‘90s I would always send him a copy and he’d do a nice write-up in various publications. I was personally in touch with him for about 6 or 7 years when he was in and out of prison for various charges until I ceased correspondence with the guy in the late ‘90s. Why? Well, I wish no ill will towards Williams, but I found his philosophy to life (which could be roughly summed up as: Shoot Up, Rob Banks, Rot In Prison) to be rather contrary to mine and figured my life would be no less rich if I was to discontinue writing letters to him. But let’s cut to the chase…

In 1981, David Carpenter knew the police had him nailed for the murders and were going to soon arrest him. He then rang up an old friend he’d met in jail (he’d previously served for rape and kidnap: a real gentleman), a young bank robber by the name of Shane Williams, and sold him the crucial piece of evidence: his gun. Carpenter was soon arrested, though the police were worried about a conviction and needed the gun to make a convincing case. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, Williams was arrested for a comically bungled bank robbery (his accomplice – his girlfriend – left her student ID on the bank counter!) and taken down to the station. Knowing that Carpenter was also awaiting trial and that the police were searching for the gun, he plea-bargained and (probably) received a lighter sentence for his co-operation. Now, in Shane’s defense, he didn’t know that Carpenter was involved in anything nasty at the time; he just wanted a gun for his outlaw lifestyle. But this still nags me: can this Shane Williams mentioned on this show – and in the recreation of events the man in question was dressed like Dee Dee Ramone with a cropped haircut, thus looking like a “punk rocker” – be anyone BUT the Shane Williams? If so, that’s just fucking creepy.

On a lighter note, I have in my possession a copy of the monumental Holy Ghost 9-CD box set by Albert Ayler and it is the release of the year. OK, fair enough, Ayler died nearly 35 years ago, so let me rename that as Reissue of the Year. No, wait, this is previously unissued recordings. Fuck it, it is the Release Of The Year! I will not do it justice as yet: I need to fully digest its contents. The full review will happen in coming weeks. For now I simply say: purchase, breathe deep, open the box, fondle, caress and fetishise its contents, spin discs constantly to the annoyance of your wife, husband, flat mate, family or friends and thank the lord for the good people at Revenant.

Here are 5 other albums I am currently rocking the fuck out to:

1) SHOCKABILLY – Vietnam/Heaven CD
Two slabs of primo uberground rock from the mid ‘80s. I hear no one but myself mentioning their name in this day and age. What the fuck is up with that?!

2) SERGE GAINSBOURG – Comic Strip CD
A certain person who probably won’t be sending me a Xmas card this year just wrote about this on his site. It made me dig my copy out for a spin… and a few more.

3) VARIOUS ARTISTS – There Is No Eye: Music For Photographs CD
This is a compilation on Smithsonian documenting the photos and song choices of beatnik/folk enthusiast John Cohen. The detailed package will blow your mind, and then there’s the music: Rev. Gary Davis, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe, Roscoe Holcomb and more. What a goddamn delight to behold.

4) HALF JAPANESE – Loud and Horrible CD
I was originally scheduled and booked to release this myself, then Jad throws it into the arms of Drag City and I’m left stranded, the cheap bastard. I’m joking, of course. Actually, that is what happened, but that’s OK: Jad’s a saint, and let’s be honest: I’d do the same thing, given half the chance. Earth-moving can’t-play-for-shit spazz-rock from the bowels of the ‘80s; if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss was about, right here ain’t a bad place to start.

5) NOAH HOWARD – Patterns/Message to South Africa CD
Two obscure recordings from the equally obscure Howard – who recorded for ESP back in the day – ca. 1971 and ’79 which the good people at Eremite had the sense to issue a couple of years back. Does that sentence actually make any sense? I’ve just re-read it and I think it does, kinda. “Patterns” is a half-hour piece recorded in Holland in a sextet setting w/ the likes of Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink on board. It is a fucking masterpiece. Percussion of all shades of exotic stripes are hammered, Noah wails like a wounded cat on sax and vocals and guitarist Jaap Schoonhoven – let me guess: he’s from Holland! – twangs his strings like an Ulmer/Sharrock disciple. “Message to South Africa” is a slightly shorter number which mixes up the scorch with all manner of gospel and blues touches, and if you’ve ever popped a boner to Ayler’s Music Is the Heeling Force of the Universe – just like I did a few months back – you’ll be soiling underwear over this slab of glorious noise. Not an unfettered screechfest by any means, this is "free jazz" of a beautifully tempered, soulful nature. Swish package, Coley liner notes… could a man ask for any more?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Not a high five to be seen ‘round here today. It’s been a rainy and rather depressing weekend, so let me briefly ramble on about a few good things which keep a man occupied on dreary days…

Firstly, there’s the new-ish UK film, Shaun Of The Dead. Whenever friends tell me I “have” to see a film and it’s “up my alley”, my attention turns elsewhere. This is not meant as a jibe against well-meaning friends, it’s just that I have pretty particular tastes with movies, and even certain films which, it seems, all my friends love (like Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, Donnie Darko), I fucking hate. And I mean it: they stank up the room and wasted hours of my life as I sat in audio-visual torture enduring the endless minutes of cinematic excrement that they were. But, and this is a big but, “they” were right in recommending Shaun of the Dead, a Limey zombie-comedy which avoids all the obvious pitfalls of the genre (if there is one… I guess Return of the Living Dead falls in there: another film I have a great fondness for) and stands as one of the funniest films I’ve seen in eons. And I mean funny as in tears in the eyes, snot running out the nose, the whole coolness-extracting nine yards of giddiness that a really funny film makes you feel. The ever-present “joke” of the pic – that the two main stoners of the movie are caught in such a permanent hangover state that they only realize the world is full of zombies when they come knocking on (or down) their front door – could have bombed in lesser hands. SOTD succeeds because the characterizations of the two main hopeless cases, and the portrayal of a pub/TV-obsessed culture, is so spot-on it had me guiltily looking at myself and asking, Am I really like those guys? (The answer is, Yes, more often than I’d care to admit). Like Dawn Of The Dead, its obvious influence (well, duh), in the 21st century the dead come back to haunt the places that were special in their lives, but this time it’s the local pub, not the mall. I rarely see a contemporary film which blows my mind with its cleverness – SOTD is smart, not smart-arse: there’s a difference – so let me be that hyperventilating “friend” urging you to see this movie…

Two discs getting the heavy airplay this weekend: Chris D.’s Time Stands Still LP and the Swell MapsInternational Rescue CD. Time Stands Still was D.’s first solo effort, and his first release after the break-up of the “original” Flesh Eaters. There’s three versions of this floating around: the original Upsetter/Enigma LP, the 1993 LP/CD reissue on Dogmeat and the new CD reissue (w/ bone-arse tracks) on Atavistic. Take yer pick. My version is the Dogmeat LP (which, if I must reiterate, I have never had any involvement in). It’s a mighty fine disc and an excellent listen for a beer-drenched porch sitting or a rainy afternoon on the couch. D. enlisted an all-star gang of his pals to join in (John Doe, Jeff Pierce, all the usual LA suspects) and belts out an LP worth of acoustic rockers, ballads and torch songs which I can only assume was influenced by a heavy diet of ‘68/’69-era ‘Stones LPs at the time. My advice is to head straight to the b-side and sit in awe at the first three songs: “Sanctuary” (later remade by Divine Horsemen on their scorching Snake Handler LP), “Heat From The Sun” (the LP’s highlight, augmented by some beautiful violin work which adds to the Beggars Banquet feel of the number) and “Little Sister”, an up-tempo jamboree that’ll get the hip shaking. No matter how many times this little pearl gets reissued it’ll probably never find much of an audience outside of the true believers, but that’s their loss. Don’t make it yours.

Swell Maps need no introduction and I ain’t the one to do it anyway. International Rescue is a CD put out by Alive/Bomp a few years back which collates a whole bunch of their singles and odds ‘n’ sods (much like every Swell Maps LP), and for my money remains the essential ‘Maps platter. Every single song could have made a killer 7”, and the fact that the bulk of this was recorded about 25 years ago stands testament to a band whose music has stood the test of time and continues to surpass 99% of contemporary bands attempting the lo-fi punk/new wave/kraut angle in the 21st century. Simply awe-inspiring punk rock mashed up with a dash of Can and T. Rex which strikes a perfect balance of thrashing guitars, pop hooks and experimental wank. Kids, stack this up next to your Interpol CDs in ten years time and weep at your wasted youth

Monday, November 01, 2004

Inspiration has not really been flying my way the past week, so I’ve not been bothered to write a whole lot, if at all. I could give a belated farewell to John Peel, but it seems a bit redundant at this point in time. He was, needless to say, one of the good guys and a man responsible for bringing so much great music to the heathen masses. So there ya go!

I bought a CD on the weekend, so let’s give it a quick run through the wringer… EARTH’s Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars compiles their live LP on Blast First from ’95 and a few demo tracks from 1990/’91. It was the last of the Earth discs I needed to get and, if anything, remains an album only necessary for those who insist on owning the complete Earth discography, such as myself. It contains one 30-minute live track recorded at the Disobey club in London, which I could gladly live without (“Ripped on Facist (sic) Ideas”), as it sounds like the “band” (that’s Dylan Carlson and Ian Dickson at that point) simply plugged their guitars in, set them up next to the speaker to feed back, then spent the remaining 28 minutes at the bar. It’s OK, but not a whole lot more than that. The remaining 4 songs are of much more interest: archival demo material featuring a more sludge-rock sound featuring Melvin Joe Preston and even Kurt Cobain on “Divine and Bright”. Despite the use of a drum machine (an instrument I loathe in just about any context) – though there’s some “real” drumming here, too – this is the stuff I crave. Doom, gloom, repetitive riffing and a pace that barely registers as a pulse, these lo-fi numbers move the heavens. It’s news to me, but Earth are actually still an ongoing entity, as Carlson keeps the name alive (in between bouts in detox and rehab) and plans on a Southern Lord release in the near future. People, do not start with Sunn Amps… - go to the four incredible Sub Pop albums instead: they’re all completely different from each other and stand as amazing documents of a band creating something entirely new with each and every title – but if you’ve been there and done that and still have an Earth craving that won’t quit, you could do worse than blowing your bucks on this.

A quick HIGH FIVE

1) LOVE – Forever Changes CD

Beloved by everyone and their dog, you don’t need me to tell you anything about this. I saw Arthur Lee and the gang here when they visited our shores early last year and it would undoubtedly rank as one of the finest live shows I’ve ever laid witness too. Like Ralph Malph, he’s still got it. However, I don’t know how anyone else originally felt about Forever Changes when they first heard it, but for me, well, I’ll be honest: I thought it stunk. Of course I was young and stupid, but when I first heard this about 7 years ago at a friend’s place (on my insistence), all I could hear were strings, a sappy vocalist, acoustic guitars and mariachi horns. And lots of songs which seemed to trail off into meandering directions, never following a standard verse/chorus set-up. Now you can take all those derogatory descriptions I just threw at them, turn them around and use them as a complement instead. Nifty or what?

2) THE CONTORTIONS – Buy LP
Snow-white funk/jazz/punk by and for obnoxious NYC art-fag upstarts. Again, that’s both an insult and a complement, but I like this nevertheless. Most No Wave does not budge me an inch, though this, at the best of times, moves me a mile.

3) 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS – Easter Everywhere CD
I seem to be on a bit of a Roky trip of late, for no other reason than he is a perennial fave who gets the dust-off every 6 months. No reappraisal is necessary here: for myself this remains one of the half-dozen best rock albums released in the ‘60s and the high watermark for American psychedelia any time. Funnily enough, my favourite song here is not sung by Roky: it’s “Nobody to Love” with Stacy Sutherland on vocals. The fuzzed, ascending/descending guitar line, which runs the length of the whole song and never stops, is the key here: it is a Great Rock Riff we should all bow to. Not a dud to be seen, and the version of “Baby Blue” brings a tear to the eye and beats Dylan’s original by a mile. An embarrassing confession: I smoked a big joint early last Saturday evening and put this CD on to measure its pot-album potential. Halfway through “Nobody to Love” I think I saw God and he looked like Roky. True story.

4) THE SOFT BOYS – Invisible Hits LP
A friend gave me this a few weeks back, generous gent that he is. It’s a compilation from 1983 which puts together a whole bunch of early (‘78/’79) material from the band on one, excellent disc. A musical anomaly at the time, the Soft Boys make more and more sense as the years go by. If I’d seen them as, say, an 18-year-old back in ’79, I probably would’ve bottled them and cursed their name to anyone within earshot. After all, what the fuck do Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, Syd Barrett, Captain Beefheart and the Kinks have to do with punk rock? Well, case by case, some have a whole lot and some very little, but that’s not the point. The Soft Boys created a brilliant, very English punk/new wave take on late ‘60s Brit psychedelic pop, stewed it up with the demented rhythms of the good Captain and did good. Contrary to popular belief, I enjoy a solid pop tune just as much as the next guy, and the Soft Boys straddled that line between straight pop and more expansive, psychedelic ambitions perfectly. The two highpoints here are the rambling choogle of “Wey-Wey-Hep-Uh-Hole”, which sounds like a lost track from Clear Spot, and the instrumental medley of “The Asking Tree/Muriel’s Hoof/The Rout Of the Clones”, a multi-faceted epic romp that sounds like it was zapped straight out of ’67 London, part Piper At the Gates of Dawn and part Liege & Leaf. The rest ain’t bad either.

5) BURZUM – Filosofem CD
…and now for something completely different. What you may need to enjoy this album, is to throw any context it exists in out the window. Like, forget about the murders, the church burnings, the corpsepaint, the dodgy politics and the general idiocy that is Norwegian Black Metal. I say this because I can’t imagine any fan of, say, Flipper, Drunks With Guns, Boredoms, early Royal Trux, Damaged-era ‘Flag or Solger not liking this album purely on its musical merits. It's lo-fi hate-rock of the highest calibre. If that’s what it takes to enjoy this disc, then so be it. For me, I think context is half the matter which makes it more enjoyable. Not that I think killing your friends over petty matters and scene politics is a laudable act, but if this was made by a group of NY art-school scenesters and not a lone nut who currently rots away in a Norwegian prison cell, it probably wouldn’t have the same visceral impact. But why would I – or you – even want to enter the headspace of such a guy? Does it make for enjoyable listening? In a word: YES! Don’t ask me why. I figure the music of Burzum is on the same level as a good horror flick: it’s a scary place to be, but it’s nice to visit every once in a while.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

LOOKING BACK...

Since the comments box is a relatively new edition to this site, and most people can't be bothered going through the archives to search for topics they may be interested in, let me steal an idea from someone else and link you back to some previous topics you may be inclined to comment on. After all, I didn't fuck around with that goddamn SquawkBox programme for hours for nothing. Fire away!

Top 50 Albums of All Time
John Fahey / Tyrannosaurus Rex / Twink / Magma
Live gigs
Robert Wyatt
Cabaret Voltaire
The Beatles' White Album
SST cassette atrocities
Sub Pop does good
More kick-ass cassette reviews
Hawkwind
The Scene Is Now
Rockin' in Scotland with Dawson, Stretchheads, Dog Faced Hermans and others
Electric Wizard
Thug
Spacemen 3
Boo Boo fanzine / James "Blood" Ulmer

Monday, October 25, 2004

A HIGH FIVE…

1) ROKY ERICKSON AND THE ALIENS – I Think of Demons CD
Discovering and eventually locating good music can often be a game of chance and good luck. Take Roky, for instance. 3RRR – the local public radio station here in Melbourne – had a really cool show on Sunday nights in the mid to late ‘80s whose name I can not remember for the life of me, but was hosted by Dave “Dogmeat” Laing (ie. NOT ME, and do not get us confused. I bumped into him the other day in [surprise, surprise] a record store and the first words out of his mouth were: I hear you’ve been dragging my good name through the mud all over the internet) and Bruce Milne (ex-Au-go-go honcho; man about town and the world). They’d play all kinds of oddities, or at least music which seemed mighty odd to me when I was 15: Stooges, Dead Boys, Electric Eels, Rocket From the Tombs and, yep, Roky Erickson. I used to tape the show when I could (along with the HC show on 3PBS), the result being the strangest mix tape you’ll ever come across. I still have evidence of this: a cassette from 1987, possibly the only tape on earth which features a really “tasty” mix of the Dead Boys, Weirdos, Roky Erickson and, ahem, Dag Nasty, Toxic Reasons and Negazione. It’s a keeper! So anyway, I can thank Dave and Bruce for getting me on the Roky trip at a young and impressionable age, and I can thank the whitebread a-holes of Camberwell for giving me this bargain a few years back, c/o their Dixon’s (secondhand chain-store), since Roky is in such little demand in their area that I was able to snaffle this out-of-print gem from their claws for a mere $5, it being in their shit-we-can’t-get-rid-of bargain bin.

I Think of Demons was Roky’s first solo album, originally released on CBS in 1980, and features some his best material. His patented howl can be heard on the mighty opener, “Two-Headed Dog” (anyone remember Antiseen butchering this song in the late ‘80s?) and other well-known – at least in some circles – faves such as “I Walked With A Zombie” and “Creature With the Atom Brain”. The Roky story is a strange beast, and it gets a whole lot stranger when you read the accompanying liner notes. Like, did you know that his career was resurrected in the late ‘70s with help from two ex-members of Creedence? News to me. Roky’s voice is one I’d like to die listening to, though I wish I could say the same for his backing band here. It’s not like they’re awful, but this, great as it is, would be a lot better with a more “sympathetic” sounding backing group, instead of the vaguely bar-band hackery which is present here in its weakest moments. Throw in a lesser vocalist without Roky’s lyrical finesse, and you’d swear you were listening to a Tom Petty/Cars bill at times. But that’s nitpicking. A fine album. Comb the bins and ye shall find.

2) SUN RA – Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy CD
After a 7-year break, I’ve hit the Sun Ra trail again. Why the absence? Probably for the very same reason you’ve taken a break from the man: come the early ‘90s, when Sun Ra’s massive Saturn catalogue finally received the deluxe CD reissue treatment c/o Evidence, I hit the bins and bought up big. I then listened and listened and listened some more. Then I bought more. Then I took a look at my CD shelf and said That’s enough! No-one, bar the absolute most fanatical followers of the man, need more than 25 Sun Ra albums sitting in their house. So I called it quits. I gave his discography a five-year flogging and took a holiday. Now I’m back. The Top 50 list I wrote months back features his Space Is the Place soundtrack album, but I still don’t want to hear that again for a while, just like I don’t need to hear Funhouse or Get Up With It for another decade. There’s no need: every note is already etched in my brain. So then there’s this, a 1963 studio album which runs a close second in the Sun Ra pantheon. With a scaled-down Arkestra behind him he went on to make probably the strangest platter released that year. Any competition? I didn’t think so. With creepy organs which sound like they’ve been lifted from the Carnival of Souls s/track, funky bass, echoed and distorted drums and various Middle Eastern rhythms weaving their ways in and out, I couldn’t think of a better second-place to start with the can of worms that is Sun Ra. Some of this sounds like an outer-space Martin Denny, most of it sounds like Sun Ra and none of it sounds like much else on the planet.

3) AGENTS OF ABHORRENCE – Covert Lobotomy 9”
I used to work at Missing Link, so they’re pretty good to me down there. In fact, so nice are they that a couple of the gents threw this in a bag for me a few weeks back and sent me on my way without a penny exchanging hands. Of course, this is actually a test pressing, so you wouldn’t pay money for it anyway, but I think the point has been made: good people. So what is this? Well, it’s the soon-to-be-released debut record on the newly re-launched Missing Link label, originally run by Keith Glass in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and responsible for releasing fine discs by the likes of the Birthday Party, Go-Betweens (I think) and the Dead Kennedys. Now the young guns have taken over and they’re putting out a series of – gulp – 9” records. Now before you smirk at the seemingly commercially-suicidal nature of this endeavour – just like I did – think about it: these babies will be all gobbled up before you find time to start bidding for it on ebay. All those hungry 9” fans, especially the vinyl-hording grind types, will come out of the woodwork and prove you – and me – wrong.

AOA are a two piece guitar/drums outfit featuring two young lads (I know Max the drummer, though the guitarist dude, also in the highly rated [not by me] My Disco, is a stranger to these shores) who specialize in totally off-the-wall power-violence/grind which benefits not only from its shit-hot musicianship but its ace combination of non-generic songwriting and fancy-schmancy guitar heroics. You know, I can take this whole genre or leave it, it doesn’t phase me, but when people do it right and spice it up with enough oddities and left turns to hold my attention, I’m all ears. Such as here. I saw them live once – at a Missing Link instore, in fact – and found myself floundering and embarrassing myself with praise for their wares to all my that-shit-don’t-grab-me cooler-than-you music-dork associates the following week, and so I think I’ll do a repeat performance here. With Max ripping out an unrelenting storm of wayward percussion and Guitar Dude tearing into a myriad spastic riffs in split seconds, if I was a lesser man I’d make a really lame comment like “they’re the Captain Beefheart of power violence”. Which they’re not, because that would mean nothing. What they are is very good. The guitar tone is stuck on a permanent treble – this ain’t no death metal – and if the song gets boring, don’t worry about it, it’ll all be over within 30 seconds anyway. Unlike the b-side, which is one, long sludge track caked in distortion and effects. Most nifty of all with AOA is the way the guitar track in a song won’t change at all, but the drums will slide in and out of varying rhythms. It’s a neat trick. They’re whacky, zany, unrelentingly brutal and in no way sound a thing like Mr. Bungle. Now that’s a good thing!

4) NOW TIME DELEGATION – Watch For Today LP
This is the party platter to beat them all, and probably my favourite “rock” album of the last few years. With an all-star cast which features members of the BellRays, Blacktop, etc. and guitar hero Tim Kerr on full-time axe duty, the combination of lo-fi recording, steaming soul – especially from awesome vocalist Lisa Kekaula – and garage trash is near perfect. It’s so good and so damn confident in its delivery it’s tempting to almost label it as smug, but it ain’t. More than anything, this sounds authentic; not like a bunch of contemporary garage-punk yahoos attempting to mine the soul songbook of yore, but the real thing. With a host of covers, best of which is a version of a King Floyd b-side, “Handle Me With Care” (the original of which I’ve never heard, though it’s got me mighty curious… and it was only a b-side!) and a smattering of Tim Kerr originals, these guys ripped out this corker in a moment’s notice then called it quits upon release, or thereabouts. Great liner notes from Don Waller, cool package which somewhat replicates the look of an old ‘60s LP (minus any silly bowl haircuts or obvious references to the time), I don’t hear too many people rave about this disc a whole lot, but those who do get real vocal about it. Notch up another one for In The Red.

5) RUDIMENTARY PENI – Death Church / Cacophony LPs
One of the best and most fascinating British bands of the last 20 years, ‘Peni are a band with a small yet absolutely fanatical following. Ignored by head-up-backside music elites (much like myself until my mid 20s), most likely because people confuse them as being either a group of lame, Crass-affiliated “peace punx” or mohican-sporting lager drinkers (which they’re most definitely not), RP inhabit their own universe and let no one else in. And that’s what I like about them: a self-contained unit with nary a concern for anything else in the popular or unpopular music world around them. Formed in the late ‘70s by the three lads still carrying the flag to this day, and headed up by one of the more eccentric individuals of UK punk, Nick Blinko, RP brewed up a storm in the early ‘80s with two 7” EPs of headstorming avant-punk before making the Grand Statement in ’83 with Death Church. Beloved by now-famous indie-rock types at the time – most notably Steve Albini and Mark Arm – it took them a full four years to follow up with Cacophony. Earmarked as leaders of the, err, “deathpunk” movement of the ‘80s (which I guess isn’t to be confused with the non-existent “deathpunk” scene of the ‘90s spearheaded by Turbonegro), RP’s sound wavers from disc to disc, which makes their modus operandi kinda hard to pin down. Death Church is fairly political in its lyrical topics, though it’s smothered in such a deathly aura of Dickensian grimness and recycled ‘Sabbath and Joy Division riffs that you’re not likely to confuse it with their more spiky-haired brethren anytime soon.

Cacophony took a major detour both musically and lyrically, and for my two cents ranks as their high point. Dedicated to the writings of gothic horror master HP Lovecraft, its lyrical concerns are centred squarely on the man and his words, a “concept record” for cider-sculling crusties, if you will. Musically, the band ups the ante and tears into song upon song – that’s 30 in just over 40 minutes – with riffs and drum rolls flying every which way but loose. Blinko screams and howls like a man possessed – he has been in and out of mental institutions the last two decades – and the band hammers and nails it at every turn like a powerhouse, amped-up trio. Dig the opening riff to the first track, “Nightgaunts”, a descending wall of guitar chords with treated vocals over the top: it sends a chill down the spine. Intermixed amongst all this madness are even a few spoken-word segments. Dude, this is some zany shit. Various pundits over the years have compared the band to the Minutemen, which I guess makes some sense. Not that RP actually sound anything like them, but in the ranks of non-conformist three-piece punker outfits making up their own musical rules, RP share some similarities. More off the mark are the remarks I constantly hear of ‘Peni being a “proto-speed-metal” outfit, a description which makes no sense at all, no matter which way you look at it. Firstly, outside of the odd ‘Sabbath sludge present on Death Church, there’s not a hint of a metallic riff in them, and secondly, how the fuck could they be “proto” when the speed-metal scene was in full swing by the time they were releasing records anyway? Sounds more like a case of music journos desperately grabbing a catch-phrase out of thin air to me.

RP have released a swag of discs since these high marks from the ‘80s – they in fact recently put out a 10”/CD – and, “good” as they are, they haven’t grabbed me the way these did. Blinko also released a semi-autobiographical book in the mid ‘90s entitled Primal Screamer, which won various literary awards at the time, and if you ever come across it (I’m pretty sure it’s out of print), grab it quick, give it a quick read and please send it my way.