Friday, October 01, 2004

A briefer-than-brief sketch of the below... Well, maybe not.

PETER HAMMILL's Nadir's Big Chance was released in 1975 and I bought it as an England's Dreaming-reading putz back in '92 for a couple of dollars due to the heavy praise it received from Mr. Lydon during his infamous appearance on Tommy Vance's radio show back in '77. Got all that? Hammill, still around and recording music today, has a catalogue as long as both your arms and I've heard about half-a-dozen of his efforts, all of which have been worthy. This is his best. Originally from the avant-progsters Van der Graaf Generator, he split the scene in the mid '70s and recorded this what I'd dare to call "post-modern" ripper. I say post-modern because, much like Bowie's Ziggy Stardust phase, Nadir's Big Chance is Hammill reinventing himself as a rough 'n' tumble tough-guy rock 'n' roller and assuming said personality for the duration of the disc. The sound is a mixture of early '70s UK art-rock (think Eno w/ or w/out Roxy Music) with a strong dose of Bowie and Bolan. Add in a few spoonfuls of depressing, mid '70s bacon-rash-&-dripping UK angst, stir the pot and enjoy. "The Institute Of Mental Health Is Burning": it's a beautiful thing. This is a secondhand-bin clogger you should stop skipping over and purchase.

If I could list two records in my adolescence which fried my brain like a bucket of acid, it'd be the 'Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks and Plastic Surgery Disasters by the Dead Kennedys. Heard and purchased at the tender and oh-so-impressionable age of 13, they flipped my mind but good. I'm still recovering. That's probably a pretty embarrassing statement, since I know of many fellow music dorks who hold such discs (and bands) in very low esteem, and I have nothing to say in my defense. I need no defense. I can still listen to both albums and go nuts. They've never escaped me, even though they probably should. So, to get to any kind of point, it's this: Jello Biafra is an annoying, loud-mouthed twat, but you know what? HE'S ALL RIGHT. I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out than ever sit through one of his spoken-word recordings, but he has at least done the noble thing in releasing ZOLAR X's long lost recordings on the LP known as Timeless. That's a good thing, and, come to think of it, quite a rare thing when you look at the horrors of the Alternative Tentacles discography. It's a trainwreck of the worst order.

There's a few items there I'd swear by: Dog Faced Hermans, Galloping Coroners, Michael Gira and Jarboe, Tragic Mulatto, Half Japanese and even Alice Donut's Mule LP from 1990 (a band I've never cared for, but that album... I challenge anyone to listen to "Bottom of the Chain" and not want to join the nearest slampit), but the rest... call me the day Causey Way, Nomeansno, Phantom Limbs, Iowaska, Christian Lunch, Facepuller or Victim's Family release a good record. I'll be waiting. But anyway!!...

ZOLAR X were an utterly ridiculous space-rock/glam outfit from LA spanning the years 1972-'81, the band voted Most Likely but whom wound up as the ultimate Couldabeens. This reissue hopes to rectify such a situation. Dressed up in Star Trek-style silver space-suits (complete w/ Spock ears and hairdos), which they apparently never took off, even in public, they rode the glam wave, stumbled during the punk era (despite playing shows with various punkers of the day), then admitted defeat at the dawn of the '80s. Their sound, certainly on the more rocking and concise A side, is an amped-up moon-boogie which brings to mind Iggy's Kill City jamming it w/ Space Ritual-era Hawkwind and is something I've given a heavy beating the last 7 days. It is the fucking best. A "lost" recording you'll listen to for years to come, much like the Electric Eels, Simply Saucer and the usual list of suspects. Side B veers dangerously close to "rock opera" territory, but at least has enough oomph and eccentricities to keep it away from Tommy land. Look, it's all good, the package is handsome beyond words, the fidelity fine (some of it recorded by Jim Dickinson!), the photos worthy of framing and the liner notes tell the complete story. One of the best reissues you'll hear all year.

THE FLESH EATERS released Hard Road to Follow in 1983 on Chris D.'s Upsetter label and has been unavailable for nigh on two decades. Now, thanks to Atavistic, it's back in print. Every scribe and his mother has spilt 'net ink on this sucka since its reintroduction into the general consciousness of the hipster cognoscenti, and therefore I feel little need to add anything to the proceedings. It is, quite bluntly, a very fine thing and I'm currently on a Flesh Eaters bender not seen since the likes of that other guy who had a bender some other time. Now on heavy repeat in the car stereo: a 120-minute cassette featuring the highlights from No Questions Asked, A Minute To Prey, A Second To Die, Forever Came Today, Dragstrip Riot (the opener, "Tomorrow Never Comes" peels paint off walls) and this. Bad-ass rock royalty nicely packaged with typically stellar liner notes c/ Coley, I even found myself dragging out old issues of Forced Exposure the other night to peruse Chris D.'s hilarious film reviews. Again, one of the best reissues you'll come across in 2004.

CAN's Unlimited Edition is in fact my favourite album of theirs, but since it's an odds 'n' sods collections and not a "real" album as such, I could not list it in my Top 50 everyone ignored a few months back. There's rules, ya see. Covering '68-'75, housed in an ugly-as-hell sleeve and featuring 19 mostly short and sweet tracks (with a few epics thrown in), this is the best collection of Can's ouvre during their peak years. Next!

MAGMA's Mekanik Destruktiw Komandoh is a completely ludicrous musical offering I like to frighten friends with. It's so over the top you'll either reel in horror or be won over by the absurdity of a '70s French prog band in uber-choir mode chanting out choruses in a made-up sci-fi language (Kobaian) whilst backed by an airtight ensemble of crashing drums, fuzz bass and church organs. There's no irony in my love for this band: they remain one of the most unique outfits rock has ever birthed, a band who've forged a path no one has ever come close to.

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