A HIGH FIVE…
1) SWANS – White Light From the Mouth of Infinity 2LP
Speaking of which… this, their “comeback” effort from 1991, after the debacle of the Laswell-produced This Burning World (a turkey worthy of the scorn it received), is an album you’re either going to love or hate. For myself, it ranks as my favourite Swans album from their latter period. It’s also probably the best produced album I own. Forget about your Emerson, Lake and Palmer platters – not that I own any, mind you – this is over-production to the max, but at least in this context it works. Percussion that thunders and roars; bellowing vocals which rumble out of the speakers; crispy-clean guitars that sound like they were played by a guy wearing surgeon’s gloves; when I used to play this to my brother in the early ‘90s – a man who never shared a Swans enthusiasm the way I did – he’d run screaming in horror, saying such nasty epithets as It sounds like Nick Cave playing with ELO. Or something like that. Come to think of it, I remember that Mykel Board once reviewed this and noted that the Jarboe tracks reminded him of Barbra Streisand. I’m still not sure if he meant that as a compliment. Still, the important thing is that I like it and feel no guilt in my enjoyment. This double set is so – AHEM! – spiritually uplifting, I’d seriously rate it as one of the finer albums of its decade.
2) THE PRETTY THINGS – Get the Picture? CD
Their second album ca. mid ‘60s; amp-destroying Brit R & B; one of the most electrifying openers ever in “You Don’t Believe Me”; keeps me focused on those long car trips. Consult Mike Stax for any and all other details you may need to know.
3) PRINCE FAR I – Health & Strength LP
Certainly one of my all-time favourite reggae albums, I say this as a white man: this baby rocks. Originally recorded for Virgin’s Frontline series in the late ‘70s, this sat on the shelf for twenty years before a tape version fell in the lap of one Adrian Sherwood. After slapping himself silly for his good fortunes, he cleaned it up a touch and released it on his excellent Pressure Sounds imprint in 1998. Now I can enjoy it, and you can, too. Some critic/idiot once referred to Prince Far I as “the Captain Beefheart of dub”, and whilst I’m still not too sure of what he’s trying to grasp at with such a statement, I’ll take it as this: Prince Far I appears to be a very “eccentric” man and isn’t afraid of peppering his music with said eccentricities. He chants, he babbles, he toasts, he raps, he’s probably off his tits on a non-prescribed substance, but boy-oh-boy, do I like that man’s style.
4) THE FEELIES – The Good Earth LP
As a teenager, I was rather obsessed with the 1986 Jonathon Demme film, Something Wild. For me, it was the epitome of hip: square-John family man gets “kidnapped” by goth-seductress and finds himself caught up in all kindsa crazy shenanigans, some of them amusing, some of them life-threatening. Well, what can I say? I was young, dumb and full of shit. Now I’m older and just as full of shit: I own a video copy of the film and still enjoy the annual viewing it allows me. You want a film review? Go elsewhere, we’ll talk about The Feelies instead. What’s the link? It’s this: The Feelies appear in the film as the high-school-reunion party houseband, and their songs sprinkle throughout the rest of the soundtrack. Best of all, the songs appear on this album. Released in ’86 on the Coyote label and co-produced by college-dork extraordinaire, REM’s Peter Buck, I once announced my love for this album to a co-worker and he appeared somewhat shocked, like, since when were you a man of taste? The Feelies, after all, are a “critic’s band”, which I guess leaves me and all the common folk out of the picture. I don’t usually like anything from the ‘80s this “nice”, but maybe it’s not as nice as it initially appears. The Feelies rocked it hard like a 3rd-album Velvets, and the songs, man, the songs. “Slipping (Into Something)”, also used in Something Wild, is the highlight here, so if you desire some ‘80s “college rock” which doesn’t make you want to go on a killing spree, I’d say start with The Good Earth.
5) FLIPPER – Gone Fishin’ LP
Aaahh… the totally non-classic sophomoric effort from the finned lads which no-one ever talks about, ah, ever. I’m here to at least mention its name and let people be aware of its existence. After all, if I don’t, who will? I went apeshit over Flipper as a Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll-reading 15-year-old loser and bought this, the Sex Bomb 7”, Generic and the then just-released Public Flipper Ltd. double LP all in the space of a month. I then screen-printed a particularly crap-looking home-made Flipper t-shirt with a fish print, but that fascinating aside will wait ‘til a later date. In short, I was a fan, and remain as such. Generic needs no more commentary, but what of this? The package gets an A-plus – fancy tour-bus cut-out, inner sleeve with lyrics and funky photos; hell, the songs are strong, too: Sacrifice, Talk’s Cheap, Survivors of the Plague rate as Flipper classics; even better, they’ve grabbed together a wider array of instruments to give that patented Flipper dirge a more eclectic edge… so what is it that holds it back from being a Really Great Record? It’s the PRODUCTION, silly. What happened to the bottom end? The sludge? The guitars?! Are the band aware of this? Someone put this this back in the studio for a remix – look, just call Hank Rollins, I don’t think he’s too busy these days – and get him to do what Iggy did in ’97 with Raw Power: make a mountain out of a molehill. Even that Rick Rubin guy will suffice.