Saturday, March 27, 2004

CASSETTE REVIEWS

Time to slay the SST beast and get these out of my system. Here's a couple of gems and a few dust-collectors on top...

PAPER BAG - Improvised My Ass
If ever there were an SST band to out-SWA SWA, it's Paper Bag (sheez, what a name!). I know next to zip about this band, and prefer to keep it that way, though I can give you these scant facts: they were a four-piece "improv" band from LA from the latter half of the '80s; they sucked in a manner that is almost too bad to describe; possibly no-one other than myself has ever paid good money for one of their recordings.

I bought this sometime in early 1990 at the Bourke St. Virgin Megastore, when I was at the tail-end of my SST obsession. I don't know who it was, but someone at Virgin had a major boner for SST at the time and ordered just about every single item in their catalogue, including cassettes (what the hell were they thinking - both SST and Virgin?? I mean, Paper Bag on LP, CD and cassette??!!). Whilst that's obviously bad news for Virgin, since about 95% of said stock hit the bargain bin in 12 months time, it was good news for a schlep like myself, only too willing to spoil oneself with the audio torture of an ensemble like Paper Bag. I paid approximately $2 for this killer and probably, until this week, hadn't given it a proper spin since the week I bought it.

I put this one in the car stereo the other day when I had to take a long, work-related trek and was taken back by the first number: "Mr Id". Hey, this is good! With a majorly Ginn-influenced guitar jam punched in with some "cosmic" keyboard workouts, it sounds like an unholy mix of Process of Weeding Out-era 'Flag meets early Soft Machine. Hmmm... maybe I'll be reappraising Paper Bag and start a revival! Then the second track came on... OK, this is where things start getting ugly. By track three, the truly excrable "I Live in LA", I'd been unsold. This is a stinker of biblical proportions. Sloppy, barely-together bong/fusion jams interspersed with - you guessed it - spoken-word poetry of the political variety. Ginn must've been smoking pipes by the truckload to convince himself to release this one. Ladies and gents, the second coming of October Faction has come and gone and no-one even noticed. Remember their full name: Paper Bag Improvisational Music Co. Anyone ever see these guys?

TREACHEROUS JAYWALKERS - Good Medicine
The Treacherous Jaywalkers, through singer Josh Haden's dad, the great jazz bass player Charlie Haden (best known perhaps for his ace work with Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry), sure must've had some cool connections in LA. Only that can possibly explain how they managed to scoop Mike Watt to produce their debut EP and none other than Phast Phreddie (LA writer/author; producer of the "seminal" Denim Delinquint fanzine in the mid '70s) and Trotsky Icepick's Vitus Matare to produce this atrocity. The 'Jaywalkers are the textbook definition of diminishing returns. Ingredients: take three entirely talentless putzes, spoonfeed them the classic recordings of the Minutemen, Black Flag, Saccharine Trust and Meat Puppets and ask them to replicate in their own manner. Then, of course, release to the general public said recordings on LP, cassette and CD. This is some seriously embarrassing, derivative material, with the grade-school level "political" lyrics being the worst factor. Then there's the (Meat Puppets) II-style cover art and the fIREHOSE rip-off song titles like "Jamespeil" one has to contend with. Did these guys have an original thought in their collective brain? I doubt it. Josh Haden is now in the equally useless outfit, Spain, if anyone is still interested. Bought, I think, the same day as Paper Bag - a great day for shopping!

UNIVERSAL CONGRESS OF - s/t; This Is Mecolodics
And now for some good news... If there is one outfit who should qualify as The Great Lost SST Band, it's Universal Congress Of. Lead by Saccharine Trust's axeman god, Joe Baiza, both of these cassettes stand testament to just what an amazing band they were. The first album, in particular, is an all-time favourite of mine, and one in which I have no doubt that if it was released today on a hipper-than-anyone label like, say, Load or Troubleman, would get all the hepcats tied up in a knot falling all over themselves in praise. Essentially consisting of one, long track, "A Certain Way", and a brief conclusion entitled "Chasing", its sonic mixture of Hendrix, Sonny Sharrock, '70s Miles and Krautrock is a very heady brew indeed. Baiza's scorching guitar freakouts are truly electric, and when I've played this to friends who are completely ignorant of who they're listening to the verdict has been universal and instantaneous: this album is fucking brilliant. So impressed was I - as I continue to be - I went and ordered the LP as well.

This Is Mecolodics is a follow-up EP, which, whilst not as good as the debut, still stews its own pot. The cover depicts a clever homage to Ornette's This Is Our Music, with all four members perfectly replicating the pose and outfits of Ornette and gang from that album, which is pretty fitting due to the heavy Ornette influence in their music and the cover of "Law Years" featured within. It's a different bag to the debut; here, the band stick to shorter tracks and a wider breadth of material and styles. There's an excellent Otis Rush cover, "All Your Love", some No Wave-ish "fake jazz" in the Lounge Lizards/James Chance mould and even a sublime cover of "Happy Birthday". Yes, the song you sing at a birthday party. I slagged this track rather severely in a review I wrote for this years ago, though a reappraisal is now in order: a free jazz take on "Happy Birthday"? In the year 2004, for a reason I can't fathom, it sounds good to these ears. Go figure. I mailordered both of these some time around 1989/90 and if anything, they sound better now than ever before.

Friday, March 26, 2004

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF ALL TIME: # 44

BRIAN ENO - Apollo LP

It must have been late 1999, maybe early 2000... I woke up one morning and it felt like there was a stranger in the house, something or someone that wasn't supposed to be there. I searched around for a bit then finally discovered the culprit sitting there in a pile next to the stereo: it was the dozen+ albums I owned by Brian Eno. How the hell did this happen? Am I a, gulp, Brian Eno fan? I 'fessed up: Yes, yes I am a fan. A big fan.

Why was this any kind of revelation, or something I wouldn't readily admit to? I mean, isn't Eno one fuckin' righteous dude we should all celebrate? Of course he is, though I was reluctant to do so at first. I think my original prejudice sprung from my (rather ignorant) opinion of him as an effete, dilettante poser of the David Bowie School of Rock whose sole contribution to contemporary music was his large and overwhelming influence on various New Romantic nudniks better left forgotten. That, of course, is total baloney. Then there's that great U2 hurdle one must take a flying leap over (and erase from one's memory), and what you're left with is a good dozen or more LPs with Eno's name on it which are nothing less than essential: Roxy Music and For Your Pleasure (with Roxy Music), Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain, Another Green World, Discreet Music, Before And After Science, Music for Films, Music for Airports, On Land, Plateaux of Mirror and The Pearl (both with Harold Budd), No Pussyfooting and Evening Star (both with Robert Fripp), My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (with David Byrne) and, naturally, Apollo.

The strange thing with Eno, at least in my case, is that his music crept up on me and claimed me as a fan without me even noticing. Between the years 1997 and 2000 I acquired all these LPs cheaply - 2nd-hand Eno vinyl being bountiful at the time - and methodically, shrugging my shoulders nonchalantly and mumbling "Yeah, he's OK" when people asked me if I was a fan, and it wasn't until that fateful day described above that I came to the realisation that Eno is just as fucking great as all those '70s proto-punkers claimed he was. And let's look at it this way: how many great artists do you know who've made at least a dozen killer albums? And I mean "killer" in the sense that they're all different to each other, all make up a piece of a puzzle and every one is just as essential as the other. Rolling Stones? Not in my book. Beatles? Did they actually make that many? Neil Young? Yep, probably. Miles Davis? Sun Ra? Easy. In my book, that puts Mr. Eno up there in the Pantheon of the Greats.

Apollo was the first Eno disc I bought, purely on a whim because the album looked kinda, you know, "cosmic". Looking at the year of production - 1983 - that's a hell of a gamble, since the number of "survivors" from the '70s who went on to make some similarly rad music in the '80s you could probably count on one hand (and it likely wouldn't include Miles and Neil Young). Apollo was originally conceived as the soundtrack for a short film or some pretentious art installation piece (do you care?) documenting the first landing on the moon, though it soon took on a life of its own, with this album being undoubtedly more famous and well-known than the film it was supposed to accompany (much like More, the film Pink Floyd did the music for... does anyone actually know of anyone who's seen it??).

So anyway, Apollo is divided up quite equally in its musical scope between its two sides: side A is pure keyboards and ambience. The song titles perfectly narrate the feel of the album and the individual songs: "Under Stars", "The Secret Place", "Matta", "Signals", etc. The most outstanding track here is undoubtedly "An Ending (Ascent)", with soaring keyboard lines that brilliantly capture a sense of serene drifting (by coincidence, I saw the film 28 Days Later the other night, and this track is used to great effect in such a scene), and the side's last song "Drift" being a nice ending coda to the proceedings.

The second side is a radically different matter. I once described it as alternately sounding like a futuristic ballet and a country-tinged Muzak band on heroin. Wooaah! Somebody call All Music Guide, we have a new genre! Seriously, whilst such descriptions may simply elude to the fact that I'm struggling for a comparison, they still sound accurate to these ears. Both "Silver Morning" and "Weightless" are like valiumed-out slabs of guitar twang, part MOR schmaltz and part Spacemen 3; "Deep Blue Day" brings to mind Jah Wobble's adaption of "Swan Lake" on Metal Box, but best of all is "Always Returning", Apollo's jewel in the crown, a repetitive (looped?) piano piece which is so damn beautiful I'm choking up just thinking about it. Listen and believe.

There aren't too many records I've listened to more in the 21st century than Apollo. Anyone deriding this as New Age has either never heard the sheer drivel such a genre produces, or never sat down and listened to the layers of sound at work here. In one full sitting, this is about as close to perfection as you can get.

Pros: The ultimate space-rock - minus the "rock" - masterpiece. Play this back to back with Space Ritual and zone out. Use mind-altering substances at your discretion.
Cons: The particularly (and needlessly) anal may fear the Spirit of Bono in their presence.
Related Releases: All those discs mentioned above. Drop what you're doing, leave the house and purchase said albums. That's an order!

Friday, March 19, 2004

WHAT THE FUCK IS UP WITH SUB POP?

There are few greater sensations one can experience with their clothes on than coming home from work to find a box of free CDs on their front doorstep. That’s what I experienced last Friday. I’ve given the package a week to digest, so now it’s time to discuss the contents.

So, why would I be on the receiving end of a box of free Sub Pop CDs? It’s simple: someone from their head office wrote to me wanting to trade a few F/i CDs I’d (re-)released and offered to swap it for some Sub Pop titles. Sounded fair to me, there were a couple of things on the label I wouldn’t mind getting… Son, it’s a deal!

Some friends may titter at me getting a box of free CDs from Sub Pop. After all, weren’t they the Kings of Grunge back in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s? That oft-discredited “movement” I was never too shy about dissing? That’s true, though I never felt that Sub Pop were responsible for the really bad stuff that came out of that scene. Sure, there’s those Blood Circus and Love Battery albums we all had to suffer through, but as for the likes of Alice In Chains and Stone Temple Pilots, well, anyone who confuses those kinds of bands with a label like SP has their head either in the sand or up their backside.

My only real connection with the label over the years have been: A) really liking that debut Mudhoney EP when it first came out; and B) visiting the Sub Pop store in 1999 when I was in Seattle, and what a disappointment that was! Desperately desiring a souvenir of my Seattle Experience, I scoured the store for half an hour searching for something to buy, finally settling on their reissue of the Wipers’ brilliant Is This Real? (a purchase I’m glad I “settled” on). I ended up having my “real” Seattle Experience when I visited Fantagraphics later that day and spotted Mark Arm, slouched in the corner, MC5 t-shirt on, reading an issue of Eightball. True story!

Anyhow, you don’t need me to tell you that SP has, perhaps against all odds, been releasing some rather fine discs of late. Some are reviewed below and some are to be released in the near future: Wolf Eyes (an over-hyped band, for sure, though when they’re good, I can’t deny the appeal of their amazing Throbbing Gristle/Black Flag hybrid); Comets On Fire (speaking of hype…); and Jennifer Gentle (unbelievably great Italian psych band you don’t want to get me started on. Suffice to say, you will be hearing a lot more of these guys in the future). OK, on with the show…

EARTH – 2 CD; Pentastar: In the Style of Demons CD; Phase 3 Thrones and Dominions CD
I specifically requested these titles, as I’ve become quite entranced with certain bands trawling the “doom” genre of late (SunnO))), Khanate, Corrupted, Electric Wizard, etc.), and, to state the obvious, the mighty Earth are, along with the Melvins, considered by many to be the band to kick-start the genre in the ‘90s. Earth were essentially Dylan Carlson, he being Kurt Cobain’s ex-roommate and notorious fuck-up (to get a peek into his levels of fucked-upness, you only need to see the interview with him in Kurt & Courtney. He’s a walking poster boy for anti-drugs campaigners), and various hangers-on who constituted a “band”. The idea was to take the prehistoric crawl of early Black Sabbath and slow it down to a barely-resonating pulse. Sometimes this is achieved with a group (as on Pentastar), and sometimes this is done through only an accompanying bass (as on 2).

2: I owned this years ago and sold it during a particularly brutal CD cull. Listening to it again now, I know why. Not much happens here. Track 1, “Seven Angels”, is a nice guitar-feedback dirge with a hint of melody, though the following two merely sound like Dylan left his amp on and walked off for a very long cigarette break. And there’s about 50 minutes of it. I think I’m supposed to like this, but I don’t. 6/10.

Pentastar: Earth’s most “rock’n’roll” moment, this is one of their best. Alongside a few tracks of near-Melvins/St. Vitus-style “rock”, there’s some ghostly piano and guitar loops bordering on Branca territory, all enveloped in a drugged-out aura I find mighty appealing. Newcomers needing an "accessible" entry point should start here. 9/10.

Phase 3: a friend was green with envy when he heard I received this CD, as it’s apparently been out of print for a long time and he’s been searching, Kung Fu-style, the far reaches of the universe for it the last couple of years. I can see why. This is my fave Earth outing. Essentially being a sonic mixture of the two previous CDs, Phase 3 combines the guitar rumble and experimentations of 2 with an occasional, though not fully formed, rock touch. Imagine, if you will, a combination of Haino-style guitar torture, Black Sabbath doom, Neil Young’s Arc and Lou’s Metal Machine Music, and that’s approaching the territory of Phase 3. Fucking awesome. Phase 3, I promise to never give you up. 9.9/10.

THE SHINS – Chutes Too Narrow CD
And now for something completely different… I was glad I received this CD, believe it or not. Some may laugh at that, as the Shins are often seen as exactly the kind of gormless, yet ultimately harmless indie-rock band I’m often heard mercilessly deriding, though their “hit”, “Kissing the Lipless”, has been receiving such a flogging on public (and probably elsewhere) radio down here, and is so engrained in my brain, that I felt it would be a good thing for me to finally own a copy of it. “Kissing the Lipless” is, of course, an undeniably appealing slice of pop. When the chorus hits and the high notes come in, I’m transported. I’ve played it about 50 times the last week, and its appeal is still yet to fade. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the album. Where are the tunes? The hooks? Sounds to me like they recorded the bulk of this album in a coma. “Kissing the Lipless”: 10/10; the rest: 2/10. I will, however, be keeping this for that one song.

MICHAEL YONKERS BAND – Microminiature Love CD
There appears to be a universal verdict regarding this album, the great “lost” 1968 outing from Mr. Yonkers. The verdict is this: it’s an unsung masterpiece. That verdict prompts me to ask this question: have I been taking crazy pills or this merely an ordinary ‘60s garage/psych album which has garnered such levels of praise only for its elusive, “lost” status? I’ve been burned way too often to get excited about things like this. Look, the music of Simply Saucer, Electric Eels and Vertical Slit, to name but three great, lost bands, is something I can get my ears around: their music is amazing, regardless of any status, but Yonkers I’d unfortunately put under my Record Collector Music banner, alongside Debris’, Monks, Silver Apples and the Deviants: interesting bands who made some fairly OK, out-of-time music for the era, but whom, taken out of any context, didn’t actually record many great songs. Microminiature Love looks good on the shelf, though it probably won’t be moving from there too often. 5.5/10.

ALL NIGHT RADIO – Spirit Stereo Frequency CD
I think this is two members of Beachwood Sparks, the Byrds-style outfit with various releases on Sub Pop. Never heard much, if any, of their music, though I think it’s safe to say that these guys are travelling the same terrain, albeit with a more symphonic, multi-layered sound. Ingredients: take Forever Changes and The Notorious Byrd Brothers as base ingredients, stir in Sister Lovers, the Carpenters and various early ‘70s AM radio staples and pour. Is it tasty? It’s OK, though the “pop magic” ingredient is lacking, leaving little taste in my mouth afterwards. The production is undoubtedly amazing, with lots of swirly, outer-space sounds coming in and out of the proceedings, but for me, this kind of music is strictly perfunctory: you’re there for the hooks, and this just doesn’t offer the goods often enough. 6.5/10.

BAPTIST GENERALS – No Silver/No Gold CD
I know little about this band, except what I read on All Music Guide the other day (most of which I’ve forgotten. Sorry). The good news is that I like this quite a lot. The ‘Generals, a loose, ramshackle, lo-fi ensemble with a rootsy edge, sound to me like the lost link between Daniel Johnston, the Shrimper Records stable of ’91-’95 (Refrigerator, etc.) and the lost-in-space ramblings of Jandek. It’s the year 2004 and I’ll be the first to say that such a combination doesn’t light a fire under my ass like it used to, though if we’re all here to debate music one actually enjoys listening to, as opposed to showing off, then the Baptist Generals rate pretty OK. Will I still own this in 5 years? Unlikely. Will I search out any of their other releases? Not a snowball’s chance in hell. Bands like the Baptist Generals don’t “interest” me the way, say, Earth or Savage Republic or Current 93 do – people doing something unique I can’t quite get a full grasp on – though their music still brings me sonic pleasure, a quick fix I can instantly attain then disregard. Do I find their music disposable? Yes. Do I enjoy it? Yes. That’s all you need to know. 7.5/10.

KINSKI – Air Above Your Station CD
A friend who works at a record store in town, knowing my intense fandom for Acid Mothers Temple, recommended this album to me about a month ago. I shrugged my shoulders dismissively, grunted and said something to the effect that the chances of a band like Kinski setting my world alight with a space-rock masterpiece are next to nil. To make it simple: I don’t need a band like Kinski in my life, a band I’ve always associated with the Kranky School of MOR Mediocre Space-Rock. You know what? I made that ironclad judgment without ever having heard them. Does that make me a dismissive, jaded asshole who should give up the music game? Possibly. Probably more so, since I like this album a whole lot. My original claim stands: I don’t need Kinski in my life. I don’t need more space-rock in my life. A band like Kinski are not necessary. The gaps have already been filled. They are, in essence, a band that would fit perfectly on a label like Kranky: that well-worn mix of Sonic Youth/My Bloody Valentine guitar sheen with a hint of Hawkwind and Krautrock. Phooey! Heard it all before!! So why have I not stopped playing this the last week? Because I like it? Yes, yes I do. Will I investigate their discography further? Unlikely. Track five, “I Think I Blew It”, is worthy of any great mid ‘70s Eno album you care to mention. No shit. Verdict: Kinski are an entirely obvious, wholly derivative outfit who make enjoyable music. Case closed. Next! 8.5/10.

KINSKI/ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE – CD
I won’t bore anyone with a lecture on AMT. No, wait, I will… AMT are a rare breed of a band: one worthy of its hype, a band who will stand the test of time, a band whose quality of music overrides any negative connotations one may regard with them. The ultimate pastiche ensemble, an otherworldly combination of Gong, Hawkwind, Terry Riley, Blue Cheer, Incredible String Band, Syd Barrett and Frank Zappa, they get my vote as the greatest rock band of the last 5 years. AMT excite me, they move me, their music brings me great pleasure. That’s three strikes and all you need to know. But this CD? It fills a gap, but not much else. Two tracks apiece from each band and two collaborative efforts, it sounds exactly like you’d expect. That’s not a bad thing, though mostly this sounds like an album on Space-Rock Auto-Pilot. 7.5/10.

MUDHONEY – Since We’ve Become Translucent CD
If you’d told me in, say, 1993, that in the year 2002 Mudhoney would release an album I’d really like, I would’ve told you you were high as a kite and needed a lie down. That’s because Mudhoney have rarely, if ever, registered much more than a distant blip on my musical radar. Sure, along with everyone else I LOVED that Superfuzz Big Muff EP when it first came out, and sure I saw them play here in 1990 and they ROCKED, but since then? The weird thing with Mudhoney is, the moment they became “big” within a larger context, they ceased to make any decent music. Actually, that’s not “weird” by any usual standards; in fact, it’s the standard scenario, but what I mean is, despite their signing to a major label at the time, they didn’t musically sell out or “go commercial”, they simply wrote album-upon-album of crumby material (something Mark Arm himself quite openly admits to in Our Band Could Be Your Life). So, wisely, in the late ‘90s they hung up their guitars and let the band rest for half a decade.

Skip to 2002: I was working in a CD chain store and this album came floating into the New Release section. To be honest, I usually wouldn’t have paid any attention to it, but so starved for anything remotely close to something I could relate to in the commercial context of the store, I went out to the backroom and gave it a spin. What the hell?! This first song is incredible! “Baby, Can You Dig the Light?” is like the ultimate Stooges/Seeds/Hawkwind/Spacemen 3 combination, a lengthy, crawling dirge punched along by a wall of feedback and howling saxophones. They’d sold me. I never gave the rest of the album a proper, thorough listen, but it’s now 2004, I own it, and I have some good news: the rest of the album is just as good. Mudhoney have finally, or yet again, put their record collections to inspirational use and made an album I will proudly state as being one of the finest of its sort in recent memory. Who the fuck would’ve ever imagined that?! 9/10.

Sub Pop, you can lay some free CDs on me any time!

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF ALL TIME: # 45

GERMS – (GI) LP

I was browsing my well-read copy of – ta-da! – Lexicon Devil: Darby Crash and the Germs last night and realised that I must get down in print my thoughts on this album, pronto. This is an obvious contender for a Top 50 list (well, at least from me), so obvious I was going to put it off ‘til near the end, but since that could be a lifetime away, I’ll type whilst my thoughts are somewhat fresh.

What caught my attention the most this time about the book were the photos, not the text. I was browsing, not reading, essentially scanning images in my mind and eating up the visuals. The portraits of the very early LA cognoscenti are particularly electric, and portray – at least for me – one of the most visionary and cataclysmic artistic scenes of the 20th century. I’m not saying that to be hyperbolic or to exaggerate in the hope of making a Grand Statement. I seriously believe that to be the truth. Take a good look at the black and white images of early scene-makers like Trudie, Helen Killer, Alice Bag and Pleasant Gehman, decked out in Hollywood’s hot-spots in Rocky Horror-meets-McLaren outfits, and it’s like a bizarre netherworld that never existed. It’s certainly something that won’t, and cannot, ever happen again.

I think my long-held fascination with early LA (and Californian in general) punk comes not only from the great music it bore (which was far superior to any media-hyped outfit from NYC or London), but the environment that birthed it. Both London and NYC, after all, had it easy: they’re exactly the kind of big cities that could accommodate and foster a phenomenon like punk rock. But LA? San Fran? This is where its greatness lies. The glitter kids, drug addicts, dada-freaks, art-fags, pushers, pimps and outcasts – the kind of characters littered throughout the Lexicon Devil book – had so much more to rebel against. And these natural-born fuck-ups rebelled against this fa├žade of sun and happiness in the most hilarious and inventive ways. Seemingly unselfconscious and completely ignored by major labels, Californian punk was something that truly came directly from the street. The Germs were, at least for me, much like the Sex Pistols, a brilliant accident that had to happen. If they’d never existed, we’d have to invent them.

I’ve loved the Germs for many years, and still remember buying this LP when I was 15 at the first Au-go-go store (when it was a tiny fleapit at the end of an alleyway off Little Bourke St.) back in the dark ages. Studying the sleeve all the way home on the tram, transfixed by the grubby-looking faces on the back cover, I subsequently flogged the album heavily for months on end. Over the years I’ve revisited it many times, sometimes taking a 2-3 year break from its grooves, though for some reason, against all predictions from my parents and various peers, its music seems to possess more psychic power for me now – in my 30s – than it did for me as a teenager. As corny as this may sound, I still believe that causing trouble – simply for the hell of it – is an admirable pursuit.

(GI), which on sheer musical terms is an unbelievable triumph, also goes to show how clusters of culturally dispossessed screw-ups can affect popular culture in ways that at first appear unimaginable. Whilst never a household name in any mainstream consciousness, the Germs set off cultural ripples still making waves today. What in the hell am I talking about? Well, I guess that if you can count your fan-base as including everyone from Madonna(!!) to Nirvana to Matt Groening to William “The Exorcist” Friedkin to Ian MacKaye, then you’ve made some sort of impact, no matter how many millions of others aren’t aware of it. Is this something to be proud of? I can only answer “Yes”, especially considering their apparent total lack of forethought or planning. The Germs were a serious vortex of trouble with few, if any, pop ambitions.

Musically, the Germs are a tough band to pin down. Essentially a rag-tag collection of spoiled, suburban Bowie-freaks (and one token avant-noise nut: Don Bolles), their sound is a bizarre Iggy/Bowie/Doors/punk/hardcore/noise/No Wave hybrid I’m still coming to grips with. Impossible to replicate, I own no other record that sounds like this. I’m not mentioning any individual tracks: you simply need it.

Endnote: to state the obvious, anyone reading this who hasn’t yet purchased the Don Bolles/Brendan Mullen/Adam Parfrey-edited Lexicon Devil book needs to do so, like, now. Much like the great Please Kill Me epic, it’s an oral history of modern music that makes for an astonishing read. The only other book I can think to compare it to would be Jon Savage’s brilliant England’s Dreaming, with its massive frame of cultural reference and sense of placing you right within the centre of everything happening. More than just the story of a rock’n’roll group, it reads like a social history of Southern California’s ‘70s underbelly, teeming with Scientologists, convicted murderers, z-grade celebrities, pornographers, junkies, groupies and the truly desperate. Only then can you appreciate the Germs as not only a great rock band, but as a magnet for every disaffected screwball who crossed their path. Which may or may not include myself.

Pros: Christ, if that rant wasn’t enough, then I give up…
Cons: What cons? Does every positive have to have a negative? Until that long-rumoured Madonna-produced bio-pic comes out, let’s just say there are none, OK?
Related releases: Just the get the MIA: Complete Discography CD.

Sunday, March 14, 2004


SQUAWKIN'...

Yes, a comments box will happen very soon. Please be patient.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

GREAT SONGS BY PEOPLE I HATE: LATE ADDITION

A friend of mine was reading this site the other day and was so appalled by an obvious omission in the Great Songs By People I Hate section below that she insisted I give this entry an honourable mention. Some people just know my weaknesses too damn well, but it's time to testify! The winner is...

GWYNETH PALTROW AND HUEY LEWIS - Cruisin'
Just take a look at those two names: Gwyneth Paltrow and Huey Lewis. That, indeed, is a combination straight from the bowels of hell. It's like some sort of bizarre, alternate reality where all the biggest dorks have taken over Planet Earth. No, wait, that is reality, and we're all amongst it. You can either laugh or cry about it. Me? I choose to hum along and do a little white-boy jiggie instead.

This song is taken from the dire-beyond-all-human-comprehension film, Duets. Since I'm confessing here, I may as well admit the fact that I finally saw the film a few months ago when it was on TV on a Sunday night, and five minutes in I was gasping for air. I mean, these people couldn't really be serious, could they? It's a visual feast of such sheer, jaw-dropping awfulness it defies comprehension and description. A Golden Turkey of such artistic extremes, I was frequently heard muttering to my wife "Is this film for real? Was this made by actual, living, rational human beings? What the hell were they thinking?!" whilst writhing in my chair, swearing I would watch the whole spectacular, no matter what, if only to say, Colonel Kurtz-style: "I've been there, man, I've seen Duets and lived to tell the tale". Let's put it this way: there are two types of bad movies: those in the so-bad-it's-good realm (such as Showgirls and the films of Ed Wood) and those of the so-bad-it-hurts-like-a-mother variety. Duets is in the latter.

And then there's this number... You can thank Smokey Robinson for the actual song, it's a classic, a smouldering, soulful ballad that'd probably sound half-decent in even the most incompetent of hands. Which brings me to the two main protagonists here: Gwyneth and Huey. Nothing particular against Mr. Lewis; to me he's just a harmless, whitebread bar-band putz whose entire ouvre comes across like one big beer ad, though Paltrow I find to be one of the most cloying, annoying screen presences alive today. Why? No reason, she just is. Some people simply have that gift. To her credit - and my eternal shame - however, she also possesses a nice pair of singing pipes that perfectly complement the material here, and excuse me whilst I go and put my head in the nearest oven for confessing all this in public...

Endnote: yes, I do own the CD single for this. When it came out in early 2001 I was working at a hipper-than-thou indie music store, and to counteract endless days of collector dorks berating me for not being aware of the latest coloured-vinyl 11"s being released out of the Eastern Bloc, I would find myself watching Top 40 video shows on Saturday mornings. "Cruisin'" caught my fancy like a bat out of hell. As this fact became more public, my wife, as a "joke", bought me the single. In the immortal words of Richard Hell: please kill me.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

TOP 50 ALBUMS OF ALL TIME: # 46

MERZBOW – Music For Bondage Performance Vol. 1 CD


Some may scoff at this entry, but scoff all you like, this list speaks the truth. Let me explain it this way: there are roughly three different categories of music that exists in my collection...

1) Music I really like and play a LOT. Such artists include: Germs, Black Flag, Ornette Coleman, Funkadelic, Art Ensemble of Chicago, Minutemen, Black Sabbath, Sonic Youth, William Parker, Hawkwind, Neil Young, Eno, Die Kreuzen, Howlin’ Wolf, Pere Ubu, etc. These people bring me boundless pleasure.

2) Music I really like but have hardly listened to in the last 5 years due to the severe flogging they’ve received in years gone by. In other words, I’m giving them a break. Such artists include: Stooges, MC5, Chrome, Captain Beefheart, Bob Dylan, Syd Barrett, John Fahey, Miles Davis, The Pop Group and most krautrock. I really love them, but we need some time apart.

3) Music I really like, find interesting, unique and worthy, yet don’t listen to very often. I put these artists under the banner of Record Collector Music. Great stuff, looks swank on the shelf and impresses all your friends, and who’s to deny the utterly compelling and visionary tunes set forth on such discs? Yet, to be honest, how fucking often do I listen to the damn things?! Such artists include: John Cage, Derek Bailey, Silver Apples, Fugs, Incredible String Band, Cro Magnon, Destroy All Monsters, Art Bears, Lou’s Metal Machine Music and just about every reggae album I own. I love these guys, but, you know, they can be a little too much sometimes.

And then there’s Merzbow, who falls somewhere between the cracks of all three. Or let’s put it this way: I play Merzbow for actual “enjoyment”, at home, on my own, because it brings me pleasure. I’m sure there’s a million shrinks out there who’d love to book me in for a weekend of intense therapy to help me overcome such an affliction, but it’s true. I don’t play Merzbow a “lot” (like a few times a week, or weekly), but it does get somewhat of a regular spin. This is what takes Merzbow out of category # 3.

Merzbow is no noise hackery, it’s the real thing: an attempt to sculpture pure noise into something that can be listened to, and something from which the listener can gain something from. This is what separates Merzbow from hacks like Hijo Kaidan, the Incapacitants or total losers like Whitehouse. The former two are not bad, just not very compelling; the latter’s music is so secondary to their status as an “idea-oriented” band (whatever idea that is) that they might as well just publish books of bad poetry and forget about their woeful attempts at “noise” altogether.

None of this is to say that everything Merzbow does is great; fact of the matter is, I’ve heard some real turkeys from the man in my time and I’m well aware of his ability to release volumes of drivel, but when you record as many albums as Merzbow does, the basic law of averages dictates that such things will happen. To make a long story short, when Merzbow is on, it’s the absolute shit. Music for Bondage Performance is about as on as Merzbow has ever gotten.

I bought the CD in late ’92, having seen the Merzbow name in various mags over the previous 18 months and being mighty curious about the Japanese noise scene at the time. Being on an Australian label – Extreme – it was just about the only readily available piece of Japanese noise I could find in Melbourne in the early ‘90s, so I took the plunge.

…Bondage Performance is an all-time fave for two reasons: its sheer sonic force, and good ol’ sentimentality. For the uninitiated, it should be made clear: this is probably the most “soothing”, “ambient” disc Merzbow ever made. It’s like a cross between Eno’s ‘70s work, Stockhausen’s Hymnen, Japanese kabuki music and the Eraserhead soundtrack. For sheer listenability, it’s unbeatable.

Why the sentimental attachment? Promise not to laugh? OK, at the time my parents were living in Hong Kong for an extended period, and in January 1993 I was invited and flown over to stay with them for a month. I brought my recently-purchased Merzbow CD with me, along with a stack of other favourites of the time. There’s something about this album that still makes me feel like the dumbfuck 20/21-year-old blasting it out over the balconies of Hong Kong when I play it. Oh dear, excuse me, I’ve got something in my eye…

Pros: The KING of Noise, with his BEST disc. Is there a higher recommendation?
Cons: Swimming in a sea of Merzbow releases, it can be easy to dismiss most of everything the guy's done.
Related Releases: Music for Bondage Performance Vol. 2. Yup, it’s a good ‘un, too.

MORE CASSETTE REVIEWS!

VARIOUS - Program: Annihilator II
Dig this KICK-ASS line-up: Soundgarden, SWA, DC3, Bl'ast!, Sylvia Juncosa... it reads like a who's who of shockingly unlegendary SST schlock, which, in fact, is exactly what this SST sampler is. I had to jog my memory for a second regarding this tape, knowing perfectly well that I never mail-ordered it or paid full price. Aaah, I was GIVEN it! Yes, back in 1997 or so when Shock (SST's Australian distributor, whom I worked for from '95-'99) was clearing out dead stock from their shelves, their label manager, obviously sensing the MASSIVE lack of commercial potential of the Annihilator II cassette (what the hell was Shock thinking stocking it?? Was it a cancelled customer order?), spotted me in the vicinity and said something to the effect of, "Dave, you like all this SST horseshit, don't you? Take these". Woohoo, an Annihilator II cassette and a Saint Vitus CD! Talk about making off like a bandit!
Anyway, let me give a quick blow-by-blow on this sucker: SOUNDGARDEN: This band is, was and forever shall be truly awful. I really did try to listen to their two songs here, but had to promptly forward-wind two minutes in and I'm currently undergoing therapy for my troubles. Rock on! SAINT VITUS: I LOVE this band. Ham-handed Sabbath-rock from a bunch of ugly old geezers who look like they should be swinging pool cues at Altamont. These tracks, however, from their 1989 LP Mourning Cries, are not representative of their best work. Plodding shitbag-rock without the necessary swing. SYLVIA JUNCOSA: Well, I'll give her credit for leaving SWA, but then again, why did she join in the first place? That's like giving credit to someone for leaving the KKK or something. Anyway, Juncosa (and what the FUCK ever happened to her?!) was a hot-shit guitar player in LA in the late '80s whose album with To Damascus was hailed by various people as the greatest thing of the decade, so SST signed her up pronto and proceeded to kill her career within 18 months. That's her story. The music? Two tracks, pretty OK. I used to have the album these are from. Kinda 'Flag-ish psych/hard-rock thing with a heavy Ginn influence. No one gives a shit, but I reckon Ms. Juncosa had it, at least for a moment. DESCENDENTS: two tracks from their weak All LP. Mixing 'Flag-style jazz nonsense with Beach Boys pop harmonies just doesn't work. BAD BRAINS: three late '80s live tracks, all songs originally released in studio form on their righteous-beyond-words Rock For Light LP from '83. These still sound fuggin' ace. SWA: without doubt one of the worst independent rock bands of all time. You could write a thesis on just how wrong this band is. They stink like a dead mule and are roughly half as exciting. Chuck Dukowski's post-Black Flag unit, SWA released about 3 or 4 albums in the mid to late '80s that set all-new standards for excruciatingly dull, tuneless and insanely unappealing rock music. These two tracks showcase that unique talent. You've been warned. BL'AST!: Fuckin' Bl'ast!, dude! Confession: I dig Bl'ast! They haven't a unique thought in their collective brains, and very well may have - or should have - called themselves Black Flag 2, but that's OK by me. Ingredients: Xerox My War or Damaged or Slip It In, dilute by 50% and add some skateboards. That's Bl'ast!. DC3: I was discussing this with a friend the other day: why is it that Chuck and Dez, undoubtedly the coolest mofo's who went thru the 'Flag wringer, both wound up with the WORST MOTHERFUCKING BANDS OF ALL TIME? DC3, I swear, just try listening to any of their SST albums, and call an ambulance before the needle hits a groove. You'll need it. The English language is not comprehensive enough to explain the levels of dullness this band effortlessly achieves. These two tracks, however, are taken from their Vida live LP, which is the only half-decent thing they ever did. Unfortunately they decided to include their piss-weak version of "Thirsty and Miserable" here, but that's OK: "Angel of Death" a cool, creepy-crawly original is also included. They should've tacked on their ace rendition of Hawkwind's "Psy Power" instead. This cassette, its music, its ludicrous liner notes ("EXTREME CAUTION is mandatory with all use of this psychic program material"... shoulda warned them about Swa and DC3...), its scant reasons for existence all border on high comedy. It's a keeper!

SLUB - s/t
SLUB were an '80s Melbourne band (who trundled thru the early '90s in abbreviated forms) made up of various infamous substance abusers who were considered fairly hot property for roughly two seconds due to the over-the-top praise of B-Side fanzine, and indeed released a 7" on Sympathy for their efforts. There's also a pretty cool LP on Dr. Jim's, which, if you can find it (which is highly unlikely, sorry) is well worth getting. Slub, whose most "famous" member was John Murphy (he of ex-: Current 93, Whitehouse, Nico, News, Babeez, Orchestra of Skin and Bone and roughly 5 dozen other outfits), mined a kind of, dare I say, "pigfuck" (oh, blasts from the past!) genre mixed up with art-rock pretensions garnered by various band members' impressive collection of European vinyl. Or you could say they somehow combined the grunt of Black Flag and Hawkwind with the arty shenanigans of Faust, Beefheart, Pere Ubu, Art Bears and assorted free jazz types. You think I like it? You betcha! As much of a cliche as such an impressive list of name-dropping may seem in this day and age, Slub pulled it off well, and remember, back in the '80s, next to no-one in Melbourne gave a flying fuck about Hawkwind or Fred Frith or Plastic People of the Universe, so this tape (in essence their "demo"), from '88, is quite an impressive feat. Got this in '91 at Au-go-go (who apparently co-financed or co-released it) and I'm STILL hangin' on.

THE SCENE IS NOW - Shotgun Wedding
Read way below (like near the very beginnings of this blog) for the lowdown on TSIN. Here's another tape I completely forgot I had, and yet I was given it by TSIN's Chris Nelson himself! (He contacted me about 5 years ago after I dropped TSIN's name when referring to Slovenly in an unrelated article!). Whooaah, dude! Seriously, there's lots of good stuff here, with TSIN's patented blend of rootsy harmonies and off-kilter rhythms stolen from old Beefheart and Pere Ubu discs (again, Tony Maimone from 'Ubu appears here), and let me just say that after having listened to this last weekend whilst driving up to the country to witness an annual TRACTOR-PULL COMPETITION with the Mrs., that TSIN have got their finger on the button when it comes to the lost art of perfect highway-cruising tunes. A-fuckin'-men!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

GREAT SONGS BY PEOPLE I HATE:

Here's a short list of songs I LOVE - for reasons too pathetic to bother explaining, though I'll probably try - by artists I have a habit of loathing. They blow. To paraphrase an old moral cliche, Hate the artist, love the song.

JAMES TAYLOR - "Fire and Rain"
What a freakin' walking, talking wet blanket this old ninnie is. Hang him up from the nearest tree and gut him alive, I say. But what a tune! I think I've seen Sidney Lumet's Running On Empty too many times (a great movie), as this song features heavily in it and has probably warped my usually impeccable sense of judgment. Yeah, blame it on the movie.

STING - "If You Love Somebody (Set Them Free)"
Speaking of wet blankets... Why do I love this song? Pure nostalgia has warped my taste. I don't think I even liked this when it came out (too busy listening to Never Mind the Bollocks at the time), but I saw the video for it the other day and found myself disturbingly humming along to it. Sting, of course, should be killed.

FLEETWOOD MAC - "You Make Loving Fun"
What a HOOK! And what a BAND that should be slaughtered ever so painfully so!

DON HENLEY - "Boys of Summer"
Now, speaking of washed '70s West Coast coke-rockers... Don Henley, in collaboration with Frey and his denim-clad cohorts The Eagles, are of course responsible for various musical atrocities and general cultural trends worthy of some serious medieval torture, but of course there's also this to consider... Ugh, I think I need to take a shower, but then again, there's that "Desperado" song that just won't leave my head...

MADONNA - "Holiday"
"Hating" Madonna may be a bit strong, though I find her current ventures into shameless bandwagon-jumping in regards to musical/fashion styles, her timely political activism and "concern" and general status as a hopelessly-washed-up-celebrity-still-clinging-onto-the-last-strings-of-fame type fairly contemptible, to say the least. I guess she had a certain kitsch quality back in the '80s, which is possibly why this never song never fails to charm me, but whoah, if I never hear that version of "American Pie" again (or any version of "American Pie", come to think of it), I may just die a happy man.

Monday, March 08, 2004

CASSETTE REVIEWS!

Doing cassette reviews may seem like a pretty pathetic spectacle to you, but let me give you the lowdown…

Over the last 15 years or so, I have, through various means, managed to amass a whole box full of pre-recorded cassettes. Dozens and dozens of them. That is, not tapes that I’ve personally made up and taped on at home, but commercially available music sold on cassettes. How the hell did this happen? Don’t ask me… I mean, who buys cassettes? Not me! They’re a pain in the ass, all that rewinding and forward winding, that hopelessly truncated cover art, that sound quality that starts degenerating after about a dozen listens. It’s vinyl or CDs all the way, baby, but due to four unique factors, which I shall go into, I have a massive box full of them.

These four factors are:

1) When I was 17-19 and mail-ordering from places like Shimmy-Disc and SST, I’d occasionally order cassettes because they were cheap as hell and even cheaper to ship.

2) Shops like the old Au-go-go and Virgin megastore used to dump old cassettes in their bargain bin for usually .99 cents each, making a gambler of an otherwise sure-bet guy like myself.

3) From roughly ’92-’95 I was a big enthusiast of the underground tape/noise scene, with labels like RRR, Zero Cabal, Blank, Shrimper, etc. and bought the things en masse.

4) In the early to late ‘90s, when I was producing my own fanzines, just about every putz on Earth with a cassette recorder and instrument of any kind sent me their unsolicited “demo” for review.

So anyway, I was cleaning up the spare room the other day when I was clearing aside a mammoth stack of magazines and suddenly noticed the big box of cassettes sitting in the corner. I forgot I even owned the damn things, so I scoured the box, pulled out a few gems and have decided to do the obligatory rant, but before I do I should explain my unique relationship with the cassette format, which is the same as it is the hallowed 7”.

It’s as simple as this: no matter how bogus it is, I never sell it. I have never sold a single cassette or 7” I’ve ever owned (excluding the bogus pop stuff I bought back in primary school). If I’m given, or buy, a particularly lame LP or CD then I have no qualms in trading it in the next day for something better. I don’t have the time or room for music I won’t listen to on those formats, and often I need the spare cash. But cassettes? 7”s? How much room do they take up? How much money would you get for them anyway? Why not just hang on to them and have the occasional listening binge for the mandatory 5-year re-evaluation? That’s what I’m doing now…

BOREDOMS – Soul Discharge
I can’t believe I have the cassette of this thing! All that lovely full-colour LP art shrunk down to this pitiful spectacle on a piddling cassette cover, it’s enough to make a man weep. The music still kicks the proverbial, though, and if you need me to explain who the Boredoms are, then you’re probably reading the wrong site. Bought via mailorder from Shimmy-Disc in ’91.

KING MISSILE – They/Fluting on the Hump
Whooaahh!! Did he just say KING MISSILE?? That lame-beyond-comprehension band who had that one-joke/not-even-remotely-funny “hit” “Man with the Detachable Penis” back in the mid ‘90s? Well, I believe I did. It may seem hard, nay – impossible – to imagine, but before King Missile signed their life away to a career or homicide-worthy “comedy rock” for college geeks, and when they had the mighty Dogbowl in the band, they were indeed a very fine outfit, as this tape stands testament. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but mix up that classic Shimmy sound with a swig of Van Dyke Parks and even a touch of acid-fried Simon & Garfunkel(!!), and that’s somewhere near King Missile’s ballpark. I’ve been perusing this one a bit lately in the car stereo and, though it may seem mighty hard to believe, I think it holds up disturbingly well. So fuckin’ shoot me, OK? Bought in ’91 w/ the Boredoms.

OXYMORONS – demo cassette
I had to laugh when I dug this one out. This is definitely a discovery from the dark days of the early ‘90s. Back in 1990, when I was still an avid reader of Maximum Rock’n’Roll (don’t laugh, I intend on writing an article “In Defence of MRR” one day), I’d always pour through their classifieds to find interesting people to write to, zines to buy, cassettes to trade or bands to correspond with. Hey, I was 18, OK? I’d just spent eight years in an all-boys private school and I felt it was my God-given right to search out kindred spirits, and if that meant using the classifieds of MRR, then so be it. One caught my attention: OXYMORONS. I can’t recall what the ad said, exactly, but from memory it noted something about an Ohio punk band who’d give their demo away for free to anyone who’d write to them. I did exactly that and received this tape (with a stack of stickers) in the mail a few weeks later. I wrote to the band a bit over the next couple of years but lost touch by probably ’93 or so. What ever happened to the Oxymorons? Did they ever put a proper album out? Well, strangely enough, this tape still sounds great! As per usual, I gave it the driving test (that is, play it in the car whilst aimlessly – or aimfully – cruising), and it passed with flying colours. Mix up raging drunk-punk shenanigans with a more melodic Husker Du/Squirrel Bait inflection and that the Oxymorons in a basket. Yeah, OK, that probably makes them sound completely worthless, and maybe they are/were, but when the songs are this good, I really don't care. The last track, “Walking Backwards”, shoulda been a hit. No shit. I wonder what these guys are doing now…
Endnote: my good friend Richard Stanley (Dropkick Records/The Onyas) and I howled collectively in laughter a few years ago when we both discovered that we owned this tape, as he, too, as an alienated 18-year-old, had responded to their MRR ad. Great minds think alike, huh? No?…

SACCHARINE TRUST – Worldbroken
I can’t for the life of me figure out how this cassette came into my possession; I never mail-ordered it or bought it in a bargain bin, and, browsing through my LPs, I’ve just noticed I also have it on vinyl. Huh? I think it was given to me by a friend, but who? Beats me, but whatever, I’ve got the thing now, and I’m stuck with it.
A name that means nothing to just about everyone, Saccharine Trust, the LA jazz-punk juggernaut of the ‘80s (along with the Minutemen, of course), are still one of my all-time fave bands, no matter what anyone says. Weirdly enough, they’re back together again and are playing London next month with Sonic Youth(!!), so maybe this is a timely review. I did actually review this album many a year back for a webzine and kinda bagged it, saying it was a self-indulgent mess not worthy of their other, finer efforts, but having given this the Car Test over the last few days, I can state without shame that such an opinion is baloney. Essentially this is the band – with the God-like Mike Watt on bass – improvising in the studio, whacking it on tape and sending it out there. For most bands that’d be disaster in a teacup, but for ‘Trust, it’s their ace in the hole. Free-jazz-punk-poetry? You think it all sucks? Of course it does! Except for this. Bite me.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Wailing Ultimate
Oh man, now here’s a bargain-bin stocking filler, if ever there was. I’m pretty sure I bought this at Au-go-go in the early ‘90s for about a dollar and a free bowl of soup. Lord knows I certainly never paid more than two dollars for it. I hope. Essentially it’s a sampler cassette for the Homestead label in 1987, at the time run by Matador founder/CEO Gerard Cosloy, and it’s a predictable mix of whitebread “cutting-edge” post-HC college rock at its, uh, mostest. There is actually some pretty cool stuff here: pre-garbage Dinosaur with “Repulsion” from their 1985 debut; the under-rated Volcano Suns throw in some anthemic Bostonian post-punk; Squirrel Bait with their righteous “Sun God”, probably the best song they ever wrote (and I can just imagine the smart alecs chiming in with “That wouldn’t be very hard”); and even more anthemic righteousness from the unbelievably great and under-appreciated Naked Raygun (when is the hipster cognoscenti going to give them a reappraisal?)… Whoo, boy, but amongst all that you’ve got some fairly dull stuff clogging up the scene: Phantom Tollbooth, anyone? Death of Samantha? Antietam? Breaking Circus? Big Dipper? Salem 66? All just sundry, second-string names of the day; nothing harmful, though nothing particularly inspiring either. If you want real pain, in the year 2004, try sitting down and listen to an entire Big Black song. There’s one here. Now that hurts. Time has been very brutal to Mr. Albini.

More to come soon…

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I watched Rage last Friday night for the first time in a while. Strange as it may seem, I think I caught Rage probably about twice between the years 1996-2002. It just wasn't on my radar at all, especially after JJJ took over its programming and made it merely a visual sidekick to its equally dull radio broadcast. Anyway, for whatever reason, in the last two years or so I've actually found myself watching bits and pieces of it to amuse myself.

"Bad" music doesn't upset me like it used to when I was a pent-up, know-it-all 20-year-old jack-off with a chip on my shoulder the size of Mt. Rushmore, but every once in a while I'll hear a song that brings out that old sense of repulsion buried (repressed?) deep in my psych, and such music can usually be heard on Rage.

Last Friday they had a bit of a "New Rock" special, or Garage Revival Night or whatever, and the overwhelmingly putrid nature of the music hit me like a rock. I'm not talking about the White Stripes or the Strokes - they don't offend me at all (nor do they interest me, come to think of it) - I'm talking about those nth-generation wannabes shamelessly hitching on the bandwagon with THE SAME GODDAMN SOUND AS EVERY OTHER FREAKING BAND PURPORTING TO BE "THE NEW WAVE OF REAL ROCK'N'ROLL". Two words: my ass!

The same suits, the same clips, the same riffs, the same subject matter. Want a name? Couldn't recall a single one, they went through me like a bag of prunes. Tell me this: how could anyone in this day and age with a sense of dignity actually form a two-piece (drums and guitar) garage outfit thinking they could possibly get away with not being seen as a couple of gormless, gutless, wholeheartedly derivative douchebags?

Whilst watching the show, I turned to my equally-disgusted wife and said, "Isn't this possibly the worst shit ever? I mean, doesn't just about every one of these bands blow like a mighty gust of wind? Why don't they just play something openly and unashamedly trivial and fabricated like Justin Timberlake or Christina Aguilera - something utterly inoffensive - instead of this bogus drivel that poses as The Real Thing?"

Whilst on my soapbox, I reminisced about the Arse-End Of Grunge Years, ca. '92-'94, when Rage would flog the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam, Paw, Alice In Chains and even one-off flops like Candlebox and, ugh, Hammerbox (whooaah, Nelly! Whatever happened to their post-C/Z A & M album? That one sunk like the Titanic) on a weekly basis. Worse still, I even got nostalgic about it. Is it actually possible to get nostalgic about a music that drove you into a psychotic rage the first time around?