Monday, September 27, 2004

I just spent roughly the entire weekend in a semi- or other wise full-blown drunken stupor. It was Grand Final time, therefore I had an excuse (despite my total lack of interest in any sport), and thus didn't get any time to write a single word for the blog. Now I'm being whisked away to Sydney as of tomorrow morning for a few days for work meetings. I ain't got the spare hours to blab away right now on the audio wonders of the world, so I'm simply going to list the following five, great discs. I will really write about them in the near future. In the meantime, maybe you should buy yourself a copy of all of the below, and we can talk about them some time soon.

1) PETER HAMMILL - Nadir's Big Chance LP
2) THE FLESH EATERS - Hard Road to Follow reissue CD
3) CAN - Unlimited Edition CD
4) ZOLAR X - Timeless LP
5) MAGMA - Mekanik Destruktiw Komandoh LP

Really funny story: I went down to the street festival on High St. in Northcote yesterday to aimlessly hang around, eat some greasy food and catch up with some friends. I bumped into an old buddy, Tom. In discussing the vast numbers of uber-coolsters present at the event, strutting their wares up and down the road for all to see, I said to Tom: Is this the Hipster Olympics or what? His comment: I dunno, but seeing you there in that ratty old Dog Faced Hermans t-shirt of yours, I think you just won gold. At that point a young gent crossed our paths, donning a pair of shades, Vice-approved ape-drape hairdo and a fucking GOBLIN t-shirt. No, I said, that guy gets the gold! Laugh? We nearly cried.

lexdev@yahoo.com.au

Thursday, September 23, 2004

BLAH BLAH BLAH...

Sorry about the lack of entries of late, I've been a little uninspired when it comes to writing about music. I mean, what do I cover? Do I keep hitting the same nail on the head? Do you want to read about Saccharine Trust? Oil Tasters? Some Norwegian Black Metal? How about all three?

I finally finished reading Michael Moynihan's Lords of Chaos book last week, which was also actually the first time I'd ever read it cover to cover (having only ever skimmed through it previously). For a full idea of the topic and author, one should also probably be aware of Moynihan's background in music and politics. Anyone remember Jeff Bale's Hit List magazine? It ran from roughly 1999 - 2002, but anyway, the first issue had a front-page story on "The Politics of Black Metal" and ran an interview with Moynihan himself. He was/is in the godawful Blood Axis, an embarrassingly grim goth/industrial outfit whom I once had a few tracks of on cassette, though of more interest is his own background in extreme right-wing politics and neo-Paganism (or whatever you wish to call it). I'm not going to give the full rundown, you'll have to track the article down yourself, but it is a fascinating read, and puts his seemingly sympathetic views (regarding the ultra-right/nationalist/racist politics of Black Metal) into perspective. Now, why do I mention this? Because I think that reading the book has potentially put my short-lived interest in Norwegian Black Metal to an abrupt end.

Sometimes it's hard to divorce music from politics, something which I'll admit shocks even me saying it, since I'd generally consider myself to be a fairly non-affiliated libertarian kinda guy, but the volumes of sheer fucking idiocy being blurted out of the mouths of the main protagonists in the book (namely Varg of Burzum and some of the Emperor, Dark Throne and Mayhem folks) I found to be so offensive in their stupidity that it's put me off bothering with the genre at all. I say this as a neophyte to the music, as I explained in my Immortal review a few weeks back. So, what to do?

Well, before I finished the book, I was hoodwinked into buying Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse off a friend who's an absolute Black Metal nut. It is a great album. Another associate described it as a cross between Die Kreuzen and Black Metal, and he's right. Less lo-fi (or "necro", as those in the genre like to call it) than others in the genre, Emperor's approach is, ahem, dare I say, more "majestic", which means they have a touch of the Wagnerian pomp to them, though the overall effect is a multi-layered wall of noise which crunches my brain cells at just the right moments. Imagine, if you will, a mixture of Discharge, first-album Die Kreuzen and the hammering flurry of a Dark Throne, and that's the universe of ... Nightside Eclipse. I now have 4 Black Metal albums in total, and may just keep it at that. Frankly, I found the book so damn disturbing, I think I may be too much of a sissy-boy to handle this stuff, which is a pity, because there are moments on discs like Burzum's Filosofem that can make for transcendental listening. Tough-guys take note: the music's all yours.

On to brighter things... The Oil Tasters were a Milwaukee trio from the early '80s, and after an eight-year search, I finally scored a copy of their lone, self-titled LP a few months back and it's been on heavy play ever since. Released in 1982 on Thermidor, a unique label run by the great Joe Carducci (which is where I first learnt of them, in his phenomenal Rock and the Pop Narcotic book) out of the Subterranean offices which also released titles by the Minutemen, Nig-Heist and the Birthday Party, it's a lost gem. It's also been out of print forever, and since I'm currently in the midst of trying to reissue it onto CD, this spiel may just come across as an ad for a future release, just bear with me here. The weirdest elements to their story involve a few things, namely ex-members' subsequent involvements with the likes of the Violent Femmes(!) and the BoDeans(!!), though I'll write about all that in the liner notes, if it ever happens. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that the master tapes are currently in the possession of none other than Henry Rollins (he was going to reissue it on the Infinite Zero label before it went bankrupt), but again, maybe you'll read about that some other time.

A three piece bass/drums/sax set-up, The Oil Tasters is a bare-bones combination of punk snarl, No Wave jazz and almost geeky, New Wave melodies. If you could find the closest comparisons, I'd say they were the Midwest version of the Contortions, which may be fitting, since the sax player, Caleb Alexander, learnt his goods from James Chance back in the '70s when he was still living in Milwaukee. There's some angular funk, a swarm of sax bleets, sarcastic, Angloid vocals, ripping bass lines and a bevy of that early '80s angst I still can't get enough of. A winning formula. "I Don't Want To Be An Encyclopedia Salesman"... they don't write 'em like that anymore. Again, I'm stepping into murky waters here. Does anyone else care about this band? I suppose I'll find out - maybe the hard way - when the time comes.

Speaking of hitting the nail repeatedly, what about that Saccharine Trust, huh? Are/were they a great band or WHAT? We Became Snakes from '86, it's a gem the general public just refuse to acknowledge, but not me! I'll be wailing on about this album 'til I'm on old man boring my compatriots on the front porch of the retirement home. Aaah, maybe some other time...

lexdev@yahoo.com.au

Monday, September 20, 2004

THUG - Mechanical Ape/Proud Idiots Parade LP; Electric Wooly Mammoth LP
So far as the world of Australian absurdist noise goes, I doubt you could top these two LPs from the infamous Thug. I was lucky enough to be introduced to the world of Thug at the tender age of 15 when my older brother came home with their Fuck Your Dad 7" and a copy of the Waste Sausage compilation LP, though I'd be lying if I said they made any sense at the time. For the time being, I decided to stick to what I knew and understood: dumb-as-a-box-of-hammers punk rock. That moment of true understanding didn't arrive until roughly four years later when, with a wild thirst for ear-destroying noise, I finally purchased these two LPs for myself. A little background information is required here...

Thug were the trio of Tex Perkins, Lachlan McLeod and Peter Read. Those who aren't aware of the music and antics of Thug usually snicker when I mention the first name listed there, since, perhaps unbenownst to international readers of this site, he's actually a fairly well-known "rock star" down under, and enjoyed massive success in the '90s with his band the Cruel Sea (and there's also Beasts of Bourbon, but you probably already know that). If there are any doubting Thomas' who poo-poo the possibility of Tex engaging in an exciting, hilarious and extremely fucked-up noise ensemble, I pull out these discs. The catch-phrase is thus: "It's the best thing Tex ever did", which I guess means nothing since I've never been a fan of anything else he's ever done, but you get the idea. When I bumped into him at a pub about 7 or 8 years back in Sydney (at a Jad Fair gig, no less) I uttered something along those lines to the man, and he was at least gracious enough to not punch me out on the spot. Nice guy.

Thug were part of the notorious, drug-imbibing music scene of the mid/late '80s centred around the Black Eye label, the "experimental" imprint of the more straight-forward indie, Red Eye, and their catalogue of beautiful weirdness is something well worth investigating. Hyped up by the good people of B-Side 'zine at the time, most people's introduction to this world of sound was likely via the 1987 compilation, the previously mentioned Waste Sausage LP. With an abundance of toilet humour and nonsensical racket at their disposal, it - along with its sister release, Leather Donut - are classic documents of Australian perversity and good arguments for the continuing dole payments to creative layabouts nationwide. Never on CD, long deleted, you're not likely to find them in a secondhand bin near you any time soon, but if that moment occurs, you know what to do.

Following the release of their controversial (well, duh!) 7", Fuck Your Dad (which, if I'm not mistaken, received some "straight" press at the time for its vulgarity), Thug spat out the Mechanical Ape/Proud Idiots Parade LP in '87. A truly messed up and wildly inventive mixture of lewd gags, extraneous noise, instrument abuse and a heavy dose of the Residents makes it a classic of the genre. If you've ever had your brain melted by the likes of the Los Angeles Free Music Society or the early Ralph Records stable, you need this sitting proudly in your collection. Stunning primitivist cover art, track upon track of ungodly filth, informative liner notes (sample: "Albert Camus's Underpants: I've been taking Vitamin B and the wounds around my anus are starting to heal. I was wearing Albert Camus's underpants", etc.) and a smorgasboard of ridiculous song titles which probably don't actually match up to any of the music, this is not only fucking ridiculous, but ridiculously good.

Their sole follow-up, 1988's Electric Wooly Mammoth, is even better. Cleaner and more musical in approach - which really only means that the "songs" here amount to more than just screwing around in the studio whilst high on pills and other substances - ...Mammoth rates as an all-time Top 10 Australian Album for myself. It's an unbeatable hybrid of squalling noise, sublime acoustic guitar passages (actual tunes present), didgeridoo ragas, Residents-style electro pop, Chrome-ish sci-fi rock and the usual serving of primary-school humour. Note the stunning chorus to "Penis": "Penis penis penis, bosom bosom, arsehole". Housed in a typically ace full-colour sleeve and sporting a few nice black and white photos of our heroes inside, Electric Wooly Mammoth is a perfect package.

What happened to Thug? Well, I distinctly remember Tex Perkins once saying in an interview that drugs had destroyed every single band he'd ever been in, so I can only assume that answers the question. With a scene as "intense" as the one surrounding and encompassing the band, such creative impulses can only last so long before people burn themselves out. Tex went onto bigger things (though he was also playing in the more high-profile Beasts Of Bourbon - who pre-date Thug by a few years - concurrently anyway), Lachlan McLeod messed around with Lubricated Goat for a few years and Peter Read remains, at least to me, a man of mystery. Life is full of regrets, but one which comes to mind right now is having never seen a Thug gig. OK, I was too young at the time anyway, but from all reports their live shows were a hilarious mixture of noise and stupidity, often resulting in the band simply getting naked, covering themselves in food and wrestling on stage. Now that's a show!

Both of these LPs tragically suffered the worst reissue ever in the hands of the Grudge label - a completely useless "alternative" imprint of Universal - about 5 years ago. Without publicising it in any way - in fact, without telling anyone on earth of its existence - they were compiled onto one CD with the grammatically flawed title of Everything Is Beautiful In It's Own Way (sic), accompanied by dreadful cover art, no reproductions of the original and truly exceptional covers, no photos and little information as to who the hell Thug were. Why this CD exists as it does (or did: it's deleted) remains a mystery. The goddamn ninnies didn't even have the balls to print the full title of "Fuck Your Dad", instead listing it as simply "Dad". A pee-thetic legacy to a great band, I don't usually recommend such collector mentality, but I'll say this: search out the original LPs instead.

lexdev@yahoo.com.au



Friday, September 17, 2004

Been a busy week here, so not much time to blab endlessly about the nonsense I love to engage in. Here's a half-arsed HIGH FIVE 'til I get my shit together...

1) MINUTEMEN - 3-Way Tie (For Last) LP
The 'men's final outing (bar the posthumous Ballot Result 2LP from '86), always a firm favourite in this household. Clunky production c/o Ethan James bogs things down a bit (those drums! Someone tighten Hurley's snare, please), and this is admittedly very scattered in approach, but for me it works. Short songs, long songs, the band mixed it up with a great mix of originals spanning explosive, expansive and uncharacteristically noisy Rock, Latin-influenced ballads ("Stories" - one of D.'s best), abstract fuck-arounds, spoken word(!), hip-hop ("No-one", a monstrous heart-starter) and a bevy of covers from the likes of the Urinals, BOC, Creedence, Meat Puppets and Roky. Pretty fuckin' ace all round, don't be a chump and buy the CD version because, as with most/all(?) SST CDs, it sounds like someone remastered it in a toilet block and wiped their backside with the tape afterwards.

2) V/A - Nuggets 4CD box
This has almost 120 songs and I think I know nearly everyone of them back to front, which speaks volumes of how good this is, and how many times I've spun its wares. Listen to the critics, this time they were right: every song's a winner, baby. Forget about the sequel box, however, the international, non-American collection, as its dud-to-hit ratio is frighteningly high, and its inclusion of Status Quo's woeful "Pictures of Matchstick Men" is an unforgivable error of judgment on behalf of the compilers. I tend to find the fans of "Nuggets rock" tedious beyond words, but this time I'll admit defeat. If you buy but one 4-CD box set of American '60s garage punk this lifetime, why not make it this one?

3) VAN MORRISON - Astral Weeks CD
When I began working in a certain record store roughly three years back, the first week the manager posed this curly question to me: who do you find to be the most loathsome artist on earth? Who is the person or band that makes you break out in hives and puts you off your food? Who would you gladly never hear ever again and remain a content person? I brought out my alphabetically-ordered list and proceeded to read... Live, Tea Party, Prodigy, Dave Matthews Band, Creed, Billy Joel, No Doubt, John Butler Trio, Cat Stevens, etc. He looked at me dumbfounded at my near-psychotic rant of pure loathing. I wiped my brow and asked him the same question. His response? Van Morrison. I was puzzled. Like, what's wrong with Van? Sure, he's released more useless albums primarily aimed at the fondu party/Big Chill/wine-&-cheese market than you could hope to destroy in a lifetime (a little Moondance, anyone?), but what about Astral Weeks?! He wouldn't budge. I understood his point - he'd worked in retail for over 10 years and had witnessed first-hand the succession, year after year, of increasingly dreadful Van albums spat out time and time again, but I, too, wouldn't move an inch. We were locked in a stalemate, dutifully shook hands and agreed to disagree. Mr. Morrison can stake his entire life on one disc: Astral Weeks. The fact that he was only 22 when he made this is remarkable, and has even become a nyuk-nyuk in-joke with friends of mine: does one possess the maturity of a 22-year-old Van? That's a tough move to beat.

4) JOHN ZORN - Taboo & Exile CD
For various members of the hipster elite, Mr. Zorn is an artist of utmost bogusness who has committed the heinous crime of associating with people of an undesirable character, namely Mike Patton and various dunderheads from the Earache stable. Me? I could care less. I'd probably rather jump off the nearest cliff than sit through a Mike Patton-helmed album of any sort, but as long as Zorn continues to create albums as good as this, he can keep company with whom he likes. Like every jerk-off and his dog, my ear was turned to Zorn roughly ca. 1990 when the Naked City Torture Garden LP came out. It was a revelatory rush and one which created a blueprint worldwide for every talent-challenged douchebag and his collection of stoner friends to "do Naked City-type shit". At that point my mind went elsewhere. For the rest of the decade I paid little, if any, attention to what Zorn and his gaggle of pals were up to. Then someone played me this, and I awoke from my self-induced coma. Released in 1999, Taboo & Exile remains for myself the quintessential John Zorn album. A none-too-hyper rag-tag of "punk-jazz" (yeah, I know...), chamber pieces, Klezmer, noise and the kitchen-sink tinkering he's known/famous/loathed for, Taboo... is a mixture which works, primarily because he allows the music to develop then dissipate. Over the last couple of years I've delved back into his '90s catalogue and have become increasingly impressed with the little cottage industry the man has set up for himself. You know what? He's ALL RIGHT. Ignore his fans - (shudder) Zorn fans, they're an ugly mob - and do as the Bros. Doobie say: listen to the music.

5) AC/DC - Back in Black LP
I had a 21-year gap of not listening to this album: from the years 1981 'til 2002, it did not enter my headspace. Back in primary school, this, along with Kiss' Dynasty and Unmasked, was my reason for being. Then in 1981 I discovered BMXs, forgot all about music (and definitely AC/DC and Kiss) for a couple of years and delved head first into the ass-kickin' world of Culture Club and Spandeu Ballet as a 12-year-old. In a blog, one must be honest. I could attempt to rewrite history and tell you of the 11-year-old Dave Lang scouring the record bins for Electric Eels bootlegs, but would anyone believe me? I was a pre-teenage New Romantic. Fuck you right back. So, skip to the year 2002 and I'm drowning myself in the demon booze with various friends when the opening riff to "Back in Black" hits the jukebox. Instantly, I'm transported to another dimension: the days of posing with tennis racquets in front the of the mirror, of trading Kiss cards, of attempting to dress like school-boy Angus Young, of thinking I was the biggest bad-ass in the playground. Damn it, I feel good! I feel alive! More to the point, AC/DC sound HOT. I pledge a promise to myself to purchase a copy of Back in Black the next day, hit the local secondhand bin in 24 hours and do exactly that. Over the next few months I tracked down all the Bon Scott-era LPs and now I'm content. AC/DC's sense of absolute bare-bones minimalism is on a par with Wire. Never are there any unnecessary flourishes or displays of dazzling musicianship: everything is held at a Neanderthal level: musically, lyrically, aesthetically. That is their beauty. And the opening chords to "Back in Black" could still slay a dragon.

lexdev@yahoo.com.au

Monday, September 13, 2004

BLAH BLAH BLAH...

This link right here has been brought to my attention. It regards VICE magazine and their shady connections to some right-wing millionaire putz. I've read the article a few times and still can't figure out whether it's for real or not. It seems so ridiculous and over-the-top as to be a prank of some sort, but since it was published in The American Conservative magazine, I'll assume it's the real deal. Just one more reason to consider VICE mag as the bible for totally clueless fuckheads worldwide!

I wish to drastically switch topics for now and consider the vastly over-rated nature of the band known as RADIO BIRDMAN. I'm not simply playing the Devil's advocate, this is for real. How many truly great songs did they have? 5, 6 tops? I'd count "Aloha, Steve & Danno", "New Race", "Burn My Eye", "Descent Into the Maelstrom" and maybe a few others as top-shelf rock 'n' roll. The rest of their admittedly brief discography I'd say was either 3rd-rate MC5 rip-offs or, at worst, corndog bar-band rock with a laughably militant earnestness in its attempt to save "real rock 'n' roll" or whatever the hell their "mission" was. Don't get me wrong: I have the utmost respect for the band and what they did, and even though I'm not much of a fan I still found the 'Birdman book one of the most interesting (and inspiring) rock bios I've ever read, but the music... I don't get it. The first two Saints albums and everything the Birthday Party ever recorded leaves the 'Birdman for dead. Living in Australia, I do believe I've just uttered a great blasphemy to the rock purists/dullards, and lynching season's just coming 'round...

I was a bit foolishly dismissive of DAWSON's final album, Terminal Island, in my hopelessly rambling retrospective on the Scottish music scene of the late '90s/early '90s last month (the one you all skipped over). It is the BEE'S KNEES, one of the great totally lost albums of the last decade. I've had it on constant repeat in the car the last couple of weeks and it's a pummeling wall of sound that, in retrospect, was probably their finest album. Mix up frenetic, mile-a second, scratchy D. Boon-style guitar heroics with the walloping bass rumbles of a Feedtime or a Birthday Party and blend it in with a tirade of polyrhythmic (and I don't even know what that word really means, but it sounds like it suits this description, so bear with me) percussion - only one drummer? There's gotta be a mountain of overdubs buried in there - and you have Terminal Island. Think Minutemen ca. Punchline and the skin-hitting mayhem of the Boredoms' Super Ar and you're probably getting close. Never released on CD, zilch distribution, I don't know what the chances are of anyone reading this stumbling across it any time soon, but if you ever do... you can thank me later.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A HIGH FIVE...

1) GANELIN TRIO - Poco-A-Poco CD
If you'd told me 10 years ago about the righteous free jazz scene the Soviet Union had back in the '70s, well, I'll be honest, I probably wouldn't have listened too hard. Fact is, I probably would've ignored you. Sometimes you need these things thrust in your face before you'll take any notice. The Ganelin Trio are the perfect example. Led by Vyacheslav Ganelin, this trio have recorded and released some of the most amazing, completely out-of-nowhere music you're ever likely to (not) stumble across. Much like myself, you may need someone throwing it in your face for a while before you'll listen up, as was the case with myself four years ago. Let me be that person. As an underground ensemble throughout the '70s and '80s - their liberated music too much for the Kremlin to bear at the time - they managed to amass a heavy cult following throughout Europe with their smuggled tapes, most of which (like this) were released on the estimable Leo label. Poco... documents a live performance in Novosibirsk in 1978 and encapsulates everything that is the Ganelin Trio. My one-line summation of their music is this: an Eastern European basement-dwelling version of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Let's see if that winds up in a press release any time soon. Not likely, but back to the matter: the Ganelin Trio are an incredible mish-mash of Ornette-style free jazz, European improv, AEOC-esque "little-instrument" clutter, Eastern European folk melodies and the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. You'll find the standard drums/reeds/bass/piano set-up, as well as flutes, bassett, dulcimer, okarina, guitar, voice and a whole lot more. This is no "a little of everything for everyone" grab-bag; Ganelin and crew effortlessly throw everything in the pot and create one of the finest avant-garde jazz albums you'll likely come across. If I was to list a Top 100, this'd make the grade. If you hear someone raving on about the greatness of the Ganelin Trio, don't (like me) assume that such a person is simply grasping at straws and attempting to unleash yet another esoteric yet totally over-rated musical scene upon your jaded audio palette. The Ganelin Trio are worth your time and a whole lot more.

2) HALF JAPANESE - Charmed Life LP
What to say? Their finest moment. Recorded in 1985, released in '88, Charmed Life is Half Japanese's Beggars Banquet, White Album, Trout Mask Replica and Funhouse all rolled into one. 21 songs in over 50 minutes, my first response upon first hearing this in 1990 was How could they fit so many great songs onto one album? Much like Double Nickels on the Dime, I'm awestruck by the strength of the material: it's one hit after the other. This was actually the first Jad Fair-related item I purchased, and it was straight back to the record store the next day - that'd be Au-go-go; I was working a horrendous temp job for a life insurance company at the time and spending every spare cent there each and every lunchtime - to purchase anything else Jad-related on their racks. Soon thereafter I bought all the (available) essentials: 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts, Loud, The Band Who Would Be King, Music To Strip By, etc. and still nothing tops Charmed Life. The best mixture of Half Jap's earlier, utterly shambolic beginnings and Jad's later pop leanings, this is the quintessential GARAGE PUNK album of the '80s. Anything who finds Jad either too "arty" or "cute", I can only assume, has not been exposed to this LP. Best, and most unlikely, Stooges cover I've heard, too: "Real Cool Time", an awesome keyboard-drenched epic w/ Don Fleming at the helm.

3) THE DOORS - The Best Of 4-LP box
The Doors are a bit of a running gag with myself and a couple of friends. You could say they're a guilty pleasure I like to indulge in. Occasionally when drinking or consuming various substances at a certain fellow's place (no names, please), we'll stick on, oh, I don't know, LA Woman or Waiting For the Sun, and ironically chuckle to ourselves about getting fuckin' wasted to the Doors, dude. Then there's the real punchline we like to amuse ourselves with: it's our belief that the critics have it wrong - the Doors never really found their artistic feet until the 21st century with the utterly goddamn ridiculous touring line-up of last year: Ray Manzarek (where's the snipers when you need them?), Robbie Krieger, Ian Astbury of the Cult(!!) and Stewart Copeland of the Police(!!!). I mean, forget about the Morrison-period stuff, or even those completely worthless post-Morrison LPs from the early '70s, the new line-up is where it's at. Well, maybe you had to be there...
For the record, I paid a piddling $2.50 for this (no kidding: Warner Bros. were deleting it and dumped a pile of them on the store I was working at 2 1/2 years ago for that price), so I figured what the heck, for less than a beer, it's something I can invest in. Take away all the unnecessary excess baggage: the bloated ego of The Lizard King, Manzarek's post-Doors stake in life as "an ex-member of the Doors" (his first words to X: "Jim woulda loved you guys"), the pretentious poetry, the number of flaming assholes you'll encounter in you life hailing them as the end-all and be-all of "cutting-edge rock" and listen to the music. The Doors had a lot of very fine songs, and that's something I never thought I would've heard myself saying 10 years ago.

4) JAMES BROWN - Sex Machine 2LP
Pulled this one out for no particular reason. You've got to hand it to Mr. Brown: he is one nutty fuck. When he's not beating up his old lady or snorting coke by the bucketload, he can be seen hanging out with American Presidents or releasing albums with titles like "Sex Machine". I mean, next to no-one else on Earth would get away with that kind of behaviour, but with James Brown, we're willing to forgive such eccentricities. As I am, because Mr. Brown fits the bill of being another musical great, a pioneer, an absolute fucking god, who also happens to be either a very mixed-up individual or simply a dreadful human being. But that's OK, because he's James Brown. His music is pure physicality. Much like Discharge - and this is probably the only Discharge/James Brown comparison you're ever likely to read - his music possesses an awesome power that, for myself, is strictly perfunctory: it is there to get down and lose one's shit to. Sex Machine has that effect on me. At this stage, the early '70s, Brown had perfected minimal, epic funk to a tee. Not a dud note is hit (lest one's pay be docked), Brown and co. had the formula down pat, the accents, the rhythms, the one-note bass lines, the brassy interludes. JB's vast catalogue is a can of worms that could keep a man busy for a lifetime, but I say that if you're going to keep it down to a cool half-a-dozen essential discs, this'd be in the pile.

5) TRUE RADICAL MIRACLE - Taste the Rainbow cassette EP
Whatever happened to the good old days of cassettes from hardcore bands? Looks like they're making a revival, as this, TRM's recording debut on the F'ken Stoner label, will attest. TRM are a new-ish local band headed up by band slut extraordinare, Mark Groves (ex-Keeth, Paul of Blood, George W. Bush and probably a few dozen others), a man who has a history of being in great bands who last for the blink of an eye then call it quits. Occasionally they even stick around long enough to see the release of a demo cassette or 7". I hope TRM won't carry on in this tradition, as I dig this a whole lot, and has become a fist-waving, car-driving favourite of late. Mark and I used to correspond many a year back when we were both fanzine dorks (he of Ujaku fame) and he was still residing in Adelaide. I don't mean to piss in anyone's pocket, but he's a guy I respect a lot because he's forever involved in a dozen different projects, delivering as promised, and has zero regard for what the hipster/tastemaker mafia (and that includes me!) make of anything he does. If you've ever met the gentle giant that he is, you'll probably also find yourself scratching your head as to where this mountain of hostility and rage in his written work comes from, because the man you meet and the man you read don't seem to correlate. But anyway!... Someone referred to TRM as sounding like a cross between Born Against and the Birthday Party, and since I've never actually heard any Born Against in my life, I'll sit on the fence regarding that remark, but the grimy noise being spat out here is something that's certainly gained my ears' attention the last week. Yep, you've got those lumbering Tracy Pew bass lines at work here, but throw in a little bit of early 'Flag fury, the low-end romp of Feedtime and the best (and likely only) HC version of the Doors' "Break On Through (To the Other Side") and you've got a real nice item to hang on to. Now, I promise not to be such a lazy shit and see them live...

lexdev@yahoo.com.au

What do you get when you double the worthlessness of RYAN ADAMS? Two words: JESSE MALIN. Tell me, when is enough enough? When does the amount of mind-numbingly awful music become too much for the universe to bear? When does time and space collapse upon itself, calling a halt to this madness? I saw a Jesse Malin video the other week, the first time I've been exposed to his music, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Nth-rate Springsteen/Westerberg impressions aside, the most galling aspect of Malin (and Adams) are their laughable attempts to excuse their MOR schmaltz through their constant caterwauling of PUNK ROCK CREDIBILITY. Never mind the fact that Malin was in a no-hit Z-grade HC band from 20 years back (Heart Attack), or that Adams grew up listening to Black Flag, Bad Brains and Sonic Youth (take a fucking number, pal), such "achievements" from 10-20 years ago still don't account for the wine-&-cheese drivel both are currently attempting to push upon the general public. You know, if you'd all just stop paying them any attention, they'd simply fade away.

Monday, September 06, 2004

If the old saying, "A fool and his money are easily parted" is true, then I must be the stupidest man alive. Over the weekend just gone, I've spent a small fortune on records and CDs, and so I'm putting my foot down and calling a halt to all this needless spending. For the moment. Really. Here's some of what I snapped up.

THE FLESH EATERS - Forever Came Today LP; Dragstrip Riot CD
CHRIS D./STONE BY STONE - I Pass For Human LP
That's right, it was a Chris D. kinda weekend, whether I wanted it or not. Forever Came Today was the Flesh Eaters' 3rd album, originally released in 1982 on the Ruby/Slash imprint, and so far, for whatever reason, has never been issued on CD, and isn't even part of Atavistic's excellent Chris D.-related reissue series. Whatever. Hardcore fans consider this one of their absolute finest outings, and it must be said: "they" are correct. I bought my beat-to-shit vinyl copy off a friend who's clearing out his collection for spare cash (and out came the vultures...) just yesterday, and after spinning it endlessly on repeat all this afternoon whilst working, I've come to this conclusion: I like this a whole lot more than A Minute to Pray... and even more so than their kick-ass debut, No Questions Asked. Hammering, metallic punker aktion from a band at the peak of their powers, Forever... is the perfect combination of Funhouse shaking hands with LA rock ca. '82 (what a time and place...), with you - the listener - coming up trumps. Someone's gotta get this one back into circulation.
Dragstrip Riot is a Flesh Eaters "comeback" effort from '91 on the SST label, which was originally released as a double LP. The verdict at the time was a luke-warm-to-vaguely-enthusiastic response from the scribes, and I'll second that motion. Dragstrip's OK, mainly abetted by the patented Chris D. howl which keeps things moving at a reasonable pace, though it's gotta be said: as a double LP, this could've easily have been trimmed down to a single effort. The backing band is pretty OK, keeping time in a steady and not-too-flash rock/punk vein, though judging by the get-up a few of the members are in, I'd say they'd probably make better money as a Guns 'n' Roses tribute act. Bought for a couple of bucks at the Greensborough market, so no sweat off my brow, as was the following...
I Pass For Human was a one-off project for Mr. D. in '89. Again released on SST, the backing band features Chris Haskett from the Rollins Band and "guitars by Ethel Meatplow", which I can only assume is a frightening reference to one of the most worthless bands of the last 15 years (ask Jay Hinman about it some time). Anyway, the musical template for Stone By Stone is, so far as I can gather, an early '70s 'Stones sound, beefed up with a touch of classic late '70s-style LA punk rock with D.'s semi-atonal moaning adorning the proceedings. Or you simply could say that this kinda takes up where the Divine Horsemen finished off. Since I always loved the 'Horsemen, I'd say that's a pretty fine place to be. I'm on such a Chris D. kick of late, I've just dusted off my long-dormant copy of his book of lyrics/short stories/poetry, Double Snake Bourbon (bought by my brother in LA ca. 1990/'91 as a gift), and plan on lighting the pipe, putting on the slippers and spending a quiet night indoors perusing its pages.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Mighty Feeble LP
MY DAD IS DEAD - Peace, Love and Murder LP

These were both sold to me by the same guy who offloaded Forever Came Today, and since I was busy pruning his collection from his hands, I figured I'd grab these, too, since I'm not likely to cross their paths again in the future, near or distant.
The Mighty Feeble, released on Mike Watt's excellent New Alliance label in 1983, is a mighty strange disc, one I've seen in catalogues over the years but never in the flesh. Its main infamy is sprung from it being a compilation of tracks sent to the label by random artists on cassette, and from two songs it features: one by "Elevator", which is a one-off meeting of Greg Ginn, Mike Watt and Bill Stevenson engaging in SST-style bong-hit jam-rock (hey, that's a complement! If anyone's got more of this stuff lying around, I wanna hear it!), the other being the track "Jaded", by Mr Epp and the Calculations, an early HC-parody project from a pre-Green River Mark Arm. Also featured are Austin's great Kamikaze Refrigerators (ace Big Boys/Minutemen/Dicks-style agit-punk, just the way Texans make it); the Gary Jacobelly Ensemble ("supergroup" jazz outfit featuring George Hurley, Joe Baiza, etc. October Faction this ain't; more like the missing link between the Globe Unity Orchestra and James "Blood" Ulmer: a great thing); producer Spot (guitar noodling nonsense) and a host of presumably one-off noise/fuck-around outfits with names like Debt of Nature, Zurich 1916, Buffalo Gals, Modern Torture, Severed Head In A Bag, Autistic Divinity and a whole lot more. An exemplary snapshot of the American underground at the time, this would've been right at home (or maybe better off, since most people probably mistake this as containing nothing but a collection of SST throw-offs) on a label like RRR or even Black Eye, had the artists involved been drug-abusing Sydneysiders. Now this needs a reissuing on CD...

My Dad Is Dead? Ugh, I talked about them (or him: Mark Edwards) a couple of months back, so check the archives for the spiel. Peace Love and Murder is MDID's second LP from 1986, when Mark was still in the midst of his Ian Curtis obsession. This sounds more like an old Joy Division/Warsaw demo than the average mid-'80s Midwestern project, though his songwriting skills and ability to convey the Angst of the Lonely Man was rungs above all competition at the time, so if you can locate it, purchase at will.

ALBERT AYLER - Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe CD
This long-deleted nugget has semi-recently been given a super-cool Nice Price reissuing in a fine mini-LP-style digipak (ie. it looks like an album sleeve shrunk down), and you'd be a fool for passing it up. I'll admit, its scarcity and reputation as a late-period Ayler "sell-out" dud had always put me off ever pursuing it in secondhand bins, though I think it's safe to say that this will be in for a heavy reappraisal from all the necessary boffins over the course of the next few years. Mark my words. I bought this just two days ago, but already I'll state this seemingly hasty conclusion: this is possibly the finest Ayler album of them all. This is a phenomenal combo of fire music blare, hollering gospel (with smoldering, June Tyson-esque vocals from Mary Maria), shambling rhythm and blues (complemented by blistering Pete Cosey-style leads c/o Henry Vestine) and some truly sublime bagpipe outings from Ayler himself. This is not "free jazz", nor is it willfully or contrived avant-garde; it's not gospel or blues or soul - it's a simply bizarre and unique mix of all of the above, the closest comparison I can muster being Sonny Sharrock's equally great Black Woman, also from 1969. Maybe back at the time, after the earth-shattering outings such as Bells, Spiritual Unity and Lorrach Paris 1966, this did seem like a sell-out, or at least an odd, perhaps misguided, detour, but 35 years of hindsight put it in a different view. Probably one of the best jazz albums you or I will ever hear, this really puts me in the mood for that 9-CD(!) Ayler box coming out next month on Revenant.

CABARET VOLTAIRE - Methodology '74/'78; Attic Tapes 3-CD box
I raved on about CV's 1978-'82 Best Of some time back. If you care, search the archives. The gist of it was this: I had foolishly, until roughly 2 years ago, completely avoided the music of CV, figuring them to be a group of coattail-riding nth-rate TG copyists and/or a lousy "industrial" act worthy of my ignorance due to their later, more technoid-influenced outings (though several friends still swear by that period, too). As previously said, wrong on both counts. CV - or at least their 1974-'82 recordings - are as good enough, and perhaps even better, than similarly amazing outfits of the day, Chrome and Throbbing Gristle. Their blending of proto-industrial noise, musique concret, '60s garage punk, white-boy funk and dub studio techniques remains unparalleled. This 3-CD set compiles a host of archived tapes the trio made back in the mid-'70s misery of Sheffield, England, and it's a collection of material on a par with The Faust Tapes and Alien Soundtracks in the mind-melting dept. The early pieces are obviously more embryonic: lots of fugged 'n' fiddled keyboard, loop and tape experiments, though by the time 1976 rolls in, CV were an intensely beautiful unit, churning out electro-garage anthems that were equal parts Seeds, Stooges, Stockhausen and Pierre Henry. By the time disc three and the year 1978 comes to play, you realise you're in the presence of a very great thing. Featured are many earlier, rougher versions of songs winding up on later discs, the snapshot into an earlier time is a fascinating gander indeed. Look, this is the sound of a man embarrassingly making up for lost time, so if you're in the same boat I was in 2 years ago, you know what to do. Nice package, too, though the (literally) unreadable liner notes - especially when the band lists their favourites of the time: Seeds, Stooges, Kinks, dub, Miles, James Brown, etc. - are a shame.

IMMORTAL - Battles In The North CD
Never let it be said I ain't eclectic... I now own a whopping three Norwegian Black Metal CDs: Darkthrone's Under A Funeral Moon, Burzum's Filosofem and this. Much like most of Black Metal's followers in the year 2004, I wasn't even aware any of this stuff was going on when it was at its murderous, pillaging peak (roughly '91-'97), since metal in general has never really been a genre firmly on the listening radar, but like any fan will tell you: Black Metal has about as much to do with any traditional metal as it does with barnyard polka tunes. Well, OK, that's an exaggeration, but the point is this: the absolute best Norwegian Black Metal exists within its own universe, its relation to any kind of reality as you or I know it being merely tangential. Listen to any Burzum disc and it may have well come from Mars, it stark grimness so bonechillingly cold I still can't fully penetrate it. But anyway, I only became aware of all this crazy music just before Lords of Chaos book was released in the late '90s (I was working with some enthusiasts at the time who, knowing me to be a fan of just about any ridiculous musical movement that comes along, gave me a primer) and it took me 'til about 5 months ago for me to even purchase a single recording of the genre, so I guess you could label me "cautious". My caution may be slipping, however, as I find this stuff a real blast to listen to. Pure headrush crunch with an earnest sense of evil that borders on, and then leaps over, the absurd, more well-informed people than I have written texts on this phenomenon, so all that really needs to be noted is this: all sense of the absurd aside, Immortal made in Battles of the North in 1997, an exhilarating, misanthropic party-starter of a disc which almost never lets up the chaos for a second. This is like a Discharge 33 on 78 all the way: fist-waving music to lose one's shit to. But you already know that.
PS - One of the most hilarious CD booklets I own, the band's Nordic Warrior-meets-Kiss outfits and sword-baring battle poses are worth the price alone.

lexdev@yahoo.com.au

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Oh man, don't get me started... You heard me: DON'T GET ME STARTED ON VICE MAGAZINE! I'll have you here for hours, dribbling into yer ears about how loathsome I find that publication, how it saps any intelligent thought, idealism, individuality and non-conformity out of the "counter-culture" and replaces with it reams of elitist, soulless, mean-spirited, tragically unfunny, attention-seeking, fashion-victim, no-talent fuckwads who'd be better off existing on another planet. Oh yeah, and there's lots of ads for clothing I wouldn't be caught dead in. And lots of really bad music no-one on Earth is going to be talking about in 5 years time. And irony. Aah, "irony", the last hope of the damned. When all else fails and you really have nothing to say, you can always rely on irony. Vice mag: fuck you very much. I told you, don't get me started. Read here and here instead. Thank you.
When I was finishing my final year of high school back in the dark ages, there was a given theme to the English course at the time, the theme being "Growing Up". The gist of it was this: maturation and self-understanding are really only achieved through pain. Only through pain, discomfort and hard times can we come to learn about ourselves and the world, because "pain" is what forces us to look inside ourselves and face our shortcomings, the hope being that such a shock will help us "grow up". It sounds a touch simplistic, but I always felt it to be a truism, and I learnt that over the weekend. I also learnt this: at the age of 32, I'm not sure if my mind and body can take solid 2-day/24-hour booze binges and remain a workable entity for the rest of its natural life. Yes, that's right, I had a weekend bender with the sole diet of two servings of hot chips and a gallon of alcohol as my nutritional intake for the period. The pain I went through the next day was scorching. It wasn't just the physical nature of the hangover that was the killer, it was the mental comedown and all that goes with it. I like a drink or two - all my friends know that - but with a hangover that'd kill an ordinary man, I've sworn myself off the demon liquor for the time being. Like my pal Danny says: It's all fun and games until someone wakes up with a psychiatric illness. What was the occasion to celebrate, you ask? Why, it was the weekend.

So, on the Monday, with a crippling pain seeping its way through my mind and body and a fairly rapid decision that there was no way I was going to be able to work that day, I proceeded to spend the rest of the daylight hours in a semi-coma, stretched out on the couch, cursing myself for my indulgences and alternated between a few DVDs for comfort and a smorgasboard of music to keep my mind intact. These following titles somehow managed to keep my mind in one piece that fateful day, and for that I am eternally grateful. Forget the High Five - here's a Drunk Five...

1) ROYAL TRUX - Thank You CD
When this came out in 1995, on the Virgin label, it only brought one thought to my mind: some poor A & R schlep is going to lose their job over this sucker. I don't know how it faired in the US or Europe, but judging by Virgin's desperation to get rid of the money-losing led weight that was the 'Trux in the late '90s by paying them off a cool million and politely showing them the door, I'll assume its success was as great as it was down here: negligible. Thank You has gone through three distinct phases of its commercial shelf life thus far: 1) its total saturation in the "hip" record stores of the day upon release; 2) its total saturation in the bargain bins of said stores 6-12 months later; 3) its total saturation in the secondhand bins everywhere ever since. That's where I found my copy a few months back. Since I'm back on the 'Trux, I figured I'd give it a go. I'm glad I waited 'til now, because if I'd bought this back in '95, you can guarantee I would've been one of those lucky customers selling it right back two weeks after purchase. Why does this make sense to me now? That will forever remain a mystery, but my theory is this: Thank You sounds like two junkie hipsters desperately trying to appropriate every riff Led Zep and the 'Stones wrote in the year 1972 and spitting it out ca. 1995. Right now that idea appeals to me.

2) KEITH HUDSON - Pick A Dub CD
As a honky motherfucker, I've been through two distinct and separate "Reggae Phases" in my life: in the mid/late '90s when I discovered both the On-U Sound/Pressure Sounds roster of artists (the former not being strictly "reggae" as such, but it's close enough) and dug deep into the Blood & Fire reissues happening at the time, and somewhere round the 2001/'02 period where, for no reason in particular, I immersed myself heavily in the world of Dr. Alimantado, I-Roy, Congos, etc. It's all pretty fuckin' ace music - you don't need a white fuck like me telling you that - so you probably don't need me attempting to wax lyrical on the greatness of this disc. I bought this reissue at the time (it says 1994 on the CD, so I'll assume it was somewhere near then) on the strength of both John Lydon and author Jon Savage having hailed it as possibly the finest dub album of all time, and whilst I wouldn't agree with that (for the record: 'Alimantado's Best Dressed Chicken In Town, I-Roy's Crisis Time and the Congos' Heart of the Congos get my vote, though I'm no expert so don't ask me), it's a nice disc to pass the time for a morning of head-throbbing and wall-staring.

3) SONNY SHARROCK - Guitar CD
Not my favourite Sharrock disc per se; his '69 debut, Black Woman, wins that prize, but since I wasn't in for half an hour of Linda Sharrock screaming in my ear, I opted for this 1986 solo effort. Hadn't dug this one out for quite a long time, though it's a six-string "cosmic" workout which has held up well. With just Sonny and what I can only assume to be a few (or perhaps many) overdubs in place, this is a rather fine mix of full psychedelic blowouts and more melodic textures which'll appeal to both noise buffs and, much as I hate to say it, the kinds of losers who read guitar-player magazines. Naturally, all Eddie Hazel/Hendrix fans need this one.

4) SLOVENLY - Riposte / We Shoot For The Moon LPs
Two finer albums you'll will almost never hear, these two late '80s masterpieces from a band sadly so few have ever cared about are platters I'll take to the next life. Featuring ex-Saccharine Trust and future Red Krayola people at the helm, Slovenly were the great critics' fave of the late '80s and a band I'm willing to bet sold next to nothing. Riposte, from 1987, is the more skeletal and bare-boned of the two, with guitars interweaving Marquee Moon-style and Steve Anderson's deadpan-vocal profundities hitting you in spades, and whilst I'm aware of the fact that many people are put off by Anderson's supposedly atonal singing, for me it's what makes Slovenly work. There are moments of beauty here I'm too lazy to discuss; suffice to say, Slovenly achieved moments of sheer brilliance few others have ever approached.
We Shoot For The Moon from 1989 is a far noisier, more dense affair, and possibly even better than its predecessor. At the time, Forced Exposure compared it to MX-80's classic major-label flop from '77, Hard Attack, and whilst a reference means zip to many, it's right on the money. This is a completely unique collision of almost "heavy metal" guitars mixed with a jagged, No Wave/Beefheart sensibility, a combination I've heard nowhere else except perhaps from the similarly great (and ignored) The Scene Is Now. Both out of print, if I didn't figure that trying to wrestle the reissue rights off SST for these would be a Herculean task and a completely fruitless endeavour, I'd give it a go, but I'm not wasting my time with that.

5) MUNIR BASHIR - The Art of the Oud CD
Friends of mine will laugh at me mentioning this, since it's... umm... aaarrgh... kinda my job to be selling this disc in Australia, but since I also happen to really like it, I don't feel bad about mentioning it. Actually, if I didn't have to sell this and gain some familiarity with the Ocora label, I'm not proud in saying I probably wouldn't ever be aware of its existence, but that's the truth. You see, this 1971 recording from Bashir, the "Godfather of the Oud", is considered an absolute classic of world music, and now that I know that, I'm happy to inform you of that fact. When you're one of those self-styled know-it-all music boffin types (and if you're reading this right now, you probably are. It's ok to admit it), you take pride in trying to know absolutely everything about every half-assed genre under the sun, and, yes, the Iraqi stringed instrument known as the oud had slipped under my radar until approximately two years ago. Anyway, Bashir, who passed away about 10 years back, has a stack of material out, and whilst I only have this and his amazing Mesopotamia 2CD on the Chant du Monde label, I will stand forward, chest out and proudly recommend his music to anyone who's had their head turned by the likes of John Fahey or Robbie Basho. Mesopotamia is a bit more aggressive and almost raga-like in its length and twang, whilst Art of the Oud takes a more calming approach, plucking out notes which are perfectly spaced and even more perfect to listen to when your brain is slowing being plucked apart by the remnants of day-old alcohol.

lexdev@yahoo.com.au