Monday, December 27, 2004

PEOPLE ARE STRANGE...

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

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

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

BEST:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I FUCKIN’ WISH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

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

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

All right then, mail ‘em in…

Thursday, December 16, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

BLAH BLAH BLAH…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 06, 2004

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

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

BEST REISSUES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 05, 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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