Wednesday, April 20, 2005

OK, OK, OK, I’ve been slack with this blog. No-one’s paying to read this thing, and I never really thought anyone was really paying any attention to it, so I haven’t felt any great need to attend to it the last few weeks. Mostly it was an overload of work, a lack of any interest in discussing music and the overwhelming feeling of being part of the dreaded “blog-nerd” set which kept me away. Then I actually had a few people asking me when I was going to update the thing. People, compliments will get you everywhere in life. Said people love nothing more than to see me shoot my mouth off, upset folks and watch the fireworks display. That’s fine. I’ve been doing that, by accident or design, since I first entered the fanzine-dork biz “for real” some 12 years ago. These people like to see the shots fired as long as they’re not in the way. But anyway, I'm in a good way right now and in no mood for causing trouble.

Then there’s the ongoing saga of Chris Stigliano over at Blog to Comm. I’ve kept silent on this for a while, even though he seems intent on attempting to drag my name through the mud at every opportune moment. Chris: go for it. Use up all your energy for the rest of your life on slagging me off. I could care less. I personally think there are better things to do and write about, but I get a feeling you disagree. It only makes you look foolish by rattling on about it. I could go on a rant here myself, but I’m not interested enough to bother. This paragraph, which says little at all about the matter, I fully expect will spur on yet another tirade from the man, and so be it. I promised myself I would never again add fuel to the fire, but since it looks like the fire will never go out in Chris’ mind, it can’t hurt too much to say what’s just been said, can it?

All right then… what’s been floating the boat musically, and what is to discuss? I could firstly go on about the absolute worthlessness of the current Australian music scene, with nudniks like Shihad and Grinspoon touring the country this month, but I get a feeling that won’t interest anyone, least of all any non-Australians reading this. Here’s a side-splitting triviality for anyone who cares: when I was in Portland, Oregon for a week in mid-1999, none other than Vanilla Ice was playing at the local medium-sized venue in the city. Who was supporting The Ice Man? Grinspoon. I had to laugh. We can all only thank the heavens they never broke the US market.

ENSLAVED – Mardraum CD
Just when you thought I’d given up on writing anymore on this Norwegian Black Metal nonsense, I go ape for the Viking kings Enslaved. I wrote about these gents further down a few entries, regarding their Below The Lights CD, and in the meantime I’ve purchased a bevy of their product – Eld, Monumension and Mardraum – and they’re all insanely good. There’s a certain part of my brain – the one marked “Good Taste” – which tells me I shouldn’t go near stuff like this, but there’s also the irrational side which can’t help but boogie to the hep tunes. Enslaved, part of the original inner Black Circle of the Norwegian crew of bullet-belt crazies, are one of the few bands of that era still making records you’d bother crossing the road the urinate on. Whilst Emperor went to the dogs with keyboard-laden pomposity; Mayhem just continue to get worse and worse; Burzum rots away in a prison cell ripping out laughable Casio albums of Nordic hymns; and at least Immortal called it a day before they truly blew, Enslaved are holding the fort with an actual sense of musical quality. OK, there’s Darkthrone, too, though they’ve done nothing but repeat themselves every single album since 1993. That’s not a bad thing, though a little musical progression wouldn’t be out of order.

Enslaved have cut the rampant fuzz’n’buzz out of their guitars, upped the studio techniques and even roped in a whole smorgasboard of smarty-pants rhythmic changes since their early days of 4-track primitivism, and the musical results are here to behold. Read that last line: every single “positive” aspect I just mentioned in relation to Enslaved goes against any typical musical sense I inhabit, and indeed sums up why I’ve always considered “metal” in general to be a lame, no-go genre filled with tight-pants-wearing, musical-virtuoso douchebags. That is true. It remains true. But there’s always the exception. Enslaved are it. Much like the oft-compared Voivod, Enslaved avoid the clich├ęs of their musical compadres and create something different. The odd Viking chant may make you cringe, but in between is a seamless mixture of unique riffery, blistering blast beats and those unearthly, raspy vocals only a Norwegian could truly pull off. They have a new album out entitled Isa. I need it.

Again, if the following description brings the bile to your throat or makes you slap your head and utter to yourself, Dave, Dave, Dave, what are you thinking?, then don’t bother, but if a concoction brewing up the best elements of October File/Century Days-era Die Kreuzen, Tweez-era Slint, Killing Technology-period Voivod, early Hawkwind and the monstrous stupidity and aggression of primal Burzum and Darkthrone sounds like a fun night in, then the helmet-clad world of Enslaved awaits you. Truly.

I was over at Richard Dropkick’s place about a year ago, sitting around one afternoon chewing the fat as one does, when he pulled out one of his Back From The Grave LPs (he has the whole set, he proudly noted [sorry, Rich]). I quickly urged him to put it on, and noted that I’d never heard any LP from the series. He seemed dumbstruck. How could I have not exposed myself to a single note from this essential series? Like, didn’t I buy all this shit 10 years ago?! Well, no, it simply passed me by. My interest in ‘60s US garage punk has always been relegated to the monumentally awesome Nuggets 4-CD box and the big guns (Love, 13th Floor Elevators, Seeds) and little else. Last week I figured this dire situation needed amending, so I invested in these two.

I really should spend more time ingesting them before coming to any conclusion, so don’t consider this one. For now, I think they’re “OK”, and I fear I’ll be crucified and told to smarten up for that comment. Nothing on these two LPs so far has bowled me over, save for The Rats’ excellently ridiculous “Rats [sic?] Revenge”, parts one and two, a shambolic, rambling, two-part tribute to Eric Von Zipper and the Rats Motorcycle Gang. The band themselves sound like they were more of a studio creation than anything else (though were morphed, according to the liner notes, from a “real” instrumental group from Akron, Ohio called the Decades), though the result is a classic, hilarious, lengthy studio fuck-around by a band of yahoos who sound drunk or high or possibly both. I’ve got music coming out of my earholes right now, give me a spare day to properly digest the goods: the rest might be just as good.

…and as for Tim Warren’s liner notes. Is he copping an Ed Asshole/Archie Bunker-type persona or is he really that obnoxious? I’ve heard of the guy for years, and used to laugh at the Crypt ads he’d place in old issues of Forced Exposure (which would denounce faves of mine, like SST and Shimmy Disc, as hippy swill), though I don’t know if he’s putting this schtick on like a suit or not. I mean, cutting out nearly all rock’n’roll post-1966, doesn’t that kinda limit your musical options a bit? “Like, lighten up, dude!”

Other things to discuss soon: Dog Faced HermansHumans Fly LP; the musical career of Husker Du; “Bands Who Just Won’t Fuck Off”; Richard Thompson; more Rune Grammofon titles; a buncha other shit.

Monday, April 04, 2005

My buddy Dixon went along to the DICKS reunion show, which happened just recently in Austin, and you can see some great photos here. I didn't even know any of this was taking place, but from all reports (well, one: Dixon's) the band put on an incredible show. And take a look at Gary Floyd! That's the fittest he's looked... ever!

Whilst you're at it, check out the rest of Dixon's site, Idle Time. In it ye shall find a myriad cool photos documenting the early Austin punk scene as well as the web's best source guide for the mighty POP GROUP. Dig it!

Friday, April 01, 2005

You may want to read this. Must've been a slow day in the office in Sharon, PA, ca. April 1, 2005.