Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Got some goodies in the mail yesterday from my good buddy Karl from Chicago, a man linked up to the whole Milwaukee punk/space/noise/blah scene I’ve attempted to champion for the last 12 or 13 years. The two goodies are in fact video tapes w/ footage of F/i, Boy Dirt Car, Impact Test, Shrilltower, etc. It’s funny as hell watching BDC bang away on steel cans on a high school stage ca. 1984 to a partly absent/disinterested/scared crowd; a joy to see a primitive 3-piece version of F/i from the same year when they were still in the midst of their electro/industrial/futuristic phase and yet to take the leap into “rock”; but best of all… best of all is the footage of Die Kreuzen in 1983 being interviewed on public access TV by a straight-ish PBS-type woman about this phenomenon known as “punk rock” (the guys in the band, barely out of their teens, awkwardly mumbling out responses, fumbling and fidgeting along the way), only to be followed by a 20-minute set by the group belting out all their early hits – songs from their first EP and LP – in the studio. Now that is some ass-kicking footage. I know, I know, contrary to the opinions of just about anyone and everyone reading this site, I do honestly prefer Die Kreuzen’s 2nd and 3rd LPs over their first, but throw ‘em into a community-TV studio and let ‘em fire it up in a room full of squares and it's the sound of American youth gone wild.

Now that reminds me: does anyone out there have the footage of Tesco Vee being interviewed on a similar show of the era being rather less well-behaved? Or a videotape of Donnie Sutherland's atrocious interview with Jello Biafra on the Sounds program when the DKs visited here in '83? It's the stuff of legend.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

JESU – s/t CD (Hydra Head)
This was bought on the insistence of a friend who works in a record store. I’m sure you know the type: indie-store music-Nazi who pops a boner over something and then hounds you every time you subsequently walk into said store until the purchase is made. I know the type: I used to be one myself. For now, I’m taking a break from that role. I may well return to that position in years to come, though I’m glad to say that no-one need suffer me behind a counter whilst entering a record store in Melbourne ca. 2005.

JESU is the new band comprising of Justin Broadrick (ex-Godflesh/Head Of David) and Ted Parsons (ex-Swans/Prong). I gather you’re as excited as I was when I first heard their musical pedigree. That is, not very. Why is this? Perhaps I’m not being fair, but I do recall buying Godflesh’s Streetcleaner CD back in 1990, digging the bejesus out of it for approximately 12 months – at the time that whole Swans-esque pummel/pain/agony/angst schtick was all the rage – and then discarding it in horror after listening to a subsequent release from the band. Can’t remember its name, but it appeared that the band had decided to go into a “techno-metal” vein and thus I jumped ship. Friends, colleagues and strangers on the street inform me they found their feet again in the late ‘90s when a flesh ‘n’ bones drummer joined the band, but I’d be lying if I said I could care less. And Ted Parson? Sheez! He did some good things w/ Swans (most notably Children of God), though Prong’s entire discography, barring that Stranglers cover I dug (“Get A Grip”), stunk like year-old milk, and I should know: I once worked in a warehouse full of Prong fans, and boy did I suffer for their music.

That leaves Jesu. And that left me last week leaving a record store with a disc in my hand which I was far from convinced I should have purchased. My mind is now changed. Jesu are onto something, and much like that Kinski disc on Sub Pop I reviewed last year (whom they somewhat musically resemble), they’re not onto something particularly original or groundbreaking, though their treading of a well-worn formula is still good enough for me to want to leave it on repeat for days on end. The sound is this: take the basic template of Swans ca. Cop – those painfully slow, lurching drum beats, the thick-as-a-brick bass chords – and mix it up with a slightly spacier, dare I say “indie”, guitar/vocal moan ‘n’ fuzz a la My Bloody Valentine/Spacemen 3, and stretch eight songs out to a full (and I do mean full) CD length and you’re probably listening to the latest Jesu disc. None of that is a complaint, mind you; track 3, “Tired Of Me”, with its layered/delayed vocals, repetitive, descending guitar chords and keyboard loops gets my vote as the fuzz-doom “ballad” of this and every year. And the rest is far from shabby. “Sun Day” drags its sorry bones along for a whole ten minutes, though if the idea of a musical cocktail combining the best elements of Loveless, Perfect Prescription and Cop sounds like a drink you’d like to sip, then by all means go ahead. I’ve been sculling it all week long.

The only anomaly on the whole disc is song number 7, “Man/Woman”, which takes the aggression levels up a notch, screams its vocals out like its 1991 all over again, and for me doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in the context of the rest of the album, which is mostly steeped in fairly blissful and easy-to-consume drones, and doesn’t work for me in 2005, full stop. Maybe it’ll float your boat, but I wish they hadn’t included it on the CD. That’s my sole complaint. The production, the artwork and packaging (which must be seen and felt to be appreciated; I won’t do it justice here) and the rest of the songs which make up Jesu all come together to comprise a release which’ll undoubtedly wind up in some blowhard Top 10 of 2005 list I’ll be roped into compiling at year’s end. Mr. Broadrick, Mr. Parsons, all is forgiven.

Monday, May 23, 2005

DOM DAR – Revolution/Stench of Decay! 7” (Elderberry Records)
Another 7” I recently borrowed from my brother’s singles collection. This was purchased via Spiral Objective in 1992. Anyone remember Spiral Objective? Of course you do. They were, in effect, the Australian version of Blacklist mailorder (the San Fran co. linked up to MRR… are they still going?), which meant for every young punker in the early ‘90s only one thing: a ton of cheap records within easy grasp of anyone with a letterbox and a bit of spare cash. God bless ‘em. So, then there’s this 33RPM two-tracker from Sweden’s Dom Dar…

It gets me wondering: why was this purchased? I think the catalogue description mentioned the Melvins and Dom Dar’s penchant for lumbering, dirge-y crust-punk. Sounded good to us, throw it in the pile. I’m glad the purchase was made. 13 years after the fact, this is still a ripper, and even more perfect when played at wall-shaking volume. The A-side sounds uncannily like BGK’s slower tracks from their amazing Nothing Can Go Wrogn! LP; kinda like a Discharge 78 played at 33 with a thick, Northern European accent grunting out grim verses like “How can you fight a faceless spirit / When nothing is in the light / Where truth is all hidden / Lies passed down generations” before that apocalyptic one-word chorus hits: “Revolution!”. I’ll be sure to play it at my next disco swing party. It’s long (no, I haven’t time it, but I’m guessing it’s up somewhere near the 6-7 minute mark), though never wears out its welcome. There’s a glorious mixture of heavy, low-end, slo-mo riffage – which never crosses over to the Metal zone – and twangy second guitar providing a killer hook in the verses. Things do get fast for a minute or two before collapsing under a sea of strange guitar effects. Flip it over.

“Stench of Decay!”… don’t forget that exclamation mark! I might even prefer this to the A-side. The pace is up a notch, vocalist Ricke barks out his lines like a gargling Cal from Discharge and that riff! It almost approximate sa Bullhead-period Melvins recorded in a Scandinavian basement. I’ve said this before: I could give a fuck for the 7” format. I know there are folks out there who swear by it, but it’s not me. The pleasure, if there is one, is too fleeting and brief to be fully satisfying. In fact, they’re frustrating; if they’re bad, you find yourself never playing the thing again (and you can’t even get diddly-squat for it secondhand!), and if they’re good, like real good, like this Dom Dar disc, it only leaves you wanting more. Did Dom Dar ever release anything else? Beats me. “Crust-punk”, if you want to throw a term at it, is hardly a genre I’ve bothered investigating much at all in my life – barring Rudimentary Peni, Amebix and early Discharge – though I guess, just as those three bands showed, it’s got its little surprises which’ll just knock you out. I mean, fuck, an old Swedish crust 7” still flooring me in 2005? I can hardly believe it myself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

CRASS – Penis Envy LP; Yes Sir, I Will LP
Sometimes these crazy urges just take over your body and you find yourself doing the strangest of things. I had that urge last weekend and found myself purchasing not one but two Crass LPs. What in the hell was going on? It seems a peculiar thing to do… I mean, I’ve only ever owned two Crass discs before, and they were bought when I was 14 and 18 (Sheep Farming In The Falklands 7” and their Best Before 2LP, respectively). I don’t even own the latter anymore. Well, I figured they were a band well worth investigating, even though I’ve always previously dismissed them as a band with cool record covers in search of some listenable music to place within those very sleeves, but...

Crass are an excellent example of an aesthetically perfect band, an outfit with a single-minded vision who stuck to it against huge odds right until their dissolution (and this is whether you agree with their stance and politics or not: it’s an admirable trait and one I even begrudgingly admire in knuckleheads like Skrewdriver); their lyrical content is at least always engaging and worthy of reading – again – even if you don’t agree with a word they say (the same reason I can get a kick out of reading Ayn Rand); and their music is a whole lot better than I remember it being. Or perhaps my brain wasn’t ready for this kind of tuneless, vaguely avant-garde punk-noise onslaught as a teen (I don’t know how that figures, considering the godawful racket I listened to at the time). Musically, at least, these two albums are pretty darn hot. Aggressive, propulsive noise-punk which barely lets up for a breather (except for the “experimental” pieces which break up the barrage), there are more than a few moments which strongly bring to mind such godsends as Rudimentary Peni, The Fall, Venom P. Stinger (especially in the constant marching-style drum-rolling a la Jim White) and Flipper (dig that bass rumble)… and then the vocals come in and ruin everything. Anyone got any dub mixes of Crass’ best works?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

THE ENDTABLES – White Glove Test/Trick Or Treat 7”
I know next to nothing about this band, and in fact don’t even own this record (I pinched this from my brother’s collection today, which is residing at my folks’ place whilst he’s away), though it’s a stone-dead KILLER which more people should rave about breathlessly and slavishly in nerdbag music blog sites worldwide. Guess it’s my turn.

The Endtables, from what I’ve heard, were the toast of Louisville, Kentucky’s late ‘70s punk scene and didn’t in fact release anything during their short existence, but did at least manage to get a few songs on tape before disbanding. For the details, you should probably contact Robert Nedelkoff or David Grubbs or whoever, because I’m likely not filling you in on a million interesting tidbits regarding who the Endtables were. All I know is this posthumous 7” from 1991 on the Self Destruct label and the cold, hard fact that it remains one of my all-time favourite ‘70s punk rock singles from the US of A.

I wrote a quarter-arsed review for this in a fanzine in 1993. Don’t look for it, it’s disappeared into the dumpsters and bathroom reading racks of the universe, but my gist was this: imagine a hyperactive, jittery combination of Wipers ca. Is This Real?, throw it in with the nasally whine of a late ‘70s Dave Thomas and you have these two mighty songs right in your hand. I can’t pick the better of the two. “White Glove Test” is the A-side and the opening riff will slay you in your tracks. It’s got the perfect powerchord slow-mo build-up before it tears into a rollicking riff which could’ve been lifted off the Damned’s first LP (and that’s a good thing, whether you think so or not), and then Steve Rigot’s uber-nerd vocals hit the fore. This is the shit I live for. I could play this number to anyone reading this, and assuming you’re not a total flake (and I am assuming that), it’ll knock you dead.

But the B-side, man, the B-side… that’s where the goods are. “Trick Or Treat”: file it next to any fave Dangerhouse 7” you own or covet, it belongs there. There’s a nervous energy present which makes me want to move every time I whack the needle on. This kind of force can’t be faked or easily replicated. It’s a visceral, non-quantifiable energy which only exists within the most top-echelon musical combinations. That feeling is so fuggin’ rare that when you experience music this good you sit up and take notice. The Sage-like guitar fuzz, Steve Rigot’s crazy bark, that sense that the song is about to completely fall apart before it reins itself back together again and dives headfirst into the next verse… Goddamn it, I’m a man gushing over this thing. I hadn’t heard this for a good 6-7 years, but boy, it’s gonna be tough giving this one back when the time comes and my brother notices the thing missing.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The key to this blog thing is to keep the entries short. I had a talk with a friend about it today – upset as he was that I wasn’t paying it any attention of late (sniff!) – and we both agreed that short entries ensure that casual browsers will actually bother reading anything I write and, more importantly, will also ensure that I bother writing anything.

I’ve just finished reading Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain’s PLEASE KILL ME for the second or third time. I first bought it 6 or so years back (as a cheap remainder, actually) and found myself laughing out loud at the stories within. Third time around, it still doesn’t fail to make me guffaw at the amazing stupidity, bullshit and brainless antics which all involved engaged in over roughly a three-decade period. Who are these people? You probably know the story: the book is an “oral history” of punk rock in America, from roughly 1965-1996 (though it mostly cuts off during the NY No Wave period, one of its weaknesses, and one which shows the narrow-minded prejudices of the authors/compilers), and features the usual array of talent: Velvets, Stooges, MC5, NY Dolls, Suicide, Patti Smith, Television, James Chance, Dead Boys, Richard Hell, Ramones, etc. As Legs was one of the editors/founders of Punk magazine in NYC back in the mid-‘70s, it’s heavily NY-centric and fails to mention just about anything of worth after 1980, but that’s to be expected.

As much as I love the book, I can’t help but come to one conclusion upon closing the last page, again: what a parade of fucking morons, dipshits, assholes and utter fucking lowlifes. So far as I can tell, there are approximately five people in the entire book who didn’t come across as complete creeps: Debbie Harry (always a very cool lady, regardless of what you may think of her music… and I do think little of it), David Johanson, Joey Ramone, Alan Vega and Ed Sanders from The Fugs. You could probably throw Handsome Dick Manitoba in there, too. The rest? Would you actually want to ever hang out with slimeballs like Danny Fields, Wayne/Jayne County, Terry Ork, Nico, Stiv Bators, Dee Dee Ramone, Richard Hell, Jerry Nolan, Cheetah Chrome, Bob Gruen, Johnny Thunders, Bebe Buell, Leee Childers, etc.? After reading this book, you may not want to. And what about Iggy and Lou? Richard Lloyd from Television? Who’da thunk such a great band hid the mind of a Grade A deadbeat as he. Man, don’t even get me started on the lunkheads in the MC5. Their “revolutionary” stance was and is about as convincing as the Clash or Billy Bragg, though at least – and this is the one saving grace of all the above – THEY MADE SOME GREAT RECORDS. It really goes to show you have to divorce the personal traits from the musical contributions these people made, because as human beings they come across like a collection of basket cases, but maybe that's the key.

And then there’s Legs… Can’t say I ever dug Punk the magazine; for me it was a hokey collection of in-jokes with a typically inbred NYC aren’t-we-the-centre-of-the-universe kinda outlook, though his bitterness regarding the “success” of UK punk at the time, which he quite obviously saw as either a joke or a “rip-off” of the NY ideal (like that one great idea – PUNK ROCK – could only come from one city on earth? Yeah, right), whilst many of his fellow New Yorkers fumbled and stumbled and died out by decade’s end, makes him look pretty pathetic. Music “sucked“ in the ‘80s? Says who?! Did this guy ever hear a single song by Black Flag or the Wipers or Half Japanese or Swans or the Minutemen? I doubt it.