Monday, June 19, 2006

NIRVANA - Nevermind CD
I haven't been posting much of late due to a total lack of inspiration. I browse all the usual music blogs out there on a regular basis, and frankly, I feel that most of which I wish to write about is likely being covered elsewhere. Probably better, too. If you're reading this right now, there's a very good chance you probably dig the same records by the likes of Pere Ubu, Black Flag, Rolling Stones, Eno, Hawkwind, Sun Ra, Meat Puppets, Amon Duul 2, Charles Mingus, Kinks, Can, Wire, etc. as I do. Lordy lordy, it's been covered before. There ain't too much else to discuss on the matter at this point in history, so instead I'd like to talk about an album not too many hipper-than-thou hepcats care to bring up in the 21st century: Nevermind by this now defunkt American band called Nirvana.

I never bought this until way after the fact. 1996, actually. Secondhand, at that. I did, however, hear it on the very day of its original release in September 1991. A grunge-damaged friend bought it and invited my brother and I to his place that night for a, uh, "listening party". It was, after all, the "underground" "buzz record" of the millenium. I couldn't have cared less for it, but it got me out of the house so I decided to partake in this little three-man alcohol-free blast. At that point in history I was a strictly head-up-ass art-fag music snob feeding myself on a regular diet of the Boredoms/John Zorn/Half Jap/Bongwater school of absurdist twaddle (all of which I still love, of course), and the likes of Nirvana were considered third-string low-brow thug-rock wannabes who sounded like they'd overdosed on one too many bad '80s SST records. Still, I listened intently. Sounded OK. Good pop hooks. Cheesy production (and from Butch Vig, the then King Of MidWest Noise-Rock!). Probably gonna be huge. Next!

Nirvana went on to be huge and the rest is history. Some time after Kurt blew his head off I started rethinking their legacy. Perhaps I should pull my head out of my backside and give the band a real listen. That was 10 years ago. Nevermind sounds much better today. Maybe it's a nostalgia for the '90s - I'm praying it isn't - though in the year 2006, Nirvana sound like The Last Great American Band who made any kind of dent in the mainstream conscience. A band who meant something. Other "indie" or "underground" outfits have made a splash in the last few years, namely the White Stripes or even Queens Of The Stoneage, though I'll be damned if I know what they're singing about or what their "mission" is, and I certainly don't want to listen to their records. I'm probably reading way too much into this; Nirvana's "mission" was, at a cynical guess, to get famous and make a lot of money. After all, that's why bands sign to major labels. Still, as much as I hated them at the time for alerting the world to a music scene I smugly thought to be a secret cabal only reserved for the hippest of the hip, through a foggy lens of 15 years it seems like they awoke a small portion of the world's population out of a deep slumber and brought at least a little excitement into that lumbering dinosaur called the Top 40.

Now, the point is this: I listed Nevermind in my Top 75 Albums Of All Time list a couple of years back and incurred the wrath of various blog-lurkers who were either genuinely horrified yet completely incapable of penning a reason why it blows donkeys, or were simply looking for a fight yet backed down when they realised they would have to reasonably articulate a comprehensible argument. Not by any stretch of the imagination does Nevermind suck, blow or both. If YOU think it does, give me a reason. I have but one complaint and that's it: the production is a little too Arena Rock. That's my sole complaint. As far as "rock music" goes - and I find it very hard to care at all about rock 'n' roll anymore; there exists a world completely divorced from "rock" worth exploring, too - it's a near unbeatable combination of killer hooks and lyrical concerns which either mean nothing or everything. At the time of release, I crucified Nevermind for contextual reasons, without really caring for the music or even listening to it (which was actually fair enough from my perspective at the time: I wanted it weird and nothing less), though now its place as the defining pop cultural event of late 20th-century America in a world much scarier than that of 1991, makes it sound pretty fuckin' A-OK to these ears. If you think I'm full of shit, I'm up for the challenge.

And on another note, some other party tracks keeping me sane...

1) PHAROAH SANDERS - Black Unity/Jewels Of Thought/Deaf Dumb Blind CDs
2) NINA SIMONE - Emergency Ward LP
3) NICO - Marble Index LP
4) BIG YOUTH - Screaming Target CD
5) AMON DUUL 2 - Phallus Dei CD

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Man, this cold weather makes it real hard to write. Add to that the fact that our heating system has kicked the bucket and I'm blowing steam out of my mouth as I write, and that'll explain my lack of entries.

Before I run, two things: If you're from Melbourne town, please come to the Arthouse in North Melbourne (yeah, a real fine venue; the Vodaphone Arena was already booked) this Thursday 15th June to see The Southernhay Orphans, a new 4-piece comprised of my bro and a few friends of mine for an evening of skull-blasting Saints/Wire/Black Flag-influenced r 'n' r aktion. And if they don't exactly deliver on that hyperbole-laden description, you can still pop in and say hello, anyway.


1) THE NECKS - Chemist CD
Brand new-y from this world-beating Australian trio, who once again have taken me (and possibly everyone else) by surprise: guitar, a "rock" beat throughout, and three - count 'em - three "short" (as in, 20 minutes a piece) numbers. Chemist doesn't hit me - yet - like a bomb, the way Drive-By, Mosquito/See Through and Aether did, though I'm giving it a three-month trial period.
2) STRIBORG - Embittered Darkness/Isle De Morts CD
Embittered... is Striborg's brand new recording, and keeping in the Sin-Nanna tradition, sounds like it was recorded in a wind tunnel w/ a cassette player. Dig it, dig the "real" (as in, acoustic) drums and cherish those sublime passages of acoustic guitar and $20 keyboards. His best yet. Isle De Mort is an old LP from 1997 w/ the most garbage-level recording I've yet heard from a Black Metal outfit. Fucking ridiculous and not particularly good (even my low expectations for fidelity have a limit), though it's nice of the good folks at Southern Lord to tack something historical on for the fans. Speaking of Southern Lord, this very CD sports some handsome shrinkwrap and a barcoded top spine for the malls of America. On a Striborg CD. Anyone get that joke?
3) OM - Conference of the Birds LP
Every man and his dog demanded I buy this LP. After all, if Jesu's CD floated my boat to such a degree in '05 (and indeed it did: it was my fave "rock" album of last year), then OM are sure to be the winners of '06. I only bought this yesterday, so it's too early to tell. Initial reports are very positive. OM are two dudes from legendary San Fran doomsters, Sleep. They play bass and drums. OM possess the slow crawl of Sleep, though the music, I guess because of the ltd. make-up of the band, is given space to breathe and throws their sound much more into the "ambient/doom/drone" bracket inhabited by Jesu and their brethren. The vocals are totally Gilmour-damaged, with the bulk of this sounding a lot like a heavier, more abstract take on Saucerful of Secrets/More-period 'Floyd - and that's a good thing, by the way - though it possesses an awesome, meditative vibe which never out-stays its welcome yet doesn't feel the need to reach some sort of "conclusion" at the end of each song's 15-minute duration as if to rationalise its existence. It simply drifts. I like...
4) JOHN ZORN'S ELECTRIC MASADA - At The Mouth Of Madness 2CD
Bought this after reading various salivating reviews on the web which referenced such blessed cornerstone slabs as Live/Evil and Dark Magus in relation to the awe-inspiring sounds presented on this epic live 2CD set. "They" were right. This is flooring stuff. Zorn and co. must rate as the only band I've ever heard which successfully replicates the desperate sounds of Miles and co. circa 1972-'75. There's no dips into sleepy fusion, nor is this another excursion into that dreaded made-up genre known as "punk-jazz"; it is simply the most staggering recorded statement of blatantly Miles-influenced free-jazz/acid-funk/psych-punk (I could do this all day) I have encountered. Doubters, give it a try.
Back on a Pharoah trip. Given my recent Don Cherry/Alice Coltrane obsessions, it was a natural step to revisit my long-dormant Pharoah CDs which were gobbled up in that late, great Impulse feeding frenzy of the mid/late '90s. But let's not get too nostalgic... Karma, from 1969, is one of his best. The 32-minute opus which takes up the vast bulk of the LP, "The Creator Has A Master Plan", is the stuff of legend. A calvacade of fourth world chants, gongs, bells and vocalese interspersed with the occasional room-emptying squawls from Sanders, it's a masterful slice of bong-hit psychedelic jazz.