Monday, April 23, 2007

'Nuff said!

Monday, April 16, 2007

SLOVENLY - We Shoot For The Moon LP (SST/1989)

Sometimes All Music Guide gets it so wrong, it's embarrassing. Take, for example, this review of Slovenly's masterpiece, We Shoot For The Moon, by Dean Carlson:

"The Smoking Popes with a Gang Of Four fixation wasn't a bad idea, but Slovenly began to show that they didn't quite know where to take it. The album was back-heavy with "Things Fall Apart," a remarkable 20 minutes of crackbrained strings, whacked-out amelodic horns, and atmospheric Krautrock incoherence, and it cast a long shadow over the middling post-punk blues of the previous tracks. We Shoot for the Moon was largely uneventful. "You Cease to Amaze Me" was equal parts skeletal art punk and Guns 'n' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine," but boring, willfully obtuse, and cut short before it had a chance to come alive. A struggling, inconsistent step to the side."

Such a review only begs one question: was he actually listening to the right album? For the record, it must be stated that WSFTM does not sound anything like The Smoking Popes, Gang Of Four or, sheeeez, Guns 'n' Roses, though you could throw around such names as Captain Beefheart, The Fall, Red Krayola, Wire, Television, The Scene Is Now and, most certainly, early MX-80 Sound. In fact, if my memory is serving me correctly, the review in Forced Exposure at the time stated that its resemblance to MX-80's 1977 Island LP, Hard Attack, was almost uncanny, and such an observation is correct. Unlike Slovenly's previous efforts, which had a distinctly tight-assed Anglo post-punk aura to them, WSFTM is loose, sloppy, and surprisingly heavy metal-ish, in the classic '70s sense of the word. But it remains my favourite album of theirs, a disc I bought upon its release in 1989 and shall hang onto 'til death comes a-'knockin'.
Slovenly remain one of the most foolishly ignored '80s American underground bands by people who'd very likely dig their wares. OK, so their catalogue is all currently out of print, but those names I threw about just before - Television, The Fall et al - weren't just for show: Slovenly's three best LPs from the '80s - Thinking Of Empire, Riposte and We Shoot For The Moon - are required listening for fans of all of the above, really. Just thought I'd set the record straight after reading that incredibly stupid review in AMG. Case closed, now move along...


I've been corresponding w/ this fellow known as "Mrow" the last few months. It was he who first hooked me onto the genius of Ten East and their Extraterrestrial Highway LP/CD of last year (the finest rock album of 2006, don'tchya know), and now that he has his own blog, Pig State Recon, I'm voting him as the World's Best Newcomer (hey, there is about 10,000 new blogs a week) in the blog stakes for the last 7 days or so. Only one entry so far, which he originally emailed to me a few months back, but what an entry it is! And how thrilling and gratifying to find someone who's actually more psychotically enthusiastic and anally-retentive in his knowledge and appreciation for SST-related esoterica than I am! Well, depending on which side of the SST fence you reside on, the entry in question will either send you into a quick and easy coma or will have you frantically crawling the web in search of some Magnolia Thunderpussy and Across The River. You know which side I'm on!
Whilst you're doing some talent-scouting, why not check out Swedish Nurse, a cool new UK blog which has started off strongly by covering the likes of The Ex (w/ Getachew Mekuria) and Chris Corsano. I tells ya, I think this blogging thing may just be catching on.
See that picture above? Recognise anyone? Last week was a particularly curious one for various members of the Melbourne Avant-Monkey/Noise-Wank Music Mafia. Y' see, everyone's fave band of white-boy funkateers, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, hit town. Now, I'd rather have my eardrums jabbed out w/ a red-hot poker than sit through a disc or concert of theirs, but it appears that certain members of the band have far more adventurous, and, uh, avant-garde taste in music than their own would have you believe. The photographed person in question is none other than internationally renowned experimental musician and legend-in-his-own-lunchtime avant-journeyman, nice guy and Melbourne resident, Oren Ambarchi, grooving it out on stage w/ the 'Peppers at the Myer Music Bowl (note to foreigners: MMB = big outdoor Melbourne arena), at the request of the band. Seems that 'Peppers axe-slinger John Frusciante thinks the world of Ambarchi and personally requested that he join the band for an arena-clearing noise jam at their show last week. And for that, I say good on him. That does indeed prove my theory that the nicest guys always play in the lamest bands. Now, Oren, you gonna be waiting by the phone next time Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd hit town?
To add a little bit more weirdness to the proceedings, I ask that you read this article. Mr. Frusciante ingratiated himself just a little further w/ Melbourne's avant-guardians by visiting his fave record shop in the world on his visit and buying up big. That is, the now-defunct Synaesthesia, which was run by my good buddy Mark Harwood, a man who left these shores just last Wednesday for the sunshine and smiles of The Mother Country, England. Mark and I are so tight our friendship even survived myself working in his store for a six-month stint some 4 years ago, so I wish him well. Say what you will about the RHCP and their candy-assed funk-rock nonsense, they sure know how to leave even the most hardened of elitist noise snobs reeling in their wake!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Back in action. Got half an hour to kill, so let's see if I can rip out a handful of brief reviews before I summonsed back for duties...

EVERLY BROTHERS - Roots CD (Collector's Choice)
Still on an Everlys kick... This is their "comeback" record from '68, in which they attempted to ingratiate themselves w/ The Kids and make a vaguely (and I do mean "vaguely") psych-tinged country-rock type-a deal. Covering old songs "their Daddy taught them" (like their infamous '50s LP of the same name), they rip through a bunch of covers by the likes of Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Jimmy Rodgers, George Jones and even Randy Newman. Unlike many other '50s survivors, they didn't embarrass themselves in the process of "reinvention". An excellent piece of work, and if you, like me, worship at the altar of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, then this is a logical purchase for next time.

THE CRAMPS - All Tore Up LP (revisited Records/boot)
Jay Hinman wrote all about this here, and soon after reading that piece from late last year, I trawled eBay and managed to scoop myself a copy from Germany for US$15. Some people - even Jay himself - hail this as perhaps the best Cramps disc there ever was. Otherwise known as "The Ohio Demos", ATU features a whole bunch of tracks from their first two LPs - Songs The Lord Taught Us and Psychedelic Jungle - some in rather different forms. Funny to think that their demo material from early in their career actually sounds a whole lot cleaner and punchier than their proper studio efforts. As for whether this is better than STLTU or Off The Bone... that's spllitting hairs: this is a good 'un.

BILL SHANKLY - Demo 2007 cassette
Time to party like it's 1982 all over again. I'm usually loathe to review close friends' artistic pursuits, but since I was impressed by the bulk of this months ago when I heard it at the singer's house, and have only just received it in the mail for "review purposes" ( I assume), I figure I'm safe to give it a positive review w/ no fears of nepotism accusations. Bill Shankly - named after the Liverpool Football Club's coach, I think - are a new Melbourne HC outfit comprising of various men in their mid 30s. Their cassette sounds like they haven't seen daylight since Dischord went "emo" some time back in the mid '80s. It has nine songs, two of which are covers: Minor Threat's self-titled number and Negative Approach's "Pressure". The singer - let's call him "Danny" - also happens to have body tattoos featuring the likes of Void and Minor Threat. That should give you a good impression of where the band's head is at. More to the point, they do their schtick awfully well. It's a punchy as fuck screamfest which is over just after it starts. If this was released by Touch & Go in 1981 in an edition of 200, you'd probably be skipping 2 months rent to get the original on eBay. Nice work, kids, now it's time to get the show on the road.

VARIOUS - Loch Ness Monster CD (Trojan)
A frighteningly good collection of "skinhead reggae" from 1970, or, perhaps I should say, this is a reissue of a 1970 skinhead reggae compilation from that year. Skinhead reggae? Don't ask. I'm not clever enough to fully split hairs w/ genres here, but I'm assuming that skinhead reggae was simply a brand of reggae baldies at the time in the UK happened to dig. It ain't DJ/dub style, and it's not pure rocksteady, but somewhere in between. What makes Loch Ness Monster stand out from the zillion other reggae comps orbiting the planet is the horror-themed nature of some of the cuts, w/ songs like the opener, "Loch Ness Monster" by King Horror, "The Vampire" by The Upsetters and "Dracula Prince of Darkness", along w/ the eccentricity of many of the bonus cuts ("Ghost Chicken", "Electric Shock", etc.). There's some weird stuff here, lots of yelping and screaming, so much so I'm surprised the bovver boys of Merry Ol' England gave this the time of day, let alone actively embraced it.

THROBBING GRISTLE - Heathen Earth CD (Mute)
TG's best work, all recorded on Saturday the 16th of February 1980, between 8.10PM and 9.00PM. One take in a studio w/ fifteen friends (including writer Jon Savage, who penned the sleeve notes) in attendance. TG may've been a conceptually brilliant group, all snarls and nastiness, but their music wasn't always as brilliant as the band looked in photos. The crown in that regards goes to Cabaret Voltaire, or at least their flawless first two albums. CV didn't quite have the photo ops, but they had the musical chops. TG did some fine stuff, sure, especially their first two LPs (Second Annual Report and D.O.A.: Third And Final Report), though they still sound like a series of sketches slapped together to show the world there was more to TG than performance art. Mind you, they're pretty good sketches. But Heathen Earth comes together like TG actually cared at one point about penning a tune. The band was given a basic outline to follow in their improvisation, like any other unit: start slow, build up and keep momentum then conclude at the 50-minute mark. Good-time droney electro-noise like they used to, Heathen Earth was an experiment pulled off successfully.