Monday, May 28, 2007

THE NECKS - Hanging Gardens CD (Fish Of Milk/1999)
Somehow, in my fit of Necks enthusiasm of the last few years, this one slipped me by. Heard it at a friend's place a week or two back, shuddered at the thought that Another Great Necks Album had evaded my eagle eye, and rectified the situation, pronto. This is an odd one, but a good one. But then again, describing a Necks album as "odd" means so little you need not even open your mouth to say it. No two Necks albums sound the same. They're a unit constantly changing and transforming themselves into something new. What makes this one so odd is that it was recorded way back in 1996, with additional music added on in 1999. The notes don't tell you what was actually "added" three years later, but I'll take a guess and say it was likely Chris Abrahams' cosmic keyboard work c/o his Hammond and Rhodes noted in the credits. I only say this because I used to see The Necks a bit 'round the '96/'97 period and they sounded nothing like this (they were purely acoustic). Hanging Gardens comes across like Miles' In A Silent Way LP stuck on 45 w/ a Jaki Liebezeit drum track played over the top. Tony Buck's percussion is fast, tight and rock-like, whilst Abrahams swooshes and whirls throughout, with acoustic piano creeping in slow, ascending lines like a Morricone spaghetti western theme. One track: 60 minutes. Speaking of great musical runs, The Necks - the best currently operational musical unit in Australia - haven't played a note out of place for a long time now: the pure genius runs from Hanging Gardens through to Aether, Drive-By, Mosquito/See Through and last year's The Chemist. That's a healthy stretch of greatness. Hey, I'll stop rattling on about this band when you've bought 'em all!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

THE BYRDS... The Great American band of the 1960s?

Well, frankly, yes! In a never-ending pursuit to keep ourselves amused throughout the workday, my working colleague and I have attempted to answer such a question: Who were The Great American Band Of The 1960s? Who gave the world a catalogue of great depth and breadth? Who pioneered? Who influenced many who followed? Who spewed forth a bevy of sounds which bespoke a certain A-grade consistency? My workmate did not hesitate and spluttered forth but three words: Creedence Clearwater Revival. He may just have a point: the first 5 albums - all spat out within a four-year time frame, are pure genius, though their oft-hailed meisterwerk, Cosmo's Factory (my fave is its predecessor, Willie And The Poor Boys), was released in 1970, and for some reason I still consider CCR as more of a '70s outfit. So, we threw a few more names about: Velvets, The Doors, Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band.... but I settled on one: The Byrds. There's that 5-year, 6-album run you can't ignore: Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, 5th Dimension, Younger Than Yesterday, The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, a catalogue which sees them effortlessly transforming and metamorphising from folk-rock through to psychedelia through to cosmic-rock right on through to country-rock. That's a whole lot of hyphens and a whole lot of good music.

The can of worms was opened and then shut again, if only because there was work to be done and we realised we could waste time and discuss this kind of anal-retentive bulltwang 'til the company goes bankrupt. But then I lay awake at night, pondering....: who was The Great British Band Of The 1960s? Was it The Beatles or The 'Stones? And what about the '70s and '80s? Was the Amercian contingent a battle between the Stooges and Ramones? Did the British counterpart have to be a band post-'76? I mean, Never Mind The Bollocks is one of the greatest albums ever made, but it's still just one album. The Sex Pistols changed British music forever, but where's the 5-album run to brag about? What about pre-punk? Led Zep's output from 1970-'75 is pretty near flawless, though their actual influence - think of the millions of bozos who actually like them - has been largely negative. And the '80s? A Black Flag/Minutemen split. No contest there. But Ol' Blighty? Did they actually have any rock bands in the '80s? I'm giving it to The Fall: 1980-'86 was their peak. You see, that's why I have this blog: to air these kinds of important issues to the public.

Monday, May 21, 2007

One of the greatest albums ever recorded, Y by THE POP GROUP, has finally received a long overdue proper CD reissue in the West (there is an expensive Japanese version available), c/o Rhino. There's a link to it here at Amazon UK, though I'd prefer you support the Mom 'n' Pop stores, ya dig? Now there's no excuse not to own it! Wanna read a half-arsed article on the band? Try here...


A general shout-out here in appreciation of the man. Kimbrough was one of my fave musos back in the '90s, and I've decided to re-visit his music once again after getting the urge from his inclusion on the Iggy-curated CD I got free w/ a recent issue of MOJO mag. You may've heard Kimbrough's story before: born in Mississippi in 1930, he was a pivotal influence on pioneering rockabilly god, Charlie Feathers (they can be heard playing together on the unbelievably good Feathers 2CD on Revenant, Get With It), though never really attempted any type of "professional" career in music - outside of playing local juke joints - until the late '80s when he was discovered by one of my favourite music writers, Rober Palmer (his Village Voice article on Black Flag from 1985 is one of the most intelligent pieces ever written on the band). Signing to Fat Possum, home to the equally celebrated RL Burnside, he went on to release four studio albums over the next six years on the label: All Night Long, Sad Days Lonely Nights, Most Things Haven't Worked Out and Gods Knows I Tried.
Although often lumped in the same basket as his compadre Burnside, Kimbrough's style is one-of-a-kind. Unlike Burnside - whose music I like OK, though it never set my world on fire - Kimbrough doesn't have a rough, hopped-up take on modern(-ish) electric blues a la Hound Dog Taylor and his ilk. Kimbrough's is meditative, trance-like and truly minimalist. Whilst I'm here, I'll throw in the term "modal". Y' know, I'm pretty sure a rock crit or two threw phrases around such as "Kimbrough is the Velvet Underground of contemporary blues" at the time. Now that sounds like someone's drawing a long bow, but whoever said it was correct. Many songs - some without any percussive beat whatsoever - feature three-note guitar rhythms which don't stray an inch for over 5-minute durations, much like a hypnotic tape loop. Awesome.
Kimbrough earned himself quite a cult following w/ the rock hipsters and even sold a fair few records during the last decade of his life, with big-note fans like Iggy and fucking Bono(!!!) singing his praises from the sideline, and just when he was starting to make a decent living for his family (and his "family" apparently consisted of 36 children to 9 different women!!) he upped and died in '98. Still, there's a hot legacy of tuneage for the tuned-in left behind, and no matter what All Music Guide says (and no, I have nothing against AMG: I dig it a lot, but just happen to disagree w/ many of its writers' opinions), every one of those Fat Possum platters is well worth grabbing your mits around. I stumbled on the guy's music back in '96 or '7 when I was working for Fat Possum's distributor down here, went quietly nuts over the man and have held his records close ever since. Any fan of primo-era Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker or, as I've noted, the primitive trance-rock of VU or even Spacemen 3's rougher material, will find much of worth in the output of the man known as Junior Kimbrough. Vale!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wow! One could waste a lifetime on this thing called "the internet". Two great bands from the last 20 years whom I will gladly waste breath singing the praises of: Dog Faced Hermans and the Stretchheads. You can check out the former here and the latter here. Ass-kickin' goodness!

Whilst you're at it, Mrow over at Pig State Recon has struck gold once again. He's managed to dig up the "SWA Defense Piece" from oblivion (originally printed in the now-defunct comments box at Agony Shorthand many a moon ago) and give it a second airing. It is, naturally, well worth reading, and may just rate as some of the most sublime music journalism you will ever encounter. I pulled out my copy of SWA's Evolution 1985-87 CD as a perfect soundtrack to accompany my reading.

More posting soon....

Monday, May 14, 2007


OK, I done it, I did it: I've composed my list of 100 Albums Which Changed My Piddly Life. Well, this wasn't such a stretch of a task, since I listed my Top 50 a few years back, then a subsequent "25 Albums Which Should've Made It" list about a year thereafter, so all's I had to do was throw another 25 on the pile and you've got a cool 100 to waste some time with. When I first printed my Top 50 back in, say, was it 2004?, one gent commented and said something to the effect that the list was so unrelentingly "hip" with its head placed firmly up its own backside as to be somewhat laughable. It was seen, I guess, as simply a name-dropping excercise in cool. Whatever! Sometimes a bloggin' man simply can't win. Such was the case when Jay Hinman printed his Top 100 list some time ago, only to be shot down by the hipster cognescenti for listing such "obvious" titles by the likes of Die Kreuzen and the Flesh Eaters. You know, all the kids are talkin' about 'em! Well, mine is a combination of the "hip" (Yoko Ono, Pharoah Sanders, Amon Duul, Swans) and the vaguely dorky (Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, Van Morrison, Led Zep, The Band), and that mix also happens to perfectly reflect what I listen to. Fact is, 90% of the releases herein you could order over the 'net in a heartbeat, so no one should accuse me of being too obscure, but let's drop the pre-emptive defense manouvres and get on with the show!
No particular order here, and for some reason I decided that a band/artist is not allowed multiple entries. Crazee or what?!

99) ALICE COLTRANE - A Monastic Trio LP
98) THE BAND - s/t LP
97) SLOVENLY - We Shoot For The Moon LP
96) THE NECKS - Drive-By CD
95) fIREHOSE - Ragin, Full-On LP
94) DON CHERRY - Orient 2LP
93) THE CRAMPS - Songs The Lord Taught Us LP
92) LED ZEPPELIN - Physical Grafitti 2LP
91) SUICIDE - s/t LP
88) LOU REED - Berlin LP
87) WIRE - Chairs Missing LP
86) AMON DUUL 2 - Yeti 2LP
85) DAWSON - How To Follow So That Others Will Willingly Lead LP
84) VAN MORRISON - Veedon Fleece LP
83) REDD KROSS - Neurotica LP
82) BIG YOUTH - Screaming Target LP
80) DEAD KENNEDYS - Plastic Surgery Disasters LP
79) SWANS - Cop LP
78) CURRENT 93 - Thunder Perfect Mind CD
77) YOKO ONO - Fly 2LP
76) SPACEMEN 3 - The Perfect Prescription LP
75) RESIDENTS – Not Available LP
74) AC/DC – Back In Black LP
73) TOWNES VAN ZANDT – First Album LP
72) BIRTHDAY PARTY – Junkyard LP
70) THE FALL – Hex Enduction Hour LP
69) THE BYRDS – Younger Than Yesterday LP
68) NAKED CITY – Torture Garden LP
67) AMON DUUL – Disaster 2LP
66) BIG STAR - #1 Record LP
65) BAD BRAINS – Rock For Light LP
63) TIM BUCKLEY – Live at the Troubadour 2CD
62) PATTI SMITH – Radio Ethiopia LP
61) MAGMA - Kohntarkosz LP
60) JOY DIVISION – Unknown Pleasures LP
59) THE KINKS – The Village Green Preservation Society LP
58) JOHN CALE – Paris 1919 LP
55) ORNETTE COLEMAN – Science Fiction LP
54) NIRVANA – Nevermind LP
53) TELEVISION – Marquee Moon LP
52) HUSKER DU – Zen Arcade 2LP
51) THE SAINTS – Eternally Yours LP
50) THE SCENE IS NOW – Tonight We Ride LP
49) BONGWATER – Double Bummer 2LP
48) HAWKWIND – Space Ritual 2LP
47) JOHN MARTYN – Inside Out LP
46) MERZBOW – Music For Bondage Performance CD
45) GERMS – (GI) LP
44) BRIAN ENO – Apollo LP
43) THE BEATLES – The White Album 2LP
42) ROBERT WYATT – Old Rottenhat LP
41) VELVET UNDERGROUND - Velvet Underground w/ Nico LP
40) MINUTEMEN – Double Nickels on the Dime 2LP
39) SEX PISTOLS – Never Mind the Bollocks LP
38) BOB DYLAN – Blood on the Tracks LP
37) CAN – Tago Mago 2LP
36) LOVE – Forever Changes LP
35) ELECTRIC EELS – God Says Fuck You CD
34) ROLLING STONES – Beggars Banquet LP
33) FLIPPER – Public Flipper Ltd. 2LP
31) JOHN COLTRANE – Live in Seattle 2LP
30) DIE KREUZEN – Century Days LP
28) MILES DAVIS – Get Up With It 2LP
27) NEIL YOUNG – On the Beach LP
26) BLACK SABBATH – Master of Reality LP
25) CHARLES MINGUS – Black Saint and the Sinner Lady LP
24) STOOGES – Funhouse LP
23) MEAT PUPPETS – Up On The Sun LP
22) FAUST – The Faust Tapes LP
21) JOHN FAHEY – Days Gone By Vol. 6 LP
20) HOWLIN’ WOLF – Moanin’ in the Moonlight LP
19) VARIOUS – Nuggets 4-CD box set >
18) SUN RA – Space is the Place soundtrack CD
17) MC5 – High Time LP
16) MX-80 SOUND – Out of the Tunnel LP
15) PUBLIC IMAGE LTD. – Metal Box/Second Edition 3X12”/2LP
14) HALF JAPANESE – Charmed Life LP
13) CHROME – Alien Soundtracks LP
12) 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS – Easter Everywhere LP
11) ALBERT AYLER – Lorrach Paris 1966 2LP
10) CAPTAIN BEEFHEART – Trout Mask Replica 2LP
9) BLACK FLAG – Damaged LP
8) FUNKADELIC – Maggot Brain LP
7) PERE UBU – Dub Housing LP
4) RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON – I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight LP
3) SONIC YOUTH – Sister LP
2) THE WIPERS – Follow Blind LP
1) VARIOUS – Anthology of American Folk Music 6-CD box set

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Just a quick one...
My fave new music blogger of the year has done it again. Check out Mrow at Pig State Recon's trip down memory lane as he discusses how truly awful the '80s were for a lot of '60s British Invasion survivors. A hoot! Here's a choice quote: "(Roger) Daltrey cut his hair and started dressing just like David Hasselhoff on Knight Rider."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sleep deprivation and heavy nappy-changing schedules have kept me from my blogging duties of late, for which I apologise to all half-dozen people on earth who care. You'll see I've put a rather lousy image of Clinton Heylin's recently-released Babylon's Burning book to the left there, which I guess means I'll give it a brief review.

The first I heard of it was actually via The Weekend Australian, which reprinted a review from the Guardian that was heavy on the praise but also equally heavy on general cluelessness on behalf of the reviewer. Still, it's a book on punk rock, and penned by the commendable Clinton Heylin, who also wrote/edited the rather excellent From The Velvets To The Voidoids, so I was willing to shell out the big bucks for the hardcover version upon release. I finished said book a fortnight ago. Verdict? Another book on punk rock to add to the pile.

Heylin, an Englishman w/ many of the prejudices such a predicament brings, at least had the good sense to either completely ignore or simply not to repeat too much of what he already covered in his From The Velvets... compendium. In other words, the Velvet Underground are barely even mentioned, and not too many words are wasted on the likes of Patti Smith and the ins and outs of the Rocket From The Tombs/Pere Ubu family tree. All great (and important) music, of course, but it's been covered elsewhere. The book starts somewhere round the formation of the CBGBs scene, centering on the adventures of Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell, Alan Vega and various 'Dolls, and then heads east to mid '70s London and the various future camps which made up the likes of the 'Pistols, Damned, Clash, etc. Again, covering any of this is a risky move at this juncture, somewhat also irrelevant after Heylin's previous book and Jon Savage's definitive England's Dreaming, though I was glad to see Heylin take things from a different perspective.

For one, he gives The Clash a hiding for their bogus and entirely insincere rad politics (not to mention their boring music, which also gets a mention), heaps praise on the wonderful Buzzcocks (who come out of BB looking like heroes, both musically and personally) and even dedicates ample room to documenting the UK's pub-rock circuit which, dull as 99% of that music was (Ducks Deluxe, anyone?), it did give punk a helpful springboard and a few more venues to perform in. Heylin's criticisms of the 'Pistols' post-Matlock numbers such as "Bodies" and "Holidays In The Sun" are completely off the mark, though that's a matter of taste. All in all, his coverage of UK punk ca. 1976-1980, right up until the last commercial gasps c/o the Ruts, Stiff Little Fingers and the Undertones (note: Heylin is covering "punk" of the Pistolean vein, not "post-punk") is certainly better than most.

Unfortunately, as an Englishman, he goes a little off the rails when it comes to dealing w/ American hardcore and its fallout. I can't speak for the man and don't personally know Heylin or his musical background that well, but I got a distinct feeling, whilst reading the second half of BB, that Heylin never actually listened to any American hardcore punk of note as it was happening. The late '70s Masque/Mabuhay scene is documented adequately (though I'd recommend Brendan Mullen and Marc Spitz's We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story Of LA Punk for the full[er] overview), but things seem to fall apart once the Californian and DC scenes explode. I mean, I may be wrong, but after putting the book down upon the final chapter, I began to sense that Heylin didn't even like a whole lot of the music he was covering. More than that, he discussed little of the music and a whole lot of hoo-ha surrounding the violence and politics of the HC movement. All fine and good, but the only reason the likes of Black Flag or Minor Threat are of any interest to people in the year 2007 is because they made excellent music. Heylin doesn't seem that interested.

A lot of this book's material has been covered elsewhere before: From The Velvets..., England's Dreaming, Our Band Could Be Your Life, Rip It Up And Start Again, American Hardcore, We Got The Neutron Bomb, etc. It's getting to the point where I could pick out a quote from BB and instantly know the interview/source material it was taken from, though Heylin has taken enough left turns to keep it interesting right up to the final page. Jason and the Scorchers anyone? The Long Ryders? Lone Justice?! An entire chapter or more is dedicated to these outfits, and believe you me, I, too, was scratching my head in confusion as to why on earth Heylin decided to waste a portion of his readers' lives detailing such irrelevancies. That was, until I read the following chapter which dealt w/ the SST and Dischord scenes and then wrapped it up as a contrast to the previous chapter: there were two roads for post-punk America to take in the '80s - DIY or the major-label dump site. Am I glad he bothered? I think so.

The verdict once again? I read it in a flash, so I figure I enjoyed it. Heylin is no punk rock literate a la Jon Savage, though his breezy, conversational style is a cinch to read, there's still some previously unheard juicy gossip floating throughout and he gets major kudos for giving the Saints, Radio Birdman and the Birthday Party due credit in the punk rock pantheon. As a last note I will add that it needs a fact checker, and I'm hoping the paperback version gets a once-over from someone else, since the Gun Club's Miami was not released on Slash, Husker Du released two more LPs on SST after Zen Arcade and Chuck Dukowski's pre/post-'Flag outfit was Wurm, not Worm. And I don't know how to put umlauts in text.


1) KRAMER - The Guilt Trip 2CD

2) ZZ TOP - Tres Hombres CD

3) BLACK FLAG - The Process Of Weeding Out 12"


5) SEEDS - Web Of Sound LP

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Melbourne: The Jazz Capitol Of The Universe

How many mistakes can one possibly make in such a brief article? This is taken from the weekend's edition of The Age newspaper, and I get a feeling the writer was confused by the fact that both McCoy Tyner and Pharoah Sanders - both ex-Coltrane alumni - were playing on the one bill, so he/she decided to simply morph them into the one person.