Saturday, April 26, 2008

Good news for folks in Melbourne on May 18th: UK sound artist Philip Jeck plays a show at the Toff In Town. I've written briefly about Jeck in these pages before, though that was years back and (I think) just a brief description... so here's another! Jeck has been around since the early '80s, and was one of the first on the block (in the UK, at least) to get on vinyl-scratching bandwagon. Although often compared to the likes of John Oswald, David Shea and Christian Marclay, his music is quite different in approach, and, for me, much more palatable. Essentially, what makes Jeck different is that his music doesn't sound like someone merely using vinyl LPs as source material. It's not a postmodern mix-up with voices and sound-bytes coming in and out - a sound I find to be, well, more than a little annoying and dated - but rather his music sounds composed and fully realised. He's got a bunch of albums out on various labels from the last 15 years, though the only ones I've been exposed to are three on the Touch label: '99's Surf, 2002's Stoke and 2003's 7. For myself, and others, Surf remains the jewel in his crown. It's a perfectly realised excercise in controlled sound, a brilliant combination of creepy atmospherics, driving industrial soundscapes and bongo-driven beats. I can't imagine anyone who's a fan of early Cabaret Voltaire, Sunn O))) or Suicide not liking this. And whilst I'm not exactly expecting a stage and concert spectacular to rival Andre Rieu or Kiss's Destroyer tour, I'll be there front and centre to hear the sounds wash over me. I like this guy a lot.

Hats off to the world's most ridiculous metal video clip. Here's a doozy from hardcore/metal/noise/doom merchants and Southern Lord recording stars, Lair Of The Minotaur. The band is OK 'n' all, kinda like a B-grade Celtic Frost, though in this very clip ye shall find: swords 'n' sandles, decapitations, buckets of blood and hot naked chicks engaging in cannibalism. Couldn't ask for more!
REPLACEMENTS - Tim LP (Sire/1985)
Funny I should be talking about this 'un. I've never been much of a Replacements cheerleader as such. Just too damn inconsistent for my liking, and to me they always straddled the border of punk- and bar-rock all too closely. As a rock 'n' roll band, they had some really neat-o New York Dolls/'Stones/Heartbreakers moves under their belt, though (in their early days) they didn't amount to much more than a B-grade hardcore act who hastened the pace w/ occasional boozy ballads which struck me as too quaint and "heartland" for my stomach. Still, there are others who would (violently) disagree and all this negativity certainly doesn't wipe 'em out as a band not worthy of consideration, coz here's a record I really like. Tim was their debut for a major - a huge cultural leap at the time - and you can read what I wrote about Husker Du recently for a vague rundown on the cultural vaccuum "indie" bands who jumped ship to the big boys in the '80s felt. It was like a goddamn leap into the abyss, and as was the case w/ Husker Du, it really didn't pay off too well. The band trundled along w/ respectable but minimal sales (for major standards), before limping off into the stratosphere at the dawn of the '90s as a fairly washed up (and horrendously cheesy) act whose best days were behind 'em. I can't blame the band: wrong place, wrong time. If they were starting out today they'd probably be the "New Rock" act on everyone's lips and make a zillion dollars. In their hey-day - the mid '80s - they were caught between the college-rock crowd and the punkers, and they never really clicked w/ either. But anyway, there's Tim. This is a pretty slick effort, but one must understand that in between punishing my eardrums w/ room-clearing noise which appeals to very few people on earth, I still like a good rock 'n' roll tune, and Tim hits the spot. It's the Replacements' most consistent album, easy, and despite the mersh nature of some of its tuneage, the depth of songwriting still holds it up as the only Replacements album I ever still bother to play. For starters, it features the best Replacements song there is - "Left Of The Dial" - a song so popular it's inspired magazines, radio shows and Rhino box sets after its name. It's the kinda rock anthem they oughta play during sports games, or perhaps during tender moments in John Cusack films. The ultimate New Wave heart-starter, to these ears it brings to mind The Boss singing for the Only Ones, and whilst that hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement (even though I like both!), the hooks, breakdowns and rollicking leaps back into the verse make it a song which will tap the feet of even the biggest cynic (which ain't me, believe it or not). There's some other non-hits which are up to the same standard: "Hold My Life", "Bastards Of Young", "Little Mascara"; and a few slow numbers you can dance with your partner to: "Here Comes A Regular" and "Kiss Me On The Bus". It's all very bloody good. If I had to omit one track, I'd make it "Dose Of Thunder", a bombastic thud which unfortunately shows the Kiss-like tendencies the band occasionally lapsed into (they abominated "Black Diamond" on '84's Let It Be). I know of people who still think the Replacements were the great American band of the '80s. Me, I wouldn't even put 'em in the race, though Tim is certainly worth the trouble and then some.

Friday, April 25, 2008

That pic above is from the front cover of the new TEN EAST album, to be released in a couple of weeks. Entitled The Robot's Guide To Freedom, it'll knock yer head off. Totally 'Flag damaged instrumental rock of the highest calibre, it is the 'Flag/Beefheart/Ventures/Meat Puppets/'Sabbath/King Crimson combo you've been waiting your whole life for. It's a goddamn honour to be releasing such a fine platter, and I only hope it manages to find the audience it deserves. And that's not just for hip-pocket reasons, but because it is a grand statement from one of the world's finest outfits. And I'd say that even if I wasn't the guy releasing it. I've just inked a new distribution deal w/ Forced Exposure in the US, so hopefully all you Yanks will be able to find it on the corner store or online or wherever. As long as it gets out there, I'm pleased. With the monumental line-up of Gary Arce, Mario Lalli, Bryan Giles (from Last Of The Juanitas/Red Fang, two great bands I'll be writing about soon, I hope), Bill Stinson and special guests Scott Reeder and Greg Ginn on bass and guitar, respectively, this baby is something I feel a certain amount of pride for, and I didn't play a damn note on it. You can hear some tracks here, if you please. Out mid May, and touring here in August.
I caught a new local band last night at the Tote who blew my head off: BEACHES. Three people had mentioned them to me in the last fortnight: a taste-making buddy who swore by their greatness; another friend who runs a local label and was miffed that someone else had them sign on the dotted line before he got a chance (and they've only played half a dozen gigs!); and the owners of that very label who did grab 'em, Mistletone. Beaches are five young (I'm guessing early 20s: that's young by my standards) ladies, some of whom are in the much-loved/loathed 'Trux wannabes, Spider Vomit. The line-up is bass and drums and three - count 'em: three - guitarists, with two or three of the members sharing vocals. The sound is difficult to pinpoint. Throughout the set I heard bits of early Meat Puppets, Neurotica-period Redd Kross, Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, way-early Sonic Youth, Dick Dale and, err, Ten East (really!); a unique combo of almost trashy, Redd Kross/Runaways-style rock, combined w/ smarty-pants art-rock (especially the amazing guitar interplay a-happenin') and monumental stoner/boogie/space riffs which catch an awesome groove and ride along with a plethora of six-string wankery I do have a weakness for. I try to keep this blog away from being a hype machine about bands which may end up going nowhere - the prediction of 1995 that Refrigerator will soon dominate the world still haunts me - though judging by the audience reaction Beaches received last night, I figure I'm not the only putz in town who thinks they're onto really something good. It doesn't happen often, but my socks were knocked firmly off.
You heard of the band from yesteryear, MOFUNGO? Probably not. They mighta been a glitch on your radar back in the '80s; they did, after all, have a bunch of albums on heavy-hitting imprints like Lost/Twin Tone and SST, though they've mostly been lost to history. More's the pity. I revisited some of their finer platters this past week and they stand the test of time more than adequately. A NY post-No Wave mob w/ ties to The Scene Is Now and one Mr. Elliott Sharp as a member (egghead avant-guitar vet who's linked a lot of Tzadik goings-on), they released a series of albums such Messenger Dogs Of The Gods (1986), End Of The World, Part 2 (1987), Bugged (1988) and Work (1989) which rate as primo NY skronk-rock w/ a heavy politico bent. There's elements of The Scene Is Now's genre-bending and obscurantist songwriting, though they're also coaxed along by Sharp's squawling guitars and a super-heavy political angle (and believe me, hearing songs about Ollie North, The Contras and Ronnie Reagan almost has a quaint glow of nostalgia at this point in history). As with like-minded outfits, Slovenly and The Scene Is Now, the deadpan vocals are either gonna wash over you or stick in your craw, though I think they only add to the ruly offbeat nature of Mofungo's tunes. I bought these for a few bucks a piece at the dawn of the ' 90s when a lot of this kinda stuff (ie. second-string bands of the '80s on labels such as Homestead, Touch & Go, Twin Tone, SST, etc.) was getting dumped in Au-go-go en masse at bargain prices as "Grunge" hit big and the world got swamped by even more killer outfits such as Pond and Hammerhead. And so the bargain-bin cycle starts once more...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DARK TOOTH ENCOUNTER - Soft Monsters CD (Lexicon Devil/2008)
Too busy doing this stuff to really dedicate time to the blog of late. Long weekend coming up... who knows what will happen? In the meantime, there's this, the new release on Lexicon Devil, which will be out on May 1st. The new Ten East CD, The Robot's Guide To Freedom, with an Arce/Lalli/Stinson/Giles/Reeder/Ginn line-up, will be out May 10th. DTE are Gary and Bill from Ten East, with a totally different approach. On most of the 7 tracks, they're joined by Mario Lalli and Scott Reeder. A truly studio creation, if you dig the sounds of the Meat Puppets, '70s Eno, Pell Mell, Yawning Man or Sonic Youth before they blew, you'll dig these sounds. It is fuggin' ace. The label's web site will have more info in a couple of days.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A good night had by all...
I've barely scratched the outer surface the last 6 months. Dogged by ill health (that pesky viral infection that hospitalised me late last year has long overstayed its eviction notice but fails to leave my body) and restrained by life's responsibilities, my gig-going has been somewhat minimal. I did, however, manage to make it out last Saturday night for that wonderful set of performances shown above, and I was a man impressed. Whilst my head has been stuck firmly in the sand, there appears to've been a particular "scene" a-brewing in Melbourne, one which claims equal inspiration from the likes of Flipper, Anal Cunt, Burzum, Whitehouse, Sunn O))), Void and various other anti-social low-lifes. And whilst you might consider such a grab-bag of sounds to equal nothing but a major downer, one couldn't be further from the truth. This is some fun shit, a really lively grouping of scum/punk/noise/doom/grind/kill/metal sounds, and I witnessed some of the best of 'em.
Pissbolt - best band name ever, and one which anyone not hailing from Australia will likely not comprehend its meaning - are a 3-piece vocals/guitar/drums unit w/ Dad They Broke Me folks who belt out a mean and unrelenting din in the crossworlds of Burzum and Discharge, and their drummer's flailing arms left me goggle-eyed as I witnessed his limbs turn into a blur throughout their set. Collapsed Toilet Vietnam are a new-ish 4-piece featuring veterans from other bands like True Radical Miracle, Whitehorse, Grey Daturas and literally dozens of others who hammer out an absurd, grunting din which sounds like Half Japanese or the Happy Flowers playing Drunks With Guns' first LP. Primitive shit-rock with a beat you can almost dance to. I like their style. There will soon be a split cassette release from CTV and Pissbolt. Yes, a cassette. Pathetic Human I had actually witnessed the week previous at an all-ages afternoon show held upstairs at Fitzroy Bowls Club. You heard me right. I attended an afternoon all-ages hardcore bill at an inner-suburban lawn-bowls club. You can't say I don't like to get out and enjoy myself on occasion. The gentleman working the door jokingly asked if I was there to pick up my son. Nice one. People said I'd like Pathetic Human. I did. So much so, I knew I had to see 'em again. Don't know too much about who they are or where they came from. They look like four young subruban layabouts who like to pull bongs and spin early '80s HC platters from the US of A, and if I'm wrong, I apologise. With a sax player on a couple of tracks, my estimation was that they were caught between the out-of-control HC breakout of Void and the dirges of primo Flipper. Someone told me they were copping moves from Siege. You can split the hairs where you please. They are a dynamite outfit you'll be hearing a lot more from them. They've got songs with real riffs you can take a bite out of. Coming from them soon is a - gulp - cassette-only release, and whilst I appreciate the luddite charm of this ancient sound form, I also feel that it is my duty to inform the people involved that many stereo systems these days don't even feature cassette-playing capabilities, cappice? Some of these sounds can be heard on local labels such as Sabbatical, Stained Circles and Sweat Lung - you got me: they're all owned and operated by friends of mine, but that's not why I'm writing this - and so if you foreigners are under any impression that good Australian rock music stopped dead in its tracks once Dog Meat closed shop, then you're doing yourself a disservice in not giving them an earful.
Speaking of sabbaticals, I try to leave at least one entry per week here, but I can't make any promises for the immediate future. In between juggling full-time work and domestic life, as well as working on new releases by Dark Tooth Encounter, Ten East (plus an Australian tour for August), Castings and three The Scene Is Now reissues, this music thing is just killing me right now. I need a break.

Friday, April 04, 2008

HUSKER DU on Good Company April 1986
If you look up Husker Du on YouTube these days, you'll notice a plethora of goodies: live in 1980/'81, lots of SST-era footage and interviews, and most of all, a whole bunch of stuff from their Warner period when they were obviously being pushed by the label onto every possible avenue of exposure for the band, and that included cheezy daytime chat shows designed for valium-popping housewives. It's the latter footage which remains the most curious for me, and certainly the most depressing, too. It's so unusual to watch this stuff 20 years later and to witness the strange cultural vaccuum the band was attempting to operate in. Hell, if a band like Husker Du played on Letterman or Jay Leno these days, you wouldn't even blink (I remember seeing the Sex Pistols on Letterman a few years back, and even that didn't strike me as too odd), though back then they were an absolute anomaly, the square music biz not having a clue what to do w/ them. The band, by the looks of this footage (and check out the Joan Rivers Show(!!) appearance, too), struggled to comprehend their new surroundings - and vice-versa - but the two worlds didn't meet. The lines have since been blurred - Candy Apple Grey would probably sell a million if it was released today - but 1986 was a different lifetime and planet.