Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wow, this is the surprise reissue of the year. None other than Southern Lord have done a very good thing and reissued '80s Dutch power-trio titans GORE and two of their albums - Hart Gore and Mean Man's Dream (plus a wealth of bone-arse material) - on a double CD (you can also get 'em as individual double LPs w/ all the fancy-schmancy packaging one has come to expect from the 'Lord). Funny thing is, I was looking into reissuing these suckers about 12 months ago and searched high and low throughout the 'net for some kind of contact point or remnants of the band... to no avail. Southern Lord have the connections, and I certainly can't fault 'em for doing such a fine job. I've raved about Gore in entries past, namely their Hart Gore 2LP, but so far any kind of real details regarding the band have remained scant. Now the holes are filled, the gaps plugged. The exhaustive (and exhausting) liner notes within, by bassist Rob Fey, have set the record straight: Dutch HC kids turned on by Bad Brains, Minor Threat et al., along w/ No Wave, Swans and, eventually, the hard-assed riffery of primo Metallica and Slayer, get together a metallic, proggy, No Wave/Minimalist instrumental powerhouse, set a few minds afire throughout Europe in the late '80s/early '90s, complete a few tours, almost get signed by SST (didn't know that! Mega-fan Hank Rollins dragged one of them over to the US to shop some tapes around the office but struck out just as 'Flag split and relations soured between Hank and Greg) and eventually call it a day, having achieved some acclaim in their time, mostly in the US via Hank, Steve Albini and some of the Forced Exposure crew. This is the first time I've ever actually owned anything by the band - my brother has the Gore stuff and has always refused to sell it to me - and boy does it feel good to really play this shit loud and pummel my senses. Gore were propelled by a powerhouse drummer, a sludgy, metallic stew of repetitive guitar riffs and a really non-standard sense of song structure. Often compared to Gone, I'd also throw in a heavy dose of the Swans, Voivod and Tweez-era Slint (who apparently dug 'em). The production occasionally lacks a bit of bottom end, but the rawness lends it an ace Euro-garage feel, and their ability to take a riff and drag it into the mud is something I find mighty appealing. Epic, brutal and ugly, though not without its charms. Typically hot packaging, more extra tracks than you'll probably listen to in a lifetime, and now the puzzle of Gore is solved and the world can welcome them to a whole new generation of fans. This is a reissue you should grab yer mits around.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

OOGA BOOGAS - Romance and Adventure LP (Aarght!/2008)
Stranger things have happened, but somehow these local no-getters have managed to crawl their way to near the top of the pile the last 6 months. Collect together the scraps from such outfits as The Sailors, Onyas and Eddy Current Suppression Ring and you get a quartet known as the Ooga Boogas. In the last 12 months, purely from their own hard work (really!), they've released a 7", toured the US and even put out a self-released vinyl-only LP on the Aarght! label. I know these guys well, even played, ever-so-briefly, in a band or two of theirs in years past, but if I thought they blew I'd ignore them. Wouldn't even go to their gigs. Certainly wouldn't give this a spin. Which is not the case. Firstly, that cover! Gatefold, thick stock, ace graphics from percussive bandit Per Bystrom (I'm impressed by his renaissance-man skills, honestly), and a truly hideous photo of the band in the gatefold. Nice. I was given a CD-R of this release months and months ago and played it half-a-dozen times then, like most CD-Rs, lost the thing. I dug it, and the first thing that struck me was how little it sounded like the band live. In the flesh, the 'Boogas are deadpan, occasionally coma-like and crystal-clear in their musical attack. Zero distortion in the guitars and an ass-tight rhythm section make 'em a curious beast. I told 'em the first time they played that they were the only band I'd seen who truly reminded me of Crazy Rhythms-period Feelies: all herky-jerky beats, extended jams abetted by Reed-y twangery w/ a real geekoid punk-rock energy. I expected the same here, though I guess the recording process, which judging by the rawness present within, involved a 4-track and a toilet bowl, has the band sounding like something completely different. For one, the guitars contain actual, gen-u-ine fuzz. You don't hear that in an Ooga Boogas live set. What this sounds most like is, uh, a late '90s In The Red band. I'm stretchin' here, but I'm a-thinkin' Cheater Slicks meets the Necessary Evils. Or something in that orbit. Not a bad place to be. I've spun this LP - now "out of print", apparently (they only pressed 500 and have been teasing the masses about leaving the pressing at such for "collectable reasons") - a good dozen times the last week and I think I like it more each and every time. The lyrical matter features the kind of inane twaddle possibly lost on most folk, such as the Bermuda Triangle and its greatest mystery (that mystery being why it has disappeared as a curio item the last 20 years as its deadly powers have dissipated... after a few drinks it's pretty amusing, believe me), and the music is a very cool mix of the short and sweet (the opener, "Ooga Booga II", has a rather terrific Can Of Bees-period Soft Boys boogie-beat happenin') and the elongated jam-band length (most notably the two songs which round out both sides: "Ooga Booga I" and "Kiss Your Rocks Goodbye", the two best songs here, I say). Even what I thought to be their worst song, one I told the band to drop from their set some six months ago coz it "sucked", sounds good here. That song is "Fannie Mae". Second song here. Sounds good to me. It all sounds good to me. You fucks. I should hate you for it. You've made a more-than-fine LP and every douchebag in town will kiss your buttocks for it. Enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Huh.... 3 1/2 weeks between entries. That's pretty woeful. Let's see what needs to be said. I entered a record store last week and purchased a CD. I hadn't done that for quite a while. It's a lost art disappearing at an alarmingly rapid rate in the 21st century. Within 5 years, I hate to admit, it'll be a niche pasttime. I get a lot of stuff for free, and lately my life and house have been so cluttered w/ audio goods that I said to myself I would not purchase anything 'til year's end. Considering I've forked out cash for FA the last 3-4 months, I figured I was doing pretty well and rewarded myself with the latest CD by the Sand Pebbles, Ceduna (Sensory Projects). You foreigners have probably never heard of 'em, though if you're a 'Strine and have the vaguest clue, they've most likely been orbiting your planet somewhere the last 5 years. This is their fourth album, their first, Eastern Terrace, being released on the ace Camera Obscura label back in '02 to great acclaim, and their subsequent two slipping off my radar somehow. Caught 'em live a few times over the years, most notably supporting Love back in '03, but it's taken until now to really sit down again and enjoy the wonders of this band. They feature a couple of old geezers - one-time script-writers for Neighbours, even (seriously, their contributions to the show, which included references to Peter Bagge and the Devil Dogs, made it a hoot to watch for a few years) - and a few younger guys in the ranks. Old-school collector friends of mine w/ too much time on their hands don't dig 'em much. They think the 'Pebbles' brand of psychedelia is tepid in the extreme, and to that I say they speak from the wrong orifice. There are, for instance, different brands of psych. There's your freakout/let's-make-a-racket genre as practiced by Acid Mothers Temple, Amon Duul, etc., there's the minimalist drone variety as perfected by Spacemen 3 back in their hey-day, and on the flipside is the type indebted more to pop songcraft balanced w/ a sense of the loopy. It's the latter that the Sand Pebbles perfect. I can think of half-a-dozen bands off the bat they remind me of: Byrds, Moby Grape, Dream Syndicate, Love, Yo La Tengo, Neu!, Television, Jefferson Airplane, '80s Died Pretty, etc. But seriously, they don't really sound like any of these bands. Not in total. Bits and pieces are stolen and borrowed and thrown into a stew which absolutely no-one else is doing (or at least doing this well) south of the equator. I guess I'm getting old, but this album has been the perfect piece of company which never talks back the last week and a half. When the fuzz guitar breaks out on the opener, "Red, Orange, Purple and Blue", mid-song, there's no going back. The metronomic pulse of "Wild Season" has me thinking of the ultimate meeting point twixt Neu! and Younger Than Yesterday-period Byrds, and the rest of the album never takes a break from the quality. I dig this a whole bunch. I heard it on the radio (3RRR/3PBS, thanks) a fair bit before purchase, took the plunge and glad I did. It came around to me the old-fashioned way. I'm prone to having my head in the sand when it comes to anything contemporary (and esp. local!) which is worth giving a fig about, but I'm glad to say there's a whole sea of disparate shit in Melbourne town which is worth lending an ear to: Sand Pebbles, Ooga Boogas (uh, really), The UV Race, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Beaches, The Fading Fires, Jane Dust, Pathetic Human, etc. Yeah, I'm buddies w/ most of 'em, but that's not relevant. Seriously. Whatever the case, Ceduna is one of the best albums released this year, here, there or anywhere.

Some Brit by the name of Nick sent me an A5 fanzine a few weeks back. It's called Niche Homo and I dig it a whole lot. Reminds me of some of the better 'zines from the great boom of the early '90s: Superdope, Wipeout! and Feminist Baseball. Pure, raw fandom for all the best u/ground shit currently happening w/ zero doubt on their mind. Information, reviews, interviews, rants. You get the hep contempo stuff like Pink Reason, Times New Viking, The Shitty Limits, Oxbow (and Whipping Boy!!)'s Eugene Robinson (a good read) and even some goods on Dawson and The Scene Is Now. Aw, shucks. Reading this makes me feel about 100 years old, but I'm all the better for it.

My listening habits have gone haywire the last 12 months. Lately it's been medieval music, Jacques Brel, Dr. John, Thelonious Monk, old Jamaican rocksteady, Michael Rother's excellent series of solo albums in the '70s/'80s, Ali Farka Toure and Bob Wills, but the biggest surprise has been my sudden conversion to the greatness of The dBs. I previously had them written off as a load of '80s college-rock twaddle all too closely aligned to the REM school of putzery, and boy was I wrong. Their first two LPs - 1981's Stands For deciBels and '82's Repercussion - are A-grade art-pop caught somewhere in the netherworld of Big Star-style Memphis power-pop and the cerebral art-rock of Television or '81 period 'Ubu. Whilst it doesn't possess the grit of the best u/ground sounds of its day, the hooks a-plenty combined w/ often totally unexpected twists and turns in the songwriting department have me thinking the band were more than just a bunch of major-label failures. Both of these are combined on one CD on Collector's Choice, and you need it.