Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TERMINAL CHEESECAKE - Angels In Pigtails LP (Pathological/1990)

There were only a handful other records - Half Japanese, Die Kreuzen, Chrome, Melvins and Bongwater spring to mind - I liked more than Terminal Cheesecake's Angels In Pigtails ca. 1991-'92. To me, it was the bomb, the ultimate collision of heavy-duty droned-out sci-fi rock 'n' roll a la Chrome/Helios Creed, industrial sound scapes a la the Limey school of noiseniks (Current 93/Nurse With Wound/Coil) and the crunching heaviness of the Swans and the Melvins (ie - my kinda bag). I didn't actually own this; it was my brother's. It's post-Xmas time... after a family lunch, I decided to "borrow" it for a while to see if it held up. It has. If memory serves me correctly, I believe this was purchased at the time on the strength of a rave review in Flipside mag, and when you're that young and eager to hear new sounds, you take the punt. The Blue Note rip-off cover (w/ liner notes by "Nat Jerkoff"... ho ho ho) made this an eye-catcher, and I do recall that at the time the Pathological label - headed up by Techno Animal/Ice/GOD dude Kevin Martin, who's recently made his name again in the highly-praised The Bug project (well, they won Album Of The Year in The Wire, if that counts for anything) - was considered kinda hot for this brand of misanthropic noise-rock duelling, that kinda weird netherworld at the dawn of the '90s in UK music which was just catching the tail end of grindcore, where all kinds of slo-mo musical slobberings were being offered up, equal parts Black Sabbath and Throbbing Gristle. Terminal Cheesecake, if you read the Myspace link attached above, actually stuck around for quite a while; I bought one or two of their later albums 'round the 1992-'93 period (when I was in Hong Kong, of all places), and frankly I never dug 'em a whole lot, but Angels..., it still sounds mighty fine to these ears. The production has just the right level of lo-fi crunch, huge walls of Skullflower-ish guitar squawls (there's some membership crossover in the long and sordid history of both bands, somewhere), barely discernable human wails and screams throughout, occasional forays into static-laden atmospherics and near-dub basslines and even a Residents cover thrown in. It's an awesome combination of guitar-overload rock 'n' roll and non-bogus industrial gloom. Many years later, I can say once again that my taste wasn't totally rotten as a young man: Angels In Pigtails is a lost gem of UK u/ground music, and from what I can gather, it remains out of print and out of reach for the masses. Do your searching!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

We're on the home stretch now, getting mighty close to the end of 2008... and I thought I'd have something profound to say, something to summarise the last 12 months, to tell a story of the highs and lows, but that's too trite for even a one-trick pony such as myself. Life can't be that neatly packaged. For me, 2008 was a mixed bag of stress and small triumphs. Organising a tour from an international band almost gave me a goddamn heart attack; it's like holding the biggest, most expensive party you've ever held in your life whilst you sit around wondering if anyone will show up. I'm mighty glad I took the leap, though I'm not so sure I'd make a habit of it. Releasing a few CDs was a small triumph. Actually holding onto a job in the ever-dwindling "music biz" remains a feat a few friends of mine lost a grip on recently. Good news for the US (and the rest of the world) was the election result. Less than a month left of the worst presidency on record: that's reason to celebrate. I expect no miracles from Obama, though he's a step in the right direction. I can't make any claims for great TV or cinema in 2008 since I pay little attention to either. I rented Tropic Thunder the other night and thought it was the funniest goddamn pic I'd seen in 12 months, so there you go: it gets my vote. Then again, I probably saw two other films made in 2008 and I can't remember what either of them were. Book-wise, I really dug Joe Carducci's Enter Naomi: SST, LA and All That..., though it's pretty obvious that a guy like me is what they call a "target audience". Was it just me or did I even detect a sentimental side to the great man in the tome? Seemed like he was nodding and tipping the hat to a few old friends, thanking them for a good time. Friends of mine didn't dig it a whole lot, figured it to be an unfocused mess, trying to tie in way too many disparate elements, part biography, part music history, part social commentary. It did the trick for me, and I only wish it had gone on a whole lot longer. Naomi Peterson was previously only a name I attached to the SST posse of the '80s, a staffer who'd moved on. I certainly never knew she died. Now I know the story, and a lot more besides. I hardly ever approach music books in this day and age as they rarely interest me beyond a page. Enter Naomi... kept me nailed throughout, and I'm hoping for another hefty thesis from the man in the near future. Another book which got my vote was Paul Drummond's Eye Mind: Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators. Again, this was actually originally published in late '07, though as I only came around to it early this year, it's an '08 release for moi. Drummond's bio should be used as an exemplar, a template, for how music journalists should approach their subject: a keen fandom balanced with a bounty of first-hand information gleaned from interviews and a first-rate knowledge of all background and related topics. His biography is near flawless in its attention to detail, but smartly keeps away from waffle and getting too off the topic at hand (he comes close in regards to his dissertations regarding psychedelic drugs. Boy, does he know his stuff...). Basically, if you wish to know the legendary story of Roky and the Elelvators - and the story is as good as you can imagine, just as good as the music - then this book is unbeatable, dishes all the dirt and wraps it in a strong narrative which makes it hard to put down. For my money, one of the best rock music bios ever written.
That photo above is of one Eugene Robinson from the San Fran art-rock dirge-metal band, OXBOW. I'll be investigating more of his work in the near future. His name has popped up on my radar a couple of times of late. Firstly, it was in an interview in the UK's Niche Homo zine (I wrote about that a little while back), and secondly it was when Gary Arce asked me, Dave, you ever heard of the band Whipping Boy? You know their singer, Eugene Robinson? Well, I'd certainly heard of Whipping Boy - San Fran art-punk from the '80s who were good buddies (and often played) with the likes of Minor Threat, DKs and Black Flag - though I had no idea that their singer was the same guy as the big, burly black dude from Oxbow, who had a series of albums spread out over 18 years on labels such as Pathological, Neurot, SST and Hydra Head. The same guy who's written articles for GQ, The Wire and Hustler, had written the book Fight, been a fighting champion himself, appeared on several TV shows and feature films, and... was quite obviously a renaissance man par excellence. Looks like he'll be doing vocals on the new Ten East disc, too, fingers crossed. Been listening to Oxbow's The Narcotic Story, from 2007, on the Hydra Head label. It's a more atmospheric affair, kinda late-night raspy stuff, almost in a kinda Birthday Party/Tom Waits mold, breaking into occasional stabs of he-man riff-rock (almost Zep-like!) and thunderous doom. I'll be investigating further...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

This is a pretty darn good way to start 2009. I shan't be attending the real deal - it's 3 hours outside of Melbourne up in the hills - and w/ kids it's a tough thing to organise, plus, to be honest, after Meredith a few weeks ago I came to the distinct conclusion that I'm way too old and grumpy for music festivals anymore. Still, if you're going to attend a music fest for an older, more, uh, sophisticated crowd, then this Nick Cave-curated bonanza likely couldn't be beat. The line-up is a scorcher: Kuepper/Bailey Saints, James Ulmer, Michael Gira, Necks, Harmonia, Silver Apples and load of bands I kinda know about and wouldn't mind catching on a rainy day, such as Afrirampo, Dead Meadow and Fuck Buttons. The mere concept that bands such as Silver Apples and Harmonia would be playing gigs - like, pub gigs - in Melbourne just 5 years ago would seem like a sick joke. Well, they will be, and I'll check a few of them out.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dang... back from tour and no outright disasters to report. No tour diary here, you can ask the guys from TEN EAST for that. I only have a few thankyous to throw out there: Luke and Kelsey, Lou Ridsdale, Woody, Tim Scott, Al and Dylan and Chops and all the good folks at the National Hotel, Dave Batty, Ben Wrecker, Russell Hopkinson, Ray and Blackie, Soph and Ash, Karen and Ryan and... I think that's it. And all the good folks who showed up. Despite my sleep-losing nerves regarding the whole tour, it was, except for the woeful turnout in Sydney (they had more payers in Geelong than our most populace city: go figure that! Sydney, you suck, truly), a smashing success for a first tour, and I actually didn't lose my shirt on the whole thing. Well, I lost my pants, since Gary Arce took a shine to a certain pair of denim jeans I used to possess and made them his own, but what the hey. The Meredith festival was a total washout - literally - but everyone had a blast, including me. To Gary, Bill, Bryan and Billy: thanks for the fun times.

Year-end round-up time, just like every other schlep on the planet. There were tons of great records released this year, and I heard practically none of them, but the good ones I did hear are listed below. My head remains in the sand most of the time. I have neither the time, money nor inclination to hear all the hip 'n' happenin' records people tell me about. These are the ones I gave an earload.


BEACHES - s/t LP/CD (Mistletone)
Debut album from this hot-hot-hot as tar 5-piece all-female outfit from ol' Melbourne town. I've seen 'em live about a dozen times and this gem does 'em justice. I'd say they capture a sound somewhere in the universe of Goo-period Sonic Youth and Pell Mell. I doubt they've ever heard of the latter (I'll make them a mix tape), but that's my summation, since their instrumental jams possess an awesome psych-surf vibe which no one else, barring perhaps Yawning Man, have come close to. Naturally, YM/Ten East's Gary Arce was enraptured during the two performances of Beaches he witnessed down here. My hit pick for world domination in '09.

OOGA BOOGAS - Romance and Adventure LP (Aarght!)
I spoke of this just recently. Scroll down and you'll find. A whoppingly good effort from this local bumhole engineers.

Never really mentioned this one all that much. No need to when everyone else is! Some like their debut better, but I think this is an improvement on their first LP and they certainly made no effort to slicken their approach. Probably the most bizarre and unexpected semi-mainstream hit of '08, the fact that these guys can pack out a 700+ venue in a heartbeat is... uh.... an odd one. The backlash will probably hit soon, but since ECSR really don't give a fuck, I don't see why I should.

SAND PEBBLES - Ceduna CD (Sensory Projects)
Again, I mentioned this one a few entries ago. First-rate psych-rock dementia from a bunch of old gits, I'm shocked that practically no one from overseas has ever heard of these guys.

HOTEL WRECKING CITY TRADERS - Black Yolk CD (self-released)
Only in catching this local two-piece live did this CD make perfect sense, and really, now that I've played the thing three-dozen times and love the shit out of it, do I feel stupid for not really "getting" it beforehand. HWCT are one drum kit and one guitar: two guys jamming out a heavy, dissonant din heading for the stratospheres in a weird kinda post-metal universe. You can throw around names: Isis, Melvins, Pelican, Sunn O))), Jesu, Big Business and, yep, Ten East. They sound a little like all of the above and whole lot like themselves. I'm now convinced they're one of Melbourne's hardest-working and best-kept-secret juggernauts I'll be dragging my friends along to see in '09.

FABULOUS DIAMONDS - s/t LP/CD (Siltbreeze/Nervous Jerk)

This was written about 'round here in the half-year mark. Local two-piece made good who completed a successful US tour and won over hipster douchebags everywhere they went. Tribal post-punk broohahah from a coupla young folks w/ some Rough Trade vinyl in their closets. A lotta people in the 21st century try this schtick and fail. FB don't.


FENNESZ - Black Sea LP/CD (Touch)

Latest from this Austrian egghead sound artist much loved by Australians ever since he first touched base w/ a certain Mark Harwood a decade back. More stripped back and glacial than anything he's done before, this is an exceptional late-night meditative listen.

I know nothing of this release. It's a bunch of Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians striking a jam in NYC in the mid '70s and enjoys a healthy cult following from all lovers of rhythmic get-down-and-party Latin music. It was re-released by ther Spanish imprint Clave Latina a few months back and a friend drew me to its general direction. For some stupid reason, up until a year or so back, I dismissed most Latin music as "cheesy" and possibly not my bag. I was wrong, of course, and I'm on a new kick: point me towards the latest mind-blowing Latin ramalama mindblower reissue from yesteryear and I'm anybody's.

FLIPPER - Generic Album Flipper/Gone Fishin'/Public Flipper Ltd./Sex Bomb Baby CDs (Water)
Four of the greatest albums of their age - of any age - get a sorely-needed reissue from the finest reissuers on the planet. Now I can finally play these things in the car...

JOEL GRARE - Paris Istanbul Shanghai CD (Alpha)
The Alpha label usually specialises in all kinds of worldly pre-Renaissance music, the kinda fruity stuff my macho rock pals give me grief for listening to, and it stands as one of my favourite labels on earth. Let's take it outside and we'll punch on if you please. This release is a slight detour for the label, with modern composer Grare - influenced by everything from ancient Oriental music to fiery French sci-fi-rock behemoths Magma - and his ensemble dishing out an intoxicating mix of ethnic percussion and abstract, other-worldly sounds from centuries past. You'll dig it or you'll run for the hills. I like this stuff. A lot.

ASAD QIZILBASH - Sarod Recital: Live in Peshawar CD (Sub Rosa)
A recent live recording of blissful sarod drones from this Pakistani master on the ever-great - and never predictable - Sub Rosa label.

VARIOUS - Dr. Boogie Presents Shim Sham Shimmy LP/CD (Sub Rosa)
Written about on this blog many months back - or thereabouts - this is the second volume in Sub Rosa's archival Americana blues/R & B/hillbilly/boogie-woogie series, and remains the best collection of rough-assed electric blues stomp from the '40s released the last 12 months.

JAMBANG - Connecting CD (SST)
Greg Ginn hits the jamband scene! This CD is a whole lot better than that sounds. Think Wooden Shjips jamming it w/ the 'Dead and Spacemen 3. Most of all, don't think "Six Pack", the guy's moved on.

DUNGEN - 4 LP/CD (Subliminal Sounds)
The finest '70s Euro art-rock album recorded and released in the year 2008, this album is so good, and so convincing, it staggers me. Fucking impeccable. Really, if you dig Amon Duul 2, Eno-period Roxy Music, Scott Walker's monumental first four LPs or The Move the way I do, then passing this up ain't an option. I'm late to the party, but I'm mighty glad I came.

AWESOME COLOR - Electric Aborigines LP/CD (Ecstatic Peace)
The best Funhouse-period rip-off band I've heard since, like, you know, ever! My brain turns itself off these days when one recommends me a band "heavily influenced by The Stooges", so much so you had to practically force me Clockwork Orange-style to get me to listen to this. That Stooges/MC5 mimickry was all the rage back in the '70s/'80s, ya know, but if ever there's a genre butchered beyond all recognition and inspiration, it's good ol' Detroit, and I say that as a man who'll swear by Stooges/Funhouse/Raw Power/Kick Out The Jams/Back In The USA/High Time 'til the apocalypse hits. Awesome Color get "it" right. No macho swagger and no cock-rockin' good times; it's psychedelic weirdo freak-rock w/ a kickstart rhythm and a heart full 'o napalm. Whatever the case, this release made me feel that balls-out rock 'n' roll, in the year 2008, still wasn't a bad idea at all.

PHILIP JECK - Sand CD (Touch)
The latest and not greatest from this UK sound/tape/collage artist. Like everything the guy's done, this is worth a shot, but for true brilliance I recommend his Surf album from the early '90s. For some reason those Limey anus-scrapers at The Wire voted this the second-best album of 2009. Go figure. I must be missing something. Still, this remains one of the finer things I heard in 2009.

GORE - Hart Gore/Mean Man's Dream CD/LPs (Southern Lord)
Check down a few entries. Minimalist instrumental metallic dirges which never age.

VARIOUS - Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock and Fuzz-Funk in 1970s Nigeria LP/CD; Various - Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound Of Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-1979 LP/CD (both Soundway)
UK label Soundway (currently on summer hiatus as the owner treks around Australia) has raised the bar in regards to obscure African discoveries from years gone by, and one listen to either of these releases will convince even the most staid, boring and socially-challenged rock purist of that fact. One is kinda funky, one is kinda rocky, though let's face it, many of the tracks could be interchangable for either release. They both rock out in a funky way, and remain essential.
... and that's not counting the two-dozen releases I've forgotten about! That's my musical roundup for the year, perhaps in a few days I'll attempt to tackle some other issues from '08 clawing my brain. Adios...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Off for 4 days of mayhem w/ the lads from TEN EAST. Tomorrow: Geelong. Thursday: Northcote Social Club. Friday: Meredith Music Festival. Saturday: Annandale Hotel in Sydney. Sunday I come home and collapse. Next week I may regal you all w/ tales of triumphs and disasters. Wish me luck!