Monday, December 28, 2009

Time to wrap this up. For good. As you can see, the entry levels on this blog have been somewhat woeful the last few months, and after a week of chewing this over, I've decided to end this blog for good. Of course, I'll keep all content up here for eternity for anyone to browse it in the future, but as for any new entries... nope, that ain't happening. There's two reasons for this: first, as of the last 8 months or so, I've had very little free time to spend on it. Family and work commitments are keeping me far too busy to care about sharing my thoughts on the latest 8" coloured vinyl excursion w/ anyone, and secondly, at this point, I simply feel tapped out and have very little enthusiasm for the "project" known as this blog. There's a zillion of 'em out there, and I'd rather kill it after nearly 5 years of work than let it slide into being truly half-arsed, littered w/ dozens of unenthusiastic entries written only because, at the back of my mind, I feel like it's my "duty" to keep it alive. Blogs come and go, and this one's no different. The label's still happening: out in 2010 should be CDs by the UK's Honey Ride Me A Goat, Melbourne's own Chrome Dome and possibly even that Dawson 2CD retrospective I've spoken about since the dawn of time, plus I've got some other writing projects on the hop, but Lexicon Devil the blog is going the way of the dinosaurs. If nothing else, I can say that this is probably the only blog on earth which has managed to cover everything from Ian Matthews to Immortal to Ali Farka Toure to Universal Congress Of, and damn it, I'm proud of it! Anyway, I'm not turning this into an Oscar's speech. I'm outta here... and to paraphrase the mighty Big Boys: go start your own blog! Oh, you have? OK, send me the link.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Two measly posts for the whole month! Pee-thetic, I know, and my excuses are many... rearranging the house to make room for the kids (which in essence means trying to squeeze thousands of records, CDs, DVDs, videos and books into as small a space as possible; the move has forced me to discover these things in my possession: books I have not read, music I have not heard and films I have not seen. I truly have way too much junk); my laptop kicked the dust a few weeks back and is getting fixed, which means I have only the clunky old home computer to use, and that's semi-buried under a mountain of shit (see above); and... usual lack of time. I will be back w/ actual content sometime soon. In the meantime, I suggest you purchase the LP reissue (put out by the good mobsters at Scorpio) of Don Cherry's in-fuggin'-credible Tibet LP from the early '70s, the missing link between Terry Riley and Pharoah Sanders. Blew my brain. Might do yours, too. For reading material, browse the blogs listed to the right there as they usually offer fountains of wisdom and information, and if you're up for a laugh, you can check out the paranoid, one-man-against-the-world rantings over at Blog To Comm.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Hmmm... now that's a lame heading, if ever there was, but I'm struggling here, 'k? Both of the following hail from Ol' Blighty, the land of warm beer, bad teeth and mostly worthless music since the year 1981. But under the surface there's always been a few good things a-bubblin'. The outfit known as Honey Ride Me A Goat, a trio from Kent, is certainly one of them. They've been around since the start of the century some time and were kind enough to send me a box of goodies a little while back. They've got a bunch of ltd.-run EPs, CDs, 10"s, split 12"s and probably a cassette or 8-track or two under their belt, and from what I've heard, it's all good. The band they remind me a whole lot of would be none other than the Stretchheads (killer Scottish mob of yore; if you've read this blog for more than the last 10 minutes, then you've heard the rant before. There's a 2CD Complete Discography coming out some time in 2010, so keep yer ears peeled), which means there's a fair dose of "whackiness" involved, but it's all in good humour and suits their schtick to a tee. Instrumental and heavy on the chops, occasionally falling apart in a free-jazz-style skree but then roping itself together in seconds, their prowess is put to expert use. And now that I'm on the topic, let me add this: virtuosity in music is not necessarily a bad thing. Virtuosity for its own sake is, but one punk rock myth which needs to be debunked is the misnomer that practicing your craft and becoming damn good at it is a bad thing. Punk rock was a musical movement, and the best bands could play like demons, not slobs. I could now go on for another 1,000 words regarding the genius-like songcraft and musical dynamics of Black Flag, Minor Threat and Bad Brains, but I'll save that for a drunken rant down at the pub. Let me speak some more of HRMAG. The songs are short, sharp and over quick, just like a slightly more fleshed-out take on Punchline-era Minutemen. The guitar - whooaah, the guitar - is dynamite. It's got a D. Boon-like scratchiness, but the treble isn't so screechy that texture doesn't also enter the picture. I'm thinkin' Joe Baiza, James Ulmer and Peter Cosey, and no higher compliment can be paid. I've got the s/t 10", the split w/ the similarly-minded Mothguts, and even a copy of an as-yet-unreleased recording they did w/ the Soft Machine's Hugh Hopper just before he passed away earlier this year, and they all kill me. The Hopper recording is one long half-hour+ number which screeches, groans and fires up not unlike Universal Congress Of's debut, whilst the other two keep the attacks brief, with each song twisting and turning at a second's notice. This is music way beyond any kinda clever-clever shenanigans; it's highly evolved nonsense which gives me a kick every time, and some of the absolute best music hardly anyone has ever heard of being made in the year 2009. Take the plunge.

There's also the brand new issue - that'd be #3 - of the UK's best fanzine out right about now. It's called Niche Homo. I reviewed the first issue a while ago, and the editors must've been so chuffed with my positive review that they quote it every time I see 'em floggin' their wares on the 'net. I guess my good word does carry more weight than that of a feather. I'm blushing. Rumour has it one of these young folks slugs it out in the UK office of Vice magazine for a day job, and whilst such a vocation would usually have said publication flushed down the toilet in an instant, in Niche Homo's case, vapid hipsterism is not their game. Their game is music, pure and simple. There's the usual swag of interviews and pieces on current UK u/grounders I know zip about (but likely should, or will in the future), such as Mazes, So Cow and Spin Spin The Dogs; an interview w/ ex-Vibracathedral Orchestra dude, Neil Campbell (always a great interviewee; his piece in an old ish of Opprobrium is a classic); and even a fairly comprehensive and recent interview with an old drunk by the name of Mark E. Smith, a man whose brain appears to be leaving the planet at an alarming rate. There's also a cool section for the real geekoids, "Mixtape Wars", where editor/publisher Nick B. gets a few friends to make tapes for each other and records their reactions to tunes by the likes of Neil Young, Meat Puppets, Wipers, Red Crayola, King Crimson, Cannanes, Bo Diddley and even personal faves (of mine!) Dawson. I tried a similar thing a decade ago - an "Invisible Jukebox" - w/ my pal Dave (ex-Sailors homo): I played him free-jazz malarkey and he forced me to listen to generic garage rock, but the drunken results were so dire I never published it anywhere. This one's much better. I applaud any u/ground publishing magnate who makes the effort to put ink to real-life paper in the year 2009 and actually gets it out to the public; I give them a round of applause when the results are this good. As the front cover says: Superior Toilet Literature. I've had to pack up all my 'zines the last few days for a room switch to make some space for the kids, and my collection, seeing it all now in cardboard boxes, has overwhelmed me. There must be over a thousand of them. Niche Homo is finding its home there, too. I'm expecting a Honey Ride Me A Goat piece in the next issue.

You've heard the album, you've bought the DVD, now read the true story of the mighty Imperial Dogs. Check it out here: an excellent piece and interview w/ Dog Don Waller done by none other than Dave Laing. The other guy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


THIS (from the I-94 Bar blog):

"We'll get to reviewing the "1971" Stooges disc set on Easy Action in a week or so but here's some blather from Blog To Comm."

RESULTED IN THIS (from you-know-who):

"TWO WEEK LATER POSTSCRIPT THAT I KNOW ALL OF YOU BLOG TO COMM FANS WOULD WANT TO GET IN ON THE KNOW ABOUT: Some of you may have arrived at this post via a link up via a blog called THE BARMAN'S RANT which for all practical purposes is an offshoot of the long-running "I-94" website which features a variety of rock-related items mostly of a Detroit high energy rock or Australian derivation thereof. Anyhow, for some maybe not-so-occult reason the purveyor of this particular blog, a gent whose name escapes me at this moment, decided to link the above Stooges review up on his blog which on the surface sounded just swimmingly well, at least until the point where he decides to use the not-so-descriptive adjective "blather" in order to attempt drilling another asshole into my well-protected hiney. It makes me wonder why he decided to link my piece up in the first place (other than he, a friend and follower of noted backstabber Ken Shimamoto, undoubtedly wanted to join in on the BTC bashing that has been so in vogue these past few decades), and worse yet, the entire drama makes me ponder the purpose of this particular piece of humanity wanting to become a follower of BLOG TO COMM other than to somehow provoke a confrontation between us, which if in fact he wants one is something he no doubt will be getting much to his chagrin.

Needless to say I've tried (unsuccessfully) to remove "the Barman" from the above list of "followers", and yeah if the guy is pushing buttons and wants to tangle for whatever socially/politically conscious reason he may I'm more than willing to chop off his head for my eye. Remember, this button pushes back, and if in fact you do want to start something with me I'm not going to back off any. Y'see, I always did like sending ineffectual effetes to their doom y'know..."



Go here for the most laughably self-serving repudiation from Mr. Stigliano (especially the second paragraph; apparently it was Craig being the over-reacting paranoiac, not Chris) to this whole embarrassment. It should've been headlined, "Aaaww, Mom, he MADE me do it!".

Saturday, October 17, 2009

You're probably thinking I must be really struggling if I'm going to bother penning ink, so to speak, on an honest-to-God INDIE-ROCK album like Sebadoh's third outing, correct? Really, isn't that the kinda recording folks waste their lives reading the whitebread outpourings of collegiate shmucks at Pitchfork for? Well, you're way off the mark. I'd love to spill the beans on some kick-arse jazz I've been devouring lately - everything from David S. Ware to semi-legit Don Cherry discs to the pensive clink of early Bill Evans - or the scorch of early jump-blues party starters such as Louis Jordan and Rosco Gordon (that's the goods!) or even to waste your time on all manner of ethno nonsense which has taken my fancy the last 24 months, most notably everything by Ali Farka Toure and a few smatterings of sound c/o Malian kora player, Toumani Diabate... but I won't!! Nope, I'm going to talk about III instead, for one simple reason: it's brilliant.
I bought the original Homestead CD in '92 and played it into the dirt back in the day, then promptly felt my heart sink as I saw the band turn to mush within a mere 12 months with the release of their Sub Pop debut. For myself, they simply lost the magic of what made them so unique, special and fucking weird. Their first three albums were most definitely not the spewings of your average rock band, but instead contained the rage and ill-humour of a thousand hardcore flunkies rolled into one and the musical inventiveness of their compadres of the day: everything from Jandek to Royal Trux to the Dead C, not to mention a heavy dose of SST damage (most notably the Minutemen, and that's not just coz they cover "Sickles & Hammers"). By the time they were shifting 100s of 1,000s of units with Bakesale, I could care less. I sold the Homestead CD in The Great Cull of '99 and, just last week, feeling in a nostalgic mood and spotting the Domino 2CD reissue from a few years back in a bargain bin for a mere $14.99, I took the gamble, hoping to rekindle the magic. It's still there.
III is a masterpiece, an amazing, scattershot selection of post-HC/SST undie rock which still stands out as one of the finest records of its day, seriously. What made Sebadoh work - and that includes their first two albums, The Freed Man and Weed Forestin' (when "they" were essentially a no-fi folk duo) - was the incredible sarcasm and bitterness of the lyrics, most of it by Lou Barlow and aimed squarely at J. Mascis, but much of it also detailing the awkwardness of being a natural-born fuck-up, as well as the combination of folk harmonies on the more stripped-down songs and killer (and totally non-generic) hooks and twisted guitar lines on the rockier numbers. The opener, "The Freed Pig", a barbed, spiteful attack on J. Mascis (they've obviously made up or realised that recording and touring as a reformed Dinosaur Jr. for the rest of their lives sure beats working for a living), possesses the kinda smart-alec lines I'll remember for future arguments w/ folks who are spoilin' for a fight: "So self-righteous, yet never right; so laid back, yet so uptight". Zapping my self back in time, I can see why this album hit so hard when it did: I was the most wound-up, misanthropic, insufferable a-hole one would ever come across, and III is the soundtrack to such a state of mind. It's 17 years later and, whilst most folks who know me would still say I've got a permanent bug up my butt about somethin', I'm not entirely dissatisfied with my lot in life. Somewhere along the way, I've found a niche, a hole, maybe a rut, which I can call my own... and yet III, in its own beautiful way, still reminds me of what it's like to feel like a natural-born fuck-up, wear it as a badge of honour and bask in it. Huh. I never even mentioned the term "slacker". Within a few years this whole routine became such a cliche I disowned it for a decade or so, but the best music always rises above whatever shitty context may drown it out for a few years and give you a clip over the ears many years later and make you realise why you dug it so much in the first place. III has so many great songs - and there's 23 of them with all the peaks and valleys a great double LP should bring forth: short songs, long songs, quiet songs, loud songs - that I needn't mention them. Spinning this incessantly the last week, I can state that by halfway through, every single time it's played, I'm in awe of how every song - words and music - nails it. They sound like they could barely even care, yet somehow every song, even the half-baked ones, sound like mini-masterpieces. You probably heard it here last: Sebadoh's III is an essential set of music. I surprise myself by saying that, but I'll swear by it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

R.I.P. Brendan Mullen
Definitely one of the good guys involved in this corrupt showcase we call "the music biz" has just left this mortal coil, age 60. In starting the legendary Masque venue in 1977, he was chief instigator, host and patron to some of the greatest goddamn noise this planet has ever heard. He's also co-responsible for two of the great books documenting classic LA punk: We Got The Neutron Bomb and Lexicon Devil (the Darby Crash oral history which should be required reading for anyone who claims an interest in punk rock or LA social history). Life, music and the universe as we know it would be a whole lot less interesting if it wasn't for Mullen and the great contributions he made.
THE NECKS - Silverwater CD (Fish Of Milk/2009)
At this point in my life, there are few artists on earth whom I genuinely get excited about when I hear they have a new album coming out. As in eagerly await its release like a teenager, wondering which new and exciting musical direction they've ventured into, knowing that I'll be getting something not just different from the last release, but something which feels like a natural progression along an artistic path whose future steps are out of my grasp. Well, you know where this is heading: The Necks are one of those bands. 20 years later and umpteen records behind 'em and they still boggle my mind. When they first caught my ear in the mid '90s they were a largely acoustic-based trio whose music sounded both live and on record like a mixture of Bill Evans and Terry Riley. It was most definitely based in the "jazz" idiom, but the lengths of the songs and the ability of the group to make its music drone made them one of a kind. Things changed by 1999 w/ Hanging Gardens. The band brought in more and more electronics to the mix, near "rock" beats to give it a pulse and things got a whole lot more "cosmic". In essence they got better. And better. The studio albums released since then: Aether, Drive-By, Mosquito/See Through and 2006's The Chemist - not mentioning the also-fantastic live albums - have been some of the greatest continuous run of releases by any recent and/or contemporary band I can think of. Lately I've become yet again re-obsessed w/ Pharoah Sanders' and Don Cherry's work from the mid '60s to the mid '70s, and I sit in awe of album upon album of greatness: Tauhid/Karma/Deaf, Dumb & Blind/Jewels Of Thought/ Black Unity/Thembi/Village Of The Pharoahs/Wisdom Through Music/Live At The East/Elevation, etc. And Cherry? Start w/ the Blue Note LPs, head on through the BYG albums, the Penderecki collaboration, the mindblowing psychedelic ethno-epics he recorded and released in Sweden and finish it up w/ Brown Rice from '75 (or the Codona LPs on ECM). The point? That's a whole lot of great music, a body of work to sink yer teeth into, and The Necks are in the same basket. Always moving forward, following their own muse and never repeating themselves. Silverwater is one 67-minute track. Unlike Aether or Drive-By or Hanging Gardens, it doesn't simply follow the same motif throughout, but twists and turns, giving you a bit of everything. In essence, it sounds like 5 different songs tacked onto each other, though it's undoubtedly one epic opus and not a pastiche of smaller ideas. The band still sound like an uncategorizable combination of Bitches Brew, Can and Steve Reich, and its their unique synthesis of these sounds which makes them so special. Think Pharoah 'n' Don ca. '65-'75, or Miles ca. '69-'75: great musical leaps into the abyss, great chunks of documented sound which still sound brilliant 30-40 years later. If you heard Jewels Of Thought or Orient or Big Fun on their own, you might be scrabbling for context, wondering what the music is trying to do: also a whole lot of fun. Throw them in w/ the dozen surrounding records and it makes perfect sense. The Necks sound a little like all of the above themselves, and similarly their albums work perfectly - one after the other - as if they're part of a bigger picture. 30-40 years time you'll be saying the same thing: what a body of work.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It wasn't official, but such an event, for all intents and purposes, existed this weekend just gone in ol' Melbourne town. In one single evening, at three separate venues, played thus: The Hard-Ons (playing a 25th-anniversary bonanza) at the Corner Hotel; UK Subs (with a 65-year-old Charlie Harper up front, no less!) at a ridiculously under-promoted show at the Arthouse (and I really dig their early records and actually would've opted for their show if there wasn't such heavy competition); and old-school Adelaide noiseniks Grong Grong at the Tote. I opted for the latter. There was also Japan's Melt Banana at the Forum Theatre, which I'd bought pre-paid tickets for a month ago, not knowing the competition at the time, but like I said to my friend whom I piked out on to see GG instead: Melt Banana - they're OK 'n' all, but on an emotional level they mean zip to me. If I miss 'em, big deal. GG were a band firmly ingrained in my mind as a band who meant a whole lot in the Lang household growing up - more so for my brother than myself - but nevertheless, they remain a defining band for a certain era. They hadn't toured for 25 years, and I was not going to miss it. It's called nostalgia.

For foreigners and other folks w/ strange accents, GG may register a blip in the memory for two things: they released a posthumous LP on Alternative Tentacles in the mid '80s (they supported the Dead Kennedys - a big-deal tour back in the day - on their Adelaide show back in '83 and apparently flipped Jello's brain), and guitarist Charlie Tolnay, one of the unsung guitar heroes of Australian post-punk, went on to form King Snake Roost in the latter half of the '80s, released a few discs on AmRep for their troubles and even toured the US at one point. I've got a bunch of those KSR rekkids buried under piles of shit somewhere in the "music room", and once I'm finished w/ typing out this nonsense, I'm gonna give 'em a spin. Here's hoping they still move the loins.

I can tells ya, back in, say, '86-'89, GG were all the rage in North Balwyn, or at least a certain pocket of that dull-beyond-words burg. That pocket was my brother's bedroom. He flogged it day and night. Grong Grong, that is. Whether I cared for the band or not - and I did - I knew their sole recording back to front. Their sound was an ultra-grimey mix of Stooges psychosis, low-end Birthday Party rumble, scratchy, jazz-tinged, note-twisting guitar squall - part Gang of Four and part Greg Ginn - and the kind of anti-social aura perfected by Flipper in the day. The only band from the era I can truly compare them to and not feel like a total numbnut scrounging for comparisons would be Scratch Acid. That's just a ballpark, not a note-for-note facsimile by any means. It was the '80s, man.

So... 1983 became 1984 and things went pear-shaped. Singer Michael Farkas OD'd and went into a 9-month coma, never fully recovering from his folly, and the band fell apart. The outfit known as Grong Grong simply existed in people's memories as, well, one of those bands. Brilliant, lost to time, you had to be there. I wasn't. But I'm glad I took the time second go 'round.

The Tote was about 2/3rds full - lots of competition there, folks - and what a leathery old mob we were. The diehards took the time and trouble and were heartily rewarded. GG are a band with a visual presence, and not in any showbiz sense of the word. I mean the kind of presence people talk about when they speak of seeing bands like the Birthday Party at their terrifying best, or Black Flag when they looked like a bunch of unshaved Manson Family beachbums (as a friend who saw them in London ca. 1984 described them). No need for any real tricks, the members in and of themselves create the atmosphere. Not that there's anything really menacing about GG, and I'm too old and jaded to be thrilled by people with music instruments trying to menace me; GG are simply a great band to watch.

Tolnay still has the fag hanging out his mouth at most hours of the day, but looks like he's taking day leave from a bikie gang; fill-in bass dude Nathan (ex-Hack, another Adelaide mob who made the Alt. Tentacles roster back in the day) has dreadlocks which just about scrape the floor; drummer George Klestinis still looks like he belongs in a rockabilly revival act and leans over his kit like it's taking his breath away (which it was); and front man and survivor Michael Farkas, essentially a paraplegic (brought on by the coma) sits on a seat centre stage, decked out in a black mesh top and leather rapist mask and barks out the brilliantly rudimentary lines known as GG lyrics, interspersed with the odd sax wailing.

The hits were there: "Louie The Fly", "Japanese Tram Driver", "Meat Axe", "Grong Grong", as well as covers of the Meteors' "The Hills Have Eyes", a nearly unrecognisable take on the MC5's "Lookin' At You" and more. The bass anchored the band, the drums played scattershot, losing their place on occasion but always (eventually) coming back to the beat, Tolnay wailed out an unholy mess of wirey guitar noise and Farkas screamed and yelled. A well-oiled supertight rock 'n' roll show with a sense of stop-on-a-dime discipline it certainly wasn't, but I didn't want that. I got a bunch of crazy old dudes on stage, a smoke machine and a band who still sound like no other.

I can see now why Jello must've hit the roof back in the day when he caught them play back in '83. Adelaide's still basically a one-horse-town in '09; back then it probably came across like the middle of nowhere for someone used to basking in the bohemian confines of urbane San Fran. And Grong Grong likely looked and sounded like they just arrived from another planet altogether. No pretenses, just flat-out fucking strange in the most beautiful way. I hope and suspect they'll be back sooner rather than later. Deluxe CD/DVD out soon on Memorandum/Fuse in a few weeks, too, ya know...

Monday, October 05, 2009

BoldSLUB - Barracuda 7" (Death Valley/1995)
The band known as Slub were quite the big deal in the "underground" down here (and elsewhere) at some point in the late '80s/early '90s. They put out an ace cassette in 1987 through Au-go-go (not officially an Au-go-go release, I think, but released through their channels somehow) which showcased a lo-tech grime-rock which, whilst not far from the '80s pack of noise-rakers popular at the time (Big Black, Buttholes, Flipper, Scratch Acid et al) in approach, also lent a heavy debt to a vast array of '70s rockers (from Hawkwind to Pere Ubu to Can to the riff-rock of 'Sabbath and Zep') and post-industrial units such as Nurse With Wound, Coil and all those Limey self-mutilators. It was quite the brew, and they fitted in snugly w/ fellow compadres of the time such as King Snake Roost, Thug, Venom P. Stinger and co. (all heavily touted by the great B-Side 'zine: the essential 'Strine rag for the latter half of the '80s). Dr. Jim - the man who released their debut LP in 1990, Roottmann - and I have often thrown around the idea of putting our collective skulls together and releasing a Completely Discography CD pack of Slub's wares: the cassette, LP, comp' tracks, Sympathy 7"s, etc., and whilst we're both convinced that such a nice public service would give us a free pass in the next life, there's also the fear that such a grand folly would only help empty out our bank accounts and contribute to the landfill known as the current CD-buying climate. Thoughts?
Anyway, the band went through a zillion line-up changes in their life (approx. 1985-'95) - for many years they included celebrity multi-instrumentalist, comedian and man-of-a-thousand-bands, John Murphy, and apparently even featured the Dirty 3's Warren Ellis in their ranks for a period - but somehow managed to be never anything less than pretty darn good in their recorded output. Slub aren't the kinda band you're gonna put on at your next barn dance; Vikki Riley's screeching howl assures that. The thick coats of guitar squall, electronic FX and pounding drum beats also likely don't contribute to most humans' idea of a "good time". But there's this one exception in their catalogue: their rendition of Heart's '70s megahit, "Barracuda". It's surprisingly faithful to the original, not a butchering by any means. Whilst not possessing the massive FM-radio production of the original, it still crunches with a BIG sound: the chugga-chugga guitar riffs, Riley's awesome note-perfect wailing and a sense of momentum which never lets up. You could play this at yer next Blue Light disco and likely walk out w/ all bodily parts intact. There's no getting 'round it: it's an excellent interpretation. The B-side tracks are from '89 w/ a different line-up; "Blind Owl" is the kinda bruised guitar dirge they perfected at the time, and "White Panda" (a traditional Chinese folk tune, sez the liners) is a more experimental piece and churns like a Current 93 track before Tibet went off w/ the faeries (fitting, since John Murphy was in an early line-up of the C93). Only 300 of these were ever made, then they're gone forever... worth all the pennies.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

MX-80 SOUND ca. 1981!!

Monday, September 28, 2009

1/2-page ad for the next issue of The Big Takeover outta NYC. All three The Scene Is Now reissues are out 'n' about. Mission completed. Buy and make me a happy man.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gettin' back on track and feeling human again. I try not to let this blog gather dust - it makes me look slack - but real life too often gets in the way and before you know it mold starts a-gatherin' on the keyboard, work/family life drains me, bodily parts start malfunctioning and rejecting themselves from my body and a month slips by w/ nary a whisper. I'll try to amend that. Perhaps short-sharp entries are the key. No waffling, no commitment to 1,000-word essays and I won't be scared by the prospect of sitting down in front of a screen for 90 minutes jotting out inane drivel about a bunch of music approx .0000005% of the universe gives a damn about. Lots of musical nonsense floating around my head of late: I've become a little obsessed with the UK reissue label JSP of late - lots of ass-whoopin' 40s/50s R & B, rare Virginian rockabilly (more on that another time), archival Rembetika and other good things - and I'm making a mental note of the fact that it's the year 2009 and in the last 9 months I've witnessed both Flipper and Kramer in the flesh, and next month it'll be the mighty Grong Grong on a reunion tour, as well as '80s thug-punkers Depression(!!) and even nth-tier kraut-punk dinosaurs the Spermbirds!! If you'd told me 20 years back that 2009 would be a year like this (and not just musically, but a near-death brush of appendicitis and the birth of a second daughter), I would've called you a smokin' joker. I try not to be a crotchety old fart, but I'm finding it increasingly difficult to relate to "young" people and their music. Even the good stuff. I don't necessarily dislike it - some of it I really like - but I don't get it. Wrong time frame. Friends tell me 19-year-olds are bidding on ebay for records by King Snake Roost, God and feedtime. Lemme tell you from experience: you couldn't give those records away back in the mid/late '90s! I should know: I tried! Glad I failed, of course (what was I thinking??); that stuff - the good and the bad - is part of my musical DNA from the prehistoric era. Now the cassette is back. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I can barely keep up.

See that image above? Of course you do. I bought that LP back in 1987, my first purchase of any record from the band. The Meat Puppets' debut didn't make a whole lotta sense at first. II and Up On The Sun, purchased sometime soon thereafter, certainly did. Fact is, the MPs' first disc was always the one I listened to the least out of all their SST platters, and I listened to them all a lot, believe me. Bought all the Rykodisc CD reissues years back when they hit the shelves, too... and somehow the debut still got lost in the shuffle. Still heard the thing approx. 1,000 times, but it was the least loved. My re-evaluation, or relevation, has finally hit my brain cells and sunk in. I've been playing this at work of late: my workmate is away for the month and I have the run of the office, free to punish myself w/ whatever audio bollocks I please. I decided to take full advantage of such a situation and brought a stack of Half Japanese, Burzum, Darkthrone et al CDs to work, with Meat Puppets being top of the pile. 22 years later and it's hitting home. Back in 1987, the Meat Puppets meant zip to all but those in the know. In 2009 they're ex-grunge superstars w/ a platinum album on the mantlepiece. From the latter perspective, this album comes from Mars, but somehow going forwards at the time, then backwards now, the ridiculous collision of hardcore fury (w/ zero angst), peyote-fried psychedelia and near-fusionoid chops is a combo hard to beat. Meat Puppets is up there w/ the Electric Eels, Flipper's Generic (which it greatly resembles in parts, as has been pointed out a zillion times) and Half Jap's 1/2 Gentlemen/Not Beasts as a one-of-a-kind display of art brut which couldn't possibly be repeated. Soon therafter the Kirkwood's (and Bostrom) really got their chops happenin' and nothing this primitive could be replicated. Brought out of LAFMS-bred art-noise obscurity by none other than Joe Carducci and brought to SST's attention as great white hopes, one can only hail all involved as visionary: for what was made then and for what was to come. Curt Kirkwood's angular, sharp guitar shards are so Ginn-like I can only assume there was something in the water. Or maybe Spot and Carducci's presence sprung some magic in the studio. The band never got anywhere near this sound again, but no band can do more than an album or two of this kind of chaos. People get better or worse or just disappear. Meat Puppets is a masterpiece, and I feel like a fool for being possibly the last veteran fan on earth to truly acknowledge it.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Unexpectedly rushed off to the emergency ward last week and put under the surgeon's knife. I'm still all in one piece, sans one pus-ridden, gangrenous appendix. Relaxing, recuperating, getting my mojo back. Will return in a little while.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WHIRLING PIG DERVISH - Full Leather Lovesuit 7" EP (Gruff Wit/1991)
Went on a 7" binge the other night and nearly didn't make it back alive. Thank the heavens I've never sold a single 7" since I got over pop music as a 13-year-old: they're always good to travel back to at least once a year. This is one of them. I was going to wax lyrical about this here piece o' plastic at some kinda vague length, and then I noticed I'd been beaten to it by Martin over at Swedish Nurse blog. You might wanna check his quick rant out, since you can also download the thing there, too. WPD I know next to zip about. Like much of the Scottish scene of its time (late '80s/early '90s), such asDawson , Stretchheads, Archbishop Kebab, Badgewearer, Dog Faced Hermans, etc., as well as their Dutch/Euro brethren (The Ex, Donkey, Revenge Of The Carrots et al), finding any kinda real concrete information on the whos, whats, wheres and whys, even in this instant age, remains a tough one. Perhaps not so much The Ex or DFH, but if you can locate an unedited complete history of the great Badgewearer on the 'net, send me a link and I'll buy you a lollipop. WPD released this one 7" on Jer from Dawson's Gruff Wit label back in 1991, a split cassette w/ Revenge Of The Carrots a year or two later, and even apparently (since I've never seen nor heard it) an LP by the name of Three Small One Tall, and that's it. Any cassette or LP or burn/tape thereof which flies my way will be moderately rewarded. Soundwise, they inhabit the same Fall-damaged zone as DFH, meaning thick-as-tar bass lines, scattershot rhythms and twangy, almost rockabilly guitar riffs. And, much like The Fall, there's no mistaking that accent; no Mancunian drawl here, but a near-incomprehensible and unmistakable Scottish brogue (easily understood by moi as my Dad's a Glaswegian). Four tracks of angry, political yelp documented w/ a nice sleeve, mandatory lyric sheet, clean and punchy recording quality (which this kinda schtick requires) and then it's all over. All members can leave this mortal coil at one point in time knowing they impressed at least one Antipodean douchebag with what they did in this life.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Last night I braved humanity (and humanity braved me!) and hit the town for a special night of music: the launch of PIVIXKI's debut CD on the Sabbatical label. OK, OK... some backtracking is in order... PIVIXKI is a duo consisting of local avant wunderkind, Anthony Pateras, and percussive extraordinaire, Max Kohane, on piano and drums, respectively. Pateras has been playing around town for roughly a decade in all manner of configurations (such as the Pateras/Baxter/Brown trio), but most notably as a solo artist (he's got a CD on Tzadik to prove it); and Kohane is similarly a man who likes to spread himself around, having played in various HC outfits (such as Far Left Limit and the ace Cut Sick), grind kings Agents of Abhorrence, electro duo the Brain Children (w/ Mikey from Eddy Current) and even, apparently, as a solo hip-hop dude (yet to hear that!). Phew! Fill in the gaps, there's still plenty to talk about... But anyhow, let's talk about PIVIXKI. They like to bill themselves as something along the lines of a piano/drums avant-grind outfit, and since no other description fits what they do, I'm willing to go along w/ that. Max, as anyone who's ever seen him play, is a goddamn demon behind the kit, a four-limbed machine of immense precision and power, he's also usually the highlight of every band he plays in. I simply observe in jealous awe and wonder how it is that his arms don't fall off. Pateras' style can vary according to what sort of format or "genre" he's playing in, but for this duo I'd say it's caught somewhere in the netherworlds of Conlon Nancarrow and Cecil Taylor. PIVIXKI are upbeat as all shit: keys are hammered and there's blastbeats aplenty, but there's also occasional stabs at subtlety, giving the songs some space to move in. I get a feeling that as PIVIXKI develop, they're only going to get better - much better - in the same way that the Necks, who aren't totally dissimilar to PIVIXKI (or perhaps I should put that the other way around, though PIVIXKI are kinda like the Necks on crystal meth with song lengths about 1/100ths the duration), have only improved with age over the last two decades, as each member realises the true potential the seemingly limited band format has for them. I see that PIVIXKI's website lists their influences as simply "Discordance Axis and Iannis Xenakis". That's them in a teacup. European tour later in the year. The show, and the accompanying CD they've just released (which is in an edition of 200, so get in quick), rate as some of the best, most invigorating and wholly original music I've come across in recent times. Get on it.

Speaking of Sabbatical, who release all their CDs in editions of 200, you should probably get onto their Naked On The Vague title, Sad Sun, before it goes out of print. I chuckle to myself writing this. Why? Because Sydney's NOTV have got all the hipsters talkin', what w/ the pedigree of being on Siltbreeze and having an arty electro-dirge vibe surrounding their wares and playing all the cool shows and having all the right fans... and I caught 'em supporting Clockcleaner late last year and thought they absolutely blew. I figured 'em to be a whole load o' hype over nuthin'. Their lifeless art-rock dirges sounded like an art-school project which had been misguidedly encouraged by well-meaning folks but which probably ran its natural course after the first rehearsal, their preposterous wank barely even registering a pulse. Of course I was being mean! My prejudice possibly sprung from one basic point: how could a band from Sydney actually be any good? I bought their Sabbatical CD last night - a mere $10 - to see if I could be proved wrong. A friend had recently noted I should give them another go. My socks haven't been blown off, but next time they hit town, I shall peruse. On Sad Sun, NOTV leak out a very pleasant mixture of No Wave scunge-rock and early industrial noise shit a la SPK/'Gristle/CV etc., and whilst it doesn't rewrite the rule book of song as we know it, I don't expect such a thing and certainly don't demand it. I just want the songs to wash through me in a pleasant manner and to evoke something. Sad Sun has done that, at least. 5 songs, 25 minutes. I want to hear more. Sabbatical really does have a buncha great stuff on their imprint. I need to check more of it out, and so should you.

Lots of great things a-happening Down Undah! I've been sent a whole load of promo things lately, and whilst I'll get around to some other goodies at a later date, I'll quickly mention a split 7" twixt FREE CHOICE and MENTAL POWERS which has recently come out on the Fifth Column label. I know next to nothing about the label or why this exists, though I don't request such answers. Sometimes the best records are those which answer no such questions and exist within their own universe. What I do know is this: Free Choice is Jarrod from the Fabulous Diamonds. A solo project. He told me, after I enquired, that his contribution was "pretty derivative, even by my standards". That is correct. If he is assuming it sounds like Harmonia, which it does. That isn't a bad thing at all. His piece, "Green Groove", is a pretty nice slice of metronomic electronic boogie which sounds like it was lifted from Musik Von Harmonia, sure, but no complaints from these quarters. Mental Powers allegedly hail from Perth and that's all I know about 'em. Their track, "Appear/Juniour", is an acoustic psych/drone piece which, at least to me, resembles one of the shorter tracks from Amon Duul 2's Yeti or Dance of the Lemmings. Kinda "tribal" and possessing a flute in a non-horrible context, it does the trick. Which now means I have to say that this is the best Kraut-derived Australian split 7" this year. Or any year. In all seriousness, it contains a handsome full-colour sleeve and I'm happy as heck that this landed on my doorstep for no apparent reason. It's a document of something good going down in these here parts. A little birdy told me S-S might have a few copies of this. Hunt it down.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Taking a sabbatical. Juggling work/home life is kinda exhausting right now. No time, no energy for this blog. Some folks will be happy w/ that announcement, but it's not a permanent shift: I'm hangin' around this music ghetto 'til the wheels fall off. I'm likely the last guy on earth to realise this, but the two albums Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald recorded together in the late '50s are pure genius. Like, mindblowing. Immense vocal deliveries, subtle sweetness, unadulterated American brilliance on wax. One pathetic hobby of yore in my meaningless life was to collect Top 10s from just about any music dork I met. I've still got a collection of 'em in a file somewhere. Did you know that Neil Hamburger (Gregg Turkington)'s contains records by the Beach Boys, Leonard Cohen and Tupac? That Dr. Jim's seriously lists Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music as a record he likes to play for "pleasure"? That Mark Harwood's contains Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Welcome To The Pleasuredome (don't laugh: it's a definite sentimental fave of mine, too)? I went on tour w/ Jad Fair when he was here in '97; I got his list, too. Besides the obvious (Velvets, Stooges, Beefheart, Modern Lovers et al), he also listed not one but both Ella/Louis albums as separate entries. A 25 year-old Dave Lang was appalled. Why waste an entry? What kind of old geezer listens to such records? I was sure they were nice 'n' pleasant 'n' all, but I saw his duplication of artists as a missed opportunity to list a Peter Brotzmann album or something. Somewhere in the back of my mind I kept a note: before I was to drop dead, I would get my mitts on every record in Jad's list (not too hard; I had 'em all except for those two rekkids!). I got meself a freebie of a double CD containing both the albums and a ton of bone-arse material about a year back. Played it once - didn't hurt - filed it away for keepsake. Earlier in the year I was playing a workmate's itunes "Party Shuffle" on his computer when he was away on an extended break, and it featured the Louis/Ella rendition of the old Hoagy Carmichael chestnut, "The Nearness Of You". The treatment was so note-perfect and, dare I say, moving, that I noted to self that the dust-gathering 2CD would be pulled from the shelf that night and gather dust no more. Geez, and here I was thinking I was going to write about some cutting-edge rock 'n' roll beast like Suicide's sorely neglected second album. That'll wait 'til next time. For now, it's Ella 'n' Louis swinging their way through some Irving Berlin, Gershwin and Carmichael. That's the goods.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Here's a band of yore still much loved in this household, though probably not talked about a whole lot. Of course, the trio known as the Art Bears - that's Fred Frith, Dagmar Krause and Chris Cutler - aren't exactly gonna be everyone's cup o' tea. Spawned from the early/mid '70s avant-progsters, Henry Cow, who did a bunch of pretty cool discs on Virgin in the day which I recall liking back in the dark ages (not the '70s!) but haven't played for over a decade, the Art Bears were a tighter, more potent and economical proposition. Inspired by the rising punk tide at the time, the band cut some of the prog fat from their wares and slimmed the sound down to a mightily listenable mixture of Euro prog of the Soft Machine/Magma/Faust school, punk anger and US art-rock of the Mothers/Beefheart/'Ubu variety. Their first album, Hopes & Fears, from '78 is still kinda in the halfway zone, mixing the epic with the trim (and featuring pretty much the whole line-up of Henry Cow), though for me the real goods have always been the rekkids from '79 and '81: Winter Songs and The World As It Is Today.
Both of these had somewhat of a renaissance in the early '90s after Forced Exposure gave the whole Rock In Opposition (RIO)/Recommended Records scene a major buzz to a generation of budding young post-hardcore dorks looking for the next thrill, and since I was one of those dorks, I bit in, hard. The major beef folks might have w/ the 'Bears is Krause's vocals: they can be painfully Germanic and austere, like Nico singing Brecht, and if you're not up for what sounds occasionally like a heavy slab of Aryan berating on the vocal front, they can grate. Strange that she took such a route of delivery w/ the band, since an early '70s disc I've got of her older (and on and off) outfit, Slapp Happy, the terrific Cascablanca Moon, has her singing like a sweet princess (and lemme take a sidestep and thoroughly recommend that disc; it is like nothing else of its time: ramshackle yet highly melodic slop-pop that sounds more at home on the K label ca. 1990 than Europe ca. 1973).
These latter two LPs got licensed to Ralph Records in the day, where the band found a nice home w/ fellow oddballs, The Residents. I doubt they sold much, since such a European flavour likely didn't gel w/ a US audience at the time, but persist w/ the Art Bears and ye shall be rewarded. Their combination of American and European influences, along w/ the rad politics and punk-ish verve still make for a hot listen, and, along w/ their buddies This Heat or even Throbbing Gristle, are a great example of an ever-so-slightly older generation who'd been under the radar in some form or another for several years getting a boost by the anything-can-happen buzz when punk hit. Seriously, I can thank these two albums, both available on one CD, for opening a gateway to other good things on Cutler's ReR label empire, as well as Cutler's rather excellent File Under Popular book from the early '80s (still in print and well worth a read), solo Frith, This Heat, Camberwell Now, Magma, Mothers Of Invention, Robert Wyatt/Soft Machine, you name it. I guess they were rediscovered in the early '90s; time for a re-rediscovering.
UNREST - Imperial ffrr LP/CD (Teen Beat/No. 6/Ajax/1992)
Have I written about this before? Possibly. I know I certainly did back in 1993, but that was a lifetime ago, so I guess I'm granted the right to do it again. You may be surprised when you hear the record itself, but Imperial ffrr rates as one of my absolute top 10 albums of the 1990s. I still play it to this day, and quite a lot, too. Probably shoulda made it into that Top 100 Albums Of All Time list as well, but hey, that thing's probably already bloated upwards of about 250 albums as it is. Unrest were a DC group headed by Teen Beat label honcho Mark Robinson and, at least in the '80s, were known as being somewhat of an "anti-Dischord" band, much like the similarly great (though also totally dissimilar) No Trend. OK, OK, it all sounds rather quaint now, but I guess back in the day Ian & co. dominated the nascent DC hardcore scene with such force (as he and his musical offspring probably still do) that someone had to stand up and give 'em the middle finger for no particular reason whatsoever. Unrest are actually named after an old Henry Cow album, which probably gives you an indication of the kind of oblique reference points the band were making back in the hey-days of HC. Robinson himself is/was a total Anglophile in his musical tastes, outlook and aesthetic (especially the Factory label), though he's still got that DC HC blood pumpin' through his veins whether he likes it or not, and that's one of the great things about Unrest that made 'em work.
They certainly clicked on Imperial ffrr, which is possibly more than I can say for their two previous efforts: 1988's Malcom X Park and 1990's Kustom Karnal Blackxploitation (both on Caroline). In all fairness, I haven't heard either of them since about 1995, but I bought 'em both in about 1990 and they never clicked. Robinson seemed to be attempting a stab at every genre which took his fancy and coming off none too successfully w/ any of it, whether it was hardcore, noise, pop or the kinda extraneous noise which makes you want to flip the needle off. I sold 'em years back, and perhaps before I drop dead I'll get 'em back again, but I doubt it. I recall the both of them being musical struggles I couldn't endure (and that was when I was knee-deep in Whitehouse and Merzbow records!). Which brings me to this LP. Why would you be surprised I'd like it? Because it's so darn nice. Pop songs. Harmonies. Melodies. My work colleague called me a sissy-boy and was befuddled by my love of such supposed musical lightweights. The key to Unrest actually becoming not just "good" or "interesting" but rather excellent was the addition of Bridgett Cross to the group. After Imperial ffr they made the almost-equally-as-great Perfect Teeth then called it quits, and it's those two discs w/ her you really want. They're an ace mix of almost Eno/Roxy-style Brit art-pop mixed up w/ Factory fodder and east coast undie-rock a la Sonic Youth/Yo La Tengo, and Robinson drops the smarminess that beleagured his early work - a smarminess that made Unrest come across like an annoying fuck-you in-joke only he and his buddies really fully understood - and made 'em sound like an actual rock band making records people might wanna hear.
The pedigree of songwriting on Imperial ffrr is unbeatable: the opening power-pop of "Suki", the 8+ drones and falsetto vocals of "Imperial" (the best track here), the fey cheese of "I Do Believe You Are Blushing", the '80s New Wave of the Cross-sung "June" and even the tracks, such as "Firecracker" or "Electrico", which sound like the kind of art-damaged afterthoughts which cluttered their earlier works, only this time with some effort put into them. I've got this on both LP (w/ bonus 7") and CD, the latter being reissued years later by Teen Beat w/ a ton of bonus tracks that keep fanatics such as moi satisfied (and there are actually a whole slew of alternate versions and B-sides well worth hearing, if you're at all inclined), and I don't purchase albums on multiple formats unless I really mean it, man. Imperial ffrr is pleasant as all get-up, but it kills.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Paraplegic street musicians from Congo jamming it out w/ their own garage-level take on Afrobeat. Kids, this is punk rock!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Every rock 'n' roll monkey w/ a blog and a spare moment this side of the moon is furiously putting in their two cents for the man the last 24 hours. The man is Sky Saxon. I'll add mine. When I first started at Shock Records back in '95, the first week there I stumbled into one Dave Laing - the guy who ran the estimable Dog Meat label back in the day - and, since we'd corresponded before but never really chatted, I got to talking about music I knew he'd be keen to wax lyrical on. I brought up the Seeds. I wanted to know about 'em. I figured he did. I asked him the $64,000 question: where do I start? His dry response was thus: "Start w/ the first record, then the second, then the third... or just buy this box set and never worry about it ever again". The box in question was the 3CD Flower Punk set on the Demon label (long deleted), a handsome hardcover-book-style set which I eyeballed, grabbed and decided I'd purchase that week. It contains everything you need: the three Seeds studio albums - Seeds, Web Of Sound and Future - Sky's ridiculous "blues" album of the period, A Full Spoon Of Seedy Blues, and the Seeds' supposed "live" record (which was about as "live" as that 13th Floor Elevators album), Raw And Alive At Merlin's Music Box. Throughout the following 3 months it was a regular spin on the stereo, but to be honest, it was likely eclipsed by other things I was obsessed with at the time, such as Eno, Miles and Krautrock. The Seeds didn't really make their major impact on my brain until roughly 5 years later. In a Nuggets frame of mind due to a purchase of the mind-effing 4CD box set which had come out, I dove head first back into the world of '60s punk. In the winter of 2001 I stayed for a week at a good friend's place in Sydney. The guy lived like Travis Bickle. I mean, there was nothing in his flat. A mattress, a beat-up old computer (his only source of entertainment) and a couple of milk crates to sit on. That was it. And this is a guy who had a good, well-paying job! But anyway, I was aware of this situation before I left Melbourne, so I packed a boombox and a CD booklet w/ two-dozen albums and made my way there. The two Seeds CDs I brought w/ me, which contained the first three albums, for whatever reason - boredom, loneliness, the miserable weather, alcohol, the fear of turning 30 in 6 months time - hit that certain part of my brain and made sense. Along with the Amon Duul albums we flogged on repeat, the Seeds became the soundtrack to that fateful trip. The raw minimalism of the band, especially so on their first two albums, which then blossomed into the brilliant psychedelic pop of their third (pure LA chintz like Redd Kross 15 years before their time) struck me as a genuine bolt of genius. It clicked. I hailed them to strangers and friends alike as one of the great American bands of the 1960s. Forget about the one-trick pony baloney you hear from "music critics" (the same fogeys who claim the band only ever wrote one song, "Pushin' Too Hard", and, being the talentless shucks they were, simply recycled that one riff over 3 albums), the Seeds managed to produce a genuine body of work worthy of respect. The damaged soul known as Sky Saxon, just like the other damaged souls I liked (Roky, Arthur Lee, Syd... you know the score), was my new poster boy for excess. He certainly did exceed, but he kept on going and going... and apparently even played a show just this past week. I saw Arthur Lee play here in '03 and it's one of the top 5 shows I've ever seen. Damn it, I wish I'd seen Sky Saxon, too, just as some of my friends have, but that was never likely to happen, unless I saw him on foreign shores. Anyway, my two cents have been given. I'm not up for giving disingenuous obituaries, no matter how "important" the artist may be considered by the rock cognoscenti, to people who frankly never meant zip to me, but somewhere along the way, Sky scorched my psyche and I'm happy for it.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

CHROME DOME - Negative Vibes cassette
Didn't know dick about this band when I bought this cassette last Saturday. I just knew that I needed a new tape to play in the car, since the "family vehicle" (a 1992 model) only has a cassette player and I am sick to goddamn death of playing the half-dozen cassettes I happen to keep in the car. But anyway, that's not interesting: this cassette is. Chrome Dome are a new Melbourne duo; I'd heard the name around town, but presumed nothing except to say that they're probably young and hip and likely totally out of my sphere of interest. I'm happy to report I'm wrong. I checked out their Myspace page during the week and suddenly noticed that one of the two is the tall, big-haired guy who I'd seen play saxophone for local hardcore/noise-rockers, Pathetic Human (and also the same guy I tried to convince to play saxophone for Flipper at their Arthouse show). Right. Look, the point is this: it's a three-song cassette which pissed me off for one reason: I'd like to hear more. The three songs finish, so I press FFWD and then it's the same three songs on the B-side. That's not enough of a good thing. The name of the band possibly gives away a little of where they're coming from. There's a touch of Chrome damage here, but even more so I'd say their music, a cold, stiff electro boogie enriched by bargain-bin electronic drums and cheap synths, is an ace combination of early Cabaret Voltaire, Suicide and the Screamers. That's three bands I love, you know that. Sure, they're obvious references, and Chrome Dome ain't exactly rewriting the book on coldwave electro-punk, but what the hell do ya expect??!! It's 2009; this stuff is strictly nth generation by now, but CD do it well, and I wanna hear more. The Kids are awright.

Friday, June 19, 2009

ZOMBI - Spirit Animal CD (Relapse)
Well, at the very least, this album wins cover of the year. There's just something about that rampaging elephant on grainy stock w/ the artist/title font which works, ya know? Sure. It'll also wind up being one of my fave albums of the year, too. Zombi, an American duo, have rather quickly entered the league of being one of my fave currently existing outfits, a fact which has some of my pals scratching their heads wondering what the hell I find so appealing about such a synth-heavy prog-ish outfit as them, but a fact it remains. Hailing from zombie central (in the classic Romero-esque sense of the word), Pittsburgh, Zombi have quite obviously got a heavy Goblin obsession happening, as well as a great love for director/composer John Carpenter's awe-inspiring scores of the '70s/'80s, especially Halloween/Escape From New York/The Thing (three flicks I love), but that doesn't simply make them a tribute act. Now encompassing, for the very first time, some guitar in their sounds, their musical palette has been broadened slightly. Actually, the opening title track kinda sounds like mid '70s Pink Floyd scoring a B-grade sci-fi flick, its levels of prog bombast almost too much, but in the context of things, it works. Later tracks on the disc get more hyper, sounding like the Zombi of yore; a bit like an action sequence from an early '80s Kurt Russell exploitation flick, or Vangelis composing for a horror movie. Now, all that talk probably doesn't sound that appealing, hmmm? You'd be wrong. Zombi have a real sense of dynamics and cinematic scope to their music. It's a note-perfect combination of electronics and rock, and it's not so much about the songs as it is the overall feel they develop throughout an album. Whatever it is they're doing, I like it a lot.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Total FLIPPER OD the past 2 weeks...
That's not entirely true. That comment assumes I've actually overdosed on 'em. Far from it. I could see 'em again. And again. And I already witnessed two 2-hour sets and had the privilege of dining w/ them the night they arrived in Australia (yeah, yeah... in true starfug mode. It was a 15-year-old Dave Lang's wet dream, so I did it). Loved every minute of their shows. People complained the sets were too long. Didn't notice the first time around; I was rather intoxicated (I'm a two-pot screamer these days, so don't assume I was slammin' 'em down) and was yelling "Moooore" at set's end, only to be alerted later on that they had in fact already slogged it out for two solid hours. Sober as a judge at the second Melbourne show, the one at the illustrious Arthouse venue, the band clicked and got better and better. Way more heavy-duty in sound and approach than their earlier records - my brother thinks they sounded like Drunks With Guns(!) - they ran through pretty much the entirety of the first two albums and a bunch of singles ("Love Canal" being the highlight) and a few newbies offa the 2CD they just put out. A buddy of mine, well-read and one who knows and cares passionately about his punk rock (probably far more than I could possibly ever care in regards to the alleged integrity and politics of punk as we know it in the year 2009) remarked to me that it was one of the most incredible, life-affirming shows he'd ever witnessed, and yet also one of the most dull and depressing, and so I just had to ask him why. Mind you, this is all via email, and his response was essentially thus: Flipper were always seen as the ultimate "anti-band". The genius of Flipper was that the audience didn't matter. If Flipper wanted to fuck around for an hour, or drag one song into a 90 minute set, or play the entire show with their backs to the audience, then that was fine. I agreed that that was fine behaviour ca. 1979-1986, but that at this stage of my life I was just old, pathetic and nostalgic enough to simply be impressed by "a great rock show". For some, that's not what Flipper are about. People go to Nickelback concerts for "a great rock show" (well, actually, they don't, but you know what I mean); Flipper shows are meant to fuck with your mind. Sorry, my mind doesn't need any more fucking. Flipper flew 1000s of miles to play in Australia, and to travel the land pissing everyone off wouldn't have done them any favours, even if that knife-edge/confrontational/Dada-esque hoo-ha was all the rage when I was riding my BMX back in primary school. Flipper ca. 2009 seemed just fine to me. Better than I could've hoped for. Perhaps we're all just mellowing out in our old age.

I like to mix things up, ya know. Lately, it's been a little bit of Ian Matthews blended in with a touch o' Moby Grape and even the pulseless drones of Stars Of The Lid. If I dig it, it gets a spin. Occasionally I need something to simply wake me up, blast my senses and have me cursing the world with clenched fists. This is where NYC's BRUTAL TRUTH come in, a "grind" band I'll swear by. Saw 'em when they toured here back in '97 or so and they flipped my wig and then some. Playing 1,000 miles an hour with songs that appeared to be over before they started, and lyrical topics ranging from smoking copious amounts of cannabis to fightin' the man - usually in the space of one song - I was won over. These guys were aaaawright! I worked for their label's distributor for the latter half of the '90s and found myself occasionally blasting their wares in the workplace, coming to the conclusion that any such band which had the balls to tackle cover versions of Germs, Boredoms and Sun Ra songs on their recordings in such a manner was a band doing the right thing their own way. After 1997's Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom - probably their best record - they disappeared for over 10 years and... you know where this is heading: they're back.
That record above, released on the Relapse label, is the newie, and it picks up exactly where they left off. Lemme tell ya, the best thing about the 'Truth is this: they can write an actual "song". They mix up their records with the fast, the slow and the in-between. Other than the blink-and-you've-missed-it grind numbers, they make one heck of a good "rock" band in a strictly Black Flag-derived sense. That is, heavy-duty rock of the tortured-soul variety, all pain/no gain stuff obviously heavily influenced by My War and Slip It In. Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom was full of Ginn-damaged moments, especially the slo-mo tracks which sounded like they coulda subbed for the B-side on My War, and Evolution... follows that same path. Just to get into further SST-damage mode, the band even tackles the old Minutemen chestnut, "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs", and their reinterpretation nails it. If you ever wondered what the second side of My War would sound like on 78, you might wanna investigate. This is good, chest-beating noise.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

YAWNING SONS promo video! Yep, the CD is out now on Lexicon Devil (well, it is Down Under, though it'll be out in the US/UK mid-month), and you can peruse this little promo clip the guys from SOAC put together. Nice!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Aaah... the well has never truly run dry. This is the only footage I've ever seen of the Screamers live at the Masque in '77, and whilst it's a little rough, it's also well worth a viewing if you're a fan, as the band blazes their way through a few of their best songs. On a bit of an LA punk kick (yeah, again...) as I've just viewed a pretty great Zeros DVD I got as a freebie today, which also has some fantastic footage of them on morning TV in '77, as well as a recent interview w/ the Phast Freddie (who comes across really well, kinda like an elder statesmen rock 'n' roll beatnik with a clue. By golly, I hope I can make it into my 50s with that much dignity intact).

FLIPPER - Love/Fight 2CD
I kinda have a vested interest in this, since the company I work for has just licensed the two brand new Flipper albums - the studio disc, Love, and the live disc, Fight - due to my pestering, and put them together as a 2CD set to mark their debut Australian tour starting next week. Best of all, the albums are GREAT. You didn't think American Grafishy was any good? Did you even listen to it? I thought not. I can't wait to see 'em. I feel like I'm 15 again. Actually, I screenprinted my own Flipper t-shirt when I was 15, so I might dig it out for the occasion and use it as a hanky. Hope to see you at the shows!