Friday, March 27, 2009

I was thinking of penning a piece on the US horror-synth outfit, ZOMBI, but you know what? I'd only have to join the queue. You shouldn't need to read anything I'll say about 'em. They get my endorsement. I've been playing that CD above - Surface To Air - as well as their s/t debut LP a whole lot the last week, and the duo known as Zombi, an outfit who are equal parts Goblin and John Carpenter in their ability to create awesome analogue-driven cinematic soundscapes, are worth whatever hype they're getting. They take what could be, in lesser hands, a one-trick schtick w/ the lifespan of half a song into a pleasurable and exciting audio experience that's lasted up to what must be almost half-a-dozen albums.
Just when you think things can't possibly get any stranger... Check this link
Last week, EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING took out the Australia Music Prize, which one could describe as being the Australian version of the Mercury Prize in the UK: a "winner", who is voted upon by his/her/its peers in "the biz", is supposedly based solely on the merit of their release, not commercial success or otherwise. Who gives a shit, right? Well, probably not most people, but it is nice to see a bunch of non-careerists who recorded their album for only $1500 such as ECSR take it out, as well as pocket the prize money of $30,000. Naturally, such a win stumps all the clueless douchebags both within and outside of the music biz. One such person is David Reyne. He co-hosts the 9AM show every weekday morning w/ "Kim" (whoever she is), and also holds the highly dubious distinction of being the one-time drummer for the Chantoozies (note to foreigners: the Chantoozies were a two-hit-wonder "girl group" made up of various soapie stars in the mid '80s down here). He's also the holder of another dubious distinction: being perhaps the most moronic no-talent dunderhead on Australian TV today, and believe me, such an honour holds stiffer competition than the annual AMP prize. But anyway, watch the clip above for Ian "Dicko" Dickson, one-time judge on Australian Idol, and his rave review for ECSR (and even the Ooga Boogas!!) and the jaw-droppingly clueless comments from the hosts. Next to these two, Dicko comes across as a national treasure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Speaking of pop-art mastery, here's a guy who mastered it like no other, straddling the worlds of beatnik jazz, psychedelia, disco, funk, orchestral schmaltz, light pop, avant-rock and even dub reggae like no one else. And, yes, come to think of it, even Scott Walker didn't dabble in all those genres. Serge Gainsbourg is a guy I don't believe I've even mentioned in this blog before, a surprising omission considering he has, for nigh on a decade now, remained one of my favourite performers and singers. No time to start like now. This song, "Sea, Sex and Sun", from the late '70s (and to be honest, I'm not sure which album it's originally from as it's never turned up on any albums from the period I've bought), is one of his best, and certainly has the funniest accompanying video he ever made (and he made a lot of them!). Whilst my fave Serge is 1976's L'Homme a Tete De Chou (The Man With The Cabbage Head), a strange mixture of ersatz funk, near Beefheartish boogie rock and proggy song suites, this Moroder-style piece of schlock is nothing to sneeze at. Or laugh at. Though one glimpse of what appears to be a brutally hungover Serge mumbling out mimed lines between two high-panted cavorting ladies may bring a smile to your face.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that posting Youtube videos is a lazy man's way of running a blog which is supposed to comprise of some actual written content, but I'm sick and home from work today, wasting away the hours on Youtube and coming across some cool things I'd like to share with you. Here's one of them; it's a video from Melbourne's uber-psych ensemble, Sand Pebbles, with one of the best songs from one of the best albums of last year, Ceduna. Ladies and gents - wait, who am I kidding? "Gents..." - I present you the Sand Pebbles with "Wild Season", a clip obviously filmed at the northern suburban rollerderby venue down here in Melbourne (yeah, I have actually been there) on a rollicking Saturday evening...
And by the way, the 'Pebbles now finally have a US release out on the Double Feature label (an imprint co-run by Galaxie 500/Luna's Dean Wareham) entitled A Thousand Flowers, which scrapes together a bunch of tracks from their last few albums, leaning heavily on their ace Ceduna album. You Yanksters will need it.

...and in the spirit of the entry below, I now present The Move...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Now that was a band! I'm relatively new to The Move; only heard their Best Of on the Repertoire label about 3 years back, though their name had been floating around my brain for a number of years previous, mostly through their track, "I Can Hear The Grass Grow", which was featured on the Nuggets 2 box set, and also through some ancient interview I read w/ The Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce about 10 years back, in which he waxed lyrical on his favourite artists, such as the Germs, Pharaoh Sanders and The Move. Two out of three sounded good; I made a mental note of the third. The Salvo label outta the UK has reissued The Move's first three albums - this, 1970's Shazam and 1971's Looking On, curiously missing out on their 1972 swansong, Message From The Country - and they're three albums which've been high on my listening agenda the last month. Just about any MOJO-reading dork (and sorry to disappoint, but I'm not such a person) will tell you that The Move were perhaps the great UK band of the late '60s/early '70s who've never truly received their due, and I'll second that notion. Headed up by Roy Wood, who later fronted glam oddballs Wizzard, and, on their last two albums, Jeff Lynne - yeah, that guy; anyone with a Rocklapedia Britannicus will know that The Move were Lynne's great precursor to his later success w/ ELO - they started out as a kinda psych/pop version of The Who, w/ eccentric flourishes a la Syd's 'Floyd or Between The Buttons/Satanic Majesties-period 'Stones, before mutating into a truly unique psych/pop/hard rock/prog/glam outfit for their later LPs. Shazam, in particular, shows The Move to be one fuck of a ROCK band, w/ several tracks reaching Hawkwind/'Sabbath levels of guitar overload, so never write this band off as a bunch of candy-asses. Right now it's their first, self-titled album which is really getting the flogging. Originally released in 1968, it's a note-perfect Brit psych-rock disc w/ the kind of pop hooks that lodge themselves deep into yer cranium. They were pretty obviously heavily influenced by The Who at the time, w/ Keith Moon-style drum fills and various tracks whose chorus' sound like they were ripped straight from the "I Can See For Miles" school of songwriting, but let it be said: that's not a bad thing! This has some of their best ever songs, flat-out classics such as "Yellow Rainbow", "(Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree", "Walk Upon The Water" (my fave, and the most obviously Who-damaged), "Useless Information", "Fire Brigade" and "Cherry Blossom Clinic". Fact is, it's hard to spot a dud here. The Move were a truly ace combo of psychedelic pop whimsy and rock 'n' roll crunch, and I'd place this right up there w/ its contemporaries Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn, Satanic Majesties Request and Village Green Preservation Society. The Move, like the best bands of their era - like the best bands of any era - sound like a real band. No session-muso nonsense or studio hackery; there's really expressive musicianship here, awesome interplay w/ just the right stops and starts and little flourishes which steer it away from anything resembling bog-standard "rock". All this gushing leaves just one question unanswered: what in the hell are you waiting for? It took me 37 years to hear the thing, so don't waste a second longer! Anyone w/ a hankerin' for late '60s Who, psych-era 'Stones, SF Sorrow, early Roxy Music or Bolan and Bowie (two guys who ripped The Move's sound fairly heavily)'s best '70s moments needs to hop on board.
What a blast to see TONY ALLEN play this Thursday just gone. You know Tony: he hit the skins for Fela Kuti from 1968-'79, as well as releasing four absolutely crucial afrobeat discs between the years 1975-1980: Jealousy, Progress, No Accomodation For Lagos and No Discrimination. I've been on a heavy-duty African music trip the last five years, after finally being exposed to the best Ghanian highlife, Guinean jazz and Ethiopian funk/soul/jazz there is, though I always go back to my fave Fela and Tony Allen discs if I simply want to hit paydirt. Allen didn't reach the scorching levels of intense afro-funk I'd hoped for - it was more a mellow affair suited for a fellow like me to indulge in a little white-man jig-e-jig - though the 2+ hr. concert at the Corner Hotel kept me there the whole night (well, actually, the fact that I had to co-man the CD stall there was probably what kept me up 'til 1:30 in the morning on a work night, but that's a different story...), and it was a real treat. Stranger still is hanging out at a gig full of bespectacled white guys w/ an obvious weakness for purchasing insane amounts of music who also very likely have no interest in "rock" music. I like a lot of different music - anyone who wishes to hold themselves in a rock 'n' roll stranglehold their whole life isn't getting the full picture - though, to be honest, outside of my brief foray into the world of classical music w/ a Jordi Savall concert last year and a Cecil Taylor show I shall be witnessing next month - just about every live gig I see is somehow based on ROCK. And that's whether it's some avant-noise baloney, sludge, garage or cardigan-wearing indie-rock. It's ALL rock! Tony Allen wasn't. Nor was his audience. And it was a nice slice of life I probably don't get enough of.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

I was talking to an old pal the other day. He asked me the age-old question, the one which I don't mind being asked, but also the one which also draws the biggest blank every time: What have you been listening to lately? I browsed the stack of CDs and LPs next to the stereo... "Ummm... some old fIREHOSE albums, Bill Evans' early '60s trio stuff, The Move, Cluster, Flying Burrito Brothers, Lobby Loyde's preposterous but highly enjoyable space-rock disc from '76, early rocksteady by Duke Reid - geez, eclectic motherfucker, ain't I? Uh-huh, yeah... - and also some early albums by Siouxsie and the Banshees". It was the last one which raised eyebrows. This is for two reasons: A) I'm usually viewed as somewhat of an anti-Anglophile in my musical bias'; and B) Siouxsie And The Banshees (SATB) are just the kind of band which'd probably make a Carducci choke on his double-beef deluxe burger, and hence apparently not the kinda band I'd dig. Supposedly. My friend then noted in a smart-arsed manner, Geez, Dave, I suppose you'll be listening to Echo And The Bunnymen next, huh? No, I won't. There's an important difference here: SATB made some terrific post-punk albums in their day, records obviously sourced from their great love of Can, VU, Roxy Music and Brit psychedelia; Echo and his merry men were a bunch of bland limp-dicks who epitomised the degeneration in UK music at the dawn of the '80s and wrote the musical template for Bono and his pals to wallow in. But back to the matter at hand...
Aaah, 1980's Kaleidoscope! Yes, this is the finest SATB disc there be, and I really like their debut, The Scream, a lot, and their follow-up to this, 1981's Juju, even more. There's their sophomore LP, Join Hands, to contend w/, too, but everyone keeps telling me it ain't that good, so I've always steered clear. Am I being foolish? But anyway, get all that Goth baloney outta yer head; Kaleidoscope has about as much to do w/ "Goth" - a genre I find to be almost entirely devoid of any substance or musical quality/quantity - as it does w/ country-rock. This is their album most steeped in a kinda Brit post-punk sound, and by that I mean it's more in yer Wire/PiL vein of things, w/ a heavy dose of noisy Yank art-rock a la Suicide/Pere Ubu. It's got two bona fide "hits" you mighta heard in years gone by, "Happy House" and "Christine", and a swag of just-as-good if not better album tracks, such as "Trophy", "Clockface" and the truly awesome "Hybrid", a sax-abetted number w/ military drum patterns and a chance for Siouxsie to prove that, beyond all the punk cliches that hounded her since her first public appearance in '76, she actually had a very cool and listenable set of pipes which could be put to perfect use in the right context. Again, if you think that SATB may be off your musical map coz there's so much bogus baggage wrapped up in some of their fans, or if you simply think they weren't once a musical entity but a fashion template, you're doing yourself a disservice. Kaleidoscope, as well as some of the LPs surrounding it on both sides, goes to show them as one of the UK's better bands of the period. Inventive and never-predictable "rock" which drew from an eclectic array of influences, from the predictable Roxy/Bowie/Can/VU axis, but also from No Wave, The Cramps, Suicide and flowery Brit psychedelia a la Syd/The Move/Satanic Majesties-period 'Stones. Not a bad well to draw from, and Kaleidoscope is more than just the sum of its inspirations.