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.