Saturday, June 05, 2010

feedtime - s/t LP (Aberrant/1985)
I was at the local supermarket last week on a Saturday afternoon, picking up various sundry items, when I turned the corner of an aisle and nearly walked smack-bang into Kim Salmon. He lives in the area and I occasionally see him around. I don't know him personally; I've met him once or twice - he's friends of various friends - though I'd be lying if I said we were buddies. I happened to be wearing an old New York Dolls t-shirt, an all-time favourite band of his, and he shot me a look and a grimace as if to say, I know that you know who I am, and I similarly shot him back a look as if to say, I know that you know that I know who you are. We both gave a slight nod of half-arsed recognition and parted ways. There may be mega-fans in certain parts of Europe and the USA who would be shocked by the mundane daily existence of such a "music legend", though such is life for cult celebrityhood. I also hear that Mark Arm works in the Sub Pop warehouse, taking care of goods in/out.
So anyway, the point, if there is any, is that the incident in question actually had me pulling out a couple of Scientists records for a spin later that evening. The Scientists then led me onto feedtime, since an inane and fairly fruitless 'net search on the Scientists soon had me checking out some old Mark Arm interview, in which he hailed both the Scientists and feedtime as a major influence on his musical trajectory, and noted, probably more than a little tongue-in-cheek but not w/out a tone of seriousness, that both bands, despite little if any renown in the mainstream music world, played a not insignificant role in the development of the music some know as "grunge". None of this should be news to you, and it's probably not even interesting enough to bother printing, but it does at least give you a roundabout way of understanding why I decided to play this very LP, feedtime's debut and one which made a major dent in the craniums of various influential music types in the US of A. If I recall correctly and aren't simply inventing a false memory, I'm quite sure that Byron Coley rated this as one of the top 10 rock albums of all time back in the day. That's a big deal.
I first heard the album when I was 13 or 14: my older brother bought a copy after reading about them in B-Side (a place where possibly 90% of people first heard of them); in fact it was the original version on feedtime Records (the Aberrant version is essentially a reissue). Obsessed with X at the time, feedtime were a natural progression. That was his bag. I dug feedtime and X quite a bit, too, but I left the obsession for him. I bought a copy of the LP 5 years later when I was at Uni and it was still relatively "available" and in print, and it remains a record pulled out on an 18-monthly/biannual occasion when it's warranted. The band went on to release three more albums, all of which were licensed to Rough Trade/US, gaining themselves a cult following as the late '80s "pigfuck" (AKA Killdozer, Tad, Drunks With Guns, Cows etc.) scene made a ripple, and then they called it quits. feedtime were no ordinary post-punk band. From what I can gather, they were barely aware of such a genre, had little to no interest in contemporary music and would rather spend their days fixing old motorcycles and spinning Bukka White platters. I'd be willing to bet they'd played a few early P.i.L records in their day, but that's it. They got back together again in the mid '90s and released the Billy LP on Black Hole/AmRep, and it was as good as you could hope a "reunion" album to be (ie. - it was actually really good). At the time they played one show in Melbourne at the Punters Club and my brother and I eagerly went, danced our asses off, got drunk as hell and chewed the band members' ears off after the show. They were polite, genuinely interested that a couple of prize suburbanite dweebs as us had spent our high school years knee-deep in their back catalogue, and keen to get the band happening again. The latter never happened; I've heard some nasty rumours as to why the band called it quits yet again, though the stories are so remarkable that I suspect they may be total BS, so I won't repeat them here.
The band then seemed lost to the ages, and by the late '90s feedtime were about as fashionable as a King Snake Roost. Australian '80s underground rock - even the good stuff - wasn't worth a dime, or at least from my secondhand experiences in the day. I even tried selling my Bloodloss/feedtime/KSR records in '99, when I was in the midst of a serious cull as I planned some travelling, and in hindsight I'm glad such records were considered so worthless at the time, otherwise I would've made the majorly stupid move of getting rid of the things. And at some point in the future, I undoubtedly would've bought them all back again. My buddy Rich at Dropkick/Aarght! had the album masters for a few years, procured from Aberrant head and nice guy (and professional comedian/joke-writer!) Bruce Griffiths, and plans were underway for a feedtime box set to be released approx. half a decade ago. That never happened (Rich had his reasons), and I've since heard that Sub Pop could be doing it some time in the near future. So... it's 2010 and feedtime is spinning on the stereo.
They're still not an easy listen. I see that Allmusic compares them to Flipper, Big Black and the Melvins. I'll vouch for the former (though feedtime are no "anti-"band by any stretch; no juvenile hostilities present here), but the latter two are a different breed altogether (Melvins rule, by the way). I understand the surface-level comparison, though: it's not laziness, it's just that there are/were few bands whom you could compare to feedtime. Nominally, they slotted in w/ various post-HC noise-rock types - everything from Big Black to the Swans to Scratch Acid - but it was the band's perceived alienation from any kind of contemporary music scene, their reluctance to analyse their own music and their unique hybrid of sounds, a sound caught somewhere in the middle of 1930s Delta/1950s electric blues, the Stooges, the bass-heavy rumbling of X (a similar outfit w/ few precedents) and the arty minimalism of Wire and P.i.L., that made them such a unique and attractive proposition. Their records, in hindsight, had the cajones to at least back up the bulk of the hype. feedtime rocked. They didn't give you many hooks to hang yer hat on, but the overall pummel was what worked, leaving absolutely no concessions for any kind of hope in a wider, pop marketplace. Rick's guitar tone is murky, dense and almost oppressive; Al's bass rumbles on notes low enough to move your belly; Tom's drums rarely stray from a simple yet effective polka beat; and Rick's vocals bark out simple, folksy tales of riding down the highway and love gone sour. I don't play feedtime all that often because they're really not a band you can flog at any time of the day. You really have to be in the mood, but when the time is right, they're most definitely a band worth the bother.

8 comments:

Martin said...

Great post, I love this album and listen to it a lot still, it's my favourite of theirs. 'Southside Johnny' is an amazing song, it's wild. I hope that the albums do get reissued.

Heve Stughes said...

Blindly picked up all 3 of their old LPs at a fair last year with a 10 dollar price tag for the lot and a sticky note declaring them as "Oz punk-noise madness!" or something to that effect...
Now that you mention it though, what do you think of the Cows? Their first 3 records are deep in the KSR/feedtime/X slop-sound

Dave said...

I've got a couple of Cows 7"s, though I don't think I've played them since 1992. All those AmRep bands never made much of a dent w/ me. I bought some Cows, God Bullies, Surgery etc 'round 1990 - like a lot of people did - and was profoundly disappointed when I'd give them a spin. It all seemed very tuneless and frankly not very good. I never thought that even Halo of Flies were any good. I have absolutely no urge to revisit them either. Sorry!

Karl said...

That's an INCREDIBLE album. Live they were amazing. Hard to pinpoint what it was exactly, but they were just so intense, a feeling they managed to perfectly catch on the first album (not that the ones that followed were shabby, quite the contrary), much like X did on their first. Dave, your bro knows what's up. Anyway, I dug my feedtime stuff out for the first time in years a while back & was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up. I remember interviews where they stated they had no interest in current music, & only listened to old blues stuff, Rose Tattoo & X, & even claimed to not know the Stooges (punishable in Sydney back in the day I'm sure) when they recorded a track ('Ann'-apparently they asked what were the least popular ones & chose accordingly) for that Au-Go-Go Stooge tribute. Flipper or X would be the closest if you had to lump 'em in with any other outfit, but I don't think that does them justice. They were heads & shoulders above most of the 'noise' thing happening back then.

Anyway Dave, you got me reliving some pretty great rnr memories with this post & I went digging around YouTube & lo & behold:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5WFny1AwsI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mAram_OVcb4&feature=related

Man, feedtime were the absolute BALLS.

tame rat said...

good article, but i thinks there's a thing about feedtime that pretty much always gets over looked & thats that they had two songwriters & two vocalists with each with their own distinct style & at least as much of a early 70's glam / early metal / pre punk influence stuff as there is punk & blues, blah blah etc. ...

Leon said...

Best band. Over & out.

Anonymous said...

You can get this LP as an MP3 here
http://blackeyerecords.blogspot.com/2008/10/feedtime-self-titled-lp-1985.html

kami said...

one of the first bands i interviewed back in my nerdy zine days of the 80s (by mail from darwin no less) - saw them on the reunion tour and like you dave i got raucously drunk - but after they played! i wanted to soak up the moment of seeing one of my favorite bands of all time play. even got to talk to them after and was like a fanboy again... they still rate higher than damn near any other band i can think of.