Thursday, November 25, 2010

You'll have to excuse me, things have been a little hectic of late. The busier times get, the less attention I pay to this blog. Let me see if I can simply ramble on about a few things. That image above is taken from the front cover of PELL MELL's Flow CD from 1991 on SST. I paid zero attention to it upon release. In fact, I didn't even know of its existence until many years later. By 1990, it was my belief that SST had completely and utterly drained the well dry regarding music I would care to listen to in this lifetime. You may have a different opinion regarding that. Perhaps you think they should've never bothered releasing any music in the first place (and that means you're reading the wrong blog); or perhaps you think the cut-off point is 1986, when Joe Carducci left the stable and Ginn and co. were free to go on a wild signing spree, subsequently releasing hundreds of records in just a couple of years (it has been noted before that Carducci didn't want to sign Sonic Youth to the label, believing that record collectors don't make worthwhile music. The day he left, Ginn & Dukowski gave Thurston a call. Surely Carducci must admit that Evol and Sister are fine records, no?). For myself the cut-off point was always 1989... but I'm willing to admit there's some fine late-to-the-party stragglers the label has released over the past 20 years.
Flow is most definitely in there, along w/ releases by Slovenly, Fatso Jetson, The Sort Of Quartet and even Ginn's own recent Jambang recordings, an outfit who make music a whole lot more intriguing than their terrible name may suggest. But like I said, I didn't buy Flow at the time, as my head was elsewhere (mainly up the ass of Kramer, Jad Fair and John Zorn, if memory serves me well). I've written about Pell Mell before, and if you care, you can read it here. Along with Slovenly and The Scene Is Now - two bands whose sonic qualities they vaguely resemble - I still stand by the claim that they rank among the finest and most sorely under-valued American rock bands of the last 30 years. If you disagree, you can send your complaints to my PO box. Pell Mell only ever made instrumental music, and were lucky enough to have two recording/producing/tech geeks in their ranks w/ Steve Fisk and Greg Freeman, which means that even though the music doesn't possess a Jim Steinman-like gloss, the interweaving of the instruments is always apparent, and just like Slovenly and TSIN, Pell Mell's songs always sound like there's different, separate melodic traces dodging their way throughout their songs, making for excellent repeated listening pleasure. That means there's an almost Verlaine/Lloyd-style telepathic interaction happening, though Pell Mell never went the way of The Long Solo. The economic twang 'n' burn is pure Duane Eddy and Dick Dale with a beautiful, lilting and lyrical edge which would make 'em perfect for soundtracks. And indeed they did have some tracks on various soundtracks and TV shows, including one on possibly my fave series of them all, Six Feet Under.
In 1991, despite the "grunge explosion" (most of which sounded like a B-grade take on mid '80s SST sludge-rock), SST was about as fashionable as last month's milk, and hence Flow didn't do much business. As noted before, their old manager, ex-SST dude and as-then DGC A & R guy, "Rockin" Ray Farrell, signed 'em to Geffen for the equally excellent Interstate CD from 1995, before they were dropped from the label to release their fantastic Star City CD - possibly their finest album of them all - on Matador in 1997. All of these albums remain out of print though relatively cheap and easy to find on ebay. And I haven't even mentioned their brilliant albums from the '80s yet. That's for another time. I suspect few will leap from their computer, or leap onto their computer to go on a mad Pell Mell search after reading this, but if you do, you can thank me later.
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Writer/musician Binky Philips, he being a member of the '70s/'80s CBGBs outfit The Planets, has written an interesting piece on The Damned's debut performance at CBGBs in 1977 for The Huffington Post right here. It's well worth a read and only confirms my opinion that The Damned were one of the UK's finest exports in '77 and remain greatly undervalued by those who should know better. Their debut LP is still one of the great albums of its era (as is Machine Gun Etiquette from '79), a non-stop barrage of furious and seriously rocking "punk" which also played a defining role in kickstarting the hardcore movement a few years later. Certainly, their west coast shows at the time gave the locals a boost in knowing they were on the right track. Read and bullshit that you were there.
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I now have tickets in my possession for four live shows happening in Melbourne over the next four months: The Fall, Wire, Swans and Hawkwind. I suspect The Fall may be completely terrible, but it must be done. Wire I have no fears for: their show here some 5 years back in scorched in my brain as one of the finest live musical experiences of my pathetic life. Swans could go either way, but their billing w/ support band the Necks and my shameless 20-year fandom for their music makes attendance a mandatory equation. Hawkwind could be a shambles, and I don't think they're carrying much these days in regards to original membership, though their output from the '70s, and even a smattering of recordings from beyond that period, remains so definitive in my "musical development" (and perhaps lack of mental development) that I'll be there front and centre.
If you think this post is lame, then perhaps I should tell you about the number of constant and draining distractions going on about me - in my goddamn loungeroom! - as I write this. I won't.

1 comment:

Mike F. said...

Worth mentioning that the lead track on "Interstate" was used during the recap section of each episode of "Six Feet Under." Hopefully those guys are making some loot.