Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Posts have been rare of late. I'm feeling stumped, truth be told. This blog is quite an exhaustive document of my listening habits the past 8 years, and indeed of late it appears to be a bit exhausted. Whilst I've been enjoying the sounds of old Blue Note hard-bop, regional '50s rockabilly comps, the electroid pulses of Actress and Porter Ricks and a stack of bossa nova tunes by the likes of Baden Powell, Joao Gilberto and Luiz Bonfa.... that doesn't necessarily mean I care to write about 'em, and it also more than likely means you don't wanna read about 'em. Shoot me a quick one-two in the comments box if you do want me to rave about this stuff, as I may be way off base. So let me take a detour and revisit an old band of yore I was very hot-to-trot for back in the early days of this blog. The UK band Electric Wizard were actually one of the key outfits I noted in the very first entry of this blog as being one I would be writing about in the future. I'm pretty sure I did... maybe once. Truth be told, from the years 2001-2005, Electric Wizard were one of my fave raves on the whole fuggin' planet. Along w/ Japan's Acid Mothers Temple, I rated them as the saviours of rock & roll as we knew it. At this point in history, I'm not convinced that rock can be saved anymore, or if it's even worth saving, but back then, as I entered my 30s, I still held an ounce of idealism within my rapidly ageing bones. Acid Mothers blew their wad w/ simply way too many releases - a number of them sub-par - which similarly blew their rep as a band of quality, and have since disappeared from most people's lips as a band worth noting within the past half-decade or more. It's a pity, because there are at least 10 absolutely brilliant Acid Mothers platters - I know, coz I still own them - but they're lost in a quagmire of toss-offs and mediocrity. One day, mark these words, the great Acid Mothers revival will hit planet earth, but it hasn't come yet.
Then there was Electric Wizard. When Dopethrone was released in late 2000, a record which even won the kudos of the chin-scratchin' nudniks at The Wire magazine (it was actually Edwin Pouncey who got the ball rolling), the lid was blown off and EW were no longer a secret for a small cabal of doom-metal freaks. And let's be honest - no, let me be honest - prior to that particular review, I had never bothered to give the band a spin. I was working at Missing Link, browsed the Wire wordage in question, scratched my chin and did my done duty: played the fuckin' CD. It blew my goddamn lid off. Dopethrone was a monumentally awesome slice of mega-heavy, loose-as-a-goose organic rock & roll which was ably spiced up w/ a drug-fuelled psychedelic bent and a kind of visual/lyrical aesthetic which seemed to borrow heavily from the yellow-toothed Limey school of horror a la Witchfinder General/Wicker Man/Hammer. It was an A-grade mix which captured a certain musical/lyrical/aesthetic vision that truly caught my imagination. In 2002 they released the similarly great Let Us Prey, a record which equalled Dopethrone in its sonic attack, and then the band started to face line-up changes and internal strife from chief member, Jus Oborn. Jus had formed the band in 1993 and already released two full-lengthers before Dopethrone found a wider audience for the group. There was 1995's Electric Wizard and 1997's Come My Fanatics, both released on Lee Dorian's Rise Above label.
But anyway, after 2004's We Live - the first disc w/ a reconfigured line-up (a 4-piece, as opposed to a trio, too) - an album I actually happened to like a lot, I didn't tend to pay them much mind. They toured here in, what, 2005 or '6? I saw them play at the shitawful venue, The Green Room, a depressing basement hellhole in the heart of Melbourne's crappiest backpacker/porn district, and I can barely remember what they were like. There are two reasons why this is so: A) I was probably drunk out of my skull; and B) whatever piddlehead brought the band out and booked their shows decided it would be a brilliant idea to put the band on headlining after, ooooh, maybe 5 or 6 identikit doom bands, each slogging out their mile-a-day sound until roughly 1AM in the morning when EW finally hit the stage and by that point in time you swore to the heavens THAT YOU NEVER WANTED TO HEAR ANOTHER DOOM BAND FOR AS LONG AS YOU LIVED. It left a sour taste in my mouth. The band didn't release another disc until 2007. By then I'd become the father of a baby girl and didn't much feel like listening to doom rock. I was walking on sunshine, baby, and that shit bummed me out. And so my EW CDs - that's their first 5 albums - have been sitting there on a rack in the spare room for the past 5 years collecting dust. That was until last week. When it was announced that the band would be one of the main attractions at the Roadburn festival in Holland next year, along w/ Godflesh (a band I liked quite a bit ca. 1990/'91, but haven't listened to in 20 years) and, most importantly of all, a top-10 faver of mine, the mighty Die Kreuzen, I pulled out my old copy of EW's first 2 discs, which are compiled together as a 2CD set on Rise Above, and gave Come My Fanatics a hearty spin. Along w/ Dopethrone, it's thee one to get. The debut from '95 is a blast in its own right, although it features a much tighter and more polished sound, comprising of angular riffs which sound like they could be lifted from the Melvins' Ozma platter (nothin' to sneeze at); but the approach of their sophomore effort is so vastly different, and indeed so much better, that it virtually sounds like a completely different band. There are only 6 tracks totalling a little over 50-odd minutes (there's 8 tracks on subsequent reissues: mine's a 1999 2CD set), and it's one of the greatest walls of noise emitted within the past 20 years. Jus and co. hammered out a relentless wall of fuzz, all framed within an inventive framework of riffery and rhythm. Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening, on bass/drums, respectively, keep the proceedings loose and jazzy like 1st-LP 'Sabbath, and Oborn's guitar hysteria is an orgy of drug-induced mania, outer-space solos and rifferama which digs all-new depths of, uh, what we shall call "heaviness".
I've picked my fave track from the set, "Ivixor B/Phase Inducer", as an example of its greatness. It is but one of six. I can't speak for what EW have become: they continue to write and record as I speak, and a few friends of mine still rate the band they are as very highly indeed, but I can speak of what they were. Certainly from the years 1997 - 2004, the peak years, if you will, they were up there w/ the best of 'em. Enough years have passed now that we can speak of "great bands of the early years of the 21st century", and Electric Wizard fit the bill, no? This track in question is from the late 20th century, but I think you get the point. For a number of years, the band was a high point for orgiastic, nihilistic rock music - all riffs, drugs and dimentia - and whilst I'm prone to dismissing such hedonism as not being conducive to music I'd want to hear in this lifetime, 'Wizard transcended whatever-the-fuck genre I speak of and made GREAT ROCK MUSIC we can all enjoy. The band were perfect for me back at the dawn of the naughties, the soundtrack to my reckless bong-hit existence of the time (or my "Charlie Sheen years", as one friend unkindly puts it), but even as a sensible teetotalling parent, an irredeemable square who prefers a quiet night in to a big night out, the band continues to hit the spot. It's 2012, and this noise still sounds good.