Sunday, November 23, 2014

IN PRAIZE OF CUNTZ. THE BAND.


Excuse the cussing...I'll keep this brief. Melbourne's Cuntz have developed into a formidable outfit. I caught them play live in a city basement venue just two nights ago and reached that conclusion. Of course, I reached that conclusion 12 months ago, when I first heard their second LP, Solid Mates, on the estimable Homeless label (of course, I have to say that, but I do also believe it), but it was confirmed and solidified just this week past. A four-piece unit dealing in a particular strain of post-punk/HC grunt-rock, it's easy for such a band not to be good. Most practitioners of the neo-pigfuck genre - oh my lord, I just said that - do not make music I wish to hear. It's pure schtick - faux-redneck nonsense, at best - the sonics often resulting in B-grade sub-Antiseen slop-rock. We've all been witnesses. Cuntz play the game differently: they have songs and make music I place on repeat - in the privacy of my own home. That is a highly coveted position (not really), where wheat is sorted from chaff.

Sure, Cuntz sound a lot like a Venom P. Stinger/Flipper hybrid, but if you're of the opinion that such a point in the musical universe is a miserable place to inhabit, then you've probably just stumbled upon the wrong music-based blog to read. They have dynamics, ace guitar riffs, a rhythm section which makes sense and a singer - let's call him 'Ben' - who doesn't just ape some sort of cheeseball 'I'm on the fuckin' edge, duuuude' routine when the spotlight's fixed on him. In other words, the tunes deliver. Their first LP, Aloha, released (also) on the Homeless label earlier in 2013, didn't make a whole lotta sense to me. Its musical crudity had me thinking the band should've ironed out the songs a little longer before committing them to tape, but hey, I really should give it a good listen all over again.

Solid Mates comes in a swish gatefold sleeve and may or may not still be available. I've seen copies still floating around Melbourne, so it at least remains in circulation of some sort. The production, for a local scuzzbag outfit, is surprisingly punchy (thank Alex MacFarlane and the ever-present mastering skills of Mikey Young) and if you give the track above a spin you'll recognise that it's not all just pig-grunt Aussie-rock swagger, but a driving momentum and buzz which mutates Mark E. Smith, Suicide and some sort of garage-dunce beat. They're good, of that I am convinced. Yanks love 'em (they've toured there); many folks in their homeland choose to ignore them, but that's perhaps to be expected. Get on it. New live LP out, which I believe has pretty much been and gone upon release. I await more studio goods.

Monday, November 17, 2014

APPRAISING THE BLEEDING OBVIOUS, PART 2



Let's make it brief and get this embarrassment out of the way. This 2CD set, now on the extremely estimable Superior Viaduct label (who here hasn't burst a blood vessel over their release schedule these past 24 months?), has been around in one form or another for nearly quarter of a century. I recall seeing ads for it in, err, Option magazine some time around the very dawn of the 1990s. I didn't pay any attention. Devo?! Why the hell would I care about those New Wavers? I actually owned the first two Devo albums on the compact disc format back in the 1990s: the editions released on Hank Rollins' Infinite Zero label. He had a good thing going there, and I figured that his stamp of approval meant something, even though at that time he was releasing the worst music of his career. Anyway, I played them a handful of times, got absolutely nothing out of the experience and traded them in about 6 months later. Thrilling, huh? This is why I do a blog: to regal you with such stories.

Skip to late last year. I look after Superior Viaduct's distribution Down Under - a job which is not as exciting as it sounds - but it has its benefits. Out of curiosity, since every fucking human being I hold dear to me has forever told me that early Devo is the duck's nuts, I asked the label for a freebie of the Hardcore Devo 2CD (it can also be attained as two separate vinyl volumes, one a single LP, one a double) in the next order and, upon receiving it have been eating all prior words I said about the band for the last 30-odd years of my life. Chowing down like a humiliated man possessed. Humble pie every fucking day, weeping quietly to myself, sobbing about what a fool I've been. I even re-bought the first two albums (and I like 'em, a lot).

But really what you need - what you probably already have - is Hardcore Devo, which contains all of the band's pre-major label recordings from 1974 - 1977 (basically the infamous demos which David Bowie and Iggy Pop pulled their collective dicks over), when they were but a group of basement-bound spuds from Akron, Ohio, writing and recording a slab of original (and boy, it is original) material on 4-track, hoping the world would one day share their vision. To say that the sounds of these recordings have blown my fucking mind the past year would be an understatement. I have had my head in the sand and up my arse: this is the most visionary 1970s rock & roll - completely out of lockstep with the rest of society - the US of A spat out during this era this side of Pere Ubu, Half Japanese, the Screamers and the Residents. They do not sit to the side of any of those bands: they sit among them. Some folks say they sit above them, but I'm not here to split hairs.

At this stage of the game, Devo were propogating a gonzoid form of post-hippie noise which blended elements of jagged Beefheart rhythms, an absurdist, Sparksian theatricality, the smarmy art-rock of Roxy Music and the wise-ass humour of Zappa before he got too annoying. And so much more. There's THREE ALBUMS worth of material here - two hours - and it's all good. Most bands have a tough time writing three great songs in their lifetime: Devo wrote and recorded three albums worth of all-killer/no-filler tuneage for their own amusement in the cultural wasteland of midwestern USA in the mid '70s, and 40 years later it still sounds better than nearly everything released since. I have listened to these recordings nearly every single day for 12 months - I should know what I'm talking about, even if I'm the last guy to be talking about it.

I'm told that the SV edition is the best-sounding version there's ever been of this set, much clearer and punchier than the old Rykodisc edition. I can't make comparisons, but I can say that, for a group of semi-impoverished outcasts recording in their basement on very basic equipment, Hardcore Devo sounds amazingly good. Every riff, quirk and minutae is captured on tape - it's 'lo-fi', sure, but given a Jim Steinman gloss, it wouldn't sound any better.

What the fuck. Stop reading this and start listening. No sound links here; you do the homework. I apologise for being over two decades late to the party.

Friday, November 07, 2014

APPRAISING THE BLEEDING OBVIOUS, PART 1

You really are going to have to forgive me for my belated appraisal here of the bleeding obvious, but throughout the next few posts I will discuss some recordings I have flogged within an inch of their lives the past 12 months - recordings of a perhaps, shall we say, obvious nature (for those so inclined). They have, in a sense, become an audio obsession, soothing my soul in troubled times. Firstly, let's tackle the Butthole Surfers' major label debut from 1993, Independent Worm Saloon...

I purchased this CD for a ha'penny approximately a year ago, an exchange of cash and goods brought on by a conversation I had with an old friend about how the Buttholes kinda ate shit after their classic albums on the Touch & Go label. Nay, he exclaimed: whilst 1990's Pioughd might have landed on earth as an uninspired clunker, the band then hit a new high w/ their John Paul Jones-produced major label debut (the album I speak of) and then chugged along with the commercially-successfully (though awful - in a kind of Beck/Fun Lovin' Criminals/Bloodhound Gang vein) Electric Larryland in 1995. The rest is history, and I won't speak of it. The point is thus: 1993's Independent Worm Saloon (IWS) came and went and I paid little attention. I couldn't fathom that the band could make an album I'd actually consider 'good' at that point in time and I dutifully ignored it.

I recall a review featured in Eric (Oblivian) Friedl's Wipe Out! fanzine at the time, and the gist was thus: not a total waste of time, but close to it, and so far as 'psychedelic punk' (or whatever) goes, the Buttholes had been usurped by the Boredoms in recent years, and at this stage they were treading water. But this is all merely context and back-peddling, for the early '90s were a different era, and I was a different man. The fact is, was and remains as so: Independent Worm Saloon, whilst far more straight-up 'rock' than anything the band had done before, was also the best thing the group had done since 1987's Locust Abortion Technician, and for my two cents remains the last great recording from the band known as the Butthole Surfers.

Sure, Gibby had been hanging around with Ministry's Al Jourgensen a lot at the time, recording music together and engaging in other, even more unsavoury pursuits, and that, uh, Ministry's 'sound' did rub off onto the Buttholes a touch, but the tough metallic delivery of the tunes here, augmented by the band's natural sense of fried psychedelia makes for an absolutely killer mix. When I recently described this record to a friend as a 'fantastic psych-metal' record, I think he got it all wrong (he turned his nose up as if I was describing a Limp Bizkit or Dream Theatre platter to him).

IWS has a swag of ace tunes, possibly the only drawback being that it's simply too long: being the Golden Age Of the Compact Disc, where it seemed necessary for every band to make their albums 50 - 60 minutes long, it clips at just over an hour. Still, with songs like the opener, 'Who was In My Room Last Night?' (oh lordy, there's Flea in that clip!) powering in, the proceedings kick off to a good start indeed. 'Tongue' sounds like it could've been lifted from Hairway To Steven, but has a much tougher sound and even breaks out ever-so-briefly into speed-metal riffery. 'Goofy's Concern' is one of the best tracks, showcasing Paul Leary's knack at the riff (let me also give honourable mention to 'Dust Devil'), and my fave remains 'Strawberry', a rocker which, despite its obvious 'big' sound, still vibrates like the band which made Rembrandt Pussyhorse. If anything, IWS is slightly one-dimensional - it features no goofy detours of the past, such as 'Kuntz', 'John E. Smoke' or 'Moving To Florida' (good tracks which open a bit of space) - but the dimension it inhabits isn't a bad place to be for an hour.

Hey, I could link every damn song to a Youtube clip, but you do the legwork. Or maybe you already own it and know everything I'm currently telling you. A bunch of '80s underground vets made the major-label move in the early '90s and some made serious artistic missteps in the process (some just made career missteps). That's for the history books. I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, but Independent Worm Saloon certainly ain't one of them. For a relentless slice of psychedelic Texan heavy metal bankrolled by the corporate demons at Capitol-EMI, you couldn't ask for more. It's a party-rock album par excellence.

Monday, November 03, 2014

I'm a little rusty at this, so please be gentle with me. Yes, late last year - 11 months ago, in fact - I walked away from this blog, wiped my hands of it and told myself I'd never go back. Well, it wasn't quite that dramatic, but it was close. My personal/work life underwent several upheavals and dramas, and essentially I felt that I didn't need nor did I want the burden of being expected to deliver 'the goods' with a blog which apparently actually boasted something known as a 'following' (I'm not tooting my own horn here, and there's no time for false humility: people from all over the globe, whether by accident or design, do actually read this blog). And so walk away I did, justifying my absence from it by pretending that it was all behind me, that it meant nothing to me. I haven't even checked my lexdev Yahoo account in over 6 months to see if there's been any correspondence, and given how much spam that account received on a weekly basis, I'm a little afraid to open it. Does anyone care about a revived Lexicon Devil? Possibly not, but it's something I need to do. I need a creative outlet which stretches my mind further than witless Facebook updates and barking at people on street corners.

Anyway, enough of the therapeutic hand-wringing, because no one reads this blog to hear about my personal dramas. I will ease myself into this with an easy entry: an assessment of Fleetwood Mac's Then Play On LP from 1969. If you think I've gone off the charts with my musical tastes, then I'm happy to upset you. In near-future posts, I will discuss the music of the Butthole Surfers, Devo, Hoss, Native Cats, Ry Cooder, Van der Graaf Generator, Ty Segall, Purling Hiss, Keith Jarrett, Sparks, Descendents, Martin Rev, The Who, HTRK, 10cc, Cheap Time and other artists who have kept insanity at bay the past 12 months. There have been two developments in my music-listening habits the past year: firstly, I have been listening to a lot more contemporary music than I had been for the prior decade, a lot of it being Australian (we antipodeans have entered a new Golden Age Of Sound with the likes of Total Control, Nun, Dick Diver, Ausmuteants, Native Cats, Living Eyes, etc., etc. and soaking up their wares has helped refrain me from becoming a hopelessly backwards-looking relic); and secondly, I have taken it upon myself to subscribe to Spotify, the music streaming service apparently designed by Satan Himself, but one whose politics I won't go into in this forum (as a sidenote: it is mighty odd that some compadres of mine have ascended their collective high horse in reaction to my subscribing to such a corporation, given their years upon years of illegal downloading which currently clog up their hard drives. Hey, my streaming is paying the artist a pittance, but at least it's something). Anyway. Spotify has allowed me to listen to a lot of music I otherwise wouldn't have easy access to, and given the fact that my collection of vinyl/CDs/cassettes/fanzines/books/etc. has reached a stage of utter madness and is something I really don't need to add to at all (I'm on a strict no-buying policy for the foreseeable future), streaming new music has been my listening mode of choice for unheard sounds. If you have a problem with that, contact my social secretary.


If you've been orbiting the music-dork stratosphere the past few decades then you've undoubtedly heard the line about Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac being the bomb in regards to Brit blues-rock of the 1960s. The band at this stage were of course an entirely different beast to the zillion-selling soft-rock cocaine cowboys (and girls) of the mid/late '70s and beyond, and in regards to 'Brit blues-rock', do not be afraid. The 'Mac kept it hard and tight, keeping their ouvre (at least when Green was with them) far astray from the bantamweight noodling of Clapton and his cohorts. I had forever kept my distance from this era of the band simply because I didn't imagine them to be that good, and that's because Brit blues-rock of the late '60s I have always found to be a fairly tedious prospect, with obvious exceptions. Peter Green was/is obviously a troubled soul and his story is well known. A Syd Barrettesque character in some ways, he's seen by many as the guiding light in a pioneering band who had to exit the stage to battle his own demons as the group he once lead gained phenomenal levels of fame and money in his absence. He also released an incredible solo album in 1970, just upon his departure from FM, entitled End Of The Game, a freeform/experimental instrumental disc which is well worth your trouble.

By 1969, the band had already released two LPs and secured US/UK hits with 'Black Magic Woman' and 'Albatross', but it was '69's Then Play On which really brought out a playful looseness within the group and a sound they'd never again replicate. Sonically, you could place this era of FM as some sort of meeting point of early Led Zep and early Groundhogs, but with more expansive and ambitious songwriting in tow, one which could encompass quiet ballads, bucolic instrumentals, elongated instrumental passages and some really hard and aggressive blues-influenced rock & roll. The debut of guitarist Danny Kirwan in the group - he wrote some of the LP's best songs - really paid off. There's several different versions of the album, there being slightly different original UK/US editions, a revised US edition and an expanded CD edition which takes on everything from from every issue available. Isn't this exciting? The version in my possession is a recent US CD edition, which replicates the revised US version from 1970, splicing some of the longer songs together (such as the brilliant, epic two-part 'Oh Well'), and inserting other tracks in different order, such as the beautifully plaintive instrumental, 'My Dream'. None of this information is particularly interesting unless you subscribe to MOJO magazine, but what is of great interest is just how excellent Then Play On truly is.

Audibly spruiking this album to all and sundry the past few months, I'm surprised by the broad fanbase it enjoys: 50-something No Wavers who bought it in the pre-punk mist, avant-krautrock types (there's certainly enough musical experimentalism present to cross over into that realm), indie snobs and, of course, the bog-standard rock slob. How did Then Play On fall into my lap? Whilst talking to Mr. Warwick Brown at Greville Records earlier in the year, he was so goddamn insistent of its genius that he simply gave me a copy of the CD. Gratis. He would not let me leave his store without a copy in my hand. His selling point was Green's soulful voice, the strength of the songwriting and the Zep-style riffery on display - his words. I say yes to all three. Within the first minute of the opener, 'Coming Your Way', which I played upon returning home from my jaunt, I was hooked. That instantaneous reaction happens just about never. Then Play On is absolutely essential listening - it should be held in just as high regard as the likes of Forever Changes and Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. It sounds absolutely nothing like either of those albums, of course, but for sprawling eclecticism and a kindred adventurousness, they're surely distant cousins of some sort. Just because the band mutated into something else and sold a whole lotta units later on (and I should mount a defense re: Rumours/Tusk at a later date), such flagrant populism doesn't detract one iota from the greatness of their music. That much should be obvious.