Monday, April 17, 2017


Wow. This was one of my favourite recordings of 2015, and yet I only became aware of its existence as 2015 clocked into 2016. So here is a belated appraisal of one of that year's finest releases. Carter Tutti Void, as you may or may not know, is Chris & Cosey (AKA Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter, ex-Throbbing Gristle... I don't really need to spell this all out, do I?) and Nik Void from the UK post-punkish outfit, Factory Floor. FF were the talk of the town a few years back in Ol' Blighty, but despite this predicament, they're an outfit worth hearing a few times in your life, as they emanate quite a tasty brew of noisy electro-spuzz which sounds like equal parts Rough Trade post-punk, minimal wave and industrial spew like the last 35 years of life on earth never happened. You know what I mean.

Which I guess means he's a perfect collaborator for Chris & Cosey. Throbbing Gristle - let it be put on the national record - were one neat outfit. Conceptually, they were quite brilliant. Musically, I wouldn't accuse them of delivering quite so high as the concept itself (this concept, and I really can't and won't speak for the band, I guess revolves around being offensive and noisy in a non-rock yet constructive way, if I may dumb it down to a simple sentence), but I can listen to LPs such as DOA: Third And Fimal Report, Heathen Earth and 20 Jazz Funk Greats at just about any point in my life and receive great enjoyment from their contents.

For me, however, it's the post-TG projects which bore greater fruit: Chris & Cosey's Trance LP from 1982 is an effin' masterpiece; Psychic TV's career has been epic, prolific and uneven (life is like that when you release albums like most people have hot meals: often), but has created a number of real gems (Force The Hand Of Chance and Dreams Less Sweet are quite excellent, and I'm partial to Genesis's late '80s period when his Brian Jones obsession was coming to fruition; Allegory And Self from 1988 is awesome); and Coil had a number of discs I'll stake my life on (Musick To Play In The Dark, volumes 1 and 2, Ape Of Naples, Astral Disaster, etc.). That is quite the diaspora. TG were clearly onto something.

And then there's Carter Tutti Void's f(x) LP, which sees the three members engaging in a kind of minimal industrial techno, if you will. It's a perfect combination of deep, submersive rhythms with a dark industrial sheen. No song outstays its welcome, not a bum note is hit. It's perfect enough that I wish it was a double album. There are no vocals and the sound and style varies little throughout. I love this sound when it's done well, and I can't think of a better example of - dare I say: experimental electronic music - than f(x) done in recent years.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


God forbid I should be so damn predictable with this ROTD guff. It's time to throw you all for a curveball and come clean with an LP I have really loved for over a quarter of a century, and it happens to be from the highly unfashionable outfit known as SOUL ASYLUM. And that's OK, because this blog is not about fashion. Let me give you some background here...

In late 1990, my older brother travelled around the US for about two and a half months, seeing lots of bands and hanging out with them (from Bastro to Jack Brewer to Clawhammer to a very young Kyuss - known as Sons Of Kyuss then) and, ultimately, bringing back a shit-ton of records from his journey when he came back in February of 1991. At that ripe age, having a couple of crates worth of records to sift through was like you'd won the lottery, and in between records-of-the-day by the likes of The Derelicts, The Fluid, Poison Idea, GG Allin and a whole buncha also-rans on labels like Sympathy and AmRep, there was a copy of Soul Asylum's 1990 LP on the A & M label, And The Horse They Rode In On. To be honest, his purchases could be pretty impulsive at the time - neither of us had ever been a fan of the band, though we had been aware of them for a number of years - but I get a feeling he just threw it on the pile at the time and it found its way back to Australia.

It had received a scathingly negative review in Flipside by renowned dunderhead 'Krk', who derided the band as a bunch of boring flannel-clad sadsacks who'd all 'grown up' (as The Replacements had by then, too) and become a kind of good-time MOR alt-rock band for the masses, and while that assessment may bare some truth - it certainly did by the time they released their breakthrough LP, Grave Dancers Union - repeated spins of the record couldn't assuade me of its undeniable appeal. This is one fucking great rock & roll record, I had to admit, and believe me, I was one uptight motherfucker back then, dismissive of just about everything which didn't fit into my wilfully obtuse, undergroundist worldview of music. I am a more relaxed human being these days, and I still hold this album in very high esteem.

The music of Soul Asylum made prior to and after this sole LP from 1990 means nothing to me, but this one album really is something special, and oddly it's one of those recordings in their discography which few have ever heard of, as it doesn't fit into their earlier, punkier indie period nor their populist arena-rock era once they made it big. It was their last record for the A & M label before they were dropped, was considered a commercial (if not critical) failure and basically sunk without a trace. It's a wonder Columbia signed 'em up for their subsequent recordings. It's also been out of print for decades and for some reason isn't even available on streaming services, even though all their recordings surrounding it are. With all of this duly noted, I will now draw the longest bow you will read this week and hail it as a 'lost classic'.

Take away all your prejudices of Soul Asylum, whatever they may be - Winona Ryder, Bill Clinton, 'Runaway Train', Dave Pirner's pretty-boy looks, the gormless, benign dad-rock band they became for shirt-tuckers the world over - and listen to the songs within. That will be hard, since none of this is on Youtube, either, except for this lead single track, but you'll probably scoop up a cheap copy of this on CD within nary a penny spent. Hell, being clinically insane, I happen to own this on CD and LP, but that's really something to discuss with my therapist. The best song on the disc is actually this one, though this live version isn't really the best way to hear it. I can only assume that there's some weird legal issue with the release, as the only versions on YT are not the studio versions.

Every song on this LP is worthy of an ear. It remains a good-time rock & roll recording which always puts a smile on my face. Perhaps it reminds me of my younger self, when I was full of hopes and dreams, before the weight of the world crushed my spirit - or maybe it simply remains a great collection of songs. After all, I hate some of the shit I fawned over in 1990/'91. It's a record which clicked for me, even though Soul Asylum as a band never did. There are only two types of music: good and bad. Soul Asylum's And The Horse They Rode In On LP from 1990 is better than good. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


This is an unexpected one, and one born from a typically unpredictable musical tangent in which a middle-aged white guy suddenly discovers - 30 years after the fact - that of all countries on earth, Brazil actually had an amazing Black Metal scene in the mid '80s. In fact, let's not mince words here: a pioneering BM scene, one which prefigured the Norwegian scene by a year or two (perhaps... I mean, I don't want to start a war here), and one which saw teenage Brazilians, influenced by bands like Celtic Frost, Bathory, Venom, Discharge and European hardcore of various stripes to create something new and exciting.

Of course, it's not a secret that death/black/thrash metal (and grindcore and its permutations) found a big audience in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America early on, and indeed some made it big, the obvious contender being Sepultura, a band whose records up to and including Roots I happen to really like, and one whose roots lie more in a super-raw BM sound. Their 1986 debut, Morbid Visions, is a grim slice of lo-fi nastiness which is a thousand miles removed from the rather dire groove-metal band they became many years later, and definitely sounds Black Metal to these jaded earholes. As a sidenote, Sarcofago's singer, Wagner Lamounier(!), also happened to be Sepultura's first singer.

But back to Sarcofago, because they took it further in sound and approach than their contemporaries (and as another sidenote, contemporaries from their homeland, Holocausto, should also be heard). I guess there are a two main things which fascinate me with this band, and particularly this release. Firstly, it's because it happens to be musically excellent: totally 'punk' in its execution, its raw, chaotic approach, mixed with blastbeats and guttural vocals is the kind of thing I can crank at high volume when the urge takes me, and it ain't a thousand miles removed from the more nutsoid branch of early HC a la Void/Die Kreuzen. And I guess I'm just fascinated by the fact that it comes from, of all countries on the planet - Brazil. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised, as Brazil has a long and rich history of lots of excellent and eclectic music (you could pinpoint Tropicalia as one of the high watermarks of global psychedelia, and I wouldn't flinch at such a remark), but ultra-grim and Satanic Black Metal from a land known for its beaches and, more importantly, its Catholicism - that's a different thing. But perhaps that also perfectly explains why Sarcofago existed and why they were the way they were. Still, with song titles like 'Satanic Lust', 'Desecration Of A Virgin', 'Ready To Fuck' and 'The Black Vomit', they're unlikely to win the national pride of an Os Mutantes or Gilberto Gil. That is, of course, no reason not to like 'em. I.N.R.I. was their debut from 1987. It must be heard.

Saturday, April 08, 2017


The Australian band known as Severed Heads - a musical unit which has, by and large since 1981, been mainstay Tom Ellard and whomever else he has on board with him - are a name which has slipped under the radar for many as a group seriously worth considering, and seriously worth liking. Well, perhaps I should really just speak for myself, as that scenario happens to fit moi, and perhaps few others. After all, it's only in the past 18 months that I've managed to familarise myself with their excellent output from their early days (1980 - '85 is where you really want to be), and the greatness of this material has truly blown me away.

My disinterest in the band possibly stems from seeing some of their later video clips on late-night TV shows in the late '80s such as Rock Arena, at which point they'd made quite a name for themselves in the US college circuit as a slightly slicker but still avant electronic dance-oriented outfit (or EBM - Electric Body Music - if we must); this schtick posed little interest for a rock-slob such as myself at the time, and doesn't register a great deal more interest 30 years later. But - there's always a but - the roots of the band, which saw them releasing all kinds of independent/self-released tapes and 7"s and were flying around the same circle as other hardy underground grunters such as SPK and the Slugfuckers, are of great interest.

1983's Since The Accident was actually released on a major label at the time, Virgin subsidiary Ink (and Nettwerk in some territories), with the single off the album, 'Dead Eyes Opened' being a kind of indie 'hit' here (and elsewhere) and, well, apparently when it was re-released in 1994 it went into the mainstream top 20(?!). Man, I was pretty drunk that year, so you'll have to forgive me if I don't remember that happening. But happen it did. All this is kinda strange because, well, I guess I just find  it unusual that a challenging/interesting/good recording from the 1980s actually found any traction with a larger audience at the time, because this period of the band for me is their apex, when they were melding their early industrial/experimental roots with more songcraft, much in the same way as bands like Cabaret Voltaire (ca. 1979 - 1982) and Psychic TV did at the time.

The 'hit' single, 'Dead Eyes Opened', for one, is a brilliant slice of noisy Kraftwerkian electro-pop with occasional stabs of white noise throughout, and others, like 'God Song' and 'Exploring The Secrets Of Treating Deaf Mutes', are pure cold/dark wave gems, combining grim, urban noise and samples/loops with an underlying 'pop' (as in actual songs) sensibility which makes this highly listenable 30+ years later. Yes, I think I was the last guy to the party.


This album was originally released in 2009 on the Samadhi Sound label, David Sylvian's own boutique imprint, while I was working for the label's distributor. I had been aware of the fact that he had taken a detour into the 'musical avant-garde' in the prior decade or more, but you couldn't register my interest on a bar graph. Why on earth would I be interested in a New Romantic lightweight like Sylvian, no matter how off the musical deep-end he'd traversed? Well, I am one stubborn motherfucker, as you know, but given I was obligated to familiarise myself with the product we carried, I gave it a spin.

Have I told this story before? Probably. Upon first listen, I immediately concluded that it was likely the worst thing I'd hear all year and made the wild assumption that it probably wouldn't go double platinum with the consumers of Australia. It was, after all, an exceedingly 'difficult' listen. I was correct with the second bit (it truly did tank, though that's never been an indicator of quality), but something drew me back to it. About a week later, I gave it another spin. The first experience had elicited such a strong reaction in me, that I was a little bit intrigued. This immediate, strong repulsion, as you know, can sometimes be a sign that something good is lurking within a recording. Over the next few days, I played it several times and noted that there was something special about it - Sylvian was onto something good.

I really should note the method of operation here: Manafon is David Sylvian stripped to his bare bones. It borders on being an a cappella recording. There is musical accompaniment from a variety of hotshots from the avant scene - Otomo Yoshihide, Evan Parker, Keith RoweJohn Tilbury, Christian Fennesz and more - but the actual 'music' here is extremely minimal. Played in a cavernous warehouse, as I had been, it sounded like simply Sylvian mournfully moaning away in the corner with nobody else to keep him company. With quality headphones on, you will hear the full package, and I thoroughly recommend the experience.

Of course, many years later I can conclude that while the music of Japan still register nothing with me (not entirely true: they mostly register negative sentiments), David Sylvian is very much a Scott Walker-like figure: one who found pop fame early, left that world behind and has pursued his own highly idiosyncratic path since, one littered with great musical riches. Along this path you will find some excellent recordings such as 1987's Secrets Of The Beehive (I am extremely partial to this track), 1999's Dead Bees On A Cake and 2003's Blemish. And that's merely scratching the surface.

Friday, April 07, 2017


The German outfit known as Bohren & der Club Of Gore have been making music for nigh on 25 years now, and made a wider splash in the music world about 15 years back with this set from 2002, as well as their equally as fine epic from 2000, Sunset Mission. Until recently, I hadn't thought of them for many years. I used to sell quite a lot of their albums at Missing Link at the time, albums (it was CDs, of course) I usually recommended to fans of the Necks or John Zorn or the Residents or, let's fucking face it, Mike Patton and Mr. Bungle. It's not like they sound anything like Mike Patton or Mr. Bungle - and if they did, I sure as shit wouldn't be listening to them - though they did have some recordings licensed to Patton's Ipecac label at the time (an imprint which I will happily concede has done some fine things), and their non-categorisable eccentricity as a band did mean that the more adventurous Mike Patton fans would find something to enjoy in their music. And let's face it, most Mike Patton fans are such punishing worshippers of all things MP, that anything he spruiks will win them over. But that's OK, too. There are much bigger problems on this earth.

So, before I tied myself up with all this contextual nonsense, where was I? Oh yes, a few of the band's best recordings from this period - particularly the two mentioned - have recently been reissued on vinyl (and what handsome sets they be), and it has certainly renewed my interest in the group, so much so I recently purchased both Sunset Mission and Black Earth. Bohren still exist to this day and released a recording just last year (one of their earliest efforts is here, and it's well worth a listen), but these remain their peak efforts. Just what is it they do? Bohren feature members of various German death/black metal, goregrind and hardcore outfits, the story goes, and their music has been (self-) described as 'ambient jazz', 'death-jazz' and 'doom-jazz', all of which make perfect sense in their own ways. If you took the grim black metal imagery and sense of dark mystery away from the band, you may conclude that they're an extremely fine dark and moody velvety jazz outfit who sound like they should've been playing in a sleazy bar scene in an old David Lynch film (such a trite comment to make, I will acknowledge that, but one that also fits 'em like a glove), but with the added grimness on top, the level of theatre takes them to the next level.

There are many moments in the music of Bohren where everything sits still. Their music resonates like glacial drips of ice, and if everything wasn't just so damn gloomy, they probably could've found a home with various Scandinavian jazzers on the ECM label (or perhaps Rune Grammofon, I suppose), but I get a feeling that even the stern, guiding hands of Manfred Eicher would have difficulty taming this beast. Their music remains uncategoraisable, despite their best efforts, though if a melting pot containing the Necks, Angelo Badalamenti's film scores, the quiet, swingless shuffle of ECM's Nordic stable of stars and the ambience of folks like Coil and Lustmord sounds like a party you'd wish to attend, I would recommend Bohren & der Club Of Gore without hesitation. You can't dance to them, but their barely-there deathly rhythms never bore, and I've been knee-deep in their world once again for a few months now. A truly excellent band seriosuly worthy of reappraisal or newfound discovery.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017


When I was 15, and in the thick of my US hardcore obsessions, I was also, perhaps strangely (or perhaps not), really obsessed with this album. I mean, I loved it inside and out for a year or so. And I still love it now, but back then it was a record I would study nightly: the photos, liner notes, every riff, every obnoxious word out of Stiv Bators' mouth. Something about the Dead Boys, and particularly this record (as well as this reformation 12" from 1987, which I still rate equally as highly) made a big impact, because despite the puritan baldie aesthetics of much of the early hardcore bands, I'd never lost my love of good - nay, great - '77-style PUNK. And that's what the Dead Boys were.

You could even be unkind and deride them as somewhat bandwagon jumpers. I mean, Stiv was born in 1949, did the bars of Cleveland with Frankenstein for a number of years (belting out a pretty mean glam-damaged punkish hard rock, BTW) and didn't even cut his hair short with the Dead Boys until the band relocated to NYC and Mr. Rotten and crew had made their cultural dent circa late '76 or so. Which is perhaps why many critics thought their young, loud and snotty schtick (they really weren't the former) was a bit of a con, but then again, the critics had absolutely no idea what to make of punk rock, good or bad, at the time, so that's hardly a gauge anyone should measure a band by. So please don't.

The fact is, the band known as the Dead Boys were one of the best American punk rock bands of the original wave - east or west coast - and they made two studio albums you could stake your life on. Yes, even the second one, We Have Come For Your Children, which I wrote about here a number of years back and is, despite the neutered production c/o Mountain-man Felix Pappalardi, an album with, at least in my opinion, better songs than the lauded debut - that's Young, Loud and Snotty, if I need mention it. But for me, this is the album which beats them both. Originally released on the Bomp label in 1981, at which time Stiv was trying to make his name as a kind of power-pop dude (unsuccessfully, though those recordings are good fun), it was recorded live at CBGBs in 1979 with apparently Stiv's vocals re-recorded later on due to the fact that he missed the mic most of the night. It features the best versions of the best tracks from both of their studio albums, which basically means it's like a perfectly executed Best Of set with the band - Cheetah Chrome, Jeff Magnum, Johnny Blitz and Jimmy Zero - playing with a real energy and urgency which was never really caught in the studio, but it also shows their real songcraft as a group: Stoogoid punk, power-pop, proto-punk balladry mesh together and demonstrate their power as a rock and roll group without just sneers and poses.

The band was destined for total failure. There were the combustible personalities to consider, but also the fact that the US of A - the America which makes up all the cities between NYC and LA - were not in the mood for the bad news known as punk rock (as John Lydon noted in an unusually perceptive and conciliatory tone several years ago, they'd just been through the Vietnam War and Watergate: they were beaten down and wanted something nice for a change), and the Dead Boys were about as tabloid PUNK ROCK as it got. But they made amazing records, too. This is their best.

Sunday, April 02, 2017


I first purchased this album - The Replacements' 'breakout' disc from 1984, Let It Be - on the compact disk format in the year 1990. I was 18 years of age, and bought it from the Gaslight Music store which was situated on campus at Melbourne Uni at the time. That's probably not important to you, but for me it gives it context. When I was 15, a school friend - one of the only humans in the entire school who was also into punk rock - gave me a copy of the Replacements' Tim on cassette, and it became a real favourite, even though I was somewhat hesitant to hail the band as something truly great in the way I would, say, Flipper or Minor Threat. In my hardarsedness, I saw the band as too much of a musical half-measure to fully endorse, and relegated them to some sort of subdivision of 'a band who made some records I like, but whom I can't fully get behind'. Whatever the fuck that means.

Years later, I went backwards and discovered the genius of the band's earlier efforts, specifically the debut, Sorry Ma I Forgot To Take Out The Trash and the followup, Hootenanny, both of which rate as early '80s suburban trash-bag/drunk-punk classics and saw the band perfecting a midwestern take on the New York Dolls/Sex Pistols sound with a dollop of hardcore and a bit of whatever was in the water in Minneapolis at the time (ie. there's a bit of Huskers in early Replacements, and vice versa). Tim was the band's major label debut, released on Sire in 1985, and despite the slightly anemic production c/o Tommy 'Ramone' Erdelyi, for me it contains their best songs from start to finish. All of their first four full-lengthers are pretty close to perfection, and Let It Be is exactly that. Which means there's a couple of tracks here which are less than perfection: a clunky take on Kiss's 'Black Diamond' (the band rarely ever recorded covers, and why they'd pick a fairly terrible Kiss song remains a mystery to me), and 'Tommy Gets His Tonsils' and 'Gary's Got A Boner', whilst perfectly acceptable snotbag teen-punk affairs, don't fit in well with the more 'mature' new approach of the band or the record they're on.

 Of course, you could argue that the newer, more mature approach of the band saw them getting old(er) and boring, but I'd argue they didn't get that way until after 1987's Please To Meet Me (not a record which particularly thrills me, but it still has a spark). Anyway, the rest of the album - tracks like 'Androgynous', 'Seen Your Video', 'Sixteen Blue', 'Satisfied' et al - basically the rest of it - have stuck in my craw for a good 27 years now, never to be dislodged. 1984 was the breakout year for underground rock in Reagan's Amerika, according to some - please refer to Meat Puppets' II, Double Nickels On The Dime, Zen Arcade and the slew of Black Flag material from that same year - and Let It Be, whilst not the total epiphany of any of the previosuly mentioned, is a disc everyone should wrap their ears around at least a dozen or two times. I fully endorse it, and everything the Replacements did during the first half of the '80s.

Saturday, April 01, 2017


I remember the week this came out. It was 1996, I was 24 years old and working at Shock Records - a fantastic halfway house/sheltered workshop/place of employment for many a misfit during the era - which also happened to be the distributor of the Drag City label, and I bought the handsome gatefold 2LP the moment it hit the shelves. After all, it was the mid '90s, we were young, dumb and full of enthusiasm, we read The Wire magazine monthly (hell, we fucking subscribed to it!) and 'post-rock' had yet to become the '90s version of prog-rock. Huh? Prog-rock was a pretty good idea for a few years - expand the parameters of the basic 4/4 rock format into something a little more adventurous, and the genre itself did indeed produce many great albums - but it soon crawled up its backside, the pomposity and necessary skill-set became de rigeur and thus the back-to-basics approach of punk rock seemed like a good idea a few years later. That's simplifying things grossly, but not inaccurately, and isn't a thousand miles removed from the story of post-rock, something I regarded as quite a good idea circa approx. 1993 - 1997, but soon thereafter felt that it devolved into a big, tedious noodlefest featuring a hoard of tiresome indie rockers who were awfully well-schooled in their instruments and weren't afraid to show you how. I think practicing your craft and being dextrous on your instrument is a good thing, but not everyone uses it for good.

Now, where was I? Gastr del Sol were David Grubbs and Jim O'Rourke. I'd been following Grubbs since I bought my first Squirrel Bait LP in 1988 and my brother hung out with him for a day in Chicago in 1990 (a curious incident which happened because he happened to attend a Bastro show - Grubbs' band at the time), and O'Rourke had already made his name with various solo albums and his involvement with outfits like Illusion Of Safety and Brise-Glace. Anyway, GDS only existed between the years 1993 - 1998, but they were prolific, and lately I've found myself returning to their works for a 21st-century reappraisal, and, at least for me, their cerebral brand of constipated non-rock holds up pretty well. Their last LP, Camefleur, from 1998, is undoubtedly their most accessible effort, but Upgrade & Afterlife is the one I return to.

GDS were a real amalgamam of Grubbs' and O'Rourke's musical interests and proclivities. Some of their albums - not this one, but more so 1994's Crookt, Crackt, or Fly - had a slightly Albini-ish Chicago math-rock thing going on, but it was never the main focus of what they did. GDS were pure egghead material, more like a laboratory of sound for Grubbs and O'Rourke to indulge in. Songs often sound like sketches, not fully formed which never play out to a nattural conclusion but instead fall apart or simply abruptly stop when least expected. Ennio Morricone, Derek Bailey, John Fahey, Cecil Taylor, Scott Walker: they were all buzz words back in the '90s, and they figure heavily in the makeup of what GDS is. Which doesn't mean GDS are merely a collage of their influences, because they were unmistakably Grubbs and O'Rourke (and various helpers) in their execution. I loved this stuff back in the day, but jumped off the post-rock gravy train screaming for my life about a year later, burying my head in other pursuits. 20 years on, and I still don't hate it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


Let's see if I can keep this up: every day I will post a Record Of The Day, with hopefully a link to the full album in question. Some of these recordings will be obscure, some blatantly obvious. I guess this is born from an activity related to my work, in which I attempt to plug a record I'm pushing in the shop, though let me say this once: this blog is not related to the shop in any way, and nor will these posts be.

40 years on from the year 1977, and for me it looks like The Damned, and possibly the Buzzcocks, come out the winners. My love for Never Mind The Bollocks not withstanding, both The Damned and the Buzzcocks managed to rip out three absolutely amazing and wildly different full-length recordings during 1977/1978/1979 which still hold up today. Let's talk The Damned. The debut is indisputable. Rough, raw, shambolic, funny, unrelentingly high-energy: it was everything punk rock promised. The follow-up is still under dispute, and for that I can't fathom a reason. Produced by Pink Floyd's Nick Mason - they wanted Syd Barrett - when the band was in turmoil, it has long been considered a dog, badly produced and lacking inspiration, and whoever's been pushing that barrow for nigh on four decades now is clearly WRONG. The production is cleaner than the debut, but not to any point where it suffers. It's simply crisper, but it still has punch, and the material is there in spades. If you've been avoiding it for years due to bad press, more's the pity.

1979's Machine Gun Etiquette was seen as their comeback disc, but since I've just stated that thier sophomore effort was of no shame, let's just say it's the third classic in a row. Brian James was out, Captain Sensible was moved to guitar and ex-Saints and future Tank (what a pedigree!) bassist Algy Ward hit the four-strings. Punk/rock/pop/psych - it's all here. It's rambling, messy, raw and inspired, jumping from slop-pop ('Smash It Up', "I Just Can't Be Happy Today') to a raucous MC5 cover ('Looking At You') to high-energy PUNK (the 1-2 punch of 'Love Song' and the title track) to more psychedelic excursions they would pursue further with The Black Album, there is not a second wasted on Machine Gun Etiquette. Fuck. More than the Pistols or The fucking Clash, The Damned were the English band who influenced US hardcore the most. The Damned were one hell of a fucking band. Amen.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


It's a pleasure for the world of music to throw you a curveball and have you scrambling for the least-expected things. Lately, for me, it's been what I would call 'tropical-psychedelic-era CHARLES LLOYD'. I'm as surprised as you are. Or maybe you have no idea of what I speak, so a quick introduction.

I have a number of Charles Lloyd CDs on the ECM label. I distributed and managed the label down here for a number of years, as you may or may not know (or care), and am very familiar with its catalogue. Lloyd has quite a few albums on the label, which he has been on since the beginning of the 1980s. The albums in question are 'OK', but I rarely ever play them (I didn't pay for them), as I find them to be fairly non-remarkable hard-bop discs with occasional avant flourishes which, by no means bad, don't spark my interest a great deal. But still they sit on the shelf, awaiting the beckoning.

My workmate is - god, as much as it pains me to say this - a bit of a boffin on the world of 'soul-jazz', that curious sub-genre which developed in the late '60s and was/is basically a concoction made up of jazz, soul, pop and occasionally dollops of psychedelia. It's a broad brush, but regardless, many old jazzheads from the day went down that route for a few years, some basically for commercial reasons (many old and stodgy jazz fans banishing them as sell-outs for doing so), and the results varied. Cannonball Adderley's albums from this period (particularly his David Axelrod-produced ones) are simply excellent - you must hear Zodiac - but this piece isn't about soul-jazz per se, as that requires a book, not a blog post, so let's talk about Charles Lloyd's contributions to this loose genre.

So, my workmate thrust a copy of Lloyd's Moon Man LP from 1970 in front of my face about a month ago and said, You heard this? I told him I knew nothing of it, only that Lloyd recorded various hippie-ish jazz albums in the '60s (he ingratiated himself heavily with the west coast long-hair scene, although he was born in Memphis in 1938) and then recorded heavily for the ECM label later on. I was told I must hear it. I did. You must hear it, too. An ear-melting blend of goofy spoken-word material, almost country-style boogie-rock, spiritual jazz and rambling psychedelia, I now - a month or so later - rate it as a lost gem waiting to be rediscovered. As are his other LPs from the early '70s.

Curiously, Lloyd also played sax for the Beach Boys during this period - the band's best period, might I add - and various members of the band helped him out on two other crucial records from this era: 1971's Warm Waters and 1972's Waves. The greatness of these two albums - or maybe it's just ME: the reviews remain lukewarm to this day - are something I would like you to familiarise yourself with. Both featuring the likes of Al Jardine, Mike Love, Carl and Brian Wilson - you know, the Beach fuckin' Boys - they are a truly weird and beautiful mixture of cosmic jazz, sweet harmonies and tropical vibes. They have the distinct smell of marketplace failure all over them, too, but that just adds a sweet twist to the story. They come from a lost time when labels just threw money at this kind of strange nonsense in the hope that it would catch on with The Kids. It clearly didn't.

And then there is 1973's Geeta to consider - and you should consider it. With Lloyd on sax and flute with a three-piece band consisting of guitar, bass and dholak (South Asian hand-drum, like the tabla), as well as sitar and cosmic vocals,  it sees Lloyd, like many of his contemporaries, getting all mystical in an almost Don Cherry-like way (an apt musical comparison, alongside Miles' Big Fun juggernaut). Am I partying in the wrong circles? Why is there no Charles Lloyd box set documenting this period? Why have I not heard the utterance, I'm really into early '70s Charles Lloyd right now. Well, you just did! Get on it.

Thursday, March 09, 2017


I received an email recently from an Irish fellow now residing in Japan with a record label by the name of Transduction Records. He has a new 2LP coming out which he believed I would be interested in, given the bands and music I have given props to over the years, and given the band's association to the SST story (it's loose, but it's there). He sent me a link, but told me the 2LP package was something to behold and would give me a greater sense of what it was I was consuming. I'm never one to say no to a freebie, so I said, sure, send one over.

That 2LP set is the latest - their 12th album, by my count - album by Missouri's GRANDPA's GHOST, The Carnage Queen. They've been releasing material since 1996, and yet I'd never heard of them until 2 weeks ago. They released four full-lengthers on the Upland label in the early '00s - Upland being the imprint owned & operated by Joe Carducci and Bill Stevenson (if you need to ask, don't bother) - and this is their first recording in a decade. The package is indeed nice, and this epic effort, which by my count is around the 80+ minute mark, will take one some time to fully comprehend. I've been perusing the lengthy press kit, and it makes for a great read in its own right, and there are two peculiar aspects to that remark: firstly, the press kit stretches itself over 6 pages, and I've always held the golden rule that such a promotional vehicle should never extend over more than a single page (I should know: I've written hundreds of the things. It should simply state: who the artist is, what they sound like, and why anyone should buy it); and secondly, it's interesting! There's a page-long rundown from Carducci himself, rave reviews from Byron Coley, references to Souled American, Meat Puppets and Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Sometimes great bands simply escape your gaze.

Those references aren't wrong, and Carducci's statement that the band's earlier comparisons to the likes of Wilco/Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt et al - all pleasant but utterly bland Americana outfits who push no boundaries - did the band no justice (nor was it accurate), and indeed they remain, as he notes, musical heirs to the likes of Neil Young and Crazy Horse and the deconstructed, falling-apart aesthetics of Souled American more than anything else. This is all true. What GG remind me of mostly is a whole lotta bands I did used to listen to in the early '90s whom I still have a sentimental attchment to, even if I don't spin their wares like I used to. I'm thinking of Ajax-catalogue regulars (one can't underestimate its importance, so I won't), greats such as Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Trumans Water, The Grifters, Royal Trux, Gastr del Sol and I'd even have to throw in some very early Pavement in there, too, as well as first-LP Meat Puppets. In that sense, you could say this is a musical throwback, but that's merely my interpretation of its sounds. Grandpa's Ghost play expansive de/reconstructed roots music for the 21st century with unpredictable, non-obvious songcraft. I'm not sure who is really going to care that this 2LP set exists, as I have acknowledged my prior ignorance of them, but it seems that they have the right fans as it is, and since you've come this far, you really should check them out, as smart people require good music in their lives. This would've found a great home on SST in 1985 or Drag City in 1998, but since I'm always on the lookout for great recordings made in the here and now - well, this is one of them.

There is eff-all presence of the band on YouTube, certainly not from recent years, but this one from eons ago may give you a whiff of what they do.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


Here's what I done over my summer break: I slogged my way through David Nichols' new epic tome, Dig: Australian Rock And Pop Music 1960 - 85 (Verse Chorus Press). 'Slog' may have you thinking I didn't enjoy the experience, and to that I say, au contraire! T'was a book I enjoyed immensely; but it's also a book which requires some dedication, being nearly 600 pages of small print which will chew up a number of hours and days (and weeks, in my case) as you consume all the information within.

Some background: David Nichols is a fairly well known musician/writer/raconteur both Down Under and abroad. He was a staff writer for Smash Hits(!) magazine down here for over a decade (my first exposure to his writing was via a live PiL review in 1984), also published the excellent Distant Violins fanzine throughout much of this period, played in the Cannanes and other outfits, published a major book on the Go-Betweens a number of years ago, now teaches at Melbourne University, etc., etc. And yes, he is someone I also happen to know, and we often find ourselves at the same social gatherings and BBQs in the area, due to mutual friends. Now that all that is out of the way, let's begin with Dig, a book which apparently took him a decade to complete, and given the sheer amount of information it contains, such a fact is surely understandable. I find Nichols a fascinating writer (and human being, if truth be told) because he has no sense of snobbery or real delineation between the hip and underground and the popular and tacky. He will find the good in Wa Wa Nee and Pseudo Echo just as he will in the Fungus Brains and Laughing Clowns. Which isn't to say that he possesses no critical faculties in discerning good music from bad, it's just that he doesn't possess the same innate sense of indie-retentive snobbery which, well, I have. And it's this broad appreciation which can lead up him some interesting (and perhaps dangerous) musical paths.

The book itself, as the title suggests, is a history of Australian popular music over a 25-year period, and Nichols is at pains to point out in the introduction that his assessment of things - both in his critical assessment of the music and what he chooses to cover and ignore - is purely subjective, as indeed all histories are. The coverage is still broad and sweeping, and pulls no punches in some regards. A sacred cow such as Johnny O'Keefe is shot down in flames rather quickly, dismissed as a hack and horrible human being to boot (he was both); INXS are frequently derided for their dull music and shameless aspirations (can't disagree there!); though I do have a major beef with David's rude dismissal of AC/DC's Back In Black (he loathes it; I certainly don't). Some of the major players in Australian pop and rock, such as the Bee Gees, Molly Meldrum, Lobby Loyde, Ross Wilson and even Johnny Young get a lot of pages covering their contributions, and love 'em or hate 'em, they have all played a major part in shaping Australian music, and Nichols isn't afraid to see the good and bad in what they have all contributed. In short, it's refreshing to read a book on such a subject which doesn't appear to have an agenda in regards to either fawning over the gods or dismissing them for controversy's sake.

There is simply way too much music covered within to go into detail here - that's what the book's for. You get pre-Beatles '60s pop through to the Easybeats, Zoot, Masters Apprentices (whom I would've liked to have seen more on, especially their peak early '70s phase - but that's me being subjective), Pip Proud, Aztecs and the whole Sunbury scene, the rise and raise (then fall) of two of the biggest bands of the '70s, Daddy Cool and Skyhooks (and both of their stories are fascinating, even though I don't rate their music), Saints/Radio Birdman, Rose Tattoo and X, Go-Betweens and Triffids (two highly-praised bands - by everyone! - whom I just can't get a grip on), the Carlton scene of the mid/late '70s, The Models (another band whose highly-worshipped early recordings totally leave me cold - perhaps you had to be there) and more, more, more.

My favourite parts in the book - perhaps because their histories/stories were largely unknown to me and have since garnered in me quite a belated and curious fandom - would be the extensive coverage of the Carlton scene of the late '70s, particularly that of The Sports, as well as En Zed ex-pats, Dragon. Yes, you heard me right. The Sports' first two albums, 1978's Reckless and 1979's Don't Throw Stones, are magnificent collections of New Wave/pub rock/power pop anthems, skewered by sharp writing, a great frontman (yup, that's Stephen Cummings) and a raw, powerful delivery. I had always dismissed such outfits as unbelievably naff - a half-arsed compromise between what punk should have been and shameless pop ambition - but when put into context (the context that such players had been around the scene creating all kinds of radical and interesting music for a number of years before punk hit), their high-energy, urban brand of hook-filled non-hippie pop/rock makes sense. My pal David Laing (yeah, that guy) has reissued very nice 2CD editions of those two albums with a ton of great bonus material, and I urge all and sundry to give them an earload.

Dragon is a band which David Nichols has long had a fondness for, and hence he gives them a lot of coverage in Dig, just about more than any other band. Dave Graney writes an interesting introduction to Dig, and he makes a great point, one he borrows from an unnamed friend of his (that person happens to be J**** W***s, an old workmate and good friend of mine), which is this: every great music book must have the author championing at least one artist/band which has you scratching your head, furrowing your brow and saying to yourself, REALLY??!! Them?! I think that is a good litmus test for a great music book. Of course, David Nichols champions a whole number of bands here to varying degrees for whom I either can't stand or have no interest in (Cold Chisel, Reels, Australian Crawl, Sherbet), but his cheering for the recorded works of Dragon had me curious, particularly because I'd become aware of their mid '70s NZ days when they were a prog band who recorded two very rare (and highly desirable) albums for the famed Vertigo label: 1974's Universal Radio and '75's Scented Gardens For The Blind. Both are on Spotify, and the former has been reissued nicely (with David Nichols liner notes, natch) by the Aztec label, and hopefully the second will get a similar treatment one day (I should hassle Gil). I have, over the course of the last few months, upon reading this book I immersed myself in these two LPs repeatedly, become a huge fan of these two albums, although I should warn you that if you're allergic to 'prog' and all its extended-song/Hammond-organ glory, then these recordings are not for you. But for myself, there is something very special about these albums, being nascent yet highly sophisticated - with great songs! - recordings from a young band stationed at the arse end of the world in the mid '70s. Of course, the band soon moved to Australia and became a very successful pop/rock act with a number of huge hits (overseas types will surely know 'April Sun In Cuba', a big AOR hit around the world), although the band's history is more perverse and twisted than the average punk band. Firstly, the group had a long-running fascination with the music of Lou Reed and the Velvets, and covered 'White Light/White Heat' in their live set for decades; singer Marc Hunter was a punk enthusiast and can be seen in the book wearing a Residents t-shirt in 1978 whilst wrestling a woman on stage; the band actually kicked Marc out of the band between the years 1979 - '82 for being an insufferable shitbag and drug fiend, though members, including Dragon leader Todd Hunter (yes, his brother), contributed to Marc's solo recordings during this period; the band were voracious drug users (and, in some cases, dealers) and were named in a government enquiry into drug abuse in NSW; and hey, they did write a number of great pop songs - that is something I will not deny.

So, in fear of turning this review into a book of its own, it should be stated that Dig is never a boring read. Nichols covers music I love, loathe and am frequently indifferent to, but never is it a dull to read about such topics. As he is in person, his writing is as dry as the desert sun, with deadpan witticisms scattered throughout. The cultural background and context to what is covered gives the reader a great insight into why the music turned out as it did (there is much to be said for the fact that, at least in the '60s and '70s, the vast bulk of notable music eminating from Australia was in fact made by migrants) and what life was like at the time for a music fan: the press, the radio, the concerts et al. I have a number of bones to pick with David regarding Dig next time I see him, and that is a sign of a good book for me. If you're reading this blog - and I do believe you're reading it right now - then this is a book which will interest you.


Hey folks. Sorry I've been slack around here. Real Life and others things have taken precedence. I've also set up a new laff-out-loud blog, DONALD TRUMP RECORD REVIEWS, which is also a Tumblr site. Today, the non-laughs are on me! More things to come...

Sunday, January 01, 2017


Many, many moons ago - as many moons as there have been in the past 12 years - I posted about a 7" by the Swedish band, DOM DAR. This single still haunts me, it still eludes me. I guess I could buy a copy on Discogs, but maybe I'm just waiting for a copy to fall from the sky and into my lap. 25 years after first hearing them, as I lumber into middle-age, they still take my fancy. My reborn obsession comes from belatedly hearing their other recorded works, most of which looks to be collected here on the CD entitled Machine Way. I know next to nothing of the band, and am finding it difficult to scoop any information on them. Their recorded history is curious, since they released music in 1984/'85 and 1990/'91, yet not in the years between. A Swedish friend saw them play in their homeland during their latter period. They were an awesome blend of Discharge-style d-beat hardcore and sludgy, Melvins-ish trudge. In their faster moments, they mostly remind me of Holland's BGK - a classic Euro take on the Discharge-style thrash of the early '80s (and their Nothing Can Go Wrogn! LP from '86 remains one of the finest European hardcore discs of the 1980s) - and the organic, loose miasma of Melvins ca. Bullhead. That's a fine place to stand. I am goddamned shocked at how good the music on this CD is: tight, surprisingly well-recorded 'crust-punk' which is melodic, eclectic (even a goddamn violin thrown - and not just because they could) and 'heavy' without being metal. The CD in question was released on a Japanese label in 1994, and you can bet I searched high and low for it when I was in that very country just a few weeks back. To no avail. Yes, I could just buy one via Discogs... but again: I'm hoping one will just fall from the sky. In the meanwhile, I have the whole thing on the thoroughly unsatisfactory format known as YouTube. You could start your 2017 in worse ways than this.