Thursday, May 27, 2004


Here’s some selections getting a beating on the home sound system…

I had a “funny” (not funny ha-ha, just kind of amusing) conversation the other day with a friend who’s opening a record store soon. The other guy who’s to be involved in said store (no names, please) is considered in many Australian circles as one of the country’s most rabid and enthusiastic music fans and collectors. You can talk to this guy about nearly anything: Norwegian Black Metal, Eastern European free jazz, Indonesian gamelan, Afrobeat, ‘50s rockabilly, ‘70s French prog rock, NYC No Wave, ‘60s computer music, even completely atrocious ‘70s AM pop (America, Bread, etc.) I’ll likely (and hopefully) never appreciate. The weird thing is, his springboard into music as a teenager was via Coltrane and Hendrix (a high school jazz snob… can’t say I had one at my school), so his knowledge and appreciation of certain music forms you or I may take for granted (classic ‘70s/’80s US punk, for instance) is surprisingly pitiful (he’s slowly amending that). Anyway, my friend was shocked that said music geek – a man he was about to embark into business with - held absolutely no appreciation whatsoever for Creedence. For him they meant nothing, perhaps, at best, a band of yesteryear popular at fondue parties in the suburbs. Such a dire situation had to be looked into and amended, pronto. Friend “A” did what had to be done: he sat him down for the afternoon, and played him one Creedence album after the other until he damn well liked them! If you have such a friend, you should do the same.

MELVINS – The Maggot CD
This is from 1999, released as part of the Melvins’ “musical trilogy”, along with The Bootlicker and The Crybaby. The Melvins were a band I barely listened to from roughly 1993-’99, though I’m glad to say that they’re a rare occurrence of a group who, 20 years on, still appear to be going strong and at least exploring new musical avenues. The Maggot is one of their more fiery recorded efforts, the opening number, “Amazon”, a righteous blaze of metallic, noisesome fury I have a habit of playing at a deafening volume. If you like your Melvins of the more-rock/less-sludge variety, this is a nice platter to raise fists to.

SAVAGE REPUBLIC – Complete Recordings 4-CD box
I bought this one about a year back and have come round recently for a second helping. Whilst Savage Republic are hardly a household name even in the world of underground rock music, they’re a band worth giving an earful and then some. Formed by a small cabal of UCLA students at the dawn of the ‘80s, they evolved from a kind of ‘Neubauten/TG/Cabaret Voltaire-worshipping, metal-clanging “industrial” outfit before moving onto a mid-period Joy Division/Dick Dale hybrid until they finally settled into a role as perhaps the (I mean, someone has to be) epic drone-rock ensemble, heavily influenced by Saucerful of Secrets-era ‘Floyd, Krautrock and Middle Eastern/Indian sufi music. I’ve got a couple of old vinyl EPs I found in bargain bins back in ’91 or thereabouts, but seeing their entire discography compiled into one, singular, handsome box set like this, I couldn’t resist, especially given the patented Independent Projects packaging (the award-winning print/graphics company SR main dude Bruce Licher set up in the ‘80s). The earlier material hasn’t aged so well, though once they settled into more of a melodic rock mode and lost the angst and burning desire to wail on big kettle drums, the results were often magic. Best of all are the Customs and Ceremonial discs, both prime slices of under-appreciated, uncategorisable ‘80s US avant-rock, and given the current popularity of those crazy Canucks, Godspeed You Black Emperor! (or wherever they put that exclamation mark now), a band often accused of shamelessly ripping off Savage Republic in both musical and graphical content, I’m surprised these guys haven’t been trawled up by the critic gods for a major re-evaluation. A nice thing if you can find it.

GEORGE HARRISON – All Things Must Pass 3-LP box
If you’d told me 15 years ago that one day I would willingly purchase and enjoy a George Harrison 3-LP box set, well, I could make a lot of funny puns here, but the upshot is this: I wouldn’t have believed you. Well, life can take some strange turns, and just after George’s death in late 2001, with all the related gushing that went to-and-fro in the media with his passing, I spotted a copy of this going very cheap in a shop window (either they also got it very cheap, or they totally over-ordered it) and thought, What the hell? I’ll have that. Whilst I can hardly see myself indulging in any solo Ringo or McCartney LPs in this lifetime, I’m glad I took the gamble on Harrison: this is a fantastic set. Caught somewhere between the plaintitive, understated ballads Harrison was renowned for, and the sheer bombast producer Phil Spector made his name with, the seemingly shakey mix, much like that on the White Album – a mix that probably wouldn’t work in lesser hands – is its key to success. Given Harrison’s death, it also possesses a ghostly quality I find mighty appealing. The bonus material on the 2nd and 3rd discs probably don’t add a whole lot to the package, but it’s a nice thing to have, behold and listen to, and for my money is likely the best post-Beatles project – perhaps barring Lennon’s first solo album – any of the Liverpudlians managed to record.

NO TREND – When Death Won’t Solve Your Problem LP
It’s nice to have good friends. I spotted this LP at one such friend’s place a little while ago and begged him on the spot to borrow it. Uh, yeah, sure. Actually, you can have it if you want, I don’t really need it. I felt pretty uncomfortable about taking it, but after further discussions I decided it was a done deal, myself promising I’d return a favour some time soon. No Trend were a “legendary” (why of course!) punk/noise band from Washington DC, ca. the ‘80s. Loathed by everyone in “the scene”, especially the Dischord crew, such a predicament has probably earned them more obscurity than they deserve, but, being the misanthropes they were, they probably wouldn’t have it any other way. Featuring such audience-baiting classics as “Too Many Humans”, “Die”, “Cancer”, “Mass Sterilisation Caused by Venereal Disease” and their “hit”, “Teen Love”, their hate-filled combination of hardcore fury, Flipper-esque sludge and dub-y, PiL-inspired drone-rock still shines like a beacon and holds up incredibly well in the 21st century. The only No Trend material still in print are the Early Months and Tritonian Nash-Vegas Polyester Complex CDs on Teen Beat and Touch & Go, respectively, though neither are quite as ace as this.

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