BORIS - Absolutego CD; Amplification Worship CD
Now that Electric Wizard have become a quartet, Japan's BORIS are now officially the Heaviest Trio in the Known Universe. Hail to the King! Seriously, I don't have all that much by this much-touted band, although it's only a matter of time before I bite the bullet and take a splurge on all those hard-to-get/expensive-to-buy Japanese imports I've seen occasionally littering the bins of Missing Link. Until then, I'll have to make do with their two Southern Lord titles, Absolutego and Amplification Worship.
Absolutego, from 1997, takes a more Earth/SunnO))) approach to things: one hour-long track (self-titled), approximately 50 minutes of which is ear-scraping guitar feedback and little else. Whacked-out on kick-a-boy joy juice, it can be a laugh to listen to, though in a more sober frame of mind it can grate. That's OK, there's still 10-odd minutes of screeching Melvins-style grit & doom to wade through, and these Japs have mastered that craft. Also featured on the CD (not on the original Japanese version), is a seven-minute bonus track, "Dronevil 2", a handsome jaunt containing a wealth of bottom-rumbling guitar static and noise. Absolutego is a nice try, but for the real goods, go for Amplification Worship.
AW, from 1998, is the more "song-oriented" of the two, with five relatively conventional "rock" tracks steeped heavily in the Melvins/Saint Vitus tradition of down-tuned aggro murk. That's a very fine thing. No stuffing around here: straight for the jugular with a walloping mountain of distorted, heavy-as-lead rock aktion, this has been one of my favourite discoveries this year (yeah, sometimes it takes me a while).
BORIS have got a zillion releases out and I need them all. There's collaborations with Merzbow and Keiji Haino, 7"s, LPs (including one with a hilarious Nick Drake parody cover), a DVD and a whole lot more. One day, when I'm a rich man - or a very poor man - I'll tell you about them all.
PRETTY THINGS - SF Sorrow CD
I've been on some pretty gruelling work-related car trips the last few weeks and often the ol' cassette player (with the odd interlude of radio) can be my only companion for mind-numbing/time-consuming journeys through heavy traffic. I don't have a car CD player, so I have to make do with the myriad tapes I have cluttering up the glovebox (and the floor, behind the seats...) to get me by. Every few months, after I get sick of a certain selection, I put aside an evening or two of pure tedium: "taping time". Some people I know love doing this: the great art of the mix tape. For me, there's nothing more insanely dull than waiting around a stereo all night pedantically taking off vinyl and putting on CDs, pressing pause, pressing record, etc. OK, as a much younger man, taping cool stuff for clueless friends thrilled the pants off of me, but I'm older, wiser and grumpier now and even more so, I'm much more impatient, both with people asking me for my time in taping music for them and the time it'll actually take me to record the music. OK, there's these things called CD burners, I know. In short, don't ever ask!
Ahem, anyhow, so for whatever reason, I made a 120-minute UK Underground tape spectacular (whooaah!) last week, featuring Twink, Hawkwind and the Pretty Things (and all the clever dicks will know that these three are inter-related), and the 40 minutes I keep coming back to are the Pretty Things and their 1968 psych masterpiece (hey, just ask that guy), SF Sorrow. I first bought this about three years back whilst I was in the midst of a Pretty Things frenzy, and whilst I "liked" it, it didn't set my world on fire the way the "Pretties"'s first three LPs did. Sure, it had its moments, like the spectacular title track, but the rest of it seemed OK-ish and at worst, horribly dated, almost like a psychedelic parody record. In the meantime it's been a disc I've dragged out on occasion, but not often. You see, that's the beauty of listening to tapes in the car: having gone to all the effort of actually taping the darn thing, and not wishing to cause an accident by fucking around with tapes all day, when I put a tape in I really listen to it. When it's in, it's in 'til the end.
Now that I've made a short story long, I may as well remark on what a fucking great album SF Sorrow is. It's finally clicked. Much like the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request - an album I love and believe to be superior to Sgt. Peppers, fuck you very much - SF Sorrow sounds, at least to me, like a complete absurdity that, by most standards, you may call a failure, but as a whole works. I only say "failure" in the sense that it sounds like the band is trying way too hard, every "psychedelic" gimmick in the book is at their disposal and they're not shy about using them: sitars, tape loops, "haunting" voices, acoustic interludes and songs of cosmic wizardry. SF Sorrow is a weird beast to pin: a lot of critics hail its originality (or at least its massive influence on several, more well-known bands of the day), though I haven't read many reviews where people actually seem to "like" it and enjoy listening to it. Maybe it's just through traffic-induced osmosis, but SF Sorrow now sits on top of the pile as an album I'm really beginning to dig the hell out of. Truly, the garage/beat/art/prog/metal/psych driving LP of choice.
On that note, let me heartily recommend these other favourites when embarking on a four-wheel day journey, for a pleasant time will be had by all:
FUNKADELIC: first three albums. These'll knock your socks off but not break your concentration in times of need.
WIPERS: any. Greg Sage's voice will soothe even the most aggravated of drivers.
MELVINS: Bullhead, Ozma, The Maggot. Crunch-rock mayhem, these platters make me feel like Crispin Glover in River's Edge.
CHARLES MINGUS: Black Saint and the Sinner Lady. Other than Miles' '70s output, Mingus is just about the only jazz guy I handle listening to whilst driving. As much as I love the truly "out" stuff in the privacy of my own couch, it freaks the hell out of me whilst driving. Pussy.
MEAT PUPPETS - II, Up On the Sun. Killer double for any time, day or night.
PUBLIC IMAGE LTD. - Two-hour cassette of material from the first three albums. Goddamn astonishing stuff.
BOB DYLAN - Blood On the Tracks/Highway 61 Revisited/Bringing It All Back Home. Dylan's top 3, most of which fit onto a two-hour tape. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll sing at the top of your voice in gruelling traffic jams. Most of all, you might just learn a little something about yourself.