Thursday, September 23, 2004


Sorry about the lack of entries of late, I've been a little uninspired when it comes to writing about music. I mean, what do I cover? Do I keep hitting the same nail on the head? Do you want to read about Saccharine Trust? Oil Tasters? Some Norwegian Black Metal? How about all three?

I finally finished reading Michael Moynihan's Lords of Chaos book last week, which was also actually the first time I'd ever read it cover to cover (having only ever skimmed through it previously). For a full idea of the topic and author, one should also probably be aware of Moynihan's background in music and politics. Anyone remember Jeff Bale's Hit List magazine? It ran from roughly 1999 - 2002, but anyway, the first issue had a front-page story on "The Politics of Black Metal" and ran an interview with Moynihan himself. He was/is in the godawful Blood Axis, an embarrassingly grim goth/industrial outfit whom I once had a few tracks of on cassette, though of more interest is his own background in extreme right-wing politics and neo-Paganism (or whatever you wish to call it). I'm not going to give the full rundown, you'll have to track the article down yourself, but it is a fascinating read, and puts his seemingly sympathetic views (regarding the ultra-right/nationalist/racist politics of Black Metal) into perspective. Now, why do I mention this? Because I think that reading the book has potentially put my short-lived interest in Norwegian Black Metal to an abrupt end.

Sometimes it's hard to divorce music from politics, something which I'll admit shocks even me saying it, since I'd generally consider myself to be a fairly non-affiliated libertarian kinda guy, but the volumes of sheer fucking idiocy being blurted out of the mouths of the main protagonists in the book (namely Varg of Burzum and some of the Emperor, Dark Throne and Mayhem folks) I found to be so offensive in their stupidity that it's put me off bothering with the genre at all. I say this as a neophyte to the music, as I explained in my Immortal review a few weeks back. So, what to do?

Well, before I finished the book, I was hoodwinked into buying Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse off a friend who's an absolute Black Metal nut. It is a great album. Another associate described it as a cross between Die Kreuzen and Black Metal, and he's right. Less lo-fi (or "necro", as those in the genre like to call it) than others in the genre, Emperor's approach is, ahem, dare I say, more "majestic", which means they have a touch of the Wagnerian pomp to them, though the overall effect is a multi-layered wall of noise which crunches my brain cells at just the right moments. Imagine, if you will, a mixture of Discharge, first-album Die Kreuzen and the hammering flurry of a Dark Throne, and that's the universe of ... Nightside Eclipse. I now have 4 Black Metal albums in total, and may just keep it at that. Frankly, I found the book so damn disturbing, I think I may be too much of a sissy-boy to handle this stuff, which is a pity, because there are moments on discs like Burzum's Filosofem that can make for transcendental listening. Tough-guys take note: the music's all yours.

On to brighter things... The Oil Tasters were a Milwaukee trio from the early '80s, and after an eight-year search, I finally scored a copy of their lone, self-titled LP a few months back and it's been on heavy play ever since. Released in 1982 on Thermidor, a unique label run by the great Joe Carducci (which is where I first learnt of them, in his phenomenal Rock and the Pop Narcotic book) out of the Subterranean offices which also released titles by the Minutemen, Nig-Heist and the Birthday Party, it's a lost gem. It's also been out of print forever, and since I'm currently in the midst of trying to reissue it onto CD, this spiel may just come across as an ad for a future release, just bear with me here. The weirdest elements to their story involve a few things, namely ex-members' subsequent involvements with the likes of the Violent Femmes(!) and the BoDeans(!!), though I'll write about all that in the liner notes, if it ever happens. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that the master tapes are currently in the possession of none other than Henry Rollins (he was going to reissue it on the Infinite Zero label before it went bankrupt), but again, maybe you'll read about that some other time.

A three piece bass/drums/sax set-up, The Oil Tasters is a bare-bones combination of punk snarl, No Wave jazz and almost geeky, New Wave melodies. If you could find the closest comparisons, I'd say they were the Midwest version of the Contortions, which may be fitting, since the sax player, Caleb Alexander, learnt his goods from James Chance back in the '70s when he was still living in Milwaukee. There's some angular funk, a swarm of sax bleets, sarcastic, Angloid vocals, ripping bass lines and a bevy of that early '80s angst I still can't get enough of. A winning formula. "I Don't Want To Be An Encyclopedia Salesman"... they don't write 'em like that anymore. Again, I'm stepping into murky waters here. Does anyone else care about this band? I suppose I'll find out - maybe the hard way - when the time comes.

Speaking of hitting the nail repeatedly, what about that Saccharine Trust, huh? Are/were they a great band or WHAT? We Became Snakes from '86, it's a gem the general public just refuse to acknowledge, but not me! I'll be wailing on about this album 'til I'm on old man boring my compatriots on the front porch of the retirement home. Aaah, maybe some other time...

No comments: