Monday, September 06, 2004

If the old saying, "A fool and his money are easily parted" is true, then I must be the stupidest man alive. Over the weekend just gone, I've spent a small fortune on records and CDs, and so I'm putting my foot down and calling a halt to all this needless spending. For the moment. Really. Here's some of what I snapped up.

THE FLESH EATERS - Forever Came Today LP; Dragstrip Riot CD
CHRIS D./STONE BY STONE - I Pass For Human LP
That's right, it was a Chris D. kinda weekend, whether I wanted it or not. Forever Came Today was the Flesh Eaters' 3rd album, originally released in 1982 on the Ruby/Slash imprint, and so far, for whatever reason, has never been issued on CD, and isn't even part of Atavistic's excellent Chris D.-related reissue series. Whatever. Hardcore fans consider this one of their absolute finest outings, and it must be said: "they" are correct. I bought my beat-to-shit vinyl copy off a friend who's clearing out his collection for spare cash (and out came the vultures...) just yesterday, and after spinning it endlessly on repeat all this afternoon whilst working, I've come to this conclusion: I like this a whole lot more than A Minute to Pray... and even more so than their kick-ass debut, No Questions Asked. Hammering, metallic punker aktion from a band at the peak of their powers, Forever... is the perfect combination of Funhouse shaking hands with LA rock ca. '82 (what a time and place...), with you - the listener - coming up trumps. Someone's gotta get this one back into circulation.
Dragstrip Riot is a Flesh Eaters "comeback" effort from '91 on the SST label, which was originally released as a double LP. The verdict at the time was a luke-warm-to-vaguely-enthusiastic response from the scribes, and I'll second that motion. Dragstrip's OK, mainly abetted by the patented Chris D. howl which keeps things moving at a reasonable pace, though it's gotta be said: as a double LP, this could've easily have been trimmed down to a single effort. The backing band is pretty OK, keeping time in a steady and not-too-flash rock/punk vein, though judging by the get-up a few of the members are in, I'd say they'd probably make better money as a Guns 'n' Roses tribute act. Bought for a couple of bucks at the Greensborough market, so no sweat off my brow, as was the following...
I Pass For Human was a one-off project for Mr. D. in '89. Again released on SST, the backing band features Chris Haskett from the Rollins Band and "guitars by Ethel Meatplow", which I can only assume is a frightening reference to one of the most worthless bands of the last 15 years (ask Jay Hinman about it some time). Anyway, the musical template for Stone By Stone is, so far as I can gather, an early '70s 'Stones sound, beefed up with a touch of classic late '70s-style LA punk rock with D.'s semi-atonal moaning adorning the proceedings. Or you simply could say that this kinda takes up where the Divine Horsemen finished off. Since I always loved the 'Horsemen, I'd say that's a pretty fine place to be. I'm on such a Chris D. kick of late, I've just dusted off my long-dormant copy of his book of lyrics/short stories/poetry, Double Snake Bourbon (bought by my brother in LA ca. 1990/'91 as a gift), and plan on lighting the pipe, putting on the slippers and spending a quiet night indoors perusing its pages.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Mighty Feeble LP
MY DAD IS DEAD - Peace, Love and Murder LP

These were both sold to me by the same guy who offloaded Forever Came Today, and since I was busy pruning his collection from his hands, I figured I'd grab these, too, since I'm not likely to cross their paths again in the future, near or distant.
The Mighty Feeble, released on Mike Watt's excellent New Alliance label in 1983, is a mighty strange disc, one I've seen in catalogues over the years but never in the flesh. Its main infamy is sprung from it being a compilation of tracks sent to the label by random artists on cassette, and from two songs it features: one by "Elevator", which is a one-off meeting of Greg Ginn, Mike Watt and Bill Stevenson engaging in SST-style bong-hit jam-rock (hey, that's a complement! If anyone's got more of this stuff lying around, I wanna hear it!), the other being the track "Jaded", by Mr Epp and the Calculations, an early HC-parody project from a pre-Green River Mark Arm. Also featured are Austin's great Kamikaze Refrigerators (ace Big Boys/Minutemen/Dicks-style agit-punk, just the way Texans make it); the Gary Jacobelly Ensemble ("supergroup" jazz outfit featuring George Hurley, Joe Baiza, etc. October Faction this ain't; more like the missing link between the Globe Unity Orchestra and James "Blood" Ulmer: a great thing); producer Spot (guitar noodling nonsense) and a host of presumably one-off noise/fuck-around outfits with names like Debt of Nature, Zurich 1916, Buffalo Gals, Modern Torture, Severed Head In A Bag, Autistic Divinity and a whole lot more. An exemplary snapshot of the American underground at the time, this would've been right at home (or maybe better off, since most people probably mistake this as containing nothing but a collection of SST throw-offs) on a label like RRR or even Black Eye, had the artists involved been drug-abusing Sydneysiders. Now this needs a reissuing on CD...

My Dad Is Dead? Ugh, I talked about them (or him: Mark Edwards) a couple of months back, so check the archives for the spiel. Peace Love and Murder is MDID's second LP from 1986, when Mark was still in the midst of his Ian Curtis obsession. This sounds more like an old Joy Division/Warsaw demo than the average mid-'80s Midwestern project, though his songwriting skills and ability to convey the Angst of the Lonely Man was rungs above all competition at the time, so if you can locate it, purchase at will.

ALBERT AYLER - Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe CD
This long-deleted nugget has semi-recently been given a super-cool Nice Price reissuing in a fine mini-LP-style digipak (ie. it looks like an album sleeve shrunk down), and you'd be a fool for passing it up. I'll admit, its scarcity and reputation as a late-period Ayler "sell-out" dud had always put me off ever pursuing it in secondhand bins, though I think it's safe to say that this will be in for a heavy reappraisal from all the necessary boffins over the course of the next few years. Mark my words. I bought this just two days ago, but already I'll state this seemingly hasty conclusion: this is possibly the finest Ayler album of them all. This is a phenomenal combo of fire music blare, hollering gospel (with smoldering, June Tyson-esque vocals from Mary Maria), shambling rhythm and blues (complemented by blistering Pete Cosey-style leads c/o Henry Vestine) and some truly sublime bagpipe outings from Ayler himself. This is not "free jazz", nor is it willfully or contrived avant-garde; it's not gospel or blues or soul - it's a simply bizarre and unique mix of all of the above, the closest comparison I can muster being Sonny Sharrock's equally great Black Woman, also from 1969. Maybe back at the time, after the earth-shattering outings such as Bells, Spiritual Unity and Lorrach Paris 1966, this did seem like a sell-out, or at least an odd, perhaps misguided, detour, but 35 years of hindsight put it in a different view. Probably one of the best jazz albums you or I will ever hear, this really puts me in the mood for that 9-CD(!) Ayler box coming out next month on Revenant.

CABARET VOLTAIRE - Methodology '74/'78; Attic Tapes 3-CD box
I raved on about CV's 1978-'82 Best Of some time back. If you care, search the archives. The gist of it was this: I had foolishly, until roughly 2 years ago, completely avoided the music of CV, figuring them to be a group of coattail-riding nth-rate TG copyists and/or a lousy "industrial" act worthy of my ignorance due to their later, more technoid-influenced outings (though several friends still swear by that period, too). As previously said, wrong on both counts. CV - or at least their 1974-'82 recordings - are as good enough, and perhaps even better, than similarly amazing outfits of the day, Chrome and Throbbing Gristle. Their blending of proto-industrial noise, musique concret, '60s garage punk, white-boy funk and dub studio techniques remains unparalleled. This 3-CD set compiles a host of archived tapes the trio made back in the mid-'70s misery of Sheffield, England, and it's a collection of material on a par with The Faust Tapes and Alien Soundtracks in the mind-melting dept. The early pieces are obviously more embryonic: lots of fugged 'n' fiddled keyboard, loop and tape experiments, though by the time 1976 rolls in, CV were an intensely beautiful unit, churning out electro-garage anthems that were equal parts Seeds, Stooges, Stockhausen and Pierre Henry. By the time disc three and the year 1978 comes to play, you realise you're in the presence of a very great thing. Featured are many earlier, rougher versions of songs winding up on later discs, the snapshot into an earlier time is a fascinating gander indeed. Look, this is the sound of a man embarrassingly making up for lost time, so if you're in the same boat I was in 2 years ago, you know what to do. Nice package, too, though the (literally) unreadable liner notes - especially when the band lists their favourites of the time: Seeds, Stooges, Kinks, dub, Miles, James Brown, etc. - are a shame.

IMMORTAL - Battles In The North CD
Never let it be said I ain't eclectic... I now own a whopping three Norwegian Black Metal CDs: Darkthrone's Under A Funeral Moon, Burzum's Filosofem and this. Much like most of Black Metal's followers in the year 2004, I wasn't even aware any of this stuff was going on when it was at its murderous, pillaging peak (roughly '91-'97), since metal in general has never really been a genre firmly on the listening radar, but like any fan will tell you: Black Metal has about as much to do with any traditional metal as it does with barnyard polka tunes. Well, OK, that's an exaggeration, but the point is this: the absolute best Norwegian Black Metal exists within its own universe, its relation to any kind of reality as you or I know it being merely tangential. Listen to any Burzum disc and it may have well come from Mars, it stark grimness so bonechillingly cold I still can't fully penetrate it. But anyway, I only became aware of all this crazy music just before Lords of Chaos book was released in the late '90s (I was working with some enthusiasts at the time who, knowing me to be a fan of just about any ridiculous musical movement that comes along, gave me a primer) and it took me 'til about 5 months ago for me to even purchase a single recording of the genre, so I guess you could label me "cautious". My caution may be slipping, however, as I find this stuff a real blast to listen to. Pure headrush crunch with an earnest sense of evil that borders on, and then leaps over, the absurd, more well-informed people than I have written texts on this phenomenon, so all that really needs to be noted is this: all sense of the absurd aside, Immortal made in Battles of the North in 1997, an exhilarating, misanthropic party-starter of a disc which almost never lets up the chaos for a second. This is like a Discharge 33 on 78 all the way: fist-waving music to lose one's shit to. But you already know that.
PS - One of the most hilarious CD booklets I own, the band's Nordic Warrior-meets-Kiss outfits and sword-baring battle poses are worth the price alone.

lexdev@yahoo.com.au

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