RECORD REVIEWS, JANUARY-JUNE 2022.
THE ADAM BROWN. What we’ll Never Know CD (Rum Bar) Based in Montreal, The Adam Brown is a combo who play what can only be called New Wave, with influences clearly resonating from the late-Seventies period when many guitar-bands didn’t want to adopt the aggression of Punk or Metal, but were keen to borrow the more energetic approach whilst still producing catchy, commercial pop music. At the time, many would sneer at such bands for playing the record industry game, but in hindsight, a lot of those records were great and deserved to be successful. Such is the case with The Adam Brown, who have made an album packed with insistent tunes, a lively production and loads of melodic hooks. Of course, four decades down the line, New Wave isn’t the only element in play, with nods towards indie and Brit-pop along the way, but it all adds up to a very entertaining album. Play it on a nice Summers’ day and I’m sure it’ll be irresistible!
THE AMPLIFIER HEADS. Saturnaliens CD (Rum Bar) The Amplifier Heads are a raw rock’n’roll band from Boston who mix the best parts of Pub Rock with the stomping rhythms of The Glitter Band, the sleaze of the New York Dolls and the classic style of Eddie Cochran to create the kind of noise that’s virtually guaranteed to get any audience up on their feet. They obviously know what they’re doing, musically, but keep it all simple and straight to the point. There’s nothing here that doesn’t need to be and that’s a talent in itself. Too many bands ruin things in the studio by trying to be too clever. The Amplifier Heads just want to rock the place and they get the job done. I don’t need to say anything else… just play this loud and love it to death!
ANTHRAX, Serfs Out CD (Grow Your Own.) It’s been a while since their previous album, but this has certainly been worth the wait. Not to be confused with the American metalheads of the same name, this band originally formed in North Kent during 1980 and went on to release two great EPs on Crass records (1982) and Small Wonder (1983) before splitting in 1984. Musically, they were one of the bands that bridged the gap between late-Seventies ‘post’ punk rock and the more ‘hardcore’ sounds that emerged in the UK during the Eighties. They developed their own distinct sound and delivered it in a very powerful style, so it was good news when they reformed in 2010, releasing their first album of all-new material, ‘All For the Cause’, in 2012. Since then, their line-up has been a little erratic, but they’ve continued to play live and have featured on several split-singles, whilst singer Oskar (possibly not his real name) has been busy running the highly-recommended ‘Grow Your Own’ record label. But here’s the new album at last and, to my ears, it’s the record I always hoped they would make. As I said earlier, Anthrax stood out because they mixed the inventiveness of the late Seventies punk scene with the raw energy of the upcoming UK82 bands. Their music had plenty of attitude but was also full of ideas and different ways to put them across. But far from being a nostalgic version of their former-selves (as happens to many bands that reform after a lengthy gap) Anthrax now is very-much about the present, although their sound and approach is still recognisable. Indeed, the unlikely but effective cover-art is an instant introduction to the content you’re going to discover. A sandcastle sporting a union jack, looking proud and pompous whilst in serious danger of being washed away by the tide… Remind you of any recent events? Opening song ‘Dumb it Down’ puts things in perspective without even having to name the errors and the villains who orchestrated them. ‘Beg Society’ goes further, reminding us of the future that was intimated and the reality that we are now dealing with… greed has become acceptable again. ‘Fear Sells’ deals with the shameless shenanigans of populist politicians, while ‘Misery Loves Company’ illustrates the results of so many voters falling for so much deception. But that’s not to say that the mood of the album is negative… The songs are performed with real vitality and the dynamics are delivered with spirit and determination, demanding a way forward rather than accepting defeat. ‘Dead Air’, in particular, sounds like the sort of call-to-arms that this country really needs. The vocals are (understandably) angry, but come across with a real sense of passion rather than just adopting slogans, while the music creates a real sense of purpose and realisation. One of the more notable differences with this album is the addition of a second vocalist, Lara, whose (shall we say) dulcet tones provide the perfect foil to Oskar’s raw delivery. What else do I need to tell you about this album? Not much, except that you really need to hear it as soon as you can. Seriously, it’s a contender for best album of the year, whichever year you get to hear it! You can trust me on this one.
ANTICITIZEN. Free World? CD (Wiseass) Anticitizen are an Anarcho-punk inspired hardcore band from New Jersey, who are celebrating their 10-year anniversary with this release. Consisting of 15 tracks, it’s a mixture of styles including D-beat and UK82, with some moments that will have you recalling bands like Subhumans (UK), The Varukers and maybe even Chaos UK. The songs are sometimes let down by the production, as they really need a bigger sound to make the most of their idiosyncrasies and arrangements, but regardless, the songs still stand-up rather well. The vocals are delivered with a real sense of angst and disgust against the system, veering between a raw ‘crusty’ style and a clearer, more cohesive snarl. (I would have liked to have seen a lyric sheet, as it’s sometimes difficult to follow the high-velocity word, but that’s one of the problems when you receive a download…) This is a good, powerful release and although you could be cynical and say that many of the subjects sound familiar, it’s also undeniable that they still remain valid. If you like your punk rock raw, uncompromising and political, look no further!
BAD MOJOS. Songs That Make You Wanna Die LP (Voodoo Rhythm) The Bad Mojos are a Swiss trio with an emphasis on both Garage and Punk. Their songs are kept as minimal as they can be, the tempos are as fast as they can be, and the distorted guitars as nasty as they can be… But the best bit is that, they don’t waste a single thing. The melodies are there, the attitude is centre-stage and the energy levels are high-enough to take your skull off! As Voodoo Rhythm point out, these guys could even pass as a (great) Oi-band, albeit one that covers the very best Garage tunes from back in the Sixties. They’re not afraid to half-inch a few riffs, but only if they can be adopted toward their forward-momentum. Did I hear some classic Status Quo chords during ‘Cold Blooded Murder’? Yes, I think I did and I love them even more because of it. Seventeen songs and not a single one over 2 minutes 27 seconds… Goddamnit, these guys know how to get it done! The vocals are distorted to death, which is a shame, as I’d really like to know what they’re singing about on songs like ‘Nazi Hunter’ and ‘Alien Suicide’, but that’s only a minor gripe. Basically, if you want a vital shot of adrenalin and damn the torpedoes, this is an album that’s’ gonna hit all the right spots. Be warned, it’s not for the weak-hearted, but the lively are gonna love it!
BRIX SMITH & MARTY WILLSON-PIPER. Lost Angeles CD (Cadiz.) Best known for her two stints as a member of The Fall (1983-89 and from 1994-96) Brix Smith also had her own project during that time, The Adult Net, in which she was mostly joined by comrades from The Fall. A series of singles met with some success, but were hampered by the bands’ lack of live performances and constantly fluctuating line-up. Various ex-members of The Smiths were recruited at different times, whilst the bands’ only album, ‘The Honey Tangle’, was released in 1989 and featured Clem Burke as their drummer. However, the record didn’t do as well as expected and the band found itself dropped by their label, leading to their demise. Brix was briefly involved with other projects over the ensuing years (The Bangles, Hole) until she returned to The Fall from 1994-96. After her second departure from the band, she returned to songs she had been writing prior to rejoining The Fall and she recruited Marty Willson-Piper (The Church, All About Eve) to record ‘Lost Angeles’ during 1997. Unfortunately and for various reasons, personal and professional, the album was not released and spent the next two decades being referred to as her ‘lost album’. But finally it’s being made available and the only comment I can make is, why did we have to wait so long to hear such a great album? It’s a wonderful progression from The Adult Net material and musically, it’s not far from Penelope Houston’s excellent ‘Tongue’ album. It’s full of great Pop moments, but also unafraid to include aggressive guitar sounds, whilst also delving into more-personal lyrics and delivery. And although it’s very-much based within its’ Sixties influences, it also isn’t scared of involving more contemporary styles and studio technology, giving the overall sound an effectively timeless quality. It really is a shame that we’ve had to wait so long to hear this album because it really should have established Brix as an accomplished artist in her own right. As it turns out, its’ eventual release is going to coincide with her latest project (a heavier, all-girl band) so I hope the two albums help to promote each other. They may be different beasts, but someone who was part of The Fall for as long as Brix shouldn’t find that to be a problem. ‘Lost Angeles’, putting it simply, is a great album and if you can’t enjoy these songs, you haven’t got a heart.
BUNUEL. Killers Like Us CD (Profound Lore) Featuring the vocal prowess of Eugene S.Robinson (Oxbow) Bunuel are an international group and are here presenting their third album following ‘A Resting Place for Strangers’ and ‘The Easy Way Out’. First-up, be warned, this is not music for the timid among us. This album takes a brutal path from start to finish, mixing the likes of Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid and Daughters to maximum effect. It’s heavy, but beyond mere ‘rock’ or ‘metal’ terminology. The rhythms are repetitive and at times almost hypnotic, but perhaps-unexpectedlyly, there are still melodies to be found and followed within the melee. Female vocals (courtesy of Kasia Meow) on the track ‘Crack Shot’ provide an effective counterpoint to Eugene’s more familiar vocal histrionics, in much the same way that The Residents often used female vox to add depth and colour to some of their darker musical excursions. It may at some points seem like noises for its’ own sake, but there’s always a purpose to their progress, building things up or breaking them down to reveal their eventual goal. This isn’t an easy listen by any stretch of the imagination, but if you delve into it with the right approach it can still be highly entertaining. Just don’t expect it to get much radio play!
BUZZCOCKS. Senses Out of Control EP (Cherry Red) I was a bit wary when I first heard that the Buzzcocks were intending to continue as a band after the sad loss of Pete Shelley. However, reports of their ensuing gigs have been very positive and now this new EP finds them on top form in the studio as well. The title track effortlessly stands-up alongside Steve Diggle-penned classics like ‘Harmony in my Head’ and ‘Isolation’, with a strong, upbeat rhythm section, insistent vocals and a great guitar sound. ‘Carnival of Illusion’ is a song that could easily have been an outtake from any of their previous albums, such is its’ grasp of the elements that make-up the best Buzzcocks’ songs. Finally, ‘Hope Heaven Loves You’ takes a slightly slower pace, but is still packed with energy and contains sneaky, repetitive guitar licks that have been a musical signature of the band all the way back to the ‘Spiral Scratch’ EP. The production and arrangement gives the songs a big and powerful sound that really brings out the best of them and Diggle’s vocals are perfectly suited to the overall-delivery. In fact, in some ways, the new songs recall the early recordings by Flag of Convenience (the band that Diggle fronted between 1982-89) but for me, that’s no bad thing. FOC produced some great music, so a cross between them and more the more recent Buzzcocks albums isn’t going to be a problem. This is an EP I’d enjoy if it had been released ten or twenty years ago, so I really can’t see any reason not to enjoy it now, regardless of the changes to the band. If they can keep up these kind of standards, then I hope that Buzzcocks will remain with us for many years to come.
CHEAP CASSETTES. Ever Since Ever Since CD (Rum Bar) Based in Seattle, the Cheap Cassettes have been producing their own brand of power-pop for quite some time, establishing themselves as a reliable source for hi-energy musical excellence. The immediate references (for me, at least) are probably Cheap Trick and The Replacements, but there are plenty of other influences that you’ll be picking-up as you listen further. The Flamin’ Groovies at their best, maybe a bit of Alex Chilton and, on occasion, there’s even some great keyboard-sounds that will recall Jimmy Destri’s work on the early Blondie albums. There’s a lot to enjoy here… make sure you don’t miss out.
THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY. The Raw and Primitive Sound of… LP (Voodoo Rhythm) Formed somewhere in the desert-wastelands between Los Angeles and Phoenix, Arizona, The Christian Family are a duo who come straight out of the Gospel-Punk Garage. In case you don’t already know, Gospel music has played a big-part in the evolution of high energy rock’n’roll. Just check out the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis… if you can’t dig them, you don’t dig nothing (worthwhile.) Taking the Sacred Sounds of The Cramps, The Mummies and Knights of the New Crusade, The Christian Family are here with some of the trashiest guitar and primitive beats you’ll have ever heard, all in the name of salvation. Sister Ann provides the rhythm and the sweetest, snarlin’ vocals to lead you along the righteous path, while Brother Daniel does unspeakable things to his guitar and amp to allay your sins. What more do you need to know? Lay down your souls to the Gods rock and roll, indeed!
CINDY LAWSON. New Tricks CD (Rum Bar) Ms Lawson fronted the renowned Minnesota all-girl group The Clams during the mid-Eighties. They played a style of guitar-based pop that sounded like a cross between the Bangles and a street-gang… lots of great melodies and plenty of attitude! Although she has indulged in several musical pursuits since The Clams dissolved, this is actually her first ‘solo’ album and, whilst it may have taken some time to appear, the songs have a confidence and quality that will have you thinking she’s never been away! The thing is, she obviously has a wide range of influences / inspirations that provide a real depth to her new music. Sixties Girl bands, Seventies Powerpop, maybe even a bit of Glam-rock along the way. Her voice sounds so strong, hitting all the right notes at all the right times, while the guitars effortlessly switch from one style to another, from delicate refrains through to hard-edged rock. This is music that should be on the radio-waves, or suddenly grabbing your attention as part of the soundtrack to a Summer blockbuster… But really, it doesn’t matter where you hear this record, just be sure to hear it.
THE CLAMS. The Complete Clams CD (Rum Bar) Based in Minnesota during the Eighties, The Clams were an all-girl hard rock’n’roll band who tore-up the clubs with a sound that referenced The Runaways, New York Dolls and early-Seventies Rolling Stones. (Not too far away from what New York Loose were doing, either.) Although local legends during their lifetime, they only managed to release three singles back in the day, so big respect is due to Rum Bar for tracking-down these tapes and releasing this excellent, 15-song compilation. Some recordings seem to come from demo-tapes while others have been gathered from live recordings, so the sound-quality does vary in places but the bands’ energy and attitude always sees them through. Just check-out the songs they cover and make their own… ‘Human Being’, ‘We’re an American Band’, ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, Squeeze Box’, ‘Sweet Jane’. Apart from having fine taste in their choice of covers, they also didn’t see any reason to play carbon-copies and successfully infused the songs with their own character, often out-rockin’ the originals. After a long break away from music, singer/guitarist Cindy Lawson has recently re-surfaced with her first solo album (see review elsewhere) which will give you even more to enjoy and think about. But this is probably the record you should check out first!
CROMM FALLON. Presents The P200 CD (Rum Bar) Cromm Fallon is a guitarist in The LaissezFairs, but whilst they lean more towards their Sixties influences (with considerable style, I should add) on this, his first ‘solo’ album, the range of sounds and inspirations is a lot broader, There are references to Australian bands like The Died Pretty or The Go-Betweens, as well as harder sounds that you may well have heard from some of the bands on the Homestead label during the late Eighties. There are also Sixties influences, but here they seem more inclined to refer to guitar bands like The Byrds or Big Star rather than psychedelic-pop. The record flows well from one song to the next, so it sounds like a coherent album rather than a disparate selection of different styles. It rocks out with conviction in several places, but also slows things down to moodier, atmospheric moments elsewhere. It’s a great album, unpredictable but full of good surprises. This is definitely something you need to check out for yourself!
DIABLOGATO. Old Ghosts LP (Rum Bar) ‘Diablogato’ translates as ‘Devil Cat’, which is a pretty cool name for a band. Any band, in fact, but in this case it’s pretty appropriate. Diablogato might hail from Massachusetts but their sound comes from a much-more Southern tradition, combining Rockabilly, Cajun and Voodoo traits. Imagine if the Stray Cuts had been genuinely scary, or if The Hickoids had leant more towards psychedelic Country music. Consider the idea of Gene Vincent dropping acid and jamming with Hasil Adkins… this is an album of raucous rockabilly that proves that the genre is still alive and kicking (in the head!) As for the felines, just remember that cats have strange powers and they dig rock’n’roll as much as the best among us. Check out this album as soon as you can.
THE DIRTY TRUCKERS. The Tisbury Joneser CD (Rum Bar) The Dirty Truckers have been home-town legends for quite some time and when you hear an album like this, you’ll know just why. Boston has always had a tradition of no-nonsense rock’n’roll bands who blend melodic hooks with tough, catchy riffs and vocals that will remain in your head long after the final chord has faded away. The obvious reference would have to be The Replacements as there are overlapping styles at times, but I’d guess it’s more a case that they come from a similar musical background and there’s also a lot more to this band. There are moments that might have you recalling Buffalo Tom and others that will perhaps have you thinking of Neil Young. They’re clearly accomplished players, but the best thing is that they never try to over-play their abilities and instead opt to deliver what’s really needed to make the songs sound just the way they ought to be. This is a great record that’s both insistent and entertaining. Let’s hope it gets them to the wider-audience that they deserve.
THE DOGMATICS. Drop That Needle CD (Rum Bar) Rum Bar have succeeded in documenting another fine Boston hi-energy rock’n’roll band and the world is a better place for it! Caught somewhere in between the MC5 and The Replacements, the Dogmatics perform a style that combines vintage (UK) pub rock mixed with (US) powerpop and a snotty 1976/77 punk rock attitude (New York and London!) Having been together as a band since 1981, The Dogmatics played alongside many legends (The Replacements, Long Ryders, Dinosaur Jnr etc) but outside of their hometown party, never got the credit they deserved. Over the years, they released records on labels such as Homestead, Shredder and Vagrant, and their songs have even been covered by the likes of Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Sadly, founding member Paul O’Halloran died in a motorbike accident in the late Eighties, but the band have continued (sporadically) since then with his brothers Peter, Johnny or Jimmy filling his place in the proper manner. In fact, ‘Drop the Needle’ includes a previously unrecorded Paul O’Halloran song, ‘Acid Rain’, which effectively brings past and present together. This is yet another fine release for which we should not only thank the band, but also Rum Bar records for both making it happen!
EARL OF HELL. Get Smoked EP (https://earlofhell.bandcamp.com/album/get-smoked) Based in Scotland, this is a band who go for the fuzzier extremes of Hard Rock, with references to the better parts of early-Seventies rock’n’roll, grunge and even country music. There are plenty of bands who try to replicate these styles and, for the most part, get it wrong. But Earl of Hell seem to know exactly what they’re doing, building everything on insistent grooves whilst infusing them with a real swagger. ‘Hang ‘em High’ opens this release like out-of-control burst of sonic energy, quickly followed by ‘Parasite’, which takes a slower, more menacing approach. ‘Bitter Fruits’ goes for a more atmospheric style, with orchestration and an arrangement that suggests this is a band who would be well-suited for soundtrack work. The final track ‘King the Witch’ is upbeat and insanely catchy, despite its’ Hammer Horror-style themes! Altogether, this is a great EP with plenty of songs that could easily appeal to a wider audience and not just those already into Hard Rock. Give it a listen!
EDWEENA BANGER. Diamond Rocks CD (https://edweenabanger.com) Formerly known as Ed Banger (of ‘The Nosebleeds’) and Eddie Garrity (as vocalist for the Slaughter ‘Bites Back’ album) Edweena is now back and doing what she does best, playing loud rock’n’roll that mixes equal parts of Punk and Glam. As an indicator of the sort of influences that we’re talking about, the album includes two tributes, the first (‘Give It Up for Johnny’) referencing Mr Thunders, whilst the second (‘Aladinsane Again’) pays respect to the classic Bowie / Ronson partnership. But whilst many of the more recent Glam-punks only go as far as mimicry, Edweena adds part of herself to the songs, ensuring that the intent always remains sincere rather than just becoming a pastiche. Most of the songs are pretty upbeat, although it’s never predictable, with several great slower songs (‘Where Did All Go wrong’.) Others like ‘Fall & Rise’ adopts an almost rockabilly style and arrangement, while ‘Love is Great’ veers more towards Sixties Pop. ‘A New Religion’ makes a nod to Mott the Hoople, while ‘Boogie in the Well of Love’ is a great Bolan-esque pop-rocker. But the important thing is that, as a whole, this works as a really sold album, bouncing from one song to the next in a convincing fashion. The final track, ‘Let’s Do It’, is a classic glam-rocker that keeps things simple but totally effective, with a great guitar sound and a chant in the chorus that’ll have everyone singing along. This is a fine album and I can heartily recommend it for any fan of loud, proud, rock’n’roll!
F,A.N.T.A. Mi Zone De Confort EP (Monster Zero) The strangely-named F.A.N.T.A. are a fine band from Barcelona specialising in punk-rock-powerpop, not unlike some kind of collaboration between Redd Kross and The Dickies (circa ‘Stukas Over Disneyland’.) Which to my mind, makes this a fine selection of songs! Four tracks of instantly enjoyable, upbeat energy, full of great melodies, fine harmonies, and perfect guitar sounds. Plus they end the set with a cover of The Queers’ song ‘I Can’t Get Over You’, translated into their native Spanish. You may get confused by some of the words, but trust me, these tunes are going to win you over!
FASHION. Fashion Music CD (Easy Action) Initially formed in the Birmingham area during 1978, Fashion indulged many of the same influences as the early punk bands (Bowie, Roxy Music, etc) but took their sound in a much more eclectic direction. Their first two self-released singles shared the same kind of musical territory as the original Ultravox, perhaps mixed with early XTC. They were unafraid to work with electronics to create new atmospherics in their own songs, rather than just bashing-out the same three-chords that so many were relying-on at the time. Their bold approach soon came to the attention of Miles Copeland, who signed then to his IRS label, released their debut album, the highly-regarded ‘Product Perfect’, and helped them to gain a higher profile playing alongside the likes of The Police, U2 and the B52’s. In 1980, their original singer Luke James left the band and was briefly replaced by Tone Dial, formerly of the Neon Hearts, before another line-up change delivered a more permanent vocalist, De Harriss. Signing with Arista records in 1981, they achieved several hit singles and a Top Ten album, ‘Fabrique’, partly due to their musical style now being was embraced by the New Romantic scene which provided them with a much wider audience. But before they were able to take advantage of this, Harriss departed and they were consequently dropped by Arista. However another new line-up came together with Al Darby on vocals, and this time they were signed to EPIC records . They scored one more hit single with ‘Eye Talk’ and recorded a final album, ‘Twilight of Idols’, but by this point they had run-out of momentum and subsequently split. This album consists of tracks from the original line-up, active from 1978-80, including their first three singles, rare and previously unreleased recordings from those formative years and a live set recorded in the 1978-79 period. Although they may have had elements in common with the eventual New Romantic scene, their music is a lot less radio-friendly than the bands who became popular during that time and also much more interesting… the live recording particularly shows side to them. As I mentioned above, the early Ultravox albums probably serve as the best reference point to what they were doing as they were never afraid to mix genres, but always did so with plenty of their own character. They gave their music plenty of room to develop and find its’ own direction, which is why it still sounds surprisingly fresh even now. This is well-worth checking out.
FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO. The Book of Fuzz – Selected Verses CD (Subunderground) After two fine EP’s of distorted, fuzzed-out garage punk, the FFO’s now deliver their first album and, guess what? It’s fuckin’ great! The band take their cue from ’77 style Punk rock, but also reach back to Sixties garage bands while possibly owing their tempos and delivery to early Eighties hardcore and the better moments of the grunge era. Most of these tracks also appear on their EP’s, although the production sounds much sharper and better here, bringing out all the best elements of what they’re doing. Mega-fuzzy punk rock guitar, ultra-tight drum beats and clear melodic vocals complete with backing harmonies. But despite the aggressive delivery and distortion, there are always catchy tunes to keep the songs insistent and exciting. At different points, the songs will remind you of early Dead Boys, The Rip-Offs, maybe even The Germs. This isn’t a long album, but it does everything that a punk rock album is supposed to do, leaving the listener stunned but with an unmistakeable look of glee across their face! Do you really want to miss that? No, of course you don’t… Put this album at the top of your shopping list right now!
FORD’S FUZZ INFERNO. Fuzz the Universe EP (Subunderground) And in quick succession, following the album, here’s the third EP in the bands’ quest for Sonic Domination of the Universe! A noble quest indeed, I’m sure you will agree… Two of these tracks (‘Busy Day’ and ‘Who is How’) are featured on the album, but sound more raw and dirty here on vinyl, whilst ‘No Solution’ is a blistering track exclusive to this release and ‘Who is How’ also includes an extended ‘Part Two’ that works as a nice bonus! You need to get the album first, I suppose, but once you have that blasting in your ears, you’re gonna want to have everything else, so get yourself a copy of this limited edition EP while you still can!
FREDDIE DILEVI. In the Light of a New day CD (Rum Bar) Freddie Dilevi is a rock’n’roll crooner in the same tradition as Roy Orbison or Chris Isaacs, delivering his lyrics with a powerful, dramatic voice whilst the music remains true to its’ primal roots. Although he’s based in Spain, the music veers more towards Americana, evoking the sort of scenarios you might expect to see in a David Lynch movie, from desert panoramas through to late nights in seedy bars. The faster songs (‘Damned Love’ and the title track) head towards Ramones territory, whilst the appropriately entitled ‘Misery’ is downbeat and melancholy and the cover of ‘Blue Hotel’ is done with a real style of its’ own. This is an album that takes an established style but brings its’ own character to the proceedings, producing something new that only the most cynical hack would fail to enjoy.
FREELOADER. II CD (Rum Bar) For those of you who don’t already know, Freeloader is the current band led by Nat Freedberg (best known as the front man of The Upper Crust.) He’s been pretty busy over the past few years, releasing several albums of new material under different names but Freeloader seems to be the one he’s concentrating on. Although not as overtly humorous as The Upper Crust, musically this album isn’t too far removed from that band and will undoubtedly appeal to their fans. It delves into classic Seventies Hard Rock, mixing hooks and riffs in a style that recalls the likes of (early) AC/DC and Lynyrd Skynyrd, while the lyrics are more tongue in cheek rather than blatant parody. Like Spinal Tap, this works because although there is a sense of humour involved, it’s not just a joke. The music is performed properly with a real sense of dedication, which is why the songs sound great. The results are catchy and insistent, powerful and entertaining, just like rock music should be. There are so many bands who do bad versions of what they think Hard Rock was all about, so it’s great when a band like Freeloader come along and do it properly. This needs to be heard, loud and often!
GEOFF PALMER. Charts & Graphs CD (Rum Bar) Best known as a member of The Queers, Geoff Palmer has recently spread his wings to record records with his own band, The Guts, a fine collaboration with Lucy Ellis (Lucy & the Rats, The Spazzies etc) as well as several solo releases. This is his latest effort and it effortlessly lives-up to expectations, ensuring that no fan of his previous recordings is going to be disappointed. He has an instinctive grasp of punk-rock-power-pop, where the melody shares as much importance as the buzzsaw guitar sound. Think of The Ramones, add some of Flamin’ Groovies and maybe a slice of The Replacements (there’s even a tribute-track of sorts, entitled ‘What Would Paul Westerberg Do?’) and you’ll get a good idea of the direction that this record will take you. The emphasis is on fun and if that’s what you want (who doesn’t?) then this is a perfect album for you!
GRAMMAR FREE IN THE UK – THE LOCKDOWN LETTERS. Audio Book compiled by D & D Philpott (https://grammarfreeintheuk.bandcamp.com/releases) As a follow-up to their recent book (see review in the Book section) the Philpotts have compiled an audio version including material from the original publication as well as brand new responses from the likes of Bauhaus, Dr & the Medics and Fuzzbox… The original letters are voiced by the authors and the replies are provided by the bands or artists themselves. In many ways, this is actually more enjoyable because hearing the individuals presenting their replies in the manner in which they were intended can be a lot more entertaining. Either way, a donation from each copy sold goes to help Homeless Charities, so if you’re interested, this is a fine thing to support.
THE HALLINGTONS. Hop ‘til You Drop LP (Monster Zero) A Power(pop) trio based in Oslo, although one third of this band is apparently Scottish (must’ve got lost on the way home from the pub…) The Hallingtons have been together for the past ten years and have released several EP’s in that time, but this is their first full album. 13 tracks of great punky-pop (rather than pop-punk, if you know what I mean) this is a band who combine energy, tunes, harmonies and a razor-sharp production-sound to deliver an album that’s totally enjoyable from start to finish. Their lyrics veer from personal relationships through to Sci-fi (Godzilla gets an honorary mention, whilst UFO’s and Alien Girls’ are clearly another important subject!) If you’re a fan of the Ramones or The Queers, then you really can’t go wrong with this album!
HANTERHIR. There is No-one to Trust CD (Easy Action) Having been together for more than a decade, this Cornwall-based rock band finally started to make a name for themselves on the national circuit following the release of their epic triple album, ‘The Saving of Cadan’, in 2018. However, having played some prestigious dates in London, the band then had their plans put on hold by the lockdowns but, like many others, chose to use the time creatively and began work on this album. The results are not altogether the sort of thing that I’d usually listen to, leaning as it does towards Prog-rock territory, but the more I heard the more I enjoyed it. The big differences here are that the band have an obvious fondness for Pop songs alongside the muso-technicalities, and also aren’t afraid to indulge in a playful sense of humour within their music. Consequently, there’s none of the pompous attitude that you might usually associate with ‘Prog’ and, indeed, Hanterhir mix unlikely influences to arrive at their sound, You might detect the likes of Pink Floyd at some points, but there’s also hints of psychedelia, space-rock and even traditional Cornish music within what they’re doing. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but if you listen with a curious mind, you may well find something that you’ll enjoy.
HIGGINS AND THE MAGIC OF THE MARKET PLACE. Radicalised by Radio EP (JSNTGM) Four new songs, following-on from their debut album in a very fine style. The songs are all mid-tempo punk rock, with catchy almost powerpop-like melodies, offset by harder riffs and raw vocals that at some points have me thinking of DOA. The songs deal with different issues, although the title track (a tribute of sorts to the great John Peel and the way that he inspired so many to go out and form their own bands) and the final song, ‘Everyone Can Sing’, which deals with getting over the fear of performing in public, both allude to the same situation and finding the confidence to do your own thing. (Admittedly, not everyone who gets up to perform songs is going to be great, but isn’t it great that they can do it?) ‘Don’t Look Down’ deals with the abuse of power (sadly, something that’s rife in our supposed democracy) and ‘There’s Always Another Way’ addresses the sort of problems caused by people unwilling to consider alternative ways of thinking. Altogether, this is a really good EP with lots of energy and I can only hope that at some point this band will tire of just being a studio project and play some gigs to spread the word(s).
JAMES DOMESTIC. Carrion Repeating CD (Kibou) James has been the vocalist in various UK Hardcore bands, most obviously The Domestics, but has also established himself as a poet, a music producer and a soul/reggae DJ. This is his first ‘solo’ album and the first thing to note is that none of the above-mentioned activities are going to prepare you for what this album contains. It’s not ‘spoken-word’ as such, even though the lyrics are clearly the most important element. That said, most of the words are spoken in a style that Ian Dury or John Cooper Clarke have used in the past, rather than being ‘sung’. That said, there is a rhythm to the delivery that makes it enticing and entertaining, even though there’s also an almost menacing tone to the vocal accent that creates the albums’ melodrama. Musically, the backing tends to be quite minimal and repetitive, recalling moments of original krautrock or perhaps even some of Sleaford Mods less frantic material, with hints of electronic-pop and even punky guitars turning up in places. I’m not going to pretend that this is something that everyone needs to hear, but it’s a bold offering and if you can open your mind wide enough, you may well enjoy this.
KIM FOWLEY. In Deutschland CD (Liberation Hall) Kim Fowley remains a controversial figure due to his alleged sexual activities which can’t be excused, but his involvement in the history of rock’n’roll, all the way back to the Fifties, is undeniable. The first band he managed, during 1957, were The Sleepwalkers, who featured Sandy Nelson and even (briefly) Phil Spector, although his first major success didn’t come until 1960, when he co-produced the novelty hit single ‘Alley Oop’ by the Hollywood Argyles. During the ensuing years he would become involved with bands like Paul Revere & the Raiders and The Rivingtons before moving to London, where he was worked with PJ Proby and Cat Stevens, plus early incarnations of Slade, Soft Machine and Family. By this point he was also recording his own music, including the psychedelic classic ‘The Trip’. During the Seventies, he co-wrote songs with the likes of Alice Cooper and Kiss, as well as recording the first sessions by The Modern Lovers. In 1975 he met Joan Jett and they began the process of forming The Runaways although hi behaviour and unconventional approach to management ultimately led to his being sacked by 1977. Fowley remained involved with the music business during the Eighties, although with less success, but he also continued to play live on a sporadic basis, mainly in and around Los Angeles but also including European tours. This album was recorded live in Berlin during 1994, with a backing band that included Chris Wilson (Flamin’ Groovies) and members of the Ivan Krul band. Strangely, the set consists mostly of Blues and boogie songs, with Fowley often ranting and taunting the audience. Evidently, the crowd were quite hostile towards the performance, but despite the jeers, the band steadfastly completed their set! As a bonus, additional material from rehearsal sessions is also included, but the erratic nature of these recordings is such that I suspect that they’re only really going to appeal to existing fans. That said, anyone who wrote songs with titles like ‘Skin Head Boot Boy Mambo’, ‘Soul of a Madman’ and ‘OK Shitheads’ ought to at least pique you curiosity!
KIRKBY KISS. It’s Gonna Cost You LP (Council) Kirkby Kiss are a relatively new band, formed in New Jersey back in late 2020. Musically, they play a interesting and sometimes intricate style of punk / hardcore, that includes powerful noise and melodies, whilst the vocals are handled in a style that initially sounds more aggressive and certainly in your face, although, similar to Damian from Fucked Up, the overall results do not reflect any actual intimidation. The album has plenty of intriguing arrangements (particularly the title track) and is produced in a way that brings all the different elements together, to present something solid and insistent. This is really good stuff.
KLEISTWAHR. In the Guts of a Year CD (Fourth Dimension) Kleistwahr is an ongoing solo project by Gary Mundy, best known as a member of Ramleh and the founder of the seminal industrial label, Broken Flag. Although the music produced by Kleistwahr has clearly developed over the years (this is their 13th album, I believe) it still maintains links to its’ past in the way that it uses layers of sound to build-up moody, atmospheric pieces in an almost orchestral style. To some extent, it’s reminiscent of Glenn Branca’s symphonic work, with perhaps some hints of the direction that Swans have been exploring in recent years (particularly live.) But, that said, Kleistwahr remain very distinct from anyone else and the unique character of the music is never in doubt. The album is mostly instrumental and what vocals there are tend to be used more as part of the overall sound rather than being the focus of the production. The overall effect of the album is one that mixes Industrial, psychedelia, space rock and drones in an almost dreamlike, filmic way that is unsettling but at the same time, highly compelling. This is certainly something you should investigate.
THE LAISSEZ FAIRS. Curiosity Killed the Laissez Fairs CD (Rum Bar) This album has one of the most authentic Psychedelic-Pop sounds that I’ve ever heard, effortlessly mixing more mainstream Sixties styles with lesser-known ‘Nuggets’ influences. Overall, I’d suggest The Kinks as a good starting point, but from there you’d have to add everything from The Beatles to Roky Erickson and from the Rolling Stones (circa ‘We Love You’) through to The Monkees. But importantly, rather than it just being a bunch of muso’s making a studied-imitation of the original bands, this whole album sounds like a band having great fun with the songs and it’s that approach which lifts the record above being merely ‘retro’ and makes it so enjoyable right now. They’ve taken the essential elements (fuzzy guitars, Farfisa keyboards, great harmonies) and put them through a contemporary production to give this a real vitality of its’ own. The results are very impressive and certainly stand-up well, even alongside their original influences. If you’ve ever enjoyed Sixties garage-pop, then this is something that you really have to hear!
LOS SANTOS. El Corazon CD (Los Santos Inc) Having been impressed by their previous digital single (‘On the Strip’) I’ve been looking forward to hearing this debut CD. I’m glad to say that it lives up to my expectations, featuring six tracks that highlight the bands’ raw, abrasive, punky rock’n’roll style. Centred around bassist Michael Bayliss and guitarist Richard England, the band now also include Alex and Vez from Wonk Unit (although here they provide drums and vocals, respectively) and it makes for a really interesting mix. The recordings aren’t particularly hi-tech but they do capture a great almost live sound that is perfect as an introduction to the band. There’s a new version of ‘On the Strip’, three new tracks called ‘Bourbon Street’, Stoneface’ and Sorry’ that have a great, upbeat and melodic trashy-rock sound, while ‘Fanclub’ (a tribute to Ronnie Spector) takes a slower, more atmospheric route. The final track is a fine cover of the Husker Du classic ‘Sorry Somehow’ which retains all the best elements of the original whilst adding its’ own character to the proceedings. This is a set of songs that really promises a lot and I hope this band gets to fulfil their obvious potential. Give them a proper listen soon!
MARK WAGNER. Son Rise LP (Adaadat) This is quite different to previous releases that I’ve heard on the Adaadat label, but certainly no less intriguing. Based on Hermeticism, an ancient mixture of mysticism and philosophy, the album delves into metaphysical ideas and questions concerning creation and existence. Mark Wagner originally composed this music in 2015, originally intending it to be performed by piano and voice only, but in 2021 during the lockdowns, he extended the scope of the music to include rhythms, electronic sounds and violin to create an album that now stands as a valid work in its’ own right. The piano remains as the prominent instrument, whilst the electronics provide further character to the atmosphere, in much the same way that the more dramatic soundtracks often work. The lyrics are intoned rather than being sung, which draws you in and demands your concentration. The more I listen to this, the more I find to explore, as if there are different layers rather than one complete piece. This is something that you can enjoy on an instant level, but there is also more to delve into if you want to take it further. More information can be found at https://www.youtube.com/c/MarkWagner33
THE MELBIES. Songs for Harambe (Vol.1) CD (Bad Granola) The Melbies are a three-piece punk band from Dover and have been around for a few years (albeit with a slight variation of the band-name) so I’m surprised that I haven’t come across them before now. This album has a massive sound and it’s packed with catchy, powerful tunes that initially remind me of a mix between the Hard-Ons and DOA (both at their best.) That being said, the overall style is also very English rather than borrowing contemporary American styles in the way that so many Brit-bands do these days. The songs are mostly upbeat (apart from the first half of ‘There’s a Reason’, which seems quite tongue in cheek anyway) and full of great harmonies and plenty of energy. A couple of songs veer into ska-punk territory, whilst others indulge in metallic riffs, but it’s all done very effectively. I’m not sure who was responsible for the production, but it’s very impressive, as are the arrangements, which really bring all the different elements together as a solid, powerful and entertaining album. I only wish I had a lyric sheet to figure-out what the band are singing about… Many of the songs seem to be humorous, whilst others are perhaps more personal, so it would be interesting to see how they balance-out, but overall that’s not a major problem. This is a fine album and it deserves to be heard, in the same way that the bands’ gigs need to be seen. I will certainly be investigating further as soon as I get the chance!
NESTTER DONUTS. Flamenco Trash LP (Voodoo Rhythm) Sometimes, it helps to just supply the facts… Nestter Donuts is a one-man musical maniac from Alicante in Spain. Somewhere along the line, he has settled on a mix of traditional Flamenco music and trashy garage punk as his form or artistic communication. Even his record label have declared that he has no chance of becoming a top-seller, whilst his music-video’s are routinely banned by Youtube due to his numerous naked appearances. By this point in the review, you’ll already know if you want to hear this album or not. All I can say is that, if you are one of those enlightened individuals who fully appreciated the genuine eccentricity of Hasil Adkins or the Legendary Stardust Cowboy then this is something you should also be checking out. Trust me, it will make your life a whole lot better!
NILS DAMAGE. Hotzenplotz LP (Head Perfume) Nils Damage was a German garage punk singer/guitarist who specialised in a ‘NoFi’ approach which was eagerly embraced by fans who loved raw music dedicated to energy and attitude rather than technical finesse. Nils sadly passed away in 2019, but between 1994 and 2016 he released numerous records under different band names, the best known ones including Superhelicoptor, The Spamchords and The Gothiefs. This album has been put together to serve as a tribute to Nils’ musical output, but also serves as a perfect introduction to his sonically-distorted world. A total of 23 tracks are included, covering all of the bands that he fronted and many of these are long out-of-print or even previously unreleased, so it’s a great overview for both existing fans and those new to his noise. Musically, if you could imagine the raw power of those early singles by Crime, mixed with Greg Lowery’s snotty punk approach (The Rip-Offs, Control Freaks, Zodiac Killers etc) then you’ll be somewhere along the right path, although Nils was always intent on taking things a s far as possible… just listen to the Damnation Kids cover of ‘Human Fly’ to hear what I mean. It’s hardly recognisable until the vocals kick-in, but at the same time, perfectly captures the demented-spirit of the original. Many of the tracks included here take the same raucous approach, although the songs recorded under the name Joe Le Balor take a more restrained approach (part singer/songwriter, part serial killer) and provide some essential contrast! But at the same time, the presentation of this album that is also very remarkable. Pressed on 180g vinyl and packaged in an elaborate gatefold sleeve, it’s a fine-looking album by anyone’s standard, while it also includes a full-colour inner-sleeve and a large 16-page booklet that includes artwork and photos as well as extensive sleeve-notes. As an inclusive and thorough document of Nils’ musical legacy, this has been put together with real care and respect, which has to be commended. Admittedly, this record will not be to everyone’s taste, but if you want to hear something that will really annoy the neighbours and blow away the blues, then this is ideal. Beware… once you get into it, there’s no way back!
999. A Punk Rock Anthology 1977-2020, Cd Box-set (Captain Oi) 999 never really fitted-in with what the music press thought ‘punk rock’ was supposed to be, but at the same time produced some of the best music of the era. Unfortunately such media-preconceptions scuppered their career in the UK, although they would eventually find more receptive audiences in other parts of the world. And quite rightly so, because the first two 999 albums were absolute classics and nothing they subsequently released let the side down. Even as their music developed and moved on, they stayed a lot more true to their roots and original-intentions than many of their contemporaries and this double-CD is a perfect record of a band that created its’ own sound and became an integral part of the Punk Rock scene, rather than jumping on a bandwagon or playing up to media expectations. Singer/guitarist Nick Cash had been a founding member of Kilburn and the High Roads alongside Ian Dury, initiating the Pub-rock scene back in 1971. But when they fell-out, he put together a new band with his brother, Guy Days, and started to write songs in a more abrasive style, such as ‘I’m Alive’ and ‘Emergency’. It was a big step forward from Pub Rock and a similar path as that followed by the Stranglers, but they were in the right place at the right time and the results were vital. Their first two albums, ‘999’ and ‘Separates’ didn’t feature a single bad track but because they didn’t fit the populist-idea of what ‘punk-rock’ was supposed to be, they only enjoyed partial success whilst many lesser bands climbed the Top Twenty. Subsequently, they were ditched by United Artists and drummer Pablo Labritain suffered a bad accident which put him out of action for some time, but their determination saw them through. Pablo eventually returned to the band, who by then had signed to Polydor, and despite the media concentrating on the appalling New Romantic scene by that point, 999 released the albums ‘The Biggest Prize in Sport’ and Concrete’, which both took their sound further forward. The band simply refused to cede and while interest waned in the UK, they began touring in America, where their reputation as a great live act soon built a large following for them. They started to find their place once again, performing reliably excellent live shows and producing further fine albums like ‘13th Floor Madness’ and ‘Face to Face’. By the late Eighties, 999 had re-established themselves with a loyal following both in the UK and abroad (touring as far afield as Japan and Argentina!) and despite some line-up changes, continued to be a busy and productive band. Over the course of these two CD’s, you will hear the best of 999, from the classics featured on their early singles and albums through to the later highpoints of a band that refused to follow the line. 999 have remained the real deal because they’ve never even considered doing things any other way. This is a superb collection of songs by anyone’s standard and you’d be an idiot to miss out on it!
NINE POUND HAMMER. When the Shit Goes Down LP (Acetate) Whilst Kentucky may not be the most obvious place for full-on, no-holds-barred punk rock’n’roll, Nine Pound Hammer call it home and certainly haven’t missed out on making their mark in garageland. Having been doing their thing for many years, this album is their eighth full-length release and, with a production courtesy of Daniel Rey, it delivers the raucous kind of ditties that their fans are always going to want. But it’s not just hard rock played at eleven, because these guys have great songs as well. Placing them somewhere in the middle of the Supersuckers and New Bomb Turks, when those bands were both at their best, this is a record that has just the right balance between melodies and raw power. So, if you want to rock-out but still have a tune to whistle on your way home, this is a record you need to hear!
OLD DEATH. Nothing Right 7” (Hovercraft) Due to what can only be described as a fuck-up on my behalf, this single was sent to me ages ago and I promptly misfiled it (by which I mean, it fell down the back of a shelf) before I had a chance to review it. I only re-discovered it recently so I’m reviewing it here, not just because I feel guilty but also because it’s a damn fine record. Old Death are from Portland, Oregon, featuring former members of Some Velvet Sidewalk and Oswald 5-O amongst others. They have a great abrasive hard (punk) rock sound that recalls some of the great moments of the Amphetamine Reptile label, alongside noisy bits’n’pieces that have me thinking about Alice Donut, Steel Pole Bath Tub and maybe even Metz. But it ain’t just noise, there are some really catchy hooks and melodies that will draw you in even further. The single comes in a neat sleeve and it’s pressed on clear vinyl, plus you’ll get all of the tracks. Bonus! This is really good stuff, assertive and affirming. Play it loud and annoy all the people that deserve to be annoyed!
OPENSIGHT. Mondo Fiction CD (www.opensightband.com) The obvious reference point here has to be Mike Pattons’ various soundtrack-related projects. Which isn’t to say that this is all that Open Sight have to offer, as their interpretation of the genre is more than valid in its’ own right. It’s more a case that they’re covering similar ground, whilst impressing their own character on the results. There are certainly elements of the kind of cinematic scores for the likes of the classic, early James Bond movies, as well as the type of arrangements employed by John Zorn (frantic episodes offset with tension and space.) Rhythmically, the music is propelled by a solid style that holds everything together, whilst having the confidence to break into erratic moments when appropriate. The vocals convey the drama of the songs, again with all the confidence required to deliver the necessary gravitas. And to top it all, they even include an excellent cover of the ‘Thunderball’ title track as their finale! Combining Sixties-style surf guitar tones and Seventies Rock style keyboards, this is an almost unlikely combination of styles, but somehow it works really well. If you enjoy Rock music that really tries something different without losing any of its’ inherent power, then this is something you should listen to.
THE PEPPERMINT KICKS S/T CD (Rum Bar) Put together by Danny the K (also of the Shang Hi-Los) and Sal Baglio (of The Stompers and Amplifier Heads) this is an album of vintage mid-Seventies style power pop that sounds both authentic and familiar. The songs reference Fifties rock’n’roll, Sixties beat-pop and Seventies Glam along the way, producing a record that will have you thinking of TRex, Cheap trick, maybe the Kursaal Flyers, perhaps The Replacements… It works because they keep the songs simple and catchy whilst using arrangements that really bring out the vitality and drama of the songs. With their influences coming from some of the very best sources, the results are instantly enjoyable, the sort of songs you hear once and have the tunes stuck in your head for the rest of the week. Let’s hope they can follow-up this debut with more fine releases real soon!
PIGGIES…And Now! EP (Monster Zero) Piggies are from Kobe in Japan and were originally active between 1997-2001, when they released their highly-rated debut album and promptly split-up. However, they eventually reformed in this three-piece line-up in 2017 and this new six-song EP is destined to win them even more fans! Powerpop and punky-pop collide on this record in perfect style. Female vocals, Ramones-style riffs, instantly catchy tunes! Think of The Muffs or The Fastbacks at their best and you’ll be somewhere along the right path, perhaps with early Buzzcocks hiding in the background? A mere review is never sufficient for a great record… Hear it for yourself and enjoy every second of it!
PORNSCARS / HIJACK BROADCAST split CD (https://pornscars.bandcamp.com/) Six-song EP, equally shared between two German punk bands. Pornscars are from Berlin and go for a mid-paced but more involved style of punk, perhaps reminiscent of The Ruts and DOA (although their final track, ‘Phantom Limbs’, shows that they can handle faster songs as well.) Hijack Broadcast are from Halle and have a harder style, veering more towards early hardcore. Powerful and catchy stuff, whilst their last track, in contrast to Pornscars, has them going for a longer, slower song! But it all comes together and the songs from both bands work well together. This is an ideal way to check out two bands that you may not already know. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
THE RESIDENTS. Wormwood Box CD set (Cherry Red) I’ve always thought that ‘Wormwood’ was one of the Residents’ more under-rated albums, so I’m very happy that this much-expanded version has been made available. ‘Wormwood’ features songs based on some of the more peculiar stories found in the Bible, with narration and vocals from Mr Skull as well as some excellent performances from long-time collaborator Molly Harvey (check out ‘I Hate Heaven’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’.) Over the course of nine CD’s, this set begins with the original album and then delves into early demos before exploring live recordings and the ‘Roadworms’ album (which featured the live set recorded in a Berlin studio.) Now, in many cases, so many different recordings of the same basic material would be a pointless exercise as most bands strive to sound exactly the same whether in a studio or onstage. They would call it ‘professionalism’… others call it ‘predictable'. But the Residents have never embraced that concept and, indeed, the music and arrangements for the Wormwood project not only differed when performed live but also continued to evolve as the tour progressed. This is most notable between the recording of the very first performance (‘Wormwood at the Fillmore’) and the ‘Live in Europe’ discs, recorded during their European tour the following year. Taking it even further into the roots of the album, the two discs of ‘Early Worms’ capture basic musical ideas (mostly instrumental) which gradually form into more fully realised demos, while the live recordings are all good quality and capture not just the music but also the atmosphere of the performances. In many ways, it could be said that the key element of The Residents has always been their ideas and how they develop. This boxset gives you a chance to explore how their ideas progressed during the ‘Wormwood’ era, from its’ earliest sketches through to its’ eventual conclusion, touring around the world. Admittedly, if you’re not a fan of ‘Wormwood’, such an extensive record of the project is not going to change your mind, but if you did enjoy the album or were even a little unsure about it, then this may well be the collection that really helps you to appreciate the album more fully. It’s over twenty years since the original release of ‘Wormwood’, but to my ears, it just keeps sounding better than ever!
THE RISEN DREAD. Night Hag CD (therisendread.bandcamp.com/releases) The Risen Dread are an Irish metal band who seem intent on mixing styles and genres to create a concept album which has mental illness as its’ central theme. The band have already toured extensively allowing themselves to hone their sound and then found time during the pandemic to complete this record. The results are certainly powerful, mixing elements of thrash, death and black metal, whilst singer Marco Feltrin produces an impressive range of vocal styles. The production gives it a lively, insistent sound and a guest appearances from Sepultura guitarist Andreas Kisser adds to the depth of the sound, whilst Brazilian composer Renato Zanuto brings an atmospheric arrangement to the final track, ‘The Night Hag’. As a debut album, this is a pretty impressive record and certainly suggests that this is a band who may well be capable of producing some very interesting records as they progress further. In the meantime, be sure to give this a listen and keep your ears-open for more from this band.
THE ROUTES. The Twang Machine. LP (Topsy Turvy) This is one of those records that, once you hear it, you’ll be thinking, ‘Why didn’t someone do this before now?’ A Surf-guitar interpretation of Kraftwerks’ classic Synth-pop would’ve been a perfect project for the likes of Man or Astro-Man, although in this case, The Routes do such a good job that I doubt if anyone’s going to be complaining. The Routes come from the Tokyo garage-punk scene and formed in 2006. Since then, they’ve been responsible for a pretty prolific release-schedule, but this album is a stand-out even amongst their varied discography. Tackling songs ranging from ‘Computer Love’ through to ‘The Robots’ and, of course, ‘Autobahn’, their reinterpretations range from full-on Dick Dale-style surf-workouts like ‘Trans Europe Express’, through to more restrained covers like ‘The Model’. ‘Tour de France’ even sounds like an instrumental that The Shadows could have played (and that’s not meant in a bad way…) Perhaps the best moment on the album is their version of ‘Autobahn’, which speeds-up the tempo in an entirely appropriate way to create a catchy surf-pop moment that I’m sure even Kraftwerk themselves would approve. The final track, ‘Neon Lights’ is perhaps the most-mellow moment on the album and probably wouldn’t have been out of place on a classic James Bond soundtrack. The reason why this album works so well is that The Routes obviously know and appreciate the music of Kraftwerk and treat it not as sacrosanct, but with the proper respect it deserves. Be sure to hear this album, whether you’re a fan of Surf music or Kraftwerk, because this is something that works from either direction.
SHANDA & THE HOWLERS. It Ain’t Easy CD (Rum Bar) A mixture of Fifties Rock’n’Roll, Sixties R’n’B and Spector-ish Girl band sounds… A band that attempts to play such an ambitious mix really needs to know what they’re doing. In the case of Shanda & The Howlers, they do it with confidence and conviction. The songs sometimes sound familiar, but it’s all down to the authentic ingredients that they use to put this feast together. They vary the tempos for maximum effect and the arrangements bring out an atmosphere that will have you recalling the most memorable party of your teenage years. If this album doesn’t make you want to dance, then your ears and your feet must be on bad terms! Play this loud and impress your neighbours!
SHOOTING DAGGERS. Athames EP (New Heavy Sounds) Shooting Daggers are three-piece, all-girl band based in London who deliver a brutal hardcore sound mixed with vocals and lyrics that recall the most visceral moments of the Riot Grrl scene. Having seen them live, they create a truly exciting, powerful and chaotic experience. I’m glad to say that they’ve managed to capture much of that on this record, with an exhilarating and razor-sharp sound that should have you jumping around your room just as much as if you were at one of their gigs. The songs sound genuinely cathartic, whilst the production and arrangements suggest that they have plenty of ideas to really set themselves apart from anyone else. There’s so much potential here and I’m looking forward to seeing this band make the most of it. Don’t waste time, get to hear this record as soon as you can!
SILENT RUNNING. Follow the Light CD (Door) Originally called The Setz, Silent Running emerged from the Belfast punk scene in 1982. Their first single, ‘All the King’s Men’, resulted in extensive airplay and interest from EMI, who signed the band and released their first album, ‘Shades of Liberty’. However, despite positive critical response, the record failed to hit the charts and, despite plans for a second LP, they were dropped by EMI. Fortunately, they were then signed by Atlantic records who released their next two albums. Again, despite much critical support, they failed to meet the labels’ expectations and despite extensive touring, split-up after the release of their third album, ‘Deep’, in 1988. Apart from a one-off reunion show in 1998, they were dormant for nearly 30 years before unexpectedly reforming in 2018, this time playing new material alongside their older songs. Live dates were met with enthusiasm and, despite the lockdowns, they began to make new material available online, which also gained a positive response. Despite delays, they have now been able to release their brand new album and all indications suggest that fans, both old and new, are going to love it. Recorded in their home-town, they’ve captured a style of ‘alternative’ rock that recalls their original tenure in the early Eighties but also brings the whole process forward to the current times. At this point in proceedings, it’s unlikely that the chart-success which originally eluded them is likely to happen now, but I doubt that will bother them too much and a record like this is still bound to please all their followers. They’ve produced something that stands up well alongside their original output and adds to their legacy.
SORTED SCOUNDRELS. Cause and Solution LP (Grimace) Street-punk from Austin, Texas… well, as the Big Boys said in 1982, ‘I like punk and I like Sham… CockneyRejects are the world’s greatest band!’ and who’d want to argue with them? Of course, Oi! / Street-punk has changed a lot since over the years, with more American influences (Rancid, Social Distortion, Dropkick Murphys) as well as Celtic and Ska music appearing in the mix to varying degrees. Sorted Scoundrels have perfected their own blend of styles, recalling The Clash and (early) Agnostic Front along the way. Their songs have plenty of energy, good lyrics and infectious melodies that will bounce between you ears for the rest of the week…The whole album is an upbeat affair, although it never becomes thrashy or predictable, with great arrangements and production to bring out the best in every song. The lyrics talk about personal liberation and finding ways to get through life with both dignity and integrity. That’s until the final track, ‘Drink More Beer’ which takes an almost Hardskin-style trek into inevitable (and recommended!) territory. This is a fine album… be sure to hear it!
THE STRANGLERS. TheMeninblackinTokyo. LP (Coursegood) recorded live in Japan during November 2019, this album documents one of the final gigs played by the band before the sad and untimely loss of Dave Greenfield. I doubt if any fan would deny how important his keyboard style was to the bands’ overall sound, but if you need a reminder, you listen to this album. It was always one of the key elements that set the Stranglers apart from the punk rock pack and allowed them to carve-out their own place within the last five decades of rock music. It seems impossible to consider this album without paying tribute to Dave-in-Black, but it also stands up very well as a great set in its’ own right. As anyone who has seen the band in recent years will attest, since the band returned to the four-piece format, they’ve regained the dynamic of their early years and it clearly works better for them. They perform their older material perfectly, with all the power and intent it deserves, but also add new songs that are just as integral to the set. That they are delivering new material that stands up so well next to their established classics is almost incredible, but it’s true. This recording is all the proof you need. Songs like ‘I’ve Been Wild’, ‘Norfolk Coast’ and ‘Freedom is Insane’ are totally complimentary alongside the likes of ‘Peaches’, ‘Something Better Change’ or ‘Tank’. What more could you want from a band or a live album? That being said, thid isn’t a perfect representation of the band as the recording is a little too clean and ‘digital’ at times, if you know what I mean, but the performance is great even if the album doesn’t really capture the atmosphere of their gigs and the usual interaction with the audience. But that’s a minor gripe when you consider just how good it sounds anyway. This is a limited edition release, so I suggest you get over to the bands’ webstore promptly. After following the band for so many years, hearing an album like this confirms that I was doing the right thing! I can only recommend that you catch up with The Stranglers soon, if you haven’t already done so.
SUDDEN INFANT. Lunatic Asylum CD (Fourth Dimension) Sudden Infant have been releasing their music since 1989, but this is the first full album I’ve actually heard and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. For much of that time it was a one-man project, courtesy of Joke Lanz, but since 2014 it has expanded to a three-piece and now features a permanent rhythm section. On this album, the bass and drum provide the vital energy that propels everything forward, whilst the vocals and electronics create unsettling atmospherics, at different times recalling the likes of The Ex, Can, Einsturzende Neubaten and maybe even Faust. But this isn’t to say that they’ve been directly influenced by such bands, rather that they’re travelling along a similar, uncharted pathway. The results, as presented here, are very much their own and make use of an unpredictable musicality. The vocals switch between English and German, while the music turns between loud and quiet, or light and dark, seemingly at will. But rather than creating confusion or uncertainty, it keeps you on your toes, paying attention to everything that’s going on, ensuring that you don’t miss anything. There’s also an almost Dada-ist sense of humour running through this release which adds an entertaining twist to the overall work. It’s actually pretty difficult to pin this down, but at the end of the day, it’s an intriguing and enjoyable album. I can only recommend it!
SUGUS. Tolai LP (Monster Zero) Fast and furious punk rock from Madrid that recalls both The Ramones and Pegboy, which really can’t be a band thing! Sugus have a great-grasp of three-chord magic, turning their songs between fast bursts of sheer adrenalin through to slower (but not ‘slow’) ditties that really emphasise their tunes and harmonies. Most of the songs are sung in Spanish which may cause problems for the Brit-audience (the UK has never embraced the concept of second languages) but there’s also a bunch in English to keep you interested. Just listen to the music and enjoy it! This is a highly recommended punk-pop album!
TERRY EDWARDS & THE SCAPEGOATS. My Wife Doesn’t Understand Me LP (Sartorial) Terry Edwards is a prolific figure in the English independent music scene, having been a founding member of The Higsons way back in 1980, part of Gallon Drunk and playing alongside many great names (Madness, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Lydia Lunch, PJ Harvey etc) ever since, whilst also finding the time to maintain his own ‘solo’ career’. Best known as a sax player, he also plays many other instruments and provides vocals. This album was originally released as CD-only on the Acid-Jazz label in 1995, when it caused confusion and bemusement amongst many reviewers and critics. Which isn’t surprising, but also isn’t a bad thing to my ears. There’s such a mix of styles evident here, from Brit-pop to Dance music, from free-jazz to ska. The important thing is that it all comes together in a natural and entertaining way, with a wry sense of humour on hand to explain that which doesn’t really need to be explained. Sometimes you really don’t need to think about something too much… The album is now available on double vinyl which, I’m sure, will be a much better format, both visually and sonically. This is a musician that you should know about. If you don’t already, this is a good place to start.
THE TROGGS. The Trogg Tapes CD (Liberation Hall) Not to be mistaken for the legendary recordings of the band arguing in the studio (also often referred to as the ‘Troggs Tapes’) this studio album was originally released in 1976 and is still held in high esteem by many of their fans. Although their most successful period was in the late Sixties, with hits like ‘I Can’t Control Myself’, ‘Love is All Around’ and, of course, ‘Wild Thing’, the band continued to play live and record new material throughout the ensuing decades, up until the death of lead singer Reg Presley in 2013They may not be one of the more obvious influences on the Punk movement, but The Troggs have been cited as favourites by the likes of Iggy Pop and the Ramones, whilst the Buzzcocks covered ‘I Can’t Control Myself’ in their early days, so there style obviously appealed to some of the seminal bands. Their main talent was in the way they balanced classic Sixties Pop with a raw Garage sound, giving their music a wide range that could also appeal to a broad audience. By the time they recorded this album, their range of influences was even more eclectic, including melodic rock, Country-style slide guitar and powerpop, alongside their original Garage-pop sound. Together with a strong production, this is a very accomplished album featuring songs that veer between slower, atmospheric melodies through to harder-edge rockers. It’s probably not what you’d expect from the band, but check it out and you may well be in for some fine surprises!
UFOMAMMUT. Fenice CD (Neurot) Originating in Italy as a Doom Metal band back in 1999, Ufomammut have since established an international following and expanded their musical range to include drones, space-rock and psychedelia. The three-piece line-up remained consistent until 2000, when original drummer Vita left the band to pursue other musical projects, but the addition of new drummer Levre has allowed the band to move forward once again, producing an album that will surely please all of their existing fans whilst also reaching out to an even wider audience. The references to bands like Hawkwind and Can are there to be heard, as well as more recent groups like Voivod and perhaps even Swans, whilst at different points there are even moments that have me recalling the likes of Gore or The God Machine, but the results that Ufomammut deliver are always very-much their own. Psychedelia often equates to dainty, whimsical tones, but Ufomammut choose to align it with heavy, pummelling riffs, and while ‘space-rock’ is often reduced to hippy-trippy meanderings, Ufomammut deliver their music with a real sense of aim and purpose. They have become masters of the balance between darkness and light, heavy and soft, and even between complexity and simplicity. Although split into six distinct tracks, this is an album that really needs to be heard as a complete piece and even the vocals kept low in the mix, more like another instrument, so as not to become too distracting from the overall progress of the album. Ufomammut have found a way to indulge the original elements of hard rock and take it forward into interesting new territory, without losing any of the excitement that the genre can produce when played at its’ best. If you enjoy powerful and intelligent music, then this is an album that you really need to hear!
ULTRAVOX. Live at the Rainbow 1977 LP (Island) Whilst Record Store Day has, in many ways, been hijacked by cynical major labels desperate to find another way to sell their same old crap again, there are still a few real diamonds to find amongst the crud. This is a perfect example… the original Ultravox live at the Rainbow in 1977, great sound quality and a great set featuring three early tracks that didn’t even make it onto their first album. It’s a bit unclear as to how much the tapes were edited for this release, but the results are very impressive. The original Ultravox were never a ‘punk’ band as such, but in many ways shared common influences... ‘Modern Love’ has more than a passing reference to the Heavy Metal Kids, while other bands and artists like Bowie and Roxy Music are also evident. But whilst Ultravox were still developing at this point, experimenting with keyboards and even an occasional electric violin, they were still presenting their own ideas and character. John Foxx’s lyrics of alienation and social identity, plus the sheer energy of their music, easily out-bid any of the three-chord mob with ease Sadly, ‘Young Savage’ isn’t included in this set, but just give that song a listen to hear a true Punk classic! This is an album you need to hear, just to recognise how impressive this band were at this time, as opposed to the more successful but much-less exciting band they later became.
THE VIBRATORS. The Albums 1985-1990 CD Box-set (Cherry Red) Although many ‘fans’ adhere to the script that the first two Vibrators’ albums are the only ones that remain essential, that blinkered opinion seems to come mostly from punters who have never actually heard the bands’ later offerings. This collection features five albums released between 1985-90 that, admittedly, display a different side to the band but, at the same time, also retain all the energy and songwriting-talent that made The Vibrators a great band in the first place. This set kicks-off with the ‘Live’ album, capturing an incendiary set of songs recorded during a UK / European tour in 1985/86. The band line-up features Knox, Eddie Edwards and John Ellis from the original band and, accordingly, perform the songs with all the energy and determination that you’d want from them. Plenty of older classics like ‘Automatic Lover’ and ‘Troops of Tomorrow’, but also later gems like ‘Amphetamine Blue’ and ‘Rip Up the City’. The subsequent departure of John Ellis led to a new line-up featuring Knox, Eddie, Mark Duncan and Mickie Owen, but the changes didn’t slow the band down with the new, appropriately-titled album ‘Recharged’ and its’ follow-up ‘Meltdown’ both released in 1988. ‘Recharged’ mixed older powerpop influences with Springsteen-styled rock to produce an album not all that far away from the likes of The Replacements. ‘Too Dumb’ in particular is a classic Vibrators song, while ‘Tight Black Jeans’ could easily have been co-written with Iggy Pop. Moving onto ‘Meltdown’, the band refined the style heard on ‘Recharged’, with a harder rock sound but always underpinning the songs with insistent melodies. ‘Cruel to You’ is perhaps the highlight, changing the mood with a brooding sense of menace not far-removed from ‘Troops of Tomorrow’. The band were introducing different styles into their set, but the music was still very-much The Vibrators. By the time the ‘Vicious Circle’ LP was recorded and released in 1989, Micky Owen had been replaced by Nigel Bennett (ex-Members) but the transition seems to have been smooth and the resulting album continues in the successful style of its’ predecessors. It also featured two cover versions, a blistering version of the Flamin’ Groovies classic ‘Slow Death’ and an almost unlikely version of ‘Halfway to Paradise’, which was also released as a single. The final album in this set, ‘Volume Ten’, saw the same line-up stay together and again, there was a mix of powerpop melodies and a harder-edged rock sound that perfectly suited the bands’ new crop of songs. Having got a taste for covers on the previous album, they also delivered a fine, boisterous version of the Buddy Holly classic ‘Rave On’ which proved to be another astute choice, although that being said, it’s their own material that really stands out on this album. It’s a great rock’n’roll record with plenty of energy, catchy songs and a strong production which all comes together to create the best album of this set. So, going back to the point I made at the beginning of this review, don’t fall for that nonsense about later Vibrators albums not being worth your time. If you choose to miss out, you’ll only be fooling yourself. The style may be a bit different on these albums, but trust me, the band still produced music that was every-bit as vital. If you don’t check them out, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
VOID FILL. Landfill History CD (Fourth Dimension) This is the debut album from Void Fill, consisting of tracks recorded over three periods (2018, 2020 and 2022.) The band themselves are a three-piece with the musical duo (Ken Holiday and Jakob Rehlinger) based in Canada while vocalist Pete Davies resides in the UK. Maybe not an ideal situation, but in this age of digital technology, long-distance recording is no longer impossible and Void Fill have clearly taken advantage of it. Musically, their sound tends to hark back to the electronic styles of the Eighties, when bands like Portion Control, Cabaret Voltaire and Frontline Assembly were creating music that was still a little too left-field for the mainstream, but would certainly prove highly influential over the next few decades. Additionally, Pete Davies also sings for the band Gad Whip and, if you’re familiar with them, you’ll surely recognise his lyrical style and sneering, almost narrative delivery. As a whole, Void Fill take many different influences but blend them into something of their own which will impress you more and more with every new listen. This is something that you ought to explore.
THE WALL. Manchuria EP (Spectacle.) Four previously unreleased songs recently recorded by band members Al Gregg and Mark Gibson and presented here as a tribute to the bands’ original singer, Ian Lowery, and their longest-serving vocalist, Andy Griffiths. Two of the tracks, ‘Manchuria’ and ‘My Perfect World’, were originally written by Lowery in 1978 but never properly recorded, whilst ‘Time’ and ‘Bastard’ were written more recently by Al Gregg, presumably as new material for the bands’ ongoing reunion. Sadly, the untimely loss of Andy Griffiths probably means that further new recordings from the band are highly unlikely, so I’m sure that fans are going to appreciate this release, allowing them an unexpected glimpse into the early days of the band and a hint of what was still to come. The two older songs are a bit more raw but still strong enough to stand alongside any of the bands’ early singles, whilst the recent songs indicate that the band were set to take things forward with a style that was still recognisably The Wall, but also adding new ideas and fresh character to their music. If this is to be the bands’ final release, it’s a fitting way for them to sign-off, recalling both their early days and at the same time showing that they still had more to offer. If you’re not already familiar with this great but criminally-underrated band, then you have a lot of excellent music to discover and this EP is most definitely a part of it.
THE WILLIAM LOVEDAY INTENTION. Cowboys Are SQ CD (Liberation Hall) It’s very easy to lose track of what Billy Childish is currently doing. He must surely be one of the most prolific musicians that England has ever produced and whilst other similar artists have at least stuck mostly to one moniker (Mark E Smith with The Fall, for example) Billy has adopted many different guises over the years, making it even more difficult to keep up. So I was pleased when this album arrived in the post and gave me a chance to investigate his latest project, The William Loveday Intention. He’s been using this band name only since 2000 but has already released a dozen albums, which is no mean feat in itself. But yet again, I’m kicking myself because, if this album is indicative of the previous releases, I’ve been missing some of his very best material. Veering away from his more familiar Sixties garage style, this record delves into Country, Appalachian and Blues music, although it’s always very true to the Billy Childish ethos. The songs are raw and the production, whilst possibly a little more involved than earlier projects, embraces harmonica and fiddle to great effect while still keeping things pretty simple and never indulging in anything that doesn’t really need to be there. There’s also a previously unlikely Bob Dylan influence at play on this album, particularly on the track ‘The 7 Stages of Grief’ and the excellent cover of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, which is performed with more vigour and attitude than the original. Billy Childish has been releasing albums since 1979 and there’s no sign that he’ll be letting-up any time soon. When you hear albums like this, exploring new ground and still sounding as vital as ever, you can only be grateful. This is something that you need to hear!
THE WISE MONKEYS. This is Our Record CD (Anglocentric) Probably not what many fans of The Members would have expected, but this band, fronted by JC Carroll and also featuring The Members current drummer, Nick Cash, are a Folk Roots band playing traditional folk-styles from around the world, including English, Celtic, Cajun and Bluegrass influences. Although playing guitars and providing vocals, JC also finds time and space to play accordion, which again is probably something that many of us would have expected. Now, I’m not a particular fan of trad-Folk music, but there is something very likeable about this album, particularly when songs like ‘Vive Le Rock’ (JC’s biographical tale) ‘Me Name it is Sam Hall’ (previously recorded by Johnny Cash, among others) and ‘The Gallow’s Pole’ have the kind of lyrics that really draw you into their individual stories… This may not be an album for everyone, but you should give it a chance because you just might love it!
V/A. AN OBLIQUE REFERENCE TO ZEROS CD (Fourth Dimension) This is a double-CD collection of artists who have been involved with the Fourth Dimension label in recent years. Most, if not all, of the tracks are exclusive to this release, which makes it a worthy album in its’ own right, but add to that the cheap ‘budget-priced’ cost of the package and you’ve got something here that you can’t afford to miss! Tracks come from a broad range of artists, including Kleistwahr, JFK, Sion Organ, Alternative TV, Splintered and Map 71, whilst there are also interesting gems to be discovered by lesser-known names such as Mahler Haze, Hand & Leg and Gad Whip. There’s plenty here to maintain your curiosity and with so many different styles and sounds, you’re pretty-much guaranteed to find something that will appeal to your own tastes. Do yourself a favour and be sure to track down a copy!
V/A. LUX AND IVY SAY FLIP YOUR TOP. CD (Cherry Red / Righteous)) I’m still unsure how much ‘Lux and Ivy’ may or may not be directly involved in this recent series of compilations, but the fact remains that the actual content is pretty damn good! Dating back to the late-Fifties and early Sixties, this collection features fifty tracks from various artists who have only their mutual-obscurity in common. Some of the songs may be familiar (‘Route 66’, ‘Heartbreak Hotel’) but the musicians, despite wonderful monikers such as ‘The Flock Rocker’ and ‘Slim Marbles’, are going to mean little to all but the most obsessed vinyl-fanatics. In fact, the only names I recognised are Champion Jack Dupree and Kim Fowley… But that being said, you’re going to find some real treats on this double-disc set. Just check out the demented offerings of the aforementioned Flock Rocker (‘The Chinese Rock’n’Roll’) Stan Freberg’s insane interpretation of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ or Eugene Fox’s ‘The Sinner’s Dream’, which has a vocal performance that makes Tom Waits’ sound positively sweet! In other places, it’s the subject matter that will have you pondering, what the Hell were they thinking? In this category, you can investigate Chris Cerf and the Harvard Lampoon Tabernacle Choir with the superb ‘Fallout Filly’, or Gerry Granahan with ‘Too Big For Her Bikini’. Musically, the sounds do vary quite a bit, mixing up Fifties Pop with R’n’B, boogie-woogie, Surf, Blues and primal rock’n’roll. I’m always amazed with the bizarre and down-right crazy music you can discover from this era and even now, sixty years later, you wouldn’t expect some of these performances to ever be allowed on the radio, but it all goes to show that you can find real gems from every musical age and genre if you dig deep enough. Whatever contemporary music you may be into right now, this is a collection you ought to investigate because, if you can’t find something to enjoy here, then you really need to refresh your sense of fun!
V/A. LUX AND IVY DIG THOSE NOVELTY TUNES. CD (Cherry Red /Righteous) To paraphrase a wise man, If you can’t dig this, you can’t dig nothin’. This compilation presents 25 tracks from different artists, whose records only received any success if they were lucky enough to be treated as novelty pop by the radio stations. That said, much of these songs probably weren’t intended as ‘novelties’ when originally written and recorded. There are actually a few famous names included here (Danny Kaye and Spike Jones) whose long careers would seem to suggest they took things a little more seriously, while certain songs were destined to become famous for various different reasons. ‘Purple People Eater’ by Sheb Wooley was a big hit around the world and was subsequently covered by singers as diverse as Judy Garland and Ian Gillan! On the other end of the spectrum, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy produced a single so bizarre (‘Paralyzed’) that it remains unbelievable to this day that it actually got him briefly signed-up by Mercury records and reached the Top 200 in the 1968 Billboard Charts. The low-level of success should have meant that he subsequently disappeared into obscurity, was it not for the efforts of fans like David Bowie (Stardust, hmm…) John Peel and Klaus Flouride of the Dead Kennedys, who did their best to promote his name and elevate ‘The Ledge’ to cult-hero status. The thing is, ‘Paralyzed’ is a genuinely- deranged song, rather than a gimmick or novelty, which is why it still PERSISTS+++ . And in the middle of all of this, there’s the original version of ‘Nee Nee Nana Nunu’ by Dicky Doo and the Don’ts. Hearing it now, with its’ insistent rhythms, it’s easy to see why Bad Manners echoes to record a Ska version later on… The same Dicky Doo is also included with the track ‘No Chemise Please’, which probably wouldn’t go down well with the PC Brigade these days (not that you should care about them…) Elsewhere, there are catchy, quirky pop songs from Kookie’s Mad Pad, some great Garage rock, complete with twangin’ guitar from Glen & Christy, while Jerry Neal presents the Bugs Bunny-inspired ‘I Hates Rabbits’. The Five Blobs deliver the title track from the B-movie ‘The Blob’, Hugh Barrett gives us the wonderfully entitled ‘Fungus Among Us’, and Eugene Fox sounds like Tom Waits being possessed by the spirit of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Also worth a mention is Tony Burrello with ‘The Sound of Worms’ which sounds like the most twisted psychedelia re-imagined through post-punk! The thing is, many of these artists probably didn’t start out intending to make a ‘novelty’ or ‘gimmick’ record, but found that their efforts would only have any success if treated that way, even though they may have been totally serious about their music. This means that they can still be enjoyed now and treated with a bit more respect. Basically, this is a great and very entertaining set of songs. Don’t take it too seriously, for sure, but don’t treat it like disposable pap either, because, if you do, you’ll be the one who misses out.
V/A. THIS WAS YOUR FUTURE CD Boxset (Cherry Red) Compiled by Dave Brock (frontman and mainstay of Hawkwind) this three-disk set features many of the bands that have produced their own psychedelic twist on the space rock genre. Space Rock mainly developed in (although wasn’t strictly confined to) the UK during the late Sixties / early Seventies, almost in parallel with the ‘Krautrock’ scene which, in many ways, shared a common approach and similar musical ideas. Indeed, Brock was a notable fan of bands like Neu! for whom he wrote sleeve-notes when their first album was released in the UK. Unfortunately, despite Hawkwind being a notable influence on the early UK punk scene, the scene deteriorated by the end of the Seventies and the early Eighties, at least partly due to Thatchers’ Police State and their efforts to eradicate the ‘free festival’ scene. But interest never completely disappeared and new bands continued to appear, taking the original style and ideas in many different directions. The emerging UK Rave scene of the late Eighties / early Nineties was also clearly influenced by the Space Rock / Free festival movement. New bands like Ozric Tentacles, Magic Mushroom Band and Poisoned Electric Head became popular in their own rights, while older bands and artists like Here & Now, Tim Blake and Outskirts of Infinity found themselves appealing to new, younger audiences. Hawkwind themselves always maintained a strong following, whilst a virtual subgenre developed featuring bands made-up of their former members (Robert Calvert, Michael Moorcock, Hugh Lloyd-Langton etc) and Dave Brock launched several side-projects of his own. This collection provides an overview of what is, effectively, five decades of Space-rock and whilst some of the bands are certainly not as interesting as others, there is still a great deal of good music to be heard on these disks. Some bands really make an effort to create something new and challenging, whilst others seem content to merely imitate the original Hawkwind blueprint, but overall this is a fine collection that’s not just entertaining, but will also give you a thorough introduction to a scene that still thrives to this day.
V/A. UN-SCENE! POST PUNK BIRMINGHAM 1978-1980. CD (Easy Action) Post-punk didn’t actually exist. What now gets referred to as such is usually punk bands who, after the initial naïve exuberance of ‘punk rock’, started to learn how to get new sounds from their instruments and just wanted to go forward with it, to see where they could go with it. The next step-forward for punk rock, if you like. Some of it was great, just as much as some of it was terrible. But it’s the context that makes compilations like this so interesting. Many of the tracks included here are primitive demos or live recordings, which means the sound-quality often isn’t great. But it’s the atmosphere and attitude that’s the important thing, and they shine through in bucket-loads. Admittedly, some of these tracks are available elsewhere, but what this album shows is the sheer diversity of sounds that were developing around Birmingham in this relatively short space of time. You should already be familiar with the likes of Swell Maps, The Prefects/Nightingales, Au Pairs, the Cult Figures and Fashion, but there are plenty of other bands who played their part and sometimes provided the basis for later, more successful groups. ‘Dada’ featured John Taylor (pre-Duran Duran) and are represented by a rare live recording featuring some noisy experimentalism. The Hawks featured another pre-Durannie, Stephen Duffy, whilst guitar was handled by Dave Kusworth… Just like other towns and cities, Punk Rock had given the chance for many to explore their creative urges and the quality of the results certainly varied, but isn’t it great that they were there, however briefly. This collection comes with a 20-page booklet featuring sleeve-notes by Dave Twist (a member of several of the bands included here) and Stewart Lee, whose recent documentary ‘King Rocker’, told the story of the Prefects/Nightingales. Together with plenty of rare photos and imagery from the time, this is probably as thorough as such a project could be. To some extent, this may only be a record for the nerds amongst us, but at the same time, if you really want to know what was going on in the UK during the late Seventies, this is a great way to find out.