RECORD REVIEWS, JULY - DECEMBER 2018
ACE OF CUPS. Ace of Cups CD (High Moon) Ace of Cups were the only all-female rock band within the late-Sixties San Francisco scene. Between 1967 to 1972 they were right in the middle of the musical and social events of the era and shared stages with the likes of The Band, The Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix. However, despite winning the admiration of audiences and contemporary musicians, record labels seemed to miss their obvious talents and they never got a chance to release an album during their original lifetime. However, in recent years a resurgence of interest resulted in a recently released CD of original demos, rehearsal tapes and live recordings. Following the positive response it received, High Moon records offered original members of the band an opportunity to return to a studio to finally record the album that should have been made all those years ago. Featuring four of the original members, plus guest appearances from old friends like Pete Sears (Jefferson Airplane) Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) and Buffy Sainte Marie. Musically, it really captures the mood of the songs’ original setting, mixing folk, blues, country and pop with an undertone of psychedelia. Although it will mostly appeal to fans of that original era, this is an album that clearly stands on its’ own merits and deserves to be released now just as much as it would have in the late Sixties. With further recording projects set for next year, this is a band that certainly deserve further investigation.
ALVIN GIBBS & THE DISOBEDIENT SERVANTS. Ghost train 7” (Time & Matter) First ever solo release from the redoubtable Mr Gibbs, a man best known for his ongoing tour of duty with the UK Subs, although he has also made his with Urban Dogs and even as a member of Iggy Pops’ band. These two tracks (b/w ‘Clumsy Fingers’) are a taster for his upcoming album and if they’re anything to go by, it’s going to be great. While both tracks are not a million miles away from more recent UK Subs material, there’s a distinct character to proceedings and a harder, more rock’n’roll style that Alvin makes his own. ‘Ghost Train’ is a song about life and how the surrounding world affects your way forward, the lyrics made more poignant by the appalling political situation around us and the self-serving politicians who are manipulating events. ‘Clumsy Fingers’, on the other hand, has a more personal theme, but is certainly no less effective. Featuring guest players including Brian James (The Damned etc) Leigh Heggarty (Ruts DC) Steve Crittall (The Godfathers) and Subs-colleague Jamie Oliver, the music is played with real panache, while Alvins’ vocals are powerful and emotive. His musical pedigree will no doubt ensure that this limited edition sells quickly, but it certainly deserves to be heard on its’ own merits.
ART ATTACKS. Chickens in Funland 7” (Overground) This is a real bit of punk rock history! These two tracks (an early version of ‘Rat City’ on the b-side) were recorded at Pathway Studios during 1977, at which time their drummer was Robert Gotobed of Wire. Although originally intended for release as the bands’ debut single, the recordings only made it as far as acetate discs which were subsequently lost over the course of time. It was only recently that they re-surfaced in the hands of a renowned Italian record collector who enthusiastically agreed to let the band transfer the recordings and, finally, make then available as had originally been intended. The results are certainly worth the wait. The Art Attacks played a raw mix of both 1977 style Punk rock and Sixties style Garage punk, combining simple yet melodic music with Edwin Pounceys’ narrative lyrics. And its’ that mix that makes the band still sound so distinct. Rather than just copying other bands, they weren’t afraid to indulge their older influences, whilst lyrically Edwin spun his tales of ‘social ugliness’ rather than just repeating populist slogans. It captures the band at a wonderfully unspoilt moment, when Punk was still about the ideas rather than the fashions, and all sorts of possibilities were available. Now reproduced with artwork based on the originally intended sleeve, the single includes a fold-out insert including further artwork and detailed notes telling the story of the recordings. Sadly, original guitarist Steve Spear died in a car accident before this single was released and so the single is appropriately dedicated to him. I feel sure he would have approved and I hope he would have proud.
BAZOOKATOOTH. S/T EP (bazookatoothtn.bandcamp.com) Young, three-piece band from Nashville, playing aggressive yet surprisingly-catchy hardcore punk. Although the opening tracks play through at a convincing high velocity, much of this EP is at a more measured pace, so overall it recalls the likes The Germs and (early) Husker Du as much as more extreme bands. They combine interesting basslines with a combination of vocals (male and female) to contrast with the visceral guitar noise, making for a great balance of raw sounds and intriguing arrangement. I wish I knew a bit more about them as this sounds like a very promising debut. Given the right opportunities, I think they could be very capable of making some great records. Check ‘em out !
A STORM OF LIGHT. Anthroscene CD (Consouling Sounds) It’s been five years since this band released their last album, but it sounds like a very-focused unit despite their situation (the band members live in different locations around the USA, making their actual rehearsal time together a lot more limited.) But, as is the often the case these days, they were able to share ideas via the internet, giving each other the chance to prepare and add their thoughts in advance of the band actually coming together. The results are pretty spectacular. Bringing together influences as diverse as Killing Joke, The Melvins, Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd and even Christian Death, the band create a powerful hard rock album which relies on atmosphere and tone as much as it does on Iommi-style riffs, whilst the lyrics tackle the predicament that America finds itself in at present. Rather than just thrashing-out the chords or chanting slogans, they build the tension and dynamics, allowing the songs to arrive naturally and in the process delivering an album that has real depth and emotion. This is a metal album, rather than a Heavy Metal album (if you see what I mean) and will certainly appeal to fans from a much wider spectrum .
BEE BEE SEA. Deluxe LP (Wild Honey) Having kept themselves busy with European and American tours since the release of their debut back in 2015, Bee Bee Sea are now presenting a newly remastered compilation of their first LP plus EP. It sounds better than ever, like a classic mix of Sixties Garage-pop and the better moments of the Britpop era (Supergrass, Tiger etc.) Bee Bee Sea deliver songs that have a genuine fresh and authentic style, catchy as a cold but hotter than a night in a sweaty basement club. It’s not that it’s a sound that you’ve never heard before, but the sheer exuberance with which it’s performed will have you bouncing on your toes. Fine stuff, indeed !
BEECHWOOD. Inside The Flesh Hotel CD (Alive) It’s only been a short time since their first album ‘Songs From The Land of Nod’, but this new set is a big step-forward, maintaining their original impetus but refining their delivery and exploring themes (both musical and lyrical) to a much further degree. At its’ soul, this is basically a ‘pop’ album, but with so many different influences and styles finding their way into the music that it becomes something totally of its’ own. The New York ‘Art-punk’ aesthetic is obviously an inspiration but, rather than settling for simple imitation, Beechwood take different ideas and set them-off against each other, so that none of the songs sound particularly like anyone else, even though certain moments might have you delving into your memory to try and figure-out who they just made you recall. But even when that happens, by the time you’re getting close, the song has moved onto something else and you’ve totally lost your recollection. The album veers from brash glam-style guitars, solid rhythms and catchy hooks through to understated melodies and dreamy vocals. They were already playing some of these songs during their first European visit earlier this year, but now I’m familiar with the album, I really can’t wait to see them played live again. This is a band who look destined to really make a mark for themselves and could quite easily crossover to a much wider audience. I really hope they get the attention that they deserve !
BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS. CD (Wienerworld) Bill Haley is rarely mentioned in the same terms as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis or Chuck Berry, but it’s undeniable that his single, ‘Crazy Man, Crazy’ was the first identifiably rock’n’roll single to make the charts and that ‘Rock Around The Clock’ and ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’ were the first major international hits for the genre. Haley may not have possessed the potency of Presley, the wildness of Gene Vincent or the flamboyance of Little Richard, but his music paved the way for their subsequent success. Mixing Rhythm’n’Blues with Country & Western, whilst infusing it with a sense of urgency, his early recordings provided a template for others to use as a launch-pad and many of his original songs still sound vital. This collection of eleven songs lacks much information, but I suspect many of these recordings are from a later period, possibly the Sixties, as some songs have notably different arrangements with perhaps more contemporary influences (Soul, Beat etc.) It certainly doesn’t spoil the enjoyment and the covers of ‘Rip It Up’ and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’ are exceptional versions in their own right. I really wish I knew where / when these recordings were made, but nonetheless, they’re great fun and certainly worth your indulgence.
THE CHOCOLATE WATCH BAND. This Is My Voice LP (Dirty Water) The Chocolate Watch Band are true legends of the Sixties Garage scene. Originally formed in 1965 and based in Northern California, they released three albums and appeared in the equally-legendary film ‘Riot On Sunset Strip’ before splitting in 1970. During those years they delivered a raw style that still sounds vital today, as well as playing alongside the likes of The Doors and The Standells. The band eventually reformed in 1999, but it has only been more recently that they’ve worked on new material. Featuring three of the original members, the results are highly effective and will certainly not be a disappointment to long-time fans. Including a fine cover of ‘T Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ (a tribute to their old friend Sky Saxon) the majority of tracks are new compositions that revisit their original Sixties sound, although the stand-out track is perhaps ‘Judgement Day’, a dirty Psych-Blues protest song railing against the social inequality in current day America. It can sometimes be a bit underwhelming when a favourite band from the past returns after many years with new material, but in this case, The Chocolate Watch Band have done themselves proud. Be sure to check it out.
CHORDS UK. Nowhere Land LP (Pledge) I was very impressed by the first Chords UK album, ‘Take On Life’, but this new release exceeds even that. Starting from the opening track, this album has a much more brash, solid production. The whole band sounds totally focused while Chris Pope’s lyrics are among the best he’s ever written. It’s an album with a real sense of urgency and vitality, harking back to the original intent of The Chords themselves but at the same time placing itself very much in the present day. Combining the energy of the original band with an older perspective, the songs have a broad ranger, from the anthemic angst of ‘Nowhere Land’ through to the righteous indignation of ‘Gentrified The Elephant’ and from the Kinks-styled melodies of ‘These Bad Times’ through to the reflective ‘One Last Shot at The Title’. ‘Our World’ recalls characters from the Seventies but instead of settling for nostalgia, brings them upto date with their current lives, whilst ‘Hipsters of London’ tells the woes of trying to keep up with the trends. The songs tell stories that are easy to relate to, and the music combines so many great influences – Mod, Pop and Punk – that it effortlessly seems to draw you in. I think it would be only the most desperate cynic who would claim to not be impressed with this album, because it’s a fine record by anyone’s standards. Personally, I’d say it’s one of the best you’re likely to hear this year. Just do yourself a favour and hear it as soon as possible you can.
CITIZEN RAGE. Pink EP (citizenragehardcore.bandcamp.com) Canadian hardcore band, taking influences from early DRI, NYHC bands like Agnostic Front and Madball, plus some of the early Revelation bands. The production is a little thin (music like this always sounds better live and it’s hard to translate that in a studio) but the righteous anger and emotion still comes across well and includes imaginative arrangements. I won’t say this is an instant classic, but it certainly presents a band that seem intent on creating something both powerful and interesting from their music. Keep your ears open for them !
CIVILISED SOCIETY ? War In My Head CD/EP (Boss Tuneage) Civilised Society were a UK hardcore band from Bristol, originally active in the mid-to-late Eighties releasing several albums via the Peaceville and Manic Ears labels. Now, some 30 years later, the band have reformed (original members and all that) to have a second crack of the whip, which will no doubt please fans of their former output. I have to say that, for me, their music remains a little too much on the metallic side of hardcore, although the sheer power of the tracks (think Motorhead meets early Death Angel) is pretty effective. The real feather in their cap are the excellent female vocals from Bev, which really sets the band apart from anyone else. Lyrically, they’re also very astute and poignant, making you think about the songs rather than just headbanging. One way or another (not that I’m suggesting a Blondie influence) this has to be a good thing. The music will draw-in an audience and the words will get them to question the world around them. Overall, this may not be my favourite record, musically, but their intent is undeniable and, at the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather hear this than the mainstream crap ? Give it a listen – it may be to your taste and, lyrically, it can’t be faulted.
JOEL CAHEN. Aquadelique LP ( Adaadat) All too often when musicians try to combine different genres, they fall at the first hurdle because they just sound like someone from one particular style trying to sneak-in to someone else’s ideas. In contrast, this album works because there isn’t any conscious deliberation. It just does what feels right and in the process combines beats, ambient and industrial sounds. Joel Cahen is an Israeli-born but London-based ‘sound-artist’ and what he produces creates atmosphere in place of mere background. The sounds enhance the situation rather than being side-product. These compositions evolve from his concept of ‘wet sounds’, a series of submerged performances which present music as a physical rather than just aural experience, but the results work just as well in a more usual environment. The sounds create moods, both pleasant and unsettling, much like the early work of bands like Nocturnal Emissions or Virgin Prunes. It’s all based around emotions and how certain tones or memories evoke reaction. This is Psychedelia without the drugs, or Prog without the pretensions. Taking music forward to a place where you feel it rather than just hear it. You have to allow yourself to be fully submerged to achieve the full effect, but if you can open yourself to the possibilities, this album is going to give you a whole new perspective. It doesn’t rock, it doesn’t roll, but it moves in all the right directions.
PAUL COLLINS. Out of My Head CD (Alive) For those who don’t know (the shame !) Paul Collins was one third of legendary LA powerpop band The Nerves, alongside Jack Lee and Peter Case. They created the solid-gold classic ‘Hanging On The Telephone’ and although still best-known for that song , they also produced many other great, high-energy songs and promoted themselves via their own independent label, pre-dating and influencing the LA Punk scene in the process. Since then, Collins has continued to release records either as part of The Breakaways and The Beat (not to be confused with the Two-tone band) or under his own name, along the way writing ‘Walking Out On Love’ which would eventually be featured in the Green Day musical ‘American Idiot’. But what really counts now is his new album, which is certainly not going to disappoint any fans and quite probably going to win a whole load of new ones. ‘Out of My Head’ is a great, infectious set of songs that recall the greatest moments of his past career whilst putting everything right in the moment. Of course, his trademark mix of pop-melodies and classic rock’n’roll energy is very much to the fore and will keep any fan of vintage powerpop more than happy. But along the way, he also embraces a more atmospheric, moodier tone, recalling the likes of Roy Orbison or Chris Isaacs (a la ‘Wicked Game’.) ‘Killer Inside’ wouldn’t just sound great on a movie soundtrack – the movie ought to be written around the song ! Every track on this album stands on its’ own merits, with perfectly balanced production, subtle harmonies and melodic hooks that you just aren’t going to get out of your head. Although it may be more reflective than previous records, this serves to accentuate the more upbeat moments and really helps to make every moment unique and enticing. If you love your pop with real attitude, great songs and true class, you need to hear this album right now. There really isn’t anything to dislike about it !
CONTROL FREAKS. Double Dose of Hate 7” (Dirty Water) They may have been put together by Greg Lowery (The Rip-Offs, Zodiac Killers etc) but The Control Freaks, whilst taking a similar punk rock garage approach, seem to be adding more melody to their high-speed, lo-fi approach. Most notably, the addition of alternate lead vocals from guitarist Sherrilyn. In fact, she provides the voice for the a-side, her own song, ‘I Hate Your Face’ and, while they may be sounding even more catchy than before, don’t worry because the delivery and intent is just as snarling as ever. Greg returns to the forefront on the flipside, ‘Hatelist’ and the aggression rises once again… reconciliation is probably out of the question ! Trust me, this band deliver songs that are sharp, snotty and right on the money. Don’t miss out on their records !
THE CRAMPS. Live at Clutch Cargo’s LP (Stay Sick) Possibly the only live recording featuring Terry Graham (The Gun Club, The Bags) subbing on drums for a temporarily-hospitalised Nick Knox. Also in the line-up at the time was Kid Congo, adding further Gun Club personnel to the mix and they do a damn fine job with it. Recorded in Detroit at the end of 1982, this was around the time that the band had finally managed to escape their contract with IRS records, so they play a whole slew of new material in preparation for the upcoming recording of the ‘Smell of Female’ album. ‘Most Exalted Potentate of Love’, ‘You Got Good Taste’ and ‘Call of the Wighat’ sound better than ever while older classics like ‘Goo Goo Muck’, ‘The Way I Walk’ and an awesome extended version of ‘Tear It Up’ are among the best live versions I’ve ever heard. Quality is excellent (possibly a radio recording ?) and packaging is really well-done. Grab this album while you can !
THE CRIPPENS. The Minnow & The Pike LP (Boss Tuneage) Dr & The Crippens were a genuinely odd UK hardcore band from Lancaster who were together in the late Eighties. During that time, they release two full albums, recorded two John Peel Sessions and became widely known for their eccentric onstage performances. Fast forward some 25 years and the band are back with an abbreviated name and an unknown quantity of original members. Their recent return to gigging has been enthusiastically received by fans old and new, so this first set of new material has been eagerly anticipated. I’m sure it’s not going to disappoint, as the six new songs sound fresh and vital, combining a great studio sound with a furious delivery. It captures loads of frantic energy which will recall the likes of Poison Idea, The Stupids and maybe even Heresy. The lyricsstill display their original, macabre sense of humour, with songs addressing subjects from cryogenics through to wife-swapping and the plight of town-centre drunks. It’s uniquely eccentric in a decidedly Northern style, but you can’t help but enjoy it. Hear this record now, and hope you get to see them live soon after that.
DAUGHTERS.You Won’t Get What You Want CD (Ipecac) This is the first album in eight years from the Providence, Rhode Island-based band. Rather than wasting time in repeating themselves, the band have carefully chosen to record and play live on a sporadic basics to maintain their spontaneous energy and vision. Although very much apart from the mainstream, their music nonetheless plays within a rock’n’roll structure, albeit one that’s been torn apart and reinvented to suit their purpose. But the driving rhythms are still there to draw you in, the hooks are still there to secure your interest and the vocals delve into subjects set far aside from the world of popular music. In a lot of ways, although not particularly similar musically, they’re playing with the same sort of ideas that Suicide invoked in their early days, perhaps mixed with the primal intensity of Jesus Lizard (maybe a little closer in musical sounds, but still not all that close…) In essence, this is not going to be to everyone’s taste but if you can let yourself be immersed in their dark, frantic world, this is something that you’re really going to love
DES DEMONAS. Bay of Pigs EP (Slovenly) A Washington,DC based band that sounds nothing like the music you’d usually associate with that area. Noisy rock’n’roll featuring a member of Kid Congo’s band on guitar and a Kenyan-born lead singer, it’s repetitive in an effective way and builds a groove until it can’t go any further. I’d be tempted to compare it with some of Rocket From The Crypts’ early exploits, but that doesn’t really do it justice. With garage-style organ wailin’ to be heard above the rest, this is a great slice of barely-restrained cacophony. Be sure to hear it and enjoy it before it sneaks into your nightmares…
DORKATRON. The Extra Mile CD (Monster Zero) Austrian band featuring former members of the Dee Cracks (check out their previous releases for some great melodic punk rock.) The wonderfully-named Dorkatron follow a similar path and it’s all about great, catchy pop songs being boosted-up to adrenalin-overdose levels. There’s nothing that you don’t need – everything’s stripped-down to the punk-pop basics, three chords and great tunes. Nothing hangs around too long and only the title track sneaks over the two-minute marker (by a mere 3 seconds ! basically because they just don’t need to. The band get-in, do the job and get-out before there’s any sniff of outstaying their welcome and, trust me, these are the kind of songs that are always welcome ! The title track might take a slightly slower pace, but it still packs enough energy and melody to ensure you’ll be boppin’ til you drop. This is a release that you really need to play loud at your next party… anyone who objects ain’t worth having as a friend !
dragSTER. Anti-Everything LP (Louder Than War) Coventry-based punk band with more than a few metal / hard rock influences, but certainly not in a bad way. Fronted by a powerful female-vocalist, they combine hard-edged riffs with melodic hooks that will ensure the songs stay rattling around your brain for many hours after you’ve heard them. Lyrics seem to veer between personal matters and political observations and I’d would have liked to have had a lyric sheet to read further (I only got a pesky download…) Whilst most of the tracks take a pretty full-throttle approach, the stand-out song, ‘Damned’, has a much more involved arrangement with hints of ska-guitars and epic breaks, while ‘Tokyo Joe’ benefits from a more restrained vocal performance. Similarly, closing track ‘Vultures Circle’ also makes its’ mark by going for an almost metal-rap style together with a great, unpredictable production / arrangement. This is a good album and, whilst their more straight-ahead songs are certainly powerful, it’s the moments when they dig deeper to deliver something a little more different that really make the record interesting. I hope they keep going in that direction.
ELECTED OFFICIALS. Appetite For Corruption CD (www.theelectedofficials.org) Hardcore band straight outta Austin, Texas. I was given this CD at a recent MDC gig in London (I assume by an actual member of the band, although I didn’t get too many details) and that seemed highly appropriate. Elected Officials take elements form that cities’ vibrant punk rock past but bring it firmly into the present. After all, punk / hardcore is nothing if it stays in the past. They take elements of the frantic delivery of early Stains / MDC but also add the quirky melodic elements of the Big Boys and the peculiarities of Really Red, but then mix it with Dead Kennedys-style guitar licks and, at times, an almost Motorhead-like rhythmic rumble. The female vocals are at once aggressive but also a strangely enticing factor, preventing the more aggressive songs from becoming predictable. They have some really great lyrics as well (included with the CD booklet) … just check out the song ‘Sally’ to see what I mean. Overall, the production is a bit muddy but the songs really shine through. Get this band in a studio with someone who really knows what they’re recording and they’re going to come out with a really fucking great record ! I just hope they get over to play in the UK soon… In the meantime, listen to these recordings and start a petition to bring them to your local venue !
THE EMBROOKS. Who We Are LP (State Records) The first new Embrooks album in over a decade, and it’s good to have them back. There are few current bands that can play in the Sixties Freakbeat style with such authenticity, combining great melodies with fuzzed-out psychedelia and an almost power-trio approach to their performance. They mix pure pop elements with original effects to create a sound that’s both nostalgic and contemporary, recalling the past but placing it firmly in the here and now. I can’t imagine any other bands that could include a flute in a credible way, but The Embrooks use such sounds naturally, where and when it’s needed rather than inserting it as a gimmick. The album includes two covers (one by The Hollies, the other from Australian combo The Lost Souls) but the album maintains its’ own momentum throughout. Any fan of psych-pop is going to love this album – if you’re one of those people, be sure you don’t miss it !
EUGENE S. ROBINSON & PHILIPPE PETIT. Chapel In The Pines CD (Lumberton Trading Company) New album featuring collaborative work between Eugene S. Robinson, vocalist for the acclaimed noise merchants Oxbow, and sonic-sculptor Philippe Petit. Further guests (including former Rollins Band guitarist Chris Haskett) provide additional vocals and guitar sounds, but you get the impression that it’s very much under the direction of the main duo. The results delve into various dreamscape-situations, creating atmospherics of various emotional types, from edgy, understated moments of quietness through to unsettling cacophonies of voice and sound. The closest I can compare it to would be David Thomas’ best moments with the 2 Pale Boys, where the vocals react naturally to the music and the musicians respond to the tone of the narrative. Of course, that’s not to say that this particularly sounds like the 2 Pale Boys, but I suspect a similar approach. Vocally, there are hints of Tom Waits and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins while the music suggests a soundtrack from some of David Lynch’s darker moments. This certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted but if you’re feeling adventurous, listen to this in the dark and see what images your mind will conjure. ‘Chapel in The Pines’ is genuinely intriguing and unlike anything you’ve heard before. For those reasons alone, you’ll need to investigate.
THE FALLEN LEAVES. Punk Rock For Gentlemen CD (Parliament) Previously only available on vinyl, this excellent compilation brings together the best tracks from their first three albums (‘It’s Too Late Now’, ‘That’s Right’ and ‘If Only We’d Known’) as well as songs from their singles. This is the perfect place to start if you’re not already aware of this excellent band, as it highlights everything that’s great about them. Catchy, insistent songs that combine elements of Sixties-style Art-Pop (think of The Creation or The Pretty Things) together with the more inventive moments of 1977’s DIY-Punk (think early Mekons or Subway Sect, whose original guitarist Rob Symmons plays in this band.) With a solid rhythm section and Rob Symmons playing joyful shards of guitar noise, the band are completed by Rob Greens’ unique vocal delivery and sly, witty lyrics. These are the sort of songs that become instant classics before you even finish hearing them for the first time. ‘Did You See Her’, ‘Shining’ or ‘Sylvie Says’ are going to go straight in your ears and refuse to leave ! Seriously, this band ought to be played on the radio every hour of every day, but as we know that’s not going to happen, you really need to hear this record. And, while it blows you away (I’m trusting that my readers are people with good taste) just take note that their latest album, ‘What We’ve All Been Waiting For’(which isn’t represented here) is even better than the first three and that, live, the band totally live-up to expectations. I’ll admit that it took me a while to catch-up on The Fallen Leaves, but I’m so glad that I did. Just be told, if you haven’t already done so, you need to hear this band as soon as you can. You’ll thank yourself that you did !
FASCINATING. Communist Power LP (Dirty Water) All the way from Cleveland, Ohio, this is a mighty slab of no-nonsense punky-noisepop that’s crawled straight out of the Garage ! Despite the confrontational title, I doubt that the album is meant as any kind of propaganda, about from self- praise for the sonic heights that it ascends. The title tack may be a chunk of rock’n’roll distorted in all the right ways, but elsewhere, the band similarly take a College Rock (think Pavement or Lemonheads) vibe and then overload the fuzz and feedback to create infectious tunes that will simultaneous blow your eardrums. I can’t really pick-out many of the words without a (missing) lyric sheet, but I think they stick more to pop than politics, and good for that ! Probably a bit to gnarly to breach the mainstream, but it’s the kind of music that could sneak onto the radio and make your whole day sound a lot better.
FLESH & BLOOD : THE HAMMER HERITAGE OF HORROR. DVD (Wienerworld) For any fan of Horror movies, this is an essential documentary that tells the story of the legendary Hammer Film Productions. Their influence can still be seen today and, indeed, producers John Carpenter and Martin Scorsese are amongst those singing their praises in this film. Oddly enough, the company started in 1934 and did not set-out to be a Horror producer (although ‘The Mystery of the Mary Celeste’, released in 1934, did feature Bela Lugosi.) The company actually went bankrupt in 1937 but was resurrected and began making movies again in the late Forties, although it wouldn’t be until 1955 that they had their first success in the Horror genre with ‘The Quatermass Experiment’. In 1957, they released ‘The Curse of Frankenstein’, establishing their links with classic gothic horror for which they would become best known. It was also the film which introduced the famous partnership of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, which remains revered to this day. Indeed, the pair would also appear in their next Box Office success, ‘Dracula’, helping to establish the enduring popularity of Hammer across the world (despite a lack of enthusiasm from film critics !) During the Sixties, their success was virtually unstoppable, expanding the Dracula and Frankenstein francise whilst also introducing other classic horrors such as The Mummy, Jekyll & Hyde, the Werewolf and adaptations of Dennis Wheatleys’ novels. As times moved on, the films adopted more explicit sexual content and even more gore, trying to keep up with the times (there was even an attempt to exploit the early Seventies popularity of Kung Fu movies with ‘The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires’.) With new names making their mark in the Horror genre, the company tried to expand to other areas, even producing spin-off films for the TV series ‘On The Buses’, but this failed to revive their previous successes and the company closed-down again in 1979. Of course, just like Dracula himself, Hammer was destined to re-emerge once again in 2007. Initial productions were tentative, but the 2009 release of ‘The Resident’ (appropriately featuring Christopher Lee) met with success and since then, the company has continued to thrive, producing popular movies such as ‘Let Me In’ and ‘The Woman in Black’. This documentary was originally made in 1994, featuring contributions from Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Ingrid Pitt, Ray Harryhausen and many others, but this new version has been updated and now includes an additional 40 minutes, delving even deeper than before. If you’ve ever enjoyed Hammer films (who hasn’t ?) I’m sure you’ll find this documentary fascinating and it truly is as definitive as it could possibly get.
THE GO-BETWEENS. Right Here DVD (Cadiz Music) I was aware of The Go-Betweens during the 1980’s and enjoyed the few songs that I heard. However I was more interested in louder, more primal music at the time and, as such, my favourite Australian bands were The Scientists and the Birthday Party. But, as is often the case, as your tastes develop you realise that you should have been paying more attention. For me, The Go-Betweens are a prime example and, whilst I still wouldn’t claim to be their biggest fan, I now love many of their records and kick myself for missing them back at the time. This film is a welcome archive that covers the whole story, from their roots in 1977 through to their original split in 1989, plus the eventual and successful reformation between 2000-2006. The story is very much that of the relationship between Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, two firm-friends who originally met-up in college and began playing music together. Inspired by punk rock, they took the opportunity to channel its’ energy into a style of their own, being joined along the way by Lindy Morrison, Robert Vickers, Amanda Brown and John Willsteed, all of whom contribute to this film. Musically, they began with an almost lo-fi, indie-style, somewhere between The Monkees and The Modern Lovers, perhaps, which would later combine different elements including Art-pop and Americana. But whilst the music and the way that it developed is fascinating in itself, the documentary also focuses on the relationships within the band (artistic, social and romantic.) It’s this approach which makes the film so riveting, as it reveals the human aspects just as much as musical achievements. The former members speak in a frank and open way which really draws you in to their tale. Although the band won critical acclaim during their original lifespan, they failed to crossover to wider commercial success but in many it comes across that, although it wouldn’t have been unwelcome, it was never the priority and, to that extent, they did achieve much of what they set-out to do by the time they split in 1989. In the ensuing years, retrospect worked in their favour and, when Forster and McLennan reunited with a new line-up in 2000, they were finally met with the kind of response that their music deserved. Over the following five years, they produced three new albums that eventually won mainstream success, but in a cruel twist of fate, just as this was happening, McLennan suddenly died. For a band that had been so firmly based on their partnership, there was no way for it to continue and the story came to a close. But the music and its’ reputation has continued to attract more and more followers, making this documentary essential viewing for those who have only-recently discovered the band, as well as older fans who will be able to appreciate the background to the records that they have loved. It’s a great film whether you know the band or not and I can only recommend it.
GOSPELBEACH. Another Winter Alive CD (Alive) Not a full new album, exactly, but a collection of tracks recorded at the same time, but not featured on, last years’ ‘Another Summer of Love’ album, plus five songs recorded live during their recent visit to London. As such, this is probably intended more for existing fans rather than an appropriate introduction for newcomers, but that isn’t to say the songs aren’t up to standard. Far from it, in fact, with their blend of classic Sixties Californian-pop and the mellower side of country rock, always played over ever-insistent melodies sounding as fine as ever. Pretty-much guaranteed to have you recalling your perfect Summer’s evening, even if you’re stuck in the depths of Winter. Unashamedly joyous but never in a contrived or unconvincing way. This is an album that you’ll need to embrace.
HANDSOME JACK. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright CD (Alive) Three-piece band based in Lockport, NY, but playing a sound much more associated with the swampy-backwoods of the Southern States, perhaps with a nod towards Chicago-style Blues. At times reminiscent of Creedence Clearwater Revival, at others recalling classic Lynyrd Skynyrd, the album has an authentic sound and is consistently driven along by a real swing to the bass lines and a solid, sharp drum sound. It’s a fine contemporary slice of true Americana and could easily appeal to a broad range of rock fans. Be sure to give it a listen.
IMMOLATED MOTH. Pain CD (www.immolatedmoth.bandcamp.com) Thom Bleasdale was training to be an audio engineer at Abbey Road studios when he was taken seriously ill. Three years of mis-diagnosed treatment has left him a virtual recluse, unable to play live or even record with other musicians. However, his creative energies have found their place in this project, a genuine one-man band. Faced with an isolated life and ongoing illness, his excursions into Death Metal territory ring so much more true than many who play and sing the words but have had no real experience of suffering. The music is intricately constructed and recorded with a raw, powerful sound that really captures the emotional delivery. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste but if you can appreciate the more extreme realms of Metal, then this is one you should explore.
INDONESIAN JUNK, Darkness Calling CD (Rum Bar) Another fine record from Milwaukee’s purveyors of high class powerpop. By which I mean, great chunks of melodic, foot stompin’ rock’n’roll, like some kinda collision between the Ramones and Cheap Trick, or perhaps the New York Dolls re-imagined by White Flag. More than a few parallels with the UK’s DeRellas, as well, as the sleazier side of glam rock makes itself heard and felt in the underbelly of this beast. There’s a nod towards Kiss (circa ‘Detroit Rock City’) at the end of ‘C’mon and Love Me’, while ‘I Could Die’ slows down the pace to an emotive ballad in the style of ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’. Final track ‘See the Light’ delivers the kind of hard-hitting guitar-assault that Thunders and Sylvain used to work so well, complete with backing vocals straight outta ‘Sympathy for The Devil’. Altogether, it’s proof-positive that rock’n’roll is certainly alive and well !
JILTED JOHN. True Love Stories LP (Boss Tuneage) A deluxe 40th Anniversary reissue of the one and only album by Graham Fellows’ original comic-character. It’s very much of its’ time, but also a lot easier to appreciate in retrospect than it may have been in 1978. The songs come together not so much as a rock opera by more a teen-soap opera, like ‘Grange Hill’ but with more angst and snotty, backseat-of-the-bus attitude. As the cover artwork suggests, it’s a parody of the Seventies-style photo-strips that were aimed at young teens, but here with more of the disappointments that real-life inevitably brought. Musically, the songs aren’t as raw as the original ‘Jilted John’ single and mostly more-keyboard based, though no less entertaining. Bizarrely, the whole project was produced by Martin ‘Zero’ Hannett (an obvious influence on his later-work with Joy Division) and was enthusiastically supported by John Peel, who instinctively appreciated the humour. It may have been seen by some as a novelty, trying to jump on the punk / new wave bandwagon, but looking back it’s far easier to enjoy the observations and intent, which is why the interest endures. This reissue includes the original LP, a repress of the first single, a copy of the promotional ‘Mice & Ladders’ boardgame and extensive sleeve notes, all put together with the true fan in mind. With John’s recent return to live performance, it’s a perfect way to catch-up on a surprisingly enjoyable album. And perhaps, if you are of a certain age, you’ll also be able to compare notes with your own teen experiences…
JESUS PIECE. Only Self CD (Southern Lord) State of the Art metallic hardcore from Philapelphia, delivering an unrelenting aural assault of pummeling rhythms, raw snarling vocals and a production that builds a true wall of sound only to have it demolished in front of your ears. It’s truly emotional stuff, ripping apart personal issues alongside the problems of racism, injustice and police brutality. Luckily, the arrangements do allow for breathing space otherwise this could easily have become too one dimensional. But the band are smart enough to know that tension works as well as a sledgehammer when it comes to making their point. That this is a debut album is truly remarkable. Few hardcore bands could create something as thorough and accomplished on their first attempt, but Jesus Piece have done so. If your idea of great music is something that will exhaust you just by paying attention, this is definitely going to be a treat !
JUSTINE & THE UNCLEAN. Heartaches and Hot Problems CD (Rum Bar) This is a great female-fronted, Boston-based rock’n’roll band, very much in the style of early Runaways, or perhaps the New York reinterpreted by The Muffs. Loads of energy, catchy riffs, great melodies and choruses that you’ll be humming all the way home. Even the slower songs (‘Monosyllabic Man’) have an insistence that will grab you by the throat, while the more upbeat songs, like ‘Be Your Own Reason’ are just pure adrenalin. Final track, ‘Margaritas and Secondhand Smoke’, is classic, stompin’ glam-rock combined with genuine pop greatness. Trust me, there’s nothing to dislike about their record !
KAJIKI VOLT. Three Track Demo CD (www.kajikivolt.com) This is a great blend of rockabilly, punk and everything that gets noisy ! These three songs remind me of the second half of the Eighties, when we were being confronted by bands who wanted to play rock’n’roll their way, getting nasty in the best possible manner. If you’re memory serves you well, think of the Folk Devils, The Very Things and Inca Babies from the UK and the likes of Scratch Acid or early Mudhoney from the other side of the pond… Catchy riffs, strong rhythms, twangin’ guitars and stylish, squeaky keyboards create the primal sounds while the vocals maintain a steady commentary. Like one of Lux Interiors’ more understated moments, they keep everything together, a perfect foil to the music which threatens to boil over at any moment. ‘Shark Skin Suit’ is a great, catchy rocker that tells a cryptic tale while the guitar sounds like The Ventures gone psycho. ‘Invisible Men From Mars’ comes across like the soundtrack to the sort of Fifties B-movie that you’re still desperate to see, while ‘Gentlemen Prefer Bombs’ (best title by far !) sounds like one of The Falls’ repetitive rockabilly excursions, musically at least. ‘It’s all good’, is basically what I’m trying to say. This is a band with plenty of punch and lots of depth, who really know what they’re doing. I will certainly be trying to see them live, soon. I suggest you do the same !
KENmode. Loved CD (Season of Mist) The band name derives from a phrase originally used by Henry Rollins during his tenure in Black Flag – Kill Everyone Now mode. Which makes some sort of sense when you hear the aggression and brutality employed by this band during this album. This is an intensive aural assault, which refuses to let-up from the first track until the last. As with Black Flag, there’s a mix of metal, hardcore and even jazz, which comes together to create this relentless affair. I can’t imagine that anyone is going to listen to this just for enjoyment, but if raw emotion and catharsis appeal to you, this is about as extreme an example as you’re going to get. Musically, think of early Helmet but force it through a grinder, adding the chaos of early Flipper, and the kind of mixed-up, offset rhythms that John Zorn would employ during his more metallic moments. Just listening to an album like this requires endurance, but if you catch it at just the right time, it will be a very fulfilling experience.
KLEISTWAHR. Acceptance Is Not Respect CD (Fourth Dimension) Whilst his other band, Ramleh, may remain the more well-known project, Gary Mundy has also devoted a considerable amount of time towards his ‘solo’ incarnation Kleistwahr in recent years. Both projects date back to the early Eighties when, alongside the likes of Whitehouse and Sutcliffe Jugend, Mundy was an integral part of the UK’s more extreme electronic music scene, both with his own music and the many releases he issued through his Broken Flag label. These days, Ramleh is more guitar-based and delves into heavy psychedelia, while Kleistwahr is reserved for his darker electronic pursuits. This album is split in to two parts, the first based around politics and the second taking religious themes, perhaps exploring the juxtaposition of the two forms of social control ? Almost entirely instrumental (the only vocals are distorted and unintelligible) the album builds from an almost ambient beginning through to a much heavier sonic assault, although even at those moments there are often catchy little hooks peeping-through from the background. As such, this is something that you need to hear in its’ entirety to get a full-impression. Listening to any one excerpt will only offer one dimension of the overall work and that’s not going to give you much more than a glimpse of the entire album. It’s not rock’n’roll, but it knows how to move, and it’s not ‘pop’ but there are tuneful moments that are surprisingly pleasant (especially as they provide such contrast to the noisier outbursts !) I really enjoyed this album and if you can listen to it with a truly open mind, then you’re bound to find something very worthwhile.
TH’ LOSIN’ STREAKS. This Band Will Self-Destruct in T-Minus LP (Slovenly) This is a band who released their first over a decade ago, before splitting-up in 2010. Fortunately for us, they’ve reconvened to share their second (wonderfully-titled) album, presenting a great collection of fuzz-soaked, garage-based rock’n’roll. You may have thought that a band coming from the sunny-climes of Sacramento would’ve spent their time being laid-back and mellow, but no-one told these guys. Think of The Monks being updated via the MC5, Ramones and The Cramps. Great songs, great tunes, plenty of noise in all the right places and enough energy to out-blast an atom bomb. They’ve got plenty of their own great songs but also find space to include a cover of ‘You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down’ (originally by New Yorkers The Jagged Edge.) As we all ought to know, Garage-punk is at its’ best when it keeps itself as raw and primitive as possible. Th’ Losin’ Streak certainly know that maxim and add nothing but fierce, howlin’ noise to proceedings. This is an album you can’t help but enjoy… track it down like the trashy-gem it truly is !
LOUIS LINGG AND THE BOMBS. Favelaninja LP (Creative Commons) Louis Lingg was a German-born anarchist who was involved in a notorious bombing in Chicago during 1886. Louis Lingg and The Bombs are a wonderful Paris-based punk rock band who mix different musical styles to create an exhilarating three-chord-garage-punk-electro-blast of noise and tuneage. Ramones-style guitars clash with digital hardcore while Beastie Boys-style punk-rap vocals fight for space alongside Bis-style keyboard melodies. It might sound a bit convoluted, but when you hear the album (or see them live) it all makes sense. Vocals (sung in English) are shared, male and female, creating great harmonics and contrasts, further adding to the melee in one moment whilst pulling everything together in others. Songs like ‘Twitter Riot’ and ‘Freedom Fighter’ will have you bouncing around the room, but also keep you guessing about what’s going to happen next. This is what Punk Rock is all about – no rules, no limits, plenty of ideas, loads of energy and attitude… but always with great songs at their core that anyone with true spirit can enjoy. My only gripe is that there’s no lyric sheet, as I would have liked to have checked-out the songs more thoroughly. But that’s a minor problem when put against the sheer exuberance of this record. Consider this album a priority – be sure to hear it or you’ll lose my respect !
LOUIS LINGG AND THE BOMBS. Hopeless Love in the Age of the Glitch CD/EP (louislinggandthebombs.bandcamp.com) The first thing I love about this EP, before listening to the songs, is the fact that the four tracks are divided into ‘Face A’ and ‘Face B’, even though it’s not on vinyl ! And the second thing I love is that the EP has the kind of title Coil may have used. It has that thought-provoking quality and, indeed, when you listen to these songs, I wouldn’t be surprised if Coil would’ve appreciated the organic chaos that LLATBs generate. As with their recent album, it’s a mix of everything that goes naturally into the creative process. Two songs are sung in English, two others in Japanese, but in this context, is all makes sense. First track, ‘Sheena is Too Old’ revisits the Ramones heroine with suitable upbeat buzzsaw guitars, while ‘Onigiri’ follows in a similar punk-rock-pop style (as opposed to ‘pop-punk’) and has plenty of sing-along hooks even if it is sung in a language that I doubt many of us understand. ‘Kokoro No Tabi’ is apparently a cover version but no less catchy with it, complete with ‘Hey Ho Let’s Go’ interlude and great harmonies. ‘Prehistoric Man’ ends proceedings with a return to Anglo-vocals and although a little different to the previous tracks (electro-rhythms more to the forefront) the guitars still crash through in an impressive fashion and the vocal hooks still urge you to join the chorus. This is a damn-fine EP and something that you should all be treating as a vital purchase… it’s something that you need to hear !
MAP 71. Void Axis CD (Fourth Dimension) I enjoyed their first album, ‘Gloriosa’, but this latest offering is so much more realised. Lisa’s vocal delivery, whilst still deceptively-deadpan, is much more disarming and, lyrically, the words strike their targets with a fine precision. Meanwhile, the musical backing has expanded ; whilst still very-much percussion-based, the rhythms take on further dimensions and electronic sounds combine to create effective atmospherics. In same ways, their songs are at an odd parallel to Sleaford Mods’ more experimental moments, with lyrics making sly observations and poignant commentary while the music revels with inspired repetition. This is probably most noticeable on the excellent track ‘The Prefab’, although the delivery is very-much its’ own. Obviously, the live drum-sound adds its’ own vitality and creates a surprisingly danceable sound, albeit in a minimal format. It may take a few listens for its’ appeal to sink-in, but trust me, it will end-up stuck between your ears and you will want to hear it again. You need to hear this with an open-mind, but if you can do that, you’ll find something rather special.
THE MENTORS. Kings of Sleaze DVD (Wienerworld) I wasn’t sure what to expect from this documentary, having not been a great fan of The Mentors’ records, but I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Often mentioned alongside GG Allin, The Mentors went for a style of shock-rock that appealed more to punks than metal or hard rock fans, even though musically they were closer to that style. But unlike GG Allin, The Mentors, whilst singing about truly obnoxious subjects, were doing so more in the spirit of Grand Guignol rather than actual intention. As is pointed-out in the film, Eldon ‘El Duce’ Hoke’s lyrics just as often ridiculed himself as they verbally-assaulted anyone else. Whether you were going to enjoy the songs was another matter, but I doubt if they were ever intended to be taken too seriously (incidentally, the film is made by a woman, April Jones, who does an excellent job in letting the details speak for themselves.) The band came together in the early days of Punk Rock, formed in Seattle and probably a bigger influence in that area than many would care to admit. Targeted by the PMRC at the same time as the Dead Kennedys, Frank Zappa and (gulp !) John Denver, one of the most hilarious clips is a preacher reciting their lyrics for ‘Golden Shower’ during a court session ! At times, their image was criticized as racist (they wore black executioners’ hoods onstage, mistaken for KKK regalia despite the fact that they even had a black member in their ranks !) Sadly, the band suffered from individual personal problems, most notably Eldon’s alcoholism, but were able to maintain a cult following throughout their career. Most controversially, Eldon appeared in the Nick Broomfield documentary ‘Kurt and Courtney’, claiming that Courtney Love offered him $50,000 to kill Cobain… although never proven, Eldon did pass a lie-detector test on the subject and, when he subsequently died after being hit by a train in dubious circumstances, the last person to have seen him was the man that Eldon had alleged was the eventual perpetrator… The film, however, doesn’t draw conclusions. The story is plausible but it’s hard to decide whether it was true or just another example of El Duce’s dark sense of humour. Actually, the thing that surprised me the most is that the band continued after Eldon’s death, although the validity of the later line-ups is once again left the viewers’ own opinion. Overall, this is a really interesting documentary and puts the band in a perspective that gives you a chance to make up your own mind. Parts of it are funny, parts are sad, other parts are confused. But, as with many controversial subjects, there’s a lot more to it that you need to know before you draw conclusions. Just from the point of knowing the story, this DVD is essential. It’s also interesting and surprisingly entertaining. Do your best to see it !
MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE. I See What I Became CD (Neurot) Second album from the collaboration of Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and Sanford Parker (Buried At Sea) moving forward from their debut and exploring an even wider soundscape. The basis for this project is contemporary ‘Industrial’ music, the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Godflesh, Skinny Puppy etc. But from that ground floor, they incorporate sounds that recall the harsh guitars of Neurosis with almost soundtrack-like arrangements and atmospherics that range from angry and ecstatic through to downbeat and deceptively chilled-out. A sense of menace runs through the entire record, even in the mellower moments, but it’s hard to really pin-down. There’s something unsettling, even when the ambience is comforting, something lurking just out of sight, almost like a David Lynch movie. It’s very powerful and will appeal to fans of metal and hard rock even though, stylistically, it’s a very much a different beast. The arrangements and atmosphere will draw you in, but once there, you won’t know whether to indulge yourself further or flee for the exit. But despite the warning signs, you know you have to investigate…
MOTT THE HOOPLE. Mental Train CD Boxset (UMC) I never really got into Mott The Hoople as much as some of my friends did. As a kid, I only really heard their hit singles, which didn’t really impress me too much. It wasn’t until a lot later when I started to hear their albums, which put their music in a clearer perspective. Mott played their own brand of rock’n’roll that, as their producer Guy Stevens claimed, tried to blend elements of both Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. The results were a much less pretentious sound than was being peddled by so many of their contemporaries, while the lyrics dealt with issues that fans could more-easily relate to. In retrospect, it can be difficult to appreciate the effect they had at the time, but the band built a faithful following on the grounds that the gigs were always exciting and the band members had a much more respectful approach towards their fans. In many ways, it’s their attitude that sets them up as one of the precursors to the Punk movement, but certainly their music was also an integral ingredient (The Clash were such fans that they employed Guy Stevens to record early demos and eventually the classic ‘London Calling’ album, while several of Mick Jones’ songs bear a pretty obvious influence…) This boxset brings together their first four albums (‘Mott The Hoople’, ‘Mad Shadows’, ‘Wildlife’ and ‘Brain Capers’) recorded for the Island label between 1969 and 1971, complete with an array of previously unavailable outtakes and alternate mixes. This is the material that really established the band as underground favourites, even though their albums were not selling as well as they hoped. Indeed, they’d become so disheartened by 1972 that they were on the verge of splitting-up when David Bowie, already a long-time fan, offered them his new song ‘All The Young Dudes’ and they finally hit the charts. But for many original fans, it’s the material contained here, before their more mainstream success, that still means the most. It’s a varied bag, ranging from wild rockers through to quieter ballads, and at times it’s hard to relate them with the raucous reputation they had as a live band, but then again, who wants to be predictable ? As well as all of the extra tracks included with the original albums, this set also includes a disc of previously-unreleased tracks and another which includes excellent live recordings from 1970 and 1971, which really goes some way towards explaining why they were such a highly-rated live act. Complete with a 50 page book designed by Phil Smee and extensive sleeve-notes from Kris Needs, this is probably the best place to start if you want to really get to grips with what this band were about. Listen to it whilst reading Ian Hunters’ superb ‘Diary of a Rock’n’Roll Star’ and you’ll get as close to actually being there as you can. It’s an important piece of rock’n’roll history and you need to know about it !
MOVING TARGETS. The Other Side CD (Boss Tuneage) Subtitled ‘Demos and Sessions Expanded’, this is a deluxe version of the previous, limited edition ‘Made To Order’ album which has been out of print for some time. Moving Targets were one of the most highly-rated bands to emerge from the Boston hardcore scene during the Eighties, developing an enduring sense of melody whilst never losing their raw sound. Think somewhere in between Husker Du and Dinosaur Jnr, perhaps ? Singer / guitarist Kenny Chambers had an instantly recognisable style, with his frantic guitar sound offset by his almost drawling vocals. They deserved to become so much more popular, but inexplicably they never received the attention they deserved. This album features rare demos and radio broadcasts, ranging from 1985 all the way through to 2007, and is released in conjunction with the bands first European tour in over 25 years. While it’s the material from the Eighties that’s probably going to get old fans most excited, the full eleven song session recorded for WMBR radio in 2007 more than shows why the band still sound just as vital today. If you remember them from the first time around, you’ll certainly need to get this collection, and if you’ve never heard them before this will be the perfect introduction. Catch them while you can !
MUDHONEY. Digital Garbage CD (Sub Pop) When Mudhoney first emerged from Seattle’s darkest dives, there was no such thing as ‘grunge’. What they were producing was the next evolutionary stage for garage-punk. Nothing too clever for its’ own good, but right on the money. Inspired by the likes of Sixties combos The Sonics and The Wailers, they also combined the brute force of early Hardcore and the fuzz-fueled artistry of The Scientists to create a whole new level for the garage genre. They never achieved the mainstream success of some of their contemporaries, but in the long run, Mudhoney have stayed closer to their original intent and still produce new music that doesn’t just keep the fans happy, it has them yelling for more. ‘Digital Garbage’ is eleven songs in less than 35 minutes, ensuring that nothing unnecessary wastes your precious time. That doesn’t mean it lacks dimensions ; ‘Nerve Attack’ recalls the stripped down energy of The Wipers, with a tempered pace but a ferocious delivery. ‘Paranoid Core’ takes the tempo higher, but never detracts from the insistent melodies. ‘Please Mr Gunman’ displays Mark Arms’ dark satirical approach to lyrics, making a poignant statement without stating the obvious. Recent single ‘Kill Yourself Live’ combines a guitar riff reminiscent of Devo’s ‘Come Back Jonee’ with an organ sound straight out of the Pacific NW garage scene. ‘Night & Fog’ proceeds at the kind of sinister pace that the title demands, while ‘21st Century Pharisees’ mixes fuzz with the Gang of Fours’ stop-start precision. ‘Messiah Lament’ makes you wish they’d included a lyric sheet (the words you can catch seem to recall Alice Cooper’s ‘Second Coming’ … I know Mudhoney are fans of the Coop…) The album ends with the visceral blast of ‘Oh Yeah’ which matches any of their Hi-energy blasts from the past. This is an album that never lets you down. Thirty years down the road, they’re still as vital as they ever were. Do you need to know anything else ? No, you don’t.
NATTERERS. Head In Threatending Attitude CD (Boss Tuneage) Debut album from this Yorkshire-based, female-fronted punk/hardcore band. Featuring former members of Voorhees, HDQ and Leatherface, they play a mix of punky-styles in a very effective manner. They have a generally fast pace, rather than thrashy, and bring a lot of different influences into their sound. The Dead Kennedys are evident, both with the occasionally Surfy guitar style and the peculiar time changes, whilst vocally, Emma has a forthright delivery which recalls early LA punkers like Alice Bag and Exene Cervenka. From the UK, you can also hear hints of The Damned, Ruts and maybe even (early) UK Subs. Recorded in France and mastered by the legendary producer Geza X, this is clearly a band that have strong ideas of how they want to present themselves and the results are very much to their credit. It sounds good the first time you hear it and gets better on every repeat. One of the best UK punk rock releases this year !
PARASITIC TWINS. All That’s Left To Do Now is Sleep With Each Other CD (Man Demolish) A massive sludgy noise, just the sort of thing that I’d want to make if I lived in Hull ! This band is actually a duo, featuring singer/guitarist Max Watt and drummer Dom Smith. Not that you’d realise there were only two of them from the sound they create. Low-tuned guitar covers the bass effectively, while the sharp drum sound keeps everything in place. For comparison, consider the likes of Godflesh, Today is The Day and maybe even The Melvins at their grungiest. It’s a really nasty sound but at the same time surprisingly insistent, with riffs that will have you stampin’ your foot all through the playback. Definitely one to watch out for.
THE PEAWEES. Moving Target CD (Wild Honey / Rum Bar) An Italian band who have been rockin’ around Europe for the past twenty years and, as your might expect, they really know what they’re doing. If you want to get an idea of their sound, start with the early, primal Beatles (Hamburg era) and bring the classic rock’n’roll elements to the forefront. But then add Sixties Spector-ish melodies and production, occasionally twangy surf guitars and then all the best parts of mid-Seventies powerpop (Cheap Trick, Eddie & The Hot Rods etc.) Loads of energy, catchy tunes and an overall atmosphere that’s full of fun. This is music that begs to be played at your party and it’ll be guaranteed to get the place swingin’. Listening to this album, you can only guess at how great the must be onstage ! Be sure to treat yourself to this record !
PETT SOUNDS. Demo #2 (https://soundcloud.com/paul-finch) The second set of demos from this band and they really have come along by leaps and bounds since their first set of songs. I enjoyed those earlier efforts, but these three songs are really carving out an identity of their own, something that only happens as musical-collaborators work together more and become comfortable with their joint ideas. While their first set of songs promised much, these three tracks really hit the mark. Whilst maintaining their pop-sensibilities they also tap into a much edgier sound, with more character and much better arrangements. First track, ‘Machine’, mixes Fugazi-style guitar riffs with Mod-like keyboard sounds to create a really urgent sound, over which Sandra’s insistent vocals create insistent melodies. If you’re not drawn in by this track, you’re just not paying attention ! ‘Trance in the Woods’ takes a more measured-pace but lacks none of the impact. A better mix of the vocals really works well and the guitar really drives everything along, a great mix of brittle musical sounds and a tuneful vocal line. Final song, ‘Unseen’, is perhaps the key to these recordings, a finely-balanced mix of guitar-greatness and pop-sensibilities. They’ve moved so far along since those first demos, which I enjoyed a lot in themselves, but these three new songs really show a band coming together with their own sound and ideas. I hope they get a chance to play live soon and I really hope they continue going forward as far as these demos suggest they can. Check them out at your earliest opportunity !
PLANET B. Planet B CD (Ipecac) An album that could only be described as Industrial-Hip Hop, although that really doesn’t go far enough to do justice to the sounds that you’ll hear. A duo consisting of Justin Pearson (The Locust, Dead Cross, Retox etc) and Luke Henshaw (Sonida de la Frontera, First Power Crew) but also featuring guest appearances by the likes of Kool Keith, Martin Atkins and Nick Zinner. The results are very impressive ; think of the Beastie Boys mixed with Ministry (circa ‘Stigmata’) and the raw, upstart-energy of Ho99o9. Although some of these guys may have been around for some time, this is completely of the moment and as cutting edge as anything else you’re likely to hear right now. It’s a primal scream reinstated as songs with beats that you can dance to and lyrics that will strike a chord in your brain. With so many guests coming into the project at different points, you’d almost expect this to be a little disjointed, but the soul remains intact throughout in a very solid piece of overall work. This has taken two genres that have, for the most part, become tired and generic in recent years, but has combined the two in a way that reinvigorates both. This is something that doesn’t just deserve to be heard, it demands it !
THE PRIMALS. All Love Is True Love CD (Southern Lord) Currently based in Los Angeles but evidently with roots in the Washington DC punk scene. this band plays am incredibly infectious brand of fuzzed-up noise-pop. Vocalist/guitarist John Henry has the best pop-snarl since Kurt Cobain and the entire band certainly match Nirvana’s raw power, but at the same time they also invoke the melodic harmonies of Redd Kross, ensuring that catchy hooks are continuously sinking into your subconscious. There’s lots of other reference points that appear along the way, from Pixies through to Dinosaur Jnr and even that obscure Northern combo, The Beatles, but nothing sounds cynical. The Primals just have great songs, a great delivery and, as noisy as it may be, know how to craft great pop songs. Lively, insistent and with a massive production (courtesy of John ‘Speedo’ Reis) this band could and should become very popular. Catch them now because this is a great album, but also bathe in the knowledge that you’ll probably be the first on your block…
PRIORS. New Pleasure LP (Slovenly) Slovenly present another chunk of Canadian punk rock goodness, this time in the form of Priors from Montreal. I don’t have too many details about them (even their facebook page is a bit vague) but this seems to be their second album and musically, it kind of makes me think of early Devo speeding into a head-on collision with New Bomb Turks. Or maybe think of what the Screamers may have sounded like had they decided to play everything as fast as possible… Priors have got a real no-messing-around approach, even when they hijack the ‘My Sharona’ intro for their song ‘Sunshine’. Five seconds into it, the song is already infinitely more exciting and interesting ! This is an album that delivers both punk rock credibility and quirky experimentalism. There’s no pretence, it just comes together and works. For me, the big news is that they’re going to be touring in Europe later this year ! I just hope that they make it to London, because this is a band I really want to see. Make sure that you hear this album !
THE QUEERS. Punk Rock Confidential Revisted. LP (Monster Zero) It’s difficult to write a review of The Queers because, basically, you probably already know what to expect and there’s not a lot more to add. We’re talking about the Ramones’ chainsaw guitar sound mixed with an even bigger slice of Beach Boys-styled tunes and harmonies. It’s perfect pop and The Queers do it so well, why should they change ? You’ll either love it or you won’t, but it is what it is. However, with this album there’s a bit more information that you’ll need to know. ‘Punk Rock Confidential’ was an album that the band originally released in 1998. For whatever reasons (insert your own conspiracy theory here…) they’ve decided to re-record the entire LP, including two new songs for extra three-chord pleasure, and delivered it up for your discerning ears. To me, it certainly sounds even better than before and definitely isn’t a wasted effort. Any fan of The Queers is going to love this treat… you can spend your cash safely, pinheads !
RANDOM CONFLICT. Ruin Nation EP (No Profit) Hardcore band from North Alabama who have been together since 1988, during which time they’ve played alongside bands as varied as 7 Seconds, The Queers, Fugazi, Antiseen and even The Exploited. That they can play with bands from such a wide-selection of the punk rock spectrum is a good indication of the music that they play. Going by this EP, they’re mostly based around the more aggressive edges of metallic hardcore (think of early Corrosion of Conformity, Poison idea and maybe even Antisect) but they add a good mix of early punk rock tunes and an imaginative arrangement to make the songs really stand out from the pack. They’ve already released a bunch of records over the years, so I’m really surprised that they’re not better known. If you’re looking for some really intelligent hardcore that mixes raw energy and speed with a genuinely individual approach, then this is something you ought to check out (www.randomconflict.com)
RECORDS COLLECTING DUST 2 DVD (Wienerworld.) I haven’t seen the first movie (evidently, it concentrated on the Californian Punk scene, featuring people such as Keith Morris, Jello Biafra, Mike Watt and John Reis) but it seems that it was successful enough to warrant a second volume. This time, the focus is on the East Coast Punk / Hardcore scene and features appearances from the likes of Ian Mackaye, Brian Baker, Dave Smalley and Roger Miret. The premise is both simple and effective ; the individuals, who have all played a part in shaping their own music scenes, talk about the music and, more specifically, the records that inspired and influenced them. Now, I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading this review then you’ll be a train, errr, I mean, vinyl-spotter like myself, so I’m also sure that you’ll find this as interesting as I did. The common element is the way that each person speaks about their favourite music with so much enthusiasm and there are certain records that occur numerous times, but there are also plenty of surprises and more than a few things that will intrigue you enough to investigate further. I don’t want to go into too much detail because that will probably spoil it for you, but I can say that it’s an interesting documentary and the way that the subjects are allowed to talk without interruptions comes across almost as if you’re chatting to them yourself. It’s down to earth, it’s something that we can all relate to and it’s rather entertaining. What more do you need to know ?
DYLAN RODRIGUE. Cat’s Game CD (Bad Paintings) North California-based singer-songwriter who mixes his styles very effectively, from the mellower kind of songs that you would probably expect from this genre through to more boisterous tracks like ‘The Money Game’ which recalls Sixties garage-pop, and ‘Minimize The Damage’ which suggests Neil Youngs’ more reflective moments. Much of the album will have you thinking of the likes of Vic Chesnutt, but it is the intricate use of melodies that really sets this apart from anyone else. The songs are crafted with precision and there’s nothing there which doesn’t need to be (indeed, the entire album is only just over 30 minutes long, even though it sounds as fully realised as any epic.) The lyrics also take a similarly crafted style, relating personal observations in a delicate yet highly-detailed fashion. This isn’t the kind of album that I often listen to, but it certainly has an interesting character of its’ own and deserves your full attention.
RUBELLA BALLET. Danger of Death CD (Overground) I think this album is going to surprise a lot of people, both fans and otherwise. Rubella Ballet had always been one of the more melodic, even psychedelic, bands from the Anarcho-punk scene, but this album takes a harder, more aggressive delivery, perhaps to match the subject matters they are tackling. The band sound righteously angry and take aim at subjects ranging from gender issues, animal liberation (still valid despite the current trend for veganism), the misuse of technology, austerity and surveillance. It’s an unfortunate truth that society has been going backwards in so many ways, with individual freedoms gradually eroded in favour of corporate totalitarianism. Rubella Ballet are speaking out against this and doing so in a loud and angry voice. But even with the harder sound, their underlying melodicism is never far away and even the noisier tracks contain catchy hooks to draw you in. If you wanted to be cynical, you could try to say that these subjects have been sung about before, but even if that is the case, it doesn’t take much consideration to realise that these are things that still need to be addressed. Bands like Rubella Ballet are needed now as much as they ever were and this album, moving-on musically from their previous records, places them firmly in the middle of contemporary protest music. Be sure to check it out !
SATURDAY NIGHT KARAOKE. Professional Goofballs. LP (Monster Zero) Melodic punk rock all the way from Indonesia ! It’s probably not the sort of band you’d expect from such a place, but SNK are doing it and doing it rather well. For comparisons’ sake, think of nerdy punk bands like Boris The Sprinkler, Sloppy Seconds and maybe even Chemical People. Catchy three-chord punk tunes with wonderfully-whining vocals and cool titles like ‘Venus The Internship Clown’ and ‘Do the Gawking Geek’! All sung in English, complete with amusing interludes between tracks and a hidden bonus track at the end of the album ! If this ain’t value for your money, then you probably don’t deserve your wages. Apparently they have a habit of breaking-up and reforming on a pretty regular basis but, in the meantime, they have promised to tour in Europe soon – be advised to investigate !
SCHEISSE MINNELLI. Waking Up On Mistake Street CD (Destiny) I’m sure we can all relate to the title of this album. If you can’t, you haven’t lived… Scheisse Minnelli obviously have the experience to know what it’s like but, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, play their way out of it with a blistering set of a dozen songs in just 30 minutes. Kind of like an SAS hit squad (not that I’m condoning such things) this is a band that go in, do their job and get back out with maximum effect. Musically, this takes its’ cue from the genre previously known as skate-punk. Remember The Stupids, Spermbirds, JFA, RKL… with more than a few hints of early MDC and 7 Seconds along the way. Fast, but always involving catchy melodies and insistent riffs, while the vocals are sung in a clear and coherent fashion, giving you a chance to relate to the stories they’re telling. This is fun, but with a very serious attitude towards the music they produce. Plenty of energy, great tunes, interesting and sometimes humorous lyrics… Scheisse Minnelli take an older style but do it with such conviction that it sounds as fresh as it ever was. Play it loud and see if you can resist jumping around the room !
SCHIZO FUN ADDICT. El Shoegaze Bossa Nova LP (Sugarbush) based around the duo of Jet Wintzer and Jayne Gabriel, SFA have been creating their own music since 2000 and it that time have released seven albums. Here, they are joined by guitarist Rex John Shelverton (also of SF band Bellavista.) The first half of the album certainly does what the title suggests, producing slow-paced shoegaze epics held together with the kind bossa nova rhythms found of original Sergio Mendes albums. It may not be a description that immediately draws you in, but when you hear the songs, it really works well, a perfect little match of psychedelic pop ! The second half of the album breaks away from the initial template, with a more experimental approach to the music, although very-much on a similar pace and setting. The guitar-sound at times recalls some of Savage Republics’ more expansive moments. Dreamy and catchy in equal amounts, this is an album that creates its’ own world, but it’s one you’ll be happy to explore.
THE SHANGRILADS. Chins CD/EP (firstname.lastname@example.org) The second set of recordings from this London band and it’s great to see them becoming more confident and focused. The title track kicks-off in a psychobilly style, complete with a rumbling bassline, screeching guitars and a great thudding drum sound. Second song, the wonderfully titled ‘Daddy, What Did You Do in The Class War’, takes a slower pace to stress the lyrics. ‘Get Thee Behind Me Satan’ adopts a stomping Glam Rock beat to propel a great, catchy tune, while final track ‘Zeros’ hurtles along with an insistent punk rock melody. As I said, it’s all been recorded with a real sense of purpose and gives the impression that the band really know what they want from their songs. Overall, I’d probably compare them to the likes of the Folk Devils or perhaps The Falls’ more rockabilly-influenced moments. I haven’t seen them live for some time, but if this CD is anything to go by, I really should make the effort soon. In the meantime, you really ought to give this a listen (tracks also available via Amazon.)
SMIERC. Godzina Pusta CD (Nikt Nic Nie Wie) Smierc are based in Stockholm, but this album is sung in Polish. Indeed, in many ways it’s meant as a tribute to Polands’ underground punk / hardcore scene during the Nineties and bands such as Post Regiment and Dezerter. Smierc produce a very hard, aggressive sound but it’s not as thrashy as you might expect, with strong guitar riffs forming the basis and female vocals that are sung in a powerful yet clear style. Although the tempos are sometimes reminiscent of the D-beat genre, they remain much more inventive throughout the album and allow for plenty of melodic space. It’s this direction that makes the album stand-out. The band seem to have a desire to create something of their own rather than just fitting into an existing category. My only difficulty is that I have no idea what the lyrics are saying (having no knowledge of Polish) so perhaps a translation would have been interesting. But that’s just me, I suppose, and it certainly doesn’t detract from the overall sound of the record. If you enjoy European punk / hardcore, then this is definitely something that you’ll want to hear.
SOAP GIRLS. Society’s Rejects CD (www.thesoapgirls.com) It’s hard to write anything about this band without mentioning their image. Fronted by two scantily-clad sisters, they do look like runaways from a sex-show and, to be honest, it’s probably caused them as many problems as advantages. Critics will say that they’re doing it as a gimmick whilst conveniently forgetting that men having been going onstage bare-chested or even naked and been lauded as great performers. The fact is if they were all about the image and didn’t have any songs to back it up, then they’d deserve the flak. But, as this album displays, they certainly know how to play some great, catchy rock. Recalling the best moments of Hole, Babes in Toyland and perhaps even Joan Jett, they combine raw energy with catchy pop hooks to deliver some really fine tunes. The title track bops along at an insistent pace before boiling over into its’ infectious chorus. Following quickly on its’ heels ‘Johnny Rotten’ (no relation to Mr Lydon, as far as I can tell) starts with a subdued, alluring intro before launching into the main bulk of the song at a raunchy tempo. Other songs reveal a nice variety of approaches towards the grunge style, showing that they have plenty of ideas to keep the album unpredictable. Even the songs that don’t stand out as much as others, still have plenty of energy and catchy riffs. But you see, here’s the conundrum. This band deserve to be heard, but their image may well detract from their actually musical talents. Undoubtedly, there will be plenty of punters interested in nothing more than what they’re wearing, but listen to this album and you’ll hear that they have some great music to offer. The album ends with ‘Bury Me’ a track that could easily find its’ way onto daytime radio without losing any credibility. The CD includes a couple of bonus tracks, most notably ‘Rather B Dead’, which really captures the spirit of Nirvana’s classic ‘loudquietloud’ approach. This is a fine, very promising album ; get past the controversy and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
THE SPOILERS. Roundabouts LP (Boss Tuneage) This is a UK band who have been steadily improving their brand of melodic punk ever since I first came across them, two or three years ago. The obvious reference point would be Snuff, with whom they’ve toured, but they’ve gradually infused more of their own character and style into proceedings, creating something that’s now a lot more distinct. Elements of US bands, from hardcore through to the less-obvious sounds of Lagwagon or No Use For a Name (not pop-punk but rather punk rock that embraces pop sensibilities) also make their presence known and it’s all presented with plenty of energy and a great, sharp production. Songs like ‘See You Ringside’ and ‘Skimming Stones’ really shine out in their own right, making this an album that you’ll be sure to play again and again. Trust me, this is a band that you really need to keep tabs on, because at this rate they’re going to be recording some real classics very soon.
STEPHEN’S RUIN. Never Too Late CD (Kool Kat Musik) Stephen’s Ruin were originally active in the Mid-Eighties, when they garnered support from support from, amongst others, John Peel, who described their songs as ‘pure pop for now people’. Unsurprisingly, their snappy sound and mix of styles from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies found them popular across Europe, particularly in the underground Mod/ powerpop scene. There’s been a thirty year gap since those days, during which mainman Stephen Leech raised a family and ran a pub, but the band is now back and includes new blood (Stephen’s son, Paul) but presents a new set of catchy, infectious songs that’ll appeal to all of their old fans as well as, I suspect, a whole new audience. 13 new songs, loads of energy and plenty of melody, recalling the likes of Protex, Rudi, and other Peel favourites like The Donkeys and The Quads. This is the kind of classic pop that just doesn’t age – this is as much about the here and now as it is about all of its’ influences. Play this loud, it will make you feel like the world ain’t such a bad place. What else could you want ?
SUGUS. 1995 LP (Monster Zero) Spanish band playing catchy punk rock somewhere inbetween Screeching Weasel and the New Bomb Turks. Having been together for nearly 25 years, this is their fifth album and, as you might expect, they really know what they’re doing. The songs are evenly mixed between English and Spanish vocals so you’re not going to be left wondering what the lyrics are saying too much and, anyway, the tunes are just so insistent that you’re going to be dancing too much to worry about such things. Although the pace is pretty uptempo, they also slow things down at times, adding an almost Dead Boys-style variety to the proceedings. I’m surprised they’re not better known in the UK because this is really catchy stuff and, if you haven’t already heard them, this will be a damn-fine place to start.
SUNSHINE FRISBEE LASERBEAM. Blackout Cowboy LP (By The Time It Gets Dark) A joyous album of quirky, catchy college rock, something like how Pavement may have sounded if they’d ever lived up to the hype (they didn’t.) There are also hints of Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jnr, Sugar and Flop – great bands who wrote fantastic pop songs but also enjoyed turning-up the volume. I get the impression that song-titles like ‘Meatloaf to The Camera’ and ‘Running from My Ghost’ may owe something to Robert Pollards’ lyrical efforts, although musically the comparisons aren’t so obvious (particularly as the vocals are so different.) There’s a few moments that recall the band Unrest, while the final two tracks (‘MK Ultra’ and ‘Mind Control’) suggest an interest in conspiracy theories (although, without a lyric sheet, I am unable to confirm or deny that rumour…) This is a vibrant, enjoyable album that really should have been released in the Summer instead of the depths of Winter, but regardless, anyone with a sense for fun is going to enjoy these songs.
SYSTEM OF HATE. There is No Madness Here LP (Louder Than War) Second album from this Barnsley-based band, delivering a powerful and at times brutal vision of the world around us. The most obvious comparisons will be Killing Joke and Amebix, but there are also less obvious influences coming into play, from the likes of Theatre of Hate, hardcore bands like Poison Idea and even early 80’s punk like GBH. It’s a pretty unrelenting album, definitely not something for the faint-hearted, but it also includes some surprisingly catchy hooks that will draw you in. Lyrically, they use a lot of religious imagery although I’m guessing it’s more as a metaphor for control systems. At times it can come across as quite a bleak outlook but the bands’ intent in delivering this kind of music is positive in itself. They’re doing it because they have to say something about what they see around them and they have to say it bluntly. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy powerful, dramatic music with a point to make, then this is going to be well-worth your investment.
TOMMY AND THE COMMIES. Here Come… LP (Slovenly) A great mix of powerpop, punk and Mod, blastin’ out of your speakers all the way from Ontario, Canada ! Short snappy songs that will perhaps remind you all the way that The Briefs deliver the goods, even though this band are on a different tangent. Eight songs in just over sixteen minutes, so you know they’re not messing around. Get in there, play the tunes and get off the stage before anyone really knows what’s happened ! Early Clash chords collide with the likes of Undertones, Buzzcocks and Exploding Hearts to create a melee of enjoyable melodies. Played with plenty of energy and attitude, I really hope I get to see this band live one day. In the meantime, trust me when I say that this is one platter that your party deserves to hear (loud !)
TV SMITH. Land of The Overdose CD (JKP) The first new album from TV Smith for several years, but it’s been worth the wait. With the current social / political situation more confused and divided than it’s been in decades, we need people who will ask questions and present them in a way that gives us the chance to figure things out, rather than falling for the dishonest, opportunistic pronouncements of chancers like Boris and Farage. This album opens with the excellent ‘No Control’, centred on it’s key phrase, ‘Do you remember when you had a voice ?’ That’s the problem, really. So many people, from different generations and different situations, feel disenfranchised and ignored. ‘You can have the illusion of involvement, but you have no control’. It’s not until you realise that this is the problem that you can begin to build your own solutions. Much of the ensuing album follows on from this… It doesn’t tell you what to do or try to offer shallow solutions, but rather prompts you to take these ideas and make up your own mind. The title-track rails against the way the media force-feeds their images at the cost of real creativity or thought, while ‘Green Zone’ questions the way that consumer-surveillance is gradually monitoring entire lives. ‘No Hope Street’ celebrates the resilience of standing-up for your principles, even if it may be to your detriment, while ‘Never Again Until The Next Time’ talks about following your own conscience regardless of what the majority might accept. Although musically, the album is based around acoustic performance, the overall tone is actually pretty upbeat and accessible, allowing you to enjoy the songs as well as thinking about the words. Released on De Toten Hosen’s ‘JKP’ label, this album should get a much wider distribution and that’s a good thing as songs like these deserve to be, and should be, heard by as many people as possible. It’s a powerful album full of poignant lyrics and catchy songs… don’t miss it !
VOUNA. Vouna CD (Artemisia) Described as ‘Blackened Funeral Doom’, which will no doubt appeal to some people in itself, Vouna is actually a one-woman project, composed by Yianna Bekris, previously a member of such bands as Vradiazei, Eigenlicht and Sadhaka. The music is apparently inspired by the likes of My Dying Bride, East European Black Metal and Greek folk music, which to my ears results in Jarbo (Swans) fronting a gothic metal band. It’s very dramatic and Yianna certainly has a very expressive voice, but I have to be honest and say it’s just not my kind of thing. It’s not without merit, but it’s not something I’d want to hear too often. But if the references that I’ve already mentioned appeal to you, then good luck, you’re probably going to enjoy it.
YAN HART-LEMONNIER. Le Coeur Et La Raison LP (Adaadat) A great album of self-produced electronic music, experimental in a playful, enjoyable way rather than merely producing avant-garde ramblings for the select few. It’s reminiscent of that period just either side of 1980 when synths and more elaborate keyboards were becoming available to a punk-inspired, DIY-enthused group of artists, who took the opportunity to create their own sounds without the pretentiousness that had previously accompanied technology in music. The results were often heard on John Peel’s radio show and, whilst not everything was an instant classic, there was a lot of great results to be heard. Without consciously recreating styles from that era, Yan Hart-Lemmonier takes elements of more recent dance music and the sort of soundtracks you’d relate to a video arcade to create music that’s both highly individual and very enjoyable. It’s not exactly minimal, but the production is kept to the basics, never adding any embellishments that don’t really need to be there and instead of the more linear, serious efforts that all too often serve as representative for electronic music, this album isn’t afraid to leap off in each and every direction, ensuring that it’s never predictable and keeping you on your toes in the meantime. It’s a lot of fun and while it isn’t going to appeal to everyone, if you tackle it with an open mind there’s every chance that you’re going to fall in love with it !
X. Live at L’Amour LP Egg Raid) A superb double album featuring 24 tracks recorded for a radio broadcast in New York, 1983. The band are on fire, blasting through the set as if their lives depended on it. Plenty of older faves like ‘Johnny Hit & Run Pauline’, ‘We’re Desperate’ and ‘Los Angeles’ (of course) but it’s the later songs like ‘The New World’, ‘Breathless’ and ‘Blue Spark’ that really benefit from live performance, sounding so much more vital than their album-versions. For some reason, X never really achieved a wider audience in the UK, but listening to this album it’s really hard to understand why they didn’t become as popular on this side of the Atlantic as they did in the States. Just listen to the stunning version of ‘White Girl’ together with Exenes’ improvised lyrics, and if that doesn’t give you a kick in the eye, then you really don’t have an understanding of rock’n’roll at all.
YOUNG SKULLS. Bomb Train Blues EP (Slovenly) They may feature former members of Trans Am and Chrome Cranks, but this New York three piece seem intent on carving-out their own identity from the very first beat. Noisy, insistent rock’n’roll that keeps the chords down to a minimum, ensures that the drums drive everything along in a suitably head-on fashion, while the vocals screech over the top and the quirky keyboards maintain an eccentric sense of melody. There are so many different hints of different influences that you really need to hear this record yourself to pick your own favourites, but we’re really talking about all the best stuff from the Fifties to the Eighties, whilst firmly planting it right here, right now. As far as I know, this is their first release. If its’ primal energy is anything to go by, I can’t wait to hear the next one !
ZOO ESCAPE Dirty Laundry CD (Still Unbeatable) This band remind me of the kind of bands that John Peel would have played on his radio show circa 1979-80. New Wave / powerpop sounds but with enough idiosyncratic quirks to make the songs stand out. Think of the great singles released by the Good Vibrations label, or bands like TV21 and The Vapors. It’s pop music really, but played with an edge and intent that keeps it different and interesting. Plenty of energy, sometimes restrained to provide contrast, but it’s all there. The album is well-produced and the songs sneak into your consciousness slowly but effectively. This is a band that you may well enjoy, so be sure to give this a listen.
ZU93. Mirror Emperor CD (House of Mythology) A collaboration between Italian band Zu and David Tibet (aka Current 93.) Both bands could probably be referred to as ‘an acquired taste’, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they’ve both produced some very interesting music over the years. Although this album is based mostly around Tibet’s distinctive narrative, the soundtrack-like musical accompaniment is full of subtle surprises. The album opens with a serene, acoustic tone while the following tracks, although superficially on a similar approach, is based around a dirty, repetitive bass riff and gradually builds into genuinely unsettling sounds. Elsewhere, the music almost mimics Tibet’s melodramatic vocal delivery, and other moments delve into the realm of the best Horror move scores. Musically, this owes as much to folk and chamber music as much as the industrial / experimental genres that these musicians are most often identified with. This is an album that works on different levels and can equally demand your total attention or play through as a perfect background. It’s certainly worth your investigation.
V/A DAMAGED GOODS 1988-2018 CD (Damaged Goods Damaged Goods has released so many good records over the last 30 years that it’s not until you see a compilation like this, that you’ll realise just how much they’ve done. The label has never stressed itself out by trying to gain a higher media profile or courting the mainstream, but instead just concentrated on doing what they do well – releasing records by interesting, exciting bands that are always worth checking out. Instead of a normal review, all you really need to know about this 37-track, double-CD collection is the track-list, because if these bands and their songs don’t grab your attention, you’re already a lost cause. However, I don’t have enough space to do this, so let’s just mention the likes of Billy Childish (various bands) Johnny Moped, Thee Spivs, Cyanide Pills, Holly Golightly, Manic Street Preachers, Giuda, Revillos… are you salivating yet ? Whether a diehard fan of the label, or a novice to their operation, this compilation will get you groovin’ in whatever way you enjoy it. Old bands, new bands, great music. That’s all we really need.
V/A. A Very Monotreme Christmas CD (Monotreme) Christmas compilations are not often known for their originality or trying to do things a little more creatively, but this collection is actually a bit different and deserves to be mentioned. The Monotreme label invited some of its’ favourite artists to record new versions of xmas standards. The opening track, Jack Watts’ take of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is perhaps the most straight-forward track on the album, but then Stumbleine’s version of ‘2000 Miles’ is great, a truly off-kilter interpretation with an eerie, almost dreamlike quality. Oliver Spalding tackles a cover of Mud’s hit ‘Lonely This Christmas’ by stripping it down to piano and vocals, removing the showbiz production of the original and replacing it with a real sense of heartbreak. Thee More Shallows deliver a quirky, offbeat and fun version of ‘Santa Baby’, while The Favourite Bench present ‘Little Drummer Boy’ in a dreamy, pop fashion. Finally, Reigns deliver their own song, ‘Melchior’, an instrumental which gently meanders while building-up like a soundtrack to a nice quiet Winter’s evening. Overall, this is a fine little sampler and you ought to give it a listen whenever you get a chance.