“Back in my garage with my bullshit detector”
Hank Wood & The Hammerheads – ‘Stay Home’ (Toxic State)
The plaudits are already being showered on this record, mostly from the band themselves. If 2011′s debut EP announced the birth of a Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band for the trust fund generation, and debut twelve ‘Go Home’ inverted the Ramones’ sophomore exit strategy to play it safe as milk, then ‘Stay Home’ catches the Hammerheads staring intently into the mirror, man, asking: “does my Hammond organ look big in this?”
With the carbon monoxide making sure it’s effective, ‘Stay Home’ reverses deeper into the garage marked ‘hoary old rock’n’roll’, way past the McNuggets concession, to rest on the Pebbles-dashed forecourt of valet parking. For a band of merry pranksters that allegedly split up back in 2012, reports of the Hammerheads demise are grossly exaggerated.
For those that found the more playful elements of ‘Go Home’ engaging, then pack up your old kit bag and hit the road, Jack, those days are over. This is a serious smash-and-grab raid on the relics cabinet of garage punk past, a play for authenticity-based longevity. There’s none of the mirthful bonhomie of ‘It’s Murder’, ‘My House’ or ‘It’s Hard On The Street’ here. If you dug ‘Snide . . . Pretty . . . Fools’, however, tuck in, there’re ten garments fashioned from similar cloth draped across the sides of ‘Stay Home’.
Personally, my highlights include: the intro to ‘This World Is Beat’, which begins like an excerpt from the soundtrack to ‘Les Revenants’ before returning immediately to type; opener, ‘The Ghost’, the best song here; ‘Nervous City’, with its DNA sourced from the riff to ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’; and ‘Neurosis’, which features the album’s most alluring moments of guitar work in its final 24-seconds. Elsewhere, the Hammond organ is higher and brighter in the mix, the rock’n’roll ‘licks’ are sprinkled generously throughout, and the lyrics are provided to aid those interested in translating Hank’s mumbled threats.
If the Hammerheads percussive elements reminded you of Tommy Hall’s jug on ‘Go Home’, then get ready for more of those Marmite moments on ‘Stay Home’. I’m really not sure if they add or detract from the overall vibe, they do tend to get on my nerves somewhat (‘Shook And Hungry’), but, once you do begin to consider removing either them or Hank’s affected grunt, you have to ask yourself: “how did I get here?” This is not my beautiful home!
If all this sounds like I don’t particularly like Hank Wood & His Hammerheads, I’m sorry. I’ve been living with this record for the past month or so. I’ve played it at volume, on speakers big and small, through headphones, in the house and in the car, but I still can’t shake that niggling feeling of emperor’s new cloths. Many people I respect think this band are the greatest thing since sliced psych-punk-bread, and although I’ve returned to ‘Go Home’ regularly over the last two years, I can’t see myself settling down with ‘Stay Home’ on a permanent basis.
Overall, this feels like an exercise in treading water from a one-trick-pony with a bad boy limp. From the shit-brown cover art to the will-this-do poster, we’ve seen it all before. There have been some brilliant second LPs thus far in 2014: this isn’t one of them.
Don’t believe the hype!
Russian born Mischa Pavlovski has spent time in Sweden, but currently resides in Copenhagen, hence his appearance in this guise on Posh Isolation. ‘Kapitel’ is his debut recording in a psychedelic techno-dub canvas, following formative years in various punk and black metal outfits.
On a twelve inch vinyl pressing of 500 copies, ‘Kapitel’ proffers four slabs of colossal atmospheric import, ambiently poised and expertly composed, with one ear focussing on tension, and the other awash with melody. Dislocated, yet intrinsically connected to biological imperatives, Pavlovski gets under the skin of the listener to infuse their life-blood with psychotropic intent as it pulses through their veins.
Pavlovski began the ‘Kapitel’ project in 2012. His love of electronic music and dub culture had hitherto found little room for expression in the punk rock and black metal scenes he frequented. Embracing the spirit of change, he sought help from friends with the tech-know-how with regard to accessing the means of production. After a period of exploration and experimentation with various software programs, Pavlovski suffered a period of self-doubt regarding his skills in this area of newfound artistic expression, and he almost scrapped plans for the project. Eventually, however, following inspiration taken from the symphony ‘Peter And The Wolf’, by Sergei Prokofiev, Pavlovski found both the confidence and the voice to express himself electronically, and the soundtrack we now embrace as ‘Kapitel’ was born.
Posh Isolation have tended to impress most with their less anticipated releases in 2014: Vanessa Amara‘s ‘Both Of Us’ and Rosen & Spyddet‘s ‘Springet Som Symbol’ for example, but with ‘Kapitel’, Mischa Pavlovski has arguably delivered one of their strongest releases thus far. Highly recommended.
Orden Mundial – ‘Obediencia Debida’ (LVEUM)
In many ways, 2014 has been the year of the follow-up. Twelve months of second-album-appraisal. Three hundred and sixty five days of: “yeah, but is it any better than the first one?”. The vanguards of the current wave of DIY punk/HC are coming of age, experiencing growing pains: developing; progressing; regressing; impressing; depressing. One theory says: ‘their debut is always their best’. Another theory says: ‘punk rock as a genre gives you one shot: make the most of it, then get a proper job’. There are a bunch of theories, as with most abstract concepts, and let’s face it, punk rock is theoretically as abstract as any art form, circa 2014.
Back in the day, when the first wave of UK punk hit the fan, littering debut albums throughout the nation’s streets like discarded flyers, many bands rushed their second albums, desperate to avoid bursting-bubble-syndrome. Consequently, the old guard delivered insipid, watered-down facsimiles of their debuts with a shrug and a ‘will-this-do?’, subsequently ushering in newer waves in the process. This has arguably been the case ever since.
Significantly, this summer has born witness to a rash of sophomore signals, some developmental triumphs, such as Total Control‘s ‘Typical System’, others archetypal regression therapy: I’m thinking Hank Wood And The Hammerheads further reversal into the garage marked ‘hoary old rock’n’roll’ with ‘Stay Home’. Whereas the former pushes envelopes for fun, the latter withdraws inside the safety net of the past, concealing a lack of both options, and, seemingly, ambition, behind a facade of pseudo-classicism.
As one of the most genuinely authentic and integrity-laden of the current crop of raw punk bands (and I include DHK and Maquina Muerta in that pantheon), Mallorca’s Orden Mundial follow their s/t debut twelve from December 2012 with ‘Obediencia Debida’, a ten-track affair on LVEUM.
The first time I heard ‘Orden Mundial’, I instinctively knew this band were unique. Bernat’s utterly intense vocal delivery set them apart as raging outsiders in a world of conformists. Orden Mundial make feral punk rock of seething intensity, shot through with unbridled anger. When I caught up with the band live at JT Soar in March of 2013, they destroyed my hearing and threatened my very sense of balance. Of all the bands I’ve seen live in the past five years or so, that performance remains the pinnacle. By the time Bernat surfaced on guitar for Mexican troupe Maquina Muerta‘s s/t EP later that same year, my relationship with Orden Mundial was bordering on reverential.
‘Obediencia Debida’, then, raises the bar significantly from ‘Orden Mundial’. Where the former had a strictly jam-up-the-faders-and-press-play approach, the latter is an altogether more considered beast. In terms of production, it has values. Sonically, Jaume’s guitar tone is brighter, lighter, yet no less powerful. Bernat’s vocals are set deeper into the mix, but sacrifice none of their angst. Marti’s bass is more prominent, more robust, especial during Jaume’s freeform ‘solo’ excursions, whilst Rafaelito expands his rhythmic repertoire through a wider range of tempos/signatures. In terms of songwriting, ‘Obediencia Debida’ is loftier in almost every respect. Some five minutes longer than its predecessor, both ‘Son Fantasmas’ and ‘Acción Humanitaria’ stray across the three minute mark into no-man’s land. This takes both courage and talent.
Rarely do you hear a punk rock band mature without losing some of what made them punk rock in the first place, but Orden Mundial are the exception to the rule, and ‘Obediencia Debida’ is a work that demands respect beyond its cadre.
Plough Lines hail from Manchester, and I was lucky enough to catch them live supporting Human Hands in Leamington Spa a few months back. That fateful Sunday afternoon they raged against the limitations of equipment/compromised sound to soar above the wreckage like a sonic bird of prey: equal parts tension and majesty, forging a furrow through the ruins of emotional hardcore, transcending the past in search of a future.
Swimming in vaguely the same genre pool as the mighty Human Hands, Plough Lines proffer a welcomed flipside to the hardcore holocaust seemingly dominating much of the UK in 2014. Having waited patiently ever since for the single the quartet mooted that spring afternoon, my week was brightened by the news that said seven is now available to purchase from the Plough Lines’ Bandcamp page. Run along now, you won’t be disappointed:
Not to be confused with Vancouver’s Snob, London’s Snob feature Ellie (Good Throb) on guitar, Ollie (Lich, Family Outing) on drums, John (Skylark) on bass, and relative newcomer, Fran, on vocals. Their 6-track seven comes housed in a hand assembled package that is both functional and quaint.
Sonically, Snob are way darker than their capital-centric contemporaries, Good Throb, Frau or Woolf, although Fran’s vocals aren’t a million miles away from Ellie’s Good Throb voice, in terms of tone and timbre. Although there’s a mess of fuss being made around Frau at the moment, Snob would appear to have the edge when it comes to gravitas. I’ve read the words Rudimentary and Peni elsewhere in close proximity to opinions about Snob’s signature sound, and, granted, the bass does most of the work underneath the smoldering guitars, but the universal truth is that Snob are firmly grounded in 2014, and have little or no relationship with a past that is now merely theoretical.
‘Harassed’ sets the template for ‘Mother’, ‘Send In The Mayor’, ‘Shovelling Idiots’ and ‘Sick Of It’, and can be sampled via the link below. The lyric sheet reveals a vicious streak at the heart of Snob, targets include Boris Johnson, idiots, sexists, OAPs and stalkers. There’s even a song about pissing one’s self, called ‘Piss’:
“Oh, I need to/Oh, God I’m gonna/No! Hold it in/It’s trickling down/It’s trickling down/It’s trickling down my fucking legs/It’s happened/Sweet relief/I’ve pissed myself”
I think we can all relate to that.
If you can’t get down with Snob, you’ve probably got cat shit on your top lip. Tidy.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER