TV Smith Not A Bad Day
TV Smith returns with his first LP of new material since 1999s Generation Y. Reunited with Tim Cross (Cast Of Thousands The Adverts) once more, Tim chose to return to Dusseldorf to record Not A Bad Day this time at Black Sheep Studios as opposed to Skyline. The results are impressive. Rounder & fuller in sound than its predecessor Not A Bad Day is another collection of catchy tunes & incisive lyrics - all dressed in Tims husky rasp of a voice (surely one of the tonally & emotively most effective voices to come out of the Punk movement, per se).
There is barely a duff moment on Not A Bad Day. From the restrained stomp of opener, Your Ticket Out Of Here, the cards are dealt for a long hand of quality poker set to last until early dawn. The arrangements are lush without bordering on pompous, the songs up there with the best of his 25 year career - & repeated listens reap just rewards. TV Smith has never provided instant hits investment is the only way to accumulate with Tim youre bound to get it eventually.
The baroque feel of the aforementioned Your Ticket Out Of Here sets a realist agenda theres no room for hearts & flowers. Sugar Crash could be described as a diatribe resentment aimed at the badge of uniformity so many choose to wear these days. Not A Bad Day is resolutely resigned to carrying the fight to the grave - without letting the niggling uncertainty show not even for a second. Soon As I Found It I Lost It deals with the illusive nature of what could possibly be deemed as success it is relative, after all. Driver Or Passenger questions our collective sense of responsibility which one are you? One Million Pounds demands an altruistic approach to wealth surely theres enough to go round? Earthbound charts the eternal journey from the cradle to the grave - with no hint of salvation from the inevitability of it all. For Every Hit Theres A Miss turns the coin from heads to tails - if only to prove that there are always two sides to every story. Swimming In The Flood poetically stems the tide of product that blights our existence with mediocrity & shallowness. Like A Rocket castigates the length of modern societys attention span with alacrity. The Future Used To Be Better has been re-recorded from 2000s Punk Lurex EP & is the lyrical key to TV Smiths worldview: The Punk generation grew up being told how slick & hassle-free the rest of their lives were going to be - but by the time they arrived it was anything but - disillusionment abounds accordingly. The seven-minute closing track, The Revolutions The Same, is the starkest cut on the LP. Nailed to a sub-electro beat & nodding vaguely in the direction of BAD its strangely at odds with the rest of the material here but a brave & valid statement, nonetheless.
Not A Bad Day wryly questions everything weve come to accept as the norm. A catalogue of despair? A resounding: NO. Hope shines through the cyber curtains of our chat-room insularity to inform, educate - & entertain. Acceptance of what is handed down to you without so much as a whimper is only a crime against the self.
Preaching to the converted? Possibly but a familiar lesson is far easier to polarise when youve heard it before (& lets face it there is no such thing as the third way youre either with us or against us).
TV Smith fully deserves his place at what amounts to the animal farm trough of 2003s music industry. Who are you or I to deny him?
Evan Halshaw tMx 12 11/03
The Strokes Room On Fire
I really, really wanted to hate this fucking record nearly as much as Ive come to hate the pig-ugly-fringe-heavy bassist, the beer-gutted-acne-ridden singer, the ex-Supermodel-dating lead guitarist, the same-name-as-me-dad 2cnd fiddle player & the way-too-good-looking-for-his-own-fucking-good drummer.
What the fuck am I so jealous of? Their parents money? The omnipresent hype? Or just the effortlessly casual manner in which they toss off their plucky vignettes?
Some readers will probably remember the unashamed glee with which we greeted their debut long player a mere 18 months or so ago and ask: so whats so different now?
Hanging with Courtney. Recording with Goodrich (and then running back to their mentor like nipple starved babies when it all turns to shit). Fucking Duran Durans women. Catwalks. Awards ceremonies. Image consciousness. Pretentiousness. Pouting. Selling their sex. Part-time punks.
The harsh truth of the matter is far worse than any of the above this record is far too fucking good to hate - & thats a bit of a pisser.
From the arrogant swagger of What Ever Happened, its more than apparent that us haters can only swallow our bile & surf the wave of unstoppable hype on a borrowed board. As early as 46 seconds into the cut (when Valensis strident lead arpeggio slices the track across the jugular & the life blood of the song spurts into your face like the man juice of a porn stud in a come shot) there is absolutely no way any self-effacing rock n roll aficionado is going to resist an aural assault of this stature. Its robust - power to spare the sinewy angst of Is This It replaced with a foot-on-the-monitor assuredness that nonchalantly screams: told you you smug arsed motherfucker. The guitars are harder, the voice lower in the mix the ante has been well & truly upped all we can do is listen - & swoon.
Reptilia holds the pillow onto your face out of spite suffocating you as you writhe & curse your knee jerk genuflection. Succumb to the intense power of the moment this is it.
Automatic Stop stutters into life like a recently drowning puppy - coughing up stale river water & puking out silt like a regurgitated happy meal. Skanking a vaguely reggae-fied back beat & sounding far more implied NYC street-scene than it has any legitimate right to do this is the sound of a sound expanding right in front of your ears.
12:51 could have stepped right out CBGBs toilet (circa 1975) - wiping white powder from its nose & exclaiming: take a look at me now, ma. Featuring Valensis new-fangled is it a guitar?/is it a keyboard? fret technique number one with a single bullet to the back of the head execution stylee.
You Talk Way Too Much is a touch too busy for its oh so restrictive loons - but just about makes it on attitude & delivery alone.
Between Love & Hate instrumentally flirts with altered states like a vague Blondie cut from Plastic Letters. It could possibly be filed under filler if only The Strokes did filler. These boys sure do their homework - & as every good student knows its all in the preparation.
Meet Me In The Bathroom harks back to Is This It - momentarily - until the guitar fill at 48 seconds assures us that simplistic mannerism is a trick of the past for The Strokes. Immediacy has been traded for subtle substance - & its almost impossible to spot the join.
Under Control is The Strokes most mature cut to date. Deftly structured & initially understated if this is a signpost to album number 3 then the signs at the bottom of the teacup suggest that this media circus could run & run after all. The words career & longevity begin to take on an overpowering pertinence never before imaginable. This cut has soul like a Stax box set has soul - & for a bunch of rich white boy poseurs thats no accident.
The Way It Is has got to be the harshest cut The Strokes have yet attempted. Ryan Adams must have shat himself when he heard this despondent in the knowledge that no surplus of quality session musicians is ever going to compensate for lack of chemistry (& karaoke pastiches alone can never make you authentic hey, Ryan?). Chemistry is what makes good rock n roll tick Ryan will just have to settle for tock.
The End Has No End again rocks that fret/key interface to startling effect even recycling a guitar solo from the debut LP without so much as a by your leave - with no hint of a wry smile or a dry eye in the house.
I Cant Win closes the show a matter of minutes earlier than their ultra brief debut - & again - thats no bad thing. By the time The Strokes reach LP number 4 - they should be able to fit it all on an EP.
As XTC rightly said all those years ago: This Is Pop - & theres no place for inverted snobbery in Satans popshop. The Strokes are what they are & we are (for the time being) simply compelled to listen.
As I said from the top I really wanted to hate this LP but that would be far too easy. Living in denial is not living at all. Embrace the sound of rich young Upper Manhattan & leave your prejudices at the door. It really is as simple as that.
The Katestar tMx 12 Nov 2003
The buzz on the streets (oh, all right, the NME) about 22-20s has been eardrum shattering. 3 young men barely out of their teens with a vocational understanding of the blues & 60s R&B surely an oxymoron. Early doors exposure to 05/03 suggests that the Earls of Kings Reach Tower could well have gotten something right. Dismissed by many of the glossy music style monthlies as Grand-dad Rock (ouch) a sure sign that the 22-20s could be capable of going the distance.
Beautifully packaged in minimalist buff card on ltd edit CD & 10 vinyl formats 05/03 is just the sort of quality artefact you want take home to meet your folks after the first date (with absolutely no doubt that you already want to spend the rest of your life with it by your side).
05/03 was recorded live in England in May 2003 (wonder where they got that LP title from?) - & any group that feels confident enough to release a live recording as their inaugural wax outing surely has balls of steel & plenty of metallic spunk to match.
Messers Trimble (gtr), Bartup (bass) & Irving (drums) are ably augmented by Coombes & Williams on keys & Hammond respectively, as they cook up a snarling mess of the blues drenched in atmosphere, ambience & appropriation. The Yardbirds, The Angry Young Them & the garage groups of Lenny Kayes Nuggets axis are signposts that point the way. Thankfully there are no white stripes running through the middle of the 22-20s their lineage is far more than lip service.
The Devil In Me kicks off proceedings with an introductory drum roll & a low-down filthy riff a mutant born from the union of the Buff Medways & The Experience - & raised in glorious isolation.
Im The One saunters into town on the back of a lick worthy of a young Jimmy Page at his most dangerous. Insistent, pounding & almost unnaturally mature for a group so young 22-20s prove that its not where you come from (Lincoln) its where youre at.
Messed Up storms the barricades of traditional R&B spraying tracer fire & molten guitar strings at will. It breaks down after a minute while Martin Trimble tunes his guitar without missing a beat - testament to the professionalism & stagecraft of 22-20s.
Such A Fool is another rug cutting whirlwind of a song powerful, energetic, dextrous & concise. The power of the 22-20s is surely equal to the great power trios of all time with a slavish attention to detail. I dont care how fucking old you are if you dont dig this shit - you dont dig rock n roll.
22 Days stalks the perimeters of the prison yard with a brace of monkeys on its back & a love Jones to boot. Again, the Experience spring to mind rather like a kangaroo on a kango cutting through the pavement below - clean through to the beach beneath.
Closer, a cover of Slim Harpos King Bee, rocks a gargantuan slab of a riff (recently exhumed from its R&B grave given an impromptu short back & sides) all the way to the whorehouse - with enough change left over for a bottle of Jack & a fat cigar. Sliding all over the fret board like a seasoned six string prostitute, Trimble ushers his troops down to the wire one more time for an electric finale of ever mounting tension.
23 minutes & 43 seconds of blues rock n roll 6 cuts of jam splattered magnificence so utterly unfashionable it has to be significant 22-20s: possibly heaven sent.
Fuck Jack White & the horse he rode in on the home of modern blues is just north of the Wash - in ye olde merrie Albion. The 22-20s have a gear or two to spare as they shift through the lower reaches of their transmission. By the time they deliver their studio debut proper they could well have the world at their feet.
Guy Debored tMx 12 11/03
The Wasps Punkryonics
The Wasps were of the class of 77. Formed in East London in 1976, they were regulars at The Roxy, The Vortex, The Marquee & most front line Punk Rock venues. Their debut 45, Teenage Treats, appeared on 4 Play Records (later repressed by Illegal) in November 1977 to critical acclaim & reasonable sales.
Their second 45, Cant Wait Till 78, became a genuine Punk Rock anthem & has been featured on many punk compilations since as a classic example of 1st wave British Punk Rock. Recorded live at The Vortex in late 77, Cant Wait Till 78 brilliantly conveys the sense of urgency & upward mobility that motivated the original scene so effectively.
The Wasps signed to RCA Records in early 1978 & released Rubber Cars as their debut 45 for the label. Big things were forecast for the group they played live on the TV show, Runaround & picked up encouraging reviews wherever they went. Rubber Cars was RCAs biggest selling single in the 1st week of its release!
This promise (sadly) didnt last long legal wrangles & management issues tore the group apart shortly afterwards.
Punkryonics collects all The Wasps recordings together for the first time on CD (along with informative sleeve notes detailing the history of the band & some rare graphics) & is the definitive Wasps collection. Any one interested in the roots of 1st wave UK Punk Rock should own a copy pronto. Its the law.
Contact The Wasps: JLDMUSIC@terra.es
Marquee Smith tMx 12 11/03
Steve Shiffman Tabourino
Steve Shiffman hails from Toronto but now lives & operates in NYC. Formerly of Canandas scariest rock band, 4-Star Movie, Steve now plies his trade backed by his one-man (Pete Hayes) band, Fat Of The Land.
Tabourino is Steve Shiffmans 1st solo offering (self recorded & produced) - a 5-track affair that slips neatly (somewhere) between Steve Albini & Will Oldham in the genre pool. Resolutely no-fi - & all the more admirable because of it - this EP is a genuine wishing well of raw talent.
Big Fat Moon recalls a slo-mo Pavement with a wide screen vision Dry era PJ Harvey (a few octaves lower, obviously) also holds some significance.
Steve-os Alphabet Of Woe is the sound of a narcoleptic struggling to deliver his personal A-Z of relevance drizzled in a vaguely alt.co sauce made from haunting melody, sublime backing vocals & off kilter nuance.
Death In The News Group is vocally close to Malkmus again - but somehow more soulful. A beautiful slice of prime underground art rock at its most eclectic with electric guitars!
Unfortunately For Her hangs in the air like incense evocative & heart warming lyrically adept & structurally succinct the sound of a quality composer in total control of his faculties.
Spanish Fly, a short instrumental interlude, shuts the disc down at roughly 17 minutes duration. As an exercise in self-promotion, Tabourino is an excellent calling card. Highly recommended.
Jean Encoule tMx 12 11/03
My Deaf Audio Night Drive In
Formed in Brighton in 2001, My Deaf Audio deal in hyper melodic slabs of emotive Power Punk with a healthy pop sensibility. Strong songs, deftly delivered, with just the right blend of suss & ambition.
Night Drive In is their debut LP - & its jammed with promise. 11 cuts of jaunty optimism that doesnt take its foot off the pedal for the duration of the journey.
My Deaf Audio have allegedly spent the majority of the last 2 years in the back of a Transit van. Buy this excellent LP today - & help them start saving for a tour bus!
Evan Halshaw tMx 12 11/03
The Lectric Chairs Sparkolounger
The blurb says: file under Lectrifying Rock N Roll - & you know what? they aint far wrong. The Lectric Chairs provide us with 6 raw cuts of punk, rock & roll - with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks - & their heads nowhere near their arseholes.
GST 483 rips it up like Pixies in primetime. Joe Cancer coughs up a monster gob of phlegm coated in nicotine & tar. Janet Weiss (an ode to the US undergrounds favourite alt.drummer??) kicks in on a riff not a million miles away from The Clashs Guns On The Roof (which in itself is not that much further away from the riff to Cant Explain) & promises to treat her real nice should they ever hook up! Down At The Heroin House is rightly down on opiates in a totally humorous manner. Zig Zag Man may or may not be about the legendary Kris Needs (personally, I doubt it. Ed) but who cares it rocks like a wooden horse during an earthquake. Theme From Filthy Asshole winds us up with a 12 bar finale shot through with the kind of electric guitar abuse electric guitars were made for.
Sparkolounger goes out to Joe Strummer say the sleeve notes - & as a tribute, its another fitting testament to the influence of the man. The Lectric Chairs do exactly what they say theyre gonna do. Pull up a chair sit down theyll plug you in.
Johnny Forgotten tMx 12 11/03
Razorlight Rip It Up
Razorlight are trying very hard perhaps too hard. Sure, you can castigate them for sounding like Television (as Encoule does frequently) but its difficult to deny the raw excitement emanating from this their second 45 rpm disc.
Verlaine is in the house again as are Lloyd & the rest of the boys but I shouldnt let that concern you unduly. Rip It Up does what it says on the cover: tears great chunks of Axminster from beneath your feet as you spin/gyrate/pogo/bounce on the spot for the couple of minutes or so of the cuts duration.
The cover attempts to shout: tower blocks, modernism & skew whiff Whistle test stars. The record is pressed in dirty white vinyl - & its a ltd numbered affair. So far so traditionalist - & why not?
Ill hedge my bets until they drop their LP but for the meantime Razorlight that never goes out!
The Katestar tMx 12 11/03
Hamell On Trial Tough Love
NYC troubadour Ed Hamell returns to the fray with the follow-up to the critically appraised Choochtown this time going out on Ani Difrancos Righteous Babe label.
Recorded at various locations (including Doghouse in Oxford with John Leckie, Truckfarm in New Orleans & Manitou in Long Island) as well as in Eds newly installed Bass Mint studio in his Middletown, NYC apartment, Tough Love is 16 cuts of prime-time observational objectivity with the slant definitely inclined towards irony. Often compared to Bill Hicks with Woody Guthries fascist killing machine strapped to his muscular chest, Ed Hamell is a one-man tirade against fakery.
The opening brace of Leckie produced killers (Dont Kill, God questions our hearing, & Halfway, a critique of all things BIZ) will stalk the ears of both the uninitiated & the converted like Mark Chapman outside of the Dakota for some considerable time to come. Hamell defines every weapon in his arsenal on these two tunes alone (& in that sense everything else is a bonus - but in another sense - the rest of the LP could also be viewed as slightly disappointing depending on your age & perspective I guess).
When Destiny Calls employs Eds wife (Linda) & son (Detroit) on backing vox (additional voices) for a tale of drug running dudes & gangland bosses powered by over dubbed fuzzwah excellence. Hail deals with sexual freedom & identity in the face of the omnipresent tide of ignorance that is public opinion - with beauty & grace possibly Hamells most affecting moment to date.
Things dip slightly for the next 3 tracks: 95 South, Downs, All That Was Said - all slip by with nothing of the conviction of the opening 4 cuts. It feels like the autopilot is on or it could just be that maturity aspect kicking in (at the risk of being ageist heaven forbid).
A Little Concerned, Thats All raises the bar once more the electric guitars are present & correct again Difrancos backing vocals add disquiet & edge. Everything & Nothing feels light & throwaway by comparison a rockabilly paced ode to (presumably) wife Linda.
Title track, Tough Love, is a marvellous Waitsian wobble complete with whistling, an almost whispered vocal & a stomping big bass drum worth the admission price alone - as is Dear Pete a hilarious sequence of letters that compromise Pete into one last job so Joe can get paid what hes owed. Hamell at his best doing what only Hamell can.
There Is a God is the 3rd Leckie produced cut another mid-paced rocker with a vaguely spiritual agenda a touch pedestrian to be honest ditto First Date laboured Broocisms, laboured intentions &, surprisingly for Ed Hamell, laboured rhyming. Worry Wart is why we came in the door in the first place taught, wired & edgy - Oughta Go Around is, on the other hand, another candidate for the cutting room floor.
The LP closes with Detroit moving advice for a future grown son the kind of legacy wed all leave for our kids in a perfect world but Ed Hamell doesnt live in a perfect world - & nor do we so fuck us? Right? Wrong. Who cares/gives a fuck?
Ed Hamell cares gives a fuck too. His integrity & honesty cannot be brought into question only his definition of the word brevity. Tough Love is at least 6 songs too long. Dedicated, as it is, to the memory of Joe Strummer (& what isnt this year? Ed) maybe this is Eds shot at London (NYC) Calling maybe the vinyl version is a double LP maybe the guy should have exercised a little self restraint - given us 30 odd minutes to savour instead of 45 minutes (with over 10 minutes staring off into space with a wandering mind).
Tough Love tough on love, tough on the causes of love. There is a third way after all (if you discount the Mercury Poisoning years & count Eds Not Dead Hamell Comes Alive) but as with most third ways the odd bore or two will tag along for the ride.
Evan Halshaw tMx 13 11/03
Peter Dizozza Songs Of The Golf Wars
Cinema 7/Olive Juice Music
Songs Of The Golf Wars in an extremely intriguing proposition. The Golf Wars is a musical play script & songs written by Dizozza recorded here with Major Matt Mason USA & his Olive Juice pals as: The Songs Of The Golf Wars.
Like a marginally more introverted Magnetic Fields Dizzoza not only works predominantly with keyboards - but also embraces the notion of the pop song as a big show tune. The carefully annotated sleeve notes leave us in no doubt that a higher level of intelligence than is usually attributed to pop musicians has been employed during the making of this record. Eccentric, eclectic, fiercely individualistic the words could well have been specially commissioned for the work of Peter Dizzoa.
I found it (almost) impossible to digest Songs Of The Golf War as anything other than a complete whole. Singling out any one track above another would be a massive disservice to every other track present on this wonderful disc (contrarily, having said that: Living In Freedom, Forests Of Neurosis & Take Me, Love did capture a small portion of my heart from the very first listen).
Tracks 15 to 25 contain Shipping The Satellite a live performance from 1999 featuring trakMARX favourite, Jeffery Lewis, amongst the assembled host of performers.
NYC & Olive Juice have announced yet another remarkable talent - & Mr Merritt would be strongly advised to watch his back.
Evan Halshaw tMx 13 11/03
My Red Cell Shes Leaving
Fellow Welsh noizeniks (?!) My Red Cell deliver their much talked-up debut slab of 7 blood red vinyl amidst a hail of saliva drenched expectation. Anyone who caught these young (& were talking average age 8!) upstarts on the NME sponsored tour (we only went for Hang On The Box & some Red Tape issuing bastard decided to hold back their visas. No, pro-hacks not their company account credit cards the bits of paper that allow them to visit & play shows!) will already know that the singer/gtr has a crap Mohawk (Rule 17 of the Rock N Roll Handbook Harper Collins £17.99 clearly states that it is illegal for anyone with curly hair to attempt to rock a Mohawk) & a tendency to play the jnr budding gtr hero with little or no encouragement.
That said, Shes Leaving is a perfunctory debut that owes as much to early Wonderstuff as it does to any implied wackiness (no matter how hard they might imply otherwise). The revolution is over (if it ever begun)! Meet the new boss same as the old boss. Tamer than Paddington Bear!
Evan Halshaw tMx 12
Ludes She Was Just A Girl/Your Dog Dont Bark
Double Dragon Muisc
Ludes skank-stomp their way through this pairing of 60s garage inflected slights like The Coral with slightly bigger balls. Jaunty melodies buzz along sweat-rusted strings like theyre falling down The Stairs. The Ska Revival (2004) threatens to mug the listener at any moment (& if their dread-locked ear muff wearing drummer ever gets his way that may be sooner than youd hoped). Live, the 5-man Ludes would love to think theyve got some kind of a future - judging by the tailored suit jackets, the Knights Of The Cooper Templar Clause haircuts & scarves (I shit you not. Scarves, by their very nature, were just not designed to be cool! Right fashion victims?).
Ludes are waiting for the world to catch up with them (or so theyd like to think). The world, on the other hand, has seen it all before - & will casually cross a crowded street to avoid them.
Evan Halshaw tMx 12 11/03
Girly Freak Show Demo
Girly Freak Show hail from LA & are basically a vehicle for loudmouthed actress turned singer Wendy Latta. Their 4-track demo landed in the tMx Bunker today fresh from the sunshine - & we dutifully felt obliged to justify the postage costs with a review if nothing else.
After reading the attached press pack I tried very hard to hear the influences of Hole (arghh), L7 (help), The Runaways (thats more like it), Bow Wow Wow (excuse me?), The Raincoats (now your taking the piss) & The Distillers (now that I can understand: ambitious, easily excitable, casting couch experience) but sadly heard none. I can only question the hearing skills of Smother Magazine, Rikks Punk Reviews, Sleazegrinder.com, Best Female Musicians & Joyzine Magazine respectively.
What I did hear was:
My Boyfriend - a sluggish mishmash of Ramones gtr, Blondie organ & bubblegum surf that tries very hard to push the right buttons but misses by a hairs breadth.
Too Fat - even more Ramones-esque apart from the vocals, obviously that just about stands up on its own (with help).
You Cant Leave Me which makes us very glad were not stepping out with Wendy - & offers a scary insight into the dark recesses of her mind (thank fuck she has no idea where we live!).
Rain Song which concludes business by making the elementary mistake of believing that the addition of mournful strings can turn a pigs ear into a silk purse. Im sure shell learn this along with many other important lessons as she defines her sound further.
In the meantime if girl-fronted punk rock lite is your bag why not check out Wendys link.
The Katestar tMx 12 11/03
Seachanges debut EP offers 3 variations on The Cure circa Three Imaginary Boys (with added violin) - & 1 piss-poor acoustic lament.
The title track, Glitterball, drags its fragile bones over persistently trebled-to-fuck geetar strummage whilst only just forgetting to write a song in the process.
To Stay Or Move is far better a faintly glorious strung-out elegy stuffed full of 79/80 angst & atmosphere.
House Of Leaves is the key moment here, however (ironically I began reading the very same titled Mark Z Danielewski novel the night before this arrived in the post. Coincidence? Spooky? If you know the book of which I speak - youll understand) a scratchy spectre of a song rendered all the more effective by Seachanges best-realised arrangement of the EP.
Killing Time might as well have been titled Filling Space.
Note to group: introspective warbling is best saved until after youve made it. Im telling you. OK?
Marquee Smith tMx 12 11/03
If you want to purchase any of the releases reviewed here go to a record shop.
Buddy Dion tMx 12 11/03