Lemmy Caution’s Guide To Underground Rock & Roll*

Not The Prefects

Lemmy Caution’s Guide To Underground Rock & Roll*

If you are stuck on that grey land mass that ornithologists like to refer to as ‘The British Isles’, and your main source of information regarding popular music comes from one of the many specialised publications available from news-stands across the land, you would be forgiven for assuming that the Arcade Fire album (to pick a name at random from the dartboard) was the only record to have been released in the last 6 months. You may also be of the understanding that wild primitive ass-shakin’ rock & roll and it’s many bastard offspring had a recent revival in the wake of the White Stripes mainstream crossover but has now quietly slipped back into a coma to allow room for a thousand careerist indie guitar bands to tread the boards (as opposed to the thousand careerist garage rock wannabees that directly preceded them). The fact is that true keepers of the rock & roll flame have continued to thrive on the underground from the music’s birth (the date of which we won’t debate here) to the present day. It continues to party on in a secret world of forbidden desire despite being starved of the oxygen of publicity, distribution or viable outlets for it’s performance. Some of the most amazing variants of the rock & roll gene whether it be punk rock, garage-punk, synth-punk, noise or properly terrifying post-punk (not the limp major label take on the Gang Of Four blueprint that is currently sucking the life out of the airwaves) are being made RIGHT FUCKING NOW. If you have any love of 50s raunch, 60s fuzz or 70s snot you should put down that box-set, burn that copy of Mojo and check out some of these exponents of total trash:

The Hipshakes – OK Alright + 2 7” (Slovenly, 2005)

A home-grown rock & roll trio with a combined age of about 45 (which in a sublime piece of synchronicity is also the revolutions per minute of this great 7”), the Hipshakes hail from Sheffield, the same town as press darlings the Arctic Monkeys. On this debut waxing they make their compatriots sound like the drearily competent sub-Shed Seven indie disco fodder they really are. With 1000 times the spunk, energy and attitude the boys race through all 1 minute and 11 seconds of the a-side with true teenage angst wailing about socieetttyyyyyyy and an extremely rudimentary grasp of the beat. Reminiscent of the enthusiasm-above-musicianship inventiveness of DIY 78 groups like the Shapes and early-TVPs as well as speed freak sun studios platters. With the sad demise of the Real Losers, the Hipshakes are the most exciting rock & roll band in the UK right now.

The Magentix – Time After Time b/w Fiend Of Time (Sentenza/Nasty Product 2005)

Picked as a representative of the absolutely vital current French garage-punk scene. I realise if you toe the line of accepted rock crit history it’s common to snigger at the combination of ‘French’ and ‘Rock & Roll’ in the same sentence but you do so at your peril. From the late-70s days of Metal Urbain and the Dogs (or the 60s ye-ye scene for that matter), France has produced some terrific and sonically inventive rockin’ sounds away from the glare of the English-speaking music media. The current crop of bands ranges from brutalist cold wave agitators such as Operation S, Volt and Frustration through to the Fall-like rumblings of Anteenagers MC and the Normals to fucked-up wild one-man band King Automatic. The Magnetix are a girl/boy 2-piece from Bordeaux comprising super-heroine Aggy Somora on a minimal trapset and superhero Looch Vibrato on guitar and organ. The A-side of their latest single features the most demented tremolo-fuzz guitar a la first Cramps singles, topped by a crazed back-from-the-grave vocal drenched in anguish and echo. The flip performs a similar trick with a more revved-up blast through a 77 punk-style tune with the same 50s monster movie FX creating a whole new sub-genre of 3-chord scuzz.

The King Khan & BBQ Show – s/t LP (Goner, 2005)

Without any recourse to hyperbole I will stand by the statement that this was not only the best record released last year, but is also the best record released so far in the 21st century. The reason lies not in the raw and raucous 2-piece banging and strumming captured in perfect gritty-but-powerful sound by DM Bob (though that helps), or in the fact that it could have been recorded at any point in the last 50 years (though this does lend proceedings a timeless quality), or in the fact that main hollerer Mark ‘BBQ’ Sultan possesses an absolutely amazing voice worthy of 60s Stax soul (how many white-boy garage-punk screamers can you say that about?), or even because of the fact that King Khan lays down sizzling but economical guitar parts like he’s the bastard offspring of Scotty Moore and Johnny Thunders (and all of these things combined would already make this a record to be reckoned with). No, the thing that really makes a difference here is SONGS. Yeah, you know, songs that when you first hear you assume must be covers of some old 50s or 60s stuff ‘cos songs don’t sound that classic and instantly memorable in the modern age. Songs that will stick in your head and rattle around for days on end. Songs that you’ll wake up in the morning to, get ready to go out to, cry into your beer at 3 in the morning to, and fall asleep to at night. Songs that you’ll still be playing in 30 years time. You know how “I Walk The Line” is a great song, or “Be My Baby” is a great song, or “Beat On The Brat” is a great song – songs THAT good. I’m not shitting you, at some point in the foreseeable future, as blind and deaf as most music writers and consumers are, this record will be acknowledged as a masterpiece. Check it out for yourself and tell me that I’m wrong.

Sultanas – You’re The One/Move On Now (Boom Boom Of Renton, 2005)

Mischievous pacific-northwest association the Boom Boom Sound Of Renton are responsible for superlative no-fi trash by the likes of Thee Flying Dutchmen (imagine the Mummies bratty younger siblings), the Fe-Fi-Fo Fums (dumb primitive punk rock), their own magazine (Fang Club Digest) and their latest project, sassy girls-in-the-garage vixens the Sultanas. All Boom Boom songs are penned Brill Building-fashion by ace tunesmiths Ladd & Blackwell, and this disc is reminiscent both of ‘66 girl psych-punk as well as later descendents the Delmonas, the Husbands and Thee Headcoatees. Catchy like a cold and liable to cause as many tremors.

Rat Traps – New Flesh + 3 (Shattered, 2006)

Featuring talented teen Jeffrey Novak who has also released many great singles under his One Man Band moniker. From nowheresville in the Southern United States (or Henderson, Tennessee to be more precise), there’s also a connection to regional pop-stars Be Your Own Pet somewhere in the mix. This is a raw-as-fuck aggro-punk assault on the senses, mainlining the Oblivians and an early-Black Flag intensity on tunes like the David Cronenberg-inspired “New Flesh” and the excellently titled “Cunt Eyes”. Scream-until-your-throat-bleeds girl/boy vox wail over 100mph distortion-drenched punk fucking rock. Music to smash up your room to.

The Humans – Warning 7” (Ken Rock, 2005)

Martin Savage is Sweden’s equivalent of Billy Childish, already a veteran of a dozen great rock & roll combos and numerous LPs, and he’s still in his early 20s. This one-off record plays tribute to Atlanta, Georgia’s awesome the Black Lips (whose latest LP ‘Let It Bloom’ is actually available in record shops over here and you should purchase without delay). It’s a more experimental than some of his more straight-ahead bands and all the better for it. Sampled loops, out of control drumming, fuzz guitar and megaphone vocals combine to create a chaotic but compelling mess like hearing the Chocolate Watch Band demolish a Kraftwerk song.

Busy Signals – Love & Dust 7” (Douchemaster)

These sharply dressed guitar slingers from the Windy City produce an instant hit with their debut single on the ever-reliable Douchemaster Records. Snatches of the Boys, the Nuns and the Damned infiltrate their amphetamine-fuelled power pop tunes. A nice rough production that gives this an edge over similar poppy fare, and an irresistible energy that will have you pogoing across your room.

Dean Dirg – The Last Kid On The Block LP (Green Hell, 2004)

This is everything you could possibly want from an LP – 14 short sharp blasts of head shreddin’ raw rockin’ punk rock, and it’s all over so fast I was still reading the lyric sheet when the LP finished! I usually think lyric sheets are a waste of time, but I’m glad the ‘Dirg (as all the hipster punk rock kids no doubt don’t refer to them) included one, so you too can chant along to classics like $8.95 – “I like takin’ things – takin’ things. 8.95 – I won’t pay. 7.95 – I won’t pay. 6.95 – I won’t pay. 5.95 – I won’t pay. 4.95 – I won’t pay. 3.95 – I won’t pay. 2.95 – I won’t pay. 1.95 – I won’t pay. I like takin’ things – takin’ things. Grab n run away. 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 – I won’t pay. 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 – I won’t pay.” Nearest comparison in the nutzoid blitzkrieg stakes would be Henry Fiat’s Open Sore (with whom they recently shared a split – featuring the awesome “Don’t make fun of Henry Fiats maybe they really are retards”) or maybe the Ulcers when they floor it. Recalling hardcore before it descended into metal crossover bullshit and punk when it was revving up to explode. Recorded in suitably shit-fi sound to appeal to the kids in the garage too. Buy this now and pick up the self-titled debut LP whilst you’re at it. Hell, I managed to get in 2 spins of the entire LP whilst I was typing this and I’m a fast typer!

This is just a very small sample of the mountain of wild vinyl out there, swiped pretty much at random from the teetering pile by my dansette. More non-stop hip action next time (maybe). If you want to track down any of these releases I recommend the following fine record vendors, all easily findable with a quick Google:

Yakisakana
P Trash
Sonic Dirt
Ho Distro
Contaminated Records
Underground Medicine

*N.B. The use of ‘&’ in between ‘Rock’ and ‘Roll’ rather than the more common connecting device of ‘n’ is purely intentional and not a mistake as some misguided pedants have felt the need to highlight in the past. The intention here is to emphasise the importance of the ‘Roll’ in relation to the ‘Rock’, something that seems to be sadly lacking in today’s guitar music. Readers with a sense of rhythm will be well aware that without the ‘Roll’ you are left with ‘Rock’ on it’s own, a form of music more commonly associated with aging sweaty men in leather trousers playing very pointy guitars. Whilst there is nothing wrong with the solo-word described form of music, it doesn’t generally, as a genre, produce the kind of songs that girls want to dance to, and to form a sweeping generalisation in a vague effort to sum up my definition of this form of music, if girls don’t want to dance to it - then it’s probably not rock AND roll.

Agent Lemmy Caution – tMx 23 – 03/06
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