Greetings trakMARXists - & a hearty tMx welcome to this issue’s guest reviewer, Barry Island. Barry’s long & often illustrious career in ye olde entertainment industry began way back in 1981, when he briefly managed Coventry’s legendary Ramrods, securing them a double-page spread in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, before finding eventual success of sorts in the mid-80s with his own unique blend of juggling, fire-eating, card trickery, animal husbandry & rock and roll: The Barry Island Rock & Roll Circus.
A decade of prosperity was to follow, as Barry, by now a minor celebrity in many countries behind the Iron Curtain, eventually won the highly coveted L’Age D’Or in 1993, awarded for The Barry Island Rock & Roll Circus’ production of ‘Jesse James On Ice’ at the Krakow Odeon, Poland. Disaster inevitably struck at the lavish awards ceremony at the East Berlin Hilton later that same year, when a visibly inebriated & emotional Barry began verbally abusing the award’s presenter, Mr Neil Kinnock. A fracas ensued that resulted in Barry being stripped of his award & banned from putting on a circus anywhere within a 666-kilometer radius of St Petersburg, effectively ending his circus career. With mounting debts & a severe bout of dysentery going through the sea lions, Barry was left with no alternative but to sell up & head back to Blighty.
As his remaining liquid assets slowly dried up, Barry’s liver began to swell & crack as he entered the early stages of cirrhosis. Barry was no longer expelling toxins – his only friends were halitosis & dyspepsia. Disgrace, however, soon turned to desperation - & Barry began his long-term association with the British Liver Trust, performing as a freelance magician for the Round Table to help raise awareness of Hepatitis C in primary schools.
Throughout most of the 90s & early 00s, Barry worked tirelessly, mostly for food & shelter, pulling rabbits out of hats, making bottles of whiskey disappear ‘just-like-that’ - & popping down to A&E to get his dressings changed. Despite his lifelong ‘battle-against-the-bottle’ - with a sidebar of self-mutilation issues to go – Barry is now working once again - at WH Smith Do It All in Coventry - & is keen to put the past behind him & ‘start all over again’, just like John Lennon & Yoko Ono! Who are we to deny him?
trakMARXists, without further ado, I give you: Barry Island.
Jean Encoule – tMx 28 – 02/07
Single Of The Issue:
This Et Al – “Of National Importance” (Cargo Records)
New Yorkshire may well now languish in the overspill bin at EMap’s Regional Concepts Dept – but that doesn’t stop This Et Al from making records to match the hype – however belatedly. “Of National Importance” is taken from the group’s heroically impressive debut LP, “Baby Machine”, & threatens to kick down the doors of perception in the name of substance over banality:
“You pushed too far & now you’re pushing daisies This is not an opinion, this is common sense”
Forget the sounds-a-bit-like-so-and-so-on-acid bullshit. Fuck the imagine-Chas-&-Dave-jamming-with-Crass-in-anarchy-heaven bollocks. This Et Al are one of the very few British groups out there right now with a sense of their own identity - & for that they deserve – nee demand – your undivided attention.
This Et Al are taking over. You’ve been told!
Errors – “Salut France” (Rock Action)
Errors capitalise on the success of their stonkingly ace “How Clean Is Your Acid House?” EP by further broadening & developing their signature sound. “Salut France” boasts a reconstituted bottom end of magnified bass grumble, sumptuous keyboard aktion & some neat flourishes of Kraftwerk shaped jiggery pokery - whilst “Maeve Binchy” utilises a lilting vocodered vocal to make a not-unconvincing melodic case for future chart domination. Both cuts slot in at just under the 3-minute mark, proving Errors are well conversant with the maxim ‘I learnt more from a 3-minute record than I ever learnt at school’. Buy on sight!
The Whip – “Muzzle No. 1” (Southern Fried Records)
This arrived sans press release - so all I can tell you is that The Whip hail from Manchester – which, as I’m sure I need not remind you, already has so much to answer for! Much of this aforementioned history is stitched into the very fabric of The Whip’s sound: musically there are nods to both the Mondays & New Order – vocally there are traces of Ian Brown & Liam Gallagher. Detractors may call it stealing – I’m sure The Whip would call it accessing their heritage to free up the vibe In The City! 4-songs later, there are no welt marks across my back. If The Whip are banking on taking their place in the Sub-Dom market, they’re going to have to work on the domination aspect - because on the strength of “Muzzle No.1”, they’re nothing but substitutes.
The Bazookas – “Naughty Boy” (Demo)
The song-writing force behind the Bazookas – Jasper Ward & Jon Edwards - hail from Derby - & with the County topping the Championship, pushing hard for promotion, surely the time is right for the Bazookas to step up a league? On the strength of at least 3 of the 4-slabs of self-promoted rock & roll aktion showcased here (power ballad, “How Long Must I Wait”, being the Bernard Matthews of the flock!) I wouldn’t bet against it. The songs are strong, the instrumentation powerful & well executed throughout. A bolt-on association with the legendary Kim Fowley only ups the ante further (depending on your take on Mr Fowley, one presumes!).
The Vivians – “Divided We Stand” (Demo)
Not to be outdone by the Bazookas in the old-timer patronage dept, Edinburgh’s The Vivians wheel out Lee Black Childers as testament to their projected brilliance. And why not? What The Vivians lack in fidelity, they more than make up for in pure passion alone. “Divided We Stand” even outdoes the Pigeon Detectives in the ‘sounding-a-bit-like-Rudi’ stakes! And that’s a compliment. The Vivian’s could be the new Skids! I can just imagine Damon DeVille presenting The Culture Show in 2027!
Miss 45 – “Miss 45” (No Talent Records)
Hang on a minute – scrub the above! Note to The Bazookas & The Vivians: give up! Miss 45 piss all over you. From a great height! I just remembered rock & roll radio! That’s right – it’s supposed to sound exciting – isn’t it? “High Healed Bitches”, “Everything’s More Fun When You Are High”, “I Don’t Care”, “Don’t Wanna Be Like That” – even the titles win hands down. “Give Em Enough Rope” era Clash knocking out Ramones songs with Johnny Thunders on guitar. There you go – something to encourage a bit of hyperbole – something to get your teeth into. Where the fuck are messers Fowley & Childers when you need them. Those dudes are backing the wrong horse. Miss 45 are the perfect blend of Jesse Malin & The Star Spangles. Now that’s what I call rock and fucking roll!
Voltage Union – “On Your Marks” (Dance To The Radio)
The Pigeon Detectives continue to cut a swathe through the new release pile this issue – Voltage Union are their support group - & “On Your Marks” could well be seen as a case of jobs for the boys. Of course, no one that cynical works here, so let’s just call it ‘not very interesting’ - & leave it at that.
Sky Larkin – “One Of Two” (Dance To The Radio)
Not sure about that moniker. For some reason it makes me think of posh boys called Edward getting TV-extra work because they used to live next door to David Jason. And shouldn’t it be Larkin’? There is a ‘g’ missing, after all. Funnily enough, we’ve just had Dance To The Radio on the phone following an audit of their petty cash tin - & guess what? There is a ‘g’ missing – presumably the £1000 of utterly wasted money it took to record “One Of Two”.
The Total Drop – “Your Excellency”/”Altitude” (Snakes & Ladders)
In terms of ascendancy in the Independent Hurdles (Over 3-miles), Snakes & Ladders are currently eclipsing Dance To The Radio at each individual jump. The Total Drop, you see, have everything Voltage Union & Sky Larkin (‘) so obviously lack. I guess that’s the difference between invocation & desperation. Struggling to make your mark is a hell of a lot easier than turning your admittedly impressively printed business cards into chart entries, after all. Meanwhile, back at the plot: The Total Drop have it in spades. Whatever the fuck it actually is? At the end of the race, “Altitude” is the true winners-enclosure-occupier here: a spangle-powered scuzz-pop gem of considerable charm!
Unexploded Shells – “Made In The Same City As You” (Demo)
The city in question is, not unsurprisingly, Leeds . . . wait, come back! Unexploded Shells feature one-time tMx scribe, Tom Goodhand - & in the spirit of convivial nepotism - we have no choice but to review it favourably! Formed in late 2004, Unexploded Shells have been grafting out a reputation of sorts around their local environs, supporting prestigious headliners, self-pressing up copies of their demos - & generally getting a bit feisty! Sounding not unlike a blend of the Big W’s – Wire & Wreckless Eric – Unexploded Shells are more than comfortable being themselves - & seem to have very little ambition to be anything else. That, in itself, should be applauded: three cheers for individuality - Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Armstrong – “RE:invent The Scene” (Organic Records)
The press release cites My Chemical Romance & Panic! At The Disco as button-badges Armstrong would be proud to share a teenage lapel with. If only it were that simple! By track-2, Armstrong have already dropped the emo schtick & seem to be desperate to adopt a more Queen-based overview. Maybe they just got a copy of the new My Chemical Romance LP & fancied copying that too!
Telly – “aW, MUM THEY MADE ME rEAD” (hitBACK)
Telly come from all over the world – literally: Australia, Cologne & London. Allegedly it took 8-months to arrange their first rehearsal! When you consider that Telly are made up from bits of Scaramanga Six, Mikrofish & Spearmint – that’s hardly a shocker! “aW, MUM THEY MADE ME rEAD” is exactly the skewered pop behemoth you’d expect from the ingredients involved – with a chorus as big as an ice-continent drifting ever-Southward - & in a perfect universe, would be number one for 8-consecutive decades. Prefab Sprout with a sense of humour & some state of the art equipment, anyone?
International Trust – “Bruce Lee” (Organic Records)
“Bruce Lee” is a pisstake - & for that I am eternally grateful. Too many serious dudes lurking behind the filing cabinets adjusting their eyeliner this month! International Trust make a watertight case for the belated induction of Serious Drinking into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. My favourite bit is the Rotten-roll-of-the-RRRs on ‘rich & famous’ at the end. Mildly diverting!
Ben Marwood/Heartwear Process – “Hold Your Breath”/”Swallow My Tooth” (Broken Tail Records)
Broken Tail Records give good press release - & these days, that’s half the battle. Apparently, Ben Marwood has been helping Frank Turner tidy up his kitchen recently - & also intends to double his age from 25-years-of-age to 50-years-of-age – therefore enabling his bid to float himself on the stock market in competition with Green Day & the Chilli Peppers in the name of middle-aged-market-domination. Good times! Heartware Process, on the other hand, have been ‘compressing the darker elements of their world’ in the eternal pursuit of their unique vision of passionate & disturbing music for post-modern neuvo-romantics! Bad times! Ben Marwood is a troubadour with a mildly affecting suitcase full of his own kind of blues. Heartware Process still think its cutting edge to cite The Fall as an influence. Can you see a pattern developing here?
The Pigeon Detectives – “Romantic Type” (Dance To The Radio)
Hold up there, hepcats – it’s no good – you can’t clutch this to your chest & shout ‘mine, all mine!’ a second longer. The word is out. Even Zane Lowe’s caught up! Apparently, The Pigeon Detectives are going to be massive - & why not, pop pickers? “Romantic Type” perfects the lad’s Rudi impression way past derivative - & moves on to embrace the chart-topping sensibilities of – ooooh - the Undertones? With an abundance of guitar sounds lifted wholesale from “London Calling”, the riff to “Police & Thieves” & a proper chorus bolted on, The Pigeon Detectives time is NOW! When you consieder that the Undertones & the Clash were big fridge-hoovering buddies, it all starts to make sense (ahem!). Just think, they could be this week’s, yawn (excuse me!), The View! If only they had the expertise, experience & guidance of ‘the-man-who-invented-the-Libertines’, James Endeacote . . .
Sometree – “Hands And Arrows” (Dance To The Radio)
Quality mournful-populism from Germany’s Sometree. Taken from their 3rd LP – “Bending The Willow” – “Hands & Arrows” has been mixed by none other than Gordon Raphael, producer of The Strokes & instigator of The Great Garage Scare Of 2000. Sounding not unlike a genetic splicing of early Radiohead & Editors, things begin to get real interesting in the Petri dish around 2.36 when the Bragg-esque horns ram home the insistent melody with some panache. Rousing, eloquent & powerful in equal measure.
The Maple State – “Joanna” (High Voltage)
I’ve just faithfully read the press release - twice - & dutifully listened to this for the fourth time on the bounce - but I’m damned if I can find any reference to either The Smiths or Bloc Party. Hang on a minute, I’ll read that again (talk amongst yourselves!). Let’s give it another spin (bear with me!). I can hear plenty of late-period XTC - & annoyingly – a touch of the Johnny Borrells in the vocal department – but resolutely NO Smiths & NO Bloc Party. Which begs the question . . . no, really . . . is it about what you imply? – or what you apply? Just for the record, The Maple State have a weak & ineffectual lead singer & poor grasp of the term ‘gorgeous indie/rock’. Apart from that, they’re gonna be massive!
!Forward, Russia! – “Don’t Be A Doctor” (Dance To The Radio)
Everyone’s favourite agit-progsters return with the previously unreleased “Don’t Be A Doctor”. Recorded on the eve of their late-2006 US Tour with Paul Tipler at the controls once again - & with a running time of over 7-minutes - “Don’t Be A Doctor” has epic written all over it. Broodier than a henhouse full of diseased poultry, Tom’s voice repeatedly attempts to out-falsetto Justin Hawkins whilst Whiskas, Rob & Katie live out their At The Drive In fantasies behind him. Tense. Nervous. Headache. The doctor will see you now.
LP Of The Issue:
Jesu – “Conqueror” (Hydra Head)
Justin Broadrick is a living legend: one time member of Napalm Death, erstwhile leader of Birmingham’s industrial rock titans, Godflesh - & now, with Jesu - purveyor of post-rock-populism!
“Conqueror” - Jesu’s sophomore LP - arrives on the back of much critical praise for their “Silver EP” (2006) which saw the group expand their humble heaviness to embrace a pop sensibility further developed & expanded here. From the LP’s opening title-track, it’s blatantly obvious that something a touch special is in effect here: the sprightly funeral pace, the muscle-bound rising riff, the hushed vocals (part Jason Spaceman, part Grant wassiface out of Feeder – Oi – you fucking snob, come back, don’t you know it’s rude to turn your back on someone in the middle of a review!), the spectral harmonica, the fuzzed-perfection-jangle of it all. Swoon!
Things soon take a turn for the Killing Joke on “Old Year” – but in a nice way, you understand (circa “Turn To Red” EP) – there’s no growling – no references to Armageddon – no scary blokes in weird make up shouting “eighties”! Hurrah! “Transfigure” further bolsters Jesu’s claim for greatness – subtly drips from it’s every pore. Metal purists may well be appalled. Post-rockers would probably wipe the vocals at mix-down. Volcanic Tongue will probably say, “Do we stock that kind of thing? I’m not sure, I’ll just check!”
The epic “Weightless & Horizontal” forms “Conqueror’s” central theme. Unfortunately, for those of you pining for a return to “Songs Of Love & Hate”, you’d do better reading up on Red House Painters:
“Try not to lose yourself . . .”
“Medicine” riffs things up a bit – like track-2, side-2 always should. The guitars twinkle-twinkle, the organs fill the void - & Justin plops one of “Conqueror’s” most endearing melodies on the top like a cherry on a fondant fancy. Elsewhere, “Brighteyes” – probably not a tribute to the song-wrting efficacy of Paul Simon – or an ode to Justin’s childhood pet rabbit, Snowy (slaughtered during a particularly bloody fox-hutch-interface in a freezing Yardley back-garden sometime in the late-70s?) – maintains pace & course with dedication, “Mother Earth” spins eternally on it’s riff axis - & closer, “Stanlow”, proves the rule of thumb: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
As the songs fall by the ears, one by one, in one & out of the other, they began to infuse your brain with a broader understanding of the concept at work here - & Broadrick’s vision becomes ever clearer. “Conqueror” slowly reveals itself – one listen at a time – gradually becoming more than the sum of its parts. The first great LP of 2007 has landed. You know the drill!
trakMARX - Justin, firstly, congratulations on dropping the first truly great LP of 2007. How's it going & what are you up to?
JB – “Thank you very much! It’s going stressfully at the moment! I and the rest of the band are awaiting the solidification of our work permits for the first U.S. tour for jesu; a tour that has already begun unfortunately... besides this, I am completing the mixes for a split with the band BATTLE OF MICE for the label Robotic Empire, I am currently on the 22nd mix of the lead song for this split 12" and CD EP release! And it’s fuckin’ killing me!”
trakMARX - Considering the extremities of your career thus far, what do you make of luddite criticism of the commercial aspects of "Conqueror"?
JB – “I couldn’t care less! Maybe this record isn’t for these people and they should quite possibly just stick to my back catalogue and leave it there... I want jesu to be heard and enjoyed for what it is; I don’t wish my past to be considered with this music, its inevitable it will be, but I more appreciate the criticisms of those coming to this with fresh ears, I’ve moved on and am doing purely what I wish to do without compromise, if it appears commercial, then so be it. I love all music, so I do not care if its popular music or not; I have no agenda with my own listening tastes, and I pity those that do, to be honest...”
trakMARX - "Conqueror" contains (to these ears, anyhow) traces of Killing Joke, Spacemen 3/Spiritualized - & - please forgive me - Feeder! Is that in any way a succinct summery of influence?
JB – “Feeder?!!! Ha-ha, I barely know their music, to be honest. The early Killing Joke records are always an influence on my work; they’ve left an indelible mark upon my song writing since I was around 12! The first Killing Joke album, for me, is one of the important records of all time! Spacemen 3 are particularly a favourite of mine, Spiritualized, somewhat less so, but I’ve always love certain songs, especially the more choral style songs... Bailterspace are a big influence on jesu, as are My Bloody Valentine, clearly. Husker Du is a huge influence, too, along with Red House Painters, Big Star, Aphex Twin, the who and so on and on and on.....”
trakMARX - What are you hopes & fears surrounding the release of "Conqueror"?
JB – “I fear not making this tour of U.S, on time!!!! This tour is very important for getting 'Conqueror' out there...I hope this record can finally reach a new audience beyond my Godflesh worshipping audience of old...”
trakMARX - Where next for Jesu?
JB – “We have a lot of releases on the horizon; a few splits, the one I mentioned with Battle Of Mice, and a split on both Temporary Residence and Hydra head between jesu and ELUVIUM. There are 2 new jesu EPs in the pipeline for later this year, similar to 'Silver' in length - and both with 4-songs a piece. I have an album of 'private' jesu recordings being released through our website only in ltd edition vinyl - and CD for later this year, These are very disparate recordings which haven’t suited any of the releases conceptually so far....”
trakMARX - And finally, as a fellow Brummie, I have to ask: Villain or Bluenose?
JB – “Ha-ha, don’t care for football at all anymore, nor do I live in Birmingham, well, for over 14-years I haven’t! But, as a kid, I was a supporter of Villa - but did float to Blues at one point, too! Ridiculous, eh?”
Jean Encoule – tMx 28 – 02/07
Air Formation – “Daylight Storms” (Club AC30)
Brighton’s Air Formation drop their 3rd LP to rapturous applause. Recorded over the summer of 2006 with Pat Collier (Vibrators) - & mixed by Bongwater head honcho, Kramer – “Daylight Storms” is album of glacial scope. Like Nick Drake fronting Mogwai, Air Formation would appear to have the perfect relationship with both spectral beauty & imposing atmospherics. Copping a few slithers of shrapnel from Flying Saucer Attack, Explosions In The Sky & Mono doesn’t hurt their cause, either. “Cold Morning”, “I Can’t Remember Waking Up”, “Adrift”, “The Dark Has Fallen” – all slither by in a fuzzy haze of melody – one almost indistinguishable from the other – such is the completeness of “Daylight Storms”. If you’ve ever wondered what the Red Sparowes would sound like with vocals, Air Formation will give you a fair idea. Highly recommended.
Vayizaku – “It Begins” (Self-released)
Albert Kahn is Vayizaku - Vayizaku (pronounced vah-yee-zah-koo) means ‘to call out’ in Hebrew - & “It Begins” is the group’s debut self-released LP.
Operating out of Pennington, New Jersey, Albert served his time in several groups on the local circuit - but has since struggled to find suitable musicians with a shared definition of the word ‘continuity’. Obviously no quitter, Albert wasn’t going to let a stupid thing like missing bass players or drummers get in the way of his vision - & has instead done what any self-respecting Punk would do in a similar situation: done it all himself.
As far as “It Begins” is concerned, that means every instrument & every vocal! Regardless of the quality of content – you have to admire his raw industriousness. Content-wise, Albert sets his stall out in Pop-Punk-with-social-awareness territory, with nods to all the usual suspects. As with anything of this nature, some of it works & some it doesn’t. Sometimes working alone produces clarity of vision – others times it causes nothing but confusion. It’s an old cliché, granted, but the more ears involved in any musical project, the better! I’ve always believed that the very dynamic of any truly invigorating rock & roll outfit – regardless of genre - comes from the exchange of ideas & energy between its members – without that, what does it take to it’s audience?
With the scores on the doors complete, “It Begins” is a perfectly serviceable representation of its genre. What it lacks in atmosphere & storytelling skills will develop with time – but more importantly - your support & interest. Albert has a myspace site - so there’s no excuse for not dropping by to check out how he’s getting on & giving him some encouragement.
The Scaramanga Six – “The Dance Of Death” (Wrath)
The ubiquitous Six ride into town once again to deliver their 4th long-player. As you are probably aware by now, The Scaramanga Six have never been called Runcorn Parva in a previous life, never shared a stage with The Automatic, never worn a t-shirt emblazoned with the word Zeitgeist, never been in a riot - but most definitely do know how to write a riotous press release.
“Dance Of Death” captures a further 10-sky-scraping -exercises in ‘evil pop-bastardry’ (their words) – with additional pomposity provided this time out by guest drummer, Anthony Sargeant (‘borrowed’ from a Queen tribute band for exactly that purpose!). The pace is frenetic throughout, the sarcasm withering, the songs as expansive & ambitious as ever. On “The Dance Of Death”, the Scaramangas sound wound up to the point of apoplexy - & it shows.
Throughout it all, the group’s love of Bowie, Pulp & all things suave are wrapped around the core of this record like a favourite old scarf encasing a soar throat on a particularly chilly winter’s morning. Look after The Scaramanga Six for me – pop round & see them from time to time – ring up a bit more often – let them know you care – or before you know it they’ll be gone - & you’ll be sorry. You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry!
Just for the record: my favourite track is “Lifeblood Running Dry”. My favourite colour is claret - & when I grow up I want to work with children & animals!
V/A - “On The Bone Compilation – Number One” (On The Bone Records)
Leeds: guitars won’t work without them – unless you’re Angus Young! I’m sorry, I’ll come in again. Leeds: the Venice Of The North – whadaya mean there aren’t that many canals? Leeds: going down, going down, going down. Huh? That’s what you think! Nothing could be further from the truth - & On The Bone Records are here to prove otherwise.
On The Bone Records – formed off the back of Leeds On The Bone nights upstairs above the Packhorse by James Brown (not that one!) & Tom Goodhand (yes, that one!) - have painstakingly assembled this collection of Yorkshire ne’er-do-wells for your edification & entertainment - & what a sparkling addition to the V/A cannon it most undoubtedly is.
The superb Downdime kick off proceedings with “Easy Go Easy Gone” & cement the promise shown by their debut 45, “Seeds Of Hopelessness”. Mother Vulpine offer shades of angry young Morrissey. Smokers Die Younger utilize a classic Joy Division bass line to alter the gender of Life Without Buildings. This Et Al provide further evidence of their impending rise to greatness. The Lodger post another affecting aural blog with “Let’s Make A Pact”. All reasons alone to justify the price of admission!
Elsewhere, the pop-bastardry of The Scaramanga Six nestles alongside the nu-trad-folk of Benjamin Wetherill & Fran Rodgers, the intelligent pop of The Acutes, the haunting laptop-tronica of worriedaboutsatan, the fragile introspection of Mickey Charbagz’ incredible “Fuckabilty” & the uncatagorisable mentalism of It Takes Bridges & That Fucking Tank.
Much like Angular’s classic series of compilations, On The Bone offers listeners the kind of informed overview of the underground that religiously listening to Zane Lowe simply doesn’t offer. Get down & get with the programme – history in unfolding in front of your ears!
Angel Racing Food – “Arf” (Topplers)
Angel Racing Food – for those of you with your heads stuck up your arses – are the latest incarnation of Jowe Head (Swell Maps) – aided & abetted by Jeffery Bloom (TV Personalities) & Lee McFadden (ATV). “Arf” collates 11-slabs of ‘eccentric mutant-rock’ for the discerning listener: “Ravenous Scavenger”, “Butcher Shop Lassie”, “Clockwork Sparrows”, “Ketchup Money” - even the song-titles have a personality of their own. Standout cuts include the group’s classic debut 45 – “Venus Big Foot” - & the aforementioned “Clockwork Sparrows”. It may well be nigh on 30-years since “A Trip To Marineville” lit the blue touch paper that launched the post-punk DIY explosion – but that doesn’t mean that “Arf” can’t stand next to it shoulder to shoulder. In many ways, Topplers & their ilk are the Rough Trades of the noughties - & while their inspiration struggles to contemplate life without Sanctuary’s (rapidly evaporating) money – The Topplers of this world carry one regardless. Love not lucre. It’s never been about the money, you see?
William C Harrington – “Urban Electronic Music” (Angry Vegan Records)
Experimental artist William C Harrington hails from Yonkers, NYC. University trained in composition, performance, electronic & prepared piano techniques, Harrington has also worked with Frank Zappa. “Urban Electronic Music” is his first full length outing – constructed from his 30-year-old archive of analogue, digital, traditional & found sounds - & comprises 14-cuts of avant-garde trickery & experimentalism. Atmospheric & compelling, “Urban Electronic Music” is an art riot from top to tail. Harrington augments the electronics with sax, guitar, bugles & bells that shimmer in & out of the mix. Intelligent design! Those of you with a healthy interest in this kind of gear would be well advised to pop along to the link below & make your own mind up as to how you’d attempt to describe it to others. Dancing to architecture, indeed!
Cradle Of Smurf – “Cradle Of Smurf” (Tes Fesses Records)
Busting out of Strasbourg, France, come electronic- terror-popsters, Cradle Of Smurf: Julie Pierrejean, Olivier Panizza (Cheveu) & Samir Amazouz. The second full-length release from Tes Fesses - the same people who brought you the messianic Cheveu & the partially unhinged Crack Und Ultra Eczema – “Cradle Of Smurf” is as eccentric as it is addictive. In much the same way French cinema tends to piss all over it’s UK counterpart, Cradle Of Smurf do likewise in aural fashion: urinating from the speakers to drown what passes for experimentalism around these parts in hot piss! 11-flavours of weird – all in one tin (including a cover of Beat Happening’s “Look Around”). It doesn’t really matter what you & I think, at the end of the day. Cradle Of Smurf really don’t give a fuck about our opinions – they’re far too busy doing it for themselves!
Manicured Noise – “Northern Stories 1978/80” (Caroline True Records)
If you’re one of those bores that’s been hacking away at the coalface these past few years, goggles akimbo, broken test tubes littering the floor beneath your slipper-clad-feet, pipe at a jaunty angle, rakishly struggling to weld the word ‘funk’ to the word ‘punk’, then you’ll doubtless view “Northern Stories 1978/80” as justification for these ill-advised actions. To the rest of us, however, the words Paul and Morely are still very much anathema, even after all these years.
If your idea of dangerous can be defined by two words: Talking Heads – then Manicured Noise could well be the Northern beat combo for you. If you’re also impressed by connections to Flowers Of Romance & give two-fucks what Siouxsie & Severin think – then, bingo-hand-job! Manicured Noise ARE the Northern beat combo for you! If, like the rest of us, however, you think “Moscow 1980” sounds like Madness - & that Simon Reynolds has more to answer for than Manchester & Paul Morely put together – then avoid this like the pox!
Barry Island – tMx 28 – 11/06
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