Somebody once asked me, in the kind of hushed tone usually reserved for an accusation of some extreme kind of sexual perversion, ‘Are you are a punk denier’? At the time, I didn’t really know what they meant, but I recognised the quote they offered as evidence: from Jon Savage’s (mostly fictional) account of Punk Rock “England’s Dreaming”. I am pretty certain I never gave him an interview, and I don’t know anyone that even knew him, let alone spoke to him in 76/77, but he says I said this:
"That night the Millwall came, smashed the place up and beat everybody up. By that time I wanted to go back to school...anything was better than being involved in something that was straight off the football terraces".
Yeah, well, I was pissed off that my step dad got bottled that night, and had the shit kicked out of him, and that they smashed up both the Roxy Club and our motor, a rather tasty pale blue Cortina. But this didn’t induce me to turn my back on Punk Rock, I had never really turned to it, there was never really a decision to be made, the genre title of Punk was an invention! What drew me to the assembled ranks of social outcasts that people called punks was the very opposite to a need to belong to a movement. Punk to me was the musical equivalent of Outsider Art, it existed beyond the requirements of specification, and this attracted all those alienated by the mainstream’s tendency to remove implied threat by absorbing it into its own mire of mediocrity. It was all about breaking the formula of genre, doing the unexpected, that’s why it embraced the distinctly different, from the X Ray Specs to the Subway Sects & beyond. The disappointing thing is that it became formulaic and predictable, and I’ve ended up arguing the relative merits of Screwdriver with international genrephiles on the internet. You can guess my views.
Anyhow, if I had ever had been that genre fixated I would have probably joined the Glitter Band rather than Eater, perhaps, aged-14, an even more perilous experience than being chased by Millwall fans!
There are still people with a genre fascination that instils an insane and exclusive loyalty to one particular type of music, outlasting the average marriage and inducing otherwise rational people to inflict their buttocks with Iron Maiden tattoos. That’s why when Monsieur Encoule passed me the box of CD’s for my stint as TrakMARX reviewer, I was reassured by its contents. Maybe record reviews are not the right setting for words like cornucopia, but this box was one, a big fat one with two scoops, crushed nuts and a flake!
Billy Childish is a great songwriter, a lyricist whose songs are underpinned by belt-&-braces-ability shot through with a timeless relevance that ensures them instant status as British Rock & Roll standards.
I first heard Walking Off The Map covered by fellow Damaged Goods stable mate, Pete Molinari, as the title track of the album he recorded in the kitchen of Billy’s Chatham home. Pete’s version is sweet, soulful and countrified while Billy’s original is outlaw rock spat out with anger and a pint of rattlesnake venom.
Snack Crack is another stand out track, a commentary on current times sung like an accusatory rant with Mark E Smith vocal overtones. Bemoaning our current instantly accessible, 24-hour, media-hyped, celebrity-obsessed culture. Global, Multi-national sweetie-pushers promote tooth-rotting products to already sugar-addicted obese children, while thousands queue to take the big dipper ride to stardom, and then public vilification via the Big Brother house. It reminded me of some comments from a recent Nick Cave interview, mourning the demystifying effect that the constant demand for contact, information and communication has on everything. Blogging Rock Stars were his particular concern, replacing the traditional aloofness and disregard with almost legally binding visiting rights for the audience. We are seduced into thinking that all things new, accessible, interactive or technological are by necessity good, but with harshly strummed guitar and a snarled vocal we are reminded that without any elaboration some things are essentially good, and, thankfully, resistant to media manufacturing.
The imagery of the Childish world is as uniquely British as the music, aside from the obvious references to the institutions of working class patriotism; it is unashamedly raw with a power derived from its simplicity. This very British lack of complication creates a kind of sophistication that many across the pond struggle to attain without sounding false and affected. The Ramones were an obvious and significant exception to this rule. Billy really means it, man, driven by a desire to make good music, rather than the building of his own status in the cul de sac of celebrity.
I relate to the sentiments that run throughout this album, and the humour and clarity with which Billy presents them. Joe Strummers Grave is both funny and poignant. Amongst all the metaphors for social demise, we are then reminded that despite it all, skinny fat cat, Richard Branson, still looks exactly the same as he did when he signed the Pistols 28-years ago: bearded and woolly, with a wiry waistline – but a forever widening wallet!
Some things never change!!
It’s my album of the issue, so go get some.
There’s a bit of a trend emerging where rhythm instruments are moving to front of stage rather than forming the backdrop to the often less interesting front line. I am all for this reversal of fortunes, having looked at the back of someone’s head for years has led me to fantasize about an all drum project.
Nat Baldwin studied with free-jazz legend Anthony Braxton, and more recently, has been playing with The Dirty Projectors.
This is the first I’ve heard from him, and to begin with, although it is refreshing to hear the double bass to the fore, its Nat’s pleadingly sensitive vocal, reminiscent of a young Marc Bolan on opener, “All That Was”, that has more immediate impact. This album owes a lot to his free jazz roots, but in essence these are songs we are listening to, rather that the sometimes self-indulgent marvelling at instrumental virtuosity that jazz-based improvisations can sometimes become. Nat even proves that standing Double Basses can work effectively as a rock instrument, on the surprisingly heavy last track, Within Walls.
In keeping with the principles of reductionism, the elements here are simple but effective, providing a stable structure for Nat’s significant vocals.
Solo artist, Tara Burke, AKA Fursaxa, combines organ, farfisa, mandolin, balalaika, bells, drums and detuned guitar, with looped multi-tracked vocals that build to rich textural clouds of sound. Released by the pioneers of presenting new musical directions alongside their past forebears, All Tomorrows Parties, Fursaxa’s “Alone In Dark Wood” is the fifth full-length release from this much vaunted artist, with a fan based that includes Thurston Moore and the Acid Mothers Temple.
At first, this album may seem obscure and impenetrable, but closer attention reveals an earthy and essential form of ethereal folkism. Tracks move seamlessly into each other, building to a ritualistic evocation, perhaps of the dark wood of the album’s title. Atmospheric and dense, the layering of sounds form like a canopy overhead, while loops fall away, settling and composting into the sub-soil of the metaphoric forest.
The final two tracks combine what sounds like bent children’s hurdy-gurdy, with eerie synth winds. Vocal loops amass then fade, only to be replaced with loosely strummed guitar and feedback alongside choir-like choruses.
The title-track halfway through is both soothing and meditative, maybe I should grow a beard and seek and alternative lifestyle, where’s that The Locust album, I need some electro shock therapy.
The promotional blurb that comes with this is about as elucidating as the Rosetta Stone if you don’t speak Sanskrit. So I guess that The Locust are American and probably do this for a living.
From the outset, this is full-on, overdriven, cross-mutated metal-punk, with some frenetic Aphex Twin style glitching electronics and tonic clonic drumming with a ticking bass pedal, like a sulphate-driven Brian Chippendale. Singing is regulation throaty shouting and lyrics are actually more obscure than you would expect.
I am not sure if I am enjoying listening to this, and I think it’s because of its jagged relentlessness, and the insistence of the forceful vocal. By track six I was getting used to it, but to be honest I found that listening to the whole thing in one sitting was a little too much.
Although The Havering is a Scottish phrase for talking gibberish or nonsense but the combination of poetry and experimental noise make perfect sense to me. Its no surprise to find out this was recorded as a live session in the studio as this feels like a kind of impromptu improvised art happening.
Tenebrous Mitchell is collaboration between Scottish poet Gerry Mitchell Resonance FM veteran and Tenebrous that features cult photographer Steve Guillick, both parties are building significant personal reputation.
Beginning with the monologue The Nite is Seeping In, the poetry alone is harder to access while the tracks with sound seem to benefit from some mutual reinforcement. Track 2 starts with heavily delayed buzzes, creaking horns and cranking chords entitled Narcotic it replicates the fog of uncertainty and drifting drunkenness described in Michell’s poem. Nightingale is more sung than spoken with ponderously plucked guitar harmonics and rasping bowed cello. The clanking fuzz guitar and whispered vocal of Sludgebound is an interesting contrast.
I like the combination of the spoken word and experimental sound the art work on the sleeve and disc is a kind of primitive folk art.
I feel that I will have to live with this for a while to fully appreciate its qualities but for now I am happy to have had this introduction to both Gerry Mitchell and Steve Guillick’s work.
Blag’ard are raconteurs of reductionist rock, although employing just a single guitar and drums, Guitarist Joe Taylor and drummer Adam Brinson, project a fuller sound than many of the skinny legged, mop headed indie kid bands to whose audiences they will undoubtedly appeal.
I am a supporter of ‘less is more’; I’d have a band with just drummers if left to my own devices, so I am attracted to this minimal set up.
This five song EP peaks at track three ‘Peaches In Cream’, with one of the most inventive guitar riffs I’ve heard for a while, strings like slack elastic bands distort and stagger the tempo while the drums syncopate stutteringly behind a oddly asexual vocal.
There are similarities between Joe Taylor’s voice and Brian Molko of Placebo, but less whiney and with only half the mascara.
This band seem to have concentrated their activities close to their Chapel Hill, NC, USA home but should they come this way they would find a ready audience for their brand of guitar based lo-fi rock. I’d check them out if they ever come near to my country retreat.
It’s the increased mellowing multiplied by age equation that makes me wince at what look like snuff movie shots on the cover of The Rampton Release Date demo, 2 Shovels One Hole. I know that they aren’t for real, but as I relax in my cardigan and slippers with a milky tea, I can’t help thinking that this is a bit gratuitous. I’ve moved on from my own pig head chopping days, and now a quiet night in looking at uplifting or humorous art work on CD covers is my idea of a good time.
Anyhow, all that aside, The Rampton Release Date are much more interesting than the cover suggests, the rough as fuck hardcore punk with the distant megaphone broadcast lyrics combine to create a anxious drone infused with menace. The band has provided a lyric sheet but its better to just listen, as like the tannoy at a civil disturbance, the words become distorted synonyms conveying more as pure noise than as written text.
My favourite was “I Am The Bullet”, with machined double-paced drumming and minimal, but well synchronised, chord progressions.
If you’re a touretting pogo-er, you can jump around a bit to this as well. I tried, but I threw a slipper, and crashed to the ground. It was three days before someone found me, and even then they tripped over all the fucking milk bottles on my doorstep.
This very limited edition demo, only 20 in existence, I own number 10! Three tracks, The Nam, Stay Up All Night, Gotta Go, all recorded on 8-track without the assistance of Phil Spector.
Deadly Long Legs induce the kind of dancing last seen in some 60’s freak out at the UFO Club. With lead singer and guitarist’s, John Cavities, Deer Stalker Hat replacing Syd Barrat’s Mandrax and Vaseline hair pomade as fashion detailing. Even old men with bad hips find the clattering drums of Robin Banks give rise to involuntary twitching and muscle spasms that pass for dancing in the twilight years.
If The Monkees had met The Kinks in Malcolm Maclaren’s Mile End Road Pie and Mash shop and the self-styled punk svengali had magically fused them both with his other new foundlings, The Sex Pie Stalls, an approximation of the Deadly Long Legs vibe would have been achieved. Its punk, garage, surf meets Steptoe and Son, with angular hard-edged chords and twangy Hawaii Five‘O’ guitar licks across a background of fuzzy black and white British eccentricity that both engages and endears the audience.
Of course, the curly topped Art School drop out who liked to tie his legs together never sold Pie and Mash, The Monkees hung up their beanie hats way before 1975 and Deadly Long Legs are entirely original and refreshingly different. The point of this rambling historical distortion is to say that DLL are musical magpies and borrow from at least 3-decades, but the end result remains a unique invention.
You can experience the DLL phenomenon first hand at their support slot to Billy Childish at the Dirty Water Club on May 11th, hair styling by Phil Spector.
Dee Generate – tMx 29 – 04/07