Monday, 27 April 2009

I don't feel very well...

Back in 1991, while Jello Biafra sang the best track from this e.p.'s refrain (Tumor Circus was a short lived collaboration between Biafra, Steel Pole Bath Tub and Grong Grong [wonder what happened to them?]), we all sang along. Now the lyrics to 'Swine Flu' seem a little more poignant.

But the culprit behind the outbreak of Tumor Circus's 'Swine Flu' is a cat, and despite all the conspiracies that we have all no doubt been reading and hearing about both in and out of the media, cats have not been seriously discussed in connection to the recent outbreak of an apparent deadly disease that is winging its way to your very neighbourhood.

But hey, don't fear.

For as Biafra goes on to assure us, everything in the news is exaggerated and mediated to the point where all is sensationalised ('Take Me Back or I'll Drown Our Dog'). The fear is ratcheted up, attempting to make us all scared shitless - scared to go outside, scared of each other, scared of the unknown and scared of the unseen - so we all sit eagerly around the propaganda machines waiting for someone (Brown, Obama, Bono, Moby...) to save us from that nasty, horrible, spiteful world.

'Fireball' is an existential response to such a seemingly corrupt and unfriendly place - I mean, if everyone's out to get you, why should you give a shit about anybody else, right...? 'So it goes.'

Tumor Circus e.p. (1991)

Take Me Back or I'll Kill Our Dog
Swine Flu

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
Inoculate yourself here

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Lepisma saccharina

If Jimmy Page and John Bonham had been born twenty years later than they were, and if they'd been speed heads and not ones for the Charles and champers, then Zeppelin may well have sounded like Silverfish.

There's something very Zeppelin about Silverfish, right from the beginning of this album their sound is massive; bombastic, and brimming with energy.

In reality Fuzz plays nothing like Page; there's no blistering lengthy solos, and there's certainly no 'Dazed and Confused'. No it's the way in which the songs are arranged and structured that creates the comparison with the rock gods; and the drums, well, they're definitely dead Bonzo.

I loved this band.
They were the noisiest band around.
They always played a good show, and would rattle around in your head for a good week after you'd seen them.

Fat Axl, released between the T.F.A. and Fucking Drivin' or What? e.p.s, was Silverfish's first full length album release.
As a representation of their sound it's pretty good. It's always a problem to capture the dynamism and energy of Bands like Silverfish (who were essentially live acts) in the confines of the studio; but this is a fair attempt, and sounds just about as live as you can get on a studio album; little overdubbing and plenty of whine and fizz.

Silverfish - Fat Axl (1991)

Pink and Lovely
Fat Painted Carcass
Harry Butcher
Shit Out Of Luck
White Lines
Two Marines
Baby Baby Baby
Ich Bin Ein-Schaften Trouser

Immaculate vinyl rip @320kbs
Hear what the speed freaks did to 'White Lines' here

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

'Any Spare Change?'

During that difficult time the Butthole Surfers found themselves in at the beginning of the nineteen-nineties, it allowed for individual elements to pursue their own disparate ideas.

Paul went off and made his wonderful The History of Dogs; Gibby and Jeff created Digital Dump; Jeff wandering even further alone, forming Daddy Long Head; and King Coffey began the independent record label Trance Syndicate, releasing artists such as Roky Erikson, , ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead, and Coffey's own band: Drain.

It seemed to take a while for Coffey to get going with his own musical project, after a tentative single ('A Black Fist') the first Drain L.P. turned up in 1992, Trance Syndicate's eleventh release (TR11).

There was an immediate buzz around the band due to the track 'Instant Hippie' (sic) receiving a fair amount of air play, both in the UK and in the States; hopefully it attracted people to the album, because the rest of it sounded pretty different; adopting a much darker tone and mood.

Along with 'Instant Hippie' (a track that features one of the best spoken word outros ever), the other reasonably radio-friendly track: 'Crawfish', were both produced by the best set of ears on the block: Butch Vig; but it's also noticeable how those two tracks really do stand out; showing how an engineer can have such an influence on the sound it's easy to see them as a legitimate part of the band. Maybe George Martin had a point.

(Was Vig the fourth member of Nirvana? Or was that Albini? Or Endino? Depends what sound you prefer, I guess.)

Now considered a classic of the post-rock genre, Pick Up Heaven has travelled well; and stands up alongside many of today's stoner, sludge and grindcore releases.

Drain - Pick Up Heaven (1992)

National Anthem
Martyr's Road
Non Compis Mentis
Funeral Pyre
Ozark Monkey Chant
Instant Hippie
Flower Mound
Every Secret Thing
The Ballad of Miss Tony Fisher

Vinyl rip @320kbs
A little crackly during the quiet bits - but there's not too many of those...
Get yourself some Drainage here

Friday, 17 April 2009

My Best Friend

At one time, new bands would release singles and then go on to produce an album.
Belle and Sebastian did it all round the wrong way, producing two albums before they cut this, 'Dog on Wheels', their first single.

Gaining reputation from their album releases, Tigermilk and If You're Feeling Sinister, both released in 1996, 'Dog on Wheels' sold well, entering the British top 100 (#59) and doing somewhat better in John Peel's 1997 Festive 50 (#12).

The tracks here, like many of the band's early songs, concentrate on teen angst - the dog on wheels becoming the perfect 'vehicle' or symbol of absolute innocence - but there was always elements of bathos and irony in their lyrics - or at least that's the way I heard them.

Despite being released in 97, the tracks are spare, simply constructed, and were apparently recorded before the expansion of the band that went on to record Sinister and The Boy With the Arab Strap.

It is a sound I much prefer, and for me Arab Strap just about cut it; after that, well, they were another band...

Belle and Sebastian - Dog On Wheels (1997)

Dog On Wheels
The State I Am In
String Bean Jean
Belle and Sebastian

CD rip, artwork included
If you missed it first time around, grab it here

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Good King John

Originally broadcast in 1978 to showcase the freshly recorded album One World, this Old Grey Whistle Test concert was recently reshown by the BBC in memoriam to the late John Martyn.

The performance at London's Collegiate Theatre captured him at his peak; hot and full of enthusiasm for his new songs, his performance was truly remarkable, and the tracks reproduced from One World are outstanding.

The ethereal 'Small Hours', a song described by Chris Blackwell, head of Island Records, as one of the greatest pieces of music ever recorded, is superbly executed; but the real stand out track is an energetic and gutsy rendition of 'Big Muff', revealing a remarkable picking ability and a masterful control of the non-user friendly echoplex.

John Martyn didn't need a band to support him, although he liked to play with one, allowing him, as he stated, 'to change the textures; create different moods'.
But essentially he could it all by himself, as this quirky performance proved.

John Martyn - Live at Collegiate Theatre, London, January 10th, 1978

May You Never
Small Hours
Certain Surprise
Couldn't Love You More
Big Muff

Audio rip from DVD @320kbs here
This performance has now been released on DVD by the BBC, so if this whets your wotsit...

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Catch A Fire

The One Love Concert that took place in the National Stadium, Kingston, Jamaica in 1978 is remembered for the iconic moment Bob Marley forced Michael Manley and Edward Seaga, the two opposing leaders of rival factions fighting (literally) to take power over the island, to smile at one another and shake each other's hand before a capacity audience and more importantly the clicks and flashes of the world's media.

Another political action took place at the now famous concert, but it was an act that was conveniently forgotten, inadvertently displaced by Marley's act of symbolic 'harmony'.

For before The Wailers even took to the stage, Manley and Seaga who were seated a few seats away from each other in the front row, suffered the wrath of Peter Tosh, who was appearing with his own band, having left The Wailers in 1974.
Tosh lambasted the two political rivals with what Lloyd Bradley described in his excellent book Bass Culture as 'molten rage'.

Tosh then pulled out a spliff, or as he referred to it, 'one lickle draw of blood claat 'erb', and proceeded to fire it up.
'While the politicians literally squirmed in severe embarrassment, the massed ranks of police officers seethed with fury.'

Marley's moment was crystallised, shown around the world, and Bob went on to become the first 'Third-World Superstar' and one of music's greatest unit shifters.

Tosh's moment was very nearly obliterated.
It revealed his belligerent and subversive edge (record companies also suffered his wrath), and it almost certainly lead to his consequential arrest a couple of months later, where he was held in custody on a possession charge and apparently 'beaten into unconsciousness' by Kingston police.

It seemed Tosh was destined to follow in the manicured enormity of his one time musical collaborator - Bob cast a massive shadow, and Tosh rarely managed to break out into the light.

Even when The Glimmer Twins paid homage, Bush Doctor couldn't rival the sales of Exodus or Kaya.
(Mick Jagger sings a vocal duet with Tosh on the album's opener, a cover of the Smokey Robinson song '(You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back'.
Keith Richards adds some slight guitar to the mighty 'Bush Doctor' and the honorable 'Stand Firm'.)

Tosh's insistent evangelism (celebrating cannabis was one thing, but celebrating god...) with the inclusion of deeply spiritual songs didn't necessarily appeal to the breadth of the potential Western market.

But Tosh stood firm. He was a man of principles and he stuck to them.
For that he should be celebrated.

Peter Tosh! Jah-Rastafari!

Peter Tosh - Bush Doctor (1978)

(You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back
Pull Myself Up
I'm The Toughest
Soon Come
Moses - The Prophet
Bush Doctor
Stand Firm
Dem Ha Fe Get A Beatin'

Immaculate cassette rip @320kbs
Let Peter light you up here

Sunday, 12 April 2009

...five, six

I never really got Jonathan Richman.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I've always admired him and been a big fan of his music; but I never really understood where he was coming from; I never really knew how to take him.

It seems I wasn't alone.

Here's a passage from Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces capturing Richman in his very early days:

Richman surfaced around 1970, performing as someone you'd never notice if he weren't standing on a stage making you watch; his themes were traditional, but with an overlay of moment-to-moment, quotidian realism that made the traditional odd. He sang about standing in line at the Bank, falling in love with the teller (or maybe just feeling sorry for her, trying to decide if he'd rather be the teller or the person waiting for her to raise her eyes and not see who she was looking at). He sang about hating hippies, because they wore attitudes like shades, so complete in their smugness, so complete they never noticed anything, because they cut themselves off from everything that was good and alive and wonderful about the modern world.

Richman's music did not sound quite sane. When I went to see him play in 1972, his band - The Modern Lovers, which is what he's always called whatever band he's playing with - was on stage; nothing was happening. For some reason I noticed a pudgy boy with short hair wandering through the sparse crowd, dressed in blue jeans and a white t-shirt on which was printed, in pencil, "I LOVE MY LIFE". Then he climbed up and played the most shattering guitar I'd ever heard. "I think this is great," said the person next to me. "Or is it terrible?"

Playing and performing live was what Richman was all about.

It didn't matter where. A student bar, a field in Cornwall or London's Subterranea Club, when he played live life was sweet, innocent and fun.

We cheered when he got down on all fours and became the existence threatened dinosaur; we clapped when he tore round the stage with his arms outstretched being the little airplane, lips a blur with propeller sounds; we cheered in nostalgic reverence of the ice cream man; and we all did the sand dance to 'Egyptian Reggae'.

Whether it was to be taken with irony, sarcasm, distraction or sincerity didn't seem to matter; like a cheeky toddler, Jonathan could get away with it.
He could certainly be accused of ideological incorrectness and sometimes didn't seem very 'cool'; but he was easily forgiven, and was soon banging out a blinding piece of rock n roll, a heartfelt love song or another absurdist masterpiece about yetis, aliens or monsters or whatever...

The Modern Lovers - Live (1977)

I'm a Little Airplane
Hey There Little Insect
Egyptian Reggae
Ice Cream Man
I'm a Little Dinosaur
My Little Kookenhaken
South American Folk Song
New England
The Morning of Our lives

Excellent Cassette rip @320kbs
Grab a copy of this very deleted album here

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Literary Punks

There has always been plenty of writers who wannabe rock stars, the Beats however, kind of were rock stars before rock stars had been properly invented.
What with their obscene poetry and their vulgar prose; their drug taking, their sexual exploits, and their insistence on describing all others as 'squares'; punk seemed a suitable bedfellow.

But Ginsberg was essentially a blues man.
He spoke like a blues man, he looked like a blues man.
Yet Punk, like William Blake, must have spoken to him; and his response was 'Birdbrain'.

Released in 1981, this 7" 33⅓ single reveals Ginsberg in a Jello Biafra mood rather than one akin to Dylan.

The Gluons nicely chug along in a Hawkwindesque kind of way, supplying harmonised 'Birdbrain[s]' as a refrain; but they are really just a backing band and the tune only exists to allow Ginsberg to speak, shout, debunk and pontificate to his potential new admirers.

The Gluons reward is the B Side: 'Sue Your Parents'.
It doesn't feature Ginsberg, and suffers enormously as a consequence - sounding like just another generic new wave number.

Allen Ginsberg and the Gluons (1981)

Sue Your Parents

Vinyl rip @320kbs here

Speaking of Hawkwind...

Of course the Deep Fix weren't Hawkwind (but with Nik Turner playing sax they didn't half sound like 'em); Michael Moorcock wasn't Bob Calvert (although he wanted to be); but then when you invent people for a living, reinventing one's self seems a natural progression; for Moorcock, reinventing one's self as a rock star was inevitable.

Adopting a bubble gum style with a space rock edge the two tracks zoom by.
They sound like classics; nuggets from a bygone age, hits from another dimension.
Somehow familiar, but fresh.
Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix (1980)

Dodgem Dude

Vinyl rip @320kbs here

To end this post I thought I'd make available a fascinating little curio; one that concerns the late Tony Wilson and the late Ian Curtis.

A long, long time ago there was a journalist who worked for a magazine called The Face, his name was Nick Kent, and post Ian Curtis's death, Kent, who was interviewing Wilson, supposedly asked Wilson how he felt about the death of Curtis, the singer of Joy Division, a band Wilson managed.
Wilson supposedly answered: "Ian Curtis dying on me was the greatest thing that's happened to my life".
I said 'supposedly' because Wilson claimed he never said it; Kent then admitted that he made it up.
But that didn't stop it being printed in The Face, and many people, especially those who felt particularly empathetic to Curtis, have hated Wilson ever since.

Here is a recording from an experimental arts festival held in London at the beginning of the Nineties (sorry I'm vague - they were vague times...), where Wilson is heard riffing to Kent's original article and morphing the words into a piece of post-modern poetry before a rather subdued and baffled audience.

Situationists, huh!

Tony Wilson - "Ian Curtis dying on me was the greatest thing that's happened to my life"

Cassette rip @320kbs
Single mp3, get it here

Monday, 6 April 2009

These Shoes are made for Whelking

Amongst the many, many bands to emerge out of the post-punk scene, Shoes For Industry were one of the most unfortunate.
For some reason they just didn't make it.
And that's always been a mystery to me; as I feel they were one of the more creative and progressive bands around.
Perhaps it was something to do with the fact that they came from way out west in Bristol (a long while before Bristol would become a city of musical interest) rather than originating from the usual Southern or Northern cities.

Shoes For Industry recorded a single session for the John Peel Show several months before the release of this album on the back of their 45 release 'Falling in Love Again'; but once this album was cut they seemed to disappear completely.

Side One collates an eclectic mix of absurdist numbers ('War of the Potatoes', 'Depilation' and the truly bizarre 'Invasion of the French Boyfriends') blended with some real post-punk classics, such as the brilliantly provocative 'Fear of Wages', and the bombastic 'Shell Shock', equal to anything their slightly closer to London contemporaries, and slightly similar sounding XTC ever put out (a similar sound perhaps, but Shoes For Industry were always a lot darker, and the structure of the songs are more like Cardiacs' numbers).

The flip side begins with a curious gallows humour inspired tale of a knifing.
The dark, realist lyrics are juxtaposed with a jaunty, bouncy melody, taking the song into the realms of a surreal nightmarish vision.

A mini post-punk opera follows entitled 'The Changeling'. And the subject matter moves from nightmare to paranoid delusional trauma; as a concerned parent pleads with goblins not to change their beautiful and healthy 'crap happy nappy chappy' into an insulin dependent 'freak'.

'Devil Dogs' and 'Slave of love' also play a part in the lengthy piece; where the vocals reveal obsessional love, even allowing the object of desire to take another lover; and if she does: 'I'll be your bed'.

So not Tommy then.

Shoes For Industry - Talk Like a Whelk (1980)

War of the Potatoes
Fear of Wages
Invasion of the French Boyfriends
Shell Shock
Violent Stabbing With a Knife
The Changeling: Devil Dogs & Slave of Love
Talk Like a Whelk

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
Wrap your ears round a whelk here

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Colour Me Purple

I was introduced to the music of The Purple Things by Blond Stuart, the nephew of 'Admiral' John Halsey (drummer with The Rutles, Timebox and others).
Blond Stuart (there must have been a glut of Stuarts at the time) introduced me to quite a lot of interesting music, to which I'd like to thank him now:
Thanks, Blond Stuart, wherever you may be.

The Purple Things only existed as a band for a couple of years, but during their brief stay managed to release an album and a couple of excellent extended plays; all now deleted and criminally unobtainable.

Their first lengthy release, the mini-LP Out of the Deep, I feel really captures them at their best.
Full of energy, brimming with enthusiasm and despite the retro psychobilly, garage-punk style it sounds remarkably fresh; in the same way listening to The Monks or The Sonics sounds fresh, mainly due to the lack of manipulation in the recording: when you listen to The Purple Things, you can hear the valves humming.

The stand-out tracks are 'Shadowed Room', with its lengthy gurgly outro; a classic rendition of the old nugget 'Girl I want You'; and the marvellously paced instrumental: 'Theme for the Gunship Reptile', a track that finds its inspiration in the surf genre as much as neo-garage.

Deep in the Mind Of was the band's first release and again relies heavily on the rawness of the live-like sound. The opening track, a confident version of the rockabilly standard 'Wild Man', really marks their territory and pushes an oversized stiff quiff right into your face.
But then they go and challenge the listener's conventional ear, and move about as far away from psychobilly and garage-punk as possible (for a psychobilly, garage-punk band that is) during the track 'Insect Bones and the Astronauts'; a track that starts conventionally enough (well for a psychobilly, garage-punk song at least) but moves towards a more Butthole Surfers kind of sound.

In fact the Butthole Surfers is a good comparison; if you like the more psychobilly styled numbers the Surfers released this may well be worth checking out.
A very English flavoured take on a very American genre; hegemonically speaking of course.

The Purple Things - Out Of the Deep (1986)

Shadowed Room
Girl I want You
Suzie Cream Cheese
Theme For the Gunship Reptile

The Purple Things - Deep in the Mind Of (1985)

Wild Man
Subterranean Cave Mind
Beautiful Red Sky
Insect Bones and the Astronauts

Immaculate cassette rip
Make yourself go all all purple here