Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Space Man in New York

This makes for a nice compliment to the previous post, for here is Gilli’s old man chewing on the cud that was punk rock.

Punk was relatively kind to Daevid Allen, and he along with many of the creative elements satelliting around him, produced an acceptable form of hippy-shit that was welcomed and embraced by the new attitudes and ideologies that were inspiring and motivating the yoof.

After all, here was a character who had been actively taking part in and promoting through art and music the ideas of anarchy, chaos, guerrilla art and doing things for yourself – in the most subversive way, of course - for years.

As a consequence, Allen didn’t have to radically change, either musically or ideologically, to adapt to the new trends (notice the shortened hair and the leather jacket he is wearing on the album’s cover); in fact, the end of the seventies could be seen as a time of rebirth for his art; and being reborn, Allen felt the need to say hello to everybody; in his own inimitable way of course:

'Greetings Aliens greeting Humanoids greetings No Body ANY Body EVERY body Some body WHO CARES Whether you Stare look away clap cheer split jeer who cares wot you wear wot the style of your HAIR or if you listen what you hear – doesn’t matter – you’ll pick us up anyway Greetings Gong Freeks lunatics Oil sheiks nuke leak politics esoteric power cliques TRUTH SEEKERS Now turn the OTHER CHEEK – No time – there is NO TIME – greetings big city wet dream QUEENS with pilled UP shrilled out forked tongue PUNKS getting force fed day GLO agro robot rock n roll clone wild bionic stare and PLASTIC HAIR there is no time. Greetings sleepers workers drivelling shrinks and stoned berserkers mutants narcs and psychodelik blimps spaced out in parks like soppy hippys trying not to be too FLIPPY FLOPPY. Greetings creeps and sheep and SHIT shovelling SMACK grovelling DOPERS COKERS nose drapers and hash smokers UN-REAL DEALERS UN-CLEAN speilers SQUEALERS healers scene stealers

The references in the opening preface obviously refer to New York, as does the album’s title, and indeed that is where the recording takes place.
Allen carries on with the hip contextual referencing in the next track, informing the listener that he really does know what’s been going on, namedropping Teenage Jesus, Pere Ubu, James Chance as well as CBGBs.

Bill Laswell joins Allen on this album, and his experience and superlative technique really does add something to the sound; helping not only to update it, but giving it a punky, spiky edge, allowing it to slot nicely in to the turn of the decade’s zeitgeist.

This album readily tapped into the late-seventies New York vibe, but it’s not sycophantic; and despite the punkiness of much of its sound, Allen remains slightly aloof, recognising that fashions come and fashions go, and in reality it’s all about conviction and authenticity; not clothes, not hair, not words.

The only instrumental track on the album, 'Materialism', is a wonderful piece; Laswell showing his chops, busily playing a repeated pattern on bass in a King Crimson, Frippertronics kind of way allowing Allen to masterfully noodle over the top, reminding everybody that he could really do it – very Allan Holdsworth!

I have referred to this album as if it is Allen’s, as if it’s a solo album, and despite the fact that it has Gong in its title, a solo album is essentially what it is.
I think it’s his best.
In the main, it still sounds fresh and vital.
And due to Allen’s idiosyncrasy and eccentricity, About Time floats free of the period in which it was made; shrugging off many of the genre trappings so many artists found attractive at that time; succeeding in a way that a lot of music from this time just hasn’t.

New York Gong - About Time (1980)

Much Too Old
Black September
Strong Woman
I Am A Freud
O My Photograph
Jungle Window
Hours Gone

Quality vinyl rip @320kbs
Visit New York from outta space here

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Mother of Invention

The first solo album from the Gong matriarch and adorner of magical hats is what any Gong head would have expected and hoped for: that kind of spooky yet sexy space whisper; cosmic ambience; a fusion of rock, jazz, psyche and folk, and lyrics and poetry that move, provoke and conjure up all manner of worlds and images that makes your brain wonder whether something or other may have been slipped into that last cup of tea you recently imbibed.

Mother has a split personality.
Some tracks evoke, unsurprisingly, the Gong band in full flight; with many of the planet’s inhabitants taking up residence on 'Shakti Yoni', 'Time of the Goddess', and 'OK, Man, This is Your World'.

'Prostitute Poem' has Gilli going back to her performance roots and reciting poetry over a trippy, ambient soundscape.
As a piece of poetry I really do consider it to be up there amongst those by Rossetti, Plath and Atwood; and the additional psychedelic accompaniment takes the feminist discourse into another dimension.

'Next Time Ragtime' is a series of gags about reincarnation: this time, next time kind of thing, allowing Smyth and her collaborator and lover Daevid Allen to have a giggle; but as soon as they draw you in and you begin to relax, Smyth performs one of those just stumbled across a corpse like screams, which rattles every neuron.

If you are feeling a little sensitive or angsty, I recommend only listening to this album if you’re somewhat masochistic in your hedonistic pursuits.

There are some dazzling pieces of ambient music here and some of it distinctly creepy, well able to raise a hair or two.
The multi-tracked baby cries heard on 'Back to the Womb' very nearly start me lactating!

But it does have a happy ending; finishing with the telling of a story, 'Taliesin', a fairy tale.
Could it be played to the little ones?
Of course it should.
Maybe if kids were encouraged or allowed to engage with magical narratives a little more in school, rather than being confronted with such tosh as I’ve Got a New Daddy or Mummy’s Got to have an Operation, they may remain being kids a bit longer.

And as for us old folk.
Well, put the cans on, lean back, close your eyes, and allow Gilli Smyth’s wonderful words and voice to really take you out of yourself.

You know you’re worth it.

Gilli Smyth - Mother (1978)

I am a Fool
Back to the Womb
Shakti Yoni
Keep the Children Free
Prostitute Poem
OK, Man, This is Your World
Next Time Ragtime
Time of the Goddess

Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
If burning, remove pauses for best effect.
Mother yourself here

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Unerstan Me Mahn?

Once coined the voice of Jamaica, Ini Kamoze was one of the last of the Island Records’ reggae successes.

Lyrical, playful, sassy, spiritual and smart, this kind of reggae is something you just don’t get anymore, which is a real shame; as evident here, this is essential listening: beautifully performed, wonderfully mixed and absolutely life affirming; which ain’t a bad thing to tune into every now and again.

Kamoze’s voice is something else. Immediately distinctive; it soars, bird-like; possessing a spiritual quality as well as being provocative and even a little bit cheeky.

Often, and this is my failing not his, I have absolutely no idea what he’s singing about; but his voice, the noises, the sound he makes, is infectious, his exuberance is viral, and I’m soon readily singing along; my vocal reduced to mere onomatopoeic vowel accompaniment.

Bit like singing along with Nirvana.

The music and production on 1983’s album Statement was created by the very capable hands and ears of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare; and their great understanding of and excellence in this genre really shines on this album.

No other reggae outfit could have been more apt in supporting Kamoze’s brilliant vocal delivery than Sly and Robbie: the true masters of the reggae rhythm section; and they showcase Kamoze’s voice in a way that it truly deserves; making this one of Island’s true masterpiece albums; and a real classic of Jamaican reggae.

The album as a whole is flawless, but the standout tracks for me are 'Live a Little Love', 'England Be Nice' and 'Taxi For Me'.
'Taxi For Me' is one of those tracks that some reggae artists do so well; essentially an autobiographical song about the recording of the song they are singing.
Toasters and MCs used to do this a lot, Lee Perry and U-Roy come to mind, but Kamoze’s lyrics are really smart and satirical, almost self-deprecating:

Call a taxi for me
Get it on the double it’s emergency
Break red light and speed limit, man
I’ve got a session at the Island, boy

The bonus tracks here come from a four track white label test pressing for Kamoze’s first mini LP, released a year before Statement.
The songs, again with Sly and Robbie, are more pared down in construction than those on Statement; and being lengthier they have the space to include more dub, really benefiting and emphasising Kamoze’s vocal prowess; his voice definitely sounding at its best when accompanied by nothing more than bass and drum.

O yeah, and a reverb unit – but that goes without saying…

Ini Kamoze - Statement (1984)

Settle With Me
Babylon Babylon
I Want It Atal
Jump For Jah
Call the Police
Taxi For Me
England Be Nice
Live a Little Love

Bonus Tracks:
Selected from Mini LP Ini Kamoze (1983)

World a Music
Wings With Me
Hai Mi Idri

Both are quality vinyl rips @320kbs.
Gain all here

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Papa's got a brand new head

Yet another Butthole Surfers’ related band, Daddy Longhead were among a whole plethora of projects to emerge from the seemingly difficult environment of being in the Butthole Surfers in the early nineteen-nineties.

Bass player Jeff Pinkus - who had already wandered from the Surfers’ camp, tempted by Gibby Haynes into creating the Jackofficers’ Digital Dump - got together with Learyesque guitarist Jimbo Younge and Scratch Acid, Ministry and Rapeman drummer Rey Wisham to form the hard-rocking, Surfers-like, Texan psyche trio.

This album, Daddy Longhead's first, is a real mother of a Butthole Surfers' album the Surfers never made.
The similarities are distinct and obvious; and there’s nothing at all wrong with that!

Younge manages to squeeze as many notes as is humanly possible to every bar, making for a frantic and breathless pace to much of Cheatos.
A swirling violin takes over on 'Driftwood'; and it really makes your head spin.

'20lb Jockey' is the reason I first obtained this album, and it’s still my favourite track.
Absurd, totally bizarre, superbly executed: just the way I like ‘em.

'Spec' features a selection of odd spoken word samples; and with the band riffing over the top, it sounds like an audio track to some weird cut-up montage – which is exactly what it is [!].

Reminiscent of old Surfers’ material circa Locust Abortion Technician maybe, but this is far more polished and gorgeously tight; contrasting much of the early Surfers’ recordings, where tight meant bourgeois.

Daddy Long Head really don’t mind showing off their chops here; and their version of Gregg Allman’s 'Whipping Post' is both masterfully performed and the weirdest damn version you’ll ever hear.

The album ends with a brief lo-fi chorus of 'Viper Blues'; no doubt in homage to their muse…
I recommend this to all stoners, but certainly not exclusively.
Straights can dig it too.

Daddy Long Head - Cheatos (1991)

Back in '69
20lb Jockey
Scar Spangled Banner
The Post
Green Fog
Pine Box

Excellent Cassette rip @320kbs
Get your head stretched here

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Born to Go

One of the most important writers and thinkers of the twentieth-century?
Immoral pornographer?
The Godfather of the dark side of American culture?

The last epitaph in this list is the one Laurie Anderson used to profile William Burroughs in the excellent programme made for British radio, Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted.

Anderson narrates, but not in a formal manner; there’s no ‘Burroughs was born in…’ kind of stuff; she merely comments and assists with continuity; finding themes and threads of meaning in the selected clips and readings, which make up a good 80% of the half-hour programme.

The premise that Burroughs influenced many who followed in his wake is reiterated by sampling Bowie, Patti Smith and Mr. Lindsey Anderson: Lou Reed, as well as all manner of other musical sequences and noise and juxtaposing it with Burroughs’s clipped readings; creating a quixotic hallucinatory soundscape; cut-up-like, but remaining coherent enough to catch and follow insightful routines; such as the British Royal Family having to prove their worth by being forced to live in a semi in Darlington.
Concluding with the suggestion that the results be shown on television.

I wonder if Sue Townsend or John de Mol ever heard that routine.

The programme makes for an interesting introduction to Burroughs's work; but is really targeted at those who are more familiar with his art, making for a great accompaniment to the writer's other recorded works and experiments in sound.

The other recording available here was captured in 1982 at the Hacienda club in Manchester, as part of the Burroughs showcase The Final Academy, organised by David Dawson, Roger Ely and Genesis P-Orridge.

All manner of Burroughs and Beat related happenings were part of the show, including films, poetry readings and visual art installations, but the highlight of course was an appearance and performance by the literary outlaw himself; with his unmistakable drawl adding so much emphasis and onomatopoeic depth of character to the written word.

The excerpts he chose to perform - full of satire, deadpan wit and many familiar Burroughs' characters: Dr. Benway, Daddy Longlegs, the Do-Rights and the Do-Wrongs, Kim Carson, The Crying Gun, The Priest, The Blind Gun and The Wild Fruits: the craziest most deranged bunch of gun-slingers you'll ever encounter, straight off the freshly inked pages of his then latest tome: The Place of Dead Roads, the best damn western ever written (sorry McCarthy, but you just don't cut it) - segue effortlessly into one another; allowing the author to free associate with his words; generally mix it up, and have some fun.

Always a defender of the rights of the individual - whether that meant carrying a gun or shooting up in privacy - Burroughs provocatively moralizes about victim-less crime, drug use and private sexual behaviour; as well as touching on his favourite themes of addiction, violence, hypocrisy and control.

The visual omission doesn't remove anything from the enjoyment of this recording, as Burroughs wasn't really known for his stage craft or live antics.
He sits at a desk and reads like a news reader or anchor man; but his delivery is totally unlike anyone from Fox News.
But what he has to say is just as sinister.

What is not seen is the ever so familiar junky tic; the momentary grin; the death held grimace; the sneer lasting a tenth of a second, muscular synergy forcing the pursed lips to stretch and elongate momentarily across the face before rapidly returning to the dead-like default position.

(Interestingly, Cobain had noticeably adopted this tic; evident in the interviews closest to that moment he decided to vent the top part of his body.)

However, the most important thing remains: the wonderfully cynical, delineative language he masterfully created; his voice allowing the beholder to experience more visual stimulus than can ever be captured on a film or DVD.

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted - A Something Else Production for BBC Radio 4, Presented by Laurie Anderson.
Ripped from DVD @320kbs, first broadcast March 2008.
Length: 28'06" - 64.3MB
Get it here

Burroughs at the Hacienda - ripped from The Final Academy DVD (2002) @320kbs.
Length: 35'59" - 82.3MB
Get it here

Sunday, 11 January 2009

It's All Poppiecock!

Before the Poppies went all housey, housey and BOOMtastic; and long before Clint Mansell considered being a masterful movie soundtrack composer (he scored the excellent music for the mind blowing Requiem for a Dream); Pop Will Eat Itself were a joyfully tight, garage influenced, power pop outfit, relying on no more a traditional framework than guitar, bass, snare and voice.

The songs on this e.p. from 1986, none longer than two and a half minutes, have an almost demo-like or pre-cursory quality about them: drafts for what the band would go on to create over the remainder of their career.

Stripped right down, the sound adopts a live, coming at ya, kind of feel, making the songs sound vital and vibrant.

And due to the recent re-emergence of the grebo look and style - a reaction perhaps to the overly manufactured emo - this collection sounds fresh and contemporary; unlike their later releases that have become distinctly fixed in time.

So if you thought Pop Will Eat Itself were nothing more than a happy go lucky bunch of grebo pseudo-rapping bricoleurs from the Midlands, ripping off others' chops and hits: check this out.

Can U dig it?
Well, yeah.

And just what is it about candy, anyway?

Pop Will Eat Itself - Poppiecock (1986)

The Black Country Chainstore Massacreee
Oh Grebo I Think I Love You
Titanic Clown
I'm Sniffin with You Hoo
Sick Little Girl
Theresapsychopathin my soup

Quality Vinyl rip @320kbs
Score yourself some veteran poppy here

Friday, 9 January 2009

So Rad, Dude

It wasn’t the Gaye Bykers on Acid who helped create the best night I ever had in the Sir George Robey but their doppelgängers and alter egos the Lesbian Dopeheads on Mopeds.

Wonderfully supported by the very surreal anarcho-art terrorists the Mutoid Waste Company (an art collective who not only performed challenging avant-garde music, but also created many an idiosyncratic art piece [Car Henge and all manner of bizarre vehicles, such as the Skull Bus, with its skull-like cabin; and the stumpy coach morphed and shaped into a curious bony fish – all perfectly road-legal with their very own tax discs!]), the first band I saw using arc welders and angle grinders on stage, sending golden showers of viciously spiteful sparks over the first few rows of a cowering, concerned audience; followed by the Bykers in full drag, promoting Stewed to the Gills by playing it in its entirety.

They played their little hearts out.
Never before had I witnessed a bespectacled, dreadlocked man in a frock play a fuzz guitar with such gusto.

Emerging from static and skip, not unlike tuning in, the driving, pounding, full-throttle psychedelia on this album relentlessly assaults the ears, turning the listener on with swirling sounds and provocative lyrics that makes one wanna drop everything and go and drop out in a most delicious fashion.

There’s not a poor tune on this album, and amongst all the samples and superbly edited montages (predicting a direction the band would take in the next few years with their PFX project, as they desperately sought credibility, recognition and sales), some of the best modern out there rock music can be heard.

The real stand out tracks for me include the vitriolic plea aimed at those who abuse the planet, ‘Harmonious Murder’, with the shouted epiphany: “No ozone!”;
‘Ill’, an indictment against the then Tory government who were busily flushing the British health service down the toilet;
‘Teeth’, which carries on the battle cry, and advances the attack by concentrating on every speed-freak’s nightmare: dentistry.

(Not only does one have to pluck up courage enough to actually visit the dentist, but then suffer the paranoia of not being able to meet the bill; and the “not such a nice man after all” wants his amalgam back; without the costly luxury of local anaesthesia.)

Then there’s ‘Shoulders’, telling the tale of the devastating night in which the grebo (“Acid Boy”) attending a gig with his girlfriend (“Acid Girl”) loses her; only to find her again seated atop another’s shoulders; totally destroying what could have been “the per-per-perfect night”.

I could go on.

This was definitely G.B.O.A.'s finest work; their last with Virgin (and the production certainly benefits from that association), and without doubt the best album to come out of the whole grebo era.

Gaye Bykers on Acid - Stewed to the Gills (1989)

It Is Are You?
Better Off Dedd
Hot Thing
Testicle of God (And It Was Good)
Harmonious Murder
Hair of Dog
Rad Dude
Fairway to Heaven
It Is Are You? Concept Reprise

Quality vinyl rip @320kbs
For best effect when burning: remove pauses.
Get Stewed here

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Spaced Out Friends & Relations

The Friends and Relations series put out by Flicknife Records in the early eighties were eventually clipped down to one album: The Best of Hawkwind, Friends and Relations, put out on CD by Cherry Red Records.

Unfortunately, probably due to lack of space and time, I felt they omitted some of the best tracks; and a couple of those tracks appear on this 1982 release: the first in the series.

Side one of the vinyl release is made up of the typical repackaging that Dave Brock came to specialise in.
Familiar tracks, but new versions; and these three tracks are all live recordings, with the version of 'Robot' sung by Bob Calvert, from the excellent PXR5 album, being the outstanding track.
A real blinder, reflecting Hawkwind’s most creative period and without doubt the band’s best sound; both live and in the studio (Astounding Sounds & Quark, Strangeness and Charm also came out of this time), proving that they were one of the most vital and greatest creative forces of that decade.

I remember hearing Gibby Haynes once in interview saying that the Butthole Surfers really wanted to be ‘the new Hawkwind’; but then so did Gaye Bykers on Acid.

The second side is really what makes this release worth listening to.
Made-up of various recordings from Hawkwind related projects; an eclectic group of tunes are brought together, reflecting the diversity of influences that made Hawkwind such an interesting band.

The standout track from this group is definitely the Michael Moorcock, Pete Pavli penned tune: ‘Good Girl, Bad Girl’, performed by Moorcock’s Deep Fix. A band that existed in reality enough to produce one album (New World’s Fair); but existed more substantially in Moorcock’s fiction, fronted by the sci-fi hero Jerry Cornelius.

‘Good Girl, Bad Girl’ has a reserved dirge-like guitar-led tune that accompanies Moorcock’s strained and vulnerable almost falsetto vocal delivery, making for a curious but highly listenable to song.

This may be the only place this track exists, as it was not part of New World’s Fair, and was not included on the Best of album.
A peculiar omission in my opinion.

The other bad omission on the Best of album was Inner City Unit’s ‘Human Beings’. A wonderful percussive piece of musical primitivism that urges you to join in, like the best of football chants: ‘here we are, here we are, here we are, here we are…’
You’ll soon pick it up.

The album ends with another Deep Fix tune, but rather than the expected space-rock, the listener is confronted with a wonderful piece of electronica.
(I remember hearing this back in 82 and being totally freaked by its peculiar pattern and minimal quality; a good few years ahead of its time, I think.)

It’s a tune that seems endless; a loop that is both compelling and ingenious; and the ever so long fade reiterates its infinite desire.
Like space itself, it seems endless, only the lack of volume and plastic brings it to an end; but once heard its existence is assured, as it virally infiltrates and possesses the mind of all beholders.

Prepare to be possessed.

Various Artists - Hawkwind, Friends and Relations (1982)

Who's Gonna Win the War - Hawklords (Live 1978)
Golden Void - Sonic Assassins (Live 1977)
Robot - Hawkwind (Live 1977)
Raj Neesh - Inner City Unit (1982)
Good Girl, Bad Girl - Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix (1982)
Valium Ten - Hawkwind (1977)
Human Beings - Inner City Unit (1982)
Time Centre - Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix (1982)

Quality vinyl rip @320kbs
Blast off into outer space here

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Dancing in Circles Makes your Head Spin Round

They had a wonderful exuberance did Culture Shock.

Emitting a joyful and celebratory sound that insisted you let your dreadlocks down and have a good jump about to.

It's only when you stop for breath that you realise the lyrics are savage, yet spot-on, polemics against society, ideology, alienation, superficiality and all things superstructural.

Dick Lucas's words were sharp as knives; he was no ranter, and fortunately, the juxtaposition of his lyrics with top-heavy, jingly-jangly ska made sure he was never preachy.

Dick really began his vocal career with the hardcore band the Subhumans (recently reformed) back in 1980, but as punk hastened towards moribundity Lucas began Culture Shock, and a new sound was quickly established: all skank and no mosh.

This mini-album, Go Wild, released in 1986, was their first; and their best in my opinion.

Dick's lyrics are hard-hitting but not yet as spiteful as they would become (not so much with Culture Shock, but with his next band, Citizen Fish, Lucas's lyrics became pretty difficult to listen to, and he could make an audience feel pretty uncomfortable; both in terms of being lectured to, and in a socialist paternal fashion, feeling like you're being told off!), and there is an element of snide-humour and satire here that he also failed to reatin (he was always pretty angry; but sometimes that anger could get a little misdirected - I noticed at gigs [I saw Dick Lucas perform at least a dozen times] that he would often be on his own; big black book under his arm, or often he'd be writing in it, sat up at the bar, with the occassional upward glance [I wonder what he was writing in there?]).

But as I said, on this release, there is a greater enthusiasm; and their music, despite its inspiration from Jamaica, is terribly English.

There's also something of the pastoral about them; their hailing from Wiltshire comes as no real surprise; and seeing them in somewhere like the Sir George Robey totally reinforced the concept of urban-folk music.

But it was out in the sticks somewhere or other that Culture Shock really shined; and the free-festival atmosphere always suited their music the best.

The final two tracks on this album are both dub numbers, and for me they are the most evocative of that time.
Very much the sound one would encounter on one of those spaced-out quixotic meanderings one goes off on at festivals.
Kind of Narnia-like, you enter a magical world merely by pushing back a fold of canvas; and there you are, confronted with wonderful ska music and the best damn party on the planet.
I can smell the wood smoke, the incense, the pot, the diesel fumes, the donuts; I get that taste in my mouth of not sleeping properly, the illusion my mouth and teeth are under that I haven't eaten anything other than Rennies for the last forty-eight hours, that crippling sense of paranoia that kicks in when you can't find the fucking tent after searching for the last hour or so ('well, it looked like that field...'),
the bad back...

O yeah. That's why I don't go to festivals anymore.

Culture Shock - Go Wild (1986)

Punks on Postcards
Go Wild
Messed Up
Six Foot Rooms
Ten Per Cent Off
Mother's on the Phone
All (Messed Up) Together

Quality vinyl rip @320kbs.
Get yourself cultured here