Monday, 23 February 2009

Ween We Were Young

If you're not familiar with the music of Ween, this recording makes for a great way to get acquainted.
If you are already aware of the band, then you will soon recognise this recording as being a wonderful showcase for the Weeners: highlighting their incredible range of songs and performance skills.

Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo morphed into Gene Ween and Dean Ween sometime in the mid-eighties, it didn't take long before they were putting out their own cassette releases, laying down what was soon to become familiar territory; songs about dwarfs, weasels, the great Boognish (don't ask), parasitic afflictions, diseases and their favourite foods, captured in a variety of styles and genres, ranging form lo-fi punk to avant garde musings to metal and thrash to country and western - but always with an idiosyncratic twist that made all of their songs, no matter what the genre, into distinctive Ween songs.
Shit, they're almost a genre unto themselves!

This recording, which has been released as a DVD (I'm offering here the bonus CD version, with a few extras), captured a performance in Chicago back in 2003. The sound quality is excellent, and the set list pretty much works as a greatest hits package - not that they had any real hits, but I'm sure you get my drift.

Many of the tracks here are performed with both Dean and Gene playing guitars, and a wonderful sound is created through the juxtaposition of the Les Paul and the Strat; and although the two guitar setup is a familiar one, Ween ain't Wishbone Ash, and are far more interested in creating textures than out noodling one another.
'Roses are Free' is probably the best example of this, with the blended guitar licks spiralling into an adrenaline filled crescendo that will raise the spirits of the most stubborn of miserablists.

It is Dean though who in reality is the true guitar player of the band; and boy can he spank that plank!
'I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot' features a stunning smoking solo worthy of any ax hero you can mention; and he may not be Robert Fripp, but he sure can rip it up and make that Fender snarl.

There are a few moments of calm during this recording, and donning acoustic guitars, Gene and Dean take their music down to places others would find inaccessable.
Just check out the unique and absurd beauty of 'Mutilated Lips':

Mutilated lips
Give a kiss on the wrist
Of the worm like tips
Of tentacles expanding in my mind
I'm fine accepting only fresh brine
You can get another drop of this, if you wish

As to the disease and sickness inspired songs; well, you gotta write about something, right, and perhaps a way of dealing with such shit as HIV is to write a punk anthem to it.
Dunno, it works for me.

'Spiral Meningitis' could well be autobiographical, but what it does represent is an authentic truth; it may well be disturbing, but then severe illness is (other illnesses dealt with in Ween's oeuvre include 'Mononucleosis' (glandular fever), Lime's disease (an infection caused by parasitic ticks: 'Tick'), mental disorders ('Zoloft'), Obesity ('Fat Lenny') and actually being dead ('Push the Little Daisies').

He likes to lick his brain in silence.

I've included the encore with the original recording, featuring two excellent metal songs: 'You Fucked Up' and the hyperbolic 'Doctor Rock', both performed immaculately, sending the Chicago audience into a total frenzy.

The brakes are suddenly applied allowing Dean to express himself during the wonderfully sublime 'She Fucks Me'; building up to a mighty climax with the crowd pleaser 'Booze Me Up and Get Me High'.

This DVD may well still be available (although the bonus CD may not accompany it - but hey, you can get that here), so you could go out and buy it; but if your appetite is moistened, check out the stunning albums God Ween Satan and my personal favourite: The Pod.

You won't be disappointed.

Ween Live in Chicago, November 2003.

Take Me Away
The Grobe
Transdermal Celebration
Even If You Don't
Voodoo Lady
The H.IV. Song
Baby Bitch
Roses are Free
Mutilated Lips
Chocolate Town
I'll Be Your Johnny on the Spot
Buckingham Green
Spinal Meningitis Got Me Down
Pork Roll Egg and Cheese
The Argus
Don't Laugh (I Love You)*
You Fucked Up*
Doctor Rock*
She Fucks Me*
Booze Me Up and Get Me High*

*Encore Bonus Tracks

Tracks ripped from CD
Except bonus tracks, they're ripped from DVD @320kbs
Get down, dirty and cozy with Ween here

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Dark Musings

This Astronauts album from 1989 is rarely heard it seems.
Shame, as it is, or at least one side of it is, absolutely brilliant, carrying on in the vein of their previous releases.
But it is bi-polar, and the two physical sides of the original release, suggest two sides to the band - or should I say, two sides to Mark Astronaut.

As already indicated, Side 1 of this release does maintain the sound and energy of previous titles, and could be considered the third side to the excellent All Done By Mirrors album of 1983.
It very much carries on where that album finished: the tracks maintaining a live feel and typical to Mark's songs contain jaunty melodic tunes oxymoronically juxtaposed with the most downbeat of lyrics.

Firmly rooted in realism, Mark's words reported back from a very dark underbelly (there are few lyricists that dare go as dark and bleak as Mark); but like the best of artists (Dickens, Burroughs, Kelman, et al), his songs are deeply poetic, containing word play and rhyme schemes that are funny, poignant, profound and masterfully crafted; creating an uplifting effect, rather than dragging the listener down to the pits of despair, inspiring solace in a bottle or a blade.

All is suffering, of course.
But the suffering of others can become great art; and when Mark reveals that he needs to find 'someone to throw up on' ('Subversion'), it makes you smile, but also makes you nod with recognition.

The second side of the album is very different, and here Mark experiments with different sounds and textures.
Working with collaborator Russel Seal (who plays all instruments on the three tracks) Mark realises some songs that perhaps wouldn't have been possible with the usual band format.
Very much studio tracks, a different side to the Astronauts is revealed.

Still very bleak, the tracks seem somewhat more personal, and reveal a paranoia and an edge that Mark always seemed to rise above and be rather detached from (even on Peter Pan, which in my opinion is the Astronauts' darkest and greatest album); and rather than singing about others and their dire situations, here he seems to be spilling his guts, exposing his soul, and as a consequence the rawness makes the songs difficult to listen to - a bit like reading your friend's diary when they're out of the room - kind of uplifting, but at the same time making you feel dirty and voyeuristic.

I do feel this was the last of the great Astronauts' albums, and once this had been cut Mark radically changed direction; perhaps searching for a little more commercial success and recognition; or maybe this album, in all its deep revelation, allowed Mark to move on, in a 'right, done that' manner.
But I do feel he may have become divorced from his muse; in a Stevie Smith kind of way.

( My Muse

My Muse sits forlorn
She wishes she had not been born
She sits in the cold
No word she says is ever told.

Why does my Muse only speak when she is unhappy?
She does not, I only listen when I am unhappy
When I am happy I live and despise writing
For my muse this cannot but be dispiriting.

Stevie Smith )

The Astronauts - In Defence of Compassion (1989)

The Nurse
Cold Climate
Secret File*
Behind the Mirrors*
Sudden Pause*

*Tracks made with Russel Seal.

Vinyl rip @320kbs
Empathise with the dark side here

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

When Worlds Collide

I remember playing this one time while living in a first floor flat in London.
A request came up from the apartment below, asking if I’d turn it down a bit as all their ceiling tiles were raining down around them.

It took a surprisingly long time for the worlds of hip-hop and punk to collide, and it was fitting that genre ambassadors Afrika Bambaataa and John Lydon were to come together to create the fusion that became known as rapcore.

In fact, another name should be added to that pairing and that’s Bill Laswell, as he was instrumental in the collaboration, producing and arranging it and adding the thumping bass line to this seminal bit of musical history.

As well as working with Laswell, Lydon found himself amongst Laswell’s cohorts: Bernie Warrell, Nicky Skopelitis and Aïyb Dieng; significant because two years later Lydon would work with them again on the excellent PiL album: Album, or as it’s now known: Compact Disc (or a little more up to date perhaps: Download).

Two versions are available here on this original 12" release: the single version and a superb and frightening instrumental version peppered with sirens, battle sounds, spoken word samples and dynamic percussion.

It still sounds great; and hey, if it can't raise your roof then maybe it can bring the house down around ya.

Ooh, speak about destruction!

Time Zone - World Destruction (1984)

Vinyl rip @320kbs
Bring the house down here

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Music with Teeth

I really didn't know what to expect from this album when it was released in 1988.
What does one expect from one of the greatest and influential punk and hardcore bass players when they go solo?
More punk and hardcore?
Apparently not.

What I really didn't expect to hear was an eclectic mix of avant-garde sludge, experiments in lo-fi sound, Residents styled electronica, old timey cowboy songs, faux blues and a Beatles like epic ballad.

This does sound more like a compilation album than an album by a single artist: and hey, there's nothing wrong with that.

This album also includes what I believe is one of the most dissonant and ear grating sounds ever committed to plastic, ending the perversely titled 'Pretty Flowers'.
I'm not sure how the sound is created, but it brings to mind a concrete grinding wheel biting into steel mixed with a field recording of an industrial slaughter house for pigs in full flight.

The album includes music written for the Phil Tippet film Mad God (which I'm not even sure was produced), and I can only conclude that it's soundtrack music that opens the album; but if that is the case, that movie must have been some weird and bizarre project!

The second track, 'Eclipse (Blue/White)' is so lo-fi and peculiarly arranged that every time I hear it I feel the impulse to check all my wiring and connections around the back of my stereo as I'm convinced it's failing.

'Desert Ships' sounds so much like a tune from The Residents Commercial Album that one could assume Flouride must have been a member of the anonymous eyeball fixated combo as well as being an integral part of the Dead Kennedys.

And after a big old singalong with the likable 'Bus thru the Barrier', Flouride changes tack, sits himself down at a piano and belts out 'Keep on Walking', a track that could well be an out take from The Beatles' Let it Be sessions.

Once the album is flipped over, you can become quite confused and forget who the album's by, confirming the artist only by checking the label.

The mistake could easily be made, as now Klaus has picked up his acoustic guitar, and after a couple of chopsy instrumentals 'Charlies Friends' really takes you by surprise; a surreal cowboy styled ditty, with whip cracks 'n all.

'Dominating Baby' is reason enough to download this album.

It is one of the greatest faux blues' pastiches I have ever heard, and on first hearing it immediately made me want to pick up the guitar again after many years of neglect, just so I could play and sing this song.

Dominatin' baby you dominate my life
Since you been my girlfriend
Now You're my wife

Dominatin' lady you just
Driving me crazy
Beedlewop n do ee hay wo wo wo
Persecutin' baby always making me sad
Once I used to feel so good but
Now I feel so sad

Once I used to think that
You were something special
Oh then I took you for my wife
But then you started
Dominatin' baby
Dominatin' me all my life

Aw persecutin' baby always putting me down
When my friends come around

Klaus Flouride - Because I Say So (1988)

Door Slammer
Eclipse (Blue/White)
Feeding Time in Hell
Desert Ships
Bus Thru the Barrier
Keep on Walking
Born Again Dentistry
Bus (Reprise)
Eclipse (Blue/Green)
Charlies Friends
Pretty Flowers
Dominating Baby
El Sid (The Credit Song)
The Final Word

Vinyl rip @320kbs
Get yourself some free dentistry here

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Brain Drain

Originally released on cassette, Bad Brains really shook up the punk scene with their excellent and still surprising first album.

Of course there were always plenty of white punk bands playing reggae and roots music; but there wasn't too many black bands playing hardcore.

Yet Bad Brains were in no way a novelty act; but they were unique.

In the early eighties, punk music was rapidly turning towards thrash. Beats were getting faster and faster, and especially with American bands there seemed to be a competition as to who could go the fastest.
The Dead Kennedys were probably winning this race in 1982 with their Plastic Surgery Disasters album, but Bad Brains' debut left Biafra's crew panting way behind in the distance.

The only let ups from BB's barrage (the best, I think, are the ever-so-fast 'Attitude' and the wonderful 'Big Take Over', the fastest 12 bar ever heard and a refrain to die for) come when roots music replaces the hardcore riffs and shouts; and Bad Brains could sure do roots, again in a quite idiosyncratic way.

They almost sounded white! But obviously retaining their cultural identity (apologies if that makes little sense); finding as much inspiration in the Clash and the Ruts as they inevitably found in genuine roots music.

Live, they were dynamic and fully charged. HR, the singer, used to perform back flips on stage, which was staggering considering the huge percentage of audience members that would feel the need to join the band onstage, either to launch themselves atop the busy mosh or just to jostle and share a space with four very energetic rastafarians.

I only got to see them once, and that was when they were touring the Quickness album in 1989. They were really coming to the end, and much of their energy had been diminished, but they were still superb; and Quickness had seen a return to form that fired them up some what; and despite HR's cardigan (anticipating the grunge look maybe) he proved that he could still do it, back flips 'n'all.

Bad Brains - Bad Brains (1982)

Sailin' On
Don't Need It
The Regulator
Banned in D.C.
Jah Calling
Leaving Babylon
Fearless Vampire Killers
Big Take Over
Pay to Cum
Right Brigade
I Luv I Jah

Excellent Cassette rip @320kbs
Get brained here

Despite great critical acclaim, I was a little disappointed with I Against I and its new sounding BB.

Dr. Know had embraced guitar technology and consequently the punk edge was lost in favour of a Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen kind of metal sound.

The big riffs were still there, and the production value had increased, but somehow it seemed to have lost some of the energy previous albums had.

It was also their only album not to contain any roots or dub tracks.

Quickness, their follow-up, did to an extent revert back to their default. And benefits enormously.

The high production value was retained, but the songs have more energy than those on I Against I, and its more hard core generally.

It was the last album BB made before HR's departure, and despite getting back together for the release God of Love, they were never the same band; times had changed and so had they, becoming far more righteous in their music and in their outspoken public statements - they even changed their name for a bit, calling themselves Soul Brains, as Bad Brains was too negative and anathema to their beliefs and attitudes!


However, Quickness did prove that in 89 they were still a great band; but maybe they knew at heart that it couldn't last, as indicated by the last track: 'Endtro'.

It should have been their final trope.

Bad Brains - Quickness (1989)

Soul Craft
Voyage Into Infinity
The Messengers
With the Quickness
Gene Machine/Don't Bother Me
Don't Blow Bubbles
Yout Juice
No Conditions
Silent Tears
The Prophet's Eye

Immaculate cassette rip @320kbs
Brain yourself here

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

In Praise of the 80's B Side

Thought I'd while away today - we're snowed in - by posting a few of my favourite B sides; all of which were deemed acceptable in the eighties.

I've posted the A sides as well just for continuity sake, but it's the flips that make it; and ain't that often the case.

In the dying days of roots and reggae, Smiley Culture had a big hit with 'Police Officer', and for a moment it seemed as if a new wave of artists, other than UB40, might revive a moribund genre.

It did kind of resuscitate it, but reggae was busily transmogrifying; morphing into dancehall: the old school was being majorly renovated.

This release captures the transitional stage; primarily dancehall songs but both tracks included extended dub mixes (not something that was played on the UK Chart Show), revealing Smiley Culture's roots and the connection he still had with the waning genre.

'Shan A Shan', the flip, is by far the better song, as it doesn't rely on a jokey narrative like 'Police Officer'; it also has the best dub outro.

Crank it up, and go skank in the snow.
Why not.
Police Officer
Shan A Shan

Released 1984
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here

This release needs little introduction.
Except to say this sounds to me like summer - not a bad thing on a day like today! - not in a Beach Boys kind of way, but it takes me back; straight back to the summer of 1984, before an awful lot of shitty things happened; turning out just as Orwell suggested it might!

The B side of this release is an instrumental; allowing that most recognisable of pulsating bass lines to reverberate without propagandic intrusion.

Turn it up and let the vibrations knock all the snow off your roof.

White Lines (Don't Don't Do It)

Released 1983
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here

I've always loved Dee Snider - I haven't always been the greatest fan of his music, but I was always a big fan of his.

As a showman and metal performer you couldn't really ask for anything else; and this B side highlights Snider's rapport with a London Marquee crowd and includes what I believe is one of the greatest talk to audience recordings ever.

The A side is very throw away; typical of the over produced metal that was coming out of the States at this time.
Except Twisted Sister were always more Slade than Slayer, and for me, that gave Sister the edge.

The B side features a Slade-like opener in 'Tear it Loose', a very 'eavy number entitled 'Destroyer', and then back to Slade mode for the crowd pleasing cover of 'It's Only Rock n Roll'.
And its during the middle section of that song that Snider delivers his lecture on why it is he doesn't go home and ax his family to death; defining the essential difference between the 'sick motherfuckers' (Snider, his band and their audience) and the 'straight motherfuckers' (everybody else).

Cracks me up every time.

I Am (I'm Me)
Tear It Loose
It's Only Rock n Roll

Released 1983
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here

And finally, another distinctly iconic bass line, and one of the most extraordinary noncommercial B sides ever found on a most commercial release (not including 'Beck's Bolero' of course).

You may well have found this on initial release rather irritating, as it was very nearly played to death. But on hearing it now (27 years later [fuck!]), it actually sounds pretty good.
And if you never had a copy of this, turn it up real loud on the fade... always worth a chuckle.

The B side is what seems like work in progress, and under the heading 'Strawberry Dross' we actually get to hear nine different tracks: some very short (around twenty seconds), some very funny, and some that sound a little like Gordon Giltrap numbers!

Hippies are addressed, as are hats, and Maggie T (not Maggoty, as easily assumed, although...).
So, not your normal Captain Sensible fare, and a very very long way away from 'Happy Talk'.

Strawberry Dross

Released 1982
Vinyl rip @320kbs. Here

Sunday, 1 February 2009

God's Turban and Tutu! It's Terminal!

'God's Turban and Tutu' is lifted from a Viv Stanshall album, and dropped into the Skronk Meisters' superb psychedelic dub mix that adopted the absurd utterance as its title; which is a great way of getting a handle on where it was Terminal Cheesecake were coming from.

Skronk (a compound made up from ska, rock and funk) is not really a good enough label to describe Terminal Cheesecake, as they go much further than that paradigm allows; their music bringing to mind such disparate references as early PIL, Tackhead, Hawkwind, Head of David, Aphex Twin, Augustus Pablo and NIN, as well as the Butthole Surfers: an outfit they were often compared with; sometimes referred to as being the British version; but they are quite different; and really it was the genre jumping, the experimentation and the dada leanings that made them in any way comparable.

Big beats, big noise, dirgy, minimal vocals, toasting through a bull-horn, spoken word samples, loops and reverb a plenty all made up Terminal Cheesecake’s sound; but in the main there was dub; or should I say DUB, as their sound was MASSIVE.

But Terminal Cheesecake weren’t just a bunch of bass happy honky stoners; no, there was more to them than that; their booming, throbbing, pulsating beats can uplift and enhance all manner of experiences, whether it be a full scale blues or just another night in.

Their drug referencing is extreme, to the point where it almost seems satirical;
either that or they just had one serious obsession.

(Er... am I missing something here?)

The final track was released on its very own disc and was produced as part of a limited edition. And despite being credited as 'Interview by M.C. Lucke' (a German DJ?), it is actually made up of three tracks segued together: 'Le Geezer', 'Coils' and 'Freaky Bong', mixed up with plenty of strange and startling ambience
These live tracks seem to reveal where the band were heading (apart form oblivion of course – this was their last album), and the sound is far more reflective of the then burgeoning dirge and psychedelic sludge styles; genres that were to become more honed and refined as the nineties progressed.

But there is something vibrant about these raw recordings; and that rawness maybe the key.
The almost lo-fi production creates a vital sound; and as with all bass driven music it benefits enormously from its live feel; maintaining the effect that it’s actually going on when you play it, rather than something that has been made. If you get me drift….

Terminal Cheesecake - King of all Spaceheads (1994)

King of all Spaceheads
God's Turban and Tutu
Ginge Le Geezer
'Lo 'Lo
Tibetan Lift Off
Steady Draw
Herbal Space Flight
Black Microdot 1
In the St. John's Ambulance Tent, Glastonbury 1989
Black Microdot 11
The Last Temptation of St. Leary
Interview by M.C. Lucke

Includes CD artwork
Grab a slice of some spiked cheesecake here