Sunday, 29 March 2009

Fish Less and Fancy Free

Country Joe and the Fish ceased to be in 1971. Despite a brief return towards the end of that decade, Country Joe McDonald had soon established himself as a very credible solo artist.

A proto-hippy in the early days of Haight-Ashbury, Joe was always in the front line of political debate and radical new ideas.
The new wave of feminism in the early nineteen-seventies was readily assimilated by many in the counter-culture and Joe added his voice to those who were challenging the so called 'natural order' of patriarchy.

Out of this milieu emerged Paris Sessions.
Apart from recruiting late ex-girlfriend Janice Joplin's Big Brother and the Holding Company band mate Peter Albin to play bass, all the other recruits were female, endorsing in action the feminist inspired lyrics featured in many of the songs.
The album moves from reasonably easy listening numbers such as 'Fantasy' and 'I'm So Tired' to polemics taking on macho, misogynist movie-makers ('Movieola'), corrective institutions ('Zombies in a House of Madness'; check out the creepy electronic sounds accompanying Joe's reading of Michael Beasley's accusatory and startling poem), male chauvinism ('Sexist Pig') and Women's lib ('Coulene Anne'; without doubt the best track on the album - a murder ballad of very high standard, this track alone makes the download worthwhile).

There is a wonderful piece of vocal kitsch on this album, with Joe introducing the album to the listener in the form of a direct address; hoping we all like it, and even suggesting when side 1 is finished it would be a good idea to listen to side 2.
The apostrophe continues at the end of the album with Joe reminding us that we can always listen to the album again; if we can be bothered to get up off the floor and sort it out that is... he must have thought everyone listening were on drugs or something...

Country Joe McDonald - Paris Sessions (1973)

I'm So Tired
I Don't Know Why
Zombies in the House of Madness
Sexist Pig
Colorado Town
Coulene Anne
St Tropez

Quality Cassette rip @320kbs
Deal with the feminist principle here

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

What's in a Name

As the eighties segued effortlessly into the nineties one of my favourite noises emanating from that time came from a disparate four piece known as Silverfish.

With regular performances at various venues around North London - rarely venturing too far from their heartland Camden Town - for a while they were the hottest act on the underground metal circuit.

I often caught them at the Boston Arms in Tufnell Park during the pub's weekly 'alternative' club nights; the name of which escapes me at the moment.

Silverfish were a motley crew: Scottish girl-fronted with a mixed race guitarist who would bounce off the walls while creating layers of ear-buckling fuzz, accompanied by a bombastic rhythm section that would literally shake your very soul and hollow out your insides.

The T.F.A. e.p. was released in 1990 and captured what had always been a favourite refrain with the audience: 'You're a Total Fucking Asshole'.
And there's little more cathartic than standing in a smoky venue, eardrums bending inwards towards the brain, screaming 'You're a Total Fucking Asshole' until your cords are totally shredded...
Boy, it sure helped in getting through the week!

'Total Fucking Asshole' is an anthem and a battlecry.
It doesn't matter what your cause; they'll always be someone who stands in opposition, and this song is appropriately targeted at that 'someone'.
The energy in the music perfectly matches the attitude and the anger.
The fact that it sounds as if it was recorded in a cavern of some sort adds a kind of gothic flavour to the sound; this only assists with the song's total lacking in irony.

'Die' sounds like it could have come fresh out of J.G.Thirlwell's stable.

'Driller' returns to the more sludgy sound Silverfish did so well live; guitar switching from straight to extreme distortion adding waves of intensity to the massive wall of sound the three musicians were able to create so readily and effectively.

In 91 The Fuckin' Drivin' Or What...e.p. (yes you really can tell what you're gonna get... ) gives us the wonderful 'Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal', and the loaded lines: 'Are you afraid of me?/Hips, Tits, Lips, Power' creating a feminist shout worthy of any clued-up sister; it really helps by sounding like something Albini would have conjured up if he had been of the opposing gender.

Big Black is a suitable comparitor.
John Peel said about Silverfish: 'If they'd been from New York, we'd be mad for them of course.'
Another comparitor inspired by that quote is Sonic Youth, who I know are more 'experimental' and are a great band; but personally, I think Silverfish were better.

Grab these masterpieces of the noise genre here; crank it up and piss the neighbours right off. Yeah!

Silverfish - T.F.A. e.p. (1990)

Total Fucking Asshole

Silverfish - Fuckin' Drivin' Or What e.p. (1991)

Big Bad Baby Pig Squeal
Puppy Truck
Texas Tea

Get 'em both here

Monday, 23 March 2009

Tribal Echoes

It sure does help when one wants to do it for one's self to know the right people.
Even in the Anarcho-post-punk world networking and establishing contacts were vital for credibility, and vital when it came to releasing a product.

North London based Omega Tribe were fortunate enough to know the right people.
Pete Fender (Fatal Microbes, Rubella Ballet) was a good friend, as was Gem Stone (Rubella Ballet), who both happened to be the children of Poison Girls' Front woman Vi Subversa, who had worked extensively with Penny Rimbaud (Crass).

Once all these elements had been put in place (I should have drawn a Venn!) Omega Tribe were able to produce the e.p. Angry Songs (Crass Records, produced by Penny Rimbaud and Pete Fender) in 1982, and in '83 cut the album No Love Lost (Corpus Christi Records (Poison Girls' label), produced by Pete Fender and Omega Tribe).

Now I'm not saying that all that networking - and one wouldn't dare use the term nepotism - was the only way and reason Omega Tribe were ever able to cut records... it just helped.

And it's great for all us music fanatics to know about the provenance behind any band or recording, right.
And the reason I am able to share information about this band is the fact that Omega Tribe were one of my local bands in the early eighties.

My relationship with the band was mainly transactional; although I did become a fan and saw them play at various venues, parties, squats and one time even saw them play in Hadley Wood!
(We all considered ourselves outlaws then.)

With two main songwriters Omega Tribe's sound adopted two identities.
Loud, shouty, vitriolic polemics against the state (the best being 'Man Made' and 'Profit') lead by Crass and Oi fan Daryl (voice, bass); and more melodic, thoughtful pieces (best being 'My Tears' [probably their best track]) by Astronauts and Genesis fan [!] Hugh (voice, guitar).

Overall, they do on this album sound a little like the Poisons; but perhaps more like the Mob or Subhumans.
But to be fair they did have their own sound, influenced by both their contemporaries and the zeitgeist, which they soon became part of, especially for us living in those banal nineteen-eighties' London suburbs.

Listening to this album now, it still sounds alive; not in any way a relic.
It's refreshing to hear music so stripped down; to get back in touch with and be reminded that there are real people behind the instruments rather than a PC or a 64 track digital desk.
It's also refreshing to remember that music was once a legitimate addition to debate; young people once cared about things other than themselves and dared stand outside of the mainstream and demand to be heard...

I just realised, I started to sound like some subversive Granddad...

In reality I still adopt the same position.

For those who don't get it - and there are many that never did or never will - pity is all that can be offered.
I used to care. But I don't anymore.
And that's what getting old means.

Omega Tribe - No Love Lost (1983)

Duty Calls
What the Hell
Mother of Cultivation
My Tears
Nature Wonder
Man Made
My Tears Reprise (No More Wars)

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
For those who once cared, remind yourself here

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Duplicitous Dub

Like Scientist, King Tubby or Augustus Pablo, you know exactly what you're going to get when it comes to Mad Professor.

Carrying on in the great tradition established in the Caribbean, Mad Professor, aka Neil Fraser, picked up the dub baton and ran with it.

Because of his place in time, essentially the eighties (although he is still working), working out of London he soon became part of the insurgence of new wave dub and roots music; kick started by the creative and inspirational British post-punk scene.

His moniker was earned due to his expertise and wizardry in electronics, and it was that skill alongside a fine set of ears and dominion over the knobs that made his sound and production really stand out.

And that's what this recording does; stand out.

A prolific worker, Mad Professor has released over a hundred recordings of his own music and collaborated or been a part of many, many more.
But this I think is the best of the bunch.

Part of the Dub Me Crazy series, Schizophrenic Dub is exactly that.
Off the wall and all over the shop, the sonics are dizzying, constantly taking you by surprise.
The title track is particularly disorientating.
Mad Professor - Schizophrenic Dub (1986)

Medusa's Head
War Cry
Cosmic Ray
Haunts of Evil Spirits
Russian Roulette
Preacher's Chant
Schizophrenic Dub
The Case of the Disappearing Sari
Drunken Scotsman
High-Tec Dub
Heavyweight Dub
Medusa's Tail

CD rip to mp3, with artwork.
Get some treatment here

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Thrash Me, Darling

Remember when thrash was allowed to be fun?
When it was okay to go fast without an accompanying voice insisting we crucify all Christians or boil our kids in their own blood?
I do.

And Snuff, despite their name, were very fun indeed.
What with their rapidity and love of speed on versions of songs by the likes of the Who, the Four Tops and Simon and Garfunkel; and their hilarious takes on jingles from British TV ads; well, you kind of get the picture.

It seemed they could thrash anything.
GBH's 'City Baby - 'Attacked by Rats'? No problem.
Chas & Dave's 'In Sickness and in Health'? A breeze.
The jingles that accompany the Shake n Vac and Bran Flakes ads? Er. Yeah!
They all work.
And why not.

But the secret of Snuff's success, apart from their humour, was their inclusion of the good old trombone.
Nicolae Ceauşescu's nemesis (yes, the despotic once ruler of Romania banned the trombone, believing it to be seditious. When he was finally dealt with by the Romanian people, underground trombone bands took to the streets of Bucharest and celebrated their new found emancipation!) and Rico Rodriguez's best friend (did you know Rico received an MBE in 2007 for services to music? Rastafari!); and every thrash band should have one.

All together now: Tasty, tasty, very very tasty, they're very tasty...

Snuff - Flibbiddydibbiddydob (1990)

Rods and Mockers
Do Nothing
Shake 'N' Black
Can't Explain
Reach Out
Hazy Shade of Winter
Do It Quick
City Baby - Attacked By Rats
Bran Flakes
In Sickness and in Health

Slightly crackly vinyl rip @320kbs
But still Sensational!
Shout along with Snuff here

Sunday, 8 March 2009

What Judgement Shall I Dread

In 1989, a post-PIL Jah Wobble didn't have the greatest reputation to help build a new career in music.
He was seen as unpredictable, unreliable, a drinker and some thought even a little mad.

It was however, this recording that asserted Wobble as still being of interest; still an important player; and a pioneer in the new burgeoning genres of fusion and ambient music.

Sold cheaply to a small Belgian independent label, KK Records, this recording was quickly circulated around the underground music scene where it was warmly received; the band even did a session for John Peel's show, proving absolutely that Wobble had re-entered the zeitgeist.

Wobble had reaffirmed commercial potential and soon signed to Warner, going on to release the Mercury nominated Rising Above Bedlam, which even provided him (and collaborator Sinead O'Connor) with a hit and a live slot and interview on Channel 4's cult show The Word.

I was fortunate enough to see this original line up at the time of the release of Without Judgement perform at London's Marquee Club; and it truly was one of the best gigs I ever experienced in that hallowed space.

It was without doubt the best live performance I have ever seen of a band creating live ambient music; the fusion with worldy rhythms and beats, the masterful guitar playing of Justin Adams and Wobble's never deviating dub patterns created a spellbinding, hypnotic intensity, reproduced with great verisimilitude on this album.

For my money, Wobble failed to recreate the energy and brilliance of this album, and despite some great recordings that followed in its wake, he never managed to capture and replicate the consistency of quality this album reveals.
Even his William Blake album, The Inspiration of William Blake, reminds the listener of this earlier recording, where Wobble performs his own 'A13', a poem that captures contemporary working class London in a way that would wholly satisfy even the original Lambeth bard.

You can check it out here on this audio only vid; it also serves as a nice taster for the rest of the album, so if this don't convince ya...

Invaders of the Heart - Without Judgement (1989)

Bungalow Park
What the Problem Is
Anything Can Happen
Drowned and the Saved
So Many Years
Message From Our Sponsor
Good Ghosts
Eternal Vendor
Invisible Cities
Uncommercial Road
Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
Make yourself go all wobbly here

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Beneath the Pavement the Beach!

It's a strange thing to do really; to name your album after another's song; but on hearing the version of Van Dyke Parks' and Brian Wilson's 'Surf's Up' dished up here by Thomas and 'Two Pale Boys' the exclamation mark [!] comes as no surprise. For it is simply stunning!

In the painfully vulnerable but perfectly capable hands of David Thomas (Rocket From the Tombs, Pere Ubu), Parks' words shine in their surreality; the imagery greatly emphasised by Thomas's bizarre delivery; so idiosyncratic he owns it, possesses it, making it his, totally.
And his rendition really does remind the listener as to how far out and imagist the lyric is:

A diamond necklace played the pawn
Hand in hand some drummed along, oh
To a handsome man and baton
A blind class aristocracy
Back through the op'ra glass you see
The pit and the pendulum drawn
Columnated ruins domino

Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping?

Hung velvet overtaken me
Dim chandelier awaken me
To a song dissolved in the dawn
The music hall a costly bow
The music all is lost for now
To a muted trumpeter swan
Columnated ruins domino

Canvass the town and brush the backdrop
Are you sleeping, Brother John?

Dove nested towers the hour was
Strike the street quicksilver moon
Carriage across the fog
Two-Step to lamplight cellar tune
The laughs come hard in Auld Lang Syne

The glass was raised, the fired rose
The fullness of the wine, the dim last toasting
While at port, adieu or die

A choke of grief heart hardened I
Beyond belief a broken man too tough to cry

Surf's Up
Aboard a tidal wave
Come about hard and join
The young and often spring you gave
I heard the word
Wonderful thing
A children's song

Child, child, child, child, child
A child is the father of the man
Child, child, child, child, child
A child is the father of the man
A children's song
Have you listened as they played
Their song is love
And the children know the way
That's why the child is the father to the man
Child, child, child, child, child
Child, child, child, child, child
Na na na na na na na na
Child, child, child, child, child
That's why the child is the father to the man
Child, child, child, child, child

Van Dyke Parks.

To me it's an elegy.
A lament for the world.
The death of nature; and the death of humanity.

And all that is greatly enhanced by Thomas's deeply melancholic delivery.

'Surf's Up' isn't the only track to benefit from the peculiar arrangements on this album. The very pared down textures, often featuring no more than voice and melodeon; or at the most: voice, melodeon, guitar and trumpet (there is no percussion at all on this album, only percussive like sounds emanating from either the guitar or trumpet), allow for Thomas to reveal his Pynchonesque view of modern living.

Thomas's narratives are Noir-like (perfectly matched with the trumpet sounds), very much of the city; but a very dark and paranoid city.
The narrative often depicts movement ('Runaway', 'Night Driving' & 'Come Home - Green River'), and the accompanying music captures the journeying theme remarkably well; which makes for a great listen, as Thomas is a wonderful story teller, and like the best incidental music the mood is really enhanced, making these tracks pleasingly visual as well as aural delights.

David Thomas and Two Pale Boys - Surf's Up! (2001)

Man in the Dark
Night Driving
Surf's Up
Spider in my Stew
Come Home - Green River

David Thomas: voice and melodeon
Keith Moline: guitar
Andy Diagram: trumpet

CD rip, includes artwork.
Wax up the board and hit the Dead Sea here