Tuesday, September 26, 2006

sarandon. the completist's library. wrath records. cd compilation.
napalm death. smear campaign. century media. cd album.
wiley. eskiboy (da 2nd phaze). boy better know. cd mixtape.
lovejoy. england made me. matinee recordings. cd ep.

if, having marvelled at the best peel tribute yet, you wondered whether anyone was making music like that now, then angular minimalist trio sarandon provide the answer. um, it's "yes".

"the completist's library" is their story so far, a tale told over 4 seven-track 7"s. an average track length of 1 minute 22, by my calculations, makes it the second most economical lp this year, behind narcosis' "romance" (1 minute 11, since you ask). put simply, this means more tunes for your money: a honeyed aggregation of bIG*fLAME, the yummy fur and the keatons, with fallish bass, weddoes-ish guitars and, latterly, some majorly ace staccato trumpet work.

as someone who was there and knows, the reason that many of us formed indie pop bands in the late 80s was that it was far easier to teach yourself david gedge's chord sequences than, say, greg o'keeffe's tumultuous fretspanking. not only do sarandon have a mastery of the hard arts of post-beefheart c86ism, but they seem to be getting better and better at it: the most recent ep, "the june bride" (which features cameos from phil wilson and fLAME's alan brown) is the most striking yet.

all we need now is someone to take on the more blissed-out experimental mantle of mackenzies, jackdaw with crowbar etc...

ilwttisott standouts: don't say no. prove it. kitten. virginity.

the new napalm death album, in some ways, is their "cold house". at the heart of it is their increasingly-hardcore influenced take on thrash/grind, the slimmed-down four piece line-up suiting a rawness not too far from venomous concept's excellent "retroactive abortion" set. this on its own makes "smear campaign" almost "leaders not followers part 3", only this time with the classic tunes all being original napalm compositions. but even more intriguing is the way that they still want to stretch themselves.

so. the likes of "weltschmertz" and "in deference" introduce keyboards and female backing vocals. more dramatically, picking up on past cuts like "morale", the last 10 minutes of the cd - the title track and the bonus song "atheist runt" dive headlong into swans-ish industrial territory, replete with doomy, almost choral vocals. some of the guitars on "runt" could be a witness, in their less melody-minded moments. the echoey, slow, drum-led atmosphere carries more than hints of "from enslavement to obliteration" opener "evolved as one": a blast from a past when a three minute song from napalm was a rarity rather than the norm.

don't fret - the m.o. of "smear campaign" is still political anger, channelled mostly through alternately high speed, and groove-heavy, metal epitomised by the tracks listed below - but as a sign of the band's power right now, the willingness to keep testing their audience is welcome. i hope they don't find us wanting.

ilwttisott standouts: fatalist. freedom is the wage of sin. shattered existence.

jme's "boy better know" imprint is probably the best new label i've come across this yr - a series of mixtapes, from the likes of tinchy stryder & jme himself with apparently one from jme's brother skepta in the works - which are not only half the price of yer normal cd, but are just as fresh as the major label grime releases haven't been. the latest in the series is from the original eskiboy - wiley.

to me, wiley's tunes fall into three categories. the first are the in-yer-face, make-ya-dance speed grime likes of "wot do u call it": ably represented here by "eskiboy" and "ice pole". on these, his cheeky chappy patter and same-word rhymes work the most magic.

the second are the icy, introspective, slightly more fractured numbers: still infused and informed by grime but seeing wiley's lyrics more vulnerable, and rhythms more variable. these (e.g. "doorway") were the highlights of his slept-on xl records album, "treddin on thin ice". however it seems that this type of tune has largely er, melted away (save perhaps for "saw it coming", with jammer, jme and others, which is one of only a few of the tunes-with-guests that really works).

the third are the workaday crossover hits, usually co-opting r&b warblers or over-obvious samples: we've had to put up with too many of these, even on the roll deep album. still, it did register him higher chart placings than the solo singles. unfortunately, this body of work is also much in evidence herein. there are more than a half dozen slovenly and unimaginative efforts, like "be yourself" and "i like the way": as well as some halfheartedly okish comedy ones like "carry out orders" and "grim". what this all adds up to is that this is the most commercial, and therefore overall the least exciting, of the many splendoured boy better know mixtapes so far.

also, sometimes you think that wiley doth protest too much - when the 1st line of the album is, "i know you think i got dropped from xl, but that's not the case", and elsewhere he ruminates that, "how can they say my career is over?"... still, its nicely, stylishly self-conscious. like the chesterfields' "best of friends".

so, something of a curate's egg, but an eski curate at least. also, this being boy better know you get a few bonus tracks, including a pointless but enoyably mentalist god's gift freestyle, a musical sleeping tablet from alex mills and best of all, yet another run-out of arch rivals more fire crew's timeless "oi!" truly, every time i hear that song my grin is ear to ear. it should be a bonus track on every album ever released, not just this one.

ilwttisott standouts: ice pole remix. u ain't real (with syer and brazen). saw it coming. so amazing.

lovejoy's delectable ep sees them follow up the sweet highs of their "everybody hates" album with a set that is in the mould of simpatico's wonderful "postal museum" and "club life" singles in the way that it boasts just the right blend of electronics and guitars. "brightness falls" is the epitome of this, a thoroughly modern apotheosis of indie-pop topped off by richard preece's ever-vulnerable vocals, which manage to sigh and swoon at the same time. around them, beaumont-ish acoustic guitars (presumably paul stewart himself ?) trip in and out of softly layered beats, and trim little guitar motifs that could have graced any indie classic of the last quarter century caress yr ears, like waves lapping on the shore at hove.

the rest of the ep sees "are you analogue or digital ?" merge "reproduction"-style synths with early soft cell b-side melodies, "in the rain" sound somehow better here than on the june brides tribute, perhaps because instead of attempting to match the glorious guitar-scratching of the original, it is reinvented as a lovejoy song, full of space and knowing gorgeousness, and "made in england" musically eavesdrop on a snog between harper lee and the cure while preece picks up on quintessential anglo characteristics like twitching curtains and hopeless nostalgia. it's one of the few laments for england which lyrically chimes with my own feelings on the subject.

also listening:
goatwhore "alchemy of the black sun cult". this is on the new terrorizer cover-mount. great when a band can live up to such a fab name.
new order "truth". "movement" has always been fine, but each day, it gets slightly better.
boyracer "yr unspoken desires". i swear i will get the latest 'best of' soon.
the lucksmiths "the aviatrix". think is off "the green bicycle case ?"
huon. c86. from "hung up over night" on 555 - nowt to do with c86, but few songs get better to the heart of london.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

the fall rule. also:

brighter. if i could see / wallflower. sarah records, 7".
slayer. christ illusion. american recordings. lp.
deicide. homage for satan (666 mix). earache. download-only single.
terrorizer. darker days ahead. century media. cd lp.
narcosis. romance. calculated risk products. cd lp.
the gresham flyers. shiftwork. barrytown, 7".
full crumb. nightingale stew. a-well aimed blow to the thorax. cd-r.

firstly, having seen the fall at 93 feet east, and still sweetly reeling from having been happily bludgeoned by the two bassists, the sweat, a maurading and tank-like "what about us ?" and yet more new no nonsense looping tunes, i must iterate publicly what i have long asserted amongst friends, namely that if you know anyone who doesn't "get" the fall, they cannot and should not be trusted. you can like the fall or hate the fall and that is your duty and right, but if you don't understand why the fall are so feted and rated, you must leave the building now. that is all.

and then (swoon)... brighter. ok i must at the outset confess that in reality they have not, outside of my dreams, resurrected their old label in order to release "if i could see" and "wallflower" (out-takes from their classic sarah album "laurel") as a double a-sided single. unlike most label bosses, clare wadd and matt haynes were responsible for perpetrating gratifyingly few crimes against music, but in my befuddled, oversentimentalist mind not allowing those songs to see the light of day was up there with not releasing action painting!s "laying the lodger", not running with the golden dawn's "no reason why", and not releasing the orchids' beautiful "thaumaturgy" about a million years earlier. anyway, if, back in '91, this my fantasy brighter single had happened, it would i promise you have been a seismic global event to rank alongside those effortlessly serene "solace" and "sensitive" double-headers: at my age, i feel i need not be ashamed to aver that listening to them can still reduce me alternately to tears and insane joy.

however, the bonniest news of this long yr is that "if i could see" and "wallflower" have at last received their unbelievably overdue official release, courtesy of matinee recordings' new brighter compilation, "out to sea", a "laurel plus" (the plusses being various prev. unreleaseds, and 5x tunes from the two great little flexis that are mine forever, thanks to two judiciously-spent 50p coins a decade and a half ago) to help sate completists and to provide a companion for the equally fabulous "singles 1989-1992". obviously, even aside from the single that never was, "out to sea" is the business. also, please note that the very first track on it is still, for me, the greatest song of all time.

in other news, i went to a christening in h*mpstead not that long ago. it was, obviously, lovely: part of our duty as witnesses to the solemnity was to reject satan and his various works. nevertheless, as a rule one should show some caution in such sweeping commitments, else recent deicide and slayer releases risk neglect. it seems touchingly inevitable, rather than in any way sinister, that deicide released their new (download-only) single on 6.6.06: and that slayer, on new lp highlight "cult", manage to rhyme "666" with "crucifix" as if they were singing lyrics first scrawled on their folders at school earlier that day, rather than words penned by fortysomething men of the world and veterans of the entertainment industry.

while young blood like demiricous are making old-style slayer thrash more worthy of serious veneration, slayer, especially vocally, now seem much more mainstream, probably in the realisation that these days it's far easier to knock spots off maiden, say, than newer kids on the block. tempering their obsession with christian iconography only to throw in more less cartoonish references, to modern warfare and foreign policy, there are some coruscating moments (and "flesh storm" is a bracing opening tune) but overall my appreciation of "christ illusion" is probably rooted in warmth and nostalgia rather than any suggestion of it being near the cutting edge.

"homage for satan", o.t.o.h., carries more menace, not least because glen benton's guttural rasp makes the tom araya of 2006 sound like amelia fletcher in comparison. reports reach my ears that the whole album is this good, which would be quite a result, because "homage" comes roaring out of the blocks in a way that not many lps of this ilk manage, and even manages to incorporate some overextended guitar solos without causing me to rush for the exits (while guitar solos, in general, are of course a *BAD* thing, there are exceptions: carcass sneaked some in to later releases, while there's even one of sorts in bubblegum splash's "the 18.10 to yeovil junction", and that's one of the finest tunes kind of ever. drum solos, on the other hand, are unacceptable, unless you're lindy morrison). anyway, brilliantly produced, with the hooks and clean lines to the fore notwithstanding the onslaught of benton's gargled growls, this single was a very pleasant surprise.

when, after a 17-year hiatus, the reformed terrorizer declared their second album "darker days ahead", we could not have known that virtually as it hit the streets, guitarist jesse pintado would die, still in his thirties, following a diabetic coma. rarely can a return have been so brutally nipped in the bud. sadly, "d.d.a." is not the grindcore classic we yearned for - you'll need to look to the two lock-up albums for recent evidence of mr. pintado's skills in that direction; yet the legacy that we are left with is still enough to ensure the band will be fondly remembered for the right reasons, with "darker days" being a thick, earthy, hulking mass of death metal, which despite a welcome revisiting of "dead shall rise" is very different from the pacy, still nr-sublime "world downfall" debut, and as such terrorizer are laid to rest having covered all the bases.

so if the next great grindcore album was not to come from the supposed progenitors of the whole movement, then who ? perhaps wigan, united kingdom's own narcosis, touted as inheritors of the carcass / napalm death tradition ?

well, not quite. "romance" is an instantly appealing record, a score of songs in as many minutes, a high-speed collision of a.c., flyblown and "reek of putrefaction" that rarely settles into a groove for more than about 4 seconds before its stop-start drums and breakneck guitars regroup and then recommence battle with the shrieking vocals. invigorating, challenging and most of all fast, i commend "romance" to your record players utterly. it is not, however, the unallayed early-90s style grindcore which it is being sold as in certain quarters.

a similar kinda thing applies to the gresham flyers, a london-based sextet whose debut "shiftwork" 7" seems to be badged as recalling pulp vs. the wedding present. in fact, it's much better than that might suggest, a keyboards-to-the-fore indie pop song of seemingly indeterminate vintage that starts with the clean melodies of early mighty mighty and, when the boy vocals come in, seems to jump back through time to become a new wavey paean to the listlessness of clocking on, and off, and on.... but always informed by the more contemporary knowing pop wiles of the likes of bearsuit. a highly enjoyable single.

the mysterieux full crumb have links to trilemma, lo-fi thinking man's indie-popists of the very early C21st - this is detectable in their compact guitar musings arrayed across 38 minutes of cd-r, which range from chunkier outings like "clamber asunder" to a sweep of precious early-hood balladettes most notably "life is not a stream" and my current drug of choice, "nightingale stew". in another place, i once waxed words on teruo's "too wide eyes" 7", and "stew" wonderfully pinballs between many of the same reference points: guitars softly criss-crossing, minimalist lyrics refusing to over-intrude (see also f.m. cornog), a kind of serenity seeping into the speakers as if to gently berate you for having overdone your immersion in "christ illusion" and to demonstrate to you what you'd been missing. by all accounts full crumb are super-prolific, so there are mountains of cd-rs of this kind of thing, but "thorax" is the one that you need purloin for this.

finally may I recommend the following links in blogland:

- the daddy of all things 'proper' indie and my 1st port of call these days for new developments in c86ville; leading me to:

- one of the few blogs that I've truly found fascinating, and with which I am in worringly wide agreement on all matters of musical "taste";

- this excellent post on c86, which - amongst many other things - rams home the point that revisionists everywhere forget: for some of us, c86 was a reaction, a post-punk d.i.y. revelation, and not the conservative "anti-hip hop" etc force it now seems to be portrayed as (a tangent, I know, but indie, hip-hop, and metal subgenres on both sides of the atlantic were all equally fresh and exciting in '86);

- ooh, and check these most entertaining words on the same subject, much as I disagree with any disparaging comments on the mighty phalanx of ron johnson bands.

next time, if my current listening is anything to go by (which frankly it usually isn't): wiley, lovejoy, manage, sarandon, napalm death.

um, in the words of one of my old bosses, you may go now.