Saturday, March 17, 2007

the worth of waiting.

extreme noise terror [untitled split lp with driller killer] (osmose 10" / CD): the orchids "good to be a stranger" (siesta, cd album)

ok hold tight right now. guess who's back, and we mean BACK. yep, 3 years after we last saw them live, and - gosh - 6 years since their last record, the "being and nothing" album on candlelight, extreme noise terror have resurfaced on a split cd with sweden's driller killer, on a label from beaurainville, france, and their five tracks on it are bliss.

whereas "being and nothing" mixed the triple vocal onslaught with quite a lot of muddier metal riffs, as well as out and out thrash, the new e.n.t. have gone right back to basics. we kid you not, if we didn't know better we'd guess this had been recorded somewhere between their earliest peel sessions and the "phonophobia" set on vinyl japan (you know, when them and doom were labelmates to the fat tulips). it's as if, in the sad absence of nasum, who they supported in highbury last, they've decided it's them who need to step up to the plate and just blast the extremely old-school peelcore.

it starts with "religion is fear", one of those songs that says, that frankly just oozes, 'we're back with a vengeance', that demands you listen as it feverishly intercuts hints of "another nail in the coffin" and "retreat to nowhere" into a turbulent bobsleigh of discharge-y guitars, drums clattering nearly as much as on the last boyracer album, and nearly as fast. admittedly the lyrics are marginally sub-slayer, but then the lyrics on the last slayer album were substantially sub-slayer.

no matter. a mini-whirlpool of drumming and feedback sucks you in to more old-skool chord progressions and vocal yelling courtesy of "human waste", which also features a storming mid-song break recalling classic line-up napalm; then, on "short fuse", the instrumental section slows briefly to an obituary-style growled breakdown, more akin to "being and nothing"'s occasional ambling moshes (we note with consternation, if little surprise, that e.n.t. appear to be playing live this year in virtually every country except the uk, including festivals accompanying both napalm and obituary). anwyay, the growl is swiftly punctured by more feedback and spinning drums - there is then a mercifully short guitar solo (just under 5 seconds) before the assault resumes.

track four, "branded" is a beatniks-style rant about our cycle of dumbed-down consumerism ("addicted to shallow trends... a culture of the self obsessed") but is sonically more of the merry same, peaking with a call and response between thundering solo bass a la "bullshit propaganda", and visceral "phonophobia" guitars. "nothing no more" rounds off the event - this time there's lyrically a certain sadness ("tasting tears of pain... lost and incomplete") but don't worry, the soundtrack remains vibrant, fast and feedback-flecked. and then, with one last cookie monster howl, they're done.

waiting six years for new product only to get 8 minutes' worth of tunes may not seem the best of returns, but it still allows us to clutch to our bosom and hug so fiercely for a thousandth time the mantra that in this music game it's all about quality - bobbins to width.

and each of these songs is manic, feral, untouched, untainted, with the vocals dovetailing in and out of each other, and in and out of different registers, in the grand tradition of this fine band. and that is all that we require.

the orchids' comeback record - this time a gap of 13 years! - is a little more sober (perhaps literally) but it's actually a really strong set. it's strange to think that it this their first proper record which isn't on sarah, but although "good to be a stranger" is a fairly refined beast, we're not sure we agree with other assessments that it this somehow represents a new-found maturity: even listening back to their early singles, the orchs were hardly the poppyheads or christine's cat, but were always striving beyond the alleged ambitions of their label, whether by experimentation ("yawn", "thaumaturgy") or simply by creating dustbowl epics like "something for the longing", elegantly-constructed torch songs that didn't shamble for a second.

and yes this record does indeed lay to rest their experimental side, which peaked / troughed depending on your point of view with that ultimate sarah fan-divider "a living ken and barbie". but it's the focus on the basics instead that assists them in taking a few steps closer to their once-avowed aim of lazy perfection.

this album, largely previewed in kilburn on that torrential friday not so long ago (and how well the new songs swam into that set), is a smooth collage of indisputably precious melodies and simple, overwhelmingly romantic lyrical notions, all given a sympathetic, almost timid production that somehow helps the songs to hang in the air around you (like, er, butterflies of love), for the most part only intruding gently into your consciousness, but - once there - refusing to let go.

there are plenty of tracks here - breezy, wistful, thoughtful moon lullabies all - that brim with the delicate beauty the windmills achieved on "now is then", say ("down to the ocean", "take my hand"), and then there's "another saturday night" which has rapidly become a new orchids favourite (well, with us) as it stretches the template a little with its rushes of energy and tumbling hope, heralding the stronger second side of the record.

in other news, "do it for yourself" makes us think of robert forster, and "feel the magic" of well, the orchids. the soft trumpet of "i need you to believe in me" works a treat, too - the only place where we probably do draw the line is at the flute that intervenes on "last thing", one of the few tracks that dallies a little more closely with the dark forces of m.o.r.

and. the piece de resistance is undoubtedly the closing "you could do something to me", from the word go a song which would happily fit any time, any place, and which melds the crystal trills of the bardots' "sad anne" with the top-drawer aching-vista tunesmithery of the go-betweens: but the whole album - with hackett's voice, even after all these years, still full of, well, yearning - is as much a record to cherish as ever.

you know they're fine.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

boss disques: ripcord "live at parkhof alkmaar holland 18/09/1988" (boss tuneage): heresy "20 reasons to end it all" (boss tuneage)

and so the boss tuneage retro series continues to make old hands like us grin self-indulgently with two more happy blasts from times distant past.

hailing from weston-super-mare, famed more for its pier amusements and, latterly, infamous resident perjurer lord archer, ripcord were always one of the more eloquent exponents of uk hardcore, and their "poetic justice" album is one of the greatest records released during that peel-led post-post-punk renaissance of the late 80s and very early 90s.

happily, this live set from 1988 concentrated largely on blooding the songs that were soon to make up the bulk of the musically stubborn, lyrically erudite "poetic justice" - scene-aware and campaigning tunes like "aim to please", "no effort no thought" and "barriers", as well as the odd former favourite (ss decontrol's "boiling point", and even a version of siege's "walls", to which n.d's lee dorrian, no less, contributes backing screams).

that said, and while we would happily have journeyed to holland ourselves if that's what it took to see ripcord, the 17 ferocious tracks - in 19 minutes - that constitute "live at parkhof" are prob still more for the r/c completists (we are guessing you may not all be one of these) rather than the right jump-off for a novice's way in to this great band.

the only sensible introduction to them is the "poetic justice" lp itself, with its surprisingly pastoral photo sleeve, but it's out of print, we haven't seen it for less than £25 recently, and you're not having our copy. (there was allegedly a ripcord cd reissue set from the states a year or two ago too, but we never managed to pin it down). alternatively, you could try to get the early demos lp "in search of a future", issued more recently for the first time by short fuse records - which has the rawness of the live set without all this recording's necessarily rougher edges. anyway, bonne chance.

we have no reservations at all about "20 reasons", however, this the third in the latest series of heresy reissues which began with da blinding "1985-87" and stuttered only mildly with "face up to it" redux.

by now (1988), their mates ripcord (q.v.) had introduced heresy to martin nichols' "white house" studio in weston super - we'd like to think it was ripcord who introduced a number of sarah bands to the same studio, but accept this may be unlikely, unless we missed all those sarah / earache double headers at the eec punk rock mountain.

anyway, heresy knew the game was up for them by now but all this meant is that this final tranche of recordings, made mostly even after their farewell gig, are particularly carefree (a bit like the wake in their more mischievous sarah days), and with an intensity that "face up to it" never quite achieved - heresy obviously found nichols easier to work with than secret shine did! - although the main slug of the tunes here are from their final peel sessions, complete with shout outs to fellow east midlands greats brian clough and, er, franz carr: by now, the maida vale engineers had, maybe against their natural instincts, become pretty familiar with the mechanics of recording ace britcore stylings.

so buttons to rockworld tv or kerrang - go get this, and join us in glorying once more in the tumbling, crashing riffage of "everyday madness everyday".

oh, and the reissues continue to be lovingly choreographed, too: the clear ripcord disc, flecked in red, blue and yellow is an aesthetic delight, with the heresy cd containing all the usual detailed sleevenotes, lyrics, pics etc...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

flowers of london - the orchids in kilburn.

the last time i had felt tears welling up at a gig was in 2004 when, the day after john peel's death, dean jones of e.n.t. dedicated peel session classic "carry on screaming" to him. (incidentally, more on them here soon).

but, towards the very end of the orchids' first set in 13 years, for which they had decamped the not inconsiderable distance from glasgow to a very rainy friday night in london nw6, i surprised myself by shedding just a couple of tears, in quiet joy and wonderment. the orchs were - still - somehow both wistful and powerful, and tunes like "thaumaturgy" ("our last single") and an anthemic "something for the longing" have survived in the meantime, even evolved: they aren't just artefacts (even though the sarah 7"s that we cherished and traded in classrooms and colleges have now been commoditised and fetishised by the likes of e-bay) but instantly-recognisable songs that have easily withstood a generation of repeated listening. illuminating the luminaire, ha.

and all of us there, older. it's not hard to pass for over-18 now: the only trouble we had getting served tonight was the wretched pace of the over-extended bar staff. clare and matt, without whom none of us would have found our way to kilburn high road that night, were there: respect, always, due to them. and, of course, the group, no longer quite the younger model we once watched strutting around the stage doing "sigh" while wearing their own band t-shirts, but still imbibing every song with energy, dynamism and poise - newie "saturday night" recalling the tricks of "...the longing" by alternating driving guitars and softer wiles, and building up to a full head of steam before concluding with simple strumming and hackett's plaintive "i'm so tired"... or "welcome to my curious heart", dripping now with the same irresistible, irreversible melancholy as when they played it moons ago. actually, thinking back, hackett's voice was ever-plaintive - that has always been much of the attraction.

by the heady encore of two great lost songs from two ends of their range and discography, "peaches" and "caveman" (the opening bars of which frankly tipped me over) we were more pleased than ever that we'd remembered to get tickets in advance this time. even so, we weren't quite expecting how rewarding this particular reunion would prove.

postscript: when i got home i dug out "something for the longing". i had to. a wraparound sheet of plain orange paper, the factoryesque minimum of detail:

"recorded in scotland / sarah 29 33 rpm / distributed by revolver-cartel / made in england".

on the disc, just the song titles, a "made in france" (perplexingly), a green tinted branch line. and an insert, recording one of sarah's many growing up moments - how the garden flat address had become a po box number. it was after midnight by now, but we remembered how the orchids very much grew up with the label - even if not always seeing eye-to-eye - and how they were soon responsible for another sarah step-change, that first 12"... and how much better, rather than worse, sarah's catalogue really was for the inclusion of "thaumaturgy" and especially its blissful last minute or so. and how all the things that we sometimes panicked about, as impressionable adolescents - backing vocals, samples, proper sleeves, hanging out with one dove - well, none of them ever stopped the orchids songs being great songs, did they ? even if they were all recreated tonight without a sequencer in sight. and... but yes, it was late, and lager had been drunk... it was time to go to bed.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


bands sometimes pronounce themselves as "lo-fi" a little defensively. this reticence is very misplaced.

not least because, while even we would probably recognise that "curious role model", the title track of the new beatnik filmstars ep was perhaps not recorded in the sistine chapel with the aid of steve lillywhite, a fairlight and a 58-piece orchestra arranged by ennio morricone, "lo-fi" is not the phrase that comes to mind.

"infectious", yes; "raucous", yes; "fizzing", yes; "breakneck", yes; "clattering", admittedly yes, "the sound of thrilled skinny riding their infamous shopping trolley gleefully off a ravine and landing on top of razorlight", yes; "like 'lie dream and the casino soul' boxing 'new boyfriend and black suit' for a place in the world hummability final", yes; "in-yer-face and should be in-the-charts", yes; "sizzlingly cynical angry pop, raining acid barbs on your parade but only delight into our hearts", yes; "as good as anything they've done in the last 15 yrs or so", yes...

for the filmstars are still the uninvited upstart at popdom's self-congratulatory garden party, lighting little fires under the marquee, melting the ferrero rocher and turning the veuve clicquot warm. and they are clearly needed more than ever, given that the kaiser chiefs (who can't be much younger, surely ?) have just managed to have a number one single with an absolute travesty of a song.

the thing about the beatnik filmstars, aswell (syntax copyright m. lawrenson) is that even throughout their era-defying nineties' sequence of glitteringly grainy albums on merge (even last yr's t&f outing "in great shape" apparently befuddled the pressing plant people, although pressing plant people are legendarily conservative if the furores over old buzzcocks and mary chain b-sides were anything to go by, so perhaps that may not be terribly difficile) they've always had the winning knack for a killer hook, and "curious role model" is just another reminder of that. we especially like the late cameo by the trumpeter.

anyway, the cdep is mail-order only. and, fwiw, it sounds nothing like guided by voices.