Sunday, August 26, 2007

total fucking destruction "zen and the art of total fucking destruction" (bones brigade, cd album): pig destroyer "phantom limb" (relapse, cd album): various artists "grind your mind - a history of grindcore 1984-2007" (mayan, 2x cd): a.c. "defenders of the hate" (menace to sobriety, cd)





still waiting in vain for those alleged sportique or secret shine albums ? disappointed by the new obituary and camera obscura singles ? us too, so here are (let's just add them up) 122 reasons to be cheerful right now.

TFD start by firing off 10 shards of excitement in 18 minutes without blinking: a cover of terrorizer's "enslaved by propaganda" is just about the best, but to be fair, like the chelsea outfield, the ten pretty much hang together as a unit. the actual noise that TFD make is hard to pin down completely: it's kinda stop-start hardcore math-grind with a very tough, serrated lo-fi edge that recalls repulsion in places, but is best summed up by the way a song like "we are all elvis now" mixes the hardcore and grindcore influences - and sometimes, as on "corpse position", we swear we can almsost here some melodies struggling to escape from the genre melee. meanwhile lyrically it's "elvis" and "y.a.r.n." (aka "youth! apocalypse! right! now!", one of the best sing-a-longa metal trax since napalm's "cock-rock alienation") that hit hardest, polemics against the creep of consumer culture. what happens after those first 10 tracks is rather strange, as TFD sign off with four straight acoustic numbers. if you were tempted to fast forward through these, well frankly you'd have been right to, although the final cut "nihilism, emptiness, nothingness, nonsense" at least sees them randomly co-opt piano, saxophone and monotone monkish chanting in order to end the album in a pleasingly quaking jazz-folk confusion.

bassless virginian combo pig destroyer, current posterboys for the short sharp shock that is modern grindcore, haven't yet done enough - for us - to justify lofty comparisons with the likes of napalm or nasum, or even with other notable police-haters like m.d.c. or n.w.a.. but "phantom limb" is, nevertheless, a positive step towards both: the songs are longer (actually averaging a very m.o.r.-ish 2 and three quarter minutes) but this gives pig destroyer a little licence to branch out into "reign of blood"-style riffcore (the debt to araya and co half-acknowledged with "girl in the slayer jacket", which could be a love song if it wasn't for the harrowing, true-story lyrical content). our personal fave though is "thought crime spree", a slight nod back to their more political earlier days, but that you can still dance - well, mosh - to. some might be chary of a band so openly aping music from the late 80s, but given that slayer are to thrash what talulah gosh are to twee, we think that this is (a) a good thing and (b) makes pig destroyer the metal equivalent of, say, liechtenstein (which in itself makes us need to lie down for a short while). also, after a powerful combined closing flourish of the slayer / terrorizer-ish "waist deep in ash" and "the machete twins", the album decides to ease off by ending with eight minutes of country & western and cicadas. very rum.

now. unlike relapse's "choosing death" a couple of years back, a compilation which served both as history lesson and close to musically flawless introduction to death metal, "grind your mind" (actually bankrolled by sanctuary records, and boasting sleevenotes by "choosing death" author albert mundrian, plus specially commissioned artwork from mark tichner) is initially more yer random scattergun collection of good, bad and ugly, a patchwork of licensing practicality rather than a sensibly cherrypicked essential collection. indeed, aside from discharge's "society's victim" to open, extreme noise terror's landmark "bullshit propaganda", a clutch of old-skool covers by napalm coralled from "leaders not followers part 2", the heart-lifting discovery of loving carcass copycats general surgery and a trio of sublime extracts from repulsion's beauteous, delicious debut, cd1 is more a lucky dip of dodgy second / third-wave punkers than a history of grind. having said that, in the same way that it's worth buying "choosing death" simply for siege's "walls", it's frankly worth purchasing "grind your mind" simply for siege's "cold war".

cd2, however, is proper sparkling, and its peaks inspire k2-worthy vertigo. they range (get it?) from vintage pig destroyer (q.v.) to a couple of typical pearlers from the late great nasum to napalm's bristling "fatalist" to reliably unyielding confections from bustling midfield workhorses like cephalic carnage and agathocles. but even better, and this should be the raison d'etre of any compilation worth its sodium chloride, it introduces previously unbeknownst bands to us (gosh, where have we been ?) like mortician, exhumed and regurgitator, for which we must be forever in its debt. also, we don't care who your favourite band are, they can surely never have recorded anything as simply thrilling, honey, as skinless's divine "trample the weak, hurdle the dead". unless your favourite band is actually skinless, in which case we must buy you a drink, and we're guessing it won't be a pimms and lemonade. obscure subgenre fans will also be pleased to see that the above mentioned sleevenotes thoughtfully dissect the differences between various subdivisions of grindcore, according to which your narrators are particular fans of deathgrind and, from time to time, noisegrind. wahay.

now, a.c. we note that one of the bonus video tracks on the TFD cd is called "seth putnam is wrong about a lot of things, but seth putnam is right about you". the a.c. frontman is, it's fair to say, often very wrong, often very offensive, often very unfunny. yet the general relentlessness over a decade or so of a.c.'s unbounded if goofy efforts to shock, whilst playing unallayed deathgrind (you see, we're learning) at warp speed, can also often raise smiles and expose home truths (the lyrics to "extreme noise terror are afraid of us" or "no we don't want to do a split 7 inch with your stupid band" being examples). plus, in the past a.c. have of course recorded the definitive versions of both "hungry hungry hippos" and emf's "unbelievable". and the opening track to "defenders", "all our fans are gay", is a classic example of how putnam's approach can actually hit the right spot, a combination of obverse self-deprecation and bitter negativity - "you think you know what we're singing about, you're wrong / you think we care about the underground - you're wrong".

"defenders of the hate" was originally issued some years back as a 7", but musically it is perhaps their strongest, dare we say it most focussed record, with discernible nods to production and (loosely) musicality, rather than solely trying to shoehorn in as many weak gags and banshee screams as possible. and this re-release, throwing in 10 extra tracks to bring the length of the cd to a staggering 20-ish minutes, is a better-distributed(ish) chance to appreciate their unforgiving celebration of the lowest common denominator.

after all that, it's definitely pens down. see you at carnival.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

1, 2, 3, 4, strawberries, let's go

"the stereotypical sarah band isn't even on sarah.. it's probably someone like strawberry story"*

well, it appears that the stereotypical sarah band are back. blimey. for those of you lucky enough to be young, and who unlike us didn't (for example) own their flexis, largely adore their various 7"s (all later lovingly compiled by those occasional curators of indie-pop past at vinyl japan), or trek up to the heaven records xmas bash in notts or the unlikely confines of the victoria inn in derby to see them play, we can tell you that northallerton's finest, strawberry story, were indeed ace. da story were not universally popular back then: they attracted mild scorn from hardcore sarah-ites because they were guilty (allegedly - don't know the facts) of having a girl singing lyrics written by boys: at the time this was considered something of a crime (that may seem quaint, but pop and sexual politics was always a delicate thing then: we remember a huggy bear gig where the band started ganging up on a member of the audience who'd been singing "boy / girl revolution" along to "her jazz", carpeting him in no uncertain terms for failing to recognise that the band was actually calling for "girl / boy revolution"...)

for what it's worth, s. story sounded nothing whatsoever like the primitives or the darling buds, and were never ever going to be troubling TOTP. they did however have their own very real charm, based heavily on hayley's distinctive vocals, a hardcore dedication to guitar fuzz, and a durable if not top-of-the-range drum machine. although pigeonholed as somewhat inconsequential, they were able to pull out of the bag some quite poignant stuff when they wanted to: we remember listening to "26", at the time that age seemed a long way off in the future, and it *churned*. when they did slow songs, it didn't always work, until their gorgeous "caroline" and "the man with the stereo hands" eps, by which time it worked damn fine. they got a joint single of the week for the latter in nme and we even told our friends, who were usually impressed with such things, but the vogue then was for wah-wah and all things pointlessly masculine so they didn't seem to care. ah well. there were even brief moments on that ep ("i never loved you") when the 'berries went "baggy", but delightfully they then packed in the shuffle-beats in time for the chorus, resorting to the tried and tested many-bpm fuzz guitar attack.

after a final, and perfectly sound, cd-ep on vinyl japan, we heard nothing more from them: it was a stark contrast to the heady initial blitz of appearances on compilation tapes. but, whether or not they are welcomed with open arms by the year 2007, there will always be a place for them in our hearts.

today's strawberry story top ten is: 1. twenty-six. 2. close my eyes. 3. the life and times of a teenage romeo. 4. kissamatic lovebubble. 5. well what do you think of that then ? 6. pushbutton head. 7. ashlands road. 8. the man with the stereo hands. 9. buttercups and daisies. 10. caroline. we're not going to be able to make their forthcoming gig at the horse & groom (it's a work ting), so if anyone is able to let us know the outcome of that, please do.

* the above quote btw is our recollection of something clare wadd once said... don't sue us if it turns out actually to have been peter ustinov or someone...

Friday, August 24, 2007

w.ham rap / eski mobo

a combination of libel laws and a rare recalcitrance on our part to bore you unnecessarily means that we are not going to spill out in this forum our album-length rant about football's biggest post-koppel farce, the grubby cover-up fiasco that has been dignified with the title the "tevez affair". you shld, however, understand that we are particularly keen that rovers pull out all the stops when playing west ham in the league cup on tuesday night.

obviously, in reality, we're going to get battered, but no more so than football has been already.

oh yes, and you guys shld know by now who to vote for from the mobo nominations for best male - and probably best newcomer, too. boycott "best hip-hop", though...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

the best album of 1977

has been given a re-release.








late august addendum: er, to be slightly more informative, what we are trying to say we guess is that if you only have £11 of disposable income to spend on music this calendar year it wouldn't be a bad investment to sling it on this very deftly packaged, still awe-inspiring album, pivotal for so many reasons (inspiring punks, introducing sly (& robbie) to many of our record collections, being riddled with the urgency you'd expect by people who thought the world was about to end) but, more importantly, just a glorious listen especially when the proto-"new chapter" trumpets and trombone come in. also, for those of you known to be influenced by such things, it's exceedingly twee in places, especially the keyboards. it's reissued on shanachie.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

the classical, and singles (and albums)

hmmm... not the greatest of starts for alloa athletic, then.

if you reckoned we didn't like classical music - aside from the seminal action painting! a-side return of 1993 - you've been wilfully misled we're afraid (probably by us), although of course we only listen to those "post-punk" classical recordings made post-1976... anyway, evenings with radio 3 during the proms season are ever a joy - highlights so far, from those concerts we've been able to dip into were mahler's surprisingly accessible symphony no. 9 in d, and schumann's surprisingly arresting symphony no. 2 in c major...

now... dap-c "the boy who cried wolf" - a formulaic chorus hook maybe, but this is smilingly trumped by the perfectly balanced verses from c, with his ever-recog geordie lilt, finsbury park star skinnyman shaping for mud fam, and best of all the way under-rated s.kalibre, whose gruff, blokeish tones still offset dap-c's so well, just as they did on dap's "character building" opus a few years back... as he rightly invokes krs-one in damning hip-hop's self-inflicted, increasingly oafish public image...

the pains of being pure at heart... great band, terrible name (like manhattan love suicides)... but TPOBPAH are the best thing from new york since team shadetek... take yr pick from either a 3 tracker, sub nom "this love is fucking right!" on cloudberry, or those 3 plus 2 more on an eponymous ep on painbow... well, this love is not wrong... the press releases have picked out the reference points (for once correctly) of early mbv, black tambourine et al, although there's something about the wavering vox on "orchard of your eye" that gives us a church grims glow too, and there's a hint of the close lobsters' trebly guitar sunshine to "right!"... all 3+2 songs, are well worth a listen...

similarly, liechtenstein's "stalking skills"... starts with a blissful thud of just shop assists drum n' bass fuzz which the rest of it can't quite live up to, but while it's lighter and frothier than the shoppies or the frenchmen, say, it still stalks prettily and (with some skill) talulah gosh, early aventuras de kirlian and free loan investments...

and whereas the pains of being pure of heart and liechtenstein records could quite conceivably have been recorded in 1988, the bodines' "shrinkwrapped" ep on the ever-excellent firestation records definitely actually was... yet here the songs appear, for the first time, as a single - and the title track is everything you'd expect, which is to say a lyrically spiky, tuneful 2 1/2 minutes of glistening, highest-notch indie...

saxon... yes, saxon... it's come to something when the ultimate butt of jokes, the pariahs of the rockistocracy post-spinal tap, creep onto our playlist... but "need for speed" is as addictive as it is dumb, it marginally outmuscles maiden's last 45, and these days being free of both blandness and pretention is a rare and glorious thing in music...

tinchy stryder "something about your smile"... lots of rotation on channel u, as he takes the "breakaway" formula (i.e. good verse, slushy wailing crossover chorus) that bit too far... too polished, just too polished... but as he cheerfully admits elsewhere on the ep, "this year i'm trying to get mainstream money"... and yet the beats (davinche again) still clap so smartly, and tinchy is still so likeable an mc, that we're even falling for this ep a little... aah...

there's been at least 30 great singles this year so far: we weren't expecting one of them to be by gravenhurst... but "trust" ... on one of those labels that is still largely badge of quality, warp records... combines jangly guitar atmospherics with curving, gently rasping bass to positive effect... a 7", well a 7" a-side, of some class...

julie ocean... a band name that celebrates an overlooked masterpiece... songs taking up where the saturday people left off in many ways, a joyous jumble of british-style power-pop a la the jam, and the hurtling, endearing east coast indie adrenalin of prime tree fort angst... records soon, please...

if we told you that the new cockney rejects album was brilliant, we would be lying... indeed, it is nothing more than a sad parody of what people think the cockney rejects sounded like back in the day, when the reality was often a pleasant surprise (not just the testosterone-packed early singles, one of which we still proudly quote on this very page, but the almost go-betweensy melodies that started to appear by album four and then the difficult-to-manage evolution to proper metal by album five)... more upsettingly, by turning so unreconstructedly against modern youth culture in the lyrics they're actually rounding on what they used to be, i.e. the new kids shaking up the block, equal parts irritant and inspiration... although the "look up to wankers like liam gallagher / just give me sugar ray and marvin hagler" lyric nearly redeems it... and the reality is that we don't need the cockney rejects any more now that we've got lethal bizzle... (and as for lethal himself, well "bizzle bizzle" is still a lot of fun, but as for the lp, it's so perplexing to see him so desperately trying to cross over into [the overcrowded market of] terrible indie music... much as we've loved him over years since we first bigged up "oi!", we suspect this is where lethal and ourselves finally part ways)...

if we told you that the new bad brains album was brilliant, you might think we were also lying... you would be wrong, because as we've hinted before it not only includes some of the dreamiest, most perfectly-picked roots reggae we've heard for a country while but also some of the more coruscating hardcore tunes we've encountered since the heyday of the great m.d.c... be prepared for it to place high in our year-ends...

l.man "who's that white kid ?"... well, judging by this he's a piledriving grime mc... we know that's only one string to his bow... and where once every four-piece guitar band whose singer had read a book were the new smiths, now any rapper who happens to be white is the new eminem... but he is not the new eminem (thankfully)... see the great interview in this month's hip-hop connection (ace issue including a countdown of uk top 50 albums we nearly agree with) where he makes this entertainingly clear...

bombstrike's "religion of the lost" and "downfall" are from their "born into this" sessions... part of a swathe of fine music coming out of stockholm at the moment... these days, most of you seem to run labels... so why not try and release these tracks... they make spectacular listening sense...

white town's "socialism, sexism and sexuality"... finally available again, sadly only through i-tunes, but it still sounds infinitely better than any double album called "socialism, sexism and sexuality" by a (then) obscure indie band beloved of cassette compilation er, compilers had any right to... plenty of elegant little lo-fi bundles of considered, sometimes mannered indie-pop a little in the mould of east midlands contemporaries bulldozer crash's similarly slept-on album on sunday records... while taken as a whole, the sheer number of tracks ends up spreading jyoti's then-creative powers a little thin, it's hard to see how any other band from that tape-trading craze, those now fading days, could have thrown up quite such vivid creations as "my baby will love me", "all summer in a day" or "why i hate christmas"... fabulous songs about society, about outsiderdom, about "masturbation and politics", as mr mishra would have it, and yes, about socialism, sexism and sexuality... musically designed to appeal to those, like us, who adored the wedding present and the field mice in near-equal measure, so many tracks shambling along nicely like the former, while "that's just so" in particular tends towards the yearning for exploration of the latter... with brittle drum machine clicks, wake keyboards and almost sublow hiscock-style bass...

and finally, it wasn't just roque santa cruz who had a dream debut.