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September 29, 2010

London Zoo - The Bug


Here we have 2008's applauded London Zoo, wherein raucous dubstep, deranged digi-dub and truculent techno from The Bug, aka Kevin Martin.

Massive production, angry BPM, tectonic shifting bass and a gallery of wisely chosen guests. No weak links, instead, a colourful menagerie of top-level toasters.

1. Angry - Tippa Irie, Kevin Martin 
2. Murder We -  Ricky Ranking, Martin 
3. Skeng -  Killa P, Flow Dan, Martin 
4. Too Much Pain - Ricky Ranking, Martin
5. Insane -  Warrior Queen, Martin 
6. Jah War -  Flow Dan, Martin 
7. Fuckaz -  Spaceape, Martin 
8. You & Me -  Roger Robinson, Martin 
9. Freak Freak -  Martin 
10. Warning -  Flow Dan, Martin 
11. Poison Dart -  Warrior Queen, Martin 
12. Judgement - Ricky Ranking, Martin

The Bug is infectious. Raging and ferocious.
 
Oddi wrth y brawd
infected

September 28, 2010

Wounded Lion - Wounded Lion


Gloriously dumb but witty off-kilter garage pop in Modern Lovers, early Talking Heads vein.

Pity this otherwise insightful Pitchfork.com review doesn’t get the Omar reference:

"Before putting out their self-titled debut LP, Wounded Lion released a video for Friendly?, a track that strikes an uncanny balance between sweetness and crunch. Its video - a crude, Dadaesque PowerPoint presentation- was uploaded to YouTube and soon found its way to other non-music related websites under the "humor" tag. It seemed like a misinterpretation, if not a slight against the band. But after hearing their debut, that classification makes a little more sense.

Rather than using wit or irony to indicate their cleverness, Wounded Lion come off as affably goofy, more like class clowns than arch satirists. Over the 4/4 beats and simple strum patterns that dominate the record, singer Brad Eberhard nods to geography (Hunan Province), astrology (Belt of Orion), and centaurs (Pony People) in a mannered and earnest singing voice. On Degobah System, a song whose lyrics promise "crazy shit" yet refuse to acknowledge Star Wars outside of the title, the singer's slurred yapping sounds a little more like Adam Sandler than Jonathan Richman. As the band picks up the pace in the album's later half, Eberhard documents the mysterious Omar Walk ("What is the Omar Walk?/ That's the Omar Walk") and talks up Coors Light on Silver People. It's as imaginative and scattershot as a high schooler's sketchbook, and about as deep.

Each track finds small variations to keep things from getting too repetitive - vocal harmonies bolster Hunan Province; a Hammond organ shows up in Pony People - and there are enough of these moments to show they've digested more strains of music than their otherwise simple songs suggest on first pass. Wounded Lion's offbeat humor might suggest a more honest and unguarded attitude than you'd find among their garage and lo-fi peers, but some more distinct tunes could have carried that perspective further."

It's a lot of fun.

Oddi wrth y brawd


September 26, 2010

Soul Mining - The The


Risible review at allmusic.com does nothing to unpack the wonder of this stunning debut:

"On The The's first album, Matt Johnson crafted a pleasant but unengaging set of dance-pop just barely hinting at the experimentalism he would develop on later records like Infected and Mind Bomb."

Those who have ears, let them listen.

Oddi wrth y brawd
for harkers

September 24, 2010

Ail Ddechrau - Brân


Guest post by Pastaman Vibration (ye-ah!) -  positive?

The Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert sees actress Keeley Hawes, star of time travelling crime series Ashes to Ashes in the audience at one of his gigs and quips “you didn’t have to get shot to go back to the 80s, love, come back with me to Cardiff tonight”. It’s a funny -  if in this 24/7 era  -  slightly outmoded stereotypical view of the Celtic backwater.

In the 1970s though, Gilbert’s observation would, quite painfully, have been bang on the money, and nowhere more so than with reference to the Welsh language rock and pop scene. Back in 1975 there was only one band with any real claim to rock credentials (Edward H Dafis). Otherwise it was the earnest if occasionally rousing protest songs of Dafydd Iwan, the rasping Dylanisms of Meic Stephens and an abundance of twee folk pops sung by girls in Laura Ashley prints with pretty voices to the strum of acoustic guitars.

In this none too promising environment the first incarnation of Brân (the roof over the “a” extends the vowel sound to something similar to barn), or in Welsh “Crow”, released the first and most intriguing of their three albums, each recorded with a different line-up (John Gwyn guitarist/bassist/vocalist being the only constant). Ail Ddechrau (“Restart” or “Resume”) is at times an awkward cut and shunt (I hope I type that one right) of progressive and folk influences which just about wins the day courtesy of a clutch decently written songs and the wonderful, near-operatic voice of the divine Nest Howells. Those of you who get off on Lavinia Blackwall’s singing with Trembling Bells and Cathy LeSurf-era Albion Band are in for a treat. The result is not too dissimilar to the likes of Mellow Candle and Fuchsia. Bearing in mind that these bands were around several years previous to Ail Ddechrau, and were even then almost forgotten and you’ll see what I mean about the time warp.

Skip the opening number Y Ddor Ddig, it’s awful. Go instead to F’annwyl un (“My Dear One”), Y Gwylwyr (“The Watchers” – a definite highlight) and Wrth Y Ffynnon (“By The Well”) which set the template for the rest of the album – fairly simple rhythms, competent bass work, neat guitar breaks and Nest’s stonkingly striking pipes.

Following this engaging triptych, though, what we are left with is very much of a mixed bag. Myfyrdod (“Meditation”) is clunky three chord rock vying for supremacy with Ms Howell’s pure, expressive voice, and comes across a bit like a proto Heath Robinson Evanescence. The results don’t quite hit the mark and can in aviation terms (geddit? Flying? Crow/Brân? Never mind) be classed a “near miss”, while Mor Braf ("So Fine”) and Blodyn (“Flower”) featuring Gwyn on vocals, are simply embarrassing. In contrast the so-so ballad Caledfwlch (“Hard Gap”) and the superior Y Crewr (“The Creator”) each provide something of an antidote to more ham-fisted proceedings. Matters are brought to a close by the melodic instrumental number Breuddwyd (“Dream”) showcasing Howells’ classically trained piano skills. A bit too Richard Clayderman for my tastes it must be said.

 That, as they say, is that, except to mention the haunted house cover which is very “proggy” and definitely of its time, but oddly appealing nonetheless.

After this Howells and Gwyn recruited a new guitarist, Dafydd Pierce on the occasionally inspired and more commercially slanted Hedfan (“Flying”) and which introduced a light funk into what is actually a more effective marriage of rock and folk. Then Howells and Pierce left and Gwyn steered the band into dry dock with the rocking but less interesting Gwrach Y Nos. By way of a footnote, Nest Howells’ subsequent claim to fame is that she is the mother of Welsh folk music uberbabe Elin Fflur, for which we should all be grateful.


Oddi wrth PV-Y!
y poeths


September 23, 2010

Too Long In This Condition - Alasdair Roberts


Unexpected not only in song choice – folk chestnuts such as Barbara Allen, The Golden Vanity and Long Lankin – but also in the jaunty backing to the tragic and gory narratives. This represents a coming of age release. The authority Roberts injects into his assured story-telling makes even the best-known song sound self-penned. Barbara Allen - ever a tedious ballad and one of Dylan's most irritating early efforts - is stunning; Long Lankin rivals the classic Carthy-Swarbrick or Steeleye Span interpretations. Power in part comes from the arrangements and instrumentation which roil and build, sometimes approaching a folk rock stomp - check The Burning of Auchindoun. Influences are now less the quirky or the mystic ruminations of Robin Williamson, and  more high period Martin Carthy with a touch of Swarb and a dash of Hutchings, alongside all of whom Roberts now stands as (near) equal.

Without pandering to folk cliche, it's his most accessible album to date . Truly masterful.


Oddi wrth y brawd
what put the blood on your right shoulder, son?

September 22, 2010

The Ayrtime.Org E.P. - Wounded Knee


On a primitive mission to altered consciousness Lord Alfred Tennyson was wont to employ his own titled name as rudimentary mantra. Mantra as basic magic. Mantra as Creative Word causing all things to be; the Word and the God/Goddess who speak, for all magical intents and purposes, becoming the same. Repetition inducing a link with the beginning; repetition unto trance.

In its own humble way, this short collection of unaccompanied folk chant treads this path. Wounded Knee weave a mesmeric and en-chanting spell.

Oddi wrth y brawd

September 20, 2010

John Barleycorn Reborn: Dark Britannica - Various


"Dark folk doesn't particularly mean anything to me, certainly not anything religious or political.  I chose to use the term like the dark ages: a time of cultural development that was assumed not to have happened because nobody wrote about it.  It's exactly what has happened with this music.  The media assumes because they aren't covering the music, it doesn't exist or grow.  There are those who fuse psychedelic music, paganism, folklore, rock and other aspects with folk that makes it sound unconventional, strange or experimental.  This may be seen as curious in comparison with traditional folk performed using the authentic instruments.  I think folk music can possibly be traced back in some way to our lives on these Islands tens of thousands of years ago through the song motifs, symbology, simplicity and communal basis.  The past is dark, unknown and strange to us so dark folk is I suppose on this release, me trying to trace these threads back to our past via the songs."

Thus Mark Coyle, compiler of Dark Britannica's exploration of the John Barleycorn myth. Barleycorn, barley personified, encounters great suffering before succumbing to an unpleasant death - all this corresponding to the various stages of barley cultivation, such as reaping and malting. The theme is well chosen. It captures the British Isles on the turn from Pagan to Christian: Barleycorn dies so that others may live and enjoy the reviving effects of drinking his blood.

Whicker man or vicar man?

(Update: There are two further CDs of this series available at The Real Nitty Gritty. Big thanks to Anon in comments for this one!)

(Great review to be had at terrascope online)

Oddi wrth y brawd
tinkers
cuss


September 19, 2010

An Interlude to the Outermost - Kiss the Anus of a Black Cat


Orbiting  the Current 93 sonic globe, Belgian Stef Heeren's vocals call to mind David Tibet's sinister, avant-rock incantation. An Interlude to the Outermost combines dark mantra-ish folk and sharpened folk rock, intense melodies and angsty spleen. Punkroots peep from beneath the pagan themes. Imagine a young po-faced Joe Strummer dancing round a maypole. Or maybe not.

Well worth a listen.

Oddi wrth y brawd

September 18, 2010

II - Sylvester Anfang


Princes of darkness...from Belgium. Sylvester Anfang mark II introduce a more varied palette: mining a classic psych rock vein, balancing deep drone and motorik principles with robe-adorned freak folk wig-outs. Occasional electronic groove-heavy jamming leavened by some haunting campfire moments. Cover and titles notwithstanding (e.g. the Devil always shits in the same graves - note capitalisation), SA have outgrown the diabolic distractions and focused on creating good shit - albeit devil flavoured.

Oddi wrth y brawd

September 17, 2010

We Sold Our Soul For Rock 'N' Roll - Black Sabbath


A fulsome doff of the cap to Tony, Bill, Ozzy & Geezer, the acknowledged masters. Culled from 70 - 73 genius run of anvil smitten classics -  Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality, Vol 4, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath - all historical permutations of heavy start here. Monolithic, primal and wholly unsubtle. The evergreen thrill of Sweat Leaf's opening salvo of monster riff and Ozzy yell; Sabbath Bloody Sabbath's noisy-quiet template which eventually became Pixies and Nirvana; the magnificent, dunderheaded manual turning of the amp up to 11 at 0:40 in to N.I.B..

In retrospect, a surprisingly pervasive air of unhappy trips and drowsy narcotics. Presumably before the booze and coke fully kicked in.

As y brawd is prone to declare, this really is essential.

Oddi wrth y brawd

September 16, 2010

Dopethrone - Electric Wizard


Oh my. Down-tuned, grinding, monolithic doom metal, achieving unprecedented depths, Pandaemonium, uncompromising worship of weed, malevolence, dirge, dense walls of sound, extended planet-sized riff-monsters, never exceeding a snail's pace, somehow managing to build in intensity, from single note guitar lines to huge power chords with deliberate maddening certainty.

Don't need to be a metal head to see the glory. 

(Y brawd has Edo at KYC to thank for turning him on to the EW's acid drenched debut)
Oddi wrth y brawd
we love you


                  

September 15, 2010

Astral Pigmy Wave - Hanadensha


Heavily stoned. Two long floating tracks of synthesizer drones, burbling liquid tones, elongated mind-manifesting noises, and, yes, what sounds to be pigmy chanting. A pity they didn't ditch the p-word and go for Baka - it would have still worked in Japanese. Whatever, political correctness aside, this is the needful third installment of y brawd's tripped out Hanadensha postings (see here and here).

Prepare for a journey deep into inner space. Mind how you go now.

Oddi wrth y brawd
wave hello

September 14, 2010

Acoustic Mothership - Hanadensha




See earlier post for the Hanadensha back story. This mother is more mind-melting than the first. Acoustic vibes not much in evidence; instead fried guitars and frazzled electronics work their magic.

Oddi wrth y brawd
elemental jam

September 13, 2010

Godstar Thee Director's Cut - Psychic TV


"A mind blown is a mind throne"

Third installment of what seems to have become a trilogy posting event. And franchement madames et monsieurs, it will blow your freakin' minds.

Six versions of Godstar (all essential); thrilling covers: As Tears Go By, Good Vibrations, Eve of Destruction, and Je T'aime, Mois Non Plus; GP-O giving it full rock star - metaphorical at this stage, tits out -  frontal. What's not to like?

As tributes to selfish, emotionally stunted rock stars go, it's unparalleled. Talking of SES rock stars, y brawd offers these lines by Jimbo Morrison who, apart from the familiar sixth form lapses and a dodgy reference to our Jewish brothers, nails it with a few choice images:

Ode to LA While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased

I'm a resident of a city

They've just picked me to play
the Prince of Denmark

Poor Ophelia

All those ghosts he never saw
Floating to doom
On an iron candle

Come back, brave warrior
Do the dive
On another channel

Hot buttered pool
Where's Marrakesh
Under the falls
the wild storm
where savages fell out
in late afternoon
monsters of rhythm

You've left your
Nothing
to compete w/
Silence

I hope you went out
Smiling
Like a child
Into the cool remnant
of a dream

The angel man
w/ Serpents competing
for his palms
& fingers


Finally claimed
This benevolent
Soul

Ophelia

Leaves, sodden
in silk
Chlorine
dream
mad stifled
Witness

The diving board, the plunge
The pool
You were a fighter
a damask musky muse

You were the bleached
Sun
for TV afternoon
horned-toads
maverick of a yellow spot

Look now to where it's got
You
in meat heaven
w/ the cannibals
& jews

The gardener
Found
The body, rampant, Floating

Lucky Stiff
What is this green pale stuff
You're made of
Poke holes in the goddess
Skin

Will he Stink
Carried heavenward
Thru the halls
of music

No Chance.
Requiem for a heavy
That smile
That porky satyr's
leer
has leaped upward
into the loam


And let's not get started on the irony of that one.

14 page booklet to boot. What are you waiting for?



                   




Oddi wrth y brawd
porky
satyr
lear

September 12, 2010

Apocalypse Across the Sky - The Master Musicians of Jajouka


Live document from 1991, with Bachir Attar at the helm. Massed ghaitas, percussion, call and response all making a righteous racket.

Jajouka perches above a long valley in the blue Djebala foothills of the Rif Mountains in northern Morocco. The music and secrets of Jajouka have been passed down through generations from father to son, by some accounts for as long as 1,300 years. Some writers have connected elements of Jajouka’s musical traditions to Ancient Greek and Phoenician ceremonies. Burroughs extravagantly dubbed the Master Musicians of Jajouka a “4000 year old rock band.”

Joyous.

Oddi wrth y brawd
godstar

September 11, 2010

Force the Hand of Chance - Psychic TV



PTV's first 1982 release suffuses dread, ritual, drama and tenderness to coalesce themes meditating on being and the nature of Will. It is steeped in Crowley's Ordo Templi Orientis which he reorganised around the Law of Thelema: Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law, and Love is the law, love under will. Often interpreted straighforwardly as carte blanche to indulge all psycho-sexual and emotional impulses however transgressive, a subtler reading is lost: seeking out and following one's own True Will rather than the ego's desires.

Perhaps this sounds like music ideologically freighted at the expense of the music itself. Not so. Assisted by the more than able Fergusson and Christopherson, Genesis P-Orridge turns in a  collection of powerful soundscapes and some oddly captivating "pop". Stunning soundtrack to an unfolding message. Maybe, PTV's best.

GP-O confounds expectations from the get go. A pastoral, string-driven melody to his baby daughter, Just Drifting (for Caresse) flows pleasantly like the country streams and breezes it conjures up. Tender and sincere as this is, it remains nonetheless of a thematic piece. A child's pre-verbal state of just being, drifting, following it's own will and possessing a "simple love".

It can't last of course. Things quickly get very dark indeed. Terminus X-tul is a deeply unsettling account of a young man journeying toward initiation, derailed by a - fantasy or actual - suicide  jump from a railway bridge into a passing train. Morricone twang and doom heighten the drama and references the time-stetching opening scene of Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West. This is carried forward in the first lines of spoken lyric: 
Quiet and hooded, his eyes stared out, small hands make patterns on the window.
Body shifting on wood, dog outside the door, flickering memories as trains manoeuvre in the old men's eyes.
Forever part of a sleeping world, waiting for him to come.
Lost dreams of childhood forgotten like hope.
These lives are stones made for cemeteries.
This time the victim is desired, like misery.

He stepped down from the train, dust on road and clothes.
Across the way a boy was grinning, hard-on obvious in torn grey trousers inherited from an earlier victim of the white horse.
The ghost of Old Bill Lee hovers in these Western Lands. A crisis is upon the boy, turmoil and the demonic howl of heavily distorted guitar. Time slows, a mystery is arrived at, a secret coda fulfilled.
   
If ever darkness needed leavening it's now. On cue, in swoons Marc Almond like the winsome nephew of Macbeth's Porter, offering Stolen Kisses and Doug Yule VU bubble-gum pop: though as "dark suns of sunlight flower"  this seems as much about the temporary oblivion of smack as light relief.

And so the album unfolds. Central themes unfurling and moments of light made sweeter by the imminent dark. Marc crops up again on Guiltless exhorting us to "see it and go for it". Do what thou wilt. Sex magick and Jean Genet combine in New Order-ish dance number Ov Power. In the parlance of Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, Ov being male-female sexual fluids. Shouty chanting validates the bestial in us all.

Message from Thee Temple dogmatically lays out the Law of Thelema, delivered by a vaguely creepy if authoritatively warm voice (think Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers). A re-statement of Crowley's road map for discovering one’s True Will:
The temple strives to end personal laziness and engender discipline.
To focus the Will on one's true desires in the belief, gathered from experience, that this maximises and makes happen all those things one wants in every area of life.

Explore daily your deepest desires, fantasies -
Gradually focusing on what you would really like to happen in a perfect world,
Picking away all restrictions and practical considerations.
A strange doubling effect is discernable by the close listening ear, heightening awareness and sense of unease.


The counterpoint to Terminus X-tul is the jackal snarling Thee Full Pack (for Bachir Attar). Equally cinematic in feel, this time evoking the disorientation and lurking fear that stalks Max Von Sydow through the souk at the beginning of The Exorcist. O.T.O., ceremony and fraternal bonding through ritual is captured in the name check for Bachir Attar, leader of The Master Musicians of Jajouka. The song invokes a great force, which is threatening, surrounds us, and from which there is no escape.

By virtue of strength of vision realised and by the unrelenting focus on the TOPY liberation quest, this is one of the handful of absolutely essential PTV albums.


This is the place where all roads meet, the place where all is the secret.
The place where time stands still in the comfort of night and love becomes will
in the presence of light.
I never want to leave.
I never want to leave.
I never want to leave.

Oddi wrth y brawd
place of dead roads

September 10, 2010

Jola Rota - Joakim Skogsberg



To many of y brawd's readers, news that Joakim's myspace page  boasts friends Terry Riley, Dungen, Kawabata Makoto, and LSD March will be enough to get them checking this Swedish psychedelic treasure from 1972.

Weird Brother Richard Skelton post makes much of Skelton's organic recording techniques, his music improvised live over a period of years in remote locations throughout Northern England: on hillsides, along streams and rivers, and in deep forests. Well, Joakim appears to have got there first. Immersed in the Swedish landscape and drawing heavily on traditional jolor vocalising, Joakim creates a wyrd gem, an infusion of low-key fuzzed up violins, rattling hand percussion, droning vocals and pulsating bass rhythms.

The album was for the most part recorded out in the woods, on reel-to-reel-tape recorder. Subsequent droning sounds were recorded in a tiny closet in a Stockholm suburb.

Truly strange, mesmerising shit. Let some Joakim into your life.

Oddi wrth y brawd
hoarse rotavator

September 08, 2010

The Chambers Brothers' Greatest Hits - The Chambers Brothers


Psychedelicised soul. The mighty Time Has Come Today, and, to these ears at least, their gospel roots making for the definitive version of People Get Ready.  The Bros pioneering blend of incendiary funk, gospel, soul, and psych-rock was inevitably overshadowed by Sly & the Family Stone. Get ready, the time has come.

Oddi wrth y brawd
are you ready?

September 07, 2010

Doobie Shining Love - Hanadensha


Former Boredoms bass player Hiyashi Hira is Hanadensha main man. The name translates literally as "flower train", probably a reference to the first women only train carriages introduced in Japan 100 years ago to offer some respite from the roving eyes and hands of scum-bag males. Whatever, Doobie Shining Love EP is the third instalment in a lysergic trip-tych comprising first Astral Pigmy Wave then Acoustic Mothership.

This is the shortest of the three EPs, with three psychedelic grooves totalling 18 minutes, and is somewhat different from the earlier two as it has actual songs, of a kind. The title track offers a slow, funky bassline over easy on a synth rhythm, as smooth vocals murmur and spaced-out electronic tones float by. The closer Seasky Rainbow is a perky delight: a simple melodic riff picked on guitar is augmented while synth and organ flutter and woof, then about halfway through gears change abruptly and a heavier fuzz-guitar rounds things off, nicely.

Give y brawd a shout in the Comments if you'd like the rest of the trilogy. Until then, enjoy.

Oddi wrth y brawd

                                           

September 06, 2010

Back in Denim - Denim


Spot on review from stylusmagazine.com:

The two records which, for better or worse, signal the direction British rock would take in the nineties begin by throwing us back to a world as yet untouched by punk. Released in 1992, Suede’s The Drowners EP and Denim’s Back in Denim open to the camp goose-step of the glitter beat; both records have been pinpointed as the moment when Britpop escaped the daydreams of Melody Maker sub-editors and became something tangible. It’s only with the gloss of hindsight that such generalisations seem plausible but, at the very least, both records feel like attempts to cut free from the ideological binds of both ’76 and (C)’86. Alongside contemporary works by the parochial (if underestimated) likes of Kingmaker, Ride, or even The Family Cat, both seem like attempts to re-engage with the world beyond: not quite Damon Albarn’s ambition of making songs for the milk man to whistle, but something like that. Whilst Suede’s invigorating revival saw them go supernova, supping rather too fulsomely at Nick Kent’s “dark stuff,” Denim were, along with The Auteurs and Saint Etienne, merely a prelude. Simply a curio thrown up by a seismic shifting of pop’s tectonic plates.

Today, Back in Denim feels even more essential in its mix of intelligence, unsentimental nostalgia, and optimism. Yet it is also weighed down by its failure to curtail the ultimate impotence of Britpop—the re-embracing of every lumpen dogma and cliché. Denim’s leader Lawrence (Hayward, though like Madonna and Morrissey one name is deemed sufficient) had steered an idiosyncratic path through the 80s with Felt, a band who even at their most accessible spoke a language of high romance and poetic abstraction. Channeling Dylan, Television, and on occasions lounge jazz through the bed-sit hinterland, they were a glorious soundtrack to withdrawal. As about turns go Back in Denim gives even Metal Machine Music a run for its money. Lawrence billed the outfit as “novelty protest” and with their near perfect marriage of pointed pastiche and socio-political comment it’s as apt a summation of his new metier as one could hope for.

The key track is Middle of the Road in which over a minimal backing of tight riffing and primitively burbling synthesisers Lawrence declaims: “I hate the Stones and I hate blues.” Systematically he dispatches the clichés of a moribund culture: “riffs and guitar licks,” “coke and spliffs.” But what is hate without hope? Around a minute and a half in the song bursts to life with cooing backing vocals and the simple manifesto:

Don’t be told who to like.
It’s your choice,
It’s your right to choose who you listen to.

And with that, Lawrence sets the controls for the middle of the road. The record single-handedly attempts to re-write the history of “rock ‘n’ roll,” imagining a world where the Beatles and blues canon is replaced by Lieutenant Pigeon, Hurricane Smith, and The Osmonds. Often the music is hard to describe in relational terms because this is a kaleidoscopic assemblage of 70s popular music’s secret history; the stuff that has escaped the music media’s selective memory. Critics and the talking head nostalgia show cycle may attempt to rewrite history, to systemise it into hierarchies; masterpieces, guilty pleasures, and all the rest. Back in Denim is a vision of a world where “rock ‘n’ roll” takes on a very different meaning, shorn of trite binaries and strutting machismo.

Occasionally the effect is almost autistic; Lawrence may as well be speaking a private language, so personal and idiosyncratic are his reference points. Though the record is filled with the sounds of signifiers of the pre-punk 70s, it never falls to the self-congratulatory sneers of those half arsed clip shows where z-list comedians “reminisce” about chopper bikes or “the laws of the playground.” Back in Denim is a purge. Amongst the glitter and spangles there are nail bombs. Lawrence delights in the innocence and optimism of his formative years on the epic eight minutes of The Osmonds, but the harrowing, confusing realties of the IRA’s bombing of his hometown lurks just beneath the surface. You could condemn it all as kitsch, a mere art project, yet the sheer desire to re-describe, to re-conceptualise, to find new musical languages steers it all a long way from archness.

It was a wise person indeed who declared that you can’t beat an enemy by singing their song. It’s fair to say Lawrence has clocked this. He was proved right; most of the Britpop groups became normalised and naturalised, losing their novelty and appeal under the scrutiny of “rock’s” pernicious historicism. (OK: heroin, The Spice Girls, and Princess Di may have also been involved.) That’s not to say that The Drowners is not a great, breathlessly exciting piece of music, but it is incredibly easy to say “Bowie x The Smiths” and stick it neatly into the carefully contrived story of “rock ‘n roll.” In an era where music criticism is often reduced to the mere observation of similarities to something the listener has heard before, Lawrence’s commercially suicidal crusade into pop’s unremembered past is all the more impressive. The closing I’m Against the Eighties is full of hope, shedding the disappointments of the previous decade and embracing the still-fresh 90s. If one knows what came next—mental problems, heavy drugs, and “The Great Pub Rock Revival”—it’s heartbreaking. Yet through it all shines a hopefulness; a belief in the redemptive power of pop. He’s got a girl and a copy of “Ravesignal III,” he’s sick of  Duran Duran (“fake make up boys”) and “Mary Chain debris,” but he’s in love with the modern world. Therein lies the lesson: the past can fuel the present instead of overshadowing it.


Oddi wrth y brawd
little Jimmy

September 05, 2010

Into the Great Wide Open - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers


Nothing cool about this post, teetering as it does on the verge of guilty pleasure. The bone of contention is of course Jeff Lynne's production technique. To many, a one trick load of old pony dispensing cheese and white noise snare sounds like bubble perms never went out of fashion. On the other side of the divide are those who concede the limitations - and let's face it, the worldwide consensus on taking Lynne out to the street and shooting him like a mangy English sheep dog for his Beatles Anthology "work" is unequivocal - like y brawd says, while acknowledging the paucity of his approach [close mic. the snare and far mic. the snare; now, compress the far mic. 2:1 and fold into the close snare track while using a 1/10 of a second tape delay between the two; REPEAT ON EVERY FUCKING SONG FROM 1974 ONWARDS], there are those who appreciate that when the production matches a certain kind of song, then something very magical happens. This is the case with the run of classic E.L.O. singles and it is the case with Tom Petty's soaraway melodies and expansive narratives on Into The Great Wide Open.

On second thoughts, given Ariel Pink's public endorsement of 80s airbrushed production, maybe there is a whiff of cool about this post. You the listener decide.

oddi wrth y brawd


Spirit of the Age - Hawkwind


An intriguing round-up of the Charisma years 76-79, taking our space trucking compadres from the attack and sprawl of Reefer Madness and Steppenwolf  to punkily focused Hawklords material. Calvert's majestic Ballardian hymns to a dystopian future/present -  High Rise and Spirit of the Age  - still shimmer coldly down the years. Almost poppily accessible in places - Psi Power, Twenty Five Years, Back on the Streets - and while the absence of deep space jams may not make this a favourite with gnarled veterans of the psychic wars, it does showcase how Hawkwind managed not just to weather the punk storm but to ride the wave into the 80s and beyond with integrity and legend intact. A treat.

Oddi wrth y brawd
cap'n bob



September 04, 2010

Masked and Anonymous - Various & Bob Dylan


Like the film it serves, the music on this perky set of diverse covers (plus handful of Dylan performances) is episodic, fragmented, oftimes surreal, occasionally ridiculous, multicultural, urgent, and off-balance. All grounded in questions of history and integrity.

1. My back pages - Magokoro Brothers
Cracking opener. Nothing effete about the Mag. Bros. A brave, if foolhardy, literal translation of the lyrics into Japanese that has the MBs galloping along to keep up. Which they do, just.

2. Gotta serve somebody - Shirley Caesar
Straightahead gospel from Dame Shirley Ann.

3. Down in the flood (new version) - Bob Dylan
Mmm...next.

4. It's all over now, baby blue - Grateful Dead
Giving the lie to Dylan and the Dead debacle. Simpatico!

5. Most of the time - Sophie Zelmani
Swedish SSW manages to equal Oh Mercy original and thankfully erases images of  drenched rat John Cusack. Result. 

6. On a night like this - Los Lobos
Otra vez, simpatico! Swinging too. Esta noche tu!

7. Diamond Joe - Bob Dylan
Now this is more like it. Turn of 21st century backing band (Charlie Sexton, he be the man) rip into old timey country folk rollick:

Diamond Joe come and git me,
My wife done quit me.
Diamond Joe, you better come git me, Diamond Joe.

Quite. Choice banjo.

8. Come una pietra scalciata (like a rolling stone) - Articolo 31
Frantic hip-hop built around LARS chorus. Audacious.

9. One more cup of coffee - Sertab
Turkish pop diva (and winner Eurovision Song Contest 2003...) masses Asia Minor strings, transporting original from US-Mexico to Arabia.

10. Non dirle che non e' cosi' (If you see her, say hello) - Francesco de Gregori
Popularly known as Il Principe Poeta ("The Poet Prince"). Wonder why he signed up? Slinky.

11. Dixie - Bob Dylan
The voice, the arrangement, the sentiment....fabulous.

12. Senor (tales of yankee power) - Jerry Garcia
Goes on a bit.

13. Cold irons bound (new version) - Bob Dylan
More rock stomp and less Lanois languor =  a good thing.

14. City of gold - Dixie Hummingbirds
Cracking closer. Up-lifting and elegiac.

Oddi wrth y brawd

Look out for choice detail in promo vid. Y brawd particularly appreciates the Dr. Benway name check. Hang around for the last minute or so of Dylan close up like a shrunken and ineffably cool Vincent Price

September 03, 2010

Lux Aeterna - William Sheller


Written in 1972 for orchestra, choir and rock band by French composer Sheller, and so small wonder that Lux Aeterna comes across as a psyched up hybrid of J.C. Vannier and Orff's Carmina Burana. Tasty says we.

Oddi wrth y brawd


September 02, 2010

Chubby Parker and his Old Time Banjo


One of the staggeringly large number of highlights on Harry Smith's 6 album Anthology of American Folk Music is Chubby Parker's King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O. A definitive version of Froggie Went A-Courtin', wrly described by Smith thusly:

Zoologic Miscegeny Achieved In Mouse Frog Nuptuals, Relatives Approve.... In the register of the London Company of Stationers for November 2, 1580, there is an entry titled 'a moste strange weddinge of the frogge and the mouse'- probably this same composition.

The  collected and compiled Chubby herein is the shit. Old, weird American shit.

Oddi wrth y brawd



 

September 01, 2010

Henry the Human Horse! - Atsushi Tsuyama


Utterly demented cracked and cranked folk from erstwhile Acid Mothers Temple bassist. Don't say Y Brawd didn't warn you.

Oddi wrth y brawd