Friday, January 30, 2009

Lethargy - Purification


Lethargy plays tuneful “alternative” metal of the type that substitutes for rock & roll on most radio stations nowadays. Purification is pretty much what you’d expect for a band of this stripe – a mix of early 90s grunge, mid-90s alt.rock and 80s hair metal. 14:9 is the requisite anthem, Stealth the purist hard rocker, I See Man’s End in His Construction the lighter-waving, socially conscious statement, Fragile Crystal Dream the sensitive ballad. (Strangely, the title track defies the formula by going for a Porcupine Tree vibe.) The record is finely crafted and melodic, even catchy, and I doubt neither these Brits’ sincerity, nor their chances of finding space on the airwaves next to Nickelback, Godsmack and Staind. But Purification, quite frankly, bores me numb.

- Michael Toland

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Viking Skull - Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey

Viking Skull
Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey

When the group is called Viking Skull and the album Doom, Gloom, Heartache and Whiskey, the review practically writes itself. I mean, really, whaddaya think you’re going to get here – Carpenters covers? These UK bastards play heads-down, bloody, testosteronic hard rock - no more, no less. Channeling an obviously thorough knowledge of 70s and 80s metal, warlord Roddy Stone (a dead ringer vocally for Antiseen’s Jeff Clayton) leads this biker gang of a band through nine rampaging fight-starters. In For the Kill, Hair of the Dog and Start a War have enough riffs, momentum and general antagonism to make Lemmy lose sleep. 19 Swords takes on the NWOBHM (a wave that never subsided, it seems to me) for a classic track to inspire the invading hordes. The album ends with a real oddity, the piano barroom singalong Drink, but since the chorus is Gonna drink ‘til I shit my pants, it still sits squarely in the middle of Stone’s metal god worldview. From bloody invasion to alcoholic oblivion, loudly – good times, good times.

- Michael Toland
Big Neck

From the Virginia label’s dirty-seamed cuffs and collars of scabrously unsettling skronk comes this short nine-track kneecap-scraping knuckle-fuck on a slab of plastic delectably thick enough to use as several manhole covers for all those street-punk bands that get so easily lost in their own woahs. Howling outta Pittsburgh this goofy grease-paper punk’n’growl isn’t quite so wound-salting as a lot of other Big Neck achilles tendon snappers but it revels suitably in it’s own filth of brutally short baseball bat beating boogie like Nothing Better To Do and Get It Right, stage diving off tables onto empty dance-floors and burning down those rambling grouches for grimacing good times amongst the stale beer, cider sediment and gloating at their own losing n’ self-loathing. Limited to 500 copies, get it down yer neck.
Stu Gibson
Henry Fiat's Open Sore
Mondo Blotto
Alien Snatch

‘Cocaine improves your tennis…’ - Cocaine

First album in five years from these entertainingly sceptic spastic ewok wank scene Swedes with delicious Devo absurdities, sublime suburban dork insights, ridiculous savant Dwarves-isms, subliminal Stupids-truisms and such a B-52’s rush you almost forget Cindy and Katie ain’t there, as they’re been seen to by The Dead Milkmen with the flight-path defying chaos and fortitude of Radio Birdman. Maybe it depends on how cute you think having Don Wanna, Frank E Male and Instead of a Hug alongside the eponymous Sir Henry Fiat is but if that tickles you then songs titled I Rock, I Love My Voice, Faster Phil Spector Kill Kill, Keep Your Unit Trim and Death To False Mongos will convince you of it’s gloriously erratic genius before it’s even out the sleeve. Idiotic but never inane. If ever a case were needed to burn down garages, send stifling skate punk shite crashing into a skip full of alligators like Iggy and Stiv in a scrum for speed-drilled sex whilst sicking up all over those pretentious social commentary slogan-sloppers, then here it is, like a seeping wound that you’ll keep scraping till it forms a big scar but not till you’ve let it slither over the soiled n’ sundry of your immediate circle... A gaping wound secreting songs for stinking and slovenly everyday termites that sure is one pretty gash. As they say Ask Me (I Know Everything). Raise your fist, smell and smile. Anyone for tennis?
Stu Gibson

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Werevilsdare - Full Moon Fury

Dark Ride
Zodiac Killer

Imagine some black metal guitarist moonlighting in a lycanthrope-fixated garage rock band and you’ve got this bizarrely named Pennsylvania quintet. With buzzsaw guitar grunge that sounds like it was recorded in an abandoned refrigerator, butter tub drumming and vocals like Lemmy on a rockabilly bender, Full Moon Fury is all splatter, no flatter. Ya gotcher horror flick obsession (The Dead Zone, Return of the Living Dead, Scream Queens), yer general horror aesthetic (Sometimes They Come Back, Forgotten & Dead, Satanik a Go-Go) and, natch, yer werewolf envy (Cycle of the Wolf, American Werewolf, the title track). My personal pick to click (the remote) is Race With the Devil, which builds up such maniacal dragstrip mayhem I actually believe the band has been in the titular contest. An unholy hybrid of the Misfits, the Cramps, the Fuzztones and Guitar Wolf, Werevilsdare does gonzo macabrock right.

- Michael Toland
Ron Franklin
Ron Franklin

From the two-man blues shack stompers (Left Lane Cruiser, Black Diamond Heavies) to gnarled garage gems (Thomas Function, Bloody Hollies)) onto psychedelic dance (SSM) and long-lost funketeers (the now sadly departed Nathaniel Mayer) the Alive label can readily be relied upon to unearth much musical food and wine from seemingly over spent, arid ground. So onto this young Memphite and much to his credit that it’s been a long time since a stroll past a coffee bar locked the aromas within into this cynical consciousness. This third album from the erstwhile Tennessean is much more timeless than timewarp despite detailing familiar trails. Though many obvious Dylan references can be pulled from Franklins’ inside pockets and shirt cuffs he isn’t cut from quite the same rambling cloth nor is he shying away from such influences, naming his publishing Dying Crapshooter after the Blind Willie McTell tune while having the beat generation stance down so fine he’s like what you always imagined many an over-vaunted seventies singer-songwriter to sound like, before the disappointingly safe, smug veneer evaporates all traces of humanity and makes you realise why Springsteen was and is so important. Indeed, Franklin’s eloquent hobo blues wouldn’t pass Nebraska by on the roadside with its arm held out for a ride. With feet frequently but fleetingly in the folk field as on Do Not Wait ‘Til I’m Laid ‘Neath The Clay and We Ain’t Got No Home, his threadbare twang keens with a certain familiar unpredictability atop guitar and splashes of harmonica, he also unveils ghostly bluesy crawls like Dark Night, Cold Ground and All Along A Summer’s Day, evoking as much of Jeffery Lee Pierce and The Gun Club’s early broadsides as he does Buddy Holly on delightful opener Western Movies. Wreathed in reverb his voice is an alluringly fey and affecting high lonesome whine with hints of Jagger’s affectation, Peter Perrett’s flippant disdain, Bolan’s playful spaniel-isms and something of Johnny Thunders’ jaundiced yet vulnerable, drawling ennui as best displayed on the acoustic Hurt Me album. Though the narrative furlongs focus on oft-told tales of cars and girls, movies and transient experiences, Franklin succeeds in overcoming any trite pitfalls lesser talents would unwittingly display, twisting modernity into traditional structures with a natural flair belying the talent of a guy who had been a feature of Arthur Lee’s latter day Love troupe. It may be a bold statement but balladeering has rarely, or scarcely, been better than on this ghostly, enchanting collection, be it the bewitching Dear, Marianne or the beguilingly beautiful acoustic lament That’s Just The Love I Have 4U - Rivers Of Babylon reference to boot. Stu Gibson

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sinner - Crash and Burn

Crash and Burn

Sinner is from Germany, but listening to Crash and Burn I’d swear the band was from England, circa 1980. The forceful but musical singing, chugging street tough riffs, fleet-fingerd solos and catchy melodies come from a suitcase stamped NWOBHM. Fistpumpers like Unbreakable, Break the Silence and the ridiculous Little Head mostly call to mind Judas Priest, UFO and Iron Maiden, but Connection is a (hopefully very deliberate) nod to Thin Lizzy and Until It Hurts is the great ballad Sinner’s countrymen the Scorpions haven’t written in years (maybe ever). If you think I’m trying to intimate that Sinner is derivative, well, ya got me. But the group’s enthusiasm and skill trumps any indictments for theft, if you ask me.

- Michael Toland

Monday, January 26, 2009

29th Street Disciples - s/t

29th Street Disciples
Zodiac Killer

Denver has always struck me as a town surrounded by heart-stoppingly gorgeous natural beauty but without a heck of a lot going on (outside of David Eugene Edwards’ various projects). Maybe I’m wrong – I haven’t been there since I was 12 – but it seems like just the right environment to produce a band like the 29th Street Disciples. This record is 30 minutes of angst, anger and adrenalin, the kind of response to boredom that always erupts from the combination of torpor (Sweet Torpor, in this case) and electric guitars. Unfortunately, the band hasn’t developed much sense of melody yet, and the singer prefers a firing-on-20-cylinders bawl over anything approaching dynamics, all of which gives the album a monotonous feel. I suspect the stage, where energy + volume trumps all, is the 29th Street Disciples’ most appropriate forum.

- Michael Toland

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ross the Boss - New Metal Leader

Ross the Boss
New Metal Leader

Ross the Boss is the legendary guitar-pickin’ manly man who slashed strings for proto-punk pioneers the Dictators, French rock obscurity Shakin’ Street and power metal monstrosity Manowar. To say that New Metal Leader favors the latter is an understatement - hell, his bandmembers were pulled from a German Manowar cover band. Which means that this particular meadhorn is filled to overflowing with just what you’d expect: big guitars, big drums, big riffs, big solos, big vocals (from Ivory Night’s Patrick Fuchs), big attitude – everything needed for accompanying a Viking pillage party. Songs like God of Dying, We Will Kill, Immortal Son (a tribute to his kid in some testosteronic fashion) and (of course) Death and Glory sound exactly like you’d expect – wild-eyed, anthemic, deliriously silly, impossibly infectious. Oddly, the punkish I Got a Right and poppy May the Gods Be With You meld the metal warrior intensity to singalong melodies that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Dictators record –reminders that R the B hasn’t forgotten his roots. Shoot New Metal Leader in your earhole the next time you’re on your Harley riding down a nuclear-scorched road under a blood red sky, battleaxe in one hand and Frazetta babe in the other. It’ll pump you up, dude.

- Michael Toland

Friday, January 23, 2009

Billy Joe Winghead - Dark Ride

Billy Joe Winghead
Dark Ride
Zodiac Killer

I had no idea these Oklahoma knuckleheads were still around, but I shouldn’t be surprised – Billy Joe Winghead has “bad penny” status stamped on its collective forehead. And thank the white trash crunchbilly gods for that. Admittedly, there’s no shortage of this kind of C&W devil crunge (see: Nine Pound Hammer, Dash Rip Rock on a good night), but few hellspawn have the same savoir faire as the Wingheads do on Dark Ride. Science Fiction Double Feature pays tribute to geek rockers everywhere, Refrigerated Air locates the oh-so-sweet spot betwixt chicken-pickin’, grunge and ZZ Top boogie, Untitled saunters down Santo & Johnny territory without being an outright homage and anthems Poor Penny Carson and You’re Going to Hell inject shots of, dare it be said, tenderness into the band’s usual snotrock & roll. The most head-spinning moments are covers of the Four Seasons’ Rag Doll and Roy Orbison’s Running Scared that, while putting the melodies through the BJW ringer, are shockingly faithful to the songs’ yearning spirits. If you’re a longtime fan, have no fear – there’s plenty of the usual Okie nutball metal on hand, as you might expect from songs titled Shitpipe Minnie, Porno King and Your Friend Jesus. On Dark Ride, Billy Joe Winghead evolves while staying true to its original ideals – a neat trick that not every band can pull off as well as this.
I couldn't find an online shot of the album cover to save my soul, so please enjoy what appears to be an ancient publicity snap instead.

- Michael Toland

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Starline Rhythm Boys
Live At Charlie-O’s World Famous

This ecstatic fire-cracker is about all you’d need to convert that snivelling, snide creature with ears ever-cloistered to the gorgeously glorious straits of country music, even the pious ‘expert’ who a few short years ago woulda been bereft at Shed Seven’s demise, crying it’s all tears in your beers clichés and my dawg done died drivel. Well, fuck that, I mean, this is honky-tonk, sluice-gates unleashing the strains of desperadoes serenades, outlaw country from Bakersfield to the bluegrass mountains, Tennessee twang, heaven-hailing harmonies outlining devilry and despair. Amidst a whole bottomless-barrel of fun and fret-stained strife Al Lemery and Danny Coane lead the evening through a tasting session where you savour, swallow and swig various shades and stripes of western wear and tear and mixtures thereof, letting a plough roll through bakers dozens of bar-raising jags that never waver in their fertility and unflagging exuberance. Convalescent heartache balladeeros, wry rockabilly, drinkin’ tinkerin’ with the thinkerin’ as the train sidles past as you drink up, scuffed-cuff slouchers and skirt-spinning swingers all sizzle in this slew of covers - some of which you’ll be acquainted with on yer travels (I’m A Lonesome Fugitive, You’re Still On My Mind, Chuck’s You Can’t Catch Me, Johnny Paycheck’s Heartbreak, Tennessee, Faron Young’s Wine Me Up and Waylon Jenning’s Lonesome, On’ry And Mean) - and originals like She Don’t Live Here No More, Drunk Tank and hat-tip to the venue Charlie-O’s, all easily as well-pressed a set o’ shirts as their more fabled bar-chasing compadres while matching em drink for drink. This is party-lined honky-tonk not to close up but to stride on into, one HOT hot band with timbers to kindle the wettest Saturday night. Joyous and utterly stunning, makes you wanna hop a flight, spin, swear and pray and bear such witness folks'll be scratching their heads. Now, ain't that testifyin'.
Stu Gibson
Labor Party
Hellhound Down

‘Drive 6 hours in the pouring rain to play to 2 bar tenders and a cat with a cane’ – Show To Do

Praise be. Nope, not any political posticulating about presidents elect and defect, climate change or global eco-chafing this particular Labor Party show outlaw Rock’n’Roll ain’t hitting no recession. From the motel fetish cover to the highway surfing, white-line raising, tarmac tyrants, this Arizona trio revel in unexpurgated glee at the view from the gutters on this unassumingly strident salvo of garage crank-punk. There may be no fucker putting money in their pockets but no snide bastards spoon-feeding their words and they can’t get enough of that, and neither should we. Luckily then, this is their fourth album in six years, and drop this and you see why. Praise be part two as rousing beer anthem punk like this can so easily resemble the most turgid tripe from the dregs of UK Oi, or, well, most Oi, in lesser hands. Like The Cramps could say in imitation of Dolly, it takes a lotta smarts to be so simplistically perfect. But these low-rent, low-slung fun-gunners got the bounce, the swing n’ vitality full of sassattitude, fun and hell, crazy cutes, mounting their manifesto’s on trashy but tight banners of bedraggled, genuine, affecting, good time, goof-trash anthems for outsiders and underdogs in the know not on the nod. You can user this as a yardstick to measure posers by, but beating ‘em with it’d defeat the point. I ain’t advocating vio-lence, just stick this on again and jump, jive n’ jape like a baby penguin while the suckers sequester themselves into a jail. Underground Christmas, Lower East Side Yuppie, Major Matt Mason, We Don’t Want To and Show To Do all rattle round the universe and your backyard like a frantic Fuzztones running outta tonic for the gin – the last a road song in the same sweaty leathers as The Weaklings’ Life On The Road or Murder City Devils' Ready For This, glorying in the sublimely grim acceptance of the life and times of such a low-level, high grade band. No tepid posturing and tantrum-throwing poses but get down and on with it grinds in a playpen that’ll make you bite n’ scratch n’ scream many a night. N’ day. While providing most of the recommended daily allowance of essential vitamins and nutrients to spur anyone on with a healthy necessity for being whipped into several states of seizure on the unadulterated Rock’n’Roll rifle range. Right, let’s end the verbal there as by the time I’ve calmed down with some country they’ll hopefully have recorded another readily edible honest to goodness set.
Stu Gibson

Flash Metal Sucide: Halloween

Don't Metal With Evil
Motor City Metal Records
Price I Paid: $6 for 1998 cd re-issue.
Worth: $100+ for the original LP and maybe throw in several bags of candy


Detroit, home of Ford, Chrysler, the NBA's Detroit Pistons, NFL's Detroit Lions and Motown. My old man loves Motown with a burning passion and is always bangin' on about how he's gonna visit Detroit someday or if not, Egypt. He fuckin' loves Egypt too, but that's another pointless, boring story that has nothing to do with what I'm eventually leading to, so back to Detroit. Now, my father does like his rock, he spent years traveling the world in the Merchant Navy (the manly navy!), listening to Deep Purple, Sabbath and picking up weird Vietnamese Santana albums whilst being all manly, scoring with chicks in smoky bars and catching sharks with his bare hands. His first musical love though was soul music, Motown in particular. Over the years I have seen him peel open his bashed up, blacker-than-black wallet and part with what was clearly stupid wads of cash in order to purchase 1 track singles or 2 track test pressings, which he has never played and then regrettably sold on at a loss. I totally understand that nostalgic need to possess rare, original musical artifacts and to pay over the odds for that album you just had to have, but most of the time you end up with half an hour's worth of steaming crap recorded in a bucket. In my case anyway...

I will admit that I take my consumerist, Heavy Metal mission to extremes. I've often had a pathetic two-figure sum sitting in my bank account, with next to nothing residing in my cupboards or refrigerator and gone out and bought a stack of LPs with whatever chump change I had left. Yes, welcome to my world where the sound of machine-gun guitars, glass-shattering vocal chords and lyrics about; how dark the night is, how the fire burns and how you've got to fight for the rock, takes precedence over eating and generally staying alive! I have splashed the cash on some trash indeed, the Only Childs/Tokyo Blades and Jag Wires of this world, but I finally have a gem to really praise and rant about! Halloween's 1985 opus "Don't Metal With Evil".

"Trick or treat/Face defeat/Give me something dead to eat!"

Detroit has given birth to many bands over the years; MC5, Stooges, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, the RamRods, the Colours, Trash Brats, Syrant, Corrupt, Almighty Strut, Teezer, Trauma, Seduce, Madam X and Halloween...Halloween officially formed in...surprise, surprise, October of 1983 after working the local circuit for about a year as Bitch. The band actually announced the name change live on stage, in the middle of a gig. They had already been using their now infamous tag of; "Detroit's Heavy Metal Horror Show" well before deciding on this new moniker. Halloween was comprised of: Brian Thomas (vocals), Rick Craig (guitar), George Neal (bass) and Bill Whyte (drums) rounding out the band.

These guys had- and still do have - one heck of a show! Brian Thomas and his horde of zombie metalheads decorated their stage sets with cobwebs, candles, cemetery gates, pumpkins and whatever else local moms, dads, kids and strippers probably donated to 'em. (Yeah, I know it's all been done before and Overkill and W.A.S.P. were doing all that demented shit back then, but these dudes have never given it up - so respect is due.)

The band had a kind of Motley Crue/Alice Cooper/Witch thing going on with regards to their overall sound, albeit much heavier than the two. In the looks department they matched pretty much what you heard and saw on stage - appearing like a demonic version of The Sweet after they'd been locked up in a mental asylum for butchering their 14yr-old teeny-bopper, stripper girlfriends!

Oh, they use plenty of pyrotechnic tom-foolery too! Apparently, back in the early days a flame projector went off under vocalist Brian Thomas when he was onstage, mid-song.
The guy is so bad-ass that he proceeded to do two more songs and THEN seek medical treatment! He used to wear painted skulls on his face and being oil-based, the skull design burnt onto his skin! How fucking Metal is that (!)? Also, if that wasn't painful enough for the guy, he lost bits of his hair and ended up with melted spandex stuck to his legs! (Eat your heart out Nikki Sixx!)

"I tried to warn you/stay away from hell...
It might be too late now/can you hear the bell"

Originally limited to 3,000 copies (LP), the band's debut "Don't Metal With Evil" was released on their own self-financed and awesomely named - Motor City Metal label, featuring song titles such as; "Scared To Death", "Wicked Witch", "Tales From The Crypt" and "To Fight The Beast". I love this album, it's one of those rare albums that I can play not having any high expectations of and then it kicks my ass right the way through with no filler at all. My favourite track by some considerable distance has to be "Trick Or Treat", with its' intro of kids walking up to a house on Halloween and the door creaking open, then bam! A spooky sonic guitar assault gets under way, backed by a great, galloping bass and drums that sound like Bill Whyte was wacking a large fish against barrels of toxic waste. The lyrics as you would expect from a group such as this are cheesy as hell, with the "look how scary we are" approach, talkin' 'bout witches and werewolves and how black the night is, how the fire's gonna burn you and that the howling wind howls....etc...etc...

It is great though, really. The production is terrible, but it's not the band's fault. They have stuck to their guns and portrayed this whole image for over 25 years, without a sniff of a major label. I've read a couple of interviews with some of the guys and they pretty much state that labels wouldn't touch the band because they didn't know how to "market them". This was a time of big hair, make-up and killer chops....err...Halloween....err....check!

No, I get it. I do. They come across as a novelty band, but there were plenty of metal bands of that decade who emerged and created their own niche, a market emerged because those bands. (Insert popular, sell-out thrash metal band here)

There was fear of confusion with German Maiden rip-offs Helloween too. The two sound completely different and who the fuck would call a band Helloween?? It's quite obvious to me what should have been done - make the Germans change their stupid name!

Halloween soldiered on and on and on, no big deal that they deserved, not even a little deal (Metal Blade would've been perfect) They never sold out though, not one little bit. They toured outside of Michigan, doing a short headlining tour in L.A., but never once moved there - no, this was a band that lived by it's own rules and said no to jumping on any shaky, fucking bandwagon!. To make matters worse, they had the second album held back. (Momentum killer, plain and simple) "Victims of the Night" was supposed to appear back in '86, it would be ten long years until the band got the tapes and put it out to their bloodthirsty legion of fans.
Other albums have seen the light of day though, dragging themselves out of the vaults and serving up; "No One Gets Out" in 1991 and more recently "Horror-Fire" released on 06/06/06 (ya' get it?) with the EP "E.vil P.ieces 6/6/6"

"We never really went away, we just kinda' fell off the radar a few times." [Brian Thomas]

Nowadays, Thomas and Neal have been joined by Shawn Moore (guitar), Don Guerrier (guitar) and Rob Brug (drums) and continue to put on shows throughout the year with all the guts an gore and still play with plenty of pride, which is why they remain true underdogs and flash metal favourites of yours truly!

Link: Halloween Official Website

Clip: Halloween's full-on amazing video for Trick Or Treat!

Buy Don't Metal With Evil from Amazon.

- Chris Humphreys

Friday, January 16, 2009

On The Road With The Ramones
Monte A Melnick and Frank Meyer

Originally released almost in conjunction with the End Of The Century documentary (featuring as it does many identical interview excerpts) back in 2003, this updated edition closes the chapter on The Ramones' long haul - from influential pacemakers toalso-rans to legendary elders -with the death of Johnny Ramone. As may be expected, and with true Ramones efficiency, this travelogue-cum-history traverses the rigmaroles of pretty much any band in any hemisphere - existing out on the edges, a few steps outta the trenches. Outlining the logistics as well as the lunacy, the striving and strife, practicalities and playfighting and the trouble and triumph behind the paper-thin veneer of their almost too-perfect image, tour manager Melnick pieces together the teeth-pulling terrors of keeping a band road-ready for two months never mind twenty-two years (with rare photos and tour momentos to go).
Set out thematically rather than chronologically, it does require a bit of page-flicking in consternation at its detours, which do, however, seem entirely suitable given the subject matter - and the character - of this psych-ward surfers and institution-trippers by any other name.
Despite the difficulty in gauging the sheer presence of the impossibly irrepressible and larger than life Dee Dee from the page alone (not for nothing does his replacement CJ put him in a league with Keith Richards as the only true rock'n'rollers), this is a rollicking tale of bittersweet reminiscence, succulent sour grapes and savage gracelessness.
Though that much-imitated cartoon image may have effectively cocooned them from more sympathetically tragic tales like the New York Dolls, as with the caricatures of Jagger's pragmatism to Richards' romantic itinerant troubadour, this generates as vast a gulf of respect for Johnny, no matter his egregious opinions and politics, as it does Joey's trod-upon tender heart and Dee Dee's gutter-level turmoil.
Encapsulating the gritty grandeur of rock's ruin-wracked roads, in the style of his charges' sub-two-minute staccato outburts, Melnick's illuminating oral history is a myth-melting handbrake-turn into the dark heart thatkeeps the beat rollin' on.
Stu Gibson
The Many Lives Of Tom Waits
Patrick Humphries

A famously evasive, though highly entertaining, interviewee with sleeves full of deceptive deflections to ward off unwanted enquiries into his carefully cultivated private world, Waits is never going to be easily illuminated by any biographer, unless he should see fit. Basically a hastily patched together update of his earlier work Small Change Humphries falls further foul of many an unauthorised biographers’ pitfalls, ending up with a collage of quotes and extracts culled from elsewhere. It’s doubtful anyone could fail entirely when armed with copious samples from the cornucopia of the always delightful Waitsian wit and wonder and almost Billy Connolly-esque awe at trivia and minutiae, but ultimately that is all PH provides, besides performing irritating, perfunctory track by track dissections on each album. Though it’s attracted derision from hardcore acolytes (an occupational hazard, surely) in online diatribes devoted to various geographical and chronological errors, they are more irksome than criminal to the general reader.
Adopting a lyrical style striving to mirror his subject, sure to scrape the scalps of some readers, Humphries is best early on, depicting Tom out on a limb. From a solitary though supportive childhood and teenage wasteland where his jazz and bop-street heels clicked heroically out of synch with his beat-boom preoccupied peers to the tireless trails as a lonesome travelling troubadour onto the eighties reinvention as ringmaster of macabre, ending as a family man with a still insistently inquisitive mind that shows no signs of settling. Though the tale doesn’t, and can’t, reveal a complete picture of the man behind the brilliant disguises, enough slivers twinkle between the lines to sense the essential shyness belying a steely self-assuredness and strength of character that gave gravel in more than voice to go against the grain. Thankfully, Humphries doesn’t dive headlong down aimless avenues of idle conjecture and cod psychoanalysis and it does remain ultimately fitting that at the end of it all Waits remains an enigma awaiting his own literate, exhaustively researched biography in the manner of Michael Gray’s Blind Willie McTell tome Hand Me My Travelling Shoes or John Kruth’s Townes Van Zandt epic To Live’s To Fly.
Stu Gibson
The Sidewalk Regrets
The Sidewalk Regrets

This elegiac in sound and spirit compilation of studio, live and home recordings released in commemoration of mainman Jamie Thompson, a casualty of god knows what at age twenty-two in 2000, from the astoundingly named Aussies forges a pathway between fellow continental drain-drinkers The Birthday Party, The Scientists and The Drones, mangling the formers jagged, boneshaker rhythms with the shimmering humanity of the scorched-heart rending rivers of the latter. If it’s a wake, it’s one in the traditional celebratory sense, the restless anguish and dysfunctional grace inherent in the above bands here alive and crying incandescently with intense grit, grandeur and swamp-drenched sorrows. Epic scalping guitars scrape and gyrate soundtracks ‘cross arid heartlands of ill-fortune and miserly gains in webs of selfs – loathing, lust, guilt and immolating - in a hazy petrol vitriol of scornful Morrissey / Cave crooning - scar-strangled splendour twisting into sardonic realms of disquiet, with an addictive, unrefined ardour belying no traces of the Manchester legends' archness – like velvet dragged over a barbed-wire corset. Yet their controlled stampedes are all the more exciting and explicit for what may lie beneath. Though there be telling influences of the post-punk early eighties they are given nary a scant disregard as they ignite a splendorous antidote to prevailing dregs of Joy Division yawning drizzly ditherings, with tender hints where the perceptive may open links to the likes of a Green On Red or a tuneful though no less dishevelled Nikki Sudden. It’s all a matter of taste and depth and this harrowing empowering case of what coulda beens sure digs deep in it’s glorious, gorgeous majestic dirges of soaring despair.
Stu Gibson
Arthur Louis
Black Cat

Apparently this long-standing blues train a-comin’ was given a guitar by Hendrix and features Clapton as sometime guest at rancho el arthurio. Well, if you wanna see how ol’ Jimi may have ended up given Clapton’s rapid descent into plastic prominence, followed lesserly by JJ Cale and Taj Mahal. Indeed Mr Louis it was who demonstrated to magpie Eric how to mix reggae blues and pop/rock and off he trotted to the land of the trite-handed man. With a pleasant, cask-aged rasp and laudable tendency to lay off the fret-flagellation, he showcases those reggae roots (being born in Jamaica) on Birthday and the title track, mellow electronic gurgles on One Day I’m Gonna Wake Up meld the candelit with the computer, and at it’s best on Fast Car and Born To Sing The Blues there’s tentative foot to the shag-carpeted floor metallic Texas blues and the haunting spectres of citified blues-past as perfected by BB King, even if it is a ghostly sheet pressed into safe straight edges. As sure-footed urbane, non-threatening or surface-dredging suave-sipping blues goes if you’re gonna do it, at least do it like this.
Stu Gibson

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Vincent Price
Master Of The Macabre

Hey now hey now now indeed, here’s something a little different. Fabled horrorteur and culltural connoisseur Mr Vince regales listeners with his imposing yet sensuous tones that tuck you in with their commanding timbre (when you put to bed the apparent influence he had on both Leonard ‘Rigsby in Rising Damp’ Rossiter and Kenneth Williams) resonating on airs of cultivated menace and impertinently impending drama. From the BBC’s Suspense radio series these three creepy adaptations (or four, if you include the advert for Kent cigarettes, back in the days when a well refined filter could cure all a chaps ills) include Poe’s The Pit And The Pendulum, each one perfect for twiddling toes in front of the fire of a bleak winter eve, twirling your moustaches under the influence of a tincture of laudanum (imagineth, I) with one hand, reclining resplendent in paisley smoking jacket in high-backed leather chair, while you fend off the wisps in the wind outside causing your female companion to near swoon states.
Stu Gibson
Bill Drummond

Infamous avant-schemer and celebrated pop-culture philosopher Drummond – he of band Big In Japan, Bunnymen / Teardrops management to chill-out initiator and dance-tent ringmaster with The KLF and writer of several tomes outlining his and his co-conspirators various endeavours (not least his books with a certain Mark Manning like Bad Wisdom and project of founding and recording as a variety of bands conjured up from their collective warped minds) - here unleashes his theory on the death of music, especially recorded music, as we know it. Following this theory he details his expeditions to instigate series’ of seventeen people recording sounds on a variety of themes instinctually and playing them once then deleting them. So far so Tate Modern think you? Not so, the very idea of stripping music down to it’s (theorized) ancient essentials stems from his art-school-punk grounding and along the nomadic travails undertaken in exploration we get entertained by Drummonds’ tales of his colourful music past, his own musings on music, it’s affects on him as played out against a backdrop of life’s lashings as he bristles at contemporary artists and popular music culture geared to stifling creativity and integrity, and you get a revealing, open glimpse into the ravenous mind that’s driven his projects so far. An endearing – even rants at obvious targets like Bono and Clapton are still entertaining - rambling account wherein he can’t completely abscond from his love of music, books, art and culture, however much he sticks the knife in and dissects to create and attempt to maintain manifestos aimed at essentially reinvigorating, and coming to terms with, the lapse of interest in the very things he was once so passionate about, that informed his whole life, and, you guess, that came easier perhaps. Without the love of the topic in hand though, this part-theory, part-memoir would just be an academic treatise as stagnant as that which he rails against. That it could never be. In a huge bright red hardcover, it’s a thing of beauty, as books, or such books, should be, mirroring, as surely Drummond would undoubtedly adore (!), his old charge Julian Cope’s lovingly presented books on ancient archaeology. Thrice equally, as Copey would say, he’s a forward-thinking motherfucker, and also as affable and self-effacing a narrator. A tome to savour for sure, dip into and take inspiration from.
Stu Gibson
Renegade – The Lives And Tales Of Mark E. Smith
Mark E. Smith with Austin Collings

‘Bargain booze is a particular favourite shop of mine. You can get some good offers there.’

Suitably, and more than welcomely, here’s another utterly essential read, this time from similarly scabrous leader of The Fall, or, well, The Fall itself, Smith. In typical MES style this isn’t a bitter and twisted ranting riposte casting his raptor-beak over past tribulations and the famously ever-revolving door of band members, but a series of well-informed, entertainingly and refreshingly opinionated missives that read like a less pretentious version of William Burroughs’ The Job. Well, so, ok, it wouldn’t be true to form if you couldn’t say not completely anyway. Amidst the aspic wit (‘Not like Brighton…I’d rather have Riley back in the band than live there’, ‘It’s all fine dressing in this anti-fashion style if you’re on the piss in Camden Town, but imagine doing business with a berk dressed like a vagrant…’) and dismissals (on playing local gigs – ‘there’s always some mad bird from Chorlton on E who you shagged twenty years ago who’s trying to come up to you with a knife’, on one of the many ex-members ‘the other daft cunt...’) are many instances of caustic honesty, not least in his own self-appraisals and bemused puzzlement at modern, or human peripherals from mobiles, class, love, students (surprisingly?), Americans and porn to his trade of music and writing. Never afraid to state his case, you name it, there’ll be a line or anecdote about it as he far outstretches any assumptions of him as a blazingly addled speed-guzzling, booze-bamboozled park-bench philosopher, his attitudes, occasional (however inferred) compassion and explanations to conducting, or contorting, his carnival and the stubborn, strident work ethic that’s carried him through a curmudgeonly, cantankerous career that’s so far outlived Lester Bangs. Few may come away with good words said about them though you get the impression he’d rather be kind if people lived up to his expectations and his resolutely bullshit-intolerant diet is to be applauded, an all too rare commodity in any way and walk of like not just the entertainment lark, ranking him in league with Lemmy, Keef and some strange bellicose incarnation of Morrissey. An engaging, revealing portrait of a too-easily caricatured but all too true character and enigma with an artful manner masking an acute intellect behind matter of fact pragmatic considerations learnt from life lessons that’ll keep this eloquently contrary raconteur of ticking for a long while yet. A delight in the bedeviled world of music books, do read.
Stu Gibson

Diary Of A Punk
Mike Hudson
'The only thing you learn from suffering is that you're capable of suffering.'

From it’s title resembling Ian Hunter’s monumental memoir Diary Of A Rock’n’Roll Star to it’s subheading Life And Death this is one essential dirt, despair and macabre-dripping diatribe from the Pagans leader, arguably Ohio’s greatest buncha miscreant true-life nihilist outsiders to dangle in the underworld. As those titles may suggest to you, this is one of those rather rare music books that should be scoured and sourced by more than simply the fans. Far more than the lid being lifted to reveal the stench that produced viciously desperate discourses like Dead End America, Nowhere To Run, Give Til It Hurts, When I Die, Street Where Nobody Lives and What’s This Shit Called Love? - that latter at least one of the leering, lurching all-time unacknowledged anthems - this details the descents and dirt-shooting alleys that lay ahead of many an ‘onest ‘erbert scrabbling about in the gutters of this industry, and frequently beneath those. This guy liaised, conversed, even coerced and drank, and drank, and…with the sorta rats that would consider the trenches too fucking posh. Culminating with the death of his brother and his lapse into advanced cirrhosis, perhaps leavened with his setting up of successful paper Niagara Falls Reporter after several years scribing, this is a stunning, scathing and honest account of the ever-duelling rock’n’roll rackets of raw rampage and rip-offs that will rattle yer brains, shake some action and maybe unsettle some readers outta their own sewers, all told in a street-savvy philosophical style, straight-up, starker and touching for it. Anyways, as he may have said hisselvis - read it in this book, maybe we’ll see it on TV in his lifetime. Stay well.
Stu Gibson

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wayne County And The Electric Chairs
Rock’n’Roll Cleopatra

Mainly known for punk comp-teasing, attention grabbing novelty classic of 'shock! horror!' outrage Fuck Off, Jayne, or Wayne as s/he was then before the trans-op, is far more of a New Yawk rock-colossus than frequently acknowledged. Around before the Dolls and Bowie in theatre, but only taking off in '77's aunthento-punk-starved Lahnden, this compilation of the three albums, and the Blatantly Offenzive EP (Fuck Off, along with fetish-fishing grotesquerie Toilet Love and Mean Muthafuckin’ Man – nope, not the WASP one!) with The Electric Chairs as Wayne takes place in a three year blaze in late seventies and is an all but perfect and graphic (no Trying To Get On The Radio or Cream In My Jeans) showcase of the trash-queen. As County can raise thanks to Rock’n’Roll for helping conquer what musta been a tough ride growing up gender-bending in the bible-belt, our chosen crypt can return thanks that these metallic-edged show tunes a la Alice and, sssh, Kiss apply the mixed-up cut-up tales into larger than life theatrical cabaret in turns and simultaneously amusing, fun and funny, wry and wreathed in thought provoking pathos as well as sick-locating laughs, not bathed in the bitter bilge of aimless vitriol. Nope this ain’t titled R’n’R Cleopatra for nowt, County being far too intelligent and confident for such tantrums, the confrontational and provocative posturing well-targeted (sleazy club-running scum on MMMan, and lovely West Side Story style love between a punk and a ted on Spector ballad meets Pistols lampoon Eddie And Sheena). Slated at the time for the too rock-ist guitaring it is ever appropriate in suiting such musical stylistics whilst escaping pastiche, which is some accomplishment, so forget such jibes, bearing in mind they were from Sounds in the punkambodia late seventies when only roughneck bands under the metal banner (AC/DC) and bands with such charismatic boys-own characters that it was, and is, hard to dislike them (namely Thin Lizzy and the loveable scamp Lynott) and flaunt it, this ain't no peepshow it's on open display so pay up and preen.
Stu Gibson
Harmon Leon
The American Dream

This semi-delightful little trawl through the backwaters of the west’s wild and woe-filled fairytales entails the author entering full-pelt into various lifestyles, as stated on the cover we get him colluding his way into cultures at arms dealers conventions, carnies, pot farmers, swingers and ultra-christians (the brain-defyingly bonkers Westboro Baptists – who proclaim everything is the fault of fags), reality tv wannabe’s, y’know yer everyday detritus. Maybe not as hilarious as Howard Stern seems to think, especially when put against previous escapades from Jon Ronson and Louis Theroux who allow the satire to speak for itself, where Leon comes across unnecessarily condescending at times, I mean, sure n’ shucks some of these fuckers need lobotomising or lugged through an assault course of incredulous drill sergeants but Ronson and Theroux at least attempt to gain some understanding rather than merely point fingers at a freak show. Nevertheless this is worth an hour or two or a meandering eye cast to alleviate the work-bound ride, the immigrant tale and cult of celebrity where Leon presents ridiculous ideas to all too believing TV execs claiming to be so-and-so, relative of such a body are well, worth commissioning themselves.
Stu Gibson
Insanity Bound

Another one in the breech following the recent(ish) resurgence of interest in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal this Southern (UK) bunch pack enough rifferola equitable to the ceaseless number of rounds in a blockbuster action movie characters chamber. Savaging like Saxon, redeeming like Priest, they even pack in a Maiden style epic in Dorian Gray, a kind of combination of Remember Tomorrow and Phantom Of The Opera, the twin guitar thrust should allay, if not utterly alloy, any doubts at the occasionally too tame vocals and such adherence to stance and standards belying their roots as a NWOBHM covers band. However, along with the everything comes full circle every twenty to thirty years theory, maybe it’s no coincidence that this brutal, finger-pointing, deceptively moralistic (ok, at times) style is again in focus what with the current economic calamities.
Stu Gibson
Gandalf Murphy And The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams
The Great Unravel

Following from the magnificent double-disc sprawl of Flapjacks From The Sky this third album can only disappoint, one may suppose. Gladly though there’s nary a scant cause or trace of such cynicism aboard the good ship Slambovia as their spectacularly starry-skied spaceploration psychedelic folk-pop resonates with hopes and truths. They may term it ‘Hillbilly-Floyd’ and sure, they have an air of both Floyd and maybe Bowie at times (explicitly so on the Lucifer Sam in The Man Who Fell To Earth – but not to sell a resemblance of it but to provide some respite from it’s and our inherent ruptures – meteor shuffle of the title track) atop their folkcountry roots (note, not fauxcountry) but it’s done with a warmth and comfort of a mystical Nebraska or poetic Crazy Horse. And fear not the hippy and instinctive harrumphs about the Grateful Dead and Van Morrison, for, despite looking like a grown up Jellyfish or even Black Crowes’ or Imperial Drags’ sagacious, reclusive cousins, such magisterial and maverickly illuminating glowing showers of song are charming, beguiling breaths of fresh air in the manner of Mike Scott where every chord is a crashing wave of optimism despite the situation in hand. Quietly enchanting.
Stu Gibson
The Jim Jones Revue
The Jim Jones Revue

‘As A Matter Of Fact, It’s A Matter Of Fuck…’ – Fish Fry

This gallivanting n’ gyrating troupe centre round ex-Thee Hypnotics front-loon and lead fracasauteur and sometime Urban Voodoo Machine harp-vamp* Jones and are set to thwart any yawns at the Little Richard limboing with The Sonics under The Stooges raw-eyed power-swagger. Allaying any lethargic name-dropping they push everything red-wards and beyond throwing pianner keys in Iggy’s eyes courtesy of ace in the Jones Elliott Mortimer, Jones himself crunching out some of the most joyfully eye-pinning guitar gut-shots since James Williamson alongside Rupert Orton, all resembling the entire ensemble of Nuggets knuckle-dusting Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight, the solo to old whores chest-nut Meat Man harking back to the gloriously egregious slather on Rock Around The Clock or King Creole upto the most bestial of belches from the Voodoo Rhythm barn. Swampy, slimy, greasy, dirty but completely hooked up and electrifying this sure nuff and YAY it be one thirty minute tirade of rock’n’roll at it’s most rollickingest and primeval moverist, and with it’s sting in the tail stripping you down ready for some new skin for the oldest most vital ceremony before you whip off like a hot-dogging, hum-dinging, heart-draining hot-rodded dodge that don’t ever deviate, THAT, is a motherhumper.
* (
Stu Gibson

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mood Poisoner

From fellow Glaswegian noisescrapers Mogwai’s label comes this ferociously disturbing, unsettling ultra-hardcore thrash brandishing some of the scariest exhaust chewing larynx heard for some time, not to mention the utterly sphincter-shredding guitar ravages where most semblances of riffs are suffocated with their own viscera. Scowling over estate-toppling time-tremors that switch psychotically with the rancid grimace of the initially polite nut-job that asked you for a smoke outside the Spar but just as a preliminary to batter you, this lot are tooled up for urban warfare, and rattle through a remorseless, absolutely non-regrettable torture garden that’ll ream you to your core. Don’t fucking play it to your friends ‘less you want their blood and fetid matter you never would have imagined existed in the darkest recesses of Clive Barkers mind on your hands and in your FACE. Such a provocatively brutal assault do they inflict that frontman P6 takes to the stage in a Kevlar vest. Fuck that, you should get one to listen to this in as well as the Spandoflage they screech about. Besides the humourously titled Cock Swastika, Tonguescraper and Latrine Lizard, as well as cute pun Questionable Sport this is a death-trip of acute hernia-causing destruction and shouldn’t really be taken as some GG Allin shock-warriors. This is business, a grim, dirty business, and these boys are loving every nauseating second. The aural equivalent of having your home ransacked and tortured but in such a twisted way you forgive the cheesegrater knee-capping and plead to get practiced in the arts of such depravo punk as the only way you’ll be able to retain any structure to what’s left of your life and being. As I said sometime ago about similar noise-sadists Some Girls ‘These are the sort of people that'd get a job in an asylum just to amuse themselves by removing the pads from the cells and undoing inmates straightjackets to watch them disembowel themselves.’ (
You have been warned, now go and wind ‘em up.
Stu Gibson
The Hot Club Of Cowtown
The Best Of…

Recently reformed following a hiatus throughout much of this decade The Hot Club hoove back into view whipping wilt-less, ever wistful and definitely not witless or listless Western Swing on your tail with this compilation handpicked by the trio themselves from their years on the noted Hightone indie label (one time home of Julie and Buddy Miller for starters). Maybe not as dusty nor as bonkers or, through no crime of their own, possessing the historical aspect as those old originals like Bob Wills, Hank Penny and Spade Cooley (see the Proper Records tireless box-sets such as thisa one the Hot Club combine plaintive fiddles with stomping riverboat jazz and jumpin’ Jelly Roll Morton riddims of the twenties and thirties all topped off and resolutely un-tucked with wild-west saloon shoot-outs. Despite being sweetly produced it stands distinct from bluegrass and the commercial saccharine of, say, an Alison Krauss and is more like Asleep At The Wheel but steaming through deeper, stiller waters. Faultlessly played, dapperly delivered and a fiercely fragrant and joyous frolic whether playful or pensive.
Stu Gibson
The Lucky Ones

‘The past makes no sense, the future looks tense…’ - The Open Mind

New or most recent outing from Seattle mainstays shows them meandering into middle years as irreverent and cheeky as ever, rawer than ever slugging chunks of garage grunk and equilibrium-looping psychedelic pile-ons that could eradicate pylons in a split second and festoon your squat and squeamish haunches with an electric load of it’s own loathsome and loathsomely sublime lubri-creations, loading up the skip for a merry spree down slightly pre-industrial highways on a Ministry meets Stooges slouch, notably opening drill I’m Now and TV Eye on the Little Doll Next Time. Back to basics they say and back to the sort of failsafe form they started allowing to stay stoned and grow fungus from second full-lenghter Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. Maybe not the essential schismatics they once were, yet settling into Fuzztones / Cramps style cult status and (ok, maybe not quite so) camp curios (though see Inside Out Over You) does them no harm whatsoever and is a spot many luckier one see no joy in gleaning. Alongside delightful new additions to their addled family like bad-wave surf trip And The Shimmering Lights and continuing the socio-political-philosophical rants like The Open Mind they’re still colossally superfuzzy for the quite contentedly staying sick and the not afraid to suck and see more than you can shimmy yer slick hips around. Go get lucky, punks!
Stu Gibson
Bound For The Bar Festival Tour DVD

Taken from the two gigs at Berlin’s SO36 club on the People Like You label's Festival tour of summer 2007, this monstrous vfm package incorporates several live sets, documentary and audio clips. So what if the life on the road anecdotes aren’t particularly illuminating, if at all (besides The Grit’s apparent new-found love of Scrabble and Peter Pan Speedrock previous tour tales of systematically punching each other in the kidneys of an evening which combined with their already seeming prodigious appetites for chaos-confounding concoctions musta bruised slightly) if The Grit, especially whenst they ditch the ska for their pristinely inspiring punkabilly clash n’ clatterings that only improve when viewed with their stage presence and the staggeringly mob-happy Angel City Outcasts never mind PPSR's Motorhead in a Zeke-o-caust and Swiss smart poetics The Peacocks don’t make you wanna go to the rock show and wriggle then you either have no life or must at least like Wednesday 13 overly or something.
Stu Gibson
Punk and Disorderly – 2 Further Charges

Well the title and cover say it all do they not? Here we have a crass and sickening swim through a load of second and third wave and rate punk outfits, lending their often not insignificant contributions to the clichéd punk habits of gob-strewn Mohicans, sweaty bald geezers brandishing beer-guts around and the occasional shard of enjoyable curiosity in a parade of generally (and aptly) bootleg quality clips for some aural snuff fun. There’s plenty of footage from the first Holidays In The Sun festivals in Blackpool from the mid-90’s (Buzzcocks, English Dogs, Drones, Splodge, Casualties) but also some classics to grind yer guts to along with yer Great White cider (early clips of Broken Bones and Abrasive Wheels aged about eleven, Adicts and Toy Dolls promos, GBH and Sham in Japan, UK Subs with Charlie Harper dressed comically like Stiv Bators in leather n’ studs, The Vibrators dolled up on German TV, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, The Lurkers in mid-80’s limbo, erroneous purveyors of punk’s cretinous clichés The Exploited). As ever with budget punk comps it all depends on your stomach for bingeing on the drip-trays of the derelict and how much fun you can have with absolutely unnecessary boot-boys like The Business and Angelic Upstarts – though they do win points for hilariously having a topless dancer cavorting in horrendous fetish gear looking like Annie Lennox with rabies, and distinctly less sexy.
Stu Gibson
Paul Marks And The Van Dorens
Blood And Treasure

Seventh album in from Texan soul-blues troubadour shows expertly that filing under blues would do a great disservice to this dude by ensujring silence in many quarters. There’s a slew of treats for the unsuspecting here, Tex-Mex a la Los Lobos, cajunista and N’Orleans soul that leaves Van Morrison out to pasture in the wannabe field deserving a drubbing in the bull-pen and there’s more white-boy bar-band soul than Southside Johnny, and even Dr John but without the psychedelic gumbo mumbo (the loping pianner gait of I’m Still High that’ll stay in your system longer than a whole backstage gamut of intoxicating infusions and supposed though much surrendered-to solutions), both whom he pleasingly shares a similar acknowledgement of song over Walter Trout trad-white-blues histrionics, country choogling chuckles on the Just Because-based Wrong Pair Of Shoes, even splicing any cynical presuppositions with hints of both Tom Waits (on the mid-show romantic soliloquy Extraordinary Measures) and Santana meets the Vaughan's (closer Ruff House). An unexpectedly exhilarating ruckus-raising ride round all points South that avoids pastiche and evokes, nay incites, the spirit of the Texas Flood that streamed from, Stevie Ray and ensured he was so revered, with extra sly lashings of fun and feastivities, not least the many jocular but knowing asides referencing many old treasures. Superb.
Stu Gibson
East Of Everything

As much as I’ve proselytised and lauded the Corazong label in recent blue moon interludes of lunacy this release at first glance doesn’t much trouble the radar amidst much times of strife. Pickled with lucid and dark allusions to love lost with a sweeping accompaniment of acoustic-led balladeering and mid-tempo strolls, it’s just a touch too Nashville, bit too nice and clean-cut, for all that their name evokes the spirited aspersions and narratives of Steve Earle. Accomplished and well-produced it certainly is and wouldn’t waylay the Netherlands notable abilities at appropriating Americana, but as much as it is safe, especially considering some of the subject matter and emotions that coulda been moulded into more maladjusted landscapes. It shouldn’t all go to hang at the soonest noose to noon though. There are lovely moments of bittersweet delight redolent of label-mate Alastair Moock such as the pitter-patter pragmatists lament of Train Of Thought and Road Song. For this sort of fairly safe at home pop-country sheen they aren’t as bland as the disappointing should-be-great-on napkins but somewhat simpering Last Train Home. Moonlight Serenade is worth the cost of a whole carriage of train fares, Amanda Shires voice basking in the shadows of the protagonists suspicions spiked with insinuating accordion raptures, and cowpunk barn-burner I Don’t Need You Anymore more than make up for weaker moments (Picking Up The Pieces, Dog Eat Dog, Just Not Yet) that tend too much to be reaching for Springsteen’s Human Touch for comfort.
Stu Gibson
The Caravans
The Best Of The Caravans – Lying With Dinosaurs

This long-standing UK ‘billy brigade of two-plus decades might not generally be mentioned alongside The Meteors, Demented or Nekromantix in your current psycho lala hall of fame but, like with near-contemporaries King Kurt, Long Tall Texans and Guana Batz they easily straddle the divides and confines of the rockin’ ratataternity. More of a rockin’ riot hitting the hillbilly between the border towns, slapping some true grit between the chafed groins and gargling the frenzy of A superlative amalgamation mixing the brawn you might expect from a chap outta the navy with the tender-hearted narrations of fast driven hard living, Just Won’t Die, Restless Heart, Never Gonna Love Ya and Get A Head are exquisite gurn alongs that deserve devouring by every and any shade of rictus rocker. Turning dour demeanour into torrential grins, driver Mark Peningtone is one unsaluted songjurer in league with La Batz Stuart Osbourne, dappling traditional rhythms with unique ruminations on those familiar territories of flighty females and whiskey woes.
Stu Gibson
The Only Ones
Live At Shepherds Bush

Documenting 2007’s reformation that was as likely to take place as Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd here St Peter of Perrett appears to allow the devoted a chance to pay their respects. As a live experience maybe it was never going to be anything more than it is - a rather grim spectacle where the main interest is a combination of witnessing the return of a spectre with an audience largely in subdued amazement and reverential awe, a chance to pay tribute a la Arthur Lee’s latter years. Sure, such a startlingly unique songwriter deserves it, even if his lengthy absence has lent their rather patchy trio of albums added leverage into the realms of legend in the intervening two or three decades. Ever so spindly in frame and voice, with the skeletal air of Ronnie Wood and John Cooper Clarke, it’s kinda astounding that he doesn’t crumple when he swaps his Tele for a Les Paul. Painfully gaunt as he is with an aching drawl more pronounced than ever lessening the impact of the caustic invective at the darkly charismatic heart of his oeuvre of noxious Knopfler new wave and punk-buckled ballads. Though new song Dreamt She Could Fly plunges the depths of dirge-form, there’s much of what the ardent fan will want and expect to hear (The Beast, Programme, Miles From Nowhere, No Solution, oh and Another Girl Another Planet which naturally sees a few balding beer-bous pogoing) except maybe Out There In The Night. With the odd touching moment of audience interaction from the nervous aside about being sponsored by Gibson to his request on behalf of a fan for the vocals to be louder, ending with his genuinely astonished reaction at the respoinse and evident goodwill emanating stageward at him and his on form ones. A grand document to what is hopefully not, erm, petering out into a fatal finale, as they gear up to tour in the coming months.
Stu Gibson
Gutter Demons
Misery Madness And Murder Lullabies

Another suppurating horrorpunk freakshow to contaminate your crusty ribcages and fester in your hearts well worth descending down to their abject levels of filth and depravity, these creepy Canadians slash out suave and classy grave-rubbing psycho-country, death-western ballads and neck-tying laments from the catacombs connecting the whorehouse to the morgue in the defiled wild west town they’ve reanimated. Ferocious yet considered but by no means calculating, they don’t need to parade their oh-so psycho pomp under tiresome thrash, which only underlines their alluring malevolence all the more. Cultured wouldn’t be the point. Just they have a rare commodity of passion riding insistently with the idle insanity of their chosen musical coffin. Just when you thought it was safe to return to your tomb of pulp glitch-riddled ‘billy this third saddle-goring travesty is an utter triumph much deserving of a meeting with the lords of the underworlds, for tis theirs for the taking should their thirsts be as yet still need slaking. Being a long time a-coming since anything remotely psycho could be said to be essential, almost as essential as yer vitals, not since Teddy Trigger and the Gatling Guns. They might not exactly be re-writing the ghoul book entirely but when it’s desecrated as devilishly as this on House By The Cemetery, Sunday and madcap mariachi twist of Snakepit then they have a sharp, serrated point indeed.
Stu Gibson
Dan Baird And Homemade Sin
Dan Baird And Homemade Sin

Following on from last year’s pretty spectacular Fresh Outta Georgia Live Like A Satellite* album comes this first step from the aptly titled new combo for the ex-Georgia Satellites head hat-waver (been that it was partly recorded in-house but also that it’s extremely comfortable and homely for such at once snub-nosed barrack-room boogie. Where that regaled glassy and dare I say it, slightly tear-stained sozzled eyes with dishy delights from the well back-slapped Satellites catalogue here’s a whole new set of the finest bar-room maraudings, with laughing ex-Scorcher madacapo Warner Hodges, ably refilling and refreshing the piercing caverns left by compadre Rick Richards that Maybe there’s a few more mid-tempo reflective tinges than the lairy-eyed young buckaroo bromide barnstorm of say Railroad Steel but as ever Baird never falters on the fandango whether on the pristine purr of Damn Thing To Be Done, gooey lament Lazy Monday, or marching civil war malevolence of Crooked Smile and I Know What It’s Like that Baird excels at due to the contrast with the amiable nature more often on display. So perhaps more sedate but no less sanguine. Big jack-booted stompers bound through the barn with little feet chicken-strutting funk that’d twirl Tina into tomorrows that Dan’d eloquoise wistfully on. And anyhoo, the twin guitar twangvirate turf up wiffy nifty riffs that would run rings round Ronnie and Keef if you fancy a Rod footie analogy and topped with choruses like Oh No, There She Goes, Champagne Sparkle and Just Can’t Wait Homemade Sin hail a future full of exhaustless fumes, Baird’s abilities on You wanna compare wisecracks and wistful remarks? The devout will devour the word that he still rages wide-eyed about CCR like back in ’89 on Two For Tuesday and, though the reminisce may be more life-scarred and crease-eyed, making it all the more savourable, far beyond lacing it with affectionately lovely nods and yes winks to ol’ Ronnie Lane on Runnin' Outta Time. It’s no reflection of the artists age that a new Baird record is like sinking into a sofa. Maybe ma marbles are rusting with dust and sentimentality but tis a fine shiny sun that shoots cloudy cares away.
Raise a glass to the second dollop, or helping even! Any lover of sleaze slink, under thirty or just checking in again should fucking rush in like a fool. Nothing better barring a Crybaby’s rejig.
Stu Gibson
The David Johansen Group

Following the Dolls less than dainty demise David Jo deftly demonstrated his Jagger tendencies stretched beyond the rubber lips and limp wrists with this solo shimmy that tempers the Dolls punked up R’n’B roots with signs of the times, before all the Buster Poindexter and painful bit-parts. Sylvain was on the permanent payroll (and also Thunders making a scant appearance here) as DJ took note of the prevailing winds blowing in from different shores and concocted a barn-grilled rhythm and soul revue in the shade of Springsteen, Mink Deville and maybe even Billy Joel. This sweatily aromatic set includes disco (hit shuffle Funky But Chic), new wave nightrain’s (Cool Metro, Girls), ropey though more entertaining than gut-wrenching covers like Build Me Up Buttercup and Reach Out (I’ll Be There)…alongside an atrocious stab at The Supremes Love Child and Dolls covers (a suitably sleazy and knee-sweat licking Looking For A Kiss and comical trot through Personality Crisis where the caricature descends into overdrive). As seen in his recent ‘If Rod can do it so can I’ blues covers albums the man knows his stuff and the fact that he can’t fail to come across as quite the cunt without any of Jerry Lee’s psychotic amenability shouldn’t detract from this sweet little rock’n’roller, nor should his increasingly strangled rasp that often threatens to imitate Beavis.
Stu Gibson
The Mission
Sum And Substance

On the back of reissued albums now comes your chance to enjoy a merry amble back to the dawn of indie videotage when promo clips cost nary a tenner and SAS is a jolly enough jape back in time, collecting all the singles from UK goth-riders and their attendant celluloid calamities. Easily deridable for being pop-tarts of the highest order not serious brow-furrowers there are still many fine moments here belie their love of glam and seventies pop and splendid ridiculousness. Serpents Kiss, alongside the eternal Severina still one of the best reasons for Wayne Hussey being on the planet, shows them cavorting about the greensward a la The Faces which may surprise anyone expecting arthouse pretensions to match the mumbo jumbo lyrics. Stay With Me, with La Huss resembling Gordon Ramsay in faintly hysterical mystical pagan fayre the band on ye auld folkie instruments commendably straight-faced, not least in the presence of their leader’s clenched fist to open arm gesticulations to conjure every last drop of emotion and meaning from his empty wordplay. Tower Of Strength shows our four now furry-chinned heroes (obviously part of a spell to fend of The Nephilim) them try their hand at Hawk The Slayer style fantasy flicks, elsewhere there are budget-less road clips (Beyond The Pale), Deliverance with Hussey as Tyla and a great mish-mash where the rapturous festival crowd and band are never in the same clip onto Never Again’s indie-dance with scary clown playing cello and Like A Child Again with Wayne as Waterboy.
Crusade, an early live set from Nottingham Rock City mixing much of the first two albums alas, is uninvolving, synthetic and pretty pitiful when placed alongside Wake or Live In Orange. Wayne is in Jagger at Hyde Park mode but with scant traces of audience noise and the whole sounds more like a ‘liver’ mix of album sessions this is a disappointment, summing up their slick 12” shiny gatefold sleeve with stickers style with slight substance.
Stu Gibson

Monday, January 12, 2009

Fields Of The Nephilim
Paradise Regained - Live In Dusseldorf

There’s always gonna be a spot of bother with Nephilim live videos, not noted for being stalwarts upholding the ancient lore of audience participation…in their case that extends to audience acknowledgement. Whereas a show would sweep you away on wings of power wrap you writhing into its protective vortex, watching the results on the screen will never mean you have to adjust your spectacle levels, short of you having an insatiable Carl McCoy fetish or working out what the seven hells of sin and abstinence little Nod Wright does with such a huge drumkit. Even on moments that would make Steve Harris bound across the stage in full-tilt gallop as on the truncated Trees Come Down Mr McCoy manages barely a twirl or slight motion away from centre-stage, though when he does it’s with a laconically slow menacing gait. Filmed on the Elizium tour it’s a similar set to the blazing Earth Inferno, but including Sumerland and omitting the glorious torrent of Love Under Will. Not the shamanic experience much espoused by the diminutive occultist, much be-shrouded in smoke and lacking the charisma of Andrew von Eldritch it’s nevertheless worth a whirl, though maybe in conjunction with their much more entertaining video clips.

Stu Gibson

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