Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tragically Hip - We Are The Same

Eleventh album from well-named Ontarian troupe, once purveyors of meaty, gritty bar-raddled indie rock with skewed country as well as Minneapolis leanings a la The Jayhawks (but never quite) here have either progressed or been pushed into a corner crammed full of sweetly shuffling, slightly askance cross-country glances. Either they've been cast adrift exploring pastures new or panhandling for the pension pot and ascended to soft-rock heaven if the twee aww shucks shrug of Coffee Girl, replete with trumpet solo (look, only The Waterboys can execute the trumpet in pop) and others (the rather aimless The Exact Feeling) as they drift around on waves of atmospherics then fade away into the vast void swaddled in layers, nay oceans, of Bob Rock's schmaltzing, string-laden, pop-burdened production making it resemble Coldplay's elder brothers who still have Sheryl Crow posters in the glove compartments, despite the shards of bitter lyrics from vocalist Gord Downie providing necessary distance from such would-be pretenders to their peerage (apart from when his voice, as on closing segments of highlight Speed River and Now The Struggles Has A Name, veer into lamb-bleating). Shame, as some of these could be majestic, hushed acoustical spook moments (country stroll through opening Morning Moon on it's bleary bed of Fleetwood Mac style backing choir) or massive, well, rock-crushing crescendoes like the Springsteen meets Joe Jackson Honey, Please and aforelysaid Speed River. The broodingly elegaic The Last Recluse resembles that Connell's '74-'75 song and one fears it could be the soundtrack to Chris Martin's onanistic gorging sessions if he could replace Bono on his bedroom wall. Alas the spectre of the sanctimonious one also appears on Love Is A First and that, as on the Radiohead meets Peter Perrett Frozen In My Tracks or the REM tinges of Queen Of The Furrows, doesn't equal the sound of a bandprogression through reinvention. The nine and a half minute opus that is The Depression Suite has a questioning refrain (quite often) of 'What if this song does nothing?' and 'Don't you wanna see how it ends?', one of which wouldn't trouble even the most part-time of armchair philosophers and the other which will largely be met by indifferent shrugs. It's a nice trip while you're there, though for the aching stretch to new horizons this doesn't follow the example of fellow country cohorts the Cowboy Junkies amazing Miles From Our Home album. Much of this is forgettable and unaffecting and has some of the stink of coffins of promise unfulfilled.
Stu Gibson
Henry's Funeral Shoe - Everything's For Sale

'With a fistful of fire and a mouthful of everything
I jumped from the pulpit to bullwhip the choir' - It's A Long Way

These two Clifford brothers hail from the fertile valleys of South Wales as opposed to the swampy lands of Louisiana or mud-flats of the Mississippi delta but plough pretty deeply and adeptly the fields of the two man blues set-up you may not expect from the lands more noted for indie pop and awful emo pap. Something of child prodigies it seems but whatever the whichway at least they've either transgressed, or quarantined, their stated roll-call of same old tried n' tested by tired chancers influences such as The Beatles and The Who. Tinges of these names are retained in the dirtily clean, slightly effected, sound, that, while slippery, warm and fuzzy doesn't cast them in the same beserkeley league as The Immortal Lee County Killers or other Alive label lunatic bingers like Left Lane Cruiser, but in the more sedate settings of Black Keys and Buffalo Killers. Singing guitar-toter Aled is possessed at times with Jim Morrison's thunder-gullet, French knicker-filleting roar, though, alas, it does often stray into the strangled larnyx of that berk from Reef. They may struggle to gain a foothold in the quagmire of the coagulated crowds of stripped-down slink merchants, though tracks like the slide-pounding hammer of Empty Church, the salaciously salivating sermonator It's A Long Way and top of the class roll around the mountain dancefloor dynamo Second Hand Prayer show they should be sufficiently equipped to negotiate such terrain and strive for that old fabled first rung, especially in a world where the egregious Jet have made a comeback.
Stu Gibson
Jeff Healey - Songs From The Road

If this CD / DVD is the kind of stuff that will be released from the archives since his demise last year then it serves as both a send off as well as a lesson / riposte to the snide releases that frequently squander the legacies of the great n' gone. It also helps that Healey didn't do a great deal to aid such operations, not exactly being noted for below par, off key n' kilter performances. In some areas that may have made him seem as staid and bored geography teacher-like as Clapton and Cray but not so. Here, recorded in Norway, one of the London's and hometown Toronto, Healey literally tears through a set of classics culled from the blues, rock'n'roll, psychedelia (Cream's White Room would make Jack Bruce stand in shame in the corner for eternity at the piss poor power-deprived trio version he treaded out on his own recent live album) all liberally interspersed with his trademark biting, barking and bullshit-less guitar breaks, that often spill over into Skynyrd style off road racing between him and t'other guitar (the equally electrically laudable Dan Noordermeer) and harpistrionic maestro. The guy had soul that swings through songs that are tired standards in most anyone's else's repertoire (Hoochie Coochie Man with a ridiculous bout of breathtaking guitar of the if my mouth opens any wider please come by my house, stick some dynamite in it and blow me up thanking ye kindly calibre, Stop Breaking Down and the fuckin' Beatles - though he does urinate from mystical heights that no Amahashhead Yogi could ever envisage on While My Guitar Gently Weeps). The DVD has a slew of different tracks too including Highway To Hell and Neil Young's Like A Hurricane. That The Mission even managed to do a far better version of this song should in no way belittle this one, Healey on top fart-about form. Colossal. Any little prick wanting to learn should start here from now on, it might at least make 'em stop before releasing a simperingly limp album of glossy slop.
Stu Gibson

Friday, August 28, 2009

Various - Just About As Good As It Gets!
Great Rock'n'Roll Instrumentals
Great British Rock'n'Roll Vol.3
Great Rockabilly Vol.3
Great British Skiffle Vol.3
Smith & Co

This third volume of a thorough Dutch dressing up and dusting down of old brilliantined brilliance and greased up good times shows no signs of letting up on the glistening grade A crystals, at seventy plus songs a set. Well, with the backwards exclusion of the British Rock'n'Roll one which, though a vast improvement on the earlier installments of ultra mundane polite tea and scones pastiching prattles, due to the gradual improvement of the old guard of trad jazzers who made up most of the early Brit rock'n'roll at passing themselves off as rockers till payday, that improvement serves to show how aimless the earlier ones were, meaning the British volumes of this series should be called 'Oh and some weedy attempts at Rock'n'Roll by Britain, Could Do Better'. As is well known, Britain couldn't rock for shit, it's like rationing carried on into limp versions, very ordinary renditions indeeds, of the sorta mean-eyed, wild haired rockin' found on the Rockabilly volumes, which are ridiculously crammed with such gleaming classics - Gene Vincent's Blue Jean Bop, Elvis' Good Rockin' Tonight, Billy Lee Riley's Red Hot or Johnny Burnette's Honey Hush turn up on vol.3, if you wanted proof of how much rock has been papered over - they turn Morris Minor's into rickshaws running on cringing, hand-wringing chauffeurs. There's the famous Cliff vs Elvis paradox of course - though wet-wipe Cliff's early stuff is absorbent enough - similarly Alma Cogan ain't no Wanda Jackson and Adam Faith vainly attempting Jerry Lee's High School Confidential or Hal Burton's Rave On would make the hardest drill sergeant show pity. The then unappreciated Vince Taylor (the dude who part inspired Ziggy Stardust) fought a valiant rearguard action, though debatably benefitted from being raised in Texas.
However, the UK skiffle craze kick-a-boomed by Lonnie Donegan is rightly fabled and not just for historical note-taking, or featuring the interestingly named Original Barnstormers Spasm Band. Like a historical re-enactment society these heroes - also featuring two names pivotal to music as a whole, not just the soon to come UK R&B and Blues boom Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies - took up acoustic guitar, washboard, kazoo and homemade (custom built for Americans) broom-handle bass with the spirit of the Battle Of Britain and applied it to the recent past of American folk song, and undoubtedly, well, did, set the path for younger acolytes yet to end up in The Stones, Kinks, Who and Beatles to follow. Bravo!
Likewise, the instrumentals set does the job of documenting the nascent space age where you can rum amok from behind smokescreens of large-finned twang and Russki-scalping sax as your house redecorates itself, your shirts get brighter and your walk gets somewhat looser. From evading the invading monsters creature feature jams to cool sax-riddled siren calls like a stampede of in season elks to street-racing ramrodders and wild west serenades and proto-punk brawlers this is a opulent oil-spurt of slinky sonic delights from the likes of Duane Eddy, Ritchie Valens, Sonny Burgess, Chuck 'n' Fats and of course The Champs (ie Tequila) alongside Merle Travis' wondrously bonkers Cannonball Rag, Chet Atkins technical string-balladry and Les Paul & Mary Floyd's How High The Moon (which, erm, features that weird new invention that came to be called singing). With but one Link Wray song there seems room for further volumes too. Keep your eyes on the road, James.
Stu Gibson

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shady Lady: The Interview

Sleazy rebellious American rock n' roll has made something of a come-back in recent years with a whole new generation of street-walkin' cheetahs hangin' out in the corners of your local rock club. Ever since Motley Crue's 'The Dirt' made the bestsellers list and indie bands rediscovered the NY proto punk and new-wave scenes sometimes around the early 2000's it was considered cool again to cite bands such as New York Dolls, MC5 and The Stooges as influences.

The now ubiquitous Nikki Sixx haircuts and Ramones t-shirts are to be found in every club and at every rock show, with bands such as Aerosmith revisiting those halcyon days by playing their classic 1970's album 'Toys In The Attic' in its entirety.

Although not as frequently cited as the bands mentioned above, Shady Lady is another group from the golden age of gutter rock who are making something of a come-back. Indeed, singer Stefen Shady has been kickin' out the jams at the cutting edge since the days of the British Invasion to the present day rock revival. Spawned from the same NY sewer as the 'Dolls, the 'Lady relocated to LA where they soon established themselves as the next big thing and signed a big record deal. Sadly their record label went "belly up" and after that things didn't quite happen as they could have/should have. The album finally surfaced on an Italian record label in 2005 but if the name Shady Lady is still not familiar, you've really been missing out.

I conducted this interview via email in July 2009 with Stefen, who is as friendly and genuine a guy you could ever meet in rock n' roll. This dude was born to be a rock star and has some great stories to tell. Think you already knew about kick ass raw and greasy garage glam rock? Read on, and all you musos out there, remember to add Shady Lady to that list of bands to cite as an influence next time your band gets interviewed!

Hello Stefen, okay lets start with the basics. What first motivated you to make your own music?
It was a natural development for me. I grew up loving music and women. And most women in turn love music and the men who make the music! I joined a rock 'n roll band in high school in the early-mid 60's in Lake City, Florida where I grew up. They were called 'The Henchmen' and they wanted me to play bass in the band. In the beginning I did some backup vocals as well until the band let me turn loose on a couple of songs and do some lead vocals without the bass. That's when things changed noticeably with the audience's reaction. I was all over the stage, leaping in the air, down on the floor rolling around while the girls gathered around in euphoria. Half the time I didn't even know the lyrics to the song I was singing but that didn't stop me. The very first moment I had set foot on stage I was hooked and knew what I wanted to do.
I learned about many artists and their music that I hadn't previously known of through my band mates and other musicians. I dove into listening to the blues and the roots of rock 'n roll. I listened to all of those early black artists whom I became to love so much. Previous to that my only music background had been in a Southern church choir. In between it all though was my older sister's record collection which included Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and Ricky Nelson just to name a few. I also listened to surf, pop, and country music as well, which was what was being played on the radio. Then came the British Invasion....The Beatles, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Animals and many others. Things started to change musically and lots of good and different music started to emerge on the airwaves.

After I graduated high school and having dropped out of college after only one year I left The Henchmen. I moved to Jacksonville, Florida where I jammed and sang with a number of bands that came through this club called The Beachcomber's Lounge. It wasn't long before I ran a foul with some of the local rednecks as well as the law enforcement. I was out of jail on bail and decided it was a good time to move on. I sold my bass and amp and bought a plane ticket to New York.

After getting settled in Greenwich Village and jamming with a few bands I met guitarist, John McEwen (a.k.a. John Christian) and a bit later on Gerhard Helmut, a bass player transplanted from Austria. Gerhard and I started out jamming with this black jazz drummer. We practiced in Gerhard's loft near the West Village, which much later became known as Soho in New York. Gerhard and I hit it off well and decided to put a band together. I brought John into the mix. John and I moved into Gerhard's loft. The three of us wrote our first song within a couple of days of jamming together. It wasn't long after that when John and I started writing song after song together.

Shady Lady is an LA band but you started out on the East Coast? When and why did you move?
Yeah, the three of us were there in New York playing and having a lot of fun doing so. But then frustration set in as we had been auditioning other musicians for the band and weren't having much luck at all with finding the right persons. I had specific ideas about what I wanted with this band's formation. Firstly you had to be a player and secondly you had to have the right look and attitude. I had run into John Genzale (Johnny Thunders) who I already somewhat knew from the street scene. John dressed and looked similar to myself and so naturally I had always assumed he was a musician. It turned out that he was just starting out to be. Johnny had just begun playing bass at the time and we already had an exceptional and experienced bass player in Gerhard. So that subject was mute. We had exhausted all hopes of finding the missing players we sought in NY. We decided that we should move to London where we felt we would have much better luck in finding the right styled musicians to complete our band.

We all three had decent paying jobs and started pooling and saving our monies together. John and I ran a large clothing store in the East Village called 'The Naked Grape'. The store had become a very popular under our management and guidance. I designed clothing for the owners of the store as well. 'Granny Takes A Trip' had opened in NY and I borrowed from their styles but added my own touch.

However, things took a turn with our plans to move to London. John and myself had been involved with some of the local boys called the B.A.U. (Beat Artists Union) previously to our music venture. The B.A.U. was a grift organization made up of mod-styled youths for the most part. There were some hardcore, slightly older hoodlums that we were associated with at the time though. A couple of these guys decided to branch out to a more deadly game of extortion. We became one of their focal points due to the success of the store we ran...especially John. I had been involved in three or four altercations in my association with the B.A.U., which had resulted in my having a reputation as a tough guy. Although I certainly didn't look like one, along with the fact that these rumours were somewhat exaggerated, the rumours had flourished all the same. So, these guys were definitely a bit more cautious where I was concerned but John on the other hand was easy prey in their eyes and so the extortion began. There were some other guys who had left the B.A.U. also and gone into legitimate businesses who fell victims as well. A few of our former pals were ending up either in the hospital or in emergency rooms in order for these guys to get their point across.

So, after being kidnapped and pistol-whipped one night, John began paying them monies. Only these monies were coming from our London bound savings. I was enraged and wanted to take strong measures against these hoods. So, John and I set up a meet with some senior family members we knew of. After some investigation by these elders we were well advised against any plans for vengeance. It turned out their family ties were just too strong and we were told it was best to either keep paying them or perhaps leave NY for a while. We chose to do the latter but England was beyond our reach financially at that point. So we bought a used van, loaded it up with our gear and headed for Los Angeles in late March of 1970. We arrived in Los Angeles in early April 1970 where a new chapter for us began.

Shady Lady is a cool name for a glam rock n' roll band. Was there any lady in particular who inspired the name?
Ha Ha. No, not a woman nor did it come from the name written on the side of the plane that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima either. The latter was what a former manager had once proclaimed to the media as to how we arrived at the name. It was nothing as thought out as that at all. The truth is, it was during a short spell when Gerhard had disappeared back to NY after having a falling out with John and myself over direction of the band. It was during that time that the name actually came about. John and I had continued to write and had begun to seek a recording contract as a duo. We still hadn't come up with a name for ourselves yet. Bones Denault, who was living with us at the time, had found a detective magazine that someone had tossed onto the front lawn of our house. The magazine lay open and the title of the article facing Bones was "The Strange Case Of The Missing Shady Lady". He picked it up and brought it to the house and told John, 'This is a good name for you guys.' I was away from the house at the time and when I returned home the name was presented to me. I said, "Yeah, Shady Lady, that's it! That is the name we will use." Only there were just two of us at that point. So, I said to John, your name should be John Lady, and I will change my last name to Shady.

A couple of weeks later John came to me and said I don't want 'Lady' as my last name. I laughed. I didn't blame him, and asked, "What will be your last name then?" He said he was thinking about his middle name, Christian. I thought John, call ourselves Shady Lady with Shady/Christian as the writing duo, hmm? I liked it a lot, and told him so. A few days later Gerhard called from New York and wanted to come back, which turned into an agreement and the three of us making up. He flew back to LA and rejoined us. Bones became the other guitarist in the band and we found our drummer, Billy McCartney right afterwards, and so all five of us were soon off performing together as Shady Lady.

You guys had a major label deal at one point but never quite got the exposure that some of your contemporaries managed. Now you are operating on a much more DIY level. There must be a certain amount of satisfaction in controlling your own destiny and being able to hold your head up knowing that corporate bureaucracy hasn't buried the band in the long run.
No, unfortunately, we did not get the exposure we thought we might have deserved. And yes, there is something to be said for the DIY thing, but the fact is without the exposure that perhaps a major label or a financial backer could provide it is difficult at best to rise from the ashes of time to become more widely known. We just keep at it because we love doing the music is all. We've got no expectations of wealth and widely acclaimed fame. I think perhaps we are destined to remain as underground legends of some sort is all. That and a dollar won't buy you a cup of coffee though. I still believe it is far better to be relatively unknown, poor and happy than to perhaps to be famous, wealthy and miserable though. But I would like to give it a try.

You have a raw garagey rock n roll sound, the sort of music that is sometimes unfairly criticised by mainstream music snobs as being 'basic' or 'one dimensional' but I get the impression that there is actually quite a lot going on in your music beyond guitar, bass and drums. For example, I hear you play Theremin. Is Shady Lady prone to experimenting and pushing its style?
Yeah, we have a down and dirty raw sound and we currently do rehearse in a garage although we didn't always do so. I don't really give a fuck what any of the mainstream critics might say. We don't play and sing all pretty like. Our music is the type of rock 'n roll that comes from the gut, heart and soul, but we do look real pretty doin' it.

Shady Lady in the past has always had other musicians join us live on stage from time to time as well as in the studio. Sometimes we'd pull in some conga players, a saxophonist, a violinist, or a honky-tonk style piano player. I never used a Theremin back in the day though as I never owned one until after the band split up. We have added it to certain songs today, though. Right now there is basically guitar, bass, drums and vocals with Theremin, harmonica and some added percussion thrown in. However, we are looking to add another guitarist to the band. Bones plays a mean slide and the addition of another power guitarist would only add to our mix. We do experiment somewhat but from the start up of the reformed band I wanted to keep our original sound intact. So many bands reform and don't sound anything like they used to and that is not usually a good thing. I think we still sound pretty much the same as we did years ago.

What countries has Shady Lady played in and where would you like to tour next?
Oddly enough, Shady Lady has never played as a band outside of California. We were all set to go on a world domination tour with the slated release of the album in 1973 but the label we were signed with went belly up. Therefore, the Raving Mad album wasn't released and then the split up of the band followed. So, yes there are many places over here as well as in many other countries that we would love to play.

Has the Internet been a useful tool in expanding your audience in recent times?
I would say it has been very helpful along with Italy's Rave Up Records 2005 release of our original vinyl LP. The Rave Up release would never have happened had it not been for the Internet. It wasn't all that long ago that I felt that Shady Lady's music was forever lost and never to be heard. It wasn't until I surfaced on the Internet that I found out differently. I was astounded to find that there was still that much interest out there in Shady Lady. Once I surfaced numerous websites contacted me along with fans that I didn't know existed. Things just began to mushroom in an odd sort of way. What astounded me most though was having fans from various other countries contact me and especially those one's being from much younger generations than my own. As I previously said we had never performed together as a band outside of here in California. So naturally I was and still am somewhat perplexed about how they learned of our music.

Any plans for reissuing old recordings or creating/releasing any new music with Shady Lady?
Yes, there has been more talk going on about a re-release of the album here in the States along with some recently found and unreleased material of old. We also want to release some newer material as well.

Word Association. Respond with one sentence maximum:
- Jagger
Arguably the best front man ever.
- Bowie
Talented and unique.
- John Lee Hooker
Love John Lee.
- Elvis
As everyone knows always the King.
- Little Richard
Good golly Miss Molly, there is no one else like him and never will be.
- Hendrix
Best guitarist ever and was one hell of a super cool dude.
- Aerosmith
They aren't called 'America's Best Rock 'n Roll Band' for nothing. However they were never 'The Most Beautiful Rock 'n Roll Band In The World' that distinction went to Shady Lady (well, of old it did).
- Guns n' Roses
Could have been America's biggest rock band.
I was never there...I hung out at Max's.
- Whisky Ago-Go
I have great memories of it and it's too bad it turned into what it did, a pay-to-play venue, which has ruined part of its history in my eyes.

Thoughts/Memories of any of the following:

New York Dolls
Fuckin' Aye, they went through some heavy shit and deserved way more recognition and success than they ever got. That goes for Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers, too.
Those guys rocked.
Lucky little prick that barely remembers anyone he knew back in the day, let alone extends a helping hand like he got. Just kidding, Jimbo. I love Iggy/Stooges!
Yeah, they are one of the best bands ever that most people never heard of. I am speaking of the masses of course and not about all you kicky champs out there.
Sex Pistols
They did what they did which took big balls to do and I liked it.

Okay, that wraps it up nicely. Thanks to Stefen Shady for giving the low down on the Shady Lady story and I hope to hear more music from you guys soon. For everyone reading this, you will find more info and sounds at Shady Lady's Myspace Page, so go hear what you've been missing out on.

- Alex Gillett

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Sex Presley's - God Save The King

Alas, what has potential almost to the value of one of Elv's seventies jump-suits is squandered here like much of those lost sixties years. Ripping through a slew of Presley fave raves with Pistols pneumatic pumping driving the piles underneath a la the bootlegging fad pioneered by 2 Many DJ's - ie Teddy Bear vs Anarchy In The UK - and others should cause serious lip-curling, friction gurning, Lux leering and too tame old punk water-treads that even the most slapdash psychobilly band could infect more life into, don't even scratch the taking the piss level. Heartbreak Hotel and Always On My Mind especially are just pointless, pitiless Pop Idol / Phoenix Nights plot losses that make Sid's version of Something Else rev-up. T'isn't a matter of being precious. Sneering through and decimating old classics like the Pistols themselves in '76 isn't punk rock nowadays, it's just fun. Have a lissen as a passing interest if ya must, if only for the sort of Pretty Vacant vs Can't Help Falling In Love but ah can't help feeling if Lux or Buttz n' The Babysitters or The Crybaby's hadda done it, it would be fun and playful, and worthwhile, yeah, this lot, nope, I ain't sorry to say.
Stu Gibson

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Men They Couldn't Hang - Devil on the Wind Irregular

The further adventures from the quarter century of driving punk fuelled folk on this first album for several years, returning for troubled, intolerable and intolerant times perhaps? Once again into the fray swing the twin rough drink / smooth chaser combination of Phil Swill and Stefan Cush, mixing sweet traditional melodies carried on winds of strident lyricism and personal internal narratives related round scarred campfires against background warning fires of international and local issues, as they've done since their earliest days. No quick under-contract knees-up this either, and this English band of renegade rabble-rousers should in no way be a found as a destitute folk-flecked footnote faintly etched in some outlying rock formation at the edge of a cratered country field. Coming of age in the hard-left Thatcher-hatchet political turmoil of the mid-eighties TMTCH may not have cracked the critical and commercial crags of The Pogues or The Waterboys, though the frequent lyrical and musical landscapes and atmospherics they conjure is equally, easily as enchanting and affecting as either and neither an accident nor contrivance. Give or take the occasional iconic crossover chart-anthem and quoteworthy, catastrophe-courting, crazily charismatic frontchap there is much to compare with Scott and MacGowan's works. That that applies here too, as well as with Steve Earle, especially on the returning vet lament of Reservoir, also adds further to this release's cachet of contender for album of the year, alongside and subtly surpassing Ricky Warwick's Belfast Confetti - not least by having another head to head by the title track vying with Warwick's The Arms Of Belfast Town for track of the year. Violin tapestries of eastern overtones swirl through the opening title track, a sort of updated Sympathy For The Devil for the current climate with the narrator cropping up in various epochs from Babylon through Byzantium, Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander and midway through the crusader piece Overseas plays the past of a sort of companion piece. It's no twee symbol that you can a'most positively hear seagulls reeling round the forlornly lovely Mrs Avery as much as taste the bittersweet air of nostalgia on Heartbreak Park or the menace and pangs of desolation and despair encroaching The Ragged Shoreline. Bobby Valentino's violin throughout the eleven tracks is as windswept and high lonesome, swooping and soaring as Steve Wickham's with The Waterboys, and is deserving of special mention in this dispatch, adding to the standing of the already majestic bearing of this set above and beyond the basis of mandolin, guitar and occasional accordion and piano accompaniments. Though on the surface they may not be as rough n' rowdy as their initial mid-eighties break for freedom, initially the raggedy songs that bookend the album appear the more spirited, there's plenty of joyfully rousing moments as on the sha lalalala chorus of the sad-eyed though not low-lying Aquamarine and the fuzzy rockabilly railroad shake of A Real Rain Coming, never mind the ecstatic ire on the already raved-on title track and Reservoir or the seemingly slight send off / stalker's ode Lost World and sweetheart of the towpath Byrds-call of Hard To Find. A cursory glance of closer inspection, if any should be needed, will effectively demonstrate that the ferocity of yore is plainly present, it's now just/simply/merely even more of a barely contained squall of the bittersweet and seething, here a sure sign of control and comfortable confidence not one of suffocating scant ideas under cloying production. A special, passionate spell.
Stu Gibson
The Vibes - Whiskey, Sex & Rock'n'Roll
The Vibes

The usual band brouhahaha and bollock-less twaddle about their rawk credentials largely results in records being ditched kitchen floor-ward to join slugs of a different though no less slimy nature, guffawed at or just flung in disbelief in the vain hope a godzilla style monster will come and crush them into brawnflakes. Coincidentally, here's a band to do just about that, if they feel like it. Finally a band that can match the bullshit bonanza with a firm grip on the bull horns to boot, with some ultrafuzz flair with a bass that rides in on waves of demonic distortion and gelding guitar riffrump it comes as nay surprise to these northern cloth ears that this trio are from Switzerland. After all, below the surface in that fair land lies the lair of Lightning Beatman's empire and these guys are as real as that guy, just a few substylings away, but the same slag-happy abandon with the rock possess these guys giving that all so indefinable air that makes that quintessential difference between the try-hards and die-hards. With something of Scandinavian southern by the grace of the northern lights sleaze bezerkers The Sewergrooves there's much chest-beating biker boogie like Skynyrd electrotorched by the flames from The Cult's Electric hog-temple with fires further stoked by the garage gut-fucked organ grinds of The Lords Of Altamont, there's country (possible album best On My Way) and indie-psych slivers too veering into Black Devil Mary Chain Club's side of town where Zen Guerilla sit perusing some super nitro b-movie titular art too like a menu of macabre delight - Devil's Nipples, Fatten The Cattle, The Warlords Of Tennessee, Ride Your Horse Down. I'd include Bed Rebel maybe too but it strikes me more like an ode to shitting yerself and not giving a literal fuck, or buggering your mate 'by mistake' Flight Of The Conchords style, though maybe that's a sign to end a review. Other than than quite the smoking ace all the way baby.
Stu Gibson
Don't Stop Believin' - How Karaoke Conquered The World And Changed My Life
By Brian Raftery
Da Capo

Part travelogue, part memoir, part history but whichever stage it takes at whatever goddamn time it pleases it's centred around a strange affection, or fixation, for the curious craze from the crazy country. Realizing he may just have to start growing up at least a little, journo Raftery ventures into a year long world tour of karaoke bars, celebrating the inner geek and utter outsider in a manner not unlike, but not quite like, Chuck Klosterman. And around that mark is plenty good enough, it's sweet and sorta feelgood - hell, maybe it's like hack-lit or something - and an engaging and even moving little slice of personal history. Oh, and just a wee bit funny too, with deft observations and daft acquaintances. Music fan nerd kid can't sing, wanders drunkenly around for a while (there's a gap between those two points though) managing to hold down some jobs whilst frequenting karakoe bars and discovering some semblance of self-confidence, (fast forward) gets girl, gets married. Yes, has karaoke at wedding. Plus, cheap n' easy nasty shot it may be but any book that starts by calling Don Henly 'a sanctimonious knob' must surely be worth a read. Idiosyncratic, scattershot and self-effacing, maybe not quite captivating at all times but a fast-paced flick through the hit lists and crashing misses of the industry, and whatever esle sort of crosses his mind. Basically anyone who calls themselves a music fan who can't look at this affectionately or recongises themselves in it deserves a demise as drastic and drawn out as Henley's.
Stu Gibson
Son Volt - American Central Dust

'Bigger chariots didn't save Rome...' - When The Wheels Don't Move

Ex-Uncle Tupelo man Jay Farrar's third SV album since gathering a new line up a few years back sees his stream of consciousness beat poetics and car-grease americana careen literately and landscape loosely around themes of love and laments to everyday events that pass in the wink of a young girls eye and the wave of a long lost friend...and Keith snorting his pa (Cocaine And Ashes). Yet more novella songs set round travel - the open road, always the road - and bars and vague hints at distant glories once remembered? Yeah it's catching, as is this quietly confident yet diffident album. There's rolling rhythms over acoustic guitars that unravel around gently fuzzed drone guitars, steel and organ over which these reminisces are murmured. It's a largely swirling twilight of an album that unfurls it's fertile secrets long after the stop signs have been passed and the romantic ache of the likes of Dust Of Daylight, the daydream drive in a rocking chair on No Turning Back, the broiling waltzing Strength And Doubt or bitter riposte to the righteously intolerant industrialists of When The Wheels Don't Move can only be met with disinclination by the blindly devout or bizarrely idyllic.
Stu Gibson
Goldie Hill - Don't Send Me No More Roses

Before there was Emmylou, Maria McKee, way back before even there was Patsy, Tammy, Dolly and Loretta Lynn there was Goldie Hill alongside Kitty Wells as one of country's first lady's spilling stoical tears of love's grave-lusting troubles. From before her 1953 numero 1 I Let The Stars Get In My Eyes (a song she got to before Ms Wells) here is a collection of early singles before her descent, or ascent, into whatever passes for marital bliss in Nashville with country legend and Johnny Cash compadre Carl Smith following which her career petered out after a slide into the spruced up late sixties Nashville sound which begat the current tastless and tater-less conveyor belt of cloying kak on too many boots n' suits. For a quick step comparison following the above, the sparse arrangements of fiddle, slide and shuffling in the parlour acoustic guitar, are like a female Hank Williams, Call Off The Wedding almost marrying his Wedding Bells and her voice a similar keening spine-crawling quivering twang, though one that can soar beyond any black n' blue bruised moon as on the howl in echo on Cry Cry Darling. She ain't no dismal damsel though, whether or not she be the loneliest gal in town as the song attests, if ya care to witness the kiss off to a suitor of the title track, and Say Big Boy, this Texan dame sure seemed like one kick arse lass behind the heartbreak here.
Stu Gibson
The Rocketz - We Are...The Rocketz
Analog Arkives

'We're drinking at full throttle
'Til we can't see the label on the bottle' - Label On The Bottle

Tony Slash's Orange County rockers return with a second album here and kickstart some fun and games into the gamut of torpidly self-conscious psychobilly tales of zombies and gore with a heads down, hands up, feet splayed torrent of anthems of fun and odes to fucking up, that covers far more country and swinging ground than the oft-times all too literally psycho no-brain crews that should be cavorted back to their coffin and sealed up for good, or at least deposited in a South London borough like Croydon to meet some real psychotic creeps - or that Compton place for you cross-ponderosas. Yeah, there's mucho that Rvnd Horton Heat could lay claim to in his heavier rollin' times (Label On The Bottle was surely a country drunk classic when it was just mere sweat on a string in a rearsal room, Dig The Way I Roll and Razor Blades wiped up after) but his heat doesn't fuse him so much with L.A., or any, punk (Gettin My Kix recalls New Bomb Turks' Job, Loser chucks rocks at you from it's stinky li'l enclave like Zeke running outta crack), nor have the true tear-jerking reminisce on East L.A., forsaking that for knowing nudges n' winks. There's much heart here that recalls fellow Orange County country punkers Social Distortion though this is far more rockin' than Ness' punkier cohorts and a 'billyfried cover of Holiday In Cambodia mayn't be the most essential item in the world ever but is a justifiable presence cos it cooks said rice in about three seconds flat. As does pretty much all of this super slew of revelry. Go on, get 'em in.
Stu Gibson
The Robin Hoare Band - A Time And Place
Robin Hoare

As far as yours Stuly's dreaded bugbear of modern urban contemporary blues goes this blast of stormy mondays and cheated hearts from Sheffield, city of steelworks and synth-pop, goes some stretch to reseal that gap. Sure, it has the funky precision session backing but it also has some blistering, visceral guitar and smooth Scotch n' Guiness vocals that slice through which should lead him to waste the songs away and screech into some smoky dereliction the financially fuckscuppered tales of opener Living On The Easyplan, Aleena and Online Gambling Game tell of. Sorta let go and throw all the songs you know into the breech and see what bargain waits in the basement. As ever for these quarters, far too discreet and tasteful but at least it starts to bite at the usual self-satisfied Savile Row tailored benchmark that sadly passes for blues these days.
Stu Gibson
Li'l Mo And The Monicats - On The Moon
Cow Island

New York honky tonk anynighttime gal Monica Passin puts out totally undiluted, uncluttered, nuthin' wasted or watered down country music in the grand tradition of demure but never dainty dames that may have size three feet but could lash any lout with a tongue-twisting fist and a voice the size of a rocket ship from Venus set to suprastun a la Patsy, Wanda and onto Ms McKee and Lucinda. Third album, and only the second in ten years, she stretches out here into 60's pop, soul (Baby Be Good), and the whole water-wading range of American song sung under all hues from blue to gold from shuffles, strolls and waltzes to cajun and gentle ragtime blues (Why Don't You Live With Me?) to that old devil rock'n'roll it's very selvis on He's A Handful. With this range she really should peddle out the pretty petal picking a tad more often but for now and how much longer this splendido set will more 'n suffice.
Stu Gibson
Walking Wounded - Waiting On The Outside

Having been industriously plying their blend of gypsy celtic eastern european bluesy reggae punk for thirty years - this being their first fully distributed album out of eight - this East End collective beat gimmicky upstarts like Gogol Bordello and every inept indie schmuck who swapped their Libertines records for Tom Waits ones but kept the titfer, hell, they even predate old Joe and his Mescaleros by a good few moments. They quite possibly have more good moments than that band too, for this is a lovely little record with a similar big hearted embrace of world music lifted directly from the cross-cultural climate of their base camp. Informed by leader Hugh Poulton's work as a Human Rights activist and Amnesty International worker the songs range from the Balkan wars (Vino Ulje Rakija) to London's young gang knife crime (Hackney Central / Murder Mile) through to evolution (Talking Evolution), friendship (on the lovely Pictures) and scene-scraping posers on Betwixt & Between / Saturday Night Down The Balls Pond Road, all related with a voice like a more tuneful Nikki Sudden. Retaining a good humour and party heart, it also quite easily outsteps the cliche crusty punk you could be forgiven for thinking of. So no RDF and no right on preaching, just righteous infectious grooves and sharply sketched characterisations of the bustle of the borough called the world.
Stu Gibson
Heartless Bastards - The Mountain
Fat Possum

The awesome name of this Ohio vs Austin trio may suggest an onslaught of muscle depleting metal but this mountain is a creaky hollow littered with ramshackle hovels cluttered with minimalist cowpunkratered blues veering betweeen creepily calm Appalachia and clanking death knell caterwauls. With Erika Wennerstrom's quivering keening vocals recalling the distinct and ethereal air of Puerto Muerto's Christa Meyer or the spark of a less sultry Lucinda Williams, even a more adrift Gillian Welch, their name is misleading as they work on the reverse by bringing warmth to cold climes. There's nothing particularly warm or fuzzy though, these woozy woe-fuelled fables are winter chills but are sweetly sinister - see the sing-song Could Be So Happy or Nothing Seems The Same. The rudimentary set up does slightly disappoint at times (Out At Sea, Early In The Morning) as they verge too much into hackle rising, pointlessly ploughed Led Zep / White Stripes / Black Keys terrain though there's enough whimsical, mystical instances such as the ultra twisting, lulling banjo-ladled Had To Go, the prairie wife left on the homestead fiddle-led lament So Quiet and the desolate slide-riddled title track opener to make simplistic comparisons to others encamped on the same side of the river quake outta town in their shit-filled britches.
Stu Gibson

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Pussywarmers - My Pussy Belongs To Daddy
Voodoo Rhythm

More, yes yet more, gloriously delirious delicious and scurrilous backwoods bonkersness and head-bonkery from the outer limits of your musical language to shatter the still of what you thought strange, eerie and provocative unearthed by the daddy of all this lo-fi fuckscuppered garagebluescountrytrashcowpokin'punk countylinerepaintingchurchdeacon'sdaughtertainting maestro Lightning Beatman, who really does deserve his Reverend title. This bunch crawl out of and around the other side of Swiss town to Beatman himself, crooning and creaking out scratchy crab-crawling, scab-scratching off-kilter tilting towers of pissed twenties jazz and Jelly Roll buggering ragtime on a seasick swirl of accordions, tubas, saw, piano and cornets with wheezy, almost tearful vocals like the Genevanly unconventional version of The Crybaby's Darrell Bath. It came as nay surprise to find that the trumpet troodles that puncture the scenery throughout are by one time Dead Brother* Christoph Gantert. Like with that duo there's an everpresent sense on each listen that the songs will go any whichaway at anytime such is their wildly unpredictable nature. As they say they could be the dance orchestra on the sinking Titanic, they could likewise be the arkestral houseband at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.
Back for good we hope after Voodoo Rhythm's troubles in the land of the taxman wank. Calamitous, curious but never spurious. More yet more hurrah hurrah.
Stu Gibson
The Jokers - The Big Rock'n'Roll Show
The Jokers

This scouse four piece are gonna save your sallow rock'n'roll soul from it's miserable existence. Really? You scowl. Depending on your demographic and adherence to Classic Rock's word as law (besides, obviously, the big Sleaze G's, cos that pretty much can be taken as read), or just how much you miss the Aerosmith of legend and pissed off you might be with endless two decade tirade of tired ballads, they may do. Everyone else can go back to ordering anything from the Voodoo Rhythm label, discovering Dex Romweber or digging into Ricky Warwick's solo stuff. Vibrant and brashy and with a production as large as a lairy scouse la's protestations of innocence (mixed by the guy who did AC/DC's Rock'n'Roll Train album, though that shouldn't in anyway lead you into temptation, buy the fucking 'DC album and deliver yerself into real big balled evil god-damnit) it may be but tis but a set of seventies Aerosmith retreads albeit for all the posturing as bollock-less as those 'Smith ballads and as for it's (yawn) claims to be taking Rock'n'Roll to the next level. Well...yawn. Replete with a voice too reminiscent of Robert Plant, it's another case that smacks of conveyor belt pastiche, placing all the component parts into a telegraphable whole, such that none of it smacks home ringing true. More, as much as I love my old hats, it smacks of the last swig of chancers.
Stu Gibson
Jack Bruce & Robin Trower - Seven Moons Live

Revered sixties rock titans here recommence a collaboration that bore two albums in the early eighties, not a 'Bruce does Cream songs with Trower on guitar instead of Clapton', though a couple do crop up. Recorded live in Holland earlier this year, this is a trawl through jazz-based bluesy funk of a perhaps unsurprisingly late sixties ilk (right down to the welcome of 'what a nice vibe') floating on waves of rippling prog-tinged stoner psych (like Distant Places Of The Heart and Just Another Day). Shorn of Hendrix's searing guitar, or Clapton's of the Cream era when he was actually worth his weight in strings and picks if not leads it might get a bit ploddy, indulgent and too tastefully polite, even the Cream tunes which sorely miss Ginger Baker's demonic drumming, as does the whole, with more than a few songs lulling into post five minutes in length and then some. A dream ticket for some though it has all the hallmarks of being more one of those for collectors, guitar magazine subscribers and armchair connoisseurs to relax to after Sunday lunch perhaps with a glass of Chateauneuf to others.
Stu Gibson
Cinders Fall - The Reckoning

Hailing, not that you can tell thankfully, from the UK pit of Essex, this six piece of mayhem shoot five tips of depleted uranium dum-dum metal in your face and piss on the scars. Out of a revolving whirlwind of the havoc they conjure they create epic pestilences of anthemic thrash with death more dancing than waiting in the wings on the strings of an unstoppablly pulverising marching symphony of battle joined and rousing sermons delivered. Where many fail and should have their windpipes and ear canals torn out by bands of this calibre, CF unleash the storms of euphoria of Maiden and Metallica at their peaks. Juggernaut riffs, layered with all the classic pauses, pushes and pulses, octaves and harmonies driven forward like a helltrain powered by a nuclear wind turbine and furious death rattle vocal growls that have direction and don't just wail into the void. Stand up and be pounded into glorious submission. This is a thrilling testament to all that is and should be metal.
Stu Gibson
The Stupids - The Kids Don't Like It
Boss Tuneage

Bucking the trend for reformations being fatuous, pointless excursions to flag up the pension fund The Stupids, despite their name, return after two decades with a fresh and vital album of thunderchunder punk arguably better than any of their earlier albums Violent Nun, Peruvian Vacation and Retard Picnic (reissued last year ). Armed to the rotten teeth with song titles the Hard-Ons would fall wanking to the floor over - Drumshop Arsehole, Remember Me Dismember You, Beach Dick - this is fast as a rabbit fuckaroo hardcore with tunefulness seeping out of at least one slimy, crust encumbered orifice. Disingenuously inane, to steal a line from current sub one minute thirty second serenaders Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man this is 'Lighning fast punk rock played by idiots'. Their song title Get Pissed, Talk Shit, Dance Like An Idiot would also fit snugly into this. The kids better bloody had like it, never has there been a more apt time to restart the battle cry get what you're given.
Stu Gibson
Various Artists - Lights! Camera! Doo Wop!
Giant Steps

A nice, neat deceptively clean cut idea for a compilation this featuring a gleefully grubby glut of 28 doo wop wondrous delights from movies such as Goodfellas, Mean Streets, American Graffiti, Diner, Cry Baby and a pomade vat of others. Cars, girls, car grills n' burger bars to hide your aching heart behind are go in many of these songs from the ever glorious Dion & The Belmonts I Wonder Why to The Crests' 16 Candles and The Diamonds' Little Darlin', The Skyliners' Since I Don't Have You - or The Chantels' Maybe if you've got an unquenchable hollow to fill with sorrow - interspersed as they are with flights to lands of plentiful fancies with The Cadillacs' Speeedoo, The Chords' Sh-Boom, and the jaunty caffeine bomb jibber-jabbering Rubber Biscuit by The Chips. Somgs that would impress parents but sell drugs to your little sister, full of sinister behind the scenes business scams and gangsterism. Melancholy, mirth and madness amid the reminisces and murders hidden under the new floor - what more do ya want? Exquisite squiggly pleasures they all be.
Stu Gibson
The Nitros - Nightshades / Stompin' Beat

Reissues of late eighties rockabilly rarities long out of print, first time on CD and all that lather. In a more traditional vein than the psychobilly of the time or even the Smash Hits sulky pouts of neo rockabilly earlier that decade. Not to be consigned to rock's heap o' scrap though, there's plenty of frantic slap-happy comb-greasing, hair-teasing action here, with some exhilarating git-tar tirades that easily out sizzle widdle-stick Setzer and possibly Restless' Mark Harman and rockin' scene godstar Darrel Higham. Aficionado's of the catalogue of rockabilly covers will swing for Queen's Crazy Little Thing Called Love and rock's family tree trainspotters will jump maybe once to note that the second set here features scene mainstay and now Morrissey's bassist Gary Day.
Stu Gibson
My Friend Eject / No Hope Astronaut - Digital Love EP / Exits Fade EP
Animal Farm

Should you really require more emo screamo yelping and insignifacnt simpering then look no further than these protagonists of lowest common denumbinator modern day, um, rock. Helpfully you even get to sample two lots here. Replacing 'incendiary' with insipid would be a far more apt description. If you're going to blight London's Camden Town-centred cesspits of tiresome indie twaddle at least parachute Zeke in and do it fucking properly. For what it's worth NHA's second half is the better proposition, though both will no doubt be recipients of frightening success levels with the morass generously granted the term 'population'.
Stu Gibson

Monday, August 17, 2009

Clutch - Strange Cousins From the West

Strange Cousins From the West

Several years ago, a directionless young lady about a decade my junior tried to turn me on to Clutch. I didn’t listen, not trusting her taste. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have dug the Maryland band’s 90s work anyway – Clutch didn’t exactly invent nĂ¼-metal, but it inadvertently had a hand in it. But I jumped on the runaway train with the mighty rawk juggernaut that is Pure Rock Fury, and have been ridin’ them rails ever since. Since that album is probably the band’s – hell, maybe anybody’s – ultimate heavy rock statement, Clutch has spent the succeeding albums exploring subtlety, leavening the big-ass riffs with a swinging, fluid groove derived from the blues. Indeed, you could make the case that on Strange Cousins From the West the group has evolved from its stoner/hardcore hybrid into an eccentric blues rock monster. Regardless, it’s still the songwriting that lifts Clutch up from the muck ‘n’ mire – the combination of frontdude Neil Fallon’s witty wordage and Tim Sult, Dan Maines and Jean Paul Gaster’s graceful stomp & slash is one of the rock world’s more potent brews. Check The Amazing Kreskin, Freakonomics and 50,000 Unstoppable Watts for some primo thud. Wrapped in a beautifully designed cover that makes getting the physical product more than a prelude to uploading, Strange Cousins From the West is very hip (not hipster) classic rock.

- Michael Toland

Assjack - s/t


As probably most every reprobate knows, Hank Williams III has led a double musical life, with one face in the stripped-to-the-bone country & western of his grandpappy’s legacy and the other in the vein-popping punk metal of his youth. (And both faces sporting wild-eyed sneers.) Assjack is his first widely available disk devoted to the latter, named for the band he uses on stage (but not in the studio, preferring to blast away by himself) to hammer that shit into unsuspecting audiences’ ear-holes. III’s always had a mean-eyed cat side to him; on cuts like Choking Gesture, Redneck Ride and Tennessee Driver, that feline leaps on your fact, clawing, spitting and biting your eyebrows off. His cowboy hat flying off his head, III thrashes away with gleeful abandon, throwing fierce metal riffs, powerhouse drumming (the record’s greatest strength – Lars Ulrich better watch his back) and his southern-fried, F-bomb-laden yowl around like the Hulk shotputting boulders. It could all be an exercise in solipsistic dilletantism, but it makes me thrash my head back and forth, pump my fist, play air drums ‘n’ geetar and even mosh around the room. And I never fuckin’ mosh. Assjack ain’t the C&W/death metal fusion III’s been threatening for years, but it’s what I always wished Pantera had sounded like.

- Michael Toland

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Throttlerod - Pig Charmer

Pig Charmer
Small Stone

Throttlerod has always been a sidestep away from its stoner rock brethren. Artier, more angular, often heavier, even more often just plain meaner, the trio doesn’t pound itself into a hash-piped bliss, but thrashes itself into angel dust fury on its latest spew Pig Charmer. Beggar’s Blanket, Hum and Where’s Josh? crush skulls from twenty paces, like everybody in sight owes the band money. There’s a strong postpunk vibe to Jigsaw, as if Jawbox lent the ‘rodders a few records before the tape rolled. Oddly, the band occasionally veers toward radio-friendly alternative metal – Buffalo has a distinct Nickelback whiff held at bay only by the dissonant bridge. But most of this record is as ugly as a full-grown bulldog - Down and Alabama Thunderpussy are better touchstones than anybody in the Kyuss family tree. In Throttlerod’s universe, it’s better to roar and rage than smoke and screw.

- Michael Toland

Eagle Twin - The Unkindness of Crows

Eagle Twin
The Unkindness of Crows
Southern Lord

On one of its albums, Led Zeppelin has a song called The Crunge. If I’ve ever heard it, I don’t remember what it sounds like, but I’ve always imagined that anything called The Crunge would have to sound like The Unkindness of Crows. Eagle Twin’s opus flows like the viscous sludge that oozes from a giant dead alien that’s starting to petrify after being savaged by cruise missiles. Gerard Densley (ex-Iceburn, if that means anything to anybody) tunes so far down he has to bend over to hit the top string of his axe, while Tyler Smith slowly, lovingly beats his kit into putty. Densley’s bizarre vocal style sounds like it’s coming from a Tuvan monk on a Jack & Coke bender, which only adds to the lowdown sound. The songs roll over you like a steamroller made of clay, crushing but not quite flattening and leaving behind a slimy, sticky coating of something pungent but somehow pleasant. Mmm…crungey.

- Michael Toland

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tia Carrera - The Quintessential

Tia Carrera
The Quintessential
Small Stone

No, children, this is not the long-gestating stoner rock project from the object of Wayne and Garth’s lust. Tia Carrera is an Austin, Texas-based power trio that drops a shit-ton of acid, stares off into the void of deep space and spews what it fantasizes out of its amplifiers like jism from Kronos’ phallus. Known throughout the land of Central TX as the best psychedelic improvisers this side of a blitzed-out love child of Hawkwind and the Bevis Frond, guitarist Jason Morales (once of Austin noise rockers Starfish), bassist Andrew Duplantis (of far too many bands to count, though currently of Son Volt, believe it or not) and drummer Erik Conn make cosmic mushroom rock that masticates your mind and motors down the magnetic highway without even once meandering into mush. The six strings of Morales lead the way here, exploding in a supernova of tangled melody, untangled riffs and as many effects pedals as can be stomped all at once. Conn rages like Keith Moon if his beloved surf music had come from Mars, while Duplantis does his best to keep his companions from blasting off without a compass. New Orleans oozes forward like a giant caterpillar in a Godzilla flick, while Gypsies gives you the beating you deserve, maggot. Home floats into the ether like smoke from the ruins, while Hazy Winter both lovingly and trippingly unplugs and vocalizes, both new tricks for this crew. The Unnamed Wholeness is 20 minutes of crazed cosmic destruction/creation, the Big Bang translated into amp-frying psychedelic damage. It probably goes without saying that the best way to really experience Tia Carrera is to hit a gig and dunk your head deeply into their bucket of lysergic stardust, but the aptly-titled The Quintessential is by far the next best thing to being (out) there. Fuckin’ genius.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

7" "Free Love Is A Sales Technique"/"The First World War"

2x7" "I Like Some Of The Things You Do"/"TWA Flight 553"/"Gimme Some Numbers"/"Faux Wealthy"

There are two things to note about Edmonton, Alberta: the first is that it is the murder capital of Canada, the second is that it produced The Famines. I'm pretty sure those things are unrelated, although The Famines are pretty killer, as I discovered at their concert last night. Okay, maybe "concert" is taking things a bit far; Monday-night-show-at-the-local-scuzz-bar-with-seven-people-in-attendance is closer to the truth, but Raymond (on vocals and guitar) and Garrett (on drums) played like it was a packed house, all blood and sweat and spit. (As an aside, I brought the blood-it's that time of the month.) The Famines are classic high-energy low-fidelity DIY garage rock (they even had cassettes for sale), and they sound bigger than the two-man band that they are. I promise that "Free Love Is A Sales Technique" and "I Like Some Of The Things You Do" will have you hauling the lawn mower out of the garage to make room for your old drum kit. Fucking great.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Scar My Eyes - this machine...
Transcend Media

Hailing from some un-named place in the South-East UK apparently more famed for it's dire smack habits than music scene (what, London?), this disaffected gang of gut dissolvers are a sort of looking inwards Gallows of the disembodied thrash worlds. Dismantling the recently re-emerging classic thrash menu, already in drastic danger of falling into the trap of formula fascism - shovelling heaps of kidney collapsing hardcore chug into it's ever freshly eviscerated torso, they appear to be laying waste to their stagnant provincial town and small town mentalities with a scintillatingly astringent attack of dark, scathing savagery, as opposed to the Watford mob's wider ire. Opening with an enticing flurry of almost spaghetti western mantras is entirely appropriate as they suck on souls like a starving plains drifter as they clatter through a twenty minute tirade, whirling your wilting innards through a NASA gravity machine on waves of unyielding incandescent quaking, clattering shell-hole crawl. Despite occasional flourishes of the dark growl vs melodic chorus approach they never succumb to the emasulated screamo nor does it matter a whirrr or age lessen it's impact that the each five track middle finger, especially the exultifically magnificent Through The K-hole and Hope in Silence brazenly brandish their wares in a similar manner (ie power) as Battery and nor again do they flesh this skin-shredding scowl out with insidply intricate fret cramp. Rage with this machine not against it.
Stu Gibson

Friday, August 07, 2009

Various - Teenage Heaven: The Fifties Girl Group Phenomenon

Thirty-something collection of teenage vamps and those lovin' in vain providing samples of the tear-jerking tales of heartbreak as true (truer) and fundamentally, painfully real as any grizzled been-round-the block-so-many-times-they've-got-their-own-heel-shaped-star-in-the-pavement country singer, shot through with their legendary, scarily all too believable and palpable doomed romanticism. So we get a few songs each of lying, loving and will he won't he laments and doo-wopping lessons in love from The Shirelles, The Chantels, The Bobbettes and others lesser savoured by history but no less appealing - The Tonettes, The Joytones, The Poin-Tails, Threeteens (with the acely punning Doo-Waddie - as in 'Do what he tells you...' and almost Shonen Knife-like Elvis joins the army elegy Dear 533-10761)...yeah, The Ronnettes, The Crystals and Shangri-La's are very conspicuous and glaring omissions, assumedly due to the old licensing issues but this is still a grand old low-budget romp with a bulging barnet that would make Kate Pierson & Cindy Wilson go back to go and commence the shake all over again, which is a nice little link to their rightly stating the influence and inspiration these girls had on the punk scene a timely fifteen or so years later (like The Shirelles' I Want You To Be My Boyfriend). Remorselessly lovely, full of misplaced innocence, knowing sorrows, glorious harmonies, heart-wrenching cuteitudes a go go, alongside some garrulously glammed up grin-smacking slaps such as The Bobbettes' Mr. Lee and Look At The Stars. When all's said, sung and undone, if these doesn't make your chest ache and heart pound and guts swirl pleasantly there's really not much hope for you.
Stu Gibson
Green Moon Sparks - Rebel With A Curse

This Quasimodo quartet from Italy are here to pummel into your brains that psychobilly is / was centred around fun and not the po-faced cliquery you might find on your travels through clip joints and cliche pits that've been popping up all over and around your conurbations like a damn plague, or rash. Sure, they aren't re-writing the book of smells and curses on this first round quite yet, but neither are they regurgitating same old billy from the burial pit as they take some of the bonkers or balls to it bite-ality of Frantic Flintstones (expecially their current Psycho Samba My Way, also on Drunkabilly), have a singer (Popo) that surely chews fire then slurps from the same vats of spark-plug juice as well, Sparky or Lightning Beat-Man, miring mariachi horns in their triumphant concoction of mayhem trumpets on Troubled Love Song, or stoned wino spaghetti western on Mexican Disease, country hay-bale moon howling on Loser with some disorderly guitar splutterings that'll go straight to your head and induce clod-hopping clumsy dancing that'd make a toothless Tucson tractor driver guffaw, nail your head to the wall with real deal train-derailing hoodoo drum mad hatter clatterings and elsewhere pilfer the riff from Depeche Mode's Enjoy The Silence on (With A) Demon Inside branding it to the backside of your withering bride. The guitars could be cranked up higher though in giving it a demo quality it manages to add to the crazed six in the morning atmosphere as muscles retract into your bones as the toxins take their leave. A whole wedge of gurning, teeth rotting fun, no matter how sticky the carpet and a flat-top amply bedecked with much up top.
Stu Gibson
Dex Romweber Duo - Ruins Of Berlin

If you're an advocate of Jack White and all he holds dear then this becomes a necessary exploration through the avowed influence of this pioneer of stripped back garage-surf-rockabilly-whatsitcore from his twenty years of solo albums and Flat Duo Jets before that. However, should you be generally derisive of the wobbly haired, warbly one then don't despair by that news, as this episode of sultry class should not be similarly dismissed. This debut (with sister Sara of Snatches Of Pink on drums) is a darkly enthralling gospel of salvation, sin and wild at heart woe and wonder. From the ravaged surf opener to the Weimar cha cha of Lover's Gold, the exqusite ramshackle creepy shit-kick love ode Picture Of You and Camelia's Gone (Let It Snow) that would furrow Nick Cave's brow with intense palpiatations - Oh Lover's Gone likewise, though ol' Lenny C woulda beaten him to the ball, all told, it's a roll call of ragged glory, a spine-spangling gallery with fleeting reflections of Link Wray and Roy Orbison through to the air of preternaural realisation of Jeffrey Lee Pierce channelling Sun studio Elvis, Dex's voice is a resonant beast that croons and quivers then roars and tears at words like a, well, like a jack on fire perhaps. With a trio of lovely helpers in the guise of Cat Power (on a slinky squirmy Love Letters), Exene Cervenka and Neko Case (on a lovely lilt-a-whirl Still Around) cropping up on a trio of songs like three furies to calm the dirty water Dex's soul swims and sinks in, this is one cinematically enchanting, rapturously twisted cabaret to write home about. And not just yours. Almost incomprehensibly astounding. A truly authentic railroad to the real.
Stu Gibson
GHz - There's Trouble Coming
New Door Productions

An album of mainly Cream covers, a coupla originals, a Hendrix and a Doors one comprises a confusing and curious exercise. Really, what's the point? Apparently these chaps are well-established dudes on the DC blues circuit. All well and good, but why oh why conduct another business-like stroll through some fine tunes. What became of fucking things up a bit, musician should equal maverick not meandering through slick tributaries that have had any trace of slime and dirt sucked out. It's superbly played and produced and so on and shares some traits with Clapton, that of being an absolute waste of talent. Twenty-five years sweating it out together surely should summon up some inspiration, though it seems not and fuckaluckadingDONG lalalalalala but all too much like something done to showcase some studio effects or to give away at a seminar on the benefits of some new brand of six-string bass. That is, resolutely, none.
Stu Gibson
Ricky Warwick - Belfast Confetti

'I'm gonna put on my boots I'm gonna ditch my plans
I'm gonna fuck it all up in the promised land' - Can't Wait For Tomorrow

'So if your baby leaves you lonely and your heart begins to pine
For those rainy summer nights drunk on Buckfast tonic wine' - The Arms Of Belfast Town

A few years back Mr 'Almighty' Ricky Warwick not so much reinvented as stripped his sound down, kicked the stacks out the window, hot-wired an acoustic and brought out Tattoos & Alibis and Love Many Trust Few. He'd evidently stumbled into 'em or long had a lingering urge to pick up the muscular bluegrass biker country that Steve Earle once gloried in in pre-crack den rampaging past arrest warrants police-battering glory days (before the post crack-den get it...well 'cept for lately, alas, but that's quite another tirade...). Now, after a wee Almighty reformation a year or so back, here's album number three. And absolutely fucking colossal it is too, deposit the verbiage in the backseat for some educational replenishment in the fine art of passionate song dispersement. A surface simple, straightforward treat, the scowl that growled through the storm-summoning boogie of Wild And Wonderful and Full Force Lovin' Machine possesses abundant soul for these subtly complex and lyrical songs of love, liquor, lonesomeness and...fighting...on all levels. The atmospheric Angel Of Guile is a poetic discourse that Tyla used to vouch for but now vacillates and aches over, recalling Springsteen at his most exquisite, and even Mike Scott -see also the raggle-taggle tin-whistle trans-Atlantic paean / lament The Arms Of Belfast Town which is just about song of the year off album of the year. Born Fightin' could sit comfortably at a table with the titles from Earle's Train A Comin' but you'd find it perfectly acceptable, not crudely cheeky at all, for it to decline the invitation any godamn, undarned sock, way it wanted. You can hear the engine still roaring, see the fingers picking, behind joyous bar-toppling, table-throwing fuck it all and fuck it no regrets opener Can't Wait For Tomorrow and arms aloft Nebraska-fied Punchin' Thunder as well as the suggestion of some Radar Love soliciting you on the title track.
Stu Gibson
NB - RW tours with Love / Hate and Therapy? in Autumn, has to be seen.
Johnny Lima - Livin' Out Loud
Shock Pop

Wild stallion rocker Lima takes a break from his apparently much praised production and writing work to offload an entirely telegraphed retread through mid-late eighties chart bilge of the Bon Jovi and Def Leppard tradition thought beaten. I love my old hats but this is too much an exercise in pastiche and cliche - capiche? - no matter how long you been round, paying your dues with a colossal interest rate. Every little signifier is shoe-horned into it's right place, and any personality or identifiable traits pressed out like it'd been constructed by a cut 'n' paste A&R king, which with it's airbrushed genre perfection almost sorta makes it like Girls Aloud et al. Anyway, nevermind (haha) there may be some scantily clad Back In Black moments with choruses the size of the Capitol Records tower mushrooming outta their lap with verses that are repaving Sunset Boulevard as we speak, or screech, but you can get mucho primo AC/DC gristle on their albums, or maybe even a cheap Great White one in a skip outside some provincial town's record store's closing down sale. Maybe his studio work meant he was able to snaffle some old Desmond Child out-takes for this sure does scream like it fucking loves it for an Appetite to come and place it's masochistic fist in pertinent places...but what with the inexpliacle rise of copycat kak that could never hold their tongue out to the great title of Trash there may well be many a spandex-spanner bandana wearing buffoon plus a few Crue, Leppard and fuck, Bulletboys devotees to lick it up. Just buy Night Songs from amazon and be done and gone.
Stu Gibson
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