Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jon Ulecia and Cantina Bizarro - Last Night Dream
Sunthunder

Alumni of this label's Nikki Sudden tribute, and native of the country that make the best boots alongside well-stitched and seamed slivers of roots music (that's Spain that is), rides Ulecia and his evocatively titled band. Tilting through majestic ghostly twilights and shimmering dawns the lonely street-lit serenades of the flamenco-scented Under The Tree, sinister train ride through mystery, temptation, salvation and seven carriages of sin on Empty Bottle Of Wine and Desire And Disease and malevolent mariachi Various Names recall the rockabilly saunter and Tex-Mex swing of Ulecia's linguistic compatriots across the oceans. With a wonderful sense of a noir film scripted by Tom Waits (indeed there's many whispers of Waits' loveliest asides here, like Raindogs Hang Down Your Head or Blind Love) in conjunction with the Coen Brothers tumbleweed slips past as tumblers of tequila slide along the bar towards you followed by the garotte-ready stares of the locals under a sultry, sweat and adrenalin condensed atmosphere as air-conditioning blades whirl ominously. The delightful raunch n' rousters Rock'n'Roll's About and Stuck To The Dancefloor blast your hat into the air and shootround your heels like Dave Alvin and his barrio, bronco and bar-room Blasters boys, all with a distinctive vocal veering n' vying between debonair Bryan Ferry and mumbling Joey Ramone. The blue-collar ballad Still Fooling Me is perhaps the most telegraphed but only insofar as it's something The Stones have been pathetically perspiring over for decades, instead passing off bilge like Waiting On A Friend and Fool To Cry as worthy. Put simply, this ain't too many country miles, dusty mountain passes or grimy back alleys away from Richard hawley's currently acclaimed Yorkshire Orbison.
Stu Gibson
Dave Kusworth - Tambourine Girl
Sunthunder

Brum-bred rollin' balladeer Kusworth, long and somehow still standing partner of the lamentably late Nikki Sudden in the Jacobites, has, with his old compadre, long been revered as one of the finest songwriters to slip from these (UK) shores on resounding rollers of ignorance (just ask REM or Mercury Rev). Over a thirty year trail the apparently newly resurgent troubadour has documented faded fairytales of emotional restlessness with no succour or rescue in a unique but unheralded manner, as with Sudden, clashing courtly grace and chivalry with nocturnal nursery rhymes, typified by the title here, with bed-sit squalor and track-marked glamour from The Stones' Lady Jane, the Brontes, Bowie, Bolan and Thunders, but never revelling in tales of drab decadence. Subtitled ...The Spanish Album in reference to an old Jacobites album (Heart Of Hearts), this collection of rarities and outtakes from his solo material, where he recounted dangerous liasions and dear hearts with the Bounty Hunters and Tenderhooks, is no mere odds n' sods. The glorious Ship of Fools (Mary) and Enough To Heal My Wounds - the latter recalling Crazy Horse's Danny Whitten guesting on Dion's Born To Be With You - are true lost treasures, new Kings and Queens colours to be worn and borne aloft like so many flags and banners at a medieval pageant. Far more than transient tokens of song and amour, Tambourine Girl is a striking collection of darkness, anguish and subdued drama.
Stu Gibson
Hanging Doll - Reason And Madness
Once Bitten

More female fronted orchestral metal in the dark, this time from the hallowed rock wastelands that be Birmingham. Maybe by its very definition it’s too easy to castigate such bands as all too reminiscent of Evanescence and dismiss it off to its room with no tea but this does have much more drama, metal and, yuss, orchestrating than simpering bedroom pouting. Classically trained songbird Sally Holliday sure can warble and shatter temple domes though the faux-black metal for the screamo kids guttural growling often found submerged beneath her lead vocals grate. With suitably ‘disturbed’ and high-blown lyrics (eg ‘Lone silhouette comforts me through eventide’, ‘through these aqueous cascades ofmy tears’) - or of the literary persuasion in comparison to the first kill inside the opening credits style horrorpunk - this commits the all too easy mistake (sin?) of mistaking long, drawn-out songs such as Sweet Retribution for epic grandeur and icy majesty, though it does have it’s moments of whisking you away on whispers cascading through mist-shrouded cathedral halls and crumbling archways as on A Formidable Mistake and Hope Springs Eternal. Of it’s symphoniously metallic ilk Reason and Madness is never gonna be a lax choice for lovers of the Lacuna Coils of this world, ticking the boxes for bombastic production with lavish sonics and more metal than many to create an enticing realm to slip into.
Stu Gibson
Perspective X IV - Shadow Of Doubt
Nightmare

Virtuoso tech-metal trio from Ohio plough some dark, fertile terrain that, thankfully in many cases, goes beyond their acknowledged influences of Rush and Yes and passing similarities to Dream Theater and even Faith No More, not least in their willingness to embroil themselves in livid clouds of dense metal rifferatics, like the staggering storm that starts Carry On (alas, before it lapses into a dimension where no Maiden has ever dwelt), indulge in ridiculously intricate time changes and splodge seemingly incongruous forms together, like the reggae interlude on The Calm or the welcome inclusion of mandolins on Colossal. Credit be theirs that it largely works with an epic sweep without descending into apparent stodgy contrivance. Lyrically they take the form of portentous, ponderous, or plain pointless - take your pick – philosophising (take this and pontificate, from The Smell Of Rain ‘On a journey ever forward / My back to the sun / Pathways to righteousness, a time that’s forgotten / Untamed ground / Too vital for nature / Viewing the beauty without nomenclature’ or the apparent ode to recording that is the aforelysaid Carry On with lines about ‘Dancing plectrums’ and ‘Something acoustic becoming electric / Never fretted over machines before), not generally matched by the songs, which at their lowest ebb, cast your thoughts of ‘aargh no, Dan Reed’ or ‘yikes, not Kashmir again’ into a vast cauldron where Kirk Hammet gently sleeps hoping that Geddy Lee will leave something under his pillow.
Stu Gibson
Outrageous Cherry - Universal Malcontents
Alive

'She walked into my mind and rearranged the furniture' - I Recognized Her

Matthew Smith’s Detroit fuzz-pop drone devotees stalk the sunnier side of psychedelia but with its inherent wistfulness and his own wry surliness indicated in the title that also belies his activities in country-ish Volebeats as well as giving reason to merit their inclusion on the Skip Spence tribute More Oar. Smith’s Joey Ferry slur on opening debris of slouch-glam T-Roxy jam Waiting For Your Dog that could just be I Recognized Her saunters into a sedated Beach Boy sloop on The Song Belongs To Everyone ('...And I want my 50 per cent...). It’s Not Rock’n’Roll (And I Don’t Like It) should be reason enough for any self-respecting, or fuck it, any, underground/outsider rock fan to buy the album for the title alone (and that’s discounting the equally eloquent riposte I Wouldn’t Treat My Enemies The Way You Treat Yourself) never mind the Feels Like Shadows and Horizon being electrified everythings and more that the Mary Chain’s Stoned And Dethroned shoulda been (great as that slight release is) as well as Parsons-style monuments beneath the floppy fuzz, the blissed out blur of Outsider is something you can imagine Bobby Gillespie excitedly/nonchalantly sloping about to and it’s easy to surmise an obvious influence on Dandy Warhols but rather much better as it appears unaffected. On the go for some sixteen years this is incandescently lovely and a blessing in disdain not to ignore.
Stu Gibson
The Frank Gannon Trio - The Frank Gannon Trio
Raucous

UK Garage-blues surf crew with original slants and slicks on this set, written entirely by the main man (well, except Fever). With incisive guitar sears like Mick Green of The Pirates in a stand-off with Link Wray, toe-stubbing Duane Eddy / Dick Dale and Dimples dunks abound and the grit of The Sonics is right up square in your face these guys eschew the tired tricks that litter Rock’n’Roll’s backyards. They’ve been around many blocks (ex members of Clarksdale Bluebeats, Jesse James and the Outlaws and The Blueflames) and soldiered on through circuits unsoldered to time to chuck this fresh and energising real roll of rock in your breadbasket. No tired re-tarmacing of the same driveways as last week, showing that with that indefinable kaZing that transcends a pinch of talent, conventional staples can be transmuted into a rare sustaining treat. Essential.
Stu Gibson
Vice Squad - The very Best Of...
Anagram

Perennial punks, to perhaps aptly purloin a phrase, who could lay some sort of claim to spearheading the crusty hardcore squat-punk scene, though the uninitiated may stay uninterested as it’s entirely possible to tell they play workmanlike punk, not too high in the imaginative league tables – piercing caterwauls (here by Beki Bondage and later Lia) atop rudimentary guitar rumbles, dishcloth drums, sort of like a remedial Banshees with Toyah filling in for Siouxsie. From debut single and indie hit Last Rockers – a fair stab at apocalypso closedown - this is compiled by the band so a fair selection of singles and b-sides, such as the vaguely amusing Latex Love (‘You’re my little rubber scrubber’ fnaaar) and the quite fine Take it Or Leave It is to be had and ‘tis a mildly diverting trip to the dark terrain of the early eighties, albeit not one with huge amounts of merit. Workmanlike it maybe but they’re still at it, with Beki and new band, with new album and tour this year.
Stu Gibson
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