Saturday, May 23, 2009

Swelter - Songs Of Distance
Corazong

It’s always a glorious eulogical incident when you stumble a’most blindly in love with something you figured you’d despise for being paltry example of indie-whingery. Such is the case with this Dutch americana group – not the old Seattle grungers - (should really have known better with the usual prevalence of excellence issued forth by Corazong for our company) and their bleary red-wine-dead-eyed country plainsongs for the wronged. With supporting organ and violins atop guitars and wreathed in an air of Peter Perrett minus the haughty junked-up disinterest, these Songs Of Distance detail the painful slide into departure when it’s all in slow motion but there’s little power you can exercise to cool the flow (The Strain We’re Under, We Both Know, You’re In The Last Frame). Taking the No Depression tag of alt.country to it's literal meaning these eleven songs steadfastly refuse to lapse into morose despondency, or, worse, whimpering, but convey the real desolation of heartache as few have or can. More heartwarming than harrowing, you sense songs rippling toward you from a more beautiful stream of melancholic conscience akin to The Jayhawks dolorous and grace-dappled Tomorrow The Green Grass, particularly Saddest Meal – don’t play this near whiskey, you’ll be crawling under the table and the couch though you will still stagger up play it again - and Still Not Won. An epiphany that passes pastures of the soaring solace of Morrissey at his best, Dave Kusworth’s Alan-a-Dave faded fairytales (whose voice vocalist Bart Drost shares keening comparisons to) even those Elbow laddies, I imagine. Unsettling, reassuring, potentially upsetting, but wondrous nevertheless.
Stu Gibson
The Mission - Live And Last
Cherry Red

Goth, never the most respected of musical forms, constantly met with derision (obviously, ‘cos crusty hardcore punk and new romantic crud rivalled LA glam metal and AOR balladeering for artistic gravitas and kudos), not just because most of the bands tended to be utter shite, either keyboard illiterate electro or similarly unschooled or ill-read attempts at being The Sisters Of Murky – and at least Hussey has the excuse of having been in that band. Anticipating the eighties revival, last spring (’08), Mr ‘Uss assembled a ship and set sail for these shores to produce each of The Mission’s albums over a four night stint in London to nail his final notice in the doors once and for all. First, though, a few insurmountable facts – The Mission did one and a half bona fide great albums in The First Chapter (whether or not that was because it only had a few songs on it is another matter, an issue not improved here by Hussey delightfully telling the throng that as it’s short he’ll have to play some newer songs) and bits of the others, which isn’t much less than the Psychedelic Furs; two all time great rock classics in Serpent’s Kiss and Severina (some fools will tell you in mystical tones about the oft-rejigged Tower Of Strength – ‘cos, like, they always dug dance music really - but that’s just so many tissues up a coke-raddled nose that caused assumedly equally ‘alert’ (ie same dealer) journos to call them the new Led Zeppelin, on account of it’s laborious Kashmir style shuffle. Kashmir is shite. Led Zep are shite. Thus Tower Of Strength is a bit shite. Just a bit. Better than Kashmir. But still somewhat at the level of Robbie Williams’ Angels. Cremation soundtracks them both. If you want long-winded by necessity bombastic salvation search out that pedestal where sitteth The Sisters' This Corrosion. Me-to the-muthafuckin’-owww. Kingdom Come, however, (The Mission song not the godawful band who actually thought they were Led Zep) is up there with those two other Mish classics, especially the piano version, played in part here; plus there’s a fucking fantabulous invocation (ie cover) of Neil Young’s Like A Hurricane, throwing the writer’s weak, nasally sand-blasted original to the seven winds, and Deliverance has an intro that could summon seven sisters and more again I’m certain, while Like A Child Again is a lovely pop moment that recalls Mike Scott’s waves-crashing against cliffs visceral love of everything (so lovely it crops up again on the Carved In Sand evening). Sure, Huss wrote some abysmal, atrocious lyrics, more than enough to build an Olympic stadium out of. In every city ever, even lost ones in distant galaxies that folks in the fucking Pleiades don't know, or want to, know about, anyway where was I, - that a damaging religious upbringing doesn’t excuse (see also the horrible Heaven On Earth) stringing buzz-words and common phrases together, plunging depths that his hero Bolan would baulk at (f’rinstance, he really does divulge thusly on the oh so subtle Dance On Glass ‘Wild promise / Cheeks are red / A battle cry / Then it’s off to bed’) and dredged an unfeasible amount of emotion out of those (see the painful beseeching entreaties and cringeworthy come hithering on Love Me To Death – my poppet – which is like Rising Damp’s Rigby in a velvet cloak, not the depth of Eldritchian knob-gaggery it so desperately well, gagged, to be) but The Mission were essentially a pop band, or at least a rock band of the old school a la The Faces, just with smatterings of smock-hoiking hocus pocus masquerading as haikus to hoodwink chicks (see ode to deflowering Sacrilege, wrapped up, or should that be sheathed, in quaint quasi-religious metaphorical code), or speed-driven drivel rushing to get past the tongues in cheek to spit poetic self-importance at any rate.
These live re-enactments add a few b-sides (only a few, thankfully, anyone remember Grains Of Sand – the largely execrable garbling left-overs from the already limping Carved In Sand? Goodness me) and covers and are necessarily dependant on how good or otherwise their source material is. The too slow and weighty Children comes out worse. It could still benefit a bit from being faster, the epic parts of Beyond The Pale still battle with the counterproductive ploddy parts, that also plague the by the numbers fare of A Wing And A Prayer and Fabienne - pretty much a microcosm of the whole record then with the disillusionment of Hymn (For America) the real differentiator; The First Chapter is marred by the out of context inclusions like The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows and Free’s Wishing Well, the glossy chart-crusader Carved In Sand could well jostle a few brain cells with the child abuse addressing Amelia as well as the marvellous Kinks cover Mr Pleasant (with The Wonder Stuff’s Miles Hunt) at the other end of the scale coming out best along with God’s Own Medicine, out of them all the one where the exciting bits (Wasteland, Bridges Burning, Severina and p’raps the love note to Astbury that is Blood Brothers) are noticeably played with fraught tension and the ones mired in dog-ends of make-do dirges like the asinine little sister to Tower Of Strength Island In A Stream and Let Sleeping Dogs Die are replicated in the same pedestrian, ponderous manner as they were recorded, like a disinterested come down. All in all though it is a plentiful revisit to a very full hall by the sounds of it and shows a band once considered the cream of the new crop rather maligned by the cutting sands and shapes of time and taste.
With a new band since the last of the originals split in ’96, the imperious arpeggios are all succinctly replicated (by Mark Gemini Thwaite of Peter Murphy’s band, should anyone be interested), the man who made a generation rush out and buy cheap flanger pedals, well, me anyway, is in fine voice, though his ‘Huss-isms’ are more evident, where he garbles vowels, such as Nakid and SavIge and kissIS ussey, original guitarist Simon Hinkler guests on the encores each night and if nothing else, these sweaty live show they can still send you spinning through swirly speedy, patchouli and paisley stained dawns, ‘tis just a fact that none of them were ever classic albums in their own right, carrying way too much weight, to make this a real success to the casual outsider. But, and rightfully so, for the ever faithful it stands as quite a wonderful send off and communal thanksgiving. It could never be said The Mission never acknowledged their fanbase, often rewarding them with special gigs and events like track-choosing on albums. After all, cutting short his cash cow, he’s gonna need a bit of dolly to loll around on those sandy South American beaches, no? What with Radio 6 designating a goth day recently (May 22nd) don’t bet that the Huss won’t be beckoning, beseeching and maybe even a bit more from his Brazilian abode once again. And we close our eyes...and count that idle hack-isms only conspired to make me mention the un-nameable one a coupla times. And begin again...
Stu Gibson
Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley's Rock 'n' Roll All Star Jam
ABC

DVD release of a concert, nay, all-star(ish) jamboree, held to commemorate Mr Bo Diddley’s 50th barfday in 1985. With a slew of celebs you might expect like Ronnie Wood, Mick Fleetwood, Kenny Jones, Carl Wilson and um the Rudy Sarzo guy from Quiet Riot as well as the vocalist from Three Dog Night, who looks like a fucking Chuckle Brother ogling your sister at her friends hen do, and an impressively energetic troupe of backing singers, it’s slap-bang in the middle of the eighties so expect some extraordinary, shoulder-padded renditions that lessen the primal voodoo you do hoodoo who do, yes, you do, usually associate with the Diddley Daddy. Well, I hope you do. Aside from visually stunning, in the agog-oh-ma-god frowning sense, pans around the pastel-hued audience, Bo doesn’t simply steal the night in a as it’s my birthday I shall require my people to speak to your people to allow me to assert my dominance, as stomp all over it, and make it shake in submission even before he does his willowy-billowy shaky-kneed shadowy shaman sex-dance all over da place. No matter the eighties production values, Who Do You Love, Hey Bo Diddley, I’m A Man and closing stamp-a-long Rock’n’Roll Music are all worth a look not just for the man’s natural charisma, as are the opening sequences showing the man himself tending the BBQ for his guests, and essentially Bo instructing the superstars who surfed in his wake, the basics of the music they'd made careers around. Chuck, as he does, comes out all but asking for his reputation to be pissed on if only he can film your partner lick it up as he trots out My Ding A Ling that not even Sid James woulda laughed at. Slight, but sprightly, though again something that would serve better purpose as part of a package, with this just one section, and a fair few more songs from the birthday boy would have made it more of a bonanza way to remember the old Gunslinger.
Stu Gibson
The Grit - Straight Out The Alley
People Like You

Following up, and easily matching and surpassing, 2007’s Shall We Dine? (while making Rancid’s return rather redundant) despite the lack of tried and tested classics The Ones, Love Thy Neighbour, Whoever You Are and I Came Out The Womb An Angry Cunt, the Geordie / London bastard rockers rail at the state of the nation more fervently than they did before. Might lack Gallows’ column inches but there’s no lack of scathing eyes casting incisive aspersions on these stories of the streets of modern Britain. Spreading the net of their self-styled Punk’n’Fuck’n’Roll to include occasional, welcome, flurries of mandolin, acoustic geetar, brass parps n’ harp n’ sax on the sombrero skanking country wanderer instrumental of the titular intro to closing hidden campfire verse sharing strum-a-long pissed-up paean to the ladies with last of the north-east nomads on Cast Ya Mind Back and reggae / soul revue 12th Floor inbetween, nimbly demonstrating they ain’t gonna be constrained by the psycho straits they get easily lumped in with. Sure nuff ‘n’ yaay, they’re still angry and acerbic but also carry a few crates of compassion on their shoulders making comparisons to Strummer n’ co, Stiff Little Fingers and Rancid far more than the simple lazy assertions it’s easily assumed they are, after the loveable clich├ęd Geordie rapscallion of Terry Collier in the Likely Lads that befell Quireboys’ Spike and lesserly perhaps Ginger. They also steer clear of the righteous, self-important path, wrapping up their disillusion and jocular incomprehension in a party atmosphere of hope, be it celebrity gossip rags for the gullible and malleable of ska-tastico Tell Me Lies, binge-drunk Britain on Drink Till You Drop, ambition kicked down as pipe dreams squandered in crack-town Camden and elsewhere on Long Time Dead, and closing owld working men’s sing-a-long brass band nostalgia Here We Go Again. Superb.
Stu Gibson
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