Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Len Price 3 - Pictures
Wicked Cool

'You don't do different if you live round here
The neighbours get restless and they think you're queer
You're gonna have to lump it, baby, if you live round here...
And I don't think that it's right
Beating up a stranger on a Saturday night...
You think you're better than the population
Don't get ideas so above your station
You're gonna have to lump it baby if you live round here...
And I don't think that it's right
Messing up your children for the rest of their life' - If You Live Round Here

Unless there's a happy coincidence somewhere so that South Eastern England has an incredibly tenuous link to the Deep South states and these Chatham chooglers guys had a PE teacher who went by the name of Len Price, it could be conjectured over afternoon brandy and cigar whilst taking a leisurely sojourn through the park, that they decided on said moniker for it's very everyman nature (this is ever big in Britain. Or bloody Britain would maybe be better. See, I surmise, and not stingily so either, I'll have you know, that it'd be hell of long odds for us to ever have a band called anything even crawling coweringly into an eighth of an inch, no, make that a centimetree, towards anywhere near the couch of a nomenclature like that of The Crank County Daredevils. Sure, Gaye Bykers / Lesbian Dopeheads are bang on and even Motorhead sort of light a match but anyway I better stop this little game, maybe hit delete lest I get carried away into competiton land. Aye, so generally we endlessly endure unfeasibly popular dross, usually with a one word name designed to be as bland as possible, thus highlighting the clenchingly clever concept that their music is conjured from a blank canvas. Hence Blur and Oasis. Ride. And, um, Moose. Kite? Hasn't anyone done that one yet? Guess Discharge don't fall into this category do they? Well, as it happens, clever arse...So, like, word up to 'em for giving him a full name).

Coincidentally or not and happily so or, I remember this lot playing a good few years ago up here in Mancytonstanley & since then this is now their third album and released on no no other label than Steve Van Zandt's, one must doff a fair play cap their way. While the above diatribe about their name doesn't mean they can clearly be denounced as playing run of the mill indie fare, neither does the hook up with the mini-Miami one mean it's all garage guns swinging a go go in unhinged hallways. English freak-beats without the psyched screaming outta gourds such that the Lords got remortgaged to the Commoners than what became Nuggets is in season here, though sprinkled with caustic soda-pops that dissolve strawberry fields (though not, alas, forever - but more of that later). It's so of it's time (by which we mean the mid-sixties but I'm sure you follow) it could have been done as some sort of doctorate. So, thankfully it's not a post-Strokes / White Stripes over-baked but self-consciously stripped down souffle of insipid blues but neither is it The Makers or The Sons Of Hercules gonzoid guerillas marauding through bandit country all beards and belts blazing. The all too usual roll call of influences that bore tears through your soul for their surely now insignificant ubiquity take precedence in a classic case of my usual bugbears The Who and The Beatles with a slight nibbles and welcome gnaws on Squeeze and fellow & fabled Chatham dweller Billy Childish's trees but they equally resemble a classic case of getting it all right, the concise, spartan-as-ration-era-Britain songs - thirteen in little over thirty minutes - rattled off with apt dexederity but how much of that can be construed as calculated is for you to peruse. Put it this way. Playing something and it reminding me of The Who or McCartney's magic thumb (opener Pictures is more than a replacement for Substitute) and not making me tear my throat out through my ears with my little toenail kinda closes that slightly ajar door. Where the odd scent of a blatant steal is never far away - I mean c'mon, using I Can't Explain / Substitute for the basis of two songs on a twenty minute album, and then Paperback Writer, and thennnn the descending little bass run from Waterloo Sunset is beyond a cheeky reference into the potting sheds marked lack of ideas. Which causes cries of shame on some decks as when they get rampantly and resplendently splenetic on Under The Thumb they make a mockery not a mark of complexity compared with banal Beatles-bum-fluff and slavish Davies dross like The Great Omani and Jack In The Greens. Buy some different fucking records with yer birthday money for god's sake (I always get befuddled about the point of still referencing such overly turfed-over toss but on the other hand you get some haughty mod crew askance mutual-wank glances that they're on the new list of arcane ass-scraping for that week, or evening, or identikit indie tykes with their post-ironic eighties fetishes).

However much they may summon Bernard Sumner doing his awful mincing hop/dance these little vignettes of smalltown England are well worth a listen, particularly the insightful, inciting and incisory account of smalltown intolerance to deviating from just about anything (learning what that word means, more than likely - sadly, 'anything' applies as much as the intended term) on If You Live Around Here (early blast of this year's classic), the tabloid-tart / everyday awful high-street sweetheart of Keep Your Eyes On Me ('She's got hair extensions and she's got orange skin') and suitably ironic tale of suburban drone on Mr Grey. When the acerbic lyrics try the bite but come out just brushing skin, like on You Tell Lies, at least the music sears your tonsils into your ribcage. Oh aye, it's alright for what it is and pretty damn fine and event-ridden at times, surely a masterstroke in two minutes. Thankfully more a less psychedelic Coral on frantic ditty-flits like The Girl Who Became A Machine than Oasis dredging doldrums. Though not too many boats or buses are pushed outta these harbours and Little Steven shoulda lumped for Liverpool's El Toro (as well) if he wanted a UK garage groove thang, this is worth more than the tepid waters treaded by The Black Keys and their ilk, smacking, as it does, of scotch and authenticity not the insincerity of copycats. Now ain't that a kiss-off, drear.
Stu Gibson

Friday, January 29, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide: Urge Overkill's "Exit The Dragon"

As Pepsi Sheen had already paid an excellent tribute to Urge Overkill's "Saturation" some time ago at Sleazegrinder's regular website, I figured that it was about time to wax nostalgic about the followup record, "Exit The Dragon".

Most Urge Overkill fans--even casual ones--will tell you that "Saturation" is their favorite Urge record. I agree, it's an excellent album and I often toggle in between whether that's my favorite album of theirs, or "Exit The Dragon". But they are two very different records. The immediacy of "Saturation" is unbeatable and undeniable; however, the 3 dimensionalism, risks, honesty and organicness of "Exit The Dragon" is tough to beat. It's in my top 50 rock albums of all time, maybe top 30. It's a fantastic album. But it definetely apes the Stones' greatest period of "Sticky Fingers"/ "Exile On Main Street" in that the drug busts, infighting and general chaos around the band is inimitable, at least in bands that survive intact to weather the storm to see the next day through. And it does it all too well, much to the detriment of the band's fate.

"Exit..." is a much darker and more difficult album, to be sure. No one's kidding themselves about that. When it came out in 1995, I, like most people, were taken aback a bit by it. At the time, I couldn't really put it into words other than I didn't like it as much as "Saturation", which drew me in immediately. My metaphor for "Exit..." is almost like a swim in water--at first it seems cold, but it's surprisingly inviting once you truly take the plunge.

The most major transition of this record is reverting back to Ed "King" Roeser being the leader, and Nash Kato once again playing sideman and the George Harrison role--as it was in the early days, and even through "The Supersonic Storybook" days, as well as through the initial polish of the Butch Vig produced "Americruiser". Commercially, this was a dubious idea as Nash-- on Urge's big songs on "Saturation" in "Sister Havana", "Positive Bleeding" and "Bottle Of Fur" and non single favorites like "Woman 2 Woman"--was the sound of Urge Overkill, at least at their most commercial and accessible, and as far as Geffen was concerned, I imagine their consternation of Nash being put in the background on this album was well talked about in the big offices there at the time. I imagine that alot of fans gained with the "Saturation" album had been scratching their heads as to why this "other guy" was singing for Urge. But Ed had picked up the guitar for this record (and though he wasn't credited on "Saturation", had apparently played some guitar parts on that record too), as Urge had long been a four piece live, with Ed doing additional guitar duties.

That's not a slight against Ed, as I love his more regular rock guy thing to Kato's Christopher Walken gone rock god (they could be from the same family) unabashed swagger. As a matter of fact, Ed has a Neil Young thing going at times, and a pretty damned good Dickie Peterson (Blue Cheer) vibe to his singing. Even going back to the "Stull" EP and "The Supersonic Storybook", Ed's songs were a bit slower and darker--"Stull", "The Candidate", "What Is Artane?", etc. I say this to prove the point that "Saturation" was an anomaly; something that was the exception, not the rule. Certainly, the band's roots as a noise rock band would prove how dark and sludgy and inaccessible they once were. In a way, that early incarnation of the band seems to finally have colored their mainstream success by this time on this particular record. I don't know if it's necessarily even darker than "Stull"--because "Stull" has some dark or moodier tracks in "Goodbye To Guyville" and even the Neil Diamond cover has a minor key sense of introspection to it, too. In all actuality, "Exit..." could be called "Stull Part 2"--a bit raw and unpolished at times, but polished enough with a wink of the eye towards true commercialism. At least in theory, the intention.

"Saturation" owed more to "Americruiser" in spirit--near flawless studio performances and a sheen that the band didn't have, naturally. Let's face the actual truth here of what drove away Urge fans-- what put off the average Urge fan in the 90's was that the band proved to be a bunch of fuck ups. Drunken/ high performances. The sense that the band would fall apart at any given time, even though the suits and the visage and legend would have you thinking otherwise. I can only imagine how many copies of "Jesus Urge Superstar" were met with "?????" from newly acquired Urge fans looking for more of the same from the band's catalogue, and i'm guessing that "The Supersonic Storybook" barely fared any better. That's because that's what the band sounded like, live, with no corrections or the aid of multiple takes or splicing takes together. "Exit....", from many people i've talked to, sounds like it's gonna fall apart at any given Big Star's "Radio City" (or moreso "Third/ Sister Lovers"), or even Alex Chilton''s solo career, at least compared to the studio sheen of "#1 Record".

My gripes with "Saturation"--as absolutely brilliant an album that it is--is that it, to me, never properly represented the band. If you listen to live recordings of the band during that time (ESPECIALLY the "Urge Over Canada" CBC bootleg at which point in the band's career, they should have been slamming that one out of the park), their roots as a punk/ noise/ indie band leak through......coming across more like a cousin of the Replacements with rough rock n' roll charm, rather than the polished studio performances that the album might suggest.

It's my speculation that the studio direction was the final nail in the coffin of the souring of the long time relationship between Steve Albini and the band; somehow the flirtation with being rock stars was alright when it was "ironic" in the Touch and Go days, but the line of decency was when they signed to a major or whatever and made a real legitimate attempt at cashing in on that cache and becoming a studio band. And at that, i'm not really sure if there's anything that's "ironic" about any band, anywhere--critics and fans might think that things are a tongue in cheek stab at reality, but the bands would tell you that they're trying to be authentic and serious. Maybe there's something perceived as ironic about nostalgic value or nostalgia itself, but I don't see why it has to be.

But with that admission, what they lacked in being able to re-duplicate the studio albums, I have to say that they were one hell of a rock n' roll band. Few other bands of that time had the ability to plug in and rock the hell out and rock that hard, but with style and class. Through all the smartly written songs and the wit of the pop culture lyrics, at their heart, Urge were just a great old rock n' roll band. "Ticket To LA", "The Kids Are Insane", "Today Is Blackie's Birthday", "Viceroyce" all were earlier rock gems. And i'm not sure that the rawness of how hard they rocked really transferred to alot of people; especially not with those that only went as deep as the aforementioned Neil Diamond cover. The problem may have been that they did "mature" so damn well, that the sheer rock power that they had took a backseat to the more pop side of the band. I guess ballads always typically sell the best in bands' careers (or most of the time, think of Kiss' "Beth"...completely unrepresentative of the band and hey, Peter Criss couldn't do that either when he was half wasted half the time. Just look up "Peter Criss drunk" on YouTube, for a lark).

Another thing about the band at this point in time, is that they were starting to tone down the outlandish style sense of the band's earlier days--the medallions were starting to be dispensed with, the over the top dress sense was taking a back seat to respectably fancy velvet suits; the suits with every member wearing a different letter on 'em were going by the wayside. This is maybe perhaps in part to the band's desires to not rely on the fashion sense as much, to be taken more seriously for the music. Ed or someone like that mentioned something like that somewhere about the reunion tour being comparatively drab (and Nash seemingly having an endless supply of white mesh shirts) because they wanted to be more about the music. Which is cool and all, but somehow, I wanted the band to be as completely absurd about things--and I mean that in a good way, it's something that separated them from the droves of moping rockers of that era, you know, style, rock music being made by someone that's doing something that you couldn't. I guess every scribe was focussing on the same thing, "martini swilling medallion wearing playboys" thing....I guess as a band after years of that, maybe you want to do something different. But the liner notes of "Exit...." confirm the situation--no medallions in sight, and an overall toned down image.

With "Exit....", it was a mostly one takes album--raw, unpolished and real. Their live performances of the album sounded realistic--mistakes on guitars (none could sum up this album better than Nash's "oops....sorry" gaff at the start of "Need Some Air"), flat/ sharp vocal notes, looser drumming. And the real difficulty of this album, I think, is in how absolutely fucking dry sounding this record is. By that, I mean, that there's little room ambience or big slick reverbs on anything, it sounds like the band is right in front of you, but speaking as an engineer, there's an extra studio "matte finish" in that it sounds like they were going for an insanely dry sound, like an old ZZ Top album or something. A drum sound even in an open air space with no room around it still sounds more live sounding than the drums on here. But it works; the studio facsimile seems to have been dialed in to be "1975" and I love it.....not on every record of course, but on this one, it's a great choice. I now can't see the drums or sounds being any bigger than they sound here, and the band had alot of balls to do that, because obviously on a major and with big producers, they want you to go bigger and larger sounding. And you can't blame the choice of producer; The Butcher Bros (known more for hip hop albums) had produced both "Saturation" and "Exit The Dragon". I'm not sure who's choice it was, but ultimately, I think it was Urge' sounds like they had more of their way. Maybe Geffen had put the bug in their ear about how if they'd done that and this and that and this on "Saturation" it would sell that many more records. Or maybe it was Ed's decision--you never know if it was Nash that proposed that "Saturation" be slicker, as I speculate it was--listening to Ed's post Urge material, it was rawer, whereas Nash's "Debutante" was shamelessly slick and radio ready.

At the time, it was a curious choice to have "The Break" as a lead off single, for a few reasons. One was that the aforementioned re-establishment of Ed being in the lead, that it automatically had perplexed more than it's fair share of newer Urge fans who only knew Nash as the "voice" of the band. Secondly, it's not really your typical lead off single--usually something with more energy or immediacy ends up being the leadoff single. I like it, but I still say that at the time and in hindsight, that it wasn't the greatest choice of lead off single. My vote for leadoff single would have been "Need Some Air", namely because it's the highest energy song on the record, and it's also Nash's, to ease people into the change in sounds on this album. Ironically, this seems to be a moot point--Geffen didn't put the album on the biggest priority (which they even admitted at the time), and promised to re-launch it, to which they never did. I'm guessing that after Cobain, the labels were wary to really get too behind any band that was too much into the self imploding mercurial drug/ rocker thing. To this day, drummer Blackie Onassis is drifting aimlessly, seemingly getting thrown in jail endlessly for drugs. I wish him the best in cleaning up, but he wasn't in the Urge reunion because of that, and really, that's a shame. If you're reading this Blackie--or if you're a friend of his--ask him why he's wasted half his life to that shit, because it ain't worth it.

Anyways, I should get down to describing the songs. Opener "Jaywalkin" sets the tone pretty well, as it has a somewhat morose but effective rocker thing going with lines like "...i'm the evil in this world, there's too much evil it's true", and what a difference in comparing this album to "Saturation"! "Sister Havana" versus "Jaywalkin", it's 180 degrees of difference. It's also--as previously noted--an Ed song. The riff is great, it's kind of choppy and funky, which is accented by the clavinet playing in the chorus part. Eventually there's small accents like claves and cowbell, which this album is underrated for--Blackie's usually doing some cool percussion and bongos or whatever. "The Break" comes next--all loose bluesy Stones-y riffs and kinda slow and plodding and a bit concerned sounding, kind of like "The Candidate" a bit. Everything seems to be more in mono, or panned closer up the center until the chorus when the acoustic guitar embellishments and shakers kick in, which moves the song along well. Key line: "...don't get wasted every day alone". Come to think of it, the lyrics on this album are interesting in historical perspective. "Everything ends in a heartache, can't get a break". Sure critics love to mine that shit, but it's true.

"Need Some Air" follows and is the first Nash sung track on the album, and is one of my favorite songs on the album, because it's one of the few that seem to carry "Saturation"'s rock n' roll optimism into this record--short, to the point, with a killer riff. "Somebody Else's Body" follows and is an excellent song, but instead of maintaining the rock momentum from "Need Some Air", I remember thinking at the time when I first heard the album, thinking after "Need Some Air" had played, something to the effect of "yes, the old Urge is back, Nash is gonna save the album!", and then being a little perplexed as to why a bouncy acoustic song like "Somebody Else's Body" would follow. Now I think it's a great idea, but certainly not then. That being said, the T-Rex vibe in the song is excellent and Nash's feeling and delivery are top notch. The horn parts are cool, too. Nash's singing and feeling in this song is great.

The next part is where the album originally lost me, two Ed songs--"Honesty Files" and "This Is No Place". I think that I probably wanted Nash to do most of the remainder of the album at that time. But what I think makes this album brilliant now, is that parts of the album like this one take the album back down a bit and change gears. "Honesty Files" seems to be another reflective rocker, with a line like "hey hey i'm dead on arrival, yes i'm crawling right back" seemingly prefacing the album's fate, but like a good boxer, not without a fight. "This Is No Place" REALLY lost me at the time. At the start, there's a wash of loud synth noise--not unlike the noise at the end of "Positive Bleeding"--but "This Is No Place" is really one of the heaviest, darkest songs on an already dark album, with some weird phasing effects, some tribal tom breakdowns in the verses from Blackie and whatnot. Oddly enough, the bridge part is one of the most optimistic parts on the record, a beautiful chiming/ ringing guitar break. But this song succeeds on so many levels, just take the lyrics for example: "....can't remember coming home, she don't know my name, she woke up early now she's gone, here we go again" seems like another lyrical reference in that the high of "Saturation"'s last night party vibe has turned into "Exit The Dragon's" reality in that they have to deal with the morning after. By that, I mean fame. The spotlight. Lots of women seeing them as rockstars, when the band knew that when they were in their earlier noise rock phase, that the prospect of easy women and easy money weren't exactly in high demand. And then maybe the band didn't know what to do the morning after and wondered whether to get drunk or high and repeat the process the next morning or whether to deal with what you did last night. Reality ain't always pretty.

The album's pinnacle is next, and cue all "the drummer should never sing" jokes you want, but it's an apex in not only the band's career, but in music in general. By that, I mean that when you want to talk about reflection on the morning after, and fame and fortune and popularity and all the baggage that it brings, rarely will you find something in musical history that nails it more than this. Much like "The Dropout" in that it's based around loops, very quickly it evolves in the mix to put 12 string, piano, weird synth sounds and some excellent slide guitar in there. Lines like "....just be certain not to fall with the wrong kind of crowd, be extra careful when you cross", "....mistake, be careful what you take, we've got alot at stake, more than you'll ever know, beware the overdose" is extra warning when you consider that Blackie became the exact character that he's singing about here. The overall song chord choices are perfect--it's not too dark, but it has a feeling of introspection that comes only with experience. By now, the band had plenty of experience--they'd been around pretty much since 1985--but now, they were facing a whole lot of things that plague bands when they succeed. The theory is that the difficult part of success isn't necessarily getting there--I mean, that's certainly a struggle--but the most difficult part is maintaining that success. Do you give them more of the same? Change it up? Drop out of sight? Go the way of Cat Stevens and renounce the whole thing and claim it was a mistake?

"Take Me" could have--scrap that--should have been a single. It's the most pop song on the album, with absolutely beautiful ringing chord accents. It's another reason why this album perplexed me--something that sounds Cheap Trick-esque that Ed wrote (at least i'm assuming he did, my take on the writing of the songs was whoever sung 'em), and that both Blackie and Ed are harmonizing (I think it's Blackie, anyways, it sounds like he sings the second half of the verse lyrics). If "This Is No Place" and "The Mistake" painted a fairly bleak picture, "Take Me" seems to find solace in the negativity. The coolest part of this song is that the pre-chorus changes every second time to an equally brilliant ringing part! Structurally, it's one of the best and most interesting songs on the album in that they seemingly put more effort into some sort of single that never was.

"View Of The Rain" is another introspective song, this time with Nash singing over a predominantly acoustic song. By now, the duality of the leadership is astonishing--both guys can lead and provide an equally interesting vision, and regardless of whether you like one guy's lead better or not, the fact that they can trade off and provide two slightly different takes on the band is great. Nash is the quintessential rock god; part crooner, part arena rock Cheap Trickster via Motown soul. Ed is more of your basic rocker; someone that's a little less rock god, easier to relate to because he's the guy that just fucked things up. Lyrically, on this album, Ed seems to lean that way, whereas Nash still seems to be singing about the whole romanticism of things and life in general. Anyways, "View Of The Rain" is actually from the "Saturation" sessions, as it was included on the "No Alternative" comp as "Take A Walk". So you do have some remnants from that album. Why exactly it was left off "Saturation", I don't know. Maybe too light or something. But it would have been a great way to finish off the album after "Heaven 90210", I think. The electric keyboard playing is great, Nash was an excellent keys player, too--nothing too technical, but it has alot of feeling. "Take a walk beside yourself, get to know the person behind the face, is it someone you really love?" is a pretty cool question to ask at this point, especially at this point in the album.

"Last Night/ Tomorrow" follows, and "Last Night" has probably my favorite Urge riff. Now that's a real true classic riff, i'm surprised that it's not more well known than it is. When I took guitar lessons, what I learned is that there's a "question/ answer" technique, and this intro/ central riff sounds like it's asking the question in the first part, and then answering it in the second part, like the "?" is on the first part and the "!!!" is on the second part. "I won't find a soulmate again, i'm lost", Ed laments, and it suits the song and album well. Apparently Ed did most of the lead parts on this album, and the leads are fuzzed out and really laid back--nothing too technical, but with feel, and at points, you barely realize that they're there. The second half of the song kicks in, "Tomorrow", and I think it's a Nash song. Maybe not. But it's great, it's high energy and kicks ass. There's some vocal harmonizing between the members, sort of that "Tequila Sundae" thing again. There's clavi accents beneath the song, giving it a funky vibe, but still rocking. The song closes out on handclaps and one of the deadliest riffs into it's outro--a heavy dirge like thing that's slightly reminiscent of "Theme From Navajo". On another surface parallel, "Last Night/ Tomorrow" seems to fit into that "last night's party of Saturation versus tomorrow's hangover of Exit The Dragon".

"Tin Foil" is next and it's the most sunny, optimistic major key song on the record. In some ways, I kind of wish that they'd traded this in the tracklisting with "This Is No Place", to provide a little earlier relief to the onslaught of dirge. It's sort of like "Back On Me". It's mellow in the verses and kicks in with the chorus. "Monopoly" is an excellent track, sounding kind of like a cross between powerpop and country twang, with an excellent hook that sounds like it was some sort of electric piano part. At this point, I think that most Nash fans were as confused as me, expecting him to turn up the amps on every song....but the acoustic rocker thing is excellent and proves that you don't have to max out the distortion on every song. Lyrically, it's a parallel of the board game to life in general, but moreso to love. ".....Survival of the riches, moving our simple pieces round and round, it's you and me on the Monopoly board, you land on the block where i've got three hotels, it's not like you want me to win....shame on you, you're your own Monopoly", Kato scolds. I mean, Nash isn't a Baltic Avenue type of guy, he's going for Boardwalk styled stakes in the gamble.

"And You'll Say" is another heavy rocker from Roeser, sporting a cool riff and a minor key chorus. If there was one track that could have been omitted from the album, i'd say that it may be this one--it's good and all, but by now, the album is feeling a bit long in it's running time, and for rock album standards, it's 61 minutes long in total, double album territory. But that's also a part of the album's charm, in that it's probably too long, probably too unwanted in general by anyone that wanted to expand beyond the singles and the overall singles feel of "Saturation".

The finale is spectacular, going out with both a whimper AND a bang--"Digital Black Epilogue". The flanged guitar parts are very reminiscent of the Stones' "Let It Loose", yet another parallel to the heyday of the Stones, and also proving that Urge had done their homework in terms of listening to the history of rock music. There's an uncredited soul singer doing a duet with Nash and the vocals are great, I think her name is Tamika Vines. I guess that the song kind of has a "Stairway To Heaven" vibe to it too, with Nash really putting alot of feeling into the vocals despite it being a more reflective and morose song. No bustles in hedgerows, but you get the idea. The ending part is really where your average newer Urge fan must have been confused--fuzz guitars, military style march drumming, weird synth blasts, string sections and general noise freakout, as it builds upon one progression into oblivion.

Considering that even in the reunion days since 2003 that they still haven't put out a recording, "Digital Black Epilogue" still stands as the last track on the last studio album of theirs; a perfect summation of the confusion and chaos that ended the band amidst Roeser quitting his own band and Kato and Onassis holding onto the last vestiges of a once mighty band that was no longer functional, before they officially packed the Urge name in around 1996/ 1997. Somehow, this album seems to be an appropriate end to Urge's career, as well as to the hopes and glories of alternative rock, before the genre got milked for everything that it had by various bands and the industry, before it fell apart and made way for the next trend. The reunion that transpired around the end of 2003 has since led to some confusing moments for fans: no new album, a couple of new songs, reports of --literally--a handful of people at some poorly attended shows, etc.

"Exit The Dragon", indeed.

--Ryan Settee

Wrong Turn - 2

Wrong Turn
Off the Hip

With so many acts rambling ‘round who don’t bother with rock & roll history past a decade before their own existence (or fetishize 60s garage rock in an unseemly manner), it’s refreshing to hear a group that digs all the way down to the roots. Down Under duo Wrong Turn takes its inspiration from Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, the wilder side of rockabilly and the first wave of postwar electrified delta blues. Balancing buzzing rock energy with an alligator clip-tight attack, the pair lets the riffs flow freely but never out of control. While nobody’s gonna mistake guit-slinger Ian Wettenhall and drummer Myles Gallagher for disciples of Bob Dylan (or even John Lennon), the pair can write a song – It’s Gone, Love on Line and Jenny Jenny Jenny hold up nicely next to tunes from Marvin Gaye, Kokomo Arnold, the Collins Kids and the Rolling Stones. (That’s two, count ‘em, two Glimmer Twins covers, by the way: Off the Hook and Turd On the Run.) Rough, dirty rock & roll with attitude and soul to spare.

- Michael Toland

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Black Diamond Heavies - Alive As Fuck

Alive As Fuck
Alive Naturalsound

If you’re careless, you could easily dismiss the Black Diamond Heavies as just another cracker blues rock duo with a fetish for RL Burnside and T Model Ford. Like there aren’t plenty of those around. But the Nashville duo does possess certain qualities on Alive As Fuck (which was indeed recorded live, on a tape machine that kept cratering, thus only nine songs were preserved) that set it apart. For one, John Wesley Myers plays an apparently mud-caked organ instead of a guitar, plus he yowls like he’s channeling Tom Waits at his most desiccated. For another, unlike so many of their energetic but good-natured brethren, the Heavies sound just plain mean. It’s as if the boys heard Junior Kimbrough’s You Better Run at an early age and decided that, even if they were unwilling to actually write a song from the point of view of a rapist, they wanted that rotten-to-the-core attitude. Take a Ride, Happy Hour (another contemporary rewrite of Gimme Back My Wig) and Loose Yourself sound more like threats than invitations, and White Bitch (a cocaine diatribe, natch, not a reverse racist anthem) brutally trashes the joint (a Masonic lodge, by the way) with a raging wah-wah organ solo and particularly ugly vocals. Bidin My Time pulls a chair up to the bar and attempts to seduce the chick propped up with her glass, but it’s just a breather. The crowd seriously digs the abuse, and if you call an evening wherein you find blood in your mouth at closing time a good night, so will you.

- Michael Toland

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bermondsy Joyriders...the interview!

In their own words, The Bermondsey Joyriders are "a loud, fast and furious.. no holds barred ...Rock N Roll power trio" and on the evidence of their debut album (out now on Cherry Red Records) I wouldn't disagree. The name may be new, but the 'Joyriders themselves have been in this game for a while. Gary Lammin (guitar and vocals) was principal songwriter of 'Cock Sparrer' in their rawk n' roll pre-Oi punk era. Bassist Martin Stacey was main songwriter for another well known punk band, 'Chelsea', whilst drummer Keith Boyce pounded the skins for London legends 'The Heavy Metal Kids' (who should need no introduction on this website). In December '09 I received an invitation to see the 'Joyriders play on New Years day and maybe interview the band. Although I was busy elsewhere at the time, the album I received turned out to be full of sleazy bottleneck guitar playing, tons of rock attitude and classic messy punk n' roll chaos. In January 2010 I tracked down frontman Gary Lammin via email for a Q&A:

Bermondsey Joyriders? Wasn't that a gang of yuppie-targeting car thieves in the 1980s?
Yeah that's right...I originally saw the name The Bermondsey Joyriders as graffiti on a wall near Tower Bridge. I thought it was a band name already and a bloody good name at that ! In fact it sounded brazen and it made me chuckle to myself that someone would call a band The Bermondsey Joyriders, it really did have a mischievious sound to it, This was in the early to mid 1980s so there was a lot of development going on in the docks area of East and South know they were closing the docks down and that was splitting the community up and on top of that the docks warehouses were being turned into penthouse residential gaffs for all these toffee nosed posh berks that were moving into the area. Yeah they were called yuppies at the time. Some time after this I was at my aunts house in South London and I picked up a local paper as I was waiting for her to bring me a bacon sandwich and a nice cuppa in from the kitchen and the headlines on the front page read BERMONDSEY JOYRIDERS LAST GANG MEMBERS ARRESTED. It turned out that yeah, these young lads were nicking all the Aston Martins and the Porsches and other top of the range cars of the yuppies that were moving into the area and racing them at speed through the night and then burning them out as a kind of statement. I don't agree with the nicking of motors but I had to chuckle to myself again...especially now that I knew The Bermondsey Joyriders were a gang and I could if I was as brazen as them, the lads nicking the motors in turn nick the name The Bermondsey Joyriders for a Rock n Roll band. So I did !

What mode of transport do The Bermondsey Joyriders tour in?
We got a few motors ourself...we got a range rover and we got an old beaten up Jag. Er...that we bought of course !

UK Subs frontman Charlie Harper maintains that punk music and blues music are more-or-less the same thing ('Another Kind of Blues'). Do you agree?
Blues, original blues as played by the likes of Muddy Water and Howlin Wolf to me is the true punk voice of the black working class American ghetto. It is, if played with passion and respect, the most provocative music you can play. When Johhny Thunders done his thing you can take my word for it that he was turning into the energy of pure punk via black American blues... I try to do the same thing...but as soon as you try too hard its gone...its like a spiritual have to allow the thing to take you over and not try to take it over...and yeah it can be very scary..that's what Robert Johnson was going on about when he sung about all that going down at midnight to a crossroads.
Bermondsey Joyriders seem confident at taking the DIY route as far as booking shows goes. You recently played a show in London on New Years Day. How did it go? of the things about a lot of these so called punk rock bands that are around today is that they are happy to just turn up and get paid for playing the same old set that they have been doing for years, But punk rock to me is about taking a know do something crazy..see if you can get away with it. The show at The 100 Club was a real gamble and a risk...if you play The 100 Club you need to fill it. The 100 Club is a statement so unless you can back that statement up then you best not make it in the first place...On New Years Day we got 260 people in and that to me was a good turn out for New Years Day. Ok sure, Everyone looked like they had just had their brains vapourised...but the thing was they turned up no matter how out their faces they were. The Bermondsey Joyriders gig at The 100 Club on New Years Day therefore was one of the few true punk gigs for sometime.

What can we expect from a Bermondsey Joyriders live show? I hear there is quite a lot of crowd participation?
Yeah the crowd are the essence, they are what makes it all come together and you ain't going to make anything happen without the crowd...Its a Zen thing...the crowd are a tangible manisfestation of where the band are all at. I cant even be bothered to play my guitar at home on my own but put me in front of some people who I can play for and it does it for me. The Bermondsey Joyriders never rehearse in fact when we played The 100 Club on New Years Day it was the first time Id seen Keith Boyce The Bermondsey Joyriders (Also Heavy Metal Kids) drummer since mid November 2009. Therefore if it all goes wrong then going wrong is as important or unimportant as it all going great....punk rock should be spontaneous and vita.

You have just released the track 'Football' as a single, in tribute to one of your passions, the English national sport! Are you concerned this might cross-over to the lucrative US market, and will you be recording another version with alternative lyrics to include Quarterbacks, touchdowns, and the Oakland Raiders?
Hey now there's an's your American accent ?
Well, you can Check it out on Movies About Girls podcast #39...
Okay, 'Quickfire Round': Here are ten bands/artists, comment on each in 5 words or less
MC5... The truest punk band EVER
The Kinks...Even better then you think
The Dammed...Punk times 200 per cent
Rory Gallagher...He turned The Stones down !!!!!?
UK Subs..Oi ! Charlie you Rock Star
The NYDs...My reason to play guitar
The Hellocopters...Dont know them enough really
The Faces...Saw them Lewisham Odeon 1972/3 ?
Dogs D'Amour...Got them their first gig
Slade...The English New York Dolls
Dr Feelgood...Honourable Honest and Rocking
The Rolling Stones...Midnight Rambler live version ( Altamont )

Slide guitar is prominent in your sound. What do you use for a slide? For example, Rory Gallagher used an old medicine bottle, other payers opt for steel or brass tubing, or even knives!?
I use a brass one at the moment but I will experiment from time to know over in The USA there's a lot more access to slide guitar stuff...I've also got a ceramic bottle neck slide and I also use an old long whisky glass that someone gave me.

What is next for The Bermondsey Joyriders? And where can the world check you out online?
Ok the Bermondsey Joyriders can be located at our Myspace Page. As regards to what's next..we got something proper bonkers lined up for mid March...but its risky...If we pull it off it will be a talking point for ages but if it goes wrong you will have to come and see me in jail, so I cant really tell you right now but your know soon enough when and where it will happen and if we pull it off it will certainly ruffle a few feathers...Thanks for taking an interest in The Bermondsey Joyriders and God Bless...

Thanks to Gary Lammin for answering the questions, and Alison B (Bubble Gum Slut 'zine/Bermondsey Joyriders PR Manager) for hooking up the interview!

- Alex Eruptor

Bernondsy Joyriders

Cherry Red Records

I'll state my bias: I'm a sucker for slide guitar. Sure, there have been quite a few blues revivalists these past years but they've mostly been of the self-consciously stylized hipster variety, authentic in sound and image but sometimes lacking in originality and invention. How many more guitar n' drum thrift store clad duos does the world need? In comparison, The Bermondsey Joyriders are a breath of fresh air. Their's is an altogether more British sound, a product of the smoggy banks of the River Thames, The Old Kent Road, and '76-'77 punk as much it is by the muddy banks of the Mississippi, Route 66, and Delta blues. Think English pub rock hooligans such as 'Dr Feelgood' rather than US stadium fillers like the 'White Stripes' (albeit with the sort of gas guzzling attitude and adrenalin rock song titles not witnessed since the first couple of Hellacopters albums.)

What you get here are ten tracks recorded in twelve hours which provide the blueprint for the Bermondsey Joyriders agenda, which appears to be world domination by mixing up pedal-to-the-metal terrace chant street punk with roadhouse blues rock. The lo-fi production may take away some of the energy but the songs shine through like diamonds in the rough. Titles like 'Runnin 'Riot' and 'Rock n' Roll Demon' tell you all you need to know.
Lookin' for a sleazy blues riot soundtrack for your next road trip? This could be the one.

- Alex Eruptor

Friday, January 22, 2010

Precious Metal - Decibel Presents The Stories Behind 25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces
Edited by Albert Mudrian
Da Capo

From the harrowing to hallowedly unholy there's plenty of info to eviscerate from this tome. Even for the avowedly cursory once-over set it should offer several enticing if not out-right irrrresistable inducements to explore darker, danker corridors of skull-scrambling studio slayings as Diamond Head, Celtic Frost, Kyuss, Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, Monster Magnet, Morbid Angel, Paradise Lost, Napalm Death et al get candid and curtly reminiscent about their masterpiece hanging in metals mortuary slabs. And where in Hell's hockey team would a book on metals mightiest battlements staunchly defending it's furthest frontiers with pot-paunch and a Peavey be without touching on some incidents of Norwegian stabbing frenzy and heroic church-torching (see Emperor). Surely many an ardent acolyte will possess many of these pieces or have the general gen or the bones thereof, though the collector-crew metal frequently accrues will covet the thoroughness of its compilation, as the rules were that an album could only be covered if all members could be interviewed. Really though, it's hard to - beyond the grave extremities that Emperor worked under and around and Cannibal Corpse's necrotic art / cryptophagic erotica on Tomb Of The Mutilated - push pieces that far beyond the usual run of the mill recording banalities of hectic schedules, the difficulties vs results achieved in defiance of technlological pre-pro tools limits and errant band members and myriad personal, musical and label difficulties, however entertaining certain backbiting and bickering is (Monster Magnet). Anyone wanting a tabloid-style account of wasted beyond deadlines should locate a slightly different calibre of library but as far giving the odd nudge (Eyehategod, Celtic Frost - anyone meant to be that terrible must be worth another listen...p'raps) in some bands general direction with what bands sorta have to do to be, like, a band and stuff it's a handy little browse. Certainly though, without getting even slightly techy, hats off to any engineer having to cut and splice such dense, intense and/or insanely FAST such music on tape in pre-digital days. Musta been enough for anyone to crumble and sit in a blazing sandpit. With or without safety helmets.
Stu Gibson

Friday, January 15, 2010

Skånsa Mord - The Last Supper

The Last Supper
Small Stone

Heavy-ass blues rock with acid rock undertones and melodramatic overtones. Overt homages to the evolving hard rock of the late 60s and early 70s. Songs with titles like Under the Volcano and A Journey. You’d think we’d all be sick to hell of it by now. And I am, but Skånsa Mord makes me forget my ennui for a while. The Last Supper’s bluesedelia is hardly breaking any ground – hell, it doesn’t even scratch at the soil – but it drips skill and conviction, as if the band is injecting every ounce of itself into these grooves. Made up of veterans from Swedish ensembles Half Man and Mothercake, Skånsa Mord has both the feel and the passion for stuff like Two in the Mourning and The Hermit, finding the blues soul in retro rock in a way even Foghat didn’t back in the day. The not-so-secret weapon is frontman Jan Bengtsson – his colorful singing gives even the most generic sounds personality. The Last Supper ain’t the last word on heavy psych blues rock, but it’s an exclamation point on a sentence you shouldn’t skip over reading.

- Michael Toland

Monday, January 04, 2010

T Model Ford - The Ladies Man

T Model Ford
The Ladies Man

It’s been a while since T Model Ford hit the recording studio, but rumors of his retirement/death have, to pimp a cliché, been greatly exaggerated. At 88, one of the great surviving North Mississippi Hill Country bluesmen may need to turn the volume down a bit by wielding an acoustic guitar instead of a noisy cheap-ass electric, but his libido is as spry as ever. Recorded in a small studio in Wichita, Kansas in about three hours with a small group of young players who mostly just stay out of Ford’s way, The Ladies Man concerns, as always, love and the lack of it, and by love, we mean humpin’ and bumpin’. Ford hasn’t the haunted threat of Junior Kimbrough, the unrestrained (snake) drive of RL Burnside or the burning intensity of Robert Belfour – he’s a lover first and foremost, and if he can’t have fun doin’ “it,” why do it at all? I Love You Baby, That’s Alright and Hip Shaking Woman do the thinking with the little head, crooking their fingers with Ford’s distinctive (sour) mash-up of undisguised lust and eyebrow-cocked dignity. Ford tips his baseball cap to his peers and forebears as well, giving tunes from the catalogs of Muddy Waters (Two Trains), Little Walter (My Babe) and Lightnin’ Hopkins (Love Me All Night Long, AKA Rock Me, Baby) a turn with his husky pipes. With stories and commentary interspersed betwixt the tunes, The Ladies Man has the relaxed feel of an informal jam session, a vibe that works to Ford’s advantage in emphasizing good times and a friendly atmosphere over tortured souls and visiting hellhounds.

- Michael Toland

Friday, January 01, 2010

The Jim Jones Revue - Here To Save Your Soul: Singles Volume One

Glory be!! With the opening, nay, instigatory five second piano-prangling riff that serves to usher this incendiary display with full compliments from these sonic cut-throat balls of flame along their own halls of fame and out through tumultuous ethers into your musical uterus, this almighty calamity goes some stretch to fulfilling the title proclamation alone. Then, as Rupert Orton's fellow cyclone-shakers descend onto and collide into the ensuing fracas that is the seismic shuffle and riff-fulcrumpler of Rock'n'Roll Psychosis they nail cease and desist orders on the designer-decrepit door-jambs of non-descript, distinctly no-kick, garage gap-year bleat generation scene-ants offloading media degree delusions into mediocre attempts at the frontman/preacher concept. People, herald the riot act to such affected pretence as siniciously skewered songs like Elemental and Cement Mixer are rather more stamped into every pore than read. When the master with half a litre at easy disposal such as Mr Jones dispenses such a diaspora of screaming & preaching shamanic charisma from a sandblasting larynx fermented all the more furiously for his flamenco-like apprenticeship on the peripheries with Thee Hypnotics and Black Moses then this lastest is for sure and seventh heaven the last in line. Much has been stated of the Little Richard on a Sonics' boom-trip ripped and regally randy on Raw Power room service and that ain't no lame-ass idle blasts of blase PR, though the VU-dissolving, Sunday service-frazzling frequencies, pan-scouring guitar and particle-accelerating production such that it could cause cardiac confusion in the chambers of that Hadron Collider enough to suck us through our black hole for a post-universal trip-toke (bets on those Hadron scientists wish they had one of these) would be irrelevant novelties if they weren't delivered with such righteous urgency as though recorded on unravelling rope-bridges - and wouldst that have been there'd still be no trite invocations to testify. Even if they're not the greatest songs ever ever ever it's such a scintillating, skin-stinging incandescent delight that'll give the most nefarious new year blues the bends. It's scarce indeed that any sinner, even ol' Devil-Lee Jerry himself, can rival the original Mr Richard's Good Golly Miss Molly let alone dredge whole new diabolisms from the depths, and many hats must be raised and glasses tipped to that man Orton for his pole position on piano in this, as with the early rock'n'roll clarion-rallyers. Every second really is a pylon-vaulting dynamic crescendo dispelling shards into every synapse and cell like a ravenous intravenous tyrannosaurus with extra hunger for the hex. So come all ye wastrels, slip the catch on a whole colossal epidemic of chaos and delicious fuckscuppery as they grace your towns with the only Jones to be joyful for, as Chuck Berry supports and SXSW assaults in Spring should suggest. Suckerpunch my old shoes, what you reading this for? New boots in town get out there and rattle cages and singe foundations and shake metallic kiss off to the whole fuckin' century already. Now can I hear a hallehfugginlujaaah!
Stu Gibson
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