Monday, May 31, 2010

The Main Street Gospel - Love Will Have Her Revenge

The Main Street Gospel
Love Will Have Her Revenge
Tee Pee

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Brian Jonestown Massacre can definitely be counted on for one thing: spawning a gazillion other bands. (Probably because no one with creative ideas of his/her own can stand to be in a band with Anton Newcombe for long. Not dissing, just sayin’.) The latest chip off the old block comes after former BJM tambourine player Barry Dean relocated to Columbus, Ohio, picked up a guitar and formed the Main Street Gospel. The trio makes noise that isn’t a million miles away from Dean’s alma mater on Love Will Have Her Revenge. Straightforward rock and pop melodies get filtered through a psychedelic gauze, with spaced-out guitars and vocals that sound piped in from the subconscious. But the MSG has a rootsy vibe alien to Newcombe, drawn from 70s blues rock and country pop. Tunes like the folk-rocking Getting Through, Losing Sleep and Truly (Shine) and the blues-grooving Sweet Summer Rain and title track give Dean and company a warm familiarity and easy accessibility. Also, as might be expected from a power trio led by a guitarist, there’s a lot of jamming, more in the Neil Young style of pushing the melody forward than in the unfocused Grateful Dead style of going nowhere. She’s a Disease, Lay It On the Line and Ready to Shine (born to be the band’s set-closer) reflect an almost casual intensity that keeps us from zoning out. Fool’s Gold is the band’s apotheosis, starting out as a pop song but ending as an acid-fried jam-out. Some will no doubt complain about the Main Street Gospel being too retro, but to my ears Love Will Have Her Revenge sounds timeless.

- Michael Toland

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rocket From the Tombs - 7"

Rocket From the Tombs
I Sell Soul + Romeo & Juliet
Hearthan/Smog Veil

As the first new music from legendary proto-punk rock ballbusters Rocket From the Tombs (hit up Google to what RFTT was up to back in the mid-70s), this 7-inch is a thrill merely for existing. But it also comes with high expectations: can the combo of original members David Thomas (Pere Ubu), Cheetah Chrome (the Dead Boys) and Craig Bell (Mirrors) and (relatively) new guys Richard Lloyd (Television) and Steve Mehlman (Pere Ubu) do anything to equal the primal, pioneering Midwest power rock of the original, Peter Laughner-led incarnation? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t worth your time.

I Sell Soul kicks the door down with the kind of fury bands half these guys’ age don’t possess, and if Thomas’ famously bizarre voice is getting even weirder with age, it just gives this anus-ripper an even more distinct edge. Romeo & Juliet is a harder sell – essentially a radical rewrite of the Reflections’ 1964 pop hit (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet, the tune unfurls with the deliberate pace of the erosion of sanity. It’s not nearly as openly accessible as I Sell Soul, but it draws you into its hermetic world before you realize what’s happened.

It’s unclear whether this 45 is a teaser for the proverbial more to come, or a burst of sudden creativity that stands on its own. Either way, it proves that the Rocket From the Tombs saga is far from over.

- Michael Toland


Scatboy Records

Demo recordings from '96 by a short-lived Charlotte, NC punk-metal band who clearly dug 80's hardcore, goon-metal, and GG Allin in equal fistfuls. Four bruising, high-flying tracks anchored by the bleary-eyed, bloody-throated belchings of one Jeff Williams. Nostalgic North Carolinian scuzz-rockers and waist-deep punk rock archivists will wanna seek this out. Everybody else, please carry on with your day. And that's the name of that tune.

PS Sorry, no cover scan. It was a pretty sweet cartoon of a dude with a gun. Jack Davis, I think.

- Sleaze

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Devil's Blood - The Time of No Time Evermore

The Devil’s Blood
The Time of No Time Evermore

The band is from non-native English-speaking Europe, their name invokes the Adversary and they claim to be dedicated Satanists. The Time of No Time Evermore has gotta be black metal, right? Makes sense – they’re called the Devil’s Blood, f’chrissakes – but not in the universe these Dutch daemons inhabit. Led by guitarist SL and singer F. the Mouth of Satan, the band hearkens back to the early 70s, when psychedelia was morphing into hard rock, darkness became an acceptable substitute for peace and/or love and strident chick singers were still allowed to hang off the Marshall stacks. Actually, there seems to be a mini-movement afoot to bring back that era, what with Blood Ceremony and Jex Thoth also lurking about. But the Devil’s Blood have the spotlight at the moment, and they deserve it.

The Time of No Time Evermore is brilliant, a heavy rock acid trip disguised as a Luciferian manifesto. Whether it’s on the fist-pumping arena metal of Rake Your Nails Across the Firmament and Christ or Cocaine (which oughta have the late Ronnie James Dio smiling in whatever afterlife he’s floating through), the riproaring rocka rolla of Queen of My Burning Heart and Evermore, the brooding folk rawk of Angel’s Prayer and I’ll Be Your Ghost, the psychedelic haze of House of 10,000 Voices or the massive prog metal anthemry of The Anti-Kosmik Magick, the Blood runs hot and red. F.’s Grace Slick-after-getting-fired vocals soar like tarnished angels and SL’s licks mold riffs and textures into horns-throwing six-string sculptures. Above all, melody rules – every track here is catchy as, well, hell. As with any self-proclaimed allies of Old Scratch, it’s unclear how seriously we should take their shtick, but from a musical standpoint, the Devil’s Blood is unassailable.

- Michael Toland

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flash Metal Suicide: Flamin' Groovies "Teenage Head"

Flamin' Groovies
Teenage Head
Kama Sutra Records, 1971

The Flamin' Groovies are a bit of a difficult band to pin down. But in one sense, no. They've always been a kick ass rock n' roll band. In another sense, yeah--they've changed up quite radically within the framework of three or four chords, in that there's bound to be camps of people that like certain eras much more than another. You've got the early "Sneakers" and "Supersnazz" era, which is largely Sun Records influenced rockabilly. It's an underrated template for psychobilly--the Cramps undoubtedly learned some things on how to resurrect 50's music with a dash of humour and camp n' roll from the Groovies. Jon Spencer undoubtedly copped some of his "ironic Elvis" from singer Roy Loney. Then you have the later Cyril Jordan led period which is more garagey--Beatles/ Stones power pop. There could easily be a Flash Metal Suicide for all three eras.

My favorite is the mid period "Flamingo" and "Teenage Head" era--all Stonesy boogie and revved up blues. It's not really clear why exactly they did this for a couple of albums and then ditched it. But that's probably why they divided their own audiences and split their own vote, because I know more than a few people that are decidedly heavily into the Roy Loney era, or the non-Loney era. Loney and Jordan apparently disagreed on which direction they were headed in; Loney wanted the straight up rock, Jordan wanted the British Invasion. Such is life in a band, the cliched "creative differences".

It's possible that the band may have been perceived as a novelty due to the 50's revival thing, as well as Roy Loney's elastic, often spastic vocal style wherein he could go from a hiccuping Elvis to snivelling mental patient on release from the looney bin--often within the same song. Perhaps he just sounded like a bunch of different singers and different personalities. At times, it's hard to believe that it's the same guy singing. And on the cover of debut "Supersnazz" (though really, the true debut is "Sneakers"), the cartoon characters likely didn't help matters. They didn't really have an image either--a bunch of pretty ordinary looking dudes, the type that you knew were rockers in school, but they were all dropouts or burnouts or something like that. They just sort of wandered through the halls like the undead on a non-existent Halloween.

But it's safe to say that most of the bands that really move me, they were either way ahead of their time, or drastically behind. Or both. The Groovies were probably just too early for the rockabilly revival, and too late for the original wave of it; perceived as out of date and flogging an out of date trend. Adding insult to injury was that the band also was strongly influenced by the 60's, sounding alot like alot of Nuggets bands that were into "Louie Louie" covers and whatnot. So there had to have been alot of people that thought that the Groovies were horribly out of date when "Sneakers" came out in 1968 (released and financed by the band themselves, originally--DIY and protopunk credentials intact). Epic released their first album "Supersnazz", then when it sold poorly, it was back to the drawing board. That's a good reason for a Flash Metal Suicide right there.

The Groovies are also not really considered to be protopunk. In some circles they are, but in alot, no. But they'd eschewed alot of the high energy, good times no bullshit three chord rock n' roll that punk took most of it's cues from. With the Groovies, there also was no real gimmick. There wasn't any real "us versus them" mentality. There was no peanut butter. There was no White Panther revolutions. Just the music. Back in the hippie flower power San Fran scene in the late 60's when the Groovies started up, I imagine that these guys weren't exactly popular--no multipart 10-20 minute songs, just 3 minute blasts of good time music. Maybe if they were from Detroit or New York, they'd have been lumped in with the protopunks. I dunno.

Basically, "Teenage Head" rips from start to finish. You know that when you influence a band-- that became an influential band in their own right--to adopt your album name as their band name, it's gotta have a merit or three. "High Flyin' Baby" kicks it off in grand style; slide guitar licks from Cyril Jordan and Tim Lynch, youthful energy and establishing a rowdy, freewheeling atmosphere, with Loney in a maniacal vocal persona. "City Lights" is a slow swamp blues with more slide guitar, with saloon styled piano courtesy of Memphis legend Jim Dickinson, with Loney reflecting that "...well the nighttime girls are always laughing, movie stars are autographing". "Have You Seen My Baby" (Randy Newman cover) cranks the amps back up. The cymbal hit accents on every second note really sounds like the template for the first Ramones album. "Yesterday's Numbers" is a surprisingly reflective mid tempo pop song that--in a perfect world--would have bridged the creative differences in between Loney's madhouse rock aesthetic and Jordan's more pop oriented style for at least another album or two. "Have you ever been alone, so long you couldn't cry....did you ever have a home, did you ever tell a lie?" asks Loney. It's not the most revelatory of lyrics ever, but proves that the band did have a sense of introspection amidst all the power and speed, with Loney repeating the "tell me it's alright!" line for awhile into the outro to close out the album, as if he's trying to be reassured of the situation.

The title track is next, a snarling rocker, with Loney in the rabid, manic wiseass vocal persona; it's title taken from a Kim Fowley statement about looking for some "teenage head". As the lyric goes, it could be a motto for greaseballs, dropouts and everywhere--"i'm a monster, got a revved up teenage head...half a boy and half a man, i'm half at sea and half on land, oh my". There 'ya got the Cramps without the horror visuals and maybe Lux's leopard codpiece. It's a true classic. It should be up there with all the other classic rock tracks, but sadly, it's not nearly as revered in nostalgia circles other than "cult band" revery. When I hear this, it's instant air guitar time. Hell, i'll take your air guitar and smash it through a non-existent air amp.

"when ya' see me, better turn your tail and run...
'cause i'm angry and I'll mess you up for fun...
i'm a child of atom bombs and rotten air and Vietnams...
I am you,
you are me. "

A Heart Full of Napalm, but two years earlier, man. Gotta love it. That's about as political as you get from the Groovies--but it's not a political statement as much as they're saying that they don't even need a reason to pull the prank....hey man, it's nothing personal. And it's not even business. They do it because that's what they do, they get off on it, it's leisure.

Robert Johnson's "32-20" is next, and it's a rousing stompdown with just acoustic guitar, vocals, slide and mild percussion. "Evil Hearted Ada" follows, and it's sounds the most like the early Groovies out of all the songs on the album; hiccuping Evil Elvis surfaces here in our hero Roy the Boy for this one.

Rock n' roll isn't exactly science--you can only get so far away from your influences, but considering the ease at which the Groovies have always traversed between covers and their own originals, they're one of the few bands that do justice to the greats, and then hit you with a song that you're sure is a cover, but it's not. "Doctor Boogie" sounds like it's a cover, but it's a Loney/ Jordan original. I'm not usually a covers type of guy (if you can't rewrite three chords successfully in a rock n' roll band, you should give up), but the Groovies are one of those bands that I really enjoy hearing them play those standards, because like the Sonics, they rip 'em a whole new arsehole when they do do 'em.

The album ender, "Whiskey Woman", could be the highlight of the album, and again proves that the band has a mellow side to their attack. I like it better than "Wild Horses"--same sort of funereal gospel vibe (although "Wild Horses" sounds like the angelic version that ascends out of the ashes of said metaphorical whiskey woman's wreckage). E minor to C has been done to death, but if it works, why mess with it? It's probably what you could call their "Freebird"--has a Southern rock thing to it and then speeds up into an angry two riff rocker that pulverizes. It could easily be longer than it's 5 minutes--but the Groovies being about economy, they get it in, bash it out, and get out leaving you wanting more.

The Groovies would never again return to this sound. Loney left after this album, and Jordan resurfaced with the band on the Dave Edmunds produced "Shake Some Action" five years later in 1976--a great album in it's own right--but in alot of ways, it wasn't the same band anymore. The Buddha reissue/ remaster includes a bunch of bonus tracks--all covers, aside from "Going Out Theme" (version 2).

--Ryan Settee
Slash - Slash
Roadrunner / EMI / Universal

All-star teams, or album, even, are never really a good idea, are they. I trust you're well aware of this. It may well be that only Jerry Lee has truly managed it (though even Jerry Lee had fuckin' Kid Rock on his Last Man Standing. Though, quite incidentally I'd rather he'd've fired a playful warning shot across Mick Jagger's brow instead, or at least first, for his inane wannabe Fugee Jerry-flattering), not counting Keith's backing of Chuck Berry in 1986 or Springsteen's collar-hauling of Gary 'US' Bonds career as they don't follow quite the same lines. Often - John Lee Hooker's early nineties return to recording albums come to mind, despite barely having heard them - they're garlanded with such gratuitous guests grabbing some glory before the subject's grave grows impatient that they're cluttered yet cavernous song-skeletons with no bone-marrow. This, and the Saturday tea-time TV stare-stealer aspect of the title, may well have made Slash um, slash, the '& Friends' bit. Sadly it isn't his embarrassment at thusly allowing this week's Plant-aper in the guise of that goon from that shite Australian band that aren't even (alas, in the only case of it kind - ever)) Jet - oh how I'd love to see him end his days covering for Lenny Wolf in a reformed Kingdom Come - and...yeah him. (I am, I expect, simply insidiously jealous. I mean, everyday that passes heralds less of a chance to record some Cow'n'Tree with Keane). Though initially plus points accrued after it turned out not be quite as terriblly turgid and phoned-in as I anticipated, predicated not against Slash so much as the company he sought, pleasant surprise was too swiftly stultified by the stadium-strutting backline of banality with brief hairpin bends of brash brandished. Especially upon entering into my journalistic preparations today I did maketh a note that he'd really liked to have had his old compadre Mike Monroe sing a track but it seems, alas, none of them suited Mr M's singing style. Eeerm, see that guitary-shaped thing? Take hold of it until one works with MM - or, hmmmm, I guess even Slash doesn't need his accountant to tell him that a loose Hanoi Rock ain't gonna shift no units into gold. Cynical curiosity ensconces me though. What a great idea it is though to get all these high profile cats (and assorted twats) together, maximise your kill count. Waxl'll be disarticulating chickens at twenty paces. Though a romantic bet could still be wagered that MM quietly disaccociated himself. All of GN'R feature minus the molten midget, which is nice for giving Izzy & Steven Adler some readies. Not so nice as there's again a whole record of Matt 'Tedious' Sorum's soporific lumpen methodical money-counting drumming, presumably. No? No? Sounds like it. But the job of copying him went largely to Josh Freese, so maybe the blame lies with the mainman.

Anyhell, so what's he done then? To start with it isn't an exercise in frivolous fret-escapades (I heard a rumour, a vicious cruel lie it was, that Slash's tribute to Racer X got short shrift at the label), there's one but it does however come with an unshakeable mark of the boardroom about it. P'raps it's a byproduct of a different singer each song, but there's a palpable sense of striving to offer the old something for everyone and as such have leapt - again perhaps willingly -into the obvious abyss of the big bland beatshop in a backstage area the size of Birmingham. Perhaps, as quickly became evident, 'tis that the young Hudson was always more inclined to what we now know as classic rock so it was a quick assimilation once Appetite wore off a little. Any hopes that a move to Roadrunner could unleash some fire will be quickly quashed - a multi-label Monoploy game is grinding these gears, gringo. Presumably with the wet blanket that lets drip mid-way through on Gotten (ooooh, if only a bunch of rockers went out like the christian pillocks burning Sabbath & Priest in the 80's and torched it). Like that act, this isn't progression or doing something different. Anyway, even entertaining the idea while at his worst man-nappy stage would be too far, putting it on an album is simply a dereliction of musical dues and duty, not maturity. It may be second place to Ronnie Wood reforming The Faces with that Mick Hucknall but it's as bad. T'isn't even a matter of tainting some rock music creed with poppy sacrilege. It's simply shite beyond any absurdity or contrariness.
Opener Ghost sees Ian Astbury doing pretty much what he'd been doing in The Cult (apart from referencing Paradise City) since they briefly re-emerged for the first time in 1998 or thereabouts, that being non-descript indie-rock groove with a touch of the funk along with an almost total lack of identity plus some of the most dubiously unshamanistic lyrics on anything ever, enjoining anyone slouching about the ceremony to 'kill the ghosts hiding in your soul' and kindly informing us several times that the past in fact, cannot be changed or the future raced away from. Very sprintily. Well, bugger me. Boys, the past was pretty feckin' righteous, tis from 1989, oh maybe 1990 if we get kharmic kisses for leniency, you gotta be gettin' the funk out of. After Ozzy does his usual semi-semblance of regurgitated scarecrow croon about ego-evil and vague world woes atop a polite chug on Crucify The Dead (fact is - you can't y'see) that are as useful as Jagger at Altamont, Fergie crops up on the alarmingly-reminiscent-of-Alanis-Morrisette's You Oughta Know that is Beautiful Dangerous. At least she strides up to the title like a T-REX hunted by a hippo-horny Rudi Ray Moore such that the structure wee's itself all the way home whilst simultaneously sticking withered week-old chewing gum in WAxl's dreads as she delves into a belting impression of the on the chorus. Myles Kennedy (whoever he is but he's the touring vocalist) wades in with one of the better moments on Back To Cali, all Sunset Boulevard gone slightly psych.
If these signal that this is stranded in the mid-nineties in both song and sound as it is, it at least retains some weight from their rock pedigree (well, besides Chris Cornell's Promise - a drifting redolent of bewilderingly-adored Aussie irritants Crowded House). Lemmy appears on Doctor Alibi - a rowdy party stomp along the lines of Born To Raise Hell that was probably written during a fag break in the car park and the better for it (interestingly, the wet-ones Gotten is jettisoned straight after); the sci-fi tinged instrumental Watch This lifts-off Iggy does a delightfully sardonic and droll Bowie impression on We're All Gonna Die (which, what with all this cross-referencing of modern with the future and wrapping them both round a post of the past ends up sounding like fkn Robbie Williams at his unfathomable height. Though, it need so much aural antacid after if you keep in mind U.S. Bombs) and it's roll-call of asinine yet apposite urgings, interspersing 'so let's be nice' & 'pee on the ground - jump around' between the titular incantation. Nothing To Say, is a Wildhearts / QOTSA style metal-smelting mellifluous that shoves Velvet Revolver into black leather holster is transcendent stand-out and worth a burn. Giving the lie to previous insistence that GN'R's descent into tepid epic-land was purely Waxl and his Princess Diana-like drive to eradicate divisions and embrace diversity for all the worlds to follow, notably by adopting Elton John as his token gay mate (presumably his piano-playing skills made him not-quite-so deficient) and the ballads here simper in the bottom of Bono's briefcase-cum-Bible, devoid of any admirable histrionics and temperamental audacit that gave GNR's pomp some curiosity and character. I Hold On - courtesy of Kid Rock, who actually does a fair duck sauce outta the dead pigeon lyrical slug-trails ('I feel no comfort in my dreams / Unprotected silent screams / The light beyond your shadow beams / Still I don't know what it means') - drives up oil prices in it's endless toil to dig downhome but pretty much turfs up eighties gel-buckets Then Jericho if they'd reformed in 1995 after hearing this new band that's all the rage, Pearl Jam, spicing things up with gormless gospel tinges and sourceless bilge about holding on because you can't let go and the seas of change and hey, presto, Eric Clapton's the next in line.

It's a little sad to have him just slip so easily onto the 'who done it?' shelves (as in 'Who's done this? oh, they did?...buuut hang, on they did that? so, howwww... - adopt a 'does not compute' air around this stage) of all the drivetime hold-music purveyors who qualify to pally-up on Backslap Boulevard, that seems to exist on social strata rather than musical opinions. So, not of no interest, just curiously uninvolving, lacking character and reeking of formula right up to the lighters aloft, wave your hands while I over emote about stars in the night, that is Starlight, that would be lucky to excite Pauls McFarteney or Rogers. Despite the slander it's difficult to dislike, but that's because the truest thing on it is how steadfastly stuck it is to the old cliche (pun intended) that it's hard to care for or detest as it's so bland. What's next? Coldplay? There's only a couple of true horrors but it cries out for some friction, tension and thrill.
Sure, things change n' people change n' my mind still gets hazy. Disappointment doesn't come from harking back and comparing this to 1987-1989. Sure, we ain't gonna look to Slash for a DESERT SESSIONS or even the mangy maverickness of a Jack White but it's slightly startling to see, and reappraise, how quickly any angular chinks in the array were really acquiesced in true punk style, as sagely assessed by Tyla in The Dogs D'Amour's pithy Victims Of Success. Slash is almost encroaching on Clapton's vast estates of stockbroker rock and makes The Stones seem unstoppably edgy. Such that it would be no shock to find or Bono on the next one. One could find it odd that Izzy isn't included on the ballad-bloated moments - they been something he excels in. But Izzy's already proved where there genius lay. Some bits here are identical to the chart fodder back when the guitarist as a young man really did Slash n' awe. Now it's more Slash aaahaaaah. Another slung on the gatepost of missed chances and lacklustre could-a-beens that started with GN'R LIES, and that really started on the USE YOUR ILLUSION. Slash lost his somewhere. It's there to be rediscovered.
Stu Gibson
PS - For a jolly little sojourn in the alleys of all-star - or slight singes from one that passed - search out the caustic queasy derectifying putrid plundering of BUTCHERING THE BEATLES, where old metal lags knacker the Scouse catalogue with pleasingly pitiless aplomb - featuring Yngwie, Dokken dudes, Dio, Lemmy, Ripper Owens, probably a BulletBoy (in disguise), quite possibly Vinne Vincent & others lower on the ladder like Cinderella's original drummer. There's similar projects on Iron Maiden and AC/DC but these are far less entertaining, as any covers of them are destined for scorn.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Let the Night Roar - s/t

Let the Night Roar

I have to admit: when I first spun Let the Night Roar, the debut by the power trio of the same name, I thought maybe I’d put an old High On Fire record on by mistake. The psychedelic doom riffage, angry dinosaur plod, tribal rhythm shifts and bronchitis bark sound awfully familiar. I’ll be charitable and assume the three dudes in Let the Night Roar merely love the same bands as HoF (i.e. Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost), though LtNR’s lyrics are more bloodthirsty than Matt Pike’s. I don’t need to be nice to admit that Jeff Joseph J and his wingmen do the crungeblast stomp pretty well – a tune like Blood For Blood makes me want to grab a guitar, tune down and plug it into the nearest amp cranked past 11. Let the Night Roar (the band) may verge on cloning at the moment, but Let the Night Roar (the album) is enjoyable enough to make me hope the band finds its own voice as it continues to evolve.

- Michael Toland

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cypher 16 - The Man Of The Black Abyss
Constant Evolution

Techno-sludge power-rock assault with intelligent depths but a surfeit of over-earnest pretentiousness that transpires is an unexpectedly enticing flight that'll catch Muse fans in it's wake as much as Metallica or Soundgarden. Hard to love its morass of try too hard fusing of riff-tyranny with irrelevant cut and paste electro-pouts and some disastrously overly cringeworthy lyrics. For all the hype surrounding their youth and their bagging contacts and concerts out of their league, like we're on the verge of a new metal continent that'll bring world peace there isn't much more than a hint, if that, of any great new gospel to grasp onto, aside from segments of atmospheric tirades (nee, bluster) Reaper and Stains Of Time suggest it could be anything more than an intriguing sheen to slice asunder in future. What'll probably happen is that the general public will latch onto some sub-Radiohead witterings about militarism and ersatz ecological policies and painless soul-searching and thus they'll be the new voice of the disaffected dung-beetle imbeciles on the street and university campus. Their uninvolving remoteness will no doubt be taken as a stance against exhibitionist chin-stroking, so solidifying their own cult. Of what is the cypher perhaps.
Stu Gibson
The Starline Rhythm Boys - Masquerade For Heartache
Cow Island

Following on from last year's opus of the awesome that is was and always will be Hal, Hank & Harlan - Live At Charlie-O's World Famous - here's the drip-tray detritus of delights folks. The sludge that didn't make it outta town on the shirt-tails of it's elder cousin. Hahhaaa. Might only be about half the pitcher full of it's elder sibling of staggering swagger but it isnae any delusional spritzer or filigree filler. Rockabilly fused honky-tonk, sweetly blossoming swing and twinklin' country two-steps from every groove amid hover-heeled harmonies, mood-mooning pedal steel and George Jones with salty-soul vocals, can these cats lay out an authentic table as they collide into and intermingle with those idle patrons who loiter over the window menu with false discernment in tingling scintillating manner. Indeed. P'raps as only veterans can but also it's kinda apparent these weren't no rank & file from the get go, seen not least in Al Lemery's well-toned (if not tongued) & tasty Telecaster trickery. And as a mark of how attuned and viscerally connected to their trade they are, the originals here don't so much stand shoulder-square with the covers, they blast new belt-buckles and smelt the precursors into spare spurs for extra kick. And that includes such vaulted & venerated pillars of sobriety like Ubangi Stomp, Workin' Man Blues and Mess Of Blues alongside lesser lights on the ever-sparkling dashboard like Link Davis' Trucker From Tennessee. Simply put I'll a splutter into saying these guys just fucking sizzle. Get me a ticket for an aeroplane, maybe I'll take a fast train. Fuck foreign policies with a sprightly pincer movement or two before elevenses just sit and think for a second & that of any given Saturday these boys are braising some bar in Boston or Vermont while over in some Texan hooch-hut Two Tons Of Steel (who incidentally, also possess a chap who creates new sites ripe for construction out of a 'mere' Telecaster) are doing similar. Buy it now or i surely WILL have a bloody hammer. In the mean time allow these guys to hammer your mind out.
Stu Gibson
Jimmie Vaughan - Plays Blues, Ballads & Favourites

So another year another Vaughan vamping-up of classics from the blues assembly lines, eh? Maybe so but he manages it all with the much-vaunted smoky swagger that hurtled his hide outta Austin in The Fabulous Thunderbirds quite a few stratospheres as well as 'caster's hence. The classy slink never seems strived for, or even summoned, or countenanced, it's just there filtering in through his atmosphere as he slopes and skulks through Roscoe Gordon's Just A Little Bit (several saloons away from Jerry Lee's version), Charlie Rich's Lonely Weekends, his own Comin' & Goin' and fellow Texan Doug Sahm's Why, Why, Why or the closing time spicy reflection as Bill Willis' leads 'em on down through a genially genius rendering of Willie Nelson's Funny How Time Slips Away. Relish the tart, staccato guitar bursts along with the libidinously funky, struttin' arrangements wherein strident upsurges of brass and ball-blastin' sax replenish your glass and fire up the flash, as the JRV saunters along at the head of the class pausing to slur a slew of lectures on cattin' around while long-term cohort Lou Ann Barton provides beau-bastin' vocal assistance on several tracks. Always a song-centred interpreter rather than any painstaking aural mini-gun on the note-staking, the attention here is the Texas strut hunkering down with N'awlins shuffle. Casual, cool as you like, or would like to be, they may seem shrugged-off insouciant, nonchalant shoulders but there's a reason why this guy's rap-sheet casts him as no slouch. While slightly short of sublime, as genre records go, this guy assuages the wages of wailing and ailing in his own gauges .
Stu Gibson
Niagara & The Hitmen - St. Valentine's Day Massacre
Steel Cage

Australia ducks down in arid Dresden-deserts with Detroit ramalama on this maelstromic reunion of sorts. It all links in with vamp Niagara being 'er from Ron Ashetons post-Stooges motor city mob-hands Destroy All Monsters and Dark Carnival while The Hitmen are the long-standing trench-snipers centred on ex-Radio Birdman gattling-guitar gouger Chris "Klondike" Masuak. They'd all crossed paths in '91 when Dark Carnival trekked the outback then this hook-up when Niagara was in town at an art show. That little titbit and a(nother) sullen slew of Stooges songs isn't that tantalising a prospect, hinting at slovenly, aimless, desultory plods to pad out time masquerading as majestic drones from camp psych on high. But there's some pedigree here, right? Ayuss, & more. Cast aside all, or, a distinct salvo anyhaps, of presumptuous aspersions of getting mired in an endless motor city traffic jam as there's a fearsome slaughter gonna stain yer seats here. P'raps Niagara's shriek ain't for all ears - reaching it's peak of ear-scraping-with-razorwire rattle on TV Eye - and she isn't as ennervatingly engagingly loopy as a Texacala but the couple each of DAM songs - their noted Bored aswell as notable polemics from The Runaways elder devil-sister on You're Gonna Die and Anyone Can Fuck Her along with the closing brace from the bullet-belts of the Hitmen in the svelte speed-jitter shapes & japes of Another Lost Weekend's sprightly new wave nihilism and Death By The Gun - debateably the best two tracks here - along with a coupla vids for your multimedia pleasure (oh, and a open-topped, loose-lipped crawl through someone's underbelly secreted at the end) make for a pretty damn slobberin' n' grubby album. As they should be.
Stu Gibson
Arty Hill And The Long Gone Daddys - Montgomery On My Mind
Cow Island

Unless you've been unearthing new realms for mankind to travel to in star systems not discovered yet you might have noticed that over the years there's been one or thirty-four covers, tributes to, and piss-all-overs (yes, Wildhearts throw your blow-hard work onto a large fire) to Mr Hank Williams. This laid-back and loving celebration from cow'n'tree maestro Hill and his hound-dog gang (already named in their subjects honour you'll have noticed) stands and will continue to do so like a whole desert of cactii for many a year, blue moon, midnight howl and cold-kissed dawn. A self-penned trio of ditties neatly intersperse the five Hank songs, or songs associated with sir. Church On Saturday Night sets the scene with a twist on a tale of the times before the restless train shuffle of Pan American, the restless heartache rustle of I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You) and bar - and belle - hopping I'm A Long Gone Daddy rounds of the first roll of notes. The western-swing pedal steel of Don's Bop rejoins you for a further round before lurching into Lovesick Blues and a resolute rye-bred rampage through Take These Chains From My Heart, leaving the final, self-writ title track lament to leave a tempting remnant in yer glass, quite possibly (implausibly you may presume?) the best hat-hugging song here. To directly mis-quote Paul Westerberg set me up volume two of these.
Stu Gibson
Teri Joyce - Kitchen Radio

Austin songwriter oft-touted for the being the hand behind Marti Brom's Blue Tattoo amongst a truck-stop of others. No little feat that, but here she tops that and tucks fourteen tales from her fingertips related in her own neat and sweet tones, not unlike Laura Cantrell, but with personality and force of classic country queens from Dolly to Loretta. Sweet does not mean a saccharine and schmaltzy schtick is here to suck on. Such valiantly classy masterclasses across country trails and honky-tonk hangouts may not end up on trial for forcing the talentless Nashville neanderthals into the Tennessee's detritus but such fine collections are worth tracing to their source. This self-release is distributed through the faultless Cow Island label and doesn't derail their destiny to be an endless cross-continental railway hauling the mysteries of country that would be locked in a nuclear bunker disguised as a cowshed by the crooked accountants that dictate taste to the millions of musically-challenged one bit. Amidst the honky-tonkin' there's acoustic-pluckin', front-porch torch ponderings (the beautiful Bluebonnets For My Baby) and bittersweet backdoor balladry (The Party After The Party), all too realistic nostalgia for variation on the airwaves on the title track, western-swing such as on the glorious advert for Austin's tourist board that just about surpasses Bob Wills' Southern eulogy / whitewash That's What I Like About The South on Austin, Texas, U.S.A., itself followed by a wondrous tribute to Tammy & George on Let's Stop Singin' This Ol' Song (the duet theme is explored later on the sumptuous, stumblin' ballad Fifteen Minutes Of Shame) and elsewhere whole fields yet to be harvested of wooin', woeing and woozy carousing whether the bonhomie beer-on-me stomp of Belly Up or the Dolly-hollerin' closer It Can't Be True. There's howls and good times among the heartaches and grist generally stored for the maudlin mills - the tributes are loving and playful expositions with plenny verve and aplomb not trite pastiches to paper over pitiful examples of inspiration-lacking. A welcome if not long-awaited debut.
Stu Gibson

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Josiah - Procession


After three albums, British power rock trio Josiah announced a breakup, and leader Mat Bethancourt moved on to the garage-rocking Cherry Choke almost immediately. (He also leads the acid-soaked Kings of Frog Island.) But Josiah had one more album in it before the end, and this is it. Bethancourt and his cohorts don’t do anything different than they’ve done before, but they don’t need to – Procession is definitely a case of not trying to fix what ain’t broken. Josiah preaches the gospel according to Blue Cheer, with a couple of chapters from the books of Foghat and the MC5, and keeps to the letter of the divine law. Fat riffs, thundering rhythms, macho (but never obnoxious) vocals, tube-frying leads – it’s all here, played with the love and spirit of true believers. Cue up Malpaso, Thirteen Scene and Looking at the Mountain for some righteous kicks – the band is heading down the long gone highway in a blaze of fuzz rock glory. How Small Stone missed Josiah all these years remains a mystery.

- Michael Toland

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ricky Warwick - York, Stereo, 13th April 2010
(pic of Ricky & Daniel Lucas by Rachel Hill)

'Don't know whether to believe in Johnny or Elvis
It's a tough decision when you're caught between Hell & breakfast' - Johnny Or Elvis

After last summer's pitiful turn out to see The Almighty leader with Supersuckers' Eddie Spaghetti, it came of scant surprise to see Manchester omitted from the tour schedule this Spring. Not to be waylaid by such vagaries off I trundled in suitably heroically stupidly inappropriate footwear to the tourist trap of York, little town of legend and walls to see the guy. In one of his many entertaining between song narrative snatches he expresses a certain irksome-ness about people always asking when The Almighty are gonna reform. Look, the man's solo stuff is leagues ahead of The Almighty, mixing their raucous sluice-gate battering rambunctious boogie as on Can't Wait For Tomorrow with deft reflective stories of personal and political trouble. There's much to delve into here for fans of myriad gospels of grease, grit and speed whether Motorhead, Nebraska-Springsteen, Steve Earle, Tyla or Social Distortion - fittingly he covers the latters Cash-companionable Ball And Chain with impressive local support Boss Caine (in another nice touch he also gets an audience member up to play a song with him after the guy told him he sings his daughter to sleep with it) - and heroes like The Jayhawks. Well-trod smooth grooves they may be but once again it's the honesty and grit, sincerity and soul that you don't simply sweat out that should be slaying far more than the old faithful here, sadly largely indulging him his solo stuff to hear Wild & Wonderful & Free & Easy. Resolutely unpretentious - no cod coarse-throated apron-string troubadour this - his introduction along the lines of 'My name's Ricky Warwick, I'm from Belfast and I'm here tonight to rock' should stand shoulder strong in stride with Johnny Cash's hallowed opening. His tale of writing W&W between shit-shrouded shifts on his dad's chicken farm, playing Hanoi Rocks stood facing the mirror and his dismissal of whinging writers having to get into a headspace instead of just feckin doing it ('even if you're doing the pots with one hand and holding the baby with the other...just do it') are told with such enthusiasm it's readily apparent Warwick's still a fan and such warmth should be winning over many more to the cause. Christ, he said before Ace Of Spades that Motorhead's Mr Kilmister should be about Warwick? Punching Thunder and closing rabble-rouser - a Sally McLennane for this decade of undoubted debacles no less - of Arms Of Belfast Town may demand it. For now, after last years BELFAST CONFETTI belter, we await what leading childhood heroes Thin Lizzy next year will do to his already uncontainable commitment.
Stu Gibson

Sparse whispers
Savatage - Still The Orchestra Plays On
Ear Music

This collection, as opposed to greatest hits - they disowned their first two albums - of the Eighties prog-metaller's should stand as the epitome of insipid, lifeless plodding deluges whose attempts at portentousness make ponderous seem absolutely scintillating. As fitting the age when it was de rigor to have an 'anthem' hailing the massing metal hordes who await in their tiny back bedrooms to rise up and so they unleash the sky-cracking call to arms of Power Of The Night. Then proceed to limply trudge through a morass of emasculating muso-meanderings that wouldn't sustain a termite never mind an army. There's non-ironic fist-clenching lumbering rhythms and sub Maiden riffing aplenty along with stilted Bruce Dickenson humdrum ham-dramatics that take tales of legions and venturing forth into the night (quite a frequent occurrence by all accounts) - and I'm sure a unicorn is mentioned somewhere too - far too seriously. Such that Ronnie James Dio would drool with amusement.
Stu Gibson

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Black Diamond Heavies - Alive As Fuck
Alive Naturalsound

Live swelter-belter from this monstrous moonshaftin organ n' drums devil-baiting pairing of hoodoo hoe-downers. Bristling with more grimacing grunt n'groan and swivel than any of their studio struts, live as hell as they themselves are, this tears up the terrain you're firmly acquainted with by one finger and toys with it, supplanting it with it's subtle restructurings and lessons in laying waste to whole swathes of sought after thoughts and pretensions to instigate instincts and replenish primitive powers. Catch is they possess 'em and you gotta get 'em tha fuck back. So ya gotta wade into this gutbucket dirt-ride and emerge reneged upon but covered in grotty glory. Recorded in a sweatpit in Kentucky on an ailing tape-deck this splices songs from A Touch Of Someone Else's Class and Every Damn Time and is guttural lung-suckin' preacherratic rumble-blues at it's grease-sodden best. A colossal grinding glut-fuck you'll gladly submerge yerself in. Only they and label-buddies Left Lane Cruiser do this 2-man white boy garage-blues grunk this convincingly, this coruscatingly and this calamitously deliriously. Filthy, furious fun, full of soul and fever and fleet-footed flurries to nowhere's with floozies and fantastical flights of fuck-ups - one hellride into hay & unholy water that can't be bottled for mass consumption. Consume & fuck mercy.
Stu Gibson

Flash Metal Suicide: Jason and the Scorchers

Jason and the Scorchers
Lost and Found

I'll wager my own statement--if you don't like JATS, you just don't like rock n' roll. Period. You really just secretly have this thing against rock n' roll, ha ha.

Anyways, Jason and the Scorchers seem perfectly suited for a Flash Metal Suicide writeup. Here you have a band that was way too country for the rockers, way too rock for the country guys, too punk for the country guys and rockers, and probably not punk enough for the punks--too much twang, too rural of a sound to reflect the urban decay and political disapprovement that most punk seemed to embody. But i'm sure that the hidden consensus was probably like, "aw fuck, these guys are COUNTRY, man. Forget it". Well, at least that's what i'm sure I would have said (minus swear word) when I was 7 when "Lost And Found" came out. I admit to having actually heard JATS only until a very embarrassing (my embarrassment, not theirs) much later point into their career. Never heard 'em back then. And to top it all off, the band's first album (and quite a good one at that) in about 14 years--"Halcyon Times"--was released just a bit before I wrote this tribute here in the futuristic sounding year of 2010. How's that for poor timing? Or I dunno, maybe that's good timing--undoubtedly there's at least a slight bit more of awareness that they're still out there making music.

Jason Ringenberg and his Scorchers had no political agenda, they just wanted to rock hard, but they also wanted to reflect the surroundings of their Nashville upbringing--unlike some bands that try hard to ape another region's sound ("the grass is greener" syndrome in music), here you have a band that sounds exactly where it came from, but with a much needed dose of speed and energy brought in from their love of growing up listening to punk rock; tapping into the inherent energy in three chord country and bluegrass. It just makes total sense. Here's a cover of Dylan's "Absolutely Sweet Marie" from 1983, a revved up four on the floor version:

That sort of genre bending is like a recipe for disaster as a band, if you want to sell records and break through to a wider audience, but thankfully, the band just always sounded like a band being true to their roots--seeing the parallels between the 30's and 40's rural music in the blues and country; the 50's rock of Sun Records, and even some of the rawness of the 60's garage bands that had dug up the primal sounds of the 40's and 50's that were lost in friendly radio oriented acts.

Despite being signed to a major in the mid 80's and toning down the raging rockers just slightly on subsequent records following their killer debut, "Lost and Found", it's hard to believe that JATS came up with this sound. It really sounds exactly like the Ramones mixed with Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. It's the sound that no one was demanding in the early to mid 80's; happily out of fashion and out of step with what radio and your average fan was after at that time. There were no synthesizers or fancy studio tricks--just a band plugged into amplifiers, and adding more traditional sounds like fiddle, piano and harmonica in place of all the fancy 80's studio embellishments (the producer of "Lost And Found" was Terry Manning--the producer of ZZ Top records...all those early ZZ albums holding up extremely well as no bullshit albums to this day). And considering that the band probably sold about as good or maybe less after the buzz of "Lost And Found", the band had found out that they were indeed alone in their ambitions. The closest that anyone got to this back then was Steve Earle and the Georgia Satellites, and while they were still probably too Southern rock oriented for most audiences, they were also far less rowdy than JATS, where they had some wider appeal to cross over to regular rock audiences.

When they did a cover song, they didn't just play it. They damn near did it better than the original. For my money, they were the best American rock n' roll band of the 80's. They fucking own this version of "Great Balls Of Fire"--the recklessness and menace even in a mid tempo chugger of a song is astonishing. They achieve what most punk bands couldn't even manage when they were trying to be angry:

When you talk about debut records that come out swinging, few can beat "Lost and Found". As the old saying goes, "you have your entire life to make your first album" (save for the "Fervor" EP in 1983 and the "Reckless Country Soul" release in 1982). And an excellent life it must have been for Jason and the Scorchers--youthful energy, drinking, living life to the max. But the continued lack of proper recognition for this album is mind boggling--you don't hear about it much even to this day--or I feel that it hasn't got the accolades in the capacity that other influential albums have gained in esteem. I really get the impression that the band must have got TONS of heat from the Nashville establishment.....most likely there was a hidden backlash against them. Their music was deeply rooted in the traditions, but it wasn't purely traditional--it was a youthful version of that tradition, and i'd be willing to lay money down that there were some high up old guarders that saw to it that the band had nothing to do with their avenues of promotion or even live venues that had an unofficial blacklist for the band. It would be interesting to ask the band if they'd felt that at all, some sort of hidden wall.

In the mid 80's, true, genuine rock albums were not in plentiful supply. Most of the acts that had established themselves in the 70's were making radically slick albums and had lost alot of steam both creatively and in frequency of release, and most of the newer bands that were establishing themselves in the 80's were changing to suit the trends that sold records. Hell, even Southern Death Cult/ Death Cult/ The Cult changed radically from a goth/ post punk band to arena rock band.

In the mid to late 80's, there became enough of an underground where labels like SST and SubPop and Touch and Go had acts like the Screaming Trees, Dinosaur, Didjits, Urge Overkill--all which shared a love of what widely became known as "ironic classic rock" (or people at least had slapped those bands with the ironic rock tag, perhaps wrongly), but JATS did what they did without any irony in the early 80's. There really was no underground for it, other than the dives and bar rooms that JATS lit up organically through one night stands that were played as if they were their last. It was straight up, the real deal. Maybe if they'd started out 7-10 years later, they'd have only had the indie labels to embrace what they were doing and would have been marketed or promoted to underground audiences, instead of the "little band gone big" thing of EMI pushing their albums. It's tough to tell. They weren't college radio darlings, probably because of the big money and big shot at the big time that they had on a major and on MTV. And I think that they were "insurgent country" before that ever was a legitimate term. Nowadays, they'd fit right in on Bloodshot Records or Yep Roc.....but there was certainly no real support for what they were doing other than a smattering of folks that loved their live show and were tuned into what they were doing. I don't think that they ever sold that much on the majors, and "White Lies" was probably one of their biggest singles.

And I don't think that most audiences particularly liked a frontman to wear a cowboy hat. It just wasn't the image that most rock audiences were after. Jason Ringenberg was basically saying, "hey, here's what we're about. Take it or leave it" (the pink suit on the front of the album cover screams Flash Metal, too, so the band wasn't without some pizazz). The band had just slightly of an 80's look--a bit of eyeliner, etc, but even the image probably baffled people. On the album's cover, guitarist Warner Hodges is rocking a mullet and a leather jacket with a hand on his belt buckle, drummer Perry Baggs is wearing a jean jacket, bassist Jeff Johnson looks like he's a cross between best man at a wedding and a waiter at a high end restaurant. I guess when you take that all into account, you had four different guys with four different images, which likely confused audiences, too.

The album itself clocks in at just over a half hour for 10 songs. There's no filler, there's no chance for boredom-- they kick the saloon doors open, pound down a drink, fire a few bullets into the ceiling as the piano player ducks for cover, and then leave as quickly as they made their mark. Side A, in particular, is the more rocking one. Opening with the one-two-three punch of "Last Time Around", "White Lies" and "If Money Talks", there's no debate about what the band is about--three chords, recklessness and attitude. But amidst all the attitude and speed, there's always a top notch chorus. And Jason even has said that their drummer, Perry, is a great writer. No doubt. He was the main writer of "White Lies", the big single off the album--and for good reason. It's incredibly well written. Check the middle bridge breakdown with the minor chord sequence:

The video itself is Cadillacs, late nights, bar rooms, women and gold leopard print suits, but also with a sense of humour. Jason's blue suit and leopard print cowboy hat is part car salesman via rock n' roller. They tapped into the absurdity of the mid 80's, but it doesn't seem dated even now. It just seems like they're in on the joke--a great, silly video for a silly video era. Alot of bands made really serious, "hey, we're trying to rock" type videos. This is a fun video about not believing the lies your lady is telling you.

Finishing out side A is a cover of "I Really Don't Want To Know", the sped up bluegrass infused "Blanket Of Sorrow", and the slightly introspective mid tempo rocker, "Shop It Around"--about a woman that shops herself around to every guy in town; providing also the title for the album:

"So shop it around, shop it around...
to every five and dime in town....
me i'll be found at the salvage store...
among the lost and found..."

Side B starts off with a blazing version of "Lost Highway"; a mere 2 minutes' worth. But as is the true test of a band, it's how a band steps away from the loudness and speed, and the next three songs do this. "Still Tied" is a slow country type number. I'd checked the credits thinking that it was a cover song, but it's not--it's credited to "Ringenberg". When you're sure something is a cover because it stands up with the cover songs as well, if not better, you know you've come across something pretty special. It's a true classic. "Broken Whiskey Glass" follows, and for the first while, it's a pretty guitars/ vocals song only. Then the full band kicks in and starts the party again, and it's still a pretty introspective melodic song, but with guts--excellent chord choices and excellent melodies. "Far Behind" is a slower, reflective acoustic rocker that wouldn't sound out of place on a Mick Taylor era Stones album; Ringenberg at this point, lyrically, still trying to leave that cheating woman behind (I spot a pattern here). The album finishes off with "Change The Tune", another rager at 2:39 long, but sporting mandolin embellishments on the bridge lead parts, and perhaps the best lyric to close out the record and sum up what the band were about:

"going down highways not lit so well....
now they're makin' it something that's easy to sell...
maybe i'm saying what I shouldn't tell...
'cause even your heroes are wondering what to say..."

Ringenberg is one of the most underrated frontmen in the history of rock n' roll; a case for the frontman with no guitar to direct nervous energy into; armed with just a mic stand and looking the audience straight in the eye---someone there just to rile up the audience and get 'em going. I've long maintained that to be a truly great frontman, you've gotta be part madman, part entertainer. Most of my favorite frontmen looked like they escaped from an insane asylum. You'd better lose yourself in the moment. Ringenberg does. And when you front the Scorchers, you'd better match the power of the band. Ringenberg also does this.

Warner Hodges is also one of the most underrated guitarists in rock history--what he'd done in the band perfectly fused the boogie, country and punk elements that helped define the band as a real legitimately original and unique band that could otherwise be called a "rock" band. If you'd ask me, the Ringenberg/ Warner axis is as good as any other in the history of rock music. They just did it in a different way.

Here's an interview from 1984 that really, I think, summed up their mission in music. Gotta love it--leopard print interior Cadillacs, absurd rhinestone adorned garb and all:

Live footage of the band about 17 years into their career:

-Ryan Settee

Great Rock'n'Roll Instrumentals Vol 2 - Just About As Good As It Gets

Further incidents across the rivers of rock'n'roll instrumentals from shore to shore as volume 2 rises on the horizons. So stop with the slouchin' about n' get up & unbreach the sea walls, let these tides in & never clean yer kitchen again while cards fall to play house evermore. So ya shouldsa know by now or never, on these superlative double-disc smatterings of fret fritter-flappering you get yer noted n' notorious like Duane Eddy (including the breezy devil-in-the-brevil Forty Miles Of Bad Road), Chet Atkins on scintillating form before he sucked seven souls out of country on One Man Boogie and a-slinging out such tremolo-teasin' on 1959's Boo Boo Stick Beat it can only be early wah-wah, note-takers, Dale Hawkins (the Suzie Q chap), Chuck Berry, Johnny & The Hurricanes and Bill Haley and the Comets - even if the songs aren't as readily called to the slayed parade ground of yer mind-grains as Reveille Rock (included here in succinct journalistic hubris), The Imps dirty dawg paw Uh Oh or Woo Hoo (the Rock-A-Teens original too). But there's also soft-lilt delights like The Fireballs foray into The Champs Tequila (The Champs appear here with the chicken-funkin' Double Eagle Rock) sippery by the name of Torquay, likewise Boots Browns slyly similar bouquet of Cerveza, Santo & Johnny's sublime Sleep Walk and one Bill Black (yuss, Elvis' original Blue Moon Boy bass-man) and generous supply of obscurities - the main one here strikes out at the end of CD1 with Muvva 'Guitar' Hubbard's brace of blues - the alias of producer Don Costa - but try Sil Austin on for size, or Red Prysock for that darn matter.
While an almighty stew here is served up by platters of mad-hattin' on the git-tar a-picken' there's the righteous slurry of slinky N'awlins sax peckin' to consider in this. More than a mere sprinkle for that matter. Juke joint jazz fits alongside the R&B n' 'Billy brigands just right without the uptight transition Britain's trad-jazzers stiffly took to. This 'ere is unbridled rambunctionality, from the Keymen on Long Tall Sally to Ace Cannon's sternum-straddling turns on Bill Justis' tantalisingly-titled Cattywampus. As well as Johnny's Hurricanes (who also roustabout with Red River Rock) there be a Lee Allen, a name maybe not rolling outta people's palates but the soaring squalls on Little Richard and Fats Domino should be seared into yer brain-stems (more will be with Sil Austin's Train Whistle, which, yes, does just that with squealing off-register sax for your 'citements). Well, he crops up here like a tornado for tea then typhoons yer spoons with desserts and don't forget ol' Duane Eddy's sax-a-scratchin between yer shoulder blades on stuff like Yep and idefatigably famous breezeblock bristles of sax n' twang blizzards to turn yer wailing innards into gizzards that can only (?) be Peter Gunn. Rounded off with The Rebel Rousers' The Zombie Walks and The Wailers' Tall Cool One shows how rarefied this ruckus is. Not just a blast of idle hands for guitar nerds or novelty Americana but a tray of brisk rockery for all gauges and gas-guzzling sages. Glorious. Stu Gibson

King Automatic - In The Blue Corner
Voodoo Rhythm

'They're convinced he's some kind of witch
He just has difficulty with his language' - Black Magic

Yup, the one-time drummer of French mental beat mariachi's Thundercrack* is still pretty much a full-blown lunatic on a one man binge through several instruments - namely drums, git-tar, organ, harp & snarl - and insinuations and, I surmise, an inclination or two (& ayuss, he loops 'em all together - check live clips**), howsoever misconstrued all the messily better. This is a frequently menacing, far-often funnier, melange of pop moments, rocksteady-cide and smartly conceived but splendidly ill-sired rockin' ricochets that spin it spans away from star-spangled cliche rickshaws. Discordant Dr Feelgood dosed up on the dying's adrenal dance-spasms, tormenting the new wave in the guise of The Cure alternating between 1979 and 1983 with a smudge of '84 on it's sleeve, tenement terror bubbles throughout spluttering up Hit The Road Jack getaway car mayhem after throwing The Lovecats down a stairwell skewered on a Headcoats seven-incher is a further step into the stratosphere. Centred around songs (it's not often lyric sheets are included in VR releases, and that ain't just cos this cat's French what with the Swiss honchos being a land of three languages - officially, but the sharp bet's are on for a whole slew more) rather than a rabidly affected assemblage of disembodying self-conscious madness this is a real rare treat, a tirade of insights into an indiosyncratic mind with a spendthrift's attitude to dispensing social commentary of the indelicately disconnected, with wicked hints & asides merely a sundry supplement. For every angular, ankle-grinder with the gentle bedside head-spannering manner of the Milkshakes' vapourising Fake Skinheads In Love ('He bought her a rose from the Asian shop...') there's an array of surreal Syd Barrett (I know that's as over-used as such 'n' such on speed but listen...) as lounge-lizard spy-pop like the beautifully bizarre Diary Of Horace Wimp hauled round town by The Specials to meet The Bristols' Fabienne Delsol of There Goes George, sinister inner-city ministrations on Staircase Serenade and There Is No Truth In The Night or the dour hip-flask in a bistro rueful murmur of Moodswings to the neat twist on the 'What's he building in there?' wonder at the weird neighbour of Black Magic. Truly wondrous. Ye'll be warpedly welcomed indeed.
**Here Comes The Terror video
Stu Gibson
Hipbone Slim & The Kneetremblers - The Kneeanderthal Sounds Of...
Voodoo Rhythm

Yabber bladdered & drool for yes Sir Bald Diddley, Bash Brand & Gez Gerrard are back in peak bleak-blitzing form to de-mob & dis-bland yer slate-black post bank bail-out blues. Once again the whole hoodlum hoo-dunnit is under the judiciously adjudged titling to follow The Sheik Said Shake and the thigh-slappingly splendid Have Knees Will Tremble (oh, and Snake Pit, but they obviously hadn't quite got their stride yet at that stage). Fifteen drain-piped, Hawaiian shirted riff-tide surfers, stardust cowboys n' witchdoctors of many a pin-stripe and star-barking descent slide stompin' and strutting through chicken shacks like yardbirds let loose hounding bird-dogs into corners all surviving on diets of hazy bad things, ripped out to belly dance shimmying through your back-alley barbiequeues where you can catch Duane Eddy & John Lee Hook whether Chatham (whence these cats share an ancestry with that Childish feller) or Chattanooga. Sure, they be forged from well-used templates but 'twas always so. And yuss, it does have to be this way. Rule is sonny, you can use all the authentic equipment ripped from some mythical desks in a shack that had accidental acoustic properties that acolytes get slack-jawed & sloppy...limbed and worse about, you like sorta still have to be way-a-good else you sound like some ex-trad jazz Brit rockabilly wannabe in 1957. Funny 'ow times change ain't it, eh? Similarly, you can paint a Grestch Country Gent with black paint from an authentic B&Q store, bung the fucker through 3 wah-wahs & 17 cheapo Boss distorto boxes but you ain't gonna sound like remotely Mary Chain. So spin this sprightly concoction & all its convocations to non-Blighted sounds with unbridled spirit. Aplenny.
'Cider Sheik' Stu Gibson

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Lee Harvey Osmond - A Quiet Evil

'I live with thirteen dead cats,
A Purple dog that wears spatz - they're all living in the hall...' - I Can't Stand It

Swamp-ladled, sultry noir tucked into silky negligees, running the Nebraskas of your central nervous system back & forth from Mexico to somewhere west of Montana via Montreal, featuring the Cowboy Junkies' Timmins trio. No mere rifling through sidewalk regrets & backseat sediment this, though. It definitely isn't a trip to the same straits and street corners, though these creepy tendrils of songs find the same languidly insistent footing with eerie pedal steel & Michael Timmins understatedly tense pyroclastic guitar beneath & beyond Andy Maize's whispered, half-spoken narratives, forged from vampire tongues and alligator teeth. Sure, tales of the neglected and nefarious from badlands boulevard isn't a new musical estuary but tis a richly luxurious one to plunder when you're equipped with the right kit. There's an effortlessness that flows naturally with no constraints of plastic hipster Waits-wannabe's. It has the same addictively cloying, oppressive but airy ambience that JJ Cale oozed, before Nazi mangler Clapton neutered it. And if the one Timmins credit Angels In The Wilderness - with the exquisitely mellifluous vocals of maid Margo - resembles the orphan child of Miles From Our Home's closing hidden track then that is by no means detrimental. The total opposite, especially factoring in that you don't want for Margo's velvet vocals elsewhere, though she appears on torch duet I'm Going To Stay That Way, mirroring the duets in the Junkies catalogue. While it shares the Cowboys' characteristic quietly insinuating broiling sinistrations this is more the big city blues, as on the smokily sumptuous Lucifer's Blues, steaming street hoodoo hustle of Cuckoo's Nest and beat-poetry stream of surreal on I Can't Stand It - a sort of update of Who Do You Love? - rather than the desolately acute outback bleak, reigning in their more long-winded interludes. High lonesome in lowdown places.
Stu Gibson
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