Saturday, February 06, 2010

The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - ...and the horse you rode in on

'I hope that you catch syphilis and die alone...' - Stop!

Stop me, stop me, stop me, if you think you've heard this one before indeed could well be the main course here on first perusal, but how about that for an opening album, or any, line, eh, Moz? That this Chicago based bunch are close to a rampant pastiche of cringing indie hand-wringing but far surpass it is to channel it back across the ocean to, thematically at least, be reminiscent of Violent Femmes monstrous first stumble, is just testament to their intelligence and bitter brio of their black humour. With massive debts to The Smiths and especially Pulp, though it may be little surprise that leader Elia is Welsh-reared as they pull off with such dour and overwrought humour it could really be written in a bleak, broken down barn overlooking the Yorkshire Dales, or just Bradford. I Pretend She's You could pass for one of Jarvis's Babies surely, at least cause him to whistle harkingly while looking aghast over the top of his horn-rims across the restaurant even perhaps causing him to brazenly put down the menu he'd been nonchalantly blithering behind and bound over bambily and shower beard-crumbs their way. Mind you, they may just then sniff his armpit hair and offer their own deoderants. One Night Stand is a spliced coupling of Common People and Year 2000 but there's such lovely self-scouring scabrously scalding lyrics of squalid love, break-ups and downs and dour self-deprecating admissions of depression ('Oh Lee, maybe I'm going crazy / but I think I could love you forever...God I sound like such a sad bastard') and missives to pathetic lachrymosity ('Now me, I'm tearingup at 40s love songs / At Spector I lose it completely') mixed with athletic lyrical observational wit absolutely splattered with panache and plenty of side dishes - petri and other pathological platitudes - some beautiful female vocals (assumedly courtesy of Mary Ralph) recalling Max Edie on Nikki Sudden's Chelsea Embankment and that Whole Of The Moon song and splashes of violin adding deliciously wistful strains of a young Van Morrison trashing Wedding Presents that evenS the slight, last-ditch detour to some bar where Kaiser Chiefs rule the jukebox (Tear Down The Opera House) can't stop this being a wondrously bathetic whirl through someone else's misery guts.

'Think I'll bring down the government
But I'd rather go home and get back into bed' - Tear Down The Opera House
Stu Gibson
S.E.X. Department - Rock N Roll Suicide

Ok so they put an extra three seconds into thinking up their police outfit image but surely CC Deville doesn't need any help to piss on what paltry legacy Poison have/had. Yes, in this parallel dimesnion where trash-rock templates are traded in school playgrounds like football sticker books and cut-out-and-keep stereotypes of eighties hair-metal frogs are collected on backs of cereal boxes CC is an evil scientist responsible for this one-man clone army. But, the great twerp couldn't even inject any personality into this incarnation, never mind any other slanderous inferences. My imagination is aroused only so far as to relish the thought of what would have happened to the poor old dust-mite if he'd have walked into the sessions for I Remember You, which is what the power ballad by bumblers Back My Uniform sounds like. Sadly SD is actually a great deal better than much befuddlesome dreck that comes out the constipated colon of the curious escalation of cock-rot rock but still makes Brett Michaels seem like a genius. Hell, it makes Vince Neil seem soulful. If Chris Holmes pissed on their tour bus then they'd maybe get a column inch in National Enquirer, though it'd more likely be tears of hysterical laughter at Wasted In Texas's limp 'homage'. So, maybe you don't need Stax out of stack-heeled kak but until something contains at least a smudge of the effervescent excitement of Talk Dirty To Me, Love Drag Years or Girls, Girls, Girls then it's goodnight and good luck gang. There's nary a nasal hair of amusement here, all tongue and no cheek, what there is amounts to Sexy Cab sounding more like 'Sexy Cavities', perhaps analagous to the whole thing being like the old cliche of chat-lines helmed by senior citizens in place of the screaming for more teen-whore like a stuck recording of Christine Sixteen. Beyond pastiche. File under piles of other pap.
Stu Gibson
The Bottle Rockets - Lean Forward

'And I know when I look in the mirror and staring back is the reason
I just can't seem to get myself off the floor
And I know - I've done it all before' - Done It All

Umpteenth album for alt.americana sussed-up southern out-riders still tackling road tales of reminisce and regret whether the hot-railed Diddley bow of Nothin' But A Driver ('Cadillacs and Lincolns all day long I ride / Happy on a wage that may lead you to suicide - But I'm happier than you are'), drop jowls and be damned if Done It All ain't but the bleary eyeball rolling elder brother of Tex & The Horseheads I'll Quit Tomorrow with vitriolic blasts at global politics through local issues (Kid Next Door). Wired up with wry humour ('Hard times that's nuthin' / Hard times pass / I aren't broken down I'm just outta gas' or 'Been a mile high for nearly a week / It's gonna wear off below 1200 feet') ), tanked to all states of temerity and twenty-sum types of gas and gumption many can't gather let alone guzzle with many of the things that makes The Georgia Satellites and The Replacements s-s-s-still so lean and evergreen with lashings of Little Feat's bigfoot stomp and Dave Edmunds Johnnie Walker wisdom all round from opening diesel-incision The Long Way slugging it out with Skynyrd skylines and JJ Cale respectively on introspective Solitaire and warning in the darkness dawning closer Give Me Room, all showing that road hogs can grow weary but not grizzled - just gristlier. Thusly and of course an open-topped yussly, one sure fire-cracklin' scorcher, sirs, squires and missdresses.

'A short cut through Utah doesn't mean a bad trip..' - The Long Way
Stu Gibson
Nikki Sudden & Phil Schoenfelt - Golden Vanity
Easy Action

Recorded in 1998 in a Berlin bunker this prized artefact and very dusty relic from these two ex-pat troubadourin' English outlaws and ever elegantly delapidated dandies finally surfaces after being lost to all seas, several hues of smoke and scratched masters. A welcome resurrection from fabled dereliction indeed by Easy Action's songwriter imprint Troubadour as, virtues be extolled and hats liberally festooned with feathers for this is a free-flowing ship encompassing several aspects, strides and tides of Sudden's work. With no traces of the dread vanity project, the perhaps lesser-known Schoenfelt is definitely a partner in crime and no mere foil - equal if not moreso, though in a style less flagrant than old Jacobites compadre Dave Kusworth. Since that sparring partnership split asunder Sudden's solo work increasingly cavaliered across country straits only previously hinted at for better and worse (suffice to say that Wild Horses on mid-eighties curio Crown Of Thorns isn't the best cover version...(he) ever did), hooking up with REm minus Michael Stipe on 1990's The Jewel Thief and memebers of Wilco on '98's Red Brocade (whose Broken Door is here as Golden Door). Had it been released at the time, Golden Vanity would have marked a departure of sorts for the times, harking back as it does to those halcyon Jacobites days of Robespierre's Velvet Basement and ensuing solo work, especially its dark-eyed, hanging by a thread bearing.
Bookended and interspersed with the Mott-stomp n' Thunders-boogie bawl the Dollshouse down to the Velvet Underground of Hanoi Jane and Love Makes Her Shine and experimental noise shards Portcullis / Cullisport (see what they did there?) via midway ten-minute freeform marathon Jamboree Bag belying Sudden's earliest Swell Maps work aswell as Schoenfeld's apprenticeships in New York's early eighties art-rock scene with Lydia Lunch and Sonic Youth (as well as Nikki and brother Epic Soundtrack's love of Alex Chilton), it's the bedraggled balladry depicting tainted fairytales and fading dram-damned glambitions that are by far the more beguiling bounties to bear repeat begs from this banquet table. Out in the hall scurrying in and out the shadows of Crazy Horse-style gravel paths criss-crossing countryroads, Cloak Of Virtue, Hangman's Daughter and Angel Wings have them swapping verses, their distinctive decaying drawls draping round each others shoulders like Bowie and Ronson in shock-pop '72. Schoenfelt shares a similar disinclination for vocal exactness, intoning his narratives with a Nick Cave-type demeanour in contrast to Sudden's Dylan-y disposition. His wintry Waiting For You is both centre-piece and contender for centre-stage, its ashen rememberances more than a cursory cast-adrift dalliance, symbolising the resonance of this recording.
It may be a cliche in a class that some would stain at least one of this pair with but this serves as a fitting tribute as well as introduction and lost treasure trove for devotees. Acolytes will revel in eternal fan, naawww, veritable, proverbial electric courier Sudden being never more than a (blagged) round from unfurling his ragged roll-call of references. Whether the blatant vocal Bolan affectations, musical and, um, marital (Maria McKee once more receives mention as on The Jacobites Travelling European Blues) of Hanoi Jane or the love-ode to the Tyranno-Slider that is Bang A Gong as well as Cloak Of Virtue's lyrical allusion, nee steal, of old chum Mike Scott's All The Things She Gave Me, they're always endearing nods by which he's ever self-referential as well as reverential - ...Jane is seduced with the Going To A Go Go riff that crashed on the rocks of Texas's re-recording of Waiting On Egypt's Back To The Coast; Jack Ketch having more than the last lingering lung-rattle of the formers Death Is Hanging Over Me (a collaboration with recently deceased Roland S Howard) - as does, atmospherically, much ofd this recording - and Angel Wings resembles a more decadent Blond Angel from Jacobites late period masterpiece God Save Us Poor Sinners.
Throughout, it's a thrilling tilt and twirl to the edge, casting eyes over crumbling coastlines, brittle but boneshaking, bruised but unbuckled, scarred but effervescently soaked to the bone. A delightful glimpse into decadent antechambers cluttered with the debris fallen from stained scarves and sleeves singed on flickering candles and stark romances snatched from gutters of sidelong glances underneath someone else's stairs.
Stu Gibson
Ha Ha Tonka - Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South

'We're just under funded studies in our own mythologies' - Thoreau In The Woods

'Oh I know you buried the hatchet because you buried me right beside it' - Hold My Feet To The Fire

An ambitiously titled record if ever there was one and a concept one at that from these Southern countryskied, indie-neck college rockers, especially for one that has alarming elements of Kings of Leon along with its Wilco plaudits and, more lyrically than musical, Old 97's. The first at least can be levelled then insouciantly sloped off as soon as the surface is shaken even slightly by the darkly literate lava that resembles a less livid Gareth Lillard of The Drones and pleasingly doesn't trail off into 'I've read Wise Blood, me' American / Southern gothic typicalities. Sure, they share a vocal inflection or two with the blousy FollowBonototheHills boyos but bear the weighty furrows of thought not pouting pram-bashing rattle-trashing tantrums. Based on a novel (The Shepherd Of The Hills by one Harold Bell Wright) set in their own home regions of the Ozark mountains about a guy who secludes himself from city strife in the old hills, it's an intriguing and encompassing adventure that rewards perseverance. While cowpunk apostles will have scant pickings in its professorial study rooms there's still the grit of Drive By Truckers and bar-bait of The Hold Steady alongside gospel and revival garnishes with acoustic pickery, besides such discreetly thrilling song titles as Walking On The Devils Backbone, Hold My Feet To The Fire and Close Every Valve To Your Bleeding Heart delve into civil war, racism and uncomfortable questions and truths. Without the scholarly stripes the Kings of Leon calls may be more legion, though still undeserved.
Stu Gibson
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