Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Vintage Sleaze: Thor Live in Boston, 2005

*NOTE* - Thor is still alive, well, and touring. Check out Thor Central for info. 


THOR
Live, Coolidge Corner Theater, Brookline, MA.
8/3/2005

There was a long line of slightly creaky, 30-something punters in leather jackets and faded Venom t-shirts shuffling their feet and chattering incessantly about 1986 like it was fucking yesterday when Stacey and I arrived at the Coolidge Corner Theater tonight. What were all these faded glories doing out on a sleepy Wednesday evening? Waitin' for Thor, dude.
Eventually, a smattering of punk rock kids showed up too, but unlike Thor's grand old days of male stripperdom in the mid-70's, the only chicks in attendance were wives or girlfriends. But no matter. I mean, who needs the distraction? Thor's here! And so, the minutes ticked on, the sausage party continued, and the anticipation grew.

There was a skinny, Harry Potter-ish kid running around with a video camera, grilling people in line about Thor, Rock Warrior, while we waited.
Kid with camera: "How long have you been a Thor fan?"
Dude walking by: "About 20 minutes."

Turns out the lively lad was the director of "The Intercessor", the "sequel" (I say thee nay!) to Thor's 1987 blasterpiece of goofy, dimestore metal-trash cinema, "Rock N' Roll Nightmare". Tonight was the world premiere of the movie (well, the DVD, really), so he wanted to shoot lucky-us to get our reactions on this very special night. If you end up with a copy of the DVD and you look close at the 'premiere' footage, you'll see a scowling Sleazegrinder and an eye-rolling Stacey, directly behind the maniac with the mullet who calls himself Rodney the Invader, and who tells Harry Potter with no irony whatsoever that Rock N' Roll Nightmare is the "greatest piece of cinema I have ever witnessed".

It was at this point that I walked over to the ticket office, to make sure we were on 'the list'. We were. While I was getting the comp tickets, I run into Seth Putnam, from disgusto-grindcore legends Anal Cunt. I don't think Seth remembers my name, but he points at me and says, "Screaming Gore Guts", because that's the name of the fake-band he and I were in when we were 15. Significantly, Seth always leaves that one off his resume.
Seth recently suffered some serious, and much publicized, health problems.Luckily, he pulled through, mostly.
Me: "So, when you woke up out of the coma, what's the first thing you thought of?"
Seth: "I thought, 'I need a beer'."
Then all kindsa freeloaders showed up, so I split and got back into the line. Eventually, they let us in. Stacey and I snagged some bitchin' aisle seats in the balcony and waited for coming of the Intercessor.

Eventually, Benn Mcguire, the director of "Intercessor: Another Rock N' Roll Nightmare", bounded onto the stage. Benn's probably about 25, which would put him at about toddler's age when the first RN'R Nightmare was released in 1987. So, obviously, he's the guy for the job. I don't know if you've seen the original, but it was directed by John Fasano (who who serves as "associate producer" on Another Rock N' Roll Nightmare), and it involves Thor and his glam metal band, the Tritonz, fighting off a demon puppet on stilts and rubber starfish. It features a shower scene with Thor (!), a "rock" manager in an Archies jacket, a 'drummer' doing a really, really bad Australian accent, and a bunch of "Ghoulies" type creatures who show up for no reason at all every few scenes. It is lame-brained, hallucinatory, shamefully shoddy, and loony beyond all reason, and yet it is possessing of a certain goofball charm that makes you think it's actually worth seeing again. It's really not, but it's cult still endures.

The semi-sequel riffs on the final stick puppet devil fight in the original. See, Thor is some sort of emissary of the Gods, who "intercesses" on behalf of mankind, battling demons whenever they sneak onto Earth to steal a pure soul or two. If there is a plot, that's it. But good luck following the story, because "Intercessor" is a childish mish-mash of amateur hour geekery, so woeful in execution that they are gonna have to redefine the whole concept of "Bad Movie" after this one gets out there.

Briefly, there's a crippled kid named Harry (Brad Pope, who looks, and acts, exactly like a panicky teenage Iggy Pop hopelessly trapped inside a Thor movie) who wiles away his time in his aunt's basement crying and drawing crude comic books.

Eventually, the comic book creatures come to life and steal his girl, so he straps on a football helmet (emblazoned with the Tritonz logo!) and goes off the fight Thomas Thorne, or whoever the fat goth demon-priest is.

There's also Mephisto, the Four Horsemen, a buncha bank secretaries playing "The Elements" (fire, water, etc), some little kid who may or may not be dreaming all this shit, and, very eventually, Thor, who tosses around the bad guys at the end. But no Rock n' Roll. Unless, of course, you count the soundtrack, which blares loud rock music constantly, enough so that it steps on all the dialogue. This is not very helpful, since much of said dialogue is spoken in echo-heavy 'demon voices', which are already difficult to understand. There's also plenty of cheap-jack, in-camera 'special effects', which wouldn't have looked all that special in 1985, never mind 2005. Come to think of it, the whole thing looks sort of like Thor's '85 video for "Knock 'Em Down", only without the big-breasted demon girl. Or any kind of girl, really.


But hey, "Intercessor" is billed as a comedy, so maybe it's all on purpose. Maybe. On the positive side, the film does feature Canuck street metal champs Goathorn in a cameo as egg-throwing stoners, and things do liven up considerably whenever Thor shows up, so it's not a total loss. But in an age when even videogames are 'X' rated, it just seems kinda silly not to have any exploitive elements in an exploitation film, and personally, I'd treat a rock legend like Thor with more respect then this film does. I mean, if you've got a 20 year old girl playing somebody's elderly aunt, you've pretty much blown your mission.
Anyway, a prequel is in the works, so what do I know?

After this epic of a metal-movie, there was a ten minute intermission (an intercession?), so I trundled out into the hallway to buy one of those bitchin' "Keep the Dogs Away" t-shirts. They were sold out of XL's, tho. Not just in that design, but all of 'em.
Lady selling t-shirts: "Do you want a medium instead?"
Me: "I seriously don't think so."
Note to Thor's merch people: when 80% of your audience is over 30, seriously, you're gonna need more Extra Large t-shirts. Trust me.

So no shirt, but dude, I picked up a copy of the AnThorlogy DVD, directed (well, compiled, really) by Frank Meyer, Mr. Streetwalkin' Cheetah himself. The DVD features vintage Thor clips from the mid-70's to the mid-80's, including a jaw-dropping segment from the Merv Griffin show in 1976, where Thor strips down to his underwear while singing a lounge version of the Sweet's "Action"! Obviously, this is an essential purchase. But I digress. After a few tense minutes, Thor's drummer (I forget his name, but it's the same dude he used on the "Unchained" album back in the 80's) walks onto the stage. He's got like a big wrestling belt over his paunch, and he's wearing some sort of Rumplestilskin boots. He looks like a cross between Gary Glitter and Mortiis. He's fuckin' awesome.

Dude behind Stacey: "That's GOT to be the roadie."

Joke's on you pal, he's the drummer. So, he sits down and the smoke machine kicks in. There's some short-haired punk kid on bass, and an aging flash metal shredder from Florida on guitar. They start jammin' on "The Coming of Thor", and in a puff of smoke - that's right - Thor comes. He's wearing a chest plate and swinging a sword, and when he sings (well, bellows, really), he keeps changing masks and helmets, some of which hang comically askew off his head. I think back to the first time I interviewed him a couple years ago, when he told me that "They love it when I wear the hideous masks", because here he is, wearing 'em, and goddamn it, I love it. Seriously, I haven't seen a performer pour it on like this since Dee Snider - Thor is in this 100%, Jack.

The band bangs through that Tritonz song, "We like to Rock", or whatever it's called from the original movie, getting everybody to sing along. Then, when it's time to play "Invader", Thor brings the mullet guy, Rodney The Invader", onstage. He says, "This guy named himself after this song", which makes you think he's gonna play a song called "Rodney", but no. Later on Thor brings Seth Putnam onstage, too. He grabs Seth's cane and says, "Maybe this will be my new hammer!" He asks Seth to "Do a number" with him, but then abandons Seth once the song starts. That was a little weird. Seth limped off stage and sat back down, and Thor launched into "Strange Lantern" while swinging around a purple lantern - the kind that kills bugs, I think - and pretending to look around for stuff. I forget it if it was during that song or the next ("Thunderhawk"), but at some point a bunch of zombies stormed the stage and Thor bounced 'em off his belly. Then he wrapped the mic stand around the neck of one of the zombie/merch dudes.

And so it continued. Thor brought out the steel bar. "I'm going to bend this, but do you know WHERE?" he asked, suggestively. The crowd yelled stuff, as crowds do. "My ass?" Thor yelled, hopefully joking. "My balls?!" No, Jesus. "How about...." Thor points to his teeth, and everyone applauds.
I don't wanna give away the ending, but the feats of strength went on, as did the searing rock n' roll. The band did a furious encore of "Knock 'Em Down", and Thor suddenly sped off the stage. Thirty seconds later, he was out in the hallway, signing autographs and answering inane questions about the starfish in Rock N' Roll Nightmare. But he suffered the fools lightly, like a true rock hero does.

Ok, so I really could have done without the Intercessor jive (the trailer would have been plenty), but Thor's performance was worth the wait. The guy gives his all, every time, and it's almost impossible not to get caught up in his gleefully loopy cartoon world of muscles, metal, and masks. Everybody needs a hero, right?

-FIN-

-Sleazegrinder, also a Rock Warrior of some renown.

Ben Wild And The Wild Band

My Baby Say No
American Music Connection

Rockabilly's venerable tradition (of sorts) of shaking out storm-tossed renditions from the book of popular song, such as Number Nine's un-surmountable Hey Joe, The Hot Rod Gang's stainless Tainted Love (also included here) or The Tailshakers spare no-one wipeout of Ever Fallen In Love?, is taken a shimmying step further by this German combo. Nestled amidst the seven headed monster of their fine and far superior, composition are covers of preposterous pop parade fodder, though prepare to be surprised. Overhauling the sagging undercarriages of Prince's Kiss, Kylie's Can't Get You Out Of My Head (indeed one original is 'Ode To Kylie Minogue') and, somewhat lesserly, Britney's ...Baby One More Time mutates them into seductive mambo's with serious shake appeal. Tongue-in-cheek finger-poppin' fun is a dandy bop, especially with a title track that could rival the king of cut-throat smut ol' Chuck his-very-self but how many times you'll return to 'billy-bullying jaunts through Smells Like Teen Spirit mixed with theJames Bond theme or Wonderwall, despite Wild's laudable larynx and his cohorts dextrous spirals of Luther Perkins picking and Bigsby shine, er...God only knows?

- Stu Gibson

Bruce Dickinson - Flashing Metal With Iron Maiden And Flying Solo

Joe Shooman
Independent Music Press

With a CV that reads like an advert for a renaissance man of runway and rapiers as well as rigor mortis-inducing touring schedules, legendary metal maverick and live wire flight lieutenant Dickinson is definitely not a fence-sitter. Whilst still being something of an awestruck hagiography, 'tis a sprightly tale told in a pally fashion like a collection of anecdotes and asides from the bar, and being unauthorised at least means Shooman scurries around the obstructive stage scenery of the earlier "Run To The Hills" band biog prior to soundcheck and rakes up some bad blood congealed in a thin crust of dirt and ill-feeling behind the famously, and admirably, staunch walls of castle Maiden. Tedious tales of debauchery are laudably left as mere filler to concentrate on the music but, while our valiant author indulges inexplicable bouts wherein he flippantly exercises the privilege of a scribes' prerogative - i.e. "Piece Of Mind" is superior to "The Number Of The Beast"!"£$%^&* - it does read at times like the very thing Dickinson (or Paul Bruce Dickinson as Shooman persists in referring to him as in chapter-end round ups) left Maiden for - that of new year / album / tour with the odd bit of free-time activity thrown in. So disregard the slight back-of-tour-bus air of a This Is Your Life back-slapping session, as an overview of the drive as well as the talent needed to attain even half the dizzying heights of the subject this is a worthwhile book that even a cynic can walk away from with renewed respect for the diminutive dynamo above and beyond his almost self-caricature of impudent public schoolboy brat. Scream for 'im Reverb.

- Stu Gibson

Spear Of Destiny

Grapes Of Wrath
Anagram

Originating in London's squalid post-punk squat scene from the ashes of many lost legacies, most notably main-man Kirk Brandon's Theatre Of Hate, this particular Spear brooded beneath lacquered fringes rather than the pierced sides of religious icons. Splicing through the great pop / goth divide as The Mission would do a few years hence, these would-be epic takes of portentous possibilities and malingering longing certainly contain a panoramic spaghetti-western sweep - saxophones to the fore on isolated salients of splendour, tremoring tom-toms rebounded from The Cure's colossalPORNOGRAPHY, and spiney guitar lines like cobwebs fluttering in the wake of a ghostly presence. It may be coincidence that this Spear Of Destiny Mk.1 featured their ex-drummer but it does come across like The Thompson Twins' dour doppelgangers at times, which, on majestic opuses like Flying Scotsman and The Wheel is no bad thing, as Mike Scott wafts on the wind and waves, amidst Bryan Ferry's mystic pouting circa AVALON (Aria) and Ian Raspberry's histrionic Death Cult tribal dramas like The Preacher. Alas, the 80's soft-core production lets things down a bit and brooding can too often be mis-read as plodding. However, for a fence-sitting finale, 'tis a handsome deville of a reissue indeed, what with eight whole, if not entirely wholesome for the musical soul, extra tracks making up the entire recorded hymnal of Brandon's first step into a destiny still doing the (ghost)dance, though one he discarded almost as quickly as it arose, gathering a new clan for their second album...grapes of wrath indeed.

- Stu Gibson

W. Axl Rose The Unauthorised Biography

Mick Wall

Whence on Guns N'Roses' rise to world if not solar-system conquering superstardom on the way to the frontman's weary resignation prior to the disillusioned reclusion, author Wall had the ear of the diminutive and vituperative Rose by any other name. Having experienced at first hand the evil goblin's paranoiac wrath, childish conspiracies and all-encompassing desire for ultimate control over the arbitrary and asinine, Wall delves deep into the shadows of this elusive wraith's psyche, thus illuminating an involving, suitably sprawling, story sympathetically though decidedly, and laudably, not all-forgivingly told. Isolated by deep-seated insecurities and issues stemming from an abusive, repressive childhood, that only stagnated under the spotlight of success before exploding into some astral seizure like a Phil Spector or Michael Jackson of rawk, Rose's really is a story that demands to be told and indeed almost tells itself if not screams itself hoarse, and is one Wall's exhaustive research and use of his own unpublished interviews can but broaden.

Thankfully never descending into crass amateur psychology nor tabloid make-believing frenzy the reader can discern their own theories about this folly of the quest for truth and sanity that seems to be the main metaphor of the entire Chinese democracy debacle.

- Stu Gibson

Skeletal Family

Futile Combat
Anagram

So being forlornly forgotten in the general scheme of things may be oh so achingly GOTH, what? as is hailing from West Yorkshire. However, this rather less sinister than some other families that may spring to mind on a speed-drilled bass-line, are all this and more. Sweep the obvious, but patently flawed, comparisons to early eighties Siouxsieinto a pile of sackcloth and ashes, helpfully provided by your friendly porter, looking remarkably like the shadow that inhabited one Andrew Eldritch circa 1985, when this debut was released. Sinewy guitar slime dripping from cathedral ruins, taut Achilles tendon basses bulging under paisley shirts, icily strident Iceni battle-cry vocals atop frantic drumming surges through soaring verses culminating in out-of-body choruses that put any accusations of fey, goth arpeggio-pastoralism to the funeral pyre. Yeah, they had a female frontispiece-person, but in staring-out Bauhaus' In Fear Of Fear in the sax-stakes onHands On The Clock and Move and managing to stay steadfastly in trench-slime without getting wrapped up in eighties production falsehoods, whilst unleashing a disco apocalypso rush pretty much throughout, snapping at patron Eldritch's Sisters Of Murky's purse stings like Alice and Body Electric...and, in What Happened?, providing possibly the most bizarre turn-around in recent recorded history, it being a chirpy pop ditty of the type Colonel Bob Smith is most-noted for, other than the utterly bizarre rendition of Stand By Me, one of four bonus tracks here, begging and pleading in it's spoiled underwear for twinkling Top of the Pops baubles and balloons. And all before the whole goth subterranea got overly swamped n' shrouded with paler than the pale beyond imitations of The Sisters too, still occasionally clogging up Camden and cradles of wilted survivors cocooned elsewhere too. Suitably cold and clammy it may be but forgo the ritual denial of goth's lesser lights and forge a shiver through yer bones. Forthwith.

- Stu Gibson

The Cranes

Wings Of Joy Forever
Cherry Red

Named for the not-so eloquent cranes littering the mid-eighties skyline of their native Portsmouth, siblings Jim and Alison Shaw created a bleak but intensely beautiful tapestry of enchanting song of a like literally not heard before, since or ever again. Ranging from piano-led watercolours to ugly fragments of torn and terrifying cerebral canvasses like the accused Jack The Ripper artist Walter Sickert and deftly defying categorisation, Alison's indecipherable whisps of lisped lyrics and shards of anguish shimmying through the dervish dirges like sirens luring you beneath gilded lilies caused as much bemused malice as they did fervent admiration upon their initial release. No doubt these reissues will do likewise but these are swirling waters worth plunging into, drowning in even, to find the stillness at the other side. Guitars scrape, maybe mirroring the mechanical creak of those cranes, but actually seem to be extracting aural DNA from your marrow and reconstructing the structures of your soul, pianos may ripple but any real tranquillity is subsumed in their tendril-like clasp.   Oddly medieval at times in atmosphere, far more sinister than maudlin or morose despite sometimes sounding like aural unravellings and descents into despair, cathartic trance-dances, seances and witch-trials spring forth like from the unlawful opening of a sacred ancient text wrapped in the billowing folds of a peasant girls garb, while an unholy dread tension holds sway in every pounding beat, resembling the wretched heartbreak of a bereaved Victorian heroine or the tremulous step along unhallowed hallways, whether of silent film or sadistic psychosis.

Both come with a veritable slew n' slurry of bonus tracks from non-album releases, and are both transcendental, completely captivating and in full debut WINGS...an essential-ness of a rare (dis)order by virtue of having the unutterably stunning singlesTomorrow's Tears and Adoration along with the absolutely freefalling death drive torment of Sixth Of May. FOREVER, being slightly less sprawling, with an eastern, desert wind feel to it shows a discernible, though not detrimental, influence of their time touring as support to The Cure (see adorable single Jewel), following that debut. No one's saying you have to swim the same deep waters but this is truly music from somewhere beneath the air, as Yeats and Blake may have had it.

- Stu Gibson

The Generators

The Great Divide
People Like You

Glory be! This sixth shooter from these L.A. street rollin' punks sure is one classy chassis set to dazzle as it drifts by, cocksure, caustic and encroaching welcomingly that personal space close to your heart while crunching out cartilage-crinkling coruscating cavalcades of adult angst. Though still proudly displaying influences such as Social Distortion and Bad Religion they're now at the apex of their own self-appointed style. For those aren't lightly acknowledged inspirations. Doug Dagger and his equally deftly / daftly monikered platoon voraciously plunder once more the eternal streams of strife and struggle and these tracks pack huge maelstroms of undiluted emotional resonance. Tough times related without lecturing, the truth evident in the passion pounding through this album that is far more like Mike Ness in defiance and faith than comparisons with Dagger's vocals. My Best Regards and I Stand In Doubtstrident with scarred but not screwed dark edges like if thePsychedelic Furs had kept their avant-punk roots but evolved into a rock'n'roll beast not kimono and slipper wearing MTV parodies. Not sure we need another punk-a-long-a version ofPaint It Black as literally every song, particularly the country-tinged A Turn For The Worse, ska-knees up What I've Becomeand closing rebel-rouser I'm Still Believing, is a genuine stand-up classic, broad-shouldered and ready to be counted out for punk record of last year.

- Stu Gibson

Matt Woods

Attack Of The Killer Twat
Winston Records

For those who've had their fair fill of winsome singer-songwriters this twenty-two year-old scatological troubadour of bad-taste and new-variant Tourette's diatribes would have the over-earnest, or just plain earnest, over-easy on this frantic, fifteen-minute campfire of sardonic, skiffly, acrid folk songs splodged out with the spongiform mindset of absurdo-metallers GWAR orAnal Cunt and the delicious ludicrousness of The Toy Dolls. Playing all instruments (Woods drums for Manchester squat-punk legends External Menace, and features in some form or other in various bands, including label-owners Barnyard Masturbator, of which this mini-album is the debut release), including kazoo and banjo, to lather lambasts against TV adverts (Waiting For Corrie), inadvertent superstars (Peter Andre Is A Twat, Jeff Buckley), and students (Smell Of Cool). Easy targets perhaps, but for all its totally un-pc, tongue-in-cheek ridiculousness - being simultaneously stupid and sublime withBilly Connolly's cutting edge eye for detail and Hammell On Trial's ire - it's also unutterably lovely and as daft as the proverbial brush. It's also very funny with an un-reigned frenetic genius at heart, not least closing George Clinton funk-rap Ninja Ronald. Sure to divide - depending on your sensibilities, you'll either be splitting your sides, or dying inside.

- Stu Gibson

Total Chaos

Avoid All Sides
People Like You

First new release in a air few years for these Cali-punks still strictly adhering to their street level retro-gutteric that's so for many a right reason. Formed at the cusp of the nineties in the face of the then ascending commercialisation of the genre they spout bitter social and political invective over rudimentary blizzards of sharp-tongued trashcan punk rock right from an early-eighties pit. Straight to the point barrages levelling accusations that politicians areProfessional Liars may be easily shrugged off in our apathetic age in a frenzy ior 'really' like Slayer telling us that religions suck and anti-war anthems (Send The Boys Home) said to be simplistic and sloganeering rants like Fuck The C.H.P. quaintly 'rebellious' but for an authentic punk-pit ruck this admirable rather than essential record'll see you just about right, especially on Dancing On Your Grave, No Loyalty and Don't Care Anymore.

- Stu Gibson

Spike

It's A Treat To Be Alive
Demolition

Stage-shuffling Quireboys frontman Spike knocked out a few solo records in the years between their mid-nineties demise and their reformation a few years back, but perhaps none as complete as this. As with the 'boys output since their 3/4 length masterpiece of a debut there's some workaday jam-a-thons elevated above by the man's ever astonishing rasp. Forget age-old, charity shop bargain basement comparisons to Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker, it's a voice more agile and soulful that can imbue fresh feeling and meaning into occasionally trite and clichéd lyrics, as the best vocalists can, and those two once did so well.

For the odd pub-rock plod like Rise Above there's wonderful bleary-eyed gritty grouse-abouts like Wins, Ties and Losses andWon't Ya Stick Around, and, acefully, where the Quireboys raucous bar-room swagger undeniably holds sway to The Faces, the late night, last chance balladry here on Have A Drink With Me, Without You and When I'm Away From You recalls more the heart laid bare elegance of Ronnie Lane than Rod's laddish posturing, and summed up on So Far So Good, all shot through with the hard-knocked humour belied by the word 'treat' in the title. I mean, you can almost replace it with 'champion'. Likewise in a humourous though heartfelt aside on True Friends he goes into What Happened To You?- the theme from Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads - in a lovely, lilting nod to his North-East roots.

-Stu Gibson

The Hicksville Bombers

The Prettiest Girl In The World
Raucous

Like the blues, honky-tonk and classic rock, in fact any style that's carved its own Grand Canyon size niche in music's core, rockabilly is always going to be crafted in approximation of the well chiselled cheekbones of silver screen icons by sharply dressed desperados. Currently enjoying another resurgence of popularity The Hicksville Bombers are one reason why this music will keep seducing new blood and causing unsuspecting pulses to pound with a V8 thrum.

Denigrators may carp that such retro attention to detail should be left in the fifties but play the Hicksvilles and any of their near contemporaries like The Crawdads, The Rhythmaires or The Tennessee Trio in comparison to a set like Proper's recent Classic Rockabilly and quickly disabuse them of such trite ideas. Originating around the Lincoln area and rarely venturing away from the Rockin' circuit this trio are a primo deluxe proposition straddling the bonnet-bucking bop-beat, country swing and midnight blues in fine voice and Brilliantined slinky strings.
While drawing indelibly on the Sun sound such sad-eyed, self-penned titles as Weather Baby, Don't Let Me Face The Rain andWithin These Four Walls show the superficiality and fallacy of simple likenesses. Easily standing collar to collar, if not tower over, classic I've Changed My Mind, these are articulate laments in best Buddy Holly or Felice and Boudleaux Bryant manner that smoulder like Rick Nelson (indeed, Get Out Of My House could be a cold kiss-off to Hello Marylou), while some brazen fuel-consumption boogie breaks bail on Hey Judge, drinking I've Got A Problem, Moonshine Mama and comic-strip caper of jack the lad cool cat Johnny Valentine.

Well worth blazing a trail to a hick town of your own shaking, stirring full-house slamming on table causing drinks to spill invention.

- Stu Gibson

Fabienne DelSol

Between You And Me
Damaged Goods

Don't let the fact that this French national hopped over to the UK in 1996 so be-smitten was she with the musical climate of the time put you off sniffing out this absolutely lovely record. Sure, you may work hard to compress this into a country metre never mind mile, yet its acoustic driven strides have a folksy, country strum at their lovelorn heart. They're just filtered through a sixties swirl, such as the keyboard kazoo sounds on the otherwise wistful waltz of Leave Her For Me, the suitably spy-theme surf-shanty of Mr Mystery, the heavy hemp-smoke honky-tonker Pas Gentille and quirky ditties mired with garage dirt Loot and Bluebirds Over The Mountain.  However the French language Le Roi Des Fourmis is a wondrous creation, Merseybeat meets Motown stomp drinking with the Stones on downtime during the AFTERMATH sessions, and the title track surmounts even that seismic peak. Both vouc for the entire album itself, which is no disparagement to any of the rest, as it is assuredly not a reflection of the sixties by being mere filler. As it is it's all topped off with a sultry coo and curious otherworldly charm to rival the 'real' Holly Golightly.

- Stu Gibson

Built 4 Speed

Minor Part 2
Cargo

Considering the current kinda colossal craving for psychobilly and splatter-punk in some quarters it's all the more pleasing to behold that this debut full-length release from this German four piece (Part 1 being a seven song EP), co-opts traditional rockabilly and even a few cuts of classic rock rhythms with minimal coercion into a gothic, though not especially Goth, midnight ride through those furtive fantasies that always buy another round every time you make the move homeward. Back Again, So Cooland Six Feet Under demonstrate that applying a punk-y edge to proceedings doesn't necessarily mean suffering the usual squall of power-chords and terrace-gang choruses. Floating on a dreamy, evocative atmosphere of shimmering, supernatural vibrato, the ethereal air is mixed with earthy reality, especially on outstanding ballads Judgement Day and Suicide Girl that owe as much to Billy Fury as early Nekromantix. With mainman Johnny Don Vincenzo's voice like a man who's been locked out by his other half and stumbled into a lock-in, MINOR PART 2cruises it's own strip of eternal full moons with the sweet stench of petrol, cigars and red wine.

- Stu Gibson

The Peacocks

Touch And Go
People Like You

Appropriately enough The Peacocks know they're good. There's walking the walk and talkin' the talk but this Swiss trio stalk the balk line like bulldogs dosed non-stop on pep pills, pop skills and torn-up bills. Hell, even when they were tossing off the roughshod but ramrod early recordings they knew. But this isn't the idle swagger of your average indie rock amoeba or haughty art-rock suffering recluse but the intolerant gaze of a band that have toughed it out and have the talent to wrap some witticisms and battle-weary but beat-ready scars into their tales. Belief borne out of the blues, albeit buttressed and bound to the mast with the bubonic rock ballast. For The Peacocks are a union of classic rockabilly line-up with punk attitude and personable idiosyncracies (e.g. Kind Word Don't Butter No Spuds) with pop nous without being either lightweight nor a Green Day / The Living End - which makes them a proposition wholly worthwhile bearing witness to their fans-spreading.  

- Stu Gibson

Mad Marge And The Stonecutters

Liberated!
People Like You

What's that you say - another ghastly ghost-train trip through the horror-punk theme park, hot-footing it after The Horrorpops and The Creepshow? That's as may be but where the cynic could pick holes in the script a la theScream franchise, the comely Mad Marge and her cohorts do hew a hefty wedge of hoodoo-pop from the quarry of rock out there in Southern California, and neatly sidestep many a grating ghoul-rock stock clichés (the nearest they come is Dial Z For Zombie). On the surface they could, in another cinematic allegory, be likened to the spate of teen-horror flicks with their glossy magazine production and perfectly streamlined, if not airbrushed, song construction. There is, however, enough substance on stand-outs Issues (sure to be adopted as an anthem by hoodie-wearing teen-girls) Hardest Thing and Don't Put Up A Fight to provide sustenance for any ensuing epidemic, with putrefying double-bass priming the assault with the force of the 'rage' of28 Days Later rather than the aimless shuffle of Romero's flesh-hungry hordes, and Marge's voice almost ensures vital signs remain vibrant alone.

- Stu Gibson

Levi Dexter and Magic

The Kings Of Cat Street
Raucous

If there's ever such a thing as an authentic Rockabilly revivalist, this, lurgys and germs, is the real raw deal. Hurtling fleet of foot with moves that made him a rockabilly James Brown out of London in the late seventies in line-ups like The Rockats and The Ripchords, with Shakin' Stevens and The Stray Catsbetween each twitching knee, Levi successfully straddled both the punk and new-wave worlds, as well as the snootier, exclusive environs of the rockin' scene in later years. Here the neo-rockabilly lynchpin is teamed with Japan's primo Rockabeat (as that nation termed it) band Magicon a sinew-fraying and intemperate tendon-tear through classics of Rock'n'Roll's eternally energising slipstreams such as Wayne Walker's All I Can Do Is Cry and on back to Dexter's initial influence, Elvis, on Rip It Up and Baby Let's Play House. Originally released in 1993 this is a superbly realised set of slinky-fingers and nimble knees ideal for neophyte and old neo alike.

- Stu Gibson

Stiff Little Fingers

Still Burning (DVD)
Fremantle Home Entertainment

Celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the hugely influential Northern Ireland punks, this film, written and directed by film-maker and punk flame-holder Don Letts, charts their history from pre-punk Troubles, to the success of first single Suspect Device (after sending it to a certain John Peel in a similar manner to near-neighbours The Undertones), through label-wrangling, disillusion and indifference right up to their current status as top-draws on the punk circuit, against the backdrop of a performance of the entire Inflammable Materialdebut (in full as a special feature along with extended interviews). Lacking vintage footage - besides an awesome clip of Gotta Getaway - which would broaden its appeal to the casual observer, it does dig behind the scenes of a band on the skids as they lingered in limbo between the punk 'rules' and new-romantics of the early eighties as well as proving that hitting the comeback trail isn't always the easy option it seems. As one of the original bands to reform SLF had to recharge batteries, belief systems and bite tongues and figurative bullets to reap their deserved rewards, which they discuss with admirable honesty and no trace of starry artifice.

- Stu Gibson

Revenge of the Psychotronic Man

Party In The Van!
TNS Records

Second release from one of the most ridiculously hard-working bands around in the trenches and the underground, and one of the best quids (if that!) you can spend for a night out at a gig, Manchester's Revenge Of...play the sort of E-number overload of avidly-social hyperactive anarchic disorder punk that makes free-boarding down a vertical cliff face on your hands a frightfully good idea worthy of a Terry Thomas chuckle. With a thicker, grittier production giving more muscle to their inherent mongrel-mangling melodies than debut releaseSHITTY ZOMBIES these six tracks show them still on rampant form trying to run rings around each other with laces tied together. Sure, from their name to the CD title to songs Magic Monkey Juice, No Sleep Till Guildford and the new national anthem Fuckers England don't expect sermons of sociological discourses, but neither should you expect to be told to shut the door upon entering the van.

- Stu Gibson

The Caravans

The Caravans
Smashed And Stripped Bare
Raucous

Recorded mainly in 2002 following the near-fatal car crash that all but derailed them, this supreme set of acoustic-led rockabilly finally sees the full light of day, fleshed out with a couple of tracks recorded earlier this year. Replacing amplification with a banzai barrage of adrenalin this is played, as is their righteous wont, with the frenetic fervour that has always made them amenable to the psychobilly hordes, despite not pandering to the horrorpunk themes more prevalent in that culture. However, it be Head honcho Mark Penington that really sets them aside from the slicker end of neo-rockabilly and psycho-piffle. His sharp-eyed lyrics of lovelorn woe and women's whimsies are rivalled possibly only by The Rhythmaires' Stu Warburton for shooting the hat off the mordant humour of old honky-tonkin' classics and turning them back on their head for a ride through haunted parks well after dark. Along with galloping from the gallows pole covers of bluegrass traditional Baby Blue Eyes and Violent Femmes' Kiss Off SMASHED AND STRIPPED BARE should be a certainty this winter for rockin reelers n' sleazers of every community.

- Stu Gibson

The Sadies

New Seasons
Yeproc

The Sadies Cosmic Americanadia (more prosaically-titled 'psychedelic country') is a fringe-flowing, flower-wilting, reckless frolic with plenty of punk-tinged paisley undergroundings among the shimmers and quivers that the harmonies and brilliant but quite cartoon-like guitar-ing elicits (see What's Left Behind) - from timeworn yet never threadbare melodies bolting the stable of The Byrds' Chestnut Mare (Yours To Discover) into expansive 13th Floor Elevatorsfields where the sound just seems to flobble across the airwaves, straddling at least as many dimensions as there are frequencies, to a trashy tenderness (My Heart Of Wood). Always on the move - as is their wont - with the stealth of seasoned banditos, not least as a result of their impressively incestuous extra-curricular schedules, this is a natural process, rather than just a set of stoners frantically reassembling their scrambled talents in time to make an album. Not when it's one of such ridiculously beatific sea shanties from bucks riding mustangs as though mere rocking horses, nursery rhymes filtering fantastical, surreal images through your slumber-heavy shoulders and outlaw laments like The Trial. Disregard the hints of other songs and revel in a roughshod ride through a masterclass of artful crafting.

- Stu Gibson

The Gourds

Noble Creatures
Yep roc

'Stewing in my own perfume, lonely as a weather balloon' - How Will You Shine?

Warning: Initially listening to this in the barren midst of crashing headlong into the caustically spiked crash-barriers of heartache can bring on iridescent bouts of rage and rabid desires to shave their scraggy beards off with thirteen blunt chainsaws for chirruping like Van Morrison moondancing in the meadows onHow Will You Shine? and the sunnySpringsteen freeze-out funk of Kicks In The Sun. It's thus actually quite heart-warming to know that the band feared and despised this move away from their almost tongue-in-cheek approach to trucker hats and tractor DUI's too but braved the ride and came out stronger, as you the listener shall. For it shall be good, and you will be blown away by Promenade, thinkDion's Born To Be With You and Ronnie Lane's Done This One Before, that'll wrench your heart right out and soothe it with wreathes of self-realisation bought dearly at a final stand andLast Letter that has the emotional landfilling ache of Skynyrd'sTuesday's Gone. When Kevin Russell wails - in the righteous sense, not the whimpering one - about grief and feeling like the only one you know where the man's at, but boy, could you stand there and sing that? Sure, with The Gyroscopic, Red Letter Day and Cajun dance-off Cranky Mulatto they haven't hitched up the wagon and rode out into new-found lands of haunted ballads, just merely, merely, added new textures. It's just that they're the size of their home state that is so staggering. Once again I doff my ducktails Texas-ward and proffer mere shrugs at any simple, instant disdain.  


- Stu Gibson


Lonely Avenue: The Unlikely Life And Times Of Doc Pomus

Alex Halberstadt
Jonathan Cape

I'm no way exactly sure why, maybe it's the Elvis connection or the previous lack of illumination on their lives, but when considering songwriting duos Pomus and Shuman and maybe Leiber and Stoller it's hard to conceive of a story such as this. Though read in conjunction with, or remembering, the songs brings on home the harrowing trauma wrapped up as sweet sorrow in almost throw away songs like Elvis' (Marie's The Name) His Latest Flame or Save The Last Dance For Me(indeed, being a writer of such jukebox classics would tragically plague Pomus' sense of worth). Writ more as a fable with Doc born lowly Jerome Felder, before being hit lower by polio at a young age, and struggling through fallow years as a singer on his way to seeing the American Dream open before him like the yawning chasm of the Grand Canyon as a songwriter, with a huge house in the 'burbs, model wife and almost more money than needed to block out the Manhattan skyline, it all soon crumbles as he loses his fractious partner Mort Shuman, his wife and home, so wallows in desperate poverty for a couple of decades surrounded by mobsters, crooks and junkies, running gambling rackets and vaguely trying to get back into the songwriting game, in the face of dwindling royalty cheques. With a happy ending, of sorts (of course) this colossal book, constructed on Doc's own journals and approved by friends and family, is one awesomely essential music book that belies as well as lives up to its title, presenting a seriously flawed, as ever, but, much rarer, a sympathetic and identifiable-with character that emerges with pride and respect, and also provides glimpses into the stories behind those songs that'll scar perspectives and pierce hearts, scarcer even still in music biographies.

- Stu Gibson

Bonny Collyde

Deckchairs And Whiskey Bottles
www.myspace.com/bonnycollyde

Rising from the ashes slept in and the dregs drained one drunken night in 2002 stride, stagger and stumble these basement blues from hombres DD Dynamite and Trashtown Thrillers / Koma Katz head-hoss Craigey Swagger / Cragnet Bastard, who pulled on several slugs of only the most nefarious nectar and adopted a suitably trolleyed banner. Split about half n' half betwixt the two, these sixteen songs can be swilled in one fluid, almost interchangeable measure, kinda likeThe Jacobites, and the home recording doesn't make them cheap Lidl fizz, more a mournful mariachi's campfire of stately disrepair, where no flame melts these regrets into chewily digestible marshmallow chunks, but where chords cast crooked glances askance at anyone who gets too close from beneath their hat-brim. Well-versed, if not reared from birth, in the troubadours taverns and highwaymen's hovels, the grainy, red-rimmed n' dirty-eyed sandpaper scrapings lend a real authentic hazy hue to these horizon-less vistas stared into while impaled on a hangover something like being crucified 'pon a cactus, whether you're hearing them in Portsmouth (where they were recorded) or drifting on whatever high plains the morrow found ye on, or above. So there's tons of minesweeping and rounds' cadged but there's also some great guitar playing and songs that serve as a scrapbook of tattered hearts and odes to wrong turns that merit many a nicotine stained thumb-print through. While the soused n' sluiced nature of the recording may chafe a few ears amidst some inevitably too sloppy for slurs moments there's treasure in this 'ere chest for those walking on crooked heels with collars high, wearing some long-gone lady's colours along lonesome trails forged by her waltz of disregard.
- Stu Gibson

DD Dynamite

Low Down Blues
Dinky Den

"I got my whiskey n' I got my frown' - Fuckin' Talkin' To You

Greek resident and near-legend Mr Dynamite plies devil-drunk acoustic blues and piles them against his door, fending off the ever-circling spirits of losing n' loathing, regaling them with tales of tattered hearts torn from sleeves, spat on pavements of regard, scattered to that place where the dark rags and shards of old scarves end up.  Nestling in a candlelit cocoon with Tyla's Nocturnal Nomad, The Jacobites Napoleon's Velvet Basement and possibly assorted old blues dudes likeBlind Willie Johnson and Charley Patton and the mystical rumours of Keef's seventies jail-bound jam-sessions, home recordings they may be but there's no digitalised gloss, just a wealth of purely intuitive story-telling and bad-ass balladry related with an earnest fragility in a wheezy croak of a voice channelled direct from woozy dawns, right when you realise a whole lot more than the bottle's gone for good. This man knows the myths well enough to place himself in the canon of the gunslinging guitar-totin' wisecrackin' heartbroke scoundrel but nothing but honesty can put the ache into Will You Still Love Me In The Winter, and Early One Morning. As Tyla put on the back of The Dogs' GRAVEYARD... album...these are "Soft Songs For Hard People", or epic soundtracks of charred romance and solace in Rock'n'Roll for the scorned and crestfallen, if I may.

-Stu Gibson 
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