NORTHERN SLUM 

JULY REWIND: KING OF THE SLUMS, SIR WALTER J WALLIS, HOBBSIAN DARK STUFF

It was the FACE. Black and white photo, ‘tash and glare, hatted like a rancher from way out West. Not quite what you expect from a small-town music festival programme, but there he was, projecting attitude, worlds apart from the folk blues smileys on the page. The blurb promised ballads, feedback and distortion.

How can we not check this guy out?

Sir Walter J Wallis: Ukedelia

And so it was that Thame Town Music Festival turned us on to the ukedelic blues scorch of Sir Walter J Wallis, right there in the low-voltage confines of Thame Snooker Club. Who he? Some self-styled Cornish outlier, armed with a uke, one shoe red one shoe green. How good is his crew? Good enough to banish the anti-rock daylight and carpet-ry to a 45-minute afterthought – this bunch of middle-age greybeards grabbed it. No ballads, and no slowhand-trad either ‘coz the licks were quick. Checking the Ukedelia album afterwards, opener Cold White Stone flies with a restless energy, and for all the bluesy labels thrown about in the festival programme and his own website, Sir Walter’s path is more Billy Childish smarts than Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – which is no doubt why they blazed the baize house that Thame aft. Rockarolla exciting. Back to Ukedelia, and its trebley solo/rhythm style – almost New York new wave – breaks through best on tracks like So What?, Railroading and Eye of the Hurricane, while Day I Made My Angel Cry‘s raw axe and horn decor ain’t a million miles from Spiritualized unorchestral.

So, not the most produced album you’ll ever hear, but on the back of a live gig it more than stacks up. Please, Sir … can we have more? And when?

King of the Slums: Manco Diablo

Hypnotic semi-riffs that loop around and around and around, then snag you on the downside: this is new album Manco Diablo, a record that sometimes makes you wanna rock, maybe even dance, but mostly makes you feel like you’re trapped in a mill town canal. Yeah. Reportage through a stained lens. It’s a bit dank, a shadow lurker, but behind the loping motifs, spoken vocals and Manc indietones vibe are guitars – big fuckoff ones, late-80s metal style: no air, no fade, no natural light, just endless sustain. I. LIKE. The whole thing’s slightly out of place, like a non-electro Wrangler, or maybe King of the Slums have always been like that? Dunno. Until Gideon Coe aired Lost in Translation the other week and prompted and an immediate spend, I’d never heard them or of them and knew nowt about their distant history, so this is fresh sonics. If it’s the same for you, check KOTS and do what you gotta do. 

Pijn

Pijn (pronounced pine) played at the Dark Matter festival at the Manchester International Festival, and Dumbstruck & Floodlit was played on a Dark Matter Freakzone special the other week. Post-metal with a Godspeed arc that crashes the eye of a hardcore storm, ’tis another top new track. Album is Floodlit and it’s out now on Holy Roar Records, home to OHHMS.

And seeing as we’ve mentioned Dark Matter, we’ve got to tip our headwear to curator Mary Anne Hobbs, one of THE best broadcasters out there. Check this Baker’s Dozen with the Quietus magazine for a classy selection – Bowie, Colin Stetson, Mogwai, Burial, Deftones, Kendrick Lamar – and some character-defining stories from the Garstang escapee.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

MAY QUEENS: eponymous

ROCKING ONE-OFF FROM GOD CULT

God Machine. Ocean vast, yet lost – to Tumour, the Premature Life-ender. R.I.P.

Seven years after bassist Jimmy Fernandez’s death at 29, God Machine frontman Robin Proper-Sheppard put out this tidy number under the May Queens moniker in 2000, and you’d never make the connection. Short, catchy, carefree – everything the GM weren’t – this 30-minute self-titled wax job sits a lot closer to the just-off-mainstream rock of the day than the God Machine ever did, meaning it’ll never pull on your inner emo or inspire a cult-ish devotion like Sheppard-Fernandez-Austin’s machine trio.

But this sole (isn’t it?) May Queens release is worth nabbing if you get the chance, because it’s a summer breezer – an airy antidote to GM’s turbulent heavy weather – and it’s got an opening track that’s so charged it’s DANGEROUS. You know how some tracks always sound louder than the volume you’re on, like they’re too big to be contained by a mere recording process? Well, there’s a flash of that with Theme for the May Queen No.1 – Alright (Oh Yeah). 128 seconds of garage rattle ‘n’ roll, speeding with a slacker’s lack of lyrics (ooh yeah/alright, repeat), but that’s the way it has to be for a track like this – anything more literate than Sub-Moron would detract and distract from Theme No. 1’s enormo rock thrust.

The May Queens

The May Queens: alright (oh yeah)

And that thrust comes after the verse. Go back to Duel, from Swervedriver’s Mescal Head, and check the volume push on the riff in the chorus – the bit that makes you wanna hurl yourself around at a gig. Got it? So has Theme No.1, ‘cept it’s ramped up with centrifugal fling … and today, 17 years after a first hearing, it STILL slams hard. Try it. But if you’re about to bust your May Queen Theme 1 cherry, do it with speakers or headphones that carry some welly, eh? No point fumbling a premature blowout on a tinny tiny device-hole… give yourself some room.

After such a launch, what of the rest of the album? First, a couple of low-pressure warnings: Like a Record and Falling (Won’t You Fall In Too) are pretty non-descript janglers/punch-free pop, depending on how charitable you are. Other than those two though, the May Queens album is a solid summer spin. Closer hints at White Denim’s freewheeling cool – dusty rock for boot cuts – while Rollin’ nicks a Zep-ish slide-off and hammers it with the kind of clang that Archie Bronson Outfit struck on Derdang Derdang. Tonite coasts with a Pumpkins lilt on a summer’s eve.

The last cut revisits the title of the opening track, but not the music. Theme for the May Queen No. 2 – Car Crash (Pulsating Core) is a deliciously warped Bond theme surfing with Man or Astroman, and it’s waaaaay too short. If the May Queens had jammed on crash for another 5 minutes and knocked Falling off, it would have swung the record nearer to the road’s edge than the middle.

So, more of a lost favourite than a stone chilled classic, this record suits if Swervedriver’s heavy overdrive and pop nous has served you well in years gone by (not surprising, given Adam Franklin and Robin Proper-Sheppard’s shared history and Sophia/Sophia Collective overlap). 

May Queens: sunshine cool with a Theme-time burn. 


RADIO ON THE TV

JUNE REWIND: RADIOHEAD@GLASTONBURY, NEW KXM AND PINNICK ON CORNELL 

Cut the Fake Plastic Trees, kill the Creep, say no to No Surprises. Instead, Burn the Witch, beckon a Reckoner.

There (there):

a minor adjustment to Radiohead’s Friday night headliner at Glastonbury – just enough to swing the balance from those slow-burn early-yearners. Now we’re nearer to setlist manna.

Then again, they weren’t playing for me, watching at home on the televisual rectangular with a Grolsch palm. They were playing for Very Many Thousands at the world’s biggest festival, but does a gig-no-go disqualify the home-rs from comment? Not with gigs this big, not with it being The Week of Radiohead – back catalogue on steady rotation – and I reckon they pretty much nailed a perfect setlist for the occasion. It had everything. Airbag, Lotus Flower, Weird Fishes, Bodysnatchers, Kid Amnesiac … what else would you want?

Less indulgence and less dirge, according to some reports and comments. That’ll be those playmorebendsCREEEEEEEEP knobshiners who can’t forgive the band for 20-plus years of evolution, right? Too bad, losers. Friday night was surely as crowd-pleasing a set as you’re ever gonna get from Radiohead, and while some of us don’t thrill to Creep/Trees/Surprises, they had to be in there, even though they dragged the encores down a bit. Burn the Witch would have been a defining pre-Karma moment but hey, it is what it was. I guess it all comes down to what your Radiohead is, and for the post-OK heads who saw 1997 as a warm-up for Kid A’s rhythm-n-twitch reset then it was a proper treat, even on the telly. Grand ol’ Thom of Yorke seemed to be half a bar short of full charge here and there, but the music was impeccable – cue Myxomatosis. And Bloom. And There There. And Let Down. And … you know.

To extend the Radiohead obsession you can, if you’ve got BBC Radio iplayer access, hook yourself up to The First Time interviews with each band member. Here’s the infinitely likeable Colin Greenwood to get you started.

NEW SOUNDS

KXM put a new album out, Scatterbrain, the other week. Haven’t really heard it yet – been working up to it by playing its predecessor, the self titled debut. Who am KXM? Ray Luzier (Korn) + Dug Pinnick (King’s X) + George Lynch (Lynch Mob), and if you like the King’s X latter years and Poundhound and Dug solo then KXM will not fail you. Rescue Me is pure King’s X, but there’s a harder edge too, thanks to some bristling stickwork from the Korn man – check Stars. Son of Mr Scary? Very possibly.

If electronic desert spacerock floats your whatsit then, er, Floating Points might just have become your guys because the upcoming Reflections Mojave Desert looks cosmically promising if this is anything to go by. Insert your own Pompeii Floyd reference, many already have.

DUG PINNICK ON CHRIS CORNELL

Seeing as King’s X were band of the month after their gig in Bristol, it’s little wonder that this was stumbled upon during various online trawls about the band – Dug Pinnick speaking about Chris Cornell. Two souls full of friendship and music … and who knew about the Superunknown-Dogman vocal pact? RIP CC.

OLD-SCHOOL OF THE MONTH

Should this be a feature? A track from old that’s sounding so-very right now? A fast, irrepressible all-about-the-music interview with Steven Tyler in the Planet Rock mag lay the tarmac to Aerosmith this month, so get your toxic strut on with this deeper cut: CombinationFrom Rocks. It does

til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind



KING’S X: live

KING’S X @ BRISTOL BIERKELLER, 12/6/2017

JE-RRY, JE-RRY, JE-RRY, JE-RRY…

Before a note is even struck, a chant goes out to the drummer. Jerry Gaskill points to his heart and checks that’s what everyone meant, thanks the crowd for asking and gives the OK that yes, he’s healthy now – and with that, we are ON: Groove Machine and The World Around Me. The applause after those two tracks is so encore-rapturous that you’d swear it was the last track of the last gig of a stadium sellout tour, not the start of a small gig in a small room. There’s a tidal wave of UK love pushing forth and it’s Pinnick Tabor Gaskill getting swamped

because fuuuuuuuck!!!! It’s King’s X, in person, RIGHT THERE just a few feet away. Why the exaltation? Pure magic in a three-piece, as any fan with their own tale will tell you. Gretchen Goes to Nebraska sits between the Badlands debut and Testament’s Practice What You Preach in my record collection … class of 1989. At some point that year, the 15/16-year-old me bought Badlands, King’s X and Testament – in that order – with Out of the Silent Planet very much not far behind, so Nebraska ’89 is where the path to the Bierkeller started: 28 years of King’s X and now, finally, a live X-perience. No wonder we’ve got the feelgood jitters, this is a borderline mythical event. Three hours earlier, doing a non-native’s scope for the gig’s location, The World Around Me snuck out from behind closed ‘keller doors.

Soundcheck. OMG. Dug Pinnick, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill are IN there.

But because I didn’t see them, I still didn’t know for sure if they were real.

Back to the gig, they look real enough, but it’s only when they don’t disappear in a puff of Tex dust after those first two songs that the convincing is complete. Pillow, Flies and Blue Skies, A Box, Black Flag, Lost in Germany, Cigarettes, Pray and a hard-rocking Looking for Love are among the King’s X/Dogman/Ear Candy-heavy setlist, with Vegetable‘s taut funk shapes stretching to a long-form Moonlight jam. Dug opts out of some choruses because he’s too old and can’t sing that high anymore (his words, not mine), handing vocal duties to the punters making up the Unofficial Bierkeller King’s X Choir, but he’s still got it. Just not going for the young Doug’s gospel gymnastics of the early days.

Two-thirds of the way through and a minor fret flashes by: we’ve had nothing from the first three albums. Should we be worried? Are they now the band’s Stairway?

No. Righteous Gretchen double-up Summerland and Over My Head swell the joint, while KXprog stopstarter We Were Born to be Loved is the only track from Faith, Hope, Love – didn’t see that one coming, would have bet on It’s Love – and it’s unexpectedness turns it into a real highlight with an even more prolonged false-ender than on the record.

The encore? Dogman – beyond words, obvs – and Goldilox, which is part Dug-crowd a cappella, part full-band. Sweet. And Ty Tabor gets a last-minute mention because that guy was fucking flawless throughout, a real master. The solos in Flies and Blue Skies and Cigarettes were all-time Gig Moments.

So, it is done – King’s X have been seen and I make no apologies for the bias in this review, it’s been a long time coming. Heavy soul with free-flowing uplift, just like the records, and needed now more than ever. Get there if you can, keep spreading the word.

Little bit more Pinnick here, after Radiohead

SUPERSHIT 666: eponymous

GINGER’S MUTATION AND OTHER NOISE

With the CD release of Mutation III: Dark Black just around the corner (Error 500 review right here, if you fancy it), why not revisit one of Ginger Wildheart’s other noisier projects – the mightily unwashed Supershit 666?

*****

Plug it in, turn it up, PLAY IT LOUD… sounds corny, but sometimes the old ones are the best, and Supershit 666 – a one-night stand between the Wildhearts, Hellacopters and Backyard Babies in 1999 – is straight out of the old school. No acoustic guitars, no ambient interludes, no clever clever chord progressions… for those afraid to rock, we refuse you. Everyone else can crack open the 6-track and get drunk on a super-strength supershit audio brew, because if there’s one spirit that truly fuels the EP, it’s this:

Motorhead.

Whether it’s the relentless (We Are) The Road Crew loco-motion of Fast One, Dangermind‘s greased-up shimmy or even the scattering of Fast Eddie licks, the Motorspirit is inescapable. Add the fact that Wildhearts mainman Ginger is pretty much incapable of penning a tune without a whale-sized hook and you KNOW these thick, superheavy punk ‘n’ roll anthems are gonna stick around like dried-in cornflakes on the Bowl of the Great Unwashed. Forget the sugar coating, though – these toons are caked with peaking distortion for your over-amplified listening satisfaction.

Supershit666 CD

The real shit

First track, Wire Out, skips any idea of a warm-up for the EP – feedback, drums, BANG, straight in. And once the half-baked harmonica rips out of nowhere to spar with some equally half-baked guitar, resistance is officially futile ‘coz if all that doesn’t flip your riot switch, nothing will. It’s that kind of record. Live for the moment.

Maybe I’ll sleep tomorrow maybe, a million miles an hour baby…”  Wire Out

Fast One does what it sez, screaming towards blowouts and false endings, while the next three tracks – Dangermind, You Smell Canadian (is it really a Devin Townsend reference?) and Star War Jr – cop a distant feel of the Wildhearts at their Earth vs… best. Then it’s back to raw, booze-fuelled basics as the ‘shit close their 18-minutes with the none-more-apt Crank It Up! by The Rods.

Shortsharpfastloudrockandroll KICKS. Get yours, route 666.


(review first posted on Julian Cope’s Head Heritage site a few years back)

MILES OF ECHO: Chris Cornell

INTO THE VOID… NO SUCH THING

Face Pollution. Played on the radio this morning by Mary Anne Hobbs… emotional stuff, can’t explain why this one did it. Other Soundgarden tracks have been played in the two days since we heard the news, and Chris Cornell has been an ever-present thought. Not every track affects you, but the fact that one of them – any of them – pulls out a physical response tells you that yes, this band or artist is one of the ones that really matters. You knew that anyway. But a shock loss means you know it in a different way now.

Soundgarden. A truly rare band, a truly SPECIAL band, and if you got them…well, they got you, and this is why we’re all a little fucking knocked this week. Chris Cornell died?

The music that that band made was almost too good. By far the most inventive of the scene they sparked, their records are flawless, beguiling, hypnotic and untouchable. Loud Love was my first exposure, when the video was on Raw Power (legendary small-hours TV, aka Power Hour/Raw Power/Raw/Noisy Mothers) and its sticky, gluey, dank heaviness part-crawled/part-raged from the screen. It was a new sound. Louder Than Love became the initiation record, and that’s when the Soundgarden fandom started, some 27 years ago. No wonder Face Pollution did a bit of a number on me this morning.

But this week, it’s been the less familiar and the non-Soundgarden that’s crept into play as a tribute. Music that’s a little less long-standing as far as personal music history goes  Echo of Miles, Cornell’s Carry On, Audioslave’s Revelations  but, having said that, here are two exceptional tracks that DO go way back….one familiar, one maybe less so:

Nowhere But You: this B-side from the Can’t Change Me single says everything about Cornell the musician, songwriter, lyricist and arranger, playing with a painter’s vision. Stripped, haunting, intense – hear it here.

Seasons: from the Singles soundtrack (expanded 25th anniversary version out yesterday… timing?). Remind yourself, and while you’re at it, marvel again at both voice and band in Soundgarden’s Birth Ritual.

Check BBC 6 Music for Cornell specials at 1am and at 6pm (Tom Robinson Mow Playing) on Sunday 21st May, #Cornell6Music 

Not much more to say, still blindsided by the strangeness of it all but let’s hope, for the sake of Cornell’s family, that his departure was accidental. It seems hard to believe there was clear-minded intent. 

The last words go to Perry Farrell, who said it best:

“A shining voice in music has left us in the midnight. He was a complex and gentle soul #ChrisCornell has flown into the black hole sun”

A shining voice in music. Damn right.

Soundgarden: Hyde Park 2014

Superunknown in full: Hyde Park 2014

image from everyrecordtellsastory

RSD Q: record store daze

APRIL REWIND: THE FOOL’S GOLD, RECORD STORE DAY 10 AND A PRINCELY SHRED

New sounds

Seeing OHHMS in Oxford was a shorter and more pumped gig than their Bloom and Cold EPs indicated. A Terrorizer interview explains the former – they don’t do long sets, they don’t think doom should bore the audience – and debut album The Fool, just released on Holy Roar Records, explains the latter ‘coz its six-track 60-minute offering is anything but mono-paced yawn-outs. Instead, it fires off some higher-plane Neurosis rage BUT, crucially, does it less sombrely… OHHMS got more r.o.k., more of that mid-era Pelican thickness going on, maybe even a touch of long-lost Acrimony. Much promise in these long Fool forms. OHHMenS is good.

RSD 10

Record Store Day came and went, fast as a stylus slide down a run-out groove. Oxford’s Truck Store gave advance notice of a queuing system for the RSD section of the shop – monitored, controlled, keeping it fair, you get the idea. Nothing objectionable in that, no doubt there are many other shops that have to do the same on Vinyl Vulture Day, but when you actually roll up late morning, long after the whoreds, and find a queuing system in place… it sucks fat logs. IT’S HALF PAST ELEVEN ffs, no buzz out here no more. The over-excitables lining up round dawn’s crack to score some designer V have long gone, replaced by the second/third/fourth wave of music punters and/or dullard moany bastards (me, it seems) who want to buy something, RSD or not, on this day in this shop to do a timely little summat for the deeper cause – independent music retail.

And we’re queuing. To get into a shop that is, literally, half empty. Right… F-RSD for now, let’s just hit the Regular Joe section and yes, very happy to see the new OHHMS CD in the racks. Nice one #1. Nice one #2 is when the queue system dissolves, some sort of record shop normality returns  access for all  and we get to have an unscripted, unmonitored free-form browse. 

The best bit isn’t the limiteds and the special eds, though.

RSD weekend bargain

RSD bargain: very rare

It’s the unexpected box of reductions on regular records (cheers Truck) and before I could stop it, SunnO)))’s Kannon – a long-time list dweller – slow-burned my eyes with a bargain £12 tag: an Official Find, a pound per inch. THIS is what RSD needs to do more of: give every physical-format music fan a reason to visit the shop and pick something up. Right now, CD buyers get shit-jack from the whole shebang, yet probably do more than anyone to keep these shops alive.

So, it was a day of two sides. Side A – the RSD edit – was forgettable and a bit shit. Side B – the deconstruction mix – was a gem. More Bs, please. How was your day?

APRIL ANNIVERSARIES

Iggy completed his seventh decade. Prince turned 57 and one year. Plenty of options for celebrating their lives and music, but for a radio programme with a deep purple (not that one) twist, Bobby Friction’s tribute on 6Music is a pretty good shot at it. And if, by some freak time management occurrence, you’ve only got four and a half minutes to give then give ’em to the very last track – Whole Lotta Love, live, Prince Rogers Nelson style. Six string s-excess, and no, of course it ain’t faithful.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind