WIRE: live – a non-review

NOVEMBER REWIND: WIRE DO A NUMBER ON OXFORD BULLY. MOSLEY FALLS.

You know when you get an album that grabs you so much on first listen that you’re reduced to a state of stationary captivation, rooted speaker-side by some sort of slow motion epiphany? Like you’ve been shown a new way, something big and beyond your shrinked mind?

Wire just laid all that on yours truly the day after their Oxford gig at the Bullingdon, a gig that’s not being reviewed here. Why?

Being someone who knows close to shit-all about the band beyond a couple of albums and their widely-reported creds, any review would be dubious, under-informed cack. Real fake. So, instead of beating out a few words about what the gig is or was, better to look at what it did.

WIRE. Who first heard the name through Elastica’s Connection plagia-rism? Got my hand up for that one. Did nothing about it until a few years ago though, when Pink Flag popped up at the right time and revealed its spiky outer-punk brilliance. Special, a Proper Band, so I decided to pick up the albums in chronological order and hear the band unfold the way they actually did. This would be my Wire Listening Project. From what I’d read, they were apt to shift things pretty swiftly, and Chairs Missing confirmed it. Should be an interesting journey: 154 next stop.

Except the project got derailed before 154 was ever reached, because Wire came to town and played such a shit-kicking set (to my novice ears) that leaving the gig without snaffling audio merch was just not an option. 

On stage, Colin Newman cuts a quiet, delicate shape up front. His guitar is anything but. ThickerbiggerwarmerHEAVIER than expected, it’s voluminous – like Neil Young on Le Noise, but machined to a straighter edge. No idea what the tracks were, though a post-gig lyric search meant that two of my standouts turned out to be Over Theirs, which finished off the main set under feedback tides, and an encore-defining Stealth of a Stork. Massive, vital. You could say that Wire made some impact.

At the merch stand, Send Ultimate and Read & Burn 3 found a new home, and it was Send Ultimate’s double-discer that whipped the froth in the first paragraph. That first play revealed a tough-sounding album, not industrial but industrial hard, magnetic, of itself and no-one else, and it’s just the start of what’s gonna be a long burrow into Wire world. Such is the potency of a gig when you’re ripe for accelerated conversion and didn’t even know it.

GONE 

AC/DC’s Malcolm Young slipped away this month, but it was Chuck Mosley whose loss was perhaps the bigger shock. No doubt you played something in tribute … here, having not played Introduce Yourself for years, Chinese Arithmetic leapt out brash and fully fresh. And from the Cement days, you gotta give Piledriver a go. Riffs: sharp but loose.

’til next time!

Wire CDs: Send Ultimate

Wire: just press send

 

THE WILDHEARTS: Endless, Nameless

NOISY ANOMALY FROM CLASS OF ’97

Tin-can drums, way high in the mix. Dry-bone guitars trebled to the max. Mega bass shocks and overamped noise. This is Anthem, the first single from Endless, Nameless.

Fuck me. What happened to the Wildhearts?

Where are the sticky sweet melodies and riff ‘n’ roll majesty of Earth vs… and P.H.U.Q.? The multi-part stretch-out of Fishing for Luckies, or the Motorhead speed scuzz of Caffeine Bomb? The TUNES, where are the tunes?

Gone. Bombed out.

Sort of.

Wildhearts: Endless, Nameless

Endless, Nameless: tuneless? No

This was a New Era for the Wildhearts, an era that sounded like the end. Before then, Ginger’s gang were a volatile technicolour splatter on a po-grunge backdrop, a gang who gave good chaos both on and off record – vids like this (nice vom) and stunts like this (nice Kerrang! visit) made sure of that, which would all count for knack-all if the music blew, but … it very definitely didn’t, as the albums and A-grade B-sides show. But if drugs, bust ups and breakdowns were standard operating procedure for this lot, by ’97 it had got a whole lot darker: band members fired (CJ), sort-of band members AWOL (Mark Keds), rehab yo-yo (Danny McCormack), attempted suicide (Ginger) – and Endless, Nameless masks none of it. Do a mood-check on this bunch of cheery-bastard titles: Junkenstein, Pissjoy, Heroin, Thunderfuck, Why You Lie?

What reading do you get?

PHUQ-ed off, probably. Far less fun than TV Tan for sure, but the titles are just the half of it. The real sign that Things Are Bad is the nihilistic production job that quarantines this album from everything else they’ve done. Some reviews give it the white noise tag, but that’s overstating it – it’s not Wolf Eyes, it’s the Wildhearts, and they’re still a of bunch of dirt glam hook-ers loaded with tunes and smash-it-up attitude no matter what state they’re in. There IS noise, though. It’s in the production, a permanent stimulation that kinda tires your head. For a song-based record, a record where you expect and get hooks, verses and choruses, it’s pretty rough on the senses.

Junkenstein fires a savage warning to any fairweather fan. By far the hardest Wildhearts tune released up to that point (outdone by Why You Lie? on side 2), it’s industrialised, thrashy, pissed off and vital – more a two-minute warning than a tune. What’s not to love? NOTHING.

Nurse Maximum pulls the tempo back down to mid, at least for the verse, in a bit of a cool-off after Junkenstein’s jarring abrasions, but when Anthem’s unsubtle clank makes its move, you wonder where the record’s going … Anthem doesn’t feel like killer Wildhearts and we’re already three tracks in. At this point on Earth vs The Wildhearts we’d had Greetings from Shitsville, TV Tan and Everlone. Classics all. PHUQ’s opening 1-2-3 was I Wanna Go Where the People Go, V-Day and Just in Lust. Same deal. EN’s third track is sung by Danny McCormack: ‘I’m in love with the rock and roll world.’

Not exactly Ginger-sharp wordplay, is it?

But although this literal ode to the rock and roll world might not fire rockets on first listen, it’s not quite the braindead slog you first think, either – with Danny on vox, the words have a more autobiographical bent, and when the tune’s rammed with so much anti-pop production that it all but destroys itself, it feels like a metaphor for the band, McCormack especially. A grower of sorts

unlike Urge

Urge is no grower because it’s full-grown massive already, an instant shiner from the new dark Wildhearts. Check that slam-riffed mega shake, the in-and-out-of-sync verse (yet more overstimulation), the post-chorus bass-drum boooooom….yeah, the boom. Not the first appearance of this signature OTT Endless sonic, but it is the best pure earth quaker, an on-the-one detonation. Rumour goes that part-time Wildheart/full-time metal-oid Devin Townsend used it for his own endless ends on Infinity, but whatever the story and however it came about, it ramps up the imbalance and no doubt cracked some roadwork for Ginger’s more out-there adventures, not least the mad-bad Mutation project.

By now, after four tracks, you know that things are not going to clean up. There will be no singalonga Nita Nitro, there will be no normal production. There will be a kids’ chorus, though – Piss, JOY, NAAA NA-NA NA-NA – and a wrecked cover of Dogs D’Amour’s Heroine (here called Heroin) with drums distorted to shit, vocals ditto, volume levels ragged. Wasted and louche. Why You Lie? is so feral that it strangles the air out of you, and by the time it disintegrates, you’re spent. Thunderfuck’s mellow gives some respite at the album’s end, but it’s a wearisome downer. The sound of engines, the smell of burning. Torch it. Torch the lot. Over and out.

Endless, Nameless is a Wildhearts one-off, but it’s as true as any album that copped their classic sound – perhaps even more so. Abrasive industrial rock, hand-made by damaged human flaw-beings, it sits tight with a couple of other 90s records that were destructive reactions to predecessors – Warrior Soul’s Chill Pill and Ministry’s Filth Pig come to mind. The Wildhearts returned to their own vintage when they next got their shit together, but this one’s the unruly brother, the one you can’t ignore. It won’t let you.

Keep it maximum. 



Hairy Halloween II

A pumpkin-grin welcome to anyone who’s there, imageand this year’s handful of Halloweeny hitters is a straight follow-up to last year: another blast of old-school rock tracks, videos and vibes that fit the ‘ween thing, and like all slasher sequels, it’s probably not as good as the one before…

…OR IS IT??? Wait for the dark.

 JOE SATRIANI: Big Bad Moon

What do you want from a Halloween vid? A dark, deserted street? Check. Full-moon menace? Yep. Amplifier being kicked down the stairs so a guitarist can solo the frig out of it? Errrrrrr no, but why the hell not??? Enter Big Bad Moon. Not only is the mood right, but you get an electro-shock Satch hair-ender that’s undead-worthy (low budget special effects version). Killer tune, killer solos. 

TOOL: Stinkfist

Less blitzy than Satriani, obvs, Stinkfist does anything but reek. Any number of Tool tunes could make a dark-side playlist, and this creepsome promo makes Tool a ‘ween shoe-in. Check the Stinkfist sand people, watch ’em peel.

MR BUNGLE: Quote Unquote

Odd weird. Sinister weird. Which is what you expect from Mr Bungle, right? Soundtrack to a death circus. With masks.

JUDAS PRIEST: Turbo Lover

Sure, A Touch of Evil makes more sense on the surface, but we’re not going as deep as surface here – we’re going for the vibe, specifically the Terminator-as-argonaut retro stink flying off this hilariously shit video. Rocking tune, though. 

DAVID BOWIE: Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)

A fair few Bowie tunes could land on a list like this, but if atmosphere and menace are on the menu instead of literal Scary Monsters, the predatory pre-Blackstar Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) jazz ensemble racks it up nice n’ noir.  

VOIVOD: Astronomy Domine

Did anyone else find the Tribal Convictions video a bit creepy as a kid? No? OK, that’s embarrassing. Let’s have a disembodied Voivodian vocal in a flicker-flicker-flicker-bam Floyd cover with a video of a band on a rotating wheel instead. Better?

ALICE COOPER: Killers

The creep factor in this version of Is It My Body has nothing to do with Alice stage props and effects – it’s pre-Nightmare, but Cooper was a theatrical master even when his props were nothing more than a shiny onesie, a shoe and a pink leotard. Classic. But this video for Killer (live) is a wee bit more showtime, shall we say. If the noose fits…

SMASHING PUMPKINS: Ava Adore

Graced with gothic electronica, alt-rock’s very own Uncle Fester goes full Nosferatu in the video – check the Corgan choreography for some pretty slick Nosfer moves you’ll wanna steal.

CHRIS MORRIS: Jam (intro to episode 2)

Not music, but there is dancing. Morris dancing. Subversive, woozy and warped at every twist, Jam fits right in with any horror sesh, and Morris’s taunt-and-haunt free-dance flail in the face of a failed suicide is wrong enough to be oh-so-very right.  

MELVINS/TOOL: Divorced

If ever there was a Halloween house band, Melvins would surely be it. Tool could do visuals, but there are no visuals here – get the headphones, kill the lights and sink deep into a 15-minute pit of top-grade Toolvins.

AC/DC: Night Prowler

A rat runs down the alley, and a chill runs down your spine…can there be a better lyric to end on? Pure slasher, a Bon ace over a deadly, bluesy groove.

But you can’t really have a halloween sequel without a farcical false ending, so … a heroic big-hair resurrection it is – check the big-budget cheapness in this Elm Street cornball. Who were those guys, Freddie? Eh? Lynch axe still cuts it, mind.

THE END! Off now, Salem’s Lot beckons.


Other radio stuff to check:


 

RITUAL UNION: a 5-band review

ULRIKA SPACEK, FLAMINGODS, JOSEFIN OHRN + THE LIBERATION, PINKSHINYULTRABLAST and BO NINGEN at Oxford’s new RITUAL UNION festival, October 21 2017

There’s a new festival in town and it’s called Ritual Union: three venues and four stages of bands – The Bullingdon, The Library and the O2 (upstairs and down), and some in-stores at Truck Store – make this a proper Cowley Road music community effort.

It all kicks off early aft this windy Saturday, and as ever with multiple-band jams like this, we want to like a lot and, with any luck, get blown sideways by somebody.

That somebody won’t be Ulrika Spacek, though. 20-something minutes in to a 30-minute set in the Bullingdon, I’m trying not to drift off standing up. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s late … no, it’s 6pm. Velvets-y new wave with a less than stellar vocal – not much to grab hold of, and that’s a real shame ‘coz after catching the very end of their support set for Minor Victories last year, I swear they’d made a loud, moto-rhythmic first impression. It’s why I had them down as a cert for today.

But wait … the final track, wassis? Thicker guitars, more sprawl, spacier voice and yes, a moto-groove. It’s good. It’s very good. It’s Everything: All of the Time, and is surely how they wrapped their Minor Victories set last year. My tip? Get to the gig 10 minutes from the end, you’ll love it.

Sticking with the Bully, next up are Flamingods, and these guys – Bahrain-formed culture clashers – radiate musicality before they even strike a note. You can just feel it. And when they do start, they lift the room BIG TIME with a soaring, infectious, free-flowing fusion that’s bursting with soul from whatever genre-culture they see fit. Like what, like who? The fact that they were tour buds with The Comet is Coming this year gives a kaleidoscopic clue, but my rock-ist worldview (depressingly narrow in front of this lot) means that Neu!, Boredoms, Mr Bungle/Secret Chiefs 3, Goat and even Hawkwind all fly to mind, at least for this punchy live set. Smile and dance the trance, Ritual Union-ists! Rich, colourful, euphoric stuff – GO SEE THIS BAND. Proper players mixing it up, a real celebration.

Next: Josefin Ohrn + the LiberationKnowing nothing about them, this could go either way, so … the dark instrumental space halfway through the set is a welcome place to make a late entry. Heavy on the rhythm again, but more driving, shadowy and goth-flecked – channelling The Creatures (Siouxsie) a bit, mebbe? – theirs is a different kind of psych, if psych is what it is. A low-key summoning, perhaps. Another one to keep eyes on.

Pinkshinyultrablast.
No.

Sorry. And with that, we do a weird exits early from the Bullingdon and head upstairs at the O2 for Bo Ningen. YES…. their live rep precedes them and, to be honest, they are the reason for getting a buzz about this Ritual thing in the first place – a chance to see them melt minds right here, in Oxford. And they do.

Fried space rock, total reverb overload and damaged psyche with vocal yelps that jab your eyes, it’s what Comets on Fire could be like if they took a Man’s Ruin desert trip with Boris and jammed at full tilt. Wild but never, ever sloppy, Bo Ningen bow out with a noise maelstrom that’s utter fucking carnage. Astonishing.

Downstairs, festival headliners Peace are on the big stage with whatever it is that they do.

But who wants Peace when you can have war? BO NINGEN. Game over.

PSYCH HOUR

MUGSTAR MAN’S OUT-THERE RADIO HOUR

Should have done a quickie post about this sooner, because there aren’t many days until it expires, but if you’re seeking a 60-minute psych-out curated by an insider – and who isn’t? – check this Freak Zone Playlist on 6 Music.

Aired in connection with the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia last month, it features Jason Stoll – Mugstar bassist, God Unknown Records label dude – as your soft-spoken guide through the anything-goes.

Many high points here, especially Mesange’s ethereal low frequency – a Sunn O))) undercurrent to Zep’s In the Light spook – and Here Lies Man’s max fuzz Afrobeat, but the most audacious slab is Sly & the Family Drone/Dead Neanderthals. Destined not to be stuck on repeat in the car for the Aldi family shop, Sly/Dead hammer out a confrontational 10 minutes of doomed saxophony.

The psych playlist expires by October 28, go check it.

Stretching the Festival of Psychedelia theme a bit more, a link to Julie’s Haircut turned up in an email the other week – they also played the festival, and you can hear why. Whispered moto-shimmer with sax of a very different order to Sly/Dead, you might fancy picking them up for a psych expedition.

AND…Ritual Union music event this Saturday in Oxford. Bo Ningen, Ulrika Spacek and Flamingods are among the bands at this 4-stage Cowley Road special, let’s hope the whole thing rocks enough on the day/night. See you down there.

 

 

MUSIC FOR TWO-YEAR-OLDS

SEPTEMBER REWIND: BIRTHDAY TRADITIONS, MORE DRORE AND STADIUM ROCK TOP-UPS

It’s probably not how Sam Evian wants his music to be known, but that new album of his, Premium? Music for a two-year-old.

At least, it was two weeks ago. That’s when I was in Truck Store, asking which albums came out that very week (thanks for your help and patience, Truck staffers). Why was I seeking a CD for someone too small to listen to CDs? Well, I started this thing when my daughter was born: I bought an album that was released the week she arrived, as a memento of the time. And then I thought, why not do this every year? One day, if she’s piqued by music, we’ll have a nice little story to share, so here are the trez complexico rules wot I made:

  • CD must be released in the week of my daughter’s birthday
  • It must come from my local music brewery, aka Truck Store

And this is how I stumbled on a never-heard-of Sam Evian. Not music for tots, but instead – to steal Truck’s sticker wordage – ‘…a strange yet seductive listen that adds synths and sax to his whispery take on downbeat funk.’ Sounds about right for what we want…Sam Evian, you’re in, following New Order (2015) and spelling rebels Deap Vally (2016) into the birthday collection. To be listened to again in about 10 years, no doubt.

OK, bit of a diverting start – let’s get some quickie first impressions on September newbies, and we’ll start by keeping it local.

DRORE

It landed. Tape Two, JOY OF FUCKING JOYS. Heavy post-Undersmile Oxon rage, streaked with non-Billy childish pranks… New Skids on the Block, anyone? YES. At eight minutes, New Skids is the sole squatter on side two of the tape, but all four of these Life Regrets do what you want Drore to do: drag you through sewer hell, just like Tape One did. A filthy racket. Nice tablecloth cover design, too. Tape Two here.

BLAWAN

Burial’s new release Rodent isn’t what you’d expect from Burial – and not in a good way. Tension-free dullness, no edge, no ice. But the track that followed Rodent’s tail on Mary Anne Hobbs’s Recommends show the other week – Calcium Red by Blawan – shuts the light right down, packing some dense night-time menace over unrelenting beats. You go for Burial, you leave with Blawan techno.

GREG FOX

That man Colin again. EX EYE crossed our ears last month, and now it’s the turn of Stetson drummer Greg Fox to push adventure our way. Restless, machine-gunning drum ‘n’ tenor sax here on By Virtue of Emptiness.

TRUPA TRUPA

Hazy, warped post-ish rock from Poland that comes off like Dead Meadow tripping through bogs with Holy Mountain. Or maybe it’s the drunkest, most arse-rough Sigur Ros wannabe you ever heard. Works for me, make your own mind up with To Me from the upcoming album.

NEIL YOUNG

At once familiar and fresh, like most of Young’s work, Hitchhiker shows him at his most solo and most urgent, chopping a rhythm off that acoustic like only he can. Certified future classic from 1976, available on the now un-unreleased Hitchhiker album.

GY!BE, Myrkur and Chelsea Wolfe among the other heavies making September sound waves – not caught them yet, some other time.

BACKTRACKS

Get the Van in. Not Morrison, not Der Graaf Generator, not a paraphrased Rollins book but Van Halen. The early gold, the Hagar dynamite, the unabashed stadium rocKAKAKAKAKA – that’s where we’ve been this month. Big harmonies, tasteful shred and many a heavier, sharper riff than you probably dare remember, there’s much to revisit on the first four albums. However, it’s two percussion-heavy Hagars that take top backtracks billing this month.

Mine All Mine

OU812. What an intro. Not industrial exactly, but not far off. Percussion and keyboard dominant, which ain’t exactly what you think of with VH, Mine All Mine is surely one of Van Halen’s best. Alex up front, urgent momentum and a half decent lyric for once.

Pleasure Dome

A long-time highlight from 1991’s F.U.C.K., Pleasure Dome sounds at least as good as it did back then. Proper songcraft and musicianship that is, again, rhythm-driven while Eddie’s guitar dives, bombs, twists and spirals through to a tough-nut finale. A beast of a hard rocker from a guitar-driven record. 

Sorry about the lack of proper reviews of late, just been short of time.

til the next one, then!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

PLANT CARRIES FIRE

AUGUST REWIND: SPACESHIFTERS RETURN, A LOMBARDO-PATTON BEATDOWN, AND STETSO-SONIC METAL

ANY TIME NOW, said the robertplant.com homepage, May 2017.

Is it a Zep reunion? said the rock press, minutes later.

ffkkk?!?!?nnnrrrrrrrr…..

Talk about trying too hard to make something out of something else. NEVER GONNA HAPPEN, never was, let it be, make a note of Zep II track two and apply it to pretty much any thought of a Zep get-together. Robert Plant makes music – new music. Even when it’s a covers project, it’s fired by something new… band, genre, location, whatever, and the Zep stuff onstage is reworked with an earthly mystery. Follows the muse, man. Wanderlusting, collaborating, surrendering to music’s call, and now we learn there’s a new album – Carry Fire – on the way in October. Cannot wait (despite being priced out of the Bristol gig). Lead-off track The May Queen has a Bron-yr shuffle atop spaceshifter beats, echoing the ceaseless roar. What a voice.

Dead Cross

When Mike Patton guest presented Henry Rollins’s KCRW radio show the other week, of course they talked about Dead Cross. Patton said that when he got the call to ask if he wanted to sing, he had to think about it. Did he want to do a hardcore record? Could he do a hardcore record, pushing 50?

Check Seizure and Desist and get your answer: yes and yes. Hardcore to the power 11, short songs packed with structure, a proper singer doing screams with range AND Dave Lombardo pushing disbelief on our ears yet again. Dead Cross do not hold back. Dillinger Escape Plan manic – fitting, given Patton’s involvement – but thicker, fatter, heavier, and a lot of that’s gotta be the sticks. Lombardo Mindblow just has to be heard to be believed (Obedience School, Grave Slave), so whatever doubts Patton had about giving/taking a battering with Dead Cross, Lombardo must have had them as well. Or no? Anyway, get your h-core mojo strapped back on with 27-and-a-half minutes of no-WAAAAAY on Ipecac, and take a splintered pew at the Church of the Motherfuckers.

EX EYE

New track/new exposure of the month – Xenolith; The Anvil by EX EYE. Surging high-drama heavy prog instrumental, it’s ripe for Motorpsycho/Heliocentrics/Steven Wilson dabblers, perhaps not surprising when you find that EX EYE are Colin Stetson’s band. And the fact that they’re on Relapse Records tells you they’re not pissing about. Apocalyptic sax metal has landed.

Helpless

In the name of passing things on, the lovely Holy Roar record label sent out a link to a new video by Helpless – so here’s Sinkhole for you lot as well. It’s only a minute, it’s not polite. Dare you?

BACKTRACKS

Most of the time we’re not listening to new stuff, so what about those nuggets and deeper cuts that burrow down the e-hole from the many other albums we’ve got on a loop? Here are a couple that have wormed in this past month – see if they do the same for you.

Prince: Ain’t About 2 Stop

“If life is a B-side, my dream is the A” – throbbing right-now production on this HITnRUN Phase One hard hitter: groping cyborg beats, dense-dense-dense, and a semi solo as only Prince can do … you won’t find it on y’tube, though. Sorry.

Harvey Milk: Goodbye Blues

Non-immediate gratification. The anti-now, the slowest burn, the non-instant. They make you wait, this lot, bellowing like a beast in death throes, but you KNOW it’s worth it. Propping up the back end of Life….the Best Game in Town, Goodbye Blues slows your mind before bursting it with a Manic Depression-style triple-time pick-up, and a punishingly heroic solo to end.

Queens of the Stone Age: Suture up your Future

With Villains emerging, there’s been plenty of reason to seek out some Queens previous, and this light-footed swinger from Era Vulgaris is addictive. Sea-drifting melancholy and hazy shimmer, ending in chaos. The sound of life being let go? Maybe the words tell all. What do you think?

’til next time!

 

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind