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

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. In my record collection, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska sits between the Badlands debut and Testament’s Practice What You Preach… 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)