Brooklyn’s Barkmarket are now probably better known as a footnote in the production career of hollerer-guitarist Dave Sardy, but footnote is an F-word we’ll not allow. There’s no way this band should be reduced to footie status. So let’s rewind to 1994 when, after three albums, Barkmarket opened the door to their Lardroom.
Back then, bands like Rollins Band, Helmet, Quicksand and Cop Shoot Cop were probably as popular as they were ever going to get. They hit the festivals, got their videos aired and, in the Rollins Band’s case, tapped briefly on the mainstream’s outer window. These bands had a street-smart intelligence to match the physicality of their music.
Barkmarket grafted in the same neighbourhood, forging a blue collar slab-shifting pummel that’s experimental yet never pretentious … just honest. Creative. Rocking, always. Strange, often. Surreal round the edges, factory-line solid in the centre.
I DROWN kicks off this 15-minute EP with an Opiate-era Tool/non-staccato Helmet blend that runs a fluid groove, especially when it ramps up the body slam at the end. Time signatures shift around but we’ve only got 3 minutes, so you know there’s no indulgence. It’s too rooted in punk and post hardcore sensibilities, but that fluidity of movement within and around the 4/4 is what sets this stupendous track apart. The riffs almost moan but it’s a heavy, girder-like moan. And Sardy lays a voice to match, howling with opaque wordage.
The rest of the EP (except the PUSHIN’ AIR collage goof-off) has the same unwavering aesthetic: freewheeling riffs that take no shit, occasional detours that elevate and separate from brawn-heavy metal. DIG IN’s megathick bass pulls us down some dank Louder Than Love grunge hole, LITTLE WHITE DOVE packs on-off thrash charge and JOHNNY SHIV ends the show with chords that bend and warp, like something being built, hammered and sculpted into being. Got a real sweet groove, too – offbeat and tough – before breaking down to a failed-engine ending.
Where did Barkmarket go from here? Not far. The L Ron album followed in 1996 and then they called time. Dave Sardy went on to produce about a million other bands and score films. No idea what happened to the other band members. No idea about their first two albums either, though Gimmick and L Ron both get the vote. But this EP? A pure shot of golden-age noise rock with sideways smudges.
Released: 1994 on Def American
Length: 15 mins 11 secs
Tracklist: I Drown – Dig In – Pushin’ Air – Little White Dove – Johnny Shiv
For fans of: Helmet, Quicksand, Rollins Band, early Clutch, Kepone, Jesus Lizard, Cement
MARK LANEGAN PASSED AWAY. SOME WORDS AND A GIG REVIEW REVISITED
It’s all out of proportion. Mark Lanegan’s presence, I mean. There aren’t that many Lanegan albums in my collection but it feels like there are, and he’s been top of mind since the rock world dimmed on word of his passing on Tuesday 22nd February, 2022. My thoughts have been drawn his way more than they’ve been drawn towards other departeds, even some whose music I play a lot more.
Probably because he came across as … a person. A being. And a serious one too, not to mention flawed. Seemed to have the whole human experience baked into his voice. Deep smoked and lived-in. Potent and intense. You don’t need too much, a small dose carries far. It connects, even when you don’t know its owner.
He’s always been there too, certainly for anyone who came of age in the early 90s and sucked up the alt-rock scene. He’s been with the bands that mattered. We see him as a Seattle name but it was the desert-scene players he stepped in with more often, orbiting their many satellite projects. Low key but bigger than a bit player. It’s almost like he needed a collective of like-minded spirits loose enough to attach to and detach from at will.
Re-reading the review, it chimes a lot more strongly with today’s news and mood than expected. His physical frailty was a shock. But so was his generosity, and this is what’s coming up time and again in fans’ comments and memories of the guy: his latter-years openness, if you can call it that.
Now he’s gone and we’re revisiting the music. With Animals, his 2018 release with Duke Garwood, made a real impact when listening to it again yesterday. Seriously beautiful. The fact that it took Mark’s death for me to cue it up is a brutal reminder that we need to pay more attention to our artists and their music. Slow the fuck down, listen better. Because I don’t know when I’d have next dug it out and it deserves better than that.
Presence. Something Mark Lanegan didn’t lack. I haven’t read his memoirs and don’t think I want to – Sing Backwards and Weep too grim? Devil in a Coma, maybe. But there will be more albums to pick up, selectively, in good time. His musical flow has many tributaries and none of us have paddled the same route.
After days of trying and failing this week, Cult of Luna‘s Somewhere Along the Highway finally got played in full yesterday. Glorious. But why the protracted arsing about just to play an album?
The conditions weren’t right. Nearly, but not quite. It is winter, which is a start. And we had the sub-zeros outside, finally. But it was also TOO BLOODY SUNNY every morning to do justice to Highway’s cold weight.
Winter music. Seasonal listening. Frosty bites. What gets you through?
Scratch that last question – it makes winter sound like the enemy, a battle to be endured and escaped from. It’s not. It’s Optimum Music Season. Short dark days and the great indoors are primed for music, books about music, and winter music selections.
This gives you every excuse to dig out some music specifically for the time of year and then agonise over exactly the right time to play it. You want to turn it into a 3-D experience: surround sound with seasonal mood and vision.
As we know, some albums just sound better at certain times. Not like there are any rules, rights or wrongs about it, it’s down to preferences. But, more than any other time of year, winter encourages this hibernatory Right Moment fixation.
For example, David Bowie‘s Blackstar and The Next Day (and a few other Bowie albums) are never bright-light listens, not for me at least. They’re autumn-winter affairs or soundworlds for the smallest hours. The dead of night? That’s when they’re most alive. Never the heat.
Henry Rollins touches on music’s relationship with time, season and place a lot in his books, and it’s one of the things that makes him a really good music writer. He writes as a fan, not a critic. You won’t get in depth reviews or high brow critical perspectives, he knows that’s not his space. But you do get words and fanaticism about buying music, playing music, what memories it stokes, when it got/gets played and what it soundtracks in life. And when you read this, you realise you’re not alone in your nerd-world musical indulgences. He’s out-nerding everyone, doing it for a living. It’s on a different scale. But it’s good to know because it validates your own quirks.
Back to the seasonal sounds, though. Which albums make for a winter-enhancing selection box?
It starts with the nice long seasonal build-up to Christmas. Childhood pop for the magic-of-Christmas mainline (Frankie Goes to Hollywood ALWAYS, some other pre-teen pop as well usually). Uncool 80s metal for another childhood link. Lyrical storytelling and sparse folk – Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler, Michael Chapman – for long nights, low lights and late mornings. Accessible jazz or blues, ditto. Post/Scandi metal for the harsher realities once the Christmas vibe is retired.
On top of that there’s a pull towards music that’s warm. Not sunny warm but intimate warm. Close-up instrumentation warm. Analogue 60s/70s productions warm. Late-era Beatles, that kind of stuff.
Something new that really tuned in to the 70s analogue spirit this winter was a 2021 album:
If Words Were Flowers by Curtis Harding.
Ho-lee shit, go check it. Ultra warm soul with just enough backbone funk to swing a tail. Gospel sweep and widescreen strings. Bass clarinet rasps and tenor sax uppers. Soft psychedelic fuzz. Hip-hop stiffness on the beats. And I dare you not be melted by The One‘s gentleheavy groove.
File near Mayfield, Axelrod, Kiwanuka? This might be glib and obvious (what did you expect) as a batch of references, and maybe I’m riding high on the first-plays thrill of a new discovery that’s fitting the mood, but it’s all we can manage right now. Haven’t even checked the lyrics yet.
Tip? Crank it up on a walk out in the frost. Soul with a scarf on.
Veering off now to a different thought:
When will Nick Cave and Warren Ellis do a winter album? Even wilder, what about a Christmas one?
Surely it would leap to the top of the seasonal stack with Low’s Christmas and the Sufjan Stevens box set. Quiet moods, small-watt ambience, ghost tales, long shadows – Cave & Ellis are surely built for this? COME ON FELLAS! Let’s get the rumour started. They’re a fixture in my seasonal listening anyway, might as well go full hog with an official St Nick Christmas Album.
Right, that’s it for now. Nice talking with you. See below for a few words on three winter aces, lifted lazily with no edits from a previous post. The sentiment’s the same.
BJORK – Vespertine
Top of the winter pops is Vespertine, always. Somehow, it’s the essence of snow in musical form, yet it doesn’t sound like it’s contrived to be a winter album – it feels like it just turned out that way. Hidden Place pushes against wind and snow drifts before the chorus sweeps you up and out, flying over white patchworks. Frosti, Aurora and An Echo, A Stain make for an especially frost-twinkled run of three, but the whole of Vespertine has a softness of sound that is flakes falling, ice forming. Magical. It only ever gets played at this time of year. That’s the deal.
NICK CAVE AND WARREN ELLIS – White Lunar
Where Vespertine exposes your inner wonder to winter’s call, White Lunar tracks the harsh, bleak end of the same season – let your mind go with The Rider #2 or Zanstra and conjure a whiteout. Song for Jesse and Micro Sucker could have fallen from Vespertine’s branches, but really, it’s isolation and loneliness that dominate these heavy scores …. like Srey Leak, disc 2. Plug in for barren, wintry detachment from civilisation this Christmas.
CULT OF LUNA – Somewhere Along the Highway
Or Salvation. Or Vertikal and Vertikal II. But probably Somewhere Along the Highway. Less seasonal than the others here, but I always get more Cult of Luna in the diet in winter. Slow-moving, heavy and intense, the Swedish post-metal masters rarely waver far from their template and yet, like Mogwai, refine it pretty much every time they put a record out. This, their fourth album, may be their best. Dim soars to a higher mellow than they’d managed before, and Back to Chapel Town is a timeless snowbound pounder. Just get the whole album on, it’s a class act.
CHRISTMAS WISHES, all! What’s your album of the year? Robert Plant and Alison Krauss?
Bye, then. See you next time
ah, but not quite. Let’s divert for a winter ramble for a few minutes as night outruns day and strings of lights blink into life. Let’s evade the best-of-the-year music rat race and run with the spirit of the season:
Gifts and giving.
Whether it’s a time-of-life thing or a COVID-rooted acceleration, I don’t know. But music seems to mean more and get more special with every year, as do those who make it. They’re the givers of true gifts.
One album which won’t be troubling any end-of-year lists (because he never does) but fits the theme is Joy Bomb by Dug Pinnick.
Why the big love?
BECAUSE IT’S DUG PINNICK.
Yep, the guy best known for being the singer and bass groover in the unfathomably magnificent King’s X put another album out.
Listening to both the Faith, Hope, Love and King’s X albums again today, 30 or so years after they came out, was an exercise in time travel and euphoria. Any King’s X fan knows this. The band inspires unconditional love and those records are exalted rock territory. It doesn’t need explaining, even if you could put it into words. And though they never quite hit the same creative peaks later on, they’ve always been consistently great.
So, it was a buzz to hear about a new record from the ever-prolific Dug (many other projects on the go, not least the harder edged KXM). The guy is 71 now. How does Joy Bomb fare?
Well, it’s pure Pinnick – voice fulla soul, snaking bass-led low end, melodies you can’t shake, varying degrees of rock-funk-soul depending on the track. Key Changer stomps an upbeat funk while rocking too hard to be funk, but it’s in there. As he says himself in interviews, everything comes out through a Dug filter and this is very purely a song about music. Equally Divided is a zombie singalong lurch, a bit gluey, a fraction slow. And if there’s a slight dip two thirds the way through the album, it picks up again with The Poison‘s beat-messing groove and the jerky, heavy, unsettled funk jabs in Making Sense of the Bones.
Some nicely unleashed solos throughout as well. Shades of KXM/George Lynch.
But however this album goes down, the point (today) is this: having Dug Pinnick in the world releasing music is, in itself, a great thing. That’s the gift. Especially when everything’s a little bit fucked.
Another record generating a bigger-than-music vibe is far higher profile and it’s no surprise, given the opening paragraph, that Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’s Raise the Roof is a record of the year.
I say this with all the confidence of a slacker who’s only played it twice
but yes, the quality is that obvious. The special something, the huge inner glow, is fired up as soon as the stylus hits touchdown, and how many records each year really do that?
Maybe it’ll be a lesser record in a few spins, who knows. Doubtful, but possible. Right now though, there’s no rush to Raise the Roof. No need to listen in haste and cram it. Better instead to create a moment and be open to the overlapping musical histories it spins.
So, there we go. A couple of non-reviews of special records from 2021 this Christmas. Maybe we’ll throw a few others out there in a more typical look-back in a few days, who knows.
NOVEMBER REWIND: Attention-worthy sounds from the last month or so, spanning noise rock, ice pop (?), machine punk and full-throttle jazz.
ILL CONSIDERED – Dervish
Full-flowing fast-flowing freewheeling jazz action with a shitload of rock attitude, Dervish explodes with energy. It’s the kind of thing that pricks the ears of uninformed non-jazzers like me because of its vaguely Comet is Coming intro, but then ups the thrills by dismantling all brakes and going for the burn. Never-resting drums promise a sweaty, over-extended jam in a packed room (one day). Don’t yet know if Dervish is typical of this fiercely prolific band, but it’s more than enough to warrant a look-in.
M(H)AOL – GenderStudies
It’s pronounced MALE. They’re from Dublin. Gender Studies is from their debut EP. Songs about misogyny and violence against women. There’s a hard, machine-like intensity about the rhythm … Send-era Wire, maybe. Words spoken, not shouted. ‘Why don’t you study my gender?’ – a challenge more than an invitation. Heavy broken bass. Head nod groove. Post patriarch punk?
AGABAS – Children of Adam
Noise rock with hardcore vox and thrash ‘n’ roll pace. You might think it’s some kind of Entombed-Huntsmen-Cave In face peeler – and it is. But Agabas call it death jazz and sure enough, buried in the tumult, there IS wind instrumentation. Check the breakdown then wait for a bigger blowout while beaster chords pound the background. Noisy non-4/4 from Trondheim, Norway.
DORCHA – Honey Badger
It’s not the moto-rific intro and freaky oscillations that hypnotise (great though they are). It’s the cool, swirling avant-pop perfection of the switched-up second half. This is where Honey Badger ascends from earthly form into something icy yet warm. Resist? You won’t. Sublime cold weather listening, it’s over here.
Type O Negative might be a bone-crushingly obvious choice for Halloween. But that’s because they bone-crushingly OWN the goth metal Halloween soundscape, and if previous Halloween blog posts have been a bit fallow for haunting Type O replays, this year it’s full harvest – been end-to-end back-to-back Type O Negative albums all week.
And because the Brooklyn four bleed love, loss and death from every pore, you know there are deep cuts on every album that fit the season. So, let’s go there. Let’s cut a little deeper.
Suspended in Dusk: time to hang.
“Damn me Father, for I must sin …”
From their many epics, Suspended in Dusk must be the slowest and the most atmospherically gothic. Hidden in the back catalogue like a shadow-lurking creephead, it snuck out as a ‘Previously too embarrassed to release’ B-side on the Christian Woman single. Then it loomed long over the digipak version of the Bloody Kisses album – the one with the thrash-punk and pisstaker tracks extracted so the slower, lusher, Type O vision could be revealed.
Which means there’s a fair chance that some ToN fans won’t even have heard it. That’s not going to change with this blog because I’ve got fewer readers than Michael Myers has facial expressions, but so what? Suspended in Dusk is pure gothic suspense in vamp’s cloaking:
“With every victim I pray for my own death
And as much as I love the night
I curse the moon’s eerie glow
This bloodlust that drags me to forever
The toxic rays of dawn that condemn me to limbo.”
Across eight and a half minutes of trademark Type O layers – groaning downer riffs, cavernous hymn-like surges, twilight-tinkling keyboards, funeral bpm – Pete Steele inhabits the vampire and somehow conveys the hopeless plight of the eternally condemned.
FIRST GIG SINCE THE PANDEMIC. WHO BETTER THAN THIS LOT PEELING STRIPS OFF THEIR HOME TURF?
The Bullingdon, Oxford, October 21st, 2021
Never bought a ticket as fast after seeing a listing … first gig after lockdown/s is going to be Desert Storm? YES. Deep down, I’d quietly hoped the scheduling stars would align like this – surely the most dependably metallic way to break back into Oxford gig action.
But before they take the stage in The Bullingdon, it’s APF Records labelmates Battalions, straight outta Hull, whose sludge grooves and downer riffs hit the target hard. Tasty filthy, mmmm. Phil Wilkinson’s hostile screams belie his friendly manner so be warned if you’re a Battalions first-timer, like what I is: his zero melody style is harsh. But it’s a good set and the mood is right.
And Desert Storm?
Nailed-on quality, end to end. Simple as that. Black Bile, Vengeful Gods and The Machine are among the Omens tracks aired in this comically/pandemically delayed Omens album launch party, and soaring Sentinels anthem Capsized is a natural high. Long-term gig anchor Queen Reefer helps stir up a lively bit of moshing – how long since we’ve seen that? – but it’s the gig-ending double hit of Enslaved in the Icy Tundra and Convulsion (wasn’t it?) that vamps it up into something wilder. Colossal tunes, both.
And in the thick of that peak mosh action is Battalions’ Phil, who’s been slamming hard all night already so he gets the Undiluted Commitment to Metal award, no question. Doesn’t even lose his glasses. Or his beard. Respect.
There’s not much more to write because, really, this is a celebration more than a review. When I went to buy some merch – a 7-inch split single – after the gig, I got a “Thanks for supporting the cause!” from singer Matt Ryan.
A riff-heavy pleasure, obviously. Got to get out there and support our bands: we all need each other. But these guys make it easy because the records and the gigs are so damned good. Hope you’ve got a band or musician like this where you live – and if so, tell us.
WELCOME BACK, Desert Storm.
New Desert Storm album being recorded right now. Tour dates already announced for 2022. New line-up features bassist Mark Dennett who also plays with Battalions
R.I.P. WILL MECUM, KARMA TO BURN FOUNDER AND RIFFMEISTER
Plenty of musicians pass away and we can’t comment on them all, nor should we even try. But this one? Karma to Burn have featured a few times in this blog so yes, we’re doing it.
Will Mecum died of a head injury after a fall at the end of April. He was 48. Weirdly, four months later, that’s pretty much still all we know.
It feels like small media noise for a band who, if you got them in your life, seemed like a pretty big name. You felt they were known to everyone in the rock-metal-stoner scene, not least because of their pretty unique format and on-off links to John Garcia. But maybe they weren’t. Maybe they really were still cult.
They were definitely a conundrum. Sometimes you’d play their albums and revel in the greatest of no-bullshit rock sounds, that instrumental riff metal thing that took its cues from the AC/DC, Ramones or Motorhead school of Ain’t Broke No Fix and just rocks like a bastard. Sometimes that’s all you need: pure rock, no solos, no art, no words. The subversive power of guitar-bass-drums amplification.
At other times, you’d get a bit bored by the one-trick repetition and lack of adventure (never the debut though – always killer, that one).
Similar thing live, depending on which incarnation you caught. Last time I saw Karma to Burn was 2018 and it was a good gig but didn’t quite fly for a band you want to be totally smoked by. But Audioscope 2011 – man, that was something. Three badass road dogs and plentee amps upstairs in a pub made for a shit-kicking headliner set. Mecum was into it yet anonymous next to his more animated bandmates, the genial Rich Mullins on low-hung bass and the wildman-unkempt Rob Oswald on drums.
Watch a clip from that very gig. This is the Karma to Burn and Will Mecum that lives on.
Wild, Wonderful Purgatory rocking hard while writing this. It sounds better than ever. And now that K2B have joined the departed, it probably always will.
So long, guys. And eternal thanks for the live introduction to Desert Storm.
AUGUST REWIND: Experimental punks, Norwegian fusion and a St Vincent Metallica stunner – let’s check some musical heat from a cool summer.
THE ARMED – Faith in Medication
WOW. Chin up now, off the floor… there’s so much overdrive on every bit of this OTT attack that you’ll melt yourself trying to make sense of it, so don’t bother. Just marvel and be withered by the sheer insanity of The Armed’s total hyper-ness. Progressive hardcore noise with hooks buried deep in overstimulation, it’s a mind-bending blast of brutal chaos. Be scared. And happy. And scared again. Faith in Medication right here.
SPECIAL INTEREST – Street Pulse Beat
These New Orleans avant punks have just released their 2016 demos as an album. But this track, from last year’s The Passion Of, leapt out when 6 Music superfan Mary Anne Hobbs aired it the other week. Vocalist Alli Logout introduced it, saying she’d written the song ‘while feeling very lost and in the clutches of co-dependency, and realising that no-one could save me but myself. It’s a love song to the lost.’ Her narrated intro gives way to industrial windscreen-wiper beats where a thick bass throws up a wall of tone more than notes, and deft synths soften the edges to pull you in. Sparse, intense, literate, impassioned: Street Pulse Beat awaits.
HEDVIG MOLLESTAD TRIO – All Flights Cancelled
With moto-riffic pulsations from the off, this track is definitely going somewhere. But where? All Flights Cancelled can only mean one thing: ROAD TRIP – and this is the soundtrack. But when the riff drops out and Mollestad’s solo guitar moves in, it becomes a trip with tone and class and a fiery yet tasteful virtuosity. A new-psyche jam with prog-jazz muscle.
ST VINCENT – Sad But True
What do you make of Metallica’s Blacklist? Curious and wary is the early verdict here, though this is without knowing exactly what it all sounds like. Wary of the number of Enter Sandmen for sure. Wary of all the Nothing Else Mattresses, too. Wary of way too many straight covers … 53 interpretations of 12 tracks is a lot and there’s bound to be some uninspiring duds. Probably from the world of metal.
But St Vincent’s version of Sad But True is bang on. In keeping with her shapeshifting wont, it’s not like the warm 70s analogue of her (excellent) Daddy’s Home album. No, this Sad But True struts a seductive industrial funk groove like a sexy Nine Inch Nails. And the guitar solo? Owned. More like this please. Looking forward to whatever Kamasi Washington does as well.
You know what it’s like. You see a reissue or a magazine profile or a landmark album anniversary or a musician’s death or something and you end up triggered into a back-catalogue sinkhole. It’s part of the music-fan game. We love it.
I dug out my TDK D90 radio taping of the gig and played it before the EP.
Haven’t pressed clunk-click on that one in decades. Beyond the 4 EP tracks (Hurting Kind, Liar’s Dance, Tall Cool One and Wearing and Tearing), what else would be on there?
Not much, I reckoned. Another couple of tracks, maybe.
By the time Rock and Roll played out at the end, I’d noted eight tracks in the setlist. Immigrant Song works way better than you might have thought, while Hurting Kind and Tie Dye on the Highway are solid enough, kinda what you’d expect from Plant ’90. He was rocking his hardest album solo album to date, but vocally not quite home. That would be Fate of Nations and everything solo that followed it.
Jimmy Page joins for Misty Mountain Hop. Ha. Not quite all over the shop, but taut it ain’t. Wearing and Tearing though, that’s a different beast. Forceful and ragged, it snaps you to attention.
Here’s the track listing from the tape. Can you see what’s missing?
Hurting Kind (Got My Eyes On You) Immigrant Song Tie Dye on the Highway Going to California Tall Cool One Misty Mountain Hop (with Jimmy Page) Wearing and Tearing (with Jimmy Page) Rock and Roll (with Jimmy Page)
Yep. NO LIAR’S DANCE.
So, now I know – finally – what it was that bugged me back at the time. It was having that song cut from the radio airing that I’d conscientiously and fanatically made the effort to tape (nerd is as nerd does). And when you’ve seen or heard the Knebworth version, you’ll know exactly why it bugged the shite out of ma much younger self. It’s a performance and a half, definitely the track of the set. Doug Boyle hits that acoustic hard.
But now, with the new RSD EP, we’ve got the audio version so I guess that’s some sort of closure after 31 years. It turns out that my taping was a Radio 1 replay of the gig, not the live broadcast from the day itself – Tommy Vance said so, right after Rock and Roll. It also turns out that Plant played Nirvana that day too, so that’s another one to go and find.
And, if you haven’t seen it, here’s Liar’s Dance in all its windblown brilliance. Check that shirty billow. Boyle on fire and in command throughout. What a player.
While we’re here: RIP Phil Johnstone, co-writer and keyboard player through Now and Zen, Manic Nirvana and Fate of Nations. Crucial albums all, and his part in them was huge.