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

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



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

 

 

 

DRUDE FONK AND DC TRIBUTES

MARCH REWIND: NEW COPE, NEW CRYSTAL

A couple of new releases from the past month or so to get us going in this March Rewind.

Julian Cope: Rite At Ya

Julian Cope: Rite At Ya

Cope: Rite on

Coming off the back of Drunken Songs, the Archdrude and his heritage Heads slipped another mind-number of a Rite-off our way this month… Rite At Ya. The last one, in 2006, was Rite Bastard. If you don’t know the Rite score, it’s an ongoing series of semi-fonk longflows in a metronomic, ultra pared vein where Not Much Happens except groove – minimal – and time – maximal. These self-styled meditational headspaces have no peaks, dips, breakdowns or pick-ups, just endless miles of sly stone-wheel trundle and tangerine dreams. Rite at Ya’s title track will nibble 20 minutes of your life without you even noticing, while the closing Ringed Hills of Ver tells you what Underworld might sound like if they got stuck on a one-note drone and added nothing. Rite on the level, the clue’s in the subtitle: Monotonous Meditations from the Back of Beyond (1993–2016). Check it here if you so fancy the most calming of trips.

Crystal Fairy: Crystal Fairy

Crystal Fairy

Pure cut

Does this band pack some crackle or what? With Teri Gender Bender on voice – shades of Karen O – atop King Buzzo’s heavy weaponry and, of course, the Dale Melvin Omar Volta Rhythm Section, Crystal Fairy are surely as pure a super-quart as we’re gonna get all year. Undeniably Melvins in its riffsome tonnage, as Drugs on the Bus and Secret Agent Rat amply show, yet concise and sharp and free of obtuse indulgence, Crystal Fairy flies with a punkish energy that wastes absolutely none of its 40 minutes 19 seconds. Another great Melvins rebirth… one for senile animal lovers.

RSD10

It’s the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day this month. Here’s the list. Nothing. Crucial. Except Dope, maybe. Think I’ll give up on hoping for something to come out of these lists every year, coz every year it feels like a list of specials that are special because they were made special for an event that was labelled special. How circular. Let’s just get down to the record shop, that beacon of noise and beauty and community, and CELEBRATE IT the shop both with and without RSD vy-nil. 

DC tribute

Which musical DC are we paying tribute to, Washington? Nah. Other end of the alphabet. Last week’s gig was an AC/DC tribute – the AC/DC Experience at the Oxford O2.

‘tribute band’. Right…

The tribute circuit always seemed to me to be a credibility-sapping Other World that ran parallel to the real one, but that thought was banished and swapped for a full-blown leap (to be explained) through a lightning-bolt portal to an AC/DC experience, tribute style. And you know what? These guys are a blast. The Scott-Johnson frontman hits the highs with ease while an Angus Young takes himself off the stage at every chance – in the crowd, up on the side tables, up on the bar, cap and blazer thrown off, the whole lot. Never stops moving, never stops playing either.

With the exception of Thunderstruck (which is awesome, natch), none of the set is more recent than Back in Black so it’s wall-to-stage-to-bar-to-wall classic-era anthems: Sin City, Whole Lotta Rosie, Highway to Hell, Back in Black, Hell’s Bells, Dirty Deeds, Touch Too Much, High Voltage…. the stuff that puts smiles on everyone’s faces, and I mean everyone – including my stepson Jan (age 12), who is the reason we are here in the first place. His First Rock Gig, first proper bit of live rock action. Seemed to me to be the right place to start the apprenticeship and he loved every minute. Even got devil horns in his face from the Angus – and threw them right back. Not gonna get that at Wembley, are you?

So if you’ve got young sons, daughters, nieces and nephews who wanna rock, or maybe even a bunch of drunk mates who wanna rock, the AC/DC Experience make it happen. THANKS LADS, great night.

’til next time!

 

COPELESS IN CARDIFF

FEBRUARY REWIND: LOST GIGS, THRASHERS’ ROMANCE AND BOWIE’S LAST PLAN

Beer-fuelled tunes, trusty mellotron, acoustic guitar – possibly some lurid shade of green or orange – and piss-funny visionary tales from a shamanic rock-onteur perma-decked in shades n’ leathers with lashings of YEAH MAN! optimismo…that’s what you’re heading for when you get a ticket for J Cope 2017. Out on tour in support of Drunken Songs, he’s wrapping it all up at the Globe in Cardiff on Feb 26, which is where we find ourselves reading a just-posted note that sez NO GIG.

Shit.

And without the Archdrude on stage, there’s not much else to report from February. Let’s hope all is well in the Cope camp.

LOVING THE DISEASE

When did you last hear Caught in a Mosh on daytime radio? Never? Then treat yourself to a nice little old-school buzz with Mark Radcliffe’s Valentine Day show with Scott Ian and Frank Bello. Top fellas, ace chat, find it at 1 hour 35 minutes into the show, listen on a weekday afternoon for max pleasure (expires March 14th). Death Angel, Pantera, Sepultura and Slayer also played, as are Powermad – straight outta 1989, vintage frash par excellence.

NO PLAN FOR BOWIE

The last tracks recorded by David Bowie finally got their non-Lazarus physical release this month. No Plan, Killing a Little Time and When I Met You all follow the Blackstar vibe, and Killing… is especially turbulent heavy like the reworked Sue. What an ending.

Otherwise, it was Drore and OHHMS blowing out the Cellar that was the Oxford highlight and we’ve already covered the gig, so that’s it for now a very short REWIND, time to get outta here.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

PIGS, OHHMS, FAIRIES AND BEER

JANUARY REWIND: NEW HEAVIES FOR 2017

Been a busy month for new discoveries so excuse the gush of these short sharp first impressions but they’ve given January a bit of a jump start, y’ know? A frisson for the short freeze.

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGSthe-wizard-and-the-seven-swines

Pigs. One pigs is not enough (grammar violation overruled) for some people, which is how you end up with Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs as a band handle. Doesn’t look quite so bad when written down here, but when you’re scanning the DAB text scroll to catch the name of the band whose rough-arsed rollock has fully pricked your ears, it’s an infinite porker drag. What the fissing puck is all this pigs shit???

Worth the wait though so it’s a big snouty thanks to Gideon Coe for playing whatever the track was in the first place, because without that introductory exposure to pigsx7, I’d have been forever deprived of The Wizard and the Seven Swines, their 22-minute one-tracker from 2013. Does Fugazi ire, Sleep heft and Thee Oh Sees scorch tease thy aggro-prog garage psyche cravings? Then check the Pigs, meet The Wizard and keep all ears peeled for new album  Feed the Rats.

HEAVY RESISTANCE: OHHMS

You know how some stuff, when you first hear it, is so massive and all-enveloping that it begs, nay commands, you to drop down for heavy duty worship to the Rok Godz?

OHHMS is that stuff. Long swollen subterranean Yob-bery that peddles a mainline in transcendent rifferolla, the Bloom/Cold EPs add up to a massive 60+ minutes for four just tracks – go for the total immersion entry point of The Anchor and see if you ain’t sold on Cold. New album on the way, and Jeezus HC only knows how The Cellar is gonna contain their oversized moltenalia when they hit Oxford on February 13th. CANNOT WAIT. Support comes from Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, by the way.

TWO MELS, A GENDER BENDER AND A MAN FROM MARS

Melvins have been obscenely collaborative in recent years, and now they’ve got another ID on the go though it’s not under the Melvins banner. Nope, the Buzz n Dale show have hooked it up with Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Teri Gender Bender to form Crystal Fairy, and if the album is anything like the tracks played by Henry Rollins on his Iggy Pop 6 Music sit-in then it’s gonna be tight like (a) Senile Animal. Album due out v soon on Ipecac.

ALCO POP: BEER-FUELLED DRUDENESS

The return! Of the former Lord Yatesbury! Yep, Julian Cope is BACK with a new album: Drunken Songs, a record celebrating Cope’s official embarkation on a Beer Trip that was launched in Armenia a few years back. W-anchored at the back by an oversized Road to Tralee and inspired in part by the funeral song that Cope wrote for himself – As the Beer Flows Over Me, first appearing on Psychedelic Revolution but rerecorded here – Drunken Songs finds the Drude in light mood musically, all mellotron-ic melody and Black Sheep-ish acoustica. He’s on tour as well so don’t miss this highly focused rambling, man – see you in Cardiff for that one.

ADAMS UN-AMPED

Finally, Do you still love me? by Ryan Adams – ace acoustic-only tuneage, nailing that gentle downer vibe.

’til next time!

2016: the worst, the best

Festive salutations and a happy new year!

Hope the bigfella Claus delivered the goodies, but whatever delights came spilling out of his magic sack, 2016 was a tough gig. What a remorseless cull of rock and pop names, and it didn’t even break for xmas – George Michael on Christmas Day, Rick Parfitt on December 23rd. Surely there’s got to be a little bit o’ room for a little bit of Quo in everyone’s collection, so how about spinning a handful of harder-rocking SQ to celebrate Parfitt and keep the party going at the 12 bar, even if it’s only in your head? Mystery Song, Don’t Drive My Car, Over the Edge and Is There a Better Way will all do the trick.

So, another bit of chat about the music events and highs of 2016? We’ll list a few, right after the shortest of December Rewinds.

REZNOR’S RETURN

Nine Inch Nails came back in recorded form with a new EP. Not the Actual Events appeared earlier in December and a first listen to Burning Bright (Fields on Fire) shows Reznor and soundtracker-turned-bandmate Atticus Ross on slow-grinding, doomy form. More to follow in 2017?

SHOCK of the year

David Bowie. Not over that one, even a year later, and Blackstar is still a difficult listen. The upcoming new Five Years documentary in January will no doubt be the most fascinating, and the most emotionally-charged, of the lot as it covers his last years.

TRACK of the year

OK, so the track came out in 2015, but Bowie’s Blackstar is a highlight for ANY year, as is the re-tooled Sue (Or in a Season of Crime). Iggy’s American Valhalla and Nick Cave’s Anthrocene are right up there for edgy atmos. And for something more manic, Spit Out the Bone is on heavy rotation over here too – fast and melodic Metallica with Hetfield in his most convincingly aggressive voice since the Black Album.

MISS of the year

As in, a gig on your doorstep that you really should have gone to. And in Oxford a few weeks ago, that was Primal Scream. Why a no go? Fear of too much Moving On Up and Rocks and Country Girl, not enough Vanishing Point Xtrmntr Evil Heat aggro. What did they play? Moving, Rocks, Country, but also Accelerator, Shoot Speed/Kill Light, Swastika Eyes and Kill All Hippies. ‘KIN ELL… ludacris decision making on my part. Kiran Leonard also a bad miss.

LUCKY MISS of the year

As in, a gig on your doorstep by a band you don’t know but, coz of who’s involved, you’ve got innerest piqued. Step forward Honky, the band of Butthole Surfers and Melvins bassist Jeff Pinkus. Check the music online – not great. Reject gig. Wonder if gig ended up being one of those ‘should have been there’ moments. Check trusted review source (Nightshift page 10). It wasn’t.

NEW SOUNDS of the year

Still getting into these new-to-me discoveries, but semi industrial groove psyche dealers Blackash from Birmingham and Belgian avant noise punks Raketkanon are doing the job nicely, as are Blackstar band leader Donny McCaslin – beefy modern jazz with a drummer who absolutely kills it – and downbeat electroni-cists worriedaboutsatan, who also have their music making its mark in Adam Curtis’s HyperNormalisation. Lofty company for the satanworrieds. Three Trapped Tigers and The Comet is Coming brought explosive prog math and Heliocentrics-fuelled heavy beats jazz-ish respectively.

ALBUM of the year

The old guard put out a lot of great great stuff this year, and the top 3 are linked by maturity, mortality and death: Bowie, Iggy and Nick Cave reached new highs in heavy themes, and Blackstar is the peak. Once January 10th revealed its scalp,  Blackstar became forever more than just a record.

Others: FUCKINGMETALLICA, Mogwai, Melvins, Crippled Black Phoenix, Kandodo and McBain, Cult of Luna w/Julie Christmas, Thee Oh Sees

PRINCE of the year

Prince. ‘nuff said. Check this clip, worship non religiously, then get a music fanatic’s view of Prince’s passing from Henry Rollins in what is one of his best LA Weekly missives of the year.

FISHY MEDIA FEATURE of the year

Did you see this feature in the Guardian back in the summer? Fishbone. Yes, Fishbone. Why??? Don’t know. But if, like me, you never got round to actually buying their albums when Swim and Freddie’s Dead and Everyday Sunshine were doing the rounds, here’s the prompt you need to pick up The Reality of My Surroundings and Give a Monkey a Brain…. the only downside is the 20-odd years without these phenomenal heavy funk rock ska metal explosions tripping out the (monkey?) brain.

BIG 3 AT 30 of the year

Three of the Big Four put out their meisterworks thirty years ago: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, 1986. Anthrax shunted Among the Living out a few months later, in 1987… heady days for head bangers, right?  Some, if not all, are ingrained so deep that we don’t even need to press play, but when DID you last press play and listen to Master of Puppets, Peace Sells and Reign in Blood end to end?

There’s nothing to say about Puppets. It’s pretty much perfect and reveals much less on a new listen, precisely because it was THE album of that bunch. Some say it needs a remix but nah, leave it – keep the mud on. Peace Sells and Reign in Blood can still bring surprises, though. With possibly the best opening track of any major thrash record, Megadeth’s #2 sounds even more accomplished today, and you can feel the chaos darkening the vibe. As for Reign in Blood, this is still the anomaly because it’s the least metal of the classics…way more disturbing and a truly diabolical force summoned in 28 possessed minutes. Still deadly.

Happy new year, have a great start to 2017. ‘til next time!