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. Wire made an 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

 

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 outsider, 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. Good ohhmens.

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!