At David & i

BOWIE PHOTOGRAPHER EXHIBITS IN NORTH OXFORD. MINI PROPS A BONUS

Managed to get a ticket to the Oxford showing of the David & i exhibition, which was on Wednesday night.

Which David?

Bowie, of course. Which i?

That’ll be Denis O’Regan, David Bowie’s official photographer for around ten years through the 80s and you WILL have seen some of his pics, no question. The blonde years, the megastar years, the critically revered… OK, but by capturing the Serious Moonlight and Glass Spider tours, O’Regan definitely got BOWIE: THE HEALTHY YEARS on film. And to see 40 such images – all approved by Bowie – is to Watch That Man and celebrate his life, regardless of era.

davidandi brochure 1

Catalogue and Melbourne Carousel, 1983

How has this happening come about? Promoted by Off Beat Lounge, the David & i exhibition has been out on tour visiting select Mini-supported locations, ie Mini showrooms. Funny that. Works well though, nice and light with all those showroom windows.

Bowie and green Mini

How did that happen? Bowie test drives Mini

In the Q&A session at the start of the night, O’Regan said that it was seeing Ziggy Stardust that made him want to be a photographer. A few years later, he was taking pics of the punk bands – easy access, no Rock Star Barriers – and got a job with the NME, and the first official photos he took of Bowie were up in Newcastle City Hall in 1978. He somehow wound up being official photographer on the Serious Moonlight tour a few years later.

Some gig, eh?

Other mini (sorry) nuggets from David & i:

  • O’Regan hates heights and categorically won’t do photography from up yonder scaffold, but is fine in a helicopter without doors (he can’t explain it either).
  • Bowie would try any food.
  • O’Regan would dispose of hundreds of images that Bowie never even saw. When asked one day – by Bowie – about what happened to them, Denis said he just put them in the bin. In his hotel room. Got a major tom-bollocking for that one.
  • The last photos he took of Bowie were in 1994 (I think), when Bowie had a tiny tiny beard. He didn’t say if it was the beard wot ended it, though.

So, even though the O’Regan prints are well out of reach – need a few hundred quid to make that leap, hallo spaceboy – it was a pretty cool thing for a Bowie fan to wander around and get immersed in for an evening. Go along next time there’s one going.

links:

 

 

 

MELVINS: Stag

Houdini: the pinnacle of 90s Melvins … poke about the reviews and it always bags the biggest marks, topping many a most recommended pile – Houdini’s the one everyone seems to know about, it’s the one that’s got Kurt Cobain on it (a big deal at the time), and it’s the one that the band played in full for their Don’t Look Back gig in 2005, so maybe it’s me who’s missing some sort of point somewhere BUT … great though it is, Houdini* ain’t the album that best captures Melvins’ absurd beauty and ugly brilliance.

Stag is.

Melvins Stag CD

Stag: uncovered

Stag throws up EVERYTHING the Melvins are capable of, and that’s why it’s the place to get inside – or at least, get us non-Melvins yoomans somewhere close to – the scattershot strangeness/normalised weirdness pervading their inscrutable heads. Trippy, rocking, perverse, ambient, playful and all-out terrifying, Stag is wildly experimental without being tedious or pisstakingly relentless. Listen to Stag and every direction Melvins ever took starts to make sense, and this may be, paradoxically, because the album is less beholden to the Melvins’ key identifier til that point: the Buzz Riff. They’re in there, twistedly precise as ever, but to reach Melvins’ sustained heights of heavy quirk, you need more than riffs: you need imagination, freedom and fuck-you, and Stag is where all of that behind-the-eyes odderness explodes from the off.

First track The Bit is one of the best Melvins tracks ever, no question: sitar intro meets full-blown mother of a riff, it pounds you to the spot. It’s big – maybe bigger than any Melvins before it. Not because it’s longer or louder, but because it’s FULLER, and it’s this fullness that makes The Bit – and Stag – a mandatory Mel trip.

After a lysergic interlude (Hide) that’s rooted in Stoner Witch (Shevil), we crash on Bar-X-The Rocking-M, a reckless burst of trumpet (yes!!!) and turntable (???) shot through with Tool-esque hush n’ calm. Nothing like Yacob’s Lab – ambient – and The Bloat – stoner slider groover – that follow, and by now we know that, on Stag, anything goes. Every single one of the 16 tracks is unlike any other on the album**, so they are all highlights – here are a few, grouped into shitly-named (by me) categories.

Rock Hard Stag

AKA megawatt amplification and guitar Buzz. Buck Owens does freewheeling juggernaut clatter, Captain Pungent rocks the off beats into a seamless flow into Berthas, which burns a tight 70s 12-bar in your addled mey gratter, and remember we have The Bit and Bar-X front-loading the show. No shortage of rock hardy on Stag.

Quiet/Goof Stag

You want a minute and a half of bubbling liquid? That’s Soup. Lilting dreaminess? Black Bok. Back-porch railtrack blues? Cottonmouth. Chipmunks on a fuck-knows? Skin Horse. No, you couldn’t make it up … except, they did (but how?).

Ugly in the Morning Stag

You want a minute and a half of bubbling liquid? That’s Soup. OK, we just filed it as a quiet/goof job but the fact that it’s served up straight after Goggles curdles the appeal somewhat, and that’s coz Goggles IS fucking terrifying – slo-core noise by a serial killer’s house band, feat. Fudgetunnel’s Alex Newport on skin-peeling production. Says it all. Later on: Sterilized, a dank hellmare of pre-torture warm-up music, and Lacrimosa‘s slow Melv-o creep fest.

All of this experimentation means that Stag isn’t the album that most represents a Melvins sound – if such a thing exists – but it surely is the album that most represents THEM, as a band. Dale Crover makes the space to loom large – The Bloat, Tipping the Lion, Buck Owens – and the record points to any stage, phase or whim of the band’s career, like a Plus One companion for any Melvins album you’ll ever play.

The band got dropped by Atlantic after Stag, making it the last of their major-label years – some reward for such a kaleidoscopic splat of psychedelic greatness, eh? But it’s hard to imagine Melvins giving a fuck. 21 years later, most of them on Ipecac, they’re as prolific and  uncompromising as ever, and the list of artists indebted to their stubborn genius is longer than ever. Me, I gotta thank Stag for a mind-opening induction to Melvins world and to what rock bands can do if they’ve got the vision. It’s a Lifer, this one.

Melvins without limits.

 

* Hooch, Night Goat, Honey Bucket, Teet et al are diamonds for sure, but there’s a reason why Houdini is the third favourite of the three Atlantic albums: Spread Eagle Beagle. Has anyone played Houdini and actually looked forward to hearing this nine-minute momentum bummer at the end, peterin’ out the album’s singular rock vibe? Surely no. Stoner Witch hangs together much better – Revolve and Roadbull, fucking HELL – and the syrupy ambience of Shevil hints at Stag’s many outer limits.

** Butthole Surfers’ Independent Worm Saloon is another oddballin’ major label beaut from that era. Musically more focused than what went before, Inde Worm Sal bends any number of styles into its 17 tracks. Produced by John Paul Jones, released 1993 on Capitol, always worth a revisit.

Stag: essential Melvins

Stag: essential Melvins

JIZZY PEARL / LOVE/HATE: LIVE

JIZZY PEARL / LOVE/HATE @THE BULLINGDON, OXFORD, 01/04/2017

“It’s the last night of the tour, we’re celebrating 25 years of Wasted in America and yes, I have just stepped out of a fucking time machine…

Jizzy Pearl, a trim and very-much-alive star from LA’s post-glam pre-grunge early 90s, owns a voice that, along with bassist Skid’s artwork and drugs-booze-blackout lyrics, marked Love/Hate out as one of the bands of the time, and those first two albums are scuffed gems to this day. Much like our very own Wildhearts, Love/Hate were too colourful, shambolic and decadent to compete with the rising Seattle star, and that meant they were doomed to be botched by bad timing (and in-band fuck ups, of course). 1992 was Nevermindasupernova. Love/Hate looked like they were having fun. And they were from LA. It could never really last, and it didn’t, but the records really do.

Love/Hate sleeve

LA ’92: Wasted

 

Now it’s April Fools’ Day 2017, the Budweiser cross of cans has graced the stage and we’re straight in to Wasted in America (the album) with Wasted in America (the track). Spit and Miss America follow, and it’s shaping up to be a straight runthrough of the record – ’tis an anniversary after all. Cream to Yucca Man to Happy Hour next?

Not quite. Somewhere during side 1, we get spun off the wasted trail with a couple of blackouts – Tumbleweed and Fuel to Run – before skidding back to the main deal for Cream and Yucca Man. Good move, mixing it like that. Makes the in-its-entirety album thing feel more alive, gig-like and less predictable, and it means that we get aces like Mary Jane, Why Do You Think They Call It Dope? and Let’s Rumble’s sleaze-o Spinning Wheel cut in to the Wasted plot. Serve up a little Blackout in the Red Room after WiA’s closing Evil Twin and we’ve been privy to the full album topped up by Love/Hate’s best others. Jizzy’s voice is, somehow, still a forceful top-ender at 59 years (59!!!) and he seems genuinely moved by tonight’s word-perfect crowd. Well, we love the record, simple as that.

For the encore, JP gives us a choice: either the first side of Rush’s 2112 OR Straightjacket…

(clue: Canada lose)

You never really know with these anniversary/whole album gigs whether they’re gonna work or not, but this one came from the right place a real feelgood celebration of a rekkid of youth, the stuff that’s burned waaaaay down inside…you can’t undo that. It’s in there for life. And when a band decides to uncork that genie, they gotta do it with a record that’s got the tunes, and Wasted in America has no wobbles in that department. If the title track is all you can salvage from a hazy quarter-century recall, dig out the deeper cuts and you’ll see that the album rocks harder than its lead track. Need pointers? Yucca Man, the disorienting Happy Hour and Jizzy-showcase Tranquilizer are a three-way sure shot.

Blackout, Wasted and Rumble albums on replay since the gig. Love/Hate earworms non-stop buzzing

buzzin’ like a bumble bee, TRANQUI-LI-ZER

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!

 

DRORE: Tapeone

SPLASH METAL: THE BOG YEARS. Brutal sludge, straight outta Oxon

Tapeone starts with toilet humour. Literally. 40 seconds of what sounds like a giant piss, but if you ride it out then you make it into the lurching dirtball that is Skinjob, aka Tapeone’s track one. And at this point (piss excepted), Drore are probably what you’d expect – or at least, not un-expect – from a band made of two ex-Undersmile and a Crippled Black Phoenix: heavy, muddy, mid tempo business as usual. Until, that is, a ferocious double-kick screamcore blast, as unhinged as it is unexpected, shreds all preconception…. WTF???? Undersmile, gothic grinders of punishingly slow doom. CBP, widescreen purveyors of fluid spacebound psyche. Ne’er a gallop between ’em, ’til now. That’s Skinjob. That’s Drore. 

Drore Tapeone

So, compared to the parent bands, Drore are a very different kettle of scaly ones, packing feral sludge and noise overload into four concise scabs. Hippy Crack growls like … hell, I’m gonna bring the Big M in here: Metallica. Specifically, 2003 Metallica. St Anger Metallica. Great album (no, not joking) and, in the title track’s pre-verse riff, one of Metallica’s most primal moments … utterly monstrous, and Hippy Crack’s got the same growly churn going. Greys channels dank nightmare squalor, while Fukbags (the best Trainspotting character that never was?) even allows a sliver of post(ish)-metal to break through and ease, just for a mo, the full mettle racket that is Tapeone’s fetid stock.

When Drore opened for OHHMS last month, they came across as a band who make Massive Fucking Noise just because they like making Massive Fucking Noise, and the EP captures the MFN easily – listening to it after a live show is not a let down, not at all. The distorted scuzz-mammoth filth with the hostile slacker vibe is very, very much intact.

File somewhere near: Fudgetunnel, Godflesh, Greymachine, Louisiana metal, Part Chimp, Harvey Milk, St Anger, an open sewer


NEWS!!! Make space for Tapetwo, coz it’s just been recorded. NEW DRORE SHIT, ready to drop. Stand clear of the splash zone.



ALT 90s RADIO HOUR

KYUSS, DARKTHRONE, SLINT AND MORE: 6 MUSIC SPECIAL

What’s this? Demon Cleaner by Kyuss is the opening track of a Freakier Zone 90s spesh?

GET. IN. Who’d have thought that Maconie would go anywhere near Gar-Homm Bjo-Ree’s desert rumble, unique though it is? Not as though he shuns the heavy and the extreme, far from it, it’s just that their downtuned wide open riffology lacks the fusion prog ecperimental thing that tends to make the FZ tracklist … Kyuss just rock, but in a way that no-one else ever did: a band that make you FEEL it every damn time. True behemoths of the pre-millennial decade.

So yeah, they start the hour, and in their dusty trail are benchmark 90s names like Darkthrone and Slint, plus other notables from the avant end of the alternative Souls at Zero-era Neurosis, Scott Walker on a Tilt, you get the gist. Do I hear…21? 21? 21? Sure do.

Check the show right here. Not as extreme as the Greg Anderson playlist from a few weeks back – no Mortician for starters (what???) or Asschapel (fair enough) – but it’s a solid hour for exploratory rock heads, and the following day’s Freak Zone looks at IDM with Warp Records and Artificial Intelligence (all part of the My Generation: the 1990s thing at the beeb/6 Music –  worth a dig, there are stacks of programmes that swerve well clear of unplugged Live Forever sheee-ITE from 1994. And plenty that really, really don’t).

THE NINETIES. Formative music years over here, and sure to inform future reviews… what about you?

 

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