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

RYLEY WALKER: live

THE BULLINGDON, OXFORD, 18/2/2016

“You know what’s underrated?” asks a cheery but thinner, more boyish-looking Ryley Walker than the one on the promo flyers.

THURSDAYS.”

Crowd agrees. We are in prodigious company at the Bullingdon on this eve-of-Friday so yeah, Thursday DOES feel a bit spesh.

I could be at home, watching Flog It.”

Enter Quipmaster General, Danny Thompson – THE Danny Thompson, upright of bass, Pentangle of fame, bass player of legend and muso partner to the likes of John Martyn, Nick Drake and Tim Buckley. Thompson’s not just a name but a name who’s played with the names that matter, and that’s probably why it first feels like half the Bully are here just for Mr T, but even if that is true then surely they’ll be won over by the jazz-sharp folk-out of Walker’s last album, Primrose Green. What. A. Record. I mean, the influences are subtle as hammers – see above – and some reviewers (hello Pitchfork) mark down the period-piece devotion of the thing, but I don’t see why … the Chicago-based jazz players that Walker’s got behind him are something else, a firesome bunch who could break (on) through those folkier fetters at a second’s notice and go Full Freak. The fact they don’t, even though they come close, adds a taut energy to a beautiful album.

Then there’s Walker himself, bringing midtwentysomething abandon to his intricate playing – check the sublime near-derailment of Sweet Satisfaction and feel the freedom. Turns out he served time in punk/noise bands (big Zep fan too), so you get the sense that Primrose Green is a place for Walker to be, but not to stay – not long term. Wouldn’t surprise me if he took a hike up Ben Chasny Peak or somesuch and roughed up his rootsy picking with noise, drone n mantra.

Back in the Bullingdon on this underrated Thursday, we have no band, no percussion, no electric guitar – basically, none of the non-Ryley star turns from Primrose Green. We’ve got two people: Walker and Thompson, new blood and seasoned master, from opposite ends of the folkpsyche time spectrum. Together, they turn in a blinder.

Walker is the kind of player who loses himself in his songs. He goes for it, hits it hard, throws in barks and shouts, even a Buckley shriek – no doubt these are the tics that critics question – but, affected or not, it’s impossible not to be drawn in. New tracks are aired: I Will Ask You Twice is one, as is a wind-it-up-faster instrumental where Thompson plays bow and Walker goes east, and a track about “people who put Donald Trump signs in their lawn, bitchin’ about everything.” Primrose Green, Hide in the Roses and a set-closing On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee – which, lacking the soft-shuffle percussion of the recorded version, is less bucolic than we’re used to – are the picks from the last album.

So no, we don’t get Sweet Satisfaction – but in another way, we do. Top gig, and no doubt the precocious but raggedly unprecious Walker will revel in this tour with a giant of the genre. Stories for life, eh?

Karma to Burn – live@Bullingdon Arms, Oxford, July 2013

No-frills power-trio Karma to Burn bring guitar-bass-drums fury to the Bullingdon. Or do they?

As we know, Karma to Burn are all about the expected. End-to-end riffs, no vocals, no experimentation, no frills. They do not deviate, they do not change: certainty is their currency and you pretty much know what’s coming up – an hour or so of shit-kicking, dust-and-gasoline guitar hooks ground out by three grizzled road-dogs bonded by a volatile history of bad drugs, bad attitudes and band break-ups. Seeing the reunited Will Mecum-Rob Oswald-Rich Mullins line-up nail the Audioscope headline slot a couple of years ago was a proper treat, and now they’re back to give us more.

But before West Virginia headlines, Oxford must support. That honour falls to local heroes Desert Storm who charge the Bully with infectious, Clutch-inspired rhythm ‘n groove and supreme confidence. Immense.

Karma to Burn take to the stage almost without anyone noticing. And as the first notes crunch forth tonight, something’s not quite right.

Who’s the drummer?

And where is the bassist?

First question first. By not following Karma’s personnel moves last year, I missed the fact that drummer Rob Oswald left not just the band but music itself, sick of the lies and compromises at the business end of the music business. He got out.

As for the bass space … it remains a void. Rich Mullins never shows. Nothing is mentioned.

So for a band who trade in certainties and absolutes, this is an unsettling start. Does Will Mecum (guitar) plus a drummer (Evan Devine) count as a Karma to Burn experience?

Sonically, yes. As soon as those amps push Mecum’s Karma-sized riffs out, the doubts diminish and grins emerge. This music isn’t sophisticated, it’s as stripped down as you can get – there aren’t even any solos – and yet, live and loud in a small venue, it unleashes a very primal urge to just ROCK OUT. The Bullingdon back room does exactly that, whirling into a mosh as the wordless tracks blast past. Job done. And with job done, Mecum and Devine swiftly depart.

Whether this two-piece format is Karma to Burn’s future is something we don’t know yet. Losing Oswald’s unkempt wildman intensity is one thing but if Mullins’s genial cool is AWOL too … that’s a hefty personality deficit for a band who are pretty minimal to begin with. Tonight they pull it off – I think. Let’s see what happens.