OHHMS: live review

OHHMS / MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD / DRORE @ THE CELLAR, OXFORD, 13/02/2017

What a bonus. Turn up at the Cellar for the OHHMS/Mammoth double-header and find that Drore are on the bill as well, making it a triple ugly. NICE. Except that Drore are not nice, not at all. Staggering out from Undersmile’s RIP with scabby song titles like Skinjob and Fukbags, Drore are ruff, scuzzy, sludgy grrrowly FILFF, and unlike Taz and Olly’s so-slo Undersmile, this lot play the mid and fast field with stacks of gear shifts and double-kick beatdowns. Always noisy and never melodic, there’s a thick grunge whiff but not in the Seattle sense … nah, this is grunge the Godflesh way, pissed out of toxic wastepipes and topped off by pained hell-o shriekage from Taz and Crippled Black bassist Tom Greenway. No doubt about it, Drore create a world all their obnoxious own and it’s a proper ugly thrill. No wonder they bagged a few Terrorizer column inches last year.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard made it into some end-of-year album lists in 2016 so this gig was always gonna be a chance to catch what they’re all about, but their static doom reps somehow underwhelm a bit tonight, ‘specially after Drore’s violent discharge.

No such underwhelm for Canterbury’s OHHMS though, a band who seem stupendously fully formed given that they’ve only put out two EPs, but if you came here expecting oceanic transcendence a la Bloom (massive) and Cold (even massiver) then you/we are out of luck because that version of OHHMS is not in the building. A mere half hour of stage time means it’s New Stuff Only tonight, and they hit it hard. With tracks like The World upping the pace and packing in some aggressive Pelican-ese riffs, we might have a bolshier, denser OHHMS heading our way … let’s see what The Fool brings in March, eh? The only thing lacking tonight is TIME: not enough. And for a band like OHHMS, that just ain’t right.

*update: just read that one of the gig highlights – drummer Stephen Frame – is Drore no more. Ach! News is over on the Drore bacefook page

 

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!

GREENLEAF: live review

GREENLEAF / DESERT STORM: OXFORD CELLAR, 29/11/2016

We got one more for ya,” says vocalist Arvid Jonsson, and when that one-more becomes the mid-paced galactic burner With Eyes Wide Open, the best has been saved til last. The band are Greenleaf and-

No, me neither. Zero intel on these guys, ‘cept that they’re Swedish, they’ve toured with Clutch and most of the band are in fact Dozer, so with those kinda post-Man’s Ruin credentials, who wouldn’t hunker down in the Cellar on a f-f-f-freezin November night for the promise of toasty riffage? Especially when you’ve got girder-like support from Oxford Irn Bru-isers, Desert Storm.

Last time I saw Desert Storm was 2014 in this venue with Winnebago Deal, and they rocked it good-time. Tonight? They rock it good-time. With this lot, you just know you’re gonna get a great show, and the fact that two of Indica Blues have pitched up for a live earful shows that Desert Storm have got pulling power – there’s just summat about their riffs and sneaky little 5/4s that pulls you in and keeps you there. The C-word gets bandied about as a reference (already mentioned, go check) and that’s fair enough, but with Matt Ryan’s rough-neck roarin’ and a hefty bit of growl in the guitars, DS have definitely got a metallic High on Fire/Down thing going. Being woefully behind with their albums – to be sorted, promise – the track names passed me by (except for a colossal Convulsion, wherever that’s from), but it’s a sign of the band’s class that not knowing never matters: Desert Storm WILL get you going, and they will deliver the Rock. Guaran-fucking-teed.

After that, Greenleaf have a little bit of work to do. Frontman Jonsson is a singer – a good one – rather than a shouter, but his voice seems a tad thin after what’s just been and so we’ve got a slight pressure drop after the Storm. No worries, though. Favouring up-tempos and 60s vibes (we get the Doors twice – an impromptu Break on Through when Tommi Holappa goes string-busting, and Five to One later on), Greenleaf heat the joint with Cream-y blues and wah action til that spacious mini epic, With Eyes Wide Open, nails the set’s end with a spacey high, Swedish stoner style. Solid stuff, one to keep tabs on. 

 

GOD DAMN: live review

GOD DAMN, SLATE HEARTS, WARDENS: OXFORD CELLAR, 22/05/2016

Bit weird. He was here a second ago – the God Damn singer, I mean – wandering around offstage, mic in hand, mixing it with the punters, and now he’s… not. Where go he? And why is everyone looking in my direction?

COZ HE’S STANDING ON THE BAR AND OVER MY HEAD, straddling the beer taps while screamo-ing a ‘nasty little song with a horrible title’ (his words, not ours. We Don’t Like You, mebbe?) over our heads. And it’s only the second track of the set.

Welcome God Damn, the Wolverhampton two – sometimes three, so let’s call ‘em a two-and-a-half for tonight – who knock nine shades of brown out of the guitar-drum format and pulverise the place, but we’ll get back to them soon enough coz tonight we’ve got a three-strong bill that’s two-parts local.

Up first are Wardens, a trio of quiet-looking Ox lads who look a bit like two brothers and a tall singer, probably because they are… two brothers and a tall singer. Tidy, punchy set mind, packed with small but perfectly-formed anthems in a Foos Manchu kinda way, catchy enough to make you feel like you know their stuff even if – like me – you don’t. The funkier Go Figure is a highlight, as is the Cobain-ish grit in the vocal. Nice work, Wardens. Good warm up.

Next on the Cellar stage are Slate Hearts, another local three-piece but now we have looseness and MOVEMENT up there, all limbs and shirts and flop-hair flying. The look might be early 90s indie – Steve Lamacq would cream hisself – but the sound is a harder blend of twisted Sub Pop-erama and Mudhoney frazzle-fry, with more going on than first meets the ear, I reckon. Definitely another one to check further.

Right then: God Damn, on the road touring their Vultures album, and if you wanna see a band put shit-eating smiles on strangers’ faces with a set that’s Holy Devoted to guitars, drums and the righteous power of unadulterated amplification, this is where you go. Vultures the album nabs some desert-scene groove and roughs it with Winnebago Deal attitude, but God Damn live are way bigger than a two-piece has any real right to be – when Thom Edwards stomps his pedal board, hits Kyuss oomph mode and ups the force of an already tidal riff, you KNOW you’re alive. Starting the set with Vultures itself, and ending with the nine-minute backporch intoxication sludgecrawl that is Skeletons, God Damn give us a good-time gig that’s loud, life affirming and just a bit fucking mental. Planet Rock Radio might well be the place ‘where rock lives’, but God Damn gigs like this are where rock comes ALIVE. 

A pessimistic best-of-2014

REWIND DECEMBER: DC revivals, a cellar-bound phoenix and the heaviest music blues … things haven’t gone well

Festive greets and merry new years to anyone casting an eye over this page, even if you’ve got here by mistake. What tunes are you spinning over the hols? I don’t know about you but this time of year always brings about a change in listening choices over here. Plenty of storyteller stuff – Bob Dylan, Mark Lanegan, Tom Waits, Nick Cave – piling up alongside some warming Americana, cooling Icelandic/Scandi moods like Bjork and Cult of Luna, and an unhealthy dose of classic rock/metal by the bands we (I) grew up listening to, aka the DNA years.

And now that there’s an album called Rock or Bust grabbing a few acres of coverage in the music press, it’s AC/DC that are top-of-mind in the old band stakes. When was the last time you played For Those About to Rock end-to-end? Can’t remember? Then here’s what to do: crack open that blackengold gatefold, stand in front of the speakers and let its ten-track purity fire you back to simpler times. Sure, there are a couple of fillers, but with such stellar fare as Evil Walks, COD, Inject the Venom and Spellbound pressed into the wax, not to mention the triple A-grade quality of THAT title track, you’ve got a dead cert for a winter/Christmas playlist. Snowballed is even more of a seasonal bonus.

Before nominating a best-of-2014, what else has been going on?

Crippled Black Phoenix were in Oxford at the Cellar this month for a gig that was, sadly, a mite under-attended … by the band. To quote Commander Justin Greaves on this, the eve of a European tour:

‘You might have noticed we’re a couple short. The guitarist and bass player didn’t show up to rehearsals, they’re not here so … we’re gonna have to mix it up a bit. No guitar solos tonight. Well, not many.’ He introduces Arthur (?) on bass, who’s had to learn the songs in an afternoon.

Does it ruin the mood? Nah. I mean yeah, the solos are a soaring highlight when the Phoenix are in full flight (as they were at the Wheatsheaf a couple of years back) but, even without them, CBP’s modus operandi – expansive jams, Meddle-esque Floyd, Isis weight – is impossible to resist and a damn good show. Let’s hope they get everything resolved.

Right then. Best of 2014. It’s top 50 end-of-year mania in the real press, but we’re gonna cut that down by, I dunno, 47 or so, and mention a couple of highlights.

Earth: Primitive and Deadly. Mentioned this briefly in the last Rewind so no need to witter further here. Immerse yourself.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Spaceshifters: Lullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar. The Spaceshifters’ time is now, as anyone who saw their Glastonbury or Glastonbury Abbey or BBC Maida Vale gigs knows – they’re in the zone and having a ball with their kaleidoscopic tapestry of the trad, the tripped and the trance via north Africa, north America, desert blues and, of course, Plant’s own sprawling roots and thirst for musical adventure. With a truly global spirit at work, they’ve grabbed Mighty Rearranger’s cross-culture essence and given it some serious float. Having read how the band put this record together, I bet there are hours of outtakes, loops, offcuts and jams that would be mindblowing … what do you reckon? Multi-disc Lullaby Sessions for 2015? We can but wish.

Time for our last 2014 highlight in this festive break.

Did someone say ‘season of good cheer’?

Hardly. Not with an album called Things Haven’t Gone Well. Not with track titles like Failure, It’s Not Going to Get Better, Hopelessness and Worthlessness, and everybody’s favourite Christmas knees-up, Tremendous Misery Sets In.

Welcome to Music Blues, the 2014 solo project by Harvey Milk’s Stephen Tanner.

Is he taking the piss with all that? Probably not. The album was written during times of personal crises and depression, but despite the none-more-bleak titles and the squalid cover art, there’s triumph and – dare we say – optimism in the widescreen wrecking-ball slams metered out by Tanner’s Harvey-heavy slo-mo instrumental surges. If the hugeness of Boris (the massive bonus track on Smile, say) and Melvins (Lysol) has you grinning with jaw-dropped loonacy, Music Blues will surely do the same.

Of course, there are bags of albums missed this year but so what? Can’t catch ’em all, there’s always next year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

WINNEBAGO DEAL – live@The Cellar, January 18th 2014

It’s a bit of an Oxford spesh tonight as Winnebago Deal break their mini exile for a Cellar blast with Desert Storm in heavy support. Tickets are door-only and demand is high so we’ve got a pretty full house from the off, and there’s a definite buzz in the thickening Cellar air. Everyone’s up for this.

Here’s how it starts:

8.00pm Cellar doors open

8.10 first band starts

8.21 first mosh breakout

Yep, it’s one of THOSE nights – fast and physical, and that’s no surprise when Act 1 is Flack Blag, a Black Flag covers band featuring the Winnebago Bens. Blag and their two vocalists rip through Flag classics like Rise Above, Six Pack, Thirsty and Miserable, Depression and Slip It In without break or breath, finally shutting the set down with a mighty My War.

As they dismantle their kit, Melvins spill out from the between-bands PA to plant fat riffs back in our heads and that’s EXACTLY the right prep for Act 2: Desert Storm. Cue mighty rockin’ and bellowin’ and more rockin’ – the Storm know how to intoxicate the punters with a good-time brew, and tonight they do it by the keg load.

Armed with stacks of riffs and breaks and tempo changes, all threaded by a taut-but-just-loose-enough elastic groove that swings in all the right places, there’s no denying there’s a massive Clutch vibe coming off this crew – and that is meant in every way as a compliment. Pantera have been described as groove metal but, great as they were, to me they seemed a bit rigid for that tag. A bit too PRECISE. Tonight, however, that tag fits. Clutch fans, latter-period Corrosion of Conformity fans, get out there and support this band when they next have a stage.

Where Desert Storm had Melvins, Winnebago Deal have Huey Lewis and the News. Yes, Huey and his current affairs buddies waft across the Cellar while the band handover is made, as if we’re being slipped a sly sweet melody to counteract the evil anti-melody that awaits.

Winnebago Deal: heroes to many, gods to some, and a mighty kick in the head to everyone  who crashes their scuzzy orbit. I’m no diehard Deal-er but I do remember seeing them at the Wheatsheaf a few years back and the live version of the band obliterated the CD version – louder, faster, more brutal, more everything and tonight, it’s the same. They have not mellowed. AT ALL.

Tonight is nothing less than a total shitstorm.

You want grooves and breaks? Go anywhere but here because WD’s punk thrash ‘n roll offers no remorse, only assault. Seriously. The Line Up, Takin’ Care of Business, Manhunt, George Dickel and the Karma to Burn-esque instrumental Dead Gone all get played I think but really, it’s pointless trying to recognise tracks because it’s too loud to hear anything.

Better instead to soak up the screech and the fury, the flailing limbs and low-clearance surfing and enjoy it (yes) for what it really is – a spectacle. When Winnebago Deal are in town, you get battered.

By music.

End of.