QOTSA + IGGY POP: live

QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE ALL-DAYER AT FINSBURY PARK, JUNE 30 2018. IGGY POP SECOND IN COMMAND

It’s a heatwave, it’s a scorching Saturday aft and there are complaints-worthy queues for the bars in Finsbury Park. Do you file in with a human snake for an hour for a sip o’ the shite stuff?

Or do you make sure you miss not one second of Iggy Pop?

You know the answer, and when Iggy skip-runs out, shirtless from the off, to I Wanna Be Your Dog, it’s confirmed. Screw lager, here is the Miracle of Pop. He’s lost speed, he limps badly and his muscle tone is much melted, but seeing him still giving it everything after a long life of feral performances and time-defying physicality is a life-affirming spectacle. And it is a pleasant shock to see him fired up like this in the lowering sun. The Post Pop Depression Live at the Albert Hall DVD – another captivating performance (is there any other?) – looked like it might have been a last-of-its-kind statement from Pop, the start of a move towards slightly more refined – or, at least, less physical – performances, but no. It’s like he can’t help himself. The momentarily mature Pop that peeped through PPD has been ditched for a return to the Stooges wild.

Gimme Danger is next up, and then: “If you saw somebody hitchiking … near Swindon … would you pick ’em up?” Cue The Passenger, then Lust for Life. He’s put the big-crowd guns out early, so what happens next? This is where it gets interesting, this is what it means to pull a great mass-appeal set out of your pants. Skull Ring. I’m Sick of You. TV Eye, Search and Destroy, Some Weird Sin, Mass Production …. who would have thought Mass Production on a day like this? It always sounds 10 times longer than it actually is, and crowd chatter does rise as it goes on, but you cannot ignore this crawling Idiot-grotesque factory dirge dragging the beauty out of a hot summer afterglow. But then, knowing he has to bring everyone back with the last track, he lets the Jean Genie out. Pop doesn’t mention Bowie, but surely everyone thinks Bowie, and while we do it’s Pop the Survivor who twists his body through a track that links them forever.

As far as tracklists for support slots go, it’s pretty hard to beat. As far as performances from still-got-it legends go … same. He looks strong – almost broken, but in the same gasp, nowhere near, with voice to match. We’ll never work it out, the guy’s still a phenomenon who you’ve got to watch as much as listen to. Pop time is show time. Again.

Queens of the Stone Age … are on ridiculous form. There’s no point teasing it out, they just are. Finsbury Park 2018 will surely be known as one of those gigs in a band’s lifetime where the cosmic forces got all their arses in line, and those who made it were lucky enough to witness something more than a bit special. It felt like they played for hours but finished in minutes. If I Had a Tail, Lost Art of Keeping a Secret and Feet Don’t Fail Me Now are early starters, and it’s clear the band are in a fearsome groove – pacy, heavy, clear and jammed with musicianship: a consummate rock gig and they never stop working it. Little Sister and Sick Sick Sick hit hard and lift high, but then again so does everything, the one exception being Make It Wit Chu’s seductive breather ahead of a SFTD one-two.

Songs for the Deaf shuts the main set down. The encore is a 10-minute Song for the Dead, shit ye not. THAT’S how to finish off Finsbury – a hard rock orgy for 45,000. Do it all over again? If only we could. QOTSA albums on permanent replay ever since. Untouchable.

Queens of the Stone Age do Finsbury

QOTSA do Finsbury

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!

Julian Cope on 6 Music

ARCH DRUDE IN FOR IGGY POP

We’ve had some stellar radio stand-ins on 6 Music for Jarvis Cocker of late, and this week we get the Arch Drude packing the Iggy Confidential slot on Friday 22nd, 7pm, for two hours of psychedelia – a must-listen, surely. Who knows what qualifies as psychedelic in Cope’s hefty book – I mean, Sleep’s Dopesmoker DEFINITELY, though that ain’t gonna make it onto a two-hour Friday night trip – but we may well get sunburned freak outs, acid fry-ups and sunnO)))shine daydreams cocktailed with the likes of Roky Erikson, Sky Saxon, Can, early Floyd and prime Love.

Floyd and Love have gotta be a cert for the playlist surely, because they’ve inspired and named Cope’s location-free festival that’s happening Right Now, every day this month, wherever YOU are:

SydArthur Festival

Buddhist appropriation entirely intended, SydArthur is a tribute to tenyearsgone Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee who passed away just 28 days apart in July/August 2006.

As ever, Cope needs little encouragement to evoke the Cosmic Order, the ancients, the gnostics and the sha-manics in rock n roll, and so the SydArthur Festival – a festival of the mind, of the head – is now a Thing on Head Heritage. Check the calendar and note that JC’s broadcast is George Clinton’s birthday. Parliafunkadelic on the playlist?

Line all of this up next to Uncut magazine’s fine fine fine Arthur Lee/Love feature last month and you can’t help but fire the Love revival machine so an in-through-the-side-door review may be on its way v soon.

Tune in Friday, turn it ON.

The P-word

REWIND MAY: POP LEGENDS AND POP’S LEGEND

The Music You Leave Behind – that’s P-music, right? But eventually, you become old enough to know better, to know that everything comes right back around anyway, and so it is with the P-word – and no, we’re not even talking Prog. We’re talking about music’s other Big P … POP. Because when there’s a pop star – OK, the pop star – from your yoof, the one you first really got in to, on tour playing THAT album, do you go? Dunno dunno ditto dunno, so to delay things further we’ll hop to another kind of pop: Iggy.

He was on these shores the other week and if you’ve seen any clips from his current tour, you’ll see a man who looks like he’s fighting the limitations of his own body and yet, when he’s let loose near a stage, he still can’t fucking stop himself, even at this late hour in life. Crowd surf at the Albert Hall, was it? His gigs are one-man war zones, yet the reason Iggy’s out there at all – maybe for the last time, who knows? – is Post Pop Depression, and now that we’ve had two whole months to live with it, we can say for sure how great a record it is. When he hooked up with Homme last year, he can’t have known about Bowie’s accelerating endtime – not really – but in a Blackstar world, Post Pop Depression seems to know, seems to tell, seems to share. Something. About finality? Perhaps. PPD is ghostly, though deserted rather than haunted…a slow erosion, a fading print. Still got an edge though, and what makes it work is a band who feel the space (desert influence?) and play with and around it with a richness that Iggy’s solo voice – the post-confrontation, post-exposure, post-Stooges voice – finally deserves.

Anyway, back to that other kind of pop: music. Not because Duran Duran hit Oxford for the Common People festival on Saturday (even though they did), but because ADAM ANT is in town next week, playing Kings of the Wild Frontier. To go or not to go?

Sir Adam of Ant is my pop idol #1, much like it sounds like he was for Alexis Petridis in this feature,  though surely the headline overstates things a bit – if Adam Ant redefined pop, where were the colonies of Ant-alikes? However, he did own the charts and he did it with a style and a soundclash that was all his own, as did Frankie Goes to Hollywood a couple of years later. They put out albums that STILL sound brash, brave and brilliantly flawed today.

(for the record: have just put Kings of the Wild Frontier on – side 2, track 1. Completely proves the point. Now going full white-stripe for Ants Invasion, Killer in the Home, Dog Eat Dog…).

Can Adam Ant 2016 enhance the perfection trapped in those records, tapes and childhood memories? Or is it a gig best left alone?

’til next time!

Status update, Friday 3rd: ticket bought. Who am I to resist? CAN. NOT. WAIT.

IGGY AND THE STOOGES – Ready to Die

40 years after Raw Power hit the streets and sold next to nothing, Iggy and the Stooges are back: new record, new (bass) line-up and a new chance to kill off their recording career.

Because that’s what’s on the cards, right? Failure. Get this wrong and they’re pretty much done for as a recording band.

Of course, it’s their own fault. Such is the esteem with which the Stooges, Funhouse and Raw Power are rightly held that it becomes impossible for them to release anything without baggage – reputation, legend, untouchable three-record legacy, all of this is churned about with hopes and expectation whenever anything new is mooted. The Stooges are among the most revered of all rock acts so when they got back together a few years back and flopped the anti-climactic Weirdness into our eager beaver hands, we felt burned. Not by the reunion itself but by the record. The Weirdness was a dud which did zip to ignite those Skull Ring sparks.

Since then we’ve had Ron Asheton RIP, Stooges RIP, and Iggy and the Stooges reborn featuring a guy who hasn’t played music in 30 years.

That guy is the guitarist.

What could possibly go right?

In some ways, it doesn’t matter. You can’t ignore a new Stooges album. If nothing else, IT’S THE STOOGES. And who can resist a peek at James Williamson to see if he still has those raw power kill city chops?

So here we are. Ready to Die, reunion record 2013.

Burn kicks it off.

Burn shocks.

Burn is a kick in the teeth.

Broken-glass sharp with guitars on guitars on guitars, Burn makes you feel alive – exactly what Iggy and the Stooges are supposed to do. Make you walk taller, spike your step with a swagger. Williamson’s lean production fires fast off the wax and Iggy’s voice has, at last, snuck into the right register for his lowdown cool. Iggy yelp no more. Iggy growl.

Burn is way more vital than a band of their age have any right to sound. Sure, there’s the chance that the initial listener euphoria is nothing more than post-Weirdness relief but, after many spins, Burn still burns. Just as the Stones’s Doom and Gloom this year was the sound of them somehow finding their source, so it is with Burn. Doom, however, was just one of a pair knocked up for a pre Glastonbury compilation. Iggy and the Stooges have a record to get through. Can they keep it up?

Sex and Money’s sax-driven hardrock soul, blaring along with handclaps and hip-shimmying falsetto back-up, says yes. Taut, lean and sassy, it tells you that this is the Stooges of riff AND song, not just riff. Asheton, Watt, Williamson and Mackay are up for it and Williamson, as producer and co-songwriter, surely has to take some major credit. The band sound a thousand times more alive than on the Weirdness. Coincidence? Maybe. But probably not.

Ready to Die’s clipped chords punch through multi-axe tracks, Dirty Deal is rock ‘n roll Stooge-ified, and Job spits fuck-them attitude over a Loose steal. Yep, the band are ON. What about Iggy?

Singing lower than usual but sounding better for it, the Ig’s performance has drawn less than positive comments from critics and reviewers. Weak, they say. Half arsed.

I don’t buy that. Forgetting the dubious Pop lyrics that rear up (DDs, anyone? Great tune, but…), his voice is Iggy cool throughout. By the time you get to Unfriendly World and The Departed – tracks that could have lived on Avenue B – at the record’s end, you sense weariness. A wearied cool.

Then you check the lyrics and spot that in amongst the ‘I got a job and it don’t pay shit’ Ig-isms lie themes of loss, time running out, maybe even death.

So for all of its bomb-strapped artwork, Ready to Die isn’t twentysomething nihilism with nothing to lose. That was Raw Power. Ready to Die comes from the other end of life, sung by a man whose body has finally crashed from that biology-defying superfreak peak.

Is it a parting shot? I dunno, but if it is then it wipes over the Weirdness. It’s not Raw Power II but why should it be, how can it be? If that’s what people expect, it’s the wrong attitude.

Raw Power was 40 years ago. It’s already changed lives. They can’t do it again – not for anyone who’s lived with Stooges music long enough to have it wired into their circuitry. We can’t hear them for the first time again.

But we can hear them now, in 2013, and hope – like any fan would – that Ready to Die rocks hard with a bit of the old Stooges fire. And it does.