MUSIC 2021: GIFTS AND GIVING – PINNICK, PLANT

CHRISTMAS WISHES, all! What’s your album of the year? Robert Plant and Alison Krauss?

Correct.

Bye, then. See you next time

ah, but not quite. Let’s divert for a winter ramble for a few minutes as night outruns day and strings of lights blink into life. Let’s evade the best-of-the-year music rat race and run with the spirit of the season:

Gifts and giving.

Whether it’s a time-of-life thing or a COVID-rooted acceleration, I don’t know. But music seems to mean more and get more special with every year, as do those who make it. They’re the givers of true gifts.

One album which won’t be troubling any end-of-year lists (because he never does) but fits the theme is Joy Bomb by Dug Pinnick.

Why the big love?

BECAUSE IT’S DUG PINNICK.

Yep, the guy best known for being the singer and bass groover in the unfathomably magnificent King’s X put another album out.

Listening to both the Faith, Hope, Love and King’s X albums again today, 30 or so years after they came out, was an exercise in time travel and euphoria. Any King’s X fan knows this. The band inspires unconditional love and those records are exalted rock territory. It doesn’t need explaining, even if you could put it into words. And though they never quite hit the same creative peaks later on, they’ve always been consistently great.

So, it was a buzz to hear about a new record from the ever-prolific Dug (many other projects on the go, not least the harder edged KXM). The guy is 71 now. How does Joy Bomb fare?

Well, it’s pure Pinnick – voice fulla soul, snaking bass-led low end, melodies you can’t shake, varying degrees of rock-funk-soul depending on the track. Key Changer stomps an upbeat funk while rocking too hard to be funk, but it’s in there. As he says himself in interviews, everything comes out through a Dug filter and this is very purely a song about music. Equally Divided is a zombie singalong lurch, a bit gluey, a fraction slow. And if there’s a slight dip two thirds the way through the album, it picks up again with The Poison‘s beat-messing groove and the jerky, heavy, unsettled funk jabs in Making Sense of the Bones.

Some nicely unleashed solos throughout as well. Shades of KXM/George Lynch.

But however this album goes down, the point (today) is this: having Dug Pinnick in the world releasing music is, in itself, a great thing. That’s the gift. Especially when everything’s a little bit fucked.

Another record generating a bigger-than-music vibe is far higher profile and it’s no surprise, given the opening paragraph, that Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’s Raise the Roof is a record of the year.

I say this with all the confidence of a slacker who’s only played it twice

but yes, the quality is that obvious. The special something, the huge inner glow, is fired up as soon as the stylus hits touchdown, and how many records each year really do that?

Maybe it’ll be a lesser record in a few spins, who knows. Doubtful, but possible. Right now though, there’s no rush to Raise the Roof. No need to listen in haste and cram it. Better instead to create a moment and be open to the overlapping musical histories it spins.

So, there we go. A couple of non-reviews of special records from 2021 this Christmas. Maybe we’ll throw a few others out there in a more typical look-back in a few days, who knows.

But if not, HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

Plant-Krauss and Dug Pinnick - gifts of 2021
Spreading the joy bomb

TOOL: NO FEAR?

AUGUST REWIND: TOOL MUSINGS, BURIAL’S NEW FLAME … AND AN ELK HORN

Tool. Four-letter word of the month, event of the year, band of all time and all that, but even though Fear Inoculum is finally out, it remains untouched by many devout followers because it’s not available physically – even if you could shell out 75 quid plus for the deluxe version, there’s no stock. So, it’s a waiting game. I don’t want to blow a new Tool audio sensation by rushing it through crappy digi mobile tech that won’t do it justice. I’m putting faith in old-school formats appearing because I don’t believe that Tool, one of the most meticulous and attentive rock bands of all time, will deny millions of fans the chance to hear the album that way. It’s been 13 years, a bit longer won’t hurt.

(it does hurt. #whereisaffordablefearinoculumcd)

Because of all the Tool build-up, 10,000 Days has been on rotation a fair bit and Right in Two‘s eventual intense pummel has crept in as a new Tool-worm. Class. But some BTL comments (Guardian Fear Inoculum review) shows that some people in this crazy world express mild disappointment with 10,000 Days …

que? How is that even a thing? And doesn’t it break some natural law?

Even weirder is the fact that August threw up ace new tunes despite Adam Jones, Justin Chancellor, Danny Carey and Maynard James Keenan having nothing to do with them.

Insane, I know. But true. Check a couple of these non-Tool sonics.

FLAME 2 – Dive

Flame 2 is the second collaboration between Burial and The Bug. DIVE is the dark hour, the pitch black business end of the day/night. Beat-less heavy ambience on a full burn. Controlled tension. Without knowing anything about The Bug bar the name, I can’t comment on its merit as a collaboration, but the potent whiff of Burial’s urban nocturnal is more than enough.

ELKHORN – To See Darkness

Rootsy psych-folk with a cosmic sprawl. TO SEE DARKNESS picks out a rich John Fahey-like tapestry until an electrified late scorch fires it up Six Organs of Admittance style, aka spiritual trip magic.

Other shorter bites: Black Midi‘s album has been out a wee while but 953‘s collision of mangled riffs and scattered beats is a welcome shot of intellectualised noisy rock. And for something non-rock but wholly gutsy and compelling, Tenesha the WordsmithWHY WHITE FOLKS CAN’T CALL ME … – packs race politics and civil wrongs into a jazz-feel trancey pulse ‘n’ flow. Searing stuff.

KING’S X CANCEL

The news we never wanted to hear – King’s X have cancelled their European tour. Gutted not to be seeing them in Cardiff in September but, more importantly, let’s hope their family emergency is sorted and everyone is OK. As we know, King’s X have a lot of love, warmth and affection flowing their way. We can’t help it.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind