KING’S X: live

KING’S X @ BRISTOL BIERKELLER, 12/6/2017

JE-RRY, JE-RRY, JE-RRY, JE-RRY…

Before a note is even struck, a chant goes out to the drummer. Jerry Gaskill points to his heart and checks that’s what everyone meant, thanks the crowd for asking and gives the OK that yes, he’s healthy now – and with that, we are ON: Groove Machine and The World Around Me. The applause after those two tracks is so encore-rapturous that you’d swear it was the last track of the last gig of a stadium sellout tour, not the start of a small gig in a small room. There’s a tidal wave of UK love pushing forth and it’s Pinnick Tabor Gaskill getting swamped

because fuuuuuuuck!!!! It’s King’s X, in person, RIGHT THERE just a few feet away. Why the exaltation? Pure magic in a three-piece, as any fan with their own tale will tell you. Gretchen Goes to Nebraska sits between the Badlands debut and Testament’s Practice What You Preach in my record collection … class of 1989. At some point that year, the 15/16-year-old me bought Badlands, King’s X and Testament – in that order – with Out of the Silent Planet very much not far behind, so Nebraska ’89 is where the path to the Bierkeller started: 28 years of King’s X and now, finally, a live X-perience. No wonder we’ve got the feelgood jitters, this is a borderline mythical event. Three hours earlier, doing a non-native’s scope for the gig’s location, The World Around Me snuck out from behind closed ‘keller doors.

Soundcheck. OMG. Dug Pinnick, Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill are IN there.

But because I didn’t see them, I still didn’t know for sure if they were real.

Back to the gig, they look real enough, but it’s only when they don’t disappear in a puff of Tex dust after those first two songs that the convincing is complete. Pillow, Flies and Blue Skies, A Box, Black Flag, Lost in Germany, Cigarettes, Pray and a hard-rocking Looking for Love are among the King’s X/Dogman/Ear Candy-heavy setlist, with Vegetable‘s taut funk shapes stretching to a long-form Moonlight jam. Dug opts out of some choruses because he’s too old and can’t sing that high anymore (his words, not mine), handing vocal duties to the punters making up the Unofficial Bierkeller King’s X Choir, but he’s still got it. Just not going for the young Doug’s gospel gymnastics of the early days.

Two-thirds of the way through and a minor fret flashes by: we’ve had nothing from the first three albums. Should we be worried? Are they now the band’s Stairway?

No. Righteous Gretchen double-up Summerland and Over My Head swell the joint, while KXprog stopstarter We Were Born to be Loved is the only track from Faith, Hope, Love – didn’t see that one coming, would have bet on It’s Love – and it’s unexpectedness turns it into a real highlight with an even more prolonged false-ender than on the record.

The encore? Dogman – beyond words, obvs – and Goldilox, which is part Dug-crowd a cappella, part full-band. Sweet. And Ty Tabor gets a last-minute mention because that guy was fucking flawless throughout, a real master. The solos in Flies and Blue Skies and Cigarettes were all-time Gig Moments.

So, it is done – King’s X have been seen and I make no apologies for the bias in this review, it’s been a long time coming. Heavy soul with free-flowing uplift, just like the records, and needed now more than ever. Get there if you can, keep spreading the word. 

 

King's X Dogman CD spine

To be the dogman….

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!

 

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!

OHHMS: live

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

 

MINOR VICTORIES: live

OXFORD O2, 13/12/2016

Stuart Braithwaite. STUART BLOODY BRAITHWAITE.

If Mogwai are anywhere near being one of your all-time top bands, you’re not gonna miss a chance to see the owner of THAT guitar sound – one of the biggest and unassumingly most influential in the whole rock landscape – doing his stuff a mere few feet away, are you?

No. And this explains why Minor Victories at Oxford’s O2 – on the small stage upstairs – became a last-minute must-see (thanks Nightshift for the tip) in the last month of the year. With band members from Slowdive, Editors and the Twilight Sad in the band and on stage tonight, there’s plenty of pedigree kicking about.

Expectations? Pop-ish electro-tinged rock – iced cool atmos, verse-chorus Rock Action accessibility, nothing fierce, a background role for the ‘gwai guy … an essence rather than a force. The reality? All of the above but louder and less restrained in all the right places. Give Up the Ghost opens up with arena-baiting stomp and a toughened half riff that gives a teasing glimpse of Braithwaite in action, and what follows is a set of surging, widescreen orchestrations with moto-Stereolab pulsations and the UNKLE Psyence heavyweight drum break (Breaking My Light), all topped by Rachel Goswell’s overfloater vocals. ’tis rich and spacious and fulsome – a proper group effort, definitely not the look of a band who made an album without being in the same room.

And what of the guitarist’s proposed delegation to Background Lurker? Not even close. Sure, this band ain’t Mogwai monolithic but where there’s space, where there’s soar and uplift and tumult, there’s S.B.Uncut, swaying and tussling and just about taming that wild guitar energy EXACTLY as you’d hoped, but didn’t really have the nerve to expect. If Boris (Attention Please version) indulged in a little Sigur Ros or Pumpkins’ Adore, you might get something a bit like Minor Victories live – oversized alt-pop roughed up at the edges by volume – and for anyone with Mogwai love in their bones, this gig makes for a pretty special moment-o.

GREENLEAF: live

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.