MARK LANEGAN LIVE + 2017 MOMENTS

DECEMBER REWIND: MARK LANEGAN BAND PLAYS OXFORD, PLUS A 2017 REWIND

Gargoyle. When you see Mark Lanegan stand dead still on stage, face lived-in and unbreaking, you wonder if the name of the album is a knowing, unmoving nod to his stage self.

Then you cast the thought off. Lanegan does not come across as a guy who does send-up, not in public at least. Gargoyles survive centuries though, and Lanegan’s voice has the same survivor’s trait, but the man himself …. at times he looks like he might not get much beyond another day. He only moves from and to the mic when he has to get a drink, and does it slowly with a limp. Every time he moves, he grimaces. Definitely not the imposing moody bruiser you’ve imagined – no, he looks like a veteran fighter in semi-retirement, taking the stage with reluctance. To anyone who hasn’t seen him in person before – me – it’s a bit of a shock. Puts you at unease.

Is Lanegan’s voice diminished? No. Not a bit. It’s exactly what you know from the records – rich, lived-in, strong with weary edge, and he doesn’t falter or miss all night. Death’s Head Tattoo and Gravedigger give us an early rush before Shelley Brien takes co-vocals on Hit the City‘s highway cool. Nocturne pulls out those Euro-driven post-punk synth-pop stops, pulsing like Simple Minds’ Theme for Great Cities, and it’s these tracks, the ones that drive you through metropolitan nightscapes, that work the best. Riot in My House showcases Jeff Fielder’s liquid solos, and that guy is stellar, totally immersed in the songs – he’s into it, bodily into it, with creeper-hop moves and dapper hat that are more acid jazz moonlighter than rock supremo. Class act, as is the whole band. Methamphetamine Blues closes the set with clank ‘n’ growl, then the encore gets stripped to guitar and voice only. Brien joins for a closing Bombed.

It’s a great gig, but an odd-funny one too (and we’re not even going near support act Joe Cardamone’s Holy War filmwank). You could say that Lanegan’s voice doesn’t fit the higher energy rock that he now does, yet it totally works. You could also say that he doesn’t fit the trad rock set-up on stage and you’d be right. And you would put cash on “Mark will be out in 15 minutes to sign any merchandise you have, he’d love to meet you” not being the last words of the set, but they are. A meet and greet with Mark Lanegan? Get the fork outta here.

But sure enough, he appears walking slowly with a cane, joined by Shelley, and they take their seats at the merch stand. They sign stuff, they shake everyone’s hands, it’s a cool thing to see. Would they sign my ticket, please? Of course they would. Happy new year, guys.

LANEGAN TICKET

MOMENTS OF THE YEAR

We’re already drowning in end-of-year lists, but I’ll add a drop’s worth anyway. What’s the criteria? Music moments 2017 – pretty much new, a little of the old, simple as that. The big 2017 reviews shame us into seeing how far off the pulse we non-music-biz mortals really are, but they give us plenty of stuff to check as well: a last grab at being remotely current.

They also make us wonder what everyone sees in LCD Soundsystem. 

Again.

NOTHING IS DEFINITIVE. Let’s go.

KXM – Scatterbrain
Rapid-fire prog-pyro technics launch the second KXM album. So, who KXM again? Dug Pinnick (King’s X) + George Lynch (Lynch Mob/Dokken) + Ray Luzier (Korn). Many of Pinnick’s projects overlap his mother band’s sound, but KXM does push a bit further out because Lynch has a tone all his own, and Ray Luzier lays down some pristine metallic double-kick action, yet the bedrock of it all are those big stop-starter funk-heavy grooves. Check Panic Attack for an epic Lynchian solo over heavy-Beatles harmony. If you’re looking to fall back in love with guitar heroes and musos who serve the song, submit to KXM’s hard-rock mastery.

King’s X live in Bristol
Might as well get straight on to the other 2017 Pinnick high: King’s X live, in the UK. After a life-time’s fandom, seeing them for the first time was odds-on to be Gig of the Year, and it was. It still is. This is what it felt like. King’s X, we salute you.

Buzz and Dale
First it was Crystal Fairy who crunched our worlds with revitalised riffage, then Melvins took us on A Walk with Love and Death double header, with Death possibly the best Melvins album since Freak Puke and one that draws on Stag‘s vintage lurch without ever doing a retread. Dale Crover put a solo record out, too – haven’t heard it, one for next year, surely.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
Chanced upon these raucous fuckbags back in January and pounced on one-track EP The Wizard and the Seven Swines. One of the best listens of the year. Debut album Feed the Rats landed in 2017, and though more hinged, it’s still a righteous slab of sludgy noisy drawn-out psyche.

Robert Plant – Carry Fire
Any Robert Plant record is a big deal, no matter how it turns out. Carry Fire isn’t the global psychedelic melt that we might expect from the Sensational Space Shifters – more wistful Welsh valley than charging Mali burn – and its restrained mood is at odds with Plant’s life-affirming interviews, so what gives? Once The May Queen has skipped past, side A keeps it slow and you’re straining for a kick, but after that – Carving Up The World Again onwards – it hits the Plant mark. Bones of Saints echoes Mighty Rearranger, Carry Fire conjures bazaars and street heat while Keep it Hid tiptoes a Space Shifter electronica shimmy. Given time, the slower tracks grow, but best of all is Heaven Sent at the record’s end – heavy, slow-droning surf, one of Plant’s darkest. Majesterial stuff as always, just a bit more hidden. Slow-releasing heat.

Dead Cross – Dead Cross
Old Kids on the Block? Yeah, but the joy of hearing Patton THIS animated and Lombardo THAT ferocious in a 28-minute ultrablast is hard to top.

Ministry – Rio Grande Blood
Jizzy Pearl played Wasted in America at the Bullingdon in 2017. Of course, it launched a Love/Hate listening phase, and that somehow led to a Ministry revival as well – you know what it’s like. Must have been a bands-of-92 thing. Anyway, Ministry. Don’t know how long you stuck with them, but I stopped buying after Houses of the Mole, not for any great reason other than the stacks of other new bands and sounds to grab hold of. Suddenly you’ve got a four-album Ministry deficit and the guitarist has died. Shit. What happens when you then get stuck in to Rio Grande Blood? It blows your head. Senor Peligro is ferocious, aggressive, surely one of the hardest tracks they’ve ever done. Cue immediate Ministry gap fill, and if you can stomach a bit of gross-out reading while you do the same, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen is it (get it on Kindle). Frank, funny and disgusting, it’s an unbelievable tale (literally, in the Robert Plant anecdote Led Zeppelin in 1983, really???) where you can’t help but be charmed by Alien J. Lotta self deprecation, whole lotta self abuse, some horrible fucking stories. Get past the first few pages and you won’t stop.

Prince – Around the World in a Day
The Prince education continues, and this album … well, Tamborine and America. How hard is the funk on those tracks? ’nuff said. Staggering.

Chris Cornell 

We all know the story. We all know it doesn’t sit right, either. Going beyond Soundgarden, Carry On and Songbook have kept Cornell’s flame flickering this year, and the more you listen, the deeper that talent  and loss – goes.

Myrkur – Mareridt
Already referenced here as a winter soundtrack, Mareridt covers many more bases than Myrkur’s debut album M. It is less metal – much less – but more diverse, more coherent and more euphoric in an icy, nightmare folk kinda way. Ghosts of black metal. #2 in Metal Hammer’s 2017 review.

Wire live in Oxford
Chairs missing. Doors opening. (non) review right here.

Paradise Lost – Medusa
20 years after last picking up a Paradise Lost album (One Second), Medusa became an impulse buy. Don’t know why. Must have been the subliminal dark arts of the reviews and interviews, and it’s still too new to know well, but it’s got a mature, heavy crunch. Slow-moving and resolute, Medusa is grounded – exactly what we need in fast, unstable times. Just goth enough, feels like a stayer. Let’s see.

Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference
Mary Anne Hobbs and Stuart Maconie are all over Kamasi Washington on 6 Music, as are many others, but if you’re open to The Jazz yet rarely snagged, Washington’s triple disc debut The Epic would be way too much. Maybe he knows this. Maybe this is why he put out Harmony of Difference, a 32-minute 6-tracker (at EP price, bargainheads) that uses counterpoint theory – not something I know about, but Harmony is a rich, fullsome listen that might even beat a path to The Epic… one day.

What else for 2017?

Drore

Mastodon!!! But Emperor of Sand tops the Metal Hammer poll, so go read a proper write up over there instead.

Other 2017 stuff not yet managed: king crimson live in chicago QOTSA – big|brave  motorpsycho hannah peel godflesh  mogwai nine inch nails gy!be – the bug vs earth and so on anon anon anon…

HAPPY NEW YEAR, see you in 2018!

Hairy Halloween II

A pumpkin-grin welcome to anyone who’s there, imageand this year’s handful of Halloweeny hitters is a straight follow-up to last year: another blast of old-school rock tracks, videos and vibes that fit the ‘ween thing, and like all slasher sequels, it’s probably not as good as the one before…

…OR IS IT??? Wait for the dark.

 JOE SATRIANI: Big Bad Moon

What do you want from a Halloween vid? A dark, deserted street? Check. Full-moon menace? Yep. Amplifier being kicked down the stairs so a guitarist can solo the frig out of it? Errrrrrr no, but why the hell not??? Enter Big Bad Moon. Not only is the mood right, but you get an electro-shock Satch hair-ender that’s undead-worthy (low budget special effects version). Killer tune, killer solos. 

TOOL: Stinkfist

Less blitzy than Satriani, obvs, Stinkfist does anything but reek. Any number of Tool tunes could make a dark-side playlist, and this creepsome promo makes Tool a ‘ween shoe-in. Check the Stinkfist sand people, watch ’em peel.

MR BUNGLE: Quote Unquote

Odd weird. Sinister weird. Which is what you expect from Mr Bungle, right? Soundtrack to a death circus. With masks.

JUDAS PRIEST: Turbo Lover

Sure, A Touch of Evil makes more sense on the surface, but we’re not going as deep as surface here – we’re going for the vibe, specifically the Terminator-as-argonaut retro stink flying off this hilariously shit video. Rocking tune, though. 

DAVID BOWIE: Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)

A fair few Bowie tunes could land on a list like this, but if atmosphere and menace are on the menu instead of literal Scary Monsters, the predatory pre-Blackstar Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) jazz ensemble racks it up nice n’ noir.  

VOIVOD: Astronomy Domine

Did anyone else find the Tribal Convictions video a bit creepy as a kid? No? OK, that’s embarrassing. Let’s have a disembodied Voivodian vocal in a flicker-flicker-flicker-bam Floyd cover with a video of a band on a rotating wheel instead. Better?

ALICE COOPER: Killers

The creep factor in this version of Is It My Body has nothing to do with Alice stage props and effects – it’s pre-Nightmare, but Cooper was a theatrical master even when his props were nothing more than a shiny onesie, a shoe and a pink leotard. Classic. But this video for Killer (live) is a wee bit more showtime, shall we say. If the noose fits…

SMASHING PUMPKINS: Ava Adore

Graced with gothic electronica, alt-rock’s very own Uncle Fester goes full Nosferatu in the video – check the Corgan choreography for some pretty slick Nosfer moves you’ll wanna steal.

CHRIS MORRIS: Jam (intro to episode 2)

Not music, but there is dancing. Morris dancing. Subversive, woozy and warped at every twist, Jam fits right in with any horror sesh, and Morris’s taunt-and-haunt free-dance flail in the face of a failed suicide is wrong enough to be oh-so-very right.  

MELVINS/TOOL: Divorced

If ever there was a Halloween house band, Melvins would surely be it. Tool could do visuals, but there are no visuals here – get the headphones, kill the lights and sink deep into a 15-minute pit of top-grade Toolvins.

AC/DC: Night Prowler

A rat runs down the alley, and a chill runs down your spine…can there be a better lyric to end on? Pure slasher, a Bon ace over a deadly, bluesy groove.

But you can’t really have a halloween sequel without a farcical false ending, so … a heroic big-hair resurrection it is – check the big-budget cheapness in this Elm Street cornball. Who were those guys, Freddie? Eh? Lynch axe still cuts it, mind.

THE END! Off now, Salem’s Lot beckons.


Other radio stuff to check:


 

MELVINS: Stag

Houdini: the pinnacle of 90s Melvins … poke about the reviews and it always bags the biggest marks, topping many a most recommended pile – Houdini’s the one everyone seems to know about, it’s the one that’s got Kurt Cobain on it (a big deal at the time), and it’s the one that the band played in full for their Don’t Look Back gig in 2005, so maybe it’s me who’s missing some sort of point somewhere BUT … great though it is, Houdini* ain’t the album that best captures Melvins’ absurd beauty and ugly brilliance.

Stag is.

Melvins Stag CD

Stag: uncovered

Stag throws up EVERYTHING the Melvins are capable of, and that’s why it’s the place to get inside – or at least, get us non-Melvins yoomans somewhere close to – the scattershot strangeness/normalised weirdness pervading their inscrutable heads. Trippy, rocking, perverse, ambient, playful and all-out terrifying, Stag is wildly experimental without being tedious or pisstakingly relentless. Listen to Stag and every direction Melvins ever took starts to make sense, and this may be, paradoxically, because the album is less beholden to the Melvins’ key identifier til that point: the Buzz Riff. They’re in there, twistedly precise as ever, but to reach Melvins’ sustained heights of heavy quirk, you need more than riffs: you need imagination, freedom and fuck-you, and Stag is where all of that behind-the-eyes odderness explodes from the off.

First track The Bit is one of the best Melvins tracks ever, no question: sitar intro meets full-blown mother of a riff, it pounds you to the spot. It’s big – maybe bigger than any Melvins before it. Not because it’s longer or louder, but because it’s FULLER, and it’s this fullness that makes The Bit – and Stag – a mandatory Mel trip.

After a lysergic interlude (Hide) that’s rooted in Stoner Witch (Shevil), we crash on Bar-X-The Rocking-M, a reckless burst of trumpet (yes!!!) and turntable (???) shot through with Tool-esque hush n’ calm. Nothing like Yacob’s Lab – ambient – and The Bloat – stoner slider groover – that follow, and by now we know that, on Stag, anything goes. Every single one of the 16 tracks is unlike any other on the album**, so they are all highlights – here are a few, grouped into shitly-named (by me) categories.

Rock Hard Stag

AKA megawatt amplification and guitar Buzz. Buck Owens does freewheeling juggernaut clatter, Captain Pungent rocks the off beats into a seamless flow into Berthas, which burns a tight 70s 12-bar in your addled mey gratter, and remember we have The Bit and Bar-X front-loading the show. No shortage of rock hardy on Stag.

Quiet/Goof Stag

You want a minute and a half of bubbling liquid? That’s Soup. Lilting dreaminess? Black Bok. Back-porch railtrack blues? Cottonmouth. Chipmunks on a fuck-knows? Skin Horse. No, you couldn’t make it up … except, they did (but how?).

Ugly in the Morning Stag

You want a minute and a half of bubbling liquid? That’s Soup. OK, we just filed it as a quiet/goof job but the fact that it’s served up straight after Goggles curdles the appeal somewhat, and that’s coz Goggles IS fucking terrifying – slo-core noise by a serial killer’s house band, feat. Fudgetunnel’s Alex Newport on skin-peeling production. Says it all. Later on: Sterilized, a dank hellmare of pre-torture warm-up music, and Lacrimosa‘s slow Melv-o creep fest.

All of this experimentation means that Stag isn’t the album that most represents a Melvins sound – if such a thing exists – but it surely is the album that most represents THEM, as a band. Dale Crover makes the space to loom large – The Bloat, Tipping the Lion, Buck Owens – and the record points to any stage, phase or whim of the band’s career, like a Plus One companion for any Melvins album you’ll ever play.

The band got dropped by Atlantic after Stag, making it the last of their major-label years – some reward for such a kaleidoscopic splat of psychedelic greatness, eh? But it’s hard to imagine Melvins giving a fuck. 21 years later, most of them on Ipecac, they’re as prolific and  uncompromising as ever, and the list of artists indebted to their stubborn genius is longer than ever. Me, I gotta thank Stag for a mind-opening induction to Melvins world and to what rock bands can do if they’ve got the vision. It’s a Lifer, this one.

Melvins without limits.

 

* Hooch, Night Goat, Honey Bucket, Teet et al are diamonds for sure, but there’s a reason why Houdini is the third favourite of the three Atlantic albums: Spread Eagle Beagle. Has anyone played Houdini and actually looked forward to hearing this nine-minute momentum bummer at the end, peterin’ out the album’s singular rock vibe? Surely no. Stoner Witch hangs together much better – Revolve and Roadbull, fucking HELL – and the syrupy ambience of Shevil hints at Stag’s many outer limits.

** Butthole Surfers’ Independent Worm Saloon is another oddballin’ major label beaut from that era. Musically more focused than what went before, Inde Worm Sal bends any number of styles into its 17 tracks. Produced by John Paul Jones, released 1993 on Capitol, always worth a revisit.

Stag: essential Melvins

Stag: essential Melvins

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!

HALLOWEEN SOUNDTRACK?

Aaah yes… Halloween, the most metal of yearly celebrations. What makes the playlist? Sabbath, Maiden, Misfits, Cradle of Filth?

I’ve got two favourites for All Hallows’ Eve but two ain’t exactly a playlist so let’s pad it out a bit first with a few other choice, possibly bloody, cuts. In no particular order:

APHEX TWIN – Come to Daddy. Even without the video of Aphex-faced hoodie thug manchilds, tower-block terror and TV-horrorthing screaming G-force hell in a pensioner’s face, this nail-hard track never sounds less than wholly possessed. Demonic electronica, anyone?

SUNN O))) – My Wall. Yeah, the creep kings of low frequency unsettle the vibe magnificently with this 25-minute oozer. You could pick from a tonne of SunnO))) tracks but My Wall has Julian Cope’s ritualistic spoken word giving it that extra resonance.

EXTREME – More Than Words. A shocker on every level.

SCOTT WALKER – anything from The Drift.

MELVINS – Goggles. A slo-mo dead-body DRAG of noise, screams and distortion straight out of a serial killer’s basement. Find it on Stag. Goggles is mixed by Alex Newport so that’s some extra heaviosity credentials right there.

 NINE INCH NAILS – Screaming Slave. A nauseating deconstruction  … could it be the S&M mutilation screams and violent industrial production? Yep, reckon so. Total assault.  Never EVER fall asleep to this, you’ll awake to a wide-eyed nightmare. Get it from the Fixed EP of Broken reworkings.

OK, top 2 time. In reverse order:

FANTOMAS – The Omen (Ave Satani). In a word, diabolical. Patton, Osborne, Lombardo and Dunn hit new peaks in mania with this dementedly OTT version of Jerrry Goldsmith’s classic score. Utterly inspired, check the Director’s Cut for more killer themes.

And finally …

TYPE O NEGATIVE – Suspended in Dusk. If ever a band was made for the year’s twilight, it’s Type O Negative and this track – all 8 and a half minutes of it – shows the Brooklyn crew at their slow, suspenseful, vampiric best. A dark highlight of the entire Type O back catalogue, Dusk was hidden away as a ‘previously too embarrassed to release’ bonus on Christian Woman. Funny bastards. RIP Pete Steele.