DESERT STORMS AND SKELLINGTONS

APRIL REWIND: THE RETURNS OF RECORD STORE DAY, DESERT STORM AND JULIAN COPE. BUT CALEB SCOFIELD DEPARTS.

It was a wet one, but apart from rain, what happened in April?

Record Store Day 11
We love record shops. Never visit a new town without sniffing them out, never pass the chance to frequent the local, and this is why Record Store Day feels like it should be a big deal but ends up being a bit … contrived frothing over forged rarities? Like a weird-o Christmas Day for reco)))rd shoppers. Weird because the list is dished out by $anta well ahead of the day, weird because the toys have been specially made for the event, weird because none of the toys are trulymadlydeeply drawn from your own well. And if you convince yourself into chasing something from this monopoly of taste, and said thing makes it into the shop that day and you’re able to lay fingers on it, you get the privilege of paying through the nostrils. Some Christmas. If you buy CDs and dare not to have a turntable, forget it – zero specials for you, because you are not part of the Record Store Day M.O. It’s a vinyl-only club, a 7–12-inch exclusivity zone roped off from the Greater Good that is music in physical formats. In shops.

So, 2018 played out exactly the same as 2017, just different records to gloss over once the queues had gone. Tom Waits offered a momentary flutter when the Orphans cover loomed, but it was Bawlers, the zero-interest one of the three,. Anyway, just like last year, salvation came from the vinyl sale box where Cannots by Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker popped up – didn’t even know such a thing existed, so it’s a welcome and timely discovery given that Walker’s new album is imminent. Ace find from proper browse. Bye-bye Record Store Day. Hello record shop, next week, as usual.

Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker - Cannots LP

This year’s RSD pick-up. From 2016

DESERT STORM: Sentinels
Much more rewarding than RSD’s general waxploitation was Sentinels by Oxford’s own Desert Storm. Fuck me, this is solid. And big. And assured. And if you like your rock to be, er, metallic and groovus, Sentinels should be on your list. When I last saw Desert Storm I vowed to catch up with their albums but, like an arse, I didn’t. Didn’t go beyond Forked Tongues, which is why Sentinels feels like a huger jump. This, surely, is Desert Storm fully formed. The sometimes caricatured vocal tics of the Forked days have gone and Matt Ryan now gives us proper gruff metal range more like the live shows, veering from gut-low ferals to Jaz Coleman anthemics to part-spoken calm. Kingdom of Horns does this brilliantly, a quietly drifting trip that swings a 180 to the other extreme and back.

Tracks like Drifter will no doubt satisfy the Clutch crowd, but Sentinels is more metallic and the closing two tracks, Convulsion and Capsized, showcase Desert Storm’s star quality in 2018. Check the former’s multi-riff orgy – part doomed stoner, part thrash, part Entombed-sized roll – then cruise on Capsized’s slick downtuned power to a closing solo soar worthy of Crippled Black Phoenix. Check it all here, best of luck, fellas.

JULIAN COPE: Skellington 3
He’s back! Last time, it was personal (Skellington 2, 1993). 25 years on, we get the third instalment, a new batch of the Drude’s so-called orphan songs and ‘acid campfire spirit’. If you know Skellington, you’ll know Skellington 3. Stripped down, often acoustic, sometimes off-key yet oft-times Cope-classic melodic (Parallel University, Very Krishna, Catch Your Dreams Before They Slip Away), it’s a ramshackle shot of a fast-moving Cope in songwriter mode. As ever, head to Head Heritage.

Hardcore bass loss
If you’re on the Hydra Head email list, you’ll have seen the subject line that came through around a month ago: The Caleb Scofield Memorial Fundraising Preorder. Then you’ll have done a double take. Memorial? Sadly, yes. The bass player for Cave In, Old Man Gloom and Zozobra passed away on March 28th after a car accident a road toll. He was 39. There goes the blood of some core Hydra Head noisery, all vital to the world of heavy. White Silence: crank it up to deafening.
’til next time.

RSD and a royal RIP

REWIND APRIL: store bores, faith no mores and Prince

Record Store Day came and went, as it does at this time of year. Did you go?

Me too. Did you buy?

Me too. Did you buy any specials?

Nope. Had a half-hearted peep over the shoulders of the eager while quickly tuning out (you’ll see why) of a conversational pissing contest next to the RSD vinyl display (where else?) about the bassist in (wait for it) Hot Chip (told you). Do they have a bassist? Maybe it was someone else in Hot Chip. Or a different band that also has a bassist. Either way, big points were being scored in this rally of Geek Pingpong in Pseud’s Corner, but over in the Business As Motherfucking Usual section – used metal, since you ask – there were a brace of bargainous pickings from the scrap yard: Soilent Green and End of Level Boss. Top stuff, weighty. Nothing to do with the day itself but still, Truck Store had a buzz and a body count and that’s what matters.

Where do you stand on Mike Patton? Depends how annoying you think he is, I guess – windpipe? Testicular area? – but in last month’s Rewind we pointed to the Many Many Bands of Mike Patton on ye ole digital wireless. Drawling John Doran of Quietus fame was Maconie’s guide through some of Patton’s adventures and Mr Bungle, Fantomas, Dillinger Escape Plan and Faith No More themselves got their magnificent selves duly played, but the bestestweirdestexcitingest track of the show – and this is coz I’ve never heard it – was from Patton’s 1997 Pranzo Oltranzista album. With John Zorn and Marc Ribot on there, you know it’s gonna be avant, and with Patton free of band constraints, you know it’s gonna be based on Futurist Cookbook by Filippo Marinnetti. Don’t you? Er, no. Me neither.

Couldn’t help but pick up on a sniffy attitude towards Faith No More from Doran though, and it’s a sniffy that Maconie seems to share. ‘Bro-style rapping’? Records that were ‘overproduced for the day and sound terrible now’??? Surely that puts way too much weight on That Track and views the whole Patton era through an Epic filter, which is precisely how FNM fans don’t see it… well, not me anyway. Epic was always the anomaly. Get some Caffeine.

But at least Patton and co are still with us, which is more than we can now say about the sudden lonely passing of pop’s last great muso megastar, Prince. I’m not a fan, but I wish I was – and by that, I mean I never got round to cherry-picking the vast Prince vaults for the guitarfunkenrock end of his infinite jams, so I guess the discovery starts now. 3121 – the sole Prince album in the collection so far – has been a worthy replay of late; beyond the too-lightweight tracks you get multi-layered gems like 3121‘s slinky throb, Black Sweat‘s falsetto funk-industrial, and a heavy dancefloor strut n’ tease by way of Love.

While this space is not going to be an ongoing tribute to musicians who pass, we have to acknowledge that 2016 has been a shocker for rock departures. Lemmy left us last year, but only just last year, and so we sign off this month with three shades of greatness in one snap:

 lemmy bowie prince

’til next time!

A tad heavy, brothers

REWIND APRIL: THE RETURN OF T DOYLE

Record Store Day was the big news for April and the record shops are now getting back to normal, assuming they had a ticket to the RSD party in the first place. I put a few thoughts down meself in the last post but if you wanna chew on some no-messing wordage from someone with all the right credentials – music obsessive, full-time traveller, workaholic – check the fanatic, Henry Rollins, and his post last week for LA Weekly. Lean fat-free writing, as ever.

Best bit of new listening this month has been Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, a beast of a debut from a two-band Seattle veteran who’d not played music for five whole years until, one SoCal day driving on Interstate 805, the radio planets aligned and forced an epiphany somewhere around San Diego. The track? War Pigs. The epiphan-ee? Tad Doyle.

Now there’s a name to ponder, alongside a few others: Tad, Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Seattle. My confession is that aside from a split-cassette promo – Tad with Clutch, how good is that??? – from 1995, mes collection is shamefully Tad-less. Why? No good reason (well, student budget was probably the reason) so Inhaler, 8-Way Santa and the like are on that years-long list of stuff to look out for at CD fairs. Right now though, thanks to Terrorizer’s Feb interview, we’re here at the very start of Tad Doyle’s new era – and the future looks VERY solid.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth turn out a primal, earthy blend of doom-rooted post metal, as you’ll know for sure when first track Lava comes hulking out the speakers like Megabeefus Neurosisus on a downhill run. Other tracks stretch out and hint at something bigger, more spiritual – check the quiet ritual summoned by The Immutable Path, or the Salvation-era Cult of Luna dynamics at play in Empires of Dust … no wonder Neurot Recordings were the Chosen Ones to cut the Brothers loose, for it is a mighty roar. Small band too – Tad guitar, wife Peggy bass, Dave French drums, that’s it. Keep track of all things BOTSC right here.

The last word in this Rewind is a word of honour for another three-piece:

WE PLAY ROCK AND ROLL

And we are …???  Motorhead. Now added to the Glastonbury bill they will surely be greeted like the fckn heroes they are, so let’s hope that Lemmy’s strong enough to pull it off and bask in a sweaty all-conquering afterglow of motorheadoration. Illness meant the great man was a shadow with sideburns at Hyde Park’s BST last July, which was a bit difficult to watch, and he’s still looking gaunt if the pics in this month’s Metal Hammer are any indication. As he finishes the follow-up to 2013’s bristling Aftershock, he’s more aware than ever of his physical limitations so there’d be nothing more heroic and life-affirming than a Glastonbury shake-up by one of THE institutions in amplified rock and roll. COME ON LEM.

’til next time!

The great RSD swindle?

Yesterday was Record Store Day (RSD): best day of the year for record store shoppers.

Race down there silly early, wishlist in hand/in head from store email (you are on their mailing list, right?), feast eyes on vinyl goodies, get paws on summat new, feel rightly proud for helping to keep the record stores alive.

OR

Get down there mid aft like a normal, no list in hand/head coz it’ll have been vultured by the earlies, feast eyes on vinyl goodies, recoil from the prices, try to shake off emerging RSDD (record store day disappointment) for the second year in a row, find something that was on your very own non-RSD list, feel proud for helping to keep the record stores alive, reflect on the fact that you do this every week anyway and think, actually, is this whole RSD thing a bit of a con?

OK, not a con exactly but a distortion with a misdirected focus.

Like you, I love music. That’s an understatement, as it is for many of us. We can be compulsive and nerd-like but it comes from a good place – we’re just very very keen. We’ve all got our own obsessions yet we can all get along in the same space, and nowhere is that space better defined than a truly great independent record shop. Those places feel like home, and if you’re lucky enough to have one as your local, you’ve got it made. Every week you can get some music IN YOUR HANDS, and that last bit’s absolutely crucial for those of us bothered by record shops and premise behind RSD: the browse, the immersion, the search, the discovery, the exchange, the thing you take with you. The physical elements of music.

So I feel bad for saying that Record Store Day leaves me feeling a bit cold.

Not the publicity or the occasion itself, or the ready-made excuse for going to the record shop on this very day – that’s exactly what we want and need for our music-dealing havens.

Nah, the bit that grates is its contrived gold-rush. The RSD special editions. The engineered ‘rarities’. The sky-scraping prices – 10 quid for a 7-inch single??? 10-inch EPs that sell for album prices, albums that sell for $$*@!!$!??? Very quickly you feel priced out but, swept along by the day’s momentum, you try to convince yourself that this disc is worth it. You look again. And again. And those repeat looks tell you this: it’s not worth it. It’s a 7-inch single with two tracks that you’ve already got, and it’s a tenner if not more. PUT IT BACK. It’s an RSD selfie – proof of presence, proof of participation.

Hmmm. I used to buy records all the time and I love the records I’ve got. They have their stories and they’re definitely part of mine, but when CDs came along, vinyl became pretty much obsolete. There was no choice but to buy CDs … fair enough. I love CDs too. Now we’re in a vinyl revival, so we’re told, yet it looks more and more like a revival for those who’ve got the cash to spend twice as much per album as a CD costs.

Sorry, but no.That makes no sense to me.

I’d rather buy more music. Vinyl is now saved for favoured bands or special releases, and that’s a subjective thing that’s got nothing to do with what RSD dictates will be released on April the Whatever each year.

So instead of creating a faux collectors’ market each April, why doesn’t RSD do justice to its own name and remember that it’s about the SHOP and the music? I don’t remember seeing it called Limit$d V$nyl Day or Records-Only Day. It’s Record Store Day. Why not turn it into a chance for everyone to buy more music in their favourite record shop? As well as stocking the limit$d v$nyls, indie shops could cut the prices of non-RSD vinyl and CDs for the day. I know that the suppliers have a big hold on what happens as far as stock goes, but as a music fan and record-store customer, this is what would make the day unbeatable. Something for all fans and customers, not just the dawn-start v$nyl grabbers.

I did buy a new CD, but it wasn’t RSD approved. Already it sounds fckn immense and I’m only two and a half tracks in (clue: Seattle). I’ll probably divulge more in a review some other time, but the point is already made – ’tis the music, not the spectacle, that really delivers.

That was my day. How was yours?