PLANT CARRIES FIRE

AUGUST REWIND: SPACESHIFTERS RETURN, A LOMBARDO-PATTON BEATDOWN, AND STETSO-SONIC METAL

ANY TIME NOW, said the robertplant.com homepage, May 2017.

Is it a Zep reunion? said the rock press, minutes later.

ffkkk?!?!?nnnrrrrrrrr…..

Talk about trying too hard to make something out of something else. NEVER GONNA HAPPEN, never was, let it be, make a note of Zep II track two and apply it to pretty much any thought of a Zep get-together. Robert Plant makes music – new music. Even when it’s a covers project, it’s fired by something new… band, genre, location, whatever, and the Zep stuff onstage is reworked with an earthly mystery. Follows the muse, man. Wanderlusting, collaborating, surrendering to music’s call, and now we learn there’s a new album – Carry Fire – on the way in October. Cannot wait (despite being priced out of the Bristol gig). Lead-off track The May Queen has a Bron-yr shuffle atop spaceshifter beats, echoing the ceaseless roar. What a voice.

Dead Cross

When Mike Patton guest presented Henry Rollins’s KCRW radio show the other week, of course they talked about Dead Cross. Patton said that when he got the call to ask if he wanted to sing, he had to think about it. Did he want to do a hardcore record? Could he do a hardcore record, pushing 50?

Check Seizure and Desist and get your answer: yes and yes. Hardcore to the power 11, short songs packed with structure, a proper singer doing screams with range AND Dave Lombardo pushing disbelief on our ears yet again. Dead Cross do not hold back. Dillinger Escape Plan manic – fitting, given Patton’s involvement – but thicker, fatter, heavier, and a lot of that’s gotta be the sticks. Lombardo Mindblow just has to be heard to be believed (Obedience School, Grave Slave), so whatever doubts Patton had about giving/taking a battering with Dead Cross, Lombardo must have had them as well. Or no? Anyway, get your h-core mojo strapped back on with 27-and-a-half minutes of no-WAAAAAY on Ipecac, and take a splintered pew at the Church of the Motherfuckers.

EX EYE

New track/new exposure of the month – Xenolith; The Anvil by EX EYE. Surging high-drama heavy prog instrumental, it’s ripe for Motorpsycho/Heliocentrics/Steven Wilson dabblers, perhaps not surprising when you find that EX EYE are Colin Stetson’s band. And the fact that they’re on Relapse Records tells you they’re not pissing about. Apocalyptic sax metal has landed.

Helpless

In the name of passing things on, the lovely Holy Roar record label sent out a link to a new video by Helpless – so here’s Sinkhole for you lot as well. It’s only a minute, it’s not polite. Dare you?

BACKTRACKS

Most of the time we’re not listening to new stuff, so what about those nuggets and deeper cuts that burrow down the e-hole from the many other albums we’ve got on a loop? Here are a couple that have wormed in this past month – see if they do the same for you.

Prince: Ain’t About 2 Stop

“If life is a B-side, my dream is the A” – throbbing right-now production on this HITnRUN Phase One hard hitter: groping cyborg beats, dense-dense-dense, and a semi solo as only Prince can do … you won’t find it on y’tube, though. Sorry.

Harvey Milk: Goodbye Blues

Non-immediate gratification. The anti-now, the slowest burn, the non-instant. They make you wait, this lot, bellowing like a beast in death throes, but you KNOW it’s worth it. Propping up the back end of Life….the Best Game in Town, Goodbye Blues slows your mind before bursting it with a Manic Depression-style triple-time pick-up, and a punishingly heroic solo to end.

Queens of the Stone Age: Suture up your Future

With Villains emerging, there’s been plenty of reason to seek out some Queens previous, and this light-footed swinger from Era Vulgaris is addictive. Sea-drifting melancholy and hazy shimmer, ending in chaos. The sound of life being let go? Maybe the words tell all. What do you think?

’til next time!

 

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

A pessimistic best-of-2014

REWIND DECEMBER: DC revivals, a cellar-bound phoenix and the heaviest music blues … things haven’t gone well

Festive greets and merry new years to anyone casting an eye over this page, even if you’ve got here by mistake. What tunes are you spinning over the hols? I don’t know about you but this time of year always brings about a change in listening choices over here. Plenty of storyteller stuff – Bob Dylan, Mark Lanegan, Tom Waits, Nick Cave – piling up alongside some warming Americana, cooling Icelandic/Scandi moods like Bjork and Cult of Luna, and an unhealthy dose of classic rock/metal by the bands we (I) grew up listening to, aka the DNA years.

And now that there’s an album called Rock or Bust grabbing a few acres of coverage in the music press, it’s AC/DC that are top-of-mind in the old band stakes. When was the last time you played For Those About to Rock end-to-end? Can’t remember? Then here’s what to do: crack open that blackengold gatefold, stand in front of the speakers and let its ten-track purity fire you back to simpler times. Sure, there are a couple of fillers, but with such stellar fare as Evil Walks, COD, Inject the Venom and Spellbound pressed into the wax, not to mention the triple A-grade quality of THAT title track, you’ve got a dead cert for a winter/Christmas playlist. Snowballed is even more of a seasonal bonus.

Before nominating a best-of-2014, what else has been going on?

Crippled Black Phoenix were in Oxford at the Cellar this month for a gig that was, sadly, a mite under-attended … by the band. To quote Commander Justin Greaves on this, the eve of a European tour:

‘You might have noticed we’re a couple short. The guitarist and bass player didn’t show up to rehearsals, they’re not here so … we’re gonna have to mix it up a bit. No guitar solos tonight. Well, not many.’ He introduces Arthur (?) on bass, who’s had to learn the songs in an afternoon.

Does it ruin the mood? Nah. I mean yeah, the solos are a soaring highlight when the Phoenix are in full flight (as they were at the Wheatsheaf a couple of years back) but, even without them, CBP’s modus operandi – expansive jams, Meddle-esque Floyd, Isis weight – is impossible to resist and a damn good show. Let’s hope they get everything resolved.

Right then. Best of 2014. It’s top 50 end-of-year mania in the real press, but we’re gonna cut that down by, I dunno, 47 or so, and mention a couple of highlights.

Earth: Primitive and Deadly. Mentioned this briefly in the last Rewind so no need to witter further here. Immerse yourself.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Spaceshifters: Lullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar. The Spaceshifters’ time is now, as anyone who saw their Glastonbury or Glastonbury Abbey or BBC Maida Vale gigs knows – they’re in the zone and having a ball with their kaleidoscopic tapestry of the trad, the tripped and the trance via north Africa, north America, desert blues and, of course, Plant’s own sprawling roots and thirst for musical adventure. With a truly global spirit at work, they’ve grabbed Mighty Rearranger’s cross-culture essence and given it some serious float. Having read how the band put this record together, I bet there are hours of outtakes, loops, offcuts and jams that would be mindblowing … what do you reckon? Multi-disc Lullaby Sessions for 2015? We can but wish.

Time for our last 2014 highlight in this festive break.

Did someone say ‘season of good cheer’?

Hardly. Not with an album called Things Haven’t Gone Well. Not with track titles like Failure, It’s Not Going to Get Better, Hopelessness and Worthlessness, and everybody’s favourite Christmas knees-up, Tremendous Misery Sets In.

Welcome to Music Blues, the 2014 solo project by Harvey Milk’s Stephen Tanner.

Is he taking the piss with all that? Probably not. The album was written during times of personal crises and depression, but despite the none-more-bleak titles and the squalid cover art, there’s triumph and – dare we say – optimism in the widescreen wrecking-ball slams metered out by Tanner’s Harvey-heavy slo-mo instrumental surges. If the hugeness of Boris (the massive bonus track on Smile, say) and Melvins (Lysol) has you grinning with jaw-dropped loonacy, Music Blues will surely do the same.

Of course, there are bags of albums missed this year but so what? Can’t catch ’em all, there’s always next year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Glastonbury Saturday

Still got doubts?

Sure. Lee. Not.

Metallica headlined Glastonbury and did exactly what they had to do – pulled it off with a festival-friendly yet thrash-infected set drawing heavily on the Ride/Black albums, and at least one cut from every record bar Load (surprisingly) and St Anger (not at all surprisingly).

So we got Fade, Nothing, One, Sad But True, Roam, Cyanide, Master, Nothing Else Mutters, Unforgotten and tonnes more biggies. Highlights included Memory Remains, its croaking Marianne steamrollered by mass na-na-nana, and Whisky in the Jar … ‘COZ IT’S WHISKY IN THE JAR-O, innit? Those tunes don’t get as much of a look-in these days, now that Metallica have plumped for the Metal more than the Rock in their live outings, and this was the place to revive a couple of those looser jams. Even the too-familiar Enter Sandbags sounded fresh again – every fecker in the field knows it so when that choked intro finally frees the monster hook that broke the band and sold a million (or 30) black albums, the release was huge.

Seek and Destroy brings the show to an end and it’s a show which, for all of its faux controversial (but undeniably fun) talking points, entertained. Striding that stage with total confidence, Metallica grabbed the moment, worked it hard and got a win-win out of it, or so it seemed from the TV. And while there won’t be a metal slot every time – maybe a hard-rock flourish for a year or two? – the time was right and Metallica were definitely the right band to do it. AC/DC next year?

Ahead of the night’s novelty-value shake-up, however, the man who brought the class and the Glastonbury spirit to Saturday’s Pyramid stage was – as ever – the mercurial Robert Plant.

Mining a seam of west African swirl ‘n trance mixed with those deep-set rock and roll sensibilities, Plant and his Sensational Space Shifters put on a show beyond reproach. Dreamland and Mighty Rearranger tracks get aired, as do a couple of newies (check the Perry Farrell-meets-Afro Celt air of Little Maggie), as do Zep classics – reworked, of course. Black Dog, now in its third incarnation following Plant-Krauss’s spooky two-step swing, is a beguiling prospect as its dusty psychedelia morphs into desert rave. Fresh as the first time you heard it. So is Funny in My Mind, its street-tough rockabilly makeover far removed from Dreamland’s take on it. Superlative stuff.

And this is what sets Plant and his band(s) apart. The explorer, the music fan as music maker, it’s these reworkings that keep the songs not just alive but LIVING – they’re timeless and increasingly formless, shapeshifting their way into whichever space and spirit is called for. Jimmy Page might be the curator of Zeppelin’s material, but Plant’s the one giving it new life in a global sense. In his hands, Zeppelin music becomes the trad arr of the modern day, ready for reinterpretation by whomever.

Which I guess is where Zep and Plant started anyway. Bring on the new Space Shifters record, it’s surely gonna be a bit special.