Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Renderers - A Dream of the Sea

The Renderers are a kickass psychedelic/dark country act from New Zealand, and are associated with the legendary Flying Nun scene, sharing members with The Terminals (quite possibly the greatest rock band of all time) and have been putting out fantastic records since the early 90's. This is their best work in my opinion, 1998's A Dream of the Sea. 

Fucking brilliant. Songs about the human relationship with sea and our failure to understand it, and our attempts to connect with it via leviathans, storms, shipwrecks and even the surrender of oneself to the water - ultimately signalling that there is something exceptionally serene and enigmatic about the darker depths; how we long for catharsis from things that are larger than our lives. Painted with the velvet brush of The Terminals' legacy of noise, every track tells a tale while the guitars lick their wounds and occasionally lash back and forth; and husband-wife duo Brian and Maryrose Crook are your northern stars, your only guides in these treacherous waters. 

I have been looking for the way back
I have been lost on dry land
my body walks away from me
since the river beneath 
the river broke its banks

Have I spoken about the songwriting yet? It's flawless.

low to the ground

The Weeknd - House of Balloons

Mysterious, Toronto-based R&B project The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) dropped his debut mixtape, House of Balloons, earlier this week.

Late nights. Sleazy hookups. Drugs. Libido. Sound familiar? Well also featuring post punk samples and smoky, heady beats. I hope this is the shape of R&B to come. 

Free download from his website

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mercury Rev - Yerself is Steam

One of America's best psychedelic acts; Mercury Rev formed in the late 80's. They're closely associated with the Lips, both in style and sound. But I don't believe the Lips got as spaced out as Rev did on their debut here, Yerself is Steam. 

Mercury Rev's psychedelic miracle may be incomprehensible at first. One may think, "What the hell is Yerself Is Steam?" It's your self-esteem. And like steam, once it's gone, it will vanish forever. 

The album itself is a beautiful cacophony of noise. We have two tracks which begin as light acoustic riffs and progress to epic proportions (Chasing A Bee, Frittering). Syringe Mouth and Blue and Black hook us with maniacal, demented lyrics. The former complemented with brutal guitar feedback while the latter with a lighter meandering piano. Coney Island Cyclone demonstrates their appreciation for melody but not without a chaotic climax. Conversely, Very Sleeping Rivers is a whirring disturbed track of much greater length and ambience.

This is Mercury Rev at their most weird and whimsical, and above all the most wonderful thing they have ever accomplished. (*)

What once was lost will never be found/Keep spinning in circles until you break new ground.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Tindersticks - Live at the Bloomsbury Theatre 12/3/95

One of the best live albums ever from one of my favourite bands. 'Jism' and 'Raindrops' in particular are heartbreaking; genius arrangements guided to Stuart Staples' deep, resigned vocals; formed the template for scores of other bands. Have you ever had too much to drink and been left staggering to your own thoughts and regrets the day after? Try this on for intoxication then, just might be up your alley, you damn masochist. Plus look, there's a cat on the cover.

If there's ever anyone else, I'll understand
and kill him

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sweet Burning - Cry of the Shinigami

Ok, so you're thinking, who? Well, when I'm not rolling canonical or esoteric, I'm rolling with friends. Here's a Bleach inspired guitar theme from some good buddies of mine, brother duo Ali and Omar Khan. Yeah, they're still unsigned. I doubt there are any people in the business that happen to come by this blog, but if so, fix that please. Check this out and geek the fuck out, as you feel the reaitsu seeping through your soul. Someone, somewhere, there's a kickass AMV waiting to be made out of this. 

Cry of the Shinigami

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Field - From Here We Go Sublime

The Field is the recording moniker of one Axel Wilner, an electronic producer from Sweden. His debut effort, From Here We Go Sublime, is easily one of my favourite electronic records of all time.

There is very little else out there that parallels the mood set by this one. It's not trance in the literal sense - microsamples, cut up vocals, icy, polished soundscapes, a sense of complete isolation and longing for times gone hardly make for dancefloors for the regular ravers. But what this is probably what 'trance' has been trying to achieve in its aesthetic, that unabashed bliss/aural ecstasy hybrid. This is minimal at its finest, this is hypnosis at its finest. As someone once said - "The sound of God's walkman skipping" 

Sun & Ice 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

This Heat - Deceit

This Heat are one of my all time favourite bands. So far ahead of their time that even today, most people are only just beginning to catch up. This is music at its most progressive, make no mistake, yet completely post-punk in spirit; it defies most musical conventions and feels like it could have been recorded tomorrow. There's no categorising this. Their 1981 album Deceit is one of the most intelligent albums in musical scope, and thematically - one of the most powerful political albums you'll ever hear. And it was recorded in a meat locker. Charles Hayward speaks of the making of the album: 

"The whole speak, 'Little Boy', 'Big Boy[sic], calling missiles cute little names. The whole period was mad! We had a firm belief that we were going to die and the record was made on those terms.… The whole thing was designed to express this sort of fear, angst, which the group was all about really."

A wonderful article from Drownedinsound:

 Judged by its cover alone, Deceit (1981) is the great prophetic record of the era – the front depicts a scream beneath a mask that is a collage of: Mushroom-Cloud between-the-eyes; JFK & Khruschev shaking hands; Stars & Stripes across the tongue; Ron & Nancy on the forehead. These are the images still familiar in 2008. The lyric-sheet is scattered with the same clippings, and some more helpful captions. Much of this is identical to the collage ingredients for OK Computer (1997) and its singles: what to do in the event of a bomb, or when the siren sounds; where tactical nukes are deployed, worldwide; those oddly dehumanizing line-drawings of how to prepare your fall-out shelter. Deceit came out in 1981, though – a couple of years before Star Wars (the Strategic Defense Initiative); before Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein; before the first massacre of the Kurds. Ten years later, GW1; ten years further on, 9/11; then the War for Oil, then the Credit Crunch; and only this week can we see real hope of a decline in Republican war-mongering and financial mismanagement (the legacy of Milton Friedman, via Reagan & Thatcher). You know most of this; the point is, to get a sense of history… but also a sense of "prophecy" as a meaningful term in the context of avant-garde music.

Back in 1979, punk in the sense of scuzzed-up glam or sped-up blues had already exhausted its capacity for subversion. Nonetheless, a door had clearly been opened for the experimentalism of post-punk (in a loose sense), and within that (or overlapping), a kind of proto-industrial music that has little to do with Ministry, NIN, or Front 242. Alongside Lydon's definitive nail-in-the-coffin of the Pistols – Metal Box (1979) – This Heat's debut was the sound of re-invention and refutation, both musical and ideological. Heavier than Throbbing Gristle or Cabaret Voltaire, the industrial analogies (at the time) require some contextualizing: industrial as a simile (metal on metal), industrial as a reflection of process (customized machines), industrial as an allusion to critiques of the "military industrial complex". The best (or worst) was yet to come, however…

Deceit (1981) is prophetic, for a start, in that it's glossolalic – it's gibberish, it's speaking in tongues, it's too many ideas at once, and if you throw them at the wall, some of them are bound to stick, and look like a warning three decades later, if not like Revelations. Thing is, prophecy often attracts the wrong people, and gets ignored by the rest, when they assume it must refer to some specific event in the future (i.e. Kabbalism), rather than referring to the horror here and now, but visibly imminent to those who can see the historic patterns (…which is one aspect of Gnosticism). Track 5, 'Cenotaph' spells this out: "his-tory / his-tory / repeats itself / repeats itself / Poppy Day – remember poppies are red / and the fields are full of poppies" – it's literally a song about decoding symbols, and not letting the signal become noise; it's not a Fuck You to the jingoism and self-righteousness of the generation who "served" (as Sid, Siouxsie, and others claimed their Nazi regalia was meant to suggest), nor does this song disrespect the dead, but it does demand that we re-consider our values. The most recognizably "punk" track on the album, 'SPQR' (Track 4), identifies another repetition, and how we're taught by rote to repeat the values, and sometimes the mistakes, of our parents – right back to the imperialism and centralized government of 2,000 years ago:

 "we're all Romans / unconscious collective / We are all romans / we live to regret it / We organize via property and power / Slavehood and freedom, imperial purple. Pax Romana!"

The devastating industrial freak-out, 'Makeshift Swahili' (Track 8), condenses most of these ideas into one song, although you wouldn't know it at first from the Dalek-voice: "…makeshift she sings / in her native German / you try to understand / what she's trying to say / she says 'You're only as good / as the words you understand / and you, you don't understand / the words.' / CHORUS: Tower of Babel!!! / Swaaaaaaahili!!! / It's all Greek to me!" The middle-eight introduces a pretty guitar figure, and a second voice relates a fragment of history that might have been dropped in as a sample, years later: " 'we give you firewater / you give us your land' / 'white-man speak with forked tongues / but it's too late now / to start complaining…'" The sinister drones resume almost immediately, and then the song explodes with an intensity surpassing punk at its most violent – Charles Hayward shrieking "Rhubarb! Rhubarb! Rhubarb!" Granted, this track may not be the most obvious demonstration of the genius of This Heat – Yes, Babel remains the best-known parable of the dangers of imperialism (if not globalization) collapsing under the weight of its ambition; there are also hints that language is power, and literacy was an instrument of subjugation, in the case of the Native Americans, rather than being the gift of enlightenment (see also, Gang of Four's contemporaneous Entertainment!).  If 1970s English Progressive Rock was a debased surrealism in the service of trippiness, This Heat brought the revolutionary spirit back.

What of the rest of the album? It's a complex beast, whose intra-textualities are as numerous as the inter-textualities. The use of loops, drones, found-sounds, and unusual percussion (girders, dummy-heads) was so elaborate that you have to look to The Beatles' 'Tomorrow Never Knows' for a precursor, and as far ahead as Aphex Twin when describing the more danceable and abrasive tracks. A guitarist as evil – but subtle – as Charles Bullen wouldn't be found until Dave Pajo (of Slint), and if you want a comparison for the first album, only Liars have come close, with Drum's not Dead (2006). Personally, I can hear the ghost of Nico channelled into This Heat's weird mix of fucked-up lullabies (Track 1: 'Sleep'), and drone-based proto-industrial nightmares. The drawing of parallels between the End of Rome & the Cold War Era is also very Nico, and the phrase "the sound of explosions" on 'A New Kind of Water' (Track 10) feels like a reference to Eno's "bomb-noises" for Nico's The End. (Eno also recorded Manzanera's pre-Roxy band, Quiet Sun, who included one Charles Hayward, later of This Heat. Rhubarb Rhubarb.)

Opening track 'Sleep' tells us we're all unconscious, lulled by commercials (hence "softness is a thing called Comfort"), and these operate on us like Pavlov's dogs (CHORUS: "stimulus and response"). 'Triumph' might be suggesting a parallel between Neighbourhood Watch (imported from the US in 1982 – a landmark in the history of surveillance), and the early years of Nazism, when Riefenstahl assembled her filmic montage Triumph of the Will. 'SPQR' is sung in the first person plural and refers to the supposedly democratic electorate as "unconscious collective" – Cold War propaganda and sci-fi alike often fantasized the enemy as an insectile hive-mind, but this song isn't about an external enemy: the enemy is now internal. 'Independence' (Track 9) is, quite literally, the Declaration of Independence. Ask yourself, as a UK-citizen, have you ever read it? Do you know what it says? Could you imagine trying to implement its ideals now? Doesn't its endorsement of revolution sound – well, "un-American" (as the Patriot Act defines "American")? The climax is post-punk masterpiece and personal favourite, 'A New Kind of Water', which layers un-synchronized drums, bass, and a chiming guitar line – a distant siren that hasn't yet been recognized as a warning signal. As the parts cycle, and change in volume, the notes interact differently. The initial chorus vocals are those of impotent, infantilized consumers ("we were told to expect more / and now that we've got more / we want more"). After that, the vocal delivery is soulless and hollow – Winston Smith at the end of 1984 – we have hope, it says: 'a cure for cancer / we've got men on the job.' Urgency increases… the drums begin to pound… you realize the apocalypse is here and you wish you were in Neverland ("fly away Peter / hideaway Paul…"). The title of the final track is written in Japanese characters, transliterated into Romaji ('Hi Baku Shyo'), and then translated into English ('Suffer Bomb Disease'). There are no words in this murky, marshy soundscape – maybe this is the world in which only cockroaches have survived. Maybe English-speakers are only tolerated as slaves of the victorious "Yellow Peril" (hence the Romaji-script). Then again, maybe the bomb has already dropped, and we became insects without realizing it."

So this is what forward thinking music is all about. The very spirit you can hear flowing in and out of these songs is equaled by only the most groundbreaking and thoughtful bands. What a clusterfuck of noise, chaos, atonal melody, pulsating tribal rythym, chords that cut across your face like freshly sharpened blades, sounds whizzing in and out, abrupt changes, a message as dark as that ominous record cover...this band was in total control of what they were doing and what they wanted this mass of angst to sound like. So unbelievably essential in an industry (and blog) that probably uses that word too much. Though made in a different time, it sounds as fresh and urgent as any band still trying to push the proverbial envelope. You need this.

A New Kind of Water

Friday, March 18, 2011

Yabby You - Jesus Dread (1972-1977)

Vivian “Yabby You” Jackson was the founder of the legendary vocal group the Prophets. His trademark sound is perhaps best heard on the compilation Jesus Dread 1972-1977—which contains “Conquering Lion,” said to be the template from which many later reggae masterpieces would draw inspiration. 

Essential listening. Nothing more to say. 2 CDs of pure gold highlighting each of the styles that defined roots reggae, from the man himself. Enjoy. 

CD 1
CD 2

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bailter Space - Robot World

Led by former Gordons guitarist Alister Parker, noise rock unit Bailter Space emerged from Christchurch, New Zealand in 1987. Originally comprising former Clean and Great Unwashed drummer Hamish Kilgour, Pin Group alum Ross Humphries on bass, and Glenda Bills on drums, the group issued their debut EP, Nelsh, on the famed Flying Nun label later that year; both Humphries and Bills departed soon after, resulting in the addition of former Gordons bassist John Halvorsen in time to record the 1988 full-length Tanker. A tour followed, but when the Clean re-formed, Kilgour joined them on a permanent basis; his replacement in Bailter Space was Brent McLachlan, also the drummer in the Gordons. In 1993, they dropped Robot World, what I consider their best

Paradoxically enough, this album is really pretty yet completely jagged hard, droning, unforgiving guitar music with occasional lapses into verse/chorus regularity. Wikipedia says it's Beatles harmony blended with Velvet Underground's dissonance. My $0.02 - this is one of the coolest pure noise experiences you'll have with pop music. Full volume with some good headphones is really recommended. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Knife - Silent Shout

The Knife is an electronic duo from Stockholm, Sweden formed in 1999. The band consists of siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson (formerly of Honey is Cool, now Fever Ray) and Olof Dreijer - who also run their own record company, Rabid Records.

One of the group’s distinguishing characteristics is their unwillingness to cooperate with the media or the mainstream music scene - they rarely give interviews and wear animal masks in public; they continue to challenge song conventions and make some extremely fine/incredibly fucked up pop music. Which for me, is really the best kind of pop music there is.  In 2006, they released Silent Shout, which is easily one of the best albums of the decade. Electronic pop was no longer a light headed bouncy affair for the Anderssons, it now existed to inhabit the recesses of your mind, in a world of its own. 

An insight on this masterpiece from a fellow rymer:

Forget electroclash. Forget dance-punk. Forget all the other 80s electronic and dance revivalist bands of the 2000s; Silent Shout is the definitive back-to-basics electronic album of the decade. A decisively determined album, it focuses on its goals without making any concessions, and thus Silent Shout produces no pop gems in the vein of "Heartbeats," but what replaces the style that the band previously explored is no less engrossing. It's got everything necessary to make it a classic: The haunting, unique vocals, icy electronics, danceable neck-breakers ("We Share Our Mothers Health" is a rare track that might actually be physically dangerous), melodic burns and dark mystique. Silent Shout both sounds like something completely new and futuristic and yet also somehow antiquated; "The Captain" is a perfect example, sleek and yet frozen, smooth and yet rough as if coated in brine. It only further emphasizes the fact that the album doesn't quite fit in with anything else of its age, even consciously nostalgic dance music that dominated much of the decades independent scene. If it recalls anything, it's an alternate reality of the 80s when Antarctica had a thriving electronic scene, but it also sounds cutting edge and advanced. Perhaps this is what makes Silent Shout so timeless; ultimately, it is an album that seems to resound from nowhere, and thus answers to no one, nothing.

a cracked smile and a silent shout..

Sunday, March 13, 2011

PJ Harvey - Dry

During the early-'90s alternative rock explosion, several female singer/songwriters rose to prominence, but few were as distinctive or as widely praised as Polly Jean Harvey. Over the course of her discography, Harvey established herself as one of the most individual and influential songwriters of the '90s/00's, exploring themes of sex, love, and religion with unnerving honesty, dark humor, and a twisted theatricality. Early in her career she delivered her stark songs with bruisingly powerful, punkish abandon, as typified by the 1992 debut effort Dry.

AMG review: 

Polly Jean Harvey arrives fully formed as a songwriter on PJ Harvey's debut album, Dry. Borrowing its primitive attack from post-punk guitar rock and its form from the blues, Dry is a forceful collection of brutally emotional songs, highlighted by Harvey's deft lyricism and startling voice, as well as her trio's muscular sound. Her voice makes each song sound like it was an exposed nerve, but her lyrics aren't quite that simple. Shaded with metaphors and the occasional biblical allusion, Dry is essentially an assault on feminine conventions and expectations, and while there are layers of dark humor, they aren't particularly evident, since Harvey's singing is shockingly raw. Her vocals are perfectly complemented by the trio's ferocious pounding, which makes even the slow ballads sound like exercises in controlled fury. And that's the key to Dry: the songs, which are often surprisingly catchy -- "Dress" and "Sheela-Na-Gig" both have strong hooks -- are as muscular and forceful as the band's delivery, making the album a vibrant and fully realized debut.

You can love her, you can love me at the same time

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Seefeel - Polyfusia

Seefeel formed during 1992 in London, England, when guitarist Mark Clifford and drummer Justin Fletcher met vocalist Sarah Peacock and bassist Darren Seymour. They released their first EPs on the Too Pure label in 1993. Stylistically situated at the intersection of dream pop/shoegaze and ambient electronic/IDM, their music has a distinctive sound. This might have contributed to the band getting a contract with the seminal electronic label Warp Records in 1994. 

Pretty much a textbook definition of hypnotic repetition, Polyfusia is the compilation of their Seefeel's three EPs (More Like Space, Time to Find Me, and Plainsong). There are probably reference points to this (from the advent of Warp as a premier electronic label as well as the shoegazer scene of years before), but nothing quite like it. You're exactly halfway between now and the distant future, organic and electronic. Stare into space.

more like space

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Nina Simone - Pastel Blues

Though she's been known as the high priestess of soul, Nina Simone is truly one of the few peerless greats whose catalog and activism goes beyond petty labels and definition, still standing tall as testaments to the power of expression of the human soul using music as the medium. Here's one of my favourite Nina Simone albums, 1965's Pastel Blues. Contains what is possibly the best song of the 60's, Sinnerman, 10 minutes of pure, raw soul-jazz catharsis. 

I said rock, what's the matter with you, rock? can't you see that i need you rock

Ricardo Villalobos - Fabric 36

A milestone in minimal techno. A great eclectic mix that highlights Villalobos' taste for the unusual (japanese percussion, jazz snares, crazy mumbled female vocals and hundreds of samples I will never be able to identify) that kicks off in sparse fashion and maintains the ideal of its minimalistic aesthetic, adding layer upon layer of sound as it progresses along the way. There is a constant timbral shift, from the lazy calm of the opener and 'Moongomery' to the more melodic 'Andruic and Japan' (the centrepiece of the event and featuring aforementioned crazy women and a lot of tribal clapping percussion) which carries the album into its festive second half. All the while, the Chilean producer entices the senses with a fine array of microrhythms that pulsate with textures, textures that build up and break down over time. This in turn makes Fabric 36 one hell of an inviting and a surprisingly organic listen, where the sum of the album experience is much greater than its parts; and where Villalobos displays a whole new breed of techno; one he's nurtured, let grow and from the sounds of it, eventually left on its own outside a late night carnival. Recommended to all fans of electronic music - don't sleep on this if you're looking for a mix that's greater than the sum of its parts. Also, Villalobos is probably one of the most exciting arrangers in terms of percussion on the electronic scene today.

4 wheel drive

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Drive Like Jehu - Yank Crime

Drive Like Jehu was an American post-punk/post-hardcore band led by Rick Froberg and John Reis, formed in 1990 in San Diego, California and disbanded in 1995. Their music combines elements of rock and punk with complex time signature changes, complicated interweaving guitar lines, unusual and extended song structures, and atonal, dissonant guitar riffs, sometimes described as noise rock, math rock or sludge rock. They released two full-length albums before disbanding in 1995, partly due to Reis' increased involvement with his other band, Rocket from the Crypt. The success of Rocket from the Crypt and of Reis and Froberg's later band Hot Snakes has drawn increased attention to their work in Drive Like Jehu and led to a re-release of their influential album Yank Crime. 

Originally released in 1994 on Interscope, Yank Crime is without question the greatest post-hardcore album ever recorded, and also one of the great guitar albums. The 12 strings of Rick Froberg and John Reis' guitars flirt and taunt, melding into a chugging whirr of locomotion. Froberg's pained vocals ache and plead on epic standouts "Luau" and "Sinews," which culminate in tightly wound, extended jams that exhibit both astonishing guitar technique and strong senses of arrangement and melody. Many have copied Yank Crime, but none have matched it. - Emusic

wipe the last howlie, the FUCK off our turf

Dolly Mixture - Demonstration Tapes

"The Dolly Mixture was a British trio that formed in 1979, put out a handful of brilliant singles and one of the most obscure and collectible records of the post-punk era. The Dolly Mixture was like the Shangri-La's or the Go-Go's if they had any class. Or the Raincoats without the weirdness and electric violins."  They only ever released one album, Demonstration Tapes. 

I won't try and top this neat little write-up by Ariel

One of the most aptly named bands ever? Alright, I've never even had Dolly Mixture candy, but I have heard Dolly Mixture the band, and these girls performed a glorious blend of infectious pop hooks, classic girl-group harmonies, and an utterly charming sense of joiede vivre; and not without their share of punky sass, either. To these ears, Dolly Mixture wrote the most catchy, concise three-minute pop songs of the punk era this side of the Undertones. 'Demonstration Tapes' collects their entire recorded output from 1979 to 1983, sans singles unfortunately, but you still get 27 songs and 73 minutes of pure pop bliss. "He's So Frisky," "How Come You're Such a Hit With the Boys, Jane?" "Side Street Walker," "Angel Treads;" I could go on, but that would cut into valuable listening time! Though remarkably influential--just listen to Talulah Gosh or the Shop Assistants, to name two--Dolly Mixture's relative lack of success is one of the cruelest jokes in music history; if you've never had the pleasure of the Dolly's company, pick this one up immediately.

In Heaven, Everything Is Fine 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Slint - Spiderland

Slint were a band that formed in 1986 and disbanded after recording their 1991 masterpiece, Spiderland.

Sometimes reviewing stuff you love is near impossible. So I suppose I'll put it this way. Spiderland is an enigma. It's like, as snoogans once said, a really dark episode of Twilight Zone. It's also like a film noir murder mystery that seems to unravel with repeated listens. Or it's possibly an attempt to strip rock and roll dynamic down to its barest form; so much so that you're left chasing the spoken word ramblings of a man on the edge and the wandering instruments that feel directionless, even though you know exactly where it's headed. Whatever it is, all answers lie in Spiderland. Hope you have as much fun trying to piece it together as I did. 

good morning, captain

James Carr - You Got My Mind Messed Up

James Carr was a southern soul/r'n'b singer in the tradition of the greats, though he's been somewhat forgotten until fairly recently. His catalog of singles for the legendary Goldwax label stand the test of time as raw, deep soul that has rarely been equalled. In 1967, he released his greatest collection, You Got My Mind Messed Up.

There were 4 wines in the cellar, we drank until it made sense to leave

The Stooges - Fun House

 During the psychedelic haze of the late '60s, the grimy, noisy and relentlessly bleak rock & roll of the Stooges was conspicuously out of time. Like the Velvet Underground, the Stooges revealed the underside of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, showing all of the grime beneath the myth. The Stooges, however, weren't nearly as cerebral as the Velvets. Taking their cue from the over-amplified pounding of British blues, the primal raunch of American garage rock, and the psychedelic rock (as well as the audience-baiting) of the Doors, the Stooges were raw, immediate, and vulgar. Iggy Pop became notorious for performing smeared in blood or peanut butter and diving into the audience. Ron and Scott Asheton formed a ridiculously primitive rhythm section, pounding out chords with no finesse — in essence, the Stooges were the first rock & roll band completely stripped of the swinging beat that epitomized R&B and early rock & roll. During the late '60s and early '70s, the group was an underground sensation, yet the band was too weird, too dangerous to break into the mainstream. Following three albums, the Stooges disbanded, but the group's legacy grew over the next two decades, as legions of underground bands used their sludgy grind as a foundation for a variety of indie rock styles, and as Iggy Pop became a pop culture icon. 

Simply the greatest. rawest straight up rock and roll album of all time. Foresees the coming of punk, grunge and a bunch of other stuff a good decade before its time; Iggy Pop delivers what is the quintessential performance by a frontman in a rock and roll album. Hedonism and cacophony forever.

Out of my mind on a Saturday night

Yo La Tengo - And then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out

American alt rock band formed in Jersey, in 1984. One of the most consistently pleasant catalogs of music of any rock band, here's my favourite album of theirs; And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. 

Yo La Tengo's most consistently brilliant record is also their quietest, as husband and wife Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley turn the volume down while exploring decidedly grown-up relationship themes. It's definitely not the shoe-gazer-tinged barrage of guitars they've supplied in the past, but the silences here speak louder than an amplified guitar ever could. One of my definitive picks for albums to listen to in the wee hours. 

I wanna be Paul Le Mat, in 1980

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Can - Tago Mago

Can are pretty much my favourite band of their era. The mother-band of sorts; at their peak everything they touched turned to gold. 1971 saw the coming of one of music's best experiments of all time; a double LP by the name of Tago Mago. Some great reading here from Stylus:

What can you say about Can? About The Can? Because, make no mistake, they are the definite article. Their name is an acronym of Communism, Anarchism, Nihilism. Or it’s the German word for “love”. Or an African word for “life”. Or something you keep beer in. On the cover of Ege Bamyasi it’s a tin of okra. Who knows? Can. The Can. Can formed because of an argument between a music teacher and his student. The student said The Beatles were more radical than Stockhausen, the teacher laughed, they formed a band. They recruited the greatest drummer in the world (Jazz-trained—instilled with the motto “never repeat, never repeat” from the day he picked up sticks. And when given the freedom to play how he wanted? Decided to repeat forever.) and a giant black American singer, a sculptor evading the draft by travelling Europe. They recorded in a castle, strange nursery-rhyme inverting songs about getting high with Mary, about your father being unborn, weird, European psychedelic junctions. 20-minute jams about nothing in particular but keyed in to the rhythm of the universe. Oh yes. The singer couldn’t take the stress, or something, and left. The rest of Can spotted a Japanese man shouting at people in the street, and asked him to join their band. He did, and proceeded to sing in a made-up language for the next five years. (Later he would find religion, and become a Jehovah’s Witness, which is the mentalist inversion of Americans or Europeans “getting” Buddhism or Taoism.) 

Everyone has stolen from Can. Talk Talk (the looped piano riff from “Life’s What You Make It”, everything they did from Spirit Of Eden on), Happy Mondays (“Hallelujah” is “Halleluwah” from Tago Mago performed by a load of Mancunian drug addicts with no sense of musical history), Primal Scream (everything,everything), The Fall (“I Am Damo Suzuki” to name but one of hundreds), The Stone Roses (“Fools Gold” is Ege Bamyasi’s “I’m So Green” run through acid house and The Byrds), Stereolab (everything, everything), My Bloody Valentine (texture over form), The Verve (10-minute spacerock grooves), any band that ever started playing around with electronics or weird jams, anyone who ever played at spacerock or being experimental (hello, Radiohead), anyone who ever went for texture and rhythm and sound over song, anyone who ever got a singer to sing in a made-up language (hello, Sigur Ros). Before every album Blur have released, Damon Albarn has either claimed that it was influenced by Pavement or by Can. The only two occasions when he wasn’t lying were Blur(Pavement!) and 13 (Can!). The Mooney Suzuki stole their name from Can’s two singers (Malcolm Mooney and Damo Suzuki). LCD Soundsystem’s most important namedrop in “Losing My Edge” isn’t about being the first person to play Daft Punk “to the rock kids”; it’s about having been at the first Can shows in 1968, “in Cologne”. Which is, of course, a lie, because James Murphy was a baby if he was even born. Eno, Mogwai, Cabaret Voltaire, Tortoise, AR Kane… You could keep naming bands forever.                  

A contender for one of the greatest albums of all time. A trip unlike any other, 40 years since it's release now and there still isn't anything that fucks with your head as beautifully as this album does. That album cover is pretty spot on, I'd say. Musical nirvana, if there ever was one. Give it a few spins, you'll see what I'm on about.