Ad-Hoc Posting Schedule

Willkommen Leser, Down-Loader, Lurker und Teilnehmer alle.

It might have come to your notice that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you'll just kinda have to get used to. I will however, now and again, have bursts of creativity and if it was to please the massed hordes, who chose to visit this insignificant page, to supply some input on the direction and type of music you would like to sample (before going out and buying yourself a copy) this little communication will not have been in vain.

I will also say now that some of the outstanding music already available to sample will be reaching their 30 days without a click threshold, where by they're deleted by the host.


Many thanks for reading this far...and please feel free to interact.



slàinte


Sunday

Raw Power



In 1972, the Stooges were near the point of collapse when David Bowie's management team, MainMan, took a chance on the band at Bowie's behest. By this point, guitarist Ron Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander had been edged out of the picture, and James Williamson had signed on as Iggy's new guitar mangler; Ron Asheton re-joined the band shortly before recording commenced on Raw Power, but was forced to play second fiddle to Williamson as bassist. By most accounts, tensions were high during the recording of Raw Power, and the album sounds like the work of a band on its last legs -- though rather than grinding to a halt, Iggy & the Stooges appeared ready to explode like an ammunition dump. From a technical standpoint, Williamson was a more gifted guitar player than Asheton (not that that was ever the point), but his sheets of metallic fuzz were still more basic (and punishing) than what anyone was used to in 1973, while Ron Asheton played his bass like a weapon of revenge, and his brother Scott Asheton remained a powerhouse behind the drums. But the most remarkable change came from the singer; Raw Power revealed Iggy as a howling, smirking, lunatic genius. Whether quietly brooding ("Gimme Danger") or inviting the apocalypse ("Search and Destroy"), Iggy had never sounded quite so focused as he did here, and his lyrics displayed an intensity that was more than a bit disquieting. In many ways, almost all Raw Power has in common with the two Stooges albums that preceded it is its primal sound, but while the Stooges once sounded like the wildest (and weirdest) gang in town, Raw Power found them heavily armed and ready to destroy the world -- that is, if they didn't destroy themselves first. 


The Ig. Nobody does it better, nobody does it worse and nobody does it, period. Others tiptoe around the edges, make little running starts and half-hearted passes; but when you're talking about the O mind, the very central eye of the universe that opens up like a huge, gaping, suckling maw, step aside for the Stooges.
They hadn't appeared on record since the Funhouse of two plus years before. For a while, it didn't look as if they were ever going to get close again. The band shuffled personnel like a deck of cards, their record company exhibited a classic loss of faith, drugs and depression took inevitable tolls. At their last performance in New York, the nightly highlight centred around Iggy choking and throwing up onstage, only to encore quoting Renfield from Dracula: "Flies," and whose mad orbs could say it any better, "big juicy flies ... and spiders...."
Well, we all have our little lapses, don't we? With Raw Power, the Stooges return with a vengeance, exhibiting all the ferocity that characterized them at their livid best, offering a taste of the TV eye to anyone with nerve enough to put their money where their lower jaw flaps. There are no compromises, no attempts to soothe or play games in the hopes of expanding into a fabled wider audience. Raw Power is the pot of quicksand at the end of the rainbow, and if that doesn't sound attractive, then you've been living on borrowed time for far too long.
It's not an easy album, by any means. Hovering around the same kind of rough, unfinished quality reminiscent of the Velvets' White Light/White Heat, the record seems caught in jagged pinpoints, at times harsh, at others abrupt. Even the "love" songs here, Iggy crooning in a voice achingly close to Jim Morrison's, seem somehow perverse, covered with spittle and leer: "Gimme Danger, little stranger," preferably with the lights turned low, so "I can feeeel your disease."
The band is a motherhumper. Ron Asheton has switched over to bass, joining brother Scott in the rhythm section, while James Williamson has taken charge of lead; the power trio that this brings off has to be heard to be believed. For the first time, the Stooges have used the recording studio as more than a recapturing of their live show, and with David Bowie helping out in the mix, there is an ongoing swirl of sound that virtually drags you into the speakers, guitars rising and falling, drums edging forward and then toppling back into the morass. Iggy similarly benefits, double and even triple-tracked, his voice covering a range of frequencies only an (I wanna be your) dog could properly appreciate, arch-punk over tattling sniveler over chewed microphone.
Given material, it's the only way. The record opens with "Search And Destroy," Vietnamese images ricocheting off the hollow explosions of Scott's snare, Iggy secure in his role of GI pawn as "the world's most forgotten boy," looking for "love in the middle of a fire fight." Meaning you're handed a job and you do it, right? Yes, but then "Gimme Danger" slithers along, letting you know through its obsequiously mellow acoustic guitar and slippery violin-like lead that maybe he actually likes walking that tightrope between heaven and the snakepit below, where the false step can't be recalled and the only satisfaction lies in calling your opponent's bluff and watching him fold from there. Soundtrack music for a chicken run, and will it be your sleeve that gets caught on the door handle? Hmmmm ...
Cut to "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell," first called "Hard To Beat" and the original title ditched in favour of Funhouse's "1970." If it didn't seem like such a relic of the past, the Grande Ballroom would have to be resurrected for this one, high-tailing it all the way from Iggy's opening Awright! through James' hot-wired guitar to a lavish, lovingly extended coda which will probably be Iggy's cue to trot around the audience when they ultimately bring it onstage. "Penetration" closes off the side, the Stooges at their most sensual, lapping at the old in-out in a hypnotic manner that might even have a crack at the singles games, Clive and Columbia's promotion men willing.
"Raw Power" flips the record over, and the title track is a sure sign that things aren't about to cool down. "Raw Power is a boilin' soul/Got a son called rock 'n' roll," and when was the last time you heard anything like that? "I Need Somebody" builds from a vague "St. James Infirmary" resemblance to neatly counterpoint "Gimme Danger," Iggy on his best behaviour here, while "Shake Appeal" is the throwaway, basically a half-developed riff boosted by a nice performance, great guitar break, and some on-the-beam handclaps. Leaving the remains for "Death Trip" to finish off, the only logical follow-up to "L.A. Blues" and all that came after, crawl on your belly down the long line of bespattered history as the world shudders to its final apocryphal release.
I never drink ... wine.

Monday

James Williamson – Re-Licked




James Williamson's feral guitar work on Iggy & the Stooges' epochal Raw Power in 1973 has proven to be wildly influential with the passage of time, but it's also the sole basis for his legend in the minds of many fans. While Williamson collaborated with Iggy Pop on the fine Kill City album (released in 1976), and he produced Pop's 1979 effort New Values, the trail of his career goes cold after that. To take him at his word, Williamson had barely even picked up a guitar for 25 years after he quit rock & roll to study engineering in 1980, and before he reunited with the Stooges in 2009 following the death of original guitarist Ron Asheton. Presumably interested in reaffirming his musical legacy (and with the Stooges on hiatus after the death of drummer Scott Asheton), Williamson returned to a fascinating but often overlooked body of work -- the songs he and Pop wrote and demoed for the projected follow-up to Raw Power that was scrapped when Columbia dropped the band. These songs have appeared on a remarkable number of bootleg and semi-authorized albums, but Williamson decided to re-record them on the album Re-Licked, with a battalion of guest vocalists taking the place of Pop, who declined to participate in the project. In promotional interviews, Williamson says he hated hearing the sound of the various releases of the demos (ironically, it's widely reported that the sources for most of those bootlegs were tapes Williamson himself sold to small labels when he was in dire financial circumstances), and by comparison, Re-Licked sounds big, bold, and glossy, with the full-bodied production and mix those demos (and Raw Power) lacked. Williamson used two core bands on Re-Licked, one anchored by Mike Watt on bass and Toby Dammit on drums (who played on the Stooges live dates in support of 2013's Ready to Die), the other featuring bassist Simone Marie Butler (from Primal Scream) and drummer Michael Urbano; both are capable and drive the songs well, and Williamson's guitar work is as good as ever from a technical standpoint. But Williamson's leads lack the edgy fire he brought to his mid-'70s demos, and no amount of engineering talent can compensate for that. More importantly, Williamson may have written this music, but Iggy Pop wrote the lyrics, and though there are a handful of good to great singers on board here -- including Mark Lanegan, Gary Floyd, Bobby Gillespie, Lisa Kekaula, Nicke Andersson, and Jello Biafra -- none of them match the lunatic intensity Iggy gave these songs, and the sonically challenged bootlegs of "Head On," "Scene of the Crime," and "I Got a Right" still pack more rock & roll snazz than these new versions. James Williamson has every right in the world to take another shot at these songs, but Re-Licked falls short of the grubby magic of those buzzy demos he recorded so long ago.

Kill City (Re-Upped)



To say Iggy Pop had hit bottom in 1975 is an understatement; after the final collapse of the Stooges, Iggy sank deep into drug addiction and depression, and he eventually checked himself into a mental hospital in a desperate effort to get himself clean and functional again. At the same time, James Williamson, his guitarist and writing partner in the last edition of the Stooges, still believed their collaboration had some life in it, and he talked his way into Jimmy Webb's home studio to record demos in hopes of scoring a record deal. Iggy checked out of the hospital for a weekend to cut vocal tracks, and while the demos they made were quite good, no record companies were willing to take a chance on them. The tapes sat unnoticed until 1977, when Bomp! Records issued the 1975 demos under the title Kill City after Iggy launched a comeback with the David Bowie-produced The Idiot. Kill City never hits as hard as the manic roar of the Stooges' Raw Power, but the songs are very good, and the album's more measured approach suits the dark, honest tone of the material. The sense of defeat that runs through "Sell Your Love," "I Got Nothin'," and "No Sense of Crime" was doubtless a mirror of Iggy's state of mind, but he expressed his agony with blunt eloquence, and his sneering rejection of the Hollywood street scene in "Lucky Monkeys" is all the more cutting coming from a man who had lived through the worst of it. And in the title song, Iggy expressed his state of mind and sense of purpose with a fierce clarity: "If I have to die here, first I'm going to make some noise." Considering Iggy's condition in 1975, his vocals are powerful and full-bodied, as good as anything on his solo work of the 1970s. The music is more open and bluesy than on Raw Power, and while Williamson's guitar remains thick and powerful, here he's willing to make room for pianos, acoustic guitars, and saxophones, and the dynamics of the arrangements suggest a more mature approach after the claustrophobia of Raw Power. Kill City is rough, flawed, and dark, but it also takes the pain of Iggy's nightmare days and makes something affecting out of it, and considering its origins, it's a minor triumph.
Sadly, though, original CD versions of Kill City are taken off of vinyl, making one wonder just what may have happened to the master tapes. A remixed and remastered Kill City (not unlike what Iggy did to Raw Power) wouldn’t be bad thing at all, but one wonders if the tapes have merely disintegrated under the weight of their own existence. Judging from the fact that Iggy himself barely survived that period of his history, it wouldn’t be at all surprising.


It's fair to say, that with fifty years in show business, everything Iggy Pop has done has been scrutinised to a fine point. The man has more back-story than Jesus, and there have been a few biographies written about him. Paul Trynka's 'Open Up and Bleed' is perhaps the best, most in-depth account on the life of Iggy Pop. It's a fascinating read from cover to cover, and gives a little extra perspective on his life from before the Stooges up to their semi-recent reformation. It also covers the recording of Kill City, Iggy's 'lost' album between the disaster that was the end of the Stooges the first time around and his peak period working with Bowie on The Idiot and Lust For Life. Originally recorded as a demo in stop start spurts as Pop was ferried by an erstwhile Stooges guitarist James Williamson from the psych ward to Jimmy Webb's home studio for vocal takes, Kill City really is the missing link between Raw Power and The Idiot.
Or rather, it would be if it hadn't been released already. The original recording was overdubbed and remixed by Williamson, long after he and Pop re-appropriated the original tapes, and was roundly panned by critics after being released on Bomp at the same time that two infinitely superior Iggy albums were on the shelves. As such Kill City doesn't represent a hidden diamond lost in the sands of time. Instead it stands as more of a black mark against the names of both men, and that is why this re-release has significance to the average Iggy Pop fan. After the sterling work done on The Stooges reissues, the chance for audible improvement on the original recording is tantalising. Will shifting some of the sonic grime afford the album a new status after the public gets a chance to hear it as it should have been?
There's no escaping the psychotic dynamism of 'Kill City', a song about living fast and potentially dying young. When Iggy suggests that LA is a "loaded gun" and that you could end up "overdosed and on your knees", he's reading out what could have been the end of his life story. The riff is one of Williamson's very finest, too. As Iggy was burning out, Williamson was just burning, and here he nails down the kind of solo that most rock guitarists would give their eye teeth just to be able to play. And the mix is well and truly fixed too, with vocals and guitars prominent, but the separation between the best of the rest of the instruments is noticeably improved from the thin sounding and tinny original.
'Sell Your Love', a Rolling Stones tribute is also definitely better, the sax work pulled away from the main body to provide depth instead of clutter, and the backing vocals are also far better defined. If I was a gambling man, I'd wager that Williamson had bad reviews ringing in his ears from the Seventies and had given improving the album some serious thought well before rejoining the Stooges. All speculation aside, there are improvements everywhere. 'No Sense Of Crime' is saved from the gutter and the savage percussive beating it took from stray bongos in the original mix, while 'I Got Nothin', a late era Stooges cast-off is given a boost by having the drums pushed up and the backing vocals taken down a touch. The song loses some of the sloppy brutality that the Stooges gave it live, and gets a bit more of a Rolling Stones makeover. In fact, Mick and Keith cast a long shadow over most of the record.
Working within the boundaries set by another (better) band like the Stones is a comfort but also a hindrance here, and highlights the lack of truly original, sharp songs actually recorded during the sessions. 'Consolation Prizes' is a throwaway Stonesy romp, and will please and infuriate in equal measure. 'Night Theme' and 'Night Theme (reprise)' are excellent spooky, spare instrumentals, but in total come in at two minutes 30 seconds. If you were to remove them from the track listing altogether you have nine tracks that run to about half an hour. If it weren't for their high quality, a cynic might suggest that they were padding, making the album look like it contained more material than it really did. There are a couple of old Stooges tracks in there, and the rest generally doesn't have the aggression of old, or the subtle verve of the later Bowie-era work.
'Johanna' is another Stooges chestnut, but is also the one instance where the new mix doesn't improve anything. Unless you really like cheesy Seventies sax poured over everything, in which case, this is the song for you. 'Beyond The Law' uses sax more sparingly, and works much better, with a bit more in the way of tempo and genuine defiance when Iggy screams out that "the real scene is out beyond the law". In balance, Kill City has never sounded better, and is about to be unleashed as it should have been at the time. Sadly, it's going to let everyone know that it, give or take a couple of highlights, was a stop-gap record all along. The mythos that surrounds the recording of Kill City may give it a little more interest and flavour for fans, but unless you're a die hard, this is one reissue that you can probably afford to miss.

  

Fallen Angels



'Fallen Angels' were a 1983 collaboration between Knox of The Vibrators and members of Hanoi Rocks. This slide show is the full promotional photo-shoot done at that time, by Justin Thomas. 'Runaround' is from their self-titled debut album.



Fallen Angels 'Fallen Angels' album - Vibrators' Knox + Hanoi Rocks!

In 1983 Hanoi Rocks were newly signed to CBS Records, and tipped as the next big thing. They found themselves in London with a few weeks off. Meanwhile, Knox from The Vibrators had some great new songs but was kicking his heels whilst his band was taking a break. As they shared a manager, the two problems were easily solved -- record an album together! The pair-up worked wonderfully. The Rocks were long-time fans of the Vibrators, and Knox's songs and style always had an element of the glam-trash rock roots of the Stooges, Velvet Underground and NY Dolls. This unique collaboration is released on CD and download, together with bonus tracks from singles 'Inner Planet Love' and 'Amphetamine Blue'. Although the participants went their own way before any live shows of this line-up could occur, Knox continued with the Fallen Angels name for his solo work, issuing a further two albums 'In Loving Memory' (dedicated to Rocks and Angels' drummer Razzle who died in a Motley Crue car accident) and 'Wheel Of Fortune', which both included guest appearances from various Hanoi Rocks members.



Sunday

New Clear Days Re-Upped



In the stream of excellent hard-hitting power-pop albums that were released in the aftermath of the punk explosion, there were bound to be a couple ones forgotten, or associated bands being relegated to one-hit wonder status. The Vapors for their deliciously warped one hit wonder single “Turning Japanese” (an oriental ode to the joys of the five-finger shuffle) were in fact one of the most intelligent and propulsive bands to come out of new wave, and their debut album New Clear Days is their defining statement.



The band's 1980 debut LP New Clear Days is an all-time classic. The hit, "Turning Japanese", is well-known by all. If you don't like it, there must be something fatally wrong with you. The rest of the songs stick to the same new wave pop template, and are every bit as good. There is not a single track on the album that isn't totally great. Even some of the songs that didn't make it onto the album (but did make it onto this CD) are great! Often categorized as one of the standards of skinny tie power pop, New Clear Days actually transcends genre with its quirky sensibility and thoughtful lyrics.

The album kicks off with “Spring Collection”, featuring tinny drums, lots of symbols, and the very recognizable buzzsaw guitar tones. It’s a biting attack on the transformation of punk music into a fashion statement, tempered with frustrated admissions of lust denied… What could be more appropriate than the paranoid (or maybe not so paranoid now) cry of “Is this a military state I’m in?” that closes the track.

Fenton's song writing muse would turn darker and weirder on the band's excellent second LP Magnets (the most accessible song was an ode to suicide cult leader Jim Jones!), and the album didn't even crack the top 100 on the UK charts. And that was all for The Vapors. To his credit, Fenton never gave in to the temptation to "unretire" from the music business. He gave up recording and became a solicitor. There have been no half-assed Vapors reunions or warmed-over comeback albums mimicking the new wave glories of yesteryear. The band's music remains in the early '80s, where it belongs - a cultural artefact.

THIS COULD BE HEAVEN ALL OVER AGAIN

Reloaded, Re-upped and coming in FLAC as well.


I'm back for a short run

 

I wanted to start this journey with a BANG!






Metal Box is the second album by Public Image Ltd, released by Virgin Records on 23 November 1979. The album was a departure from PiL's relatively conventional début First Issue, released in 1978, with the band moving into a more avant-garde sound characterised by John Lydon's cryptic vocals, Jah Wobble's propulsive dub-inspired basslines, and the abrasively "metallic" guitar sound developed by guitarist Keith Levene. Metal Box is widely regarded as a landmark of post punk. Released as a three 12 inch single set in a metal film can completely anonymous save an embossed PiL logo, the cutting of the grooves themselves were so widely separated from each other that they’re visible to the naked eye. This encourages the tracks to boom out in analogue warmth and fullness; deemed necessary by Jah Wobble’s domineering and lush contributions in the low end department. A beautiful and barbed album whose power is still a formidable one, even now. And will be for a very long time.

Wednesday

Some Candy Talking



Arguably Psychocandy is an album with one trick and one trick alone -- Beach Boys melodies meet Velvet Underground feedback and beats, all cranked up to ten and beyond, along with plenty of echo. However, what a trick it is. Following up on the promise of the earliest singles, the Jesus and Mary Chain with Psychocandy arguably created a movement without meaning to, one that itself caused echoes in everything from bliss-out shoegaze to snotty Britpop and back again. The best tracks were without question those singles, anti-pop yet pure pop at the same time: "Just Like Honey," starting off like the Ronettes heard in a canyon and weirdly beautiful with its bells, "You Trip Me Up" and its slinking sense of cool, and most especially "Never Understand." Storming down like a rumble of bricks wrapped in cotton candy and getting more and more frenetic at the end, when there's nothing but howls and screaming noise, it is one hell of a track. However, at least in terms of sheer sonic violence and mayhem, most of the other cuts were pretty hard to beat, as sprawling, amped-up messes like "The Living End" (which later inspired both a band and a movie title) and "In a Hole." "My Little Underground" is actually the secret gem on the album, with a great snarling guitar start, an almost easygoing melody and a great stuttering chorus -- not quite the Who but not quite anything else. What the Reids sing about -- entirely interchangeable combinations regarding girls, sex, drugs, speed, and boredom in more or less equal measure -- is nothing compared to the perfectly disaffected way those sentiments are delivered. Bobby Gillespie's "hit the drums and then hit them again" style makes Moe Tucker seem like Neil Peart, but arguably in terms of sheer economy he doesn't need to do any more.


They declared it and it was true. In 1985 The Jesus And Mary Chain were the best band in the world. Their first record 'Psychocandy' was released on Blanco y Negro and it was unlike anything that had ever come before. The mysterious world that they built from their sound and ideology marked the start of a new era.
'Back To The Future' had hit the theatres, Madonna was hot, fluorescent synths and cock metal were blazing, and then there they were. Two dysfunctional brothers from Scotland, Jim and William Reed. Their hair was teased, bodies plastered in black leather, hanging on the beach, and always wearing sunglasses. Their shows would end with crowds rioting and smashing clubs to pieces. They would trash-talk all other music, not give a fuck about anything, and do this all while fabricating beautiful white noise symphonies. They seemed like gods.
When 'Psychocandy' came out it purposefully destroyed all other music that had come before it. The album was loaded with some of the greatest pop songs of all time. Tracks like 'My Little Underground' and 'Never Understand' are annihilated with feedback and ear piercing noise. The art was so pure; they created a baby and aborted it. Usually musicians were trying to get attention by showing off how good they could craft a song or how virtuous they could wank their instruments. This Jesus And Mary Chain seemed like they sneezed out amazing hits and then chose to make them unlistenable. This was the new punk.
I remember when I bought 'Psychocandy'. I was rummaging through a huge bin of gospel records at a church estate sale, bored really. The selection in a bin of religious records is typically more dire than you could possibly imagine, but there it was. 'Psychocandy' was probably mistakenly bought by the church but I didn't care. It was my new soundtrack. The record player I had had at the time was one of those rubbish, all in one, Panasonic, fake wood, tape eating monsters, and it had played so many records that the needle scratched into whatever was placed on it. This record was perfect for it. It was the most fucked up album I had ever heard and it sounded great even under bad circumstances. They had crackles and pops, and the soundscapes were so beautifully arranged that I would even put the record on to cure a headache. I had never heard anything sound like that before and when I found out the sounds were coming from a guitar, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
'Psychocandy' was such an important record for me when I was discovering my absolute love for music. My older brother had just introduced me to Punk and that blew my world apart. I departed from the older 50's and 60's music I had grown up with, to this new aggressive influence. Then The Jesus and Mary Chain married the two. There was something calculated to the chaos. All the songs appeared perfectly crafted like the old pop I used to love and yet sounded so out of control it was hard to tell what was going on. I didn't realize until later in life how awesome the power of ambiguity could be. The overall mood of the music was so mysterious it allowed my imagination to fill in the gaps. It was like the perfect adaptable puzzle piece that would make me sad when I was feeling down and lift me up when I was on fire. It became the most personal experience ever. The Jesus And Mary Chain had just touched my soul.
Now I play, record, write, produce music and engineer devices that create music. It all began with what are now faded memories of bands and styles that crafted my youth. So if you forget what it feels like to be alive, do what this 30-year-old gem did for me. Ditch your friends for one night, get high and turn this album up as loud as it gets. Let the Jesus and Mary Chain trip you up.

Oliver Ackermann

Sunday

Oh Well, Whatever...



Nevermind was never meant to change the world, but you can never predict when the Zeitgeist will hit, and Nirvana's second album turned out to be the place where alternative rock crashed into the mainstream. This wasn't entirely an accident, either, since Nirvana did sign with a major label, and they did release a record with a shiny surface, no matter how humongous the guitars sounded. And, yes, Nevermind is probably a little shinier than it should be, positively glistening with echo and fuzzbox distortion, especially when compared with the black-and-white murk of Bleach. This doesn't discount the record, since it's not only much harder than any mainstream rock of 1991, its character isn't on the surface, it's in the exhilaratingly raw music and haunting songs. Kurt Cobain's personal problems and subsequent suicide naturally deepen the dark undercurrents, but no matter how much anguish there is on Nevermind, it's bracing because he exorcises those demons through his evocative wordplay and mangled screams -- and because the band has a tremendous, unbridled power that transcends the pain, turning into pure catharsis. And that's as key to the record's success as Cobain's songwriting, since Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl help turn this into music that is gripping, powerful, and even fun (and, really, there's no other way to characterize "Territorial Pissings" or the surging "Breed"). In retrospect, Nevermind may seem a little too unassuming for its mythic status -- it's simply a great modern punk record -- but even though it may no longer seem life-changing, it is certainly life-affirming, which may just be better.


It has been 25 years since Kurt Cobain and company revitalised an increasingly moribund rock genre with their breakout grunge masterpiece. Perusing the original inner-sleeve photos, it immediately strikes me that Cobain is more smiling, podgy and playful than his reconfigured image as a doomed and tortured artist allows. There is a mischievousness to Nevermind, immediately apparent on the album cover photo of a baby swimming after a dollar bill on a hook. But there is anger too, and sadness at the corruption of innocence, emotions which surge out of the speakers in the thrilling electric charge of Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The elusive yet somehow tangible truths in Cobain’s songwriting are located in the sound and the fury, the hurting tone of his voice, the alternately deadpan introversion and raw rage of his delivery. Addressing (and rebelling against) generational despair, Nirvana perform as if it is a matter of life and death, which retrospect tells us it really was.
The songs remain the same, boiling rock’s colours down to something almost monochrome, primal and essential. Nirvana cut through the self-consciousness of Eighties rock with the pop nous of Abba. These songs are short, melodic and hook-laden, performed with distilled economy by a perfectly balanced power trio. Krist Novoselic’s bass lines are liquid and mesmerising, Dave Grohl’s drums are frenzied yet direct, the grungy fuzz of Cobain’s rhythm guitar is adorned by elegant, fluid lead motifs. Much was made of the group’s loud/quiet dynamic, but their simple template embodies a world of contrasts: intimate and expansive, melancholic and furious, deep and meaningless. And Cobain’s voice carries us through his complex interior world like a spirit guide.
It’s an album undiminished by time, which can still make me want to throw myself around an imaginary mosh pit or curl up in a fetal ball.

How the music scene could do with something like this right now.

Friday

Punk's Not Dead



Originally issued in 1981, Punks Not Dead was the Exploited's first full-length album. They'd issued singles like "Army Life" and "Exploited Barmy Army" previously, and those were re-recorded for what was hailed and/or reviled as a jagged, messy, and more aggressive reaction to the punk "establishment" of the time. The mix of hate and love toward the Exploited was fine by vocalist Wattie Buchan and his revolving cast of bandmembers -- they just wanted a reaction, to get people to really listen. Tracks like "S.P.G.," "Out of Control," and "I Believe in Anarchy" were mush-mouthed dynamos of chanting, ranting, and ragged song structure, early templates of the U.S. hardcore scene to come.


Take a moment and think of how many times you've heard, read or even come across the phrase “Punk's not Dead”. Interesting how it has become one of the most passed around sayings of the last three decades, yet the debut album of the same name by The Exploited still seems to be very much underrated in a world that nowadays regards bands such as Green Day and Blink 182 as 100% Punk Rock. A phrase that very often arrives in many topical conversations regarding the state of politics, the significance of the Punk Rock genre as a whole or even the riotous speeches and righteous riots that many an angered, political individual would perform.
Put simply, The Exploited's first album is perfect evidence of a band being so much more influential in terms of their concept than the music itself. Thirty odd minutes of simple, fast paced, furious Punk Rock may not sound much to the common listener, but it's with these thirty minutes and seventeen songs that “Punk's not Dead” is surely proved to be a worthwhile album. Comprised of no other than an aggressive ex-soldier from Scotland in Wattie Buchan, alongside three other equally as “politically correct” musicians who barely sound as if they so much as knew what the names of their respective instruments were, The Exploited began as a political statement. That statement can safely be summed up thusly:

“PUNK IS NOT FUCKIN' DEAD!”

Whatever you would expect from a Punk Rock album released in 1981 can probably be found in spades on this particular album, as it is musically one of the simplest and unsophisticated releases ever made. However, it is also a very organic and live-sounding record. Right from the opening title track, rowdy chants of a menacing yet youthful following of the band literally take place of the guitars, drums and bass work, until a chainsaw riff cuts through your ears as easily as a knife would through butter. This, if you haven't yet worked out, is indeed the staple of The Exploited's sound. Every one of the following sixteen songs generally follows in the same way, and for every change in tempo or every lyric that includes the well known 'F' word, there is always innocent, youthful banter between each member of the band or even a devoted fan of Punk Rock.
Lyrically speaking, it both sounds and reads as if a six-year old could have done it easily, but at the same time, all you need to do is look at this album's title, and discover the answer to that question, or the solution to whatever problem or quip you might have. In the very satirical 'Royalty' Buchan orders you to “Sign me a picture of the queen now/Dirty little Bitch, fucking little Cow”, whereas in the equally as aggressive “Son of a Copper” all known innocence of any individual is scoured when Wattie spits out “I won't end up like my Dad/And I won't end up being a Screw/Working with animals in a Zoo”. As said before, these could be advantages or disadvantages to any budding listener, but it is the idea that this album is nothing more than staple of classic Punk Rock, and quite rightfully so. Even when songs such as 'Exploited barmy Army' and 'Sex and Violence' literally depend on out of control repetition of their respective song titles, it works in such a way that, although hard to forget, can be forgiven when reviewing this album professionally. This may well be part of the fact that not only Wattie Buchan, but also every other member of the band contributes to vocals, whether it is the soulful group shouting/singing/screaming or the sole example of any member's voice. It's all heartfelt (!), menacing stuff, but it's stuff that manages to stay directly in contact with the 'Back-to-Basics' approach of playing Punk Rock.
The instruments themselves however are probably the main problem here. It's not exactly a well concealed fact that the band had tried to emulate the rawness of albums such as “Never Mind The Bollocks” or The Clash's self-titled debut, but “Punk's Not Dead” could well have benefited more from a clearer and more definitive approach to practising instruments more than was perceived upon the album's release. For instance, the guitar work, whilst it does have a couple of tempo changes, never really attempts to show off to the listener with its plain existence, whereas the bass is more than just a little prominent. As well as this, the bass proves its worth on the album by introducing many of the album's tracks in 'Mucky Pup' and 'Free Flight', the latter of which basically centres around the instrument's performance.
The only other thing that hasn't been said so far about the album is the significance of the song structures themselves. The song structures in “Punk's Not Dead” can be perceived as a 'Love/Hate' relationship by each respective listener. Whereas the more straightforward, battering ram approach of 'Cop Cars', 'Army Life' (an ode to Wattie Buchan's life prior to The Exploited) and 'Blown to Bits' constantly impresses those who lust for classic Punk, the more tense likes of 'Dole Q' and the extremely sinister 'Out of Control' serve as two of the album's true highlights, offering not only an unsettling sound but also a deviation from the norm. However, the last point simply points towards the fact that whereas some listeners love this difference in structure, others may be disinterested simply because of the fact that they are used to short bursts of Punk Rock, speeding along at eighty miles per hour.
If ever you wanted to know just why the phrase “Punk's not Dead” is thrown around as much as it is, this album is definitively the answer. An erratic and chaotic collection of simplistic Punk Rock tunes, some sub-par, some above average, it is something that has been on this planet for the last thirty years, and has played a wonderful yet somewhat unnoticed part within three, perhaps, four decades of fast paced, furious and politically charged Punk. This album is honestly for everyone to listen to, but may only be kept like a prized possession by those who love and strive for the very existence of Punk Rock.

Wednesday

Never Mind The Bollocks Anniversary



While mostly accurate, dismissing Never Mind the Bollocks as merely a series of loud, ragged midtempo rockers with a harsh, grating vocalist and not much melody would be a terrible error. Already anthemic songs are rendered positively transcendent by Johnny Rotten's rabid, foaming delivery. His bitterly sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectation and the very foundations of British society were all carried out in the most confrontational, impolite manner possible. Most imitators of the Pistols' angry nihilism missed the point: underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact. Never Mind the Bollocks perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment, a spirit quick to translate itself to strictly rock & roll terms. The Pistols paved the way for countless other bands to make similarly rebellious statements, but arguably none were as daring or effective. It's easy to see how the band's roaring energy, overwhelmingly snotty attitude, and Rotten's furious ranting sparked a musical revolution, and those qualities haven't diminished one bit over time. Never Mind the Bollocks is simply one of the greatest, most inspiring rock records of all time.



In the summer of 1977 the UK was gripped with unprecedented patriotic fervour, with street parties being held up and down the country in celebration of the Queen’s 25th anniversary rule (her Silver Jubilee). Into this pandemic outpouring of joy, this euphoric coming together of the nation, stepped a man with green hair, rotten teeth and an “I hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt; who promptly gobbed on the home-made cakes, pissed in the lemonade shandies and tore the flags of his benevolent ruler into tiny little pieces.
In one sense Johnny Rotten was the typical teenager, with his desperate desire to shock, such as the gleeful stressing of “c*nt” in Pretty Vacant and the gratuitous swearing in Bodies. Except that most teenagers are obsessed one way or another with sex, whereas Rotten seems strangely asexual. He doesn’t write about love and relationships. In fact he even had a massive hit with a song saying exactly that (This is Not A Love Song - Public Image Ltd).
 
His sneering take on the national anthem (“God Save The Queen and her fascist regime”) was considered so subversive, the BBC had to rig the charts (really!) to keep it off the no.1 spot. The Sex Pistols had already caused pandemonium with their debut single Anarchy in the UK, causing questions to be asked in Parliament and the national newspapers. The furore forced EMI and then A&M to dismiss them from their recording contract and the BBC to ban them from the airwaves. A record shop that sold the single was prosecuted for indecency.
Listening to the record now, it is surprisingly good. Despite what you may have heard, they sure can play. Steve Jones guitar evokes Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls. Paul Cook’s drumming keeps everything tight. Matlock’s songwriting has plenty enough melodies. With the exception of Sub-mission, the songs are played at two paces: fast and even faster, recalling the Ramones. But it is the iconoclastic Johnny Rotten who single-handedly spawns the UK punk movement; his lyrics spewing all forms of bile and vitriol, dripping with confrontation and screaming defiance.

Before the Sex Pistols, there was heavy metal, rock operas, glam rock and prog rock: all various forms of musical escapism. Yet thirty years after World War II, the country still writhed not just in economic disorder but social disarray, with unresolved issues such as mass immigration, welfare dependency, terrorism and cold war paranoia. Johnny Rotten returns us to earth with a bump, espousing a basic humanist philosophy, an articulate and eloquent diatribe on a post war dream gone wrong:
“You won’t find me working 9 to 5. It’s too much fun being alive. I’m using my feet for my human machine. You won’t find me living for the screen. Are you lonely? All your needs catered? You got your brains dehydrated!” (Problems)
What Rotten is concerned with is the here and now. He attacks all types of invocations to higher powers including God (“I kick you in the brains when you pray to your god” (No Feelings), political institutions (God Save The Queen) and business corporations (EMI). But more specifically he also attacks all forms of escapism (Holiday In The Sun), whether it be drugs (New York), moral mendacity (Liar), indolence (Seventeen) or intellectual pretension (Pretty Vacant). Above all else he urges the primacy of life, forever posing the question: what is a human being? Are we “morons”; “faggots”; “fools”; “stupid people”; “flowers in the dustbin”; “animals”? The genuinely disturbing Bodies reduces the matter of humanity to its barest of bones:
“Die little baby screaming! Body screaming f*cking bloody mess!
Not an animal, it's an abortion! Body! I'm not animal!
Mummy I'm not an abortion.” (Bodies)

This album represented a call to arms of the nation that was far more empowering than any Silver Jubilee. Think of all the bands that were formed on this premise that music was about emotion, not technical proficiency: knowing three chords was sufficient. Think of all the fanzines that sprung up to describe these bands and the independent record labels formed. It wasn’t just the birth of a punk movement and its splinter groups. A whole series of radicalised and energised music movements broke out, grounded in realism and humanism, such as Ska (The Specials), Skinhead (Madness), Mod (The Jam), Rockabilly (The Polecats), New Wave (Elvis Costello), Post Punk (Joy Division), even Folk (Billy Bragg) and Irish Folk music (The Pogues); all defiant, confrontational and politicised; and all revering the Sex Pistols.
Don’t let yourself be fooled by Malcolm McLaren, the band’s avaricious and rent-a-quote manager, that the Sex Pistols were some kind of social experiment that he had fabricated. He was just hanging on to their coat-tails, milking the phenomenon for all it was worth. His subsequent interventions, such as his mockumentary “The great rock and roll swindle”, his replacement of Matlock with Vicious (as bass player), of Rotten with Vicious (as lead vocalist), of Vicious with Ronnie Biggs (a notorious career criminal), were woeful. Despite recording only one album and four singles, the impact of the Sex Pistols was phenomenal.