Thursday, February 24, 2011
I touched very briefly in my previous post on the state of affairs in Libya. A leader losing grip and a people tired of years of tyranny and oppression in search of a better life. It's such a shame that Muammar couldn't keep his shit together as I fear the world of international politics will be a much a much duller place without him. World politics has gone the same way as New York in recent years: Mondo Kim's has shut down and there's a Starbucks on every corner. Yes he is 'evil', I read a piece on the 1996 Abu Salim prison massacre and everybody is more than aware that despite attempts by our former government to gloss over the fact, he was entirely responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.
These hideous crimes against humanity aside let's look at the case for the defendant: He was, it turns out shockingly handsome as a young lieutenant coming up through the ranks. He takes his tent everywhere with him, he seems to operate exclusively with a female special forces guard, he dressed like michael jackson and got away with it. Muammar is a style animal, an ever changing thing of fashion wonder and excess, sunglasses and a crooked smile endlessly spouting utter lunacy not hears since the reign of Idi Amin.
He's a character (yes an evil character) but he's a character and there aren't many of those left. Take Germany's Angela Merkel for example - A fat and styleless Ann Robinson, her political sandbagging and denial of financial turmoil mere footnotes to the fact she dresses like a day release patient going to a Christening.
Why is it the bad guys dress so much better? It's not a new thing either. The staggeringly forward thinking yet timeless fashion of The Third Reich is well documented but what nobody seems to have cottoned onto just yet is the subtle and underplayed suave stylings of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I swear to God/Allah that Dior are dressing him on the quiet. His bearded look has been copied the world over as has his undone smart -casual chic. Again, such a crying shame he's a mass murderer who justifies his dictatorial actions through religion whilst laughing in the face of the West.
The first track on Double Cut is contender for best opener in the world ever, it's fantastic, slow and brooding, pulsing 80s synths, all very much of its time. So much so that it sounds like it could have been recorded with the help of Libya's very own bad man right around the time he was dressing like he'd stepped out of the video for Thriller on his way to blow some shit up.
'Hydrogen' pulses by in very much the same way a quirky Germanic signature on the ever growing face of electronica, slightly more clunky and repetitive.
Track 3, 'Narakose' is awesome because it sounds like I recorded it myself when I was a bit drunk, same instrumentation and lush studio but without the help of Muammar, Moebius and your other man.
Track 4 'Doppelschnitt' I don't remember because I started this review a few weeks back and didn't get chance to finish it off. In the meantime It would appear we are at war with Moebius and Beerbohm's third keyboard player and on another continent that latter day jewel of the Orient - Japan appears to have fallen into the sea.
Not much to say on that really, not yet. All of the observations about lost world class record collections and quieter aisles in Beatles sections across the US are misplaced, tasteless and way too early. I can't comprehend living with that still utterly shocking tragedy and here's to hoping I never have to.
I re-listened to 'Doppelschnitt', all 21 minutes 43 of it and it's further proof that this sly dog of the Africa's has a soundtrack with his name written all over it. I can see him rockin' the Toni Basil patented 'pop and lock' to this as American fighter pilots high from watching Top Gun one too many times crash and bail all around him.
If it wasn't so patently obvious that Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a Strokes completist the search for his very own theme would start right here - Man, he must be well Jazzed that their new album is out.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I've been listening to a lot of 90's US indie over the past couple of weeks, more specifically Sebadoh and it's weird, In that time Egypt's own Dr Evil has stepped down and the ever stylish and entertaining king of Libya also appears to be on his way out. A butterfly flaps it's wings in London...
Who knew the true awesome power of Lou Barlow's lo-fi love-torn cries?
Work commute soundtrack aside I managed to indulge in a very interesting compare and contrast experiment last week.
I took it upon myself to answer that age-old question:
Who would win in a fight between Noah Howard's 'The Black Ark' and the soundtrack to Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory? Okay so in the end it turned into more of a Pepsi challenge than a no-holds barred Ultimate FightingTM cage-fight kind of fight but either way the results were interesting.
Ladies and gentlemen in the blue corner all the way from New Orleans, the dark destroyer, free-jazz heavy weight Noah Howard's 'Black Ark'! And in the red corner weighing in at approximately 120grams the soundtrack to Gene Wilder's magnum opus 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'.
Obviously it would have been tough for me to judge this one myself, I have a lot of emotional baggage attached to both records which would make it impossible to be an impartial judge of the proceedings. This is why I have employed the help of Ren mystery kid and all round awesome midget person...
So. 'Black Ark' starts out okay. We like the drums. Then the skronking starts and our resident judge looks a little perturbed. He manages to sit through the first side without breaking into tears but about two minutes into 'Mount Fuji' the first track on side 2 he starts to panic. At first it sounds like he's trying to sing along but in no time at all his wailing is evident. I manage to settle him down sufficiently to sit through the rest of the album but as 'Queen Anne' comes to a close it's not looking like a good night in the ring for free-jazz.
As a side I bought this from The Sound Library in New York. The Sound Library has now closed.
'Willy Wonka' crackles to life and straight away I can tell he thinks this is in a different league. Is it the instrumentation, the candy-coated lyrics or Gene Wilders creepy but caring voice? All I know is he likes this. 'Pure Imagination' flows into 'The Candy Man', then 'Cheer Up Charlie' and straight into 'I Got a Golden Ticket'. Punch after punch it flows like a greatest hits album. In fact it's only the 'Oompa Loompa' songs and interludes that stop this from being a stone cold hit for the judge.
As it is every time they start he has a face of fear, a look of confusion and this is understandable. There was always something wrong about the Oompa Loompas. They were a bit 'rapey', Funny haired orange-faced fuck monsters, dressed like painter and decorators in an attempt to distract you from their true modus operandi - Oompa Loompa's don't want to put up your flock wallpaper, they want to set fire to you and eat you.
Despite this there is a clear winner and it's sadly it's not Noah Howard.
Admittedly unsurprising results correlated and published I can now go back to wondering about the true power of 90's American indie rock. Could Sebadoh really be used as a sonic weapon in the global war against oppression? Could we explore Mars if we were able to successfully harness the power used in the recording of 'Bubble and Scrape'? I just wish I hadn't played Yo La Tengo on the way to work as that may or may not have caused a catastrophic earthquake in New Zealand.
Friday, February 18, 2011
The album 'Reel to Reel Cacophony' was one of the first I ever owned. I bought it on cassette whilst on a caravanning holiday with a former school friend in Bridlington. Given that by this point Scotland's finest had already released 'Once Upon a Time' starting with their second album might come across as ambitious. Given Jim Kerr's haircut on the back of the prior album 'Life in a Day' it could even be considered brave and or bold.
Unfortunately it was none of the above. It was however £3.49 from Woolworths, a whole pound cheaper than any of their later albums. This might seem paltry but back in the heady days of 1985 and aged 11 a crisp and green pound note was a fuck lot of money, a veritable kings ransom.
Anyway, I bought it, played it in the caravan and came away a bit non-plussed. This wasn't the Simple Minds of Top of the Pops, It certainly wasn't the band I had been hyping the fuck out of to my friend. At one point during playback I decided it must be faulty, but no. Over the following weeks I found myself revisiting the album drawing a similar conclusion each time - I should have ponied up the extra quid and bought 'Sparkle in the Rain'. I kept playing it though because at that stage in my music based habit, owning circa ten albums and about the same amount of pre-recorded cassettes every inch of music counted.
Eventually, thanks to the arrival of newer predominantly 'metal', specifically Kiss records I could afford to give up on it. In time I forgot about the album, or at least I thought I had.
I re-bought it for a couple of Euros in Germany a few years back and put it on to see how it faired. 'Reel to Reel Cacophony' came before the critically re-assessed period of the groups history, it's prior to 'I Travel' and 'Theme For Great Cities', no electronic anthems or obvious Hoxton floor fillers here. Anyway, needle goes on record and fuck me if I didn't remember almost every word, every single change and beat. I still have no idea what any of the songs are about but that 'Reel to Reel Cacophony's' content has spent the last 25 plus years sat in my head waiting to be called into action is no mean feat. And just when I think it's over, that I'm done with that mysterious album with it's plain blue textured sleeve it pops up again without warning.
Beyond being a reminder of days gone by, of a cramped caravanning holiday, a friend who turned out to be an utter dick and his mum who I think I wanted to fuck, this is a killer album. Well not killer, that's the wrong word. It is however solidly built, unusual, well balanced and totally under-rated.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
As I write this I am listening to that 'new' lost Bruce Springsteen album that got released late last year, 'The Promise' or something. It's alright y'know. No, it's not in any danger of re-writing musical history and I don't really see this as any gritier or 'raw' than the rest of 'The Boss' resume but it is totally listenable.
The issue I always had with Bruce is as prevalent here as it is on the rest of his albums. The piano is too loud, the harmonica is too loud, the fucking saxophone is too loud and the guitar is at the back of the mix being filtered through a pedal that might as well be labeled 'Hush now'.
It's not that 'The Boss' cannot rock, it's that somebody in his camp will not allow The Boss to rock. Not sure if it's that ginger bird that looks a bit like Bonnie Rait or the fat guy with the Sax, could even be that bandana wearing scamp Little Stevie. Whomever it is they cock-block the man every time he tries to 'tie one on' and the outcome is the same, wet paper bag of a song rather than the flaming death-cock of destruction that it could be.
I saw 'The Boss' once when he played in Holland back in 2004. Met a girlfriend there, beautiful start to a predictably doomed relationship. I was going through something of a zero-tollerance 'three counts' phase and I walked rather than try to salvage something perfectly good.
This review isn't about Bruce, it's not about Dutch girls either. This review is about the mighty 'Wax Factor' records of Brighton. This is the second time I have shopped here. The first time a few years back was a total and utter wash-out. Partly due to the fact that it was the last of about six shops visited that day and partly due to the fact that I was unaware of the owners party trick of filing a lot of the good shit alphabetically underneath the racks. (3 copies of Amon Duul's 'Wolf City' for example).
But what made this visit exceptional was the literally over-flowing 'Electronic/New Age' section. Rather than bore you with a list of the purge I have taken a picture of the 'Brighton collection' above. Holy shit. Much 'Mutant Sounds' fodder, lots of synth washes and bleeps, clattering and clumsy late 70's early 80's keyboard wave business. All very exciting. I'm still working my way through the pile, the highlights of which I will attempt to do justice here.
So, about the shop: Standard books and records layout. There might have been CDs as well, I don't remember for certain as I was 'in the zone' for the majority of the duration. I say 'majority' because the very charming lady behind the counter managed to metaphorically slap me around the face and wake me from my vinyl based wankery everytime I caught her eye and for that I thank her, it's good to be reminded that there are more exciting pursuits out there. I should also thank her for the copy of Cluster's 'Grosses Wasser' that she kindly pulled up from the basement.
'Wax Factory' is rammed. I can only imagine how good it might have been a decade ago. That said it still managed to surprise me in 2011, which given the typical shop owners reliance on such misleading tools as 'Popsike' or the seemingly default 'Discogs' is no mean feat. A goregeous OHR first press of Tangerine Dream's 'Electronic Medidation' for less than thirty quid. Hells yes.
So to conclude, if ever you find yourself in Brighton, pebble beached home of the pier that got burnt down during the filming of The Who's 'Tommy', scene of the IRA's attempt on our former premiere's life, go to 'Wax Factory' before I get chance to return and there might still be some awesome records worth giving a new home.
Back to my unintentional opening briefly. I saw some kind of special on Bruce 'The Spring' Springsteen's Superbowl performance from a couple of years back and oddly enough found myself utterly touched by it. There's one part where he's talking about how the show went and he recalls how at one point post 'knee slide' he just looks up at the sky beyond the crowd, beyond the lights and the cheers and for a moment he connects with something else, a celestial silence more profound than his surroundings. Then fast as it happened it is over and he's back there in front of millions playing that song where the xylophone is too loud and the guitar sounds like it's the evenings designated driver.