18 February 2009

Aussie Garage Part 2

Aussie Garage Part 2 moves on into the 1980s...
A storm in a teacup, that´s this song. From second one the shredding guitar riff carries you into the drums and absolutely sick bass that gets the stage 30 seconds in and returns for several more hostile takeovers. Sydney´s Celibate Rifles may have humorously named themselves after the Sex Pistols, but their music was no joke. Their ´80s output for Hot records is vital start to finish. Further listening - check out "This Week" and "Darlinghurst Confidential". Bill Bonney Regrets by Celibate Rifles, from The Turgid Miasma of Existence (Hot, 1986) The Hoodoo Gurus were a mighty band in the ´80s, and are a bit part of the soundtrack of my life. The twin stars of that band were singer Dave Faulkner and guitarist Brad Shepard. While still a pup, Brad caught the punk bug and headed into the studio with his second band, the Fun Things, to rip out a rough, fast self-titled EP that crackles with energy. "Lipstick" is the most celebrated song from that session, but for me it´s "Savage", by a nose. (Label info, anyone?) Savage by the Fun Things, from Fun Things (??, 1980) Gotta love an Australian band singing about, but ignorant regarding, US geography... as the Turnbuckles do when they wail about "seaside Albuquerque". They were part of the second wave, intent on recapturing the garage sounds of the past... You´d never guess that this album was released in ´86, so they succeeded. The EP´s only got 6 tracks but they all hit the sweet spot. Groove to the Eye by the Psychotic Turnbuckles, from Destroy Dull City (Rattlesnake, 1986)
organ... Organ... ORGAN! Damn, club me with that organ riff... please! From Perth, one of the most remote cities on earth, came the Stems.  Best description I´ve seen of them is "psychedelic Sixties power-pop punk" - say THAT ten times fast. Pointed shoes, stovepipe pants, mop tops, and Orbison sunglasses abounded. Tears Me in Two by the Stems [45 release] (Citadel, 1984)

Aussie Garage Part 1

Although there are rock groups that I love (like Weezer and Foo Fighters), I´m generally more a fan of the groove than the riff. But a huge exception is garage rock, that primordial, monstrous and primitive guitar sound steeped in ´60s-era studio effects.
When punk´s first wave was exploding across the globe in 1977, the Lucky Country would not prove immune. But the tyranny of distance would work in Australia´s favor in this case, as their particular strain of punk rock was more immersed in the garage rock scene of the preceding decade than the rest of the world. So many classics came out in such a short time, it was like the burning of a comet... short, fast, and intense, and doomed to burn out quickly. Part 1 is composed of the giants of the scene, led by the greatest of all bands of the era (and one of the greatest bands of all time), Brisbane´s the Saints. It was almost impossible to pick a song off their first album, as all are great, from the title track that started it all, to "Story of Love", an amazing Stones-y tune, to the cover "Kissin´Cousins", which the Saints make all their own. I can´t recommend these guys enough. Demolition Girl by the Saints, from (I´m) Stranded (Captain Oi!, 1977) When I finally got to see the Saints live (Melbourne Uni, 1988), they were a band in name only. Lead singer Chris Bailey had gotten fat and abusive, hurling epithets at the audience at every opportunity. Perhaps that kind of behavior explains why Ed Kuepper, ex-Saints guitarist and co-song writer, decided to strike out on his own. He set out to "take back" many of the Saints songs he´d written, and thus called his group the Aints. Their finest moment came on S.L.S.Q., perhaps the best live album ever, but those songs are too long for posting here (for example, an almost 11 minute version of "The Wanderer" and a 7+ minute version of Ike Turner´s "River Deep Mountain High"). Ed´s gone on to make many more records, but none with the snarl of his early work. Like an Oil Spill by the Aints, from Ascension (Hot, 2003) And then there´s Birdman, fronted by American Deniz Tek. An inspiration to countless bands, they rose from the sludge of the MC5 and vintage Stooges to bridge the gap to the punk era. Under the Ashes collects it all, from groove-y workouts like "Man with Golden Helmet", to the surf-punk of "Aloha Steve & Dano". This one made a fine manifesto for the emerging de-generation... New Race by Radio Birdman, from Under the Ashes (WEA, 1988)

12 February 2009

Weird but Good

This is of a kind with my Pure Insanity post, but a notch down. There´s no menace of insanity here, just the goofy joy brought out by the deeply weird. 99 out of 100 experimental bands like these are just beyond crap, and indeed these bands themselves can suck ass at times, but the successes outweigh the failures, and the failures are at least daring. Both songs below are from CDs released last year, which is a great sign. It´s about time the stale-and-getting-staler musical scene of the past few years got a shake up. These bands may not be precursors to the sounds of the future, but at least they are reaching for something new. Deerhoof hail from San Francisco, have a Japanese woman, Satomi Matsuzaki, as a vocalist/bassist, and a drummer with a tiny, tiny kit that he bashes the living shit out of... plus, there are great guitar riffs. Offend Maggie is a very quirkly but extremely good record that has lodged deep, deep inside my brain and won´t let go. "Snoopy Waves" starts like a lost Television song before morphing into several other forms... what could you call this type of music? Dunno, but I´ll listen to a lot more of it. Snoopy Waves by Deerhoof, from Offend Maggie (Kill Rock Stars, 2008) Of Montreal´s been around since 1997, but I haven´t really checked them out until recently. The Skeletal Lamping album (their last album has to be considered for best album title ever-"Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?") could be the soundtrack to ADD... every song changes and reconfigures so many times that it´s more like a CD filled with a ton of mini-tunes. There´s wild experimentation at all times, built on a foundation of pop melodies, Ziggy Stardust echoes and Prince-style sex-sex-sex. Definitely not for everybody... I´m sure this must be banned in Wal-Mart and the Bible Belt. Oh, and they´re from Athens, Georgia, not Montreal. For Our Elegant Caste by Of Montreal, from Skeletal Lamping (Polyvinyl, 2008)

Should-Be Classics

I´m taking a trip into that alternate universe where the best music gets recognized and the crap sinks to the bottom... where Ken Boothe is as famous as Sam Cooke... where a group´s worst song doesn´t become their most popular (the Cars´ "Drive, the Police´s "Every Breath You Take", etc.)... and where the three songs below are known and loved as the true classics they are. But in our world, sadly, they´re obscure, or at least unfairly overlooked. Time to rectify that. The Journeys By DJ series is a fantastic one, with at least one other classic release, 1996´s Coldcut JDJ. Desert Island Mix is a two-disc set that gives one disc each to Norman Jay and Gilles Peterson. I´m a huge Gilles Peterson fan as he´s got one of the two best radio shows in the world at the moment, currently airing on BBC Radio (the other is the Swami Soundsystem in San Diego). Peterson´s a genius at picking great music, and here he´s got a sweet Roy Davis Jr. track. This one´s a complete contrast to the frenetic funk of my last post, being a simmering slow burner in every way. The voice is flinty but smooth, the production is subdued and insistant, and those horns... perfect. Gabriel by Roy Davis Jr. with Peven Everett, from Gilles Peterson Desert Island Mix (Journeys by DJ, 1997) In one of the weirder twists of musical fate, Seke Molenga & Kalo Kawongolo, two musicians from Zaire, somehow found their way to mad genius Lee "Scratch" Perry´s legendary Black Ark studios (before he burned it down himself) in 1977. Scratch got behind the boards to work his twisted magic on a simmering stew of mostly reggae ingredients, but with a healthy helping of African flavor as well. This whole album is fantastic, and it sat on my want list for over ten years before I finally got my hands on it (having been issued in small numbers only on the SonAfrica, Jolie Zaire, and RuNNetherlands labels in Africa and Europe). The one featured here is a song now called "River Stone", but only because it is mislabeled... it´s true title was to be "Love Can Run Faster". Not only that, it´s a tack on... various financial problems prevented the completion of the album so this was added to fill out the set. If you want to hear the African stuff... and you should hear it, you´ll have to check out the rest of the album. The vocalist here is Robert Palmer-yes, THAT Robert Palmer. He´d cut several tracks at Black Ark with Scratch in ´76, in the heady days that saw the likes of the Stones and the Clash heading to JA to check out the exploding scene. His voice and Perry´s production make for a hugely satisfying combination. River Stone by , from From the Heart of the Congo (Jolie Zaire, 1977) This last track is not exactly obscure, but it certainly isn´t sufficiently recognized. I heard it for the first time in one of the tents at the Coachella festival in Indio, pumping out of huge speakers. It´s hard for me to say exactly why I love this song so much... it doesn´t really go anywhere. But I think that´s part of the appeal, as the result is a kind of delicious, suspended tension. The instrumentation is minimal, built primarily around a funky guitar strum and a single, 5-note sequence. Sunshine shows her man the hand and we all get to benefit. I´ve Heard It All Before by Sunshine Anderson, from Your Woman (Atlantic, 2001)

Too Funky

Of course, there´s really no such thing as too funky... and thank God for that. But here we have some specimens that fairly drip sweat. Songs that make you say Damn! would´ve been another possible title for this one. Like the saying goes, if these don´t make you move, you must be dead. The first one comes from an early 70s release that turns up the funk from the word go and just gets better from there. Everything about this song just fits, from the killer drums to the funky bass, guitar and horns, and straight out wailing vocals. Although this one is straight-up funk, the Stovall Sisters were primarily a gospel act... so turn it up and testify! Hang on In There by the Stovall Sisters, from The Stovall Sisters (Reprise, 1971) The General Crook track not only has the standard funk instrumentation, but also adds awesome disco strings on top of everything. There are also some nice female vocals that don´t make an appearance until we´re two minutes into the track. And the subject deals with a president with a daughter who takes funk to the world... visionary indeed! Included in a 2005 comp, the original dates from the early Seventies. Do It For Me by General Crook, from Absolute Funk (Body & Soul, 2005) And just to show that true, sweaty funk is still made today, here´s one from Lefties Soul Connection, a band that brings the noise all the way from Germany. The organ is the star attraction of this instrumental track, but the web of funk-tastic sound created by all the instruments working together gives this track its super powerful punch. There´s a part 1 to Sling Shot, on the earlier Lefties´album Hutspot, but all the two share is an organ lead... otherwise they´re completely separate and different tracks. Sling Shot Part 2 by Lefties Soul Connection, from Skimming the Skum (Groove Attack, 2007)