Sunday, 16 December 2012
Although I can remember the how and when of me getting into Rollins Band (buying the Liar/Disconnect single on a sunny day in London in 1994), I struggle to remember why. Probably something I'd read somewhere - 1994 was around the time that Rollins was closest to whatever the alternative equivalent of mainstream is. There must be a proper name for it; "almost-but-not-quite-totally-obscure" doesn't trip off the tongue so easily.
Whilst Rollins generally referred to himself as being one tenth of Rollins Band, there's no arguing with the fact that it is his throaty bellows and insuppressible rage that strings together the Rollins Band back catalogue. Starting out as a clear progression from the unhinged alt punk of latter day Black Flag, they went on to to play progressively darker and heavier blues-tinged rock, occasionally veering off into doomy Swans-esque avant garde territory. The arrival of Melvin Gibbs on bass brought in a few jazz-funk themes, before an all new band took on a more straight forward rock direction. And throughout it all, the intensity and disgust of Rollins is the constant that makes it a cohesive whole.
Also, it couldn't really be Rollins Band without Rollins. That wouldn't make sense.
Tuesday, 11 December 2012
Since I live in Bristol, it's almost compulsory for me to like Portishead. So it's a good job they're pretty fucking great, really.
To my ears, their albums tell the story of a post break-up spiral descent into insanity. The first record, Dummy, is all "nobody loves me" depressive introspection. By the second eponymous record things have taken an altogether more sinister turn, and the vibe has switched from "I'm going to kill myself" to "I'm going to kill myself, but I'm taking all you fuckers with me". Then there's a long period of uneasy silence... and then Third, by which point we're listening to Portishead sat in the corner of a darkened room, gently rocking back and forth and singing to the severed head in it's hands.
Somewhere in the middle of all this is the very excellent Roseland NYC live album. It's one of those records where the band plays their hits with full orchestra backing; and usually you get the impression that the band in question is determined to get their moneys worth and it's all orchestra all the time, but Portishead have way more class than that. For some songs the orchestra hardly does a thing, because it wouldn't sound right; whilst on others, the additional arrangements conspire to an even greater sense of forboding menace. Or sound more like Bond themes. Whatever, it's all good.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
Lords were a complete unknown to me until three and half years ago, when I happened to catch them at the All Tomorrows Parties: The Fans Strike Back festival. The idea behind the festival was that ticket holders were entitled to cast votes for which bands they would most like to see. At the end of each week the votes got counted up and the festival organisers would go and harass the top ten bands.
Some wiley individuals realised that if they got organised and were tactical with their voting, they could pretty much guarantee getting a few of their favourites onto the list. As a consequence the festival was populated by a number of mediocre alt-wank bands that the generation Y kids with their achingly fashionable haircuts and ironic cardigans got very excited about. However, since this is also most likely how Lords got in on the act too, it's kind of hard to get too angry at them (apart from the one very tall generation Y kid with hair that was not only achingly fashionable but also the size of Neptune, who chose to stand directly in front of me as soon as they started playing).
Then again, there's nothing even remotely cool-indie-tosser about Lords; so maybe the hip kids had nothing to do with it, and I do hate every single one of them after all. Lords play - or maybe that should be played, it's not entirely clear if they're still doing this thing - the kind of scuzzy life-affirming dancin' blues that makes you want to dance and shout and punch the back of the head of the lanky cool bastard with the big hair that's standing in front of you. If there was a band called The Black Eagles Of Death Zeppelin, they would sound like this.
Wednesday, 28 November 2012
I don't know about you, but I would have certain expectations of a band with a name like Prolapse. These expectations would not include CD liner notes that consist largely of "Jane's" style aircraft illustrations.
And yet this is exactly what I found many years ago when my weekly rummage through the racks of Ben's Collectors Records unearthed a copy of Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes. I stared intently at it for a few minutes, before eventually deciding that £3 was a small price to pay to satisfy my curiosity.
And a good thing too, as it turned out to be a blinder.
The justaposition of brutal arsequake band name and obtuse indie illustrations is, to some extent, mirrored in the record itself. There's no bowel-shattering sludge on display; but there is a bizarre clash of angular guitar clanging and dreamy shoegaze, and contrasting vocal styles with gentle girly warblings vying for supremacy with the coarse and deranged ramblings of a Scottish madman. Somehow, it all works.
Personally, I reckon Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes is very much the standout record in the Prolapse discography. Which is not say that the other records are bad particularly - The Italian Flag certainly has a few moments - but if I could only own one Prolapse record, it would definitely be Ghosts. And if I could own another, it would probably be a spare copy of Ghosts, just in case.
Monday, 19 November 2012
Much like Godflesh last week, The Jesus Lizard were one of those bands that for a long time I had heard of but never actually heard. I remember that they put out a split single with Nirvana that I completely failed to buy at the time; and that frontman David Yow was arrested for indecent exposure at some festival or other after playing a game of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" with Courtney Love of Hole.
And that was about the sum total of my knowledge until an afternoon of digging around in my local second hand record den revealed a Jesus Lizard rich seam.
Not that it was an especially enlightening experience at the time. Mostly I came to the conclusion that it was all a barely listenable racket. And whilst I diligently gave the records another try every now and then, I still didn't really get it until I saw them play live at one of the ATP festivals a few years back. And with Yow crawling over the crowd towards me, malicious intent written in sweat across his writhing features as he howled "I can't swim, I CAN'T SWIM", I realised with horror that the jarring, angular, smashed melodies of the music had spun a paralysing hex on me and I was sure to die.
And in that moment, I got it.
You won't like them.
Wednesday, 14 November 2012
For a big chunk of the 90s Godflesh was one of those bands that I knew I was supposed to like, but it took me ages to get around to sticking any of it in my ear. This probably worked out best for me, as I reckon I prefer the later records; the relentless industrial dirge is still very much relentless, industrial and dirge-y, but with a bit more variety and texture.
Godflesh disintegrated around the early 2000's, and frontman Broadrick (once in Napalm Death) went on to form Jesu. Cut from the same drum-machines-and-vast-slabs-of-distorted-guitar cloth as his former outfit, Jesu is generally a bit more uplifting - occasionally overlapping with some of the more doomy shoegaze bits of Godflesh. Doomgaze? I dunno. Well worth checking out though.
But I'm a gloomy bastard at heart; and since Godflesh reformed for a few shows a couple of years ago and maybe are perhaps writing some new material possibly, I'll take a fat slice of caustic mechanical trudging this week please.
Tuesday, 6 November 2012
I felt certain that I'd strung together some shit words about this funny looking bastard already. Never mind, now's as good a time as any.
Except that I really don't have much to say about this weird fractured drum 'n' bass 'n' ambience 'n' contempt, other than I like the contrasting mix of fractured drum 'n' bass, ambience and contempt. I like that everything by Aphex Twin sounds like Aphex Twin without being formulaic or predictable. I like that Mr Aphex Twin (Richard D James) is either a funny looking bastard possessed of sublime musical genius that transcends all mortal comprehension; or a funny looking bastard possessed of that special kind of genius that compels people to handcraft aluminium foil headwear, shout at clouds and collect toenail clippings.
And I like Chris Cunningham's disturbing video accompaniments.
Get startled, yeah?