Old music bloggers like me don’t die, we just find that the upgrades introduced by our hosts are increasingly intrusive (WordPress: what the heck do I need Akismet stats for?), and that most of the clever hyperlinks that punctuated old posts have long since expired. But that doesn’t mean I’m quitting – no sir indeed, I ain’t no quitter nohow. So here I am again, to type about what’s been buffering my ears from commuter noise on the Piccadilly Line as of late. Dig in:
JEFFREY LEE PIERCE SESSIONS PROJECT – We Are Only Riders (Glitterhouse, 2010) Everybody else will say they love this one, but they’ve also said they love the last dozen recs Nick Cave has been involved with, and we all know those have been CRAP, right? Right. Me I found this brooding tribute – featuring Lydia Lunch, Mark Lanegan, and of course droopy ol’ Nick himself – such a letdown I could barely get through it. And that seems all wrong, as I am a huge Jeffrey Lee Pierce and GUN CLUB fan.
Whatever else he brought with him, Jeffrey definitely brought a post-punk high lonesome yodel, an individual take on modern blues gtr playing, and real kickass rhythm to nearly all his music – and those are things nobody here (ok, besides Dave Alvin and CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX) sought to muster. Seems most are content to stumble and mumble through this long set like silly little Leonard Cohen clones, and its utterly, thoroughly dreary. The end result is like one of those string quartet tributes to BLACK SABBATH – competently done and all, but missing the point entirely. Why didn’t they ask Wino or Buzzo or Bobby Leibling to get involved? I can think of dozens up to channelling Jeffrey’s manic ectoplasm better than this bunch of snoozers. Avoid.
FATSO JETSON – Archaic Volumes (Cobraside, 2010) FATSO JETSON releases aren’t nearly as plentiful as their talent warrants, but thank god we now got another. Like his forefathers Greg Ginn and Joe Baiza, Mario Lalli’s riffs and leads are instantly recognisable, carving a sonic path completely his own within the ranks of modern rock n roll. A few of these tunes first appeared on their live LP from 2007, but even those numbers sound reimagined, evolved, mutated from earlier incarnations: prominent reverb, Al Kooper-like keyboards, and Vince Meghrouni’s sax & harmonica add new and previously unimagined taste sensations to FJ’s amphibious blues. I also get the feeling Mario has given new thought to the primacy of his lyrics, which culminate in the poisoned beauty that is “Monoxide Dreams”. THE MELVINS aside, no other bunch of middle-age heavy rockers still sound so invigorating to my ears in 2010. Absolutely phenomenal stuff.
DIAGONAL – Diagonal (Rise Above Records, 2008) It took me couple years to wake up to this one – I blame a deeply engrained distrust of prog rock for that. But I have now, in a major way. DIAGONAL play a highly ambitious form of heavy English progressive rock that harkens explicitly back to days when the wings of GENESIS and VAN DER GRAF GENERATOR spread eerie shadows over this fair island. The songs cover a vast terrain in tempo, mood, & power, highlighting not only rhythmic and instrumental prowess expected of prog bands but also surprisingly soulful performances. The recording is organic, totally eschewing the unpleasantly pro slickness that makes the modern prog scene (DREAM THEATER – barf) such a drag these days. And it should be noted that DIAGONAL don’t incorporate the extreme metal trappings this label is known for – these guys indeed are far more comfortable on a WOLF PEOPLE bill that some doom blowout. Yet another another release that completely reenergises my belief in modern English rock. Lee Dorian, release more of this kinda beauty!
JEX THOTH – Witness EP (I Hate Records, 2010) Aside from Jex herself, an entirely new band from their last record is powering this thing. The slothful tunes (including a great SLAPP HAPPY number) are all morbidly beautiful, and Jex is still totally passionate about her witchy beliefs, something I get behind wholeheartedly. But somewhere along the line, a bit of the depth of sound has been lost . . . and the neanderthal primativism of the first LP has been leavened by – yikes! – a subtle Ren Fayre/reenactment vibe. All of a sudden: JEX THOTH is sounding more like a heavy version of pagan goth lifers INKUBUS SUKKUBUS than, say PENTAGRAM. This isn’t actually a bad thing; I count many goth-types as friends here in London, and solstice gatherings could really use some real rock action to liven things up a bit. I’m just wondering if this means JEX will eventually ditch their drummer for a drum machine the way with all these goth acts have now? That would be a deeply distressing, particularly stomach-churning turn of events. Don’t do it, Jex!