Homeland Security

28 May

Yeah it’s all, like, THE ARCTIC MONKEYS and LILY (fucking) ALLEN out here in fair England, probably forevermore. But that hasn’t stopped me from searching out a few old geezers who still do it right, in ways my aging ass can actually understand. Today I’ve come to honour 3 British artists/bands who’ve toiled longer and harder than most along the English homefront, with scant acknowledgement or recognition. And no – they ain’t winning the war for us – but they sure do make it sound mighty sweet as we all go under.

1. PAGAN ALTAR“The Cry of the Banshee” (from the Mythical & Magical, Oracle Records, 2006)

Pagan AltarYou ready for your early morning cup of NWOBHM? Me, I say fill er up mac. PAGAN ALTAR are an original New Wave of British ‘Eavy Metal group, class of ’78/’79. They recorded lots of unreleased demos at the time – see their Volume 1 and Time Lord releases for the goods. Like WITCHFINDER GENERAL, PAGAN ALTAR went for that canal-dredging, early BLACK SABBATH sound rather than the prog/punk attack typified by Di’Anno-era IRON MAIDEN. Which means they kept things slow-to-mid tempo, focusing attention on deeper rhythmic concerns, hence foreshadowing the doom rock revolution of the late 80’s/early ’90s. They also exhibited a stately, mannered decorum (think PROCOL HARUM) that for whatever cultural reason, seems to suit the Brits like a glove. And they could write, arrange, play, and ROCK better than a whole buttload of Brit bands swinging Flying V’s at the time. Sadly, the mulleted hordes didn’t really wanna know.

Sometime in the new millenium, they managed to drag themselves from their SE London grave with twin beliefs in heavy rock and pagan/witchcraft themes wholly intact. Their copious use of hammer-ons may make you smile (they did me) . . . but if you’re someone who laughs at the mere endeavour of playing DOOM-LADEN, EPIC METAL in total ernesty – as if punk had never, ever happened! – well, stranger, then you’re a bigger idiot than I gave you credit for. Their recent CDs (showcasing an “updated” DIO-era SAB sound) are full of great and inspired metal by guys who, in some small way, helped invent the damn stuff. I bow; you ought to, too.

2. THE GREEN RAY“All My Tears” (from Back From The Edge, Senza Tempo, 2006)

green rayHippie stalwarts from Walthamstow (BEVIS FROND country, doncha know) who are also a key offshoot of the MAN/HELP YOURSELF family tree. Which probably means bugger all to most of you, but ALOT to those who can recognize the subtle beauties of 70’s British acidrock. THE RAY continue in that flowing, US west-coast tradition, jammin’ their twin gtrs straight from the heart up into the cold, grey London skies, aiming to blow puny minds with a mere flick of a pick. It’s true HEAD music, unaffected by the fact these guys’ heads are now mostly gray and balding. And if you hipsterz need even more of a reason to check em out, do note that both Forced Exposure and Ptolemaic Terrascope mags sung their praises in the 90’s – with fucking good reason, too.

I just now see they play a monthly residency at The Plough Inn in W’stow – must make a mental note to scratch up some skunk and go ride their magic carpet some evening soon!

3. ALEX FERGUSSON“Dark Angel (Fireball Mix)” (from The Castle, Eis & Licht, 2006)

AlexALEX is both ex-ALTERNATIVE TV and ex-PSYCHIC TV, but he’s done so much more (before/during/after) it’s just silly. He’s been largely passed over in punk/postpunk history books since he seemed content to remain out of the limelight, hidden under the weight of much bigger egos (there are few bigger than that of ATV’s Mark Perry and PTV’s Genesis P-Orridge). But his songs/tunes/riffs always seem totally identifiable to me. He tends to moor an intimate, singer-songwritery pop sensibility (he says he’s a big fan of early Emitt Rhodes) with what’s known over in this part of the world as “neo-folk” (that would be his post-industrial PSYCHIC TV connections). Anybody bothering to look deeper will see that he’s been recording/writing in a uniquely ALEX-ian fashion at least since PSYCHIC TV released Pagan Day way back in ’84 – which, by all rights, oughta be seen as ALEX’s first solo LP.

I am a huge fan of this man’s uncanny ability to use stripped-down instrumentation to communicate often perverse subject matter via simple but delicate pop songcraft. ANYTHING with this man’s name on it is worth exploring before you die.

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9 Responses to “Homeland Security”

  1. Dave Lang May 31, 2007 at 1:21 am #

    The Green Ray track is a killer… Pagan Altar still sound a little too Spinal Tap to these ears. You ever a fan of the Scottish school of agit-rock a la Stretchheads/Dawson/Big Flame/Dog Faced Hermans/Badgewearer/etc.? As a Minutemen fan, you would dig it but good. Search it out!

  2. mrowster May 31, 2007 at 6:02 am #

    I’ve not heard StrechFacedwearer etc. – in fact DAWSON was the one name on your 100 Album list I had never, ever heard even the slightest reference to. But hey I’m still saving up for that POP GROUP reissue, which as a MINUTEMEN fan, I’ll no doubt dig but good!

  3. JB June 1, 2007 at 12:32 am #

    Totally off topic. But what are your thoughts on the second Bad Religion record “Into the Unknown.” Only reason I bring it up is that Cifarelli and I pondered that one over many a cup of black coffee in the mid-80’s. There was a period of time (maybe a month) when that one got almost as many spins as “I Against I.” I may even rank that one in a posthumous top 10 LA long plays for 83-84 along with My War, Double Nickels, 1984, Down the Blue Highway, Droogs “Heads Examined,” Bangles Frontier ep, 10-5-60, A Hard Road to Follow, Sparks in Outer Space, Miami, Baroque Hoedown and you know the rest . . .

  4. mrowster June 1, 2007 at 6:30 am #

    Regarding “Into the Unknown”: all I can really remember was an uncomfortable (demo-quality?) mix and the copious use of something like a flanger on a lot of midtempo, major chord tunes. You and Darren will have to take it from there.

    Though I didn’t/don’t deride their impulse. Me, I found it difficult to ignore all the cries of “they’ve sold out/gone metal!” being hurled at both B.F. and B.R. at the time in mags like Flipside. BUT that was the state of things, wasn’t it? And I was soon coming of gig-going age. If I’d dismissed these changes, I would’ve been left with absolute nothing to listen to/go see live. It was a practical decision, but that’s how I came to really embrace SST in the first place.
    (And I agree with your Class of ‘84 picks – though my picks include early ELECTRIC PEACE and Alex Gibson’s PASSIONNEL.)

  5. mrowster June 1, 2007 at 7:45 pm #

    Ok yeah so I’ve just listened to it again and still I can’t seem to get that nasty flanger outta my middle ear. But those proggy workouts (“Time”, “Million Days” and “You Give Up”) are actually kinda/sorta choice – or maybe curious is the right word. Certainly, more shitty punk bands ought to’ve shown such ambition!
    Unlike, say, TSOL’s obvious dive into bighair cockrock, I’m at a loss to actual see where they were trying to push their thing. Into New Wave? Art? Into the Unknown, indeed.

  6. JB June 1, 2007 at 9:31 pm #

    The BR lp is a pretty odd turn. It is not neo-psych. It is straight ahead Boston I and II styled arena rock. That said, there is some piano on the first lp so the prog-move cant be a total shock. What is a shock are the cheezy Jump-style Van Halen synth. Not even a turn as you point out like “Beneath the Shadows” or “Change Today” era TSOL. I have never heard those later glammy-Enigma records? Are they any good? In 2007 I am curious whereas in 1987 I thought they were a fucking joke (unlike the Jonseses whose Enigma lp is great although I havent heard it in a long time). I just saw your hair metal post. Don’t mean to turn so far off your original post. Just be glad I don’t start on junk glam stompers. I expect a full post just on Billy Hamon’s “Butch Things,” which is EXACTLY like Robin Willis of the Barracudas describes: Bryan Ferry fronting the Cramps. amazing

  7. mrowster June 1, 2007 at 9:50 pm #

    And NO, the later TSOL records with Joe Wood on vocals aren’t worth re-investigation. They blow mightily, and I know this because I revisited them ALL a couple years ago in hope of finding something different. Your/my ‘87 assessment stands, til the end of time.

  8. mrowster June 1, 2007 at 10:30 pm #

    Oh and JB:

    I think you have hit on the first topic for YOUR OWN BLOG! Junk shop glam! Just remember to say something about Jesse Hector in it, ok?

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