No I’m not back. Really, I’m not – just stopped by to make sure that nobody’s broken in, and that the pipes haven’t frozen or anything like that. And . . . I suppose I didn’t want this crap year to end without saying a few words about a few records I’ve spun lots this over the past 12 months, but never found occasion to mention here at PS Recon. I reckon any/all could light up your New Year’s, in varying ways/degrees. Read on, and last one to finish hit the lights, ok?
BARON – Illegitimate Nephews (no label, 2010) Cripes I can’t believe this hasn’t seen a proper release yet. This is what Alex Crispin (ex-DIAGONAL vocalist/keyboardist) and Luke Foster (current DIAGONAL drummer) do for extra-curricular fun – what fun it is! If DIAGONAL’s self-titled CD from 2008 recast SOFT MACHINE in the heavy instrumental undertow of ATOMIC ROOSTER’s backwaters, BARON is a decidedly lighter, artier affair, leaving most of the prog tangles behind for proper songcraft. Such a proposition could be dicey, but I swear to christ: these dudes really pull it off, both in tone and execution. The reference point is still the early 70’s Canterbury scene, but here it’s Robert Wyatt’s uncanny vocalising in MATCHING MOLE and the boho élan Kevin Ayers of his early solo arrangements that are looming large. Songs are built around Alex’s gorgeous vocals and are more often than not ballads, with full rock band action used sparingly. Don’t fret – the instro playing is as powerful as DIAGONAL, if not more inspired and breathtaking. If you only check out one English band this year, do you self a favour and make it WOLF PEOPLE – but if you’ve room for another – and dammit, you better! – it’s BARON you need to get acquainted with.
BEAT CARAVAN – On Parade (Power Elephant!, 2010) As bitchen and unembarassing a pop rec as I’ve heard all year – hell, only Black Metal dorks and experimental eggheads won’t cry tears of joy hearing this one. What BEAT CARAVAN got going here is fun-loving, unabashed NRBQ/BRINSLEY SCHWARZ worship, plain and simple. The fact that they’re a bunch of Japanese yahoos shouldn’t distract, as they’ve somehow managed to inject catchy, laidback American blood deeeep in their Tokyo veins. The playing is vastly superior to their earlier EP, the singing less forced, and yep the English lyrics are still mispronounced (thank god). My only little gripe is the strict pop-fetishism at work; you know, that ol’ self-imposed rule to stick to line-em-up and knock-em-down pop song structures. Hey fellas, why not follow the lead of TODD RUNDGREN and let your muse (and gtrs! and keyboards! and . . .) run wild next time? If they did that, BEAT CARAVAN would be something to really write home about.
YAWNING MAN – Nomadic Man (Cobraside, 2010) There are a time for words, heck I rely heavily on em every day. But then: there is a time when words cease to mean much to me, when it all jumbles up into so much hot air, and I’m left with nothing but . . . well, at such times I’m glad there’s folks about who understand what to do. Namely: shut the fuck up and play.
YM have been shutting up and playing for a good 25 years now, and there’s some amazing wax on Lexicon Devil Records to prove it – but I’d reckon this to be their absolute pinnacle. Master gtrist Gary Arce has developed such a softly beautiful touch that’s mic’ed so goddamn LOUD as to be a seismic force all it’s own. Drummer Alfredo Hernández has a swinging but deceptively easy playing style that suprises with how heavy it can get, matching Gary like no other could. And Mario Lalli’s fatso bassman is the melodic/rhythmic foundation upon which to build tall cities. More than ever, what I’m hearing puts me in the mind of Lemmy-era HAWKWIND covering the PELL MELL songbook on the nose of 9 ft. longboard, and taken together, these guys are capable of leaping small galaxies in a single bound. Like few bands since the 80’s, this band could be your life, if you’d just let em surf right in.