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Reissues Less Sweet

27 Oct

Yes, there are brand-new digipak reissues available of the strikingly idiosyncratic first pair of studio LPs by PSYCHIC TV: Force the Hand of Chance and Dreams Less Sweet. But don’t be a heel like me and actually buy em. These things are damn-near bootlegs! Original PTV gtrist Alex Fergusson tells me Stevo at Some Bizzare Records didn’t involve anybody from the band to give permission or imput, and I can vouch for the fact that they feel/look/sound like piss poor, 2nd-gen. knockoffs of the already existing, flawed 90’s counterparts (so can this guy). Alex says: stick with the original UK vinyl if you wanna experience what was actually intended by this band of brave cultural terrorists . . .

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Lemme back up a bit.

PSYCHIC TV were to the post-industrial set what THE GRATEFUL DEAD were to hippie, what CRASS were to peace punk – in terms of scene figureheads, extended family dedication, and sheer voluminous, jammin’ output. First they were a sham cult, then a sham band, then an actual cult and an actual band, after which they ditched the band, and then the cut loose the cult, and finally . . . yeah it’s all so convoluted and kinda inconsequential anyway. The biopic will one day tell all (here’s hoping they’ll convince John Malkovich to play Genesis).

But aah! Those records! Well they were something else entirely. What you get when you spin any of the 100-odd PSYCHIC TV records released is an uneasy mixture of groping, blind-alley experimentation (that would be Mr. P-Orridge), alternatingly harsh/delicate musical overlay (courtesy of fine folks like Alex Fergusson and Peter Christopherson, and later on, Fred Giannelli or Larry Thrasher) and a whole grab bag of really intuitive, sonic déjà vu – to which every adept involved lent a fair amount of psychic willpower.

Each one of their records sounds like it might’ve been made by an entirely different group, which they often were. Some sound like an inverted-cross version of Syd Barrett’s PINK FLOYD (the Sordid Sentimentale releases), others like early Detroit House outtakes (Jack The Tab and Tekno Acid Beat) or Scientological self-help talking books (Al-Or-Al, Cathedral Engine). Still others sound like creepy little painted Easter eggs climbing up yo’ inner thigh (Dreams Less Sweet). The rockin’ was often rickety but SO WHAT! All their records contain moments of pure whitelight bliss, ones that can make your head do a 360-degree spin whether it’s asking to or not. And songs like “Stolen Kisses”, “The Orchids”, “Godstar” and “Roman P.” are out-of-time, otherworldly gems and oughta really be played throughout retail environments all across the Midlands, daily forevermore.

Now I don’t wanna get into some silly argument about whether Genesis P-Orridge is genius, wizard, or charlatan. He’s clearly a bit of each and no doubt an egomanical bastard besides. But that’s precisely what makes most of these records so darn compelling: he’s everything you want to accuse him of except shy. He maximized all he had at his disposal, and then some.

My advice for PTV virgins? Buy Godstar: Thee Director’s Cut (their glorious attempt at Brit popularism) or Live in Paris (the PTV live thang at it’s most magickal), ditch the word and let them ooooze, baby. And wait on baited breath for Stevo at Some Bizzare to GET A FUCKING CLUE.

Thanks to MonkeyIron for the pic


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.