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Hang 2010

28 Dec

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?

BARONIllegitimate 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 CARAVANOn 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 MANNomadic 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.

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The Joints Don’t Work Like They Used To

10 Jul

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 PROJECTWe 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 JETSONArchaic 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.

DIAGONALDiagonal (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 THOTHWitness 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!