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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!

This One Goes Up To Eleven: Top Rockin’ Releases of 2007

5 Jan

Fatso Inside

2007: yeah not a bad year at all in which to have lost just a little more of my precious hearing. Here’s hoping I stumble upon another 11 this worthy in 2008!

01. THE HIDDEN HANDThe Resurrection of Whiskey Foote (Southern Lord Records): Wino & co. dug deeeeeep into their Confederate roots to pull out a heavy rock odyssey of Homeric proportions. Though this band may be dust, it’s a heady epitaph they’ve left us with.

02. ELOPE9 Distilled Dreams (Gravitation Records): Hot tip from the folks at WORDY DIVA. Just gorgeous, long-gone stoner ballads from this otherwise hard-rockin’ Swedish trio, who gotta be the best songwriters amongst the current crop of bearded, bell-bottomed Scandinavian bands going. THE SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES included.

03. AGNES STRANGEStrange Flavour (Rev-Ola): ’07 reissue of a great, lost ’76 UK private press. What STATUS QUO woulda sounded like doing a HAWKWIND/PINK FAIRIES tribute rec! The perfect soundtrack for walking up endless flights of piss-stained stairs in the bit of council-estate West London I spend so many of my waking hours.

04. GREG GINN & THE TAYLOR TEXAS CORRUGATORSBent Edge (SST Records): 70 minutes of ornery, cantankerous walkin’ blues/jazz instrumentals from a man whose name was once synonymous with suburban hardcore punk. A personal reinvention via gtr if ever there was one.

05. BRANT BJORK & THE BROSSomera Sól (Duna Records): Desert monstergroove merchants now turbo-fueled by drummer Alfredo Hernandez. For me, BBB beats QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE every day of the week.

06. FATSO JETSONLive (Cobraside): Best damn hard blues rock band EVER made up of martians posing as overweight humans beings. And finally caught live, with every alien tongue a-lolling. Note: the gatefold LP inner photo (showing off their very personal music shrine) has gotta be the only one on the planet to feature SACCHARINE TRUST’s Worldbroken LP. Yeah!

07. PAT TODD & THE RANKOUTSIDERSOutskirts of Your Heart (Rankoutsider Records): Pat finally put his LAZY COWGIRLS to rest for good, only to come up with the best damn platter (a double CD) of his howlin’ career. Country & Western the way it ought to be played – i.e., with a pint of whiskey in it’s belly and rocked out as if by THE RAMONES. Yikes it’s hot hot hot.

08. STINKING LIZAVETAScream of the Iron Iconoclast (Monotreme Records): The most powerful instrumental doom-jazz trio on the planet today, an utterly gone live experience, and a Philly cultural institution. Better believe this is all steak, and no cheese.

09. GEORGE BRIGMANRags in Skull (Bona Fide Records): I don’t care if this “shoulda been better” – it’s the first new George B. rec in like 2 decades! I’ll take him any way he wants to deliver. Here, the tunes are good and he’s still singing with that bitchen baritone-Zappa voice and playing with that wild Tony McPhee-gtr tone of his. Maryland oughta be proud of this guy’s bedroom prog/blues peculiarisms.

10. MOUNTAINMasters of War (Megaforce): Hot tip from RAY’S REALM. The best heavy rock n roll gtr/voice jumbo combo platter of all time, Mr. Leslie West, returns to shoot life up the backside of a dozen of Mr. Bob Dylan’s tunes. And hey if Dylan was good enuf for THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE, THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS and freakin’ NAZARETH, well then: he’s AOK in my book too! Esp. cool is Leslie’s heavyass rock take on “Mr. Tambourine Man” – amazing, as I betcha this guy worked up genteel, folk-rock versions of some of these very same tunes in the mid-60’s with his first band, THE VAGRANTS. A 1000 times greater a listening experience than you’d ever imagined this boomer could come up with so late in the game.

11. GENTLEMANS PISTOLSGentlemans Pistols (Rise Above Records): Boy did I ever listen to alot of blues-based rock in ’07. And straight forward, UK hard boogie-blues shufflin’ you may think this to be, but their sledge hammer delivery sends this into the cheap seats every goddamn spin – and brings me crawling back on my belly like a kingsnake, day after day. Shit, the singer even attempts to revive the ghost of SAVOY BROWN’s Chris Youlden – like it was cool to do so! Precisely what this fair island needs to get it’s musical shit back on the right track for 2008.