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Butlins Heavy, Pt. I

12 Dec


ATP’s Nightmare Before Christmas 2008 at Butlins in Minehead: leave it to Mike Patton & THE MELVINS to curate what had to be the most unorthodox ATP festival the UK has yet witnessed.

For once, heavy was well represented – not by mainline metallers, but rather by that odd/difficult end of beard-swinging hessians who visibly irked the SLAYER fans I had the pleasure of standing next to one evening. Also, there was a dearth of trad indie acts on parade, and the indie-aligned who did show up – THE BLACK HEART PROCESSION, SQUAREPUSHER, maybe BOSS HOG – were relegated to afterhours/second stage action. This must’ve bummed the skinny sweater contingent something fierce. And then: there were all manner of wha-the-fuh picks in the mix (JUNIOR BROWN, VOCAL SAMPLING, THE LABEQUE SISTERS . . .) getting everyone to scratch their heads at least a couple times over the weekend. Clearly, contrary is a musical esthetic that Mike and Buzzo both wallow in. And wallow we did.

But it was a fucking great weekend all the same. As I saw so many good bands, this post’ll haveta continue into another post next week. But let’s get started with a rundown of some of the hallowed ones who really sought fit to screw a nut straight into my headstock:

1) THE MELVINS 1983 – I just fucking love that these pillars of Modern Stoner/Sludge still stand proudly by their punker roots. This reconfigured lineup sought to recreate the very earliest MELVINS stirrings, and though they couldn’t lure Matt Lukin outta bass retirement, that didn’t bum their death trip one iota. Their songs at this point had a rapid, multichord gunfire attack I most associate with the GERMS (GI) rec, and at least one set of lyrics was about yr welfare running out – which really dated things. I mean c’mon: is welfare even part of the English language in Bush Jr. Amerikkka? Even when they slowed the beat down, it was in a gnarly slowcore vein that got me thinking D.I. doing “Richard Hung Himself” rather than anything SABBATHoid. A great little history lesson into the house that Buzzo built, and I bet it spun heads other than mine too.

2) TEENAGE JESUS & THE JERKS – Odd tableau vivant of long gone, late 70’s Lower East Side anticulture. James Sclavunos reinacted Bradley Field’s monomaniacal stare & snare, Lydia the 40-something Polish matron reinacted Lydia the mad teen runaway, and Thurston Moore made sure the bass sounded exactly like what he loves about their original 45s. They did every song they knew, and one twice (“when you’re this ugly you better be perfect”) and the set lasted 20 minutes. I dug every moment of it, but that’s what I say every time I come in contact with Lydia in a live setting. Hey: when’s she gonna corral THE WEIRDOS into revisiting that bitchen 13.13 LP with her?

3) THE MEAT PUPPETS – Had that couldn’t-give-a-fuck confidence that comes with knowing you’ve honed your thing to a sharp knife edge, these guys were a breath of fresh air at the end of long day of relentless rockin’. Oh man does Cris Kirkwood look to’ up and it’s no secret he ain’t much in the way of a bass player no more. But he was there at the beginning, his voice still sounds sweet, and it’s a brother thing I suppose. Anyway Curt is so fucking good at flatpickin’ they all can just ride on his coattails. I don’t actually own too many Pups recs, but I recognized most of the tunes: “Touchdown King”, “Plateau”, “Up On the Sun”, and a great and soaring rendition of “Look at the Rain” that had me grinning ear to ear. As I was really burnt by this point and some fool kept spilling his beer on me, I skipped out before the end. But what I witnessed was powerful enough to get me planning to explore all those Cobain-era records I’ve never bothered with.

4) JAMES BLOOD ULMER – Just James, sitting front and center in a suit, ringing out all alone with his voice and gtr. He strummed open tuned blues while simultaneously hammering-on lead jazzy lines/notes in true harmolodic fashion. The stuff from his recent Bad Blood In the City CD sounded especially powerful, separated entirely as it was from the annoying pro/tech impulses of producer Vernon LIVING COLOUR Reid. James is as deeply rooted as John Lee Hooker but somehow sounds futureforward and freewheeling all the same. Check out his great solo Birthright CD from 2005 for a taste of similar magic; by all means see him shred live while he still walks the earth.

5) FANTOMAS – I watched this performance with a bunch of very sweet but oh-so clueless Mike P. fans (“he’s so cute”). And like FAITH NO MORE and MR. BUNGLE before them, FANTOMAS was nuthin by a monumentally loud, complicated waste of my time. Yes they can stop on a dime, but so can MY SHITS, and that’s not a pleasurable sensation no how. Eggheads may love the near superhuman athletic ability it takes to perform such music, but I can’t ignore the ever-annoying presence of Patton’s pipes and ego. Anybody got any ideas how we can keep him away from the mic for good?

6) BIG BUSINESS – Bassist Jared Warren performed with an unassuming earthiness that reminded me of Mike Watt, and in tandem with drummer Coady Willis’ whirlwind Neil Peartisms I almost believed I was watching GONE tear it up after Ginn had stepped out back to smoke a fatty. Some guy named Dale Crover eventually stepped up to sling gtr over the top of their din, but honestly: this rhythm section woulda made anyone sound angelic. Somewhat expectedly, straighter-laced heads in the audience couldn’t seem to comprehend the depth of beauty unfolding right in front of them, but the seeds were planted. Fruit will follow, you’ll see.


Shit I didn’t even get around to ranting about ISIS, MASTODON, THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS, THE DAMNED, or THE MELVINS 2008. Check back in a couple/3/4 days or so for Pt. II . . .

Thanks to curiouslypersistent for the nicely blurry ATP photo


Blasting Minds

19 Jul

So you wanna talk about redefining rock LPs of the 1980’s? Ya just gotta include THE BLASTING CONCEPT VOLUME II in there, chief. Anyone who hoped those “difficult” mid-period BLACK FLAG and SACCHARINE TRUST records were just a fluke couldn’t deny that, by 1985, SST Records had undergone a complete and total aesthetic overhaul. The HC punk had become heavy, found hippie, turned jazzy, gone fishin’ and then . . . well, kids everywhere were shaking their heads in utter disbelief. This just wasn’t what they wanted their oh-so precious punk rock to sound like. Ever.

THE BLASTING CONCEPT VOLUME II encapsulated those revelatory changes, and suggested a dozen more. It was a bold, powerful, collective artistic statement that directly challenged unexamined musical prejudices throughout punk & underground scenes at the time. While the first BLASTING compilation merely corralled previously released material on a handy 12″, most of this stuff never turned up anywhere else, making it primary SST documentation. Yes it’s got the most boring cover in SST’s early annals; but do check out the original, unused Pettibon artwork in the backpages of Joe Carducci’s Rock & the Pop Narcotic – a very different graphic representation to ponder when cracking an ear to this aural wonder. Blow by blow, it’s

SAINT VITUS: “Look Behind You” – One of my fave early VITUS cuts. Carducci makes mention of a creeping paranoia floating around SST back then, and VITUS pins it here with a singularly leaden, dull blade. Ouch. This version beats the slightly later, Wino-led version what with more inspired vocals by Scott Reagers and superior drumming from Armando.

DC3: “Theme From an Imaginary Western” – Dez the crooner, won’t you take the mic? Oh my god, how I love this. It’s hard, heavy, and poignant – brings tears to my eyes. And these eyes don’t cry easily.

SWA: “Mystery Girl” – Not my fave SWA song, as it’s got one of them distended, disjointed riffs that clutter up their early LPs. But Merrill sounds E. Bloomin’ hot and raring to go-go-go, like he’s about to whip his dick out in front of whatever loser audience ain’t gonna be able to handle SWA this week. You might, but me? I don’t ever fast-forward past this one.

BLACK FLAG: “I Can See You” – One of the more off-kilter melodies Ginn came up with in FLAG, and when he solos I start feeling a bit woozy. But lyrically it fits the rec perfectly, as if Ginn’s responding to the VITUS track above. Who says he didn’t grow eyes in the back of his head?

GONE: “Watch the ‘Tractor” – One of GONE’s defining moments: pure metallic punk/prog mayhem bliss. A buddy of mine always maintained GONE was responsible for the very best in-store performance ever in the greater Washington DC area, which is totally believable if they sounded anything like this.

WÜRM: “Death Ride” – I am one yahoo who actually digs Simon Smallwood’s vocals and the BLUE CHEER bronco these guys saddled on their Feast LP. WÜRM were far too early in the scheme of Heavy Revival to be considered anything more than a joke. But like VOX POP, they helped reintroduce OTT metal to punkers in LA, back when you were still making excuses for owning Haysi Fantayzee records.

OVERKILL: “Over the Edge” – OVERKILL put out the best SST LP most of you never bothered with, and this singularly-great MÖTÖRHEAD bomb is an outtake from that crucial rec. Merrill’s vocals are buried which makes him sound even more feral, and drummer Kurt Markham positively murders. I can’t not bang my head hard when this one comes on.

SACCHARINE TRUST: “Emotions and Anatomy” – A short outtake from their Worldbroken live record, so it’s got Mike Watt playing bass. At the time, this kinda deep searching, exploratory sound got me thinking there were absolutely no more limits to just how far out underground rock could be taken. You younger free-rock types oughta all come pay your respects.

PAINTED WILLIE: “The Big Time” – Not a bad bit of REDD KROSS-like sneer from guys who struggled to find their voice after the brilliance of their initial Ragged Army 7″ 45. Most of their records suffer from shitty production, but as I always empathized with punkers who tried rocking it hard and heavy, no doubt I’d have paid to see em do it live if I could.

ANGST: “Just Me” – Depressive folk rock that nicely illustrates the strengths of this Bay-area band. Again I’ll maintain that this is entirely in keeping with the vibe (if not the sound) of primo SLEEPERS/NEGATIVE TREND material.

MEAT PUPPETS: “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” – I prefer the PUPS covers of “Child of the Moon” and “No Quarter” but they’re all zigzagging stripes off the very same three-legged zebra. I always laugh when Curt maintains she don’t love you anymore/ she likes my love better.

MINUTEMEN: “Ain’t Talkin’ About Love” – Here you probably figured Merrill Ward or Henry Rollins would be the first to come out of the closet with a love for VAN HALEN. Nope: it was Boon who was the real Diamond Dave aficionado all along. I love that, in true MINUTEMEN fashion, they’ve parred this back to only the 3rd verse and the hey hey heys.

HÜSKER DÜ: “Erase Today” – a great New Day Rising-era outtake. This doesn’t actually sound like much else here, but that just illustrates how distinctive these guys’ sound actually was. I’m not a huge HD fan, but this is a classic midwestern barnburner anyway you wanna cut it.

OCTOBER FACTION: “I Was Grotesque” – Lifted from the their less-than successful second LP, wherein Dukowski, Ginn, Baiza, Stevenson et al tried to FACTIONalize within the unnatural confines of the studio. They couldn’t pull it off and I admit it: I sometimes skip past this one. But I’ll always admire their impulse to take the music one step beyond.

TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG: “Todo Para Mi” – A far from ideal cut to end things on, given the quality of all that came before. Me I woulda chose Tom’s cover of ANDY & THE RATTLESNAKES “Patience” which ended his own DOG LP from this same year. But really, what better man to bring down these BLASTING curtains than the hippiest, deadheadiest SST roadie of them all? Anybody who couldn’t deal would’ve given up loooong before this track; those who stayed to appreciate it no doubt went on to form all my favorite bands over the next couple decades.


Paging Greg Ginn: re-release this lost treasure! It’s one that’ll blow minds, forevermore.