Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday Video - Foals, 'Cassius' + vinyl rip



I got Q and not U's No Kill Beep Beep LP in the mail* yesterday. Why that's relevant is because a) that album is awesome and b) it's my gold - well, okay, yellow - standard for quirky indie math-rock. Currently, Foals meet that standard; or at least, match up well against it.

The first time I saw or heard anything by this band was the video for 'Hummer' on David's not-updated-in-a-while blog, The Fate of the Human Carbine. Foals are a UK band, from Oxford specifically. Anyway, 'Hummer', while a decent enough song, left me thinking that they were not much more than a derivative, Q and not U style math-rock** band.

However, 'Cassius' is a far more impressive song, and over successive listens quickly forced me to re-evaluate my opinion of Foals. It's always nice when that happens, that you have to admit being wrong but also that you find a band you really like - at least in part.

Their other singles, 'Mathletics' (surprise, surprise) and 'Balloons' are quite good, with the video for 'Mathletics' in particular being well worth a viewing. And 'Hummer' was performed rather brilliantly on Skins, so Foals went even further up in my estimation, even if I don't think it's the most creative of their songs.

Their album, Antidotes, was released last week (on Sub Pop, in the States) and has been getting pretty good reviews. I've yet to hear it - and [as of time of writing] I've yet to pick up the 7" for this single, a stack of which are hiding behind some more current releases in HMV - but I'd say it'll be worth checking out. The press has been making a big deal out of the fact that they've left 'Mathletics and 'Hummer' off the record, like it's some big artistic statement. Personally I think it reflects in part that 'Cassius' and 'Balloons' are the stronger songs, but also that while singles are good for albums - like Ham Sandwich's Carry the Meek, which is entirely taken up with singles for its first five tracks - albums have to stand on their own as well.

Here's the video for 'Cassius'. I guess I should mention it has a saxophone and trumpet in it. It's not a central part of the song, but they do give some great colour to the mathy sound and there's a terrific free-jazz part at the end of the song. Happy body-popping!

* post. Blogging plays hell with your Hiberno-English.

** or more accurately, 'dance-punk', but that's a shit name. Battles = math-rock. Q and not U = math-rock. Battles ≠ Q and not U. [but Foals = Battles + Q and not U!] Such are the problems of life.






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Foals - Cassius (7" #2), 2008

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Dinosaur Jr. - Bug (reissue)


This is the best thing I've bought in a while. I might have to redo the photographs, because they're all a bit wonky, but I've been busy these last few days so bear with me.


Dinosaur Jr.'s Bug, originally released in 1988, was the band's last album with their original line-up, i.e. with Lou Barlow, until last year's Beyond. This year, all three of Dinosaur Jr.'s early albums (Dinosaur, You're Living All Over Me and Bug) have been reissued on J. Mascis's own label, Baked Goods.

Road Records have them in blue, red and green marbled vinyl respectively; according to Baked Goods' distro, Surefire Distribution, there are four colours altogether; 2,000 copies in total of Bug, 500 on black and 1,500 on coloured.

A quick question on coloured vinyl: the first time it's played, does anybody know if it usually sounds a bit off? I had this first with Hot Water Music's A Flight and a Crash, where the guitar sounded completely dead on the first listen (and the rest of the instruments - bass, drums - sounded fine). This is on the marbled records in particular - I'm theorizing it's something left behind by the printing process, although I don't notice anything collected up by the stylus. Affecting the higher frequencies perhaps?

Also, that's by way of saying don't throw out your record the first time you get coloured vinyl. Not that I did anything like that: but I was quite alarmed, to hear my favourite album of all time sound nothing like it should, the first time; and when 'Freak Scene' on this album lost all depth to its guitar solo, well, that was pretty worrying even if I thought I knew was happening...


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As you can see, the marbling on each side is different - the more impressive burst on the second side gives an extra fillup to that side of the album. In addition, it's quite transparent (this is actually a slight problem as you can see the track grooves from both sides) so when you put it down on the turntable platter it looks extra cool - a little bit like this:




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Dinosaur Jr. - Bug


Side A:

1. Freak Scene

2. No Bones

3. They Always Come

4. Yeah We Know

5. Let It Ride


Side B:

6. Pond Song

7. Budge

8. The Post

9. Don't

10. Keep the Glove


http://www.emusic.com/album/Dinosaur-Jr-Bug-MP3-Download/11028720.html (includes the bonus track 'Keep the Glove'


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More on Bug


As much as I really like this album, I haven’t gotten madly into much else by Dinosaur Jr. You’re Living All Over Me is too disjointed, too patchy, too much just like noise. That’s not to say that it hasn’t got some really good songs, but it doesn’t hang together in any way like this album does.

I could say Bug is like a time warp back from the Dinosaur Jr. of today: Bug is Beyond of 1988. Of course, it isn’t: Beyond is of course Bug, reborn in 2007. But whichever way you look at it, they are two records that speak to each other in their simplicity and sheer, epic tunefulness across the decades.

’Freak Scene’ is maybe all you need to hear from this record. It expresses so well everything that is good about the Dinosaur Jr. sound, about the paradoxical bombast and tenderness of J. Mascis’s guitar, about the feel-good rhythm of all their songs. As much as I am tempted to keep playing that track over and over again, I won’t. Because ‘Freak Scene’ is just a gateway into the album, an introductory hit wonder.

Noel Murray has an interesting bit in this week's Popless about Dinosaur Jr. Apparently, he had a rejected book idea for a 33 1/3 edition on You're Living All Over Me. Sentiments above notwithstanding, I know I'd buy it.

"When I was a freshman in college, right after Bug came out, I figured Dinosaur Jr. might be one of those bands like The Velvet Underground or Big Star, that never sell many records but become hugely influential. I was half-right on both counts ...

My hope is that the reunion of Mascis and Barlow has helped bring Dinosaur Jr. back into the awareness of young alt-rock fans. Then maybe someone will take an interest in my book proposal."

'Kracked' from Living All Over Me is the track he chooses. If you want to hear more songs from that era, check out the Nov. 1988 Peel Session, which is a nice little snippet of that album.

I've also uploaded a rip of the 'Back To Your Heart' 7" I posted already. A lot of people say the albums I post bring them back to their college days, which makes me feel pretty young, but Beyond at least was part of my college days last year:

Dinosaur Jr. - 'Back To Your Heart'



Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Hüsker Dü Six and a Bit Minutes

A direct follow-on to the previous post. Both these videos are excellent. The first song is one by Grant Hart, from 1986's Candy Apple Grey, 'Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely'; the second by Bob Mould, from 1987's Warehouse: Songs and Stories, 'Could You Be The One?':


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(Candy Apple Grey)



(Warehouse)



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'Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely', live concert performance






'Could You Be The One?', music video





Anyone else think Greg Norton looks like a tall Det. Martinez from NYPD Blue? Probably just me.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Bob Mould Half Hour



What, only half an hour?

When the artist for the night's featured half-hour was announced, I grabbed my trusty Mr. Audio and readied it to record. 'Micko' of Blitz (formerly, in their pirate days, Micko in the Doghouse) Phantom FM's alternative hard rock show, is one of the station's longest-serving DJs. And according to this article, he's 'Rodge' from Podge and Rodge. I didn't know that.

I wish I had the equipment to digitally record a cassette (and I would have if I'd got the next Ion turntable up, I think) but I don't, so I've just zipped up the relevant mp3 files from my own collection into a folder and uploaded it to Mediafire for your listening pleasure:


Bob Mould Playlist, Phantom FM


1. 'The Silence Between Us' - Bob Mould, District Line

2. 'Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely' - Hüsker Dü, Candy Apple Grey

3. 'A Good Idea' - Sugar, Copper Blue

4. 'Could You Be the One?' - Hüsker Dü, Warehouse: Songs and Stories

5. 'Your Favourite Thing' - Sugar, File Under: Easy Listening

6. 'Stupid Now' - Bob Mould, District Line


It's not actually half an hour long, more like twenty one and a bit minutes; but that's just the songs of course, and no radio jabber, radio idents or ads. Or programming warnings:

"If you don't like to hear songs with loud guitars or bad language, turn off your radio now and do something else, like

[build a model airplane],

[make a sandwich],

[join a band],

[fix the toilet - again] or

[stare at the fish]"

(square brackets to indicate sound effects)


It's a good mix, a good overview of Bob Mould's pop-heavy punk-hardcore songwriting; no really raucous stuff, like Sugar's Beaster EP or the early Hüsker Dü such as Metal Circus or, of course, Zen Arcade; and none of his more electronic work, such as Modulate or his most recent (before District Line), Body Of Song. 'Stupid Now', the last song of the half hour and the first song of the new album, comes the closest to the Body of Song sound; 'The Silence Between Us', the single of which should be appearing on this blog sometime soon, is more a return-to-form of the Sugar sound. I found this interesting summation of the single on the indie blog I Rock Cleveland:

"In his less than complimentary track review of Bob Mould's "The Silence Between Us" for Paper This Walls, Ron Hart wrote, "If this track came from any other artist, people would dismiss it as the hacky, watered-down Foo Fighters bite it really is. Quicker than you can say Candy Apple Grey. But because it is 'Bob Mould,' critics and fans seem to be hailing this twaddle as the Hüsker Düde’s comeback to his guitar-rock roots." Hart does have a valid point. If this wasn't Bob Mould, then "The Silence Between Us" wouldn't have had me digging through my mess of a cd rack, my secondary cd rack, and all the stacks of cds on the bedroom dresser and the coffee table in my living room looking for old Sugar cds I hadn't played in years. Instead, I would have tuned my dial to K-ROCK to hear more "alternative" hits from the Nineties and Today. Look, I'm not saying that "The Silence Between Us" is the second coming of "If I Can't Change Your Mind,"* but it's far from twaddle, and if anything, it serves as a reminder that Mould had quite a string of solid singles during his post Husker Du days."


(* guess what the b-side for 'The Silence Between Us" is? Ironic)

The other tracks on this mix, from Sugar and from Hüsker Dü, reflect that solid string. Candy Apple Gray is one of my very favourite Husker albums (almost better than New Day Rising?) and 'Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely' typifies the acerbic pop of that album (see note below); likewise, 'A Good Idea' from Copper Blue exemplifies the incredible grunge-y bite of Sugar's finest album. Like Micko himself says:

"...Now we're going right up to the nineties, when Mould formed the more rockin' Sugar, kind of the band I discovered him through. This is from Sugar's debut album released in '92, Copper Blue. In fact, I remember very well taping Copper Blue on one side of a cassette and on the other side I taped Nirvana's Nevermind and saying to a mate I gave it to I wasn't sure which was better. So there you go. Here's 'A Good Idea', taken from Copper Blue:"


'Could You Be The One?' is a late Hüsker Dü, from the Warehouse album which is crammed full of every type of song Bob Mould and Grant Hart could come up with. Similarly, 'Your Favourite Thing' is from Sugar's final album, FU:EL.

There is of course a whole range of other, solo, Bob Mould stuff preceding 2008's District Line. Body of Song is a very decent, if not to say quite good, electro-rock album - mostly sounding like late Sugar with a few extra twiddles. And then there's his self-titled debut, generally known as the 'hubcap' album due its cover.

Since I haven't done a Friday Video for a couple of weeks now - and to bring this a little closer to a full half hour of music! - here's the strangely Sesame Street-like video for 'Egøverride' from that album:





NOTE: 'Don't Want To Know If You Are Lonely', I just realised last night, is in fact written - and sung - by Grant Hart. Says right so in the liner notes for Candy Apple Grey, and of course you can tell by the way it sounds a bit like 'Standing By The Sea'. To be honest though, if I hadn't heard some of Hart's solo stuff, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between their voices that easily. Anyway, to make up for that, here's something further that is definitely Bob Mould - vocals and guitar - the video for Sugar's 'Gee Angel':

I also realised, Candy Apple Grey has the right spelling of 'grey' - what's up with that?




Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Radiators - Ghostown



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Happy Paddy's Day, again. I wasn't able to up this as well as Loveless yesterday, but I thought I might as well do #3(b), in the The Top 40 Irish Albums as decided by the Irish Times, today. It's one I'd have a hard time deciding between it, Loveless, and The Undertones. The Radiators, formerly the Radiators from Space, dropped the added part of their name a) because they were here to stay (they weren't - they broke up after this album) or b) because it made them sound silly. Either way, the Radiators are generally considered the first Irish punk band. 1977's TV Tube Heart was a smart, sassy if a little rough punk album of the Buzzkockian kind. 1978/9's Ghostown was, in retrospect and in more finely judged criticism, a masterpiece. Tony Clayton-Lea from the Irish Times describes it thus:

"Underappreciated, a lost classic, a missed opportunity and a shocking example of how a truly great collection of songs can become entangled in music industry trends - Ghostown is all of these things and more. Following their 1977 debut, TV Tube Heart, the Radiators From Space shortened their name, moved to London and started to write and rehearse the material that would become Ghostown.

Like most second albums, it reflected a perhaps more truthful approach to their environment, which is why the guitar-driven, anthemic attacks of TV Tube Heart were replaced with intentionally literate and highly melodic songs such as 'Looting in the Town', 'Million Dollar Hero' and 'Song of the Faithful Departed'.

The juxtaposition of James Joyce and Sean O'Casey with The Beatles and Marc Bolan went completely over the heads of the UK critics and audiences, who perhaps to the punk-manor born, scornfully rejected the change of creative direction. Added to this was a year-long delay in getting the album released, which acted as another nail in the band's coffin.

What happened next? Ghostown stiffed, leaving main songwriter Philip Chevron to his own devices. He subsequently joined The Pogues. The band recently reformed."


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Ghostown came twelve years before My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, and yet is in many ways every bit as creative. It is more of a post-punk than a punk album on account of its range of styles and sounds, though of course the lines and categories are more blurred then than at other times. The record has a strong pop sensibility to it as well, which belies its weightiness as some kind of literary and cultural statement. Ghostown is in fact many things, and all of them good.

It is an album which is, as befits the punk tradition, not overlong - 10 songs - but also broad and varied. It has its own sound, and yet incorporates a whole set of different influences; and it expresses itself not just in the tenacity, fierce- and gentleness of its music, but also in its lyrics. Like punk was meant to be, Ghostown was in no small way pop as art.

'Million Dollar Hero' starts things off with shimmering, new wave guitar and an undulating vocal line and echoing harmonies, and a seriously judicious saxophone:

"I'm a million-dollar hero

in a five-and-ten-cent store

....But if anyone asks you if I've passed along this way

it was just my outer image - just my outer image"

'Let's Talk About The Weather', despite its easygoing melody, is unconnected to R.E.M's Green ; and even despite its psychological, tortured lyrics:

"We knew the charges but never the crime

The charges haunt us like a nursery rhyme

win some, lose some

There must be some mistake

this emptiness is more than I can take"


'Johnny Jukebox' is the closest song to the original punk of The Radiators from Space, but revels in their own snarling version of doo-wop all the same:

"I'm Johnny Jukebox

survivor of the ghostown

dance for me"


And so on, the album crafts pop tunes with a variety of punk and pre-punk sounds, a rock and roll revival with high-minded sensibility. That clear 70s guitar sound slicing through every song, occasional swathes of piano or saxophone, gang vocals combine to create a wonderfully atmospheric sense of instrumentation without losing the verve of fast punk rock. More than anything else, Ghostown is a musically and lyrically smart punk record. Chevron proclaims in 'They're Looting in the Town', the song most like the eclectic beauty of the mid-period Clash records, that "the revolution in the air / is somewhat the worse for wear".

'Kitty Ricketts' brings in Tom Waits-like carnival rhythms, and references the 1969 James Plunkett novel Strumpet City , about the slums of Dublin in the early 20th century (it was made into a high quality TV drama by RTE the year after Ghostown was released) :

"She is handsome, she is pretty

She is the girl from Strumpet City

Oh please, can you tell me who is she?

Kitty Ricketts

You’re not there

But I can touch your hair

Kitty Ricketts

One, Two, Three

You’re a ghost, but I don’t care.

She’s a carnal joy

For nighttown boys

Whose five o'clock shadow begins at midnight"


But the peak of the album is the epic, balladic 'Song for the Faithful Departed' (sometimes just called 'Faithful Departed'). The lyrics by Philip Chevron reference the literary and religious history of Ireland, in a macabre and acerbic portrait of Irish society (anyone familiar with the work of Yeats might be able to pick out a few lines):

"This graveyard hides a million secrets

And the trees know more than they will tell

But the ghosts of the saints and scholars will haunt you

In heaven and in hell


.... Look across your shoulder and the school bell rings

Another day of made to measure history

I don't mind if your heroes all have wings

But your terrible beauty is torn"


Not just lyrically, but musically the song is outstanding. It in fact mentions the whiskey in the jar at the end, and Chevron's intonation has a touch of that other Phil - Linnott - but I would defy anyone not to rank the quality of this song above anything by Thin Lizzy. It's epic, and punk, a kind of quirky Irish Marquee Moon.





Here's the song being performed on Irish TV in 1980. There's some interesting points to be made: I'm not sure what show this is from, the video is posted by the band but it doesn't say - it's probably identifiable by the tacky stage set and the two second cut at the beginning of the wacko in the audience going "Oww" and shaking them in with his shoulders; someone in the comments brings up the interesting observation that the intro to the song sounds a bit like the opening bars to the Irish national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann (watch the RTE version); and the close-ups show Phil Chevron doing an excellent Johnny Rotten impression. But most of all, it's awesome musically, for the 70s at least. Heck, for any time:


Faithful Departed, Irish TV 1980


Ghostown lyrics from www.theradiators.tv (PDF)


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The Radiators - Ghostown (1978)

Chiswick Records CWK 3003 (reissued on Ace Records 2005)


Philip Chevron - The Captains and the Kings (1983)

Imposter IMP-001

This 7" solo single from Phil Chevron featured a song written by Brendan Behan (an excellent underground writer and playwright: see this Steady Diet of Books post) for his play 'The Hostage', and as a b-side, a solo version of 'Faithful Departed'. Mostly acoustic, with a string accompaniment, quite folky and playing up the Dub accent a bit more than on Ghostown (Kitty Ricketts' "Dubblin" and "citty loights" aside). I found this on power pop criminals and re-upped it to mediafire.


Monday, March 17, 2008

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless




Happy St. Patrick's Day


Interesting note: I saw a Dropkick Murphys 7" single printed on green vinyl, and I was thinking of buying it for the novelty - and irony - value and for a St. Patrick's Day post on this blog. I think thankfully, I didn't, and here's something much much better. And, mostly, more Irish!

I actually quite like Blackout, and the Dropkicks' version of 'Fields of Athenry' - not that I'm all that much a fan of the original- but seriously, green vinyl? Way to be Oirish, I guess...


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A few weeks ago our paper of record, The Irish Times, published in its entertainment section a list of the Top 40 Irish Albums of All Time. This was #1.


The full list should be available here, but I'll give you the top ten anyway. It's all explained in the article, but the list was made from the collected votes of just four of the Irish Times's music critics, and hence some albums are tied:


1. My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

2. U2 - Achtung Baby

3(a). A House - I Am The Greatest

3(b). The Radiators - Ghostown

5. Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

6. Microdisney - The Clock Comes Down The Stairs

7. Rollerskate Skinny - The Horsedrawn Wishes

8. The Pogues - Rum, Sodomy & The Lash

9. The Undertones - The Undertones

10. Whipping Boy - Heartworm


Watch out for #3(b) on this site sometime soon, an absolutely excellent album and a definite pleasure to see something so relatively obscure so high up on the list; go here (on Clocked-In Punched-Out) to read a bit about #7 and see a video - kind of a shoegaze-y band as well. And we're all punks here - right? - so I shouldn't need to say anything about #9. 'Teenage Kicks' right through the night - the best I've every had?


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My Bloody Valentine's Loveless is a landmark album, a veritable totem of noisy, beautiful post-punk and of that esoteric genre, 'shoegaze'. Most of what I have to say now has been said already in this earlier post, but it would be remiss of me not to attempt another description.

The first time I heard Loveless, not much more than a couple of years ago, still counts as one of my true musical revelations. The name My Bloody Valentine was somewhat familiar to me, as the title of some sort-of-cult early 90's Irish alternative band, associated with post-punk and heavy but standoffish rock. That kind of description (hazy in my memory now, as previous, incorrect assumptions tend to be) had to be thrown out upon the first listen.

Far from being really difficult, Loveless was from the start an entirely absorbing album. The wash of guitar noise was a fascinating and textured canvas for music that captivated and enchanted: melodies and rhythms that swirled about my head, ethereal vocals that plugged into my subconscious, and 'songs' that still made me tap my foot. Few things ever sounded so good.

It surprised me at first that some people preferred its predecessor, Isn't Anything (#24, incidentally), which has a more traditional song structure and at least at times a more straightforward sound. The previous post mentioned above was for My Bloody Valentine's Ep You Made Me Realise, and I guess I've come to see the attractions of most of their work, but Loveless is still the go-to album for My Bloody Valentine, and the touchstone work - albeit one that requires some reach - for shoegaze in general.

As for its Irishness, that might be for people other than me to decide. Certainly its core members are Irish - although Kevin Shields I think spent as much time growing up in New York as he did in Ireland - and their actual base in England only reflects the time-honoured tradition of Irish artists leaving their native land for better things, and having their works reclaimed for patriotic values. With regards to the list - and if one wanted to get political - Stiff Little Fingers (Inflammable Material, #19) are as British as, if not more than, My Bloody Valentine. Musically, I imbue the album mentally with an Irish air; the album closer, 'Soon', sounds reminiscent of traditional Irish music (céilís and whatnot) although in fact, it is inspired by the dance house music of the start of the 1990s. Bottom line is, it's Irish if you want it to be.



My Bloody Valentine - Loveless (1991)



For anyone who wants to do some reading over the spring/Easter break, here's a Florida music student's very interesting dissertation on the album and the culture surrounding it:

http://etd.lib.fsu.edu/theses/available/etd-04102006-103749/.


Kevin Shields is probably a maniac, but it's well worth watching these interview pieces between him and the no-less-of-an-idiosyncratic Ian Svenonius: VBS TV, Soft Focus UK (thanks to mr x. indeed for bringing these to my attention).


YouTube videos from Loveless:

'Only Shallow'

'To Here Knows When'

'Soon' (full version)


Lá Féile Pádraig!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Human Bell - Human Bell


The Wire?




I won't be able to see Season 5 of that show, on TV at least, until the summer; but in the meantime, here's something else seriously good out of Baltimore: Human Bell is a two piece instrumental guitar group compromised of David Heumann of Arboreteum and Nathan Bell of Lungfish. The album was Road Records' Album of the Month for February, and their description was enticing to say the least:

"human bell is a new collaboration between dave heuman from arbouretum and nathan bell from lungfish. the album was recorded by paul oldham and mixed by john mcentire. the album features seven very very beautiful guitar driven blues like instrumentals with little touches of meandering post rock thrown in for good measure. imagine if slint were more influenced by early blues music meets a bit of the explosive post rock of mogwai. heuman has the most beautiful laid back style of guitar picking perfectly suiting the almost dirty three like brushed drum style. fans of the works of dave pajo and his papa m project will simply adore this one. february 2008"


I think the "imagine if slint were more influenced by early blues music" part caught my attention the most. The comparisons to be made with this record aren't really endless, but they are numerous and most importantly, they are all pretty sharp (at least in my estimation). Spiderland-style Slint, The For Carnation, Chulahoma-era Black Keys, post-rock of the Mogwai variety and unsuprisingly, Lungfish...

Human Bell, the group's first full-length after the release of a CDR EP in 2006, may not (yet) be an absolute masterpiece, but it certainly skirts greatness. The way the album works is fascinating, switching between genres in each instrumental passage, covering the wide spread of sounds described above and avoiding slipping too much into repetition. That said, there is a continuity throughout the record, and a consistency that makes these duetting guitar players identifiable and recognizable. The description from Thrill Jockey Records helps (kind of) to make this combination clear:

"The Aramaic language had an expression – Ephphatha, to be opened, as a portal. That ability to be open, to listen completely and communicate purely is at the heart of Human Bell. David Heumann and Nathan Bell’s gorgeous guitar duets form instrumental canvas painted in the warm colored hues of folk and rock music, and simultaneously a blank canvas for the listeners themselves to paint. Their songs are delicately crafted with an immaculate clarity, expressiveness, and most of all, openness.

....David Heumann and Nathan Bell’s work together began as each of the Baltimore natives had been working individually on instrumental pieces for banjo and guitar. For both, the experience of collaborating on the creation of instrumental music is a liberating process. The open pastoral structures allow their natural musical tendencies to shine. Nathan Bell’s songwriting, as his work with Lungfish, tends to be linear, as moving along a path through a progression of passages, while Heumann’s, as with his work in Arbouretum, is more cyclical. The intersection of those two approaches and the mutual understanding that brings them together is the essence of Human Bell."


I'd hesitate in general to use the phrase 'dynamic interplay', but it is essentially what Human Bell is. (If it wasn't, they would be static separation - yeah!) Obviously Nathan Bell absorbed the hypnotically repetive bass sound from his stint in Lungfish - or he had it in the first place - while Dave Heumann, whose other work I haven't heard, clearly complements his guitar style.

However, if you look at the insert reproduced below, you can see that the instrumentation is not entirely kept to basics: Bell brings out a trumpet on the semi-eponymous 'Ephaphatha (Be Opened)' which sounds closer to Han Shan than it does to Abilene or the Boom, and which Pitchfork misguidedly calls 'ghastly'. All the way through, Human Bell experiments with a variety of grooves, and a variety of minimalist approaches to music. If the combination of richness and minimalism isn't a glaring paradox, then that's what it means to toll the human bell:




(album cover)




(Inset: click to see large)




The LP of Human Bell comes, very positively, with a free download code. If you want to hear the album, you can hear a selection of the songs on their Myspace (http://www.myspace.com/humanbell); or you can stream, individually, all the tracks (both of this album and of the EP) on the Thrill Jockey site (http://www.thrilljockey.com/catalog/index.html?id=102276).

All in all, heartily recommended.



Friday, March 14, 2008

Drive Like Jehu - Yank Crime (LP + 7")





"...the driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi - for he driveth furiously"

(2 Kings 9:20)


"Originally released in 1994 on Interscope, Yank Crime is without question the greatest post-hardcore album ever recorded, and also one of the great guitar albums. The 12 strings of Rick Froberg and John Reis' guitars flirt and taunt, melding into a chugging whirr of locomotion. Froberg's pained vocals ache and plead on epic standouts "Luau" and "Sinews," which culminate in tightly wound, extended jams that exhibit both astonishing guitar technique and strong senses of arrangement and melody. Many have copied Yank Crime, but none have matched it. "

(Yancey Strickler, The eMusic Dozen: Post-Hardcore)



Yank Crime was an album I first heard about the same time as I started getting into the Swing Kids, probably a little before. So I kind of heard it in a vacuum, and was totally amazed, while just recently I came back to it because of a new purchase. It's still amazing (and on coloured vinyl, even more - and pretentiously - so!)

Drive Like Jehu are the focus and the front for a lot of the San Diego-core bands, in that so much of their spazzy, frenetic, self-destructive sound comes from this band - and specifically, this album - and in that Drive Like Jehu aren't actually that obscure at all (compared to Swing Kids, or Mohinder, that is). You know when there's this band that you know from its connection to a narrow bunch of niche genre bands, and their CD turns up in the general rock/pop section at Tower? That's Drive Like Jehu.

Yank Crime is a loud, violent album that absolutely rocks, as well as combining enough mathy shit to get into your head at every listen. The first side of the LP, 'Here Come The Rome Plows', 'Do You Compute' and 'Luau', is possibly the single greatest piece of post-hardcore and/or punk music ever to be grouped together in the one place. 'Here Come the Rome Plows' as balls-out rockers, as energetic as almost anything on Gravity, and 'Do You Compute' as a perfect example of the invasive mathiness mentioned above.

The second side isn't quite as loud and violent, although it's still equally tense and aggressive at its high points. 'Super Unison' straddles a lot of Drive Like Jehu's sound, repetitive and ingrained heaviness in places, momentarily quiet and tender in others, and sometimes just both at once. In fact, towards the end it seems to launch off into another kind of song altogether, before being restrained back to its (ordinary) mathiness; while the follower, 'Golden Brown', is (just) another hypnotics shouter. 'Sinews', deservedly considered one of the album's standouts, builds up incrementally from humble beginnings without ever losing momentum or continuity, stepping deftly between heavy rhythm and noisy guitar effects.

The full CD version of Yank Crime can be a bit gruelling, which makes the vinyl so attractive, the LP closing on 'Sinews' and the last three songs collected on a separate 7" record (which plays at 33 rpm). 'Human Interest' picks up the energy and intensity right up again, riding the cusp between fierceness and dissolution in its pounding sound. 'New Intro' reintroduces the chiming guitars and mathy interplay of other songs, not least among them 'Sinews', before carrying the song off in a wash of feedback; while the flip side, 'New Math' lays down a closing slab of rhythmically destructive and unabashedly hardcore math-rock.

Simply put, Yank Crime is a loud and fast album which isn't afraid to go slow at times to make its point. Not just San Diego music scene c. 94-95, but a lot of music in the decade and further afterwards, is in debt to or echoes its sound. Anything loud, noisy and exciting, basically.



"...I heard both Jehu albums around the same time, must have been 1994 or 1995. And to my mind they had perfected rock music. Post-Jehu, whenever I heard a new band that was trying to play fast and/or loud, it felt limp. I just turned it off and put on Jehu. For about a decade—literally!—I never once felt the need to purchase albums by rock bands (particularly new ones). Perhaps it’s not coincidental that the most typical brand of indie rock during those ten years was the nascent genre of emo, which was ridiculously in debt to Jehu, among other bands (too, all those spazzcore bands, largely hailing from San Diego, who also owed much to Jehu). Lots of people credit Rites of Spring as being the original emo band, and I won’t argue against their influence; but Jehu had a significant impact as well, in the form of the octave chord.

Much like Slint inspiring a myriad sub-par post-rock acts to abandon upstrokes, Drive Like Jehu neutered the power chord. The crunch of the power chord felt almost amateur compared to the sharp-edged attack of the octave. The worst (and most prevalent) emo bands took as their template the inward-looking lyrics of Rites of Spring, the song structures of Orange County pop punk, and the octave chord of Drive Like Jehu.* You might see, then, why I felt this music paled in comparison to Yank Crime. These bands missed everything else."

(Pretty Goes with Pretty: Life Changing Albums: Drive Like Jehu's Yank Crime)


"...It'd be bullshit to claim that DLJ's dalliance in time signatures gave them any great intellectual edge over their relations; in fact, the aim with this record (and to a lesser extent, the duo's similarly awesome debut) was to see just how messy math could get. "Luau", a solid 9? minutes of shifting, epic muck in the middle of the album, is a strong contender for that (or any) crown. Somehow, though, it's still a sing-along, with Froberg and Thingy's Rob Crow exchanging weird, plaintive, and perfectly placed cries of "Aloha! Suit up!" Same goes for the sprawling "Do You Compute": Every shard of feedback, icy harmonic blast, and doomed-out power chord refers back to and revolves around Froberg's desperate repetition of the titular mantra.

So, could be it's the tunes. Opening an album with a song as bracingly great as "Here Come the Rome Plows" would be a shot in the foot for almost any other band, with its snakepit verses and a chorus that goes from balled-up fists to open arms and back again before you can take a breath. "Golden Brown" does the same in almost half the time. These more straightforward songs sting like snowballs packed with rock-hard chunks of melody, and in each case, Froberg's voice abrades the solid lines down to the bare minimum, and the band fills in the resulting space with pure venom. It's often easy to forget that DLJ were considered emo in their day; Froberg's howls of "Ready, ready to let you in!" on "Super Unison" seem like a sick parody of stylish vulnerability. Then the song mutates into a gorgeous, snare-drum rolling open sea, and everything you've ever liked (and still like) about this genre in its purest form comes flooding back."

(Brendan Reid, Pitchfork - February 14 2003)



YC: this isn't a vinyl rip, basically because I was too lazy to rip both an LP and 7", and also because I wasn't getting great quality on the recording - instead, it's the 9 tracks from the CD reissue rearranged and renumbered according to the vinyl format.

You can get the Swami reissue on eMusic here, and presumably fairly easily from Amazon, etc.: it's well worth getting, as it includes the Merge 7" ('Hand Over Fist'/'Bullet Train to Vegas') and an original version of 'Sinews'.



(click to see larger)






Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Editors - 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' + 'Push Your Head Towards The Air'




Another month, another version of 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' (the third so far). I probably wouldn't be listening to Editors if it wasn't for this song. I have their two albums, The Back Room and An End Has A Start, on CD now and they're pretty great (Back Room a little less so, perhaps, a bit too post-punk-retro in feel). Good, epic songs of which 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' is probably the best - so the chance to get another version of the single, on clear white vinyl, was an easy enough one to jump at.

It's limited edition, too. No. 3509 out of 10,000. Wow!

The cover is the same as the first release, but metallic. The record inside is in a silver card sleeve and, like I said, is transparent white vinyl.




'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' 7" Vinyl #2: SKX93

Kitchenware Records, 2007.


1. 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors'

2. 'The Picture'


The A-side recording is as far as I know exactly the same as the album or other single version. My first post on it didn't really describe it, and the second just looked at how it worked as a live track. I guess I can't really talk about much more than the flawless, crystalline, high-pitched guitar which makes this song. There's more to it though, the cadence of the lyrics and the journey of the rhythm from opening to the build-up and the catharsis, all against which the guitar line is just a delicate if beautiful counterstroke. To analyze the song any further defeats the purpose of enjoying it, and doesn't help explain why I like it so much in the first place.


The B-side for the first version of the single, 'Some Kind of Spark', is pretty good, but this track is just beautiful. It has choral singing. Choral singing!

In fact, 'Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors' has a bit of choral singing on it too, a sort of round-up-everyone-in-the-studio-type affair (wikipedia/Smokers_Outside_The_Hospital_Doors#Production). But the singing on 'The Picture' hits from the first couple of seconds into the song, a constant tone laid down in the background of the whole track. A little like a Gregorian chant I suppose, except not really. And above that are laid the soft strumming of an acoustic guitar, the gentle interjection of its abovementioned 'crystalline' companion, and the gentle rise and fall of voices.


"Rest your weary head, close your heavy eyes

This last drink's on me, your smile shines on me

You look back at the picture and realise things then were different

It's not who you know, it's what you know then"


Download vinyl rip


______________________________________





The fourth single from An End Has A Start, 'Push Your Head Towards the Air', was due to be released on the 3rd of March, limited to 500 copies in all formats. The vinyl release had the B-side of 'Spiders' recorded live at the BBC Electric Proms, which sounded really interesting (the Electric Proms is an update of the classical music Proms to involve various big UK bands backed with a full orchestra). I inquired after getting a copy (before the release date, obviously) from Road Records but according to their suppliers "it was deleted on the day of release" leaving them unable to get a copy for me. Wikipedia now sez:

" All 3 formats of the UK edition of the single were limited to 500 copies each, all of which sold out through internet pre-orders before the release date, leaving many fans disappointed.

A 2nd 7" released by PIAS has appeared on the internet under the release date of date March 21, however no additional information has been given."


In the meantime, you can enjoy the rather excellent video for 'Push Your Head Towards The Air'. The stark black and white photography, slow-motion action, and the hair... it's really beautiful:





I don't usually look at the homemade videos on YouTube, but this guy has actually done quite a good, soft-voiced acoustic version of the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLEaPU8D6Aw&NR=1

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Crownhate Ruin: Vol. 1-3


one




'A Primer', 7" 1994


I haven't been able to find downloads of this single, but you can listen to two of the three tracks on the Crownhate Myspace:

"The Crownhate Ruin was a band from Washington DC from 1994 until 1996. We were something, alright.

The songs on this site are from our first two singles. They were transferred from the vinyl with very little enhancement -- a little cleaning, a little remastering; yeah, they could be better. That said, here's hoping you enjoy hearing them again.

Somewhere along the way we likely insulted you at one of our shows. We still stand by that.

best,

Vin"


'Last Place in Triage' is a fast, quite punky song. Not quite what you would associate with the Crownhate Ruin, except in a very early inception I suppose. It has a good deal of complexity though, and some stop-start mathiness towards the end. 'Present for President' introduces the quiet, hynoptic groove which is more recognizably Crownhate Ruin-ish.


The picture above was the best I could find of the cover for 'A Primer', although as you can see it's fairly simple and could be approximately reproduced without too much difficulty. What is interesting is where I found it, on a Japanese website called valsehot.com (named after a Clifford Brown/Max Roach jazz tune?). Apparently some kind of distributor/tour promoter - if anyone can read Japanese, maybe you can have a look at their reviews page and see what it has to say about a whole bunch of obscure emo stuff, including - and relevant to the Hoover Genealogy Project - 'A Primer', Fine Day, Admiral and the Boom/Sorts!




two




'Elementary', 7" 1994


Download


Download w/ Karate split


The second song on this, 'Pioneers', was featured here on the Hoover mixtape. There, I said:

"This track, 'Pioneers, takes the heavy, rhythmic part of Lurid Traversal and stretches it out and I guess explores it even more deeply.... Although it's kind of a straightforward post-hardcore by numbers song, it actually reminds me of Current/Indian Summer style emo, all crashing dynamics and mad, distorted crunchiness... plus tender whispering, of course"

Definitely more Crownhate Ruin-ish again than the first 7", although like I say with a certain shimmering quiet/loud emo sensibilty. Then again, it was 1994. 'Lessons in Thread', the first track, does the same thing as 'Pioneers' in a simpler, more abbreviated fashion. In fact the intro, before it opens up into the characteristically jerky Crownhate guitarwork, is an alluring piece of splintery emopeggio and a humming bassline. But it's 'Pioneers' that I keep coming back to, and the one early Crownhate Ruin track I chose to put on the mix... the heavy parts towards the end absolutely slay in a way that only the songs of the best 90s emo bands can.

The second download is exactly the same with regards to the 'Elementary' tracks, but is just an earlier archive I uploaded with the two tracks of the Crownhate Ruin/Karate split appended. Karate is not a band I know much about, other than they went on to be a bit better known and generally popular amongst fans of 90s post-hardcore/emo stuff. So if there are any fans of Karate out there who don't have this, here you are!

The Crownhate track, 'Visit to Mars' is good, a little lo-fi perhaps and one of their more impatient songs; and the Karate track, 'Cherry Coke', is good too, a nice grungey groove which goes some interesting places. Hell, I actually quite like this - consider them honorary members of the genealogy...



three









'Intermediate', 7" 1995 (vinyl rip)


From myspace tracks, to random mp3s of unknown origin, here's the real deal: the actual 7" of 'Intermediate'. And I didn't even have to eBay it, thanks to Dischord Records - this, along with the Until the Eagle Grins LP, was one of the two items I ordered from them online as reported in this post. So although the artwork stays pretty minimalist over the three volumes, you can view it in increasingly detail comprehensive detail. Click on the lower three pictures to see them larger; and yes, the centre of the record does say "NOTE To facilitate page turns, performers are advised to cut their arms off". Why, I'm not sure.

'Intermediate' was released jointly by T.C. Ruin (#003) and Dischord (#104.5). It has a higher number than the LP (#98) - which was released in January, 1996 - but was released the year before (according to Southern). Opening it up first, I was struck by how DIY it was. No card sleeve, just a folded-over printed cover slipped into a clear plastic sleeve, with the record in its paper sleeve inside both. I had practically disassembled it before realising how to get at the record! Of course, that's speaking as someone unfazed by anything more complex than a jewel case up until a couple of months ago. But still, it added some authenticity to it.

As one might expect, the two songs on 'Intermediate' sound the closest to the Crownhate Ruin sound of Until the Eagle Grins. This is clear from the opening chords of 'Better Still if they don't Know', followed by what are essentially drum fills but still sound great. Rhythms rise and fall, swelling into each other, guitars swoop down and general, tightly orchestrated mayhem ensues until it's time to break for a quiet part. In some ways 'Better Still if they don't Know' is quite like 'Visit to Mars'; as impatient, but tighter musically.

The energetic b-side, 'Every Minute's Sucker' is in fact on the CD version of the full-length. So in that sense, it naturally embodies the sound of that album: lots of stop-start dynamics; the momentarily plaintive vocals of Fred Erskine, off-key harmonies; and the characteristic demented drum tattoo of Vin Novara, combined with the scuzzy sniping of Joseph McRedmond's guitar - all wrapped up into that peculiar vortex of energy that is the Crownhate Ruin.



Dischord Records: Crownhate Ruin

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Mclusky Singles - Pt. II

(Go here for the original post)


I


Two bands represent the best of Irish music for me at the moment - Fight Like Apes and Ham Sandwich - and I really like them both, but if I had to make the choice I'd have to go with Fight Like Apes because:


1) they are from Dublin and

2) they like Mclusky


Good news, then, that Fight Like Apes are coming back from their UK tour (before heading off to Seattle to record their first album) to do a short Irish circuit which will finish up with a gig in the Village with Future of the Left, on April 13th. Result!

In the meantime, head over to Clocked In - Punched Out for this post and cool video on Future of the Left (2/3rds of Mclusky).


II




Mclusky - There Ain't No Fool in Ferguson/1956 And All That

www.emusic.com/10799841


"A welcome return to Mclusky with a slice of deranged, inventive and skewered punk.

A stopgap release prior to their third album, said to be due out in September, this double a-side finds Mclusky in top form. Produced in Monnow Valley by Richard Jackson, its a slight progression from their usual jagged punk territory, but with all the best elements still in place.

Welded to a jagged razor riff, There Ain't No Fool In Ferguson is an unhinged, spitting rant clocking in at well under three minutes.

"If you can cope in this hopeless hepatitis piss-rag Molotov cocktail monobrow shithole, baby, then you can cope anywhere at all," snarls Andy Falkous like his independent American punk record collection depends on it. Whatever's going on in the collective head of Mclusky, it's based in a dark place indeed.

AA track 1956 And All That is slower, finding Andy Falkous screaming words about killing, with a kiss-off yelp of "Your son looks like Michael Jackson". Fantastic."


BBC Wales, Joe Goodden






Mclusky - Undress for Success

www.emusic.com/10909243


"We're sad to report that the recording of Mclusky's feverishly-awaited third album has been put on hold for a few months, thanks to a parting of ways with hard-hitting sticksman Mat Harding.

But Cardiff's premier band of sarcasm-heavy punk noiseniks have not let us down yet, and new single Undress For Success reaffirms that pledge with charmingly wonky style.

A cyclical, naggingly jaunty riff revolves over and over as frontman Andy Falkous barks out non-sequiters in a staccato voice that suggests a sergeant major on the brink of some very surreal madness: "Let's have Abraham for breakfast! Underexposed and dead wrong!"

It's a damn sight odder than the bracing rock roar of McLusky Do Dallas, but oddly addictive - so much so, that Radio 1's Colin Murray premiered by playing it three times in one show. A potential breakthrough disguised as a nervous breakdown, then: how typically Mclusky."


BBC Wales, Louis Pattison



III



I mentioned in relation to the previous 'No Covers' art post (itself a Mclusky reference) that I would post some original artwork of mine. The covers in that post were of course made from my own photographs, but not anything done by hand, exactly.

The piece above is a pen sketch I made of a photograph (the lazy artist's shortcut), of an iced-over stream in the Wicklow Mountains taken a few years ago. I like to think I was influenced by Japanese-style drawing - minimalist, suggestive; abstract(ed) yet communicating the 'essence of its subject. But my experience is that people don't know what I'm drawing in the first place (the top part is a lump of ice, and the lower a stream of water, by the way).

In any case, I decided to use the drawing as the basis for a back cover of the Mclusky singles. Each of them I bought legit from eMusic (hence the links) but that only provides a small image of the front cover and leaves the rest up to the imagination. One of the reasons why I chose this particular artwork was that it echoed slightly the very stylish Too Pure logo.

Below are the backs of each of the sleeves for the four Mclusky singles I've posted here: in order, 'To Hell With Good Intentions' and 'That Man Will Not Hang' from the last post; 'There Ain't No Fool in Ferguson' and 'Undress for Success' from this post. Let me know what you think; you can tell from the smudges, creases and odd marks that they are well listened to - and they even get that circular imprint from the disc inside, just like a real 7" cover!






***UNOFFICIAL ARTWORK***