reviews december 2005

Signal Generator, Output EP (Occasional) CDS
Two years in the making, according to the press release. Two years that could've been better spent deciding to reverse the order of this 4-pack. For a start, don't start with Memory Helmet and its dull and dated synthorama. Don't follow with the superior but third-best wobbleboard and tickle placid ambience of Cerebral Sit and definitely push the deserted beach bathed in winter dawn glow of Legno Lungo nearer the top. And then only a sucker would place the pick of the pile so perversely: Radix Lecti drops a straightish break at a medium fast pace, embellishes with the sound of a robot cat wanting to be let out and tops with bass last heard as Fast Eddie disappeared down the plughole with the rest of Hip House.

Aidy, Aidy, CDS
If good things really do come to those who wait I must be in line for something pretty special one day soon. I don't like to talk about it, but in these enlightened times perhaps it's not such a big deal. I'll just whisper it: I've got a wait problem. I always think that if I hang on a bit longer I'll get the perfect one. A saucepan or a pair of trousers or a way to fix the back gate or an MP3 player or which Indian restaurant to go into in a strange town, I am guaranteed to prevaricate. I just know that as soon as I decide, and put down hard cash, I'll find something better. And I'm mean.

Aidy waited too. Waited for his bands to do something. They didn't. So he went his own way. Waiting is the one of these three that really hits the spot. A fuzz lick and a murky stomp of a beat and his words buried below. Simple. No need to wait:

Sleeping Dogs Lie, Head First Down The Stairs (Shitvision) CD
Bounces about like a frog yo-yo but that's the charm. Here's three in a row from the beginning: Try Not To Go Head First Down The Stairs attended one or two Nevermind 101 classes, but clearly bunked off when memorable choruses were covered. Not a negative in our book. Mike Fixed My Car follows hot on its heels. A quirky jerky narration about, yes, a chap called Mike fixing a car with bonus points for unexpectedly shoehorning the beginnings of a great big pop chorus into it. Ray Liotta is all latino flash on a budget with a lovely brass solo.

Jean Gateau, Channel 333 (Studio 45) CD3
Another in the John Cake series. John is now dead and locked in some kind of hell with a demon who waits til he's asleep "crawls up John's butt and torments him from the inside. John has to wake up and chant a mantra until the demon is expelled from his body." Jean Gateau channelled the transmission from the other side. The absurdist back story and the DIY fold-out cruciform packaging only add to the edginess of the repetition played through twisting distortion and processing. As usual, compelling and puzzling and wondering if he's taking the piss in about equal measure.

Staff, If It Ain't Staff It Ain't Worth A Fuck (Homesleep) CD
Hey Sister is worth a fuck Two Fucks, in fact. Geoff and Tim. In the nicest possible way, Geoff and Tim are two Fucks. Members of Fuck, that is. The band. They're assisted here by members of Quickspace, the Grifters and Yuppie Flu - not Fucks, perhaps just Gropes. Hey Sister is where J Mascis joined Buzzcocks. Even in your imagination that's got to be worth a couple of fucks. Hell, even the idea of imagining it is worth a quick wank. So the self-assured title isn't as fucked-up as it might look and when they follow Hey Sister with another nine slackerfuzzcuts that mostly duck under the 3-minute mark you're beginning to see their point. Dating Myself is the story of a wanker with either a large member or a long neck. It's followed by Metal where an early Sub Pop vibe is straightened out by a metronomic grind and smothers the simple lyric "I've been laughing at you. Do you really want it?" Metal? Yes. We Do Weddings rounds the set off sounding like The Monkees on a slow day. Did I say worth two fucks? Make that three. No, four.

The Philmankind, Ask (Le Parc) CD
Kinks, Beatles, Floyd, Stones. The mid-late 60s in a tin, as seen from Italy, forty years later. Not essential but I like it.

The Great Depression, Prefix EP (Fire) CDS
Not manic, this depression, although the slowly-undulating acoustic guitar instrumental nature of the best part of tracks like (The Real) Danger At Make Out Pass makes the brief bipolar switch to frenzy and volume all the sweeter. Like smoke swirling up out of a wood fire, lazily circling above, the same but different whenever you look away and back, and then disturbed and destroyed by a gust of wind. A Blasé Melody adds strings to the repetitive rotation and dives deeper into fuzz on the breaks. Thinking of Galaxie 500 and Savoy Grand.

Filip, Sad Autumn Roses CDR
Nice to see Filip back after his Bukowski album earlier this year. Sad Autumn Roses is Sunday night music. Quiet music. Out at a gig. A poorly-attended gig. A gig where you sit at tables and there's no stage and the band just pull up chairs and stare at each other second-guessing where they're going next. Where the double-bass and something wooden and percussive can just take over half-way through and send the music off somewhere else. Somewhere Tom Waits would like.

The Nightingales, In The Good Old Country Way (Caroline True) CD
The Nightingales passed me by. I can't think why. I was listening to Peel when he was saying things like "their performances will serve to confirm their excellence when we are far enough distanced from the 1980s to look at the period rationally, and other, infinitely better known, bands stand revealed as charlatans." I knew others on the Vindaloo roster - Fuzzbox, Ted Chippington - and I was buying records by bands it's now clear had heard a couple of Nightingales records - step forward Eat, one of my first loves. Oh yes, and I lived in Birmingham where they were based.

Blind spot like me, or just too young, or maybe too blinkered at the time, or a fan first time round - 1986 - doesn't matter, you won't want to miss this reissue. For the old-timers, the thing has been remastered. ("The album sounded like it had been recorded in a gigantic tin shack without a bass player" - Peter Byrchmore, guitars.) It sounds thick now. Dense. Intense. That's a good thing. For the too young, do a web search on Robert Lloyd. Read what people you respect say about how much they respect him. For the too blinkered at the time, probably either you've reached that point in your life where you've stopped buying new records or you're reached that point in your life where you're so jaded you can't like anything at all. Either way, a reissue fits the bill. New and old. Known and unknown. Perfect. And for the blind spotters, there's just no excuse whatsoever - I'm telling you not to miss out second time round.

In The Good Old Country Way was the third Nightingales album. Ongoing personnel changes in the band that had itself been a kind of Frankenstein conjunction of previous members of The Prefects changed its direction by adding a fiddle and a C&W edge to an inventive and varied punky rattle. Think weirdo Dexys, Pete Astor, Eat, Gag, C86, Cherry Red, PiL and Morrisey without the irritant factor. Lloyd is the backbone and it's his arch lyrics and delivery that drive the thing along. The Headache Collector and Down in the Dumps both kick a swampy country beat under Lloyd's deadpan dead-straightness. Both could've fallen straight off Sell Me a God although that wasn't released for three years and In The Good Old Country Way isn't buried under a ton of smack. Leave It Out dubs down while the fiddle turns gypsy and something that feels like a half-hour trip turns out to be over in under four minutes. I Spit in Your Gravy drones and drones and Lloyd intones while the violin swirls and moans. It sounds like the Loft playing inside a bagpipe. No Can Do is the closer, a knees-up, hoe-down, pogo-along spluttered and sneered out like there's no coming back after this. A 10-song set. No encores. Go home.

Except of course this is a reissue so there's another 9 tracks culled from singles and gigs. Pick is the single What a Carry On from 1985. The band thought this could be a hit single at the time. Not now. "It is a really cynical lyric with an anti-melody sung over some weird shit" - Lloyd. Can't argue with that. Just buy this. Then look for the first two records out again on Cherry Red.


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