reviews may 2000
Wire, Read & Burn (Pink Flag) CD
I wrote a song about Wire years ago. The band I was in at the time never recorded it, but I still remember the words. It went:
read an interview with Wire
It probably lasted ten or fifteen seconds and if it ever was recorded and released and was a success (like, yeah!) then I would be find myself swiftly settling out of court with Newman et al on the grounds of plagiarism, because it sounded suspiciously like a riff from I Am The Fly. But back to the matter in hand. Wires new one starts with a track called In The Art of Stopping. It is typically Wire in that it lasts exactly as long as the classic pop song (3 minutes, 30 seconds) suggesting the band have no monopoly on judging endings. This is surely intentional in a track that rides a single riff for its duration and makes no concession to verse/chorus structure or any other pop trapping. If any band has more layers of irony than Wire they must now be about 6 inches tall under the colossal weight.
Read and Burn contains 6 hard and fast tracks. It would be wrong to say its Wire returning to their roots, but post-punk is a handy tag to have nearby. I Dont Understand is a petulant, awkward spasm. Its followed by Comet, only needing a couple of bottles of Jack Daniels and a thump in the gob to turn into Ace of Spades. Germ Ship keeps up the relentless pace, PiL on a bender, and were into 1st Fast which rips by in a fug of distortion and careful enunciation. The Agfers of Kodack closes proceedings, it is a Hawkwind set compacted down into three intense minutes and narrated by a man with strongly-held opinions and a short temper. The last time I spoke to Colin Newman, he told me fast was the new slow. Who am I to disagree? www.pinkflag.com
Seelenluft, Manila (Klein) 12"
Michael Smith (Mike Smith - Micsmith, brilliant) is a 12-year-old rapper discovered by Seelenluft on the streets of Compton. The imagery in his unfussy, naturalistic flow doomed passengers on a plane falling out of the sky see him dancing and join in belies his age and Seelenlufts beep-bop production belie his lack of experience. Theres two superb remixes (Headman and Manitoba) but they cant match the understated brilliance of the thriller from Manila.
The Icicles, Pure Sugar EP (Drive In) CDS
I admire straight talking. If I was Julie Burchill Id attribute this to some kind of innate working class impatience with (middle class) flim-flam. As Im not Julie Burchill (and there are many other things for which Im also duly thankful) I wont. The reason I admire straight talking is that anything else is a waste of time. If youre being dumped or made redundant or shafted in any one of the myriad ways life offers, some wanker dressing it up as "giving each other some personal space" or "downsizing and reskilling" or whatever is an insult and no less hurtful. So its always a treat to encounter a record like The Icicles Pure Sugar EP. From the 60s stylings on the sleeve which pictures a close up of a cup of sugar lumps to the title, the name, the ridiculously cheesily cheerful band photo and the song titles (Lemonade & Somersaults, New Haircolor) you know exactly what to expect. There are no secrets, no nasty surprises, no ambushes, and you wont put the thing on at the wrong time and hate it unnecessarily. So I wait for a sunny day, I wait til things are going OK at work, I wait til Im feeling pretty good, I wait til Im in the mood for unadulterated good vibes. And then The Icicles and their bubblegum girl-pop where everythings great and always will be is perfect. www.theicicles.com email@example.com PO Box 888211, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49588, USA
Ive projected a façade onto Moloch. It's three parts Mark E. Smith, one part drunk, one part wonky musician. OK, five parts Mark E Smith. I like to think of him hunkered down over a straining 4-track, gurning his way through another bendily brilliant blast of gristle and then immediately sticking it in the post without mixing. Suburban Orbit, the lead track here, adds some Joy Division overtones but otherwise sticks to the winning formula. PO Box 1229, Springfield, TN 37172, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
The Volts, Looking For A Way Out (Sweet) CDS
Many years ago, when I used to live in Nottingham, I bought a 3-way split local band flexi disc. The only band I can remember were called The Deskimoes (great name) and the music was unrepentant indie pop and I never played it after that first time because it sounded as if the groove had been scribed by hand using a school compass during a boring Maths lesson. I mention all this not because my past is more interesting than my present (it probably is, but my memory isnt good enough to be sure) but because I can imagine The Volts flogging their new CD at gigs and the likes of my younger self altruistically buying a copy and playing it a couple of times and then ten years down the line not being able to recall a great deal about it except that Expose Your Cheapness is a nice little tune and had me jigging like my younger self used to at Wedding Present gigs when Grapper was still in the band. Of the other tracks, She Loved The Rain is yer old school indie/jangle; Its All OK is yer old school Buffalo Tom. 63 Colman Avenue, South Shields, NE34 9AG www.sweetrecords.co.uk thevolts.co.uk
The State of Samuel, The Slick-Johnson Expedition Tape
The State of Samuels grasp of pop musics primary elements (the hook, the chorus, the vibe) and their refusal to waste any of them, or put anything substandard between them explains why ten tracks are over in as many minutes. The State of Samuels grasp of 4-track recording (the vibe, imagination, the vibe) explains why, even though these ten cuts might not be the slickest youve ever heard, theyre ten youll want to hear again and again. Your appreciation of Elephant Sixs finest pop moments (melody, the vibe) explains why youll shortly be emailing this address: email@example.com
Gerling, Dust Me Selecta 12" (white)
Starts off with the RSPCA-unfriendly sound of somebody riding a bike down a steep hill. Nothing cruel about that you might think, but this bastards got a gerbil strapped to the front wheel. As the little furry fella drops off, a pumping 4-4 and fuzz-fuzz drops in and a soulful vocal is twisted around the AM dial. This isnt just House, its Mansion. Or Palace.
DJ Komikon/Y Crwydryn, Hurt Tape
I always thought S4Cs version of Countdown would be even less of an event than the real thing. Consonant please, Gladys. Consonant please, Gladys. Consonant please, Gladys. Vow.. no, consonant please, Gladys.. DJ Komikon and Y Crwydryn, while probably agreeing that Richard Whitely is a fanny, would happily shove this causal jingoism back down my throat with a meaty helping of off-beat minimal clanking, disorientating techno chatter and drone. Why is there so much astonishing experimental music coming out of Wales at the moment? Maybe its because theyre working hard at 4.15 every weekday afternoon. firstname.lastname@example.org PO Box 88, Mold, CH7 4ZQ
Diffrent Stripes, A Tribute to the White Stripes (Guided Missile) CDS
Following up the Diffrent Strokes masterpiece, Guided Missile have again come up trumps. Id never noticed how much Hotel Yorba sounded like My Old Mans A Dustman played by a groovy East End brass band. But it does here. Meanwhile, Fell In Love With A Girl is remade by Harold Faltermeyer, all superficial glitz and synthesizer brittleness. Hard to say itll be a classic in 20 years time, but itll do very nicely for today. www.guidedmissile.co.uk
Stars of Aviation, Carol CDR
Stars of Aviation Are Singing About The Summer, But Is It Going To Be Sunny, Carol? is inspired by Look East, the local BBC news programme in this neck of the woods. At least, the full title is, the rest is inspired by a curiously British take on Grandaddy's desert songs. It is gorgeous. www.starsofaviation.co.uk
Bouvier, Three Songs CDR
By any other name it would smell as sweet. But unfortunately its name is folk rock, and most people can't stand the stench. Bouvier's folk rock is a zig-zag journey, lurching majestically between lovely and hateful with a skilful ear for the juxtaposition of a screamed "how can you treat me like a pig in a blanket?" and a pretty melody. You haven't heard anything like this for a while. Don't miss out now. www.geocities.com/bouviertheband
Ckid, Crashkid Went There (Becalmed) 12"
Its hard to believe Crashkid went anywhere. If the choice was between making an effort to move and lying around listening to this beautiful drowsylectro, I know what Id do. Listen to it at 33 for even less reason to stir your stumps. www.becalmedrecords.com email@example.com 268 Walthall Street, Crewe CW2 7LE
Cursor Miner, Remote Control EP (Lo) 12"
Digital crunch is whats being excavated here. Tons of it. It trundles along the conveyor belt, along, along, around, up, up, up, up to the apex where it drops off and into a huge yellow machine. Operating the controls, the Cursor Miner, slams him right arm down, shouts into the microphone to his left and churns out a 4-minute gem of disrupted pop magic. You can barely hear his singing over the crashing background racket, you can barely hear the twisted beat over the corrupted bistream noise, you can barely understand why this itchy, tricksy tune is doing so much to your pelvis. Ah yes, you are being operated by remote control. www.cursorminer.com
"Helo, I am from a band called Scramble. Enclosed is a demo CD from us. Hats off to you. Andy. Of Scramble." That's all it said and now Im smiling beatifically at my reflection in the window and wondering how a pulse, a hum, a skitter and a tiny melody can leave me this blissed-out. 96 Dorset Street, Bolton, Lancashire, BL2 1HR
The Electroluvs, Nu Nitemare EP (Xstatic) CDS
Electroluvs? Electropop. On Amstrad and especially Back on the Small Screen, its the Human League model. That is, dissociated cool, robomelodies and ticking beats. And catchy as hell. www.geocities.com/xstaticrecords firstname.lastname@example.org
Tin.RP, Starving Hunger v2.6b (Burning Emptiness) CD
Ive been listening to Starving Hunger v2.6b on and off for a few weeks now. I didnt pay quite as much attention to the first version. In fact, after a single listen I turned the first version into a shiny silver cup mat. But thats one of the beauties of CDR technology if the album doesnt turn out the way you (or I) want, you can just stop making it, and start remaking it. Which is what has happened here. Version 1.0 was hard to listen to. Painful in fact. Harsh and abrasive, punishingly intense and almost entirely without respite from an onslaught of lashing noise. That was part of the intention, its a protest (based on Knut Hamsuns Hunger, the story of a would-be writer using the visions obtained through starvation for his art) about (over) consumption in the western world. Version 2.6b is more accessible. Its still bleak and somewhat desolate, but there are beats and pulses to lure you in, pauses in the attack and beauty in the scapes emptied of so much full-on noise. The message is no less important second time around, but the medium is no longer the message. Instead, the track titles hint (FridgeRhythm, Starving) and the accompanying floppy disk contains notes and information about the project. Its still not for everybody (wait for v13.5) but if you like to think about what youre listening to, and why, then you should send something nice to Del Nista, Chemin de Saint Marc, Mauran, 13130 Berre LEtang, France. www.burningemptiness.fr.st
Clean, Room 16 (Sugarshack) CDS
Clean are Swiss. They moved to Bristol because they wanted to see "what the town of Portishead was like." (Its got an outdoor swimming pool and a concrete sea front, if I remember right. Weston Super-Mare is much nicer but of course there was never a trip hop band called Weston Super-Mare.) Room 16 is their debut and, as you mightve guessed, it trips and hops. The pick is Unics. Sung in their native Romansch language which sounds like a mixture of French and German running backwards, its stripped back to a beat and a tinny guitar line with a sprinkling of scratch. www.sugarshackrecords.co.uk email@example.com
Monster Movie, Last Night Something Happened (Clairecords) CD
Talking of Weston Super-Mare (you werent, but I like to) if it didnt say on the sleeve theres no way youd guess that Monster Movie recorded their album there. Just like Swervedrivers greatest records used to, Last Night Something Happened reeks of America. Not the Americana of the alt-country crowd, but the America that romances we foreigners in arty road-trip films. The America thats long interstate highways at night in the rain, the America thats long stretches of open desert, the America thats strip malls in the middle of nowhere and the America thats long bars in run-down diners serving truckers, fuckers and down-on-their-luckers. This America is the backdrop for Monster Movies cyclical grooves, their drawn out guitar drawls and their easy, lazy, cruise control beats. But this is no coffee table kraut-u-like, theres good songs in here, and the (ex-) Slowdive dramy class of Christian Savill. 53 Essex St, Reading RG2 0EH Themoog_2000@yahoo.co.uk www.clairecords.com
MJB, Feed CD
Under another name, Michael J Bowman has released an album called Wanker. Heres a man with a sense of humour. Or some unresolved internal issues. Hes certainly got some unresolved musical issues. Feed is a glorious, clamorous, ingenious, incongruous mess of 4-tracked and sequenced spoken word ("I cant believe George Bush is President.. its like Im taking a trip back to when we had President Bush. And how much did that suck?"), grot-shop beats, home-made guitar and outer-space samples. Its like a woozy band on slow-mo pogo sticks. Or something. $5US or send something worth trading for. www.semperlofi.com 42 Kalina Drive, Rhinebeck, NY 12572, USA
Alpine Low Tape
It's a case of less is more. Even though this is a first demo, there's no excuse for putting too much into songs that deserve to be so much less. Think Savoy Grand just before they perfected the firstname.lastname@example.org 67 Chalvington Rd, Chandlers Ford, SO53 3EF
Some of these reviews appeared in various forms in Careless Talk Costs Lives.
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