Friday, 30 October 2009

25-26 Magik Therapy 369

Improvisers who play with themselves run the risk of disappearing up their own arses. Infinite Light was infinitely better improvising with a couple of other musicians at a Rowf Rowf Rowf night than he is alone. Barry plays guitar and yelps. It's a hell of a lot less abrasive than his old band Stuckometer but has similar lack of mass appeal, which is a good thing. He turns sideways from the sparse audience most of the time, and makes noodly runs of a more melodic and spacious bent than his former quartet who operated sporadically in his absence. His singing is cosmically comical, like a castrato choirboy sobbing wordless disgust at the butchery perpetrated upon his gonads.

There are no words in A Wake, just two lovers in a guitar fuck. They walk off stage early and turn their backs on the still sparse audience, presumably to check everything is sounding alright. Nick and Fliss run Golden Lab Recordings, perhaps the longest running underground gig promoters in Manchester? Now they're burning up time with feedback and fret worry. They start out noisy but it gels latterly when Fliss hits repetition and Nick starts blasting out a scorching Neil Young style solo. But who died this time?

A few more people have turned up during their set, including a friend who tells me he only heard the gig was happening when he looked at the Drag City website to check Six Organs of Admittance tour dates. I knew about it because Nita who does PR for Magik Markers sends me gig list emails. Perhaps there would have been a few more bodies in The Mill if promoters Lamb and Wolf had made a few flyers and posters and bothered to run an email list as opposed to just relying on Rupert Murdoch to give them free advertising? The first time Magik Markers played in Manchester, at a house in Levenshulme, there were so many people crammed in it seemed like the floor would collapse. I think only half a dozen people who attended that gig also turned up at this one. This time I could drag an armchair to the middle of the Mill and get an unobstructed view.

The Magik trio start out with a long dirgey song that I've never heard before. Their music lurks in the shadow of Sonic Youth, who love them. Elisa sings off key, but not as annoyingly as Kim Gordon sometimes does; a bit cutesy and a bit whiny, but not excessively so. She plays some satisfyingly scarifying guitar scrunch, throwing skinny shapes. I didn't recognise much of the music, so I guess they've already left their recent "Balf Quarry" album behind in favour of new noise. They're too cool to encore, like a lot of other smaller bands who don't seem to play for long enough after travelling half way around the world. I know if I went to another continent I'd want to play at least an hour of music. Why not just play all day?

The next day I went to see Therapy? at Club Academy. Ticket price was twice that of Magik Markers, but set was about twice as long and they were a hell of a lot more fun. This was the first time I'd seen them since their "Troublegum" album tours, so it was a nice surprise that they played a lot of old favourites. Opening with "Punishment Kiss" and "Meat Abstract" from their first and best record "Babyteeth" was a fine blast of sonic freedom. Andy Cairns and Michael McKeegan still bounce about with the energy of screamagers, and the songs from the new album "Crooked Timber" held up well against the likes of "Fantasy Bag," "Nausea," "Turn," "Opal Mantra" and "Innocent X." After their merry metal cover of Joy Division's "Isolation" I got in a heckle when Michael asked how everyone was feeling. It brought a smile to his face when I shouted, "I feel it closing in!" (a lyric to "Digital" by Joy Division, understand?). Now that they'd made us happy, Therapy? were themselves happy to play an encore and I wasn't too surprised to hear "Potato Junkie" again, with everyone shouting "James Joyce is fuckin' my sister!" like the nineties revival happened yesterday. Inevitably "Teethgrinder" came out to play, and I was wearing the Teethgrinder T-shirt Andy gave me years ago. A fan told me these shirts go for quite a bit on ebay, so hats off to the insane! Ticket number 369 in the raffle won nothing but a good night out.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Killing Joke Ignite Rebellion!

Blackpool is only an hour away by train, and I've been all the way to Berlin to see Killing Joke, so you can bet your primitive blood I'd be at the last day of the Rebellion punk rock festival. Credit to the organisers, it seemed the most well organised rock festival I've ever been to. There were six stages in five rooms at Wintergardens, which synchronously is the best song from Killing Joke's 1986 album "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns." They didn't play that song but to the best of my recollection they did play sixteen better ones:

Requiem, Wardance, Change, Primitive, Turn to Red, Madness (deadicated to our beloved hyper-hypocrite Mr Blair the peaceful warmonger), Love Like Blood, Eighties, Unspeakable, Fresh Fever From the Skies, The Wait, pSSyche, Pandemonium and then an unrehearsed encore...

It was one of the shortest sets I've seen Killing Joke play, but their selection of songs was brilliant, compact and immensely intense. This is one of those rare bands where my rational mind switches off and the whole event becomes pure experience. That happened when they kicked into Change. Wire can also get me there, but I suspect they'd be wary of playing Rebellion, maybe dismissive of a retro element? I was applauding by clapping out the drum part of The Fall of Because and what did they start the encore with? The Fall of Because! Tension & Complications ended the long day.

The next morning the sky turned grey over Blackpool. The backfiring Empire took its heaviest casualty toll since June in the illegal Iraqi oil war and a Taliban leader killed by remote control rose from the dead just like the baby Jesus. The other Rebellion bands I heard couldn't help but seem like supports. UK Decay had a great guitar sound, and would actually make a good opener for Killing Joke should they deign to grace us with a proper UK tour like back in the Raven days (RIP). I could have done without the singer's overblown bombast, but he seemed like a good bloke. The Dickies played the same stage before the Joke and as a warm up were a bit of mindless fun, until they threw in a surprise cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World." I could just imagine Jaz Coleman taking issue with the concept of our world being free, but instead he chose to rant about UFO conspiracies before new song Fresh Fever, triggering some get-on-with-it glares off Geordie. "I have it on good authority," he announced before Wardance, "That Israel will bomb Tehran before Christmas, so lets celebrate!" The Stupids were slammin' fun, the King Blues engaged in energetic anti-BNP folk rock, Aggrolites played laid back reggae grooves, and Chron Gen sounded way less hardcore than I remembered. It was nice to meet up with some old friends and have a chat to a backdrop of the Casual Terrorist playing an acoustic "Banned from the Roxy." No one bothered to tell him that the Roxy closed down years ago, before talibash beat combo O'Summer Bin Liner and the Headless Group Four Skins could drop some hits.

Best songs heard loud over PA between bands:
Ramones - Teenage Lobotomy
Buzzcocks - Moving Away From The Pulsebeat
The Ruts - Jah War

The chilli, rice and chips was way nicer than I expected it to be! Why the hell can't they get just one edible vegan gluten free meal on the menu at All Tomorrow's Parties?

First Law of Joke gigs:
Always stand on the Geordie side to get the full on guitar blast!

Funny Money

Suggested soundtrack to read this to:
"Money is Not Our God"
"Age of Greed"
"Dark Forces" by KILLING JOKE
"Silk Skin Paws" by WIRE
"Party 'til the World Obeys" by MEAT PUPPETS

MONEY does not exist. It is just convenient to pretend it does living in Europe as human beings approach a greater evolutionary leap than the invention of the wheel. However money can buy food and fun if you have any, unlike the boring British economy which is running on empty at the point of collapse. I thought I might as well make the Euro work for me last year. It was obvious the pound was going to fall relative to the Euro, so I changed a lot of my British money to the European version. I was right and made about twenty pence on every pound I swapped, which is a hell of a lot better than the pathetic interest rates the bank misers are paying to the savers who maintain these corrupt corporations. By removing money from the British banks it was also a tiny little protest against the illegal Middle East wars started by that moral hypocrite Tory Bliar, who should really be on trial for war crimes and not eligible to run for president of Europe.

TESCO are like a cancer on the face of the Earth, epitomising the all consuming problem of capitalism; expansion at any cost until the point of collapse. Their link cash machines currently donate an unspecified amount of money to a muscular dystrophy charity, so each time you withdraw cash its a good idea to make several withdrawals of ten pounds so the charity gets more from the wheat infested supermarket bulldozers. Reason to hate Tesco: the way they get away with building more and more boring standardised shops and pushing smaller more interesting food sellers out of the areas they've served well for longer, despite massive opposition from local people.

Another funny thing to do with a credit card is go to some big supermarket and buy a single piece of fruit or vegetable that costs less than the 17p they have to pay to Visa every time a customer uses a card. If everyone who hates the business practises of Asda, Tesco and Sainsburys did this it would be much funnier. Supermarkets pass money to unnecessary credit card middlemen who get more of it than the farmers who grow the vegetables.

VISA are parasites worse than politicians. Whilst the inept banks have caused massive problems by playing markets like casinos, and the government pours money into them so that they can keep on paying themselves obscene wages of death, they have slashed interest rates for savers to nothing but not reduced the interest on credit cards. They are also a minor annoyance in shops as credit cards nearly always take longer then cash transactions. Since the tired joke of capitalism is probably going to implode in the next few years, everyone might as well borrow as much as possible. After all that's how the Scotsman Alistair Eyebrows has been running the British economy. Might as well go out in debt when we revert to a primitive society or a cyber utopia free of the vile cancer of monetary CONtrol.

How much longer?

Rocktober Records

In approximate order of number of plays / preference, here are the new releases I've been listening to in October and recommend as worthwhile:

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medecine - The Audacity of Hype
Mission of Burma - The Sound The Speed The Light
Big Sexy Noise - Big Sexy Noise
Tortoise and Colin Newman - Radio 3 Late Junction Session
Dalek - Gutter Tactics
Therapy? - Crooked Timber
Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
Alice Donut - Ten Glorious Animals
Charles Hayward - About
Githead - Landing
TV Smith - Live in Germany
Daniel Johnston - Is and Always Was
Lisa Germano - Magic Neighbor
OOIOO - Armonica Hewa
Lightning Bolt - Earthly Delights
Akimbo - Jersey Shores
Vowels - The Pattern Prism
Chuck Prophet - Let Freedom Ring
Mark Eitzel - Klamath
Ben Frost - By the Throat

Two Reissues and Two Oldies:

Magazine - Play + (adds two songs to original album and a superior Manchester gig with the late John McGeoch on guitar)

Subhumans - Death Was Too Kind (Canadian Subhumans, not Dick's merry Melksham men)

Giant Sand - Goods and Services (50p in Sierra Leone landmine victim aid charity shop - not much consolation after your arms and legs have been blown off. We should change the law so that the immoral British corporate CEOs who make parts for these mines are obliged to personally test them before export and show it live on reality TV)

The Book of Life - Hal Hartley film soundtrack with two songs each by PJ Harvey and Yo La Tengo, and most of the rest is alright. So that's a quid to feed bureaucracy that might seep into the wounds of landmine cripples, victims of greedy capitalist scum.

Eleventh Commandment: Do unto CEOs of landmine manufacturers as they have done to countless foreign farmers.

Wire en Espagna

Joy Madrid Setlist (October the Eighth)

Our Time
Mr Marx's Table
Being Sucked in Again
Perspex Icon
Mekon Headman
Advantage in Height
The Agfers of Kodack
Silk Skin Paws
All Fours
One of Us
Boiling Boy
The Fifteenth
106 Beats That I Don't Understand

Here they are again: He Knows Pink Flag

And again! Lowdown Underwater Experiences

There was no time for the second encore in El Puerto de Santa Maria (The Ninth), but they segued He Knows skyward into a spectacular Pink Flag with Venus and Orion overhead. Lowdown was not there in Apolo, Barcelona (The Seventh).

The players:
Colin Newman: singing, "moronic" guitar, silly dances, loops
Graham Lewis: bass, metaphor, emotion, flag sirens
Robert Grey: heartbeat, will live
Margaret Fiedler: fast guitar

*Dislocated Memories of Three Wirecidents*

1. Graham Lewis' bass strap breaking during the first song in Barcelona as he stood up to the mic to sing. He battled on to the end of "Our Time" and then called for gaffer tape. It was described by Colin: "This is what we in Wire call a 'strapcident.' I can't believe I just said that!" As Lewis repaired his instrument Colin informed the Catalonian audience in English that they were witnessing a very private moment. "This is proof that god does not exist!"

2. A short conversation with Graham Lewis before the Barcelona performance, in which he informed me that this was the third time they'd played in the city and that Brian Eno had turned up to see them last time. He also opined that the sound upstairs in Apolo was not very good. I had no problem with Apolo sound, but the other two gigs sounded better.

3. The way "Advantage in Height" always gets the young Europeans moving and grooving and looking a hell of a lot nicer than the ubiquitous overweight middle aged men who come to Wire gigs in Uncool Britannia.

4. Before encore in Barcelona, Graham said, "Life is a STRANGE THING, TWENTY YEARS AGO I almost came to live in this city." I was standing nearby and informed him that he'd just used Buzzcocks and Magazine song titles in the same sentence. He replied, "I'll tell Howard when I see him."

5. "One of Us" finally coming together after some relatively ropey renditions in Belgium, Tilburg and Strasbourg on the last Euro tour. The song sounds so much better played live now, with loops that aren't on the studio version, that they should just rerecord a full band version. In fact all of the more recent songs were much stronger than on the last tour.

6. An incredibly fast and violent "Underwater Experiences" near the end of the Madrid onslaught. The backdrop in Joy had a mock Catholic pseudo religious look to it, and I pointed it out to Graham after the gig as he'd been introducing the song as an attack on Catholic guilt, to bemused looks from Colin. This is Wire's one weakness; on angry songs Colin is just acting, unsure what he's supposed to be angry about! He usually pulls off a good act.

7. Listening to "Send" on tape during train ride into El Puerto de Santa Maria. As I stepped off the train, "99.9" ground to a slowed halt as the batteries died.

8. Colin Newman's hilarious dancing to Kraftwerk as Wire set up on stage in a grand monastery open to the clear night sky, after Silver Apples set had been cut short by technical difficulties. I doubt I'll ever see Wire in a nicer venue than this illuminated monastery close to Africa, where the people are more free from the shackles of the repressive illusion of time.

9. Lewis berating the monastery lighting man twice for putting on a stunning display at odds with the aesthetic Wire wish to make a noise with. Newman then requesting that they stop the smelly meat barbecue until Wire finish their set.

10. Lewis deadicating streamlined "Silk Skin Paws" to bankers with no morals, to which I heckled, "Hang 'em high!"

11. Extended renditions of "The Agfers of Kodack" and "I Don't Understand Spanish, People" in Joy, becoming more monstrous the next day under the stars, where I shouted some backing IDUs from the floor; avert your gaze. A beady Lewis eye on me in Madrid during "I Don't Understand" in Madrid. Ha!

12. Graham Lewis howling, "Hypnotised!" to the vivid constellations during the most emotive "He Knows" I've witnessed in El Puerto de Santa Maria.

13. This number is considered unlucky by superstitious British so I'll deadicate it to the hideous retards of the BNP. If that's what the master racelooks like then Colin is right: no way does god exist!

14. Madrid and Santa Maria blessed with the best "Pink Flag" onslaughts I have heard and they've played that number at every gig I've heard them do. How many aren't?

15. 66.6 Pulsating Venus on my sonar, visible above Wire in El Puerto de Santa Maria as the witching hour approached. 66.6

Are you hot?
There's More to Come...

Friday, 23 October 2009


I might well have forgotten something, but these are the albums I liked a lot in 2008. These are in very approximate order of how much I listened to them.The first five got played a hell of a lot!

Thalia Zedek Band - Liars and Prayers
Wire - Object 47
The New Year - The New Year
Mudhoney - The Lucky Ones
Philip Jeck - Sand
Retribution Gospel Choir - Retribution Gospel Choir
The Human Bell - The Human Bell
Audrey - The Fierce and the Longing
Black Francis - Svn Fngrs
Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
Chris Brokaw - Canaris
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dig, Lazarus, Dig!
Nisennenmondai - Neji / Tori
Yaneka - Roots
Bilge Pump - Rupert the Sky
Einsturzende Neubauten - The Jewels
Hugh Cornwell - Hooverdam
Giant Sand - Provisions
Calexico - Carried to Dust
Last Harbour - Dead Fires and the Lonely Spark
The Sontaran Experiment - The Sontaran Experiment
Moha! - One-Way Ticket to Candyland
Emily Jane White - Dark Undercoat
Polysics - We Ate the Machine
Radar Brothers - Auditorium
Nemeth - Film
The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent
Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna
Ocean - Pantheon of the Lesser
Mark Stewart - Edit
Dan Friel - Ghost Town
Volition - Volition
Laymar - In Strange Lines and Obstacles
Dimension X - Dimension X
Wildbirds and Peacedrums - Heartcore
Kasai Allstars - In the 7th Moon...
Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
Alexander Tucker - Portal

Split Albums
Arbouretum / Pontiack - Kale
The Network / Throats - Notes from the Turncoat Campaign

Reissues / Compilations
Killing Joke - Peel Sessions
Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff
Loop - Fade Out
Loop - Heaven's End
Pavement - Brighten the Corners
Robert Wyatt - lots of albums!
Pascal Comelade - The No Dancing
Hanne Hukkelberg - Little Things
Jack Rose - Dr Ragtime and Pals
Liquid Liquid - Slip in and Out of Phenomenon

Live Recordings
Killing Joke - Duende
Killing Joke - Live at the Forum Part 1
Killing Joke - Live at the Forum Part 2
Butthole Surfers - Live at the Forum
Tara Jane O'Neil - Tour CDR
Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno - Hotter than Inferno Live in Sapporo 2008

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Autumn Gigs in Manchester and Salford

This is a list of gigs that I consider to be worth listening to, happening in the city of Manchester where the council does it's best to harrass venues for making a noise and then hypes it as Britain's most vibrant music metropolis. They'd be better off clearing up all the discarded aluminium that corporations wasted on packaging toxic sugar drinks as aluminium will soon run out unless an asteroid made of the metal hits the planet!

*Last Days of October*

22 Samson and Delilah - Sacred Trinity Church, Salford
23 Serpentine Pad / Boanthrope - Fuel (Bad Uncle)
23 Mico / Worried About Satan - Kings Arms, Salford
23 Tinariwen - Academy
23 Plank - Blowout
24 James Yorkston / Mary Hampton - Night and Day
25 Magik Markers / A Wake / Infinite Light - Islington Mill, Salford (Lamb and Wolf)
26 Therapy? - Academy 3
27 Isis / Mothlite - Academy 3 (Lamb and Wolf)
27 Eli Keszler / Usurper / A Wake - Islington Mill
29 Lemur - St Philips Church, Salford
29 Levenshulme Bicycle Orchestra - Green Room (Vaudeville)
31 HALLOWEEN If you need me to tell you what to do you probably need a
SECOND LIFE even more than a chilled American bore in exile! 66.6


2 BLK JkS - Islington Mill (Wotgodforgot)
3 Daniel Johnston - The Town Hall
3 Thank You - Tiger Lounge (Lamb and Wolf)
5 Freezing Fog / Boanthrope / Shield Your Eyes - Retrobar (Fat Out)
5 Mark Eitzel - St Margarets Church on The Range
6 Danny Saul - Nexus
7 Yo La Tengo - Academy SOLD OUT
8 Electro Zombies / Lazarus Blackstar / Gruel / Light Trap / Lies…all Lies / Pine Barrens
Doors 4pm - The Star & Garter, Fairfield Street, Manchester
(should be around £5/6)
9 Plank - Dead Institute
9 Foot Village / Silk Flowers / Klaus Kinski - The Corner
10 Oxbow / Ox Scapula - Star and Garter (Lamb and Wolf)
11 The Fall - Moho
12 The Drones / Easter - Night and Day - CANCELLED due to pneumonia
12 Speck Mountain - Dulcimer
15 Night Marchers - Night and Day
15 Tickly Feather - Smelly Retrobar
16 Flaming Lips SOLD OUT venue too small idiot promoter!
17 Joe Lally - Roadhouse
19 Furthur (out there disco) - Star and Garter (Golden Lab)
20 Plank - Krobar
20 The Last Hedge w/Starless and Bible Black - Carlton Club
21 Plank / Easter / Day for Airstrikes - Roadhouse (Chairs Missing)
22 Gnod / Teeth of the Sea / Sandells - Islington Mill, Salford
25 MayMing - Islington Mill
27 Plank / Worried About Satan - Fuel (Bad Uncle)
27 Hugh Cornwell - Academy 3 (playing Rattus Norvegicus)
27 Volcano the Bear - Islington Mill
28 Cop Out / OK Pilot - smelly Retrobar
28 Quartet from:Phil Marks (percussion)Stephen Grew (synth/keys)Maxwell Sterling (bass)Matthew Robinson (clarinent)
Trio from:Joshua Koper├žek (piano)Rodrigo Constanzo (percusssion)David Birchall (guitar)
8pm @ Cross St. Chapel, Cross St, Manchester £4/£5more info

30 Nursing Home - Tiger Lounge (The Big Dig)


2 Josh Pearson / The Gilded Palace of Sin / Anna Kashfi - Ruby Lounge
2 Early Day miners / FTSE 100 - smelly Retrobar
3 Six Organs of Admittance / Irma Vep - Islington Mill (Wotgodforgot)
6 Drunk in Hell / Sump / Klaus Kinski / the ergon carousel - the corner fallowfield, £5
7 J Mascis and the Fog - Moho
7 Battles £5 more than last time due to credit lunch promoter army inflation!
8 Sunn O))) / BJ Nilsen - Islington Mill (Lamb and Wolf)
9 Lightning Bolt - Islington Mill
10 Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Dead Institute; venue too small!?! Smaller venue means £5 extra on ticket price!
10 Vuk / Denis Jones / Caro Snatch - Kings Arms
12 Nancy Elizabeth / Hannah Peel - St Margaret's Church
12 Manchester Zap (lots of bands) - Islington Mill (Golden Lab)
20 Oi Polloi - Star and Garter
21 Hot Club de Paris / The Gateway District - Retrobar

Some Useful Websites:

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
George Orwell, 1945

Album Reviews

Isolated in Spain to hammer her new songs into shape, Nancy Elizabeth chanced upon an old piano in an abandoned schoolhouse, and that instrument forms the backbone of many of the songs on her second album. There are also guitar based songs, but these are more spartan than before, and some are so personal that it'd be embarrassing to ask about the lyrics. One of the most striking live is "Feet of Courage" with little more than a chair and hand shaker as percussion to back the sweet hopeful vocal. Future folk or timeless songwriting? Doesn't matter as long as she keeps making albums this fine.

Despite throwing a curveball with the opener "Trad" which sounds like seventies classic rock in a blender, Part Chimp still guarantee a rampaging onslaught akin to a lumbering behemoth levelling every skyscraper in its path. Maybe the chaos has been reigned in a little but this is still rock heavy enough to destabilize orbital axes of smaller heavenly bodies. If you like heaviness minus those wailing metal singers that tend to spoil it all, Part Chimp are just the ticket. Michael Jackson's ghost is rumoured to be in litigation.

Mark Lanegan croons like he's lived seven lives of hopeless heartbreak and smoked himself to oblivion each time. Soulsavers soundtrack a widescreen diamond desert roadtrip, the perfect path for him to escape ringing death bells. Yet more remarkable, Australian singer Rosa Agostino almost upstages Lanegan towards the end of the trip, after bombarding Soulsavers lynchpin Rich Machin with demos. Gibby Haynes, Jason Pierce, Richard Hawley, Mike Patton are less noticable audible visitors. Will Oldham leaves a heavier footprint with a desperate lyric, delivered with suitable intensity by Lanegan. Could this turn out to be the best album of the latter half of the year? BH

Samson and Delilah are a duo familiar to me as part of the larger Last Harbour ensemble. Set free, they play timeless folk influenced by John Martyn, Sigur Ros and Leonard Cohen. Sometimes, as on opening song "Crystallised Sand," there's a hypnotic atmosphere courtesy of subtle drones, and they're even bold enough to sing unaccompanied. Guitars, bells and woodwind were recorded in the church where this Australian / Somerset born couple were wed, which doubtless adds to the devotional air. "Dreams of Yesterday" is the most hopeful song I've heard in a long while. Now expanded to a quintet with flute, double bass and drums, they'll be touring England through the latter half of October.

I first entered the Palace of Sin on my birthday when they supported Magazine in Sheffield. It's easy to see why Magazine bassist Barry Adamson released their album on his label. He used to be one of Nick Cave's Bad Seeds and the Gilded Palace is drenched in a similar southern gothic downpour of burden. This is an eclectic yet cohesive set, swinging from the moody opener setting a scene of escape, to the tale of a free moving immigrant "Rosa Salvaje," to the highlight of their live set, the lumbering story of a wife murdering psycho "Mean Old Jack," that recalls The Fall. Best of all is the menacing "There is No Evil, There is No Good," a song that builds a momentum suggestive of impending disaster, yet seems liberated by it.

At sundown drunken clowns hijacked a merry-go-round in the possibly misguided belief that it could be converted into an interstellar rocket ship. Earlier that day an old German geezer made another record that every trendy bod who digs Kraftwerk really should check out. Former Cluster classics echo through this motorik pulsebeat, yet it sounds timeless in its technoid deviance. A master of rhythm and melody, Moebius creates an atmosphere of jovial oddity that is at once familiar yet alien.

One man with the chord organ blues, who sings of heartbreak and hope, lovelorn losers and friendly ghosts, Daniel Johnston is a rare performer who deserves to be described as genius. Quite simply he is the only songwriter I've ever heard who can make me laugh and cry in the space of one verse of the same song. He's also written the third funniest song about masturbation ever to spurt into these ears. If you've never checked out his music this is a good starting place, and if you want more of his lo-fi light you'll want to know that three early albums have also been remastered and reissued on two more CDs in nice digipacks with posters and sleevenotes. BH

This North Italian collective know experimentation doesn't preclude melody. Whilst Coil and This Heat are influences, their gabbling jams sound more like seventies Faust. Upbeat harmonica hoedown sits snugly alongside pastoral acoustic passages. Gurgling out of Padova with enough atmosphere for a new world free from politicians and bankers, they don't quite send the weirdometer off the scale, but come closer than anything else I've reviewed here! BH

Did you spill their pints? This is the kind of grunge that Sub Pop was initially famed for unleashing upon the world. Unlikely they'll upstage the likes of Mudhoney and Nirvana, but these Australians unleash an unholy racket that probably makes a lot more sense in a stinking sweatpit with all the amps past eleven. This sounds way more grimy than the music they call grime these days. Dopey neighbours hate it, they want gay disco!

This female trio from Tokyo have conveniently titled three of their essential motorik jams 'Pop Group,' 'This Heat' and 'Sonic Youth.' Add Neu, Boredoms and touch of no wave noise attitude and you have a good set of reference points. They scream a little but mostly kick and clatter, jagged and relentlessly propulsive. When they played Trof in late July I was astonished at the original way they attacked their instruments. This is probably the best new band I've heard in 2008.

It's always a treat to hear musicians you've never heard before and be blown away by their majestic originality. Yaneka are a brother and sister from Japan. Koji plays acoustic guitar and sets up rhythmic delay loops by tapping its wooden body. Yoko dresses to kill Nipponese style, dances beautifully and sings beguiling melodies. This is emotive music unlike anything else I've ever heard, but maybe I am just ignorant of its roots?

You're always guaranteed sun-scorched wonder from Calexico. The politicised 'Garden Ruin' might've been their best album, so it's a surprise that they've stripped down to the core duo here, bringing in collaborators one at a time as required. I wouldn't have guessed without reading the press release, but this is a dreamlike impression of a writer on a roadtrip east from LA who eventually ends up in Russia via abandoned New Orleans streets and a toxic lake of mobile phones. But is the dust he carries radioactive?

Howe Gelb has brewed up more albums than I can count on my fingers, but this is the first time in four years he's returned to the yippity happenstance of Giant Sand. No gospel choir this time 'round, but he's found three able Danish musicians who know the twang's the thang. Good buddies Neko Case, Isobell Campbell and M. Ward drop by to join in the Arizona hoedown, salute the can do girl and pay homage to PJ Harvey's 'Desperate Kingdom of Love' at the end of this burning world.

The great thing about getting sent free CDs to review is the rare occasion when something I never heard before sounds truly awesome. San Francisco based Emily Jane does nothing radical or original, but with little else other than guitar or piano to back her husky croon she pulls off the singer songwriter trick so well that comparisons to Catpower, however accurate, seem almost a slight. This jazzy folk melancholia lady is going to be huge or I'm a fascist agent of the CIA who kills cats in Satanic rituals.

Thurston Moore can always be relied on to release tons of improv jams between Sonic Youth albums. Some are much more worthwhile than others and this is one of the best I've heard. It's good to have a full on free noise-jazz-spazz onslaught to recommend highly after all the nice singer songwriter types. Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, who assembled the six strong ensemble, reckons free jazz and pre-punk are all the same. QED this kick ass shit is way punker than weak retro shite like the Libertines and all their crummy spawn.

"Snowflake in a hot world, you're changing," sings Jonathan Donahue as an opening and it could well be a metaphorical manifesto for Mercury Rev. They had to move on and challenge themselves by working with unfamiliar instruments and arrangements. Whilst still recognisably the Rev, it’s mostly Jonathan's voice that provides familiarity as their music has shifted into much more experimental territory without sacrificing dreamy melody, picking up the chaotic challenge of the flap of a butterfly's wing. It might not be their best album, but it does seem like their most otherworldly.

Down under the drones there is much beauty to be heard. New Zealand soundscaper Rosy parlane conjures three exquisitely structured meditations. Guitar based but taking in everything from the sounds of household objects to a miked up Samurai sword, 'Jessamine' eventually rallies a gang of guitarists to clang to a transcendent crescendo. Parlane's everything is an instrument mentality has birthed a supernova of universal harmony that ups the ante for experimental music from the Antipodes to way beyond Uranus.

Kristin Hersh doesn't so much write songs as act as their medium. Songs don't care about time. Kristin might've played everything except drums and strings, but this has a colourful band sound. This is as fine as ever, these songs demanded sumptuous treatment. Meticulous attention to trying out studio effects has made this Kristin's most psychedelic album, as warm as a Winter fire. Little green apples falling on lizards in the ozone snow - this place makes me feel like I'm dead haunting it.

Arbouretum's songwriter Dave Heumann has played in bands with Will Oldham and David Pajo, and his own music finds similar hope rising out of melancholy. Heavily influenced by the writer Paul Bowles, Arbouretum gallops along dark Americana canyons of sheer emotional impact. Arbouretum is not averse to chasing a guitar solo all the way to the kill, skinning it and hanging its head upside down as a trophy. BH

Chris Corsano is one of the most impressive and original improvising drummers around. In Death Unit he gangs up with Trevor Tremaine for a double drum onslaught that clatters and smashes a tunnel through Carlos Giffoni's harsh electronics and Mouthus' Brian Sullivan's destroyer guitar. Their intention is to leave nothing alive behind. If you're looking for an extreme freenoise assault, then this is a graveyard you should be haunting.

How do you get two Tortoises to play with electric eels?Cornet player Rob Mazurek assembled an ensemble of Chicago improvisers to soundtrack the adventures of a shapeshifting sting ray. Despite assertions that this has nothing to do with genre, jaunty big band jazz, Eric Satie, Tortoise and Sun Ra are obvious references. Playful and cinematic, this is the most melodic Mazurek music I've heard, despite the more abstract improvisations with recordings of the pulses from electric eels.

This is what Biosphere's Geir Jenssen did on his holidays. He took a minidisc on his trek up the sixth highest mountain in the world and recorded the noises he found there. With a written diary and photo booklet this conjures up the atmosphere of a Himalayan peak for those who don't want to freeze their ass off. Birds feasting on crumbs, Indian airline pilots, traditional music on the radio, the calls of Tibetan Yak drivers and summit breeze combine to tell the story.

RTX 'WESTERN XTERMINATOR' (DRAG CITY)The addition of tough metal guitar gives RTX extra fire to kick out the jams, but Jennifer Herrema plays a surprise hand by whipping out a flute to charm rats away from the garbage collector. Sifting through the detritus of rock's past, RTX are making the dirtiest, coolest rock moves in the USA today.

THE SCIENTISTS 'SEDITION' (ALL TOMORROW'S PARTIES)Kim Salmon's legendary Australian swamp rockers reformed to play the Mudhoney curated day at All Tomorrow's Parties and this recording of a recent Mudhoney support results in their most wired performances of classics like 'Nitro' and 'Solid Gold Hell,' but its 'Backwards Man' that reverses into tomorrow with barely contained venom. This makes the White Stripes sound like Shakin' Stevens, and you can hear why Jon Spencer copped so many of their moves.

GITHEAD 'ART POP' (SWIM)These days its about control. Oblique Joy Division references are probably unintentional but you never know with a canny mover in pop futures like Wire's Colin Newman. Githead take a brighter path than Wire on their second album of breezy computer rock. Using a vocodered vocal recital of reviews for their first album must be the ultimate in post-everything lyricism. Opener 'On Your Own' is as uplifting an anthem as Newman has ever
written. "You understand nothing in your inbox today."

LOW 'DRUMS AND GUNS' (SUB POP)"Do you need a murderer?" is not the kind of question most bands would ask as a harmonised lyric. Low's ruminations on the fallout of wartorn times get inside desperate personal situations with subtlety and tearjerking poignancy. The introduction of programmed beats might turn a few heads but they serve the songs seamlessly and their tenth album is this year's most emotionally heavy album so far.

HANNE HUKKELBERG 'RYKESTRASSE 68' (NETWERK)This Norwegian songstress takes a perky experimental trip through a warped mirror on showtunes. She sings sensuously about her pet cat 'Obelix' and his tongue, and with a spin of a percussive bicycle wheel her slowed down mellow attempt to 'Break My Body' results in the only Pixies cover I've ever heard that works.

ALESSANDRO STEFANA 'POSTE E TELEGRAFI (IMPORTANT)An Italian guitarist finds the beauty in the eye of the twang. His spare soundscapes are bold yet fluid, sweet and beguiling. International collaborators include New York guitarist Marc Ribot, but Alessandro employs banjo, omnichord, organ, kalimba and a strings machine to work his gorgeous magic.

The immensely climactic opening is deceptive as this is perhaps the Texan quartet's most gorgeous album yet, recorded with acute attention to detail. Pianos ripple prettily through the chiming guitars, drums blow holes in the floor as they compose an immaculate soundtrack for being cast adrift. Don't let the drippy song titles put you off, this is music as well suited to describing dazzling sunsets over oceans as it is emotional loneliness. They're probably tired of the comparisons by now, but its still worth pointing Mogwai and godspeed fans in their direction.

This is just Nina, her guitar and the genius instinctively impressionistic drumming of Dirty Three maestro Jim White, and could well be her best album yet. 'I've Been Out Walking' has a drum pattern so brilliantly original my jaw hit the floor. 'The Day I Would Bury You' is a song of devastated emotional maturity. Jim reckons this is the best album he's ever played on. The only drawback is that there is only half an hour of this inspired collaboration. And why do no shops in Manchester stock Dirty Three albums?

If like me you thought the most recent Fall album was their worst and would like it if Smith did a whole disc full of killer drum'n'bass destruction like 'Doctor Buck's Letter' then check this out. The Suicide frontman rants and raves as if apocalypse hit yesterday and you all forgot to notice. Sounding like a deranged dirty old man, Vega is obviously angry about the state of the world. Since he's smart enough to realise that he'd be punished by family friends Al Qaeda for shooting George Bush between his 'Swaztika Eyes,' he has composed this psychopathic maelstrom of electrobash to vent his spleen instead.

What remains inside a black hole? Is there beauty in mutation? International laptop instrumentalists Christian Fennesz and Riuchi Sakamoto might not be able to shed any light on my first inquiry, but they make the latter abundantly clear. Crossing generational timelines, Sakamoto's piano nebula proves to be the perfect partner to Fennesz' shimmering guitar-shift. Beyond word and image, music is the pursuit of beauty and here it is captured and enraptured, brought to light in a new evolving incandesant universe.

Two friendly guys waving? Say, "Hi," to Eric and Lou, Sebadoh. After the high volume mindfuck of Dinosaur Jr, Lou Barlow needed to give vent to his more experimental absurdist lo-fi songwriting side. In Eric Gaffney he found a crazed shamanic collaborator to swap instruments and ideas. Their tapes spewed forth visions of little ones raised on mouldy bread, walking in the Land of the Lords with a soulmate who is "a special girl, a girl who's just like me, she'll share trmendous oral sex and try everything she sees." Expanded to 52 songs, including a cover of "Yellow Submarine" which could be the most hilariously radical reinvention of a Beatles song to exist in this plane of reality, 'The Freed Man' flows with no hint of filler. Whether the magic is black or white, there's enough rapid twist'n'shout to rock the forest bigtime.

Jessica Rylan is a strangely birdlike woman who applies chaos theory to music composition. When I saw her play she she morphed vocals into a ghostly warble via a belt mounted gadget, so it came as a surprise that this album is entirely vox free. Inspired by Pauline Oliveros, Iannis Xenakis and Thomas Lehn, Jessica has made four abstract noisescapes with Serge Modular and self-built analog synthesisers. The essay relating chaos to music on the insert is also one of the most interesting, useful and timely things I have ever read.

Part instrumental exploration of a musical landscape painted in with banjo, jew's harp, piano and guitar, part mystical infusion of cosmic Norse mythology, 'Atomic Yggdrasil Tarot' is a divining agent, spellbook and shining example of art at its most majestically transformative. Accompanied by a luscious blue bound hardback book of poetry and abstract images on which to meditate, Higgs' Tarot breathes new life into the shamanic element inherent in all great music.

If you like your hard rock kicks plug ugly brutal then this four hoarseman beat combo from down under could be just the ticket. Whilst not as swampy as the Scientists nor as wildly inventive as the Birthday Party, fans of those bands might appreciate the bluster, however this is more in the vein of Killdozer and Feedtime. Damn, they've probably got their jeans well pissed at the number of comparisons I just threw at them!

Channels and Dischord


The following is a full length version of an interview with Channels and short article on Dischord Records. Channels can be heard here

Part of this appeared in the Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Flux.

For nearly twenty years Dischord Records has been a bastion of independence and quality in the US hardcore scene. Founded by Ian Mackaye of Fugazi with money left over after the break up of his first band Teen Idles, the label has always remained as intelligent and arty as can be expected from a man who spiked a cover of Wire's seminal "12XU" with the battle cry, "Flex your head!" Dischord has always staying true to their mission to document the Washington DC music scene. With Fugazi on hiatus, Ian Mackaye formed the duo Evens with Amy Farina, and Fugazi bassist Joe Lally has stripped things down even further with a skeletal rhythmic solo album "From There to Here" on which he asks searching questions that his government wouldn't want to try to answer. Soccer Team is another duo, formed by a couple who've both worked for the label. Post-punk futurists French Toast have expanded to a trio for "Ingleside Terrace" but best of all is the hard hitting, politically lyrically erudite and eminently hummable album "Waiting for the Next End of the World" from Channels, a trio fronted by former Jawbox and Burning Airlines guitarist J. Robbins. I asked him why the band is called Channels.

J: I saw the phrase "Meet the Channels" on a satellite TV brochure, and I thought of "Meet the Beatles," but I also thought it was kind of creepy, like the Channels are your new friends. Like the TV "family" in Fahrenheit 451. Seemed like a good name with a number of possible meanings.
Were you thinking of channels of communication?
J: Yes, and as in channelling your aggression, channelling an influence or a spirit, and channels as in "going through the proper channels," i.e. beaurocracy.
Is that a new World Trade Centre growing from a sunflower on the cover of the album?
J: According to Peter (the artist), it's an industrial park.
The first line of the first song, "To the New Mandarins" - "It's tricky to relax when bracing for impact" - summons up the image of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. Was this what inspired it?
J: It's more a response to the "threat index" overload of the past couple of years, where the government keeps saying there's imminent danger, so be vigilant - but at the same time relax, go on about your normal business and "get back at the terrorists" with continued leisure and happy consumption.
"I don't know where the truth begins."Have you read the book "9.11 Revealed - Challenging the facts behind the War on Terror" by Ian Henshall and Rowland Morgan? It throws up some interesting questions. Your lyrics seem to tie in with the general theme of various deceptions that are bound to arise when the stooge son of a former director of the CIA cheats his way into the presidency.
J: I haven't read it but let's say nothing would surprise me where Bush, Cheney & Co. are concerned.
Do you think that it is a little odd that the plane crashed into the newly heavily reinforced section of the Pentagon?Would you agree that its also strange that the terrorists who claim they want to do maximum damage to the USA didn't notice that they could've caused much more destruction by crashing a nearby nuclear reactor?Isn't it also a little odd that Donald Rumsfeld claimed that the black box recorder on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon had nothing of interest on it?
J: Don't you think all that stuff is a little hinky? Once you are exposed to a little bit of history - things like Operation Northwoods or the Tuskeegee Experiments, or the pilgrims' gift of smallpox infected blankets to the Native Americans for example - how can you not be at least sceptical? Meanwhile Bush can barely complete a coherent sentence; only an idiot is prepared to swallow his rhetoric whole.
By coincidence the last record I listened to before playing your album was the recent remastered reissue of Siouxsie and the Banshees "Kaleidoscope" which is a band you all claim to have been a big influence. Which Banshees album is your favourite?
J: Tinderbox.
Do you have a favourite Banshees song?
J: One song? No way! Top 5: Stargazer, Peek-a-boo, Mirage, Landsend, honorary mention to the Creatures' Mad-Eyed Screamer.
Another band you were all influenced by is XTC and you seem to have referenced this in some of the song lyrics. On "Chivaree" you sing, "Drum on the clocks and strum on the wires," and the third XTC album is "Drums and Wires." On "Hug the Floor" you sing, "For an hour you were standing ten feet over me" and there is an XTC song called "Ten Feet Tall." Were you aware of these connections?
J: Probably subliminal, but not intentional. Well, maybe the drums and wires one is straight-up homage.
What is your favourite XTC album?
J: Black Sea, Drums and Wires, English Settlement, Apple Venus vol. 1
What is your favourite XTC song?
J: River of Orchids, Green Man, Paper and Iron, Blue Overall, Fly on the Wall, Respectable Street, Senses Working Overtime, There is No Language in Our Lungs... I mean, it might be easier to name the few XTC songs we don't like. If I had to name a favorite band, they might well be it.
Who or what is "Chivaree"?
J: It's a Southern US corruption of "charivari" - a drunken serenade to newlyweds.
Why is the song "Helen Mirren" titled thus?
J: It's our classiest, strangest, sexiest song. We LOVE Helen Mirren.
This song has the lyric, "At Camber Sands I watched the sea retreating."Have you been to Camber Sands? When?
J: All Tomorrow's Parties in 99.
"Mercury," the last song on the album, has a much calmer atmosphere than the rest of the album and was written by Peter Grey Mansinne. Who is he?
J: He's an old friend who wrote an (unreleased) album's worth of songs I produced in the '90s. I played guitar in his band Seraphim, which never played a show. He's a great songwriter, and a he's good friend, who never really got his stuff out in front of people.
Has Peter Quinn, who designed the album cover, done any other art for album sleeves?
J: He was the singer in Candy Machine, and Ink, and he did all their art work. He has a band now called Low Moda who are great. He does a lot of different art and music stuff here in Baltimore. Web design, print design, he teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art ... a very inspiring guy. He also published a compilation art book called "Friends and Friends of Friends." His website is
You thank Mission of Burma. Have you played gigs with them?
J: One show, in 2005. They are another candidate for "favorite band ever."
Were they a big influence?
J: Huge.
Have you heard their latest album "The Obliterati"?Its as good as anything they've done before, if not better!
The theme of apocalypse also looms large in the music of Killing Joke. The drumming on "To the New Mandarins" also reminds me of the drumming on their song "Adorations." Were they an influence?
J: Undeniable, especially the guitar playing of Geordie Walker is a huge influence on my playing in Channels.
The other band mentioned as being an influence on all three of you is the Jesus Lizard. Do you have a favourite Jesus Lizard album?
J: Goat.
Did you play any gigs with them?
J: No, but David Yow had a cameo as a drooling mental patient in a Jawbox video.
What are the other former members of Jawbox up to these days?
J: Bill Barbot runs a design company, Kim Coletta is a primary school librarian, they are married and have a kid. Zach Barocas lives in Minneapolis, makes poetry and video, and plays drums in three bands.
Obviously there is good reason for Channels not to tour at present, with having a baby to care for, but do you think you might be into touring at a later date?
J: It would be nice to think we could eventually, but it's not a high priority unless we had a chance to go somewhere really compelling or we could tour with a band we really liked.
Do you have any advice for bands thinking of signing to a major label?
J: If you really want to be a rock star, it's the only way to do it. But you should really really be driven, really aimed at that goal. Otherwise, be prepared for a brief, occasionally very enjoyable time, with lots of headaches and some serious disappointments. High highs and low lows, and probably not a triumphant feeling at the end. I wouldn't do it again if I had the chance, particularly if I was already supporting myself with my band on an indie. But then again I never wanted to be a rock star.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Spain MA? No Comprendo!

1. MAdrid Nice Streets Above at Templo de Debod. The most beautiful real sunset I've seen happened as I walked the palatial promenade. On Returning, in the lovely Parque del Oeste, I saw the most vivid rainbow I'd ever seen in a nice big fountain.

2. Mr MArx's TableThe second SEND song and the second song in Wire's recent live set, now revvved up to MAximum velocity. The lyric, "You have come a long way for such a short stay" seemed particularly appropriate for MAdrid, a city in which I never seem to spend more than one day.

3. Colin NewMAnA MAn not afflicted by Catholic guilt Paral-lel to the foot of Mont Juic. In Barcelona a 'strapcident' gave him proof that god does not exist. He objected to the stench of death under his nose on stage in Monasterio de Victoria and requested a temporary barbecue termination.

4. Mekon HeadMAnIntroduced as a song about a guy with a big head by Colin NewMAn in Puerto de Santa MAria, this is one of the best Wire songs that Lewis has sung and tends to be arguably the strongest performance of any of the newer songs. The number 4 is said to be unlucky by superstitious Japanese.

5. MArgaret Fiedler Wire guitarist who plays faster than Bruce Gilbert Used To. If MArgaret is 5 then Monkey is 6!

6. El Puerto de Santa MAriaA beautiful seaside town just east of Cadiz and south of Portugal. In October the temperature was at the level that would make front page news in Britain, as unprepared people drop dead from heat stroke. There is a great little castle in the centre, where some free gigs were happening throughout Monkey Week. The people were very friendly and scenery stunning. In a coastal forest north of the town I found a chameleon and on a mountain south of the town I think I saw a lynx. There was a loud rustle in the scrub and a big cat bolted away from me as fast as it could go. There aren't supposed to be any of these rare animals in that part of Spain, but they can walk about if they want to and it looked like a lynx to me. Half the dwindling Spanish Lynx population does reside mainly in another region of Andalucia.

7. MAnta RaySiouxsie album that seemed absolutely perfect as a soundtrack for walking the Nice Streets Above MAdrid. On the end of my tape is the last song from Soulsavers "Broken" which provided the best walkman moment of the trip: guitars chiming slowly in synchronicity with the appearance of the looming pillars of the transplanted Egyptian temple on the hill where myth has it that Isis gave birth to Horus. MAnta Ray is also a Pixies B-side, and Pixies were playing Brixton Academy at the same time Wire were playing Spain. According to Pixies, god is seven.

8. MAria Nice lady from Seville who was Monkeying in Puerto de Santa MAria.

9. Under the MAn in SpainChorus of The Stranglers song "Spain" which I played a hell of lot on the road trip. The MAn is the bastard Franco who executed the legally elected president of Catalonia exactly 69 years before the day I arrived in Barcelona. The whole of their "Aural Sculpture" cassette made an excellent musical accompaniment to the mountains, plains and castles rolling by, especially the Spain-Laughing-Souls sequence.

10. MAd HatterThe last song from "Aural Sculpture."

11. MAchineYeah Yeah Yeahs song on my tape with "Send" and DJ Fuckoff "Drill," perhaps the best song for railway travel yet made by anyone? This unreleased penultimate "Drill" with drum MAchine and Robert playing guitar I think opened just two gigs, at All Tomorrow's Parties and in Bristol. It seems to me that elements of it probably fed into "Nice Streets Above" and "Mr MArx's Table."

12. MAya GoldOrganic fair trade chocolate, one bar of which MAde it all the way around sunny France and Spain and back to grey old England.

13. MAnchesterPost-industrial dump in the north west of England which it's always a joy to escape from. The corrupt airport loving city council consumes tons of glossy paper promoting their recycling schemes to a populace too stupid to use the right bins, yet can't keep the streets clean from all the discarded aluminium, plastic and paper.

14. MAnuel RiveraSpanish artist with imposing image in the MAdrid museum of Modern Art. If you ever find yourself in Europe's highest capital city check it out as it is free.

15. Korega MAyaku DaAfri Rampo CD on Tzadik that I bought in Notting Hill just before setting off for Lyons on the first leg of the trip. These manic Japanese ladies will be playing All Tomorrow's Parties Nightmare Before Christmas at Minehead in December.

These reflections on a trip to Spain have been brought to you by the letter M, the letter A and the number 15.

Thanks to WIRE, MAria, Ruben,
Hostal Costa Luz, Juicy Jones,
everyone in El Puerto de Santa MAria,
Salvador Dali and Joan Miro.

Madrid Egyptian Temple Dreamtime Apocalypse

In the early hours of The Fifteenth:

I approached Templo de Debod and walked on the Water, continuing on across stone between the looming obelisks and through the sacred gate. Inside seemed much bigger than outside. One eyed Egyptian gods went about their business of genetic manipulation combining crocodiles with humans as I made my way through a maze of stone corridors. Eventually I came to a room where Earl Edvard Graham Lewis was conversing with Sun Ra. "Man," said the space jazz instigator from Saturn, "If they won't give you the papers to play the music on this street, you gotta take the music into space where there ain't no law!"

I continued beyond that room and PJ Harvey dressed as the goddess Sekhmet took my hand and led me out of the temple and through the streets of Madrid. Jaz Coleman dressed in full war paint appeared atop the Faro screaming, "And the third angel sounded and a star fell from heaven burning as it were a lamp!"

The Sky Lit Up as an Asteroid hit close to the city which burst into flames, at which point I woke up with a bladder full of the remnants of peppermint and ginkgo tea.

"Pissing passes time" (Wire - Our Time)


1. This dream references several brilliant songs, specifically '99.9' by Wire, 'Rocket No 9' by the Sun Ra Arkestra, 'Asteroid!' by Killing Joke, 'Water' and 'The Sky Lit Up' by PJ Harvey. Less obviously the opening soundtrack should be 'Into a Swan' by Siouxsie.

2. I had just returned to grey old England, the land that bullies the "Middle East" whilst its former lying moral hypocrite of a leader pretends he can bring peace there, after a trip to sunny Spain to see Wire three times. The only time I'd been to Madrid before was to see PJ Harvey at Summer Case, but Killing Joke played there too on their last glorious European tour.

3. The last time I hit Europe Killing Joke, Wire and the Sun Ra Arkestra were all on tour concurrently. Wire and the Arkestra played Tilburg on the same day at the same festival and Wire and Killing Joke both played their own gigs in overpriced Paris on the same night. The day Wire played El Puerto de Santa MAria was PJ Harvey's fortieth birthday and the venue they played in MAdrid was moved to JOY (a PJ Harvey song) at the last moment due to licensing complications.

4. Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple gifted to Spain and moved to the heights of Madrid brick by brick to preserve it when Nasser flooded its old location with a dam on the boundary, over and over.

5. In the Temple of Melkart, Hannibal swore his undying hatred of Rome. Isis gave birth to Horus in this very temple, although obviously not in Madrid. Napolean SPENT the night here in December 1808. The dismembered Alfonso turned in his several graves. Something snapped: another empire backfired.

6. If man is five then the devil is six. Celebrate the rebellious spirit!

7. God does not exist. Was god summoned by propaganda merchants with a a penchant for social control or alien visitations?

One man and his helmet

BOB LOG III at Ruby Lounge, Manchester 17th September 2009

Louis Barrabas and the Bedlam Six, (another the) Euchrid Eucrow and Bob Log III played some of that undead rock'n'roll at Ruby Lounge. Louis Barrabas' band brews r'n'r up with a cabaret element and frontman is a consumate showman, kicking high whilst strumming acoustic guitar and singing songs he says are all about love. One is about being cheated on by a girl called Mary. "Any girls called Mary here?" he asked, "No? Good!" His band was actually seven strong with a second singer, trombonist and a keyboard player who also straps on an accordian occasionally. It's probably a safe bet that they like Tom Waits and Nick Cave. I doubt they'll be bottom of the bill for much longer. As the evening went on rock'n'roll got more stripped down and rougher. Euchrid Eucrow are the second band I've seen who've lifted their name from Nick Cave's first book. This Eucrow are more Janglin' Jack, the ones who've released an album on Lancashire and Somerset Records are more Good Son. The drum guitar duo switched instruments after two songs and improved with the one in the AC/DC shirt on drums. Half as many people play in Bob Log III but he still managed to have band meetings where he quaffed beverages bought for him by men he mistook for pretty ladies. This was probably due to the fact that his vision was impaired by the motorcycle daredevil helmet he wears. "I can't see shit, but I can hear you and smell you," he let on between a couple of one man slide guitar garage blues rock rumbles. He made a memorable entrance and exit, walking on and off stage through the crowd playing guitar. His silliest song is about someone shitting on his leg, for which, against doctors orders, he invited two ladies up on stage to bounce on his knee whilst he kicked hell out of his foot drum. He gave a quick lesson in songwriting, playing a riff that he likes and telling us all you have to do is repeat it 42 times. After he made his getaway, still strumming backstage, "Repetition" by The Fall came ranting over the PA.

After that I went to Furthur at the Star and Garter.

I walked in to a soundtrack of "Cinnamon Girl" by Neil Young who was hogging the decks as we also got "Fuckin' Up" and "Lets Go Downtown." Amongst the records Nick of Golden Lab played were
My Bloody Valentine - You Made Me Realise
Velvet Underground - Lady Godiva's Operation
Come - Dead Molly (my request as they had Come on the flyer)
Sonic Youth - Inhuman
Mercury Rev - Song For Joey
Dinosaur Jr - Out There

Jello Biafra won't give up!



I took a seat on the Sheffield train. I thought it pleasant to travel again. Mindful of the journey's end, I read again the free newspaper some litterbug had left to flap about in the expensive eyesore Piccadilly Plaza, where the pathetic fountains are put to shame by the much more impressive display outside Sheffield railway station. These dead trees are given away to control machine cogs (humans as you call them) with the intention of keeping the drones pacified. Excess free newspapers are also an excuse to keep the modern day slave trade alive. After all British paper has been getting sent for recycling to China where too many trees have been killed by pollution already. Still, must keep the trouble making economy working until the fuel runs out! The article that amused me concerned conspiracies around the destruction of the World Trade Centre, written by some uninvestigative hack expecting his dopey readers to agree with a bunch of experts who know that there was no complicity between the Saudi 'terrorists' and the CIA or factions within the vote rigger Rebublican government. These experts present absolutely no evidence to debunk any of the conspiracies, not even jolly old David Icke's lizard invasion paranoia, which they'd given more space to than many other more plausible scenarios. The hack had such contempt for his readers' intelligence, that he appeared to think it was enough for a bunch of supposed experts to make a claim and then not prove it. The fact that they are 'experts' should be enough for news junkies to believe them, so that they can carry on mindlessly consuming cheap crap made by Chinese slaves and destroying the planet. Nevermind, they've printed a photo of a turtle called Lucky with sofa coasters for front flippers to cheer up commuters.


The other window had a nicer view than this tame drivel, so I only read it when the train sped through dark tunnels under the hills. What could I do? As I listened to "The Lord is a Monkey" by the Butthole Surfers I looked out the window to see a young boy drop his trousers and pee gleefully onto the railway line. Behind him stood a man I assumed was his father, with a face full of pride, "Look everyone, me son's learnt to pee and he's only three!" Don't tell the ministry of programming, they'll probably award him an 'A' level.


Sheffield was sunny and warm and I headed for the University area after a quick look at Daniel Von Sturmer's video art (very Tony Hart) at the Site Gallery ( Up the hill I was reminded of my last visit with a Dinosaur Jr tape in my earphones. "Where You been?" Steel City! In an Oxfam bookshop I found two quid copies of the first Starless and Bible Black CD and 'The Bells' by Lou Reed. In Age Concern I found four old copies of Punk Planet zine, one of which has an interview with Jello Biafra. I guess that made up for the fact that he wasn't doing interviews on this tour, understandably keen to save his voice for the gigs. I can sleep well knowing that I've fed starving African OAPs for a day even though the militia will execute them for wearing trousers the very next day. I asked if there were any other good record shops and the guy in Age Concern told me about a very fine place. We were talking about post-punk music, and inevitably Wire came up. His friend who was also visiting the shop had played his first gig supporting Wire in Doncaster in 1978, in the band Vice Versa who later mutated into ABC. Apparently he makes enough royalties to live on.


The best shop in Sheffield has to be Rare and Racy books and records, packed with jazz, classical and experimental music. Any shop that plays Noxagt and Yellow Swans so loud you have to shout to be heard is doing something right! The Yellow Swans 'Mort Aux Vaches' CD was such a damn good guitar drone rumble that I bought it there and then. Since only 500 were made I'll probably never see it for sale again. I was also pleased to find two CDs I'd never seen before: 'Rien' by Faust (which I'd taped off a record to help kill music) and the first Big Joan EP 'Other People's Fights' which I recall the band saying they wish they hadn't made. It's much more polite than the way they rock now, but still pretty good. They were playing Ornette Coleman as I left, and the jazz continued with a pleasant Charlie Parker album at my next destination.


I ate a plate of courgette, red pepper, lentil and coconut bake with rice and salad and a bottle of organic Black Fox cider at the excellent Blue Moon Cafe next to the cathedral. The black fox is a fox as black as night so that it might live in a man's shadow and never be seen. Refueled vegan organic style, I was ready for a bit of punk rock. In the street I spied some likely Biafra fans and got talking on the way to the venue. Up the steps inside a duo strumming acoustic guitars played fast raw throated protest songs energetically. More impressive were the heavily political hardcore trio Moral Dilemma, with mohawked blast beat drummer, who got me in the mood for my first dose of Jello with bandnoise. The Guantanamo School of Medecine set up and burst into life. Then Jello jogged on like Arnie limbering up for a spot of arab termination, dressed in a blood splattered labcoat and bloody taliban torture (TM) surgical gloves. I assume it was fake blood, and Jello hadn't been out killing yuppies instead of soundchecking. He looked unhinged, like a mirror image joker nemesis of some right wing republican liberty destroyer. The gloves got peeled off one by one and flung to the throng. Maybe someone could be trying to earn a few pennies selling them to dumb punk rock kids on ebay? The School sounded more like Tumor Circus and Jello's two albums backed by the Melvins than other collaborations. There were some songs from the No WTO Combo, three old Dead Kennedys songs, unsurprisingly delivered with more attitude and fire than that resurrected headless retrovirus crew. Before Guantanamo kicked the shit out of the Kennedys by blasting out a superior assault on property scrooges with "Lets Lynch the Landlord" they had tuning problems so Jello introduced the Medecine School. Bassist Andrew Weiss played for the Rollins Band back when they were a force to be reckoned with. They were the first band I saw in Leeds at the now gentrified Duchess of York pub. I think you can buy clothes that fall apart in three months made by Chinese slaves in that place now, if that's the kind of progress you desire. His brother Jon was bashing drums and guitars were wielded by Kimo Ball and Ralph Spight, formerly of Victims Family. Unlike the Dead Nostalgia Kennedys, Jello is still railing against the same problems satirised in this punk rock classic in newer, arguably better, songs. The yuppie cancer blight upon his home city San francisco is given a lyrical lambasting, and the 'gentrification' of cities worldwide so that they can all look like bland American malls is something he's very angry about. Jello's hilarious clowning made the rest of the band fade into the background visually. His miming of IT slaves going blind typing out garbage on their machines hammered home "Electronic Plantation," a song debuted by the No WTO Combo. Having taken stock of all the signs threatening ejection for stage diving posted around the venue, he lept into the crowd as if to prove that the rules do not apply to those in a more powerful position. Here the singer of a band was exempt from the rules, but his songs deal with the law breakers at the top of the political pile whose mass murder and complicity in torture and environmental destruction go unpunished whilst jails run for profit are filled with people forced to resort to smalltime theft just to eat. This was a punk rock gig so there had to be at least one guy who'd drunk so much he couldn't stand up, and he fell over most during the updated "California Uber Alles" which cast Arnold Schwarznegger as the wannabe dictator of this dying planet. The encore opened with a storming new song about accelerating scientific hell, concerning cells that never die. The big surprise was "Holiday in Cambodia!" The lyric, "You'll work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day" never seemed so relevant, only soon you'll probably be lucky to get a couple of grains the way things are going. Maybe we should execute all politicans who commit mass murder by proxy (they call it war) and feed them to the hungry prisoners? Bad idea! Where's the prophet?

The damn fine album "The Audacity of Hype" by Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medecine is out now on

Dinosaur Jr rocked the Leadmill

DINOSAUR JR Sheffield Leadmill, 3rd September 2009

On the way I ate a fine plate of Turkish vegan tomato stew at the Blue Moon Cafe, picked up a copy of Bob Dylan's "No Direction Home" double disc and found a retractable Sanctuary Housing biro.

Waiting in the queue to get inside, I got talking to a couple of older guys who were finishing off a roll up that smelt a bit more pleasant than mere carcinogenic tobacco. One of them is the father of the guitarist of support band Airburst, and described their drummer as the bastard son of Keith Moon. Airburst are total rock with professional chops, metal but not as heavy as can be. Apparently Dinosaur Jr are into them and asked them to play, which is as these things should be. Their backdrop was an advert for their myspace site. After they finished with their most headbangin' number I check out the T-shirt stall, even though the last thing I need is another band T-shirt. Dinosaur Jr shirts are a bit too cutesy for my liking, but I was tempted by the light blue one mostly because I can't recall seeing another band selling shirts the same colour. Unfortunately I've got so thin because wheat has damaged my gut, that even the small size looked like it'd be too big!

Dinosaur Jr have good taste if the tunes playing between the two bands are anything to go by. I enjoyed hearing Unwound, Babes in Toyland and the first Minor Threat song I ever heard, played by John Peel on the radio, "Bottled Violence." The Leadmill is renowned as one of the best venues in the land but it was a long time since I'd been there. I tried to recall other gigs I'd seen there; Pavement and Belly on the same bill, Come's first stop on the tour where I went to every show, the Girls Against Boys show where I broke a bone in my foot but didn't realise until the next day and the Shellac performance where they were told to play just one more song so opted hilariously for a very long rendition of "Didn't We Deserve A Look at You The Way You Really Are?"

Conveniently the trio walked on the moment I was served my second pint of cider and kicked into "Raisans." Last time I saw them I'd been driven to Birmingham by a friend who is obsessed with Lou Barlow, so I'd been on his side of the stage. This time I was damn sure I was going to get a good ear hammering from J. Mascis' wall of six Marshall amps, and it was easy enough to get near the front on his side. Mascis was wearing a Wipers T-shirt which led me to heckle, "Is This Real?" which I thought was quite a pertinent question as he's such a fluid guitarist his ability is almost beyond comprehension. Mascis stood rooted to the spot much of the time, looking as if the music was transporting him way beyond mundane rational 'reality.' The noise was a universal vibration that made all one. Dinosaur Jr are great because they pull off the old hippy trip without resorting to its gross excesses or past mistakes, and have the venomous energy of punk rock to propel them. Barlow bounced around like a kid in a castle hammering out chords on the bass that give their music such a heady undertow. Murph has lost his hair but found the beat to keep Mascis from floating off on some cloud. The climax was "Forget the Swan," the surprise was "Get Me" but it all blurred into a frenzied celebration. That these guys could bury the hatchet and return as good as ever is something to cherish, which makes it damn funny that after I heckled, "Messenger always brings bad news!" Lou announced, "This is a song from our new album." No worries on that score, their new songs were just as fine as the old ones and "Farm" will most certainly end up being one of the five most played albums of 2009 on my stereo. I found 52p on the floor before goin' home by train.

Monday, 19 October 2009

On Returning

Hats off to Hugh Cornwell, a damn fine songwriter
I just returned from
"A fine place in the southern reaches"
A day or two in a motor ride.

The sun roasted me lobster red,
but I was not sorry. Meanwhile nert nerds back home got down to 'Bitching.'

"Why don't they all go get screwed?"

On Returning I had three hours to kill in London and during that period it was possible to ride the tube to Camden where Obits rocked the Underworld. Obits is the great new band fronted by Rick Froberg of Hot Snakes and Drive Like Jehu. Support was Tropics and I ran into my old friend Steve from Ricky Spontane who I hadn't seen since Wire played three gigs at the Garage prior to instigating the "Read and Burn" EP series. Carla Bozulich's band Evangelista were also playing in E8 but I had no idea where the venue was. I'd missed their gig at Islington Mill ( as it was the same day I left El Puerto de Santa Maria, but it turns out she does a desperate vocal on the bargain Barry Adamson CD I acquired at Notting Hill exchange.

The Fifteenth:Rambled across Plattfields Park to the Corner in Fallowfield to hear three damn fine post-rock ensembles roll out the jams. FTSE 100 supported tour partners Souvaris and Sincabeza (from France) who both played the best sets I've heard them do.

I helped hand out leaflets against the ID cards the British government is trying to con the populace into buying...

We burned a large fake ID card of our beloved unelected Scottish leader outside Manchester Town Hall and got filmed by a local news TV crew.

That evening I went to see TV Smith and Gold Blade and gave most of the people at the gig an anti-ID card leaflet. I only had one person tell me that he seriously thought ID cards were a good idea and he was a bus conductor on Oldham Street. Hopefully some of the Gold Blade fans might do a bit more to stop this crazy evil intrusion on our civil liberties. It's things like this that make me want to leave Britain!

Still at least we have the excellent Charles Hayward who was on stunning form at Tiger Lounge on the Eighteenth. Dalek were not happy with the PA that didn't deliver the noise levels they needed, but Action Beat proved themselves awesome and Boanthrope were the best I've heard them.

Keep on rockin!