Monday, 19 May 2014

Bo Ningen @ Deaf Institute 12th May 2014

Neil Young once said that if he found himself musically driving in the middle of the road, he'd soon head for the ditch. Younghusband are not ditch dwellers. The quartet had a pleasant soaring guitar sound, quite likely influenced by the Chameleons and the House of Love, but their lyrics were mundane, their tunes bordering on bland and they could easily have been making the same music in the eighties. Japanese Londoners Bo Ningen in contrast live in a time of their own. They are so far into that ditch they've probably bored halfway to the core of the planet. You could throw some comparisons at them, most obviously Kawabata Makoto's Mainliner, with whom Bo Ningen bassist and singer Taigen Kawabe performed on their recent "Revelation Space" album, and they share Makoto's wild guitar slinging abandon; Boris and High Rise also seem more apt than either Black Sabbath or Nirvana, as quoted from their press release. However what they do share with Sabbath and Nirvana is some killer riffing, albeit thrown together in tunes way wilder than Kurt Cobain's worst heart-shaped nightmare. Taigen Kawabe and guitarist Kohhei Matsuda are androgynous to the point of appearing alien, dressed in long ritualistic robes, the guitarist in red and the bassist centre stage in black. Taigen Kawabe is a great rock showman, mouthing silent incantations when not actually singing, waving his arms as if exorcising demons and ultimately, during the explosive finale "Daikaisei," leaning out over the gathering, unstrapping his bass with his teeth, playing it upright double bass style, then over his head, then simulating impaling himself with it as if it was a hari-kari sword. After his mock rock'n'roll suicide he left the bass to drone on the stage and ascended to stand upon his amp as Kohhei Matsuda first unplugged his guitar and swung it round like a windmill blade then made static noise with an unplugged guitar lead, the other guitarist Yuki Tsuji riffed us all into orgasmic oblivion and Akihide Monna beat the hell out of the drums. With the last blast, Taigen Kawabe leapt from his amp. It was as if every other song they'd played, from the high pitched glossolalia of "Henkan" to the jagged stop/start "Soko" by way of some songs from their new album "III" had led to this theatrically climactic celebration of the magic of rock. Most rock bands are not at all magical. Bo Ningen are one hell of a great exception.

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion @ Gorilla 10th May 2014

"Ladies and gentlemen, now that the puppet show is over, we got another song for you!" Jon Spencer knows he's cooler than you, especially if you're a couple of drunks prancing in the window behind the Gorilla stage. Towards the end of the song Jon Spencer was eyeballin' 'em, back to the crowd. When it climaxed he uttered his hilarious putdown and it was on with the real rock'n'roll show. Two guitars and a stripped down drum kit was all the Blues Explosion really needed to rock the Gorilla, but they'd also lugged a great big blue glowing theremin all over the world just to make a wiggly noise occasionally, as Jon Spencer waved his hand like a conjuror of blues-noise magic. His leather trousers with kneepads must've given extra protection for his aging knees when he fell to the floor to testify that the Blues are number one. Even pensioners with dementia would have no trouble recalling where they were at, as he name-checked the Blues Explosion over and over. When Russell Simmins bludgeoned the drum kit to death and needed roadie repairs, Jon was at pains to explain that the wait would be worth it as they always wanted to give the best possible performance. "He hits those drums so hard, just for you!"
There wasn't much waiting though, as the Blues Explosion collided one mutated hand waving romp into another bellbottomed classic, '78 style. The sound was so loud I could've sworn they played "Soul Typecast" three times and when they took requests Jon Spencer complained that all of them were for songs they'd already played. Some guy kept shouting for "Brenda" but she wasn't in the house, although it was rotting with "Black Mold." Jon Spencer had the people clapping and singing along and super-cool guitar slinger Judah Bauer gave the fret-finger to the man as they worked up the sweat of the Blues Explosion. As he left the stage, Judah high fived everyone at the front, having given more inspiration to the rest of us to carry on our war against the spoilers of fun.

Sounds From the Other City

Sounds From the Other City (Sunday May 4th 2014)

A decade on from inception, the all day arty gig party held by Islington Mill is one good reason not to blow your brains out. The seriously hot vegetable chilli they were selling did that for me! Of the eleven performances I witnessed only one that was less than top notch, and to be fair to Golden Teacher The Crescent was too packed and uncomfortable to stay and listen to them very long. Nevermind, my new band of the day ZZZ's were starting up over the road in the Old Pint Pot Wotgodforgot. As the final blast of live music action these three Japanese women based in New York were perfect; their compulsive no wave rhythmic itch had everyone twisting the night away. As they played I made new friends, waved at old friends and purloined plenty of abandoned cider. Why would you buy an overpriced drink, sip two sips then leave it behind? Waste is obscene!
My musical trip began at Maxwell Hall on the Salford University campus. Hosted by Fat Out 'til You Pass Out, Buried Bones and Gizeh Records, this was easily the most innovative and imaginative room I experienced. P. J. Philipson played his beautiful heavily effect laden guitar instrumentals inside a white tent positioned centrally whilst Jamie Robinson projected purple and white squiggles and red blood cell clones from his magic laptop. A chilled out beginning with some dreamy soundscapes was perfect for the hungover casualties of Patrick Crane's birthday party the night before to slumber to. My longest run of the day took me south to the New Oxford where Thomas Long unveiled some fine new Easter songs in a short solo acoustic set. He'd been hiding all away, working on the second Easter album and growing a cool beard, but the wait was worth it. I told him "I'm In Bloom" had better be on the album, and the final song which may or may not be called "Suicidal Kiss" also sounded like it made the grade. He started with a small surprise, a folk song called "Jamie Foyers" he'd covered from Ewen MacColl via Martin Simpson's arrangement. Another old friend was back in town just outside in the Bexley Square tent. Daniel Weaver's five minute laptop soundtrack to an abstract animation film called "Vent" was a disturbed evocation of mental deterioration. As black and white lines wiggled across the screen, a voice intoned, "There is a void so dark that my retinas burn... my tongue splits... I tense in a language I created... my noise turned against me." Out of the heart of darkness and into The Crescent pub just in time for Picastro to play some fine songs in a duo with my old friend Ant from the Helpyourselfmanchester punk rock gig collective, back in town playing viola. "What's with the hats?" asked singer/guitarist Liz Hysen, referring to the cone shaped headwear that had been fashioned from leftover SFTOC flyer-posters.
"I don't know," I told her from just in front of the stage, "but I've got Killing Joke on mine, on my third eye!"
"That's cool," She opined.
"It's not just cool, it's magickal," was my heckle revelation.
"Like a holiday when things move too fast," could have been the lyric that best summed up the event itself. I think it was the last song, a hypnotic mostly two note strum called "The Stiff" that she said was based on the Jack Nicholson film "The Passenger," which she recommended everyone see. When they finished I took the setlist.

Picastro setlist:
Split Head
That's It
State Man
Mountain / Relief
The Stiff

Just over the road in in the Old Pint Pot Wotgodforgot MiSTOA PoLTSA started rockin' like 12-string demons. Mark sent the mic stand flying into the crowd and they were living proof of the Neil Young / John S. Hall mantra that rock'n'roll will never die. The loudest band of the day, their heavy gigging schedule has really paid off and they've gone from being a good band to one of the best in Salford/Manchester. Some people have opined that Sean is the best drummer in Manchester, but different drummers have different styles; he could well be the best rock'n'roll drummer in town.
Back at Maxwell Hall Monkey Puzzle trio had taken up residence in the central tent. Charles Hayward drummed up his typically excellent storm, Nic Doyne-Ditmas plucked at an unusual upright electric bass and bespectacled Vic Corringham sat at a table singing idiosyncratically through effects, looking like the coolest teacher in improv school. Charles took a short break from drumming to walk amongst the people blowing a melodica, but was soon back to hammer home the finale of my favourite performance of the day. Half of Grumbling Fur's set was lost to an ice run, hot chilli feeding frenzy and a clash with Chantal Acda, but the four songs I heard from Alexander Tucker's Thrill Jockey duo sounded pleasant.
"It's sounding very Scandinavian," opined Daniel Weaver as he left Maxwell Hall.
"She's Belgian!" I informed him, having missed the start of Chantal Acda's trio's set. Her delicate songcraft helped me slowly gulp down more fiery chilli. The room was rather under-populated, but the mood was relaxed and calm and brought much needed respite from the headless chicken run earlier in the day. By the time she'd sung her last song, I was so chilled I couldn't be bothered to rush back to the reportedly packed Old Pint Pot for a bit of Kult Country and just hung out until Sly and the Family Drone had set up in a ring outside the white tent. A Fat Out gathering surrounded them as they drummed up some noisy tribal beatnoise chaos. Lots of people joined in on drums, including two Tribal Fighters and 2 Koi Karp, and Jamie Robinson took to crowd surfing with no elf and safety considerations. I watched from up on high, stood on a chair, as last time I joined in on drums with that lot my ears were shot for several days afterwards. Although they weren't the last band that day, they were the last at Maxwell Hall and it seemed right to finish my review with them because nearly everyone gathered around them will be back later in the month (May 23-25) for three days of the Fat Out Fest at Islington Mill with Melt Banana, Nisennenmondai, Charles Hayward, Terminal Cheesecake and Drunk in Hell. Be there or be somewhere else less cool unless it's the Sheffield Melt Banana gig! 

This review appears slightly edited in Que Vida 1

Fat Out fest

Patrick & Miriam's Birthday 3.5

3-4.5 Didn't we have a fine old time at Mr Manchesterband Recording Maestro Patrick Crane's thirtieth birthday? I gave him CDs by Neil Young, Killing Joke, Can and Fugazi. The Neil Young "Chrome Dreams II" CD was particularly appropriate as he was wearing a Crazy Horse T-shirt and played guitar on a cover of "Cortez the Killer" with Former Bullies in Nick Mitchell's back garden. Then Sex Hands played and afterwards Dylan Hughes denied singing about Joincey Jmbebe's drug intake. Those misheard lyrics are always a hoot. You say it's your birthday? It's Miriam's birthday too! I gave Ma Ve records by Public Image Ltd, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Fall and we danced to "Trans" by Neil Young, The Stooges' "Funhouse" and Nirvana's "Incesticide" whilst Martin Warm Widow fell on top of Clive and knocked him out of his wheelchair. Dazz Gofti got the drunkest I've ever seen him, Patrick passed out, Nick and Kate Armitage fled to bed and I passed out snuggled up to Miriam on the couch then woke to a strange hallucination that Clive was asleep on the floor when he wasn't, walked home across the park to the dawn chorus and slept until high noon when it was time to get ready for the best ever Sounds From the Other City.

The Body & Irma Vep 23.4

The Body / Arabrot / Esoteric Youth / Trojan Horse - The Roadhouse
dbh / Irma Vep / Dave and Otto - Kraak Gallery April 23rd 2014

April 2014 appears to be a time of maximum acceleration, at least where the Manchester live music scene is concerned. There have been days like this when I've been aware of four good gigs happening simultaneously. On April 23rd I made it to two gigs and only completely missed one set; Serfs played Kraak whilst I watched The Body headline the Roadhouse. Fresh from his Record Store Day triumph, when he'd performed in five different bands, Edwin Stephens was back with his solo mutter-blues guitar strumming incarnation of Irma Vep at a free gig he'd organised himself. First to play were Dave and Otto, a free improv sax and double bass duo whose dynamic interplay ranged from almost silence to full on blow-out. I had to leave before they finished to catch Trojan Horse opening a minute's walk away in the Roadhouse. They introduced a song in which the bassist and guitarist marched and saluted as concerning being unemployed. I caught the lyric "Market town, beats his wife to the ground" and that was the last time I could hear what anyone screamed for the rest of the Roadhouse gig, such was the extreme volume and vocal violence. I appreciate the fact that I can't think of another band to compare Trojan Horse to, such is the originality of their proggy hardcore. The two guitarists and keyboard player had the grunge checked shirt look that was so very fashionable in the nineties. One song found them all cackling with silly Satanic laughter and they saved the best for last. Esoteric Youth were an exhilarating blast of total hardcore venom. At times they had a "Loose Nut" era Black Flag metallic edge, and the screamer flailed about in front of the stage for the entire set. They were so loud it was painful to be anywhere closer than halfway along the room and during the last song they were joined by a second screamer. Having bought one of their last five 7" EPs "The Burden of Living" I was quite pleased to find that something they are so angry about is that "We are a burden on the planet Earth." Rushing back to Kraak I saw the ever baseball hatted Edwin play a solo Irma Vep set for the second time in one week. He always has a look about him that suggests he's surprised to be singing and looks up as if expecting the audience to have gone. One morose ditty found him proclaiming, "There is a beauty in grown men crying, shaking in a cold and empty room." I can't say I can concur with that sentiment, but it is nevertheless a great song. I returned to the Roadhouse just before Norwegians Arabrot fired up their tribal grunge rock rhythms. Guitarist Kjetil wore a cool wide brimmed hat that did not detract from their chugging menace. Since last I saw them the bassist had switched to drums and a new bass playing lady had joined them, indulging in some feral screaming at times and stomping her leg in time with their compulsive convulsive beat. At one point she pulled her mic stand almost over, shreiked into it and tipped it up again which was the coolest move of the night. The tribal element was enhanced by a tall lady who joined them on a second drum kit for the last and longest song. I only caught the last song of the dbh solo guitar set at Kraak, but I've heard tall Dan play so many times in so many bands it wasn't a big deal. Probably the most gifted and prolific musician on the Manchester underground, he finished with what sounded like a Papa M cover. There are only two men in Rhode Island sludge metal machine The Body, but they sound like an earthquake. A sample of a disappointed American woman gave way to nihilistic screams and a tectonic rumble that probably had yuppy neighbours hiding under the tables in the flats down the road. The guitarist was big and fat and bearded and you wouldn't want him to fall on you. The drummer raised sticks high in the air with a demonic anger and crashed them into his kit like he wanted to kill it. One onslaught began with an air raid siren; a soundtrack of disaster. Off to one side in the Roadhouse I had a great view of the action as the audio violence was too extreme to damage my ears with out in front of the PA! It was a performance of total catharsis and a short eruption of that ubiquitous "Scentless Apprentice" Nirvana beat had me singing Kurt Cobain's words to The Body just for a moment.

Gallon Drunk @ Academy 3 15.4.2014

Gallon Drunk have always guaranteed a good night out. Frontman James Johnston's hair might've turned grey since last I saw them but they still have more fire and passion than the infinite swarms of younger rock'roll bands getting hyped yur way, so it was a great disappointment to see such a low turnout. Support band Mowbird played their pleasant though unadventurous indie rock to less than fifty people. At least by the time Gallon Drunk took the stage the gathering had swollen to treble figures. They didn't so much take the stage as take over the stage, with James Johnston raging and ranging over every inch not covered by synth, drum kit or amps. They opened with the first song from their recent 'Soul of the Hour' album, building an inexorable instrumental intro to an ecstatic crescendo before dropping away briefly; then James hit the mic and sang: "And when you're feeling so alone, And only you know, That your hand can barely write." To begin with "Before the Fire," a redemptive noir epic about finally feeling the fire of love just when you feel as though you're about to drown in selfish solitude was perfect. If "The Exit Sign" ignited the fire with an apocalyptic party that never ends, "Hanging On" set the whole town ablaze and the flames danced for the rest of the night, consuming us all in celebratory frenzy. "It doesn't feel like the party's started with you all so far away," James admonished jovially after the first song, and everyone edged closer to the stage so that he could swing his guitar out over our heads and even let Neil and Louise of 2 Koi Karp and Terminal Cheesecake have a bash at the strings near the end of the gig. One old bald fellow had the honour of that guitar finely balancing on his head for twenty seconds or so! These are the wilder benefits of the capo. The next thing we knew James was bashing it on the rigging up above, and at the end of the last song of the main set, an extended overdriven take on "The Speed of Fear," he slung it over bassist Leo Kurunis' shoulder so that he had a bass on his front and a guitar on his back. Terry Edwards handled all the synth and keyboard playing, and some of his trumpet and sax parts seemed to have been synthesised, but he still had a good old baritone sax blast. "The Speed of Fear" had an especially energising keyboard loop that sounded like guitar, and at around twice the duration of the album version was a finale as grand as they come "Down here in the city's night again." "Just One More" was the oldest song in the set, and clearly Gallon Drunk aren't feeling nostalgic. Why should they when their two most recent albums are the best they've made, and the first and last songs from 'The Soul of the Hour' are probably their best songs yet.

Before the Fire
The Exit Sign
Hanging On
Just One More
Bad Servant
Soul of the Hour
Killing Time
Traitors' Gate
The Speed of Fear

You Made Me
Some Cast Fire

This review appears in Que Vida 1; pick up a copy at Kraak Gallery, Gullivers or other Northern Quarter, Manchester venues.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bo Ningen / The Ace of Spades

12.5 Bo Ningen were even better than expected down Deaf Institute last night and I've reviewed the gig for Que Vida 2. A gig at Deaf Institute is always a good one to do sober as the drinks are so greedily over-priced, like they are at Sandbar over the road. Having drunk so much cider and wine on Saturday and in the week before it seemed a good idea to stop before I become a functioning alcoholic; I've started smuggling cheaper off licence booze into Interzone's more over-priced pubs and bars as I have no money coming in. In theory I should be getting paid for some reviews and should also be getting "Job Seekers Allowance" but the Kafka-esque bureaucracy involved seems to take up more time and writing than writing about music itself. The Tory scum lie that they are making it easier to work on a low wage, but in reality the benefits system of tick box forms doesn't seem capable of dealing with anything a little bit out of the ordinary, and so called "advisers" at the job centre seem to be there mainly to patronise and belittle people into doing work that is as tedious as theirs must be, or worse. One form even describes these paper pushing patronisers as coaches. Does this mean they are on wheels and eat diesel? Nevermind, I've let them know I intend to write a funny article about the trial by bullshit that is expected of everyone on JSA. One prat of a "coach" even had the temerity to suggest that I should change the way I dress. Their idea of helping me is encouraging me to lie about myself, deceive employers and waste my time doing things that'll drive me crazy. Considering I've just been offered money for writing about music, and did this with NO HELP or advice from them whatsoever I think they should get off my case and give me a little more time to write, not waste it in bureacratic claptrap and pointless interviews for jobs with employers who would never employ me in a million years if they had any sense. As I have yet to actually get any JSA payments I told them I was on strike and they threatened to sanction the payment. Does this mean I have to start paying them for the honour of having my time wasted with their depressing interviews? The same "coach" who disapproves of my appearance also kept repeating that he couldn't understand why I was angry or why I blamed the Tory scum for messing the system up with their stupid reforms! At least he didn't blandly threaten to involve the police like the last time. I'm sure they'd have loved a bit of extra pointless paperwork for a case the CPS would have thrown out. I told him I was going on strike with regard to further "jobseeking" until I actually got some JSA. As I walked out onto Alexandra Road with no less than four more forms to attempt to fill in I put on the radio and it was just at the start of "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead witch seemed perfect:

Here are the excellent Bo Ningen at Cafe Oto 2013

Monday, 12 May 2014

May Records: Swans, etc

These are the cool new albums I've been listening to in the first two weeks of May, followed by the number of times I've listened to each one up to this day. I paid ten quid for New York punk rockers Big Ups CD after they blasted their way through Kraak Gallery DC hardcore style; all the rest were given to me by PR people, John Schmersal of Vertical Scratchers and Crooks On Tape (formerly of Enon and Brainiac) and Johnny Winbolt-Lewis of Douga, except Nicole Atkins' album witch I listened to on youtube. The Swans album is two hours of transcendent tripping into musical regions no one else has dared open up before. It could turn out to be the best album ever made; it is most certainly the best Swans album yet, a genuinely progressive vision of the violent mutation rock music should always strive for but rarely does. It is out on May 12th and if you are in a record shop next week with enough cash to bag it and you buy something else instead, then you ain't got a clue!

Swans - To Be Kind 5
Bob Mould - Beauty and Ruin 6
Vertical Scratchers - Daughter of Everything 3
Crooks On Tape - Fingerprint 1
OOIOO - Gamel 2
Skull Defekts with Daniel Higgs - Dances in Dreams of the Known and Unkown 2
Nicole Atkins - Slow Phaser 1
Douga - The Silent Well 2
Big Ups - Eighteen Hours of Static 2
Kreidler - ABC 1

Monkey Puzzle Trio - The Pattern Familiar
Prescott - One Did
Jon Porras - The Light Divide


Bo Ningen - Line the Wall 2LP 2013
"Leaving Jet Trails" Slowfoot Records sampler 2012
Robert Pollard - Elephant Jokes 2009
Robert Pollard - Mouseman Cloud
Giant Sand - The Love Songs
The Clash - Clash On Broadway 3CD 1976-82
Black Sabbath - Vol 4 1972
Black Sabbath - Master of Reality 1971

Anson Corner Blues Explosion!

10.5 After hearing Tekla, Sphelm, Songs for Walter and dbh's solo guitar rendition of the whole of Neil Young's "After the Goldrush" at the house on Anson Corner I rocketed north to Gorilla to watch the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion give the finger to the man. I reviewed their gig for issue 2 of Que Vida. Back in Rusholme with a bottle of red wine there were four more bands playing much louder than the afternoon entertainment and the Yossarians set at around 1am was the most chaotic and wild gig I've seen in a long time. I was stood on a chair behind a table in the back corner of the room and at one point people were shoved into it with such force it would've broken both my legs had it not stopped just as it touched them! Yossarians bassist / MiSTOA PoLTSA guitarist Mark played iPod tunes until 7am and I was glad I'd found a lost megarider flapping about in Piccadilly plaza earlier that day as the rain was battling sunrise as I left.

I will add the review to this blog after Que Vida 3 is out.

Plank, Vei & Douga

8.5 I was hoping to catch hardcore punkettes Hysterics at The Castle after Plank and Vei played the Bay Horse on Thursday, but Plank went on nearly half an hour late so it was not possible. Nevermind, Plank played the best gig I've heard them play since Liam Stewart took over the drumming, and Jamie Robinson's visual projections were a welcome animation for two rather static bands; Vei all black and white film-noir disquiet and Plank overwhelming psychedelic multi-coloured shapes and lines. The penultimate Plank track, so new it wasn't recorded for the forthcoming album, demonstrated Dave Rowe's John Adams and Steve Reich influences more audibly than anything else they've written. Johnny Winbolt-Leiws gave me a CDR of the excellent new Douga album "The Silent Well" and as there will only be 99 CD copies made, you'd better snap one up fast when it's released in June.