Nadja – “Touched”: another one of those increasingly rare cases of good music showing up on Pitchfork, though it didn’t surprise me to learn that I already had a passing familiarity with Nadja. to wit: they are from Toronto. their guitarist Aidan Baker is a known in figure T-Dot’s ambient/drone/noise scenes and this is where I recognize him from: he recently contributed to a split release between himself and longstanding southern-Ontario experimental mastermind The Infant Cycle (who also happens to be an old friend of mine). I had no idea that Baker was also in a doom band, but here we are. Pitchfork’s review draws inevitable comparisons to Justin Broadrick‘s stable of projects over the years, the most obvious being Godflesh and Jesu and to be fair, the comparisons aren’t entirely off point. where Nadja differs most is perhaps in the fidelity of the actual recording – intentional glitches at the end of the final track suggest that the production style is quite deliberate and it works in favor of the music, since the wall of guitar becomes that much thicker because of it. recent trends and the acceptance of “doom metal” in other circles thanks to the success of Sunn 0))) have seen many artists who might have previously shied away from anything “metal” trying their hand at it in their own “arm’s length” way – if projects like Nadja are the result of that, then it’s a win-win for everyone. recommended.
Starving Weirdos – s/t: with over two hours of sound here, there’s plenty to sink into with one of the first enjoyable “experimental” listening experiences I’ve had in a while (aside from The Infant Cycle of course, though to be fair there’s little to compare between the two). although they are apparently often compared to and viewed as contemporaries of other current “nu-drone” artists like Sunburned Hand of the Man, Starving Weirdos come across like they’ve done some homework and realize that their “genre” didn’t just spring into existence a few years ago. there’s a discernable deliberation to the proceedings here, which makes it apparent that the sound sources used in these relatively free-form pieces weren’t just picked at random; and that they did not just press record and start making noise. various forms of percussion rear their heads and plenty of droning sources that range from feedback to what sounds like scraped/bowed metal or heavily processed string instruments… the best thing about these pieces is that they’re so well crafted that not only is it difficult to tell what the sound sources might be, but that the work itself is captivating enough to take one’s mind off of even trying to figure it out in the first place. I’m reminded more than a little of Morphogenesis‘ “Solarisation” disc here – a huge compliment considering that it’s one of my favorite experimental/drone recordings ever. at the end of the day there’s not even a lot in common between the two, aside from what seems to be a greater emphasis on organic rather than electronic sound sources – what they have in common is that those sounds form a cohesive and enjoyable end result that is far above what many of their contemporaries achieve with similar efforts.
T.I.T.S. – “Throughout the Ages”/Leopard Leg – “The Seven Sistered Sea-Secret of Shh Shh Shh” split dbl LP: this could essentially be two separate releases but for the fact that the label putting them out (Upset the Rhythm) saw fit to release them together. the label claims that some greater philosophies unify these two bands who’ve apparently never met each other, but about the only thing they have in common is that every member of both groups is a woman.
so, let’s start with T.I.T.S.: aside from having the best band name ever – “hey whatcha listening to?” “tits!” 😉 – they might actually beone of the best bands ever. OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much – they seriously take pretty much every musical style I’m enjoying right now and throw it into a blender of awesome. some of the drumming and the consistently distorted bass bring a slight metal-by-way-of-Melvins vibe to the proceedings, while there are hints of prog (in structure if not in wankery) on the 11+ minute “Lovely Home” and of no-wave on more concise songs like “Lady Whispers” or “Math”. in some ways it seems like what the Shaggs or the Slits might have been had they come into existence in today’s musical climate, with more than a modern-day hint of Afrirampo at the same time. simply awesome. I mean it: after three listens I’m ready to declare them a favorite band.
and then there’s Leopard Leg: the comparison between the two is apples and bowling balls, so in my mind there’s no contextual point in even discussing the two groups together. Leopard Leg operate in a decidedly different sonic world – 10 members, at least 8 of which are on percussion and the remainder of whom do tapes and other noise-making. these two side-long tracks both have an eerie, drug-addled-swamp-wandering vibe to them. cut very much from an experimental/improv (I hesitate to say drone, but…) cloth, Leopard Leg prove to be standouts in that arena as well. pretty much the only reason I’m not raving about them as much as I am T.I.T.S.is because they’re operating in a sonic realm that – while I do enjoy it – is simply lower on the totem pole of my own preferences.
Black Pus – “Black Pus I”: a solo project by Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt fame (or is that infamy?), this may as well have been a LB release… slightly more chaotic and noisy than the Bolt, but it almost sounds like Chippendale was simply doing an experiment to see if he could make it a one-man-band in the studio. I doubt that’s actually the case, but if it were then I’d be saying he succeeded admirably. in other words, it won’t be much a stretch for LB fans to get into Black Pus.
Steel Pole Bath Tub – “Tulip” and “Butterfly Love/Lurch”: oldies but goodies at this point, these two releases (or three actually, since “Butterfly Love/Lurch” is a combo release of two previously-issued ep’s) prove that SPBT are essentially the perfect noise-rock band. trebly distorted Fender guitar tones over a pounding rhythm section playing catchy tunes, on the edge of utter chaos and threatening to fall apart at any second. even the “Paranoid” cover manages to (for once) improve on the original, no small feat given the number of bands who’ve likely covered it before SPBT without adding anything to it. easily some of the highlights of the band’s career, topped only perhaps by their other classic “Miracle of Sound in Motion”.
ESG – “A South Bronx Story”: I came across this in someone’s “no wave” folder and decided to check it out since if they were indeed no-wave and hadn’t been mislabeled by said person, they would turn out to be a no-wave group I hadn’t yet heard. so far so good. listening to the tunes certainly bears this out – catchy, vaguely poppy but more punk/noise-like-by-way-of-not-playing-their-instruments-very-well, they bear a certain resemblance to other female fronted and/or dominated groups of the same NY scene, like Au Pairs, Delta 5, Ut or Y Pants. further research bears out that they actually had very little in common with their scene contemporaries aside from their sound: where the other aforementioned groups were generally informed by the art school-meets-punk rock aesthetics of their scene; ESG were 4 sisters essentially trying to play soul/r&b who ended up fitting in with no-wave due more to their level of instrumental prowess than anything else. which is not said to detract from the enjoyability (is that a word?) of their songs – if anything, based on the material here ESG were more catchy and enjoyable than most of the bands in a scene they were shoehorned into. enough so that they apparently provided unlicensed-sample fodder for various hip-hop artists in the late 80s/early 90s – ironically bringing them closer by association to the genres they started out trying to play in the first place.
Kraftwerk – “K4”: little info seems to be available about this release, aside from the fact that at the time of it’s recording, Michael Rother and Klaus Dinger of krautrock pioneers Neu! were counted as members of Kraftwerk. indeed, their influence on these five tracks is so prominent that it may as well be a Neu! release. even that might not be appropriate though, since it is actually a lot heavier than any of the official Neu! albums! go figure. it certainly has Rother’s signature guitar tone, but although the trademark simple-riff repetition is in abundance the riffs themselves are almost proto-metal, suggesting more than a hint of Stooges or MC5. contextually it’s a weird one indeed, confounded further by the fact that it’s a live recording bearing enthusiastic audience response – not the type of response one would expect from people showing up expecting “fun fun fun on the autobahn”… but then again it was the mid-70s and although it likely took place before I was even conceived, one gets the impression that true music fans back in those days weren’t as genre-segregated as they’ve since become. as it stands this could easily become my favorite album by both Neu! and Kraftwerk, though to be fair to both that may be due in part to the relative newness of this compared to my intimate familiarity with both bands’ other output.
German Oak – s/t: another previously unheard krautrock discovery, I approached this one with a lot of caution after seeing song titles like “swastika rising” and “the third reich”… fortunately, a little research bears out that the titles have more to do with the fact that the album was recorded in an abandoned WWII bunker in Germany and not any actual fascist/nazi leanings on the band’s part. which is a huge relief… although in all honesty even if they were nazi-sympathetic I’d still be listening to it, because this is some of the best damn krautrock I’ve ever heard. the first few tracks seem to be “bonus” tracks – the listing on Amazon only mentions the final four of the seven tracks I have here, which makes sense – the seven tracks clock in around an hour, where the last four clock in around 40 minutes, the proper length for the LP format this would have originally been released on. these extra few tracks have a better audio quality as well, lending to my belief that they were not recorded in the same bunker as the album tracks, but rather in a proper studio. anyway, trivia aside this is – as I said above – some of the best krautrock I’ve heard… on the heavier side of that spectrum, similar in a lot of ways to the Necronomicon album I reviewed a little while back. highly recommended.
Glenn Branca – “Symphony No. 8 & 10 (The Mysteries)”: of the material I’ve heard, it seems that Glenn Branca‘s compositions tended to get darker with each successive outing. there’s almost no hint of this in the material of his two no-wave groups The Static and Theoretical Girls. “The Ascension” is basically a blueprint for Sonic Youth. “Symphony No. 2 – The Peak of the Sacred” is a multiple-guitar extension of that, but is taken to a different place sonically by the inclusion of Z’ev‘s awesome percussion. “Symphony No. 6 – Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven” seems to be where the darker streak begins to appear – put in historical context, this may have been influenced by the direction of NY contemporaries Swans around the same time. moving on to “… (The Mysteries)”, the darkness here hits on a truly symphonic level. the micro-tuned wall of guitars and fairly straightforward rock drumming coalesce in a way that – dare I say it – is almost metal in execution. which is probably why this particular set of compositions seems a more likely candidate than any of Branca‘s other work to be used as a horror film soundtrack. even saying that about it diminishes it’s impact though – this sounds like the later work of Swans given true symphonic treatment, a majesty and grandeur that can be attained by few without an accompanying sense of pomposity. an impressive feat indeed. finding out that the drummer on these pieces – Virgil Moorefield – actually played with Swans in between the recordings of No. 8 and No. 10 makes perfect sense for some reason.
Wha Ha Ha – “Geta Haite Konakucha”: from what I can gather this came out in the 80s, which places it well before the popularity of our favorite genre-mashing Japanese noise-rock merchants like Boredoms or Omoide Hatoba. nonetheless it holds the same level of weirdness, which makes you wonder why no one was paying attention to Japan in the 80s. plenty of seemingly no-wave inspired moments, oddball vocals and the +20 minute “Radiotheater”, which is exactly what it’s title suggests and would comprise the entire second side if this was a vinyl release. long story short though, anyone who’s a fan of the aforementioned Japanese bands and/or their contemporaries would do well to investigate this group, since they seem to be the originators of the style.
Boredoms – “Super Roots 6”: the scribe who reviewed this re-issue recently on Pitchfork proclaimed it to be as good as “Vision Creation Newsun” or “Super Ae”, the Boredoms‘ two transcendental tribal-psych masterpieces of the late 90s. I’d like to know what he was smoking while he listened to this and get my hands on some, because I couldn’t agree less. the “Super Roots” series was essentially a documentation of what Boredoms were doing between their “serious” albums and while this certainly has shades of “Vision…” or “Super Ae” it falls short of the largeness of either. while the tribal moments on those ablums sound like 10 people pounding out rhythms in unison, the pervasive percussion on this release sounds like one person playing some sort of drum, running it through a flanger at the mixing stage, and not much else. I’d probably be less disappointed with this if my expectations hadn’t been set so high by the review that led me to check it out, but all things in perspective… yeah.
Thunderpussy – “Documents of Captivity”: I know little about this other than it being a re-issue of a heavy psych band from an earlier decade. it seems like there might have been more than one band to use this name throughout the years, aside from recent bands attaching other adjectives to the word (Alabama Thunderpussy, Magnolia Thunderpussy, Thunderpussyforever, etc). I can recall an article in my youth indicating that members of underrated New York City doom geniuses 13 had previously played in an even more obscure doom band by the name. so running across this I had no idea what to expect. all I can really tell you now is that it’s heavier psych with acoustic moments that sound like it was recorded in the 70s, and the vocals sound British. pretty generic description I know, but take my word for it: amidst the slew of obscure psych re-issues in the past couple of years, this is a standout. not quite as heavy as Australia’s Buffalo or Canada’s Warpig, not as wispy or folksy as the more “scarborough fair” type bands, but a very happy medium between the two.
Swallow the Sun – “Hope”: I’ve never been much of a fan of the more “gothy” doom metal bands – Anathema, Therion, etc – at least not as compared to the efforts of their “stoner” cousins. that said, early albums by Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride (including a live performance by the former) loomed fairly large in my musical sphere during my younger days. those bands had just enough of a forlorn atmosphere without getting all silly and melodramatic about it. Swallow the Sun capture that vibe here perfectly, albeit with an obviously more modern sounding, downright crushing production. there’s not much more to say than that, really – it’s a fine line in this genre between forlorn and heavy vs. melodramatic and whiny – Swallow the Sun stay on the right side of that line with surprisingly catchy tunes and seriously heavy production. given the current musical climate with the popularity of “hip/post-metal” acts like Isis and Red Sparowes, STS may even stand to gain a bit of “crossover” attention from today’s breed of non-metal-head metal fan.
Keelhaul – “Subject to Change Without Notice”: another band I’m a bit late to the game on here. this 2003 release impresses with a sound that is “metalcore” at it’s core, but expands to cover a lot of other ground. with slight hints of classic/NWOBHM metal in a few riffs and some nods to stoner rock as well, on this release the band comes across sort of like members of Converge and Clutch getting together for a jam session and finding a happy medium between the sound of both bands. to wit, there are plenty of instantly-catchy riffs to be heard, but you can tell by the playing that these guys could get a lot more technical if the urge struck them to do so. I’m not usually a fan of this type of hardcore, so it came as little surprise to find out that Keelhaul contains a former member of Integrity, who were pretty much the only Victory Records band I liked in the 90s. go figure.
just a quick note before we start: moving forward I won’t likely be putting up quite as many reviews. quite often I’m listening to older stuff, which I figure most people don’t need yet another opinion on. when I come across something older that I still think is worth mentioning, I will. but talking about everything I listen to will quickly turn this into a chore and that’s hardly the point, so from now on I’ll stick to stuff that I’m actually enthusiastic and/or have something to say about.
John Zorn – “Astronome”: a second “trio” piece from last year featuring Mike Patton, Trevor Dunn and Joey Baron on voice, bass and drums respectively. a review I read somewhere indicated that between “Astronome” and it’s companion piece “Moonchild” (released a little earlier last year) that this was the more extreme of the two… I personally couldn’t disagree more. where “Moonchild” features the same trio performing several short bursts of chaos akin to some efforts by Patton‘s well known Fantomas project or some of Zorn‘s earlier works with Naked City or Painkiller; “Astronome” consists of three longer pieces, averaging about 14 minutes a piece. it’s far more akin to Painkiller‘s later effort “Execution Ground,” except with less emphasis on the dub aspects and (usually) heaps of distortion on the bass. in fact, Dunn‘s distorted bass tone here is nothing short of phenomenal. of course a big difference between either of these projects and Painkiller is the replacement of Zorn’s sax squall with Patton’s tortured vocal inflections – the man truly does (ab)use his voice as an instrument. I missed it last year which is when it actually came out (there were so many good records out last year, after all), but having now caught myself up, this could easily find a high spot on my “best of 2006” list.
Massacre – “Funny Valentine”: released back in 98 on Tzadik, this features three legends in the realms of music covered by that label: Fred Frith, Bill Laswell and Charles Hayward (if these names are unfamiliar to you, stop reading… just kidding, let’s mention a few projects they’ve been involved in: Material, Skeleton Crew, Henry Cow, This Heat, Camberwell Now…). in many ways this hearkens back to the NY no-wave/art-rock scene that spawned the original incarnation of this group with Fred Maher on drums. it recalls their earlier effort “Killing Time,” though this time around the trio were leaning far more toward gentler, almost ambient pieces. head and shoulders above most music out there period, this is pretty much an essential avant-rock release. some of todays pretenders should pay attention to how their masters do it.
The Bark Haze – “Total Joke Era”: only Thurston Moore could make an art concept out of misunderstanding/misspelling the name of another band and get away with it. he does so here in a guitar duo with Andrew MacGregor, who I know little else about except for the fact that he also apparently goes by the name GOWN. incidentally, the misheard band name in question here is apparently on older R&B group by the name of The Bar Kays… at any rate, despite the “my four year old could come up with that” aspect of some of his “art” concepts, thankfully pretty much any recording featuring Moorethat also involves ambient guitar is usually worth a few listens and this one is no exception. an enjoyable effort that I’m looking forward to hearing more of.
Dodheimsgard (DHG) – “Supervillain Outcast”:despite my general dislike for Pitchfork, occasionally one is able to read about a good band on their site. what’s even more surprising than that can be sometimes is the fact that, in this particular case, the band in question happens to be of the black metal variety. ok, well, that’s not entirely accurate. to offer some perspective, I had never heard of this band prior to today. or if I had, either the name didn’t stick in my memory or I disregarded them as likely being just another band among the often-boring black metal hordes. I still have not heard any previous efforts at this point, so for all I know that may have once been true. but what I hear on this album is a band that breaks the mold of the genre in ways that so few before them have, and in ways that I wish more bands would. it’s almost unfair to even call these guys BM at this point, but the traces are still there – buzzsaw guitar tones and near-blast beats still show themselves. just as often though, the fast stuff comes off almost tech-metal;and there are plenty of other facets to their overall sound as well. another impressive factor is that they use synths. synths are not new to black metal of course, but the way this band uses them – for squiggly noises as accompaniment or during breakdowns instead of the usual faux-gothic “string” trappings that most BM-with-synth bands fall into – score them a few more points in an already impressive game. although they may not compare very much stylistically, I haven’t run across this much of a genre-bending BM band since Sigh – and much like I said when I covered the latter’s “Scenario IV” a few days back, I wish there were more BM bands like this. but then again, it’s probably preferable to let a few masters like this stand on their own than have them lost amid a sea of imitators without the skill to equal their ambitions. that said, DHG have (forgive me) mad skillz at their disposal and everyone should buy this when it comes out later this month. I know I will 🙂
Zach Hill and Mick Barr – “Shred Earthship”: about as appropriately titled as a collaboration by math rock’s two biggest virtuosos could be, this is an album chock full of – you guessed it – shredding. and chops. Hill‘s work in Hella has cemented him as an obviously in-demand drummer (as evidenced by his recent appearance on Marnie Stern‘s “In Advance of the Broken Arm” or his collaboration with Holy Smokes) and I can think of no better a percussionist to team up with Mick Barr. to wit, Barr‘s own efforts (as Orthrelm, Ocrilim, Octis etc) often see him paired up with a drum machine and his full-band appearances (i.e. Quix-o-tic) often see him taming his shredding – presumably to serve the music in question, but likely also to serve his collaborators. so it stands to reason that these two together are going to make a million-mile-a-minute, hundreds-of-notes/strokes-per-second marathon shred-fest; which is pretty much exactly what they do here. for over an hour. if you thought either of these guys’ efforts in their own respective projects could make for a formidable listener endurance test, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet.
Quarkspace – “Spacefold 7”: apparently a series of improv rehearsals released as a sidebar to their “proper” studio efforts in the interest of documenting their progress between official releases, this lengthy effort nonetheless comes across as a solid release in it’s own right. being my first introduction to this longstanding project, I couldn’t help but immediately conjure aural images of (earlier) Ozric Tentacles and Alien Planetscapes less than a minute in. those comparisons hold fairly true for the most part – Quarkspace stand easily shoulder-to-shoulder with the upper echelon of the space rock elite, even at their most spontaneous. heavy on synths, but not at the expense of a good solid prog-like foundation from the rhythm section. hell, with the increasingly heavy-handed trance influence I’ve heard on more recent Ozric Tentacles efforts, I’d dare to say Quarkspace may have even usurped the Ozrics position as the top band in the genre. and if this is what their improv sounds like, their composed material can only be more impressive.
Larval – “Obedience”: one of the previously mentioned bands/artists I was turned onto recently, Larval is an on-going project of composer Bill Brovold. Brovold has released an album on Tzadik (the excellent “Childish Delusions”) and his project Larval has had a revolving door of members, seemingly featuring a different line-up on pretty much every recording that’s been released under the name. this particular release came to us courtesy of Cuneiform records, which is a fitting home (other Larval releases have been released by Knitting Factory and similar labels) given Larval‘s at-least-superficial resemblance to other artists on the label. slightly symphonic avant/progressive rock is offered on this particular recording, with a more-than-slight resemblance to so-called “post-rock” artists like Godspeed You Black Emperor (insert exclaimation mark after word of your choice) as well. however, don’t let that comparison dissuade you – it’s a vague comparison at best – Larval are far more interesting and, dare I say sophisticated than a comparison to GSYBE would suggest.
Mare – s/t: an ep released on Hydra Head, this relatively short offering (clocking in around 30 minutes) shows that Mare are far more deserving of titles that have been foisted on other bands or artists. to wit: fuck Isis– great though they are, if you’re going to call anyone the “kings” of so-called “avant-metal” Mare would be far more deserving of the accolades. there seems to be more true metal running through their veins than many of their hip-metal brethren. while Mare do offer delicate moments similar to those of their contemporaries, when they break out the heavy they become far more devastating than any of their peers. another interesting/funny point to consider: I was turned onto this band by a member of Kayo Dot – one need not dig too deep for evidence that Kayo Dot‘s primary songwriter Toby Driver is not overly fond of the metal-oriented marketing that’s been largely used to promote his band thus far. rightfully so, since metal is only a very small facet of Kayo Dot‘s sound, often almost entirely absent from it. and yet, when one reads any number of Kayo Dot reviews in metal-oriented publications, the descriptions there-in could often lead one to believing that Kayo Dot would sound more like Mare. go figure. anyway, to make a long pointless rant short, this ep serves as an appetizing teaser and I look very much forward to new material from this band.
Supersilent – “6”: finding adjectives for this will be difficult. from what I can gather, Supersilent are a Norwegian collective comprised of musicians with backgrounds in both jazz imrpov and electronic production and it shows – the tracks here-in come across for the the most part like a jazz ensemble improvising on ambient/electronic pieces. definitely an oddity and not one that my untrained brain will be able to do much justice with words. sorry folks, this one you’ll just have to hear for yourselves 😉
been a few days. chalk it up to work and a lack of sleep. on the plus side, I appear to have befriended a member of Kayo Dot, who turned me on to some new (to me) bands and artists that I’ll be checking out further and reviewing shortly. in the meantime…
To Live and Shave in L.A. – “Noon and Eternity”: for some reason, I never ran across this… group, collective, whatever… in the mid 90s when I first got into the kind of noise they make. I was all over their contemporaries Harry Pussy, but TLASILA eluded me for whatever reason. fast forward to a few months ago when I finally investigated them, via their ’04 release “God and Country Rally”. quite a racket that was, interesting enough though I wasn’t sure I saw myself coming back to it too often. then along comes this new record – well, it came out late last year – and I decide to give them another listen. what a difference. going into this expecting full throttle noise-junk genre-mashing silliness, I found something completely different. the 4 loooong tracks here – something else that’s drasitcally different from the higher track count/shorter playing times I heard previously – are actually kind of mellow, in an odd way. or they just seem that way compared to what I expected. this sounds more like – I can’t believe I’m saying this – “vintage” (read: early 80s) Einstuerzende Neubauten might have sounded if they’d been in New York at the time instead of Germany. or going the other way around, Tom Smiths vocals sound an awful lot like Blixa Bargeld with an american accent. anyway, I enjoyed this a lot more than “God and Country Rally” and am now left wondering if other TLASILA releases have more in common with it, or with this one…
Working For a Nuclear Free City – s/t: neat shoegaze-y ambient pop with some electro beats here. a once in a while mood for me, but excellent for what it is. I honestly don’t have much else to say about it, but if you loved the Stone Roses in 1989 then this’ll probably give you a bit of nostalgia. to their credit though, WFANFC bring that whole “madchester” atmosphere into the current century with far a more modern sound. I’d even dare to say that this is what those bands of yesteryear might have sounded like if the technology of the time had allowed them to.
Venetian Snares – “Winnipeg is a Frozen Shithole”: yeah, so is Moncton. master beat-crafter Aaron Funk manages a production on this this release that adequately conveys both the bleakness of it’s subject matter itself and the bile in his own feelings toward his hometown. relentless, pounding drill n’ bass with little audio content aside from the beats and samples of various people either sharing and expounding on his own sentiments; or newsclips that furhter demonstrate it. I had some email exchanges with him last year when I sold him a piece of gear… and considering how much he derided Winnipeg in those exchanges, I laughed out loud when I saw this CD on store shelves a few weeks later. don’t ask me why I’m just getting to it now…
Necronomicon – “Tips Sum Selbstmord”: it’s amazing how many bands will turn up if you mine the “krautrock” pantheon deeply enough. having recently turned up other gems like Kollektiv and Gila, Necronomicon still stand as one of my more interesting recent finds, mostly due to the vast difference from the majority of their peers at the time. for starters the album title – which research indicates would loosely translate as “Tips for Committing Suicide” – is a tad darker than what one usually finds in that era. apparently the lyrical content is far more political in nature than a lot of their contemporaries as well, though you’d be hard pressed to tell unless you understand german – another thing that sets them apart. musically, they bear the most resemblance to Brainticket and Xhol Caravan – the fuzz guitar tone very reminiscent of the former’s “Cottonwoodhill” tones, while the more epic and prog-like nature of the songs have more in common with the latter. and as far as some of the almost-operatic vocal bits – well, I don’t even have much of anything to compare it to, except to say that it works well here in ways that it often doesn’t when rock or metal bands attempt something similar. although repeated listens are in order, I have a feeling Necronomicon will be fast climbing to the top of my kraut/prog favorites.
MX-80 Sound – “Crowd Control”: there’s not much to say about the brilliance of this band that hasn’t already been covered elsewhere. in a sense, they are to noise rock what The Stooges and MC5 are to punk – forebears who probably had no idea what they would spawn or what kind of influence they would have at the time they were doing it. taken on its own, their material was typically comprised of punk tendencies with better musicianship, veering into a sort of “proto-metal” territory at times… but with the inclusion of sax squall on some of their recordings, they never fell comfortably into any particular genre. a little too structured to be called no wave, a little too loose and chaotic to be characterized by later “noise rock” bands of the late 80s… in other words, a highly influential anomally. as to this particular recording, it’s about 30 minutes of great material in their inimitable style… not much else to say really, but if you’re unfamiliar with MX-80 this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
My Dad Is Dead – “The Taller You Are the Shorter You Get”: I’ve always felt that this band – perhaps “project” is a more appropriate term given the revolving door that was the rhythm section – more or less defined the term “college rock” in the 80s (along with Pell Mell). MDID albums always had that sort of nerdy, not-quite-emo approach that defined what would now be called the “indie rock” of the 80s, even if the term didn’t exist back then. but much like Pell Mell, they did produce some enjoyable records. originally a double LP, this was their last effort in the 80s and perhaps their best collection of songs among what I’ve heard from them. for the uninitiated, the album prior to this one (“Let’s Skip the Details”) is probably a better place to start, if only for the fact that it would serve as a shorter introduction. that said, anyone who enjoys it should waste no time moving on to this release as well.
U-Men – “Step on a Bug the Red Toad Speaks”: the only full-length album ever released by a band that released far too little during its existence. although they’re cited as forebears to the Seattle “grunge” movement, they had more in common musically with other bands on bassist Tom Hazelmeyer’s Amphetamine Reptile label, essentially embodying the punk-tinged, drug-fueled, edge-of-chaos noise rock that characterized most of those bands. one might also spot more than a passing resemblance to The Wipers. regardless, the U-Men were one of the better bands of the era and genre they existed in and are often criminally overlooked, simply due to a lower number of releases than most of their contemporaries.