Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 - The Beastie Boys - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #28

Due to an idea from Steve I thought I’d decide to make like a fridge and “keep it fresh.” [Oh. Good. Lord. –Ed] I realize I mostly do general retrospectives on relatively obscure albums from 30-40 years ago that are hopefully interesting but probably aren’t too relevant. For this I make no apologies: it’s the music I like. I just generally dislike modern music; I think most of the originality is gone and I can’t think of a single style of music that hasn’t been done better at some point in time. But I think just this once, on the last week of the year I should make a retrospective of the 2011 albums I have heard and briefly comment on one of them. The retrospective took me about 2 minutes because I have heard a grand total of 3 albums from 2011. I haven’t even heard the Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake by my beloved PJ Harvey. It’s just there’s so much more music from earlier years that I’m more interested in. But fortunately by keeping the numbers down I’ve made sure that each album I’ve heard from this year has been a banger.

The Year in Review - Steven

[Warning - Stupidly long]

So there are two days left of 2011. Still time to get down to your nekkids with that special person if you haven’t yet gotten around to it (g’wan, give them a call. You lose nothing and you might get to share a bed and start something special) or pick up a ostentatiously massive Cuban cigar for seeing in the new year by breathing in some air you can see. Seeing as 2011 is pretty much behind us, it’s time to look back, past the festive glut in which I consumed roughly my weight in food and drank roughly my weight in booze and at the year in music. Yup, it’s our end of year list-stravaganza. Usually this is the point at which we bestow accolades or distribute lists to the utter indifference of everyone who doesn’t worship us as gods. We can’t be bothered doing that. So what I’ve done instead is to compile a list of records: Single songs, EPs, discographies, full-lengths and live albums that I reckon might have slipped past a few of you but in my opinion represent interesting things. I’m not promising you’ll like these records and I’m not saying I do, I’m just saying all of these picks will either do something extremely well, or do something completely new. I’ll provide links to places of purchase where possible and convenient, but a full-title Google search ought’a set you up with this wicked sounds for yourself.

"This, is a video game"

Y’know what one of the most interesting games of this console generation has been? Bioshock. That objectivist steampunk sci-fi shooter wasn’t just a masterclass in pacing and art design and a high-watermark of voice acting and creative vision up beside Half Life 2, it also featured one of the most brilliantly executed comments on the medium I’ve ever witnessed, simultaneously drawing attention to and destroying the gap between audience and fictional protagonist; similar to the videotape scene in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer in which we are made complicit in the crimes of the film’s anti-heroes by intelligent editing. The moment in Bioshock blows this out of the water. Let me preface this apocalyptic spoiler by saying: if you haven’t played Bioshock and have any interest in doing so, skip to the next paragraph, because what I’m about to spoil will (no hyperbole) ruin the greatest pleasure of the Bioshock experience. Seriously, you’ll hate yourself for reading this if you ever play it. Last chance to bail out? Spoilers ahoy? Right. Around two thirds of the way into the game’s story, you come face to face with Andrew Ryan, the malevolent and enigmatic villain and self-proclaimed leader of the troubled city of Rapture (one of the most exquisitely crafted and memorably realised settings I’ve seen in a game). I’ll spoil as little as possible from here on out. When you confront Ryan, some secrets about your characters past transpire in the conversation but most stunningly of all, it is revealed that the person who has been most instrumental in getting you to this point is in fact out for his own ends and is Ryan’s greatest business rival. The upshot? The player character has been brainwashed into obeying any instruction prefaced with the phrase ‘would you kindly’. A little flashback is given showing that you have been enticed into completing a series of tasks this way. But you weren’t, as a player you put on the game and did what your support character told you to do to progress. Your character may have been brainwashed but you were acting on your own free will... right? But that’s exactly what the brainwashed man would think too... instantly the player is made accomplice and party. As with all the most brilliant masterstrokes in storytelling, not only does this shed new light on the story, but makes you think about this in other video games and also in your own life. A real example of the artistry video games could be a shining temple of if they were less about games developers wanking off the Pentagon and perfecting new blood-splatter based interior design techniques.

T'is the season to be grumpy: My least favourite Christmas songs and why.

Before I started to work in [supermarket employer] I used to enjoy quite a number of Christmas songs. Now, however, entering into my 4th Christmas in work I’ve come to truly loathe most of them. They get played constantly in work on repeat and when I’m in the store for 9 hours I have the joy of listening to each of the songs about 10 times. Plus I get a bit of overtime over Christmas, so this might be 3 or 4 times a week. It’s ruined a few Christmas songs for me completely (I used to really like Fairytale of New York; it’s still a good song but I just can’t listen to it) and made me realize how hopeless a number of others are. I’m not quite at the point where I’m filled with utter contempt towards Christmas but I can see myself getting there pretty quickly. Of course, being a Christian I appreciate the importance of the season from a religious point of view. However, many other aspects of Christmas are now detestable to me;  snow and ice now drive me crazy, I hate how X-Factor now appear to own Christmas, I hate the fact that I usually have exams after Christmas so I can’t even get a proper break, and of course I hate the Christmas music.  I still have a few favourites (Mike Oldfield’s In Dulci Jubilo, Run-D.M.C.’s Christmas in Hollis and The Beatles Christmas Time (Is Here Again)) but going through would be less fun than my least favourite ones – I rave about so much music on this blog; it’d be nice to let rip into some awful music for once.

Happiness is out of business EP - Wine Women and a Song or Two Originals

T’is the season to be jolly, as many plastic po-faced adverts have made me very much aware. But I’m not in the Christmas spirit. Working as I do in retail (that is, stacking shelves and making them look pretty so that you ungrateful sods can have as many different kinds of Ryvita as you could possibly desire) I get to see the ugly commercialist face of Christmas at its very worst. Quibbles over five pence difference on a receipt, full blown shouting matches between strangers over minor Christmas dinner extras, screaming kids; you name it and I’ve probably had to endure more of it than any rational human could ever ask. There’s also the fact that we all become corporate whores and produce millions of tons of CO2 to light our stupid little trees (my tree is carbon-friendly and has no lights). Not to mention it is the very deepest darkest winter and gets dark about fifteen minutes after it gets light meaning I often miss the sunlight completely if I’m working or in uni. If it’s a toss-up between this and those long languid summer evenings where the booze flows quietly and inexorably like you’re bathing in it and the sun never seems to set. Sunglasses and tees and long evenings sitting in the sunshine beat ice-bitten midday-light grocery runs in any universe. But some people like it, they tend to be extremely vocal and organise things I have no choice but to go to so the hell with it, here I am going to introduce you to my own personal Christmas misery EP for your listening displeasure. I’ve picked a coupla miserable sounds to really drag your spirits down if you’re sitting around the house on the 25th having inserted into your face in the last four hours more food than it would at any other time be socially acceptable to metabolise in a week, or that new years day hangover that feels like somebody with hobnail boots dancing on your shallow grave (well, maybe for you, I’m a drunk and thus am immune). In the same style as our Summer Sounds Samplers I’ll give you a rundown of the sounds in my trademark barely-legible manner and then the playlist at the end. As with before, I wasn’t significantly married to the idea to create actual copies (corporeal or otherwise) to distribute but feel free to make your own cd. If there is interest here, the next round of creations might be put into a playlist on YouTube so you can hear it. We’ll see, leave us a comment or send us an email if you’d like to see that happen.

At Carnegie Hall - The Dave Brubeck Quartet - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #27

A live concert is a truly wonderful thing. It allows you to see an artist at their most creative; unconfined by the studio, feeding off the energy and enthusiasm of the audience and generally allowing their music to go in many weird and wonderful directions. It’s also a chance to see an artist at their most naked. I mean, they’re only human, they’re nervous about making mistakes and they’re eager to please their audiences. In the best of cases, the combination of these two leads to a thrilling combination of unpredictability and excitement. The unfortunate drawback of live albums, however, is that no matter how much they try they can never quite replicate the feeling of actually being there. Gaps between songs, fade-outs, songs out of order, songs from different shows may all be pieced together and presented as one disc. However, with this incredible album, not a note has been changed from the live performance. Dave Brubeck’s seminal jazz quartet got up in front of a packed Carnegie Hall on February 21st 1963, played the performance of their lives, and all 1 hour 43 minutes is here, in order, across 2 discs. That, my friends, is something truly special.

Bongripper of the 'Burgh - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #31

“When somebody really has something to say, and I’m not saying verbally necessarily, but emotionally; it comes out of the music and just hits you. That’s heavy music to me, it doesn’t have to be loud guitars, even though I love loud guitars” Jack Endino
Alrighty, last night I saw Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead, and they were superb – up there with the best live shows of the year. I did have a piece knocked up about Liturgy’s new album (Aesthetica, go check it out before the end of the year, you won’t regret the trip) but this has kinda bumped that sucker out of position. To do a little housekeeping, next week we got something special (don’t ask me what it is ‘cause I ain’t written it yet) because we’re celebrating the winter solstice birth of our lord the baby Jebus, so something to do with that; and after that it’ll be some sort of end-of-year-list-a-thon where critique outlets guff out lists like so much waste paper to the utter indifference of readers and musicians alike. Without further adoo, on with the Jackal Headed Guard of the Dead live at Bannermans 15/12/2011 review.

Paradise and Lunch - Ry Cooder - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #26

I love vinyl. I’m a pretty avid collector of records, (or as avid as a 20-year old in the era of digital music can be) having about 65 to my name now. Some were bought, some were given to me by a friend and some I nicked from my Dad’s old record collection. I love the thrill of going into second-hand record shops (Which are sadly scarce in Northern Ireland) and sifting through the dusty sleeves as a gold miner in a Californian stream; searching insistently through the mire till I find that one speck of gold. Music seems to have lost its value to me; albums are available as downloads with no real album artwork to speak of and the sound is cheapened by listening to it through tinny headphones or laptop speakers. Nothing to me sounds so good, or feels so right, as listening to a needle sliding along those crisp grooves to produce a deeply full and resonant sound. I guess it’s a combination of the two of these reasons that’s made me love Ry Cooder’s Paradise and Lunch even more than I would already have. I took it from Dad’s record collection a while ago, having been familiar with Ry Cooder through his recordings with Ali Farka Toure, The Rolling Stones (see Lick My Decals Off, Baby! No. 7) and his soundtrack for Wim Wenders’ masterpiece Paris, Texas. The fact that it used to belong to my Dad obviously gives it a history, and planning to listen to it through his fantastic speakers gave me great expectations for this listening experience. But despite my high expectations, Paradise and Lunch managed to completely surpass them. I’m still reeling a little bit from the impact it had on me.

Never die a silent death - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #30

Well the awful Christmas give-an-xbox-game-to-someone-to-celebrate-the-not-birthday-of-someone-who-probably-never-existed-in-the-first-place period is upon us once again and I’m feeling a little heavy, so I dug out this one from the bowels of my computer. I’ve been sitting on it for a while and I’ve been working on a big project that ain’t yet finished so here we are. Sometimes you gotta try a little extremity, and that’s what Nails provide. As Bob Stanhope put it, don’t eat the mushroom stem and see colours; eat the whole bag and see God”. The music is at least as violent, straightforwardly brutal and stripped down as the name Nails would suggest. Nails spectacularly and yet with indifference cast off many of the notions that plague extreme metal these days; the desire for extreme and completely needless speed and technicality, there are no acoustic introduction songs that are as necessary as a soft drink at a beer festival. All of these completely unnecessary accoutrements are thrown down around Nails’ feet in favour of short, powerful songs, sludgy production and some of the most instantly catchy and immediately satisfying riffs of any metal releases for quite a long time. Nails take the distinguishing marks of the grindcore genre and make them into features and strengths. Nails songs are short, often not reaching the two minute mark, but for grindcore they are pretty long; Nails understand that the briefness of a song needn’t separate it from quality instrumentation, but also know that an extremely short song can make for a powerful statement. For being a grindcore band, and a pretty obscure one too, it was surprising to me just how accessible and enjoyable it was on the first listen, I guess riffs are just a universal language.

Definately Maybe - Oasis - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #24

It’s hard to imagine now how massively influential and refreshing Oasis’ first album must have been in the mid-90’s.  When I think of Oasis, I think of Noel and Liam Gallagher’s constant bickering, the band’s arrogance, their regression into self-parody and their spawning of a generation of annoying little twats who think they’re cool because they can play Wonderwall on an acoustic guitar. They may have gone from musical giants into a self-indulgent carnival troupe with hoards of brainless fans, but one thing you can’t take away from them is their initial impact on the music industry. When Definitely Maybe came was released in 1994 it took the critics and the public by storm, and rightly so. Definitely Maybe is Oasis’ first and greatest contribution to music.

They showed us magic - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #29

WARNING – Contains extreme, graphic and prolonged nostalgia from the start. Readers of a cynical disposition may wish to skip to the actual ‘review’ part of this review.
Live in Glasgow 28/11/11
Photo c/o Vikki Nye
As we’ve explored, ELO were the first band that taught me music wasn’t shite; Pure Reason Revolution were the first band I loved. The Dark Third was the first PRR record I picked up and I was absolutely stunned. I’m sure a full retrospective in my trademark on-the-edge manner will be in the works shortly, possibly as a Christmas treat... Anyway. Today, PRR for me, die. They die for us all on the 30th of November, when they play famous London nightclub Heaven. This is the farewell tour. After that, they will disband. Like the Mayans, we will be left only with what they have already created. There will be no more Pure Reason Revolution albums. Like so many other gone-but-not-forgotten astral voyagers they leave those of us interested in these things forever asking: Did they make their masterpiece? I know they made several, but how many more could they have concocted? Alas, to compensate those few of us still interested in killer music, they are embarking on a UK tour which will be over by the time this has gone up; and they have released a new EP, with several old tunes given a new lease of life and one new one; which is great.

The work of the Necks - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #23

Many years ago in my daily quest of researching and trying to find new music, I stumbled across The Necks. At first they were just a name, and an amusing one at that, but reading about them simply intrigued me. A conventional jazz trio of piano, bass and drums, only playing pieces of an improvisational nature that were typically rooted in minimalism and repetition, and that usually lasted about an hour. Being a glutton for “difficult” music, it didn’t take much further reading to convince me that this was a band I should check out. As each of their CD’s are roughly an hour long with a minimal amount of exposition or change, I’m going to focus on a few albums for this article. The best ones, of course.

When you're in - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #28 +BONUS Keith Vaz rant

NOTE- On an unrelated parliamentary matter – Fuck off Keith Vaz, fuck you and fuck your stupid uninformed ideas. I despise you and your entire global clique of people who fervently believe any form of media can do anything except enhance the lives of its audience by letting them experience fear and horror and violence in a risk-free setting rather than make these human tropes taboo because you ignorantly and cynically expect everyone under 35 to be a potential serial-rapist and Unabomber. Video games are an unprecedented medium for exploring the human condition and your ilk of jack-booted bank managers have historically opposed every new medium and been beaten. Just as with books, films, television and graphic novels, on the subject of unrestricted video games we will triumph over your forces of old and evil. Please know that this is but a tiny and relatively nice message from your leagues of despisers broadcasting you hate from every corner of the world every second of every day. We are daily renewed in our joy that your tremulous voice continues to go completely ignored by those who possess actual power; whatever their other failings, they stay away from your backward poisonous ideas in their droves. Please just stop; you miserable hate-filled old fuck.

76:14 - Global Communication - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #22

It’s Wednesday. I have an Anatomy test on Friday that I was trying to revise for, but having gone over most of the material previously in the week, having a sore neck and having given a presentation a few hours previously I really am not in the mood to do any more work. I’ve thrown myself onto the bed and find myself staring up at the ceiling, and as I crane my eyes further backwards I can see out the window. Oddly, it appears that the window and the wall aren’t completely parallel, so the distance between window and curtains is greater at the left hand side than at the right. I look further backwards and see a lovely blue sky interspersed with wispy stratus clouds. It’s a great day, yet I’m stuck inside. I was meant to have lunch with a friend of mine but she cancelled yesterday, leaving me at something of a loose end. I’m not in the mood to work at the minute and I just want this week and its presentations and tests to be over. So I’ve lain down in bed with some music on. Global Communication – 76:14. It’s been a while since this album and I have spent some quality time together. Too long. I hope it can forgive me. 

A conversation with Ali Lauder - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #27

Like this? Check out what we wrote about Sleep and Bongripper.

“I got Mike [Schiedt – guitar and vox of YOB] to sign all of my YOB albums like a big fanboy but he was so cool about it”

The Felice Brothers - the Felice Brothers - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #22

NOTE - Today is Armistice day, the day that the uncomprehendable horror of world war one dragged to its utterly pointless conclusion - doomed to continue twenty years later only worse because of the built-up hatred. Now is the time to remember those who died, on all sides. It's time to remember all of those killed in Hitler's concentration camps and left in the sands of Normandy. Time to consider all the bombs that went awry and destroyed French houses and all the people sitting in orange jumpsuits in Guantanamo. War is a horrid thing, and meaningless; it is time to remember those often forgotten in these things: the ordinary young men, some the same age as both of us, or younger - forced by a culture of violence to commit the worst crime against which we have laws, to spend the rest of their lives contemplating what it means. Spare a thought for those who fought for our freedom, spare a thought for those who killed for our freedom, and curse those old men who sit around in air-conditioned conference suites dreaming up conflicts in which the precious young blood of the world will die fighting. [Adam and Steven]

I’m a bit of a sentimental guy. Honestly. I don’t mean sentimental in the sense that I’ll cry at soppy movies or feel compelled to donate my money when one of those charity appeals for donkeys or whatever appears on the television. No; I’m sentimental in the sense that in some brilliant or pivotal moments in my life, I mightn’t display any visible emotion but I will treasure away the memory and do my best to preserve it for all of my days. And I do this quite often, and with certain things that may considered rather odd. For example, I can recall exactly what I was doing when I first watched Easy Rider and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and how monumental my experience of watching those films were. I can remember how I met many of the most important people in my life, even if it was because of a trivial thing such as mistaking them for another person. And I remember how I discovered this glorious CD.; The Felice Brothers’ 2008 self titled album. My father used to buy Uncut magazine to read about all the new music coming out, and each month they put together a free CD with the magazine containing choice tracks; either along some common theme or a pick of the best new music at the time. To be honest they were quite hit and miss, but it was a nifty little thing to do. One day I was casually listening to the usual mix of good-but-forgettable music when my mind was jump-started by a blast of accordion. Once I got over the initial shock I tuned in a bit closer and really enjoyed what I was hearing. It was country and bluesy but with a catchy, sing along chorus that didn’t betray its roots. I was captivated by the singer’s rusty, whiskey-soaked voice and his sardonic lyrics. The music was rich and the musicians were obviously really into what they were doing. Before the song was half way through I was convinced. This song was Frankie’s Gun, the third song from this wonderful album. I didn’t manage to acquire the rest of the album until Christmas 2008, when I rediscovered Frankie’s Gun, checked it out on and found that the entire album was being offered as a free, legal download. Two complete accidents that led me to finding one of the most enjoyable and beautiful albums of recent times. 

Sleeping giant - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #26

I got sent an EP to review by a band called Mage. Listened to it once hurriedly while doing other things. In summary, it’s okay I guess if you like your music samey, bland and unchallenging. I spent all of the time I should have spent listening to it getting psyched about finding more Megaton Leviathan. A trawl through Julian Cope’s latest psychic regurgitations turned up this band, Megaton Leviathan. I downloaded their self titled album and I’m hooked. Their discography is diverse and hard to find, a lot of overlapping song titles, their 2011 release seemingly only available on tape and limited to 200 copies. It seems like sorting through Grateful Dead or Les Rallizes Dénudés discography. Julian Cope likes them, that was my first interest light flicked fully on, my second was when I noted they hailed from Oregon, the American state that is famous for being the setting of Kesey’s epic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and the stomping ground of metal magnificence purveyors Agalloch. When I listened, I got more than excited, I was so totally psyched. Their self titled album plays like early Monster Magnet given a school in song construction, the blessed out stoner soundscapes are there, but without all of the frankly tedious interludes and replaced with Pass It On-era Carlton Melton-on-speed riffage that really really cooks.

Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light [A "live" experience] - Divine Styler - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #20

I always enjoy a challenge. Writing this blog, for example, is quite a challenge because unlike Steve I have practically no experience doing anything like this before. But damn it all, I enjoy it because it helps me focus on the music and search deep within my linguistic memory bank to find the words to describe the great music that I hear. It might be challenging, but it’s extremely rewarding, and most challenges are; from working hard for exams to practicing a piano piece to stoically plodding through Joyce’s Finnegans Wake in order to say that I’ve read it. (I’m probably most proud of that last one, although to say I understood any of it would be a downright lie) So today, I’m attempting another challenge; a musical one. I’ve done a bit of research and discovered this album: Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light by Divine Styler. I’ve heard that it’s notoriously experimental; deviating far from Styler’s original genre of hip-hop to incorporate elements of spoken word, noise, funk, electronic and rock music. All of the album is available on YouTube and I’ve glossed over a few tracks just to get a feel for it – it’s pretty weird. But I’ve never listened to it in full, and this is what I want to do now. I want to chronicle my thoughts as I listen to this album for the first time because I have a feeling I’m going to have a few choice words to say. So here we go…

Mister Blue Sky is living here today, hey hey - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #25

I’m sitting in the dark in this horrid city on a Friday night with a glass of two year old Californian shiraz because that’s all I’ve got except whisky, and I’m not digging into that evil stuff ‘till the witching hour. I think I might just have found the end to my heavy time. It’s been a long ride and along the way we’ve had some fun and been suicidal and all points inbetween. It would take something pretty special to take me out of that heavy set that lasted all of fifteen columns. This may be a small period of cold turkey or I might be getting into some really interesting non-heavy stuff. Who knows? All I know is right now I want to talk about one of my favourite bands, and the band that got me into music. Bit of history (and to add to my psychological profile sometime from now after the murders begin), maturing as I did in the nineties, the only music I was aware of was things like the Spice Girls and Robson and Gerome and for most of my conscious adolescence, I thought I simply didn’t like any music. I’m surprised our generation likes music at all, but now I think about all the X-factor talent black holes we have at number one year after obtuse year, maybe this generation doesn’t like music and is intent on punishing everyone for filling the world with such garbage. Thankfully for me, the intervention in my empty and parasitic existence up to that point was a sweet little seventies English rock band called the Electric Light Orchestra.

Absense - dälek - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #19

If you could think of the strangest combination of two musical styles, what would it be? Dance and classical? Jazz and country? The more I think about it, the more I realize we’ve actually had a number of successful combinations of wildly varying styles; from classical and metal, (Metallica, S&M Live) jazz and rock (Steely Dan) to gypsy and punk. (Gogol Bordello) Okay, they maybe all haven’t been good per se, but they’ve been successful enough that their records have sold. A very recent and very surprising example I came across came in the form of the band dälek. (Pronounced “die-al-ek”) At the core they’re a hip hop group; composed of a rapper, producer and DJ. But their sound has more in common with industrial music, Krautrock, shoegaze or heavy metal. It’s pretty darn weird.

Heavy metal's forgotten humourists - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #24

(Or:- the greatest album the Melvins never made)

We are the dead next door
(it's up too loud)
where the dirty needles shine and litter the floor
(it's up too loud)
taste the light inject the lord
(it's up too loud)
I cut myself again because I'm so fuckin' bored
(It’s too fucking loud)

Funcrusher Plus - Company Flow - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #18

I feel that in order to make an album a classic, it has to be one of two things. It can either be an album that adheres to the norm but does it damn well, or it can be an album that completely changes the blueprint of the style of music it was made in. In other words, it can either define or redefine our perceptions about music. Anything else is unremarkable. While there’s a fine line between a good album and a great one, there’s also a fine line between a successful amount of experimentation and too much experimentation, and these are not mutually exclusive. It’s rare to find an album that gets both right, that achieves the balance between inventiveness and pretentiousness while still making good music. But when it happens, the results are quite remarkable.

Ten years alone in the Appalachians - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #23

You could have an acoustic guitar and one vocal, and it could be the heaviest thing in the world. – Scott Reeder

Don’t be fooled by appearances, I’m still deep in my heavy phase. I’m going to start talking about Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s seminal nineties work of abject misery by talking about his most famous contemporary, Johnny Cash. Approach things from odd angles kids, see what you still think about things. The title track from I See a Darkness was covered by Cash in his American III – Solitary Man and it’s been troubling me for a while. Cash’s harsh over-the-hill back woods country bar singer filled with cigarillo smoke and cheap whiskey suited the disquieting surreality of the lyrics of Hurt, but when compared to Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s original version, a song which is ultimately about the death of love receives through Cash’s rocky vocals a touch of distance, that same over the hill singer has seen his share of pain and this is just pain heaped on pain; Billy’s vocal is crucially different, he seems quiet, needy and vulnerable. When Cash sings about heartbreak, it is a statement about the futility of the human condition, the darkness of the spirit; when Billy sings the line “Don’t you know how much I love you?”, it makes you want to cry. It’s a eulogy from someone only loving and losing for the first time.

Midnight in Paris

Having seen 21 of the 41 films that Woody Allen has directed, I think it’s safe to say I’m a pretty big fan of his work. He has always managed to make me laugh, think and ruminate on some of the big issues in life. On top of that, watching his films brings out the wannabe intellectual in me, as each obscure reference to a philosopher, writer or jazz musician that he throws in inflates my ego when I understand what he’s talking about. It seems though that, much like the lower and middle classes since the recession, Woody has fallen on hard times of late. Not financially, but creatively. He’s had his fair share of dire films in the last decade yet continues to mechanically churn them out for some reason – money? Boredom? Who knows. Rarely have his films hit the mark with either critics or audiences since the early 90’s. But his latest film Midnight In Paris seems to be gripping both by the wrist and not letting go. Having mostly seen Woody’s earlier films (I’ve seen every film he released in the 70’s and 80’s bar two) the prospect of actually seeing a new one in the cinema excited me greatly.  And actually watching it excited me even more.

I was run down by the Grand Funk Railroad - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #22

There comes a moment, usually around the beginning of the third decade of one’s life, that things get serious. Rock and roll becomes an obsession, the drinking becomes a habit and sex becomes a weapon. You’ve got to get a job and wear a suit and get up at a respectable time and pay income tax if you want to keep collecting concert posters and limited edition picturedisks, you’ve got to give up the booze otherwise you won’t be able to make it in the world, they say. A lot of people believe this and obey. The others, the living, are prepared to retain that state of perpetual adolescence because that is living; we realise that taking things seriously is just letting all of the downers of the world win. The standard-bearers of this mindset before it was even fully realised, were Grand Funk Railroad, and their magnum opus, Grand Funk is exactly the kind of 50 foot tall exuberance required to liquefy the minds of the nonbelievers. On my gravestone I want the inscription, “I was run down by the Grand Funk Railroad”.

Self Portrait - Bob Dylan - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #17

I’m breaking a few of my own rules with this article. Firstly, I’ve generally avoided well-known artists in my articles: this is both due to the fact that I don’t need to tell you that hugely influential bands like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones are any good, plus I can’t really think what more I could say about them that hasn’t already been said in sweeter and more appropriate words. Secondly, I have always written about albums or artists that I thoroughly enjoy and would recommend to anyone. In writing about Bob Dylan, I normally wouldn’t be able to think of words with high enough appraisal to do his music justice. Thankfully however, Self Portrait is lacking in enough musical merit to make this a problem. It’s a rather slipshod album with many lows, and the few high points there are would probably be considered low points in any of the albums he released preceding this one in 1970. Yet despite its ragged and untidy nature, it’s certainly one of the most interesting albums Dylan ever released, if not musically, certainly conceptually.

A Love Supreme - John Coltrane LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #17

Whether you believe in God or not, (I personally do) I think it’s safe to say that Man generally searches for some sort of enlightenment, focus or purpose for living throughout their lives. This search might lead to God, it might lead to a God-substitute such as money or fame, or it may lead to dissatisfaction. Some search and find meaning in something, others search and find meaning in nothing, but the point is that I believe all people search for this enlightenment; God or otherwise. John Coltrane searched through music. His saxophone playing revealed an intense desire and burning passion that could not be expressed through words. In many of his later albums, his music took on an elegiac or prayer-like quality, often meditative and yearning, as though he were searching for answers to all of life’s great questions. In A Love Supreme, his musical gifts and spirituality combined to produce the zenith of his career; a hugely powerful, personal work that reveals more of Coltrane’s innermost thoughts and desires than any interview or explanation could offer. In working with his regular quartet of McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, the music has a wholeness, a feeling of unity and belonging that came from their almost 3 year time together. While Coltrane is clearly the leader and the creator of such a masterwork, each musician shares his desire to give their all for some higher purpose.

Rise of the sonic titan - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #21

NOTE- this is a companion piece to my Dopesmoker retrospective, and as was to be expected with the whiskey-infused production that attends this series of margin doodles, this chronicles the release before Dopesmoker, Holy Mountain. Read them in chronological order if you prefer. Savour.

Rise of the Sonic Titan – Sleep’s Holy Mountain

As one might be forced to do when ascending Mount Olympus, Mount Sinai or Mount Everest; in the bong mist surrounding the change from 1991 to 1992, Sleep shed a guitarist. Leaving a man behind is never an easy decision to make, but Justin Marler’s time in Sleep was sort lived and characterised a band feebly scratching at the doors of perception, not realising the key lay in human sacrifice. Marler’s departure was simply the key to a greater puzzle. With three men, the caravan that was Sleep could move higher up the increasingly impassable mountain tracks of each of their respective minds, their first product after this split was the Volume Two EP, the fifteen minute album that marked out, like a warning shot fired across a bow, that these Sabbath devotees were about to lay down a trip so heavy it would be completely undeniable that the masters had been surpassed and supplanted by the (until then) apprentices. The following record was the now deemed classic Sleep’s Holy Mountain. With Sleep being such titans of their genre, defining it in many ways, and their discography so heartbreakingly small; every Sleep release and recording we have needs to be treasured.

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #16 - Third - Portishead

Enigmatic is a word I love to use, but rarely a word that I find applicable to a band. A large number of high profile acts seem to revel in PR; giving interviews, doing tours and hinting at their songs’ meaning or origin. Even musicians whose entire life has been surrounded by an aura of mystery, such as Bob Dylan, have at least shed some insight into their life and work. Portishead are such a band that, for most of their existence, has not been like this. They appeared on the scene out of seemingly nowhere in 1994 with their debut album Dummy, which was a big success in the UK and popularized the up and coming genre of trip-hop.  The album won the coveted Mercury Prize despite facing perhaps the toughest competition ever in one year. (PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love included) Then, three years of silence before another album emerged, this one stranger and more sinister than the last. And then nothing. No tours, no albums, no interviews. The three members each went their separate ways for side projects. Portishead looked to be dead in the water.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #20 - Dopesmoker - Sleep

“[The] song was getting slower and slower...
and then it got weird...” -Matt Pike
“[Marijuana] was pretty integral to... my life at the time. The lyric “drop out of life with bong in hand” was kind of a creed at that point.” -Al Cisneros

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #19 - Kvelertak - Kvelertak

Oh the vicissitudes of the human mind. After a solid afternoon being run down by that Golem of a Silencer album again and again while composing my thoughts, I needed a swift spiritual kick to the head to make me feel a bit better disposed to the idea of not digging into my wrists with a kitchen knife. In a half coma, I remembered a black metal band on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, one with a groove so good and cuts so catchy you’ll find yourself wondering what we saw in Hendrix. Let me introduce you to metals next big thing. Ladies and gentlepeople, it gives me orgasmic pleasure to introduce to you to Kvelertak. Kvelertak are the muscular standard bearers for the post-black metal movement. Black metal was unashamedly great, sure most of the music was derivative noise with little or no aesthetic value, but select albums, like that Silencer record, will really stick in the craw of many a person and change their opinion of music as a whole, and a genre that divisive and important is a rare and fascinating thing. Black metal is mostly over; like punk, once the shock value goes out of things it’s hardly worth pursuing anymore. The post-black metal movement is in full swing though, with bands like Solefald and Ghost lining up to take the sound and aesthetic in wild and wonderful new directions, and Kvelertak is the most viscerally unapologetically enjoyable album to yet come out of that movement. Think Hendrix playing for Torche; and then that mixed with Darkthrone mated with Mayhem and the baby delivered by caesarean section by a acid-addled Sid Vicious; BUT even that doesn’t do it justice. I may never have heard music as good as this. When I first heard Kvelertak’s debut self-titled record, it shot up the ranks of my favourite albums of all time like it had been wearing rocket boots and is still climbing. Some of the groove carpet laid down on this record for you to feel between your heathen toes is so thick and addictive it’s like heroin milkshake. It’s a stunning tribute to something that really has rocked the foundations of Scandinavian culture, black metal, sung as it is entirely in Norwegian; and a breathless love letter to the electric guitar by way of commemorating all the great stuff played on it. It is absolutely superb. Kvelertak is the sort of album that makes me think, if I can only get one this good every ten years, I can put up with as much cynical plastic pop and brain-dead tone-deaf metal as you can throw at me, I have enduring proof of what music can do.

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #15 - Albums that defy genre #3 - Endtroducing... - DJ Shadow

It’s week three of the albums that defy genre series. I trust it has been of some enjoyment to you readers; it certainly was enjoyable writing it, considering two of the three albums named here are some of my all-time favourites. But we have reached week three, and thus, gravys and lentilmen, we have come full cycle, completing this little series in a similar fashion to the way we started it – with an album packed full of samples. In fact, except for miniscule vocal contributions on three of the songs, this album is created ENTIRELY from sampled material. A gimmick? Perhaps. But gimmick or not, DJ Shadow’s debut masterpiece Endtroducing….. is a stunning musical achievement. Not only that, but it completely defies categorization.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #18 - Death, Pierce Me - Silencer

"I appreciate your kind words, but I am at this time not interested in any human contact." – Nattramn [vox]

Let me be a little bit frank for starters. Writing this column is easy. All I do is listen to music I usually know I like, and think about it and then try to commune with you why I love it so much. It’s easy, the music is freakin’ awesome and I have an excuse to mope around university ignoring everyone: I’m ‘working’. What that usually means is that I’m listening to Sleep’s Dopesmoker and their petty human concerns are far behind me now. I’ve always been attracted to extremity, in everything. To try to find my own barriers perhaps, to cross them, to find music that is genuinely too heavy is something I’ve always looked for (I happen to think that Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version is the heaviest record ever pressed) and this little 2001 debut really put the squeeze on me. This is some of the most inhospitable music I’ve ever listened to and I’m still not sure if I like it in the traditional sense. It far surpasses whatever mental requirements I have for inclusion in this weekly collection of margin doodles but listening to it without some preparatory Thorns to slip you into the black metal mindset would be like running headlong into a brick wall, or leaping unprotected into a bath filled with boiling water. Even if you’ve spent your formative years pouring over Cannibal Corpse sleeve art while banging out Darkthrone at top volume (guilty as charged), you’re going to find this trip pretty hard going. Strap in, we’re going to Sweden.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #17- Torche - Torche

“Rock like rock shouldn’t be: a rock that your parents wouldn’t just love, given a chance, but one that they’d ask you to play again, louder. It ain’t right, obviously. But it rocks brilliantly”
Mike Diver – BBC

“The general message seems clear enough: space is cool, and life is awesome. Maybe it's a metaphor.”
Wentz_Equals_Death –

Well it’s the end of summer, or more precisely the end of the ridiculous university summer hiatus and soon it will be back to the liver-straining rigours of academia for I. As such, this week it’s been a listening week for the instant fun albums. In that spirit, Torche. Okay so what the fuck is up with Torche? The doom-pop thunder rock Miami quartet play some of the thickest licks around in guitarist Steve Brooks trademark ‘bomb-string’ detonation detune; they take elements from hardcore punk, stoner metal and their own unique aesthetic and supercollide it all together in records that aren’t quite like anything you’ve heard before. Yet they produce some of the most instantly gratifying, catchy tunes coming out of metal today. Each Torche record offers up another savoury half-hour of blessed-out stoner beats that have any Kyuss song blushing with envy and sound like Simon Cowell signed the Melvins, in the best possible way. Any of their albums or EPs would be more than worthy of an In Search of Space autopsy but the genesis of a sound is always it’s most interesting moment; a band’s first record is always the most fascinating so I bring you Torche’s debut self titled album, and dontcha just love that artwork?

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #14 - Albums that defy genre #2 - Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

I’m proud to admit that I’m Northern Irish. Not Irish, not British, but Northern Irish. Personally it’s not a matter of politics; it’s a cultural thing. Northern Irish people have an extremely unique sense of humour, way of life and culture that don’t really match up with those of our British and Irish counterparts most of the time. Also, for such a small country we have produced a great number of remarkable people: Seamus Heaney, C. S. Lewis, George Best, Alex Higgins, Rory McIlroy, Kenneth Branagh and Liam Neeson, to name a few [Stiff Little Fingers too, though you also gave stillbirth to Snow Patrol, so I think we can call it karmatically even. – Ed]. It’s worth being proud of. And in a year where Northern Irish golfers have brought the country to international prominence and respect, it seems appropriate to assert my love for my country. There mightn’t be a lot to do in it, but it’s a nice place to be. Anyway, the reason I say this is because the subject of today’s article, Van Morrison, is from our wee country, and despite the plethora of talent coming from it, I would quite honestly proclaim Van Morrison our finest export. And Astral Weeks, his first album for Warner Brothers, is his finest work.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #16 - A word with Hermann Blaupunkt of Het Droste Effect

“The no pressure, no rules, no expectations thing is holy” – Hermann Blaupunkt (guitar)
What’s this? It’s more than record of the week, it’s another underground strummer with finger permanently on ‘space’. I can certainly connect with the ideas associated with the name of Het Droste Effect: the endlessly repeating image within an image. The picture of the woman on the cereal box, holding a cereal box with a picture of the... You dig it? Play this record once, you’ll get all the ambience, all the space garage rock, some saxophone rocking towards the end with no let up in sight; but the next time you lay this sucker down to play again, it’ll open up like Pandora’s box, spreading forth its tentacular reach to every recess of the room, taking hold of everything; unabridged by genre, style, volume or pacing. Rocking you back and forward for its twenty minute runtime again and again until your first experience is a distant memory, and you’re peering into the eighth picture within a picture, the groove within a groove, trying to interpret the tiniest movement of the strings while the solid raucous and upstandingly groovy sound cascades back and forth unnoticed. Its refreshingly raw, ripped right out of the groove bible copy book and passed to the teacher as a book report and well HOLY FUCKING SHIT the book report blew the book out of the motha’fuckin’ water. It’s a stunning debut and the kind of hard rollicking rocking kick start that dreary bands dream they could write and the sort of record that’s so quietly revolutionary you wonder how somebody hasn’t stepped in to stop it. Surely being this awesome and having this much fun has got to be illegal! Het Droste Effect is like a cocktail that tastes of fruit juice and after two sips blows your head off.

Reflections on 9/11

Of course, we all remember where we were and what we were doing when we caught the news of the planes flying into the Twin Towers. I remember that it was a Tuesday because my grandparents were over at our house and they always came over on Tuesday. I had just come back from Primary School (I was 10) and my grandparents told me what had happened. The second tower had already been hit so I didn’t see that famous, terrifying live footage of the plane slamming into it.  I remember, as I watched some news footage, I thought in my naivety that it wasn’t such a big deal and went down to do some homework. I came back up when I’d finished about 10 minutes later (Primary school homeworks weren’t exactly challenging) and just caught the live footage of the south tower collapsing. I think it really hit home at that moment.

In memoriam.

It is ten years since the two planes hit the World Trade Centre. The Pentagon was also attacked and a fourth aeroplane crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside en route to the White House. There were many horrors of that day, people leapt from the towers to escape the smoke and the flames, a very public way to die. It was viewed as some sort of horrible accident in the opening moments. I remember commentators on television were asking how on a clear New York morning, a pilot could fly into such a prominent landmark. Then the second plane hit, and all at once, as it made its arc towards the towers and its bull’s-eye hit on the South Tower. That was the moment when confusion became clarity. Nobody watching could have believed anything except what transpired to be true. These were hijacked jetliners used as missiles, debatably the opening volleys in a war we didn’t understand and still don’t know how to win.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #15 - A word with Jessica Numsuwankijkul of Heliotropes

NOTE – Another Wine, Women and a Song or Two first, we have an exclusive interview with Jessica Numsuwankijkul, the vox and strings of New York newcomers Heliotropes; whose brand spanking shiny new Ribbons 7” has been the instigator of much rocking up of the shit round my life in the last few days.

‘Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.’ ~Henry David Thoreau

Let me tell you about addiction. Addiction is when you can’t have enough of something. My exponentially growing music library is testament to the fact I am addicted to music. Addiction can happen quickly, just one hit of opium is enough to confine you to the drunk-tank of the junkie for eternity, so it is with Heliotropes. I can’t wait for my next hit from my speaker syringe.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #14 - Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars - Earth

A sound. Like a burning in the soul. That is the sound of pre-Hex Earth (post-Hex Earth can almost be considered a separate entity). A recording group with such stunning purity of vision it is hard to separate out releases or make any in-depth sense of the overall meaning of the work, and yet the main thrust of their point is so obvious. Rock transportation is a reality, and Earth are completely aware of that. While I have talked about Sunn O)))before, the music of these two bands can be clearly separated. The music of Sunn O))) is very much a country understanding, as are all of Earth’s most notable drone contemporaries, what separates Earth’s pre-Hex discography from the rest of the drone music genre is the connection with modernity, electricity, the modern world and the post-industrial era. Earth’s music isn’t mechanical, it is electronic. It isn’t a rhythmic steam engine, it’s a circuit board composed of distortion and plugged right into your head. No release of Earth’s illustrates this more directly than the 2001 re-release of the 1995 live track Ripped on Fascist Ideas, and live recordings from 1990, collected in one release named Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars.

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #13 - Albums that defy genre #1 - Since I Left You - The Avalanches

Hello, and welcome to the beginning of what I hope will be an interesting and challenging series of articles. I have wanted to do something like this for quite a while. Why? Well, the idea of grouping different music together and calling it the same thing has always been an eyebrow raiser for me. Of course, it’s necessary and most of the time it works, but quite often I have noticed gaping holes in the process of categorization. For example; The Beatles and Aerosmith are both “rock” musicians, but you wouldn’t say their music sounds anything alike, would you? Another one of my gripes with genre classification is that it implies too much of a generalization. When asked, “What type of music do you like?” people normally say something like “rock, pop and punk,” or whatever they like. I don’t know about, you but doesn’t that imply that the person in question likes every single artist who performs within the genres of rock, pop and punk? It all seems to very silly to suggest that someone will instantly like a song, whether good or bad, just because it falls into their genre of preference. Lastly, I believe that classing everything into a genre limits peoples’ acceptance and awareness of other types of music. If someone dislikes a genre, say jazz, I find it’s very difficult to recommend any jazz music to them because of their preconceptions about the genre. The reader will please excuse me for generalizing, but based on my experience this is often the case.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #13 - Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version - Earth

A sound. A single sound, multifaceted, twisting, bending and melting. Rumbling like distant shake and shudder of a heavy goods train multiplied to the sound of a foghorn. Monotonous and yet breathlessly urgent. Always seeming to be getting louder. The sound of Earth 2 is the noise I imagine when I see the stock footage of the bombing of Torabora. Barren, desolate. The rumble of an explosion slowed down to stretch out to over an hour. Each eddie and vicissitude burning, becoming impossibly loud. An almost godlike sound layered with a million intricacies and embellishments. This album is so short. Only one lifetime long but getting longer every listen. There isn’t enough time in existence to understand this record.

"Well at least I tried, goddamnit, at least I did that"

What is the nature of madness? This is a question asked by many storytellers and thinkers and still puzzled over. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest dares to ask a far more important and more difficult question: what is the nature of sanity? Propelled by a typically charismatic but unusually organic Jack Nicholson in his prime, as convict Randall P. McMurphy who arrives at a mental institution and becomes embroiled in a feud with the domineering and dictatorial Nurse Ratched over the fragile, impressionable Billy Bibbit. Around them is a nexus of complex and sympathetic characters who find themselves caught between the unstoppable force of McMurphy and the immovable object of Ratched. Adapted from Ken Kesey’s spellbinding and messy sixties novel.

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #12 - Van Halen - Van Halen

The beginning of my personal “musical awakening” at the age of 12 or 13 saw me delving into the world of hard rock, and, for a few years, fervently rejecting any other form of music. Since I was about 15, I have broadened my horizons considerably, and have found a liking for so many other types of music that I have mostly left my love for hard rock on the ash heap of history. Yet there have been certain stand-out albums and personal favourites that I have never ceased to love, but merely neglect, for many years. One such album is Van Halen’s eponymous debut. Like many items of personal preference, whether for sentimental reasons or otherwise, I find it hard to express exactly what it is I love about the album. Sure, it’s packed with fantastic guitar playing, but what respectable 70’s rock album wasn’t? It’s got numerous hits, arena rock intensity, a lead singer that positively oozed sexuality… but nothing in this is terribly abnormal, right? Freddie Mercury was a more captivating singer and performer than David Lee Roth, Jimmy Page a more interesting guitarist than Eddie Van Halen. And yet it’s not just me who was so taken with the album: it was a monster seller, critically acclaimed and made the band into instant superstars. But why?

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #12 - The Sound of Perseverance listener - Death

NOTE:- Sound of Perseverance Listener is an album created by Steven for the purposes of this piece. It is composed by tracks from their 1998 album the Sound of Perseverance, the structure remains the same but where possible, tracks have been replaced with their instrumental versions to change the emphasis within the work.
“I would like to do whatever I can to make sure people know that fake bullshit nu metal that people are calling metal is fucking garbage. It’s not metal. It’s okay if people want to like it, that’s everyone’s choice; but Coal Chamber, Korn and all these other bands are not metal, period. Metal is not about wearing a jogging suit on stage. It’s about maintaining what metal is. Metal was never a fad. It has been injured in America by corporate America so we’re here with our new album to further metal. We’re fans of what we do and I think we have a responsibility to the metal community.”-Chuck Schuldiner in 1998

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #11 - Isle of Wight Bootleg - Miles Davis

In the mid 1960’s, you couldn’t say a bad word about Miles Davis’ music. After having played with the legendary Charlie Parker, he had formed a short-lived octet that produced the album Birth of The Cool in 1957, which spearheaded a new movement known as cool jazz. In contrast to many of his contemporaries, Miles’ trumpet playing was languorous and melodic, very surprising compared to the flurries of notes that other jazz musicians were playing at the time. After a few experiments, he formed a new sextet, which produced the landmark album Kind Of Blue; which was accessible, innovative and which kick started another jazz movement known as modal jazz. Kind of Blue is still revered as possibly the best jazz album ever. Following a few more years of creative restlessness, he settled with a steady quintet that produced album after album of challenging, interesting music. But by the end of the decade Miles was once again growing restless. Taking his inspiration from non-jazz artists like James Brown and Jimi Hendrix, Miles brought electric instruments into the band and began playing some new compositions with a rock-like edge to them. For the jazz critics, this was quite enough.

IN SEARCH OF SPACE #11 - Conference of the Birds - Om

At time of writing, it’s high festival season in Edinburgh and I’m increasingly convinced I’m the only person who can see exactly how manically brain-beating this festival atmosphere is. I’ve just seen three fat Americans talking loudly as they walked into a McDonald’s in their sports clothing that looks a size too small. Time to tactically cede the Grassmarket and the Cowgate for the next week, retreat, regroup and start anew with a sonic assault courtesy of Om. Or Sleep Mark 2. Originally I planned a retrospective of all of Om’s full lengths, but after I sat down to listen to them all again, the fish hook of Conference of the Birds got me again. I’m now addicted. The deep sludgy mid-point between Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Dopesmoker has me. See you sometime next week.

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #10 Television, the best band you've never heard of. Part two Adventure and post-Adventure

“Television – the best band you’ve never heard of”

Part 2 – Adventure and post-Adventure
1978. The punk rock revolution had swept the world. The bold, stripped down sound of the music was a new breath of life to the people who were bored of the overblown progressive rock and jazz-fusion of the era. Young people were drawn to the culture of anarchy, self-expression and angst. The appearance and attitudes of these punks gave young people a sense of belonging and identity, and the extent and influence of this was massive. In the midst of all this, Television quietly dropped their second album, Adventure. Completely at odds with punk’s in-your-face approach, it was not a commercial success, and the band broke up shortly afterwards. However, while it may not have been a success, or have reached the glorious artistic heights of Marquee Moon, Adventure remains a stellar album, and one worthy of attention.

I like some brains with my offal.

NOTE- Welcome to a column I wrote quite a while ago and have been hanging onto for no adequately explainable reason. I love music, sure, but I also love film. So here goes. Let us know what you think.

Let me tell you a story. There is a film out there, available on DVD in Britain, now uncut, that is so terribly frightening that censors felt compelled to prevent this repugnant filth from being projected. It was deemed legally depraving and corrupting. One examiner tasked with rating the film said that he felt as if he had been assaulted. The violence was brutal and the film was outlawed.
That film was Sam Raimi’s the Evil Dead, the 1981 ‘spam in a cabin’ shocker, the legal sinking of which created the ‘video nasties’ whirlpool into which were sucked many great and worthy movies such as Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession, a fully fledged art movie and no doubt the Exorcist sequel that should have been; Cannibal Holocaust, a truly vile piece of exploitation filmmaking (containing among other things, extreme violence, the titular cannibalism and real animal cruelty) that more directly than any other film asks, can a film go too far? And the unbelievably important I Spit On Your Grave. We can argue however much we feel like doing on a particular day about the ‘worthiness’ of these films, and their trashier counterparts, whether these films are intelligent and well constructed works that explore the human condition, but the simple fact remains that as adults, people have the right to be able to view these films if they so wish. There is content advisory available from the BBFC which lists in great detail not just the acts committed by the characters (on screen or implied) but also the general mood of the work and an advised (but legally binding) age rating.

LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #9 - Television, the best band you've never heard of. Part one, Marquee Moon.

You all know the feeling: you come across a band whose music fills you with such delight that nothing else seems to compare to them, yet they have a tragically small discography. One album, perhaps two: think of Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Janis Joplin, Nirvana, The Sex Pistols and so on. In cases like this, it’s tempting to wonder what would have happened if the artist had produced more music. There always lies the possibility that the artist could have gone on to surpass the excellent music they had already created, and thinking about this can be frustrating. However, there also lies the possibility that the more music they produced, the worse it became. Of course, we’ll never know for certain if the likes of Jimi Hendrix would have made his masterpiece had he lived; we’ll always have to live in wonder. But one band that I never wondered about was Television. They’re not very well known to the general public, having made two albums in ’77 and ’78 before disbanding quietly. But those two albums, particularly their debut Marquee Moon, are so close to perfect that I don’t have to wonder if they would have made their masterpiece had they stayed together, because they already did.
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