Any fan has been there, anybody with any kind of obsession has done it; heard, or read about something at length and felt provoked to check it out. It usually takes a good amount of searching, and sometimes quite a bit of money and you finally get a hold of that record that you’ve been so looking forward to and have heard so much rave about, and you spin it, and spin it again, and come to face the fact that it just isn’t very good. You, my friend, have been burned. It happens to junkies more than most, and bad product can burn you a lot more than a coupla wasted dolla’ and two wasted hours. It’s a fact of record collection and a fact of being a fan that sooner or later, and throughout your fandom, you are gonna get burned. You can do stuff to avert it, you can try and get all your stuff for free, but it’ll still be burning you in the time department, you can try and try before you buy, but some records only reveal their crapness after a few listens. Just face it, you’re destined to have a collection full of mediocre records that some prick who’s too highly paid and gets all his records for free raved about as good, not remembering that all the devoted heads have limited time and limited money and anything that isn’t of utmost usefulness ought to take a back seat. I’ve come to relish getting burned as much as hitting a hum-dinger.
Three is the magic number as that obsequious fucking song keeps reminding us on the BBC whenever something shit is coming and associated with the number three. Three is a great number for members in a band though, because like Lego they stick beautifully together to form a ‘power trio’. Three people all doing different things but together channelling some quite primal power to reach insane levels of simple, effective and damn tasty riffage. You can imagine a triptych of skins, bass, axes and one of those cats putting double duty as the vox (or not) framed in different panels of a church window if the world were right. Bands seem to make the best music is a threepiece. Sleep, Blue Cheer, Jimi fucking Hendrix all hit that magic sweet spot, and so too did the Groundhogs, however briefly. England’s staggeringly successful answer to the three-piece power rock coming out of the US scenes in the seventies released god knows how many albums over forty years, but for three of those albums the Groundhogs were a three piece, and they are three of the most essential pieces of listening of the seventies.
My baptism of fire into the movie criticism market was complete with a visit to see McCullin last week for TVBomb (a really super-dooper cool website you should totally favourite). A muscular documentary about iconic war photographer Don McCullin, that left me feeling so run down and wrung out I wasn’t able to come through to Glasgae for Los Tentakills latest offering. So I’ll maybe be linking things when I review them in future, I’ll definitely be tweeting about them if you follow me on that confounded thing, and so yeah. On we go. [Incidentally, thank you very much to the staff of Filmhouse Edinburgh who transferred my evening ticket into a matinee without any trouble at all. You guys rule. You’re a credit to service industry people who get so hard a time all the time]. So to cleanse my critical palette, I’d like to write about three films I’ve seen recently, and why they were so good. Take it away, myself.
This week was the 45th anniversary of the release of Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum (we overcome by spewing forth), that essential one-tone tome that came out of left field and knocked heavy-heads sideways with pre-Sabbathean yawp for so long it would be years before it was bettered. If you don’t have some sort of copy of Blue Cheer’s pre-second side of Outsideinside work, go out and find it. They did some super-hissy killer work in 1967 on some rare recordings that are emerging onto the internet, which I’ll advise might be even cooler than Vincebus Eruptum. But if you’ve heard Blue Cheer, y’all know it’s sonic necessity and the eternal cure for what ails us and y’ are on the right track. If you aren’t on the Blue Cheer wagon as yet and have ever stopped to pensively consider from whence sprang our current Melvinite post-Sabbathean mung worshipfulness, look no further kaddies. Salvation is at hand.
I was on my laptop one day last week, doing something that obviously wasn’t memorable, when suddenly I was alerted that new files were being added to my Dropbox folder. Knowing it could only be one person (my friend James) and knowing it would likely be something I’d enjoy, I checked it out pretty quickly, and was surprised I hadn’t even heard of what I’d just received. Frantic research ensued, needless to say, after I’d heard the music. It’s an EP, released for Record Store Day last year, a celebration of the art of music and records that has taken place every April since 2007. Last year, over 400 special releases were distributed in celebration of the day, with artists as big as ABBA, Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie having promotional material in records stores. This particular collaboration between German musician Nils Frahm and Icelandic musician Ólafur Arnalds isn’t likely to be one of the most well-known releases of last year, and I personally haven’t heard any of the others, but from this fortunate dropbox acquirement, like an extraterrestrial artifact fallen mysteriously from the sky, its unexpected arrival into my consciousness has given me great joy and appreciation for its contents.
|RL Huppert is pure punk|
The music and film buffs among you will likely recognize the name Bobby Womack as the man behind Across 110th Street, the blazing soul hit that was used in the opening montage of Quentin Tarantino’s much underrated Jackie Brown. The super-buffs will also know that Tarantino’s usage of it was actually a homage to the 1972 Blaxplotation film which featured the hit as its title track. Anybody who knows more than that about Womack, frankly, is just showing off. I certainly didn’t until a friend gave me this album a while ago, and based on the little I did know I was certainly taken aback. I was half expecting Womack to have aged gracefully, accepting his role as an artist whose days of popularity and creativity were long past and who had resigned himself to performing in his well-worn style because that’s what he knew and was good at. Lots of people do that: Chuck Berry, B. B. King: there’s no shame in it. Sometimes a musician’s time in the spotlight is startlingly brief, and while their message may only be relevant or popular for a short period of time, they still have to put bread on the table; they can’t just sit back and chill for the next 50 years. So sure, a new Bobby Womack album, if it was a gruff reworking or re-recording of old hits, or new songs performed in and old style, sure I could understand. But good ol’ Bobby hasn’t done that: here’s an album that shows his creative juices are still very much flowing, hopefully for a long time yet.
Not to compare myself to the great high priest of Egypt, Pihkal, whose machinations behind the true Pharaoh’s throne represent the first known case of political corruption and who was buried alive beneath miles of sand surrounded by all the imaginable earthly treasures he could never possess in his cursed afterlife; but generally once I have fully absorbed the meaning of a discarded work of underground genius I tend to discard it (I usually write the article at this time). Even world-rocking head-melters by Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell and Goat fall by the wayside shortly after I feel compelled to constitute my rippling tendons of opinion into one long fine textual flash. I search endlessly for new sonic planes, not simply new to me but new to the world. We are all one dude, there is a tenuous and undetectable psychic connection that binds all mankind together and once something is absorbed, it becomes much easier to connect with that information. I read once of an experiment where isolated individuals were made to perform crossword puzzles and their ability monitored. At one point they were given a crossword from the previous day’s newspaper (which had been seen and completed by millions of individuals), and their speed increased 30%. We are all connected. Once knowledge can be uploaded to human cloud memory, it becomes much easier to access. I continually probe the ultra-new to discover trips new to all of mankind. I consider myself an intrepid psychonaut. As such, one something has been in my head-space for a few weeks, I tend to let it drift into obscurity in search of new trips to momentarily satiate my desire for new. There are several albums on regular rotation even after years in mine and the public unconsciousness because their constant meditative genius has become not only essential to my continued mental integrity, but by cardiovascular wellbeing as well. This wretched year of our (Jon) Lord has seen a notable addition to that tiny canon in the form of Bad Liquor Pond’s sublime Blue Smoke Orange Sky. An album which remains new by virtue of its oceanic depth and closely guarded secrets.
I’ll stop with the new for a while, and head back to the year of my birth for an album that so recently has come into my life and allowed me to view the world through altered eyes. It’s not often music has such an effect on me, but then again, it’s not often that such music is permitted creation, release and distribution. Changing a listener’s life don’t sell too many records. But its importance and weight is far beyond that of material possessions. Talk Talk’s final statement Laughing Stock is no less than a masterpiece in a pensive, abstract and subjective way, one that someone (like myself) could find almost offensively beautiful and another person could find like pretentious nonsense. I’m sure you know which side I’d like you to be on.
"Los Tentakills is the greatest band in ancient unborn space" - James - hollers, hoots and whoops.
So I just sat down, chemically stewing, trying to compose an epitaph. I’ve listened to Dopesmoker on repeat for hours now and was just waiting for appropriate pharmaceutical balance before proceeding. I wanted something original, but the only thing I could comprehend was Mr Kurtz’s final twisted words from the Heart of Darkness. “The horror, the horror… exterminate all the brutes”. My Dopesmoker re-release retrospective has been delayed until further notice. It was time, I thought, for a drastic re-appraisal of the whole scene; and it was then I stumbled over my collection of the output of Scotland’s best kept secret. Less a band and more a multidimensional outpouring of uber-energy disco-freakouts combining the ecstasy of Goat with the pure MC5 of Workin’ Man Noise Unit sans the sandpaper abrasiveness. It’s a condenser filled with Comets on Fire psychedelia injected red-hot into single malt rock steadfastness. It’ll give y’ a full-on brain-wedgie and a tenthousandvolt dancefloor jolt that’ll keep ye rhythmically jumping until the closer. They also come be-garbed in the coolest on-stage getup; headdresses and ponchos promise the myth of the West for these Glasgae scrubs pouring out undiluted Americana. Systematic wah abuse is their method; total world domination their ultimate goal.
Weird scenes inside the musical goldmine were brought to life this November when avid Residents fan and “out there” musician Tom Skinner released this scintillating debut. Skinner: drummer, multi-instrumentalist and avant-garde composer clamoured into the airways in the vein of a true auteur, composing and producing the album (Save for The Residents cover that so names the band and album) as well as playing most of the instruments. This kind of creative dictatorship paved the way for, in my opinion, one of last year’s most interesting debut albums, blending elements of dub, trip hop, electronica and jazz into a witches brew of intrigue and menace.