With a slight nod to Kaiser Chiefs, the new single from new-wave punk band Time Dilation Unit tackles the relatively recent phenomenon of self-diagnoses, or, to be more precise, self-diagnoses with the ‘help’ of the internet.
You have to love a song that sends you right back down the sonic rabbit hole, back into the body of that wide-eyed teenager that you used to be staring up at some long forgotten punk band in a now bulldozed venue in a town that you can’t remember going to. The first wave of any new genre is always the most exciting and subsequent musical devotees may capture the music, the style, the sound, the vibe but rarely do they capture the raw emotion that you felt when you first encountered the music that was going to change your life. A G E N T ’s Stop Talking, however, does exactly that.
There are times on We Are Fucked, gotta love an album title that honest, that it sounds as if someone has built a machine and programmed it with just the vaguest outline of how to make music and let it just work out the rest for itself. Whilst it follows the basic laws of melody and rhythm, of songwriting and musicality, the sounds it choses to work with owe more to the car plant than the music studio. Ever since that famous thought experiment where a violin was tied to a length of string and dragged down a gravel path, the argument about what music is, and more importantly what it can be, has been a heated place. Flesh Eating Foundation seem to prove that as long as you adhere to some of the most basic tenets, you can fill in the spaces between with anything you like. And if they chose to fill that space with fuzzed out guitars and glitchy electronica, crunching industrial noise and programmed beats, well, so much the better.
Following on from the uncompromising title, they run through a series of diatribes, observations and rants about the seedier and broken side of life. Punch Drunk is a sonic onslaught of searing psycho-synth and warped out interludes and the insightfully named Stand Up And Be Discounted sounds almost like Shakespearean textspeak put to dystopian pop music, possibly recorded using road repair tools rather than regular instruments. The End is a diabolic Vangelisian soundscape and the title track and opening salvo seems closer to synth-pop normality…but not much.
The album comes with some remixes of We Are Fucked and Having Fun which range from pushing the songs closer to the mainstream in the case of XSRY’s take on the former to speed fuelled industrial raves in the case of the Paresis lulz re-working of the latter. Bear in mind that here mainstream is a relative term and given the tricky and challenging ground that these songs start out in, mainstream here still might not be that close to the rest of the musical pack.
It’s a collection of songs which sit on the periphery and hold a mirror up to pop music. But, to be honest, it is a mirror that they have previously shattered, glued back together, sprayed with blotches of black paint and then shot with a Kalashnikov. But a mirror none the less.
For a band who wilfully describe themselves as “psychotic pop, psychedelic punk and androgynous rock n’ roll,” Co-Morbid is a surprisingly together album. Together in the sense that whilst it is wild and raw, challenging and visceral, often intense, always surprising, the songs hold together because of an accessibility and even a brilliant pop sensibility at times. Sure it is often buried under a garage rock growl, glam excesses, paisley visions and prowling punk postures songs like My Former Baby reveals them to be brilliant purveyors of Kinks-esque kitchen sink dramas with a New Wave make over.
In fact She Makes Me Want to Die goes even further and makes you realise that if Noel Gallagher had listened to more of Small Faces and The Move rather than T-Rex and The Fab Four, this might have been what the much maligned Brit-pop era might have sounded like. If only! But it didn’t and that makes Faerground Accidents slightly lost musical souls in the scheme of things, which is a shame.
It’s a mercurial blend musically speaking, punky and muscular when it wants to be but able to play the psychedelic pop role too, exhibiting the experimentation of post-punk but also tugging more retrospective heartstrings, sometimes sound like a 60’s hippies throwing a hand grenade into the summer of love cultural happening and sometimes sounding like Pink Floyd if Syd had remained at the helm.
I love bands who I just can’t put my finger on, it becomes an itch I can’t scratch and sends me back for repeated listens until I work it all out, though in the case of these Sheffield musical miscreants I don’t think I will.But that is also the joy of music I guess, what would the world be like if we all followed the rules? Tunbridge Wells I suppose!
It turns out that, contrary to the popular belief, history isn’t actually written by the winners at all. Well, not musical history at any rate. It is more often written by the lucky, the popular or the best marketed, it is less about the righteous and more about the right time and the right place. And for every band that puts a scene or city on the musical map as it breaks out of the grassroots and on to the world stage, many more get left behind for future musical scholars to scratch their heads and argue over why they never got their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. In the case of Athens, Georgia, if the likes of R.E.M and The B52s are to be found in many people’s record collections, it is likely that Pylon is not.
But if there are famously no second acts in American lives, it turns out that there sometimes is in American music and Pylon’s second act is the enticingly named Pylon Reenactment Society. Although the link between the two bands, on paper at least, is only vocalist Vanessa Briscoe Hay, her vocal style, wonderful textures and recognisable phrasing, for many listeners at least, defines both.
Though obviously there is more than that to connect the two bands; these new recordings of classic Pylon back-catalogue sit somewhere between a tribute, homage, celebration and rose-tinted nostalgia trip, but for all the right reasons. It also begs the question of… is it a cover band if Vanessa is singing? I mean paying tribute to a band you love is worthy enough but to simultaneously pay tribute to your younger self…how cool is that?
Additionally these new versions capture the same raw art school vibes and the punk “just do it” attitude that endeared them to the listener in the first place, the same jagged, staccato rhythms and choppy guitars but somehow with added energy and intensity. Some might ask why do we need new recordings of these classic songs, I would counter it with, why not? They only add to the musical canon, remind us that music isn’t a series of isolated events or recordings, that the story does go on, the second act does get to play out. But above all the e.p. is great, that’s the bottom line and in a world where everyone seems to be looking back to the past, these sessions remind us that often the bands who make it do so by standing on the shoulders of giants. Pylon shaped giants!
There is something to be said for a band that you are able to fall in love with just because of what they seem like on paper, their ideas, their essence and their exotic nature. A band built around three siblings may not be that new but when they are split between Manila and Chicago then you are moving into much more interesting territory. And look at the album titles; anything that references Bukowski is going to make serial library card wielders like myself take notice and the fact that their debut album was amazingly titled Who’s Listening to Van Gogh’s Ear? is just the academic icing on the surrealist cake.
But admiring from afar is one thing, meeting your newfound heroes is quite another. I may admire the clothes this new exotic musical stranger dresses in, but do I like them as a person…the needle drop test as it used to be called.
The answer is simply no. I don’t like them. I love them! I loooove them!
The album wanders through glitchy, electronic enhanced dark experimentations, lurching from razor wire, clinical rock onslaughts to Lynchian film scores, ambient dream-pop as envisaged by dying computers to futuristic dance moves.
But this is dance music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a dark apocalyptic narrative and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the nightclub floor, but not the club that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilization and possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the end of the world.
It is an album that is as strange and otherworldly as it is forward thinking and inspiring. It is strangely poetic in its own bleak and terrible way, and brilliant in the way it seems to assimilate and warp recognisable musical genres to its own dystopian will.
Not much music these days feels like a glimpse of the future, most feels like the here and now just trying a bit to hard to get the jump on its rivals for commercial reasons. Jack of None, however, sound like an on coming techno-storm, one which will level current trends and usher in a whole new brutal scene. Their music has that quality of chilling you to the bone but as we know from all good horror movies, you can’t help but watch until the end. And by then, for some it will be too late….
How many bands does it take make a movement? Maybe two is enough, it is certainly enough for a pincer movement so for now let’s consider this less a gathering of the like-minded clans and more a two-pronged attack on complacency. Alongside their fellow West Country art-noise pedlars, Diagonal People, Martyrials raison d’etre seems simple – to rouse the musical proletariat from their somnambulistic stagger. Both bands seem to use music like a Rubik’s cube, spinning the squares into weird random patterns and occasionally finding the answer, but if you are more interested in the answer than the question then their music is not for you.
The colours on Martyrials cube represent punk and industrial dance, electro-clash, krautrock and scuzzy garage creations, they look like they hang out with The Doors, if The Doors had carried on long enough into the seventies to have a bleak, experimental Berlin period and they sing in satirical sound-bites and poke avant-garde sticks at the bear of conformity. If we hadn’t lost track of this sort of revolutionary way of thinking we’d still be defending Guernica from Franco! Or something…
Kristin Hersh has spent years confounding expectations, switching musical paths when you least expect it, breaking rules and going against the grain. Wyatt at The Coyote Palace continues this musical modus operandi by delivering an expansive collection of short songs, twenty-four in all, averaging about three minutes each. It means that lots of ideas and soundscapes are explored but none are dwelt on for longer than is necessary.
There is her trademark mix of slightly fey, cool, serial killer vocals and their intimidating, intense and terse delivery supported by an ever shifting and wonderfully textured musical vehicle. Often the songs are built on traditional structures, sometimes they wander into more post-whatever territory and sometimes it is just that the former structures are buried by the latter approach so that the result is a weird and warped, half melted song style. But would you expect anything less, Hersh’s name is synonymous with art-punk and subversive alt-rock; this is her world, her rules, we are just privileged observers.
Like the seminal Muses that she steered for so long, here the songs, whilst standing on their own two feet, seem to bleed and merge together at points and at others take drastic mid-point tangential flights. To the casual listener it might seem as if the songs have been pressed with the individual track breaks in the wrong places, such is the mercurial nature of the artist.
As always Hersh’s musical world seems autobiographical, inner and slightly secretive and if we find solace in the songs it is not because they are meant to connect directly to the listener, but a reminder that we all walk similar paths and experience the same highs, lows, loves and losses.
For those who say that there isn’t any politically charged, challenging music happening any more…I give you Idles. Rhythmic punk shot through with a dose of Sleaford-esque brutality and putting social and political discussion back on the table, in this case a minimalist sound bite to get people talking about the demise of The NHS.
It has often been said that Idles only make sense in the live environment and with a national tour taking the band through March and into April, now is the perfect time to be part of a musical movement that will hopefully over turn the bland and the shallow and assault the head, heart and senses through a new wave of very challenging music.
The album Brutalism is out on 10th March.
The fantastically named Glitch Trip, Death Drive continue their mission to subvert musical expectation with the economically titled EP Two, though that seems only logical considering the title of their first offering. But if the name of the record (yes, I still call them records, get over it) is one of conformity, from here on in you can abandon any such thoughts.
As I pointed out last time around, GTDD’s charm lies in their ability to meld scuzzy punk noise and over driven garage rock musical poses onto what are essentially pop songs. Not pop in the sense of the slick, dance routine driven, style over substance of the charts as they are today, but more the contents of the charts as they might sound in a parallel universe. A universe based on the teachings of our glorious leader Frank Zappa, one where Bela Lugosi’s Dead is the national anthem, one that has statues of Sonic Youth in it’s town squares.
And subversion isn’t always about ripping up the rulebook; sometimes it is tearing out the pages and fashioning them into interesting origami or deftly snipping them into puzzling paper chain designs. Just listen to Hamstring Horror Show – dark, atmospheric and throwing some brooding looks about but also filled with an undercurrent of urgency and washes of lush harmonies, that is until the mood shifts and the whole building falls on you. Such is their ability to fashion shade and light, sweet and sour into stark and jarring musical statements; Wrestl(er) Romance is the Velvet Underground laced with modern pop sensibilities and If I Could Disco proves that you can even build palatable and groovy songs purely out of acute angles and sharp objects.
Some bands try so hard to be different and then go around pointing out just how weird and leftfield they are. Sorry, eccentricity doesn’t work like that. Others are just strange naturally and this is indeed the case with GTDD, I just think that they are strange by default. Wonderfully so.
Some bands fit neatly into little boxes, musical comfort zones, some head off into the fringes and try to create something totally new, with variable success, then there are bands like the wonderfully named Glitch Trip, Death Drive! whose talents seem to lie in picking up all those strange musical off cuts from the workshop floor, who go through the imaginary bins outside metaphorical studios for interesting things to recycle, glue them all together and come back with a musical chimera. You recognise all the parts, it’s just you’ve never seen them assembled quite like this before.
Theirs is a hybrid of pop and indie, garage rock and art-punk. It is noisy yet melodic, brimming with angst but woven with suppleness and subtlety, it flexes and bends when required but also forms a stick to beat the listeners senses into quiet submission. There is room for atmospherics and dreamlike harmonies, dark goth-pop allusions and scuzzy rock illusions, melodic meandering and melancholic musing and each new spin reveals yet another texture. This is certainly music which is far cleverer than the first listen might suggest.
We hear a lot about band’s DIY ethics these days when what they really mean is they haven’t been signed yet and will drop those same ethics the moment the cheque clears, but GTDD (as its friends get to call it) is the real sound of DIY music and the territory that goes with that is one that sees them send physical CD’s and typed letters to reviewers which always speaks volumes in my old school world.
The reason that Dead Royalties music works so well is that consciously or otherwise they appeal to two very distinct camps. Those in the mainstream will pick up on the heavy yet accessible riffs, the energy and the driving nature of their music. It’s an easy sell, ticks boxes for the man in the street, especially the ones who like things given to them on a plate and who probably bought their Nirvana t-shirt in Primark. But closer examination reveals the real Trojan horse nature of what they do. They might appeal to the man in the street, but then I have met the man in the street, he’s an idiot and to grab the attention of the more discerning music fan is a tougher job. Thankfully Dead Royalties have been at this game long enough to know that.
Look down the cracks between the surface veneer and you see the intricate workings of the band, tinges of math rock that add dimension and unexpected complexity, subversive and questioning lyrics that seek to unravel the conventions of the world around us and angular dynamics which move the music into slightly quirkier territories. Whilst Spraying Perfume… is fairly representative of the bands musical canon, the accompanying song on this 2 track release, Cupids Chapstick, sees the band navigate newer and slightly unexpected musical landscapes; mid-paced, wonky, strutting grooves that build into driven art punk, but then they have always been able to throw you a curveball and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
As well as having one of the coolest band names on the block, The Dynamite Pussy Club has been ploughing a wonderful sonic furrow across the West Country and beyond in recent years. They operate at a point where art-punk, garage rock and incendiary blues collide, where New York no-wave meets retro-rock and roll, where caricature meets possible future musical fashion.
In the same way that Jim Jones reinvented himself as an apocalyptic blues preacher, Messrs’ Mambo, Suave and Boogie apply the same makeover to the early days of rock and roll, turning Elvis into Max Headroom and Gene Vincent into Iggy Pop along the way. Add a touch of psychedelic vibes courtesy of a Theremin, tribal beats and primal howls and you have the route rock and roll could have taken if the right drugs had been available back then, if everything had been heightened, taken to extremes, not taken too seriously and if the newly identifier teenager could have handled it.
It’s the sound of the Jon Spenser Blues Explosion actually imploding, the sound of punk being invented in a Chicago blues club in 1957, a gang fight set to 12 bar rhythms or rock and roll ceasing to evolve beyond Little Richard and instead just getting louder and louder until space and time are bent around it and the nothing can escape it’s influence. It’s not clever but it’s fucking big!