26.2.09

THE GO-BETWEENS : I Need Two Heads 7"

2 Heads
Everybody yarps on about Postcard Records these days, but nobody seems to yarp on about this single for no particular reason. Perhaps because it's the one Postcard release that doesn't epitomise "the sound of young Scotland", perhaps because The Go-Betweens remain such an aquired taste (I certainly am not a fan of everything they've released). This perculiarly overlooked 1980 7" captures them at their simpliest, rough-edged best - a fractious hybrid of fine 60s pop (The Monkees & the V.U.) & awkward, angular 70s new wave (Wire & Television) - recorded during their brief stay in Glasgow - twixt Brisbane & London - & is infinitely superior to anything the appalling Aztec fucking Camera ever comitted to vinyl (Postcard-sanctioned or otherwise). Interestingly, the original barebones line-up of Robert Forster & Grant McLennan is complimented here by Orange Juice's Steven Daly temping on drums &, better yet, you can find demos from sessions for the same single here too. Blimey!
Go-Betweens

SHOCK HEADED PETERS : Blue Rosebuds (1985)

SHP
I've been listening to a fair bit of Shock Headed Peters stuff recently - the magnificent Not Born Beautiful & Fear Engines LPs, & their attendent 12"s (The Kissing Of Gods, Life Extinguisher & that oft acknowledged masterpiece I, Bloodbrother Be - every hovel should have one, etc), all of which I'm intimately familiar with from my hermitic youth. One song of theirs that I didn't manage to hear back then is their ludicrously overloaded cover of The Residents' "Blue Rosebuds", from 1985's Devastate To Liberate compilation. As most of the rest of the album has dated rather badly - perhaps inevitably in hindsight? - SHP's contribution is not only the best track here by some distance, it's also one of their finest 5 minutes ever. Formative pieces by Nurse With Wound, Current 93, H30 & Coil (plus an otherwise unavailable contribution from Crass at their least gorblimey) merely emphasise it's magnitude. Karl Blake's foundation-quaking guitar pyrotechnics have to be heard to be believed - volcanically charged stuff! If you've yet to experience SHP in full flight then, erm, look out - they were almost certainly the strangest band El Records ever bankrolled (which is saying something...), & unquestionably the heaviest...

Further Shock Headed Peters info here.

23.2.09

LEE HAZELWOOD : The Stockholm Kid

Lee Kid
Look at that sleeve! Had no idea this existed 'til I came across it at Realm Of X, & it's a bit of a corker. Released not long after 1973's Poet, Fool Or Bum album (though it has more in common with the earlier 13, reissued c/o Smells Like for about 5 mins...), this is the first (only!) live Lee Hazelwood stuff I've heard & he sounds in pretty good shape - the band are way sharp too (the medley of Nancy & Lee-era hits has to be heard to be believed!). The notes claim it was recorded "at Bern's" - this place presumably?

Lee

22.2.09

JOHN BRATBY : Kitchen Sink Art

Many thanks to John Bagnall & his Bagnall's Retreat blog, without whom I doubt I'd ever have stumbled across John Bratby's vibrantly realist English kitchen sink style of painting. Unlike his peers, there's nothing necessarily grim going on here, his pictures suggesting that the domestic clutter of working class life wasn't all miserable mums in tabards pushing scutty prams across wasteland & serious young men courting tumultous rebellion dahn at t'engineering works...
Anticoli Still Life
Baby Pram In Garden
Still Life With Chip Fryer
3 Portraits With White Wall

From the top: Anticoli Still Life, Baby Pram In Garden, Still Life With Chip Fryer & Three Portraits With A White Wall, all 1954 or thereabouts.

SNAKEFINGER : The Spot 7" (1978)

The Spot
A decade into the 21st century & it definitely seems that most enigmatic of all musical enigmas, The Residents are working their way up to winding down - entering their 40th year, they've recently hinted that their touring days are coming to an end (presumably theirfinancial raison d'etre for the last 20 years as nobody I know rushes out to buy their records anymore?) & several intriguing little insights into their collective past(s) & working methods have been leaked onto the 'net (if you can be arsed to dig around a little bit) that suggest they're possibily preparing to finally reveal their identities (!) & bow out. It's already been established that one of their number has actually been female all this time, an eventuality which makes perfect sense in retrospect but which nobody (including me) seemed to consider until the evidence was literally stuck under their noses. And those holiest of all Residential Holy Grails, the Warner Bros Album & Baby Sex tapes, are both floating about on the blogosphere if you know which stones to turn over (not that I'm suggesting The Residents themselves have sanctioned their release, you understand, in fact I get the distinct impression that they're pretty miffed about their sudden blanket availability).
Snakey   Rezzies
It was coming across those 2 legendary, scarce-as-shark-dentures tapes recently that spurred me onto recently spending virtually an entire week listening to nothing but my Residents records (plus various odds 'n' ends I'd found on the 'net) - not as difficult as you might imagine once you're started, simply because there's so much of it! And once I'd worked my way through that lot, I started on Snakefinger. Given name actually Phillip Lithman, Snakefinger was a cohort and frequent collaborator with The Residents back in their early years of complete obscurity & right through the demented heyday of Ralph Records, a label so prolific that they seemed to be releasing an LP a week at their 80s peak. Born in South London in 1949, Lithman had come up through the British Blues scene in his teens before moving to San Francisco at the end of the 60s & ultimately befriending the fledgling Residents (still unnamed at that point of course). Returning to London in 1972, he formed the pub rock band Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers along with fellow guitarist Martin Stone (of Savoy Brown & Mighty Baby) and members of Brinsley Schwarz (including Nick Lowe) but, following their punk-inspired break-up, returned to San Francisco seeking a recording contract circa 1976. Re-establishing links with The Residents by providing snakey guitar licks as a 'guest performer' on several of their landmark recordings, the band (wanting to move into producing other acts) experimentally took Lithman on as a protege & promoted him as a solo Ralph artiste in his own right, resulting in a handful of very strange Residents-produced LPs (Chewing Hides The Sound, Greener Postures, Manual Of Errors) & the terrific translucent blue 7" below (if the music's not to your taste at least the sleeve might raise a confused smirk!). Always more comfortable as a live performer, Lithman later formed The Vestal Virgins with Eric Drew Feldman (of The Magic Band) & it was while on tour with this band in Europe in 1987 that he suffered a fatal heart attack (following a long history of heart problems) aged 38, the same day his latest single "There's No Justice In Life" was released. Irony is a harsh mistress.

Smelly Spot

21.2.09

MACIOCE

Macioce
Actually... mention of Walking Seeds & Kramer put me in mind of Macioce's beautiful, surrealistic (a seriously overused bit of terminology I know, but it honestly applies here) photography from the late-80s. It seemed semi-ubiquitous at the time (I was reading the right magazines I guess?) & personifies that era for me somewhat, though that's pretty subjective I 'spose. Forced Exposure & Chemical Imbalance were both great supporters of his work, his portraits of underground musicians liberally adorning their reviews sections issue-to-issue, & he was snapper-in-residence throughout Shimmy Disc's finest hour(s), his pictures often-as-not decorating their LP sleeves.
Macioce 2
Though his music-related portraiture is impressive, it's his more expressionistic & experimental work that I really find really compelling, creeped-out imagery viewed through a thick anaesthetic gauze, or a haunted pinhole camera perhaps? Was there ever a book available of this stuff? Anyway, you can take a look at work spanning his entire career here.

WALKING SEEDS : Peel Session - 11th January 1987 (BBC recording)

Hairy 4
Walking Seeds were a fantastically fucked-up late-80s psychedelic rock band from Liverpool who, fleetingly at least, had the honour of being dubbed Mark E Smith's favourite band (I first encountered them supporting The Fall circa Bend Sinister, if memory serves). Their records, often Kramer-produced & all uniformly excellent, were always marginally outstripped by their impossibly greasy Peel sessions, the first of which I'm posting here (it's always been my personal fave). Recorded on 11th January 1987 at BBC Maida Vale, it's 4 songs - of which the ear-boggling "Blathering Out" is the probable highlight - still show lingering traces of their previous incarnation, the demented Mel-O-Tones, but the influence of Blue Cheer & Blast First-era Butthole Surfers is already palpable to the filth-schooled ear.

● Frank

PLAGAL GRIND : Xpressway 12"

Plagal Grind
One of the absoluteclassicmasterpieces of the New Zealand musical canon. I'm a little bit hazy at the how I initially discovered it - possibly via cassette c/o Hood's Chris Adams (never actually met the feller but we did a shedload of tape trading back in the mid 90s 'til we burnt each other out) - but I remember loving it within the first few seconds of hearing it, & my enthusiasm for it has never diminished (it still gets hauled out for a spin at least once every couple of months which isn't bad considering I'm literally up to my knees in audio clutter these days!).

Released in 1990 on Bruce Russell's deservedly legendary Xpressway label, this eponymous 12" is - frustratingly - Plagal Grind's solitary release. I've yet to come across any other recordings by them, even ropey live stuff, though perhaps I've just been looking too hard in all the wrong places? Quite why it's been allowed to fall out of print I dunno, it's such a fantastic piece of work: a reverb-heavy, off-world folk-psych abstract-pop cornerstone deserving of much, much wider appreciation. Their line-up is, in retrospect, a virtual "you're got to be kidding"-standard N.Z. supergroup of sorts: Alastair Galbraith (A Handful Of Dust, The Rip & a solo artist of serious repute), Peter Jefferies (This Kind Of Punishment, Nocturnal Projections, 2 Foot Flame + much solo stuff), David Mitchell (3Ds, Goblin Mix, Exploding Budgies, Magick Heads) & Robbie Muir (drummer-for-hire of Dunedin legend). It's a monster, folks...

Yes Jazz Cactus


19.2.09

LADIES & GENTLEMEN... SONIC BOOM

Sonic Boom
Caught a great show by this gent a couple of nights ago, in his occasional Spectrum guise. Hadn't seen him perform since the heady days of Glass-era Spacemen 3 (when he & Jason P were still seated on matching Val Doonican-style highstools, relentlessly digging into their strings with venomous gusto & dragging each song out until their picks virtually disintegrated into dust - am not sure if they even had a drummer at that point but they definitely hadn't made it to the top of the bill...), lured in like a moth to a mirrorball after Peel played their totally out there version of the Elevators' "Roller Coaster" in it's 17 minute entirety one night, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. In the meantime I'd only seen him play as an add-on to somebody else's schtik (adding retro-futurist bloop & skree to a Stereolab live set c/o an iconic VCS-3 for example). The half-anticipated ceiling-high stacks of pilfered BBC Radiophonic ephemera were sadly not in evidence this time, Sonic instead positioning himself behind a tasty vintage Farfisa while a small, efficient (& super tight) band set up an irresistable, hypnotic throb. Kicking off with the gentle motorik of "Mary" (written in memory of Stereolab's Mary Hansen), the set glided through the Spacemen 3's excellent reimagining of The Red Krayola's "Transparent Radiation", "How You Satisfy Me", "Revolution" (of course), "War Sucks" (another Krayola cover) & "When Tomorrow Hits" (written by Mudhoney for Sonic to sing) amongst others, culminating in a phucked up / phased out assault on the awesome "Suicide" (from Playing With Fire). Sonic's studied, ecconomical use of fuzz & distortion (none of the flailing Blue Cheer-ing of the enjoyable-but-derivitive support acts) & attention to the tiniest (ahem) sonic detail, particularly in the reverb department, was fantastic to witness. One solid hour with no messing about & uniformly excellent.


And this is my favourite album by him, 'ave a listen...

Soul Kiss
Spectrum

17.2.09

SMOG : Floating EP

Smog Floating
The very first Smog recordings I heard, & it's this general era of Bill Callahan's long career (who'd have guessed?) that I still hold dearest (not that I spend a lot of time in his company these days - it's a fine line between elegant minimalist restraint & sheer cuticle-chewing bloody tedium afterall...), the Forgotten Foundation album being a particular fav. As usual, it's John Peel's fault. Somewhere, on a dodgy c90 full of dodgy late 90s bands who'd flapped around enough long enough to attract the great man's attentions for a moment or two, I have a crackly recording of "Floating" from this e.p. - no doubt retained because it was exceptionally brief & filled up an awkward gap at the end of a side or summut, but subsequently returned to, obsessed over & eventually tracked down (Drag City back then wasn't the many-tentacled multinational megacorps it is nowadays so that was a more protracted process that you might expect). Bill was still recording onto a busted cassette deck in his bedroom at this point & it's that cheapshit spontaneity that still excites & engages. That & the perpetual twilight suggested by timeless lines like "You looked like Marc Bolan's girlfriend", of course...

Mice

13.2.09

PUFF TUBE : Emergency Peanut EP (1991)

Puff Tube
As with many of the most loved / most played records, I was originally introduced to Puff Tube's implausible snot rock by Our Lord John Peel, but even by his weirder-than-thou standards Emergency Peanut remains a singularly ear-boggling artefact. Released in 1991 by Cleveland's idiosyncratic Scat imprint (who brought us GBV's The Grand Hour 7" & that legendary Properller/Titus 2-fer of course), Emergency Peanut's 2 zoned-out 7"s arrived folded inside a flamboyant poster sleeve, accompanied by a nice fat 'zine & nestling within a polythene bag full of nonsensical ephemera (I can't be bothered to go into minute detail here, 'cept to say that the monogramed Scat napkin was a suave touch).
Rubber Man
Each 7" side contained 3-4 tracks apiece, all edited tightly & seamlessly together, dictating that Peel had to play the e.p. an entire side at a time - which is exactly what he did, 1 side per night, over the course of a week. His garbled pre-broadcast description of this abnormal package, plus the fact that he was unsure which speed to play it (always a good sign in my experience) ensured that each side of Emergency Peanut was duly captured on cassette for posterity. And it goes without saying that, within 24 hours, a $-stuffed envelope (pre-Paypal, kid) was winging it's way to Cleveland for my own copy. I think it was the bastardised cover of Bob Seger's grisly "Heavy Music" that did it. 18 later I'm still hotly anticipating Puff Tube's debut full lengther, with only one subsequent 7" (another cover, of Don Henley's excerable The Boys Of Summer this time) & an intriguing webpage for sustenance. Surprisingly, original copies of this unique record are still available - cheap! - direct from Scat. Pass the helium.

Poof Toob

12.2.09

THIS HEAT : Nottingham Boat Club 1981 (Cassette recording)

This Heat
From Friendsound website:

"Tape, live at the Boat Club, Nottingham, UK, May 19th, 1981.

More live This Heat, at the peak of their powers. The most fascinating thing about this one is just how close to the recorded versions some of these are — we always thought the guys did all kinds of studio trickery and tape splicing under the auspices of David Cunningham to get the likes of “Horizontal Hold” and “Health & Efficiency”. Damn.Note that the last track cuts off a little early — it’s missing maybe twenty seconds and some desultory applause. Very sorry, but that’s what happens when some jackass dubs it onto one side of a goddamn C90. Still to come: Hamburg and Amsterdam, both 1982.

1. Horizontal Hold
2. Paper Hats
3. Aerial Photography
4. SPQR
5. Triumph
6. Makeshift Swahili
7. A New Kind of Water
8. Twilight Furniture
9. Health & Efficiency"


I honestly almost fell off my chair when I came across this! As a lifelong, slightly disgruntled Nottingham resident (& a fan of This Heat for the last 15 years or so) I was surprised & delighted to discover that this remarkable band did actually stop by our unsuspecting, possibly undeserving, backwater on at least one occasion, if only for an hour or so, to treat a probable handful of forward thinking - or perhaps just lucky - punters to a no-holds-barred demonstration of their monstrous sound (& at it's absolute zenith too, circa Deceit). Way before my time unfortunately, but at least the cassette survived...

2012 update: I've reposted this recording as it was temporarily lost in the chaos surrounding Megaupload's (&, latterly, Hotfile's) collapse. Since this piece was first written, several sources have pointed out that this show may not have been taped at Nottingham's Boat Club at all, & might actually have taken place at Whispers, a run down gay club in the city centre. Further intrigue: This Heat allegedly appeared as support to San Francisco's Tuxedomoon on the night, & a recording of their performance is also (reputedly) circulating, though I've not found a copy as yet.

● This

SCIENTISTS : Blood Red River

Blood Red River
I can still remember my first encounter with the Scientists pretty vividly. I'd gone to see The Gun Club - touring The Last Vegas Story & fresh off of a 2-song slot on The Tube (which somebody had conveniently uploaded to Youtube last time I looked) - at Nottingham's notorious Rock City &, sloshed on cider & attempting to not piss on my careworn winklepickers, I heard the first growls of the unbeknownst support band from my porcelain vantage point. I'd noticed a short article about them a couple of weeks earlier in the NME but hadn't paid it too much attention & was expecting yet more pale & uninteresting Sisters Of Mercy clones - another miserable Flesh For Lulu or Skeletal Family. Their stuttering, shuddering pre-song tune-up had me zipping up my PVC trews with reckless haste & barging my way stagefront in no time (it wasn't much of a barge tbh - I remember the venue still being half full tops). They looked startling: a wholly alien hybrid of scruffy Detroit hairdos, psyched-out vintage shirts, scuffed 'pickers &, man-oh-man, tatty Levis hipsters the like of which we had never laid our gothic eyes on before (they did the alterations themselves apparently!). I don't remember too much in the way of specific details, 'cept that the first song was "Nitro" & that vocalist / guitarist Kim Salmon quite rightly reprimanded some chattering goth harpy for sniggering at the title of "Murderess In A Purple Dress". Oh, & that they were jawdroppingly awesome. Love at first sight basically. I made a beeline into town & bought their Blood Red River & This Heart Doesn't Run On Blood, This Heart Doesn't Run On Love MLPs the following morning & I still own them both, along with everything they subsequently released & a few earlier bits 'n' pieces also (I'm particularly proud of the Rubber Never Sleeps cassette). They remain one of the few (possibly only) bands I've ever sent a genuine fan letter to. It took almost a year to arrive but when it finally did - Kim Salmon's spidery scrawl in green ink on Scientists' headed notepaper - I was secretly rather flattered. Which is why I've never thrown it away.


To save time &, frankly, effort I'm linking to the thoroughly excellent Rogkentroll blogspot who've uploaded the expanded CD reissue of Blood Red River - no idea where it came from, I've only ever seen it online - complete with 50% of This Heart... (unfortunately shorn of the terrific "Crazy Love") plus the Happy Hour & We Had Love 7"s. Consider my kinky titfer doffed, Roggers.

Nitro

11.2.09

THE RED KRAYOLA : Live In Paris 1978

Red Krayola Paris
Suitably extravagant - & elusive - release on the legendary (genuinely!) Sordide Sentimental label. Recorded live at The Bataclan on 13th December 1978 circa Soldier Talk, this version of The Red Krayola is just Mayo Thompson on vocals & guitar with Jesse Chamberlain on drums. Despite the reduced circumstances it's surprisingly powerful, Mayo is in fine angular fettle & the audience are well up for it. Released in a super limited edition of a few hundred & essential listening for all but the most fairweather of Krayola disciples. Off you go...

Pass the Mayo

10.2.09

GASTR DEL SOL : 20 Songs Less

Gastr Twenty
Such a fantastic single I had a serious thing for Gastr Del Sol way back when &, unlike David Grubbs' earlier Bastro & Squirrel Bait outings, I can still spend an hour or two listening back to their stuff now. There's certainly nothing embarassing about this little gem - a lowkey 7" follow-up to their formative (but nonetheless v.mpressive) full length Teenbeat debut The Serpentine Similar (1993) - in fact it's such an enormous leap forwards it's actually a little bit scary. It certainly remains a startling listen - moreso considering that Jim O'Rourke had only just begun to make his presence felt on Grubbs' increasingly leftfield mojo at this juncture. In hindsight, it does feel like Grubbs was replacing his (acknowledged) Albini worship with, erm, Tony Conrad worship (of course, Gastr ended up collaborating with Conrad a couple of years' hence on 10 Years Alive On The Infinite Plain EP). Incredulously, 20 Songs Less is long OOP & is still unissued on CD (as far as I'm aware, prod me if I'm mistaken) - nowt as queer as (neo) folk, eh?

(N.B. A tip of the hat to original poster.)

Grubb it

"There's No Vibrations... But Wait!"

Gimme a minute while I drag a comb through me thatch, duck...
RH Kirk