27.9.09

THE SEER OF SHEPPERTON

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Q: Do you enjoy living here in Shepperton?

A: I don't really live here - in a way it's just a sort of grid reference on the map. I came here 20 years ago with my wife simply because we didn't have any money. We'd had three children by then, so we moved out, down the sort of price scale which coincided, by & large, with the distance from London, & found a small house here. Suburbs are nice places to bring up kids in England. I stayed on here out of inertia once the kids went to schools & all the rest of it. It would have been difficult for me on my own to bring up my three kids in Central London...

Also, it's a great place to work. It's isolated. In a crackpot way, I guess I do like to be where the battle is joined most fiercely... & in a way a suburb like this is the real psychic battleground - it's on the wavefront of the future, rather than a city area. I keep an eye on all the social trends that develop - and it's very interesting to watch the fashions. I would almost call it an airport culture that's springing up around in suburbs like this - a very transient kind of world.

A city like London doesn't really offer me anything - I'm not interested in it, it's much too old. Whereas the suburbs are, comparatively speaking, new. In a way they're more dangerous - you're not going to get mugged walking down the street, but somebody might steal your soul. I mean that literally - your will to live. Your imagination might be taken from you by some passing merchandise corporation or what have you.

Excerpt from RE/Search #8/9: J.G. Ballard (1984).

CAREL WEIGHT : The World We Live In

I first laid eyes on Carel Weight's art while flicking through Grayson Perry's Unpopular Culture, the catalogue for a touring exhibition of images selected from The Arts Council Collection (they're on show in Wakefield at the time of writing).

Weight was born in Paddington in 1907 to middle class parents but spent much of his early life with a working class foster mother. His upbringing left him acutely aware of the disparity between deprivation & affluence & indelibly influenced his painting. Based in easily recognisable suburban settings, his pictures often impart an uneasy, uncomfortable silence, the aftermath of unspecified emotional drama perhaps. Their faintly surrealistic world of peculiarly English back gardens, cul-de-sacs & allotments seems strangely awkward & inhibited, their narratives pregnant with brooding menace. Weight's paintings remind me, albeit distantly, of being a very small child - not necessarily because they portray scenarios that I can vividly recall from my own childhood, but because they're exactly the sort of thing I remember hanging in the foyers of civic buildings & anonoymous dental waiting rooms, an almost subliminal presence during those interminable, immeasurable hours when time seems to have stalled entirely.
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Top to bottom: The World We Live In (1970-73), The Anger (1955), The Silence (1965), The Departing Angel (1961), The Rendezvous (1953), The Garden At Spencer Road (1982), Clapham Junction (1978), Sienese Landscape (1960-63), & The Fair (undated).

26.9.09

EINSTURZENDE NEUBAUTEN : 1981-82 Livematerial

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A blink-&-you'd-missed-it 1982 cassette release from Hamburg's Rip Off / Ruff Trade label (a ZickZack spin-off, they also put out the Stahldubversions tape & Christina's Final Church 12"), sanctioned by E.N. & capturing them at close quarters at their most anarchic, riotous & (frankly) fucked-up. Though very similar to Roir's later (& better known) 2x4 tape, these Livematerial recordings are far more brutal & exciting. Mufti's on extraordinary form throughout - it sounds like he's ripping a Volkswagen apart with his bare hands on the opening Sehnsucht"! I've still got an tatty NME from this period stashed away somewhere with a frighteningly unhealthy looking Blixa on the front cover - the Portrait Of The Artist As A Consumer cutting reproduced below is taken from the same session but he looks comparatively spritely in the accompanying photo. A couple of these tracks ("Schwarz" & "Gestohlenes Band [Orf]") turned up on Mute's original Strategies Against Architecture retrospective, but everything else is exclusive to this tape. Tausend danke & a redhot shower of molten sparks to Dark Circle Room for the quality linkage, Livematerial is a particularly scarce item & I've certainly not come across it anywhere else. Abfackeln!
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Livematerial

CHROME : The Chronicles I & II

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I fucking love Chrome. I still consider them one of the greatest bands from the post-punk era despite the fact that, like Devo & Pere Ubu, they actually formed sometime earlier (1975 in Chrome's case) & thereby pre-date many of that genre's major players. Their 1976 debut, the l-o-n-g deleted The Visitation, is a bizarrely brilliant hybrid of electroshock glamrock & proto-industrial punk that sounds a little bit like Santana & New York Dolls jamming at a seedy titty bar with The Residents on the mic. Virgin Records initially imported it into Europe in generous quantities to a perplexed, but cautiously positive critical response & I'm guessing they shifted more copies here at home. To suggest that The Visitation polarises opinion is putting it v.mildly - most Chrome-aquainted folk I know either slate it outright or dismiss it as half-cocked juvenilia - but despite it sounding like little else in their vast back catalogue I've grown to really like it, possibly because it's so fantastically wrong (not unlike that grainy footage you might've seen of Sex Pistols touring the USA & playing to audiences full of bearded, facepainted business studies students with safety pins through their cheeks & bleached afros, very Rocky Horror). It's easy enough to find The Visitation online if you've not heard it yet, so I won't bother posting it here.

Helios Creed didn't actually hook up with founder members Damon Edge & Gary Spain until Chrome's second LP, the pace-setting Alien Soundtracks. I'll spare you the dribbling hyperbole, 'cept to say that I've been listening to it (& it's superior sibling Half Machine Lip Moves) regularly for the last 20+ years & still find them both utterly mesmerising. In today's mediocre Cowell-dictated musical climate, it's difficult to grasp that a band as overtly unconventional as Chrome could've been picked up (in the UK at least) by no less a label than Beggars Banquet & seriously touted as The Next Big Thing but it really did happen (as press cuttings from the period will confirm). Gary Numan beat 'em to it unfortunately - it's amazing how far you can get with a couple of Ballard paperbacks & a copy of Diamond Dogs! Imagine what the 80s could've been like though, eh?
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Edge & Creed eventually parted company in 1982 over ongoing touring issues. Essentially, Creed wanted to perform live more frequently in the wake of a couple of rapturously received fan-sponsered European dates, whilst Edge protested crippling agoraphobia. Shortly thereafter, Edge relocated from San Francisco to Berlin with his then-partner Fabienne Shine, further widening their rift. It's probably fair to suggest that Edge's interest in guitar-centric rock was dwindling by this point & that the new Creed-less line-up of Chrome he put together while in Berlin reflected his developing interest in synthetic sounds & (primitive) sampling technology. Chronicles I & II, the Edge/Creed line-up's final recordings, were originally issued as part of Subterranean's 6xLP Chrome Box (also including the essential No Humans Allowed collection) sometime in 1983 & to some extent reflect the duo's encroaching sonic incongruity. Though re-released in dubious circumstances (by the notoriously slipshod Dossier label) as a complimentary twinset of vinyl LPs shortly therafter, these terminal Chrome works have latterly only been available in savagely truncated form (with modified titles, etc) on the obscure Raining Milk comp or as part of the regrettably abridged CD version of Chrome Box. Those original, unexpurgated versions have been out of circulation for an aeon & a half, hence their appearance here...

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P.S. You definitely need to spend some time over at Static White Sound if you haven't already done so, it's the finest Chrome rescource this side of Rigil Kentaurus (thanks/apologies to them for nabbing their Chromotional pics, etc).

20.9.09

GEN@NG1

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I found this great period photograph online earlier. It's of Genesis P.Orridge during his COUM Transmissions days, giving his feet a scrub on a visit to Nottingham as part of the touring Fluxshoe event (more about which here). Local info: it was taken across the road from The Playhouse's stage door, just 'round the corner from where Anish Kapoor's Sky Mirror currently stands.

14.9.09

JOHN CALE : Music For A New Society / Honi Soit (1981/82)

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Released in 1982, Music For A New Society is one of Cale's bleakest & most challenging solo works (which is saying something!), & also one of his rarest (it's currently going for anything up to £180 on Amazon!). Musically it has much in common with his many collaborations with Nico, the songs chiefly employing a minimalist palate of understated piano & spacious electronics, though vocally it's much more fractured & distraught than anything Ms. Paffgen put her name to. Emotionally it's tempting to draw parallels with John Lennon's raw & purgative Plastic Ono Band LP - both represent the (solo) artist's creative zenith, while neither are easy listening by any stretch of the imagination. The powerful atmosphere Music For A New Society creates is at once beautiful & disturbing, & as it's very possibily Cale's last truly great album it's undoubtedly worth 40 minutes of your life. Remarkable stuff...
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Also worthy of your attention is 1981's long forgotten (why?) Honi Soit. Lurking somewhere between Music For A New Society's tormented primal screaming & the skewering, antagonistic rock of his earlier solo records - both sonically & chronologically - it's unlike anything else in Cale's canon & captures him at his belligerent, chicken-slaughtering best.

Interesting Fact #1: it's produced by Mike Thorne who'd recently completed a run of landmark albums with Wire & Soft Cell's "Tainted Love", & Honi Soit displays noticeable nods in the direction of the then in-vogue post-punk sound, though it's worth pointing out that many of the post-punk bands were referencing Cale's early work to some extent anyway. Interesting Fact #2: backing vocals on "Fighter Pilot" are credited to The Bomberettes, actually The Mo-Dettes incognito. Though it's no magnum opus, the fraught (& virtually unrecognisable) version of "Streets Of Loredo" is a treat & the entire album's tendency towards peculiar instrumental juxtapositions, leering dissonance & lyrical brutality make Honi Soit unforgettable listening, if occasionally a little starved on obvious "melody". Amusingly, Cale was purportedly concerned that fans would think Thorne's rich production job was some indictation of his "selling out" - there's a great eassy (penned by Thorne himself) about the LP's gestation here. I really like it. Dunno why folk fall over 'emselves to praise Sabotage but continue to disregard Honi Soit, but they do. And, yep, it's already been out of print for several years, folks...
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13.9.09

SKY (1975)


The Man Who Fell To Earth for schoolkids? Several years ago I decided I'd imagined this programme as no-one else I spoke to remembered it, but somebody's posted the entire series on Youtube &, judging by the comments left so far, it seems I'm not the only shellshocked ex-viewer this happened to.

Looking a little bit like a young John Foxx, Sky (Marc Harrison) was a morally ambiguous alien child with eeire, electric blue eyes who, lost in time & accidently finding himself on Earth via a black hole, uses his supernatural powers to try & find a way back to his own dimension. Coming into conflict with the very soul of the planet (aggressive Nature & it's human manifestation, the evil Goodchild), Sky finds himself being rejected by the Earth the same way an immune system might confront an antibody or infection.

Written by Doctor Who stalwarts Bob Baker & Dave Martin, Sky was made by HTV for ITV in 1975. Broadcast in seven weekly installments, it went out at 4.20 in the afternoon & was one of those sacrosanct serials that you'd desperately sprint home for as a kid, not wanting to miss a single second, even though the briefest glimpse of the title sequence could scare you half to death (it's "sleeps under leaves" imagery certainly made an indelible impression on me). As far as I know it was never repeated (though I could be mistaken), & subsequent damage to the archived video masters meant it was impossible to issue the series on DVD until earlier this year when inferior but watchable domestic VHS copies of the impaired segments were discovered. Watching it back now it's obviously dated significantly, but it remains haunting viewing with some amazing dialogue ("Forces of the earth. Forces in the earth. Forces from the earth and below the earth. You who made me manifest, called me forth from the tree of life, who gave me a voice and this hated human form; make your will known through me now against this abomination. Here we have anathema, alien and evil. Here we have strangeness, unwelcome and unknown. Here we have disease, blastocystic and obscene, spreading its contagion from the diaspora of beyond") & prescient, ecological themes to recommend it.

CLIFF RICHARD'S NECK - Where Art Thou? : AGE OF CHANCE & MEL-O-TONES Peel Sessions 1985

The very promising Cliff Richard's Neck blog appears to have prematurely shut up shop, a real shame as whoever was behind it had been posting some terrific mid-80s Peel sessions, the sort of stuff I used to listen to religiously at the time...
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The Age Of Chance's debut session is an absolute stormer. Pre-dating their Tour De France-style lycra look (see pic) & the almostamassivehitbutnotquite "Kiss" 45, they were still sporting snazzy vintage suits beneath the sarky sneers at this point (much cooler frankly) & were far more aggressive & exciting musically. Based around mob-orater Stephen-E's hectoring vocals, Jan P's Ritalin-fuelled Mo Tucker drum set-up & Neil-H's massive wall of sub-Branca guitar aggro, their "sonic war sculptures" are a little bit like Motown pop-power after a ruthless reimagining by Ron Jonhson's Big Flame. Exhilerating stuff, especially their "Bible Of The Beats" 7" which I seriously suggest you check out here if you've not heard it before. Elsewhere, their "From Now On This Will Be Your God" is arguably the standout track on NME's scene-defining C86 cassette, despite the revisionist twee-apologism of Bob Stanley & the like. Virtually all of these great early songs were abruptly ditched after the band signed to Sheffield's FON label in 1986. A tasty Virgin contract, the (still) ace "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Noise?" single & one adequate debut LP later, Stephen-E had split & the band had chosen to pursue a more commercial, dance-oriented direction, drafting in a "proper" vocalist & hitching a lift on the then-flourishing house music bandwagon. Meh. This October 1985 session is still shit hot stuff though - remember 'em this way...

Peel#1 / Info

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Another longtime Peel fav of mine is The Mel-O-Tones' only session from August 1985. They'd already recorded a couple of Beefheart-inspired EPs of speedy, phlegm-encrusted bedsit psychedelia for Liverpool's reknowned Probe Plus by this point (here), but this BBC session remains their greatest recorded affidavit I think (though "I Walked With A Bugs Bunny Bendy Toy" takes some beating). Shortly afterwards, minus founder member Martin Dempsey (ex-Yachts & Pink Military), they transformed themselves into awesome acid grungers Walking Seeds & recorded umpteen terrific EPs, albums (often with Shimmy Disc's Kramer at the controls) & Peel sessions, scant few of which appear to be available on line. Their Bevis Frond-produced Sensory Deprivation Chamber Quarter Dwarf-LP is a great place to start if you can find it. I was lucky enough to see them live a handful of times &, cri-i-key, WHAT a band!

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Other recommendations: the second Fire Engines set (thoroughly excellent, though subsequently disowned by the band), A Witness's first two appearances, those later Marc Riley & The Creepers sessions, The Janitors, Folk Devils, The Pastels, The Three Johns, The Walking Seeds (& The Mel-O-Tones), Bogshed, Tools You Can Trust - I could go on but they've all been posted over at Cliff Richard's Neck so pay 'em a visit, eh...?

6.9.09

POLISH CINEMA POSTERS

Some absolutely gorgeous stuff here, though I do occasionally wonder if the artists concerned actually viewed their designated film before designing the poster? You'll also notice that the marked contrast between, for instance, the iconic Raiders Of The Lost Ark poster & it's Polish equivilent is often stunning. Elsewhere, an unusual illustration definitely makes a low budget potboiler (i.e. Michael Caine's terrible, terrible The Swarm) look worthy of a viewing. Well, almost...
Cabaret
Hello Dolly
House That Dripped Blood
Blow Up
Hunger
China Town
On The Beach
Mystery Train
Raiders Of The Lost Ark
The Rebel
Rosemary's Baby
Smokey & The Bandit
Woman Times Seven
Westworld
The Swarm
Soldier Blue
Top to bottom: Cabaret, Hello Dolly, The House That Dripped Blood, Blow Up, The Hunger, Chinatown, On The Beach, Mystery Train, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, The Rebel, Rosemary's Baby, Smokey & The Bandit, Woman Times Seven, Westworld, The Swarm, & Soldier Blue.

Loads, loads more at the terrific Polish Poster site.

1.9.09

THE COMPANY NEWS

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World Domination Enterprise's incomparable Let's Play Domination LP has finally received a proper CD reissue (it's only taken 20+ years FFS!). Some, but significantly not all, of their singles tracks are included as extras (no "Beats Baby Hi" or "St. Etienne" unfortunately) - more details here. Sooooo... I 'spose a live DVD's out of the question then?

www.worlddom.co.uk