22.10.14

THURSTON + BECK : Mind Wars (Fonograf cassette, 2012).

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Mind Wars is an entirely instrumental improvised 2-track cassette collage, issued on cassette (manufactured by Burger Records) in a once-only edition of 270 hand-numbered copies, that was sold exclusively on Beck's 2012 Australian tour. There are no recording details included, but I suspect their collaboration was a long-distance affair.

If you are/were a fan of the messier Stereopathetic Soul Manure / Master-Dik annexes of these sonic elders' oeuvres then you'll probably enjoy this, though I imagine it's unlikely "listener enjoyment" was anywhere near the top of their must-do list when they recorded it.

Misdrawn

18.10.14

TRASH : On & On With Lou Reed (New World of Sound 7", 1992).

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Trash were an on/off New Zealand pseudo-"supergroup" (currently inactive), bringing together the licentious talents of Bruce Blucher & Paul Cahill (who'd previously played together in Cyclops & The Alpaca Brothers) with drummer par excellence Robbie Yeats (veteran of The Dead C, The Verlaines, The Renderers, King Loser & numerous others). The three of them also joined forces as Brown Velvet Couch, accompanying vocalist Viv Crowe, for an obscure one-off 7" on the short-lived Roof Bolt label in 1994.

Trash were decidedly less highbrow than most of the other bands they'd performed in - but exhilaratingly so. As you can doubtless surmise from it's titles, their debut 7" had it's tongue lodged firmly in it's beatnik cheek, but that doesn't make it any less terrific a record. A muttering, stumbling hangover of a 45, it's surprisingly ended up being one of the most fondly remembered releases of Dunedin's frenetic early '90s era, with a couple bearded / balding gents of my acquaintance laying claim to it's being one of their favourite 7"s ever. Even John Peel, whose support for the NZ scene was, on reflection, curiously half-hearted, deemed to spin it once or twice. No doubt it's unruly amateurism reminded him of Swell Maps, Mekons & the like?

Recorded by authentic NZ legend Peter Jefferies in July 1992, & released on New Jersey's New World Of Sound later the same year, both sides of this long-deleted 7" sound as snottily splendid now as they did nearly two decades ago. Tellingly, it culminates in an anonymous peal of salacious, chest-rattling laughter worthy of Sid James himself, & that's always a good sign isn't it?

16.10.14

DELTA 5 : Live at Berkeley Square, California, 29th September 1980 (Cassette recording).

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Striking while the iron's still hot, etc here's an excellent Delta 5 live recording from the pivotal "Stateside jaunt" (© 1987 Q Magazine) I mentioned below. I can't remember how it came into my possession, but I think it may have been a radio broadcast of some sort? Despite them performing most of the cold-shouldered See The Whirl LP, the D5'S attack here is far more brutal here - barked vocals, intermittent explosions of atonal guitar, unorthodox but insistent rhythms - a ruthless, hectoring harangue that makes The Gang Of 4 sound positively slick by comparison. And, yep, the encore is a fractious cover of The Mekons' evergreen "standard". Sound quality throughout is sufficiently spot-on for Kill Rock Stars to have included a couple of songs from this recording on 2006's Singles & Sessions compilation, but now you can hear the entire shebang. Fantastic stuff, frankly.

Set-list: Train Song / Anticipation / Try / Triangle / Circuit / Now That You're Gone / Colour / Delta 5 / Mind Your Own Business / Leaving / Journey / Innocenti / Shadow / You / (Happy birthday to Ros) / Make Up / Where Were You?

A strong smell of Ralgex

10.10.14

DELTA 5 : See The Whirl (PRE LP, 1981).

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I had a real problem with See The Whirl when I was younger. By the time I'd "discovered" them, the Delta 5's original run of inspirational Rough Trade 45s was already held in high esteem & this, the only full length record they released during their brief tenure, had been written off as a compromised, embarrassing major label failure, & I was one of it's many dissenters. Nowadays, predictably, I beg to differ...

Delta 5 were the third, lesser known wing of the Leeds University art school post-punk triumvirate, alongside The Mekons & Gang Of Four. Inspired by the formers' galvanising concept of "spontaneous amateurism", all 3 bands gestated in catalytic tandem, initially sharing a rehearsal room, instruments & a homemade p.a. system. Additionally, D5 bassist Ros Allen played in an embryonic version of The Mekons, while Mekons' guitarist Jon Langford doubled up with the D5 at a handful of early shows & designed some of their sleeves. It was this fledgling line-up's demo tape that caught Geoff Travis's ear & led to Rough Trade releasing the D5's defining "Mind Your Own Business" 7", a mutant 2-bass dancefloor throb that combined the GO4's conversational left wing ideologies & abrasive punk-funk with the radical feminist dialogue & amateurist "make-do" collectivism of The Raincoats.

Following a couple more well-received R.T. 45s & a triumphant American tour (with GO4 & Pere Ubu), the band left Rough Trade for PRE, the "cool" subsidiary of the terminally un-hip Charisma label (home of Genesis & Lindisfarne) who had already poached (&, some might say, debilitated) The Scars, Tuxedomoon, & The Monochrome Set from the independents. Though the band's attempts to engage with a larger audience made complete sense (GO4, remember, were much bigger in America than at home by this point), the commercial concessions demanded by Pre were more than likely doomed from the outset. Though lyrically as barbed & articulate as ever, it's polished production meant that the resulting See The Whirl LP being quickly dismissed as a bowdlerised & bloodless affair by band, fans & critics alike. Embellished with all manner of "unnecessary" additional instrumentation - & featuring Bad Manners' horn section on several tracks! - it sounds (on reflection) like a Marxist Haircut 100 in places, though the fractured guitar discord of old still simmers beneath it's lavish veneer (on the lacerating "Journey", for example - possibly my favourite D5 song). A disillusioned Delta 5 fell apart shortly thereafter, releasing a final single, the oft-overlooked "Powerlines", before retreating into obscurity. Typing this, it feels like I've read heard this story a thousand times before: best intentions, scuppered by a predominant obligation to recoup.

Surprisingly, Kill The Whirl has never been reissued, though Seattle's Kill Rock Stars valiantly attempted to address matters with 2006's Singles & Sessions 1979-81 compilation - collating the Rough Trade 7"s, some Charisma-era B-sides & various BBC recordings to present an alternative, & much harsher, version of the PRE LP - the one the band themselves perhaps wishes they'd released?

N.B. Ros Allen provides several insights into the band's formation & break-up here.

9.10.14

TITMACHINE : Life In Schaarbeek EP (Unreleased cassette, 2008).

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I dunno what happened to Titmachine - they released a couple of scarce & obnoxious 7"s on 1 or 2 appropriately obscure labels, played a handful of hair-raisingly shambolic cover-strewn live shows (thrilling & annoying cloistered blog-belching purists in equal measure), then conveniently vanished, leaving only this unreleased live e.p. & the pungent whiff of 1970s contact mag D.I.Y. porn-chic in their wake. Recent reconnaissance suggests that they may have been of Belgian origin, but that's little more than an educated guess. However, fans of Kleenex, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Scissor Girls, early Pussy Galore, & the first Palais Schaumburg album will undoubtedly find something to ruminate upon herein, I think?

Life In Schaarbeek was recorded at CafĂ© Le Student, Schaarbeek, Brussels on 5th May 2007, & was slated for release on Penthouse Hotplate (an off-shoot of the somewhat slippery Diskono label). Though the artwork was completed & the sleeves printed, it was shelved at the last minute, pending inclusion (no doubt) on Domino Records' funereally foreordained deluxe Titmachine boxed retrospective ("7 discs, a 300 page hardback book, & 1" badge, & a set of flimsy, badly scanned postcards, packaged inside a over-sized nail-bedecked leather brassiere - retail price: £499.99"), due November 2024. Hup!

Sex Bomb

THEE HEADCOATS : Pedophile (Clawfist Singles Club 7", 1992).

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Next up, a savage 7" entry from Wild Billy Childish & his illustrious Headcoats (aka Bruce Brand & Johnny "Tub" Johnson).

Though 20 years old, "Pedophile" (Billy's spelling) remains a pivotal track in the Childish canon as, despite being an instrumental, it was one of his first recordings to explicitly address the sexual abuse he experienced in his youth. In the early 90s, struggling to come to terms with painful, long buried childhood memories, Billy bravely began to address his molestation in his writing, often in uncomfortably frank lyrical detail. His first novel, 1996's unflinching My Fault, grapples with these issues head-on, & though it's deeply unpleasant in places I have to admit that I liked it a lot.

"Pedophile" is, understandably, a very angry track, the absence of an accusatory lyric redressed by the band's searing (Link Way-inspired) performance & the sleeve photograph of the family "friend" who assaulted him. Now a dedicated Buddhist, Billy claims to have since forgiven his abuser, but this track still smoulders with a fearsome, barely contained hatred, 2 decades later. The b-side, the raucous "No Such Number", is a rallying cry against the corrupt & the mediocre, as are many of Billy's finest songs. The single was released in September 1992 as an installment of the Clawfist's subscriber-only 7" Singles Club in an edition of 1400 copies, all long gone.

Still fiercely prolific, Billy's painting & writing have both eclipsed his music the years since this 45 was issued, in the eyes (& ears) of the general public at least. His current work can be viewed & purchased c/o Clerkenwell's L-13 Light Industrial Workshop (formerly The Aquarium).

8.10.14

MINNY POPS : Live EP (Plurex 7", 1980).

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Somewhat unexpectedly, Minny Pops, one of the lesser known & least celebrated Factory Records acts, reformed towards the end of 2011, undertaking a European tour (including several British dates) early the following year. Even more surprisingly, they're still at it - though their line-up has changed considerably since they first reconvened. Arguably one of the final important bands from the germinal post-punk era to warrant serious reevaluation, & with current interest in minimal, cold wave electronica greater now than it's been for many, many years, one can only hope that Minny Pops' nervous, mordant music might finally be seriously reassessed & better understood, & that it might even find the audience it always merited.

Fortunately, their back catalogue has remained in print c/o James Nice's exhaustive & excellent LTM label. A handful of later, post Factory/Crepuscule album tracks aside, James has managed to track down, remaster & re-release virtually everything the band recorded in it's brief, frenetically productive lifetime. The one glaring omission, perhaps, is the band's early, difficult-to-find Live EP. Recorded at 2 Dutch shows (Delft & Amsterdam) in May 1980, it was rush released on vocalist Wally Von Middendorp's revered Plurex label following the success of their first English appearances - including a support slot at Joy Division's infamous Bury "riot" show on 8th April - & as a teaser for their first U.K. headlining tour that August. They'd record their debut Factory 7", the benchmark "Dolphin's Spurt"/"Goddess", with Martin Hannett during this return visit. Cut in a single day, along with The Names' "Night Shift" 45, "Dolphin's Spurt" has become their defining moment, though it's by no means their finest. They'd also find time to complete a John Peel session while they were back in the UK, allegedly the first Dutch band to do so - that can't possibly be true, can it?

UNREST : A Factory Record (Teenbeat 7", 1991).

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I was an avid follower of Unrest back in the 90s, & though their slew of releases on Teenbeat (curated by the band's own Mark Robinson, a serious Fac head) & 4AD never quite propelled them to the giddy apogees of adulation that I'd expected there still appears to be a healthy consolidation of affection for them. Mark's fascination with the minutiae of Factory's back catalogue resulted in a plethora of playful Fac references in the Teenbeat catalogue, the most conspicuous of which was this excellent 4-song EP with it's slavishly constructed samizdats of Crispy Ambulance, ESG, Crawling Chaos & Miaow numbers. A Factory Record was released on lilac 7" by Sub Pop in March 1991 as part of their subscriber-only Singles Club (#29). Limited edition, long gone. Never reissued. Too bad.

Fac off

NON : Sick Tour (Staalplaat, 1985) (Cassette recording).

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Brace yourselves for a purifying blast of pitiless white (harumph!) noise, courtesy of Boyd Rice's Non. Recorded live in Holland on 8th March 1985, Sick Tour was originally released as a limited edition, single-sided cassette (500 hand numbered copies) by Amsterdam's Staalplaat label later the same year. A similarly scarce CD edition followed in 1987 (neither are currently available). Sick Tour is exceptionally well recorded, certainly in comparison with other Non documents from the same era, including his official releases. God knows what techniques Boyd employed on stage to create this racket, multiple cassette decks possibly, but it must've been a bewildering performance to witness firsthand! Reportedly, Boyd himself requested a copy of the original CD via Myspace, so I'm assuming he didn't sanction it's release beforehand.

30 years down the line & I'm still on the fence, re: Boyd & his "politics". Needless to say, if you find him or his work offensive then, erm, that's probably the point.

Sick