“Cybernetic wah abuse and non-stop intensity are their trademarks, tonal domination their goal.” – sleevenote manifesto
For years, hard rock has been asking one question. It is a deep, powerful, burning question and every time it seems to have been satisfactorily answered, someone comes along who changes the whole landscape, or the game changes. That question: What the hell do we do with all these amplifiers, all this volume and all this distortion? One of the best answers to this question was offered by Japanese serial mind-blowers High Rise, and Live is the definitive slab around which we all may gather and worship. A stunning, visceral, honest, rippling powerful rendition of their best taken live, with the recording equipment under incredible duress.
Y’all must have figured out if I run a music blog that holds no-questions-asked safe refuge from the sustained tedium bombing by the Cowellian air force for anything of a brash, drunken noisy explosion persuasion then, despite not getting around to writing my way up that particular Mount Olympus [at time of writing, obviously I just have, just now], I clearly hold a special place in my tinnitus for the first four Sabbath records and Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum EP and the first side of Outside Inside. There is much other heavy music that I can’t bear to think of a world without; but after the final chords of Volume 4 ring in your bleeding thankful ears, and you’re being fitted with a neck brace from all that Blue Cheer-based vertebrae abuse; you’ve been done. All heavy music to you after that point will be a footnote compared to those two utterly mesmeric and brief forays into noise. Until you drop this High Rise sucker down onto your turntable, sit back with the volume cranked and the heartrate bottoming out and really listen. Never have I encountered an album, aside from the aforementioned Black ‘Jesus’ Sabbath and Blue ‘God’ Cheer masterworks, that so repeatedly and elegantly captures the blood-pumping adolescent fuck the police no hang ups, no hangers on, no hang overs energy than the very first injections of those considered-legendary sonic colossi. High Rise feels like being 14 again, and replaying Paranoid until my ears were ringing. Back when people weren’t old enough to have any problems to talk about when they were pissed so just enjoyed the party; back when people didn’t have pretentions or personas and would listen to anything without pretending to dislike it; back when life was actually fun instead of the misery parade it has become. When listening to the Stooges records was the only way I could understand what they meant by Joseph’s Technicolor dreamcoat, couldn’ta been any of that zealot shit, musta meant something like this... riffs the size of the pyramids motha’fucka!
Riffs nearly as old as the pyramids too, and as respected. Although clearly they plan to ape those Sabbath riffs in a Blue Cheer attitude, they also pinch much more shamelessly. Just you go listen to the Electric Prunes You Never Had It Better and then go listen to Ikon from Live... You’ll find that this is You Never Had It Better, viciously capped in the head with a 12 gauge point blank, and what’s left dragged through slug trails to a filthy basement flat somewhere in the uncomfortable side of town and re-animated using radiation and Pacific-rim magic. Christ knows how many other riffs these tea leaves have helped themselves to from the length and breadth of rock history. I imagine all the parties involved would be pretty annoyed if it came out their riffs had been half-inched; until they heard what had been done with them... then they’d be more appalled. Fudge-consistency guitar tone, not enough respect to find real recording equipment and all played at a million miles an hour like a speeding distortion train racing through dullsville, Britain not caring about red or green signals, not cooling it down at all, don’t you dare stop in Edinburgh’s genetically challenged outer suburbs my friends, here be dragons. In fact, as I listen just now there’s something strikingly familiar about the main hook from Mainliner but I can’t pinpoint what... I’m sure it’s burgled from some unsuspecting drinks merchant, not knowing the spicy little numbers on the top shelf were capable of the most heinous hangovers in the history of alcoholic consumption. These are riffs performed by and used as open-battlefield weapons, guitar artillery fire! I’d probably put it off if my brain hadn’t been liquidised against the inside of my skull from the first chord like a bowlful of jelly in a crash simulator. It really is horrifyingly loud, and not just the volume to which I’ve got it dailed but the general impression even at normal volume is that this is a seriously decibel-overdosed chunk of riffage.
The despicable Blue Cheer knock-off bring the hammer down so violently and so often that any attempt to rationally discuss the album would end in psychosis or going back to a normal job, normal house, normal life; neither appeal. Wild flurries of instrumentation rattle around my flat constantly even in the early hours, so glued am I to the stereo. There isn’t a week goes by in the last two years since I tracked down this monster (and tracked it down again for a portable trip) that I haven’t given it a spin, and such a spin always leads to bad places. So to the question, what do we do with all this noise? High Rise present a compelling and utterly unparalleled answer. If you are a discerning Blue Cheer fan, or want something a little more raw than Sleep’s Holy Mountain then Christmas has come early with abrasive guitars and violence up the arse as the Japanese MC5 on speed come to your town.
Written under duress by Steven.