Ghostory - School of Seven Bells - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #46

So I found this new album by a band called School of Seven Bells. They’ve been around for a while and I thought I’d check the album because it sounded interesting in an old school kind of way. You see that’s my problem with new music. Nothing really sounds inspired to me because I’m a retro sort of chap, I prefer the old sounds, the old school B-boying, the thunderous crunch of a Fender Strat. I’ve said this before, and maybe it’s a stupid point, but I can’t think of any genre that is currently at the peak of its artistry or creativity. Any genre of music that I can think of has been done much better at some point in history. So to me, music nowadays sounds tired, and the only real way I can take interest is if it sounds a bit retro, sounds like it’s indicative of another era. And it also means I more or less ignore a lot of new releases simply because I’m prejudiced against this era. You may have noticed this by how infrequently I write about new music, and in fact the proportion of music from the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve written about is not at all representative of how much I actually listen to. I normally listen to a lot less. I do feel it’s my duty, to a certain extent, to try and write about new music now that I’m on this blog and it’s getting a fair number of readers. Steven does it and I feel I should do the same, plus it’s an attempt to keep it fresh for the readers. (I hope you’re grateful, I go through great pains to do this) So what I’m trying to say really boils down to this: I got this album because it sounds quite retro, and it’s new. And you know what? It’s not bad, not bad at all.

Music as art, music as fetish property - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #62

I am always harping on here, on other select locations and to people forced to sit next to me on the bus that I think we all ought to do a little more to support our local scene, that means buying a tee at a local gig and wearing it, buying a few pints to prop up the bar too and hanging out in your local record shop. It is in those dusty shelves, between those weathered vinyls and plastic sleeves that great music is born. You just have to go into one of these little local independent (Because fuck you HMV and fuck you Apple) shops and you can see and meet like minded heads, get chatting about that vintage Stooges they’re playing on the turntable, get hipped to the best gigs, the best underground bands and the best vinyl they just got into the shop. This is the dream, and the dream, much like many other dreams, is dead. Even independent record shops are ugly and corporatized who get their pricing via Discogs and their business strategies from Basil Fawlty. The shelf-space slowly gets reduced and the celebration of music as art is almost vanished behind an air of boredom. I was in Avalanche records in Edinburgh, formerly the finest jewel in the cardboard crown of Edinburgh’s pathetic independent record shop scene and saw it all unfold right there, a horrifying, mad mad scene, the mind recoils in horror. The celebration of music as fetish property goes on though, and proudly so because I love me some fetish property. Recently I received an email from beyond the grave from Pure Reason Revolution, a Spring newsletter but the only thing growing out of the Pure Reason camp is poppies. Selling off the remaining merch, so get down to their merch store where tons of stuff is extra-special cheap. They were selling a vinyl of the continental version of their sublime the Dark Third album for ten earth money and I just couldn’t resist. Something drew me to possess that album, with the yellow stuff on the cover. I’ve got a cd copy of the album and usually listen to it through my iPod dock because that’s how I hear most of my music sad to say. It was something about the rarity, the fetish nature of the LP that I just needed to possess. I probably won’t listen to the LP ever, maybe spin it once for my own edification, but the iPod is just easier. But I just have to own this record.

The Godlike genius of Electric Wizard, the bitter disappointment of Jus Oborn’s Electric Wizard and the Godlike genius of Ramesses: A selected discography - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #61

NOTE - Don't worry lovers, I haven't misplaced my diary or taken too much meth again, I'm going to be spreading posts out over the week, so my first article will go up Wednesday, the main glut of posts on Friday and any non-music stuff/announcements/obits will go up Sunday, got it? Love you too!

(Or: Rite on.)
(Or: Come on baby light my pyre.)
It was as I took delivery of the latest Electric Wizard seven-inch, I spun it once and then put it away. I shall enjoy it as a fetish item just as I treasure my unplayed Dark Third double-vinyl, but why do I still buy Electric Wizard records? Somewhere in the midst of Black Masses I realised I don’t like them anymore; some sense of duty to a band that was once so transcendent? Or a tiny vestige of hope that they might be that transcendent again? This forced me to look at myself, and meditate that my diarised musical maturation into the land of the heavy, usually drug-infused English music is not complete without a long look at the band Electric Wizard, and this blog wouldn’t hold off an Electric Wizard article any longer. So because of the release of Legalise Drugs and Murder I’m gonna look back at the difficulties of being an Electric Wizard freak, the Ramesses conundrum and exactly where one ought to draw the line. It’s time to come to terms with my Electric Wizard problem.

Why beer is better than wine, a retort.

I hope you’ll appreciate this, dear reader, as you sneer at your computer screen through the cheeto dust (or through the psychedelic haze! In which case, power to you!). Reading (and editing) Adam’s recent wine blog made me want to write one about drink myself, as a more storied drinker than Adam (and a far less classy one, no doubt) I thought I’d throw my hat into the ring regarding that most legal of experience-enhancers, booze.

Musings on wine.

Given the name of this blog I expect at least someone has clicked on the link thinking that a fair portion of the content within would be devoted to wine. Well we’ve had almost a whopping 12 months of this blog and I don’t believe the word has even been mentioned, so I’m going to buck the trend just this once. [It has! Steven wrote an article about home brewing a few months ago which mentioned wine, although it wasn’t really about wine as such. Makes a good read regardless] This isn’t a random whim, I recently attended a wine tasting course in Belfast for a few weeks and found that, not only did I enjoy the wine, I enjoyed telling people I was going, that I was drinking wines older than I was, wines that had to be imported from the continent as they weren’t sold over here etc. Why? Because I’m pretentious; yes that’s right folks, little ol’ me has a propensity for that deplorable state of arrogance and conceitedness. I can’t help it: maybe it’s an insecurity, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve always had aspirations to experience new and unusual things, for example, I took jive lessons with a friend of mine when I was seventeen, I’ve been to see The Hilliard Ensemble live and so on. However, it would be incorrect to surmise that I did these things solely to climb up a few rungs on the ladder of pretentiousness; I have genuinely enjoyed them all and my enjoyment was my primary motivation for doing them. But I would be lying if I said part of the appeal in doing these things had nothing to do with the fact that I could tell other people about them. And ultimately, I think, the overall production and consumption of wine is essentially pretentious. Just look at the business! There are top notch producers like Chateau Margaux and Lafite Rothschild in Bordeaux that never seem to charge less than £500 for a bottle, even if the vintage was less than satisfactory. Heck, there are producers that scrap the entire vintage for the year if they feel it wasn’t up to standard – they simply don’t release one! And of course the whole wine scoring, tasting, comparing, doubling the price of a wine based on one critic’s rave review etc. can be quite ridiculous. There’s nothing that cries out “rich white man” more than a wine tasting; this has been satirized in Frasier, among other places. Beer is the working man’s drink: wine is for the intellectuals [Unless you’re in southern Europe, where wine is the drink of the people and beer was the drink of kings – fact fans. Ed.]. Thus it appeals to my ostentatious nature. I don’t like wine any more than I like beer. I don’t drink either very often, but I wouldn’t think twice about paying £50 for a bottle of wine if I was guaranteed it’d be a very good one, but £50 for a few bottles (or the equivalent of a bottle of wine, 750ml or so) of extremely good beer? I’d walk away laughing with my money in my pocket. But I like the idea of wine: I like the idea of knowing my favourite grape variety, knowing which years had particularly good vintages, how to spot a good deal, gathering a collection of wines and storing them in a cellar for about 20 years. Thus I think it’s more of an intellectual exercise than one of pure enjoyment, and for that extra benefit, I’m happy to pay the extra money. Call me pretentious if you want: I deserve it.

Karma's return: A critique without guns or substances - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #60

[Note- This be a companion piece to my first, high-priase Karma to Burn article so don't read one without reading the other, or I'll know]

Karma to Burn have just received rapturous praise as only this blog can deliver, a manic essay written at half five in the morning, chiefly concerned with their two middle albums, the greats Wild Wonderful Purgatory and Almost Heathen. Today I change tack and talk about why V as a Karma to Burn album is simultaneously one of the best albums of 2011, and one of the worst albums of all time. I am pretty sober (as sober as I can get without the angst becoming endemic) and I’m going to slice and dice it as I see fit and try to explain why I love V by Karma to Burn, and why it signifies the end of one of my favourite bands. Karma to Burn have had two flawless albums, which is two more than most bands, but I can’t help feeling, even through V that they could have done so much more. These cats set up a quality well, and could dip and album-sized bucket down into that free flowing stream of quality any time they saw fit.

The best live album of all time? Grateful Dead – Dick’s Picks Volume 4: February 13th & 14th 1970, Fillmore East - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #45

[Again with the long titles! - Ed.]

I’ve always found the Grateful Dead much like a lost army wandering through a foreign land. For much of the time they’re simply plodding along, trekking aimlessly with no direction to shoot and nobody to aim for. Yet occasionally the army will stumble across an adversary, an opposing army, and battle commences with the deafening roar of gunfire, the unity of the troops fighting against one common perpetrator. In this brief moment, that comes along only very rarely, there is a moment of astonishing cohesiveness and individual heroism, with each man out to win the battle for himself and his comrades, giving their all individually and as a group. Similarly, the Dead’s live performances were often tired, unfocused and insipid, laboring their way through all-too familiar material to audiences who were too stoned to care. Yet once in a while, and sometimes for incredible runs of months or even years on end, the Dead simply got it right. They had the focus, the motivation, the passion: the mood was right, the songs were great and the improvisation extended beyond the farthest reaches of the cosmos.  Thank goodness for those dedicated fans who set up mobile recording studios in almost every venue they played at, so that the very pinnacle of the Dead’s live showmanship wouldn’t just remain the stuff of legend: it would be available for us many decades later in superbly rendered quality.

Much too young to know - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #59

(Or:- ‘I just want your soul, ‘fore you’re too ol’, don’t wanna wait, until it’s too late’)
“I don’t hear a single, we can’t sell this”.

Can’t sell it. Nope, you sure as hell can’t. I’ve not sold a Pentagram record as long as I’ve been aware of them. I’ve never given one away either, I’ve loaned a few, sure, but such is the life of the record-collecting fans of the rock and roll world, you gotta organise, associate and socialise motherfuckers, keep the line strong! Nope, I imagine selling Pentagram records would be a challenge, especially selling them to squares. Anyone trying to sell mind-expansion to those who want mind-shrinkage knows it’s always a tricky sell. It seems that all of their various promoters and labels throughout the seventies had the same problem, releasing Pentagram records under different names and in tiny quantities. In fact what is now established in the eyes of the aware heads as one of the most visionary bands of that sweet seventies surge of hard rock proto-metal bands, up there with Zep and Sabbath, was once not known about at all and only became a (cool) household name when Bobby Leibling’s changed latter-day Pentagram inspired re-releases of all of the material from those sublime early days. No other band is so genuinely exciting to listen to minute-to-minute as Pentagram in their first incarnation. Rest assured, this experience occurred with that soundtrack, because while I do like the ‘Bobby Leibling’s Pentagram’, and after all without them Pentagram’s first life may have slipped into obscurity, the new stuff can’t possibly compare to the kind of mesmeric and genuine old-time affection one instantly feels for the early stuff. Without getting swamped in ferociously loathsome homespun witticisms and nostalgia: Pentagram is the kind of music I wanted to hear as long as I’ve wanted to hear music. It stands on a tightrope of listenability while balancing heaviness, experimentation and rock-solid rock aesthetic. And my article here this week all began when I loaned a friend First Daze Here. It was like the one unlucky drink that throws the wavering alcoholic off the wagon and zzzzzZZZZZZZZzap. Another rock and roll convert.

Karma to spare: An armed odyssey without Mike Scott or the Waterboys - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #58

NOTE- this article was composed after it all got on top of me and stands as a rock and roll essay of the most out of control and pernicious kind, I do not condone any of the advice contained herein about drug consumption, sleep deprivation or ballistics.
NOTE #2- This is part one of two, so keep it here for next week's concluding piece, which is decidedly more staid.

“We’re all ready for tonight, how about you shithead?”

Come in, quick! What is it? Oh you won’t believe it! What? And what is that I can hear? That’s what I was talking about. What is it? I don’t know. I found these tunes on the road. Whoa... hey, is that a gun? Quiet and just listen...

Forever - Sleep ∞ Over - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #44

I’ve never really been much of a defeatist, but then again, I’ve had a pretty cosy life. Nothing terribly unfortunate has happened to me (so far) in the course of my life, and I haven’t much reason to complain or whine. Sure, there are things I wish weren’t in my life, like exams at present, but everyone has to do them, there’s no avoiding them, so there’s no sense in panicking or turning into a whiney, self-depreciating wreck and making your own life, and everybody else’s ten times worse. Notice the (almost) disclaimer above: “Nothing terribly unfortunate has happened to me – “ I imagine my own advice would be considerably more difficult to follow were I subjected to a more stressful event. And that’s why I admire Miss Stefanie Franciotti, the one woman band that is Sleep ∞ Over. After forming the group with members Christa Palazzolo and Sarah Brown in 2010, Sleep ∞ Over started to gather some momentum, getting picked up by a record label and releasing a truly entrancing 7” single Outer Limits. US tours followed, everything seemed to be in the right place for recording their first full-length album, and then BAM, Stephanie Franciotti gets royally screwed over. Palazzolo and Brown decided to leave and form their own band. (The very good Girlfriend, who are also worth checking out) Now I guess it’d be pretty easy to have packed it in then: I don’t imagine one gets over such dealings lightly. But I guess Franciotti must have been pretty determined to continue on, because the album Forever she eventually came out with (late last year) is just a peach. I’m sure there was nothing malicious about Palazzolo and Brown’s leaving, but if there was, Forever acts as a great big SCREW YOU to them.

A conversation with the Bad Light - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #57

Deep down, I am a secret American. I want a ten-gallon hat and cholesterol-loaded food and irresponsible firearms laws. This is probably why I fill this blog with so much musical genius from that side of the pond. Here’s another American band for your dereliction. ‘Cause with the internet we’re borderless, right kids? Let me give you a little look behind the mask. I created this blog so that I could rant lysergically and while drunk about albums from 30 years ago I’m really surprised aren’t spun daily by everyone. Then Adam joined in with almost the same ambition (he drinks less). After a few posts I became convinced I’d better make it slightly less self-indulgent and also make it a platform for those up-and-coming first-albumers that really need some of that essay criticism that’s so rare in the music industry nowadays; so I’d devote part of this blog to exposing clever and different artists from around the world who have made an album recently. I’ve been getting pretty good at it, finding something every week to get really excited about, but for the last few weeks I’ve been coming up short. Perhaps because of that Brits catastrophe or perhaps because there isn’t that much good music from bands still in their first release glut... but there is. I must have just slipped off the musical grapevine and can’t find all the great heads making great sounds. I reckon I might have found this week’s entry though. Buncha longhairs noising-up Santa Cruz going by the name of the Bad Light that hit a note not heard since Kyuss back in the 90s. Not since John Garcia’s mob has there been a band you can dance to while your fillings rattle loose. The sound is called Delta Sludge, and it’ll blow your fucking mind.

To Jim Marshall, a true motherfucker

As the rock and roll world has been, ironically, rocked by the tragic passing of one of our great, and oft forgot fathers. Jim Marshall, the man behind Marshall amps which are usually behind whatever flawless power trio is playing anywhere at any given moment. I already explored in my love letter to the electric guitar that amplification was key to rock and roll, and Marshall was at the head of that wave. When the Beatles first came to America, they had tiny amplifiers by today’s standards. With the rise of rock and roll and the increasing rumble of proto-metal, there were ever-increasing demands for bigger, higher-wattage amps which could just shut out an entire crowd. Bands like Blue Cheer could only exist because Marshall was able to produce hilariously overpowered amps, and deep bass amps, that were affordable to garage bands. By keeping up with London musicians of the day (including the Who), Marshall was able to keep supplying hardware that the heads wanted, including building under request ‘stackable’ amps to build the now commonplace stacks of amplifiers, where in sound terms, the sky is quite literally the limit. Like all the great motherfuckers who helped supply the great motherfuckers of the revolution, his contribution will not be forgotten.

In his memory, crank the volume on something really dirty and sit back and appreciate. Thanks for the help Jim, now take it up with the gods. Send word.

Primal invocations in the hall of mirrors - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #56

Enough time has passed since that abhorrent festival of the mediocre, the Brits, I can go back to recently released tuneage now; and what better way to ease me back into modernity than a blast from the past? Glasgow is a city that has long been welcoming to alternative music groups, maybe more so than the more densely musically packed cities of Britain; there is also a curious tradition of Glaswegian spacerock in the style of Hawkwind or Bardo Pond. Most recently (and still going in their own elemental fashion) the excellent Moon Unit, who even got a slice of action on the page of my idol and god Julian Cope. Before them was Macrocosmica and the Radiation Line (who were from Stirling actually but fuck you if you adhere strictly to city boundaries), Radiation Line’s limited editions of all six EPs are sold out and I’ve never actually heard them, but they got some cracking reviews a few years ago. The tradition of Scottish cosmic bands (and there have been enough to discern a tradition) is to release a coupla smart and blinding recordings before fading out or breaking up just as everyone gets excited. On the surface this is still possible with the Cosmic Dead, the latest undead incarnation of the Scottish space phenomena, but something tells me these guys intend to live on. They currently have two releases, a self-titled debut (currently pending full CD release so I can talk about them because that’s a band event in 2012, screw you) and Psychonaut, an hour and a half one-idea percussion-led workout available for free on Bandcamp to whet your appetite in preparation for paying for the real album, which let me tell you now, contains a 40 minute masterpiece that has to be heard to be fully believed. [Since I wrote this opening paragraph they also released two live sets, so go love 'em]

Another Kind of Space - Flying Island - LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #43

As human beings, I think it’s safe to say that in our dying hours, no matter what our religion or views on life, that we all want to be remembered. Whether it’s for the good that we feel we’ve done, the influence we’ve had on a person’s life of just for the simple fact that we don’t want our life to be in vain, I think this process inevitably crosses a person’s mind in their dying hours, if not LONG before then. And I can’t help but think that music is as good a way as any of striving to ensure your legacy lives on. People could be listening to your music many centuries in the future; they might not know who you are, who you voted for, what your favourite type of cheese was or what car you drove, but one thing they’d know for sure is that you existed because of this music that was made that transcends generations and laughs in the face of time’s degenerative path. But of course, this isn’t the case for everyone who puts out a record. There are infinitely more bands that failed to get picked up or sell more than a few thousand records than those who really made it big, than those who people are likely to listen to in a few generations’ time. Yet it’s my opinion that of these people of whom society labels as failures, if they even contribute the tiniest quark, the smallest possible fragment of an idea to the future, they’ve left a legacy: a legacy often only made possible by others in the future who use this idea and perhaps expand upon it. Thus for you today I have excavated the 1976 album Another Kind of Space by the little known Flying Island: a band so little know that their legacy doesn’t even live on through their own music; it lives on through someone else’s music.    

Something Heavy this way comes - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #55

NOTE – I just got an email from Eric of the Heavy Eyes – he says he’s been reading this blog before I contacted him begging for an interview. Just thought I’d throw that out there. Get in touch y’all readers ‘cause I don’t have enough friends and I love all of you.

NOTE #2 – Today I’ve spoken to both the marryable Heavy Company and the astral Heavy Eyes, and seeing as they are playing together in Indiana at the end of April and their names look good together on a poster I’d go right ahead and talk up ‘em both. Quotes in BLUE are from Ian Gerber, axe and vox of the Heavy Company, and quotes in fabulous RED are from the Heavy Eyes.

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