Being a switched on head it is my honest and important message to not only put on the blues-and-twos around releases certain to send you into distorted nirvana but to also put a corollary on those which fall short, sometimes a single disk or a whole wave of a band that is best avoided like a high density minefield or a extremely boring person at an otherwise pleasant dinner party. Even the very greatest head-expanders do it, drop a clanger every so often, even Sabbath had that Born Again trouble that won’t be fully atoned-for until everyone even remotely responsible is taking a dirt nap. I put on a big warning stripe for any Sir Lord Baltimore release except their astonishingly good debut, I dedicated a whole article to giving the wave-off to Karma to Burn’s latest and now I give you another big fat no to add to the hundreds of full-on hell yess I’ve given. Today’s dud offenders may come as a shock because they’re one of my favourite recording artists still recording, Om. The logical continuation of the Sleep idiom. But I just took delivery of this side cut, so you’d be forgiven for assuming my following words are just the drunk raves of a lunatic fan who has lost all sense of perspective. To that I’d say: so?
Let’s try a wee experiment here kiddies. Imagine that Floyd, instead of doing that Division Bell nonsense had recorded a re-release of Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Just conceive of how utterly massive and totally infallible the cunts that would carve horrible bleeding wounds in their old classics when armed with new members. Just envision Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun played by that asshole who played guitar on a friggin’ Michael Jackson album. That’s how severe we’re talking here folks, this is not a drill. And yet this blatant disregard for old classics is aptly demonstrated by Om in Live Conference. A re-recording of their classic Conference of the Birds not only with the most appalling tedious quality but also the most pernicious and despicable mentality underlying it. This, folks, is the thin end of the wedge, this is Born Again, except it’s worse, it’s Born Again Black Sabbath re-recording Master of Reality, widdling on yer’all dreams and laughing in the face of anything good or decent. This isn’t just a live re-tread (itself disturbingly close to being typed ‘re-tard’), this is a full and proper re-recording, they even boast about the quality of the recording, but I’m not sure why because a lazy performance like this might be attributed to bad product or an off-day if it were captured by some spotty motherfuckers tape deck. By re-recording what is popularly (and correctly) held as their greatest album with the new lineup, Om are essentially saying that this be the definitive version of Conference of the Birds, as if the original is somewhere deficient or inferior. Well you best show me where dudes because I’m thinking it’s you that needs fixin’.
Live Conference opens with Flight of the Eagle, that’s right, only two songs on this album and they get them the wrong way round, buncha fuckos. Where previously the song had bled menace and heaviness out of its very pores, it now sounds tired and limp. Cisneros rockets between verses back and forth from sounding exhausted to sounding like he’s about to burst out laughing. The drums are over-excited, and Cisneros’ bass soon joins them, while the original song was like a bibilic hound slavering and always ready to attack but crucially never even twitching any muscle, this new song is an excitable terrier yapping like a cunt at your ankles and just begging a quick steel-toecap throat silencing. The drums leap and bound with selfish stylistic flurries not at all in place with the music and drag the bass along for the ride, the whole outfit is reduced to a stillborn twin version of the powerful barrow-striding force of the original. I can only assume this was chosen as the opener out of some very un-Om-ish desire to give us a kicker, like we’re some fucking Foo Fighters audience braying for some beats to stop us thinking for another few minutes. The whole outfit reeks of laziness, disinterest and idiocy. Why the hell would anyone want to frigging do this? Emil Amos doesn’t want to be in the shadow of the recently vacated skeleton of Chris Haikus, the old Om fans don’t want you to rape the corpse of the old band, and any new fans that came in with Amos sure don’t want to hear you re-hash the old stuff... and it’ll just draw people to look at the original, conclude it was better and ask these questions all over again. Why? Mercifully after staggering off the wank-popularity production line, the remake of Flight of the Eagle staggers into a darkened corner of the factory and bleeds to death. The cheers of the crowd sounding as hollow and canned as Al and Emil’s performance, everyone ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
There’s a gap, too long a gap between songs even for a live thing, just a vast gulf of nothing to emphasise that we’ve really just had 21 minutes of that already, certainly nothing in the least bit edifying or satisfying or whole or new or good or hopeful or entertaining or even distracting. The gap is so vast, so unassailably huge I can only imagine a sweaty gameshow host being made up to come back out in a moment to appease, because that is the level of this chunk of trash-filth, it’s Jim Davidson or Chris Tarrant pointlessly and boringly sucking out yet more time from our lives and filling it with nothing in return. It’s a dial tone, it’s caller-waiting music for nobody to listen to, just a buncha notes to fill the gap between cradle and grave.
What follows is not At Giza. It’s a sweaty waster dreaming of rock stardom having carved off the face of some unfortunate band member and feebly attempting to keep up with the setlist. Whatever the hell someone did to Al’s bass in the interval was a very cruel joke to play because it sounds like some pop-backing bass that would be playing for Soundgarden. It sounds ‘funky’, pronouncing ‘funky’ the same way I pronounce ‘tapeworm’ in this context. It sounds plainly awful, and it didn’t sound great before. Al still sounds dead on his feet, but not in a worn-out way, in a can’t be arsed way, and frankly I sympathise. If I were asked to perform a shitty version of myself from five years ago I’d probably not sound remarkably ‘into’ it either. The less powerful writing of At Giza (remember kids, in the good old days it was on side one) just serves to highlight and put in a spotlight each element, and each element is repugnant and objectionable on every single level. The build up, with the pummelling repeating vocal lines (the leaves the lake and rises bit, you know!) is totally dead here, rotting in a coffin and dragged out at dinner in the hope nobody will notice, Al sounds totally dead, out of tone and out of time and out of touch. It was roughly at this point in this distasteful wank that my girlfriend came in. I’d been consistently dialling it in the hope that sheer volume was the problem (y’know, some of them old Mainliner records don’t start getting good ‘till jet engine decibels), I immediately explained to her the problem, as I’ve just outlined to you. “So?” came the reply, “sounds okay to me”, I tried desperately to protest, showing her both versions, trying to explain to her that this is the record you buy for someone you actively dislike and are trying to encourage them to delete you from their phone contacts lest they accidentally pocket-dial you and you have to put up with their foul unspirituality for even a cyber-second. I tried to explain that this recording is vile and perverted on every level, conception, execution, delivery, aftertaste... but no dice. It hit me then, maybe I’m just a rabid fan, maybe I’m not even listening to the music anymore and I’m just spiralling wildly through a discography looking for tiny blemishes to bring up in a huge spotlight to give a vague sense that I have discernment. Then I listened to it again once she’d gone... nah, it’s utter shite and I recommend it to you only if you have to buy a wedding present for your ex.
Written under extreme duress by Steven.