The other week I watched one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen in my life: Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders. Hailing from Czechoslovakia in 1970, the film chronicles 13-year old Valerie’s sexual awakening after the onset of her puberty. Fantasy and reality become entangled with as Valerie explores her world with a new perspective and adult curiosity: the result is a dreamy collage of half-imagined scenarios, gorgeous scenery, beautiful symbolism as well as some totally off the wall surrealism involving lesbians, vampires, corrupt priests and some magical earrings that appear to save dear Valerie from death. A humourous, scary and kaleidoscopic experience, it’s become one of my favourite films: there is nothing else quite like it. Anyhow, after doing some research about the film to try and find out just what was going on (and say children, what does it all mean?) I came across The Valerie Project, a band who were so influenced by the film they took their name from it and designed their album as an alternate soundtrack to it. They’ve taken it to the very extreme, running the same entire 74 minutes as the film itself, so it’s quite a haul, but a mesmerizing one (in places) at that.
Winter 2011, two men meet on a snowy peak, one is legendary guitarist of Dinosaur Jr. fame and all-round cool dude J Mascis, the other an old friend still getting over a near drowning in a Vermont quarry thirty years ago. They crack the same shit every two guys crack when they meet many years later, we should get the old band back together. Convinced now that the drowning was perpetrated by Pearl Jam, the only reasonable way to get back at a thing like that is to release the album they were trying to stop you making, thirty years late sure but better late than not at all. A quick search turns up the third member of the power trio languishing having just finished a prison sentence for passing counterfeit bills, but assurances to his parole officer that only moral laws will be flouted, and all in the noble name of rock and roll, and he’s aboard the Greyhound with the only practice tape of the old band and it’s time to re-record the record they always wanted to release, it and they are called Heavy Blanket and the formless Benzedrine soloing that fills the album from each member has been worth the thirty year wait. Now it’s 1984… I mean, imagine it’s 1984 because it isn’t 1984 just now (ha, it completely fucking is – Big Brother is watching you)… anyhoo. It’s 1984 and three high school friends are smoking dope out of tubas and swimming in a little quarry lake in southern Vermont irresponsibly; they also have big things planned, an album of epic jams built around the frustration of having no more heroes. With the suitably insanely named Johnny Pancake and Pete Cougar completing the power-trio, all was set ready to bust some heads with six tracks of musicianship the like of which nobody had ever really seen before before fate (or possible Pearl Jam) stepped in. The album they had dreamed, that they had imagined and discussed is one of rock’s never-recorded records, ‘cept now they’ve nailed the beauty and it’s available for y’all to purchase and it’s everything you coulda dreamed. That story may be bullshit, but the proof is in the shredding.
OR:- They even let in blasphemers at the Bongo Club.
Advaitic Songs, the title referring to the school of Hinduism of which the final goal is to realise that ‘the self’ and ‘the whole’ are in fact one and recognition of this leads to spiritual liberation. I’ve had a love affair with Om, the singular-minded project of ex-Sleepanites Al Cisneros and (until recently) Chris Haikus (whose form is now nobly inhabited by Emil Amos (who insists he isn’t a drummer)). Advaitic Songs on the surface purports to be everything we expected, full of the same dronerific eastern-influenced caravan riding right out on the heels of the Dopesmoker re-release, but lighter, more nuanced and more introverted; capturing Cisneros’ nervous and gentle state much more than Dopesmoker’s castle-storming entirety. Om’s output really is through the eyes of Cisneros, to his soul; their output rather like his own attitudes and depending on viewpoint is either the kind of intellect that can only come from a lifetime of space cadetting the astral planes or bullshit pill-freak jingoism severely overinterpretted by the people in the former camp. Advaitic Songs seems to be by-the-numbers Om and if it were just that I’d be writing this still, but it really isn’t. I strongly suspect this’ll be their last album, hope that it is and believe it naturally should be. On the cover there is Jesus in ethereal form and the music reflects the balls-out nature of the cover’s statement.
“The Poetree sound is a unique amalgamation of old and new influences…to surprise and captivate his intended audiences.”
In effect, this entire phrase from Poetree’s official website renders the following piece of critique redundant. Poetree promises just what he delivers on Inner Orchestra, a superb, sprawling voyage through hip-hop’s uncharted waters, mixing the traditional with the offbeat and taking cues from a variety of influences. Am I surprised? Absolutely. Am I captivated? Even more so.
OR:- It seems I’ve developed an Iron mind
When Mana-Yood-Sushai awakes, the world will end. So it was written by Lord Dunsany. The creator of things will also destroy them. Mana-Yood-Sushai comes to my turntable courtesy of a month-long search through second hand websites desperately looking for someone too burned out to want to keep ahold of what everyone assured me from every angle was a stunning masterstroke. I’d been digging Gnod records for a while and only just got over the disbanding of that other soporific Northern soul Wiht who sadly played their last chord in March this year. What is it about the North of England that makes people write such long explorations in the heavy set? I’yunno but I sure like it. I’m loving it because I’ve been lifting and working out to this Northern noise for a few months, it’s so sonically one that it really helps concentration. The use of this Northern rumble as workout music is not accidental. I suppose as this is the flowering topic of this bi-weekly finger exercise routine I better start from the beginning. Almost exactly a year ago I got tired of hating myself, I was nearly 18 stone, and for a man of the extraordinarily ordinary five foot eleven this was not a healthy or a happy place to be, so I went for a walk. I started lifting weights and swimming, but swimming became running and as I type this I’m still recovering from my second six mile (9.6km) run in two days. I would advise anyone of any sort to take up exercise because it is such a wonderous adventure. You’ll discover potential you never knew you had and feel better than you thought you could. I started running on April 3rd, at time of writing it is June 19th, which I calculate to be twelve weeks of exercise and I can run ten kilometres without stopping in a time of 57 minutes reliably. Yah this post may contain quite a bit of figures which’ll impress those of you who work out, and maybe inspire those who don’t. What really gives me a kick is weight lifting though. Now I can look at myself in the mirror and see the beginnings of a sculpted figure, but more than aesthetically exercise of any kind is good for yer soul. Weight lifting is not about being strong, or being muscly; it’s about internal discipline, respect for yourself and for everything else, it’s about feeling powerful; not in any mean or measurable way but simply acquiring the notion that the entire world can be conquered, much the same way one feels surveying the nation from a mountaintop. “Friends come and go, but 200 pounds is always 200 pounds” as Henry Rollins succinctly put it. Weight lifting is about patience, perseverance, power, and respect; as such, the sonic workouts of the Northern noise are ideal counterpoint to my own, they too are mountain-powderingly powerful, perseverant and patient, as they wait in the cave of your record player, nestled and awaiting the time you once again want to confront the iron.
It seemed this album and I were bound to meet eventually. I kept seeing the cover in magazines, shop windows and websites, and slowly my resilience crumbled, my ignorance gave way to curiosity and genuine excitement, despite having absolutely no idea of the contents therein. Normally I’d ignore such matters, as most newish music is of little or no interest to me, but this time something was different. Take the album cover, for starters. A coy, over the shoulder glance, the beginnings of a smile... I was enticed, but not brazenly. She was beautiful and inviting, but without the drippings of raw sexuality that are used all too often to sell records. It seemed to me a friendly invite, one that would provide me with something much more than cheap thrills, something classy, but most importantly, nothing disappointing. I pondered on her image for a few days without doing any further research, and finally when I read a 5-star review of the album in the Daily Telegraph I could resist no longer. After checking out a few of the tracks on YouTube I was more than convinced, and immediately bought the Special Edition CD. I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for a brand new CD either, so this should give you some idea about how much I was looking forward to this album.
I don’t call myself a poet because I’m not one, but I wouldn’t because I don’t like the word. There’s a deal of nostalgia in rock and roll. Just look at the cover of NME on any given fortnight, slathered with the words return, comeback and full of artists familiar twenty years ago. Rock and roll was better twenty years ago, they seem to cry, aching for a return when rock and roll was better. But rock and roll today is fucking superb! You just gotta look at Gnod to know we’re doing better than ever. To NME I say (firstly, give me a job please) write about your own times. Write about your own world. We’re here, now, and we’re livin’ it right now and there are things going on that will hit you like a twenty-foot gong and you won’t stop shaking ‘til yer firmly in the ground if you just let ‘em in. That’s why you mighta noticed I changed my angle of attack, and am writing a whole bunch more on albums that are recent. No I don’t know when recent starts, mid 2010ish. Yah I love my MC5s and my Sir Lord Baltimores just like you guys but there are bands out there sorely missing the kind of lysergic higher rock and roll criticism those bands took for granted and here at this blog we specialise in pretending we can do. Though Gnod need no assistance from us shitheads to convince you that they’re meditatively vital for the ultramodern rock and roll revolution. So our quarry today comes outta the north (though south of here) ready with red hand steady on a bloody machete, slice Jack’s… take an axe and give that motherfucker forty whacks. This spinning disk ain’t gonna stop ‘til heads roll off the cuttin’ block. So why do they seem to fucking zen? They’ve got away with these sonic crimes for so long because nobody in authority can bring themselves to believe that such chilled out and ultimately harmless people could have so much of the werewolf in ‘em. Well the evidence is there, they’re pushing it in our faces motherfucker and dropping the kind of prolific pseudo-religious drivel that starts actual religions. I say we all just submit because there isn’t anything stopping this four-record-a-year sonic caravan, best to just give in lest we get crushed under its spinning vinyl wheels.
I should really stop doing this… I’ve found yet another album good enough to compel me to write about it, but one by a musician whose previous work is completely unknown to me. You know, it’s good to be familiar with an artist’s work when you find something new by them: it gives you a benchmark to compare the material against, gives you a feel for their style and character and so on. If the music interests me I do usually make a point of checking out the musician’s back catalogue, but this time I just really couldn’t be bothered doing so. For starter’s I’d have two more proper solo albums by Callahan to trawl through, not to mention eleven under the alias Smog, and frankly I don’t have the time, money or interest. That’s a lot of music. I haven’t even got around to getting Bob Dylan’s entire back catalogue despite him being my favourite musician, so if Mr. Callahan thinks he’s getting any special treatment in this case he can think again. Secondly, I think this way I’ll get a different perspective on the album, seeing it for what it is rather than what I expect it to be. And it’s a fine, fine album, one of the best from last year, a stark journey through eccentric and raw Americana.
Just what the fuck is going on with the guys from Single Mothers? Their website cleverly proclaims but just what are they about? I let ya in on this question because after mulling it over for countless spins of their latest opus I’m still not sure. It’s the Melvins doing LA punk, more than the Melvins already do LA punk I mean… But it’s more than that ‘cause they also lay down a drone track on Drowning of the most very astutely observed Master of Realityisms and Iommiations that comparisons with the sonic elite are inevitable. There’s also a bit of sampling and some hardcore references. To be honest, it’s a thoroughgoing mess of an album, nightmarish broken house of mirrors through which y’ can only blindly stumble with no real understanding. Be sure, this is a horrifying creation from some seriously broken individuals. But it’s compellingly splintered, the pathology is just enticing.
Shit… I was dozing… what? Y’what? A column? Oh fine. What the fuck do I write it about man? You tell me, audience participation and all that yak yak yak… What have I been listening to? Well that new Single Mothers album Indian Pussy is a hot contender but it’s such an incomprehensible clusterfuck that my sleep deprived brain can’t handle it, my sanity will start to topple over into outright angst like tiny chippings away at a cliff edge as I shuffle towards unconsciousness. That album was made by some fucking damaged people, I think y’ ought to know that, and listening to them in my current condition would not be… desirable… What? Well I’ve been working for 18 straight days, the fuck have you been doing? Yah that’s what I thought. Really all I’ve had time to hit on the news desk has been the new Horseback album but I don’t suppose you want to hear about that. Something something, too tired, just think of the column yourself if you’re that bothered. I’mma just lay here and let Horseback wash over me again because there’s no need to go gallivanting around after the three weeks I’ve had and try to make something of this. It’s just an album, a Horseback album. A lilting sensuous breeze that’s just a little too icy blowing slowly through the bedroom curtains as you lie comatose on the bed dreaming of a day off… what? Was that the album or my current predicament? Throw a fucking rock.
Living in the southern part of Northern Ireland, it’s fairly easy to take a day trip to Dublin. With the motorway it only takes about 90 minutes and it’s something that the family and I often do when we all have a day off; maybe about twice a year. It’s a great city, possibly my third favourite city in the world (behind Rome at No. two and New York City at No. one) and one whose proximity makes it close enough to travel to often, but far away enough that it remains elusive and exciting. Anyway, the reason for this preamble is because when I’m in Dublin I always go to Tower Records because there aren’t any back in the North. It’s a fairly big and mainstream record shop that nevertheless has an extremely wide selection of books, CD’s, vinyl records for goodness sake, and DVD’s. Because of the vast selection I tend to buy at least something, and I’d try to look for something rare enough I figure I probably can’t get cheaper on Amazon when I get home… so I tend to impulse buy. I was down there again on Tuesday and came across this CD by cLOUDDEAD, a band whose name I had noted many months ago and knew very little about, save the fact they were supposed to be a wildly experimental hip -hop group. On my fourth listen now, and let me tell you – wildly experimental doesn’t begin to cover it.
Drink down your tetrodoxin and lay down in the coffin; it's time to become a zombie - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #77
After sobering up and reading this over, it became clear that an extremely thick person might think this was a critique, not the highest of praise, and that an addendum was needed to clarify that I wanna ride Dead Skeletons sonic carriage all the way into the afterlife. Listen kiddies, I love Dead Skeletons as everything they do seems to turn to dust and y’all should get hipped to the deathtrip. Listen, we all got something that makes us special, and if you can ring one bell and ring it well, we’ll all love ya for it. Dead Skeletons ring a bell nobody else has ever rung, so love ‘em.
Today I’mma drop my bombs right in, this is Rolling Thunder, because Heavy Cream don’t fuck about and I guess I’ll follow their lead. There’s a killer guitar tone like the roar of a hundred hueys over the Mekong and drumming like bullets punching holes in a tin shed and soaring over it all like a (F-16 fighting) falcon is a punk’d-up pumped up female vocal and the whole thing is slathered in a foot-thick layer of butter spread over the floor and walls and ceiling and dripping down behind the radiator of just the stunning still-quivering post-punk arrogance that snorts and sniffs and makes ya wanna dance to something heavy enough to punch a fist-sized hole in your chest. That’s all. Go out, buy it, add an annexe to your mung-worship altar.
|Image - Paul Milne|
Before I begin I really need to square something away. A little thing that’s been bothering me and it is to do with the Melvins, and influences. To my mind, Buzzo’s vocals and some sounds, particularly on Bullhead and Lysol, come straight out of the Pink Floyd playbook. I’m thinking Empty Spaces, from the Wall, the extended cut, from the messy but ultimately awesome movie. Now; am I going mad here? It seems too obvious to me that either it’s a nasty acid trip, or nobody has my massive brain. That’s all, on with the Melvinite Manifesto.
Many times I’ve mentioned the Melvins, but I finally feel like I’ve absorbed all their studio albums, so I’m ready to talk about it. I’ve decided to do a little retrospective and discuss every Melvins full-length for exactly 100 words apiece, according to my iTunes, that’s 20 albums. The reason for this absurd challenge is that the Melvins are a fascinating band, who have explored a wide range of ideas (just go listen to a cut from Gluey Porch Treatments, and then one from Lysol, and then the final track from Prick, and then a track from the Atlantic trio, and then the opening track off the Bride Screamed Murder, and you’ll see what I mean) and while a few people have asked me which Melvins album I think they should buy, I thought I’d better give a little time to it on here so I can direct everyone here in future. More than almost any other band, the Melvins change, from moment to moment and record to record. Pick the right one and you’ll be amazed and forever a fan, pick the wrong one and you might never spin a Melvins record again. Trust me, you don’t want your first taste of this band to be Prick, it’d scar you forever. But there are lots of bands that jump between visionary and appalling from record to record (oh hey Grand Funk, when did you come in?) but I’ve never encountered a band that has such a varied discography, and each and every one is worth talking about.
With the heavy weight of examinations finally lifted from my aching shoulders, I’m pleased to announce my timely return to this blog. I have missed it considerably: given that for the last two months I’ve been vomiting up facts upon facts, it should be nice to get back to writing creatively, expressing my opinion and not having to worry about getting marks for my writing [I mark you daily in a jotter I will never show you - Ed.]. (You can still judge me, however. That’s your prerogative) Now I haven’t exactly had the time to check out any new-ish music, but I will treat you to a wonderful album nonetheless; an album that I listened to while revising perhaps more than any other, an album blooming with noble optimism, disquietude and sorrow. For me, an album that seems to encompass every conceivable emotion of the human spectrum in hushed nuances and subtle, simple motifs.