Feb 25, 2010

The Boys. The Complete Punk Singles.

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Almost completely forgotten these days, The Boys were there at all the right moments in punk history but never managed to catch a break.

From their website: Casino Steel had been in the influential Hollywood Brats who formed in London in 1972 around the songwriting partnership of Steel (keyboards) and Andrew Matheson (vocals). Similar in style and looks to the New York Dolls they were born out of disgust and aimed to shock. They were originally called The Queen until they had an altercation at the Marquee with Freddie Mercury’s Queen who subsequently had a hit single, forcing them to change their name to the Hollywood Brats. They played regular gigs in London including the Café Des Artistes and the Speakeasy building up a small band of followers, which included Keith Moon of The Who. Their debut album “Grown Up Wrong” captured the raw energy and excitement of the band but was initially only released in Scandinavia in 1974 after the Brats had broken up.

Following the demise of the Brats Steel met up with Matt Dangerfield, who had converted the basement of his rented flat in Maida Vale into a recording studio. 47A Warrington Crescent became extremely important in the development of the UK punk scene in the mid seventies. Mick Jones, Tony James, Bryan James, Rat Scabies, Gene October and Billy Idol amongst many others were regular visitors. The Damned, The Clash, Generation X and the Sex Pistols made their first recordings in Dangerfield’s studio.

Out of these jamming sessions legendary UK punk band London SS were formed and boasted a line-up which included Dangerfield, Steel, Mick Jones and Tony James and others. At one session Honest John Plain joined them on drums and another drummer, Geir Waade, came up with the name – with the SS standing for Social Security rather than the German secret police. Dangerfield left the London SS to join up with Steel, Andrew Matheson (vocals) and Wayne Manor (bass), all from the Hollywood Brats along with Geir Waade (drums), an old friend of Steel’s from Norway. Honest John Plain, who had been at art school in Leeds with Dangerfield, later joined the line-up.

From that point on, The Boys mainly distinguished themselves by hitting every red light along the road to success. Although they were the first UK punk band to sign an album deal with a major label (the Sex Pistols having already been sacked by EMI in record time), they were stuck in a five year deal with NEMS, who didn't have the means to promote them in any significant way but wouldn't let them move to a bigger label. NEMS never seemed to be able to get its act together and constantly held up the release of The Boys albums until the moment had passed. Despite being the first band with a contract, several other punk groups had released albums and reaped the ensuing media attention before The Boys first record even appeared. Tours supporting John Cale and the Ramones did little for their lasting success, as NEMS never managed to get their albums or singles out in time to coincide with the gigs meant to support them. Probably right after asking themselves "What else could go wrong?", The Boys' first single to really climb the charts got knocked out by the suddenly dead toilet-jockey, Elvis Presley. NEMS' parent label, RCA, threw all of its energy into supplying Presley records to his mourning public and largely forgot about their pet punks.

In spite of it all, The Boys kept a sense of humor about things—once a year transforming themselves into The Yobs to release tongue-in-cheek Christmas singles. Aside from a delightful cover of The Worm Song (Nobody likes us, everybody hates us, just because we eat worms...), they also perform Silent Night with a level of braying obnoxiousness usually reserved for Monty Python's Gumbies.

England may have ignored them, but they did manage to become quite popular in Germany and Japan. Die Toten Hosen championed them for years and covered Brickfield Nights, and Japanese band Thee Michelle Gun Elephant had a huge hit with a cover of Soda Pressing. Since 1999, the original line-up has occasionally reunited to play gigs around Europe to newly discovered fans.

Complete Punk

The Boys official website

The Boys on myspace

Feb 24, 2010

Vera Fang. Conscumption 7" from Army of Bad Luck.

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Singer Zopi Kristjanson makes me think of Belaire’s Cari Palazzolo if she were auditioning for Bikini Kill. Musically, they have a lot in common with groups like The Rondelles, Shitt Hottt, and Tuscadero, if they had worshipped Daydream Nation era Sonic Youth along with early B-52’s danceable art punk. One review described their heavy riffs and rail spike rhythms as “slam-glam”, which sounds about right, especially on the two b-sides, Role Dolls and Neon Neverland. Vera Fang must have thought those were their strongest songs, too, since they include a remix of each—one by Diet Cola, and another by decayed-ambient masters Belong.

Grab the vinyl if you can find one. It was a limited edition and the band’s already broken up.


Vera Fang on myspace

Feb 22, 2010

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. +/- Rob's House 7".

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S.I.D.S. describe themselves as “a synth-punk trio from Atlanta. No electronics-lite here, just great driving punk rock done with keyboards, in the tradition of the Screamers and early Tuxedo Moon.” I’ll add that The Liars, Devo, and Throbbing Gristle also probably feature prominently in their record collections. Kind of dancy, kind of dark-wave, heavily distorted songs with frazzled bullhorn vocals shouted from the end of a very long corridor and vaguely evil John-Carpenter’s-Halloween-synths overtop a more intricate than expected, high-register drum kit.

Supposedly, the live version of the band includes a cardboard cutout of Sid Vicious playing a pre-programmed Yamaha keyboard. Awesome.

Plus Minus

SIDS on myspace

Feb 18, 2010

The Fastbacks. Zücker.

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Despite sounding like exhilarated teenagers, Seattle's Fastbacks have a ridiculously deep-rooted and wildly-branched family tree. Starting in 1979, if you lived in their area, chances were you would eventually be in the band. They've racked up ties with everyone from The Young Fresh Fellows, The Posies, Skinyard, and Visqueen, to Nirvana, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and Guns N Roses.

As folks who firmly believe in the transcendent power of a short, fast song, The Fastbacks' melodious girl-group vocals and overtop three-chord pogo-pop create a sound somewhat like Cheap Trick being filtered through The Ramones and the Buzzcocks. Everybody's just here to have a grand time playing Saturday-afternoon punk.


Fastbacks on myspace

Feb 17, 2010

Coelacanth. The Chronograph.

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Joseph Beuys collected objects he considered "psychic batteries"—piles of peat blocks, a copper cast of a mammoth's tooth holding a heating element—which, if hooked directly to a tape recorder, might have made the noises on this record.

Coelacanth manipulate environmental recordings to impenetrable effect, until they seem to consist not of known elements but of the talismanic patina those elements acquire through decay. It's ambient, though not in the usual lovely, drifting, post-Eno manner. They've completely sidestepped any known maps of musical structure. I'd call it minimal, but only in the sense that—once broken down into its sub-atomic elements—this is the finest division of anything that might still be called music.

After the Taj Mahal Travelers, this may be the most way-out thing I've posted. It creates its own sound-space, integrating itself into your environment rather than floating overtop or hovering in the background. It's just there. As Marge Simpson once profoundly said, "Whatever it does, it's doing it now".

Everything sounds fragile. Like with William Basinski's Disintegration Loops, we're immersed in decay, but where his tapes made beautiful, tragic opera out of the sound of their own death, Coelacanth is content to draw chalk outlines around the dead bodies of microscopic, deep-sea bone machines.

A Peculiar Stone or the Iron Molecule makes speaker hum sound organic, if not a little bit creepy. Something's happening in the dark—a blind wraith reaching for a tin bowl on the stone floor of an abandoned building. But only for a minute. Eventually it settles into something like the circuitous wobble of crackling vinyl. We may very well be listening to the vastly amplified sound of oxidation. Method of Extracting a Live Wire might be a deep-sea recording of some new form of planktonic life. How Bodies Become Phosphorescent whirrs and squeaks like an army of miniature scissors snipping away at a rusty playground whirlygig, collapses into the dead-eyed tapping of some exoskeletal machine scratching out a graph that records the flow of silt through a sieve, and then spins clockwork gears behind the pulsing, high-pitched drone of cricket violins. Vaporization of a Convergence unleashes all of of Coelacanth's tiny monsters at once, chittering away until they gently burrow into the sea-floor with a deep sigh.

Unlike a lot of experimental bands that fuss over field recordings and abstract sound, Coelacanth never lose sight of aesthetics. The Chronograph always remains strangely, magnetically listenable. While not conventionally pretty, or even concerned with creating its own kind of beauty, it does patiently transport you into some undeniably unique and rewarding realms.


Coelacanth website

Feb 16, 2010

The Dipers. How to Plan Successful Parties.

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This is terrible. I learned nothing about organizing first-rate shindigs. These guys from the A-Frames and The Intelligence obviously just don't give a fuck.

Successful Parties

Feb 15, 2010

The Fat Tulips. Starfish.

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The Fat Tulips—shambling, fey, overamped twee—released one album and a basketful of singles during their brief, incredibly obscure tenure on the indie circuit.

From their very silly website:

The young and ripe Mr. D. wrote and produced his own indie music fanzine, titled "Two Pint Takehome" - a reference to his slightly alcoholic tendencies and also because "Two Pint" was the nickname of his inflatable sheep. He sold the fanzine at indie shows along with the flimsy flexi he'd made with Sarah.
Around this time he met the basic line up of the new, nubile Fat Tulips. First came Matt Johnson, a lanky floppy haired goth type, with a pig van, a Shop Assistants fetish and an attitude. Johno had just finished serious rehab for a monumental football habit (he was up to 50 matches a year!) and in order to keep him on the straight and narrow, he agreed to join Mark D.'s ("D" for diabolical) new venture to conquer the Universe of Pop!

Also at that time Mark encountered a hugely talented, Scottish, pop diva with big honkers and an IQ of 545. Her name was ‘Sheggi’ and she was renowned for making young boys cry. At least in her own mind. "Now all we need to make our music" Mark said delightedly, "Is someone with no memory who wants to play bass". That was easy. Matt and Sheggi knew of a local Nottingham boy named Paulie who had a memory deficiency and eleven cats. They knew instantly he was the one.

The line up was completed when they asked an innocent catholic school girl named Katie Keen, who'd been raised by wolves, to sing their songs, but she was so freaked out by the debauchery of the other band members, she left soon after recording the now splendiferously famous, "Where's Clare Grogan Now?" single. Legend has it the real reason Katie left the group was her inability to accept Mark's relationship with 'Two Pint' the sheep. The band told everyone she'd met an untimely end in a 'plane crash and blonde, uprightly challenged Sheggi dragged her guitar to the front of the stage to take over the singing. Thus the Fat Tulips we all know and love to blisters was born.....

Songwriter Mark D was also in Confetti.


Fat Tulips official site

Feb 12, 2010

The Haywains. Get Happy with the Haywains.

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Real life has seriously gotten in the way of this blog recently, but I still want to get some posts up, so I stole this write-up from The Haywains' myspace page:

Formed way back in 1988, The Haywains, based near Bristol, played three-chord buzzy guitar indie-pop with bittersweet lyrics and sixties style melodies. Part of the 'twee' pop underground and the fanzine culture that held the scene together, The Haywains were familiar faces at Bristol's legendary Tropic Club and many of the 'Waaaaaah!' indie-pop nights around the UK.

The band's early gigs could be rather shambolic at times, but their refreshingly minimal approach fronted by singer Jeremy's jovial on-stage banter would define the very ethic of their lo-fi punk-pop roots. Bristol rapidly became one of the UK's most productive areas on the 'indie pop' scene of the late '80's, and The Haywains were simply one of many bands on a vibrant pop scene that the city enjoyed during that now legendary 'C86' era.

The Haywains began their recording career with the 'Surfin' Trowbridge EP' a flexi-disc issued with a pop fanzine called 'Woosh!' in 1988. The following year, the band's first single 'Fisherman's Friend' was released on the band's own 'Emily's Shop' label and received some all-important exposure by John Peel. The band went on to release a string of somewhat elusive 7" singles for small independent labels in Europe and the USA, ultimately signing to Vinyl Japan in 1991. The band recorded two albums for the label, 'Never Mind Manchester, Here's The Haywains' and the follow-up 'Desperately Seeking Something'. Those hard-to-find early singles were also re-released on a compilation CD 'Get Happy With The Haywains' by Vinyl Japan in 1992. Another seven-inch single 'Why Do I Get The Feeling Your Mother Hates Me?' was released in Spain by Elefant Records in 1995. It would be their last.

There comes a time when you just get too old for singing songs about teenage angst, and The Haywains officially disbanded after announcing a farewell hometown gig in the summer of 1996. A brief reunion took place in 2002 showing that the boys, and girl, could still get away with playing pop music five years after their split. The former band members still insist that the recipe behind their irresistible charm was in doing it just for fun. Let's hope that spirit lives on.

Get Happy

The Haywains on myspace

Feb 11, 2010

The Velvet Underground. The Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes.

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Amazing Fact: Lou Reed wrote and recorded the original dial tone you hear upon picking up a phone.

The blow-out of blow-outs, this bootleg comes to us from a fan plugging his tape recorder directly into Lou's guitar amp. Vocals and other instruments are there, but way in the background. The result is that you get nothing but Reed mainlining fuzz and feedback, which works to extraordinary effect on wild raves like I Can't Stand It, What Goes On, White Light/White Heat, and Sister Ray, but isn't quite so impressive on their quieter numbers (which are few and far between). If you're a fan of noise terrorists like Les Rallizes Denudes, you'll probably get a lot more out of this.

Disc 1
Disc 2

Feb 10, 2010

Prolapse. Ghosts of Dead Aeroplanes.

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Prolapse’s early sound—furious, demented, loud and raw—has been honed into an unsettling, trance-inducing, dubbed-out soundscape. It’s an atypically beautiful album that manages to pile on shards of jagged guitar noise, but still make it shimmer. It’s menacing, angry music—mechanically ragged, full of white noise and despair—but buoyed by driving, krautrock grooves. Like PIL and the Fall attacking Transient Random Noisebursts era Stereolab.

Linda Steelyard sings like she remembers some lovely melody, but her ghostly vocals have grown frayed and tense, constantly stalked by Scottish Mick’s garbled ranting (always lurking just under the surface of the melody, subliminally muttering about all the things in the world that are out to get you). Truthfully, the closer you listen to what she’s singing about , the more Linda starts to sound just as insane—a shell-shocked little girl babbling a stream of unconsciousness (like mindlessly listing every variety of shoe she can think of in Essence of Cessna).

An archaeology of between-station, late-night, extreme-conspiracy-theory art rock.


Prolapse on myspace

Feb 5, 2010

V/A. What's All the Fuzz About.

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What Wave magazine cassette compilation.

Disc 1:

01. Dead Moon - Black September
02. The Stand - Sometimes Girl
03. Free Love Society - Cherry Bomb
04. Thee Fourgiven - Me on the Prowl
05. Groot Velours - Hysterical
06. Sporting Bachelors - Chatter
07. Capt. Scarlet & the Mysterons - A Piece of Me
08. Mystic Eyes - Paradise
09. The Shakers - A Shot of Rhythm & Blues
10. Mission Impossible - Let Me Go
11. LI150'S - Destiny
12. Progressive Minstrels - Golden Touch
13. Marshmallow Overcoat - A Single Tear
14. Yard Trauma - Creeps on TV
15. The Cheepskates - Bye Bye Love

Disc 2:

01. The Chessmen - Pretty Girl
02. The Beatpack - I Despise You
03. The Cynics - Blue Train Station
04. The Ultra 5 - Go Baby Go
05. The Evil Hoodoos - Gloria
06. Sanity Assassins - Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk
07. Dr. Goldfoot & The Bikini Machine - LA Infatuation
08. Al Perry & The Cattle - Camper's Blues
09. Scuba Divers - Sweet Nothing
10. Lost Patrol - Grow Up Hard
11. Drums Along The Gardiner - Tacoma
12. Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet - Woman Shake
13. The Legend Killers - She Gone Wyld
14. Dispossessed - Swan Song

Disc 1
Disc 2

Feb 3, 2010

Human Television. All Songs Written By Human Television.

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Human Television purposefully set out to make the kind of music that could be seamlessly dropped into a mixtape alongside The Chills, R.E.M., The Go-Betweens, The Wedding Present, and any number of Sarah Records bands. "Our primary motivation for writing music is to make more music that sounds like the music we like to listen to," say the band. Perhaps not as ambitious as taking drugs to make music to take drugs to, but commendable nonetheless.

“Saw you walking by here just the other day / I said hey, hey hey hey hey”, they sing nonchalantly, as if they hadn’t just written one of the catchiest indie-pop songs since I don’t know when. The rest of the mini-album is made up of similar casual, good-natured tunes, with plenty of warm, strummy guitars, fast, bright melodies, and bouncy beats. They really believe in this music and manage to reach back to the best of college rock’s past without sounding like they’re merely aping the style. It’s one of the best albums of the 80’s that just happened to be released in 2004.

All Songs

Human Television on myspace