Sunday, March 25, 2007

It’s been a rough few days, in addition to being diddled outta an hour, the computer is still playing up and will be out of commission for 2 or 3 days this coming week. On top of that my stereo equipment is also taking the piss. Of course both are vitally important in stopping me from snapping and going on a rampage. I’ve managed to “stick a plaster” on the problem for now but the wound needs proper attention.

I’m listening to Amy Rigby’s extended 10th anniversary version of “Diary Of A Mod Housewife” and wondering why it doesn’t enjoy a place in the rock pantheon next to something like the first Boston album. There’s still time I guess and the sooner that comes the better. Oh yeah, I discovered this via her Little Fugitive blog. Amy has a way with finding this stuff. And in the course of the day to day, the past couple of weeks has turned up the latest albums by some of my favourite combos on the planet right about now.

It’s a little over two years now since I saw The Boonaraaas tear up the Lolitabar in Kassel. The show as part of Punk Kongress rekindled my faith that there is cool stuff out there despite what the established comics would have one think. So I’m standing watching these four German girls blast out the coolest line in teen garage pop that you could possibly imagine. I recall telling Andy Shernoff that I’d found the group that I was gonna give The Debs song that one had decided wouldn’t be passed to The Rezillos. Well anyway, their new “5 Steps Ahead” album is out now on Sounds of Subterrania, a label that, as the fates would have it, is based in Kassel. I’ve already reviewed the album for the next issue of The OX and you know how I feel about ‘em so let’s not labour the point. If you need to hear before you buy then you can scratch that itch by visiting their myspace page. They have the look, the energy and the songs to make it seem like maybe all is not yet lost. And they haven't even gotten to that song yet!

Which brings us to The Star Spangles “Dirty Bomb”. I despair sometimes when I think about the popularity of groups like The Kaiser Chumps, etc. I’m down with recycling but not without some kind of twist. The Spangles suffered their major label tussle by being compared to groups that they were so far beyond that it’s laughable.
However, Joe and Jessie Public did what they do best, they went for the safe option. The Spangles presumably were a little too edgy in their having been passed the baton of banging out real NY rock. Taking the pop aesthetic of classic Ramones and the skirling guitars of Cheap Trick or The Dolls and injecting a smidge of Faces type pub rock into the mix. Which brings us neatly to this long-awaited follow up to “Bazooka”, which includes Ian McLagan weighing in with piano and Hammond, Rich Stim on Sax and Daniel Rey also tinkling them ivories.

Since the recording of this, the rhythm section has done gone and has been replaced. The band is playing around NY in the run-up to the release of the album which is officially May 1st but you can get it via their website and cd baby now. Released on their own Tic imprint, DB crashes in the way it means to go on with “Take Care Of Us”. Recalling a time when rock’n’roll was big and brash. When it sounded majestic rather than just an identikit muzak approximation. Before it was simply another commodity. And like all fine punk rock there are the little harmonics, summoned up by the sheer joyous noise of it all. And then there’s the gang vocals and the choruses. “Gangland” will give you the collywobbles, the louder you play it the colly-er the wobble. The drum corps type build in the middle is enough to bring a tear to a glass eye. I like the Unforgiven style penny whistle Morricone fill that appears for a split second before “I’m On A High” bursts in to recall the aforementioned Boston type grandeur.
The peculiar thing about this band getting the springboard to becoming popular is, in my opinion, this. If people could see them then the songs would overcome them virus like. Mid-bill at some of these festivals that are populated by inkie-sponsored “product”. I’ve heard it said that the latest in the shady world of breaking a band is to sign with “an agency”. So that placement is garnered in much the same way that it’s done with soap powder or beans. What chance does a real group have in such circumstances? I ask you?? But anyways, in other territories, outwith this backwater, the kids still want to rock and in Spain, in Scandanavia, in Germany, in Eastern Europe the Spangles could well save a few lost souls. Souls like you that are eager for the spark that was there before bands were formed with a business plan.

Messrs Wilson and Volume are disenfranchised heroes, trapped in a world they never made. The album closes with “Someone In You”, a down-home slice of Americana sung by Tommy. A Stones-y hymn to their camaraderie and the staunch support of their hardcore. The album title is somewhat understated and the sonic fallout of these songs has a half-life that is way longer than any of the latest bollocks that the “meeja” is getting ready to serve up to the stupid and/or terminally hip. The Star Spangles are here to bash some sense into whoever is ready.

Konie is the missing link between Moby and John Carpenter. His filmic soundscapes embrace a fundamental rock’n’roll sensibility with a krautrock marinade. The result is anything but synthetic or outright electronic. The shards of the conventional and downright odd intertwine to arrive at a shimmering new strain of themes from imaginary and imagined soundtracks to life and the situations of living in these peculiar times. The church organ sound in “Skilsmässa” is immense and “I’m Just Another Boy” reminds me of “truck train” period Pastels. There’s an early Roxy Music vibe to the noises that this guy manages to exact from his musicians. Something soulful that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to emit from such technology. “The Club Is Open” is yet another Razzia release (you can hear "History/Science" on their myspace) that defies any discernable pigeonhole. “My Life Is Shit But I Am Funky” smells like a hit to me and would make a great T-shirt/bumpersticker slogan into the bargain. “The 1000 Piece Puzzle” is like Vic Mizzy Vs Badalamenti battling to provide a tune to open a sixties ITC series. Like a bizarre world version of The Persuaders. And hey, any album that has somebody called Sonny Boy Gustafsson on it has to be worthy of your support.

So while we’re on the subject of music that doesn’t quite fit the crash, bang and wallop of our general fare, let’s sort you out with “Coachmania – The Coachmen on Holiday in Septimania”. It seems as though JD King met up with the folks from Septimania and decided to have a post-prog, no-wave hoedown. Strangely ambient and ambivalent folk forces are at work here and I’d venture that this is more accessible than “American Mercury”. That’s said, it’s far from the beaten path of what largely passes for popular music. Released on Jonathan Thomas’ Commodify This! Imprint, Coachmania, like Konie, instills recollections of the stranger aspects of Eno-period Roxy. The liner notes are great and go some way to explaining this meeting of some very abstracted minds. “Ballad of Furious Moe Howard” is somewhat Martin Rev-headed.

I was reading about this “studio-quality over the internet” download-ability that Linn Records in Glasgow has apparently pioneered. All well and good. But really, vinyl is where it’s at and where it’ll remain until someone comes up with a way of making it fun to pour over reading information from a screen.

So in addition to making it’s platter debut on the Munster two x footlong, The Nomads “Ain’t No King” is available on a split 45 with The Sweet Zeros, pressed on fetching but not hot pink vinyl in a limited edition of 666 copies by Devil’s Jukebox. The Zeros deliver a fine line in short, sharp punk snot and the flip should require no introduction to visitors here. While you’re at it, grab a slice of their “City Slang” on white vinyl 7” also. The “A” side plays at 33 but you can’t have everything and this is a classic, must-have song. Flip is “Electrophonic Tonic”. These are culled from “Too Much Crank” an album also out on DB. It’s the sixth cd from the Easy Action box struck in pristine white 180g plastic and it’s a smoker.

Back yonder I was reminiscing about Kassel and on the same night as I was introduced to The Boonaraaas, I also became acquainted with CZD. A combo from Ljubljana that quite simply have to be seen to be believed, combining almost polka-like formations with a pure adrenalin attack. They’ve recently made “The Constitution” available in a pressing of just 300 copies. Recorded live in their rehearsal space last November. Dušan Hedl is a man of intense vision and his combo could well conquer far beyond their Slovenian borders. This is proper world music for the taking courtesy of the folks who run the Center for Dehumanisation via Front Rock Records.

The same label has also released some live Pankrti recordings from 1977 and 1982. Completely indispensable for students of punk rock as a phenomenon that spread way beyond the confines of the UK. It indicates the band coming together as a raw reflection of what was breaking out across the world and gradually becoming tighter. “Behind The Iron Curtain – Live” provides conclusive proof that this music was the last proper expression of individualism. Before the advent of brands and identikit music that has been manufactured to satisfy a limited demographic. Grab these now while you can.

Also, congratulations to Bigor, Viva and the team who made the Pankrti documentary on their award and forthcoming dvd release. Full details will be here when available…

It's taken a bloody hour to sort this out, what with chunks of text and pictures disappearing and blogger generally acting up. One can't help wondering, why the chuff bother? Of course the answer is that the word has to go out. And for some strange reason - muggins here has been nominated as the portal. Or should that be portaloo? So here we are. End of broadcast.
Like in those times when TV closed down and they played "God Save The Queen". Not that bloody Johnny Rotten racket. The proper national anthem you bloody heathens.
Of course, when Scotland becomes independent, The national anthem will be a Proclaimers song. As I tap away here, they'll be #1 in the pop charts with their comic relief version of "500 Miles". The real version is also in the charts thanks to the wonders of download inclusion. As The mighty Kross once intimated, "It's a crazy, crazy world we live in".