I was there in the room…

the-hecks-mirror-by-dan-paz-smallerMeant to follow up the last Trouble in Mind a little quicker than this, but hey-ho…

If the Beef Jerk offering somehow wasn’t lo-fi or strident enough for you, may I suggest the shriller, twangier and even more brilliantly-named the Hecks, also on Trouble in Mind, also young ‘n’ feisty and also hogging my car stereo.

Oh, and they’re really, bloody noisy.

The Hecks

The Hecks are a three-piece from Chicago, who are obsessed with strange guitar tunings, “intentionality” and Faust. The “intentionality” thing is an idea I’ve lifted from an interview they did with Chicago magazine LocalLoop, which I think translates as everything that comes out of the studio being done with and for a purpose. Do read the interview, their idea of guitar tuned in a particular way having to stay as they are, due to financial or technical limitations, is quite a fun one.

What’s particularly odd about all this is that one of the first impressions September’s debut album gives you is of raggedness and above all chance. Very little sounds as if it has been planned, polished or preserved.

You can stream a load of Hecks songs from the TiM SoundCloud page, and I’d recommend a good listen. Particularly fond of this:

 

 

From the first taut chords of “Sugar” to the awkward zeal of closer “Airport Run”, it’s a pretty uneven affair – whirling, clanking, twanging chords rub tattooed shoulders with drone and feedback-decked noise. It’s rough, Faustian stuff and, as I say, really noisy. I reckon, there’s always a place for dissonance, ugliness and a right bloody racquet.

And for those times, I give you…

Let’s move into the ocean, we won’t tell anybody…

beef-jerkThese days I oft times find myself haphazardly using up the last few of my eMusic downloads at the end of the month. It can be a slightly edgy, weirdly cautious business (I hate wasting things) and often culminates in my snagging another Latin collection of eager garage punk or (more often than you’d imagine) some murky new Soft Machine live set.

Well this month, I stumbled upon a new tack that I’ll employ more often. I chose at random one of my favourite labels of recent years – Trouble in Mind – and just go for it. A bit of rummaging around amongst the releases there and jackpot…

Beef Jerk

Beef Jerk are Australian and are part of the, er, burgeoning “dolewave” scene there (yes, really). And, in spite of my proverbial goldfish-like span of attention, have had the run of the car stereo for much of the week. Their debut record, Tragic, is a collection of demos that had been knocking around on the Internet for a couple of years before they decided to spruce them up and self-release them officially. TiM stepped in from there and have given it a proper release so that the inquisitive punters of the globe can get busy.

It’s a great little batch of fifteen songs that starts off promisingly (“Why are you so disagreeable? Table manners? Unbelievable”) and really kicks on from there. It’s absolutely packed full of loopy, jangly chords, dry lyrics, a few profanities and the odd sprinkling of Beefheart-ian rough sax. The songs do touch on a fair amount of everyday slacker business – caravan parks, shoplifting, drinking and general loafing round – but also take in mysterious Frenchmen, doomed fathers and flights to the seabed (“don’t forget the sunscreen lotion / fish fingers in the sun”).

I’m clearly not a musician and can only scratch my head and applaud songwriters Jack Lee and Mikey Branson’s ability to choose the right chords each time. I’m also very much impressed by the former’s prodigious ability to sing out of tune, and although press reviews frequently mention the Go-Betweens, I’d say Beef Jerk are more like another batch of Mark E Smith’s children (alright, grandchildren).

There’s not a lot of Beef Jerk around on the Internet (yet?), which could of course mean a couple of things, but I’m going to take the getting-in-at-the-ground-floor line. Fairly recently, you could actually stream the whole of the record from the band’s Bandcamp page, but until that returns (as they claim it will), you’ll have to trawl through the demos on Soundcloud or get a few tasters from YouTube.

This one’s my favourite:

 

(Particularly gratifying to see the pickup driver put the bin back up at the end, nice lads really…)

But this is also a great surging bugger of a song:

Transient, restless…

5616I don’t write enough about genuinely new music, I’ve decided.

This was the original brief that I settled upon when I started this damn thing all those years ago (ten, in fact, I know…), but somewhere along the way I’ve given into my natural tendency to allow myself to be side-tracked by some fuzztone-infused titbit, distracted by a morsel of exotica.

But here’s a new record…

Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch

(Although, to be honest I’ve not yet quite made my mind up about it…)

Jenny Hval is Norwegian who has, including this one, released six records, all of which have previously escaped my attention. Blood Bitch came out last month to some fairly good reviews.

In fact if you thumb through any of these reviews, you’ll quickly become ensnarled in all sorts of clever writing about sexual identity/confusion; gender neutrality or some other such wordy wankery. You’ll also come across vaguely uncomfortable (if you’re a feller of a certain age) discussion of menstrual … erm… stuff. I may be starting to mumble a little at this point, and I haven’t even started to talk about “Untamed Region” yet…

As well as this, there’s also a fair amount of vampire chat and, well, a bit more blood of various types. And at this point, you’re probably thinking that I’ve lost my way with the whole record, but hold up:

 

I really like this clip.

I’m always rather keen on folk who can prance around looking, well, daft with such utter, unshakeable conviction that I start to think I’m actually the one who’s the berk here. And so, you start to look again…

It’s a record full of awkward, ungainly moments – dialogue runs into and over songs, there are screams, white noise, disturbing ethers that stop as suddenly as they started, irregular rhythms and a lot of breathy confidences shared. But amongst all these uneven qualities, there are also moments of what can only be described as warm beauty.

A good example of this would be “The Great Undressing”, one of the longer songs on what is generally quite a short record. It opens with a conversation between friends that continues rather longer than you expect and doesn’t really give way to the song as it actually begins. It’s about being desperately vulnerable and ultimately, just desperate, for love, any love, anything, but it’s continually interrupted and discoloured by other lyrics re-repeated, out of context, over and above the melody. To my mind the key lines “I don’t need money, I just need your love, or your approval, anything” are almost lost beneath the repetition of a line from earlier in the verse – “you must be disgusted”. Moving lyrics, wilfully obscured, almost lost…

You’ll have gathered that I’m still not sure about Blood Bitch, it’s got a fair few moments that leave me cold, and, it has to be said, a certain amount of silliness. But for every moment of over-indulgence or obstinate eccentricity, there’s another of startling, complex, nagging splendour, that will not be denied and cares not how it looks to me or to anyone else..

One for the headphones, I’d say…

May be confused about a few things, but honey I’m on the move…

white-denim-at-pembyfest-2016-viesmag-4If the day comes (when, surely) for there to be a general reckoning of Bloggers and sundry Internet quacks for their overall contribution to the commonwealth, I’ll stand in the line amongst the other middle-aged saps in Fall t-shirts, and blink nervously in the harsh sunlight as a series of solemn gentlemen open their man-bags and begin to interview their charges.

I’m guessing the exchange will be a fairly short one, before I fall silent and sullenly await the guillotine. There’ll be some sort of polite shuffling of papers, before my arbiter leans forward and says, in a gently concerned fashion,

“You, er,  missed a fair bit, didn’t you?”

White Denim, O2 Academy

Those last two (fairly florid) paragraphs were my way of berating myself for once again taking my eye off the ball in a particularly daft fashion. A friend of mine got me a ticket for this gig a while back, and I’d not really given it much thought since.

Truth be told, since I last saw them a few years back, I’d gone off White Denim a little and wasn’t much of a fan of 2013’s Corsicana Lemonade. It’s not bad but not as exciting as the earlier records, and this particular butterfly had other sticky treats to investigate. Consequently I was completely unaware of White Denim’s recent upheavals. You’ll no doubt have been all over the half-the-band-leaves-midway-through-next-record thing, and will have already formed your own opinions, but I missed it entirely.

Worse still, seeing the band come out at Bristol’s premier rock venue, I somehow remained unaware of the changes, and although one of my memories of seeing them in 2012 was the exhilarating interplay between guitarists Petralli and Jenkins, I managed to convince myself that these recollections were unreliable, figments of a flakey, capricious imagination.

*Shakes head ruefully*

Having said all this, sometimes ignorance is indeed a form of bliss – a couple of people I spoke to later had pooh-poohed the new line-up and recent performances, and being the hopelessly impressionable feller that I am, the evening would’ve been coloured somewhat if I had actually stayed awake at the wheel.

In fact, it was a pretty good, if boisterous evening with the new line up acquitting themselves well. New drummer, Jordan Richardson, impressed particularly, an enthusiastic, barrel-chested presence at the kit. He played the drums like Gareth Evans (Gloucester’s injured No 8) runs – head up, chest puffed out, boisterously charging through the set, arms akimbo like some sort of tubby wind-up toy.

Terebecki and Petralli were still the heart of the band, however, and a set which ran through most of the new record, Stiff, and touched on a lot of favourites from the back catalogue, was a reminder that even if the exhilarating twin guitar thing is no more there’s still plenty to get excited about. In fact, at least one punter remained blissfully heedless of the changes.

As before, it was something of a machine-gun attack, one blistering song piling on the shoulders of the previous one, with precious little chat and the sparsest of breathers between each one. Exhilarating stuff it was, and this old chap was left a little punch-drunk by the end of it all

The younger Academy punters got pretty excited and amongst the normal festivities, there was stage diving, limb-flailing careening around and enough rough stuff at the front to merit a few incursions from the security gents (and at least one feller being dragged out).

Sweaty, first class entertainment, all in all.

I’ve got a few noisy recordings for you…

Real Deal Mamma

Anvil Everything

Mirrored in Reverse

 

and if you fancy a quick comparison…

At the Farm (2016)

At the Farm / Say What You Want (End of the Road ’11, twin guitars a-sparkling…)

In the days when there were stars…

meilyr_jones_liverpool_29-4-16_mike_hughes_live9_445_297As any one of life’s beleaguered teachers will tell you, October is the season of the Harvest Festival – a charming old-world tradition that I marvel every year has somehow, against all the odds, scrambled into the 21st Century. In the old days, Harvest Festivals would have involved skilfully fashioned wheat-based items, marrows and other winter vegetables but nowadays mainly consist of precariously piled tins of peaches, sachets of Uncle Ben’s Rice and the odd packet of plain biscuits. Times have changed for sure, the common thread being a slightly forced sense of gratitude for cyclical graces.

This being my Blog, against all reasonable advice, I’m going to develop this seasonal theme into a laboured, music-based metaphor and suggest that at the very top of my Harvest Festival table of bounties for which to thank the Lord would be The Unexpected Gig…

Meilyr Jones, Thekla

Got a call a couple of weeks ago from Coleser saying that he’d bought me a ticket for this geezer of whom I was completely unaware, just knowing that I’d like him.

Thank the Lord for good friends, eh?

A week spent revising with Jones’ 2013 album left me intrigued and rather looking forward to an evening in the company of a slightly eccentric Welsh crooner. Traffic (and a group of revellers utterly bemused by new-fangled parking ticket dispensers) held us up, so that we just made it into the darkened, depths of everyone’s favourite hipster vessel. As if by magic, Meilyr Jones appeared onstage at the same moment as a pint snaked into my hand – not the only instance of perfect timing from the evening.

Cheerily-arrayed in rumpled white polo, tucked into eighties-style pegs, he looked like some young thing from the pages of the Face (ask your parents), and bounded onto the stage, fist pumping his way into his storming album-opener, “How to Recognise a Work of Art”. It was a cracking start to a great set, punctuated by winning smiles and self-effacing Celtic charm. He warbled and careened around Thekla’s tiny stage, gorgeously supported by a troupe of guitarists-cum violinists who occasionally threatened to (ever-so-gently) steal the show.

Highlights of the evening were a Jean Genie-style version of “Strange Emotional”, with a lengthy dream/nightmare middle sequence; a witty, full-throated “Featured Artist” and a beautiful, audience-silencing “Be Soft” finale, Jones slipping quietly off the stage as his band gently finished things off. (The latter recording is almost spoiled by the somehow amplified sound of below-deck air conditioning as an entranced group of punters craned their collective necks toward the stage…)

Triffic stuff!

Strange Emotional

Olivia

Featured Artist

This song is o-ffensive

220px-thackrayonagainMy father died earlier this month.

I say this not to elicit sympathy or kind words – it was his time and most of the people who read this Blog are friends who have already passed on their condolences (gratefully received, by the way). A moving tribute was paid at Kingsholm, there was a piece in the local paper and the funeral was a good’un. At a local saloon afterwards I felt we sent him off in good style.

I’m mentioning it partly to apologise for a lengthy period between posts (although …) but also to say that although rugby was a long-shared passion between the two of us, when it came to music there was pretty much no cross-over.

My Dad mostly liked cheesy trad jazz stuff and various other disparate fifties things that I turned my nose up at pretty quickly from my teens onwards. There was this, though…

(Apologies for the over-eager punter at the front)

 

The line obscured by enthusiastic guffawing was:

“She could have gone on again on again on till the entire

Congregation passed out, and the vicar passed on, and the choir

Boys passed through puberty”

Dazzling…

Oom-bip-bip, oom-bip-bip, si!

productimage-picture-algo-salvaje-vol-1-604_jpg_382x5000_q100Vampisoul, along with its parent label, Munster, is definitely, definitely, my very favourite label ever. This is not only because of their sterling work putting together those wonderful Yé-Yé compilations that I may have mentioned before (I’ve a feeling there’s a third Chicas! record on the way…), nor all the fine boogaloo stuff they’ve dug up, nor even the opportunity to stick your snout into all sorts of the very nichest of interests (“you mean you’ve not heard any Czechoslovakian funk? For shame…”)

No today’s reason why Vampisoul is top of the pile is this…

¡Algo Salvaje!

In our last feverish days in Madrid, I spent a happy few hours trekking around the city visiting the record shops I’d read about on the Internet. I’d love to give an enthusiastic plug to whichever shop it was that I found this record, but I’m afraid I’ve already forgotten. Shame, but what can you do?

I’d begun to form the opinion that the whole Spanish beat scene was a bit of a novelty, mainly interesting for its managing to exist at all during peak Franco years. Once you actually get round to listening to some of the records of the time though, and you see they’re kind of sweet, but generally pretty anaemic. Or so I thought…

Turns out I’m a complete idiot (who knew?), and ¡Algo Salvaje! is the absolute proof. Fondly presented with liner notes on each of the 28 featured bands, it’s a double album of absolutely stonking garagnivram-los-los-nivram_1636627e punk. You’re treated to the raspiest of fuzztone, loads of fantastically spooky farfisa organ and some genuinely irrational (and at times ill-advised) vocals, and all with only the occasional cover version. I’m all turned round about Spanish Garage!

Highlights include “Sombras” by Barcelona’s Los Nivram, (great vocals and hypnotically quavering guitars); and “It is my World” by fellow Catalans Prou Matic, (featuring the sneeriest of punk shouters, a violently enthusiastic drummer – who is unwisely given a solo – and production values that would shame the Green Fuz). There’s also a highly entertaining version of the Pretty Things’ LSD by Los Polares which is called “La Droga” and is thus an even more basic single-entendre than May and Taylor’s original. (You wonder what Franco’s censors were up to that weekend, bearing in mind that even Cliff Richard had at one point been considered too suggestive for Spanish listeners.)

There’s just loads of tracks to talk about but one of my favourites would be “Ven a Mí” by yet another bunch of Catalans, Els Trons, which really deserves to be better known, with its disconsolate, cheesy organ lines, naughty Stones riff and tactless, club-handed drumming. Turns out if you go to Soundcloud, there’s a whole bunch of Els Trons stuff you can stream.

No “Ven a Mí” but try this… (I think Arthur would be OK with this version)

 

(If you go and listen to the rest of the tracks – there’s loads – you’ll be rewarded by intriguing Elia y Elizabeth song. I’m saying no more…)

Another of my favourite tracks is by Los Botines, whose singer, Camilo Sesto, later went on to star in the Spanish version of Jesus Christ Superstar, become a Shakespearean actor, score numerous number one hits as a Spain’s top seventies crooner and sell more than 175 million records worldwide. All of which is alright, I suppose, but I guess once you’ve appeared on TV singing with your band dressed as wandering minstrels in El flautista de Hamelín, it’s all downhill from there…

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