Here is the archived content from Nemesis To Go issue 5.
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Interviews from issue 5. Click the images to go to the interview pages:
Live reviews from issue 5. Click the red text to go to the review pages:
CD/Vinyl/Download reviews from issue 5:
Cave And The Bad Seeds
Someone hasn't quite worked out the details here. The title of this album is variously rendered on the CD packaging, with differing arrangements of comma and exclaimation marks (the version I use above is randomly chosen from the CD spine; note that the front cover version at left is different). But maybe that's appropriate. Nick Cave has conjured a collection of fuzztone blues grinders, slow-burn groovers, loop-driven workouts and even straight-up rockers as diverse as his album title variations, all played with a cut-the-crap minimalist verve that's rather a relief after the lush arrangements, backing choirs and string sections that characterised the last Bad Seeds album. Here, it's just the band, and better for it. The famed Nick Cave wit is well to the fore, and his trademark technique of spinning tall and yet weirdly believable tales, complete with outlandish characters and colourful dialogue, crops up with gratifying frequency. 'Cause, y'know, old Nick is good at this stuff. And on this one he certainly plays to his strengths.
The title track apparently follows the adventures of Lazarus after Jesus restores him to life (it's not a pretty tale: 'Then prison/Then the madhouse/Then the grave'), while the band slams down a heated-up cuban-heel strut behind the words. 'Albert Goes West' is a rock 'n' roll stormer that doesn't go anywhere unconventional, but kicks its groove around with such low-slung style you can't help but be swept along. You'll be singing along to the 'Sha-la-la' chorus by the end of the song, believe me. Oh, and someone really needs to sample the bit where Nick rips out 'Do ya wanna dance? Do ya wanna groove?' and work it into a dance track.
'Call Upon The Author', a mutoid blues that interrupts itself with phat electro interludes when you least expect them, sees Nick baffled and outraged by modern life in all its ghastliness, with a gleeful richness of language that is a genuine delight: 'Our myxomatoid kids spraddle the streets/We've shunned them from the greasy-grind/The poor little things, they look so sad and old/As they mount us from behind'. I'll never look at a bunch of youthful hoodies the same way again. On 'More News From Nowhere' the band lays down a smouldering late-night lope while Nick walks us through a surreal party, in which, among assorted other lay-deez, he meets his old inamorata, Deanna '...hanging pretty in the door frame/All the horrors that have befallen me/Well, Deanna is to blame'. But for me the track that does the best business is the least expected. 'Night Of The Lotus Eaters' is essentially an extended drum 'n' piano loop, chanking and churning like a broken barrel organ, while Nick expresses existential weariness as only he can: 'The gilded my scales/The fish-bowled me/And toured me round the old aquariums/They come in their hordes to tap at the glass/The philistines and barbarians'. Yep, old Nick's on form. Doom never sounded so delicious. Do we wanna groove? Oh, I think so.
With such luminaries as Katherine Blake of Miranda Sex Garden, KatieJane Garside of Queen Adreena, and Nick Marsh of Flesh For Lulu on board, you might think that what we've got here is a supergroup. But not so - in fact, there's no group at all. This album of shapeshifting fairy tales, set to music as atmospheric as gathering darkness, is a collaboration put together by Ben Golomstock of Miranda Sex Garden and Naked Goat. He's assembled contributions from his musical colleagues, friends and aquaintances, and even a few passing strangers to create an album that takes in yesteryear's folk tales and today's traumas, provides soundtracks for dreams and nightmares, and ever and anon pokes its fingers into the murkiest of corners. It is not, in case you were wondering, rock 'n' roll. If you want boldly-struck guitars and a four-four beat, look away now. But as an accompaniment for those nights when the wind is in the trees and the darkness seethes with strange energy, this stuff hits the spot.
Andrea Kerr of Colt sings 'The Final Dawn' as if the song is a strange presence under the nursery bed - it's all an otherworldly vocal, orchestral eruptions and strings like icicles. Audrey Evans of the Medieval Baebes takes Jaques Brel's 'Les Coeurs Tendres' for a saunter round the rive gauche, jaunty and spring-heeled all the way, but somehow you know there's rain on the cobblestones. 'Martyrdom Of The Chaos Whore Vigin' sounds like it should be a death metal anthem, but you'll be relieved to find that it's a manic instrumental, fiddles sawing frantically like the overture to a very strange cabaret. 'Wolf Saxon' sounds like the local Weird Bloke helping the police with their enquiries while the Emergency Services Jazz Band tunes up next door, and KatieJane Garside tiptoes wide-eyed through 'In The Birdcage', singing to herself. It's as if we're eavesdropping. Elsewhere, her vocal on the old Eraserhead showstopper, 'In Heaven', is such an unsettling vignette you'll be checking your radiators nervously for weeks afterwards. And there's more, of course: a whole lot more, as the cast of thousands cast their nightmares to the winds. It's a sprawling epic, a soundtrack for a film Tim Burton hasn't made yet. The moon, I'm sure, looks down and laughs.
From The Moon: Website
I'm taken aback here. I've seen the Sohodolls (that's not a typo: they really do run their name together like that these days) many times on stage, and their cheery mash-up of glam guitar and neat-o electropop never fails to hit the spot. But on this, their debut album, the band's amiable take on glamour, grit, wit and sleaze has been burdened with a squeaky-clean production that has effectively removed any traces of the band's knockabout character - not to mention the energetic rock 'n' roll cabaret feel of the music that is such a feature of the live shows. 'Stripper' retains its Glitter Band beat and boisterous, shouted chorus ('Hey! Stripper!'), with Toni Sailor's extravagantly riffing guitar well to the fore, and it's here that the Sohodolls sound most like themselves. But elsewhere, the production weighs so heavily on the band that they never quite get out from under. 'Prince Harry' has been reduced to over-polished, middle of the road electro, the drums compressed down to a barely-there bip and bomp. Astoundingly, I see a credit in the small print for 'additional guitar' on this one, which does rather boggle the mind since guitar barely features on the track at all. 'Right And Right Again' takes a tentative step back towards the good old glam-stomper zone, but Maya Von Doll's vocal is set back in the mix, a winsome croon almost shouldered aside by the music. Even on 'Trash The Rental', with its anarchic chorus - 'Trash it! Trash it! It's just a rental!' - the deadly smoothness of the production polishes everything down to a sheen so slippery there's little for the listener to catch on to. Of course, maybe I've got it all wrong here, and this is how the Sohodolls want their album to sound. Maybe the slicked-up synthpop thing is their target style, but frankly it seems downright perverse to have an extravagant glam rock guitarist in the band and then as near as dammit keep him off his own album. A case of a good band programmed to death, I fear.
As sharp as a new pencil, treating their new wave influences with gleeful irreverence even as they hammer that silver seam of inspiration into something of their own, The Violets have made possibly the best slice of post-post-punk since John McGeoch buggered off to the great gig in the sky. And I mention the name of Mr McGeoch quite deliberately, for in Joe Daniel The Violets have a guitarist of such invention, such an instinctive feel for a riff, a flourish, or - crucial point here - the right moment to back off and shut up, that he could certainly hold his own with McGeoch at his best (which was, as any fule kno, around The Correct Use Of Soap and JuJu). Amid Joe's skittering, shuddering, sheets-of-glass guitar, vocalist Alexis Mary struts and strolls, assertive and reflective by turns, her voice slicing through the music like a knife through carrots, while Andrew Moran's tight-but-loose drums keep it nailed. It's all a heady brew, a hot pepper vodka cocktail of an album that exudes the insousciant confidence of a band that has kicked these songs around on the live circuit and knows them backwards, forwards, and upside down.
The Violets certainly display a winning way with their pell-mell post-punkers. 'Shade To Be' is a soap box go-cart on a hill, fast and tight, with some nifty lyrical invention ('Ironing the creases of dishevellry' - isn't that neat?) and a guitar that leaps all over the place even as it provides the core of the song, while 'Forget Me Not' is built on a bootstrapped riff that always retains control even as things build to a manic crescendo (and where did those tortured violins come from?). But if you've got The Violets filed as punkzoid guitar-mashers, this album will contain a few surprises. Here and there, but most obviously on 'Troubles Of Keneat' and 'Co-Plax', the band go head to head with thumping synthesized sequences, giving it that Studio 54 strut and keeping the dancefloor effortlessly under their control, just as they've got the moshpit under their thumbs. The one song that brings it all together - in fact, the song I'd recommend to anyone who wanted to get a quick burst of What The Violets Are All About - is 'Parting Glances', a shimmering epic built upon the bedrock of an implacable rhythm, and driven forward by an insistent pulse-and-rev-up bassline. Alexis sings with an effortless authority, while Joe shreds out notes like quantum particles. His guitar is everywhere at once, darting and sweeping, chiming and spiralling, and when it all deconstructs at the end you'll be left breathless even if you've done nothing more strenuous than simply listen. In short: result.
This limited edition sampler CD may well be sold out now, which, you may say, means it's a bit foolish to review it. But the four bands featured here all have music available to hear on the web, and are kicking up their individual storms on the gig circuit in London and beyond even as I type. So this seems like a good opportunity to give a swift heads-up, even if the hard copy might prove a little elusive. The scratchy, urgent post-rock clatter that is 'There Are Some People' by I Am The Arm pitches us in, all high-frequency noise, rat-a-tat-tat drums and squalling keyboards, and a vocal that grabs your lapels and insists that you pay attention. By contrast, the Spectrometers wobble and shudder through some antique electronica: their instrumental 'Tape Damage' sounds like something the BBC Radiophonic Workshop would take three weeks to piece together for a Doctor Who show, circa 1963. If Delia Derbyshire heard it, she'd probably offer the band a job. We keep one foot in the spooky zone for Eve Black/Eve White's slice of otherworldy, futurist soul. 'This Hunger' is a none-more-minimalist garage electro torch song, and if you think I'm throwing contradictory terms around here, well, yes, perhaps I am. But Eve Black/Eve White balance with precarious grace on the point where all those musical strands tangle and twine. Billy Trivial And the Penny Dreadfuls contribute a ballad that sounds like it's been forcibly hauled out of an all-night diner somewhere in Illinois. 'Honeybee' is a reverb-soaked croon to a resonant guitar, while odd little elecronic noises whistle and whoop in the background, as if a Sputnik just went by on the freeway outside. A diverse selection of artists and styles for sure. But that diversity is the unifying factor, and a genuine reflection of the omnifarious,ramshacke creativity that is currently coming up from the London underground. Keep an eye on the Decasian Records label for more.
Watch out, kids, things are getting strange. This compilation brings together a selection of sounds from the international weirdo underground - experimental DIY-ers, bedroom noisemakers, lo-fi luntatics, punkers, spunkers, freaks and junkers. If all that makes it sound like this album is nothing more than a collection of gratuitous noises made by people with gratuitous hairstyles - think again. Only some of it is like that. Oddball gems crop up amid the ramshackle racketerering, and it's worth hacking a trail through the sonic undergrowth to see what diamonds lurk in the murk.
Some random samples. 'Miron' by Theatre Of Ice is Devo-esque geek pop with a lilting to-and-fro melody that works rather well; 'Starbucks Hyper Bitch' by Jean-Paul Yamamoto is a minimalist piece of technopunk that sounds like it has beamed in from 1979, and although the primitive squeaks and sproings of the tune sound like deliberately contrived period decoration, it's a witty little thing for all that. '6ft Tall Wind-Up Doll' by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is an underproduced (no, make that un-produced) mess, but underneath the distortion is a neat piece of avant-electro crying out for a production technique a little more sophisticated than 'Whack it all up loud'. On the downside, Yip-Yip's 'Club Mummy' sounds like a throwaway mobile phone ringtone, while 'Loss Of Apettite' by Deaf Deaf (what is it with these doubled names-names?) is as inconclusive as a junior school playground fight. Contrariwise, the dancefloor slap and fizz of 'Clear Area' by the Sixteens, and 'Scott Wood' by Dandi Wind sound distinctly more fully realised, as if the bands have a destination in mind and know how to reach it.
On a compilation which majors on contemporary bands from several nations, it's frustrating to find that the UK is represented only by three 80s vintage artists - Rubella Ballet, whose 'Arctic Flowers' sounds incongruously melodic and poppy amid the noiseniks; Ausgang, who bounce around to the oddly lightweight 'Strip Me Down', and The Dancing Did, a band that hasn't existed for at least 25 years, who contribute their clipped drum 'n' bass workout, 'The Rhythm Section Sticks Together'. The absence of any current UK artists is partly explicable when you note the fact that this album is put together by the people behind the Drop Dead Festival, which itself appears to have a 'no current UK artists' policy - but the reason why new UK acts are excluded is still a mystery. This album is a bit of a curate's egg, then, but if you dip your soldiers with care you can scoop up some good stuff.
Transmissions label: MySpace
A self-released virtual album from a maverick independent artist: how's that for the twenty-first century way of doing things? Sam Amant shows that you don't need a record label, and you don't even need a band. A guitar, a sampler, a head full of ideas and a handful of zeroes and ones will do the business. Five quid punted in the direction of Sam herself via her MySpace page gets you nine tracks of nervy, fractious garage electro, spiced by outbreaks of unrestrained guitar noise and underpinned by punch-and-pulse rhythms. 'Around My Head' sounds like Selfish Cunt after someone's poked them with a sharp stick; 'Chicken' is a dubbed-out take on Delta Five-style punk funk (with an incongruously mellow acoustic break), while 'Cold' kicks a monster riff around like someone's locked Sonic Youth in Kraftwerk's bathroom. 'Friday' turns out to be a deconstructed, post-electroclash version of The Cure's 'Friday I'm In Love', which transforms the jaunty original into something rumbling and sinister. As if to prove that there's more to Sam Amant than weirdness and noise, 'Try' has the kind of slickly executed future-rap groove - complete with insistent, uplifting chorus - that would be instantly hailed as a modern classic if it came out of Timbaland's studio. In a way, it's a shame that this music is only available in download form, because while that might be a highly effective way of getting the sounds out there without bothering about the excess baggage of the music biz, I wish I had these tunes on a format that packed a bit more of a sonic punch than hideously compressed MP3 files. It would be nice to have some real visuals, too, rather than just the lo-rez GIF of the virtual cover you see above. But now I'm just being picky. Go to the MySpace address below, pony up yer fiver, and haul down these sounds. Your hard disk will thank you.
Sam Amant : MySpace
Bell Hollow may hail from New York, but their skill at filtering influences from British 80s indie through the mesh of the twenty-first century might have you believing they're a cool new UK outfit. Guitars chime expansively, the rhythm section stretches like a cat before the fire: there's a sense of space and flow in the music that recalls such luminaries of atmospheric indie as the Comsat Angels, the Chameleons or even - yes - The Smiths. In a way, I'm reluctant to hang such weighty names round the neck of a band that's only just made its first album, but Bell Hollow are entirely capable of holding their own in that exalted company. The reflective, introspective, 'Eyes Like Planets', for example, its meticulous guitar figures gathering and rising into the chorus, displays a quiet confidence that suggests to me that Bell Hollow could look their mentors in the eye without flinching. 'Getting On In Years' features a neat interplay between the bass, rumbling away in the basement, and the nimble guitar darting about on top - and the lyric, a poignant I-may-be-down-but-I'm-not-out pep talk, given by the narrator to himself, is a bold move in a field where youth - or at least the simulacrum of it - is sometimes considered the prime requirement. Lyrical detail pops up again in the title track, where we're told of the tragic heroine's 'Delicious sadness/She likes to wash it down with wine/The kind that comes in boxes', as the guitars conjure late-night melancholy. One thing Bell Hollow don't do is turn it up and rock out: the band keep it understated and judicious throughout. The music creeps up on you, rather than walloping you around the head. As it happens, I suspect Bell Hollow could make a towering Bunnymen-style anthem with ease if the fancy ever took them; perhaps they will, on a future album. For now, we can enjoy the atmospheres conjured up here.
A self-release, it seems, from Ms FrightDoll herself - no other identity given: all I can tell you is that she's trademarked her name, which shows a certain confidence in her future as a one-woman entertainment business, if nothing else. And yes, this album is entirely written, recorded, produced, mixed and generally created by FrightDoll, a still too rare example of a female artist taking care of everything, from the creative to the technical to the business side of things. Nuff respect for that. It's a slight disappointment, then, that so much of FrightDoll's music is a fairly straightforward take on EBM/synthpop/futurepop/Whateveritscalledthisweek. Programmed beats crack and crash, synth lines rinse out over the top, and FrightDoll half-raps, half-chants her vocals through the inevitable distortion effect. Tracks such as 'Automated' and 'Tension' have all the right beatz 'n' progamming elements in place, and for all I know are packing the floor at your local EBM nite even as I type. But they don't contain any surprises, and those distorted vocals, a one-dimensional rasp throughout, amount to nothing more than an exercise in following the rules. Fortunately, FrightDoll also throws in some slo-mo mood pieces, which explore some more interesting tangents. 'Neutrino Glaze' almost has a mutant jazz feel, with its synthesized piano dodging the distort-o-beatz, while on 'Questions' the beat is taken out altogether for an effective swoop 'n' swoon through the outer planets. Unfortunately, the vocal distortion is very definitely left on. In a way, the most effective track on the entire album is 'Gravity', where FrightDoll goes all trip-hop on us, and while she still sounds like she's singing through a telephone, the sampled drums, pounding away in a counter-intuitive counterpoint to the whimsical melody, are a refreshing change from the EBMisms thrown at us elsewhere. I'm left with the feeling that here's an artist with genuine ideas in her head who hasn't quite plucked up courage to let go of the security balanket of her chosen genre. But she's much more interesting when she does.
Strange to find this album by a British band on a San Fransisco record label, but hey. That's globalisation for you, I suppose. The Torpedoes are a straight-up powerpop outfit, a throwback to those late-70s days when The Jam broke big, and pulled a whole bunch of other punky pop bands up behind them. I don't know if the Torpedoes remember such bands as The Vapors or The Chords, but they're definitely channelling the same kind of anthemic, guitar-driven pop punk anthems. It's a buzzsaw guitarfest all the way, every song climbing inexorably to the rousing chorus. Backing vocals soften the rockisms and ensure that even when the Torpedoes are at their most boisterous, it all remains accessible. 'Twisted Love Song' amounts to a one-song showcase of the band's essential style: fast and vigourous, with the backing vocalists stretching their vowel sounds to provide a lush block harmony, to the point where the line 'Ride the seven tides' comes out as 'Raaaaaaahhhd the seven Taaaahhhh-aaahhds!' Occasionally the band gives in to its latent rockist tendencies - there's a give-away guitar solo on 'Wreck' which sounds like someone's got a secret collection of heavy metal albums stashed under the bed. A sampled William Boroughs makes a special guest appearance on 'Straight Jacket' (uh, that should be 'Straitjacket', lads) as the band get just a little left-field on us, but the big guitar soon kicks in to give it some welly all the way up to the chorus. Did I say it was a buzzsaw guitarfest all the way? Not quite - 'Glorious Day' is a mellow acoustic 'n' synthistrings number, the band's 'That's Entertainment', if you will. It's all done with suitable quantities of verve and energy, and if the Torpedoes' chosen musical area is, when all's said and done, a fairly limited field, at least they bestride it with confidence.
So, farewell, then. Bauhaus have now split up for ever and ever. No more reunions, no more comebacks. As a parting gift, the band have recorded this album, although there will be no tour to promote it. It's the final twitch of the tail, the last hurrah. And...I'm sorry to say this, because I've been a Bauhaus fan since my teenage years in the early 80s, but it's not very good. Perhaps I'd better qualify that, before the Bauhaus Barmy Army arrives at my door with pitchforks and flaming torches. This is not a bad album, and indeed if it were the first recording by a new artist it would show much style and promise. But this is Bauhaus, for heaven's sake, doyens of glammed-up art-rock, pioneers of post-punk, unwitting inventors of goth. This is Bauhaus, of the snake-funk anthem 'Kick In The Eye', that deliciously clangourous melodrama 'The Passion Of Lovers', the slinky dub-influenced croon of 'She's In Parties'. There are standards to maintain here, ladies and gentlemen, and this album frankly falls short.
If you squint at the white-on-white (translucent black cape...er, sorry) lettering on the packaging, you can see that the album was 'Written, recorded and mixed in 18 days.' To which I say, no shit, Sherlock. The album sounds like what it is: an extended jam session with the tape running. The songs are built around four-square riffs that simply trundle along inconclusively, over which dear old Pete Murph indulges himself with some hammy vocal melodrama. The riffs aren't necessarily even original: 'Too Much 21st Century' sounds like The Beatles' 'Taxman', while 'Adrenalin', with its phat bass and menacing pace, sounds great - right up to the point where you realise Bauhaus have just gone and swiped 'Sidewalking' from under the noses of The Jesus And Mary Chain. 'Undone' has a nice bit of dubby bass in there - a Bauhaus trademark, of course - but the song is another mid-tempo workout that never quite goes anywhere. And 'mid-tempo' is definitely the operative term here. I realise that the four members of Bauhaus are knocking on a bit, but can't they muster the energy to speed it up just a little? I swear Kevin Haskins, on drums, never gets out of second gear.
'Mirror Remains' sounds like a rehearsal tape: the band chug away, Murphy crooning on autopilot, until the middle of the song when Daniel Ash starts scratching out a repeated dang-a-dang on the guitar. 'There's a solo there of some kind,' remarks Murphy. 'This is the solo!' comes Daniel Ash's voice. 'Oh, right,' says Pete, unconvincingly. 'It's good!' Whereupon he starts hollering pointlessly - 'Uuuuuhhhh-ooooohhh-uuuuhh!' - as the tune plods on. The song is barely half-formed; the band never even worked up a finished version for the album. It's all distinctly underwhelming.
Interestingly enough, the only tune which sounds like it has a real idea behind it is 'The Dogs Of Vapour', which was recorded in 1998, when Bauhaus first reformed and all things seemed possible. . If Bauhaus had done a new album then, I think they woud've come up with something a bit more fully-realised. As it was, although the band toured extensively on the back of their old material, they never quite got it together to record a new album. Until now, until...this. With the best will in the world, there's only one slot in the file for this one: Not Very Good.
Fifteen years after what? I hear you ask. Fifteen years after the band first formed: although you may never have heard of All Living Fear if you don't happen to be an aficionado of the 90s British goth scene, the band has indeed been around in various line-ups for a decade and a half, during which time they've released several DIY albums of robust drum-machine driven gothic rock. This latest release sees the band re-record a chunk of back catalogue material for twenty-first century consumption. The two-CD package gives you a 'greatest hits' selection, plus a CD of remixes and guest collaborations which features a startlingly diverse range of contributors - from Steve Bronski of 80s dance sensations Bronski Beat, to 70s psychedelic legend Arthur Brown.
The twin trademarks of All Living Fear have always been unpretentiously catchy tunes...and somewhat 'bedroom' production values. No big deal in DIY circles, of course, and in many ways a badge of authenticity, but if there was ever a factor that prevented All Living Fear rising above the goth scene parapet, that's probably it. Here, the band don't entirely slay that old monster. Although the production is sharper than previously, there are still odd little trip-ups lying in wait for the unwary listener - like those cymbal sounds that are so far to the front of the mix they don't seem to have anything to do with the rest of the programmed drum-clatter, and those occasions when Andrew Racher, on vocals, deviates interestingly from The Note - as on to 'Home Too Soon', a ballad upon which he is called upon to sustain several notes, and mostly manages it. All Living Fear's principal idea on these re-recordings seems to be to ladle backing vocals over the songs like ketchup, and here Julianne Regan of All About Eve does the honours. Julianne's vocals sound like they were recorded in a different time and place, and perhaps that's just as well. If she had been present at the main recording session, I can imagine her grabbing the mic and insisting, 'Look, let me do it!'
But for the most part, All Living Fear's re-recorded greatest hits still exhibit the solid virtues of the originals. Old-skool gothic rockers can grab a handily packaged soundtrack of their misspent youth, and listen with confidence that the boat won't be rocked too much. Things get a little more diverse on the 'remixes and guests' CD, which kicks off with a veritable rampage through 'Tomorrow', with Paul Roe kicking it up on vocals over a thunderous beat. Then it's Arthur Brown's opportunity to turn 'The Widow's Blame' into a gloriously mental slice of folk-rock melodrama, proof that the old nutter has still got it...whatever it is. Steve Bronski's remix of 'Stranger To None' sounds hilariously eighties-boystown, but maybe that was the point. Notwithstanding these excursions, I suspect this album will probably sell to more or less the same people that bought previous All Living Fear releases - essentially, 90s gothic rock heads. The band seem intent on staying loyal to that territory, although it's the remixes and guest vocal stuff that perhaps point to a more interesting way ahead.
The photos in the inlay booklet look like stills from a post-apocalypse production of Alice In Wonderland. Angelspit seem to have created their own surreal world, a cyber-gangster version of Grimm's Fairy Tales, and if indeed they ever did turn their visual ideas into a movie I'm sure Peter Greenaway and Terry Gilliam would be fighting over the director's chair. Meanwhile, we have their audio ideas to go on. If you've ever wondered what Mad Max would have rinsing out of his boombox if he ever decided to try a little breakdancing, here's that very soundtrack. Beats pound; electronic discords fight it out. Everything is fuzzed up like it's coming from a radio that's been ramped up too loud, and when the electronic apocalypse thus created is reinforced with a wall of massed guitars - hear them suddenly start riffing away like a squadron of stormtroopers on 'Exile' - then there's nothing to do but get your tin hat on and boogie. Angelspit are as electronic as the interior of your computer, while also being as punk as fuck. Their mutant-rap workouts sound like the Beastie Boys in a bad mood, although when female vocalist Destroyx lends a laconic, offhand rap to '100%', it's as if we're suddenly in the presence of a dominatrix...and she's not impressed. Then the unwary listener is pitched into 'Juicy', on which ZooG, the male half of Angelspit, assumes a distinctly disturbing bedroom manner -'I'm feeling ripe!', he exclaims, and it's hard not to start edging nervously towards the door. Now we know why they wear all that wipe-clean PVC. In a world of electro-industrial-dance-whatever artists that often seem to be following exactly the same rule book, Angelspit are immediately, obviously, different - and not simply because their fevered imaginations have conjured up an entire surrealist future-universe. Their unholy mash-up of punk, rap, brutalist beats and distressed electronics certainly isn't easy listening, but there's a unique and ingenious wit at work here. Krank it, kids. The sonic apocalypse is upon us. And it's a groovy little fucker.
I think someone must've bottled pure Essence Of New York Dolls, and London rock reprobates Skintight Jaguars have been swigging it down by the gallon. Fast, freaked-out rock 'n' roll is the name of the game here, and if you're waiting for the ballad, you'll be hanging around for a mighty long time, buster. Everything here is played at escape velocity, encrusted with snot and attitude, and you can bet the amps are on eleven. Crazed, rampant rockin' all the way - It's not sophisticated stuff, for sure, and sometimes the songs themselves are knocked flat by the sheer noise. But what the hell. If you want sophistication there's always Dire Straits. And here's the clincher. How, I ask you, can you dislike a band that has a song entitled 'Joey Ramone Won't Leave Me Alone'?
A band from Australia with a German word for a name (a word for which there is no direct translation in English, by the way), and a neat take on new wave-inflected rock. 'Vertigo', opening track on this three-song EP demonstrates the band's winning way with a terse riff, a frill-free backbeat, and unadorned vocals. Only the sudden appearance of a wah-wah guitar solo in the middle of the following track, 'Your Body', hints that the band may not be coming from quite the same musical place as we're used to in this hemisphere. This is a band, after all, that namechecks INXS as an influence, so maybe we shouldn't be surprised to hear a bit of ye olde ROCK in the sound, too. Third tune 'There's Surely More Than This' contains a certain amount of Cure-juice in the sound - the vocalist even attempts an approximation of the classic Fat Bob yelp on this one. Good stuff, but keep those influences in their place, gentlemen.
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I must admit I have approaced PJ Harvey with caution ever since her last-but-one album, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, turned out to be a bit too AOR for comfort. In fact, I recall an interview in which Polly Harvey herself admitted that things got a little too smooth and meticulous on that album - a point I wish she'd made before I bought the ruddy thing. Since then, however, her natural maverick spirit seems to have reasserted itself, and while this probably does not delight the execs at her record label, who have seen all hope of smash hit drivetime anthems vanish into the distance, it does mean that PJ Harvey fans like me can return to the fold, knowing things will be interesting. This album is certainly a return to tangental form, being a collection of faux-folk bacchanals, parlour-jazz ballads and romps, which, while always remaining primly respectable, nevertheless hint at storms below the surface. Perhaps it's Polly's severe white dress on the sleeve that puts the thought of distorted Victoriana into my mind, or perhaps it's the click and clunk of the piano which drives the songs, occupying the space where, if this were rock 'n' roll, the guitar would be. Its internal workings are faithfully recorded, along with every plangent note - 'Grow Grow Grow' is a lilting pean to the upward pull of life which could've been plucked from a music box; you can even hear the rumble and click as the recording machine is switched off at the end of the song. 'To Talk To You' is the bookend at the opposite end of the shelf of life, as Polly wishes her late grandmother were alive to give counsel; here, the piano laments emptily like the sound of a Sunday school on Monday morning. Reflective and introspective without ever being merely bleak, this music quietly fascinates. Drivetime anthems might occupy another world.
Fresh from an extended foray around the UK gig circuit, this Los Angeles band has come up with a second album as immediate as a poke in the ribs, and yet with depth and subtlety, too. Not that I ever doubted them for a moment, but I'm happy to report that The Human Value's unerring new wave sensibilities are as sharp as ever. The songs here have just the right combination of nagging melodies and grit-in-the-gears rock 'n' roll roughness; everything is pulled along by the fizz and fuzz of Hiram's guitar and the tug and slide of Turu's after-dark vocals. But this album isn't just a re-tread of past glories. We know The Human Value can nail a nifty new wave number with uncanny ease; we know the band can balance effortlessly on the point where melody meets cacophony. That's what they do. But here, they go further. On this go-around, the sound overall is a little more lush and well-upholstered; the arrangements have a wide-screen scope; the sound rolls out like thunderclouds. 'Pleasant Town' kicks things off with a phat, phuzztone guitar sound, as Turu casts a baleful eye (and a deliciously drawling vocal) over the picket fence. 'Pretty Mouth' sees massed guitars fighting it out with the plonk-plonk of a cowbell on a no-shit punk rocker (the cowbell almost wins), and suitable levels of bile and brimstone are maintained on 'No Sacrifice', which marries the downhome grind of the riff to a kick-it-up chorus. A couple of older numbers crop up in re-recorded guise, and I think you're going to like the way 'Complications' (here identified as 'No. 2') has grown into a menacing, rumbling monster, all pounding and growling (big props here to James Hazley on the drums, by the way), while 'Parts' ('Parts Per Million', as was) tumbles along as if it's just been pushed off a steep hill. The live showstopper 'I Don't Care' is here, too, building from its deceptively neat and tidy intro to a veritable freakathon of angst and snarling guitars. If you already have the band's first album, you'll be glad to know that this one shoves it all onwards and upwards. If you don't have the band's first album, be sure to buy 'em both before the world is much older.
and a .45
You hear that 'Pow, pow, pow' noise? That's the sound of Love and a .45 walloping you around the head with a veritable artillery barrage of punk rock anthems. The seven tracks here (er, does that make this release an EP? Or is it a rather short album?) are roaring monsters of hook 'n' chorus pop punk, the rampaging buzzsaw guitar barely taking a break from first song to last. Now, you might say, so what? There are plenty of bands doing the buzzsaw guitar thing, plenty of bands out there on the circuit kicking a nifty chorus or two about the place. Well, sure, but Love and a .45 do it head and shoulders better than most. The hooks grab your psyche, the guitar is like a swarm of hornets coming straight for your head. Vocalist Kate Moritz rips it up like she's got Brillo pads for vocal chords, and if the towering chorus on 'Sparks On The Water' doesn't have you thrusting your lighter in the air (tip: don't try this on public transport) then you must've had your ability to rock surgically removed. In short, it works. It's a glorious punker rampage with hooks and tunes to spare. One day I expect the music biz will discover this band, and they'll be hailed in the rock press as the new Distillers, or something. When that happens, remember who tipped Love and a .45 for the top first. Get on their case now: I think you might like these slices of fast 'n' dirty rock 'n' roll in a steamy embrace with classic pop songwriting.
I don't know what her neighbours think, but I'm oddly reassured to know that this strangely compelling music is being made somewhere in the agreeable west Wales town of Kidwelly. (No, let's use the Welsh name - Cydweli - the English version sounds like something children wear in the rain). Either way, it's not a location I would have identified as a hot bed of left-field sonic singularity, but on this album Susan Matthews has put together a collection of out-there explorations in which ambience and narrative, found sounds and lost noises are somehow hauled together to make something that will stir the thoughts inside your head even as it flicks you round the ear.
'A Decoy Performance' is a deceptive faux-live spoken word piece (at least, I assume the sudden bursts of clapping are not a genuine audience: the applause is used as a sound) which matches gamelan-style clangs and bongs to a genuinely unsettling tale of an escalating man-on-woman fight, all the more disturbung because the voice of the female victim, telling the story, is so calm. She could be decribing the scenery outside her window. 'Veiled' is almost monstic in its haunting drift; a keening, plangent thing that almost sounds like old stonework singing. 'Seven Tears' has a shuddering violin riff (and yes, it is defintiely a riff: if it were an electric guitar we'd be rockin') around which a drum pattern that is more empty space than percussion fits itself. Wind instruments chatter like starlings in a tree, and a story is told in a voice that you can't quite hear. 'Missing' has that AM radio we heard a little earlier on the Colt EP above burbling and crackling away again - it's still not tuned in correctly - as a meticulous guitar picks and plucks. I'm struck by the odd thought that although Susan Matthews and Colt are probably coming in from different angles (Susan from the ambient experimental zone, Colt from rock 'n' roll) they are heading for some sort of metaphysical collision. Maybe they should listen to each other's music. 'A Dysfunctional Hush' is all disembodied voices, colliding and whispering and sounds hum and whirr, while 'Suffusion' could be mutant bluegrass, a gusting wind blowing the sound of a distant hoedown across the railway line from Pembroke Dock as the night gathers in. No, it's not rock 'n' roll - not even close - but these anomalous atmospheres have their own nerves-and-nightmares charm. I'm left with the thought that Susan Matthews is probably the coolest thing in Cydweli.
I like M.I.A. for many reasons, not least the fact that she sounds just like she grew up listening to the John Peel show, and absorbed the whole bloody lot - from Throbbing Gristle to Misty In Roots, from New Order to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. But, unlike many of the more unreconstructed Peelites, she didn't get outraged when Peelie started throwing in tunes by the likes of Eric B and Rakim. I don't know if any of that really happened, but her music sounds like it did. Influences pile in from all quarters: from hip-hop to punk, from dub to bhangra, and before you roll your eyes and declare all this a recipie for certain disaster, fear not. M.I.A. pulls it all together with an ease that is almost supernatural, sounding entirely at home as she strolls from the tribal rap-workout of 'Bird Flu' to the lilting Bollywood electropop of 'Jimmy'. Big props, as I believe the kids have it, to M.I.A.'s collaborator and producer Dave 'Switch' Taylor, who harnesses her wayward ideas and disparate inspirations, and nails it all to a production that has the depth-charge bass and hammering beats of vintage On-U Sound.
If we're talking influences, M.I.A. trawls the (post) punk zone quite extensively throughout the album. 'Bamboo Banga' contains chunks of Jonathan Richman's 'Roadrunner', matched to a rattling beat, and '20 Dollar' - a moody rap piece to a rumbling fuzz backing - mutates into 'Where Is My Mind? ' by the Pixies. The addictive lope of 'Paper Planes' is essentially a happy-slap of 'Straight To Hell' by The Clash, and also contains some neat-o firearms noises, slamming in as percussion effects, a trick first worked by Noblesse Oblige on their remix of M.I.A.'s earlier single, 'Galang'. Did she pick up that idea and run with it? I wouldn't be surprised. It's all an audacious mash-up, scattershot brilliance all the way, to the point where I bet I'll bet even unreconstructed rock heads will find themselves shaking their booties to the digeridoo groove of 'Mango Pickle Down River'.
One other rather random reason I like M.I.A. is that (Daily Mail readers, look away now) she sounds like London. In spite of all the publicity guff about how she comes from Sri Lanka, in fact she was born in the not particularly exotic environs of the same part of west London that I call home. And she sounds like it. Her accent is pure West London Desi Diva - there are people talking like that right outside my house at this moment. Probably. Morrissey would be scandalised, but musically and geographically, M.I.A. sounds like home to me.
A new EP, on the band's own label, and as ever Colt strip the insulation from your nerves with velvet wirecutters. The eight tracks here (four songs, four remixes) are treacherously temperate, disguising their inner storms behind a deceptive delicacy, pacing like cats that are getting ready to pounce. But Colt's ability to bring unsettling tension to songs which, on a first listen, are things of tender grace, is their trademark and the heart of their art. Now that Colt have reduced themselves to the essential duo of Andrea Kerr and Jared Hawkes, the music has gained a stripped-down focus that pulls you in even as it makes you glance nervously over your shoulder. The sudden outpourings of fractured guitar which shouldered their way into Colt's music in the past are here replaced by a kind of poison-cocktail jazz: here, Colt conjure quieter demons that are no less deliciously pernicious.
'DNA' is a slo-mo rumble, Andrea's vocal dragging against an electronic pulse as if every step is a haul through treacle. It sounds like the last thing you hear before the lights go out. On 'Snakes To Dust', a kind of anti-love song that brings a combination of regret and menace to crumping piano and electrical interference, has Andrea lamenting over a fellow human being, the lyrics full of images of ending: 'Close the door/The flowers will dry up...' On 'Black Rabbits', Colt conjure up a 'death toll like a lottery jackpot' as the music dawdles with sinister intent behind the vocal, like teenagers intent on crimes waiting until the coast is clear, while 'Static' almost has the whimsical, wistful, feel of one of Ivor Cutler's harmonium-backed poetry pieces (now there's a comparison I bet Colt never expected), as the keyboards hum and surge, as desolate as if the band was locked in a lonely chapel on a mountain. The remixes pick up Colt's ideas and reshape them into even stranger things: 'Static (League Against Economic Growth Mix)' sounds like AM radio on a night when there's a low cloud base, all shrieks and stutters and half-heard sounds from elsewhere. It's not easy listening, but it's worth tuning in.
Ah, Shriekback: post-punk supergroup, originally assembled from ex-members of the Gang Of Four and XTC: lengthy and chequered career that encompassed alternoscene success but no big chart action: creators of the bug-eyed anthem 'Nemesis' which is referenced in the title of this very webzine. That's the (very) potted biography, but it may come as a surprise to many of Shriekback's old-skool fans that the Shriek-monster is still alive and kicking. After the band's swift exit from their major label after 1990's wannabe-commercial album Go Bang resulted in a distinct absence of hits, Shriekback decamped back to the independent zone where the band has maintained an erratic presence ever since. Today, Shriekback exists as a motley assortment of contributors and collaborators revolving around keyboard maestro, vocalist, and founder member Barry Andrews. On this album the cast includes long-time Shriekpeople Martyn Barker on drums, and Sarah Partridge on backing vocals. Barry's old XTC mucker, Andy Partridge, shows up on guitar, but I think it's fair to say that this is very much Barry's album. It's certainly weird enough.
In the world of Shriekback, of course, weird is good. The brash anthem of incorrigible optimism that is 'Hooray for Everything' - a tune with a manic grin pasted on its face if ever I heard one - gives way to the sepulchral grind-funk of 'The Bride Stripped Bare', in which Barry Andrews, singing with gravelly authority, informs us of 'Her armature/Forged in the Ruhr/Where all is flames and vapour'. Nope, I don't know what that's all about, either. Barry's lyrics are, as ever, weighty with strange portents and yet as oblique as slanting rain. He skates a course between glowering drama and endearing daftness - as on 'Burying the Bunny', a surrealist New Orleans funeral march, upon which he intones 'She looks so fluffy lying there/Wearing her grandmother's earrings, a gardenia in her hair'. Whereupon the trombone (yes, the trombone) picks a fight with the skittering guitar, and we know we could only be in the presence of Shriekback. Meanwhile, 'Amaryllis In The Sprawl' is one of those drifting, whimsical ballads that have cropped up in the Shriekback repertoire since forever. Here, Barry entwines the mystical and the everyday, taking us 'Out around the ring road in the falling dark/Between the heritage centre and the business park' - and, somehow, the mundane scenery of identikit British towns takes on a metaphysical glow. As ever, Shriekback allow the weirdness of the world to leak through, and set it dancing to their own strange funk.
About time, too. I remember this album being billed as 'coming soon' way back in the last century - it's taken years on end for London After Midnight to follow up the 90s success of their previous albums, Selected Scenes From The End Of The World and Psycho Magnet. It's not like the band entirely vanished during those years, mind: live appearances, mainly at European festivals, have cropped up fairly regularly, and vocalist and main man Sean Brennan has always kept the band's profile high on the internet - in fact, he's become quite a genius at keeping the pot boiling on the web during lengthy periods in which very little was happening in the real world. But the one thing everyone was waiting for was the new album. And here it is. At last.
So, is it the no-shit blockbuster we might expct after such a lengthy gestation? Well...not quite. A note in the small print tells me 'All music and lyrics written, produced, programmed and performed by Sean Brennan' - with a few other names, including ex-Nitzer Ebb man Julian Beeston, credited with additional programming, mixing and instrumental contributions. The trouble is, it sounds like that. I don't get the impression, the feeling, of a full band kicking out the jams in the studio: on the contrary, the image which looms inexorably in my head is of Sean Brennan sitting in front of a computer, moving bits of virtual music around on his monitor screen. The result is a kind of ersatz industrio-rock, in which a vaguely Trent Reznor-ish vocal - you know, that menacing half chant, half whisper that became the industry standard vocal style for 90s industrial bands - fights it out with top-floor-of-the-Slimelight beatz.
'The Beginning Of The End' and 'Feeling Fascist?' sound like industrial club floor-fillers circa 1998, all terse elektro rhythms with Sean enunciating the words with stern assertiveness. 'Nothing's Sacred' is more of a song, and indeed is a rare example on this album of a tune that bears a discernible relationship to the sound of 'old' London After Midnight. But it's all boogied-up with one of VNV Nation's cast-off beats, with the vocals and guitars dropped back in the mix, as if nothing can be permitted to get in the way of the dancefloor action. 'America's A F***ing Disease' (that's how the title is given: what can it mean? America's a Fishing Disease? Oh, silly me: it's Fucking, a word which seems to be too scary for LAM to print) contains some incongruous but nifty Jethro Tull-style flute, which does actually lift the song above the industrial norm. 'Fear' rinses out the breakbeats - not, it must be said, a new idea: industrial bands like Cubanate and Project Pitchfork went down the breakbeat route years ago - but the guitars rock hard and it all hangs together. 'Pure' and 'Love You To Death' are techno ballads, melodrama and programming in equal measures, but aside from these interludes it's pretty much industrio-beatz 'n' angst all the way.
I suspect that if this album had appeared in the late 90s, as originally scheduled, it would've seemed like cutting edge stuff. That was the time when the rise of NIN nudged many goth bands into a reappraisal of their approach, and more than a few chose to explore industrial territory - the classic example, I suppose, being Rosetta Stone, who switched their primary influence from Andrew Eldrtich to Trent Reznor almost overnight. But now, as the twenty-first century unfolds before us, it all sounds a bit been-there-done-that. Violent Acts Of Beauty isn't a bad album. It's just arrived a bit late.
Now, this might come as a surprise, but when Youth isn't playing bass for Vertical Smile or Killing Joke, and when he's not locked in a studio producing some random megastar's latest album, he's a bit of a folk-head, putting out compilations of current artists from the folk zone (or perhaps I should say the folk field, since pastoral is big in these circles) on his own label. Here's the latest, and before you run screaming to the nearest source of rock 'n' roll, let me assure you that things are sharply contemporary here, without a hey or a ho or indeed a nonny no in sight. Instead, there's the strolling, bass-driven menace of 'Tyburn Tree' by The Leifs, upon which dub reggae influences and scratchy wah-wah guitar drag this traditional song into three kinds of future at once. Nic Dawson Kelly's 'Come Around My Dear' is the skirt-chasing song of a querulous old roué, with a turn of phrase in the lyric that is almost Beefheartian: 'If I'm lonely on the outside, inside I've disappeared'. Brushed drums pirouette behind 'As I Rolled My Rolling Ball', a whimsical tale of passing princes and duckponds by Samantha Maris, a nod in the direction of the time-honoured tradition of recounting a fairy tale in song, but the showstopper has to be 'Always Tomorrow' by Chapel Of Dreams. This is one of those pick-yourself-up-and-dust-yourself-down songs which I suppose are almost a tradition in themselves - but here, the female vocalist, recorded so close to the microphone she's almost in the room with you, delivers as an iridescent, ethereal lullaby that will tug your heartstrings even as it puts iron in your soul. Rock 'n' rollers have no need to fret. This diverse and engaging collection contains music that will tempt even the most unreconstructed folkaphobe.
Butterfly Recordings: Website
As inviting as a swimming pool on a hot day, Cockatoo make fluid dreampop that shifts and shimmers like water in sunshine. This release, with its rather baffling sleeve artwork (statuary, dripping blood, obsolescent audio kit, and a title filched off Bob Dylan - not much shimmering or sunshine there) is a five-song calling card intended to warm things up for a forthcoming album. The songs are nudged along with insistent grace by the spike and chime of Robyn Bright's twelve-string guitar, her vocals swirling with the music like she's swimming with dolphins. But it's not all ambience and atmosphere: everything is underpinned by a rhythm that always makes its presence felt, without ever fighting against the flow. Indeed, on 'Otto's Song' the bass shadows the tune like a big brother, putting a beefy rumble behind the clang and coruscation of the guitar as the vocal surges ever onwards. This use of rhythm gives Cockatoo's music a deceptively fierce heart, even as it smiles sweetly at the listener through the dust dancing in shafts of sunlight. 'White Picket Fence' is built on an urgent yet relaxed clatter of drums, and a vocal that builds and roils on waves of guitar, the production always giving the music space to billow and surge. Yes, it's dreampop, but it's not afraid to tweak the curtains and let the nightmares look in. Cockatoo's inviting, shimmering swimming pool is deeper than it looks.
If Andi Sex Gang lives to be a hundred, he'll be known - and, in some quarters, revered - as a pioneer of goth. As the fulcrum around which proto-goth freakers and shriekers Sex Gang Children revolved (and, indeed, still revolve), he was one of the handful of artists in the early 80s post-punk era to wrench things in a darker, weirder direction. To this day, he can command an audience of eager and respectful goths and deathrockers, keen to hear the old classics. Which is all well and good, but sometimes I wish people would pay a bit more attention to Andi Sex Gang's new classics. Starting with this very album: a collection of idiosyncratic art rock, surreal beat poetry and sonic theatre that defies genre even as it prods the listener with mischivious fingers and cackles knowingly as it runs off in all directions at once.
The rampaging psychedelic pop extravaganza that is 'Celebrate!' ('Beauty queens and killers galore, contageous and outrageous!' - hey, sounds like quite a party) gives way to the crump and rumble of 'King Richard In The Heartland', a song that lumbers towards the listener like a cartload of tree trunks, heavy and implacable, the lyrics warning of...something. As ever, Andi's lyrics are ambiguous but oddly compelling: 'Bananas in Bengal, Magnolia in Montreal, the holiday is over for you all.' Well, that's us told. The hum and fizzle of 'Into The West', all Throbbing Gristle-ish ambience and strange declaimations on a theme of Berlin, sounds like gathering clouds before an electrical storm. 'Rhineland Barbie' is a funeral march disguised as a sea shanty. The song goes lurching and lolloping along like a drunk in the gutter, gesticulating at lamp posts while a choir of doom angels keen and grumble in the background, finally consenting to join in on the final chorus: 'Death on the salty waves...' Suddenly, an accordion wheezes out 'Summertime' as random clonks and bangs occur in the background: this is 'Optidog', not so much a song as an exercise in assembling sound. It's as if someone's held a microphone out of the window and recorded the neighbours, griping and fumbling in their garden shed. In short, we're a long, long way from dear old gothic rock, and the scenery is decidedly strange. But it's a trip worth taking.
I know what you're going to say. '999? Are they still going?' Yep, they certainly are - possibly the only original-wave punk band to have simply carried on. No splits, no reformations, and only a couple of replacement bassists along the way. The glory years of sell-out gigs at theatre venues such as London's Lyceum, and bug-eyed punker-pop anthems such as the splendidly manic 'Found Out Too Late' are a long way behind the lads now, but still they continue. And, to their credit, since they could probably play the punk nostalgia circuit for years yet on the back of the old stuff, 999 are still releasing new material. Expectations should be adjusted somewhat downwards, mind. The dense, insistent sound of the band's early recordings has been replaced by a raw and basic back-room-of-a-pub racket, possibly a function of a shoestring production budget, while Nick Cash's vocal is a terse bark rather than the crazed caterwaul of ye olden days - possibly a function of the inexorably advancing years. This means that although all the songs here are written and arranged with suitable levels of strop and strut, the overall effect is more chunky than punky. The band gamely try for the original spirit, which, alas, results in a certain punk-by-numbers feel in places - 'The System' contains lyrics which are almost embarassing in their artless contrivance: 'Working for the system in your head/Some will say you're better off dead'. Read 'em and cringe, folks. It's perhaps revealing that 999 sound much more at home on 'Stealing Beauty', an unpretentiously fast and catchy powerpop ditty which makes no claim to any countercultural stance. 999's loyalty to the punk cause may be the factor that has ensured the survival of the band, but it's hard not to notice the limitations it's imposed on them, too.
Your Own Pet
Fifteen tracks of smash-and-grab bubblegum from the most famous (and possibly the only) punk band from Nashville, Tennessee. You might recall the huge initial wallop Be Your Own Pet made with their first single, the taut and righteous 'Damn Damn Leash', and the following debut album of short, sharp, punker shocks. Now it's Difficult Second Album time, and it seems the Pets have adopted the strategy of not fixing it if it ain't broke. There they are on the sleeve, as colourful as a packet of licorice allsorts, looking like a Hanna Barbera cartoon come to life, and inside the CD sleeve we find throwaway interviews with each member of the band - sample question: 'What's your favourite pizza topping?' (You'll be fascinated to know that vocalist Jemina favours pepperoni and jalapenos). So, no heavy concepts, no self-conscious maturity: it's all as fast and as fun as ever. The songs crash and rattle, the guitar grinds and wails. At times, the sound is reminiscient of a young and snotty White Stripes: sure, Be Your Own Pet! might be a punk band, but you can hear the lineage of American rock 'n' roll, from blues to glam and back again, in their sound. 'Bitches Leave' even has a distinctly rawk guitar solo. Best song has to be the teenage murder epic, 'Becky', in which the band stretch things out into a one-song rampage through their very own High School musical - and the lyrics gleefully rhyme 'Friendship bracelet' with 'Break your facelift'. Just for that audacious bit of poesy, you've gotta love 'em, right? Even if your schooldays are way behind you, I bet you'll be joining in on the shouty chorus as teen angst rises unbidden in your psyche: 'WE DON'T LIKE THAT KID ANY MORE!' What Be Your Own Pet do is not complicated stuff, for sure, but it has a cacophonous charm.