Archived content from Nemesis To Go issue 6.
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They sound scarily like they're right there in the room with you, pissing in the corner, ripping chunks off the wallpaper and mocking your choices in soft furnishings. Selfish Cunt kick up a racket that's half knowingly contrived theatre and half hacksaw-toothed, acid-tongued, bile and wormwood punk rock. The production here makes no concessions - it's garage-band raw - and the band is clearly not in the business of taking prisoners.
But for all that, this album is not a mere exercise in thrashy-crackers punkisms. Martin Tomlinson's vocal, mannered and articulated with a care that's almost pedantic, stalks through the battering noise of rampaging guitar, threatening bass, and scowling drums like a ballroom dancer taking a short cut through a back alley. 'Feel Like A Woman' is a rumbling, yelping thing, a deviant cousin to the Cramps' 'I Wanna Get In Your Pants' (which was splendidly deviant in itself, of course) while 'Born In A Mess' is a collision of tempos, guitar-mashing and surrealistically intimidating vocals that, even at its most messy, never goes out of control. Oh, and you can't fail to be impressed with the way Martin Tomlinson can make the line 'Here comes a cheeseburger' sound downright frightening. Splendid stuff that's mad, bad, and probably contravenes all sorts of health and safety regulations.
After the party, the morning after. Noblesse Oblige's second album is a slight surprise, in that the band's strange after-hours cabaret, as soundtracked on their debut album Privilege Entails Responsibility now seems to have closed for the night - leaving Sebastian Lee Philipp and Valerie Renay, the performance-art duo who are Noblesse Oblige, sitting at the bar, blearily contemplating the early hours amid the threadbare velvet and spilled drinks. The music here sounds like it's scraped from the bottom of a glass after a long, long night. If, previously, Noblesse Oblige were bidding us to come hither, this time round they're inviting us to share the comedown.
'4A.M.' is a lilting pean to the darkest hour before the dawn: 'At four am, each thought leaves a stain' - you see, it's not just Emilie Autumn who's awake at this hour. 'Seaside Suicide' teeters on the edge of camp, even as the protagonist in the song teeters on the edge of a cliff - but it's a spookily unsettling thing. Perhaps Noblesse Oblige miss the mark somewhat by including a few too many pleasant but inconclusive instrumentals here - 'East Of Eden' is a jaunty little thing, for example, but it sounds a bit too much like intermission music at a pop-art cinema to hold its own among the more substantial songs. 'Monkey Business' works better, with its bizarre bazaar in Cairo feel, but it's when Noblesse Oblige articulate the abyss of the early hours that they really hit the target.
Talking of the abyss of the early hours, here we have two CD singles from Emilie Autumn. 'Four O'Clock' is, perhaps, her all-purpose anthem: it certainly provides us with the premise behind her conceptual art. For when the clock strikes four, Emilie finds herself awake and staring into oblivion, and what else is there to do in such a circumstance but face the music and dance? The song is all pirouettes and arabesques, a nimble ballad arranged for harpsichord, strings and colliding elektro-beatz, intriguingly akin to those 80s excercises in orchestral techno by the Art Of Noise. If the beatz occasionally seem to bash about a little too enthusiastically - when it comes to rhythm programming, Emilie clearly has no truck with the notion that less is more - it's all hauled together by the vocal, which keeps the electronic skitterings and shufflings in place with glacial authority.
Among the additional tracks are assorted remixes, certain excerpts from Emilie's book, The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls (a baroque bedtime story; don't listen at bedtime), and a stuttering techno-rock take on the old Alice Cooper stomper, 'Is It My Body', upon which Emilie sounds revealingly at home. You can tell she's a rock chyk at heart.
The 'Girls Just Wanna Have Fun / Bohemian Rhapsody' double bill is a piece of light relief by comparision. Emilie sounds like she's having a good time, tripping lightly through Cyndi Lauper's classic, all phat electronics and harpsichord trills a-go-go. There's even a brief interruption by some gladiators at one minute and twenty-eight seconds, which makes me crack a smile. The romp through 'Bohemian Rhapsody' reveals its bleak heart (this is, after all, a song about death) but doesn't stint on the melodramatics or indeed the multi-tracking. Extra tracks and remixes follow. I think we can blip over the various dance mixes of 'Girls...' without worrying that we're missing much, while the Bad Girl remix by The Fire (whoever they are) dollops gormless guitar all over the song in a manner that frankly does not improve it. Of more interest is the stripped-bare cover of The Smiths' 'Asleep' (with slightly adjusted lyrics, trainspotters), and I suppose Emilie Autumn covering The Smiths was as inevitable as the sun coming up in the morning. If ever there was a worthy foil for Morrissey's raised-eyebrow melancholy and mordant wit, Emilie Autumn fits the bill.
As you may have gathered, the ratio of covers to originals over these two releases is heavily biased towards the covers, and maybe this is a result of Emilie Autumn's near-permanent tour schedule. She just doesn't get any songwriting time these days, and impatient muffins, teacakes, sliced loaves and wholemeal rolls who are waiting for more of her own work will just have to wait a while longer. But if you're looking for a way in to the Asylum - an accessible take on an artist who, for the most part, you either get or you don't - enter here.
Clang! Shriek! Schlannnnng! Batter! KASMs make a noise like Sonic Youth and X-Ray Spex being squashed into a washing machine and thrown down a flight of stairs, and it's really rather brilliant. The 'Elevator' EP is - or was - a limited edition 3" CD in a nifty tin box. It's probably sold out now, but if you can track one down you'll have six bursts of KASMs-noise in a handy package that, if carried in a strategic pocket, will also stop bullets (probably). Included here are the voodoo stomp of 'Toil And Trouble', the surreal blues of 'Mackerel Sky', with its peculiarly howling guitar and vocalist Rachel Callaghan's spooked, shuddering vocal, and the brash rush of 'Monster Crunch', a snack fit to give you rock 'n' roll nightmares.
On the 'Taxidermy' single - readily available as a slice of old-skool vinyl, or a nu-skool download, take your pick - KASMs hurl three tunes at the unwary listener. The title track is all hurtling guitar, rampant drums and unrestrained screeching, until it resolves splendidly into a big gonzoid chorus. 'Elevator' brings on some electric hauntings: it's a sort-of atmospheric piece that forever teeters on the brink of punking out, but never quite does. And then there's 'Siren Sister', something of a showstopping anthem at the band's live shows. You just can't argue with the way the guitar shoulders its way through the song, those vocal melodramatics, and the way it all builds to a counter-intuitive, deconstructed finish. Weirdness and physicality, neatly counterpointed.
Seven inches of dancefloor action from Dandi Wind. 'Decontaminate' is a song about Howard Hughes, apparently, who was famous for decontaminating everything within reach. As ever, Dandi Wind throw the rule book out of the window (they probably never opened it in the first place - the rule book or the window) and come up with a slab of electro-syncopation that sounds oddly analogue, as if they'd beamed themselves back to the 70s, and tried to make a synthpop dance number with the available technology. It's a relatively slo-mo track for Dandi Wind, who are usually in full-on pedal-metal interface mode, but for a dose of the band's trademark uptempo staccato-techno, flip the single and dig the B-side, 'Birthmark', which jumps along amid a clatter of deliciously 80s-style synthi-handclaps, like a slice of Belgian new beat at double speed. As ever, Dandi Wind welcome us to the weirdo disco...as long as we wash our hands.
Urgent elektro beats thwap the unwary listener upside the head as Jennifer Parkin - she who is Ayria - delivers a cold-eyed treatise on gun culture that matches a scathing, expressive, pin-sharp vocal rap with a strutting beat and a dense thicket of electric noise, as if she's channelling Cabaret Voltaire circa The Covenant, The Sword, And The Arm Of The Lord. That's a highly effective sonic combination, and this counter-intuitive step back from the usual EBM-isms of Ayria's musical area makes the song stand out and demand attention - and also, paradoxically, makes it sound contemporary and very much of now.
Backup track 'Six Seconds' reverts to a slightly more familiar modern stomp-it-up sound, and as a result comes across like a poppy Combichrist. There's a naggingly insistent tune in the works, which gives it all a lift out of the stompy-shouty zone, and I must say it's nice to hear real vocals. Jennifer Parkin must be one of very few artists in today's electronic zone who hasn't sold her soul for an all-prevasive distortion effect. An embarrassment of remixes follows, including a Front 242 mix of 'The Gun Song' which isn't anything like as hard-hitting as you'd expect. Ultimately, you can't beat track one, Ayria's original, which really is a cut above. I'd like to hear more like this. Meanwhile...hey, mister DJ? Try mixing this one into 'Sensoria', why don't you?
Here's a band that used to crop up on the London goth gig circuit quite regularly a few years ago, where their post-Nephilim rumblings won them quite a following among the more, how shall I put this, un-punk elements of the scene.
After a few years away from the live circuit, vocalist, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Darryl Kruger - or, as he's billed on the inlay, D (Morningstar) Kruger, is back with a new line-up and a new album. And if that 'Morningstar' bit seems just a little...well, hippy, you ain't seen nothing yet.
On this album, which appears to be essentially a solo effort (the band, it seems, will only come out for live shows) Darryl Kruger delivers sundry musings on the emyrean realm, in an urgent, gravelly baritone over impeccably produced music that runs the gamut from neo-folky strumming to rampaging programmed-rhythm rock-outs, like a techno Black Sabbath in a bad mood. It's all quite bafflingly over the top. Try this lyrical excerpt, from 'Hymn Of The Shades':
the temple toll to the darkened soul
There may be those who, upon reading those lines, find themselves transported to higher realms. Personally, I find myself transported to my record shelf, where I frantically pull out the Ramones, in a bid to cleanse my soul with some righteous punk rock. But if you can suspend your disbelief high enough to accommodate all the gods and monsters that stalk the songs, this music might hit the spot. It's goth metal for people who thought that the only problem with the Nephilim was that Carl McCoy just wasn't mystical enough.
As you might gather from the title, this is a compilation of the greatest hits (or at least the greatest bits) of a German electro outfit which was, apparently, quite successful in the early-mid 90s. I say 'apparently' because I've never heard of Digital Dreams before, but the inlay card reveals that in their heyday the band 'was listed among the top 10 of all unsigned bands in Frankfurt'. Well, that's me told, then, isn't it. The music sounds...well, very nineties, and although that might sound like a no-brainer remark, electronic music has moved so fast over the last decade or so that a few years can make a big difference. On this evidence, Digital Dreams specialised in mellow Orb-like grooveathons that bubble and surge and occasionally - but only occasionally - toughen up into somewhat New Order-ish dance-pop numbers. Samples come and go - I particularly like the excerpts from The Hound Of the Baskervilles. If you're a denizen of the rave generation, you'll probably find much to like here, and much that'll make you nostalgic. Apparently there's new stuff in the works, but for now, let's hear it for the groovy sound of nineties Frankfurt.
Belligerent rumblings from the rock 'n' roll garage. History Of Guns make alternorock with attitude, and on this release, at least, a spiffed-up production that lends an certain sheen to a band which, last time I reviewed them in these virtual pages, sounded like a bashed-up basement Blockheads spoiling for a fight. Here, the band's trademark boiling anger is balanced by moments of reflective melancholy. On occasions, Del Alien's rasping, accusatory vocals become mannered and restrained. On 'It's Easy To Go Blind' he sounds slightly uncomfortable, as he tries to keep up with the fast pace of the song without breaking into his trademark snarl. Perhaps the band should've given him his head on that one. He sounds much more himself when he gets his dander up.
Elsewhere, however, it's snarls and gritty guitars all the way, and it's on these more hardcore numbers that History Of Guns sound most at home. 'Exhaust Fumes' is perhaps the most hard-hitting thing here: it sounds like first album Psychedelic Furs, the guitar nailing a menacing riff, the drums rattling like a declaration of war. 'Never Forgive You' is the punker number, a no-shit rhythm and chant workout. 'Empty Eyes' sees a return of the old abrasive belligerence, although I'm not sure why the band want to 'Bring her down' simply because 'She's got empty eyes'. That's not actually a crime, you know, lads. But it's a mad-eyed monster of a song, and the madder History Of Guns get, the better they get.
I was under the vague impression that The Family Curse were some sort of psychobilly band, because...well, the name sounds like that, doesn't it? Then I played the CD (always a good idea, I find). And...well, they sure ain't psychobilly, but they might just be psycho. The Family Curse make oddly exhilarating mutoid distort-o-rock, and while a little distortion goes a long way with me under normal circumstances, there's nothing here that's normal. Like an unholy cross between Captain Beefheart and the Pain Teens, trapped in a cellar with Mudhoney bashing down the door (they come from Seattle...c'mon, there's got to be a bit of grunge under their fingernails), The Family Curse grind the face of poor old rock 'n' roll into the floor and stomp over its body, rocking up their avant-noise workouts all the way. Electro-percussion clicks and chatters, an incongruous intrusion of shiny new technology into the band's dirty, dirty sound. The guitar fuzzes and grinds, and Megan Tweed's vocals - agonised blues wails, staggering beneath a weight of effects - sound like the crazy neighbours fighting on the other side of the wall. Lovely, filthy, weirdness. Which, of course, is the best kind.
Almost-ambient mood music from New York, that just manages to stay on the right side of mellow. Dead Leaf Echo are plangent and warm-hearted; their music slinks along on tingling guitar and wistful, wind-in-the-trees vocals from someone mysteriously billed only as LG. Frankly, I'd like to hear a bit more bite and bile in this music - I like bite and bile in any music - and there are moments here where it all gets a bit easy listening. But if you want something entirely free of rough edges, while still inhabiting the landscape of rock 'n' roll, here it is.
When the original Killing Joke line-up reconvened recently, it seems the first thing they did was decamp to a studio in Spain and get stuck in to their old songs. No shit, no messing, and punk rock attitude to the fore. This album is a no-frills recording of the band's rehearsal sessions from that Spanish studio. It's a historic document for Joke fans, for it records the first time Jaz Coleman, Geordie, Youth and Big Paul Ferguson (Vocals/keyboards, guitar, bass and drums respectively) had been in the same room since February 24 1982 - a detail I quote from the sleeve notes by Jaz, in which he tells the story of the reunion with a certain incredulous delight. This original incarnation of Killing Joke was, for many fans, the best line-up bar none, and was responsible for the taut, grittily minimalist punk-funk throwdowns that characterised Killing Joke's earliest work. While I've remained a Killing Joke fan from day one, it must be said that the band's latter-day excursions into apocalyptic heavy metal became, at times, a little hard to take. So, a fresh brew-up of the old juice is more than welcome if you ask me.
The songs here are a selection from the band's early albums, plus a few from the period in the 1990s when Youth temporarily rejoined. The early numbers given a run-out here don't quite recapture the clipped, terse, stripped-to-the-bone quality of the original studio recordings, but the 90s material, which always had a bigger, rockier sound, fares better. This is, after all, a live album in all but name, and a certain amount of messed-up-ness goes with the territory. The band plays everything fast; Gerodie's guitar is in the driving seat. Jaz hollers the vocals with a proprietorial bellow - it's noticable how he's matured into a singer these days, rather than the yelling punkzoid shaman of the early years. 'Primitive' gets a big, wide-screen treatment which, paradoxically, suits the song, while 'Psyche' is a mad blast down the motorway, Paul Ferguson giving the hi-hats all they can take. 'SO36' has Youth's bass right up in front, a grunting, rumbling sound that could only belong to Killing Joke. It's good to hear the band kicking their old songs around with such aplomb: it's also good to know that the songs are tough enough to take the kicking. I'd still reccommend newcomers to the early years of Killing Joke to get the original albums - they still sound like nothing on this earth - but if we needed confirmation of the early material's quality, we certainly get it here.
'Twice your heart rate digi-rock 'n' roll' say Capital X of their music, and while it might seem odd for an electronic duo to invoke the holy name of rock 'n' roll, the band does seem to approach their art with a no-shit rockin' attitude well to the fore. 'Twice Your Heart Rate' isn't a misnomer, either, at least not on this track, which stutters along on a frenzy of beats while the vocal skates serenely above the melee. It's certainly not conventional dance music - it's like a pop song ambushed by the electro-beat gang on its way home from school. I like Capital X's attitude, but this track is so frantic it needs beta-blockers.
Two remixes come with the package. CJ of the Wildhearts - not an obvious choice as an electro-remixer, you might think, but then Capital X do everything the rock 'n' roll way - piles on the guitar and reins in the beat-frenzy, and in doing so makes the song more accessible than the original speedfreak version. The second remix, by Steve Bond, achieves the impossible and slows Capital X down to trip-hop tempo. Phew.
Capital X: MySpace
An odd hybrid of industrial beatz, sampled strings, and a distorted vocal rapping belligerently over the resulting mash-up:
time I look outside I see you killing yourself
I fear Evestus lost me on that last line. It was all working tolerably well, in that familiar shouty-distorty-industrially manner, right up until we get to it's cuz you're all full of shit, whereupon the vocalist suddenly stops sounding like a scary industrial hardcore motherfucker, and starts sounding like a petulant child trying to shock his parents. It's bed with no supper for you tonight, young man. There are eight further mixes on this single, which, frankly, is about seven too many, but if you really, really want to hear Evestus mixed into an entire range of industrial-dance-whatever styles, here they are.
A psychobilly supergroup, of sorts - but then again, not. Even though Kim Nekroman (of Nekromantix and Mad Sin) is on guitar, and notwithstanding the fact that vocalist Patricia Day also totes an upright bass, the Horrorpops don't play psychobilly. As the band name implies, they're a pop group, rooted in fifties style, but not afraid to mix it with the rockers or give the punks a poke - and they always keep it catchy. And that makes Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill an easy album to get into, even if you're ordinarily allergic to all things bequiffed and rockin'.
Energetic and boisterous, but always kept in line by Patricia Day's dry, controlled, Danish accented vocal - she sounds like a rock 'n' roll Marlene Deitrich - the Horrorpops shimmy their way through twelve amiable, witty retro-pop ditties. In 'Heading For The Disco?' Patricia Day expresses horror at an aquaintance's leisure choice; 'Highway 55' is a classic death-on-the-road melodrama. But it's perhaps 'Thelma And Louise' that has the key ingredients of a hit, if only because of its nagging chorus melody that puts the pop in horror all by itself. It's not heavy stuff, but it's not meant to be heavy stuff. Pop go the psychobillies - and you know what? It works, and it's fun.
It can't be easy, being the Gang Of Four. Sure, you're lionized at every turn by grizzled punkers and youthful tyros of the new new wave. Your reputation towers. Your influence is all-pervasive. Everyone knows and loves your classic tunes of yesteryear. Nuff respect, and all that. In short, you can do no wrong. So, where's the problem? Right here: when your past throws such a long shadow, how do you get anyone to show interest in your new material? Well, here's a good start: make sure the new stuff is the equal of the old.
This, the Gang Of Four's new single on their own label, rumbles and clanks like a squadron of punk-funk tanks, the guitar scritching and scratching like a cat at the door. Strangely, for a band that built its reputation on its basslines, it's the guitar that dominates here, with Andy Gill's vocal, as hyped-up and intense as ever, skidding around the track as if he's sliding on a polished floor. The chorus, when it comes round, is an interlude of calm by comparison, in the middle of the flickering, wire-and-teeth guitar storm. The outro features an extended, repeated, dang-dang-dang on the guitar, surely a knowing reference to the end of the Gang's first single, 'At Home He's A Tourist', which featured sixteen dangs (I counted them - you want to make something of that?). On the B-side there's a new mix of the old slow-burn funker 'Paralyzed' - and, yes, I think we can safely say that the Gang Of Four have still got what it takes. Their past will still loom large, but their present ain't looking so dusty, either.
Post-punkers from the USA who have been at it longer than most - without, unless I've missed something, hitting any big success as yet. Maybe that's a function of the band's location. If they were based in London, I think they'd have made some waves by now. This, The Opposite Sex's first full-length album, showcases the band's strengths - their talent for creating robust, flayed-to-the-bone new wave anthems. 'Somewhere Girl' is probably the best of the bunch: a post-punk powerhouse that pitches up somewhere between the Chameleons and Sham 69 (I kid you not - get a load of those ripped-up vocals, and the spiralling guitar) and, against the odds, makes it work. I'm also drawn to 'Shattering Walls', which has an enticing, abrasively manic feel to it, as the guitars squall over the prodding, insistent, bass, and the vocal scales ever higher peaks of intensity. Yes, this is the band at their best.
Alas, the album also showcases The Opposite Sex's slightly less interesting side - at times, they give way to their underlying desire to pastiche The Cure. Making your influences obvious is a common trait in current bands, of course (the UK is positively stuffed with Joy Division-alikes right now, for example) and maybe, in the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal. But there are several songs where The Opposite Sex get a little too Cure-ish for comfort, as if, somewhere deep inside, they harbour a secret desire to be a mere tribute band. The Opposite Sex obviously love Robert Smith's mob, but they're better than mere pastiche-merchants. Frankly they'd do better if they kept that influence in its box and concentrated on their own strengths.