Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause (1998)

I must admit it's been a while since I dug this one out. It's the whole hanging out with Donald deal which bothers me, although realistically the aforementioned hanging out with Donald is only the latest idiocy in a career founded on the same, and I doubt that anyone was surprised. Kid Rock's whole schtick is that he's a bit of an arsehole, and so Devil Without a Cause is largely about boozing and shagging until your liver explodes and your knob falls off, then doing it again whilst listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd turned up to eleven. I haven't looked too closely for fear of what I might find, but I expect he doesn't have much time for what I'm sure he terms political correctness, and I really, really wish he hadn't had such a hard-on for the Confederate flag; but then I like the music I like because it's music that I like rather than because every last opinion held by the artist synchronises perfectly with my own, and I'm probably going to hang onto those Kate Bush albums even though she's just outed herself as a massive fan of Theresa May. I draw the line at where the thought crimes of the artist are so overpowering as to infect my perception of the music.

MC Ren rapping about killing whitey doesn't bother me because it's obvious he was simply having a bad day, plus it's funny and you can see where he was coming from. I can still just about listen to Death in June with a peg over my nose, although they sound somewhat comical on this side of the millennium. I wish I'd never found out about Beck being a Scientologist. Skrewdriver, on the other hand, helpfully recorded music which was already shite thus saving the rest of us any need to debate whether it's possible to enjoy the stick 'em in a boat and send 'em back song without condoning the message, such as it is.

Maintaining a set of rules about what you will allow yourself to enjoy is a waste of time, so selections probably have to be made on a case to case basis extrapolated mostly from gut reaction; and I guess it must take a lot to stir my gut to righteous indignation.

The fact of my having felt the need to write those three paragraphs probably relates to why Kid Rock enjoys playing the arsehole, not to mention that he was never going to get to hang out with the cool kids or NME readers, regardless of his serious yet routinely overlooked credentials. So he's a white rapper, or was, but I guess we're all over that one by now. His flow belongs clearly to that sing-songy old school cornball style which is otherwise fine if we're digging out old Run DMC records or banging on about the tediously studied authenticity of Ugly Duckling; and while Kid's descent into autotuned stadium country has been appalling but probably inevitable, he's nevertheless paid dues and was once something of a whizz on the two record players - as we rap types call them; and Devil Without a Cause is unfortunately a fucking great album - not merely better than you expected, but one of those discs which glues itself into the player and stays there.

If he's an arsehole, he's the best arsehole he can possibly be on this record; and the music effortlessly weds pounding boom bap to Led Zep riffing and the kind of Skynyrd-isms which turn even the most urbane of us all misty eyed and countrified - not least on Black Chick, White Guy which just plain tears your heart out; and Welcome 2 the Party gets under your skin like nothing since the wholesale borrowing of Good Times by Chic. It's a populist album in the broadest sense, just like those early rap records before we got all uptight and snooty about it; and it's a populist album aimed squarely at people who maybe didn't make it to college, and who maybe don't have much going for them, and who probably won't respond too well when you sneer and suggest they might do better to listen to someone less sexist, J-Live for example. It's low rent, but there's a generous spirit here, and it's inclusive and probably doesn't really care if you voted for Hillary providing you're not going to be a dick about it.

While Kid Rock may be a dick who has been occasionally known to hang out with Ted Nugent, close inspection reveals him to be an otherwise decent guy in most senses that count, or at least some way from being your archetypal Republican shithead. Similarly this album almost certainly isn't what you may believe it to be, even if it does spend a lot of time belching in your face and then chuckling over how upset you are. It will probably be at least another hundred years before Devil achieves the sort of recognition it probably deserves, so don't whine about never having got the memo.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Pessimist (2017)

At the risk of seeming like a complete wanker, I've taken to making a concerted effort to seek out new music which isn't shit. I tend to take the view that the pursuit of new for the sake of new is essentially dull, and I'd rather drink my own piss than end up like a certain pillock whom we met back here:
I'm fifty-one. My favorite bands right now are Otherkin, Bad Sounds, Spring King, Sundara Karma, Inheaven, Kagoule, Vant, and Moaning. I can't see myself ever not listening to new music.

On the other hand, more horrifying still is Thoughty2 - as introduced back in September. I seem to have encountered many of his type of late, young men with beards, not yet out of their twenties and already lamenting the passing of the fucking Beatles, already well and truly glued into what they doubtless regard as the grand tradition; and it's bollocks. Culture remains as it has ever been. The only real difference is that there's more of it these days, and the lines of distribution have changed meaning it's a lot easier to find oneself overwhelmed by crap. My music consumption - referring to my record buying habits because I remain unconvinced by downloads - tends to be reflected in what I write about here; and it's mostly old simply because I've been spending a lot of time catching up on things I couldn't afford when they first came out; or it's something I'm still listening to because it still sounds good. I am aware that this may present an unfortunate impression of something resembling nostalgia.

So I've set myself the task of buying something roughly contemporary at least once a month, because I know there's a shitload of good stuff out there, and it's fun to hear new and surprising things. It reminds me of what got me into music in the first place.

The Pessimist album is actually over a year old so it turns out, but never mind - close enough. It's the work of one man, Kristian Jabs, who has apparently been at it for a while, as you will know if you're down with the Bristol drum and bass scene, which I'm not because I'm old, fat, and I live in Texas. Reviews mostly seem to focus on this being a blend of both techno and drum and bass, which makes as much sense to me as my friend Eddy claiming to enjoy both kinds of music, both drum and bass: and yes, I have seen the Blues Brothers, thank you very much.

Anyway, it sounds like drum and bass to me.

I don't know.

Does it matter?

I suppose there's some techno element to the glitchy bits of sampling, growling synth, bass rumble and so on, but then I've never assumed that all drum and bass must sound exactly the same, and there's surely room for a bit of variation without having to come up with yet another fucking silly name. Where Pessimist differs from your average serving of drum and bass is that it's much better, or at least better than a lot of the stuff with which I'm familiar. It's a bit like all that awful ponderous deep forest stuff, except that it's done right - no wind chimes, no trace of that horrible flat sound, just a ton of depth and feeling and the sort of swing you only usually get with acoustic music. It feels somehow as though it's played live, or maybe I mean it feels as though it is alive, despite the knife edge precision and digital clatter of the beat. So maybe the success of this album is in the contrast of man and machine, so to speak. I don't know, and I don't really care what you call it, but I know that it sounds substantially amazing.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

X-TG - Desertshore / The Final Report (2012)

I'm assuming we all know how this came to be. Throbbing Gristle reformed, recorded a surprisingly decent album and played a few pop concerts, and then split because everyone was angry at Porridge for having all of the talent and all of the really brilliant ideas and making the rest of them look bad, or summink.

Chris, Cosey and Peter Christopherson opted to carry on regardless seeing as it had actually turned out to be fun making music without Porridge endlessly subverting everything in a playful and mischievous way - a strategy which doubtless served him well in the composition of weird and challenging music, but probably got a bit annoying whenever they sent him down the shop for a few sandwiches and a family size bottle of pop and he came back with a bottle of families or a sandwich of bottles*, or something else which flew in the face of expectation with equivalent velocity. Christopherson died unexpectedly in 2010, leaving unfinished the project which the three of them had been working on as X-TG - a cover of Nico's Desertshore album; and here it is, brought to completion by Chris, Cosey and others with a second disc of what I assume to have been the final recordings made by the three of them.

I'm afraid I've never been too bothered about the Velvet Underground or Nico and have no idea what the original album sounded like, although I assume it probably sounded fairly different to this interpretation, mainly because this interpretation sounds very much like Throbbing Gristle.

I'm still reeling from the fact of Part Two having sounded like Throbbing Gristle without any obvious attempt to trade on former glories, a continuation rather than a revival. Desertshore and The Final Report forge ahead in the same general direction, reminding us that for something apparently so reliant on chance and improvisation, Gristle had a highly distinctive, even unique sound. The biological chug is unmistakeable, as are all those other noises twisting and turning through the mix, and even the token bit of glockenspiel - or whatever it is - somehow manages to sound like the work of the same people who recorded Journey Through a Body. Taken as a whole, Porridge seems conspicuously absent from the two albums - which is a surprise. There was probably a little too much of him on Part Two, but I guess his presence lent just enough piss and vinegar to the wine to make for a pleasing contrast, even when he managed to keep his mouth shut. So some of this, particularly Final Report, has a little of the same mood as those early, mostly instrumental Death Factory tapes which did the rounds back in the day, which therefore wraps everything up with a certain symmetry in a fairly satisfying way.

Desertshore features guest vocalists, and their presence seems initially incongruous - or did to me - possibly simply because it isn't Porridge talking about having a wank or whatever; but the more you play the record, the more it gels, with contributions from Blixa Bargeld and Gaspar Noé working particularly well. I still don't get the appeal of Antony Hegarty, whose singing sounds like an operatic version of the voice comedians used to do when impersonating John Major, but maybe it's just me; and her warbling fits the music fairly well.

So with this one it seems that the mission really has been terminated, and with no backsies this time; which is a sadder thought than I would have expected thanks to the warmth, care and attention which so obviously went into the making of this record. Even with their final encore, they were still full of surprises, still breaking new ground.

*: This example should probably be spelt sandwich ov bottles, but isn't because I'm a fully grown man.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Eddie & the Hot Rods - Teenage Depression (1977)

A memory of the sublime excellence of Do Anything You Wanna Do brought me here. The song doesn't appear on this album, but the cover imprinted itself on me a long time ago when my mum used to drop me off at Midland Educational in Stratford-upon-Avon. I'd go to the back of the store and rifle through the punk section, studying the covers and wondering what the hell they sounded like - this, the UK Subs, the Rezillos and others. I sort of knew what punk was, and that there probably wouldn't be much point in my buying the record even had it been within the range of my pocket money. I doubt my parents would have banned it from the house, but they would have looked at me funny.

With just a cover to go on, I formed vague ideas about how punky and nihilistic the bands were, and this one scored highly, even before I realised it was the band who sang Do Anything You Wanna Do; this one and Ha Ha Ha by Ultravox, which was actually a bit of a let down when I finally heard it. Teenage Depression, however, far surpasses my admittedly nebulous expectations.

Of course, with hindsight, whether or not Edward and his Hot Rods were really a punk band depended on where you were stood at the time, and no longer seems to matter so much as it did when I was thirteen. They looked a bit like some bemulleted glam band without the glitter, additionally qualifying as pub rock on a technicality, and one of them ended up in the Damned, and now I think of it, there's not a whole lot of difference between this and the first Damned album; but then, the group didn't actually incorporate anyone called Eddie. Everything we ever thought we knew is wrong.

Teenage Depression chugs and rocks like a bastard, including five covers - The Kids Are Alright, 96 Tears and so on - belted out with such passion as to blend seamlessly with the rest; and then there's the truly magnificent On the Run which could almost be Hawkwind at their mind-bending, biking peak. The title track, a deceptively chirpy amphetamine rocker cheerily bemoans the misery of school, hating having to wear a tie, stuck in some shitty lesson gagging for your next line of nose candy. Try telling kids today what it was like and they won't believe you.

I expected a lot from this record on the strength of the cover, and amazingly it delivers. What a fucking great band this lot were!