Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Blur - Leisure (1991)


It could be that I've remembered some of the details incorrectly, but I seem to recall this - Blur's debut album - greeted with a degree of cynicism, subsequently sinking into mumbling about how such a band could have had such an inauspicious beginning. It was baggy, as was everything else at the time, and the record label was EMI pretending to be an indie so as to be down with the kids, meaning this was actually Phil Collins trying to pass himself off as the first four Wire albums, or summink.

However: bollocks.

Blur were fucking great, and this was a fucking great debut by a fucking great band, which was fucking great. Suggestions that the lads should have maintained their integrity by saying no thank you, Parlophone, we were actually hoping to sign with United Dairies, aren't really worth taking seriously, beyond which we're left with the notion that Blur somehow lacked authenticity, which usually translates into failure to have been born in Manchester; because being from Manchester is not only a biographical detail, it's something in the music, something which defies definition, rather conveniently. Being from London is different and means you're not real, you sip cocktails with Eamonn Holmes at the weekend, and when you walk like a monkey and claim to be mad for it, you're just pretending.

Leisure is like a spikier version of early Pink Floyd, plenty of substance abuse, and some swagger, but it's balanced by a certain chemical ambiguity, a sense of come down or hangover which is neither mad for it nor necessarily sane for it. The baggy aspect may simply have been timing, or it may have been something emphasised in production, but it seems significant that for an album which hints at the psychedelic experience with such conviction, Leisure still doesn't sound dated, and is easily as good as anything the Stone Roses ever came up with. These be some killer songs, regardless of Damon Albarn having eventually turned into Sting.

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Shellac - 1000 Hurts (2000)


'What the hell is that?' my wife chuckled from the other room as I was listening, and I didn't really have a reply aside from simply naming the artist, which probably wouldn't have answered the question. I assume it was kill him, just fucking kill him over and over which caught her attention, that being the refrain of Prayer to God, the first song on side one.
To the one true God above, here is my prayer,
Not the first you've heard, but the first I wrote.
Not the first, but the others were a long time ago.
There are two people here, and I want you to kill them.

It's a song about a guy who has discovered that his wife is having an affair; except, it isn't. It's about the impotent rage of the guy, helpless and overwhelmed by something too terrible to consider, which is why he's praying, asking a God in whom he probably doesn't believe to kill the fuckers because it seems as good a solution as any. I guess this sort of thing has been a fairly common feature of Albini's lyrics, namely the stunted fury of the little guy, like a self-portrait of an angry Robert Crumb, eyes bulging, sweat on his brow, shitty crumpled suit and his fist shaking at the sky - either for the piano which has just been pushed from the top of a tall building and which is about to crush him in the most stupid way imaginable, or at an unjust and uncaring universe. This guy comes back again and again, too smart for his own good, forever the subject of indignity, doomed.

Hey man... I wanna have a fight with you,
Regardless of my feelings on the subject
it appears that I am going to.

Weirdly, I find that this folksy small town focus reminds me a little of the Talking Heads back before they went all world music, and it's probably why Shellac works so well, or at least works a whole lot better than simpler, angrier stuff recorded by lesser bands. The strangeness of the material also helps, the song about arranging the numbers in a different order, for example. It makes no fucking sense, and yet has an emotional impact for no reason I can quite identify beyond qualifying as the cogitation of someone with problems.

The production shouldn't even require an introduction at this point - finely crafted and at least as powerful as being right in the same room as the band, maybe even in the same room as the guy asking God to kill his wife or the one who wants a fight. This is music crafted - rather than merely played - for the sake of music, for the appreciation of something beautiful, or beautiful by its own awful terms - no shortcuts, no short hand, no additives, no artificial flavouring.

Shellac are amazing.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Infinite Livez vs. Stade - Art Brut fe de Yoot (2007)


Infinite Livez is arguably the closest rap has come to producing an analogy of the Residents. His Bush Meat was amazing and a definite contender for some all time best list or other, so I bought this and probably listened to it once. Being the work of Infinite Livez, I knew it would be screwy, but I suppose I wasn't prepared for just how screwy it turned out to be - almost like one of those things which isn't actually rap but, on close inspection, turns out to be some pal of Damien Hirst recontextualising an intrigueing blend of improvised jazz, situation comedy, world music, soul, French cuisine, Nordic cinema, a different type of improvised jazz to the first batch, Andy Warhol, and rap. It was what I imagined cLOUDEAD probably sounded like, although as it happens, cLOUDEAD are pretty much a vapourwave version of De La Soul, or summink.

Several million years later, second and third spins suggest I simply wasn't listening hard enough back in 2007. Art Brut is fucking strange for sure, but nothing like so abstract as I remember. Stade - pronounced starred, as in John Le Mesurier starred in Dad's Army - seem to be one of those laptop glitch outfits, although not bearing quite such a sonic resemblance to Farmer's Manual as I recall. The noises, clangs and beeps cohere into solid beats on a couple of tracks, whilst Infinite Livez' random vocal outbursts and apologies for being disgusting likewise assume rhythm and soul at certain intervals, leaving us with an album which allows some insight into what might have happened had Marvin Gaye been a member of Nurse With Wound; and I'm not shitting you here. I had no idea Livez was in possession of such a soulful singing voice as he demonstrates on tracks like webcamwoman.co.uk, even though the contrast of vocal style and subject is truly disorientating. Imagine if R. Kelly had possessed actual talent and had been a bit more up front about what he used to get up to in his spare time. Actually, while we're here, Infinite Livez pisses all over D'Angelo as well, although thankfully not in any literal sense.

It seems that everybody else had the same reaction to this when it came out. We listened to it once and decided it wasn't proper rap, an argument which I now understand to be bollocks, and an argument which doesn't matter because Art Brut fe de Yoot sounds like nothing else I've heard - pants-pissingly stupid yet with bathfuls of heart and soul. The one after this was called Morgan Freeman's Psychedelic Semen, and needless to say has just been added to the list.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Bollock Brothers - Never Mind the Bollocks 1983 (1983)


I'm sure I can't be blamed for assuming this would be complete shite before I heard it. Jock McDonald, having become a name by way of some Sex Pistols bootleg or other, was beginning to look a lot like the Jonathan King of punk, and there was the band with Johnny Rotten's little brother, and then there was the Bollock Brothers, so named as to present the impression of trying far too hard whilst simultaneously not actually trying at all, not even a little bit; all of which may as well have been Bryan Ferry crooning Scott Walker numbers at Astrud Gilberto by comparison with covering Never Mind the Bollocks in its entirety.

You would think so, wouldn't you? Nevertheless, this one manages to be fucking ridiculous, bloody awful, and yet somehow amazing all at the same time, and amazing because it's fucking ridiculous, bloody awful, and so on and so forth.

The 1983 version is a synthpop revision of the original utilising some sampling, some speak and spell, but mostly it's not even the proper stuff, instead occupying a point somewhere between early console games, karaoke tapes, and the kind of synthpop one would routinely encounter when children's telly tried too hard. Had an episode of Crackerjack ever concluded with Peter Glaze and Don MacLean grinning through a saucy seaside cover of Bodies, it would have sounded like this record.

However, the weird thing is that if you turn it up loud enough, it works in spite of itself. For starters, although the songs are reproduced with fannish fidelity to the originals, there's some additional fucking around with the formula - the chirpy sax sample on God Save the Queen, and how Holidays in the Sun keeps threatening to turn into Tubular Bells for example. Also, we have Pursey-esque guest vocals from Michael Fagan who made the front pages after breaking into Buckingham Palace back in 1982, who somehow makes the songs his own with additional lyrics, turning God Save the Queen into an appreciation of herself, for one example. The rest is sung by Jock McDonald who wisely avoids the stereotypical Lydon impersonations you might anticipate, instead relying on his own voice, which actually carries the songs very well and has something of Mark Perry's post-adolescent wail to it.

No, I don't know what the point was either, but in some respects it sort of saves Bollocks from itself by pissing all over the legend, annoying the kind of purists who missed the point in the first place, reminding those who might need reminding what a great album it was, beating Richard Branson at his own game, and generally being a shitload of fun - and stupid fun, which as we all know is the best kind. Whilst I tend to wince on principal at discussions of the queer narrative - mainly because I still don't think such partisan labels are always helpful - this version of Bollocks goes somewhere in that direction, serving as a reminder that Johnny Rotten at age twenty was one hell of a lot more Kenneth Williams than he was ever John Wayne, or even Joe Strummer.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Residents - Mark of the Mole (1981)


My first proper gig - large venue, no-one from school in the band - was the Residents' Mole Show at Birmingham Town Hall, so it's probably peculiar that it should have taken me nearly forty years to get this given how much I enjoyed the aforementioned Mole Show. Partially it was just how it worked out, Mark of the Mole hardly being the sort of record I could find at my local WHSmith, and when I stumbled across a copy at some better stocked place it was usually just after I'd spunked away all my pocket money on yet another live Throbbing Gristle album. Intermission somehow made it to our local record shop during the six months of the place managing to stay open, so I bought that, and it was great, and then the next thing I actually found was George and James, which wasn't very good at all and which pretty much killed my curiosity regarding new Residents material. I liked the old stuff, the weirdly discordant tunes plucked out on bits of wire stretched across the back of a chair, the music which didn't really fit anywhere, which sounded like it was recorded on another planet. It seemed as though they had lost something since they bought their Emulators, and the charm of endless wacky cover versions had begun to wear thin. Oh yes - it's Shakin' All Over sung by Herman Munster with the guitar riff on something which sounds like a cow playing the tuba - ha ha…

Better late than never, I guess. It took me a couple of plays to hear past my expectation of the formulaic weirdness of the Residents as wacky covers band, but I got there, and I realise Mole was probably the best Residents album since maybe Fingerprince. It sounds played rather than programmed, and played by Residents rather than wacky entertainers giggling inside their giant eyeballs. The music develops organically, without too much suggestion of anything happening just for the sake of being fucking weird. It's that same alien folk music which first caught my attention and it tells a story, and the tragedy of the Moles driven from their homes survives the surrealism of its telling. I liked both Eskimo and The Commercial Album, but I never really played either that much. For all of their qualities, I always felt they were laying it on just a little thicker than I liked, whatever it was; but Mark of the Mole is perfect.

Mark of the Mole was the first part of a trilogy which was never completed, and online sources seem to suggest that this was due to disillusionment with the expense of the Mole Show and how the undertaking didn't really turn out as the lads had hoped. I always understood that the Moles were actually the Residents struggling to get by in our society, but I didn't realise that part of this reflected on the apparently poor critical reception which greeted the previous two records; and I guess this was, if anything, what went wrong with the Residents. They wanted a hit single, or wider acclaim, or the stuff you're probably not going to get much of a sniff at when your album sounds like it was recorded on Mars. I guess maybe that's why there was a time during which they seemed to be turning into a surrealist comedy turn, something to match the sales of Weird Al Yankovic; and I guess that's why I've heard more recent stuff, and it's all right but I still feel the spark has gone. I still feel like they stopped exploring and became a tribute act recreating material in the style of their former selves, but maybe - and hopefully - I'm wrong. I guess I'll just have to track down The Tunes of Two Cities and see how it all panned out.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Shangri-Lies - Drain / Greed / Hunger (2019)


Shangri-Lies was a collaborative effort undertaken by Peter Hope with members of Chakk, Moloko and Sweet Exorcist, here with three tracks which first appeared as a 12" back in 2012, now remixed right up the wrong 'un by various New York Haunted luminaries and issued as a fell length album. The original tracks - included here, naturally - constitute killer material of a standard you would probably expect from such names who, lest we forget, had already left their respective marks indelibly stamped upon the face of techno and didn't actually need to do anything else ever again - bleeps, filters, shuffle, bass ping, that sound your PC makes just before it crashes - except pinned down to a beat…

Generally speaking I still don't really know how I feel about the remix, but whatever I feel is irrelevant in this case given the transformations effected by David Harrow and others, yielding what are essentially seven entirely new tracks. Listen close and you'll probably be able to work out where they came from, but it's not obvious without looking at the track list. I never quite know what to say about dance music because beyond whether it's good or bad, further discussion seems a little surplus to requirements; but this collection distinguishes itself by demonstrating just how far techno can be stretched, pulled, bent out of shape until it kind of resembles some Throbbing Gristle outtake, whilst - against all odds - still banging like techno rather than some tediously overproduced chill out room brainfart. It turns out to be pretty fucking far, let me tell you.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Salford Electronics - Communique No. 2 (2017)


Salford Electronics is one of the Grey Wolves, whom I gather have now ceased trading as a collective concern. I have to admit that I'm only loosely familiar with what the lads have been up to during the past couple of decades. I'm assuming they didn't have a Bavarian oompah phase or spend a couple of years as a sixteen piece ska band, but my estimation of where this disc stands in relation to the last few Grey Wolves releases, sonically speaking, will probably be somewhat off target, so you may have to bear with me.

The Grey Wolves I remember were nothing if not confrontational, where Salford Electronics seems to be a less demonstrative concern. Somebody somewhere will already have described Communique No. 2 as dark ambient, which I'm not going to do because I'm trying to discourage the use of such silly terms, and because the music of Lustmord is always described as a dark ambient, and this is much better than Lustmord—pardon me, I meant Lustmørd. The plain black cover seems as initially inscrutable as the ten electroacoustic soundscapes on the disc, but as with patterns seen once you've gazed into the shadows for sufficient length of time, some sort of narrative emerges after a few plays; or rather a non-narrative because Communique No. 2 feels like what we're left with once all the words have been used up, nothing left to say, which it could be argued constitutes a statement in its own right. There are no songs, tunes, melodies, nor even rhythm - well, not exactly - just a pseudo-organic noise resembling that which endures when there's no-one left behind to operate the machinery. It's the sound of concrete, underground car parks, waste disposal machines going through the motions in a world denuded of humanity - what happens to the cities after we've gone, like an urban cousin to Nocturnal Emissions' invocations of the natural world. It ceases to be ambient once you turn it up to the sort of volume at which it deserves to be heard.

Very impressive.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Haystak - Portrait of a White Boy (2004)


Being 2019, I would hope we've all got over the thing with white rappers. I recall a few crackers of my unfortunate acquaintance getting a bit sniffy, or giggling and exclaiming yo whilst ironically twisting their fingers into funny shapes, apparently feeling somehow qualified to comment upon the legitimacy of an artist working in a genre with which they themselves were almost entirely unfamiliar, excepting the obligatory observation of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back probably being the greatest rap album of all time, in my humble opinion. I listened to it today just to be sure, and it really isn't, besides which, no-one who wasn't a massive arsehole ever used the expression in my humble opinion.
 
Back in 2002, certain sectors of the actual rap biz, were themselves getting distinctly sniffy about white people in rap, which came to a head when the Source magazine campaigned for the abolition of Eminem. Whilst there are all sorts of reasons why Eminem was never quite so amazing as everyone seemed to think, the Source was driving like a wanker and ended up shooting itself in the foot over the whole thing for no good reason; and even Haystak - an innocent bystander if ever there was - found himself called out because people who write rap magazines are fucking idiots. For what it's worth, he hit back on Red Light.

Bitch, I ain't no redneck, they hear my shit and condemn it,
Vibe damn near called me a racial supremacist,
Like I'm a skinhead, a mother fucking Aryan.
I'll tell you what I ain't, I ain't no fucking vegetarian.

Red Light is from Portrait of a White Boy, which probably isn't even his best album, but it's up there, and it's the one that got itself stuck inside my CD player this month. As with most of Haystak's back catalogue, it renders any objection one may have regarding white rappers redundant because he's the genuine article. Of course, he talks about being white, but not as a gimmick and certainly not from any weird reactionary angle, but because he endures life at the bottom of the economic totem pole, down where class and race amount to pretty much the same end of the shitty stick; and what distinguishes Haystak from so many of his contemporaries is that he isn't even trying to work that whole white trash angle. Rather he just gets the fuck on with it, talking about getting by, sharing what he's learned, and striving to make something good out of not very much.

Haystak never went in for lyrical backflips, but his flow comes easily, or sounds like it comes easily. He's witty, and funny without having to crack jokes, and his testimony hits hard with a crushing weight that characterises the true greats of rap; and because I don't seem to be able to write about this one without coming across like a teacher writing out an end of term report for a particularly promising pupil, let's just say that Haystak is what the blues sound like in the twenty-first century - still stuck on some southern porch, trying hard not to be broke as fuck, and the twang and slide of Nashville, Mississippi and other places can still be heard woven into the more recent crunch and boom of that sound you don't ever want to hear coming from the vehicle which just pulled up as you're walking along, minding your own business.

I wouldn't say Haystak is the white Tupac, but mainly because such comparisons are fucking stupid, and I'm not even sure Tupac was the black Tupac; but Haystak is one of the greats - top ten, possibly five, with not a poor album to his name, and Portrait of a White Boy transcends all possible objections which could ever be raised by anyone who ever held a humble opinion.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Električni Orgazam (1981)


Back in the early eighties, my school friend Eggy went on holiday with his family to what was then Yugoslavia. Passing through the airport on the way home, it occurred to him that he should bring back presents for his pals, Grez and myself, and thus accordingly he picked a couple of random music cassettes from the nearest stall. I had first dibs so I took this one, based on the cover looking sort of interesting, meaning Grez ended up with a tape of some bunch named Kamelioni - not very good, apparently, which I'd kind of guessed might be the case.

Amazingly, Električni Orgazam turned out to be a great pick, regardless of my having no fucking clue what any of it was about. I played the tape a lot. When I bought a CD burner, it was one of the first things I took the trouble to digitise, and now, having discovered the joy of hunting stuff down on the internet, I actually have the fucker on vinyl, kindly sold to me by a very helpful Croatian gentleman - nice big sleeve like a proper record as issued by Jugoton, the Yugoslavian state record label! This thing turning up in the mail felt like a message from space or discovering that Lord of the Rings really happened. I slapped it on the turntable, vaguely worrying this was going to be one of those exercises in nostalgia which doesn't quite pan out, faded photos of some distant holiday romance which has everyone scratching their heads, but no - this record still sounds incredible. It wasn't just my imagination.

To get into specifics, I chose Električni Orgazam over Kameleoni because the name sounded edgy and the cover reminded me of both Dadaism and Cabaret Voltaire's Voice of America album; and the first thing I was reminded of when I first played the tape was Cabaret Voltaire dabbling with sixties-inspired organ noodles on Red Mecca and others. Beyond this comparison, I suppose Električni Orgazam were maybe the angular Serbian Wire or Devo or something of the sort, but populist with a faint swirl of the fairground or cabaret about them - weird and spikey, but never quite bleak enough to have been remembered as cold wave. It seems they went a bit chicken in a basket after this first album, also losing Marina Vulić - their female bassist who, it turns out, was actually very, very easy on the eye - although the early warning signs can probably be discerned in both the obligatory Beatles cover and Fleke, the token white reggae number apparently translating as Stain. Then again, whilst the Yugoslavian state may well have obliged artists to a standardised quota of cod reggae and Beatle coverage, I don't really care because both tracks are wonderful. In fact, I prefer Fleke to quite a lot of proper reggae, so nyer.

Aside from Douglas P recording benefit albums for an end to this terrible genocidal war with proceeds seemingly going to those actually doing the genocide, my knowledge of the former Yugoslavia and its music is limited to Laibach, this album, and Mi Nismo Andjeli. Mi Nismo Andjeli is a film of which the title translates to We Are Not Angels and which was sent to me on DVD by some other Discogs bloke apparently because he had a copy laying around and he wanted to say thanks for buying stuff from me. It was made in 1992 and is definitely one of the weirder and more entertaining random presents I've ever received from a stranger. Furthermore, it seems to suggest a comedic sophistication we of the West have historically denied those Eastern block countries because we're too busy chuckling at Borat with his big moustache. In fact, Mi Nismo Andjeli suggests the former Yugoslavia developed strains of sarcasm we still don't understand even now, and which would make sense of both Laibach, and how Električni Orgazam had an unusually jolly quality to all those starkly spiky riffs.

Of all the best kept secrets over which I've ever evangelised,  Električni Orgazam is a genuine work of genius. I only wish they hadn't turned into the Serbian REO Speedwagon after this one.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Sleaford Mods - Eton Alive (2019)


That's better. I'm not sure what it was about English Tapas, but it never quite settled with me as the others did. It felt a little like the first post-chart success album, uncomfortable with its own status and a bit embarrassed at having been introduced by Simon Bates on Top of the Pops, or whatever it is you lot have over in Englishland these days. It felt as though all those appearances on Celebrity Cash in the Attic alongside Stormzy and some former Kaiser Chief were somewhat diluting the font of inspiration from which the other stuff had once gushed forth as from unto a blocked toilet, and the duet with Paul Weller couldn't be too far away.

Well, that's all a massive exaggeration, and English Tapas is still a decent record, but it seemed subdued nevertheless, and there was the crooning, presumably born of a reluctance to make the same record over and over - worth a try, but I wasn't sure it worked.

Eton Alive is definitively back on track, and possibly even the best thing since Austerity Dogs. It's hard to tell what they've done which didn't get done last time around, but the sense of shock is back, or possibly renewed in the combination of sardonic ranting and loops suggesting an East Midlands revision of Suicide; and the venom is fresh. Most impressive of all is that Eton Alive isn't some reversion to established factory settings, but continues the cautiously progressive trajectory of the last one, and the best track is probably the crooner, When You Come Up to Me. The difference could be something as stupid and simple as the fact of my having bought this one on vinyl, and that my stereo sounds better than the discman on which I've listened to the others; in which case, ignore all of the above but buy it anyway.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Tangerine Dream - Electronic Meditation (1970)


I came to Tangerine Dream through Phaedra, borrowed from Mark Steedman at college. I think I lent him Second Annual Report in return because we were comparing our fave bands and I hadn't heard anything by his lot, whilst he similarly knew Gristle only by reputation. Phaedra impressed the hell out of me, and I could see there was some common ground shared by the two groups; although at the same time, I recall Phaedra as kind of smooth and dreamy, and while it impressed the hell out of me, it didn't impress me enough to persuade me to pay full price for a record. I picked up Phaedra, Rubycon and Stratosfear second hand, but knackered copies which skipped all over the place and I accordingly played only the once.

Anyway, consequently I wasn't really prepared for this, their first album, which is a very different affair to the airbrushed material for which they became better known. The title suggests something dreamy and relaxing but is hugely misleading. It sits somewhere between early Pink Floyd and the work of Schoenberg, and is electronic mostly in the sense of its amplification and recording. Some of side two might be described as meditative, although I'd say immersive would probably be a better word, but there's definitely an acid trip going off the rails element to this music. Aside from the guitar solos, there's a lot of atonality and a tendency for repetition rather than rhythm, suggestive of the possibility that this record really might be more ancestral to Second Annual Report than anyone realised; and while it's not really Tangerine Dream's doing, I find it difficult to listen to Electronic Meditation without imagining scenes from rustic horror movies of the early seventies, so it's potent and powerful stuff in other words.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Finitribe - Grossing 10K (1989)


I only quite recently found out that Chris Connelly was once a member of Finitribe, which I suppose dooms them to becoming a footnote in the history of Ministry; which is a shame because they were better than that, or at least had the potential. Connelly - for whom I generally have a lot of time, by the way - had jumped ship by the time they recorded this, their second album, and it's one I've always enjoyed whilst never quite being able to get a handle on.

For anyone who hasn't heard Grossing 10K, it really, really sounds like an eighties band who've just bought a sampler and can't leave the fucking thing alone. The way it was put together now feels a bit obvious and hokey, I suppose, at least in so much as that other people did this kind of thing without it seeming quite so brash and silly; but then again, maybe the cartoon aspect - samples from Road Runner, Muttley sniggering and so on - was part of the point. It's hard to tell, because the production is so ruthlessly clean and shiny that it could almost come from the demo buttons on whichever drum machine they were using - and it's one I'd say I've definitely heard before, that crushing kick and the crash of a snare suggesting certain angular haircuts. Digital piano tinkles, whale song is replayed on different keys, and the beat box is far too loud, apparently stuck on machine gun. It sounds as though someone was waiting for the invention of drum and bass.

I think the key to Finitribe is that they were never some industrial dance footnote, but rather were the Scottish Tackhead, or Crass with technology and better jokes, or something of the sort. The production is often a little too clean, but the record makes more sense where it dirties up a little, approaching something Mark Stewart could probably have worked with; but every so often, it all comes into focus and we hear an equivalent of the sunlight bursting through clouds effect, as with Built In Monster, which is just fucking majestic - the kind of heartbreaking pseudoclassical grandeur Foetus only manages every once in a blue moon.

Grossing 10K is a novelty album with a social conscience, silly, elegant, and chilling all at the same time; and if there's room for improvement in some respects, it still doesn't sound much like anything else.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Cosey Fanni Tutti - Tutti (2019)


I've never really given much thought to who made the greatest contribution to the general Throbbing Gristle sound, beyond a feeling that it probably wasn't Porridge; although it would seem logical to assume that the ratio is comparable to how much I've enjoyed what the individual members have done since. What I've liked of Psychic TV has usually been down to the involvement of someone who wasn't in Throbbing Gristle, and I've never really understood what people saw in Coil. I still enjoy the first handful of Chris & Cosey albums up to a point, that point probably being 1985's Techno Primitiv, but Cosey Fanni Tutti's solo material has always been exceptional. I almost wore out the tape of Time to Tell when I first bought it as a single sided C60 issued by Flowmotion, and Tutti is similarly fannifuckingtastic. It turns out there was another one in 2008 which I didn't know about, something called COH Plays Cosey which I'm listening to on One'sTube right now, and I'm definitely seeing a pattern here.

Whilst I never really saw her as only Throbbing Gristle's trombonist, it seems significant that both Time to Tell and Tutti invoke the very best TG material without simply duplicating it, which isn't precisely true of what I've heard of the other three. Tutti is mostly rhythmic, with just enough splurging electronic weirdness to keep it biological, and nothing to pin the sonics down to any familiar boxes or machines; and it sounds a little like side one of Second Annual Report reborn inside The Matrix, or at least reborn inside The Matrix in a world where The Matrix wasn't a deeply stupid film starring the tall one from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. I'm assuming Gristle can't have been mostly Cosey Fanni Tutti with the other three stood around talking about cars and lawnmowers, so maybe it's that she understood what they were doing better than anyone else, or something, so her influence over the whole was the most profound.

Well, I don't suppose it matters beyond credit being given where it is due, and I think most of us have accepted that Cosey's contribution was significant by now. What seems more worthy of note is just how good this record is. It may even be the best thing she's ever done.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

The Dentists - Heads and How to Read Them (1990)


The Dentists were the local big deal when I first moved to Kent, or at least they were the local big deal which didn't involve Billy Childish. Once they began to enjoy success further afield, local goth types of my acquaintance took to a degree of sneering, therefore requiring that I venture a little way outside my limited social comfort zone in order to hear the music of the Dentists and decide for myself, and once I did, I quickly realised that they were popular for a reason; the reason being that they were fucking great.

Later they apparently became associated with something called C86, which was something to do with an NME compilation tape and has been retroactively declared a movement, specifically a movement of mostly jangly sixties-inspired bands. I still don't quite see this, being as most of the C86 bands were - excepting Josef K and maybe two or three others - fucking atrocious. Never mind.

Anyway, I vaguely knew the Dentists, seeing as how they were local lads. I once spent a boozy afternoon around Mick Murphy's house; Mark Matthews put out the first ever fanzine to feature something I had drawn; and I knew Alun, their second drummer, fairly well. Indeed, I vaguely recall the grumbling amongst members of Apricot Brigade when Alun jumped ship to tap the skins for what was frankly a much better band - following Ian, the Dentists' original drummer, having been temporarily inconvenienced. Grousing accompanied the release of Down and Out in Paris and Chatham, the first record to feature Alun but I went out and bought it anyway, and actually it was a magnificent record.

Since then I've tended to regard the difference between those first two incarnations of the Dentists as a sort of Beatles-Stones thing, with softer, poppier songs giving away to something more raw, as characterised by You Took Me By Surprise - which I've only just noticed almost borrows from The Word by the Beatles; and listening to Heads and How to Read Them, I notice my Beatles then Stones equation doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. Heads is a different beast to Some People, but is great for similar reasons, and is by no means a lesser record. For the uninitiated, the Dentists did that pure pop thing like a distant cousin to the Smiths but without the burden of Morrissey, having some of that breezy quality of the Monkees without it being some cheesy fresh-faced sales pitch - just consistently great songs with hidden depths and of such quality that the usual labels seem a bit pointless. This second album is notable for the peculiar key change - or whatever the technical term may be - during the chorus of House the Size of Mars, and the infectious waltz of Crocodile Tears, amongst other things.

There were a couple of later records, and whilst there's nothing specifically lacking in what I've heard of them, there seems to be a faint major label sheen, something suggesting some A&R twat may have been drooling over the possibility of selling the boys to all those Ravey Daveys who thought the first Stone Roses album was the greatest record of all time; when actually it was the wrong way round, and the Dentists were always the superior group, which goes for those Smiths comparisons too.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Einstürzende Neubauten - Fuenf Auf Der Nach Oben Offenen Richterskala (1987)


I'm not sure why I never noticed it before, but I'm beginning to think we've been wrong about Einstürzende Neubauten all this time, or at least I have. Simon Morris of the Ceramic Hobs, an approximately close personal friend with whom I often enjoy a round of golf and himself no stranger to an ear-splitting racket, recently opined that he regarded them as either shit, grossly overrated, or a combination of the two, without quite being able to put his finger on why; which intrigued me because, although very much a fan, I could see that he had a point somewhere in there, or at least a perspective. I bought the earlier albums when they came out, and yet despite having just described myself as very much a fan, it's somehow taken me thirty-two years to bother with this one and I'm not sure why.

The first person I knew to listen to Einstürzende Neubauten besides myself was a vaguely gothy art college girl who also liked Tom Waits and ended up singing in a jazz band. She would occasionally drift off into a reverie about Blixa Bargeld's cheekbones, a fixation which I came to associate with her slightly disturbing monologues about the pleasure taken in not eating much and being able to feel her own rib cage. I suppose that's art school for you. Bargeld of course ended up in Nick Cave's band, presenting a similarly unfortunate association. I'm not saying Cave is lacking talent, but I've never seen whatever it is that others apparently see in his music, possibly excepting The Mercy Seat which is as wonderful as the rest is a droning racket. All of which seems to characterise Einstürzende Neubauten as the noise band most likely to turn up on the soundtrack of a Neil fucking Gaiman adaptation; but there's a reasonable chance I'm talking bollocks here.

The realisation that comes to me after a week of listening to - and enjoying, I hasten to add - Fuenf Auf Der Nach Oben Offenen Richterskala, and the thing which leads me to think we've been wrong about Einstürzende Neubauten all this time, is that they're actually more traditional than you might realise. Clearly they take delight in the subtleties of sounds derived from non-musical instruments, so we're still some distance from the Spencer Davis Group, but the noises and scrapes and clangs tend to form something vaguely Brechtian, very theatrical and - I suppose - amounting to medieval serfs forced to scrape a lament together with whatever metal objects happen to be at hand. I probably shouldn't be so surprised. Drilling holes in the ICA was nothing if not theatrical. They pull faces and make noises, but it's still entertainment.

Here they cover the Grateful Dead's Morning Dew, and it sounds oddly like Even Better Than the Real Thing by U2, but better, and preferable to the original to my ears, although probably not so good as Devo's rendering. It doesn't sound even remotely out of place either.

Having come to this realisation, I dug out Halber Mensch and gave it a spin, and sure enough, beyond the fact that we're hearing some dude thumping plastic water bottles with a wrench, at heart it could be a late seventies Bowie album. I don't suggest this to be a bad thing, by the way, and it doesn't mean I enjoy Einstürzende Neubauten any less, but it's been eye-opening and explains the Cave association. Further objections should probably be ignored on the grounds that the worst aspect of anything will always be its stupid fucking fans.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Hero of a Hundred Fights (1999)


I'm backtracking from their EP, The Cold, the Remote, to this earlier recording, a full length album but this time lacking anything referencing the writings of Lawrence Miles. I was somehow under the illusion of the name having come from a role playing game, but it's actually a characteristically nebulous painting by J.M.W. Turner, and this information still doesn't provide much of a clue as to what the hell is going on here.

Hero of a Hundred Fights sound like free jazz melded in a transporter accident with Shellac, so obviously it makes perfect sense that the later work should be produced by Albini; but meanwhile in 1999, there was this album, just a beautiful recording so clear it feels as though we're there in the room, and not even any effects to speak of beyond natural valve amp distortion and the sound of a man screaming his throat out. The music, even at its most discordant, has the soft, injured beauty of a wound after it has healed and the pain has subsided to a dull warmth, all tied up in the staccato mathematical knots of a structure which seems to have involved one hell of a lot of algebra. There's not much to say about this one because the music has already said everything, even if it's in an unfamiliar language.

Who the hell were these people and what happened to them?

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Cabaret Voltaire - Groovy, Laidback and Nasty (1991)


'Micro-phonies sounds about right,' quipped my one time friend Paul, 'because they're phonies!' The thrust of his satire - cleverly recycling the same actual joke made by the band in the title of what was then their latest album - was that Cabaret Voltaire had sold out in producing a queer gayboy disco record which may as well have had Boy George singing on it etc. etc.

Drum machines?

Bum machines, more like!

Hopefully he exploded when this one came out.

To be fair, the sight of Stephen Mallinder doing the butterfly in a hoodie with a big sporty stopwatch swinging from his neck in the video for Hypnotised is somehow massively comical, and very much suggestive of an album trying far too hard, which is why I've only just bought this. How bad could it be? I asked myself, repeating a question which seems to have informed quite a few of my musical purchases of late.

Obviously it doesn't really sound like a Cabaret Voltaire album, even though it is; but in their defence, the next logical question would be what does a Cabaret Voltaire album actually sound like? I suppose the answer depends on which one you're listening to, and it probably would have been just as weird had they dug out an old copy of Voice of America, analysed how it was recorded, and then impersonated their former selves like we apparently wanted them to. Groovy, Laidback and Nasty scores low for tapes of evangelical preachers, drums played through a flange pedal, or Mal doing that weird vocalising thing which never quite sounds like language so much as Sean Connery having a seizure.

Yushnar arwar sharwar nawurhar…

Groovy, Laidback and Nasty
is house music, which doesn't have to be a problem, because 1) if anyone had earned the right to jump on the house music gravy train, it was Cabaret Voltaire, 2) I like house music, and 3) they do it very well.

This last point is what seals the deal, and which differentiates this from one of Porridge's hilarious attempts to get down with da mans dem, and specifically due to the involvement of persons such as Marshall Jefferson and Paris Brightledge; besides which Cabaret Voltaire always had some vague connection to northern soul and black music in general, particularly the sonic experimentation of dub producers. It's not like they ever had much of a through line from Led Zeppelin or Whitesnake; and when you stick the record on, it sounds fucking great - at least more convincing than all those fuckfaced baggy twats of the day, jangling away and insisting that there had always been a dance element to their dopey shuffling songs. Mal's vocal, if limited, is surprisingly conducive to what is basically soul, and the music very much inhabits its genre rather than standing outside waiting to be let in. You can already hear traces of Kirk's Sweet Exorcist beginning to emerge, so it's not even like Groovy fails to bring anything new to the table; and once again I wish somebody had told me all of this back in 1991.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar (2018)


I loved the previous album, White Men are Black Men Too, so much that I couldn't imagine how they were ever going to follow it up; and predictably the first time I heard this it seemed underwhelming, a variation on the same sonic theme without whatever it was which made White Men sound so astonishing. In fact it seemed like they'd made a rap record with significantly less emphasis on the soulful vocals, which was odd because it sounded totally different the second time I gave it a spin to the extent that I can no longer even work out what nudged me towards that initial impression. What's more, I've now played it enough for Cocoa Sugar to sound at least as good as its predecessor, and what I took from that first hearing seems crazy with hindsight.

My guess as to the nature of the disparity is that Cocoa Sugar is a very different record to White Men, but the Young Fathers' sound is so distinctive, so immediately recognisable and unlike anything else - at least so far as I'm aware - that it takes time to recognise the variation. The sound is, roughly speaking, a sort of African gospel embellished with music made up from sounds found laying around on a laptop, non-musical glitches edited into something with both the musicality and rawness of early Motown. The difference is that where White Men had an additional touch of something resembling the influence of maybe Suicide, this one has a subtly different dynamic with more of a soulful vibe; all of which is frankly a fucking crap comparison, and one which doesn't stand up to any scrutiny whatsoever, but it's the best that I can do.

Cocoa Sugar is, after a couple of plays, at least as intense as the last one, and it's nice to have lived long enough to have heard this genuinely amazing group. Maybe that's all you really need to know.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

DDAA - Ronsard (1988)


Here's another album I briefly owned, then flogged, then bought back during a moment amounting to either regret, guilt, or curiosity. I seem to recall first encountering the lurid red and green cover on a stall in Greenwich market and picked it up on the strength of King Deebo is Six Tracks for a Kit having been one of the best numbers on those first two volumes of Rising from the Red Sand. I don't really know what I expected Ronsard to do once I got it home, but it didn't seem to do it. At one point, whilst attempting conversation with a boring French goth schoolgirl who had insinuated her way into my home via my girlfriend of the time, I plucked Ronsard from the racks and said, 'look - here's a French band,' which was admittedly lame, but at least got her to shut up about fucking Nosferatu or whatever the hell they were called. Later it went to Vinyl Experience along with records by Z'ev, the Pressure Company and others on the grounds that weirdy music is always worth a bit of money if you wait long enough; plus I'm not even sure I'd even listened to the thing twice.

Once again I'm kicking myself, having tracked down another copy and recognised it as something I would have kept hold of had my brain been working properly back in 1994, or whenever it was.

DDAA have been described somewhere or other as a cross between the Residents and Throbbing Gristle, which probably isn't significantly worse than any other description to be had by throwing lawn darts at the internet whilst blindfold. The music is minimal, noises twanged or scraped or plucked from assorted conventional instruments with very little in the way of effects or production, so it has the feel of an improvised live performance, something you watch rather than which unfolds in a studio. This album comprises two long pieces, one to a side, both of which build into something fairly hypnotic without any overt concessions to tunes or even repetition. There's a slow, regular beat, but it somehow has the cadence of stonemasons tapping away on a building site, or even something tribal. It's a record built from elements which are noticed rather than which intrude, and it feels like poetry more than it feels like anything you could describe as a soundscape, at best a distant relative to Laurie Anderson.

Despite most of the lyrical content being in English - albeit with truly peculiar pronunciation - and despite the insert explaining what Ronsard is all about, I still don't have a fucking clue what Ronsard is all about; but maybe it doesn't matter because it seems to work on some very basic, almost physical level, working like a painting you just can't get out of your head. It worms its way into your consciousness.

Of all the things I've revisited or rediscovered, this has thus far probably been the most powerful by some distance.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Howl in the Typewriter - Manifesto (2018)


My impartiality is probably open to question where this one is concerned. Never mind that I know the bloke, but I actually contributed some vocals, as did my wife, and I know at least a couple of the other people who similarly responded to Stan Batcow's request for remotely recorded guest vocals. Please sing these words, he said, and send me the file so I can weave it into something I've been working on; and we did. Please feel free to grass me up to the trading standards authority if this is a problem.

Howl in the Typewriter is the organ of Stan Batcow, so to speak, former Ceramic Hob and punky DIY stalwart since at least back when I was still at school. He's been at it for a while and is yet to show any sign of reigning it in or, for that matter, giving too much of a shit about sales or catering for any specific audience. Musically he's always carved his own furrow, as does this album, and it's a furrow which still very much works for him and has come to sound more and more unique with each passing year as the part-timers fall by the wayside.

Manifesto is, perhaps typically, an H-bomb scale potshot taken at the commercialism against which Howl have been pitted all these years; and it's a single song lasting over an hour, or at least that's one way of looking at it. Another might be as Crass's Yes Sir, I Will with tunes, or even one of the more impenetrable Jethro Tull concept albums, A Passion Play or one of those; except this is better, or at least I like it more. Howl play a hybrid of punk rock and techno hung on some sort of vaguely proggy structure, themes repeat here and there morphing into reggae, thrash, power electronics, and just plain oddball without it seeming too much like a collage of disparate elements; and whilst its sheer scale and duration is a little demanding, it keeps moving, changing, and manages to never outstay its welcome. I seem to recall reading that Manifesto has been seven years in the making, which I can believe because of the elegance with which all the parts fit together to form a coherent whole, despite being born from a million random elements pulling in different directions. I'm very impressed.

Myself and the misses turn up at around the fourteen minute mark if anyone is interested.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Broken Britain (2011)


I wouldn't ordinarily bother to write about anything below a certain level of crapness, despite the thrill of shooting a fish in its proverbial barrel; but this makes the cut because it's so crap as to be genuinely impressive whilst still being amazingly crap - so none of that stuff about something being so bad that it's good here. Broken Britain really is absolutely shite. It's a punk compilation from a couple of years ago, or at least that's what it seems to aspire to be - a memorial to that time when we all kicked in our television sets because Sid Vicious swore on Midlands Today, and when the Clash had that hit with a song about the Queen being a moron.

Presuming you remember those Top of the Pops albums of the seventies - copyright dodging hits of the day faithfully reproduced by session musicians; well, that's sort of what we have here, except obviously that would be tacky and not very punky at all, so I think we're pretending this is something else - just like in the Sid Vicious song, Something Else, yeah?

Hooray for punks and punk rock!

Stick your bollocks up your arse, misses! Ha ha!

So far as I can tell, we do actually hear 999, the Business, and the Stranglers on this disc, although fuck knows where they found a Stranglers cover of Buffalo Springfield's For What It's Worth; and that's definitely punky cockney dolly bird Lydia Luvaduck Lunch giving it some welly on a live version of In My Time of Dying, probably live in broken Britain or something. The rest though…

We have massive punky hits faithfully covered by bands you've mostly never heard of, bands which sound suspiciously as though they've all been recorded in the same studio with the same instruments - four from the Clash, four Pistols numbers, then Teenage Kicks and a couple of Joy Division biggies, and er… Denis, the Blondie song, instead performed by the likes of the Belfast Dolls, the Badgers, Discord 76, and Mandi and the Morons - a more punkily anarchistic bunch you couldn't wish to meet, if the names are any indication. On the other hand, Beki Bondage is undeniably real because I remember both Stand Strong Stand Proud from listening to Peel and her truly splendid knockers from the pages of Sounds, which were quite rememberable* due to my being a sixteen-year old boy at the time. Here she covers the Pistols' EMI, complete with faithfully reproduced ad libs which only made sense sung by Rotten at a very specific time of his career. Likewise, some of the Clash covers sound similarly odd given that Complete Control - for one example - is about being in a band called the Clash; and I don't know who the Cook 'n' Jones responsible for Silly Thing could have been, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Steve or Paul.

Plucked from the cheapo rack of the store, or possibly even a gas station, Broken Britain promises a couple of familiar names alongside covers rendered by obscure types who probably had one single played on local radio before they fizzled out and all got jobs at a local car showroom, but I don't think that's what we actually have here. Second - or possibly third - impression is that this might do well if you listen to it with the air conditioning on full blast, or if you're not really familiar with any of these songs. Should you be some punky young dude browsing the stalls of a Mexico City street market, and a punky young dude who doesn't speak much English, then Broken Britain might seem worth a punt.

Maddeningly, even this theory is undermined by a peculiarly operatic cover of Who Killed Bambi? and Dresden's version of the Talking Heads' Psycho-Killer, neither of which give a shit about duplicating the originals. This Bambi, if otherwise completely pointless, at least allows us to hear the lyrics, such as they are, for the first time ever; and Dresden, whatever it may be, sounds suspiciously like John Otway or even Unlucky Fried Kitten. I was never that struck on Psycho-Killer, and now I understand why - because it should have been recorded by Frank Butcher from Eastenders as is apparently the case here; which is why, despite everything, I'll be hanging on to this otherwise entirely pointless piece of crap.

It was a Christmas present, in case you were wondering, but thankfully not mine.

*: This is a word invented by a Wheel of Fortune contestant which I'm trying to pass into common parlance.

Siouxsie & the Banshees - Superstition (1991)


This, on the other hand, was mostly chug but it fills a gap in the collection. My girlfriend owned a copy back in the early nineties and she used to play it a lot. All I recall of this is a vague impression of Superstition not making much of an impression on me, but I'm a list-making completist at heart so I wanted to see whether it would sound better with the benefit of hindsight, or whether my aforementioned first impression had been accurate; and it seems that it had indeed been more or less on the money.

Should it need stating, Siouxsie & the Banshees tend to make more sense if you think of their career as parallel to that of Roxy Music - which was probably who they were listening to back when everyone else was banging on about the Dolls and the Stooges - in which case, Superstition was probably where they entered their smooth period as did Roxy with Avalon and the like. 1991 was apparently all about those shuffling baggy types, seemingly obliging everyone else to make themselves appear ridiculous by claiming there's always been a dance element to our music, and so on top of the technological studio smoothery, Superstition was the Banshees demonstrating that they too were mad for it, as the kids of the time would have it.

Well, maybe not, but this record does chug quite a lot, and there's the peculiar use of a Schoolly D sample on Kiss Them For Me - although I'm probably just showing my ignorance of what is either some preset drum pattern or something Schoolly D nicked from elsewhere.

So, is it actually a bad album?

Not really. It creeps up on you after a while, which is mostly the songs taking their time to emerge from Stephen Hague's efforts to make them sound like New Order; but emerge they eventually do, and the differences slowly become apparent, allowing the ear to hear something beyond what initially resembles an hour long version of Dazzle. Silly Thing sadly isn't a cover of the Cook and Jones classic - and Lordy what I would have given to have heard that - but was the first tune to break cover, revealing Superstition as more than simply Kiss Them for Me plus eleven b-sides. The whole is too slick, too smooth and too electronic - as the Banshees themselves apparently thought - but remains a lesser record by what was still a great band, the Banshees equivalent of a stadium-era Simple Minds album, which I propose as someone who nevertheless quite liked stadium-era Simple Minds.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Siouxsie & the Banshees - Peepshow (1988)


I picked up Superstition the other week, which sent me retracing my footsteps back to this one which then duly glued itself to the turntable. This is probably some sort of reverence feedback deficit due to my not having thought about Siouxsie & the Banshees for a long, long time squared with how highly I once rated them, and continue to rate them as I now realise. I'd forgotten how great they were.

I'm doubtless misremembering, but I recall more of a kerfuffle over Siouxsie having had a haircut than the release of this record, which less forgiving persons seem to recall as having belonged to the oh, are they still going? years. Tinderbox - the one before this, excepting the covers thing - was an odd collection thematically fixated on heat, deserts, dessication, and sterility building up to the climax of Lands End, the closing song seemingly representing a symbolic deluge. It felt a bit like they were aware of running short on inspiration, although it was actually a pretty great album - just not startling like its predecessors. This was the point at which the Banshees chug had begun to creep in, having begun with Dazzle or thereabouts - those driving tracks which sound a bit like Russian folk music, and which I suppose came to represent default Banshees - stuff to which goths could whirl around and do that silly dance where they make their hands swim back and forth in front of their faces. Tinderbox, for all its fine points, was mostly generic Banshees chug.

Peepshow chugged here and there, but you can really tell they're also pissing about, throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck, and most importantly stepping outside the goth comfort zone - which makes sense given that there were about a million other bands who had photocopied the same blueprint by this point; and they had yet another new guitarist - the bloke out of Specimen, oddly enough, which seems kind of like doing a Numan and marrying your own groupie, but Jon Klein seems to have been an undeniably decent match.

The Banshees were no longer quite the group which had recorded The Scream, but that's progress for you. Peepshow is nevertheless startling and angular in places, with a technical velour developed over the previous few albums but kept from becoming bland or gratuitously lush by what sounds like the band rebelling against their own tendency to chug. Peek-a-Boo sounds peculiarly like the Rolling Stones briefly funky period; there's the ludicrous and yet wonderful Burn Up which could have been the Casey Jones theme tune; and then The Last Beat of My Heart which gets my vote for possibly the most heart-wrenching piece of music ever recorded, definitely one of the greatest things the Banshees ever did, and it features an accordion for fuck's sake! Only the cock-obvious nursery horror of Rawhead and Bloodybones really lets the side down, sounding like it might have been an acceptable b-side a few years earlier, but even in '88 resembled the sort of generic goth landfill upon which Tim Burton would eventually build a career. Maybe they were taking the piss.

Anyway, Peepshow is mostly amazing. I'm a little surprised that I somehow managed to forget.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Börn (2014)


It means Children and they're from Iceland, or they were. They seem to have been quiet since 2015 from what I can tell. This seven-track eponymous debut album came to my attention thanks to the excellent Simon Morgan, a man who keeps one ear to the ground. Pretty much any music I enjoy of under ten years vintage has come to me thanks to a tip from Mr. Morgan - Sleaford Mods, Parquet Courts, Pessimist, Enhet För Fri Musik, and now this, which is probably the best yet.

Börn aren't exactly like nothing I've heard before, and what they do has a certain familiarity, but the way they do it blasts you off your feet like it's the first time. Yelping vocals hark back to Poly Styrene or Siouxsie Sioux at her most terrifying; drums pound like that dude from the Cramps, and the rest is formed from angular slashing chords and that chugging bass that did so well for every single band formed in 1981. I'd say it's like an angrier, more relentless take on The Scream, but even that just seems like a load of words when you slap the thing on the gramophone. Maybe the best way of putting it is that somehow you can really tell that this is the work of a band from a country which recently arrested its own government. There's just no arguing with this record, and I don't even understand what they're saying. This is what all rock music should sound like.