Saturday, November 22, 2008

Rosemary's Babies - "Talking To The Dead" CD

Before he was drumming for Samhain and playing bass in Danzig, Eerie Von played with New Jersey punkers Rosemary's Babies. This 25-song, 38-minute set collects most (if not all) of the band's work, and it's really quite good. This is catchy hardcore punk, complete with rampant anti-social tendencies. 'Sex Maniac' and 'I Say Yes' get socio-political in fun, aggressive ways, and the furious blur of speedy riffs and machine-gun bursts from vocalist J.R. are as intense and snarling as anyone before or since. Kick-ass, raw, real, and original punk from the silver era (1982-83). Essential for fans and collectors. (Ghastly Records)

Eerie Von website

The Damage Manual "The Damage Manual" DVD

When Martin Atkins enlisted the considerable talents (not to mention pedigrees) of Jah Wobble (PIL), Geordie Walker (Killing Joke), and Chris Connelly for his Damage Manual project, the result was a startlingly powerful EP. What followed was a lesser LP, then a slew of remixes, dub versions, and recycled releases that really put some tarnish on this landmark post-punk 'band''s "public image".
This video is a collection of Atkins' handi-cam tapes from the original sessions. There's what seems like an endless array of in-studio footage, from raw takes, horsing around (leave the damned doorbell buzzer cam alone already!!), photo shoots, Geordie smoking, and unrecognizably muttered comments. Needless to say, regardless of anyone's involvement, this is a fairly tedious watch. Plenty of bored faces, people shuffling about, and unsteady camerawork. Granted, the couple of tracks that the band plays live in the studio are heavy and amazing (what an amazing collision of musicians), but overall this is one for the completists only, and much of it should've stayed in the vault. (Invisible Records /MVD Visual)

"Look Directly Into The Sun: China Pop 2007" compilation CD

Compiled by Martin Atkins during his extended stay in China, this 18-song set samples the revolutionary indie rock scene there as Atkins saw it. Starting with the raw post-punk sounds of Snapline's 'Close Your Cold Eyes', 'Look Directly...' includes other standouts from Caffe-In ('Mario And Peaches' is a fun pop-punk number), the moody and dynamic 'What More' from Subs, the early PIL-flavored 'Hang On The Box' by Shanghai, Voodoo Kungfu's wild and heavy 'Chian', which could almost be Seattle's old Blackouts if they met up with the Melvins - praise indeed! Rococo closes with their sparkly surf-pop of 'We Just Free'.
The vibe here is of early, pre-commercialized indie rock. There are plenty of flavors here, from straight-ahead rock to punk to electronic to rap, and it shows there's a burgeoning music scene in China that may go unnoticed in the West if not for recordings like this one. Kudos to Atkins for getting these folks some much-needed PR and attention outside of their own 'scene'. (Invisible China/Bloodshot Records)

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Punk Rock Karaoke" DVD+CD

A novelty item, for sure, but kinda fun in a throwaway sorta way. The CD is a solid covers disc, featuring various all-star guest vocalists (like Dicky from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio, Jim Lindberg of Pennywise, Dave King of Flogging Molly, and Jordan Pundik of New Found Glory(??)) covering classics by Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Dickies, Buzzcocks, Black Flag, Stiff Little Fingers (the awesome 'Suspect Device'), etc. Unnecessary, but amusing.
The DVD features these songs as videos, as well as a section of instrumental cuts with the lyrics so you can, theoretically, 'perform' these yourself in the comfort of your own TV room. Likely fun in a bar setting, with the all-star band (members of NOFX, Circle Jerks, Adolescents, Agent Orange, etc.) backing you up. On disc it's rendered reasonably feeble. Some additional footage of live audience members singing these songs is entertaining, with some solid performances (among the embarrassing), but overall this is a pretty lightweight and forgettable set. (MVD Visual)

PRK official site

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stars Of The Lid - Environmental Defense Fund commercial

A curious and pertinent ad featuring the tired (and beautiful) sounds of Stars Of The Lid...

Happy beer-giving!

Here they are, some more beer reviews...this month, they are rated on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being 'Shite, this is top!' and 1 being 'Just shite, period'.

MICHELOB - Porter (St. Louis, USA) - 2

Anheuser-Busch's Michelob imprint offers this 'craft' brew, and their opaque 'all malt' porter comes with strong burnt choco/coffee notes, but ultimately fails to deliver a character that differentiates it from other porters. Nah, there are better.

SAMUEL ADAMS - Hallertau Imperial Pilsner (Boston, USA) - 5

This tasty treat uses an abundance of premium Bavarian hops to create a rich and masterfully complex flavor explosion. Hopheads will rejoice, while those who don't appreciate more bitter brews will likely avoid this. Me? I think this one's a sure winner, so drink up (especially as this may be a limited seasonal beer).

GOOSE ISLAND - Nut Brown Ale (Chicago, USA) - 3

I'll admit to being a fan of brown ales, from the most common (Newcastle) to the most obscure (gimme some Tilburg's Dutch Brown Ale anytime, if you can find it!). Goose Island's version is hearty and rich, as a good brown ale should be. It's got a semi-chocolatey/honey palate, and comes across as solid, if not unique or memorable. Decent enough, to be sure.

AVENTINUS - Wheat Doppelbock (Munchen, Germany) - 4

Pours a rich, fruity spiciness, with a large head. Tastes spicy, malty, and robust, almost smoky and ideal for a chilly winter's night. Has a distinctive alcoholic spike, as well (8.2% ABV). A very tasty and nuanced beer, and one to be enjoyed patiently.

Martin Atkins China Dub Soundsystem - "Made In China" CD

Drummer extraordinaire (and Invisible Records/Pigface founder) Atkins documented his 2007 trip to Beijing not only in photo/video form, but by recording this album (as well as compiling the 'Look Directly At The Sun' comp). For 'Made In China', he assembled a troupe of China's finest indie musicians and managed to record alongside them and produce/mix these 11 tracks - essentially a Chinese Pigface album. It's an entertaining inter-cultural mix, with traditional Chinese instruments and melodies accompanying Atkins' drumming and scratch-n-dub production. There's funky hip-hop ('China MC Brothers vs. Martin Atkins', 'Re:Load'), electronica ('Mostly Hulusi', featuring Shao Feng on the bagpipe-like hulusi instrument), traditional Tibetan-meets-industrial rock ('Tibetans vs. Dirty Girl'), cynical indie rock ('Yellow Cab', with Chen Xi of Snapline sounding not unlike Mark E. Smith of The Fall), and other odd creatures that co-exist peacefully. The wonderful 'Beijing Taxi' is my favorite, with super-huge drums, dub effects, Dave Wright of Not Breathing's electronics, and traditional Chinese female vocals. A great cultural melding and a fun listen. (Invisible China/Bloodshot Records)

Controlled Bleeding - "In Blind Embrace (Songs From The Shadows)" CD

Originally released in 1996, this obscure title from American experimental act Controlled Bleeding shows a darker, more ambient side of the unpredictable noise/jazz/industrial act. The bold and operatic vocals of Joe Papa grace the dramatic gothic opener, 'Tormentor's Song', which seems to symbolize strength and pride before the transitional 'Red Hands Waiting', which can be downloaded for free *here*. This is a more contemplative, subtle, and moody piece that features deeply-intoned vocals and hints at the group's unique jazz/industrial hybrid sound, though never quite falling into either camp. The transformational 'Scalding/Black Rain' begins with a brace of noise and disjointed loopiness that gives way to a distinctly different second part that again joins Papa's vocals with big, dramatic, and orchestral music. 'Mother' features guest vocals by former Christian Death mainman Rozz Williams, and 'Hymn From The Shadows' is a long (25 minute) totally ambient instrumental journey that resembles, with it's percolating electronic effects, some long-lost krautrock gem - it's celestial and drifty in all the right places! 'Psalm' is a minimalist exercise, expressing a tone of solitude and regret, with Papa's voice accompanying martial drums and light keyboard textures. These final 2 tracks are the highlights for me, focusing more on the mood rather than song. Appealing more to fans of stuff like the Projekt Records stable than the usual noise/industrial crowd, 'In Blind Embrace' is laced full of dark textures and drawn-out moods - ideal for contemplation and introspection. (MVD Audio)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Greater Than One - brainwashed reissues

Greater Than One first caught my ear through their contribution ('The Dark Streets Of London') to the classic 1987 Placebo Records compilation, 'Dry Lungs III'. The following year, I snapped up their CD 'London' on higher profile Wax Trax! Records. The combination of politically-charged commentary, surrealist humour, and avante-electro rhythms was intelligent, and more in line with 'art-terrorism' than 'industrial rock'. Their single, 'I Don't Need God' (which even got airplay on MTV!), further evidenced that GTO were far more than 'a good beat to dance to'.
Using the address listed in the 'Dry Lungs III' notes, I wrote Lee Newman and Michael Wells requesting an interview for my zine, Godsend. They very cordially responded, and sent a series of images, art collages, and their early experimental cassette, 'Kill The Pedagogue'. Normally, my zine ran an interview with one musical artist, alongside short fictional pieces. The wealth of info that Greater Than One had sent me was so overwhelmingly pertinent and interesting, I decided to dedicate an entire issue to them, re-collaging and arranging their art around the interview. This 'Greater Than One' issue was printed in a few hundred copies and distributed internationally, and was met with mostly confusion and bewilderment. I continued to follow Newman and Wells' paths for several years towards their techno and rave phase, where I lost touch. Looking back, they created some of the most strikingly original electronic sounds of their day, and unfortunately, most of this work has remained criminally out of print. Thanks to Jon Whitney for making Greater Than One's timeless music available once again.

Greater Than One - "Kill The Pedagogue" CD

This short 32-minute early cassette release (here lovingly remastered for CD and issued in a tasteful letterpress card sleeve, and limited to 500 pieces) presents some of the earliest (1985) experiments from GTO's Lee Newman and Michael Wells, and it's a very rhythmic proto-industrial vibe - tape voices, tribal beats, and surreal noise. Definitely a product of it's era, and the dark nature of this recording led to the duo's appearance on similarly-minded Graeme Revell and Brian Lustmord's Side Effects label in 1987. Also included here, in mp3 file format, is the entire 'Lay Your Penis Down' tape - a more subtle, minimalist excursion resplendent in odd beats and early tapes/sampling experiments.
(Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One - "All The Masters Licked Me" 2xCD

This is the 1987 LP that followed 'Pedagogue', and it's a more highly-evolved and diverse set of moody post-industrial vibes, showing hints of new life amongst the ruins of the industrial culture. Most of the songs here are brief and instrumental, and highlights include 'The Rape Of Sam The Fox' - a heavy-handed, percussive cut that would fit well alongside early Laibach, and 'Kill That Parent' - a lighter, gentler, even contemplative piece with a sort of exotic feel - proving that Newman and Wells were always seeking new sounds and directions, even this early on in their careers. Other vignettes successfully create a series of moods, textures, and atmospheres, most of which border on the late-night and paranoiac. The haunting 'Psychotherapy' brings to mind Anthony Perkins, somehow, and 'Sweet Satellite' visits a far-off tribal ceremony with hand-drums and chants. 'We Hate America And American Hates Us', as well as 'We're OK' herald their heavy-sampling dialogue-oriented later work, as well as highlight the group's humour and political bend. Odd and enchanting sounds that easily double as a surreal soundtrack. Appended to this already well-stacked release is another disc, this one containing the whole of the 'Trust' cassette, which was a 2-track, 32-minute electronic soundtrack of sorts, more in line with the group's earliest post-industrial experiments. (Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One - "London" 2xCD + DVD

'London', originally released as a double-album in 1990, with it's intensively sampled media cutup glory, bridged the gap between GTO's industrial past and their acid house/techno future. Filled to the brim with big beats, electronic effects, and cleverly manipulated pop-culture debris, Newman and Wells make a variety of points (politically and artistically) with these heavily-danceable cuts. The MLK-sampling, hip-hop-infused 'Now Is The Time' could be seen as a call to arms, and 'Everybody's Crazy (Except Us)' brings a deft sense of humor and irony alongside the pounding beats and tribal chants. The hilarious 'Song For England' is an indictment of GTO's home country - samples of a bloke stating 'I'm deaf, I'm dumb, I'm blind' repeated to infinity alongside a steadily-building symphonic accompaniment. Truly a landmark cut, and as innovative as works by peers like Meat Beat Manifesto or Coldcut, easily. 'Techno Golden Beat' is majestic, joining dynamic orchestral samples with weird vocal splicings and clever sound manipulations. 'Peace' is a driving proto-techno piece, and 'Computer Dub' is a weird collision of media snippets and sound effects - all meshed around a dysfunctional rhythm of sorts. By the time the set gets around to what would be side 4, 'The Dark Streets Of London' brings the journey around to a shadowy, seedier underbelly of jolly ol' England. Terrific work, and definitely aging very well, thanks very much. Disc 2 contains 'Dance Of The Cowards' - a previously vinyl-only early mix/version of 'London', and appends some rare comp tracks for added value. This is a comprehensive set, indeed. The DVD includes Greater Than One's rare videos (including the 'hit' 'I Don't Need God') plus some concert/installation films. A tremendous set full of tense electronic sounds, big beat fun, and highly insightful socio-political commentary. (Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One - "G-Force" 3xCD

Greater Than One's final full-length release before they evolved into various pseudonyms (including acronym GTO, Tricky Disco, and Technohead), this 1989 Wax Trax! release showed Newman and Wells moving ever closer to the emerging acid house scene of the time. Armed with loads of samples from everything and anything, this set of intensely danceworthy tunes takes cues from Kraftwerk, Public Enemy, and visual artists, among others, and this mix was simultaneously bewildering (the group's surrealist, art-conscious references went far over the heads of most of their listening audience, unfortunately) and refreshing. Greater Than One's production here was thunderous and clear, allowing the space for massive orchestral/choral samples to share the atmospheres with the crushing electro-rhythms and masterful sequencing. If their political commentary/intentions are included here, they are far more submerged and sublime, yet still clever and amicably clubby. 'Why Do Men Have Nipples?' is a hilarious send-up of dating TV shows, leaving this set on a cynical but light-hearted note. The bonus discs include the entirety of the 'I Don't Need God' single, the 'Utopia' single, and the 'Index' EP (which includes the genius parody 'Metal), not to mention almost 2 hours worth of unreleased and rare tracks from the era in mp3 form. Again, Brainwashed has assembled a superlative and comprehensive set that sums up the entire recorded output of the duo under this name. Simply amazing, and well worth every penny. (Brainwashed Archives)

Greater Than One site