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Parallel Lives, Blondie (Book Review)

Parallel Lives, Blondie by Dick Porter & Kris Needs (Omnibus Press, ISBN 978-1-78038-129-9)

Now THIS is a story, and while many of the revelations are not necessarily of the pleasant variety, it certainly fills in a lot of the gaps for those of us who followed the New York scene of the early 70s and early 80s so closely.

The great, long lost, rock magazine Rock Scene was the first place I vividly remember reading about and seeing Blondie. In amongst the (mostly pictorial) pages and witty one-liners dedicated to rest of the nascent “punk/new wave” scene-makers Blondie stood out as the group most dedicated to fun, 60s music and pop as art. That is not to say that they didn’t take their craft seriously, they certainly did, but Blondie was out to be creative and have a good time doing it. Maybe this is why some of the jealousy and competiveness of their counterparts crept in. Possibly Blondie just didn’t take themselves seriously enough and spout enough of the hollow clichés preferred by the “hipper than thou” set to be considered more relevant or worthy? They certainly end up suffering for their art that’s for sure! Naive business decisions, pathetic record company choices, marketing and support, and the long arm of the IRS all play their typical parts but Blondie certainly never seems to have had a problem idea wise.  Sometimes a bit of creative tension sure, and that is also part of the band’s story. They pushed the boundaries that the “punk elite” seemed to shun and while we may be grateful for it now it wasn’t always the case back then. Remember the controversy in some quarters on “Heart of Glass”? I certainly do.

Included here as well is up to the present details of Deborah Harry’s solo career, Chris Stein’s label work and illness, and the Blondie reunion shows. Band members Clem Burke, Jimmy Destri, Frank Infante, Nigel Harrison and Gary Valentine all get their say too and, again, it isn’t always pretty but at least it comes across as honest which is something often missing in a book like this.

Kris Needs (Zigzag magazine, numerous rock bios) and Dick Porter (Glam Racket!, Trash! The Complete New York Dolls) do a fantastic job here interviewing all the relevant parties, taking us back to the seedy crusty, scummy and dangerous New York of the 60s and 70s, and introducing up close and personal into the world of one of the most iconic hit-making bands of the 70s and early 80s.

*Eyeplug says: Dick Porter was also one time Editor and Author for Eyeplug.net and Kris Needs has also written for Eyeplug so if you dig us, then support this fine publication! Best of luck with the project chaps!

 

 


Colin -Mohair Sweets- Bryce

One of Canada’s late 70’s “punk” rock crowd and from 1997 to 2007 the fellow behind Mohair Sweets print and webzine. Currently passes the time by playing the odd gig or two, shaking his head, wringing his hands and pondering whether or not the tape vaults of the legendary Pirates are really exhausted.

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June 5, 2015 By : Category : Culture Eyeplugs Features Front page Heroes Icons Literature Picks Punk Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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Scaling The 50ft Woman

Scaling The 50ft Woman

Hot on the (high) heels of their recent Menage à Trois EP, I strapped on my crampons and set out up the north face of 50ft frontwoman Minki to find out more about the band. When I arrived – sweaty but invigorated – at her summit, this is what she told me:

For those of our readers who’ve been deprived of the joy of discovering 50 ft Woman, could you tell us a little about how the band came together?

Well originally, 50ft Woman really only existed as a name. It was just me, with a few songs I had picked from my old band, plus some new ideas. It didn’t take long for me to realise that it was a bit lonely being a solo artist. Gigging was a logistics nightmare, rounding up various musician friends, and really the songs sound more like a band. So I started looking and found Adie, swiftly followed by Paul. Ben and Axel are relative newcomers but fitted in so well it was like they were born to be in the band!

Looking at some of the old footage of the band on You Tube, it’s evident that the band’s sound and visual image have come together over the past three years – what were the key elements that made you to decide to go in the audio/visual directions that now define the group?

I think as the new songs have come together, it’s given a more tangible sound, which then gives a clearer view for the image. Now that I have a regular line-up and 50ft Woman is a band and not just me, it can be more cohesive, in both sound and visual aspects. I’m lucky anyway, as the ‘frontwoman’, I can get away with wearing whatever I fancy!

How did you come to select the three tracks on Menage a Trois? It seems to me that any of the seven tracks streamed on your website could have merited inclusion – will any of those be surfacing on subsequent releases?

We definitely wanted to record ‘(Strictly) Only Swinging’. We love playing it live, and at the moment it’s the perfect set closer. It was a case of then picking songs to sit around it that showed off all our best assets, as it were. We do have plans to put some of the other songs on the album, but they will be re-recorded to better fit in with the new sound we have.

Do you have a large corpus of unrecorded material? Do any covers find their way onto your setlists?

Funnily enough I just shared a large dollop of unrecorded stuff in acoustic form, with the rest of the band. There’s about enough for an album, and that’s just the stuff that is in a completed song format. The guys have lots of ideas too, and I know Ben texted me at midnight just the other night, excited about a song he had just finished writing.

We are currently including ‘Turning Japanese’ in our set, though it depends on the length of the set and where we are whether we play it or not. There are a couple of others we’d  like to do, too. I think sometimes it gives a fresh crowd an instant connection with you, as long as you do it well!

Of the three tracks on the EP, ‘Psychic Hygiene’ and ‘(Strictly) Only Swinging’ seem to represent the band’s more visceral edge, whereas ‘You’re In Love With Love’ is more melodic – would you say that this accurately represents the two sides of 50ft Woman’s sound? Is it likely that as the group progresses, one side will eclipse the other?

It definitely represents the two sides! I’m glad you picked up on that. I do tend to have a very schizophrenic writing style, where it will be either one or the other! (Must be the Piscean element in me.) I think as a band we find it easy to flip between the two, and even the more full-on stuff will still have a melodic edge to it. The rule is that all of our songs must work acoustically, then you know for sure that it works as a song!

How have the band been going over live – is there a big difference between your most recent gigs and those from the group’s early days?

I think we are a lot more confident, a lot better rehearsed and we have a lot more fun on stage as a result of that. When you know that the band is totally ready, you can relax more into it, which makes for a much better performance. And when the band has fun, it definitely means the audience have more fun too!

What kind of audiences are you getting?

A real mixture. There is always a struggle with London crowds as there is so much choice of gigs and place to go. So lately, we have been concentrating more on out of London gigs. The weirdest one we have done recently (but also one of the best), was at the Marussia Virgin Racing Weekend. About 300 F1 fans all camping for the British GP, in the rain, which thankfully stopped when we came on, and as it was still wet, the audience was about 40ft away under parasols and tents! We still got lots of new fans from that gig, so it was worth it.

Have you played with any bands with which you feel a connection, or do 50ft Woman stand resolutely alone?

We’ve done a few gigs with the Scratch who we love. We do quite a bit of cross promotion with them, and are hoping to do a mini-tour later this year. I think in this business the more friends you can make and help along the way the better. After all, it’s not like people only like one band is it? If we could put on more nights with bands we like and that compliment us, then we can all share fans and all gain more!

Would you say that there are common influences that unite the quartet, or do you have wildly differing tastes?

I think we have a common love of ‘rock’ in general, though we do have differing tastes. Axel keeps promising to educate me in drum ‘n’ bass and dubstep and all those weird urban subgenres I know nothing about. Adie loves his seventies rock and blues, Paul loves most modern rock. I think Ben and I were separated at birth, as we seem to have a spookily lot in common musically. I think what helps as well is not being closed off. I have such eclectic tastes and love discovering new music.

I understand that you’re due to shoot a video for the forthcoming single ‘Google Tan’ – do you have any specific visuals in mind for that?

Ah that would be telling! Well, ‘Google Tan’ is obviously about spending way too much time in front of a computer screen … so it will be based around that. We are storyboarding it this weekend and I can’t wait to film it. There are rumours that I may be playing a few different characters in it, but you will just have to wait and see. Anything could happen in this band!

Any plans for an album, or touring? What’s next for the band?

Well, as I mentioned we want to do a mini-tour with the Scratch later this year, and knowing us, this will probably develop into other stuff too. We ended up doing support dates with the Union last year then rushing off to the London Tattoo Convention, so we are up for a logistical challenge. After all, I’m used to it from the early days! We’d love to get on another couple of good tour support slots, we seem to make friends easily, thankfully.

Album? Yes! It’s already in the pipeline. It’s literally a matter of sitting down with our diaries and guitars and making concrete decisions. However, we won’t release it until we are 100% happy with it. It’s our debut album, and as such, needs to be all killer no fillers.

50 Ft Woman website

 

 

June 5, 2015 By : Category : Eyeplugs Features Front page Interviews Tags:, , , , ,
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Shonen Knife – ‘Free Time’

(album, Damnably)

The legendary Osaka trio’s 15th studio album finds Shonen Knife refining their Ramonic poppery to a fine point across a disc that also showcases their expanding range and assured structuring.

Always best when they’re giving a song the full fuzzed-up day-glo treatment, Free Time features a trio of tracks that clearly demonstrate why the band have remained cult superstars for so long: Angular opener, ‘Perfect Freedom’ shows the band’s mastery of mixing garage and punk tropes into a searing broth of melodically distorted power, while ‘Economic Crisis’ is a visceral hook-ridden sugar rush that detonates tuneful fuzz bombs amid sherbet flares of thrash and rhythm. Perhaps best of all is the primary coloured sci-fi romp of ‘Monster Jellyfish’ – an irresistible drum salvo driven depth-charge that’ll have you singing its ‘Outbreak’ chorus in the tub.

The less serrated side of Shonen Knife is represented by bittersweet confections such as ‘Rock’n’Roll Cake’, and the bubblegum fluff of ‘Do You Happen To Know’ – two songs that encompass two poles of Naoko Yamono’s vocal range; from the plaintive former, through to the Fay Fife power piping of the latter. There’s strange and wondrous fare on offer, too – ‘Capybara’ is an appropriately semi-aquatic upbeat shuffle that for some reason calls to mind Blondie’s ‘Tide Is High’, ‘An Old Stationary Shop’ evokes past times and sounds a lot like Peter, Paul and Mary have been given a new wave makeover, while ‘Pick Your Own’ (an agricultural, berry-fixated chant-a-long) is at times reminiscent of a punked up ‘Smurf Song’.

Penultimate track ‘Love Song’ finds the trio mining a classic seam of girl groupery, all ankle socks and angst, whereas the closing ‘Star’ is an effects assaulted aspirational hymn with a cosmic sonic subtext that wraps around a guitar break, which, oddly, goes a bit Frampton in places. Such strangeness is part of Shonen Knife’s considerable charm, and across this album there’s an artful simplicity that – as with the Ramones – is indicative of a group of a group that is smart enough to keep things simple.

June 5, 2015 By : Category : Music Pop Punk Rock Tags:, , , ,
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The Calimocho Club – ‘Whoa Whoa Hey Hey’

(EP, own label)

A howling phoenix emerging from the ashes of the mighty Black Knights, the Calimocho Club announce themselves rudely with a five-fingered statement of intent that sees the Hope/Pickford duo emerge from the Salford Delta to distil the essence of the blues down to ital firewater.

This is minimum r’n’b sugah, as in totally fat-free, lean sinuous, rock’n’roll that’ll cum in your hair. ‘She Told Me’ opens with economy and assured precision, realising a perfect blues stomp without fuss, pretension, or shoes. ‘War Machine’ sends vapour trails of distortion strafing across a sonic miasma of fractured rhythm and vocal urgent testimony, before ‘Baby Got A Switchblade’ plots up amid some crepuscular back-alley street hassle that intermittently explodes across a Voodoo Chile soniscape.

As Lux Interior correctly asserted, ‘Rock’n’roll is all about sex’. A proven fact that is given further weight by ‘Smoking Area Blues’, wherein notes are bent into priapic shapes that moisten the fleshy opening of this nasty slice of defenestrated urban angst. Finally, ‘Roll The Dice’ oozes forth; a slow-burning universal expansion that gathers momentum, then twists and writhes its way across the consciousness leaving a sticky, salty residue. You won’t want to wash yourself after.

The Calimocho Club website

Join the Club on Facebook

June 5, 2015 By : Category : Blues Garage Music Rock Tags:, , , , ,
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50 Ft Woman – ‘Menage à Trois’

(EP,  own label)

Debut EP from a London quintet who emerge with a well-released image and sound. Fittingly, Menage à Trois features three tracks, with opener ‘Psychic Hygiene’ providing an introduction to the group’s twisted bump’n’grind, lyrical dexterity and sassy soloing. ‘(Strictly) Only Swinging’ offers a salacious peek behind suburban lace curtains which builds to a churning sonic froth of desire.

As guitars Buzzcock and front (50ft) woman Minki’s vulnerable diction evoke Deborah Harry, ‘You’re In Love With Love (But You Ain’t In Love With Me)’ coalesces as a Blondie-esque slice of bittersweet angst.  

50 Ft Woman website

June 16, 2015 By : Category : Glam Music Pop Post-punk Tags:, , , ,
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The Computers – How Punk Are You?

Now in their fifth year, Exeter quartet the Computers have developed into one of the most visceral and exciting bands around. With their mighty debut album This Is The Computers stripping paint from woodwork wherever it is played, and a hectic schedule of late summer gigs ahead of them – including appearances at Reading/Leeds and a European tour with the Subways, I caught up with the band’s drum titan Aiden to find out more:

For those of our readers who are unlucky enough not to be hip to the Computers, could you tell us a little about how you came together and what made you decide to form a band?

We had all grown up together, playing in different bands over our teenage years, hanging around the Cavern. Once these bands had split, Al wanted to start a band that infused his love of soul, garage, punk and rock n roll. Luckily he found another couple of cool cats who shared his vision, and so The Computers were born.

What are the common influences that unite you musically?

We all love garage, we all love soul, we all love punk and rock n roll. That’s all you need.

You’re from Exeter – is there much of a scene going on there, or do you pretty much stand alone?

We are very lucky to have a brilliant venue in Exeter called the Cavern. It’s more than just a venue though. It is the central hub of all alternative souls who roam Exeter, it’s a night out, it’s where we all work it’s where we rehearse; it’s where we eat, drink and sometimes sleep. Having this creates a scene, almost everyone we know plays in a band, it’s weird if you don’t. But none of it would exist if it was not for the Cavern, and the brilliant people who run it.

Given the visceral nature of your rock’n’roll, ‘The Computers’ seems a little antiseptic, how did you come by the name?

We were looking, we saw and we said – The Computers. The name came first, then the band.

How do you think that you have developed as a group since you first got together, five years ago?

Well, we always set out to be a punk/soul/hardcore band. But in the earlier stages the punk and hardcore seemed to shine through over much else. This could have been because of our age, surroundings, knowledge and experience. But through many of years of development, we are starting to focus more on the soulful, garage sound of our band. The best is yet to come.

You recorded This Is The Computers in just four days – was it an enjoyable process? How did you come to hook up with John Reis and did you enjoy recording in the US?

It was a hard task, but very worthwhile. We sound best when we are standing next to each other. We played with John’s new band the Nightmarchers, and it was as simple as just asking him if he wanted to record us. We had nothing to lose. He said ‘Yeah’, and four months later we were jamming in his San Diego basement, and of course it was the best thing we have ever done.

Did you get to play live while you were in the States? If so, how did the band go down?

For visa reasons, no we did not get to perform in front of people, but if we had I’m sure they would have dug it, San Diego is very cool.

Did the eleven tracks on the album come together relatively quickly or were these songs that you’d been developing live over the past couple of years?

Half of the album’s songs were fully nurtured, and had been performed live in many sweaty venues. The other half was finished on the plane or in the basement of the Swami. See if you can guess which ones.

You’ve been touring with Gay For Johnny Depp and Alexis On Fire, how were those gigs?

The Gays are old friends of ours; we did one of our first tours with them. And so our time spent with them is always fun, and they always have a new drummer to get to know so it’s never boring, and the shows are mostly good. As for the shows with Alexis, that was a whole new experience. They were the biggest shows we had played at the time and so it took a while to find our feet on such a big stage.  But we got there, two shows and 8000 people later we felt comfortable delivering our weirdo rock n roll to the Alexis masses. The band was great to us too, we gambled, we drank, we sang, we partied every night, good dudes, good dudes.

What kind of following have you developed?

We are still developing the complete following. But if we see someone at a venue with slick back hair, a few tats, and a good pair of shoes on, we often guess that they are our people, and we are never wrong on that.

Press response to the album has been overwhelmingly positive; do you think that the band is now moving up to a higher gear?

That is the aim. As Yaz once said ‘The only way is up, baby!’

What could gig virgins expect from a Computers live show?

Expect the unexpected. But if that’s not enough for the virgins, hear this: Five guys dressed in white, dripping in sweat and splashed in blood playing as tight and as groovy as humanly possible. And unfortunately a fair amount of spit. The Computers hold no responsibility for any infections/illness caught at our shows. Enter at your own risk.

Having worked with John Reis, is there anyone else that you’d like to record with?

I personally love the sound of Steve Lilywhite’s sound of the new wave punk in the late 70’s/early 80’s. But you know, it doesn’t get much better than working with one of your musical heroes.

What’s next for the band?

Many more shows, a few festivals including Reading and Leeds, trips to Europe. It’s all on the website. I can’t say too much because I don’t know what’s announced officially, but watch this space, we have a lot going on. Then a second album for 2012, and like I’ve said the best is yet to come.

The Computers’ website

June 16, 2015 By : Category : Eyeplugs Features Front page Garage Interviews Punk Tags:, , ,
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Steve Conte – Paris Fashion Show footage

On 7 July, erstwhile New York Dolls guitarist Steve Conte played a fashion show in Paris for designer Fabien Rozan. He was hired to play an improvised solo electric guitar piece that worked with the style, clothes and setting – which the Crazy Truth mainman describes as ‘a challenge.’

I caught up with Steve and asked him how the gig came about, ‘I met designer Fabien Rozan in Paris back in 2003 when I was touring with Willy DeVille. Since then we’ve stayed in touch – every time I played Paris with New York Dolls he came to the shows and brought his kids. He’s a talented designer and a great guy!

‘As of the morning of the show I had a whole different thing planned – A medley of the designer’s favourite songs by the Stones, Dolls, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, etc. But backstage the producer said to me, “That doesn’t work – try something else” All I could think of was how ‘Staying Alive’ and most disco songs were at a walking tempo (about 110 beats per minute) so I figured I’d start there so the girls could walk comfortably. Then it had to be hypnotic and similar throughout the whole nine minutes without getting boring – a challenge for any guitar player, not to mention one playing alone.  I knew an analogue delay pedal set to that tempo would keep it sounding full. 

‘Once I got the initial chord progression in my head I just played variations on a theme. There are some moments where it stumbled, but hey – that’s live improvisating!’ 

Steve Conte and the Crazy Truth website

Steve on Facebook

June 5, 2015 By : Category : Fashion News Newsplug Tags:, , , , , ,
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The Loud – ‘Harris Shutter’

Somewhere between an EP and a mini-LP, and housed in a sleeve utilising the photographic technique referenced in the discs title, this debut from Liverpool trio the Loud has a nicely ragged swagger about it. Opening track and recent single ‘Amy’s Gonna Get You’ is upbeat and insouciant, delivering a defenestrated slice of Bolan-esque bump’n’grind with considerable dexterity. There’s ergs of artfully misdirected energy zapping around the room here in the form of fuzz and squall, and the group seem more than capable of kicking up a right rumpus without having to exceed third gear – as is evidenced by ‘Horror Scope’.

Featuring such fatalistic lyrics as ‘You’re going to die here, son and I probably will as well’, ‘A Little Taste of Love’ is a churning mid-tempo lament that possesses a kind of glacial force, driven relentlessly on by a pounding tumbrel cart beat. ‘There’s A Bomb In The House’ returns us to the Bolan motif, as a T Rex style ‘la-la-la-la’ backing juxtaposes some sweetness against the considerably less saccharine sound of effects strafing the ersatz flesh from a half-dreamed-of glam anthem.

‘Avida Dollars’ slows the pace to demonstrate, unequivocally, that the Loud also have the woo. Enriched by Pennington Lee’s alliterative vocal turn, this is a louché, understated blues/rock infused number that walks into the black sunset across an extended instrumental coda. Final track, ‘Magic’ emerges from the opacity of an echo-drenched, Spectorish soundwash, to deliquesce as a soiled-but-crystalline back alley torch song.

Described as a ‘religious experience’ live, this six-track certainly provides motivation to join the faithful.

June 16, 2015 By : Category : Indie Music Post-punk Tags:, , ,
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Zounds – ‘The Redemption of Zounds’

(album, Overground)

After the best part of thirty years, it’s good to have another Zounds album to put next to their excellent debut The Curse of Zounds. Better still, Redemption achieves what so few post-reformation albums manage and remains consistent with the band’s original sound while being progressive enough to lift the reconstituted combo significantly above the level of any sense of being a mere nostalgia trip.

When I spoke to Zounds mainman Steve Lake a couple of months ago, I asked him what his 2011 self would say to the younger version responsible for such memorable songs as ‘This Land’, ‘Dirty Squatters’ and ‘Demystification’. ‘You’re an idiot’, came an answer which, although most people would view their earlier selves as naive, indicates the songwriter’s tendency toward critical self-evaluation. Although this is kinda harsh on 1981 Steve (after all, Zounds, like The Mob, Omega Tribe, and Rubella Ballet, were at the forefront of a special cadre of groups that sought to progress the anarcho punk milieu beyond the confrontational black clad template established by Crass and seized upon by the likes of Conflict and Flux), such an analytical perspective does act as a guard against complacency.

Similarly, Lake’s self-awareness enables him to look inside himself to evaluate his position as an outsider – as is particularly evident in ‘Damage’ and ‘What Makes A Man A Man Today (slight return)’. As author Colin Wilson posits in his landmark work, The Outsider, it is often the case that an individual chooses to remove himself from the mainstream of society because he or she either feels nothing, or feels too acutely. Given his knack for deliquescing global political issues down to a deeply evocative personal level, it is likely that the latter applies to Steve. Additionally, Lake’s fractured, emotive voice is the perfect instrument for delivering songs that crackle with poignancy and humanity, and this, along with a tightly ordered rhythm section of Pauls O’Donnell and Gilbert has ensured that the new material is projected onto a fitting sonic canvas.

Although none of Redemption’s ten songs would sound out of place on The Curse of Zounds, the aforementioned sense of progress is evident through lyrics that propel Lake’s lyrical ideas into the present, a technical sure-footedness and well-directed breadth of musical influences, and Ceiren Bell’s sleeve art, which references contemporary Britain while retaining subtle visual links with the band’s earlier incarnation. Fitting then, that the disc opens with ‘Cry Genie Cry’, a track which, through its use of the ‘Jean Genie’ motif and lyrical content, connects past with present to recount a lifetime of marginalisation in an affecting manner. It’s also as catchy as crabs.

Sonically reminiscent of ‘Subvert’, ‘Supermarche’ is classic Zounds, aiming a broadside at global capitalism without preaching, its emphasis firmly rooted in the impact that capitalist imperialism has on the individuals that it exploits. Likewise, ‘Make Love Not War’ emerges as an urgent, garage infused extension of this mindset, focusing as it does upon the indefensible human cost of nationalist posturing. A form of trilogy is completed by ‘Another Roadside Attraction’ – reminiscent of ‘Biafra’, the track is a mid-paced slow detonation of passion and humanitarianism that reduces militarism to the level of childhood war games.

In addition to exploring the position of the existential outsider within the modern maelstrom of media manipulation, ‘What Makes A Man A Man Today (slight return)’ adds subtle mutated elements of dub to the stew, as instruments drop out and return to great effect, elevating the track to an almost transcendent extent. ‘What Is It Worth’ provides another testament to Zounds’ sonic cohesion, as glorious textured backing supports an evocation of the fragility of human artifice set against the enduring power of nature.

With ‘Damage’, Lake’s lyrical focus again turns inward, juxtaposing an analysis of his outsider status – which being predicted upon love, renders him vulnerable – against a broader context of an individual seeking to distance themselves from those who seek to despoil the planet.

The final phase of Redemption is ushered in by ‘Follow The Money’, which examines the facile nature of capitalism through a lens of experience and disappointment to create a sanguine, melodica infused, valediction to the modern world. The first of two truly excellent tracks that complete the album, ‘Deportee’ is a soul searing evocation of the life-destroying secondary effect of the war industry. The songs layered vocals and guitars serve to enhance the exponential impact of this affecting song. Finally, the uncluttered, understated brilliance of ‘Waiting For The Clampdown Honey’ provides a simply constructed, but devastatingly effective exploration of our database society.

Thirty years ago, Zounds released several excellent singles and one great album and were, by and large, criminally under-recognised. Today, they’ve issued a fitting addition to their fine corpus of work – Don’t let the same thing happen again.

To Order The Redemption of Zounds direct from Overground Records, click HERE  

June 16, 2015 By : Category : Eyeplugs Front page Music Post-punk Punk Tags:, , , ,
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Crystal Antlers – ‘Two-Way Mirror’

(album, Recreation Ltd)

Long Beach combo Crystal Antlers second album sees the group re-emerge from a period of creative development as something of a chimera. There’s a form of structured disarray extant here that, on the one hand, establishes the eleven songs (with the possible exception of the more orthodox closer ‘Dog Days’) as a consistent corpus, while a combination of sudden lurches into irregular time signatures, and a tumbling rhythmic quality impart a sense of individual songs teetering on the verge of implosion.

The diverse range of influences that the band have brought to bear across Two-Way Mirror has an equally bi-polar effect ensuring that much of the material on display sounds, at times, a little like something else, and yet like nothing else. The band’s sonic template is established with opening track ‘Julie’s Story’, which fires staccato bursts of fractured sound across a coruscating nightmare backing. Similarly, discordant elements prevent most of the album settling into any sort of melodic comfort zone – the churning, melancholic ‘Séance’ and the insistent organ-infused ‘Always Afraid’ in particular. Similarly, there’s a lot of serrated sound drifting across the sonic miasma; ‘Summer Solstice’ takes a steak knife to its subdued anthemic qualities, rendering it counter-intuitively both expansive and claustrophobic, and the suitably uneven ‘By The Sawmill’ uses similar aural tropes to frame a backwoods melodrama that becomes disorientated amid its own bucolic instrumental hinterland.

Two-Way Mirror’s urgent and unsettling title track provides the album’s high-point, sounding at times a little like an indie interpretation of Arthur Lee’s canon, largely on account of Cora Foxx’s fever dream organ contribution. After the sub-My Bloody Valentine processed sound etherea of ‘Way Out’, this subtle garage motif is extended by the rambling ‘Fortune Telling’, which develops a type of leaden stridency as it progresses.

‘Knee Deep’ is perhaps Two-Way Mirror’s most frustrating element, as it evokes a genuinely affecting sense of Barrett-esque psychedelic dislocation and then sets about undermining it with some over-emotive vocals and a guitar solo that appears to have arrived on loan from Big Country. ‘Sun Bleached’, a lo-fi, effects laden elegy, leads us to the terminus of the aforementioned ‘Dog Days’, which sees the band assaulting their own anthemic, hooky rock conformity with unexpected time changes, before Carlos Santana apparently wanders in to deliver a guitar solo.

Two-Way Mirror is arguably best viewed as a single stir of a melting pot that would have benefitted from a little less restraint. Ideally, the Antlers will go on to take the more extreme elements of what remains a nascent sound and develop it into something truly remarkable.

June 16, 2015 By : Category : Garage Indie Music Rock Tags:, , ,
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