My top ten for 2013 so far was way way back at the start of March so it must be fine to do another compilation post. What have I been loving over the summer? What happy party tunes have been providing my personal soundtrack to the surprisingly fine rays that have even graced the Glasgwegian skyline this year? Dethscalator, Black Sun Roof! anyone?
The Pastels – Slow Summits
So before this gets ridiculously off theme lets start with The Pastels who put out a new album this year called Slow Summits which at least includes a track called Summer Rain. The Pastels are relentless. Not like a tire iron or the Terminator or indeed Dethscalator or Black Sun Roof! More like the slow-mo beauty of a glacier or the gentle passing of the seasons. You can run you can hide but in my experience their unique handmade world of seductive pop will catch you. I’m the right age of John Peel listener to have dug The Pastels from the start and I loved the Marychain and the Shop Assistants at the time but it never happened. *Whisper it* I sometimes even skipped past Truck Train Tractor on my well worn Festive 50 cassette. But then in the 90s I heard the dark romanticism of Flightpaths to Each Other on a long windswept rain lashed car journey by night and that was it. I was ensnared. Sometimes context and the moment a tune soundtracks are critical. I’m pleased to say that some of that Flightpaths dark romanticism shows up on Slow Summits, especially on Night Time Made Us and also the title track. The Pastels sometimes get lumped in with notions of childish indie pop amateurism and sure there’s a rough edge to their early stuff but the other way The Pastels are relentless is in the obvious care and attention they take on their records to make sure every note, every sound counts. Not to say that they are blandly professional or artisan like in their approach but they are practiced masters of the unique musical world they create.
I’m pretty sure my street is in this video.
Hookworms – Pearl Mystic
This is one of those bands that remind me why I love rock music and why I don’t give up on hearing new rock music that will delight me and why I don’t just disappear into searches for new sounds in genres less familiar to me or else declare a day zero armageddon whereby only the most out there experimental music will do. A lot of the components of Hookworms’ sound seem well trod. Gargage punk meets krautrock would be the reductionist label. And there have been more lauded acts in that vein recently which haven’t really grabbed me. I think I love this band because they don’t really sound ‘cool’ and the whole Neu motorik thang so lends itself to off handed insouciance. They sound more like they are late for the start of their lives and want to rush to their grandest moments.
Funny how watching the video of a tune on Youtube can alter perception. I had no idea the intro to this was so long until I saw the seconds perfectly measured out on the progress bar. I usually just love the slow build up but thought it was less than 30 seconds.
Sun City Girls – Eye Mohini: Sun City Girls Singles Vol. 3
This is a bit of a cheat in that Sun City Girls no longer exist due to the untimely death of member Charles Gocher. If I am honest they are a band I’ve been aware of for years but not spent a lot of time listening to. I know their guitarist Richard Bishop’s stuff better but I’ve so loved his records I’ve been meaning to go back and sample properly from Sun City Girls insanely lengthy discography. So I recently picked this new compilation of singles from late 80 to early 90s (I think). They were three American dudes but sounded about as far away as you can get from the ‘power trio’. They don’t really have an identifiable sound. They seem to take a lot from different folk musics from around the world but how much they are playing versions of existing tunes in languages other than English or just making stuff up I’ve no idea. It doesn’t matter when you hear a tune like this. There are loads of brilliant moments on this record but if you only listen to one thing from this post make it Borungku Si Derita and play it loud and feel yourself swept up in the righteous joy of it. You are an extra in a foreign language film of uncertain origin and you and the other villagers have just freed yourselves from the evil overlord.
Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds – Haunted Head
Kid Congo makes me wish I could look good with a pencil moustache. The Cramps, The Gun Club, The Bad Seeds – all sartorially cool groups, all at the apotheosis of their coolness with Kid Congo in their ranks. But you know he always played great guitar for them too. Even with the odd solo record he seemed like the eternal sidekick but now he gives hope to all sidekicks with three albums and loads of shows with his band The Pink Monkey Birds. The ghost of Link Wray screaming through your hall. Scuzzy creepy garage gumbo rock. Yum.
Thee Faction – Good Politics: Your Role As An Active Citizen In Civil Society
You know how it goes when one of your mates puts a record out. Your supposed to buy it and be polite about it. You don’t have to love it and find it challenging your preconceptions about simple in your face R’n’B. Thee Faction are also the only music I have heard this year coherently and consistently taking the coalition to task but to do it with humour and killer tunes. Every listen I hear another brilliant moment like the one below. Go get it here .
“Your grandad and your grandma knew they’d won the war/When the working folks said they wouldn’t take it no more/The establishment caved they thought it was going to get rough/Now we’ve got the NHS cos they were scared of us”
Pony Time – Go Find Your Own
I haven’t noticed any other instruments on this other than bass and drums (vocals aside) but wow it’s all they need. I’ve either become a terrible dancer in middle age or else time and wisdom have revealed what everyone else could see and point and laugh at but were too polite to disabuse me of in my youth. But this record makes me not want to care and to leap about and dad dance my way to a slipped disc. The drums are so huge and splashily insistent that you will tune in and obey their beat. The bass comes up alongside and blocks your exit. The fantastically narky vocals provide hooks as extra sauce if you need it but really it’s the bass and it’s the drums. They also makes the greatest videos. Here’s two of them. Geordie is also worth a look.
Kim Deal – Are You Mine?
Kim Deal gets into my second compilation post too. The Breeders show earlier this year was the first time I’ve ever been to one of those album resurrection things where a band reforms a line-up from a certain point in time and play their ‘classic’ album all the way through. I wouldn’t go to one of these for just anyone. It was marvelous. Then she goes and puts out this to remind you that she can also still write beautiful heart worn songs every bit as good as Do You Love Me Know?
Ok you’ve had your fun – on into the unpleasant corner.
Black Sun Roof! – 4 Black Suns & A Sinister Rainbow (Disc 1: Truffled Abyss, Disc 2: Werewolf Universe)
I can’t pretend I’m an expert on the output of Matthew Bower – couple of Skullflower things and now this. The earliest thing I’ve got is a collaboration with Richard Youngs. Consistently it’s all a big bag of scary noise. He might have made some quiet gentle stuff but I can’t imagine it. This isn’t pondersome approachable noise improvised with breaths and space for moments of contemplation. It’s fill every space in the canvas and assault all frequencies at once noise. But it isn’t featureless. The pummelling comes in waves at different levels and if you listen in you hear ghosts of dead records pass through the aural TV static. I can only envy someone like Bower’s total dedication to such a singular vision. This double CD is well over 80 minutes – there’s no piano ballad to provide ‘pacing’. Sometimes I think if I could fix on one approach like this I could make a grand body of musical work of my own but you know that you don’t choose a path like this it chooses you.
Dethscalator – Racial Golf Course No Bitches/Hey Colossus – Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo
It is enormously unfair to lump these two in together as they are both fantastic records in their own right but they once made a split single together and they do share a nasty smelly sickly take on metal. Dethscalator on opening track Black Percy come on a bit more like the second coming of NWOBHM except this time it actually rocks with added Blue Cheer. Anyone remember those earlier Blue Cheer worshippers The Walking Seeds? The vocalist in Dethscalator could so rule The Walking Seeds genius moment Blathering Out. You will feel hungover after this record or like you’ve caught something. That is a recommendation.
Dethscalator of course win the prize for best bandname. How did nobody else beat them to it?
Over the course Hey Colossus prove they are a bit more sophisticated but not before they’ve dropped the daftest baadest baaad ass tune you will hear all year in Hot Grave. “I got a hot grave cos of the things that I did/so throw your dust down and help me bang on the lid.” It’s got a snaky riff bit, a stomping riff bit and disconcerting clashing swathes of synth coming in over the top. You also think it’s a bit lost halfway through but you end up loving it even more for not letting that single thumping chord go and then hawling itself back up for one last rattle. With no break your into the queasy circular bass riff of Oktave Dokkter and you realise this album is not just going to be a horns aloft fist pumping dumbass metal trip. This is one of the best sequenced albums I’ve heard this year. The stomping riff in Hot Grave works well into the insistent circularity of the fuzzed bass in Oktave Doctor which in turn rolls you into the clean looping patterns of Telling Time With Jesus. You don’t need to be listening on vinyl to know that the gigantonormous Sabbath riff of Leather Lake is the start of Side 2. English Flesh is a nightmare motorik journey which crashes into a feedback haze halfway through then Pit and Hope appears through the haze with the prettiest guitar figure all year wrapped around with elegiac synth melodies. But you don’t get off that easy the demented Damo Suzuki vocals ground it all into the pervasive murk. They’re not making Dark Side of the Moon here you know. Hey Colossus also easily win the prize for best combined album title and artwork. That’s it below the video.
Title for this post is a nod to Royal Trux. Still miss them.