Thursday, 23 May 2013

The Computers @ Manchester Deaf Institute (11/05/13)

It's amazing to think how much THE COMPUTERS' (8) sound has developed in the two years since the release of their debut album, "This Is The Computers". Gone is the sub-two minutes hardcore of old- a sound that saw them playing support to GAY FOR JOHNNY DEPP and PULLED APART BY HORSES and, in its place, a sophisticated mix of rock-n-roll, blue eyed soul and Elvis (Costello or Presley). Their sophomore album which they're touring in support of, "Love Triangles Hate Squares" sees THE COMPUTERS well and truly stepping up to the job of headliners.

But first, the crowd needs warmign up and this job falls upon the shoulders of Cornish shanty-punks, CROWNS (7). With a small section of die-hard fans in the audience, they are made to feel right at home despite the venue being at around half capacity. Their fun, shout-along drinking songs quickly win over any members of the crowd who aren't familiar with them and on cuts like "Foreskin" their THE CLASH meets DROPKICK MURPHYS shtick provides a perfect warm-up before the main event.

With matching maroon suits and a Vegas style lighted backdrop, THE COMPUTERS certainly look the part, somewhat at odds with the tiny Deaf Institute. Vocalist and all around showman, Alex Kershaw quickly installs himself on top of the bar and spends the majority of the set there, walking up and down , crooning with inbetween song banter consisting of televangelical preaching of how THE COMPUTERS are here to save your soul. He seems dead set on getting everybody dancing, pulling out random members of the audience and coupling them up while chastising anyone caught not participating fully. While Kershaw is undoubtedly the center of attention with his natural charisma and wit, the rest of the band also seem to be having a great time liberally sprinkling tracks with organ solos and skits of "Surfin' Bird" and "When A Man Loves A Woman". Older material is scarce tonight with only "Rhythm Revue" and "Music Is Dead" from "This Is The Computers" getting an airing and nothing from "You Can't Hide From The Computers" is played but they manage to successfully integrate the songs into their new sound with clean vocals in place of screaming. Soon, it seems, their set is going to consist solely of material from their second album onwards. On the evidence of tonight though, this won't be a problem, despite the themes of love, lust and loss, the energy and fun is palpable and, if there's any justice, THE COMPUTERS will be playing venues double this size next time they come to Manchester.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Iron Tongue- The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown

IRON TONGUE play rock music. Pure unadultered rock with a Southen groove, a blues stomp and zero shits given before space-core or post-everything or whatever the new flavour of the month sub-genre is enters the equation.That's not to say "The Dogs Have Barked, The Birds Have Flown" is all balls out, cliched riffing- they can be gentler when the need arises, it's just to say there are no pretentions whatsoever about IRON TONGUE. The seven-piece feature in their line-up, frontman Chris 'CT' Terry formerly of sludge miscreants RWAKE and, while the music itself is a different kettle of fish, they share the same love of the riff and both know that simple is sometimes best. Having shared the stage with the likes of SCOTT KELLY, HIGH ON FIRE, CROWBAR and more and with a split 7" with THE DIRTY STREETS already under their belts, it is with plenty of prestige already that IRON TONGUE drop their Billy Anderson (MELVINS, SLEEP, NEUROSIS, etc.) produced debut.

The album opens with the slow strummed chords of demi-ballas, "Ever After" which immediately shows what attracted Neurot to the band with a similar tone to the solo projects of SCOTT KELLY, STEVE VON TILL or NATE HALL- albeit with a full band and a ripping solo introducing a heavier side to the song. The band (completed by Jason Tedford, Andy Warr, Mark Chiaro, Stan James, Stephanie Smittle, JR Top and Tiffany Phillips) sound like a morec competent bar-rock band in a goos way with their simple, effective song structures and Kentucky fried lead lines. The main riff in "Witchery" sounds strangely like T.REX's "Children Of The Revolution" (minus the theatrics) channeled through a bar brawl with its filthy stoner vibe while "Skeleton" comes across almost like PLANES MISTAKEN FOR STARS somehow still seeming sparse despite the seven-piece line-up before another tasteful solo brings it back into blues-rock territory. The rest of the album continues in a similar way, like an amp-on-amp between a more straightforward NEUROSIS and ZZ TOP in an old Western saloon, IRON TONGUE aren't reinventing the wheel here and there's no attempt to convince you otherwise but, in their genre, they don't need to. If you like your rock low down and dirty with colossal grooves, then look no further than "The Dogs Have Barked The Birds Have Flown" (8/10)

"The Dogs Have Barked The Birds Have Flown" is out now though Neurot

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Melvins- Everybody Loves Sausages

With a career spanning over three decades and having been cited as an influence by everyone from NIRVANA to ISIS, it's not to far a stretch to call MELVINS the biggest cult band around and they're undoubtedly the biggest thing to come out of the niche doom hybrid of sludge. Combining sludge with grunge, straight-up rock and a healthy dose of experimentation, they are truly in aleague of their own and, at this stage in their career, they could probably release an album of yodelling and still recieve mass acclaim. For the record though, I'm glad they haven't. What they instead deliver is thirteen cover versions providing a fascinating insight in to the band's influences ranging from novelty pop and stadium rock to obscure punk and avante garde. This being a MELVINS album, it is no mere stopgap but a cleverly thought out album with a brace of collaborations and plenty of variety.

They kick off proceedings with the heaviest track on the album, a fairly straight-forward run through of VENOM's "Warhead" with guest vocalist, Scott Kelly's (NEUROSIS) instantly recognisable rasp lending the track even more weight. This is then followed by the sheer contrast of QUEEN's "Best Friend" and so it continues with polar opposites of sound rubbing shoulders with gleeful abandon. Next, they turn the simple chant of RAM JAM's "Black Betty" into a mantra bearing more than a slight resemblance to the opening track on '10's "The Bride Screamed Murder", "The Water Glass". After this comes an early highlight in the form of cult punks, THE SCIENTIST's "Set It On Fire" with Mark Arm lending a hand. As anyone who's heard this year's "Vanishing Point" can attest, MUDHONEY have got their youthful exuberance back and it's clear that Arm (and MELVINS) are having a blast turning "Set It On Fire" into a "Superfuzz Bigmuff" era sludge/ grunge dirge. Another highlight of a completely different kind immediately follows in the form of an experimental take on DAVID BOWIE's "Station To Station". In the liner notes to "Attitude", MELVINS self deprecatingly comment that "THE KINKS recorded this around the time they were raking in royalties from VAN HALEN's cover of "You Really Got Me". Unfortuantely, they won't be making anywhere near as much from this" proving the ethos behind this album of the band as music fans before anything else. While this is billed as a regular MELVINS album, the next track, "Female Trouble" (the theme to the eponymous John Waters film) is the first of three MELVINS LITE tracks with the other two being "Timothy Leary Lives" and "Romance" by POP-O-PIES and TALES OF TERROR respectively with Trevor Dunn's upright bass playing creating the soundtrack to the world's coolest lounge. Elsewhere, ex-DEAD KENNEDYS legend, Jello Biafra sounds positively unhinged on a creepy rendition of ROXY MUSIC's "In Every Dream Home  A Heartache" with the album concluding on a solo jam of "Heathen Earth" by THROBBING GRISTLE courtesy of Buzz Osbourne.

Overall, it's an album of highs and lows but when it's good it matches the quality of their back catalogue and there's enough great covers to earn it a place in any MELVINS fan's music library. (6/10)

"Everybody Loves Sausages" is out now through Ipecac

Friday, 3 May 2013

Mudhoney- Vanishing Point

Discounting the meteoric rise of NIRVANA when they put out "Nevermind" in 1991 (on Geffen), arguably no other band has done as much for the grunge scene or for Sub Pop as MUDHONEY have. Signing to them for the release of their classic debut EP, "Superfuzz Bigmuff", it's an alliance that Mark Arm and co. have kept to this very day, save for a mid period dalliance with Reprise, through the ups and downs of their career. On "Vanishing Point" though, the band are here to prove that theyr'e back on the top of their game.

Opening with the admittedly weak "Slipping Away" seems like a bit of a mis-step but thing pick up with an early highlight in the form of "I Like It Small". A tongue-in-cheek assault on excess, you can almost see the smirks on the band's faces as Mark Arm professes "when I orgy, I cap it at twelve/ any more than that and I get overwhelmed". "What To Do With The Neutral" is similar in tone to "Slipping Away" but executed much more competently before the punk rock pace of "Chardonnay"- an ode to "the grape that launched a thousand strippers". In just the opening four tracks, MUDHONEY manage to successfully navigate the different facets of their sound with the youthful rage of their earlier material rubbing shoulders with slower, more mature numbers. As always, the band don't take themselves to seriously with plenty of dry quips scattered across their lyrics and, while they're undoubtedly not breaking any new ground, it's all good fun.

On "Vanishing Point", MUDHONEY reinstate their place as the kings of grunge still standing head and shoulders above new acts like METZ whom the band's influence upon is clear. They don't quite recapture the vitality of "Touch Me I'm Sick" or "Sweet Young Thing Ain't Sweet No More" form their classic "Superfuzz Bigmuff" but they do prove that they've earned the respect newcomers to the scene pay to them and they haven't pissed all over their legacy yet. For anyone looking for a nostalgia trip, "Vanishing Point" provides it in spades while still retaining a relevance that will hopefully attract a new generation of fans. They've still got a few more decades of grunge goodness in them! (6/10)

"Vanishing Point" is out now through Sub Pop

Black Flag offer free download of new track, "Down In The Dirt"

Following on from their surprise reformation, hardcore legends BLACK FLAG have released the first fruits of recording sessions for their upcoming album. And what's better is they're offering it as a free download here!

Hear the song below then download it then get stoked for their 2013 tour.

The band, who are currently performing under their 1979 line-up with Ron Reyes on vocals, also released the following staement about Keith Morris' (OFF!, CIRCLE JERKS etc.) new cover band FLAG:
"not to be confused with the ‘fake’ FLAG band currently covering the songs of BLACK FLAG in an embarrassingly weak “mailing it in” fashion. We urge you to check out the real BLACK FLAG when they hit your area."

BLACK FLAG play Hevy festival in August.

Opium Warlords- We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky

As a member of REVEREND BIZARRE, Albert Witchfinder (that may not be his real name) became somewhat a modern doom legend regarded with the same reverence as ELECTRIC WIZARD (who incidentally released a split with them containing Bizarre's final material) and with a loyal cult following. Since the band called it quits in 2007, alongside his new band, THE PURITAN, Witchfinder's main priority is now OPIUM WARLORDS. For their sophomore album "We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky", WItchfinder strikes out alone, entasking himself with all instrumentation and his own personal interpretation of what doom is.

Kicking off with the jarring, angular feedback of the cryptically titled "Sxi-Meru", Albert WItchfinder seems to immediately set out to prove that this is no mere REVEREND BIZARRE MK2. There's barely a trace of doom in the minimal ambience on offer and "Sxi-Meru" is kept surprisingly brief for the drone genre. Next, "Slippy" introduces menacing horror b-movie organ and military drumming seeming to herald the presence of a darker force at work before going off at a wild tangent with demonic vocals and an equally sinister, frantic fairground riff punctuated by disarming sections of decidedly calmer drone and pretty, melodic guitar playing that EARTH would be proud of. Throughout "Slippy", the listener is kept on edge with frequent twists and turns proving that, while he mayno longer be a reverend, Witchfinder is as bizarre as ever. While the rest of the album is sans-lyrics, the contrast only serves to highlight the diversity on display across the five tracks that comprise "We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky"- part MAYHEM, part MR BUNGLE, part SUNN O))), all mental!  Next, "Lament For The Builders Of Khara Khoto" is somewhat more subdued but no less menacing with the first hint of heavier-than-thou doom riffing taking the fore. Guttural screams and chanting ornament the oppressive feedback while a subtle melody weaved through creates a ray of light in the darkness. "This Wind Is A Gift From A Distant Friend" provides no such respite with a slow guitar and rums drone-doom assault in the vein of BURNING WITCH before morphing into something more akin to post-metal. Final track, "Satan Knew My Secret Heart" pulls of a similar trick but, rather than having a volta in the piece, here post-metal and doom are merged seamlessly throughout giving the track a mournful, almost repentant vibe. By the time "Satan Knew My Secret Heart" abruptly cuts out, you feel spent form the cathartic, beguiling and brilliant journey that is "We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky". Albert Witchfinder has had the courage to step out on his own and it's a risk that has paid off manifold. (8/10)

"We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky" is out now through Svart

Merzbow Pandi Gustaffson- Cuts

MERZBOW (Masami Akita to a mum) is a man of simple tastes. Having put his name to hundreds of slabs of white noise and collaborations with the likes of SUNN O))) and BORIS, nothing seems to make him happier thanpushing the boundaries of music with with a migraine inducing approach to avante-garde. His music doesn't allow indecision, you'll either love it or hate it and one gets the feeling that he wouldn't have it any other way. This time around, he has company with able assistance from Mats Gustaffson and Balázs Pandi, neither of who are strangers to collaborations with Pandi having lent his considerable drumming talent to jazzcore maniacs, ZU as well as VENETIAN SNARES, BONG-RA and many more while Gustaffson is bestknown as the saxophonist in THE THING amongst others. At this stage in each of their careers , you'll know what to expect from them but this collaborative effort adds a different dynamic to them making it a worthwhile addition to any fan's collection.

It's hard to think of any other artists that sound remotely like MERZBOW but as a vague reference point imagine, if you will, an insane concoction of SHINING's blackjazz, JOHN ZORN's avante garde grind outfit NAKED CITY, the sci-fi soundtracks of the BBC RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP and Akita's countrymen,BOREDOMS. Mats Gustaffson's saxophone shrieks discordantly over MERZBOW's inpenetrable walls of noise while Balázs Pandi keeps a vague semblance of control with his remarkably skilled free jazz drumming which erratically jolts along while still maintaining the restraint which the other two thirds of the trio lack. Not that this is a negative, while Akita and Gustaffson seem to be in all out war with each other, there are still plenty of subtleties in the ebb and flow of the five tracks here to warrant repeated listens. Over its 72 minute running time, "Cuts" manages to be both subtle and divisive as alway on this mtach mad in avante-garde/ noise heaven. If there's one (minor) gripe with "Cuts" it's that the constant noise doesn't always allow Mats Gustaffson's saxophone enough space to truly shine but, otherwise, the album is every bit as mental as you would expect and all the better for it. This is a brilliant addition to any MERZBOW fan's collection to be filed next to "Maldoror" and "Pulse Demon as a definite high point. If you don't come out with a thumping headache, you're not listening loud enough! (7/10)

"Cuts" is out now through RareNoise