Alternative music reviews

April 9, 2008

Magma

Filed under: nostalgia,vinyl — @ 1:07 pm Comments (0)

Magma
It was a simple beginning, in Paris 1969 a French Jazz drummer has a vision of the ecological disasters about to befall the Earth. His response: to form a Avant-Garde/Prog Rock band. The story he planned to tell over the next nine albums (three trilogies) is of a polluted and degenerate Earth who come into conflict with the planet Kobaïa who have achieved harmony with nature and technology. The singing was to be in the Kobaïan language and Christian Vander invented this making it an Eastern European sounding tongue with lots of Umlauts and hard consonants suitable for this form of Rock music.

The basic Magma sound was multilayered. First was the Jazz-influenced drumming of Christian Vander – the only candidate for world’s best drummer for those who had heard Magma. His long term collaborationist was Jannick Top who played a Fusion bass style that hadn’t been used in Rock before as far as I was aware. The quasi-Operatic singing was provided from the choral influence of the composer Carl Orff (whose music is now used in just about every advert for anything) amongst others.

For those of you too young to remember the massive over-ambitiousness of Prog then prepare yourself – it’s Jazz, Classical, Rock, Linguistic, Utopian, Ecological and Spiritual. In an age where a band can make a long-term career by adding a few Bowie vocalisms to a bit of Smith’s style guitar, be prepared to have your mind expanded. I saw them back in the early 70’s at Oxford Polytechnic in a Hall dominated by the smell of Cannabis and musty greatcoats. Amidst the smoke and strobes and whiplashed long hair, I remember the Christian Vander drum solo. It still stands as the only good drum solo I have ever heard. Physical, technical, and of such Primeval intensity that Vander’s loud groans and guttural utterings became a vocal track.

With such an extensive musical reach, it is impossible to select any one track to demonstrate the Magma effect. But on the vinyl album Üdü Wüdü I just converted to mp3 is Tröller Tanz (Ghost Dance) that shows something of their uniqueness.

Tröller Tanz by Magma

Tröller Tanz by Magma

March 31, 2008

Dangerous Girls

Filed under: nostalgia,vinyl — @ 6:59 pm Comments (23)

Dangerous GirlsI was never particularly into any Punk bands – exceptions being Alternative TV and Patrik Fitzgerald. The reason I bought the Dangerous Girls single was because they were friends of a friend of a friend. I think I saw them play in Birmingham and this single was a memento of the gig.

One nice thing about going through my vinyl is when I come across something I can barely remember. The b-side I Don’t Want To Eat (With The Family) is typically Punk fodder with the Cockernee ‘fink’ instead of ‘think’ (not part of a Birmingham accent, I believe). The eponymous A-side does sound quite good to my ears. It spends the first three and a half minutes in a slow rhythm but then breaks out into a bit of an enjoyable thrash. I think I have neglected this song unfairly for twenty-eight years.

One nice touch was to see that this was recorded at the same Old Smithy Studos in Kempsey, Worcestershire as Nomad67’s Art Of Individuality album in 2006. Engineered by Muff Murfin who also produced that amazing album so many years later.

Dangerous Girls

Dangerous Girls by Dangerous Girls

March 23, 2008

Dub Sex

Filed under: nostalgia,vinyl — @ 11:45 pm Comments (9)

It is very difficult to get any information about Dub Sex on the Internet. I think I first saw them in London at the Fulham Greyhound. It was a typical Alternative venue with painted black walls and a four foot stage defining a mosh pit. Staring up at Mark Hoyle (guitar/vocals) I could see the sweat dripping off him. His voice was an impassioned shout to pay attention to the world. Anger, despair and endless questioning were big with me at the time (and probably still are). I may have missed out on seeing Joy Division (no buses or trains back from Birmingham that night of what turned out to the final gig) but I had seen the only band that approached them in terms of sheer intensity and original punk ethic.

By the time I moved to Manchester, Dub Sex had become Dumb – adding a second drummer to increase the rhythmic attack. Or maybe my memory is playing tricks – did Cathy, the bassist, cycle to India before Dumb were formed? Hard to say, other than this was the band that defined everything that I wanted from the city. Finally I had found the place I still regard as home, and here was a band that explored any demons that I still held. Having never successfully rid myself of (originally adolescent) angst, I found it expressed perfectly.

But I guess I did grow up a bit. I finally found some friends I could feel comfortable with. I could belong somewhere at last. The effect of Dub Sex and Dumb would never leave me. Even now I can listen to Kicking The Corpse Around and feel my foot reaching for the accelerator to take the car up to maximum speed when the words cut in of “I tasted decay in the seconds it takes to make a mess on the motorway.”

Are they the forgotten Manchester band? Not for me.

Kicking The Corpse Around by Dub Sex

Kicking The Corpse Around by Dub Sex

Dub Sex / Dumb on MySpace

March 16, 2008

The Monochrome Set

Filed under: nostalgia,vinyl — @ 12:41 pm Comments (0)

The Monochrome Set were a band on Rough Trade records in the early days. They had been formed by refugees from a band called the B-Sides who became Adam And The Ants (actually I’ve only just read this now so I hope its true). The two main player were Bid, the singer, and Lester Square the guitarist (silly names were a big thing then).

He's Frank (Slight Return) by The Monochrome SetThere were four Rough Trade singles tinged with theatricality and arrogance. Alphaville was like an embodiment of a Jean Luc Goddard film. Eine Symphonie des Grauens was a musical romp. You may find it a common theme with me and bands I have loved that when the album (Strange Boutique) came out it was a little bit “thin” and disappointing in comparison to the first singles.

But I’m going to talk about the Disquo Blue single He’s Frank (Slight Return) because that’s the one I’ve just made into an mp3 and I have some excerpts from the NME music paper sellotaped to the cover. He’s Frank was the first single and was a fine song. The Monochrome Set re-recorded it although the crude immediacy of the original Rough Trade production meant they were hardly likely to improve on the original. They added Silicone Carne and Fallout as the other tracks.

I kept my copy of the single in a plastic lined cardboard cover and attached two cuttings from the New Musical Express. Tom Robinson (Gay activist and singer) reviewed it and said he found the lead track derivative (unfairly in my opinion). But he said of another track:
Fallout/O Sweet Everything is altogether more interesting both musically with odd counterpoint guitar lines under the vocal and lyrically – “I used to my own but now I’m a fag…” – WHAAAAT? A very disconcerting record.

A week later there is a letter from Andy Warren of The Monochrome Set.
the lyric…in question should actually read “I used to roll my own but now I’ve a fag”. Not as Tom Robinson in true Adolf Hitler/Lester Bangs tradition misquoted

Personally I think the misquoted line is much better and fits in to a song that finishes with the line “Now when the postman comes I split his arse”.

Fallout by The Monochrome Set

Fallout by The Monochrome Set

March 15, 2008

The Animals

Filed under: nostalgia,vinyl — @ 10:59 am Comments (0)

I was first introduced to The Animals at a very young age. A few years later I managed to get hold of some of their original singles and three or so albums. The albums were disappointing and seemed to be full of hippie sentiments with only a few good tracks. On the other hand, the singles were magnificent and date from 1966 and before. I don’t know whether it was fame or drugs or what but they definitely lost their way from the Blues they originally played once 1967 arrived.

Inside-Looking Out by The AnimalsMy favourite song was always Inside-Looking Out and that’s the song I digitised from vinyl yesterday. It was a minor hit in 1966 but still sounds fresh and exciting (if a little tinny on instrumentation) like early Kinks or Them. Eric Burden’s voice is one of the best Blues voices ever and he really puts some effort into this track. I could describe it further but I spotted that someone has done exactly this last week: read The Blue In The Air for a great blow by blow account of the song.

Some of you may remember that this song was always associated with Grand Funk Railroad who made it into a near 10 minute epic. That was criminal if you ask me but everyone to their own. You can assess the Grand Funk version by watching this video. Contrast that to a clip of the same song from The Animals. When you have stopped laughing at the awful suits the boys from Newcastle were wearing then compare the vocals and you will only hear one person that can really sing.

Inside-Looking Out by The Animals

Inside-Looking Out by The Animals

March 12, 2008

Christine Keeler understands

Filed under: nostalgia,vinyl — @ 8:55 pm Comments (0)

Christine Keeler by Gl*xo BabiesI finally got my turntable set up in my room. It is attached through a Griffin iMic to the USB port of my computer and I have a copy of Audacity to allow me to record to disk and convert to mp3. Of course there are quite a number of manual steps involved in recording anything – record, split the recording up into tracks (approximate), trim the beginning and ending of each track to where the music begins/ends, save to mp3 and fill in the artist and track details.

It was getting quite late last night when I finally got this setup working so I only had a quick test of one single. The one I chose, probably because it was at the front of a pile of singles and I still remember it fondly, was Christine Keeler by the Glaxo Babies. Strictly speaking I should call them the Gl*xo Babies because they had already been forced by the Pharmaceutical giant Glaxo to remove the A from their name.

This was their second single in 1979 and was an edgy, neurotic Post-Punk classic by this Bristol band. Sadly the singer Rob Chapman left before the album Nine Months To The Disco was recorded and this may have been the reason that record was a bit disappointment. The subject of Christine Keeler and the Cold War paranoia was perfect for his over-wrought vocals and the addition of Sax adds tot he tension.

Christine Keeler by The Glaxo Babies.

Christine Keeler by The Glaxo Babies

« Previous Page