Saturday, 30 January 2016

Mudhoney Goin' Back to Ritzville

I long ago lost count of the number of times I've seen Mudhoney play but opening self-styled "middle aged folk singer" Barton Carrol was new to me. Playing an acoustic guitar alone he had to battle crowd chatter but bearded Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner joined him for a couple of songs which helped. He had a bit of amusing banter between songs about his Appalachian roots and saved the best for last, a song about an unfortunate German woman's experience at the hands of Russian Soldiers at the end of the second world war. Rape was subtly implied but not made explicit. The folk angle continued with Wolf People, a dynamic English two guitar quartet. Although they had the same instrumental set up as Mudhoney their sound was more akin to Fairport Convention and Arbouretum. The singing guitarist and bassist had haircuts that looked very English Civil War.

Mudhoney might not throw themselves around like they did a quarter century back but these jovial children of the Stooges played with as much raw power as ever. As they were playing the Ritz, it would've been great if they'd opened with "Ritzville" or at least played it, but that was not to be. Instead the single from "Piece of Cake" hardy perennial "Suck You Dry" did the honours and "Into the Drink" and "I Like It Small" ensured energetic lift off. Four songs in Steve Turner struck up the "Cinnamon Girl" coda they lifted to start "Broken Hands," a song I don't think I've heard them play since the "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge" tour, and also the song I'd have asked for if I'd had a request so I was happy. Mark Arm looked mournfully down what could be the best nose in rock as he wailed desolately about the bones in someone's hand getting crushed. Old favourites "Sweet Young Thing" and "Poisoned Water" really got the crowd moving but everyone slowed for
"Beneath the Valley of the Underdog." That segued
nicely into a revved up punk attack on anti-abortionists
"Fearless Doctor Killers" which I at first mistook
for a new song, it being so long since I'd listened to
'My Brother the Cow!' In the end they played no new
songs but what the hell? They had enough old ones! Touring with no new album out is quite unusual and it was good of them to do so. They had plenty of old albums, DVDs, T-shirts and badges to sell anyway. Unlike Wolf People they had no tankards but had a neat line in advertising those tankards for their support band between songs, and bassist Guy Maddison took great pride in swigging from one. He also had to laugh when someone heckled a request for their Spacemen 3 cover "Revolution." A request for "Let It Slide" also went unheeded, but we did get many righteous blasts from the past: "Flat Out Fucked," "Get Into Yours," "No One Has" and sadly just one song from 'The Lucky Ones' "I'm Now." Of course "Touch Me I'm Sick" got the biggest reaction, and their most psychedelic song in the set "Sonic Infusion" wrong-footed many clappers with its false ending. Way too much booze got thrown about considering how expensive it is in the Ritz, but thankfully none of it was in skull crushing Wolf People tankards, The end of the long set of more than twenty songs found Mark Arm let loose from guitar, free to twist and shout around a mike lead at one point dangled from up above his head as he sang skyward. Amongst the 'Vanishing Point' songs "What to do with the Neutral," "The Final Course," "The Only Son of the Widow from Nain" and "Chardonnay" were a couple of old punk covers; Angry Samoans' "You Stupid Asshole" and the Dicks "Hate the Police." As the latter is a frequent finale it was a surprise when "Chardonnay" followed it with even more hate. After some collective stomping they were back for a fine five song encore of "You Got It," "Who You Driving Now?" "Here Comes Sickness," "When Tomorrow Hits" and "In'n'out of Grace." The last two were neatly segued: as Mark sang, "That's the lowdown" he hit the opening "In'n'out" chords and soon Dan Peters was playing the most welcome silly extended drum solo in rock as Mark and Steve drank and watched. Guy joined in on a bass run and the tension was released in the most cathartic muffin' explosion of super fuzzed gunge grock that day. No wonder they end so many of their gigs that way.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

HArpooned into the Unknown

Killing Joke really wiped the floor with everyone last year in terms of my favourite songs of 2015 witch wir:

1. Wire - Harpooned
2. Killing Joke - Into the Unknown
3. Killing Joke - Dawn of the Hive
4. Killing Joke - I am the Virus
5. David Heumann - Ends of the Earth
6. The Pop Group - The Immaculate Deception
7. Killing Joke - Autonomous Zone
8. Killing Joke - New Cold War
9. Bardo Pond - In Every Dream Home a Heartache
10. Loop - Radial

Twenty Fifteen

My fifteen most listened to records, CDs and tape of 2015 were

KILLING JOKE - Pylon (double CD version)
WIRE - Wire
WHITE HILLS - Walks for Motorists
THE POP GROUP - Citizen Zombie (and remix 12")
DAVID HEUMANN - Here in the Deep
LOOP - Array 1
BARDO POND - Is There a Heaven?
DBH - Mood
DEAD SEA APES - High Evolutionary
TALONS - New Topographics

The last 2 were released in 2014 but I only heard them last year.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Wire In Manchester

If change became Wire, then perhaps in reworking and recording songs that would very likely have appeared on a 1980 follow up to "154" they switched to a parallel dimension where their eponymous album was not their fifth album of the 21st century but their fifth album. It would then have been followed by all the other 21st century albums (Red Barked Trees, Object 47 and Send) and then their eighties/nineties albums. In some ways this sounds a more logical progression than except that the album titles "Send" and "Object 47" wouldn't make sense and in 1981 the whole lyric of "Blogging" would be prediction. Then again maybe in the dimension of CHANGE the internet developed earlier. Only in Manchester did I realise the song "Blogging" had been reminding me of "Echo Beach" by Martha and the Muffins so maybe in dimension CHANGE this was Wire's one big hit and that lots of people heard without ever hearing much else they recorded. The internet has however made any idea of linear progression in music old hat as almost any recorded music is easily available online and anyone can grab anything from anywhere. They could have done this before the internet was flooded with music, but it is a lot easier now. The way that Wire have taken a look at their past music and recycled and redeveloped past ideas has focused more on their earlier years and this has left much of the eighties music sounding more advanced and complex, perhaps overly so. This would reveal why "Silk Skin Paws" and "Drill" sound more ahead than anything else in their current set, as if these were not from the late eighties but were actually new songs for a future album. Of course they have almost certainly played these two songs more at gigs than any other songs in the current set, and both are played faster than the eighties recordings. Support band Pins wouldn't sound out of place in 1981, but I prefered singing along to Guided By Voices in Big Hands to listening to them again. In Manchester Wire played exactly the same set as in Leeds and Hebden Bridge but it was louder and had extra noodling between songs. "Harpooned" almost hit the overload of their prevoius Manchester gig at Gorilla, but the sound seemed to break up as if they soundman couldn't keep it together that far into the red. Colin Newman played a twelve string guitar on "Shifting" but not on any other songs. The old/new arrangement of "Used To" didn't sound so much like a song off "Pink Flag" than the little brother of "Pink Flag" itself. The highlights of this tour's set for me were Drill, Silk Skin Paws, Stealth of a Stork, Harpooned, Blessed State, Adore Your Island and Sleep-Walking. I enjoyed the previous tour more because I mostly liked the previous album's songs more and the soundman did a much better job.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Six Six Sixties on page 154

Concurrent with Wire's UK tour I am reading Drew Daniel's 33.3 book on "Twenty Jazz Funk Greats" by Throbbing Gristle. Page 154 features the lyrics of the song "Sis Six Sixties" and the next page explains Genesis' contact with the spirit Mebar. Sit in a chair and pictures CHANGE.

Wire In Leeds

Graham Lewis had his hat on, hip hip hip hooray! Graham Lewis had his hat on and was coming out to play! Out to play exactly the same set as in Hebden Bridge. The Brudenell however had better sound and they got a fly asking for itself. When a fan shouted "I am the Fly" Lewis informed him, "Not according to Kafka." Kafka was dead so he couldn't have made the gig. I hear he prefers "Underwater Experiences" anyway. Colin Newman spilt some water and Graham proved that he has not only read Kafka, but also Douglas Adams, as he knew where his towel was. This prompted one of my best ever heckles. As Colin mopped up the water just before they played "Blessed State" I sang another song from 1979, "Smash It Up" by The Damned, but I changed the words to, "Mop it up! Mop it up! You've been spilling water for much too long, now you're gonna play us another song!" This was the third time Wire had played Brudenell Social Club, and I went to all three gigs. This one had poorer sound than the previous two, and there were less people there. The most interesting thing about support band Pins is that their name backwards is Snip. I suspect their music would sound better played backwards too, but I think perhaps their lack of peni may have endeared them to Colin?

Teaching Aliens Shamanic Moves

After a walk along the beautiful Rochdale Canal, where I was attacked by an angry goose called Jimmy, it was time for some Tomaga. Tomaga are a drum'n'bass duo from London who are not really "drum'n'bass" as such but those are the instruments with which they make a lot of their music. A woman sat behind a drum kit customised with an upside down wok and a couple of tabla style hand drums hammering out some Tortoise-like rhythms.  A man sat at a table on which perched three synth gadgets making a rather Wire-like noise when he wasn't pumping a bass guitar. Something had come between them. It was a big xylophone, and early on they both played it at the same time. Tomaga music is rhythmically interesting and experimental in the sense that it is very much out of the ordinary. I was reminded sometimes of Colin Newman's collaboration with Tortoise recorded for Radio 3's Late Junction and at other times the chunky slabs of ominous rhythm guitar with which Bruce Gilbert would shade many Eighties Wire songs, however Tomaga had their own cool instrumental style. They were certainly preferable to Pins, who I'd mistakenly assumed would be supporting Wire as they were billed for the Manchester gig. As I said to Wire guitarist Matthew Simms in the between band lull, "I must've got my wires crossed." I also asked him if he thought it would be possible for Wire to pull off a live rendition of my favourite Wire album "154" in its entirety. He said he thought it was do-able and surprised me when he told me that they'd actually rehearsed "A Touching Display" but it didn't get very far. Wire had obviously got further with "Blogging" as it was sounding tighter and shinier than the last few times I'd heard them play it. Starting the set with the first song on their recent eponymous album set a course with the latest map references: the whole album was played, but not in sequence. Interspersed were three songs from the seventies, two from the eighties and three from previous albums since their 21st century reactivation. "Youtubing hope," was a "Blogging" lyric that leaped out at me in synchronicity as earlier that day I'd blogged  a review of godspeed you! black emperor that hinged on the word 'hope.' "Jostle and Joust" flew by like a Dutchman but it was the first olden goldie "Silk Skin Paws" that started me off. I'd seen nothing like it, standing before me. "Drill" was super-tight, revved up spinning through the grinder with diamond tipped sharpness and clarity. "Mekon Headman" came as no surprise as I'd heard them play it in their soundcheck, and was another singalong. At some point Graham Lewis lost his hat. I think it was about here? "Sleep-Walking" was interesting as Matthew Simms sat cross legged and played a curious stringed instrument with a slide, flat on the floor. It looked like a baby pedal steel guitar minus the pedal. Earlier he'd told me "Sleep-Walking" was his favourite song on "Wire." I'd asked him about the strange voice babbling in the background on the studio recording and was surprised to discover it was Graham Lewis, as I thought it was maybe something from radio or a field recording, maybe even EVP. "Stealth of a Stork" was another fun blast, and the second most punk rock number that night. Another surprise was a fine resurrection of "Blessed State." It had been rehearsed and recorded on a five track EP for their first gig of this century but not played there. I was amused that for the first few notes I mistook it for "The Fifteenth" as I've almost certainly listened to "154" more than any other album. The Trades Club had the PA set wide so near the front the vocals sounded muddy, much sharper at the back of the room. Standing in front of Colin Newman's guitar amp gave a satisfyingly grungey flavour to the mostly bright upbeat melodies, lacking elsewhere in the room. "Swallow" only revealed to me that night its similarity to "Desert Diving" from "Read and Burn 3" but its a much better tune. "Harpooned"  predictably speared a grand finale, but not as monolithic as the last gig I'd heard them play at Gorilla in Manchester, as the sound system was lacking in raw power. Thankfully they were back very quickly, but not before I'd taken a guitar pedal count . Matthew won with fourteen. Graham Lewis had thirteen and Colin Newman nine. There is a "Manscape" out-take called "Who Has Nine?" so now we know the answer. They didn't play that of course but I did meet a fan in the adjoining bar who told me when I asked him, "What do you like?" that if he could have a request he'd ask for something off "Manscape." What we did get was a short sharp punk rock salute "Brazil" followed by the cymbal splashing "Adore Your Island." The last song would have been a surprise if I hadn't spied it on the setlist, but when they actually played "Used To" it was a revamping of the original clunky demo version, without Bruce Gilbert's ominous drones from the "Chairs Missing" incarnation so that it sounded more like a song from "Pink Flag." Only illuminated next did day it dawn on me that they hadn't played "Pink Flag."