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It might have come to your notice that I'm not a regular poster of love and understanding, which you'll just kinda have to get used to. I will however, now and again, have bursts of creativity and if it was to please the massed hordes, who chose to visit this insignificant page, to supply some input on the direction and type of music you would like to sample (before going out and buying yourself a copy) this little communication will not have been in vain.

I will also say now that some of the outstanding music already available to sample will be reaching their 30 days without a click threshold, where by they're deleted by the host.


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slàinte


Thursday

Principles Of Pleasure



The most popular of all the Gary Numan albums is undeniably 1979's The Pleasure Principle. The reasons are simple; there is not a single weak moment on the disc, it contains his worldwide No. 1 hit, "Cars," and new drummer Cedric Sharpley adds a whole new dimension with his powerful percussion work. The Pleasure Principle is also one of the first Gary Numan albums to feature true ensemble playing, especially heard within the airtight, killer groove of "Metal" (one of Numan's all-time best tracks). Starting things off with the atmospheric instrumental "Airlane," the quality of the songs gets stronger and stronger as the album progresses -- "Films," "M.E.," "Observer," "Conversation," the aforementioned "Cars," and the U.K. Top Ten hit "Complex" all show Numan in top form. If you had to own just one Gary Numan album, The Pleasure Principle would be it.




After the runaway success of Tubeway Army’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’, Gary Numan went the whole hog and created a purely electronic debut solo album, ditching any traces of his punk past and cementing his place as one of England’s newest genuine superstars (a status that proved to be short lived, in hindsight) with the commercial success of ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and its most memorable single, ‘Cars’ - both of which topped the contemporaneous UK album and single charts, respectively.
It’s almost unavoidable when reviewing this 1979 outing, not to start with ‘Cars’ - such is its iconic, classic status. It’s about as perfect and memorable as a pop song could be, with every detail being a polished and catchy affair. Consider the ‘moogy’ beat, the glorious wave of synth, the sprightly bridge, or perhaps simply, Numan’s waling-like-a-banshee vocals, singing a typically paranoid of tale of a protagonist who feels “safest of all” in the shelter of his automobile; it all combines to form about as thrilling and satisfying a 4 minute pop cocktail could ever hope to be.
The record also boasts another classic, in the robotic, electro-pop brilliance taking the form of track number five; ‘M.E.’. Featuring a tune that’s not quite as sublime as the propulsive glory of ‘Cars’, yet still insanely catchy and memorable; ‘M.E.’s status and recognisability was boosted when its melody was heavily sampled by Basement Jaxx for their nonsensical hit ‘Where’s Your Head At?’, years later. It’s driving, robotic force and nervous synth backing proved to be the perfect infectious backdrop to Numan’s familiar paranoid and alienated lyrics: “Now it’s over, but there’s no-one left to see / And there’s no-one left to die / There’s only me”.
‘The Pleasure Principle’ wouldn’t be as revered as it is, if all that was worthwhile was the aforementioned couple of hits, something which the rest of the track list fortunately solidifies. Numan was an early fan of the original Ultravox line-up, whose punks with synthesisers aesthetic, coupled with singer/songwriter John Foxx’s seeming fascination with machines and technology, rubbed off on an impressionable young Numan who would attend several of the group’s gigs around the London area. Tracks like the grinding, icy-cold ‘Metal’, and the, quite literally mechanical, ‘Engineers’, bares witness to this influence especially well, but the album has a predilection for robotic beats and frosty synth flitters in general.
The overall tone of the album, being as frozen, machine-like, and paranoid as it is, may wane on some listeners towards the end, and the fact that the album is a tad samey in places surely doesn’t help in its defence. Take ‘Tracks’ for example - it just doesn’t deviate enough from the areas explored on the first half of the album to seem a worthwhile excursion; and elsewhere a few other niggles are present, with 'Observer' sounding dangerously similar to 'Cars' at times, and 'Conversation' dragging its ‘blurgy’ melody on for too long. Still, they are only minor niggles, and for the most part, said tracks are still very enjoyable, just less so than more distinctive numbers like the nervous, blur of 'Airlane', or the menacingly grim 'Films'.
‘The Pleasure Principle’ is one of the most important and iconic electronic albums of its time, and fortunately, for all the right reasons. Arriving at the tail-end of 1979, the record helped blueprint the way for swathes of other young British groups who were bored of punk and were looking to experiment with new-fangled synthesisers as tools for making pop music. As it turned out, few did it better, with ‘Cars’ becoming a serious chart presence on both sides of the Atlantic, the album reaching number one in the UK, and Numan himself failing to scale the lofty heights he reached here, ever again, with a series of increasingly disappointing albums leading him down a steady slope to cult-status, rather than maintaining the sheer commercial superstardom he managed here. 37 years on, tracks like 'Cars', 'Metal' and 'M.E.' are still blisteringly good, and Numan’s icon has swelled immeasurably since his solo debut, with a mass of covers and remixes of his most memorable songs, and references of influence by the likes of artists such as Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. In short, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ is a fantastic listen, and nothing less than essential to fans of electronic music at any level, despite one or two minor niggles.

Monday

Into The Known



Reflecting back on the 1980’s, it’s easy to rattle off a seemingly never-ending list of Australian bands who rode high on commercial success throughout the decade – both nationally and internationally: INXS, Midnight Oil, Men At Work, Icehouse, Divinyls, Australian Crawl, etc …
It’s equally easy to rattle off those bands who snubbed their nose at the commercial excess that littered the decade, instead achieving critical acclaim that has stayed with them over subsequent decades: The Go-Betweens, Triffids, Birthday Party, etc …




Then there are those bands that never quite fitted into either camp releasing quality material over an extended period, gaining a reputation for passionate, memorable live shows at the time but never quite transferring those achievements into an enduring legacy that would make them household names. The Celibate Rifles, Church and Died Pretty all fit this mold.
What you will find on this collection are 16 reasons that suggest if the cards had fallen a little differently, then Ron Peno & Brett Myers may well have been able to lay claim to being more than just the leaders of a band with a “cult following”. Certainly, the quality of songwriting on display is extraordinarily high throughout - particularly on the selections taken from their most well-known albums: 'Free Dirt' & 'Doughboy Hollow'. But what really makes this collection worth hunting down is the picture it paints of a band that was constantly evolving. From the early days where psychedelic rave-ups like ‘Desperate Hours’ were the norm, to the more sweeter sounding latter-day singles such as ‘Harness Up’, it illustrates that in the end, the band were able to achieve the right balance that sought to utilize Ron Peno’s vocal intensity in a manner that tried not to alienate those potential listeners who just weren’t prepared for that sought of intensity all of the time.
While the absence of classic early single ‘Mirror Blues’ is noteworthy, it could be argued that if you want to delve that deeply, then you just really need to pick up 'Free Dirt' and be done with it. What is here does the job of providing a fine introduction to one of Sydney’s forgotten bands. As such, if you are keen to become part of the “cult following” but just aren’t quite sure how to do it, then this collection may well be what you need to start your conversion!

Died Pretty had been something of an ill-fated band, for whom lasting commercial success proved elusive. Forming in Sydney in 1983, they topped the alternative Australian charts with singles such as Out of the Unknown, Mirror Blues, Stoneage Cinderella and Everybody Moves. The band made eight albums, including Doughboy Hollow, which debuted the band in the Australian Top 20 charts in 1991, and is regarded as an Australian classic. Its successor, Trace, yielded the band's best-selling single, Harness Up.

The band's run at international success after signing with Sony/Columbia, however, was beset by woes. After being dropped by the major label in 1996, Died Pretty returned to Citadel Records, the influential Sydney-based independent label they called home, along with contemporaries such as the Screaming Tribesmen, the New Christs and the Lime Spiders.

Friday

Striving To Survive



Formed in 1981, Flux - as they later became known - were contemporaries of Crass and synonymous with the strict vegan, anti-capitalism, anti-Thatcher anarcho-punk scene of the time.


Flux Of Pink Indians were probably one of the most ignored punk bands in history. They released countless albums during the 1980s and were hugely responsible for the continuation and growth of hardcore punk, yet receive nearly no recognition. Strive to Survive was their first full length and stands as the most accurate portrayal of this weirdly intriguing band.
Their name most likely turned off legions of punk followers, because it just sounds nothing like a punk band's name. Despite that, this band was probably more punk than half the bands they shared their scene with in England during the 1980s.
Seconds into Strive to Survive you'll notice striking similarities to numerous bands, most of which came after this group had already disbanded making Strive to Survive a pretty interesting listen.
All of the tracks on this album are classic examples of 80's punk rock, so it's hard to pick the best. "T.V. Dinners" is as great a march song as they come, however, and "Charity Hilarity" stands out as being one of the best tracks this band has to offer. The rest of the album really rings of the same tune, but that was okay during punk's heyday because it never sounded rehashed or forced. Even if it was forced, the band did a great job of concealing it and Strive to Survive is one of the 15 best punk albums of all time because of that.

Wednesday

Ghost Dancing



Death Cult formed in April 1983 when Ian Astbury (formerly of Southern Death Cult) and Billy Duffy (formerly of Theatre of Hate) joined forces after meeting each other when Southern Death Cult supported Theatre of Hate on a number of dates during the latter's tour. By June 1983, the group had written 10 songs, four of which would be recorded for their debut EP. The first track, "Brothers Grimm", was originally written by Duffy and UK Decay vocalist Steve "Abbo" Abbott after both musicians had left their respective bands (and prior to Duffy joining Astbury to form Death Cult). Two of the songs delved into Astbury's respect and fascination with the Native American cultures previously explored during his tenure with Southern Death Cult. "Ghost Dance" was inspired by the Ghost Dance religious movement as well as the writings and teachings of spiritual leader Wovoka, whose name is mentioned in the lyrics ("Wovoka had a vision"...), while the lyrics to "Horse Nation" were taken nearly verbatim from the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Astbury and Duffy's interest in the Vietnam War was also in evidence, both in the photograph that appeared on the picture sleeve, as well as the lyrical content of the final track, "Christians", which directly referenced the war and featured lyrics referring to the Chiêu Hồi program and the tiger stripe camouflage pattern worn by United States infantrymen. At the time, certain groups within the British post punk subculture developed a trendy fascination with the Vietnam War that spilled over into dress and music.


The original Death Cult EP was released only in 12" format, solely in the United Kingdom, France and Japan. The photograph that appeared on the front sleeve was taken by renowned Vietnam War photographer Tim Page. The group's logo and the lettering on the EP picture sleeve were done by bassist Jaime Stewart. In 1988, the group's label, Beggars Banquet (via its subsidiary label Situation Two), issued a compact disc edition, marked "SPECIAL LOW PRICE CD FEATURING THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS", in the UK only. This CD collected the original Death Cult EP along with the single "Gods Zoo". The material was allegedly remastered, but no evidence exists to support this.
In 1996, Beggars Banquet remastered and reissued the 1988 eponymous Death Cult CD. This new collection was released in the UK and US simultaneously (marking the first time Death Cult material was available in the US). The CD collection featured new artwork and was given the title Ghost Dance.
In addition to the material from the 1988 Death Cult CD, the 1996 release appended a four-track David Jensen BBC Radio 1 session engineered by Dale Griffin. One of these BBC session tracks, "A Flower in the Desert", was a rewritten version of "Flowers in the Forest", originally written and recorded by Astbury's earlier group Southern Death Cult. This track had previously been released as the B-side to the 1984 "Spiritwalker" single by The Cult. "Too Young" was later rewritten as "Rider in the Snow", appearing as such on The Cult debut album, Dreamtime. "With Love" was originally titled "The Waste of Love", and only changed to "With Love" when it was recorded during the BBC radio session. The song was later rewritten and recorded during the "Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)" recording sessions on 22 June 1984, under the working title of "Ship of Fools". The track was then re-titled "Sea and Sky" and released as the B-side of The Cult single "Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)".

Monday

Nightclubbing



In 1976, the Stooges had been gone for two years, and Iggy Pop had developed a notorious reputation as one of rock & roll's most spectacular waste cases. After a self-imposed stay in a mental hospital, a significantly more functional Iggy was desperate to prove he could hold down a career in music, and he was given another chance by his long time ally, David Bowie. Bowie co-wrote a batch of new songs with Iggy, put together a band, and produced The Idiot, which took Iggy in a new direction decidedly different from the guitar-fuelled proto-punk of the Stooges. Musically, The Idiot is of a piece with the impressionistic music of Bowie's "Berlin Period" (such as Heroes and Low), with its fragmented guitar figures, ominous basslines, and discordant, high-relief keyboard parts. Iggy's new music was cerebral and inward-looking, where his early work had been a glorious call to the id, and Iggy was in more subdued form than with the Stooges, with his voice sinking into a world-weary baritone that was a decided contrast to the harsh, defiant cry heard on "Search and Destroy." Iggy was exploring new territory as a lyricist, and his songs on The Idiot are self-referential and poetic in a way that his work had rarely been in the past; for the most part the results are impressive, especially "Dum Dum Boys," a paean to the glory days of his former band, and "Nightclubbing," a call to the joys of decadence. The Idiot introduced the world to a very different Iggy Pop, and if the results surprised anyone expecting a replay of the assault of Raw Power, it also made it clear that Iggy was older, wiser, and still had plenty to say; it's a flawed but powerful and emotionally absorbing work.


Iggy Pop, godfather of punk. This is a phrase you'll no doubt have heard countless times. This album was released in 1977, the "year that punk broke". What's funny then is that this album is pretty far removed from the typical punk styling’s of The Clash or Sex Pistols, and even further removed from the sound displayed on The Stooges albums...
This is perhaps better explained by the fact that this album was more or less co-written by David Bowie, practically being a collaborative effort. As such, this is definitely not the most representative of Iggy Pop's vast works (follow up "Lust for Life" is often regarded as far more so), but the quality here is undeniable, as under Bowie's guidance Iggy Pop created a near masterpiece that can sit proudly alongside classics such as Bowie's own "Low", also recorded in Berlin. The song "Baby" starts with a repetitive, simple bass drone that undoubtedly had an influence on post-punk bands such as Joy Division (so much of an influence that Ian Curtis chose this album as the soundtrack to his suicide), with Iggy Pop's deep vocals adding that menacing tone to the song, a theme that pervades over the album as a whole. He actually kinda sounds like Bowie on this track. This is a perfect example of the type of music this album undoubtedly influenced to a great degree.
Album opener "Sister Midnight" also displays Bowie’s style, echoing the highlight of "Low" and "Sound and Vision" in the guitar tones and simple, repetitive, yet effective guitar licks. Iggy is basically talking here, kind of sounds like preaching; again creating a distanced, slightly robotic atmosphere which is only offset by the previously detailed guitar, as the drums and bass also plod away with hypnotic uniformity. Following track "Nightclubbing" follows a similar formula, but adds horns and piano into the mix, really expanding the palette of the album, dragging Iggy Pop from The Stooges accidentally seminal fury into the world of art - the song's middle introducing a confused, wobbly guitar part that quite frankly sounds ahead of its time.
One of the clear highlights, for me at least, is the track "China Girl". Pure pop in the Bowie vein, it ups the tempo of the album and even ups the mood with uplifting chimes and that familiar style of guitar running all the way through. This is probably the most conventional song on the album, but, surrounded by examples of Pop and Bowie trying to push the boundaries, this works even better, the mood drops off slightly towards the end, Pop's vocals becoming slightly strained, before again lulling back into his drowsy demeanour. Simply put, this is a classic song.
Penultimate track, "Tiny Girls", is also a standout, the horns and slow, lounging bassline, along with the fitting drum work laying the ground work, the saxophone solo later on really setting this apart - a chilled, jazz inspired ballad exploring doubt in a relationship. This feeling is echoed in the effortless cool of "Dum Dum Boys", finger clicking and all, pronounced bassline accompanying a vocal performance so deep and preacher-esque he might well have been prophesising the release of "Unknown Pleasures" a mere two years later (a claim given more credence by the final tracks ridiculous resemblance to said album, in the opening three minutes at least).
Overall, although this may not be the most representative work in Iggy Pop's back catalogue, it surely has to rank as one of the best, the dark tones, emphasis on the bass guitar and Iggy Pop's vocal style having an obvious influence that still prevails today. There's a collage of sound to be found here (the last track has some kind of warped Elephant like sound, probably made by a synth, check it out) that really keeps the songs fresher and more interesting than many "classic" albums from the decade.

Saturday

Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes



Hailing from Finland, Hanoi Rocks burst on the scene in the early '80s with their debut release, Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks. Producing themselves, the band took the energy and D.I.Y. attitude of the punk movement, and fused it with a love for glam rock to create an in-your-face sonic attack.
Their first release is heavy on melody and full of bravado. Lead singer Michael Monroe doesn't have the best voice in the world, but delivers the lyrics with a perpetual sneer that gives him character. Added to the mix is the razor sharp guitar playing of Andy McCoy, who rips off some impressive solos as on "Don't Never Leave Me." It's all great fun as the band never fails to lock into a solid groove and serve up highly melodic, high-octane rock.





The opening track title to Finnish rock ‘n’ roll band Hanoi Rocks’ debut album, is all too fluky; this is because this set of songs is the first documentation of a band who may be regarded as the greatest band that never was (at least in terms of 1980’s rock ‘n’ roll) and this, surely, is a ‘Tragedy’.
To lump this cut of early 80’s rock (to be precise, it possesses a release date of circa March, 1981) into a genre, such as glam rock or glam punk, would be unfair. For what I believe this group is aiming at, with this set of songs, is to maintain the flame of that purely simple corner of the global music psyche, rock ‘n’ roll.
Diving in, album opener ‘Tragedy’ sets an effective tone for the remainder of the ten tracks released on the original cutting of the record; the chugging bass of Sami Yaffa and the accurate (if uninspiring) drum work of Gyp Casino showcase the dependable rhythm section upon which the more affluent guitar and vocal parts are built. ‘Tragedy’ works, as Andy McCoy and fellow guitarist Nasty Suicide weave their licks about, which is the first comparison to the Rolling Stones I would like to make: McCoy and Suicide appear to be disciples of the partnership approach to rock ‘n’ roll guitar, as laid down by Keith Richards and Brian Jones (and later Ronnie Wood). Coupled with high pitched, Keith Richards-esque backing vocals (sung by McCoy) to enhance a sense of melody, ‘Tragedy’ exists as probably the strongest tune from the album.
Another memorable moment is the ballad, ‘Don’t Never Leave Me’; though possessing a definite ballad styled vibe, the quirky temperament of the song allows for an ease of enjoyment, while still efficiently emanating the appropriate emotions; an excellent example of such eccentricity is the near-spoken-word interlude by McCoy.
For a balanced perspective of the album, I must admit, the album has to have a low point; but when one must go in desperate search of this aforementioned low point, it’s safe to say, the album is brilliantly done. For me, the least memorable track is the underwhelming album closer, ‘Pretender’ – while certainly not a bad track, and though it shows off a high level of Stones-ish swagger, the hook emphasized sensibilities which are in abundance throughout the rest of the album are in a lesser force here. Indeed, some may also criticize the general similarity in sound among the tracks; most of the tunes found here follow the same general formula: a catchy, sleazy riff (with the filthiest of rock ‘n’ roll guitar tones – a sure compliment), moments of Monroe’s saxophone and harmonica, accompanied by toe-tapping, melodic verses and choruses. I’ll admit, the variety isn’t great (despite a cover of Herman’s Hermits’ ‘Walking With My Angel' thrown in, and cleverly done), however, if something ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Michael Monroe’s vocal expertise (and impressive showcase of multi-instrumentalism), supported by Andy McCoy’s capacity for song-writing, leave these two as the distinct stars of the band, and the tracks presented here give very, very little reason as to why Hanoi Rocks couldn’t have been the biggest rock ‘n’ roll band of the 1980’s; their unfulfilled potential, caused by ‘Tragedy’, surely is just that, a tragedy.

Thursday

Once Upon A Time In The West



Losing the saxophone player from earlier EPs and taking advantage of better budgets and studios, the Nephilim on their first full album established themselves as serious contenders in the Goth world. It certainly didn't hurt having signed to Beggars Banquet, home of such acts as Bauhaus and the Cult, though the more obvious source of the Nephilim's sound at this point was The Sisters of Mercy, various attempts to deny it aside. Like Eldritch's crew, the Nephilim fivesome weren't aiming just for the clad-in-black audience, but at being a great group in general; while that goal wasn't quite achieved on Dawnrazor, the band came very close. With sympathetic and evocative production throughout by Bill Buchanan, the album strongly showcases another chief element of the Nephilim's sound: Ennio Morricone. The at-the-time totally outrageous fusion of smoky, cinematic spaghetti western guitars with the doom-wracked ominous flavour of the music in general, not to mention McCoy's growled invocations of pagan ceremonies and mystic energy, provoked a lot of merriment from outside observers. The Nephilim stuck to their guns, though, and by wisely never cracking a smile on this album, they avoided the cheap ironic way out. Songs here which would become classics in the band's repertoire included the fiery "Preacher Man," which sounds like what would happen if Sergio Leone filmed a Stephen King story; the quick, dark gallop of "Power" (originally a separate single, then added to the album on later pressings); and the slow, powerful build of the title track, featuring McCoy practically calling the demons down on his head. For all of the undeniable musicianship and storming fury of the songs, sometimes things just get a little too goofy for words, as revealed in a classic, unintentionally hilarious lyric by McCoy from "Vet for the Insane": "The flowers in the kitchen...WEEP for you!."


A grating buzz-saw guitar riff echoes over the windswept landscape as five shadowy figures emerge out of the dust clouds and walk slowly but purposefully towards the camera. Their grimy duster coats flap in the wind as they arrange themselves in a line and coldly regard the young boy staring up at them from the corpse littered farm. Frank's icy blue eyes stare down at the child as he considers whether to blow him away.

You can do a lot worse than base your band's image on one of the most enduring portraits from movie history. Henry Fonda's famous villainous turn in Sergio Leone's masterpiece 'Once Upon A Time In The West' shocked audiences across the world on its release in 1968. Goth act Fields Of The Nephilim took note of the strong imagery and duly adopted the dusters and cowboy hats for their live shows. Replace the dust with copious amounts of dry ice and the guns for musical instruments and you have a fair idea of how the band announced their presence on stage from venue to venue. 'The Nephs' were indeed an electric live act during their peak. This album, their debut, attempted to capture their energy and vitality in a studio setting. Sadly, the overall package proved to be a rather diluted representation of their latent power.
Not content to merely base their image and stage show on the aforementioned film this album opens with a piece of music lifted straight from Ennio Morricone's soundtrack. 'Harmonica Man' sets the scene admirably with its haunting abrasive guitar and slow crescendo but unfortunately the anticipation engendered by this classic opening falls somewhat flat as the band launch into 'Slow Kill'. The song itself is a decent slice of mid-tempo goth rock which proved to be a real belter in a live setting but the lacklustre production on here renders it murky and soft around the edges. Throughout the album the overdriven guitar sounds are far too indistinct and lost in the mix which sadly pulls the teeth from a lot of the performances. The classic 'Dust', with its memorable bass line and stomping rhythm, is similairly reduced to a leaden imitation of its stage cousin. Front-man Carl McCoy's voice cuts through the gloom on a number of the tracks but even the potential of his deep guttural rumble is largely wasted.
This isn't a bad album at all. The Nephs ear for a good pounding melody and the partly successful application of a suitably dark and atmospheric soundscape go some way to making this a convincing debut. Maybe the neutering of their groundshaking live sound was a conscious attempt to make things more palatable to the masses but in any case this was largely a missed opportunity.

Tuesday

Earthquake Weather



Joe Strummer, a huge influence in my life, passed away at the age of 50 in 2003. He left behind a legacy that included more than just his words and melodies in The Clash. His solo albums, not including his posthumous, dare I say, masterpiece, Streetcore, are also works of art that are often unnoticed and rarely listened to. One such album is Earthquake Weather, which, as the title implies, lives in Los Angeles (where it was recorded) but is dreaming of the Bayou.
The album is hard for a casual Clash fan to swallow at first. Released in 1989, nearly a decade since the demise of the Clash, Strummer pushes his musical acumen towards the synergy of the 1980 masterpiece Sandinista!, which is still being sorted out by fans in a love-it-or-hate-it fashion. The further Strummer pushed towards this, the faster casual fans tuned out. Earthquake Weather would be lost in the haze of the early 1990s.
But I argue that this album, along with Walker (1987), Rock Art and the X-Ray Style (1999), and Global A-Go-Go (2001), Earthquake Weather is not only a hidden force of rock music lost in the decadence of the 1980s but also smart, crafty experiment which – like Sandinista! has its moments, but overall transports the listener to its time and beyond.



Earthquake Weather is Joe Strummer's first official solo album after the breakup of the Clash, discounting his soundtrack for Walker. That it's nearly a disappointment, but manages to rise above its flaws, is a testament to Strummer's pedigree and abilities. Strummer sticks to his usual stylistic proclivities, touching on dub reggae, mournful folk, and rock stompers. The album has its share of delightful highlights. The fast-paced, eclectic "Gangsterville" and "King of the Bayou" blend dub and rock jams effortlessly, with Strummer's confident voice echoing over bombastic backing revelry. "Island Hopping" slows things down, its tropical folk charm foreshadowing the mature, optimistic route Strummer would adhere more faithfully to with Global a Go-Go. "Leopardskin Limousines" and album closer "Sleepwalk" both bristle with emotion, thanks to a tasteful Spanish guitar, an interesting choppy rhythm effect, and hushed vocal processing on the former and the latter's subtle, graceful pace. Outside of these highlights, the remaining songs are quite passable and enjoyable, even though there's a sense that Strummer went into Earthquake Weather with an incomplete blueprint. Lonnie Marshall's bass playing frequently recalls Flea's tackier funk excursions, wailing guitar solos appear haphazardly, and, too often, Willie MacNeil's drums are too quiet in the mix to allow for the necessary dynamic punch, and there's a sense that Strummer was just a step or two away from going a cheesy world beat route at times. If these flaws keep the album from greatness, at least Strummer's voice and songwriting are engaging enough throughout the 14 songs that there's never a second where things come off as dated or rushed. Indeed, the flaws reside only in elements that add texture and flare, so they're somewhat easily ignored, especially since the production is so layered and there's so much going on in each song. Earthquake Weather is a solid, fascinating album, mostly because of Joe Strummer's always fiery charisma, his impeccable vocals, and his mostly unerring musical exploration and experimentation. Even when Strummer occasionally goes wrong stylistically, his conviction is too winning and his passion for music too strong to allow him to turn in a subpar performance.

Sunday

Are We Not Men?



Produced by Brian Eno, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! was a seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave. It was one of the first pop albums to use synthesizers as an important textural element, and although they mostly play a supporting role in this guitar-driven set, the innovation began to lay the groundwork for the synth-pop explosion that would follow very shortly. Q: Are We Not Men also revived the absurdist social satire of the Mothers of Invention, claiming punk rock's outsider alienation as a home for freaks and geeks. While Devo's appeal was certainly broader, their sound was tailored well enough to that sensibility that it still resonates with a rabid cult following. It isn't just the dadaist pseudo-intellectual theories, or the critique of the American mindset as unthinkingly, submissively conformist. It was the way their music reflected that view, crafted to be as mechanical and robotic as their targets. Yet Devo hardly sounded like a machine that ran smoothly. There was an almost unbearable tension in the speed of their jerky, jumpy rhythms, outstripping Talking Heads, XTC, and other similarly nervy new wavers. And thanks to all the dissonant, angular melodies, odd-numbered time signatures, and yelping, sing-song vocals, the tension never finds release, which is key to the album's impact. It also doesn't hurt that this is arguably Devo's strongest set of material, though several brilliant peaks can overshadow the remainder. Of those peaks, the most definitive are the de-evolution manifesto "Jocko Homo" (one of the extremely few rock anthems written in 7/8 time) and a wicked deconstruction of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," which reworks the original's alienation into a spastic freak-out that's nearly unrecognizable. But Q: Are We Not Men? also had a conceptual unity that bolstered the consistent songwriting, making it an essential document of one of new wave's most influential bands.


What's Most Impressive about Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is its authority: Devo presents their dissociated, chillingly cerebral music as a definitive restatement of rock & roll's aims and boundaries in the Seventies. The band's cover version of "Satisfaction," for instance, with its melody line almost completely erased and the lyrics delivered in a yelping, droogy chant to mechanical rhythms, at first comes across as an intentional travesty, a typical New Wave rejection of the old-fart generation. But what Devo are really doing is reshaping the old message into their own terminology — claiming one of the greatest anthems of the Sixties, with all its wealth of emotional associations, for their own time. It's a startling gesture, yet a surprisingly convincing one.
The same could be said for the whole album. The primitive guitar work and pulsing beat suggest a gamut of early Sixties borrowings, but the group is also reminiscent (the vocals especially) of some of the artier New Wave bands such as Wire or the B-52s.
Brian Eno's production is the perfect complement to Devo's music. Eno thickens the band's stop-and-go rhythms with crisp, sharp layers of percussive sound, full of jagged edges and eerie effects that whip in and out of phase at dizzying speeds. On every cut, Devo seems to know exactly what they want and how to achieve it almost effortlessly.
Though the group's abstract-expressionistic patterns of sound are closely related to Eno's own brand of experimentation (not to mention the recent work of David Bowie, who was once slated to produce this LP) and to a host of other art rockers, Devo lacks most of Eno's warmth and much of Bowie's flair for mechanized melodrama. For all its idiosyncrasies, the music here is utterly impersonal. This Ohio band either treats humanity as just another junky, mass-cult artifact to be summarily disposed of, or else ignores it completely. Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is a brittle, small masterpiece of 70’s pop irony.

Friday

Hungry Beat

One of Scotland's forgotten post-punk pioneers, the Fire Engines are compiled to make a case for the hip company they keept alongside Orange Juice and Josef K.
  

The Fire Engines were barely a blip on the music radar, but for those in the right place at the right time, that small speck was like a bull's-eye. By 1980, Scotland's post-punk explosion was already in full bloom, having birthed Orange Juice and Josef K. Right in there with them were the Fire Engines, but unlike their erstwhile peers, the short-lived group existed to burn bright and fast and, inevitably, to burn out. It's music of the primitive "we-can-do-it-too" school, and as such some 35 years or so later it's easy to understand the impact it had on other aspiring bands.


Indeed, Hungry Beat, a collection of the groups’ formative releases, arrives with testimonials from Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie and Franz Ferdinand front man Alex Kapranos, whose band recently coaxed the Fire Engines into the studio and back onto the stage. While Primal Scream and Franz Ferdinand are quite different from one another, one can see the respective appeal of the Fire Engines' sound. In the case of the former and fellow fans the Jesus and Mary Chain, its ragged chaos certainly resonated. In the case of the latter, it was the high-strung naff funk undercurrent that probably connected first.
But even taken on its own terms, Hungry Beat is a shambling blast, as exciting as its members were clearly excitable. The disc collects the group's entire first and sole album (the perfectly named Lubricate Your Living Room), the A's and B's from the Fire Engines' three singles, and a handful of alternate takes. The last are perhaps a funny inclusion, considering how little the Fire Engines sound like the kind of band that bothered with such niceties as "takes." At any given second, each song sounds like it's either about to fall apart or explode, and you can practically hear the band smiling at the prospect.
"Candyskin" and "New Thing in Cartons" sound like the Fall having a happy day, the massed vocals and strings of the former a novel method of overcoming the song's lo-fi environment. "Meat Whiplash" goes absolutely nowhere and does a great job doing it. "Get Up and Use Me" (covered by Franz Ferdinand on the split they later shared with the Fire Engines) is all adenoidal no wave cowbell skronk, replete with unembarrassed false start (mysteriously, the song's alternate take runs longer, faster, and doesn't include the fuck-up).
It's "Big Gold Dream" that plays up the jittery dance elements that you can hear in half of indiedom (even if most of indiedom has never heard these guys before), but the apex of Hungry Beat is a seven-minute ditty called "Discord" that offers a relentless one-chord funk fix. The song fades out with a few drums fills and screams, but you can just as easily imagine another 10, 20, 30 minutes of music not captured on tape. At seven minutes it's long enough to lock into a groove, but one can only imagine the dance floor possibilities had the thing got longer.

Wednesday

Spectral Pleasures



Eden was a Dark Wave band that formed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1987. Inspired by Dead Can Dance, the ensemble, consisting of cello, violin and an assortment of medieval instruments, performs a chamber rock that incorporates classical and medieval folk music. The enigmatic ambience, mystical, exotic live performance was often accompanied by a druid and video projections.


The album Gateway To The Mysteries is in fact a cycle of songs in the Medieval style, inspired by an ancestral mythology. The word "church" marries vaguely oriental melodies, exotic and martial rhythm arrangements. There are traces of psychedelic rock in the heavenly chimes of The Slow Bells and Oriental spiritualism in The Unveiling Of Brigid mantra….

Look, I'm not going to deny that this is heavily influenced by Dead Can Dance, especially Brendan Perry's side of D.C.D, but to say that this is a carbon copy would not be entirely fair. If D.C.D. is your bag and you haven’t investigated Eden in the past, then this is a pretty good time to do so. It’s the end of summer and the seasons are beginning to turn. The days are getting shorter and Eden’s take on this mythological ancestral time is fascinating.

The modern Gothic of Eden flirts with the fascination of death and decay as if it is hallucinogenic ecstasy.

Monday

Sensorium Of Thirst



Appearing in 1980 and allied with industrial bands like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, Sheffield's Clock DVA aped the sound of British white soul groups of the day. Adi Newton had previously worked with members of Cabaret Voltaire in a collective called The Studs and with Ian Craig Marsh and Martyn Ware in a band called The Future. Clock DVA were originally known for making a form of experimental electronic music involving treated tape loops and synthesizer. Clock DVA became associated with industrial music with the 1980 release of their cassette album White Souls in Black Suits by invitation from Genesis P-Orridge on Throbbing Gristle's Industrial Records


The 'post-punk' boom was well under way and word spread like wildfire in the right circles and it wasn't long before Clock DVA achieved its first real record deal with indie underground label, Fetish Records. They released the album Thirst and a single entitled 4 Hours, both produced by Ken Thomas. The material is far less experimental than previous efforts with an emphasis on funk/jazz. Surprisingly, it's still nominally danceable though the emphasis is solidly on the experimental side of affairs.
The album cover greets you with a fantastic illustration which depicts a kind of dark sepia-tinged satanic baby (like a minimal interpretation of one of H.R.Giger's infant beasts), this artwork was done by one of the great sleeve illustrators of the time, Neville Brody. The back cover of this great album sleeve was topped with some inspired and cut-up text from Genesis P-Orridge which served as the sleeve notes, also creating increased excitement and expectation before even listening to the recording. On Thirst, the band maintained an interest in dance music, but abandoned soul pretensions for electro-noise, and the album is a playground of startling, unearthly machine chants. 4 Hours, the single from Thirst, was later covered by former Bauhaus bassist David J on his 1985 solo EP Blue Moods Turning Tail.


Saturday

Subsequent Pleasures



Fans of this seminal Art-Goth band will leap at the chance to add this rare and early material to their collections. The first five tracks were recorded in 1984 and released only in a limited run of 500 vinyl copies; the band later essentially suppressed distribution of the EP, and it's easy to understand why: As the band themselves admitted later, their skills were lacking at the time and the whole thing was mixed on a portable 4 track recorder. The tracks are the 1984 rerecorded versions after Pieter Nooten had joined Xymox. With "Muscoviet Mosquito" there are signs of better things to come, and "Abysmal Thoughts" actually features a fairly interesting (if repetitive) chord progression. The last six tracks are demos the band made for the 4AD label during the same period, and they already show a marked improvement: someone in the band figured out how to use the drum machine, the songs have more than two chords, and although the singing is still lacking at least it's now farther back in the mix.

Recommended primarily to diehard fans and to those who are mainly familiar with the band's later work and are interested in seeing how far they've come.
Xymox, also known as Clan of Xymox, were together for only a year or so by the time they released their EP Subsequent Pleasures.


Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Ronny Moornings teamed up with bassist/vocalist Anka Wolbert, bought a bunch of 1983 state-of-the-art equipment and moved to Amsterdam before getting down to work. Their blend of the gothic and the romantic is one of those early ‘80s staples that has aged remarkably well. Subsequent Pleasures will certain satisfy many a vinyl collector. After all, the remastering job is just perfect. It could easily pass as something made today, considering the retro mood that everyone has been in lately.
The forms are cyclical and the mood is tense and brooding. The guitar is used as a textural instrument and the bass a rhythmic one and everything has a chorus-ey warble to it. The strange noises take a backseat in the mix to the clang and jangle of guitar and keys. At just 22 minutes, it neatly sums up the space that musicians were eager to fill up due to Joy Division’s absence.
The centrepiece of the EP is, debatably, a 4:31 Goth-pop nugget called “Moscovite Musquito”. Of the five original songs here, it’s the least affected one where the implied atmosphere does all of the talking. It’s got muttered verses, a Peter Hook-esque bassline and a conventional tonality. The four remaining songs play around with discord to varying degrees. “Strange 9 to 9” hangs in the air, waiting for a harmonic resolve. And when it does arrive, it’s greeted with a slippery guitar line and an Ian McCulloch yelp. “Abysmal Thoughts” sounds much like its title, if one could decipher what Moornings were saying. “Going Round” takes advantage of its title too, with a spinning polyphony reminiscent of “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” minus any pop inkling.
Subsequent Pleasures is for those times you felt that you missed out on the time when punk had melted into a confused, directionless industrial wasteland where scrap metal was king and prominent chart-toppers could kiss off.

Thursday

Singles Going White And Black



If all single-artist compilations were like this, the world would be a much better place -- while lacking liner notes, or even specific references as to what songs come from where, 1979-1983: Vol. 1, drawing mostly from In the Flat Field and Mask, does a frankly smashing job at capturing the many early high points of Bauhaus' recording career. No real obscurities appear -- singles tracks like "Dark Entries" and "Terror Couple Kill Colonel" had been available on EP and would soon be reissued with the Field CD -- while the version of "Bela Lugosi's Dead" in fact is the live take from the Press the Eject album. As an overview, though, it's just flat-out great, covering many of the band's different facets, from aggressive thrash ("Double Dare," "In the Flat Field," "Hair of the Dog") to mysterious, arty shades ("A God in an Alcove," "Spy in the Cab," "Mask") and more. While one could argue over including other worthwhile tracks (the nutty humour of "Of Lillies and Remains" would have demonstrated the band's reach even more) 1979-1983: Vol. 1 remains as near perfect a starting place for a neophyte listener as any.




Understandably complementing the first volume, 1979-1983: Vol. 2 is as similarly bereft of any sort of packaging notes as its predecessor, but is also as successful at pulling together many of Bauhaus' best moments from its later career into one knock-your-socks-off release. More Mask numbers crop up here -- two funk-heavy groovers ("In Fear of Fear" and "Kick in the Eye"), counterpointed by the slow, haunting "Hollow Hills." The Sky's Gone Out is cherry-picked for some of its best moments, including "Swing the Heartache" and "All We Ever Wanted Was Everything," though the version of "Spirit" is the less effective single re-recording rather than the dramatic album take. Rather tellingly, only three songs from Burning From the Inside are included -- "She's in Parties," the David J-sung "Who Killed Mr. Moonlight?," and the Daniel Ash number "Slice of Life." Added to all of this are the peerless covers of "Ziggy Stardust" and "Third Uncle," a couple of ringers from earlier in the band's career ("Satori" and "Crowds"), stand-alone singles "Lagartija Nick" and "The Sanity Assassin," and one honest-to-goodness rarity, "Paranoia Paranoia," a radical dub reworking of "Silent Hedges" that's just as good as the original in its own unique way. In all, a great overview of the latter years of a great band, at least in their original career.