Saturday, June 8, 2013

God save the Queen part 1

I am no fan of the monarchy but once every year the Australian Government gives me a public holiday to celebrate the Queen's birthday. I am nothing if not shallow so for that one day of the year I can be bought - I love you Queenie, thanks for the long weekend. This holiday I am dedicated some time catching up on a bunch of records I have wanted to listen to or dismissed previously. This is my journey:

The Congos - Heart of the Congos: A few weeks ago, a colleague was playing some reggae in the office. I'm not a huge fan of the genre but it was pretty pleasurable and made me think I should own at least one reggae album. I imagine there are people out there who feel the same about country, hip hop, hardcore and metal - they just need one album to fulfil their needs (idiots). Anyhow, I consulted my reggae loving friend who loaned me the Lee Scratch Perry Arkology which was probably too comprehensive for my needs. I cornered him again and asked him if push came to shove what would be the definitive reggae record to own and he recommended the Heart of the Congos. I bought it this morning and my friend was a 100% correct in one regard, it is a reggae record. Finally, that part of my record collection is complete! I think I'll have to get some medicinal herbs to help me enjoy this  (and when I say medicinal herbs I mean DRUGS). And no, I wasn't going to buy Bob Marley's Legend.

Smog - Knock Knock: I think there was a time where it felt like there was a Smog, Jason Molina or Will Oldham record coming out every other week and all these doey eyed sad men singing songs of love and loss was starting to bore me. However, courtesy of my friends Adam and John, Knock Knock came into my orbit recently. I must admit I remember when it came out because who could forget a cover like that but I never bothered to listen to it. Big mistake, I'm kicking myself that this album has been in the world for fourteen years and I hadn't heard it - it is incredible. Held, Teenage Spaceship, Left with only love etc... this record just swings from high point to high point. For some reason, I always imagined it'd be full of acoustic guitars but it is oddly rocking on a number of tunes (well, as rocking as these guys get). I am totally blown away and this is definitely my album of the year (for 1999).

Mudhoney - Vanishing Point: Sometimes things are so obvious you miss them. I've never really liked Mudhoney but the good reviews of their latest record got me curious. As the first song Slipping Away kicks in it strikes me that Mudhoney are awesome but not in the way I thought. You see, I love this band from Geelong called Tumbleweed that used to peddle LSD infused stoner rock in the 90's and Mudhoney sound just like them (or more correctly, Tumbleweed sound like Mudhoney). So if I love Tumbleweed then I must love Mudhoney. And I do. This record is fucking awesome and makes me feel like an idiot for emphatically dismissing them for all these years. A Mudhoney retrospective is on the cards.

Boards of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest: There is no way to adequately describe this album. It is dark, apocalyptic, surprising, weird and puzzling. I think you'll see those words a lot in reviews but when it's an album of granular instrumentals, how can you really describe it? This is the only way I can think of doing it: A couple of the kids who work for me have got me hooked on a game called Plague Inc. It is a frightening, amoral (and totally enjoyable) game where you have to develop a virus to wipe out humanity. As disturbing as it is, it is fiendishly addictive and of course, I upgraded to the zombie virus pack to unleash flesh eating hordes on an unsuspecting world - it's like Risk + disease. You have to balance the transmission, symptoms and abilities of the virus so it doesn't get cured too soon to be successful in destroying the world's entire population. I usually succeed but there's usually one or two hold out countries (most regularly Greenland). As such, I let my zombies mutate such that they can travel through water and I launch millions of zombies across the ocean to take over the remaining zombie free islands. The reason why I tell you all this: Tomorrow's Harvest sounds like the soundtrack to a million Canadian zombies invading Greenland.

Torche - Meanderthal Demos: The ever brilliant Max sent me a couple of records recently and this Torche 10inch was one of them. In my mind I had somehow confused Torche with Clutch which is entirely ridiculous as Torche make Clutch look like a bunch of amateur burn outs. These songs are angular gut punching rifforama from go to whoa (seriously, each song has about twenty different riffs per minute)  and makes me fall to my knees and praise Satan for rock 'n roll. While the first side is head clanging stoner rock, Torche lighten up on the second side for some melodicism and more straight ahead rock fare which is brilliantly. Once I'm done going through these records, I'm hoping Spotify will cure me of my ignorance of this band and lead me into some beautiful discoveries.

Bob Mould - See a little light concert: About a million years ago, I sponsored the Bob Mould Kickstarter project for a film version of his tribute concert. Of course, I ordered the contributor pack which was held up because they had trouble printing a seven inch. It finally arrived yesterday afters months of waiting/ Although I'd watched it once online, I settled in to watch it this afternoon and it's a pretty enjoyable journey through Bob's career. Apart from the slight over-fawning towards Dave Grohl, there is nothing but love here. Ryan Adams is the non-Bob highlight, deconstructing Heartbreak a Stranger and Black Sheets of Rain into poignant, plaintive ballads. Britt Daniel and the Hold Steady guys make a fair fist of it and Craig Finn seems to be losing his mind being able to sing Real World. Daniel bravely takes on JC Auto and kind of fails but I don't think anyone can do that song the way Bob does. In fairness, the Bob + Dave Grohl portion is the highlight as they tumble through six Hüsker Dü songs including Something I learned today (my lord, I love that song), Ice Cold Ice, New Day Rising (with Grohl on drums) and Chartered Trips. Hardly getting over it is turned into an up and down hybrid ballad/rock monster - it is beautiful. To be honest, I doubt there would be much here for non-Bob fans but if you are, it's worth tracking down. (Oh and we can finally put to rest any argument as to whether Margaret Cho is a good singer or not but she loves her Bob as do we all).

Alright, that's enough for today. More tomorrow.



  1. Two things: I am firm in my belief that if you are to own only one Reggae LP, it should be both versions of Toots & the Maytals "Funky Kingston". Also, while you are allowed your tastes, I don't see any reason to bash Clutch. Besides the band containing my friends, the latest LP, "Earth Rocker" proves that they're not amateur burnouts- they're professional burnouts.

  2. Dude, are you going to make me buy another reggae record? Dammit, if I buy another reggae record it'll be as big as my jazz collection. No disrespect to Clutch - admittedly I haven't listened to them in years, I do have copies of the elephant riders and robot hive somewhere and like them. It was more about my idiotic ability to confuse monosyllabic band names and the sheer intensity of that Torche ep. Anyhow, I'm not here to be mean so be assured it wasn't a dig at them, just more failed comedy. As recompense, I'll buy their new record today.

  3. Not "a" reggae record- 2 versions of the reggae record! Naah- you buy what you like. But I would suggest that you listen to Toots. I mean there's this: and this: not mention: . As for Clutch, yes, they are local guys whom I've had beers with, and yes, the new record is pretty awesome- I'm not thinking they need a guilt purchase- I knew you were just joking. As am I- but, to be serious, Clutch's Earth Rocker is (in my opinion) the best thing they've done since Blast Tyrant.

  4. No guilt my friend, I buy music and bought Earth Rocker this morning. I'm actually giving it it's first run through right now. Fucking awesome so far! On track five now: ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH!

  5. heart of the congos is a great album, and a highlight of Lee Perry's production career too. That lazy slowed-down sound, and that weird machine making the craw sound... great stuff. But once you get started with dub, you can't stop. I agree with some Toots in your diet, he's a totally positive singing force. And his version of Loui Loui is worth Funky Kingston alone. But also very good is Reggae Got Soul and In The Dark. Oh and but while you're there check out Bunny Wailer's Blackheart Man, and Peter Tosh (grab a compilation) and almost anything by King Tubby. And if you do go Marley, try your hand at Babylon By Bus because it captures the sound and clear bass of his band live. And... on.

  6. That's a great review. Shit, I couldn't even come close to writing anything on Boards of Canada that comprehensible.