Punk vs Indie (This Is Bob Dylan To Me)

It’s a stupid idea to weigh on this subject. That’s why I’m doing it. What is punk anyway?

Fuck you.

Vice’s music-tumour-like-growth, Noisey, have just published an article about the British punk scene being alive and well: http://noisey.vice.com/blog/the-british-punk-scene-is-alive-and-well (If you want to linked into the text, you do it).

Well, it’s alive, but I hesitate to call it well. And the article’s opening perspective is fair enough – if, again, open to the criticism that it wasn’t exclusively a working class thing (such class purity is always a myth). But I struggle to find the bands they list below punk. Fine, yes, most of them do strum their guitars with a load of fuzz pedals stomped on, and the delivery is certainly given, generally, with more aplomb with most indie.

And yes, some of them are fine, fine bands. And, yes, I could name other UK punk bands well worth mentioning (Broker (http://broker.bandcamp.com/), Wonk Unit (http://wonk-unit.bandcamp.com/), (Slaves https://www.facebook.com/slaves?fref=ts), and so on). And yes, Good Throb are a good call, but most of the bands are, well, not punk.

What do I mean by punk?

They’re punk rock, perhaps. But, their punk rock isn’t punk.

They’re mostly rock bands, essentially, who are perhaps seperated from much of the rest of a music through a enduring (and rather fantastic) DIY scene. And yes, punk bands do occasionally surface in these circles. I have nothing against the bands, but I guess I’m upset by the use of the word that has meant a lot to me. This is Bob Dylan to me.

(The Minutemen were an American punk band)

Punk is angry, shouty, weird, out there, and it’s anything with that attitude.

Loud, fuzzy guitars aren’t necessarily punk. There, I said it.

Merkabah – Moroloch (2014, Instant Classic)

Merkabah – Morloch (2014, Instant Classic):

http://instantclassic.bandcamp.com/album/moloch

I said I’d write about something new, and fuck it, I’m trying.

I hate to be patronising, but I barely know who this band is (if you can give more detail, it’s welcome) so forgive a brief description – Merkabah are a Polish post-hardcore, post-rock, avant-garde jazz noise band. That is to say, they play mostly noisy guitar-based music with a load of sax skonking meld into the mix. And they do it with aplomb, they do.

Now, I feel like I’m writing this review because even though he’s completely and totally entitled to his opinion, theneedledrop was wrong about this album. I hate to criticise (I don’t really) as he’s an excellent (one of the best, in my honest opinion – a shit load better than my half-arsed attempts that I can’t even bother trying to get published on another website let alone magazine, anymore) reviewer of music. He is tireless, in depth, much more astute than I, and all power to him. But, I’m flirting with academia in my life, so being a bit petty and pedantic is what it’s all about, yeah? Well, some of it.

Dear Mr TheNeedleDrop,

This album is not really ‘doom’ at any point, and I take issue with his inability to ‘find … electricity … between the band as they were playing. Just listening to the band play these songs out felt – I don’t know – uneventful?’

Perhaps the issue is the medium you listened to the band on – as much as I enjoy bandcamp and think it’s a wonderful way to preview bands, I’m not sure its way of compressing music would allow the contours of a well crafted, well produced album, such as this, to truly come out. I listened to it, firsts on Soundcamp, and then since I’ve bought the album and continue to find it a pretty engrossing album. Maybe the medium’s the issue, not the message?

Yours,
FuckIt

PS. You have no idea what punk is. This is upsetting. Watch Don Letts’ documentary on Punk Attitude – yes, it struggles to get and understand what happens after the London scene fades, but it’s an excellent start point.

Having said that, all I can find is the bandcamp stuff so … yeah:

http://instantclassic.bandcamp.com/album/moloch

So, in defence of Moloch.  It’s not all that frequently one finds a melding of heavy music that melds with jazz so fluently. Most of the time, one or the other is a bit too dominating, or a bit too ‘false’ – jazz by people who don’t really get heavy music; heavy music by people who don’t really seem to get jazz. Or the jazz they like is jazz fusion. Or they do it side-by-side of one another, conceiving music simply as genre’s, and never shall the twain meet (sorry, Mr Bungle, but my first few impressions of you were as cliché-genre-ridden crap with a singer who’s too clean).

Here, however, nothing feels out of place – in fact, the musicians seem to be intensely sensitive to both kinds of music and work towards bringing the best out of them when required, and not asserting them when not needed. This means that during the quieter, more meditative moments the sax doesn’t blare out most atonal Zorn impressions just for the fuck of it, but rather helps  in creating atmosphere.

For instance, the use of sax at the beginning of the 12-minute Hilasterion is all about atmosphere, swirling up, building a tension with spacious guitars and tumbling symbols. When the song kicks in, the sax still doesn’t dominate but plays its role as texture amongst the other instruments. It holds back – sensitive to the post-rockness of it all.

And neither are the avant-garde (‘free’ jazz) moments superimposed, but the jazz building on a heavy wall of noise to create firm-footed chaos.

 

Again. This is not domination, this is mixture. All is a vital part of the very meticulously crafted noise this band puts together.

Neither does the ‘rock’ stay in one space. While based arguably in post-hardcore, it flirts with post-rock, and sludge occasionally. The jazz parts veer towards atonal, yes, but it makes sense in the setting – most sax solos do actually seem to be based not around free jazz, but rather set to a backing that hightens the chaos of the Zorn-isms. The music’s tone is generally a very dark-grey (an excellent suit colour), but the size of it is a rather fine cliff: there’s a landscape to this music.

One of the best of 2014 so far. It’s extremely well thought out and the band perform admirably, and have a deep sensitivity to their wall of sound. Probably the best post- album of any type for a while. Maybe the production is a bit too smooth, but it doesn’t detract and make the band seem sterile.

Rating: Well, fuck yeah. Great thing, this: post-hardcore noise jazz stuff.

REevaluating TUMOR CIRCUS – Tumor Circus (1991, Alternative Tentacles)

Ahh, shit it. I’ll review something new one day. For now:

I’ve never been complete sure of what constitutes a ‘forgotten’ album, and I can’t be bothered to read someone else’s opinion about it. The first album I was introduced as ‘forgotten’ was Adam Ant’s Dirk Wear’s White Sox, but perhaps that’s only in light of his metamorphosis into left-field pop music. Otherwise, I could mention millions of forgotten albums, some of them genuinely brilliant which will only be remembered by those who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Not enough people, evidently. These albums will never fetch much on ebay, but that’s hopefully never the purpose of music.

Does Tumor Circus count as forgotten? It’s one of the few post-Dead Kennedy releases by Jello Biafra not to mention his name in the band name, and seems to crop up in conversations less than his collaborations with DOA, NoMeansNo, Melvins, and his other-post DK band (until the Guantanamo School of Medicine), Lard.

Biafra seemed to be in a flurry of activity around the late 80s, early 90s. During around these years we get two spoken word albums, two collaborations, Lard (a ‘band’ proper?), a few movie appearances, and this album (essentially a collaboration with the noise punk bands Steel Pole Bath Tub and Grong Grong). Maybe it just got buried under higher-profile things.

It’s perhaps Biafra’s only foray into what’s become known as noise rock, and musically it does seem to have siblings with the Jesus Lizard, Melvins (whatever they are), Big Black, etc. For the most part, there’s a scratchy, sludgy, gnarly guitar stretches over a jangly bass that drives and weaves everything together and heavy drums. Biafra’s very individual yelping ranting on top, needlesstosaybutsaidnonetheless.

And it’s, in parts, great. Some of it, such as Take Me Back or I’ll Drown Your Dog (Headlines) would not be out of place on the Dead Kennedys, and wouldn’t at all be an embarrassing addition, either. And such is Biafra’s individual style that it’ll always be hard to remove his voice from the surf-punk-hardcore of the DKs, but, while there is that, as well as element of punk rock that continues, the band makes enough of a move towards noise, atonalism and those alternative ’90s grooves to be distnct from DKs.

The opener, Hazing for Success (Pork Grind Confidential) is a nice lesson in noisy sludge, and is quite dramatic – a murkier, darker, swampier music template than Biafra tends to go. The trebly haze wilfulness of the guitars to refuse to conform to anything resembling a tight rhythm leads the sound more astray: it has that noise rock sloppiness which is so appealing. The mix is such that Biafra’s voice is also much more part of the noise, and his voice does go amiss sometimes, but that’s perhaps the mix rather than the intention.

Some excellent stuff happens in between – listen to it. The 15 minute closer, ‘Turn off the Respirator,’ ventures the Melvins way, yet with Biafra’s delivery taking it not so much post-apocalyptic as witnessing it as it happens. It’s almost John Lydon at his most-doom-laden. Perhaps it is what Biafra does at his best: witnessing of the apocalypse in slow motion, detailing it as it happens, while so few others notice it.

Rating: Bloody, yeah. Perhaps even  worth getting above his other, more straightforward collaborations apart from Lard and Mojo Nixon.

That’s it, George. It’s your turn, George. You know the rules, you know the rules.

REevaluating EVILE – ‘Infected Nations’ (2009, Earache)

Some people, apparently, seeEvile - Infected Nations cover music as colour. I’ve never been lucky to have that experience as the overwhelming experience, but I do find some bands, some music, does illicit a feeling of a colour. I hear a colour to the music. A band such as the Polysics makes me think of sickly, luminous, bring, neon colours, the sort of thing that’ll leave you seeing spots behind your eyelids for days on end. There’s no danger of seeing the Polysics as one colour.

Evile’s 2nd album, however, is more … monotone. Much more. This is no to say they never suggested some brilliance, some great riffs, some great solos, but that they never really seem that aware of some of the monotony of the whole of this album, how all these ideas are the bloody same. The first books they ever read (as a band) must have been the 1980s Metallica tab books, and their rather excellent (if musically unimaginative) debut album, Enter the Grave, is testament to that: it’s the best Metallica album since the black album. But, with 2009’s Infected Nation, Evile seemed to be trying to toying towards something a bit more, but not forget to thrash, and perhaps not willing enough to leave comfort-thrash behind.

The outcome is a rather grey-blackish album that doesn’t have any other tones or shades, much change in tempo (or what currently feels like key). There’s 63 minutes of this stuff, and, well … fuck that 63 minutes of your life. It opens with cliché’s, of gothic, clean, picked guitars being torn away by a thrash metal rhythm. And from the point those guitars come in, it’s all a bit the same. Or very much the same, after at least 20 minutes of it.

Maybe it’s the production – it’s a really bland production. Nothing happens in it, no changes of tone, no changes of volume, no colour. The riff style is a growth on the classic Metallica-like hammering, but that’s all these riffs are. There is just no colour to this album. It’s just a metal album, nothing more, nothing less. But, every song seems like all its rules have been taken out of the same text book, and never questioned. And, sadly, this makes the album quite bland.

Rating: Well, yeah, it’s fine, but boring.

Dumb music reviews

PunkNews recently posted Jonathon1069’s glowing review of the Clash’s Sandinsta!

http://www.punknews.org/review/12604/the-clash-sandinista

And, yes, it is a great album, and this review rather blandly puts that across. But, its wrong – it wasn’t the first point the Clash started experimenting: that happens on their first album, with Police and Thieves.

Also, classifying their first album simply as “The Clash weren’t a working class band who knew only of the aggressions taking place in working class England.” is stupid – Joe Strummer, a middle-class boy, was arguably always suggesting that music is culture, not class.

And, no, the kids singing Career Opportunity never comes across as revolutionary – stop trying to be academic.

The brilliance of Sandinsta! is in its very imperfection – the sound of a band at a certain point of time, in a certain place, and on certain brinks. That’s what’s great about it – it’s mix of pop nous, mindless experimentation, and unwillingness to censor themselves. Or they just didn’t bother to try, or knew how to try.

And, yeah. More of that, then. Bollocks. It’s just bloody good, isn’t it?