Severed Heads, Boxcar, Single Gun Theory and the Volition Records package tour.

June 28th, 2016 by David Gerard
Industrial

Severed Heads’ actual hit single, “Dead Eyes Opened 1994”, in which ‘80s industrial — from the days when you had to get out the bloody soldering iron and build your bloody equipment — is whipped up into a ‘90s techno splurge. At least it was an actual nearly-member of the band (Robert Racic) doing the whipping.

(yes, another heavy on the strobe)

Note that the graphics are from assorted custom-built stuff and not just rendered on an Amiga. Severed Heads pioneered the Amiga-look industrial video, before they even had Amigas. (Way before.)

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Scattered Order are alive and well.

June 27th, 2016 by David Gerard
Industrial

Scattered Order are an Australian noise band who are probably “industrial”, but you never see them in any lists of industrial bands, and that’s just wrong. They have never been popular in any sense. They remain good and important, however, and have persisted. Modulo a decade’s break here and there.

The band started out in the Sydney noise band scene of the early ’80s, the same one Severed Heads came out of. They fostered said scene with their own M Squared label (“not even a good idea”). The last M Squared release was their own 1983 mini-album I Feel So Relaxed With You (My Spleen Sometimes Shows), which sold 48 copies total. (And I was one of those 48 buyers at the time!)

Gap Records, the Australian licensees for Factory, had just renamed to Volition and signed a few more people locally. The label’s first release under its new name was Scattered Order’s A Dancing Foot and a Praying Knee Don’t Belong on the Same Leg. They released several more albums and EPs on Volition. None were great sellers, but they did get consistent music press at the time (or at least reviews in RAM) and evidently did well enough for Volition to keep putting their stuff out. Some was even pretty straightforward!

Volition tried giving their 1991 slab of obnoxious racket Professional Dead Ball a big push, in tandem with Cuisine by Severed Heads, Vertigo by Boxcar and Like Stars In My Hands by Single Gun Theory, as “An Intro To Techno”. The Scattered Order album was not quite a four-on-the-floor pounder that would have appealed to new KLF fans.

This is from 2012 rather than 1998, but it felt a little like this.
Warning: lots of strobe.

I saw Scattered Order at the Public Bar in Melbourne in 1998. One of those seeing a band you’ve hoped to for years. I was not disappointed; they’re definitely a band you should see doing it live. The bar was disconcertingly not packed (I keep being surprised at nobody else giving a hoot about my long-followed favourites), and I was wishing I’d brought my records with me for them to sign. Chatted to Mitch Jones afterwards, who was lovely. I was deeply disappointed I couldn’t see them the next night at the Espy because I was literally in the middle of moving house and was lucky to have got that night away from the process.

Scattered Order’s new album is Some Men Remember Music and it’s up on their Bandcamp, along with not all but much of their older stuff. It’s pretty nice for abrasive racket; cosy soundscapes for the aging industrialist. You’ll like it. Surprisingly accessible for this sort of thing … or maybe the world’s caught up. “works best on immersion in its noise and ooze; letting it creep over you like flesh-eating fog.”

The Laughing Clowns “Holy Joe” (1980).

June 26th, 2016 by David Gerard
Post-Punk

An old favourite, the first track from the Laughing Clowns’ first album, just after Ed Kuepper split the original Saints. They made a promotional video for it, at Chequers in Sydney, a rare thing for an independent band of the day. The Laughing Clowns’ official Facebook has some reminiscences.

Whatever happened to all the sociologists, anyway? Not like the ones we had in the ’90s.

June 24th, 2016 by David Gerard
Writing

Back in the ‘90s, sociologists and students seemed desperate to find anything resembling a subculture to write about. I ran a fanzine, remember, and was fending off calls regularly. They were a plague.

This was just before Nirvana hit big. It was blindingly obvious to everyone in indie rock that someone was going to hit super-big at some point. Will it be Sonic Youth! They got a major deal! … and no, Goo sold pretty well but not spectacularly. Will it be Mudhoney! … no, they did two great singles and a good cover and the rest was uh okay. … Nirvana? The ones who did that crappy album Bleach? How the hell did they get good. Wow.

(I remember the first time I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in early 1992. I was in a pub beer garden discussing a prospective road trip with friends. [If anyone reading this has a copy of The Good Fight #1, please send me a copy of my bit, which writes up the story.] It came on the radio, which was the local AM chart station. My first thought was “oh, the Pixies scored a mainstream hit? Well done, Pixies.”)

(Cousin Creep got the first offer of an Australian licence for Bleach. He turned it down. [‘Cos really, it did and does suck a bit.] Waterfront took it up and did not too badly when Nirvana hit big a few years later.)

So it was a scene that (a) knew important stuff was brewing (b) was obsessively introspective with a ton of discourse. I mean, I was a ziner. The zine network was very much a thing and people read each other. It really was a very slow moving Tumblr. So we really really wanted to TELL THE WORLD ABOUT OUR STUFF.

Enter sociology students desperate for material. Which they then made a fucking hash of.

I think we were hoping for Proper Academic commentary that would tell us interesting and useful stuff about ourselves. Instead we were fodder for terrible useless rubbish that was created to be written and not under any circumstances read.

(Open source software got the same treatment, for a parallel. Parasitical publication-credit churns like First Monday. Everyone was so hoping for something useful to the discourse that was already going on, not intelligence-insulting inanity that didn’t understand the first thing of what it was talking about and didn’t care.)

After a couple of those I started grilling them when they called and saying I wouldn’t help unless it was helpful to the existing zine world discourse. Or at least not inane bullshit.

(I forget my precise wording. I think the tipping point was one who wanted me to tell them about a particular argument in the Perth hardcore punk scene, so they could write it up. Literally, punks in one share house having some ongoing dispute with punks in a different share house, except there were shades of musical genre involved so those names could be dropped. I demurred politely, but I was thinking “fucking what.”)

What sociologists I encounter these days are vastly better-behaved, probably because they realise their subjects can and will in fact talk about them afterwards. There’s actually some awesomeness out there. I recommend Paul Hodkinson, who got his Ph. D. thesis on goth published as a really very good book that continues to sell okay, i.e. stupendously well for a Ph. D. thesis. He’s also a top bloke. Of course, he knew very well all his friends were going to read it with an acerbic eye.

So I think it’s probably much safer out there these days. But I haven’t had any calls in over a decade and I’m curious to hear what it’s like now.

“Sociology as a discipline is still reeling after so many fine sociologists disappeared into Second Life and have yet to emerge.” (Dr. Doug)

Where little synths come from.

June 23rd, 2016 by David Gerard
Musician

No time for a proper post today, so have a silly meme image.

where synths come from

Print your own violin!

June 22nd, 2016 by David Gerard
Musician

Kaitlyn and Matt Hova have put up the files to 3D-print your own violin. Or you can buy parts or a fully-printed example from them. It’s still at the stage of doing it because you can, but it’s actually not terrible. Below are the promotional videos for version 1 and version 2.

If you’re really fond of pixelated translucent plastic, you can also 3D-print a bow and a cello.

Don’t forget the existence of My Dad Is Dead.

June 21st, 2016 by David Gerard
Post-Punk

Back in The Day™ (1989), everyone compared My Dad Is Dead to Joy Division. Really, every review. Like they couldn’t think of anything else to say, like someone said that once and every other reviewer copied it. (Which is in fact almost certainly precisely how it happened, because everyone did music journalism that way, even on the fanzine level.) I can hear it a bit, but I wasn’t convinced then and I’m not convinced now. Frankly, Interpol and (especially) the Editors recreate the authentic Joy Division sound way more closely (and certainly more fidelitously than Peter Hook and the Light, even if Peter Hook got a reconditioned Arp Omni 2 to tour the Joy Division albums).

I guess it was just a postpunk-deficient time of decade; everyone else was busy lining up the post-hardcore that would become grunge and had no time for this sort of thing. The actual successors, New Order, were off playing Californian stadia and discovering the novelty of making money from this punk rock disco lark.

My Dad Is Dead are pretty good, though, and should be brought out of storage more. The Taller You Are, The Shorter You Get is the album that made an impact back in the day, but the dude recorded a pile more and most are still available. Most of The Taller You Are is on YouTube in pieces; here’s “Boundaries”.

J. G. Eccarius: The Last Days of Christ the Vampire (1988).

June 20th, 2016 by David Gerard
Writing

eccarius-the-last-days-of-christ-the-vampireIf you’re going to suffer unresolved literary trauma, you should get it from a title like that, which you will be unsurprised to hear is far and away the best thing about the book.

This is a terrible, mediocre, not very good, yes-but-why-are-you-telling-me-all-of-this lump of ’80s edgelordery. I read it courtesy the old girlfriend who collected every vampire novel she could get her hands on. She correctly described it as one of the worst things she had ever read, in a tone that suggested it had given her cause to regret the collector’s urge.

If I recall correctly, much of the action is arguments between anarchists and Stalinists. Eventually SPOILERS the protagonist finds Jesus Christ Himself alive in a sub-basement of the Pentagon, sustaining the whole edifice of imperialist capitalism by the power of magic. I might be misremembering, this was fifteen or sixteen years ago, but I never plan to go back and check.

Here’s a sample. The best-written and most human and believable depiction in the book is of the ideological leftist infighting.

The author was one of the contributors to Factsheet Five in its last year of steady operation. I am reminded that I also read one of his other terrible novels, We Should Have Killed the King, another anarchist tract with a thin veneer of fictionalisation. This shouldn’t have sucked, but nobody told the guy to stick to nonfiction.

The publisher is III Publishing, purveyors of relentlessly incompetent anarchist fiction, a veritable firehose of Ayn Rand level didacticism but from tedious anarchist essayists. All set in the same Times New Roman with straight quotes, you could recognise any III book immediately. Everything they published was about this bad.

They put out at least one other anarchist vampire novel, Virgintooth by Mark Ivanhoe, which I have thankfully evaded this lifetime. But I guess “paranormal anarchism” is a genre now.

Electric Dreams: The Giorgio Moroder Story on BBC Radio 2, 2013.

June 19th, 2016 by David Gerard
Techno

A marvellous BBC radio documentary in two one-hour parts on disco king Giorgio Moroder, focusing on his work in the late ’70s and early to mid-’80s. Part one, part two.

Reviews: Amy’s Arms, Foster Body, Uranium Club (2016).

June 18th, 2016 by David Gerard
Indie

Today we hit the Bandcamp for various recommendations of mates’ mates’ bands. Send yours in! At worst it’ll be ignored.

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New Order: Music Complete (2016).

June 17th, 2016 by Lev Lafayette
Post-Punk

NewOrderMusicCompleteAt almost sixty-five minutes, New Order’s tenth studio album Music Complete. On vinyl it is provided as an impressive heavy-grade double album with an abstract cover design by Peter Saville, which reminds one of True Colours by Split Enz or a 1980s L’Oreal advertisement. With no sense of embarrassment, the album also includes a twelve page booklet of blank pages and uncoloured designs. This ill-considered use of the planet’s declining arboreal biomass can possibly amuse children for a couple of hours as they provide a more interesting expression of colours. As is the fashion with albums these days a digital download code is also provided.

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The enduring popularity of bishonen: the Wraeththu Trilogies by Storm Constantine.

June 17th, 2016 by David Gerard
Goth

first Wraeththu trilogyI have unresolved literary trauma, so you can have some too. These books are “sexy gender-ambiguous goth boys ahoy” porn from Storm Constantine as early ‘80s goth girl. (Note the cover star’s hand stapled to his forehead.) Apparently originating in a short story she wrote in 1973 at age 17, so David Bowie’s in there too.

I read the first three of these things when i was shacked up with a goth (of course) who was a writer (yes, I should know better than to hook up with artists) and the owner of literally a bookcase full of every vampire and vampire-adjacent novel she could find, of any quality or none. Storm Constantine got points for being a goth herself, of course.

These were Constantine’s first published works. She apparently wrote much better stuff later (which I haven’t looked at and probably never will), but unfortunately none of it sold very well, so milking the Wraeththu fans with dismal and unbelievably shitty spinoffs (e.g. the second trilogy) is what she has for a living now.

SPOILER: The climax (ahahaha) of the second trilogy is, no exaggeration, a weapon of mass destruction made of painstakingly collected horrendously acidic crystal jizz.

There is also an even worse role playing game, basically author-blessed fan fiction (“GIVE ME MONEY”), originally written as a fanfic resource guide, which is best experienced through the glory of the Darren McLennan rpg.net review. (The loved one has played the game and attests to the accuracy of the review.) (“YOU’RE GETTING YOUR ASSES BEATEN BY BISHONEN, FOR FUCK’S SAKE. MOTHERFUCKING PSYCHLOS HAVE BETTER MILITARY STRATEGY.”)

On the Divabot Trashy Glitz Scale, I somewhat enjoyed the first trilogy for the aesthetic. But they were incoherent books that made no fucking sense, and even less fucking sense on a second reading. I didn’t give them a third. I didn’t read the second trilogy; the loved one did, and remembers it with a shudder.

The worst thing is that the Wraeththu books are quite definitely goth as fuck, much as I might wish otherwise.

Links.

June 16th, 2016 by David Gerard

The vintage synthesizer petting zoo.

June 15th, 2016 by David Gerard
Musician

North Melbourne now has an interactive vintage synthesizer museum where you are actively encouraged to play with the exhibits. Like a gym, but for vintage synths. Membership is $220 a year, four-hour sessions are $44. Melbourne Electronic Sound Studio (M.E.S.S.), Dowling Place, off Wrecklyn Street, North Melbourne. HT Ms. 45.

“Jolene” by Dolly Parton at 33rpm works transcendentally well.

June 14th, 2016 by David Gerard
Country

Click the little “play” button at the top of this. That’s “Jolene” by Dolly Parton, slowed down to what the 45rpm single would have sounded like being played at 33rpm. That’s it. That’s all.

The guitar lopes back in and around itself. The bass becomes elastic, hot rubber. The violin stabs become sustained cello lines. The backing choir’s split harmony rattles around, slinking ghostly into the corner. And most importantly, Parton’s once-frantic vocal is transformed from bubblegum country scrawl into something approximating field holler reverence.

Play it now. It’s even better than that description.

What you need to know about Yasutaka Nakata.

June 13th, 2016 by David Gerard
Pop

Yasutaka Nakata, of the band Capsule, is a Japanese pop producer. Connoiseurs of producer disco need to hit the Nakata. He’s all but unknown outside Japan, and that’s just wrong.

Yasutaka with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, 8 May 2016.

Yasutaka with Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, 8 May 2016.

I first heard of Nakata when I heard “Pon Pon Pon” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and wanted to find out what evil genius was responsible.

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Death to the traitors, death to the traitors, death to the tra-ai-tors.

June 12th, 2016 by David Gerard
Esoterica

Canadian Cultural Worker’s Committee: “Death to the Traitors” from The Party is the Most Precious Thing, 1979.

This album is a real thing that exists, and the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) was officially Hoxhaist and aligned with Albania. The “traitors” in question are “revisionists”. (I know way too much of the jargon for someone who hasn’t ever been a commie.) This song may or may not quite be the perfect counter to neo-Nazi influence in neofolk.

It’s the sort of thing WFMU used to post to their marvellous esoterica blog. They never posted this one, though they did post Jack Paar on “fairies and communists”. HT donjuan-auxenfers.

Mos Generator: Abyssinia (2016).

June 11th, 2016 by David Gerard
Rock

Mos Generator Abyssinia“doom heavy stoner metal band”, the press release bluntly announces. Starts unsubtle and continues that way. The metalness is straight-up early ’70s heavy rock and does an okay job; keeping it melodic and not too noodly. They know what they like and would like listeners who like that too. (It’s a pity what I can make out of the lyrics fits too, but oh well.) The single “Weeping Willow” (below) is representative. “Heavy pop in B tuning with a self loathing gothic tinge to the lyrics” says the Bauhaus-shirted singer, making me wonder at metal scenesters poking around the long-dead music of a certain subculture, though I can tell you it really isn’t audible here. (You could try their Joy Division cover, though.) They’ve racked up quite the back catalogue too. Released July 15th.

New Order and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Sydney Opera House, June 4, 2015

June 10th, 2016 by Lev Lafayette
Post-Punk

The concert hall of the Sydney Opera House is, of course, one of the world’s great venues. Filled to capacity of over two-and-half thousand the audience were displaying an enthusiasm that would continue throughout the night. Although older on average, there was a fair sprinkling of younger faces indicating that the reputation of one of the world’s great electronic and synth-pop bands was still continuing.

neworderaco
But this was not just a New Order concert, but also one of the Australian Chamber Orchestra. One can justly feel concerns about the attempts of contemporary music bands to cross into the territory of chamber orchestras, but New Order seemed to be a very good fit. They started with with the short version ‘Elegia’, combined with stunning old footage of Sydney harbour divers. Performed beautifully, the audience was temporarily awed into silence, hanging off every note.

New Order themselves came out strongly with ‘Singularity’ from their new album Music Complete, a fast-paced driving dance-rock song which comes with a great music video mixing punk and riot scenes from the 1980s, which worked very well in the setting and set the standard for the rest of the night. It was followed by the unashamedly charming pop track from 1993, ‘Regret’, which was very well received, before returning a good performance of the new album’s content with the greed-themed and Arthurian-motif in ‘Restless’.

For the older fans, an unfortunately flat, rather than sombre, rendition of ‘Lonesome Tonight’ was next, but better complemented by a better following performance of ‘Thieves Like Us’, New Order being one of the few bands that can sing about love without coming across as a bit naff. It was also where, once again, the Australian Chamber Orchestra provided ample evidence that this was their concert as well.

There was a little of switching back-and-forth at this point, as the next track was a fair performance of ‘The Game’ from the new album, followed by a slightly disappointing presentation of ‘Your Silent Face’. The latter was particularly a shame for your reviewer, as it is his favourite New Order track. Relying on keyboards to be just right, they were too loud and the resulting distortion spoiled what is a great song. Even with this issue, it was superior to vacuous drivel that constitutes Tutti Frutti that followed.

This however, was a turning point in the concert as the band turned on a great performance of the ever-popular ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ which had a good proportion of the audience leaving their seats – but certainly not leaving the hall. They remained in position through the acceptable ‘Waiting for the Siren’s Call’, to return to a level of exuberance for a four-part medley ‘The Perfect Kiss’, ‘True Faith’, ‘Blue Monday’, and ‘Temptation’. The last song in particular witnessed a very and impressive contribution by members of the ACO a number of whom seemed to be taking a more active role than the conductor was perhaps entirely comfortable with.

For an encore, there was a return to the distant past with three Joy Division tracks; ‘Atmosphere’, ‘Decades’, and a not-unexpected, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart, providing a great capstone for what was a two-hour performance. Again, the contributions of the Australian Chamber Orchestra especially in the first two songs of the encore were notable.

It is some thirty years since your reviewer last saw New Order perform a somewhat shorter set at Canterbury Court in Western Australia. At the time they had a justified reputation for being somewhat indifferent to their audience. This has obviously changed. The had banter, enthusiasm, and even justifications when vocalist Bernard Sumner made a fair point of sounding a little odd on account of a cold – not surprising given the stormy weather. Combined with an audience that obviously wanted more, and a very worthy setting, it created in aggregate an atmosphere of one of an utterly superb concert.

Scott Walker and the freedom to go seriously weird.

June 9th, 2016 by David Gerard
Esoterica

Listened to Scott Walker’s 1984 comeback Climate of Hunter again recently. It’s a strange record, but Scott went strange pretty much as soon as he could. After his early pop hits with the Walker Brothers, he took the chance to make his individual vision obvious by the time of Scott 3 and Scott 4 in the late 1960s. He tried consciously mainstream records in the early ’70s that nobody bought, followed by an abortive Walker Brothers reunion, so Climate of Hunter has that “fuck it” that so often signals something good.

Even stranger is that someone at 96fm — the most popular, definition of mainstream radio station in Perth at the time — liked it enough to put “Track Three” into rotation. Next to the hourly Cold Chisel and Supertramp and Foreigner and Chicago. (I’m guessing Des Shaw or Steve Gordon, they were two DJs who notably actually liked music and would just drop weird shit into the rotation.)

I mentioned this on Facebook a while ago, and it turns out Pat Monaghan knew the A&R guy at Virgin who signed Scott. They were sincerely expecting Walker Brothers-style accessibility, and were more than somewhat disconcerted at what Scott delivered. To their credit, Virgin did actually try pretty hard to push it, fillum clip for “Track Three” and all. Here’s Scott on British television trying to be a helpful and friendly pop musician and looking a bit out of place.

He was dropped from Virgin in pretty short order and did nothing for a decade. Then an album in 1995 and an album in 2006, with one every few years since. These records are finest “holy shit what the fuck is that” from note one. Just the way we like it.

Edit: Steve Gordon notes: “I think that was before I got there David, so we can give Des the credit for that one (he was the Music Director). He did occasionally surprise with something weird. I had pretty much lost hope in Scott after those bloody awful Engelbert Humperdinck-like albums from the ’70’s that you mentioned.”

Links.

June 8th, 2016 by David Gerard
Musician

Polyphonic overtone singing explained and demonstrated.

June 7th, 2016 by David Gerard
Musician

I am frankly boggling that you can do this with a human voice. YOU MUST WATCH THIS.

No: Once We Were Scum, Now We Are God (1989).

June 6th, 2016 by David Gerard
Industrial

This is the finest album by the great Australian band No, featuring Ollie Olsen when he was still angry, before he discovered MDMA and made Third Eye. It’s a live album. I got the record when it came out in 1989 (a promo from Au Go Go) and played it every day for a few months. Invigorating and cheering music that will brighten your soul. Here’s my favourite track, “Glory.”

The album’s been pretty much unavailable for the last 25 years — I think there was a CD reissue at one point, but all copies I’ve found online are ripped from the LP — so here’s the YouTube playlist and a slightly fiddly download. I can’t find an online method to give Mr Olsen your money, but his current band, the Taipan Tiger Girls, have a Tumblr.

There was a comprehensive full-career Ollie Olsen interview in Forced Exposure #14, which isn’t online and of course my copy is long lost to the four winds. So if anyone has that, they should probably scan it and put it up.

The original song for the worst hold music ever has been found.

June 5th, 2016 by David Gerard
Esoterica

The original song the ultimate hold music was built around has been found. It’s called, of course, “Picture Perfect”.

He told me that this song was so good, that he’s going to be very rich and planned to break up with his girlfriend right away … I ended telling him I never heard anything like it, and it was unique.

(If I’m being super-generous I can hear what the guy’s trying to get at. Kurt Cobain could probably have done a version that wasn’t a complete abomination, for example. Why he would is another question.)

And, as a YouTube commenter notes, “If you sound the sound to at 1.5 times speed it sounds lik Pink Floyd.”

I was right at the time. Nineties indie rock sucked. Except Dave Graney, of course.

June 4th, 2016 by David Gerard
Rock

Just rereading the Dave Graney interview I did in late 1992 for Party Fears. This was when no fucker cared about Dave Graney, after his indie hipness fronting the Moodists in the 1980s and his artier cowboy rock’n’roll in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

He’d washed back up in Australia and was getting the songs together for his “fuck it” record, where he deeply gave no shits about any other fucker whatsoever. Got some cash from his publisher, used it to record an album he then shopped around. That turned out to be Night of the Wolverine, an Australian top 10 that made him a rock star for the next five or six years and remains renowned to this day. He won “Best Male Vocalist” at the ARIAs one year and promptly ran ads everywhere proclaiming himself “the King of Pop” and wearing a crown. He came to fame in his thirties, so he had enough life experience ballast not to fuck it up. A Fire Records contemporary of Jarvis Cocker from Pulp, who had a similar career trajectory; I understand they’re still mates.

So I hopped on Spotify and put his name in. Let me tell you, I am delighted. Mr Graney is an active participant in the Spotify experience, public playlists and all. I was most pleased by his “covers” list, where I got to hear Dave Graney doing “New Face In Hell” by Mark E. Smith and the Fall. I’m always disappointed when he uses his cod-American accent instead of his Australian one. Dammit Dave, you’ve got the voice, your laconic tones are an unstoppable expositional bulldozer.

I tried the generated Dave Graney “radio station”. Jesus, it’s fucking terrible Australian ’90s indie rock. The stuff contemporaneous with grunge, but not quite taking part. You Am I, I mean they were quite okay for the sort of band that enters the album charts at number one, and I remember Russell Hopkinson being very pleased how well the early rehearsals were going. Magic Dirt, one of those bands who were clearly not talentless and were always nearly there but never … quite. Ammonia, who were about the worst indie band in Perth, and therefore the most successful. The Cruel Sea, which was hopelessly square peg frankly disturbing indie genius Tex Perkins some-fucking-how topping the mainstream charts with inoffensive but not terrible workouts. I remember my brother-in-law’s CD shelf at the time: Billy Joel, Cruel Sea, John Farnham. At least Ed Kuepper ended up in there, in his early ’90s fit of releasing an album with one band or another every four months.

This. This sort of Triple J bullshit. This is the shit that made me give up following indie rock. Damn this shit. Damn it to hell.

Dave up front of the Moodists.

Of course, he was pretty cool back in these days too.

Dave Graney himself of course remains way cool. You should go and give him all your money. It’s in your utilitarian best interest.

(I am SO PISSED OFF I missed Dave playing in London a bare three weeks ago. This is what I get for aggressively not keeping up with shit.)

The Mark E. Smith Guide to Writing Guide.

June 3rd, 2016 by David Gerard
Writing

In 1983, Mark E. Smith of the Fall went on Greenwich Sound Radio and, between being interviewed and playing records, gave them his definitive guide on how to write. You can listen to it here. (There’s a transcript, but I urge you to listen to the audio first.) You can also download the whole show.

False memories of feelings past.

June 2nd, 2016 by David Gerard
Industrial

Front Line Assembly “Mindphaser” just came up on Spotify. I first heard it in 1993 or 1994, in the front room of 20 Stuart Street in Perth. The “cyberpunk house” as it was known. I think I was hungover and possibly still drunk from the night before. Certainly everyone else was.

Despite the name, note that this was the early 1990s, when we were still desperately yearning for the firehose of information that would hit us a year or two hence, but had no understanding of what all of this was actually going to be like. At all. Though we could sure tell you everything about what it would be like.

(SPOILER: we were all completely wrong. Nobody imagined all of this. Except J. G. Ballard, of course. I did first read Langdon Jones in that house, the other editor of New Worlds and definitely the worst the New Wave of SF had to offer. Turns out it wasn’t all up to Moorcock, Aldiss or Ballard standards.)

warning: extruded industrial video product, lots of flashing. It’s “Mindphazer” in the video but “Mindphaser” on the record.

The main thing I remember is hearing this track and thinking “HOLY SHIT THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER.” I took particular pride in the excellence and discernment of my musical taste at the time, so considered that if my superlative aesthetic judgement was triggered this powerfully by something then it must be worth serious attention.

I scrabbled about for a pen and a piece of paper to note down this record’s name and artist, just in case I encountered a cheap copy. Because we didn’t have the Internet, so hearing a given record again required hard work, happenstance or money we didn’t have. It could take years between seeing the name of some potentially-interesting band or song and actually hearing them. (Rather than just going to YouTube like I just did.)

I heard the song again a while later and was seriously disappointed. Where was the great record I’d heard? It seemed … mediocre. The verse is a Im-IIIm change they clearly lifted directly from New Order “Touched By The Hand Of God”. The chorus fails to be catchy in the slightest and sounds like they loved the verse and just bolted on the first thing that occurred to them. The quintessence of a mundane industrial workout.

Where is the good “Mindphaser”? What would “Mindphaser” that was actually good and hadn’t just happened to push all my buttons on that particular morning be like? Can this song be repaired? What configuration of my brain thought this was pure essence of “best thing ever”? I wasn’t even on powerful clubbing drugs at the time. The question of what the hell I was thinking has become one of my smaller white whales.

(I have never had MDMA. Christ, you think I talk babbling shit now, I’ve had speed twice and talked so fast my teeth melted and dribbled down my chin. I’ll stick to the coffee and drink I think. Also, beer and speed do not a successful erection make.)

Joe Carducci talked about this in his reactionary critical polemic “Rock and the Pop Narcotic”: how the persistence of vision effect is all that a lot of UK post-punk indie bands had going for them; how you could subsist entirely on potential to be good at some point in the future in the context of the present and not at all on actually being good at anything right now. “Promising”, weaponised.

(And there’s a separate epic to be written on the straight-up reactionary and proud strain in punk rock and rock criticism. Miriam Linna/Billy Miller, everyone in New York who Lester Bangs pissed off, Chris Stigliano, Maureen Tucker …)

I was taken in by the musical equivalent of an optical illusion; but how to construct things to fulfill such promises?

Pat & Mick: Use It Up And Wear It Out (1990).

June 1st, 2016 by David Gerard
Pop

This record is … way better than it has any right to be.

It’s a 1990 Stock/Aitken/Waterman pop disco remake of a soul hit from 1980 by Odyssey. SAW did this record so that two wacky matey banter DJs could say they’d done a charity record.

And look at that video. Look at it. It is hard to make a record of more crassly mainstream intent than this. And yet it’s actually shockingly good.

Here’s the SAW 12″. Here’s the Odyssey 12″. Here’s the version that was on the Queer as Folk soundtrack. Here’s another version that’s bloody terrible and shows how to fuck this song up. Here’s Wikipedia on the song.

Pop music. It’s a virus.

So let’s give this Spotify thing a go.

May 31st, 2016 by David Gerard
mp3

Yeah there’s a Linux version. Though the web interface is much the same and I could have just used that. Just running ad-supported as yet, I can put up with the ads so far for a bit of programmed variety and I have a mute button.

I tried Last.fm around 2009 when I was applying for a job with them. The computer-generated personal radio station thing is amusing in its way. I can’t see myself wandering around with my phone using up my data plan on streaming music; it’ll be strictly a desktop, or rather laptop, thing.

I consciously and explicitly gave up on this “keeping up with popular culture” lark in 1990, when I picked up a copy of Smash Hits and literally the only thing in the chart I didn’t thoroughly despise was “Sometimes” by Max Q and even that mostly on principle. I even consciously and explicitly gave up keeping up with indie rock in 1992, though that was more just hipster fatigue. So I’m looking over the UK “Top 50 viral hits” chart (where are all the other weird minor charts huh) and going WHO THE FUCK ARE THESE PEOPLE. The names look like a terminally unhip fiction writer’s idea of what pop stars might be called.

Well-produced, but; the pop music sounds beautiful these days, even as the songs themselves are same-old. I need to work out how they’re doing this stuff (on a deeper level than “pressing all the buttons in Ableton Live”). I am very conscious that I am the old people now and look to young people like old people looked to me in 1984. I wonder how I can get my head around pop music in 2016, insofar as that’s even a worthwhile idea. I aspire to write songs, which would probably benefit from at least slight awareness, even if my effective target audience is people a small variation from myself.

Current favourite: the generated VNV Nation and Covenant stations. EBM hits straight out of last decade and particularly clustering around 2001. I was reminded what an underappreciated album Covenant’s Skyshaper is. Their first after their abortive essay into the major label world, which involved Sony putting Northern Light out as a non-Red Book fake CD and the base getting pissed off and buying the Metropolis edition instead. “We are the men. Silent and cold. Beautiful eyes. Sheep among wolves.”

“Duncan” by Slim Dusty is now in Wikipedia.

May 30th, 2016 by David Gerard
Country

I was amazed to discover that Slim Dusty’s second-biggest hit wasn’t covered in Wikipedia. Well, now it is ‘cos I put it there. Sourced by dredging Google, Google News and Google Books. It’s actually a song about failing to sell life insurance.