Archive for the 'Singles Breaking Up' Category

20
May
10

Singles – The Ex / Rocket From The Tombs

Two 7”s from two ‘classic’ bands. One was shortlived, lasted a year; the other has been going for more than 30. Both could be considered pseudo-punk at times. And that’s all the coincidences I can think of. Besides having bald men in their lineups.

Rocket From The Tombs started as some sort of noisy Stooges ripoff band, being active from 1974 to 1975 and then broke up into two different bands; Pere Ubu and Dead Boys, which could be considered to be the ‘arty’ and ‘rocking’ sides of punk, respectively. I know, it’s a beautiful analogy, same as comparing David Thomas to a big intellectual donut. So how come 2010 welcomes a new single from a band who achieved its height in the mid 70s? The reunion epidemic also struck them, in 2003: Ubu Thomas (back in his Crocus Behemoth role), the Boys’ Cheetah Crome and bassist Craig Bell decided to reform the band and got none other than Television’s Richard Lloyd to help them out. They couldn’t get founding member Peter Laughner to reunite FROM THE TOMB (get it?! he’s been dead since ’77!). Anyway, in 2006 they did another tour. Though RFTT are the quintessential protopunkish obscure band (nerds love to point out how the Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and Ubu’s “Final Solution” are actually RFTT covers, not originals), I don’t believe they’ve left much an impression on the general public, even average punk rockers. Them releasing a single is just weird; reunions are usually more welcome if they come accompanied by new material, but this is four years late. And the cover doesn’t exactly harness our hopes: a cash machine with too much ugly text swarming around. Their trascendence was substantial back in the 70s in the development of punk, yet their sound was not astonishingly original; what now? Well, tell ya what. “I Sell Soul/Romeo & Juliet”, now. It’s a bit awkward to listen to this new single considering most old material recorded sounds slightly shitty and lo-fi. But whatever, the two new songs are catchy: side A features a punkish guitar riff nicely ornamented with Thomas’ grotesque vocals. The (precise) guitar freakout near the end just shows the band is still indebted to the Stooges. Vintage RFTT alright, the harmony will be sticking in your head for a while. Side B begins staggering in a slumpy tempo more reminiscent of Ubu, only more conventional. And the guitar use is pure arena rock, from the background dribbling to the emotional soloing. Just a nice schizo ballad, with a shade of hopelessness thrown in. Overall, two worthy tracks; nothing exceptional. Cool psych-dadrock, yo.

Listen to Side A and Side B.

The Ex are one of the musical underground’s (if such a thing exists) finest assets. A complex discography of more than a dozen studio albums, including some produced by our God Almighty Steve Albini. Three decades on the road, only guitarist Terrie Hessels remains of the original lineup; founding member and vocalist G.W. Sok decided to call it quits last year. The band (complete with Katherine Bornefeld and Andy Moor, both Ex veterans who have been in the band for twenty years) decided to hire a new guy and keep rocking. In 2009, 30th anniversary celebrations were made; back in 1936, a thousand CNT members cheered “Ay Carmela!”. I saw them live last year (after having experienced them with Sok some time ago) with this fresh individual, a fellow named Arnold de Boer, and they cranked out a shitload of tunes which I barely recognized. It was tight since The Ex are the definition of tightness, but Sok’s voice and grave attitude was sorely missing. As if his very presence set a determined mood. It was weird and strangely erotic. This new single embodies the sweat of the new Ex. “Maybe I Was The Pilot” starts with a relatively benign guitar riff soon joined with pounding baritone guitar and cowbell-based percussion. The heavy, monotonous mess then welcomes Boer’s vocals which strangely resemble Sok’s affected, invoking utterances, yet are more “normal”, more melodic even. By the end the guitars get loose and the song adopts a stop/go (quiet/loud) dynamic. In typical Ex fashion, they add a car horn to the whole mix and the tribal frenzied becomes quite unique. “Our Leaky Homes”, side B, starts off with Boer mentioning some toothpaste before the Ex’s idyosincratic groovy rhythms shut him up. The riff melodies displayed here are very Terrie Hessels… on a sunny day. Though ramshackle and noisy, the song is poppish, hammering in a Fall-esque reiteration worthy of a bittersweet headache. Part of this impression might be due to Boer’s carefree vocals, yet the instrumentation doesn’t get too brutal. While not exactly ‘underwhelmed’ I still remain skeptical of this whole new Ex thing. The new compositions cannot be faulted but they strike me as decaffeinated outtakes from Turn. They’ve always been listener-friendly but the guitar freakouts seem more contained than ever. Apparently a new album is due in some months; colour me intrigued.

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