Posts Tagged ‘punk


kim salmon and the surrealists – grand unifying theory

The recent whereabouts of Kim Salmon have been much talked about and discussed among the fans of Rock. Or so we’d wish. But the man’s kept quiet for a few years and therefore one has to ask: how does he feel? He’s been around, playing random gigs in Australian joints and continuing the Scientists reformation, but a new record was long overdue. Since 2007’s Salmon, a interesting (and sadly abandoned?) instrumental project, and the same year’s Sedition, a live album showcasing the Scientists’ return to venues, he’s maintained a discography silence. Until a few months ago, when this was released, the first Surrealists album in a dozen years: probably his strangest record. I’m aware they are possibly Salmon’s weirdest act, but still, most of their quirkiness derives from being tongue-in-cheek or just for shits and giggles, always residing in that awkward line in between soul and parody. But this, this Grand Unifying Theory, oozes strangeness in its structure, focus and, who knows, goal.


There’s two short opening songs in the vein of early Surrealist releases, that is, sleazy drugged-out punk blues with Iggy-esque vocals, much howling, guitar strums here and there, cocky words (“We are the elite, don’t blame us”), caverns and jack’n’coke. À la Jon Spencer, but looser. The rhythm section provided by drummer Phil Collings (that IS his actual name) and bassist Stu Thomas in them both is remarkably funky. Slightly different is perhaps the third track, “Rq1”, which has punkrockish, even hard rocker, leanings. These few compositions, which amount to nine minutes, turn to crumbs when the title track kicks in. 24 minutes of steady extravaganza, probably Salmon’s most ambitious stunt yet. After a bit of noisy distorted wankery (too extended), in which the instruments groan and create expectation, the bass strikes a solid line, soon followed by the wah-wah of Salmon’s fuzzed out guitar. Hendrix spirit at first, it actually evolves into some sort of disfigured, obscure Funkadelic track. And all the same, the swamps are ever so present: the muddy sense of Salmon, his very australian tone, remains. There’s a definite krautrock ambiance (only not as clinical), and the improvising, alternating treatment of the instruments also brings to mind electric (and funk) Miles and the European school of free jazz (there’s moments of little ‘tar noises, weepy bass and cascading drums that’d make you think Salmon’s a fan of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble – ’tis much more restrained, needless to say). The jazz conception is obvious, especially in the spacing of the trio. The fragments in which the bass and drums duel even sound stoney. And then the track degenerates, and it dies.


What could come after such mammoth exercise? Some more filth. “Pathological” is a draggy, sludgy blues in the tradition of young Nick Cave, female choruses included, “Predate” has a more furious pace but the same dirty approach, “Childhood Living” is rocky and catchy, and “Kneel Down At the Altar of Pop”, a hardrock superstar kind of title, features an excellent, jazzcore bassline. But I don’t know, man, it’s gritty and sounds all muddled and deranged. The album’s a fucking mess. As stated above, it is strange, but it’s just Salmon. I don’t know if he intended this to be a compendium of his facets. As if he wanted, particularly with the title jam, to revisit rock music, specially his own, which would explain the title. Two things are clear: he’s having loads of fun, and he’s cut loose. The result is not what could be expected of him – but it is. Irregular and perhaps not all that memorable. Yet, that’s partly the point, the aloofness, the detachment. The sick, swampy rock the Beasts of Bourbon championed is here (even their Stones echoes), diluted, but it is. Salmon continues to unfold danger. There is a tension, a sense of discomfort, when listening to his guitar and yells. In a time in which such visceral rock is not genuinely fashionable, material such as this is more than welcome. I mean, what the Drones do is nice, but it’s not scary as what the Scientists or some of them oz Amphetamine Reptile bands (King Snake Roost, Lubricated Goat) managed to evoke. Listening to “Revhead” and shitting in your pants. Yeah, that kind of thing.

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Twin Stumps – Seedbed

Finally Twin Stumps have decided to release their ode to balding people, as the cover states. The material inside the album does go farther than this mentioned tragedy and reaches heights of sonic filth. Twin Stumps themselves define their genre as “downer”; and of course the one band I can think of who could be also classified as so are the Swans in their nihilistic heyday (early 80s). The similarities are obvious; both bands could be somehow considered “industrial” and “noise-rock” yet they go beyond those tags. The Stumps are overall a sludgy punkish post-hardcore act, whose production here (engineered by the Pygmy Shrews’ Ben Greenberg) is intentionally lo-fi crappy – but also thankfully clear and not as muddled as it first appears to be: the instruments are identifiable instead of being buried in layers of nauseating noise (it’s evidently not recorded in some bathroom but it’s been manipulated as to sound “muddy” – the bass in the excellent “Missing Persons”, for instance, is fuzzy as fuck). Yet of course the album is permanently noisy. There’s some loud, abrasive tracks, such as the shouty “Business Class”; sonic experiments, notably “Body Plan” (a collage of eerie sounds – which might or might not be a subway train, shots being fired and drumsticks being thrown against a wal); or just quiet, disturbingly reptile and droneish segments of bass/guitar repetition (“Lungs”; “Pigs at the Trough”). But it’s always noisy as hell. Some of the cuts are even catchy (“Drainage City” has an ace bassline; “Caged Emily” has rushing hummable crescendos; “Lust Murder”‘s guitar is absurdly memorable). The slowest motherfucker here is probably “Pope’s Nose”, which should become a protosludge classic. Singer/shouter Alessandro Keegan screams “you’ll never be what your mother wanted” and other happy remarks in an array of hate reminiscent of… the Swans, who else. I really don’t know what he’s yelling most of the time, but I suppose it’s nothing too pretty. Many are the Stumps’ influences. Screeching guitars and hammering bass worthy of Flipper, the pounding rhythm and vicious vocals of Godflesh (no really, Keegan sounds like Broadrick at times), the noise/feedback mayhem of Harry Pussy, the gritty reality of the harsher Brainbombs (I’m thinking “Anne Frank”), the atonal, insisting soundscapes of many No Wave acts; the doomish decaying ambiance of Nootgrush; all these bands conform the core of the Twin Stumps’ aural tradition. I believe they display more creativity and expert composition (not just attitude and noise for noise’s sake) than SQRM, Drunkdriver or other “noisy” bands of the moment. I’m not underestimating them at all; it’s just that the whole of Seedbed inspires such confidence and cohesion (by not being boringly reiterative) it’s hard to imagine punky noise rock being more consistent than this. The album leaves the listener exhausted and messed up.

And that is a GOOD thing.

Download here (from, a “band-approved” leak of the album).


nomeansno – 0+2=1½

Nomeansno haven’t had an original idea since 2006. At least not one so thundering as to give it to the people. Now they’ve decided to smuggle some old material. Yet do not be mistaken. This is not one of those boring deluxe editions – original album + meandering demo filler. It features just the filler. If Nomeansno had decided to call it quits after 0+2=1, this material would be fresh and exciting; however, they re-recorded most of it for other albums. So, there’s not much NEW stuff in here. I guess it can be considered a part-deluxe / interesting hits / B-sides / whatever release. Overall, it is notably all over the place. 0+2=1 is one of their most eclectic albums: not as fucked up as Small Parts Isolated And Destroyed or Wrong, but varied and catchy. Its remains, offered here, follow a similar trend.

“Cats, Sex and Nazis”, probably one of their most intriguing song titles, features a droning bass beat and an increasingly intense sound. Nomeansno have always been relatively Fall-esque in some of their longer, extended pieces, which are based on repetition (something they mastered in One). This is the kind of song that could go on and on forever and wouldn’t get tiresome. Besides it is a celebration of zombies and flesh-eating. The cut is present in the Why Do They Call Me M. Happy album (as it features the line “Do you know why they call me Mr. Happy?), as is “I Need You”, which continues the iterative brainfuck bass à la Flipper, the other two instruments seemingly subdued until three minutes in, when creeping guitar spirals and cymbal waves strike in, eerily. The punk minimalism is barely interrupted, only a brief wall of guitar sound emerges. The “controlled tension” formula sinuously displayed (also, some of Wright’s most melodramatic vocals). Featured in The Worldhood of the World (As Such), “Lost”‘s start promises a rockin’ track, with a pre-climatic screeching guitar-fest and a chantable “I wanted it all” line, yet it’s not until two minutes in that the guys make the song explode in rushing melody – and it doesn’t last long. Again, Nomeansno’s interest relies on the thumping proto-chorus, not the verse designed for the cut (not all that special – standard post-Wipers punk rock). They even manage to include keyboards at one point. ’tis gotta be one of their most “edge-of-the-seat” compositions. Nauseating. “Blinding Light” is a rather sub-par punk effort, which can be found in Nomeansno offspring band Mr. Right and Mr. Wrong’s lone record. The imaginatively titled “John Instrumental” is a delicious post-hardcore affair, although not very distinctive, having archetypal rhythm changes, angular guitars, aggravating bass and mathy melodies. “Victim’s Choice/Happy Bridge/Ghosts intro” – whose title and sound are awfully reminiscent of Victims Family – combines cuts from Worldhood, Happy and 0+2. It is a neat reminder of why Nomeansno are the kings of “jazzcore”. Funky, groovy, noisy shit, complete with yelling. Though the complexity is oppressive and smart, the track suffers, precisely, from being the pinnacle of “jazzcore”. That is, being a treat to listen to – but after it’s over, remaining forgettable. Only the latter part of the song can be somehow recalled. This is tiring music to listen to at home – but a blast to experience live. “Now it’s Dark”, an unreleased track, re-uses the hammering formula of “Lost” and manages to be just as tense. Its little climaxes (with the Wrights exclaiming dark dark now it’s dark!) are vintage messy hardcore, but as usual Nomeansno manage to force the track to linger on, complete with whispered lyrics instantly followed by screams. Fun stuff. Another version of “Cats, Sex and Nazis” closes the disc. As unnecessary as that might sound, it’s always a pleasure to listen to one of their most memorable (and even hummable) compositions.

Nice music from these Wright individuals, expertly designed for completists. Thing is, the tracks included are not particularly among Nomeansno’s best (except maybe “Lost” and “Cats, Sex and Nazis”). You’re better off listening to the albums which followed 0+2=1. Actually, you should go and eat everything the band ever recorded and pray for a new breathtaking release, which is waaay overdue.

Download here.


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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‘Come with your ears… leave with your ears!’

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