no more mr. bad guy

badguys

no sir, no indeed. calling it a day with a staggering bill for their sold out final show and doin’ it for charidee like the nice guys they secretly are – tomorrow night, hot tears of sorrow will run down still grinning cheeks as Bad Guys bow out. (That’ll be Prince Reelfoot at the very least, he won’t reviesw it but ‘everyone was amazing and I was very drunk’ will suffice) If you’re there you can pick up a cassette of their half a third album. If not you can have a listen and buy it on bandcamp here. As I believe I mentioned earlier – it’s all about the buying things off bandcamp today. ‘No More Mr Bad Guy’ is not in any way half arsed or half done though. Five tracks of solid bad guy riffing and silliness, I have my suspicions that ‘Dickhead For Love’ is going to tear it up tomorrow, shame they aren’t going to be playing it a whole lot more. The rest of the bill also have top tunes you can enjoy/buy on the bandcamp. It’s all good stuff worth and checking out even if you aren’t going or don’t give a crap about Bad Guys neither…

Gum Takes Tooth have been around a while and make a compelling kind of electronic psychedelic noise somewhere between Fuck Buttons and Giant Swan. This album is a couple of years old, they were pretty fierce at Supernormal last summer so maybe another one is not too far away. Luminous Bodies feature Gordon off of Terminal Cheesecake and make a completely demented garge psych racket. Casual Nun have a new record imminent which I’m assured by Reelfoot ‘is not fucking about’ but it ain’t on the bandcamps yet, here’s their first from last summer. Green Tea? mmm love some green tea yeah. Opening proceedings are Henge. That’s the London Henge who love the Butthole Surfers and make a fearsome noise on their brand new God Unknown record – not the Manchester one who love Peter Gabriel period Genesis. Not sure what the possibility of the name clash causing trouble is, they’re both pretty marginal concerns but perhaps we could get someone to book them both for a festival like Supersonic or Sin Eater and have a soundclash – to the victor the name! I’m picturing they get neatly made sashes from a workshop earlier in the day – loser does the washing up.

boom_headshot

 

 

 

The Hopeless Renovation Project

PJ Harvey                           some shithole warehouse, Wolverhampton,  4th Nov 

bird-hat1As mentioned in previous despatches, the Hickeysonic party bus found itself in  Wolverhampton last week to witness scary crow lady PJ Harvey’s last UK date of her current campaign. Short version – terrible, terrible venue, really breathtakingly bad, nonetheless the sound was good and the performance was fantastic, the current band are remarkable. Long version – more confused and contrary but somehow crystallises in this older clip that I really wanted to post. There are, should you care to look, several full shows from this year on youtube. You’d certainly get a much better view than anyone did at Wolves, possibly even a slight variety in the set list. As expected it comes almost entirely from the last couple of records with a spattering of older crowd pleasers. That’s fine, they’re good records and the new one builds upon and refines the developments of ‘Let England Shake’ I think. I’m sympathetic to whoever booked the tour and thought shows in warehouses would be good, perhaps wanting to avoid the slightly sterile chill that descends in seated venues on artists at this point in their career. There’s a laughably overpriced can bar that shuts as they take the stage and the toilets, only reached by forcing your way through the entire crowd, are chemical toilets. The uneven floor slopes away from the stage, the back of which is not tall enough to show off the impressive back drop and the roof is supported by a forest of iron pillars cutting down the already poor view. The previous night in Manchester had apparently been a similar debacle. In truth it really would have been better suited to a theatre. Polly is a grown up, award winning, artist now and her audience are aging with her, wide eyed youngsters who’ve fallen under her spell in the same way as my contemporaries are notably short in supply. I can’t remember a gig where I knew so many people. We shuffle about in our sensible dark clothes, our knees and backs ache from standing on concrete, this new stuff might be percussive but nobody’s going to be doing much dancing to it. There are two, possibly three, points in the evening when one might actually shake their hips with any conviction. It’s already theatrical, the airless solemn haze of seriousness has descended unbidden. The performance is ruthlessly martialled and honed, they march on stage playing, Polly’s florid hand gestures seem excessively mannered and over rehearsed. We’re a long way into the tour of course, and they’re impressive musicians, but the band are amazingly focussed and tighter than Blixa Bargeld’s waistcoat. From my limited view joy and abandon seem in short supply on stage. If you’ve ever seen James Johnston perform in Gallon Drunk or the Bad Seeds you’ll know what I mean. Spontaneity becomes a menace in such a large ensemble. To my surprise it has been ten whole years since I saw Polly live. A lot has changed and I’m trying to understand it I guess because in the previous ten years I’d seen her many times and watched her move through a variety of phases, such a big gap allows for essentially a completely new and different experience. That last time she appeared solo performing the stark and personal songs that would become ‘White Chalk’ a record so hushed and nakedly personal I found it hard to listen to. It seemed to prove an end to that line of writing for her too. For the subsequent records that form tonight’s show she has looked outwards to write about the world and not herself, a laudably smart and bold move for her own self preservation and as a continually developing artist. When you consider those are the three albums she’s put out in the last ten years then maybe the scarcity of younger faces in the crowd is less of a mystery – they’re pretty short on the immediate and emotional punk blues punch that made her name. “They’re gonna build a Wal-Mart here” or “All near the memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln” are interesting lyrics but they lack the visceral immediacy and humour of ‘Lick my legs, I’m on fire” don’t they? That Polly, the one in the clip, wearing a dress with Animal from the muppets on it and singing a Slim Harpo song is gone. 30-40 minutes in she does the swooningly claustrophobic ‘When Under Ether’ and it’s like Polly finally arrived on the stage, stepping out of character and speaking straight to us. Observation and experience are different things. If we want to be harshly honest it was clear even then that ‘Uh Huh Her’ was a kind of reanimation and self caricature of Polly the witch queen of swamp blues putting it to bed with a last fierce hurrah. ‘Who The Fuck?’ indeed. I’m not down on this by the way, I’m impressed, but it is different. The Blues arrives instead as quotation, the sample of Jerry McCain that kicks off ‘The Ministry of Social Affairs’ and gives it that insistent hipshaking groove is somehow the clearest signpost so far that she can yet get even better at this, combining the remarkable immediacy of her early records with the formal innovations of the new, it ends wonderfully on Terry Edwards skronking away centre stage. The three sax, two drummer and everything else too line up of the band provides remarkable and unique backing. Despite their number the band are admirably restrained and Edwards is certainly its core driving force. The presence of Mick Harvey, looking ever more like Jim from Neighbours, in the band as well as Johnston combined with all the group singing and her own history has earned a fair few mentions of The Bad Seeds in connection with this line up. Watching them though I’m struck by how it’s Einsturzende Neubauten it most echoes. It might seem odd on the surface but the considered pulse, unfolding sonic textures and choral vocals are closer to later Neubauten, the apocalyptic drama of the Bad Seeds is missing, the real kicker is the approach to the writing though. I have the odd thought that I’ve never seen Polly and Blixa in a photo together. Best I can find is a performance of ‘Henry Lee’ on The White Room but there were surely other times they were in the same place. She hits the home stretch with ’50ft Queenie’ a dizzying rock’n’roll punch to the throat, then ‘Down By The Water’ and ‘To Bring You My Love’ all seemingly crowd pleasing concessions and yet sounding absolutely incredible. They finish on the set piece of ‘River Anacostia’ dissolving into ‘Wade In The Water’ and disappointingly the singing crowd don’t carry on alone when the band end but break straight into applause and cheering. Because we’re spectators not participants here. Shake Your Hips baby.

 

crow-copy

How Did I Die?

3small

It’s Armistice day. Which is the perfect time to revisit this, Einsturzende Neubauten’s extraordinary ‘Lament’ commissioned to mark the centenary of the great war. If you need a break from non stop Leonard Cohen today or over the weekend this is a pretty high quality, only slightly incomplete film of a performance in Prague. As ‘Lament’ was conceived as a live performance rather than a recordng I found watching some the footage of it helped me get more from the album. There’s plenty of other performances there in a wide range of qualities if you go looking. Two years ago this was a striking way to mark a hundred years since the great war, to remember the suffering and insanity of the two wars that tore the continent apart in the past century and affirm the common sense sentiment ‘never again’. In our current moment, as the US have just elected a dangerously unpredictable new President, Putin does his grinning sabre dance and here in the UK we decide to turn our back on Europe, on an imperfect union that has nonetheless ensured the longest peace, it seems the spectres of war are once more stepping out from their bunker. In that atmosphere remembrance seems to be a less solemn and more urgent concern.

Neubauten have been on near constant rotation this month since they announced the release of a Greatest Hits collection (out Nov 25 – an ideal xmas gift for that hard to buy for relative). the one track included from Lament is ‘How Did I Die?’ Which is possibly the best song on the record and something of a distillation of its concerns. As always with such things it’s a potential magnet for fan outrage – no Headcleaner! I sputtered aghast – the first, metal banging phase of the band, their creation myth and ur text is ignored altogether, the earliest track is a new remix of Haus der Luge, included it seems because they could now afford a brass section they wanted at the time. ‘Total Eclipse Of The Sun’ is the only one of their singles included, not that they were ever a singles band, and it doesn’t split neatly at the departure of F.M. Einheit and Mark Chung either. But then why would it? A loosely assembled, home ripped version of the tracklist has been a pretty daily companion of late and it’s a brilliant selection, smartly programmed, whihc shines new light on the music it contains and reflected light on other stuff I’ve listened to again as a result. And then there’s the Musterhaus stuff, which I never knew about I don’t think. Deeply experimental recordings for subscribers to the project released in 2007 through their website. The last of these was called ‘Weingeister’ and is made of recordings of the band drinking wine. 2004 Moscato Giallo

 

20150919-_mg_4627-webbw-620x400

 

mbid-63e97306-6d4c-4525-b660-68a357ba3edb

Supersonic 2017 Launch Party

swanswan

the much loved Supersonic festival celebrates its return next year, having mostly sat out the terrifying 2016 shitshow  because doing this stuff isn’t easy, with a two night launch party in Digbeth. That difficulty is something of a hot topic this week as the Tusk people announced Safe As Milk in Prestatyn, hoping to rescue the good ideas from the ATP wreckage. Meanwhile Hogan’s shuffling zombie corpse has lurched back out of the closet just when you thought it was dead and announced Transformer, an unlikely bill in a venue currently receiving widespread scorn after near disastrous shows by John Carpenter and PJ Harvey. We miss the first night of this launch party in Wolverhampton watching PJ succeed against the odds in another shockingly ill prepared venue. All of which serves to drive home just what a difficult and brilliant job Supersonic has done year after year drifting around similar disused industrial spaces and making them work so well. We shouldn’t take it for granted and it only looks set to get harder. So next June, come along. Tonight is in the relatively cosy confines of Centrala, a café in an old industrial unit that’s just opened up the second floor for live events.20161105_234951

As we ascend the stairs a resoundingly final chord sounds and we arrive just as Rainbow Grave take their instruments off and leave the stage. Pity, I was looking forward to them, but there’ll be other times. Kuro are a violin, upright bass and electronics drone duo. It seems to take me about five minutes to get over the fact they’re not Nic Bullen yelling nihilist bile at me, but once I focus in on what they’re doing it’s good. The sound is roughly like if John Cale’s viola on ‘Heroin’ was the whole album. There’s only a minimal amount of screeching, they aren’t about in your face noise, more wrapping you in a warm but slightly scratchy blanket of sound. My mind wanders a bit, partly the point with drone I guess, it’s not like I start worrying about whether I left the gas on or anything, still, I think I enjoy it more when I’m paying attention rather than letting them send me back into my thoughts. Never know what you’ll find in there, place is an unholy mess.

Downstairs, one of Ex-Easter Island Head is doing a short performance for prepared guitars – he’s got a couple on a table with knitting needles jammed in the guitar’s strings, bells and quiet little portable radios making the strings vibrate. Rearrangment of the various elements creates a pleasing and delicately shifting sound piece. It’s a bit precious perhaps (it’d be easy to take the piss) but nothing here is even all that new of an idea and many more possibilites remain to be explored. There’s a second performance a bit later but by that point there are a few too many people talking at the other end of the room to really listen to it.eeih

Bismuth is a chemical element, a ‘post transition metal’ which may be relevant to their sound. Another duo, this time drum and bass. More drones, this time in doom metal flavour. Tanya has a bewildering array of effects at her feet, I think one chunk for the vocals and one for the bass. Kat Bjelland screaming “Cat-a-tonic!” drawn out to 15 mins. It’s that kind of noise assault where the volume and power of it recedes to become the dark water in which you’re floating. As I ponder the void in my heart I begin to realise Rainbow Grave were our only chance to see anyone actually perform a ‘song’ this evening. I’m ambivalent about this of course, because nothing matters.

 

Concerns, voiced mostly by Reelfoot, that repeat viewings might somewhat take the shine off of Rattle’s magic act are swiftly put to bed by their performance tonight. They’re somehow better than when I saw them over the summer, they seem tighter, more focused and driving. Or they might just be less tired from trying to put up a broken tent in a field. I’m still charmed by how they never fall to just playing the same beat and the near telepathic rapport that makes their swooningly off-kilter music happen. There’s definitely something a bit secret world/idioglossia, a bit ‘Heavenly Creatures’ about it. Probably with less Mario Lanza and murder involved but it isn’t clear. I guess they have songs just about, there are occasional vocal parts anyway but it’s so abstract and oddly structured, certainly not milkman humming or Lanza material. We’ve never noticed before but they only have the one bass drum, always assumed it was just two kits facing one another. Maybe sometimes it is. rattle

Stinky Wizzleteat are a filthy, appalling, wilfully ugly racket and I’m not in the mood. I give up, like a coward. As a similar fate befell the totally different Tomaga when appearing after Rattle I suspect there may be some sort of curse in play (stage whisper “WITCHESSSS!”)

Last up Giant Swan are fast becoming something of a sensation on the back of their live shows and so far very little recorded output. They too are a duo – if you were looking for more evidence of the financial constraints upon artists and promoters the fact that the majority of the bill is made up of two piece acts and most of the full bands are local is a harsh poke in the face with fiscal necessity – but we aren’t here for that, shut up man, you’re harshing my buzz. Giant Swan are a side project from two guys in a band (The Naturals) who appear to have hit on a magic formula. Most likely you’ve seen or encountered similar things before, early Holy Fuck for example, (or surely you watched the video of their set from Supernomal? do it DO IT). Live, improvised, electronic hoo-hah on temperamental hardware, it’s not revelatory so much as they just do it really well, with clear love and enthusiasm. Tonight they come out swinging with some banging techno from get-go and for the lion’s share of the set, indeed they’d have killed it at local techno mecca House Of God – no question. How much they are aware of this and how long they can sustain it seems now to be the dilemma because, on the surface at least, there seems to be something of the idiot savant about them. By which I mean it feels like they fell naturally into a way of making music outside their usual thing and so what they do feels light, free of restraints and expectations or genre moves that you might get with something like Karenn for example, an act whose identity is more predetermined. How, or even if, they can maintain that spontaneous and contagious sense of joy is tonight’s countdown conundrum. The audience has thinned considerably, is it techno-phobia? leaving before an unknown quantity? Or is everyone just pressed together because beard strokin’ is done for the night and we’re all just ‘avin it? Because now it’s just massive fun, a pretty non-stop-full-on set only winding down and losing its way a little at the close but stopping just short of calamity. Splendid.

Downstairs Sausage are bringing the processed meat jams. Rubber masks, old hits and a sampled voice saying ‘Sausage!’ – I don’t know about art but I know what I like y’know?

then we go out by the canal and our supersonic mum gives us sparklers because it’s bonfire night and because of course they would, because supersonic is brilliant.

giantswan

sausage