179504_10150903501418257_619537535_n

Does anybody know??

The mighty Spears from Florida made my summer last year.  Their first LP, “Shove” was hardly off my ipod.  Every track was a stormer, and the combination of sleazy punk riffing and Chris Barrows’ tremendous voice, both pissed and whiny at the same time, was unbeatable.

So I have discovered that the band have, as promised, recorded tracks for a new album [although I don’t know whether the rumoured Gregg Ginn cameo happened]; and below is one of them.  The band’s Facebook page reveals that the tracks are all locked up and playfully teases that they ‘may never be released’.

Below, an advert for a show states:

“The spears are doing our final show on saturday jan 19 at mojos records and books on fowler ave in tampa (mojos is in the plaza just east of university sq mall). There are 7 really good bands and it is FREE. The spears play around 9 pm”

So can anybody wise me up?  Have the band split?  I know that there are various ‘other’ projects going on, most notably Down by Law.

Leave me a comment if you’re any the wiser.

0000246313_20

Sequoia: Doom it Up!

Another big rage last summer was Poland’s Major Kong.  Providing us with an immense dose of slow doom, they ticked mine and DeHud’s palates with the superb ‘Doom for the Black Sun’ release.

Well, the Polish doom scene shows no signs of abating, and while Rip It Up napped, they sneaked out a new track back in February entitled ‘Sequoia’.  Building on their previous melodic outing, they have delved even deeper into the dark pit this time, with the track oozing a stoned, confused mix of guitars and fuzzed up bass, all held together by Bonham-esque drums.  The emphasis this time around seems to be less on heaviness and more ‘rock’ orientated, [it even goes off on a Hawkwind-esque reverie at about 8 minutes] but it’s a great track for sure and hopefully serves as a portent of exciting new material to come.

Check this out:

 

602791_501497786568671_268246588_n

Conan / Bongripper Split

Last year we made great play about Liverpool doom merchants Conan, with their brand of super-downtuned slow doom.  And just as I thought they couldn’t possibly top their last efforts, they’ve just released a split ep with Chicago’s Bongripper on Lion’s Roar records, which showcases a new 16 minute behemoth, the subtly entitled ‘Beheaded’.

A drummed intro gradually gets overlaid with the deep, warm hum of their vintage valve amps.  This continues for a couple of minutes until the super low tuned riff kicks in, and it pretty much stays like that for the duration.  That is Conan’s trick – they simply use the riff to bludgeon you into submission, and somehow they make art using the most basic ingredients.

This is a corking track and a progression as well for the band.

wire-lead-image

In Praise of The Pink Flag

Firstly, awfully sorry for the lapse in posting! I’ve been very busy with work and general life stuff, and after my summer hiatus, I never really got going again – but then again the initial 2 to 3 posts a day work rate was never going to last.  And, apology over with, I want to talk about a band who have become one of my favorites over the years.

Wire.

Now, before you accuse me of indulging myself in a post-Christmas nostalgia-fest, the London-based art punks have actually been hard at it, even recently.  A new LP, ‘Change Becomes Us‘, is due for release in March 2013.  Messrs Newman, Lewis and Grey [minus Mr Gilbert] have, it seems, put together a new album at last – their first since 2010’s ‘Red Barked Tree’.

Going right back to the truly prehistoric period of 1977, when it seemed that every man jack was about to release a single or album riding on the crest of the previous year’s Punk cultural tsunami, Wire put out the truly confounding – and outstanding – ‘Pink Flag’.  The title alone – was it a play on the iconography of the still-taboo gay community? – stood out like a sore…..thumb.  The content – kicked off with the still awesome ‘Reuters’ – took you on a journey you simply didn’t expect.  Solid, punk-influenced [yet, tantalisingly still not really punk] foundations gave way to music that betrayed a million bedroom-based influences; everything from Beefheart to Can, meshed together with the headiness of the art punk excitement of the time.  Whatever the fuck ‘art punk’ means.

The thing that had me coming back again – ‘Object 47’, ‘Red Barked Tree’ and the part live epic ‘Send’ – was the sheer schizophrenic pinballing that these three skinny guys seemed to perform.  One minute terrace chanting [1-2-X-U – covered by amongst others Serious Drinking and Minor Threat], the next crafting soothing, yet spikily worded ballads [Bad Worn Thing], the band seemed to be playing with the idea of conventional music like a cat with a toy mouse.  Ever creative, my sense of excitement at novelty keeps me hooked.

Often derided for being Stone Roses-like in the gaps between their output, they were in fact prolific – although their busts of creativity seemed to last about four albums before they took a well earned 10-year break each time.  And now they’re back – and I’m looking forward to seeing these three balding, grey haired survivors top their last effort.  Confounding expectations, they seem to become more nimble and playful each time.  Here’s to Wire, and 2013.

As the Wright brothers correctly point out, Old is The New Young!

2967252718-1

Unkind – Harhakuvat

Back in August, when most of us were trying to get a bit of sunshine on our backs and find a long enough break in the rain to fire up the barbie, Finland was the setting for the unleashing of this furious slab of prime D-Beat from Unkind.  I know that it’s always tempting to refer to the dark/cold/extreme northern-ness of Scandinavia when reviewing a release from bands hailing from this region, but in this case, you can’t draw any other conclusions.  ‘Harhakuvat’ is a collection of despair and rage, with few let ups.

A five piece band, this eight track ep is their fifth release since 2005, and although there is an obvious influence of Discharge simply by virtue of this being classified as ‘D-Beat’, the influences on show here range from metal to downtuned all out punk that brings to mind the hellish despair of Wolfbrigade’s excellent ‘Damned’ outing earlier in the year.  Slow, metallic passages give way to all out headlong rushes into a snowdrift of angry punk.  I dunno if it’s something in the water up there, or if it’s the long periods of night time and the price of a beer [ok, that’s enough cliches thanks…..Finland Tourist Board] but something has got under these boys’ skin and they have produced a powerful, hard hitting slab of dark punk rock.  Have a bad day and then play this loud!

304823_267806733237914_995493755_n

Chinese Demography

As well as boasting the wonderful Manges, Italy has also been responsible for producing the irrepressible Teenage Gluesniffers, who have recently issued a new 7 track EP, which is entitled in a playful swipe at the awful Guns & Roses comeback effort of a few years ago.  Describing themselves as a punk rock band from Milan, Italy, the band formed in May 2006 and since then has played nearly 200 shows touring Italy and Europe.

Musically, Teenage Gluesniffers sit firmly in the pop punk bracket, and while no new ground is broken, they make a catchy as hell racket which is displayed amply on this record, along with comedy Chinese accents.  Short, punchy songs [Everytime is my fave] leave no room for self indulgence, and you can’t really help but crack a smile.  Lyrics describing lost loves and youthful frustration are what you’d expect, but the songs are well constructed enough to make this a varied listen.  Check it out, and while you’re at it, listen to their other releases too.  Their slightly rawer 2009 album, ‘Nervous Breakdown‘ cocks a snook at Lookout bands of the early 90s, which is never a bad thing.

Remember Raped Teenagers????  Not the Jimmy Saville victims, but the Swedish HC band? Neither do I really, so it’s a delight to stumble upon this fabulous E.P. from former members of Raped Teenagers now in TV Eye, released from Just 4 Fun records in Sweden – 10 snapping, breakneck choppy singalong punk tunes guaranteed to raise your spirits.

Their 1st album from 2009 is great aswell – 30 Tracks! :

534348_416811031711506_1903281174_n

Learning to Crawl

Waaaay back in May this year, when we were still enjoying torrential rain of Biblical proportions, I posted about a band I had picked up on called Crawl, who hailed from Douglasville, Georgia.  At the time, I described their initial outings – little more than demos posted on Soundcloud – thus:

“A recent discovery has been a band that hails from Douglasville, Georgia and who go by the name of Crawl.  Only formed this spring, the band comprises Eric Crowe on guitar[of FULCI and ex-Social Infestation, Molehill & Hog Mountin], John Holloway on bass [Of Legend] and Tommy Butler on drums. This three-piece like to play heavy, downtuned southern rock with gusto.  Not yet in possession of any releases, you’ll have to check out these two tracks from Soundcloud and make your own mind up, but early signs sound promising.”

Well, they’ve now got their proverbial shit together and produced a really cracking 4 track ep, which is so sleazy and dirty it makes you afraid to touch the speakers.  The line up for this release is: Tommy Butler – Drums , Eric Crowe – Guitar & Vocals , Brad Claborn – Guitar, Bass.

In case you don’t know, Crawl delight in getting soaked in southern bluesy sludge – think Weedeater having a whiskey and crack evening with Tony Iommi and you’re not even close!  Slow and enjoyably fast in the same song, they have really come together on this release, a notable progression since their initial forays.  My feet were tapping away as I listened to this on the Mac, and I can only imagine how great this sounds in a smoky, sleazy club with the bass cabs pushing the fetid air right into your chest!

This eponymous slab of doom is buzzing with low frequency mischief and it shoots right up to the higher reaches of Rip It Up’s releases of the year.  There are, it has to be said, far too many bands out there unwilling to get a bit of dirt under their fingernails, and frankly this is the aural equivalent of an evening of the strongest pale ale and the hottest curry you can imagine – searingly good stuff, boys.  Play this loud, right now!

51+bDYGiwwL._SL500_AA300_

Poison Heart – Surviving The Ramones

Y’know, rock biographies/autobiographies are a funny affair.  You have the benchmarks, the real classics written by articulate, often unhinged genii such as Julian Cope with his fantastic two parter, ‘Head On / Repossessed’.  When the writer is so gifted at storytelling, the concept of reading about a rock n roll life becomes compelling and you find it hard to put it down.  Then, you move down the scale and encounter the milquetoast-ish puff-pieces, an example of which, [quite a strange one you might think] is the biography of Paul Heaton, formerly of the Beautiful South.  Singularly failing to dig deep or challenge the egotistical, contradictory Heaton, the toadying writer just piles on the content, with no attempt made to dig beneath the obvious and let us know what makes the subject tick.  Finally, we arrive on the literary skid row, where you find the memoirs of those who, ironically, are probably the truest rock n rollers of the lot – the drug-soaked, addled lifers who didn’t pose, they just went out and did it.  And this basement level is where we find Poison Heart – an unembellished, full speed romp through the short and unhappy life of one Douglas Colvin, better known to you and me as the late great Dee Dee Ramone.

Now DeHud lent me this recently when I called in on our trip to watch NoMeansNo.  He has also just digested the other new-ish book from a late Ramone, Johnny’s ‘Commando’ – which I haven’t yet read and so won’t mention here.  So, what do we learn about Dee Dee?

Let’s let that question hang in the air for a moment.  Two years ago, I called in to the Ramones Museum in Berlin during a nice week long visit to the city.  My partner gamely accompanied me, even though she has rather different musical tastes.  But what became clear very quickly from the cuttings, articles and general Ramones detritus on display was that, contrary to my youthful image of the band as a bunch of pretty dumb, fun filled guys making speedy punk rock that was always the same yet always different, they were in fact a collection of misfits who shared almost no common ground, whose increasingly hostile relationships with one another hardly qualified them to be known as the ‘Brudders’, and who descended into drug and alcohol dependence, mental illness and ultimately untimely deaths.  A happy bunch they were not.  This came as something of a shock to me, and Dee Dee’s short book confirms this view uncompromisingly.

So, back to the book.  Dee Dee was perhaps the most wayward member of the band, a qualification which is all the more remarkable when you consider what damaged personalities the other two [Johnny and Joey] were.  His early childhood in the vicinity of various US Airforce bases in Germany was defined by alcoholic, absentee parents, the classic bunking off school, no discernible interests or talents, and a drift into drug abuse that was initiated the day he found two phials of methadone in a park [as you do….].  I shan’t repeat the story here, but suffice to say we get a reasonable view of his childhood and youth, but then, once the Ramones come along and begin to attempt to play, things get very confusing.

Dee Dee, who had the help of Veronica Kofman [I am not sure of she was the ghostwriter or just tried to arrange Dee Dee’s random, rambling thoughts into a digestible whole], is disarmingly frank about his state of decline.  Outwardly a punk rock hero who hob-nobbed with Johnny Thunders, Stiv Bators, Jerry Nolan and other greats of the era, Dee Dee in fact portrays himself as a pathetic drifter who was unable to form any kind of lasting relationship and who attracted abuse, violence and the exploitative attentions of those more manipulative and intelligent than him wherever he went. To try and deal with this, he adopted an increasingly paranoid and self defensive attitude to everybody he dealt with. Sadly for him, no industry contains more of those manipulators and exploiters than the music industry.

Dee Dee describes in blunt, unadorned terms the effect of his constant struggles with opiates, relationships and alcohol, but the most difficult thing for the reader to deal with is the way in which he darts from subject to subject, peppering his story with random conversations and thoughts which just make no sense at all.  Here is a passage from the chapter dealing with his later life in London:

“Once, near the Canal Street brige, I noticed a group of skinheads.  They looked great, dressed in their Doc Marten boots and lightweight army trenches.  They were all amped up and ready to swarm in on a possible victim.  I am seeing all this and notice how gleeful they become when they spot a ‘vic’……….[there follows a description of the skinheads roughing up a drunk that they encounter]….As I am watching this, I thought that maybe I should shave my head too.  This is England, right? And this is a grim society which I live in.  I am going to have to live by a few rules here, just as I did when I was in the Ramones.”

These grandiose, yet totally illogical pronouncements occur regularly throughout the story.  You are left with the impression that maybe Dee Dee was operating on a slightly different level to most people; I mean, if I saw a group of skinheads beating up a drunk, I’m not sure my first reaction would be to think that perhaps I should shave my head….

I took two evenings to get through this book.  I’ve read a few drug books, and a lot of New York books.  ‘Junky’ by William Burroughs is perhaps the most articulate and stark, whereas some of Nick Kent’s writings about characters like Sid Vicious and Johnny Thunders are similarly bleak.  The same old themes shine through in Dee Dee’s story – the hopeless drug addict’s basic lack of morality and any semblance of concern for others caused by the constant need for dope, the paranoid, ‘me against the world’ philosophy, the total absence of self esteem, the sense of humiliation he feels on a daily basis as things go wrong for him time and time again.  Yet at the same time he also experiences awful self awareness which he shows during his moments of lucidity: he realises the inevitability of his fate at the hands of the dreaded heroin, yet like all addicts is unable to take the decisive action necessary to change his destiny.

You get the feeling that this guy was a none too bright, but basically nice person, but his dysfunctional upbringing and the constant sense of failure that it brought him meant that he never really stood a chance, especially after he was brought together with three other equally disturbed and inept people in the Ramones.  But then, compared to the absolute nihilism and self-absorption that took down lesser contemporaries like Sid Vicious, Thunders, Stiv Bators, Nolan and the likes, Dee Dee displays remarkable integrity.

‘Poison Heart’ is a sad story, and it confirms my sad discovery that, despite their legendary status and major league popularity, the Ramones were a collection of sad, empty, unhappy people – victims in every sense in an industry of wolves, which is all the more sad given that they created music that was so influential and ground breaking.  Dee Dee’s death from an overdose just over a decade ago in Los Angeles was predictable given the story.  In fact, sadly, you wonder how he lasted as long as he did. RIP.