Category: Guest Writer

Backworlds we’ll go: Paul D’Amour on the Origins of Lusk’s Free Mars

Alicia Berbenick is a writer and musician from Brooklyn. She has an unnatural obsession for weird shit that she constantly needs to get down on paper. Here’s a story of one of those obsessions.

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It was April of 1998. I was at the tail end of my middle school years and all I cared about was music—new music in particular. One night I couldn’t sleep, so I snuck downstairs to the living room to watch MTV (which was outlawed in my home). 12 Angry Viewers was on, a show that only lasted two years but sought to introduce people to more subversive music. It was there in the early hours of the morning that my pre-teen self fell in love with a track named “Backworlds” by the supergroup Lusk. The video juxtaposed childhood innocence and nostalgia with blood-sucking, explosive violence. The song was equally jarring, luring me in with a poppy keyboard loop of an earworm, then exploding into this beautiful psychedelic chorus before it corrodes into uncomfortable, repetitive shouting. I’d never heard anything like it. The record was called Free Mars, a title that really spoke to the fiery, weird parts of me that felt suffocated by the world. I saved up, bought it at The Wall, and put it on repeat for the next 20 years.

It is a collage work of sounds pieced together by two brilliant musicians with the help of so many of their talented friends. To fans, Free Mars is one of the most underrated and overlooked records of the ’90s; yet there is little-to-no information out there about how the record was made. I wanted to see if I could get at the root of why it was so life-changing for some and passed up by too many, so I reached out to Paul D’Amour. D’Amour is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist, musician, composer and producer. Most fans probably remember him for his writing and signature bass sound on Tool’s Undertow. At the start of our conversation he mentioned more than once that “no one ever wants to talk about [Free Mars].” But beneath those comments, I thought I could hear the sound of a proud parent.

“Backworlds” won high ratings on MTV’s short-lived jury style show 12 Angry Viewers, giving it heavier rotation on the channel.

 

Let’s take it back to 1993. Tool was on tour promoting Undertow with Failure as an opening act. D’Amour became friends with their front-of-house soundman, Chris Pitman, as well as Failure’s bassist, Greg Edwards. The three (plus Ken Andrews of Failure) would mess around by playing pop songs during their down time, which led them to produce a covers record under the name Replicants. It gave D’Amour a taste of what it was like to explore other musical avenues and, during the writing stage of Ænima, D’Amour quit Tool. “I really just wanted to have some fun and not have rules, you know?” D’Amour said. “Playing in Tool, as far as [being] creative, there were too many rules in that band. The guitar player did the guitar player thing and the bass player did the bass player thing.” As great as the band was, having creative freedom was more important to him.

Fortunately the head of Volcano (Tool’s label at the time) recognized D’Amour’s talent and allotted him a budget to create something new. D’Amour wasn’t sure what it would look, feel or sound like yet, but he knew it would be a complete departure from Tool—something experimental and really out there. “Replicants kind of spurred the creative connections between [me, Chris and Greg]. I wanted to bring in another person, so I brought in Brad Laner from Medicine. He’s a great rhythmist and his guitar sound is pretty unique as well.” The four of them began jamming together, switching instruments and conjuring strange melodies. “Originally I kind of wanted to do more like a loopy, more arty thing. Not necessarily even songs” says D’Amour. “I just thought we were going to jam and make some loops and  turn it into [something] a little more loose and psychedelic; like some of those early PiL records.“ The one thing that was clear: this record would be made with zero rules—from committing to first takes down to the harpist’s wild laugh, lingering after a track.

In the beginning, the four would meet and lay down tracks at the famed Alley Studios in North Hollywood; a place known for its early ’70s connections to artists like Three Dog Night and Jackson Browne and would later host musicians like Tom Petty and Kurt Cobain. “We were living around the corner [from Alley], so we just popped in one day and sorta got friendly with them. All the walls are just padded with blue jeans ,” he laughs. “And there’s layers of resin on the walls. It’s one of those places where you know shit went down in there.” But as Edwards and Laner became busier with other projects, D’Amour and Pitman gradually took the reigns as co-producers. “We started bringing in some other people, like Danny [Carey] from Tool, and Kellii Scott from Failure [to play drums]. We brought in a friend of Chris’s, [Dana Wollard], who was an amazing cellist and we had a harp player, [Patti Hood]. [Chris and I] basically took the ball and ran with it with what originally started in the Alley.” The two set up their own mini recording studios and, using more affordable ADAT machines, were able to finish the record.

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As far as influences go, D’Amour drew from a few places. It’s been said that this record was a concept album revolving around Iain Banks’ novel The Wasp Factory. This isn’t completely true. “I don’t think, as we were creating, that we were thinking about that book,” he says. “It just sort of made the rounds in my circle at the time. It was dark and transitory. Certainly, the imagery was really powerful.” If anything, the “Backworlds” video (directed by Len E. Burge III and D’Amour) is loosely based on a traumatic scene from the novel. In addition, D’Amour was heavily into reading old paperback sci-fi novels, so much of his lyrics would revolve around that brand of futuristic otherworldliness. In terms of influences, he was listening to a lot of Richard Davies’ work—particularly the Cardinal’s 1994 self-titled record. In both records you can also catch the influence of Beach Boys’ harmonies (another of D’Amour’s mentions). But where both of those influences were lighter, almost positive in contrast, Free Mars is an unpredictable carnival ride, bordering on the horrific, filled with dark corners of discovery and technological mystique.

As far as writing sessions went, whoever was available would get together and jam. A melody would bubble up to to surface and they’d write around that, usually with Pitman and D’Amour left to build off of what was recorded in The Alley. “We spent quite a bit of time with our harpist and the cellist,” he says. “So there’s a lot of great layers in there with them.” We’re talking about the kinds of layers that sometimes you only catch on your 86th listen, where a new sound will seem more present than before—a guitar solo floats over the top of that melody you’d previously focused on or some old haunting operatic sample peeps out from underneath rollicking keys. When asked which song was his favorite, D’Amour named “Mindray”.  “I wrote all the lyrics and really put some thought into that [song]. I think that one was like, all right, we’re done with this whole ‘jamming’ thing—let’s just actually focus and get real.” One listen to the track and you’ll hear its reverberations through the rest of the album. A sluggish drum shuffle takes you on a meandering journey through sweeping harp, layered orchestral keys and wailing guitars. The vocals capitalize on that Beach Boys harmonic influence, but are turned strange through an oscillating pedal effect.

“I think Mindray is probably my favorite…that one definitely set the tone for a few other [songs].” – Paul D’Amour

 

Other tracks borrow in one way or another from this loopy underwater vibe, both soothing in effect and paranoia-inducing in its darkness. The record runs the genre-bending gamut of sounds; from soaring epics like “Free Mars” and “Doctor” to the infectious pop found on “Backworlds” to a heavier kind of art rock on “Kill the King”. Yet a strong thread of addictive melodies prevents this record from ever feeling disjointed.

The title Free Mars and CD’s artwork and Digipak® design, too, borrowed from D’Amour’s interest in Sci-Fi paperbacks. “I had a huge box of them. I tried to mock some of those early print styles and some of the ways they used those old illustrations.” Free Mars would be nominated in 1998 for a Grammy for Best Recording Package (alongside Ænima). Both lost to Titanic: Music as heard on the Fateful Voyage, which, it’s worth mentioning, used a similar illustrative design to Free Mars.

Lusk would go on to do a short tour in small clubs, complete with Patti Hood on harp and Chris Wyse on upright bass. Unfortunately, this is where Lusk would come to an end. “Some rich dude bought our record label and he just drove the whole company into the ground in a matter of months. We’d had huge tours booked but we couldn’t do that without more support. Other labels were possibly interested, but [the head of Volcano] wouldn’t return anyone’s phone calls. [Chris and I] couldn’t do anything. It took the wind out of the sails of the project.” Though funding couldn’t save Lusk, we at least are left with a record that was born out of complete creative freedom and a rebellion from over-production. A record like this simply could not happen again…maybe that’s why its fans still obsess over it.

Today Free Mars isn’t on Spotify and, during this interview, D’Amour mentioned he had to make a few calls to fix the listing in iTunes. Fans can still find CDs on Discogs as well as a few LP pressings out there.* And the album lingers in our minds in other ways—like the recent report that another mine appeared in the Seattle Bay area, close to where D’Amour and Burge filmed the video for “Backworlds.” He laughs and confesses, “The mine from that video? We just left on the beach and it caused all kinds of trouble.” The mine that was found this past August was apparently from a 2005 Naval exercise and, though it was inert, still caused a little scare for the locals. Talk about resurfacing. As for what’s next, D’Amour and Pitman are currently working on a new project. It won’t be like Lusk, he says, but it will be something completely new and heavier. You can watch for it, along with all his score compositions for upcoming projects, on D’Amour’s website.

*Ed. Note: If you want the complete record, including “My Good Fishwife” and the secret track “Blaire’s Spiders”, you have to buy the CD or digital version. Those two tracks are not on the LP.

 

Inglorious Results of a Misspent Youth: A True Life Story

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 Joan Jett has magical powers. Andy Moreno explains how the explosion of “Cherry Bomb” forced her to leave her hometown and find a way to ROCK forever…

I was going to call myself a late bloomer but the truth is I’m more like that old house plant you keep alive.  It never dies and you wouldn’t call it healthy or vibrant but you do give it props for defying natural laws.

By 1982 Joan Jett was out of The Runaways and off making hits. I had one foot out of my home town and another knee deep in what I call Indiana girl muck.  In 70’s Midwest, by 20 years old, you should’ve been well on your way to marriage and kids. A small starter house was a part of most friends’ worlds… if they didn’t already die in a drunk driving or overdose accident that is. I was working as a full time dispensing optician at an Ophthalmologist’s office in one of those ugly one story office buildings off of Lake Avenue in Fort Wayne, Indiana. You know those places that are completely devoid of any type of cool in an area where it was blocks and blocks of the same.  I wore nurses whites and orthopedic shoes. On my break, I would sometimes run to Taco Bell with my boyfriend and, on occasion, suck back a beer or two before returning to finish my shift. But most times I’d drive solo forfeiting food to smoke cigarettes and blast my speakers making sure to put on the “power booster” to elevate the mood. I would drive in giant squares so that I could come back in time but long enough that I could feel the wind on my face and escape the debilitating monotony. What I’m describing is a lonely loner, early signs of a deep introvert. But even recluses get bored. In the “The French Song” Joan sings I know what I am, I am what I am. I might not have known what I was but I always knew what I wasn’t.  I remember one particular afternoon, coming back from my lunch break, now in my newly purchased used canary yellow TR7 that unbeknownst to me had cracked cylinder heads and was already showing signs of major distress after only two weeks.  I sat silently in that car as it bumped and rattled, unable to turn off, painfully acknowledging that I could no longer live this particular life. I couldn’t drive up to this building one more week to this job that I felt was pulling me into some unremarkable abyss.  I thought about the week before and all the weeks before that. The reason I got this car was because I allowed my boyfriend to total my Celica GT lift-back by slamming into a pole while we were all drunk in the passenger’s seats.  That was car wreck number 6 or 7 if I was counting. I was going to be 21, not 18. My nighttime shenanigans were becoming very worrisome to the sober adult me.  Unable to get replacement parts locally, that car became a permanent garage fixture and I was afraid of the same fate.

In the following days “Cherry Bomb” came on the radio as I was dropped off yet again to the gates of doom as I was now carless.  The music felt so alive blaring loudly from inside that vehicle. I didn’t want to step out knowing that life was stagnant on the other side of that door.  It suddenly occurred how late in the game it was for me. My boyfriend was speaking but I drifted off imagining being where Joan was, this magic place where a girl like me could play guitar and live a completely different type of life.  I left my body which I was prone to do. I was shaking my head and my hair starting flying around my face. I drank up every last ounce of that song. That moment unleashed some newfound freedom that I had felt rising up recently and caused it to erupt like an oil well.  I would leave town for LA to try to play in bands! That was it! I started making a real plan. I quit that job, I babysat for my sister and saved enough money for a ticket. I got my GED. I recruited a friend. We left about 3 months later.

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Andy in 1982: play it girl…

In hindsight I should have left about 3 years before I got on that plane to California if I wanted any chance to actually fly.  I wasted just enough time to pack on enough self doubt and guilt that it was very hard to get off the ground even with all the miles between me and the muck.  I drank when I was nervous and that was generally always. It doesn’t help matters to be drunk or timid but I could never decide which was worse. So I always erred on the inebriated side. Had I moved in 1979  I believe I may have become a real musician and possibly stuck to it to this day. I had the self discipline and desire but the few obstacles I ran into were enough to not only deter but stifle me entirely. Unlike all the determined strong folks you read about with all their dreams. It’s a shame too, because women artists were just about to pop, so the timing was right in the world for someone with limited talent like me to actually make it. That perhaps was my epiphany. I wanted to be Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Jeff Beck.  In other words, I wanted to be credible but was convinced early on that I didn’t have what it takes to become great.  And the alternative was becoming famous and mediocre. If I was anything I would be legitimate and authentic. Or nothing at all.

This is the bullshit I tell myself.  I had about 5 years of practicing the guitar before I left home.  I was getting better but it was already apparent I was not gifted.  After more lessons, being in working bands and a few #metoo stories later I just gave up.   

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Andy in 1985: it’s on…

But Joan Jett got me out of that office building and on that plane to California. That in and of itself was giant in my small world. Her voice, guitar, and  songs throughout the years got me into those band auditions. They put me in those record store jobs. Her chutzpah kept me in the mix of excitement, meeting songwriters and artists, mingling with creativity.  She got me to New York, where I always dreamed of living.

I have enough hangups to fill five tour buses but Joan continues to motivate and inspire me to push my mole ass further into the world each year and for that I’ll always be grateful.

 

Editors note : Everyone make sure to check out the new fist pumping/tear jerking Joan Jett documentary “Bad Reputation” asap: it’s awesome.

When You Hear This Song: “Pack it Up” by Pretenders (1981)

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Andrew Gerhan of classic pop purveyors & satanic majesties Nevada Nevada exalts his number # 1 song for looking in the rear view mirror and screaming “Burn Baby Burn” : “Pack It Up” by Pretenders

I first became aware of the Pretenders “Pack It Up” through Jawbreaker. Now I had probably heard the Pretenders version already, at least spilling out from under the bedroom door of an older sibling in the 80’s (mine were cool), but “Pack It Up” wasn’t one of the radio singles so I didn’t become truly acquainted with the song until Jawbreaker sort of covered it. It was on their “Chesterfield King” EP which I bought from the band at their merch table after a show at ABC No Rio in the the dawn of the 90’s. I then spent the rest of the night and following day trying not to bend the record as I stayed up wandering NYC before heading back home upstate. I say that Jawbreaker only sort of covered “Pack It Up” because in place of the original lyrics, they sang the words “don’t play…” followed by a list of their own song titles. At this point in time I didn’t know the original lyrics, but I saw the songwriting credited to “Chrissie Hynde”, which seemed odd as Jawbreaker were tiny then and she probably wasn’t writing her songs about their songs.

Skip ahead several years and I live in Oakland and am working as a bike messenger in San Francisco. On the weekend my friend Dominic and I would go to Amoeba Records in Berkeley and sift through the used vinyl. It was the mid-late 90’s and at this point in time people were busy buying cds and jettisoning vinyl collections so it was easy to snap up entire artist’s catalogue for 99 cents per LP. I bought all kinds of great stuff this way : most of Springsteen, CCR, Byrds, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris and… The Pretenders. This is how I ultimately closed the loop and solved the riddle of just what the hell “Pack it Up” actually was: a track on side 2 of “Pretenders II” from 1981, a “deep cut”. For me though, it is the zenith of the album.

 

 

It begins with a great mid-tempo chorus riff and just seconds into it, Chrissie Hynde belts “You guys are the PITS OF THE WORLD !”. Whoever the “guys” are have already been leveled, and she hasn’t even started to sing yet…guns are blazing. She then claims “this is no place for me…” and begins to indict a person or perhaps a series of people, seemingly men, seemingly lovers, but it could really be anyone who is crappy with their influence or authority. They are of the party/industry set with all the usual trappings : jacuzzis, suntans, Porsches. Perhaps record executives luring artists into bad deals with fake promises ?

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She ends the first verse by fuming “But I know my place…where’s my suitcase?”, then the chorus hits and she rails “Pack it up or throw it away, what I can’t carry, BURY !”. This gets me to the core of my own motion-loving soul. 

I love travel, touring, and nomaderie of all kinds and under strife my instincts usually try to point me out the door and away from whatever is getting under my skin. In real life I don’t do this nearly as much as I want to, still the temptation to “pack it up” is strong sometimes.

If this was the whole song I would still love it but what really gets me is that she goes on to claim a portion of dignity while packing her meager scraps and stomping out : “When you pass me in your Porsche, please don’t offer me a ride, I may be a skunk, but YOU’RE a piece of junk!”. Then she says “And furthermore…”and reads off litany of ills starting small with “I don’t like your trousers” and zooming out to “all you scumbags around the world, you’re the pits of the world!”. And with that the song comes full circle, the narrator has left, and a smoldering crater is all that remains. Here is the recognition that you may just be a dirtbag rock n’ roll urchin, but you can still claim dignity and agency. You can still pack it up.

Check out Nevada Nevada’s new EP “Wild and Glowing” right here. Pack it up y’all:

When You Hear This Song : “Never Forget You” by Noisettes (2009)

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Ed Zed speaks on the song that completely shreds his soul, brings the rain, and lives eternally in his heart : “Never Forget You” by Noisettes

Pop music. The gasoline in our veins. The cobra in our hips. The tears lying in wait so close behind those misty, unreliable eyes.

The first time I heard ‘Never Forget You’ by Noisettes, a great tear was rent in my emotional fabric that I knew could never be repaired. Nor would I want it to be.
As that taut, muted bassline is joined by the achingly gorgeous, soul-kissed voice of frontwoman Shingai Shoniwa intoning ‘Whatcha drinkin’? Rum or whiskey? Wontcha have a double with me?’ I can already feel the tears gathering.

I love ambiguity in pop music, particularly when a seemingly ambiguous song has the power to stir with such profundity it’s almost painful. ‘Never Forget You’ could be a paean to a former lover, friend, fling, bandmate, none of the above, but it is very definitely imbued with a yearning for those fragile human connections consumed by the inexorable march of time.

But despite its nostalgic pathos, ‘Never Forget You’ is also undeniably jaunty, perhaps even hinting at some bold future whilst reveling in the bittersweet present. That it at once sounds so utterly timeless and like the greatest Motown song you’ve never heard seems very fitting indeed.

I cannot listen to ‘Never Forget You’ without crying. Crying for the past, for the present and the future. Crying for the beauty that radiates from its every note. Crying with sheer joy at the canon of incredible pop music to which it belongs, and of which it is so vital a component. At this point I cannot even think about it without crying, which is presumably why people keep glancing at me uncomfortably as I sit here writing this on the subway. May it always, always be so.

How you doin’ tonight Tallahassee ?!

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My brother plays in a cover band in Florida. I had questions. Lots of questions. 

A 4 piece whose arsenal features songs from the 60’s through now, my brother’s band covers the Florida coastline bar circuit literally and figuratively. This was a dream come true for me because my eternal cover band questions could finally be answered. Here we go !

Have you been surprised by the reaction to certain songs ?

We were playing “Heart-Shaped Box” at a smoky country bar…the smoke was so thick you could lean on it. Some bald hill-jack grabbed the mic from the lead singer and sang the song in a very spirited and angry way, probably reflecting  on mommy issues or something… the surprising part was he did not turn to face the cowboy hats bobbing into their Budweiser’s at the bar, nope, he sang directly into the face of our lead singer. It might have been a country bar but that is totally fucking punk rock (and a little obnoxious).

Have there been any big singalongs ?

People don’t sing along to our stuff thoroughly. Most people are faking the words and stop once you make eye contact… I think it’s fucking awesome anytime someone is feeling the music, who gives a shit if the words they sing are right? I certainly don’t…

Have you ever done themed sets ?

No themed sets in the true sense. Rhythm guitarist trying his hardest to play the wrong chord, bass player staring at the wall and forgets the song the band is playing at that moment or the drummer playing 150 beats a minute on a ballad… if these are themed than yes, we play themed sets all of the time.

Any funny stories about audience reactions  ( as a group or specific people) ?

A lesbian wedding party ended up at this biker bar we were playing at…the ladies were wearing overalls and tiaras and wanted us to play a song they could dance to but couldn’t recommend anything… our drummer says, “let’s play Tennessee Whiskey”. Let’s be very clear, I am not a fan of that song. We played it, everybody danced, the newlyweds had the most enormous cartoon smiles during that song, extreme happiness. It was fucking awesome!

What are some weird requests you’ve gotten ?

Sometimes a guitar nerd will play “stump  the chump” and request some obscure thing… we don’t do requests  unless we can “deliver the goods” properly…songs that we already know.

Do you find that the Floridian taste is a little behind the times ?

I wouldn’t define Floridians a certain way since so many people are transplants trying to escape from somewhere else… have you ever watched “America’s Most Wanted”? “The suspect is armed and dangerous, police think she/he/they are on the run to Florida”.
I am always amazed at the songs people know. 60 year olds singing along with Sublime, a housewife shouting out Godsmack lyrics or some young hipster kid in skinny jeans singing along with a Joe Walsh song. A good band will always watch the crowd but you don’t want to judge. I just appreciate that people are there and listening… Does that make sense?

Is it hard to play songs you don’t like ?

Initially yes. Sometimes my dislike grows even more after we play them routinely. There is something amazing about playing anything with a band once everybody is in the groove and there is flow. And when the audience, even if it’s only one person, feels it, then nobody should give a fuck about what I think. It’s just as much for them as it is for the band…even if it is a  song I hate.

Talk about what you loved when you were young…

I loved the Ramones as a kid. The music was raw, loud, unrefined, not complicated and made me feel great. Joan Jett gave me the same feeling… I was a nervous and frail kid, definitely not an “in your face” kind of guy. The music filled some of that gap mentally.

Ironically my musical motivation comes from songs that all of us agree on. Many times we play songs that I have never fully listened to until I had to learn them. Afterward I say “damn, I heard that song when I was a kid and hated it, what happened , that song is amazing”!

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When You Hear This Song : “Hey There Lonely Girl”

Andy Moreno talks on the song that saved her soul and everything else: Eddie Holman’s 1969 classic Hey There Lonely Girl

As a pre-tween heading into what I could only imagine at the time as a very bleak future, I fantasized romantic notions of suicide or dying a tragic death.  Not all the time but too often, and these thoughts became an ongoing comfort food for my mind, to help me move through dim periods.  It doesn’t sound healthy now but I argue that in a sad way, it was a clever use of the tools in my box.  While I completely embraced the highs and beauty of most music, I probably stayed much too long swimming in darker sounds. Because of this though, I did gain a huge appreciation for the power of a single song, of how a chord change or vocal intonation could change the room, and thereby my entire world.
Before I became entrenched in the wailing rock guitars of the 70’s, I synched cosmically with the soul music that saturated Midwest radio. All their sad, orchestral chords and falsetto voices, where old souls like mine could find respite. The Chi-lites. The Delfonics. The Motown Sound. A playground for a young girl’s melancholy.  Love songs to my own already weakened spirit. And I distinctly remember listening to Eddie Holman’s “Hey There Lonely Girl”. Maybe that was the first time I fully understood the scope and depth of a song’s reach. It took me years to develop an intelligent understanding of lyrics and meanings of songs and at that age, honestly, I could only feel them as a whole: the mood a certain one could bring, how it could put a salve right on the wound or drive a dagger in it.
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The introduction to that song was such a bare and gentle stage to place my emptiness.  And this kind stranger promising to make it all better.  It’s a little deep for a kid but goes to show just how resilient and rooted we are as humans.
The new feelings these sweet soul songs ignited made me feel so much more alive than I was able to muster on my own. “Lonely Girl” broke the numbness and from that point on I became addicted. This music was so powerful. It had the ability to move me up or down and I would never forget or ignore that.
I won’t say I came out the other end of a depressed youth. I reside more in a side door alcove.  The main thing is I stay among the living and no longer glamorize destruction of any sort. The good life that music feeds me is one of the main reasons I choose to keep on keepin’ on to this day.

Review : Long Distance Dan “The Dust Man Stirs”

Ed Zed speaks on the meaty, beaty, spaced out, and hazy Long Distance Dan.

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Limeyland’s very own Long Distance Dan thrusts a venerable paw into his luscious cornucopia of bugged-out electronics, fragmented funk and psyche-tinged beats, rummaging around for a hot moment before extracting the exotic and delicious fruit that is The Dust Man Stirs.
Dust Man was named by Dan’s 2 -year old son (clearly a man in possession of a poetic soul which belies his ultra-youth), and appears to feature vocal cameos from the young scamp throughout this nebulous yet sparkling album.
Fall under the Long Distance family spell right here :

Album Review : The Cravats “Dustbin of Sound”

Settle in children, as Ed Zed brilliantly tells of the maniacal genius of The Cravats

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Rarely is it a good idea for punk bands to return with a new album following a few decades’ absence. All too often that vital vim, venom and raw energy become deadened over time or else extinguished completely, so that a band may be able to play a bit better but ultimately have fuck all to say and sound glaringly obsolete saying it.

The Cravats, however, are different. Very, very different. And indeed, to label these sax-bleating Dadaist psycho-geniuses merely as a punk band would be to do them a cruel disservice.

For those unfamiliar, The Cravats began life in the unassuming English town of Redditch in that fabled year of 1977, operating in something of a vacuum of their own making – which is to say they flagrantly defied the more rigid of punk’s pieties to become something more akin to a jazz-damaged, absurdist theatre troupe – almost a genre unto themselves.

Having infected the post-punk milieu with some of the most outlandishly exciting music it had yet seen, The Cravats went on indefinite hiatus around 1985, not to be heard from again (at least not under their sartorial banner) until the hoverboard-festooned superfuture of the 2010s, when they re-emerged with ‘Jingo Bells’, a growling gob in the face of Tory-‘led’ Britain.

The record picked up almost seamlessly from where the Cravs left off 30 odd years ago, with a blistering sound as temporally unclassifiable in the 21st century as it was in the 20th. And so, ladybugs and gentleflies, they were back.

And now in 2017 they bring us a new album ‘Dustbin of Sound’, a work whose strangeness and charm seem once again exempt from shelf life.

‘King of Walking Away’ (the intro to which is pleasingly reminiscent of John Coltrane’s ‘Acknowledgement’) operates as a lyrical and musical mission statement – angular, discordant, earnest yet playfully political, and dosed to the eyeballs with time-honoured Cravatian absurdism, which features beauteous head boy The Shend crooning what must be one of the lines of year: ‘when you bathe that desire I’m an electric fire balanced precariously on your porcelain rim’.

From here on, Shend and his crackpot company lead a stentorian charge through The House that Cravats Built – starting with a party in the parlour of the ‘Batterhouse’, then up the stairs to race around the mutated surf rock corridors of ‘Motorcycle Man’, ‘100 Percent’ and ‘Bury the Wild’, before pausing on a moonlit landing to observe an evil child pushing a naive parent down the stairs to the cuckoo strains of ‘Whooping Sirens’, saxes blazing all the while.

The rompingly sardonic ‘Hang Them’ and frenzied ‘Big Red Car’ segue beautifully into the album’s closer (and one of my personal favourites), ‘All U Bish Dumpers’, which finds The Cravats’ Dadaist preposterousness in full flight (‘the squirrel’s role was to goad idiots toward an unidentified trestle montage’).

A friend of mine who was lucky enough to experience the Cravs in concert several times during the early 80s once put their lack of broader appeal down to the fact that they were ‘too punk for the new wave crowd and too new wave for the punk crowd’. One would like to think that these days the two are far from mutually exclusive, and that cross-pollinators in a class of their own like The Cravats would now receive the adoration they so deserve – though if they don’t, I doubt it will matter to them very much.

Some are made for the margins, and that is why these fine gentlemen of the squonky cloth remain as timeless, savage and brilliant as ever.

Now tie a Cravat about your scrawny neck and feel it constrict until you’re forced into a hangman’s dance in the Dustbin of Sound. You just might enjoy it.

Album Review : The Bomber Jackets “Kudos to The Bomber Jackets”

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Ed Zed on the timeless, wry, & disappointed post-punk pop greyness of The Bomber Jackets

Imagine if an austere 80s / 90s British TV police drama made an album. Cracker or something like that. It’s tempting to think that Robbie Coltrane’s cynical title character might have created the album in question using various yard sale synths and a 4-track during his younger, marginally more optimistic days before becoming an overweight jaded detective, but I don’t mean that.
I mean if the show itself made an album. Its whole environment – the concrete skies, the whimpering tea machine, the energetically melancholy whine of the rusted playground swing and every one of the poor bastards who’s suffered through the monochrome mire of Cracker‘s world, week in, week out. That album might sound something like Kudos to The Bomber Jackets. I mean that as a sincere compliment. Buy it.

Album Review : Jlin “Black Origami”

Ed Zed, one half of apocalyptic, futuristic, brilliant, junk punk duo the Casual Sexists would follow Jlin anywhere. Here’s why…

a4190542042_10It’s only July, and I know it already – this is going to be my number 1 album of 2017. The bone-rattling charge of Jlin’s Daedalean opus shakes me to the very core, and remains undiminished the more I listen to it – in fact it grows even stronger each time.

I wonder if it’ll soon become too much for my weathered frame (and the weathered emotions it houses) to bear? Let it.
Black Origami – what a perfect name for this collection of raw materials sculpted by Jlin with such dexterity into fresh, elaborate forms, that seem both ancient and impossibly futuristic. Her footwork roots are now but a ghost, shimmering beneath the multi-tentacled rhythms and vocal fragments that bind the album so tightly together, reminding us of how far Jlin has travelled, sonically, in such a short space of time.
Seamlessly blending polyrhythmic African beats with rapid-fire, clipped electronics and occasionally unsettling samples that reflect the turmoil of our times, Black Origami plunges deep into history to make its very modern statement.
It’s hard to know where the inimitable Jlin will go from here, but wherever it is I’m going right along with her. I can’t bloody wait…

 

Listen here :

https://open.spotify.com/embed/artist/23QKqAkKwti9zBiac6RFBA