28.12.09

THE SHOP ASSISTANTS : John Peel Sessions 8/10/85 + 11/11/86

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Beware, there are deluded "twee" apologists aplenty who've convinced themselves that Edinburgh's mighty Shop Assistants are one of their bands. Fortunately, as per most of the C86 acts, these pre-pube hairgrip-sporting juves are seriously mistaken - the Shoppies (sorry) may have apologetically shambled but they also gloriously ROCKED, & never more so than on their two classic Peel sessions. Though I still dig their 7"s out occasionally, I hadn't heard either of these Beeb sets for ages. Listening to them I was briefly transported back to a mid-80s D.I.Y. netherworld of hissy late night FM, scuffed leathers, tatty denim, hoarded stacks of old NMEs & parties in damp 'n' dingy council flats. Heaven, basically. Sadly, Tallulah fucking Gosh & their paedo-lite ilk eventually crashed the party, totally missing The Point & ruining everything - they didn't like those horrid A Witness or Five Go Down To The Sea records at all, ma'am. Seriously though, if you've yet to hear Alex yelp her way through "Ace Of Spades" then you're honestly in for a bit of a treat...

Shoplifting

Ta to Hopeless for the linkage & Fruiter Than Thou for the top notch Polaroid. There's a decent fan site here & an interesting retrospective here too.

23.12.09

JOHN CALE : Comes Alive / Caribbean Sunset (1984)

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John Cale's back catalogue has been particularly ill-served by his old record companies generally with only a couple of keynote LPs receiving the mandatory "expanded / remastered" treatment, but the protracted unavailability of terrific early 80s LPs like these two 1984 obscurities, in addition to Honi Soit or Music For A New Society (both of which I covered elsewhere), makes little sense to me. Critically derided at the time (& D.O.A. commercially), I'm gradually coming 'round to the idea that Cale's post-punk wilderness years actually might have produced some of his most interesting music - it's certainly some of his weirdest...

Caribbean Sunset's oddly benign cover portrait belies it's gleefully brutal contents. Both title & sleeve suggest this might be an inanely poppy, easy listening-type affair. Fortunately for us, it most certainly is not. Released, as per Music For A New Society, on New York's painfully hip Ze label, it was savaged critically & has regularly been written-off as Cale's worst LP ever since (by people who haven't actually heard it I imagine). Hindsight is, of course, a marvellous leveller. In 1984, it no doubt appeared that Cale was opportunistically jumping onto the "punk" bandwagon way too late to expect anything other than derision, but 25 years later the messy, off-the-cuff manner of recording (predominantly single takes - you can hear him shouting out incoming chord changes to the band on a couple of tracks!) & erratic rehearsal room sonics sound excitingly raw. The sessions' spontaneous nature might partially be attributed to Eno, who apparently contributes to the general sense of chaos. Caribbean Sunset was pencilled in for a CD release in 2001, complete with outtakes, but was mysteriously pulled at the last minute (can anybody shed any light on this?). Incidentally, Ze was founded by Michael Zilkha (heir to the Mothercare fortune) & Michael Estaben (stepson of Lord Lever) who were introduced to one another in 1977 by... John Cale.
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Cale's final Ze release, Comes Alive was again recorded with the Caribbean Sunset line-up as back-up (sans Eno). At first glance it looks like one of those tedious "Why bother?"-type contractual obligation jobs: two specially recorded studio tracks (one of which, the opening comedic gambit "Ooh La La", might just be his Worst Song Ever!) bookending the highlights of a February 1984 live set from London's Lyceum. Ignoring the still fresh Caribbean Sunset, Cale reprises a handful of songs from 1979's well-received Sabotage alongside strikingly melodic re-interpretations of a couple of Music For A New Society tracks, an almost baroque "Waiting For The Man", & possibly his finest "Heartbreak Hotel" ever (& there are plenty to choose from). Stately & sinister, it dispenses with the usual hamfisted Hammer horror theatrics for something far more unsettling, a darkness that lingers long after the song is over. Minor point of interest: the British & American versions of the L.P. contain radically different mixes of the studio tracks (I've no idea which version this upload is I'm afraid). Last time I checked You Tube was a heap of live footage from this era (try "John Cale 1984"), you might want to give it a look...

Comes / Sunset

n.b. Exemplary Cale site here btw. And you can follow his tweets here if you so wish (am I the only person to find this latter development rather bizarre?).

22.12.09

SCOTT WALKER : Sings Songs From His T.V. Series (1969) / The Moviegoer (1972)

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A Festive treat for Gabardine-wrapped, Carnaby Street miserablists everywhere - two of Scott's rarest albums, neither of which you'll find on Amazon anytime soon...

Scott Walker Sings Songs From His T.V. Series has yet to be reissued on CD. Released by Philips 1969 between his classic third & fourth solo albums it's not the neglected masterpiece one might naturally expect, despite it's admirable vintage. It's a needless, compromised throwback to his Walker Brothers' years, a syrupy selection of slushy, pompously-arranged standards that sound like they were picked for him by over-cautious producers keen to placate the Septuagenarian pipe-&-slippers audience that had been so roundly alienated by all that smutty Brel rubbish (ahem). Drawing on songwriters as prominent as Charles Azanavour, Bacarach & David, Jerry Herman, Kurt Weill, Rodgers & Hammerstein (but significantly not Brel himself) it remains an uncomortable, often cringeworthy listen & it's not difficult to see why Scott might have attempted to block any kind of re-release (a few songs have slipped out on on Mercury's 2005 Classics & Collectables compilation however). Tragically, the entire T.V. series (plus a couple of standalone specials) this collection was cherrypicked from has been wiped by the ever-dependable BBC so there's zero possibility of ever viewing these songs' solitary saving grace, the fantastic period footage. Idiots.

Succeeding 'Til The Band Comes In, 1972's The Moviegoer was briefly reissued in the immediate wake of Fontana's early 90s reissue programme but was quickly withdrawn at Scott's behest (again, a handful of tracks appear on Classics & Collectables). I guess it's understandable that he might not want to be reminded of this era, creatively & personally he was in terrible shape, prepared to sing anything Philips put in front of him providing the fee was ample & the scotch was flowing. Contrary to popular opinion, it's a surprisingly lovely listen in places - Scott is on magnificent form (his vocal technique had definitely matured since his Walkers' heyday), Johnny Franz's production is huskily melancholy rather than garishly overblown, & the selection of cinematic theme songs is far from repellent (only the pungent country Stilton of "All His Children" is likely to set one's teeth on edge - dig that atrocious cornball phrasing, it's the one time he lets his stoic professionalism slip to sound as royally pissed off as the indignant sleeve pic implies). Listening to it as I type, at 2am with the lights dimmed & a large glass of wine at hand, it's beginning to sound very seductive indeed. It's no Scott 4 but I still tentatively recommend it...

T.V. / Movie

Links sourced from the now defunct NoMusik blog (thanks).

26.11.09

SERGE GAINSBOURG : Les Annees Psychedeliques 1966-1971

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Seems like this one went in & out of print in a jiffy. It's a strictly limited edition double vinyl set of Portugese origin (c/o cool as fuck boutique label, Le Smoke Disques) that cherrypicks the seriously groovy Gaelic freakfunk of the mighty Serge's druggy late 60s heydey (his most creative period as far as I'm concerned, though I don't pretend to be an authority). A suave 'n' sultry combo of timeless old favourites, super-scarce b-sides, quality unreleased session tracks & a handful of "bonus beat" workouts, it's all been carefully/faithfully remastered & sounds absolument fantastique. Highlights include selections from the Canabis, Mr Freedom, Manon 70 & La Pacha soundtracks, with a surfeit of driving proto-Can rhythms & acid-head orchestrations c/o Michel Colombier & Jean-Claude Vannier (L'Enfant Assassin Des Mouches) - the original catalogue # (LSD-005) is simply the icing on the cake! Clued-in 6Ts shufflers will doubtless get a fair bit of mileage out of "Psychotenie" & "No No Yes Yes"'s infectious boogaloo, while fans of Air (who've regularly paid explicit homage to Gainsbourg in the past & recorded this marvellous LP with his daughter) will find "Danger" & "L'Alonette" of particular interest. I've still not decided whether "Requiem Pour Un Cont" is my favourite song ever or not (yes, another "favourite song ever"!) but it's definitely Top 10, & I certainly won't be disappointed if it's blaring out across the crematorium when my coffin's gliding solemnly towards the furnace doors...
Serge Seat
Serge Jane
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Cadavres en Serie

23.11.09

PiL : Bad Baby 22/4/80 Gildersleaves NYC


I've had a bootleg of this performance for a while (ta, Doomette) but didn't realise somebody had actually filmed it as well. Magnificent stuff, the classic PiL line-up at it's unassailable peak - Lydon looks like he's actually enjoying himself, Keith is still awake & Wobble is 100% amazing. Seriously, I could watch this all day... (N.B. Hang around for 5:45, it's priceless!)

21.11.09

BECK'S RECORD CLUB : The Songs Of Leonard Cohen

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I only realised the other day that Beck has yet to release a greatest hits comp. - admirable restraint on his part considering the amount of bona fide "hits" he's actually scored (think about it) & the desperate straits the music business is in these days. He's got hours of other uncollated bits 'n' pieces floating about out there too - soundtrack contributions, tribute LPs, off-the-cuff cassette nonsense, etc - I feel a boxset comin' on! I'm rather impressed that he evidently doesn't deem such a predictably commercial measure necessary (so far anyway), though I'm sure Geffen/XL are gaggin' for one?

Moving on, here's the complete second volume of his ongoing, exemplary Record Club project - "an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day" (i.e. they're winging it). This time 'round it's Leonard Cohen's 1967 debut, covered in it's entirety with help from Devendra Banhart, MGMT (!!), Wolfmother (!! x 1,000,000) & various other semi-vacant faux-entities I don't profess to have even a fleeting interest in. The music's good though. Most likely to upset the Cohen faithful are the eye-opening adaptions of "Master Song" (which might've crawled out of Midnight Vultures' neon rubble) & "Teachers" (sounding like it's being simultaneously hijacked by Wavves & Os Mutantes). "Stranger Song", possibily my personal Cohen fav, could be The Go!Team slowly spaghetti-ing backwards into a black hole (for better or worse). It's a faithful, often lovely, recitation of the album overall, though not quite as distinguished as the series' inaugeral entry - too many non-Beck vocals this time 'round & the "party" chit-chat occasionally rankles. As does the sound of Devenda Banhart picking weevils out of his lavish beard...
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No sign of this, or the previous Velvet Underground installment, for sale online yet - for the time being at least it'd appear that he's doing this purely for the fun of it, obviously fully aware that the results will ultimately end up being railroaded by crummy blogs like this 'un. The third installment is already well underway & finds Hansen Esq. contemplating Skip Spence's Oar with Wilco (inc. Jeff Tweedy's son!), Jamie Liddell & Feist (amongst others) in tow - Beck previously ran through Spence's "Halo Of Gold" on the More Oar tribute LP a few years back of course (you can find it on the "Tropicalia" single too). Unlike the Banana & Cohen albums, Oar has never been a particular favourite of mine, I've always found it's unavoidably voyeuristic exploration/exploitation of Spence's mental issues a little too explicit tbh, so it'll be interesting to see if these covers revise my opinion at all.
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Conceivably, Record Club #4 could be Sonic Youth's E.V.O.L. (according to Rolling Stone anyway), & if his cover of "Green Light" for Record Store Day earlier this year is anything to go by it'll be way more than merely "okay"(pay no mind to Sonic Youth's contribution though, it's abysmal). While we're waiting for #4 (& the imminent Charlotte Gainsbourg LP that he's produced & co-written), you could do worse than cast a palsied eye over this spiffing Beck blog, the alternate (& superior) Modern Guilt sleeve designs are worth a few mins of anybody's time for starters...

LEN

13.11.09

ADAM & THE ANTS : Music For A Future Age (Demos 1977-78)

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Circa 1978, The Ants were one of the country's greatest unsigned bands. Adam Ant, the punk rock epitome of literature's "wicked boy" at this point, was haemorrhaging tons of decadent & provocative songs, the band honing them to perfection during a protracted stretch of intense & tribalistic live performances (there's a terrific 1978 show from The Marquee here). In more than one instance I've heard period punk pundits claim that 1977 was a curiously sex-free "revolution", most of it's participants having indulged in too much amphetamine sulphate to engage in any kind of passionate post-pogo tryst, but The Ants certainly seem to have found plenty of time for (ahem) "fun" if Adam's tenaciously priapic lyrics are anything to go by. As you're probably already aware, Malcom McLaren swiped this version of The Ants from under Adam's unsuspecting nose for his rather half-baked Bow Wow Wow debacle ('cept for the brilliant Andy Warren - aka Kurt Van Den Bogarde - who fortuitously defected to The Monochrome Set & currently performs with the Would-Be-Goods). Sadly, now that Decca's much-delayed Young Man Rocking boxset seems unlikely to ever appear (I've no idea whether the cold feet responsible belong to Adam or the label), it's scurrilous archives like this one that ensure the seminal Antz banner remains aloft. AvANTi!
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This exhaustive sequence of demos has been previously released under the title Who Taught You To Torture (a line from the classic "Whip In My Valise" of course) &, though it's not quite complete (no "Send A Letter To Jordan" or "Juanito The Bandito", though you can probably live without hearing the latter tbh), virtually every half decent pre-Do It, pre-Dirk Wears White Sox song is included. A mere handful of these tracks turned up, very nicely remastered, on the Antbox compilation a few years back (the excellence of which makes the cancellation of Young Man Rocking even more agonising), but that still leaves criminally discarded "lost" songs like "Il Duce", "Punk In The Supermarket"", "Mice In Freefall" & the titular "Dirk Wears White Sox" itself for you to swoon over. Though The Ants had ditched most of these songs by the time they came to record that debut LP (because they were worried about being forever typecast as kinky artschool Nazi fetishists?), Adam later milked these early recordings for numerous b-sides at the height of Antmania with Marco Pirroni on hand - hence you'll discover a blistering version of "Beat My Guest" if you flip "Stand & Deliver" over, a full-pelt "Fall-In" on "Antmusic"'s b-side, & the fantastically unpleasant "Red Scab" twinned with "Goody Two Shoes"(!). "Greta-X", another terrific seminal Ants number (not included here unfortunately), was remodelled as late as 1985, complimenting Adam's so-so "Vive Le Rock" single. Interestingly, "Fall In" is so early that it's actually been attributed to one of Adam's pre-Ants bands, The B-Sides - it's inclusion on the "Antmusic" 7" earned fellow B-Sider (& later sickeningly gifted Monochrome Set lead guitarist) Lester Square a co-write, which must've been worth a few bob I'd imagine? And that's genuine Antz headed notepaper reproduced immediately below - rather fetching, eh?
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N.B. No idea where these files originated btw (I found them on Filecrop), but the original poster's sterling work warrants a friendly nippletweak at least...

Part 1 / Part 2

1.11.09

URBAN IMAGE ARCHIVE

Sioux
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Check out Urban Image's terrific site for stacks more amazing period photographs like this lot (you'll have to register to access the whole archive but all they want to do is send you an occasional newsletter I think?) - the Slits & McClaren galleries are my favourites I think? There's a ton of other areas covered too, i.e. not just punk / post-punk, defo worth an eyeball when you have an hour spare...

Top to bottom: Siouxsie Sioux, The Slits, Suicide, Wire, Malcom McLaren, Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Magazine, Elvis Costello, Gang Of 4, The Blockheads, Mark Mothersbaugh & Crocus Behemoth.

www.urbanimage.tv

31.10.09

CRYSTALIZED MOVEMENTS : Mind Disaster

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I avoided listening to Crystalized Movements for as long as possible on the assumption, quite rightly I think, that any band with a name as abysmal as that must be fucking terrible, right? As usual, Peel put things to rights. I remembering my ears instantly pricking up when he played "Rearranged" from 1988's This Wideness Comes one evening - it wasn't so much the song that grabbed my attention (though it's pleasant enough) as the hissing, spitting feedback fest it culminated in. The following afternoon I ambled into Selectadisc & found a copy of the CD (one of the first I ever owned!) for a couple of quid in the "sale" rack.

Mind Disaster is an entirely different cup of meat, however. Based in Connecticut, Crystalized Movements were originally a high school project of Wayne Rogers & classmate Ed Boyden. Sharing a love for late 60s psychedelia & 70s No Wave, the duo taped countless hours of experimental, improvised lysergic jams, eventually deciding to release a "proper" LP in 1983. Though they got as far as recording some of Rogers' songs in duo format, they graduated & drifted apart before actually releasing anything. Left to his own devices, Rogers spent the summer overloading the recordings with endless fuzzed-out guitar dubs &, liking the results, released them on his own Twisted Village label in a hamfisted, childish sleeve (130 copies only!) - marked parallels with Sandbox-era GBV/Robert Pollard here I think? Rejected by the poser-heavy Paisley Revivalist scene, Mind Disaster quickly slipped out of print & into obscurity. Or not. Rightfully pissed off by this hipster rebuke, Rogers enlisted a full band, honed his songwriting skills, practiced 'til his fingers bled & stormed back a couple of years later with Dog Tree Satellite Seers. Though probably their least sonically extreme LP, it adeptly demonstrated that Crystalized Movements were more than just another amateurish bunch of smalltown drug abusers with 3rd hand valve amps & a Cry Baby wah. Consolidating this new found acceptence with This Wideness Comes (my personal fav) & their swansong, Revelations From Pandemonium (both of which are melodic but rarely mellow), Rogers has barely paused for breath since. Pursuing a prolific solo career as well as founding Vermonster, B.O.R.B., Magic Hour (the latter with Galaxie 500's Damon & Naomi) & Major Stars, he's now recognised as an American equivalent to Brit neo-psychedelic renaissance man, Nick Salomon (The Bevis Frond).

I'm not sure where this link originated (thanks Anon.) but it sounds lovely - it's mastered (I think) from a cassette dub of an original vinyl copy of the LP with a v.fine drenching of tape hiss. Primitive = perfect.

Close Your Eyes

WALKING SEEDS : Upwind Of Disaster, Downwind Of Atonement

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It's all about the stragglers. One of the last of that weird legion of forgotten 80s/90s English bands to evade redscovery, Walkingseeds' records possibly make more sense now than they did "then" - the usual case of we mere mortals requiring a decade or so's hindsight to play catch-up...

Formed from the rubble of The Mel-O-Tones, Liverpool's legendary purveyors of psychedelic bomb site grunge (& initially naming themselves The Corinthians), Walkingseeds were, from the off, enthusiastically championed by John Peel (of course) & Mark E. Smith - in fact, I first saw them live supporting The Fall on the Bend Sinister tour in 1986 (who knew MES was a Nabakov afficiando, eh?). Maintaining a longstanding relationship with Probe Records, Walking Seeds' Knew Too Much debut was a (relatively) sophisticated updating of the original Mel-O-Tones' sound, though "sophistication" possibly wasn't at the top of their agenda when they crawled into the studio to record it? A thuggy backyard amalgamation of early Iggy & The Glitter Band, it's one of those records that repeatedly fooled me into leaping up to inspect the stylus, only to find out it was supposed to sound like that! The subsequent Marque Chapmanne 12" (via their own, shortlived Moral Burro label) violently upped the fuzz/aggro levels & & ushered in the raucous Skullfuck LP, a twisted & unsettling musical pedal-bin of nasty Nuggets, Butthole Surfers & Blue Cheer influences with a cheeky Grateful Dead-derived title (inspired by Mouse & Kelly's iconic "skull & roses" sleeve). Superior records all, though their Peel sessions from the period are even better (search 'em out).
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Upwind Of Disaster, Downwind Of Atonement appeared in 1989 (the band having hooked up with the much-missed Glass label in the interim). Recorded at New York's Noise studio with wayward genius Mark Kramer (Shockabilly, Bongwater, B.A.L.L., et al), Walkingseeds had obviously spent their recess concentrating on writing songs rather than merely jamming around a few borrowed, obscure riffs & the results still sound phenomenal - far more melodic than their earlier releases (though the disruption factor is still immediately evident) & often genuinely psychedelic (rather than just sounding like they'd necked a stack of drugs before recording). Songs like "Slow Dance Of Golden Lights" & "Wreck Of The White Star" share the same wistful 60's shambolism as homeboys The La's (with whom they briefly shared a guitarist or two) but none of the frustrating purist retrospection. Elsewhere, "Sexorcist", "Mad River" & "Ocean Drain" (a petulant flicked-V in the general direction of Liverpool's nostalgia-entrenched local music scene gobshites - "The Greatest Album Ever Made", my arse!) remain 3 of their finest songs. A contemporaneous Clawfist Singles Club 7" - remember them? - features The Bevis Frond covering "Sexorcist" on one side while Walkingseeds give his "Reflections In A Tall Mirror" a seering once-over on t'other - cop a listen, it's a belter. The Bevis Frond would return to produce their Sensory Deprivation Chamber Quartet "dwarf"-LP a few months later &, again, it's an absolute must-have (I'll retrieve it from The Shed one of these days, just you wait & see...). I'd not heard Upwind Of Disaster... for several years (again, my copy's stowed away in The Shed) until Anon. sent me a link for it c/o this blog a few days ago. It's a hitherto unknown (to me) CD edition with a couple of extra songs, including a snotty thrash through Blue Oyster Cult's "Transmaniacon MC" (previously visited on one of their ace Peel sets). I've hardly stopped playing it.

Walkingseeds made a few more LPs after this one, then quietly fizzled out, briefly reappearing as The Del-Bloods (one 7" on Seminal Twang) & then obscurity. The last I heard, monster guitarist Bob Parker was parodying stadium A.O.R. in Batloaf ("Meat Out Of Hell", etc). If anybody knows what crazed vocalist/affable lunatic Frank Martin's now up to please get in touch...

28IF

30.10.09

HARRY PUSSY : Fuck You



My last Harry Pussy post proved pretty popular so, me being Mr. Man-Of-The-People an'all that (hmmm), here's another one...

Released in 1997, several years on from their In An Emergency You Can Shit On A Peurto Rican Whore debut, this LP's officially untitled but has assumed the Fuck You (aka Tour) mantle. It's pretty scarce I think - a friend found the link on Soulseek & passed it onto me, since when I've only been able to excavate the scantest of info (even the mandatory sleeve scan has eluded me, what a sorry state of affairs). Noise-wise it's typically spectacular - the feral opener "Drop The Bomb" is a nigh-on perfect mission statement (all 16 seconds of it), though their D.Bailey-on-Salvia skronk (yes, skronk) has extended out into virtually avant garde territories by the album's close. Bits of Fuck You were compiled on Load's highly recommended You'll Never Play This Town Again compilation (a mere 42 tracks!), which you can purchase here, my dears.

You'll no doubt be aware that, since Harry P's demise, drummer/screamer extraordinaire Adris Hoyos has married The Shadow Ring's Graham Lambkin & apparently (hopefully temporarily?) given up music. Her insane Monostadt 6 CD is still well worth seeking out however (ahem!), as is her initial collaboration with Lambkin, Transmission (both debuted with eponymous releases on Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers around the same time as Fuck You). Guitarist Bill Orcutt recently re-emerged with A New Way To Pay Old Debts, a highly regarded vinyl LP of lo-fi acoustic soloing on Palilalia (500 copies, all gone). The Wire love it & bizarrely seem intent on setting him up as a 21st century Fahey - fingers crossed for a "challenging" appearance on Later... With Jools Holland semi-sharpish! Take cover, etc...

Yeah, you.

21.10.09

NO TREND : Inner Ear Session (Teen Love 7" + more)

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I heard this last week for the first time in a long while - & it still sounded absolutely amazing. Pissed off Washington psyche punk miscreants from the mid-80s, No Trend were often compared to San Francisco's Flipper &, while I can see the parallels, I think the only thing those 2 bands genuinely had in common was a rather evident shared love for Metal Box. Oh, & repetition - snarling, dirgelike repetition. And, erm, venomous, utterly disgusted cynicism (we musn't forget the cynicism!). However, whereas Flipper were very obviously in thrall to "classic"-era Public Image Limited, No Trend also sucked on the withered teat of austere Brit-gore anarchos Discharge & Flux Of Pink Indians at their most harrowing (i.e. the screeching cacophony of The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks LP, etc).
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Teen Love was No Trend's debut 7", recorded at DC's Inner Ear (reknown as the Discord studio & then based in Don Zientara's basement, it's still in operation today) & released on their own eponymous label in 1983 (they re-released it a year later on 12", heavily remastered with a couple of extra tracks). The link I'm posting here represents that entire, initial Zientara-produced Inner Ear session & was fleetingly issued by Teenbeat in 1995 as part of their The Early Months retrospective (currently £75 on Amazon!). Most of their subsequent releases are online if you can be bothered to look: 1984's Too Many Humans is a must-hear - it's even more outraged & troublesome than their debut in places - while the following year's A Dozen Dead Roses explores as-then uncharted, caustic in-roads into a nascent, poisonous pseudo-goth sound (it includes all their Heart Of Darkness EP, recorded with & originally released by Lydia Lunch on her own Widowspeak outlet btw).

Inner Ear

4.10.09

OMNI & THE ART OF THE INNER EYE

An unconventional combination of high brow science fact, fiction & speculation with a prohibitive price tag, Omni was a very glossy, full colour monthly magazine published by Bob Guccione's Penthouse organisation (!) from the late 1970s onwards. Though it was way out of my financial league (I was blowing all of my meagre pocket money on 2000AD, Smash Hits & Refresher bars in those days), I was fortunate in that a rich & slightly eccentric American great uncle of mine was a subscriber & was generous enough to periodically mail me hefty packages of his unwanted back issues (at great expense too I suspect, it was a real doorstep of a mag!). Though most of the purely scientific content left me feeling slightly giddy (& probably still would tbh), it's ingenius short S.F. stories, paranormal supposition & ravishing illustrations turned my head in multiple new directions. Omni was unashamedly pretentious, but positively so.

Regrettably, now that S.F. cover art has largely retreated into conservative 1950s classicism, dominated by frivolous re-interpretations of it's archaic zapgun/rocketship pulp archetypes, the fantastical inner landscaping of Omni's visually opulent cover art seems almost kitsch by comparison. Often resembling a Max Ernst version of Tron, it's imagery was drawn from the same somnambulistic strand of pop surrealism that, for me at least, Dali's enduring The Persistence Of Memory & Ballard's Vermillion Sands never fail to invoke. I'm still secretly rather fond it, though I wouldn't rush to hang much of it on my wall you understand...
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