25.12.14

THE BOYS NEXT DOOR : These Boots Are Made For Walking (Suicide 7", 1978).

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Classmates Nicholas Edward Cave, Michael John Harvey & Phillip Calvert formed the germinal Boys Next Door in 1973 while studying at Caulfield Grammar, a private boys school located amongst Melbourne's secluded suburbs. Principally a covers band & initially inspired by the flamboyant art-rock of Bowie, Roxy, Alice Cooper, & The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, their repertoire had expanded to include the sounds of nascent homegrown punks The Saints & Radio Birdman by the time they graduated in 1975-76. The Ramones' debut LP reaching Australia - & the addition of Tracy Franklin Pew on bass -  provided the catalysts the band needed to drop its earlier artier material for a set dominated by faster self-penned new wave-style songs.

They released their inaugural 45, a somewhat gauche cover of Lee Hazlewood's well-trodden "These Boots Are Made For Walking", on manager Keith Glass' Missing Link label in March 1978 while still a 4-piece. Shortly afterwards, & midway through the recording of their (subsequently-disowned) first album, they were joined by the singular Rowland Stuart Howard on additional discordant guitar. Formerly a member of The Young Charlatans, Howard brought with him "Shivers", a deceptively sardonic suicide-ballad he'd written aged 16 that, when issued as a Boys Next Door single the following year, would be banned by Australian radio for it's provocative lyric. The Young Charlatans' original version of "Shivers", though unreleased at the time, would eventually emerge on Brian Milne & Andrew Maine's renown cassette-zine Fast Forward in 1981. Consequently, Milne would launch Melbourne's crucial Au Go Go organisation, home to The Scientists, The Moodists, Little Murders, Frontier Scouts, Dorien Grey, & countless others.

Of a similar terminal '70s vintage - their oft-compiled "Scatterbrain" gig freebie aside - are the jittery "Masturbation Generation" (an outtake from the "Boots" session) from Suicide Records' Lethal Weapons sampler LP of Aussie-punk, & "Enemy of the State" (which was posthumously included Missing Link's 1982 cassette compilation, From The Archives). The latter, an amusingly coarse samizdat-thrash, appeared under the puzzling anagrammatic pseudonym Torn Oxboeys (n.b. I've included both songs below, though the latter is a very poor quality rip).

In mid-1980, with Glass' financial backing & the adroit creative support of studio engineer Tony Cohen (who'd maintain a connection with Cave into the 21st century, producing 2001's No More Shall We Part), the band changed their name to The Birthday Party (alluding to Harold Pinter) & relocated to London. Ta-da.

This house is on the list

15.12.14

THE RAINCOATS : Live at Acklam Hall, London - 10th May 1979 (Cassette recording).

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Early Raincoats live recordings are unusually scarce, & this one - which took place beneath the Westway at Ladbroke Grove's shabby Acklam Hall during their very first British tour - is the best I've heard. It was taped shortly before the release of their eponymous debut Rough Trade LP, & both Cabaret Voltaire & Switzerland's Kleenex were also on the bill I believe?

Needless to say, it's a cheerfully shambolic delight - spiritedly cacophonous in places, but concise & cogent in others. And best of all the vivacious Palmolive (aka Paloma Romero) was still clobbering the drums at this point. Fresh from her stint with the original explosive Slits line-up (with whom she co-wrote virtually all of the songs that would appear on Cut), she only remained with The Raincoats for the duration of this tour, jumping ship after a mere 6 months citing a growing dissatisfaction with the music business: "I vividly remember after one of the concerts... watching people leave the venue wasted & with a sadness & heaviness about them, & I thought, I'm helping to make them like that... I didn't want to just go along with something because it was popular or profitable."

Though on their subsequent records (1981's quietly radical Odyshape for example) The Raincoats would very quickly evolve into something far more exploratory & profound, it's still difficult to ignore or deride the impassioned & vehement beauty of fiery live sets like this one. "The Raincoats are so bad tonight", remarked Danny Baker at the time, "that every time a waiter drops a tray we'd all get up & dance" - though that was possibly a backhanded compliment, bearing in mind he'd already eschewed the still-amorphous (post-)punk camarilla by then & was advocating tepid "working class" soul-boy clichés in the NME's weekly singles column instead (big mistake, his loss, c'est la vie).

Set-list: No Side To Fall In / No Looking / Life on the Line / The Void / Lola (Kinks cover) / Adventures Close to Home / Off Duty Trip / You're a Million / Fairytale in the Supermarket / In Love / No Looking (encore).

● NEW LINK! Off duty trip

14.12.14

ESSENTIAL LOGIC : Wake Up EP (Virgin 12", 1979).

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Essential Logic's brilliant but ill-fated Wake Up EP, the result of a curtailed deal with Virgin Records, was inexplicably excluded from Kill Rock Star's otherwise definitive Fanfare In The Garden anthology, due either - one assumes - to CD time constraints or R. Branson's annoying licensing department playing hard-to-get.

Recorded during William (Whiehouse) Bennett's fleeting reign as guitarist, Wake Up was quickly withdrawn (& the band quietly dropped) when the omnipotent Walt Disney corporation threatened litigation over the record's unsanctioned cover image. Though 3 of it's 4 songs were hastily re-taped for Rough Trade's frenetic Beat Rhythm News LP (included in it's entirey on the K.R.S. collection), the oiginal takes are suitably different - noticeably edgier performances, less fussy production, etc - to warrant their inclusion here. If nothing else, hearing them will almost certainly send you off in search of the rest of the band's oeuvre, which can only be a good thing - but don't forget to give Lora's work with Mayo Thompson's frequently bewildering Red Krayola a listen too (I'm a huge fan).

Bennett, incidentally, would meet pioneering electronicists Daniel Miller & Robert Rental in 1979 while the 3 of them were touring as part of a multi-band Rough Trade package & purchase a surplus EDP Wasp keyboard from them: "an uncontrollably vicious beast of a synthesiser that subsequently became the heart of the Whitehouse sound". And the rest is history, as they say...

Essential Logic also recorded a superb John Peel session around the same time as the EP, though it's not currently listed in the BBC's otherwise-comprehensive Keeping It Peel archive. Peculiar, eh?

Further rumination: "Punk promised that you could become a new person. You could live a new life in a new world - & to live in it you needed a new name. It was late 1976 in London when 15-year-old schoolgirl saxophonist Susan Whitby answered an ad placed by a would-be "punk" band in the now defunct Melody Maker. The Band turned out to be X-Ray Spex, led by one Poly Styrene, who had left "Marion Elliot" on the sidewalk. Susan Whitby became Lora Logic.

Punk wasn't supposed to be "logical" - it wasn't supposed to make sense. The name set Lora apart, even as it brought her into the fold. It suggested a certain reserve, a step back, a raised eyebrow. As Lora lifted her horn & dove into Poly Styrene's songs - every one a critique of the world at large & the punk world spinning with it - that eyebrow never came down. When Lora was pushed out of the group & set about finding her own music, it jiggled.

In 1978, Lora formed Essential Logic & made "Aerosol Burns", which the ambitiously independent label Rough Trade sent out into the world. There was an EP with Virgin in 1979, headed by a fire alarm of a song called "Wake Up". A sense of danger & desire runs through the music like a wire: time is running out. Lora began almost every vocal singing high, her voice shaking, the shaking becoming a style, a point of view; then often her voice thickened, & she seemed to suck the fast pace of her band into her own doubt, or bounce it off her own frustration. With a small guitar-bass-drums ensemble, her saxaphone set the scene or led the sound out of it's circle - led it like a beckoning finger. (It) leaps with a stop-time dance beat, the vehemence of a woman insisting she will be as unexpected, as unwanted, & move as quickly, as she pleases.

Lora was on the edges of an experimental, avant-garde scene at Rough Trade, adding sax to a cut on the first Raincoats album, appearing with cult outfits Scritti Politti or Swell Maps, moonlighting in Mayo Thompson's reconstituted Red Crayola. On red Crayola's 1981 Kangaroo? she is absolutely unfettered, singing as if she's flying over the band, all but pulling it into the air with her.

Always, Lora Logic has made odd music. A punk band wasn't supposed to have a saxaphone in 1977. In 1980, avant-garde post-punk artists on Rough Trade didn't sound girlish, as if they knew a secret they'd promised not to tell. In Red Crayola, no one else knew to sing as if there were secrets they didn't know. In no (other) time have people been able to leave their time, giving you the feeling that the war raging outside your door is not real. But punk was, as Lora Logic put it last year, a time "when a lot of people got heard."" (Griel Marcus, 2003.)

Lora's only post-Essential album (so far), 1982's Pedigree Charm, found her exploring increasingly meditative, earthier sounds - befitting, perhaps, her blossoming interest in the Hare Krishna movement, to whom she'd shortly (& contentedly) devote her life. Following an arranged marriage in the early '80s, Lora reportedly ended up raising her children & pursuing a peaceful, spiritual existence in a manor house owned by George Harrison, a long way from playing sax at The Roxy to a herd of glued-up punks. And if that sounds like I'm sneering... you're mistaken. Frankly I'm rather envious.

n.b. The photograph of Lora & guitarist Phil Legg (aka Ashley Buff) was taken on Clarendon Road, Notting Hill in September 1979 by David Corio.

Waddle ya play?

11.12.14

DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT : Live in Bonn - 22nd December 1980 (Cassette recording).

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Düsseldorf's were one of the first underground bands I worshipped as a school kid. They seemed infinitely "cooler" than Devo, Squeeze, or New Musik (because they were) - so much so that I took my copy of Gold Und Liebe with me to the barber at the end of the street so I could get my hair butchered into a council estate version of Robert Görl's utilitarian haarschnitt. They were another flock of beautiful mutants (Cabaret Voltaire, Fad Gadget, The Fall, et al) that I initially spied in Smash Hits (who adored them), & they were on the front cover of one of the first copies of the New Musicial Express I purchased too.

That said, no matter how much as I obsessed over their 3 Virgin Records LPs back then, it's the preceding Die Kleinen Und Die Bosen - incidentally the very first long-player on Daniel Miller's fledgling Mute label - that I found myself gravitating towards as my musical proclivities made a bee-line for the margins. At that pivotal juncture, with Wolfgang Spelmens still slinging out lacerating splinters of anarchic sheet metal guitar & Chrislo Haas's dazzlingly innovative pulsing synths to the fore, they were an anarchically brilliant live concern, as that record's second side - recorded in February 1980 at Camden's Electric Ballroom as support to Wire (the same show Documentary & Eyewitness was eventually collaged from) - ferociously corroborates. By the time they'd advanced to Virgin early the following year, Görl & Gabi Lopez had ruthlessly pared themselves down into a brutally efficient 2-piece industrial dance machine, were methodically applying a Stalinesque scorched earth policy (I'm joking) to all evidence of their guitar-toting past, & were primed to embrace bona fide pop-stardom at home in West Germany. "Kebabträume", their sardonic & ridiculously popular debut Mute 45 - performed 3 times (!) during this insurgent Bonn appearance - would be re-fashioned into an anthemic (& moderately more chart-palatable) rendition for their swan-song album in 1982. In Germany, at least, it would also be their final single, until reforming in 2003 (& again, for a 30th anniversary tour, in 2008).

Recorded while they were temporarily operating as a trio - Haas had already departed & Spelmans would follow before the year's end, making it one of his final appearances with D.A.F. before Die Krupps' Tina Schenkenburger was drafted in as on-stage tape op - this unreleased Bonn performance is far, far superior to Music For Midgets' semi-official & disappointingly messy Live In Berlin cassette.

Set-list: Co Co Pino / Tanz Mit Mir / Der Räuber und der Prinz / Volkstanz / Ich bin die Fesche Lola / Nachtarebit / Die Lippe (early version) / Osten Wärht am Längsten / El Basilon / Kebabträume / Knochen Auf Knochen / Ich und die Wirklichkeit / Co Co Pino (2) / Die Lustigen Stiefel / Nachtarbeit (2) / 42.00 / Kebabträume (2) / Kebabträume (3).

Ich liebe dich mich räuber

10.12.14

PALAIS SCHAUMBURG : Live at Das Metropol-Theater, Berlin - 13th December 1981 (Cassette recording).

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I've been scraping the mould off of an ancient, abandoned hard-drive lately, & have discovered a few rather pleasant surprises stuffed down the back of my virtual chaise lounge... More audile anomalies to follow in the blink (or 2) of a presbyopic peeper.

So, whatever happened to Holger Hiller anyway?

Set-list: Wir Bauen Eine Neue Stadt / Die Freude / Macht Mich Glücklich Wie Nie / Aschenbecher / Herzmuskel / Morgen Wird der Wald Gefegt / Eine Geschichte / Kinder der Tod / Ahoi, Nicht Traurig Sein / Telefon / Deutschland Kommt Gerbräunt Zurück / Rote Lichter / Fischlein im Wasser.

Hello, Dolly!

7.12.14

DESMOND LESLIE : Music Of The Future (Trunk LP, 2005).

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Type Desmond Leslie's name into Google & you'll more than likely unearth this 1962 footage of him clouting Bernard Levin, smug presenter of That Was The Week That Was, live on British television in front of 11 million viewers.

The eccentric son of an Irish baronet (who was himself a cousin of Winston Churchill), Leslie made his living as a Spitfire pilot & author (of bestsellers Flying Saucers Have Landed & The Jesus File) with a sideline in writing for the screen (Stranger At My Door, My Hands Are Clay). In the little spare time remaining, he pursued a simultaneous, far less lucrative career as a producer of early avant garde electronic music. Galvanized by Pierre Schaffer's experiments in electroacoustic composition, Leslie began constructing his own scores when the budget for a film he had scripted unexpectedly dried up, necessitating that he complete the soundtrack himself. His only LP, Music Of The Future, was recorded over a 5 year period - it's contents utilised in zero budget late 1950s potboilers such as The Day The Sky Fell In & Sacrifice B.C. 5000 - & was eventually pressed in 1960 as a one-off acetate. Thereafter, it languished in limbo for almost half a century, until Trunk Records finally stepped in & issued it in 2005. Interest was sufficiently great that it sold out it's limited vinyl pressing almost immediately, & even CD copies now exchange hands for £25+ a pop, hence it's inclusion here.

Though a frequently arduous listen, Music Of The Future is rarely less than entrancing. Considering it's age & Leslie's lack of conspicuous precedents, it's remarkable similarities to subsequent work by the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop are impossible to ignore. Portions of it remind me, often rather vividly, of those classic early kosmiche Tangerine Dream LPs (Zeit, perhaps), or post-Syd Pink Floyd at their most unhinged (Ummagumma, definitely).

Leslie died in 2001, a forgotten & misunderstood maverick from an era of our cultural history we British still tend to overlook. You can read an extensive Telegraph obituary here.

24.11.14

THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN : Cutmedeadnailmedownandkickmyhead (Vinyl bootleg, 1985).

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Jim & William Reid, long-estranged middle aged enfant terribles of the late '80s NME cognoscenti, unexpectedly reformed The Jesus & Mary Chain last year. They arrived back in Britain a week ago, following a slew of foreign dates, & tentative reports suggest that they're hellbent on playing their sole masterpiece - 1985's still unparalleled, ear-skewering Psychocandy - in it's entirety. 30 years ago they were, briefly, my favourite band - I was still in my late teens, after all - but I've not seen them perform live, or bought any of their records (their 1998 swan song, Munki, aside) since 1987. I'm actually quite excited at the prospect of seeing them again, no matter how unsightly a mid-rift (physically or musically) they might've developed since their student-baiting, p.a. upending heyday.

Cutmedeadnailmedownandkickmyhead was/is one of the earliest Mary Chain bootlegs, clad in a paisley-bedecked sleeve & comprising 2 complete, if characteristically succinct, 1984-5 shows. Specific dates & locations are not included (somewhere in England judging by the crowd's response) - the sleeve wryly suggests it was "recorded live at Westminster Abbey"- but the sound quality is superb (particularly on side 2), the feedback is utterly lacerating throughout (hooray), & their rarely aired Pink Floyd, Subway Sect, & Standells covers are all included.

There's no denying that they blew it with Darklands - a tactical retreat from pitiless white noise was (perhaps) understandable, but where were the songs? - but, for a fleeting, electrifying moment (captured in their early records & John Peel sessions, & at chaotic shows like these) it genuinely felt like The Jesus & Mary Chain might change everything. Which sounds hopelessly naive on reflection, of course.

Side 1: In a Hole / Vegetable Man / Taste the Floor / Ambition / Barracuda / The Living End / Jesus Fuck / Side 2: In a Hole / Vegetable Man / Taste the Floor / Ambition / Inside Me / Barracuda / Jesus Fuck.

Crack Johnny Crack

11.11.14

BASEMENT 5 : Silicon Chip EP (Island 10", 1980) / John Peel session 1980 (Radio broadcast).

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Reposted by request, & puzzlingly omitted from the otherwise authoritative 1965-1980/In Dub compilation, here are a couple of vital missing pieces from the Basement 5 jigsaw. "Silicon Chip" was the band's debut release (on 7" & extended 10") & even a cursory listen throws up all the usual "why wasn't this a massive hit?"-type misgivings. A rather weird, very under-rated single, it's quirky chart-friendly (this was 1980 remember...) veneer is offset by some cogent bottom end wobble, with trace elements of PiL & early On-U Sound very much in evidence (B5 were often lazily tagged as a "black PiL" after all). "Chip Butty" is, of course, a dubby versioned version of the a-side.

Their only Peel session was recorded on 21st April 1980 with Maida Vale whiz Tony Wilson - "another one", as Peel would wryly mutter. The line-up at this point comprised of Dennis Morris on vocals, the mysterious J.R. on guitar, Leo Williams on bass & T (aka "Tony") on drums (replaced on vinyl by PiL's Richard Dudanski). Essentially thrashed out live in a well-equipped BBC studio, it's heavier & rootsier than their records & goes someway to corroborating those "You had to see them live" testimonials we've all enviously read. The extended version of "Silicon Chip" is the high-point for me, but all of these BBC takes are superior to the official Island versions I think? Sound quality is A+ throughout (though "Immigration" unfortunately cuts slightly prematurely) - massive thanks to whoever had the foresight to archive it to cassette & take care of it for so long (in other words I've forgotten where I found it, sorry).

22.10.14

THURSTON + BECK : Mind Wars (Fonograf cassette, 2012).

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Mind Wars is an entirely instrumental improvised 2-track cassette collage, issued on cassette (manufactured by Burger Records) in a once-only edition of 270 hand-numbered copies, that was sold exclusively on Beck's 2012 Australian tour. There are no recording details included, but I suspect their collaboration was a long-distance affair.

If you are/were a fan of the messier Stereopathetic Soul Manure / Master-Dik annexes of these sonic elders' oeuvres then you'll probably enjoy this, though I imagine it's unlikely "listener enjoyment" was anywhere near the top of their must-do list when they recorded it.

Misdrawn

18.10.14

TRASH : On & On With Lou Reed (New World of Sound 7", 1992).

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Trash were an on/off New Zealand pseudo-"supergroup" (currently inactive), bringing together the licentious talents of Bruce Blucher & Paul Cahill (who'd previously played together in Cyclops & The Alpaca Brothers) with drummer par excellence Robbie Yeats (veteran of The Dead C, The Verlaines, The Renderers, King Loser & numerous others). The three of them also joined forces as Brown Velvet Couch, accompanying vocalist Viv Crowe, for an obscure one-off 7" on the short-lived Roof Bolt label in 1994.

Trash were decidedly less highbrow than most of the other bands they'd performed in - but exhilaratingly so. As you can doubtless surmise from it's titles, their debut 7" had it's tongue lodged firmly in it's beatnik cheek, but that doesn't make it any less terrific a record. A muttering, stumbling hangover of a 45, it's surprisingly ended up being one of the most fondly remembered releases of Dunedin's frenetic early '90s era, with a couple bearded / balding gents of my acquaintance laying claim to it's being one of their favourite 7"s ever. Even John Peel, whose support for the NZ scene was, on reflection, curiously half-hearted, deemed to spin it once or twice. No doubt it's unruly amateurism reminded him of Swell Maps, Mekons & the like?

Recorded by authentic NZ legend Peter Jefferies in July 1992, & released on New Jersey's New World Of Sound later the same year, both sides of this long-deleted 7" sound as snottily splendid now as they did nearly two decades ago. Tellingly, it culminates in an anonymous peal of salacious, chest-rattling laughter worthy of Sid James himself, & that's always a good sign isn't it?

16.10.14

DELTA 5 : Live at Berkeley Square, California, 29th September 1980 (Cassette recording).

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Striking while the iron's still hot, etc here's an excellent Delta 5 live recording from the pivotal "Stateside jaunt" (© 1987 Q Magazine) I mentioned below. I can't remember how it came into my possession, but I think it may have been a radio broadcast of some sort? Despite them performing most of the cold-shouldered See The Whirl LP, the D5'S attack here is far more brutal here - barked vocals, intermittent explosions of atonal guitar, unorthodox but insistent rhythms - a ruthless, hectoring harangue that makes The Gang Of 4 sound positively slick by comparison. And, yep, the encore is a fractious cover of The Mekons' evergreen "standard". Sound quality throughout is sufficiently spot-on for Kill Rock Stars to have included a couple of songs from this recording on 2006's Singles & Sessions compilation, but now you can hear the entire shebang. Fantastic stuff, frankly.

Set-list: Train Song / Anticipation / Try / Triangle / Circuit / Now That You're Gone / Colour / Delta 5 / Mind Your Own Business / Leaving / Journey / Innocenti / Shadow / You / (Happy birthday to Ros) / Make Up / Where Were You?

A strong smell of Ralgex

10.10.14

DELTA 5 : See The Whirl (PRE LP, 1981).

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I had a real problem with See The Whirl when I was younger. By the time I'd "discovered" them, the Delta 5's original run of inspirational Rough Trade 45s was already held in high esteem & this, the only full length record they released during their brief tenure, had been written off as a compromised, embarrassing major label failure, & I was one of it's many dissenters. Nowadays, predictably, I beg to differ...

Delta 5 were the third, lesser known wing of the Leeds University art school post-punk triumvirate, alongside The Mekons & Gang Of Four. Inspired by the formers' galvanising concept of "spontaneous amateurism", all 3 bands gestated in catalytic tandem, initially sharing a rehearsal room, instruments & a homemade p.a. system. Additionally, D5 bassist Ros Allen played in an embryonic version of The Mekons, while Mekons' guitarist Jon Langford doubled up with the D5 at a handful of early shows & designed some of their sleeves. It was this fledgling line-up's demo tape that caught Geoff Travis's ear & led to Rough Trade releasing the D5's defining "Mind Your Own Business" 7", a mutant 2-bass dancefloor throb that combined the GO4's conversational left wing ideologies & abrasive punk-funk with the radical feminist dialogue & amateurist "make-do" collectivism of The Raincoats.

Following a couple more well-received R.T. 45s & a triumphant American tour (with GO4 & Pere Ubu), the band left Rough Trade for PRE, the "cool" subsidiary of the terminally un-hip Charisma label (home of Genesis & Lindisfarne) who had already poached (&, some might say, debilitated) The Scars, Tuxedomoon, & The Monochrome Set from the independents. Though the band's attempts to engage with a larger audience made complete sense (GO4, remember, were much bigger in America than at home by this point), the commercial concessions demanded by Pre were more than likely doomed from the outset. Though lyrically as barbed & articulate as ever, it's polished production meant that the resulting See The Whirl LP being quickly dismissed as a bowdlerised & bloodless affair by band, fans & critics alike. Embellished with all manner of "unnecessary" additional instrumentation - & featuring Bad Manners' horn section on several tracks! - it sounds (on reflection) like a Marxist Haircut 100 in places, though the fractured guitar discord of old still simmers beneath it's lavish veneer (on the lacerating "Journey", for example - possibly my favourite D5 song). A disillusioned Delta 5 fell apart shortly thereafter, releasing a final single, the oft-overlooked "Powerlines", before retreating into obscurity. Typing this, it feels like I've read heard this story a thousand times before: best intentions, scuppered by a predominant obligation to recoup.

Surprisingly, Kill The Whirl has never been reissued, though Seattle's Kill Rock Stars valiantly attempted to address matters with 2006's Singles & Sessions 1979-81 compilation - collating the Rough Trade 7"s, some Charisma-era B-sides & various BBC recordings to present an alternative, & much harsher, version of the PRE LP - the one the band themselves perhaps wishes they'd released?

N.B. Ros Allen provides several insights into the band's formation & break-up here.

9.10.14

TITMACHINE : Life In Schaarbeek EP (Unreleased cassette, 2008).

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I dunno what happened to Titmachine - they released a couple of scarce & obnoxious 7"s on 1 or 2 appropriately obscure labels, played a handful of hair-raisingly shambolic cover-strewn live shows (thrilling & annoying cloistered blog-belching purists in equal measure), then conveniently vanished, leaving only this unreleased live e.p. & the pungent whiff of 1970s contact mag D.I.Y. porn-chic in their wake. Recent reconnaissance suggests that they may have been of Belgian origin, but that's little more than an educated guess. However, fans of Kleenex, Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Scissor Girls, early Pussy Galore, & the first Palais Schaumburg album will undoubtedly find something to ruminate upon herein, I think?

Life In Schaarbeek was recorded at Café Le Student, Schaarbeek, Brussels on 5th May 2007, & was slated for release on Penthouse Hotplate (an off-shoot of the somewhat slippery Diskono label). Though the artwork was completed & the sleeves printed, it was shelved at the last minute, pending inclusion (no doubt) on Domino Records' funereally foreordained deluxe Titmachine boxed retrospective ("7 discs, a 300 page hardback book, & 1" badge, & a set of flimsy, badly scanned postcards, packaged inside a over-sized nail-bedecked leather brassiere - retail price: £499.99"), due November 2024. Hup!

Sex Bomb

THEE HEADCOATS : Pedophile (Clawfist Singles Club 7", 1992).

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Next up, a savage 7" entry from Wild Billy Childish & his illustrious Headcoats (aka Bruce Brand & Johnny "Tub" Johnson).

Though 20 years old, "Pedophile" (Billy's spelling) remains a pivotal track in the Childish canon as, despite being an instrumental, it was one of his first recordings to explicitly address the sexual abuse he experienced in his youth. In the early 90s, struggling to come to terms with painful, long buried childhood memories, Billy bravely began to address his molestation in his writing, often in uncomfortably frank lyrical detail. His first novel, 1996's unflinching My Fault, grapples with these issues head-on, & though it's deeply unpleasant in places I have to admit that I liked it a lot.

"Pedophile" is, understandably, a very angry track, the absence of an accusatory lyric redressed by the band's searing (Link Way-inspired) performance & the sleeve photograph of the family "friend" who assaulted him. Now a dedicated Buddhist, Billy claims to have since forgiven his abuser, but this track still smoulders with a fearsome, barely contained hatred, 2 decades later. The b-side, the raucous "No Such Number", is a rallying cry against the corrupt & the mediocre, as are many of Billy's finest songs. The single was released in September 1992 as an installment of the Clawfist's subscriber-only 7" Singles Club in an edition of 1400 copies, all long gone.

Still fiercely prolific, Billy's painting & writing have both eclipsed his music the years since this 45 was issued, in the eyes (& ears) of the general public at least. His current work can be viewed & purchased c/o Clerkenwell's L-13 Light Industrial Workshop (formerly The Aquarium).

8.10.14

MINNY POPS : Live EP (Plurex 7", 1980).

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Somewhat unexpectedly, Minny Pops, one of the lesser known & least celebrated Factory Records acts, reformed towards the end of 2011, undertaking a European tour (including several British dates) early the following year. Even more surprisingly, they're still at it - though their line-up has changed considerably since they first reconvened. Arguably one of the final important bands from the germinal post-punk era to warrant serious reevaluation, & with current interest in minimal, cold wave electronica greater now than it's been for many, many years, one can only hope that Minny Pops' nervous, mordant music might finally be seriously reassessed & better understood, & that it might even find the audience it always merited.

Fortunately, their back catalogue has remained in print c/o James Nice's exhaustive & excellent LTM label. A handful of later, post Factory/Crepuscule album tracks aside, James has managed to track down, remaster & re-release virtually everything the band recorded in it's brief, frenetically productive lifetime. The one glaring omission, perhaps, is the band's early, difficult-to-find Live EP. Recorded at 2 Dutch shows (Delft & Amsterdam) in May 1980, it was rush released on vocalist Wally Von Middendorp's revered Plurex label following the success of their first English appearances - including a support slot at Joy Division's infamous Bury "riot" show on 8th April - & as a teaser for their first U.K. headlining tour that August. They'd record their debut Factory 7", the benchmark "Dolphin's Spurt"/"Goddess", with Martin Hannett during this return visit. Cut in a single day, along with The Names' "Night Shift" 45, "Dolphin's Spurt" has become their defining moment, though it's by no means their finest. They'd also find time to complete a John Peel session while they were back in the UK, allegedly the first Dutch band to do so - that can't possibly be true, can it?

UNREST : A Factory Record (Teenbeat 7", 1991).

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I was an avid follower of Unrest back in the 90s, & though their slew of releases on Teenbeat (curated by the band's own Mark Robinson, a serious Fac head) & 4AD never quite propelled them to the giddy apogees of adulation that I'd expected there still appears to be a healthy consolidation of affection for them. Mark's fascination with the minutiae of Factory's back catalogue resulted in a plethora of playful Fac references in the Teenbeat catalogue, the most conspicuous of which was this excellent 4-song EP with it's slavishly constructed samizdats of Crispy Ambulance, ESG, Crawling Chaos & Miaow numbers. A Factory Record was released on lilac 7" by Sub Pop in March 1991 as part of their subscriber-only Singles Club (#29). Limited edition, long gone. Never reissued. Too bad.

Fac off

NON : Sick Tour (Staalplaat, 1985) (Cassette recording).

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Brace yourselves for a purifying blast of pitiless white (harumph!) noise, courtesy of Boyd Rice's Non. Recorded live in Holland on 8th March 1985, Sick Tour was originally released as a limited edition, single-sided cassette (500 hand numbered copies) by Amsterdam's Staalplaat label later the same year. A similarly scarce CD edition followed in 1987 (neither are currently available). Sick Tour is exceptionally well recorded, certainly in comparison with other Non documents from the same era, including his official releases. God knows what techniques Boyd employed on stage to create this racket, multiple cassette decks possibly, but it must've been a bewildering performance to witness firsthand! Reportedly, Boyd himself requested a copy of the original CD via Myspace, so I'm assuming he didn't sanction it's release beforehand.

30 years down the line & I'm still on the fence, re: Boyd & his "politics". Needless to say, if you find him or his work offensive then, erm, that's probably the point.

Sick

29.1.14

THE FALL : I Am, Romeo Romantic (The Steal Record Co., 1981) (Cassette recording).

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Continuing The Fall theme, here's a Grotesque-era curiosity of dubious provenance, generously donated by the tirelessly prolific - & heroically unrepentant! - Johnny Zhivago of Die Or DIY infamy. Merci, monsieur...

I Am, Romeo Romantic purports to be a semi-legit promotional release, but it's scrappy ad-hoc construction suggests otherwise. Reputedly "produced" by longtime Fall consort Grant Showbiz, it's actually a (rather good) soundboard recording, slightly resequenced & with riotous looped applause of no-fixed-origin posthumously beamed in by the mysterious "Nick S." - very odd! Recourse to The Fall's on-line gigography suggests that most of the typewritten info is equally misleading: the performance actually dates from 11th May 1980 & took place at London's Rainbow Theatre. Finally, disregard the puzzling track titles, the set-list is as follows: New Face in Hell, English Scheme, Rebellious Jukebox, A Figure Walks, City Hobgoblins, Rowche Rumble, New Puritan, & Fiery Jack.

"Lost in our vaults until now", claim The Steal Record Co.'s disingenuous sleeve-notes. The plot thickens-uh.

13.1.14

THE FALL : C.R.E.E.P. Show (Schlick Yarbles Revisited LP, 1985) (Vinyl bootleg).

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If you've ever wondered where the monstrously strung-out live version of "Neighbourhood of Infinity" that graced The Fall's Palace Of Swords Reversed compilation originated - "It was the time of giant MOTHS", etc - well, now you know. C.R.E.E.P. Show is a vinyl bootleg of dubious origin that I'd occasionally spy while thumbing though the racks of a better class of record shop back in the mid-to-late '80s. Sadly, I never owned it myself as copies never hung 'round for very long &, frankly, they were always far too expensive.

C.R.E.E.P. Show was taped at Munich's Alabamahalle on Wednesday 4th April 1984, 6 months prior to the release of The Wonderful & Frightening World Of... (still one of my all-time favourite Fall albums), with Brix on board, & a surfeit of exceptional new songs to show off. A brief synopsis: the classic "double Hanley" are line-up are on rattling fine form, Grant Showbiz invokes poltergeistian clouds of lysergic reverb via the mixing desk, & sound quality is superb as the L.P. is sourced from a public service Bayerischer Rundfunk broadcast.

Despite the reels (presumably) still sitting on a shelf in a West German radio archive somewhere, & taking into account the superabundance of sub-par semi-pirated live Fall albums that have surfaced since the '90s, C.R.E.E.P. Show has never been licensed for an official release. Worse yet, allegedly only 200 copies of the original L.P. were ever pressed. There's no accounting for taste, eh?

You don't last long on a diet of tea & toast