Posts Tagged ‘The Fall’

Christopher Nosnibor

Some bands, you only dream of seeing. Others, not even that: the possibility doesn’t even exist as a bubble of thought, for one reason or another. As one of the most wilfully obscure acts to emerge from the early 90s scene, Trumans Water have forever existed in the latter category.

After achieving a certain cult cred in the music press with their first three releases after John Peel went ape over their debut, Of Thick Tum, which he played in full in release in 1992, they seemed to deliberately sidestep the limelight with the series of improvised Godspeed albums on minor labels, and after departing Homestead after 1995’s Milktrain to Paydirt album, they more or less seemed to vanish into the underground of their own volition. There’s a certain logic to this: their last album was released nine years ago on Asthmatic Kitty Records, and probably sold about as many cops as my last book., even though Drowned in Sound were nice about it. And so they’re playing at Wharf Chambers in Leeds, which has a capacity of maybe 100 while they tour for the first time in ages to support nothing as far as I can tell. It all seems quite fitting.

It’s a killer lineup, too.

Husband and wife duo Pifco crank out noise that’s pure Dragnet era Fall, and they’ve got the 3R’s (that’s Repetition, Repetition, Repetition) nailed, with dissonance and scratchy guitar clanging over motorik but hectic drumming .

DSC_2524[1]

Pifco

This is the third time I’ve seen Bilge Pump this year after the Leeds legends returned to the fray after some time out. They haven’t been anything less than outstanding on the previous occasions, and it’s a record they maintain tonight. It’s no their first time supporting Trumans Water, and they’re very much a complimentary act that sit between the cyclical repetitions of Pifco and the jarring angularity of the headliners. They also play hard – guitarist Joe’s shirt is saturated by the time the set’s done – and they’re also an absolute joy to watch, a cohesive unit firing on all cylinders.

DSC_2525[1]DSC_2529[1]

Bilge Pump

Trumans Water are also tight and cohesive – remarkably so, in fact. But they hide it well, sounding like they’re completely out of tune and out of key and often playing three different songs at the same time. Some of that’s down to the simultaneous vocals that don’t exactly combine to create conventional harmonies, while a lot of it’s also due to the unusual guitar style: I’m not sure of half the chords are obscure or made-up, but every bar conjures a skewed dissonance. But they are tight: the constant changes in tempo and off-the-wall song structures are brain-melting, and how they not only shift instantaneously, but play an hour-long set of sprawling freeform angularity without a set-list is remarkable.

DSC_2540[1]

Trumans Water

Trumans Water have never really sounded like anyone else. Pavement comparisons don’t really cut it on close inspection: whereas Pavement were genuinely slopping in their playing early on, Trumans Water would probably align more closely to freeform jazz and Beefheart at his oddest.

It’s a riotous blur of jolting, shouty, brain-melting racket that runs into one massive sprawl of crazed anti-music. And it’s an absolute joy.

Advertisements

Christopher Nosnibor

So I’ve been following – if that’s quite the word – Suburban Toys since the early 90s. Vicky McClelland is (I think) the fifth female front person I’ve seen them perform with, and I’ve missed some in between. She’s strong. She’s fiery, but also understated, and gets on with singing songs and sometimes playing guitar without fuss. She sounds good, and is good to watch.

DSC_2272[1]

The Suburban Toys

They showcase some new (to me) songs, still solid pop-tinged punk with dashes of reggae and cues from ‘The Passenger’. The throw in a ripping rendition of ‘Identity’ by X-Ray Spex mid-set. It suits Vicky’s vocal range and delivery. Older songs like ‘With You’ have been radically reworked (again), and this is probably the most attack I’ve seen them play with in all the years since the early 90s. They finish with ‘Sonic Reducer’ played at breakneck speed with bassist Vin on lead vocals. It’s good fun. And fun is important.

The kids – fans – are less than half my age and wearing threads that were all the rage when I was 10, 34 years ago. It’s alarming. The drummer’s facial hair is heinous and the guitar straps are so short they could strim the strings with their chins… But there’s an appeal to their raw, ragged choppy guitars and I get the impression that despite the cheap sunglasses and quirky fun elements, Perspex are a serious band with some neat post-punk and 90s alternative reference points – think Pavement, think Trumans Water. And they’re technically proficient, nailing some tidy grooves and taking the set to an accomplished climax with some uptempo space rock motorik riffology. 6th formers on the piss. One girl’s got plastic beads and a very 80s blouse, while one of the sportswear cunts is sporting a Factory T. What hell is this?

DSC_2283[1]DSC_2284[1]

Perspex

I’ve seen Percy even more times than the Toys, and over a comparable time-span. The West Yorkshire Superheroes (who hail from York) have been around forever, and subscribe to the tradition of hardworking northern bands like The Wedding Present and The Fall, and Half Man Half Biscuit who just keep on plugging away, solid and dependable. They always look like they’ve just knocked off work and stopped off for a pint: singer/guitarist Colin Howard always has about 4 days’ stubble and they seem genuinely comfortable being middle-aged workers doing the band thing on the side. There’s a lot to be said for that, but I won’t say it here because I’ve other reviews to write and a day-job of my own, and it’s too much of a digression.

There’s actually a guy here in a Percy T-shirt, which is a measure of something. But they’ve not got the college cocks’ backing, sadly, and the room has thinned a bit. The benefit is that I’m less worried about having my toes danced on by some 6ft teenager.

Bailing in with the Fall-like ‘Hep’, they’re bring a clanging attack of furiously thrashed jangling guitars that are nearly in tune and provide the backdrop to sneering, spitting monotone vocals. And, like The Fall, they may have only recently released their first album proper 20 years into their career, but half the set consists of unreleased material. And, also like The Fall, they kick out a fair rockabilly ruckus and reference The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life.’

DSC_2306[1]

Percy

‘Rubbernecking in the UK’, pushes the synths to the fore, and it’s exhilarating and also pure early 90s indie. Magnificently atonal guitar provides a skewed backdrop to sneered lyrics about the mundane everyday. Masters of four-chord chugs, ‘Unicorn’ is fierce and noisy by way of a climactic closer.

Having seen three decent bands for free and supped decent beer at £3.60 a pint I’ll say it again: pub gigs and small venues are where it’s at.

Christopher Nosnibor

Incredible. I arrived at a gig in Leeds with a dry shirt, thanks to it neither raining nor sweltering. And while it’s not exactly heaving in Wharf Chambers tonight, the eclectic (and international) lineup has drawn an interesting and curious crowd. I decide to take notes on my phone, and not to spend too much time on editing. This is a gig that’ about the moment, and it needs capturing.

DJ Perro, up first, isn’t a DJ, but a band from Mexico. The quintet perform the apex of busy math-rock and they’re buoyant with it. And kinda maybe how you’d imagine Mexican mathy post rock somehow. They clearly love doing what they do, and they’re astoundingly good at it. There’s a lot going on, to say the least. It makes my upper arms itch, and it makes my brain twitch. The songs are incredibly complex and incredibly tight and they’re a pleasure to watch. There’s something transportative and elating about watching five staggeringly good musicians, no egos, and some stellar compositions perfectly executed.

DSC_2113[1] 

DJ Perro

Failyer have two synths players and play drony, grating synth noise with live drums from James Islip, gig booker, tonight’s doorman, and perhaps best known as one half of seminal noise duo That Fucking Tank, who I first stumbled upon supporting Whitehouse in Sheffield in maybe 2005. And the blew me away, while pissing on the headliners. It was the same night I discovered Kelham Island beers, so the fact he Duck& Drake where I stopped on the way was serving Easy Rider. Failyer’s sound is sort of Krauty Fall meets Suicide motorik noise. Sinewy, echoey, sparse, repetitive. The skinny singer sits for large segments of the set, leaping up to spit punky vitriol into a sea of rapid reverb while throwing shades of Pete Murphy. It’s an awkward but cool take on The Cramps meets The Fall meets DAF. Or something. They’re the best reminder I’ve seen in ages of why the Leeds underground is an awesome thing. And there is no success like Failyur.

DSC_2120[1]

Failyur

Grey Hairs are the reason I’m here and while I’d remembered they were good, I’d forgotten just how blindingly, blisteringly good. What’s cool about them is that they don’t give a shit about being cool. The press write-up says that ‘their third album Health & Social Care … [is] a scorching reflection on balancing your creative impulses against the commitments of impending middle age’. But the reality is more. Way more.

The riffs are all the grunge with hardcore punk moments high in the mix, and front man James transforms angst and anxiety into performance art: twisting his hands and arms around his face, twisting and pounding his palm against his forehead. covering his eyes and exuding a spectacular awkwardness: his presence is awkward, confrontational, and oddly appealing. It’s a performance you can get into – or otherwise be repelled by, depending on your position and life experience.

I could go home or even die happy already.

DSC_2133[1]DSC_2132[1]

Grey Hairs

But then I’d have missed the awesome spectacle that was Doble Capa, the Spanish duo of whom the event’s write-up describe as being like That Fucking Tank but better. The pair certainly have that Tank vibe, and some serious energy. Thumping drums and what even the fuck is that four-string effort rammed through a trainload of effects (mostly distortion) to crank out a massively messed-up racket is the essence of what they do. It’s punkabilly blues noise making optimal use of a minimal setup. A blur of hair. A blast of noise. It’s compelling. And it’s great fun.

DSC_2144[1]

Doble Capa

And I go home happy, and don’t die.

31st May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Where We Sleep – the supergroup consisting of Debbie Smith of Echobelly and Blindness, Curve and SPC ECO, Beth Rettig of Blindness, and also Axel Ray of United Ghosts – extend their super status on this outing, with Ben Pritchard, formerly of The Fall and currently Manc Floyd contributing guitar work on ‘Control’.

Despite the more indie-leaning backgrounds of the collaborators, Experiments in the Dark espouse more of a post-punk sound, amalgamated with the blurry shoegaze of Curve. There’s reverb galore as the layers of guitar wash over and bleed into one another: ‘What I Deserve’ has one of those classic slow-building intros that’s built around a strolling bass and dual guitars – one chiming fractal, gothy, the other overdriven and set to stun. And from the emerging murk, Rettig’s voice combines sultry and dangerous to strong – yet simultaneously understated – effect.

‘The Desert’ sits between Curve and debut-album era Garbage – and it’s magnificent: rich in atmosphere, dark, brooding, and again centring around a strong rhythmic framework. ‘Control’ is a standout: after gentle start, it bursts into a mesh of guitars colliding over a woozy bass and metronomic mechanised drum sound. And as the track progresses, the icy vocals and treble snap of the snare become increasingly submerged by the squalling noise. ‘Into the Light’ repeats the form, only with the added bonus of a propulsive chorus and a bassline on a par with The Mission’s ‘Wasteland’ overlayed with howls of feedback.

The title track which draws the curtain on proceedings is sparse, stark, and minimal, and owes more to the ghostly, smoky trip-hop of Portishead than anything remotely post-punk or shoegaze.

If Experiments In The Dark is 75% 80s and 25% early 90s, it’s also 100% representative of the zeitgeist in terms of the aspects of the past it draws on. And Where We Sleep’s strength lies in their ability to absorb those elements and draw them together to forge a sound that’s both familiar and fresh, avoiding sounding derivative and instead delivering an exciting set of songs that demand repeat plays.

AA

Where We Sleep – Experiments In The Dark

Cherry Red Records – 7th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The Membranes’ very long and even more unusual career reaches a new landmark with the release of What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away marks the release of their ninth album. Forming in 1977 and releasing their debut long-player in ’1980, it would be 26 years between To Slay The Rock Pig (1989) and Dark Matter/Dark Energy following the band’s return in 2009.

John Robb’s career fronting Goldblade from 1995 onwards, as well as a music journalist and Louder than War’s head honcho, with occasional TV ‘talking head’ appearances kept him occupied for much of the intervening time. The fact he’s sustained most of these activities since resuming activity with The Membranes is beyond staggering. How does he do it? The level of energy the man puts into a single gig would leave me crippled for a week (and I’m hardly a layabout).

Anyway. The new album. 16 new songs. While Dark Matter/Dark Energy was concerned with the enormity of cosmic existence, What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away places its focus more closely on existence closer to home, exploring ‘the beauty and violence of nature’. Inevitably, there’s a human perspective on this: most creatures simply adapt or die in the face of nature’s force: only mankind marvels at nature, while at the same time believing it can harness, defy or otherwise conquer its unstoppable force. Yes, as a species, we’re smart, we’re highly evolved, but we’re completely deluded.

The press blurb pitches it as being ‘a game changer in the tradition of Manchester bands like Joy Division’ (can an album that forms a lengthy tradition be a gamechanger? Surely it must cut free from tradition in order to do this), and it features appearances from Kirk Brandon (Theatre of Hate, Spear of Destiny), and 84-year-old folk singer Shirley Collins, one of England’s premier folk singers of the ’60s revival. Chris Packham also contributes, as does the ‘legendary’ Jordan, who practically invented the punk look in 1975.

What Nature Gives… probably is justifiably a game-changer in that it reaches far beyond the parameters of post-punk and expands massively on The Membranes’ output since their return. Sonically, it’s an immensely expansive piece, featuring as it does the 20-pieceBIMM Choir, pitched against dark drones and heavy atmosphere – and of course, driving bass and choppy guitars. What were you expecting, some ambient/prog crossover effort?

It gets off to a strong start as ‘A Strange Perfume’ weaves a tripwire lead guitar over tribal drumming and a driving bass while choral vocal soar in and out before exploding into a grainy blast of distorted guitar. It’s a hell of a rush, and the production while full, is up-front and punchy.

Robb’s bass on the expansive title track is pure Peter Hook, while his vocal is stark, flat, metallic, calling to mind Ian Curtis. But the soaring lead guitar, strings, and layered backing vocals take it to another dimension. ‘A Murder of Crows’ offers something different again, a furious blues/funk attack that kicks like The Screaming Blue Messiahs at their most manic.

Steve Albini once said something about putting your best songs at the start of an album, and it may be the case that the initial force dissipates after this on What Nature Gives… as the band explore deeper, darker, more expansive territories. But this is considered, paced, and musically articulate. ‘Deep in the Forest Where the Memories Linger’ is evocative and forceful in equal measure, with ethereal choral sweeps swooping over thrusting guitars, before ‘Black is the Colour’ – a song about ‘the dark heart of winter’ and ‘the time when nature’s cycle in at its lowest ebb’ – is delivered in a style reminiscent of The Fall, sneering and spitting over a stocky, cyclical bassline. That this song features on the ‘Summer’ side of the vinyl’s seasonally-themed four sides is telling in terms of the mood: Winter is a recurrent theme here, and maybe I’m projecting my own feelings into the songs, but the urge to hibernate or hang myself are strongest during the bleak months of long, dark nights spent indoors brooding and reflecting on all shades of melancholy. ‘The Ghosts of Winter Stalk this Land’ and Winter (The Beauty and Violence of Nature) pursue the same theme, with the latter exploring synthy territory as a backdrop to Chris Packham’s spoken-word narrative.

‘A Murmuration of Starlings on Blackpool Pier’ continues the theme of ‘A Murder of Crows’. And builds the drama, with samples crackling in over brooding strings and tense, hushed vocals, while ‘The Magical and Mystical Properties of Flowers’ mines a classic loud/quiet grunge dynamic, blasting out with a storming three-chord riff.

It’s all there on ‘Nocturnal’ with a crackling synth-driven verse, thumping bass groove, choppy Gang of Four guitars, and a hook that references Joy Division’s ‘Transmission,’ and in context the press release makes more sense: this is an album which actually harks back to and connects with the touchstones which lie at its roots. It’s not derivative, but intertextual in construction. But the most important point of note is that it’s incredibly well-conceived, and the execution of an album that’s so ambitious in scope is outstanding, and What Nature Gives… sees The Membranes hit a new creative peak.

Membranes-Frt

31st May 2019 – Constellation Recods

Christopher Nosnibor

The album title may be as soaked in sickly-sweet dripping niceness as it is cliché, but it’s very much a contrast to the name of the Montréal trio responsible for it, just as it is with the music it contains. It’s pitched as ‘an exhilarating and relentless barrage of astringent noise-punk driven by the ferociously wide-screen tri-amped guitar squall of Kaity Zozula, the brawny pummel of Joni Sadler’s drums, and the wry subliminal/phenomenological sing-speak of vocal phenom Ky Brooks’, and one for fans of Au Pairs, Harry Pussy, Magik Markers, Melvins, X-Ray Spex, Life Without Buildings, Sonic Youth, and Perfect Pussy. All of which is to say that it’s a squalling, slanted, angular, gritty, snarling bastard of a record. Noisy? Oh yes, but it’s noise that’s not only about volume but extreme discord, about tones and abrasion that drills into the skull and hammers and the head and kicks at the kidneys and spits in the face while screaming ‘fuck you, motherfucker!’

It kicks off with the title track, a jolting, sinewy mess of choppy, trebly guitar that strains away at a repetitive riff that collapses into an angry buzz before everything goes haywire, any semblance of a tune crashing into an atonal mess of crashing cymbals and whiplash guitar noise that carries the listener away on a mudslide of underproduced sonic discomfort.

Stuttering, jarring guitars that buzz like swarms of furious hornets create crashing discord against calamitous bass and crashing percussion that can’t even pretend to be jazz: it’s wayward, deranged, demented, arrhythmic and difficult, and all better for it. The vocal is more spoken word than singing, the lyrics narrative rather than overtly lyrical. Rhymes ae even further out of the window than melodies, and everything about Honey is challenging and confrontational and rejects all notions of musicality and accessibility – which means it’s bloody great.

All of the reference points and comparisons are so underground that they’re probably worthless if attempting to pitch this to a wider audience, but if you dig Pram, Voodoo Queens, Lydia Lunch, then you’re going to be so into this. Then again, The Fall and Bleach era Nirvana, Siouxsie, Solar Race, and early Pavement are equally in evidence on a scuzzing raketmongous mess of an album that’s magnificently raw and not so much underproduced as delivered as is. This is a band that would work well with some Steve Albini action, but then again, you feel that Honey captures the band perfectly and as intended.

‘Flat White’ is a dirty dinge of spoken words that boil down contemporary hipsterized consumerist culture: ‘flat white and scummy’, although the majority of the album is fast and furious and emerges through a lurching, gut-churning murk. ‘Intrinsic’, unveiled ahead of the album, is a drawling, sprawling ugly mess of guitar-driven disaffection. Flat, trudging, bleak: Brooks’ dry vocal picks apart a repetitious, circular ponderance in a barren monotone against a grinding guitar for an age before the drum thumps in and then everything blasts off into all shades of sharding splinters of screaming nasty.

Nothing about this album is comfortable. I’ve spent the last few days searching for the perfect simile, but there isn’t one. It’s not like being punched in the guts or picked repeatedly in the abdomen, and nor is it remotely like an incision from a sharp blade – more like being hewn into pieces with a rusty saw while being beaten about the torso with a lump of rock. It’s not the volume that’s hard to handle, but the sheer relentless angularity. Nothing fits, and everything grates. Honey is the most awkward and abrasively serrated record I’ve heard all year. It’s so dissonant, atonal, and messed up, listening to it makes me want to puke. And that’s precisely why it’s probably the best thing I’ve heard so far this year.

AA

AA

Lungbutter - Honey

Saustex Records – 17th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

And so the band that is effectively The Fall minus The Man Who Was The Fall-uh, with a name which is a truncation of a Fall album title, deliver a debut album which also bears a title that could easily be a Fall album. As a longstanding fan of The Fall (aren’t we all?) I’ve faced immense conflict over Imperial Wax. My review of their first single was favourable, because unwritten professional obligations somehow and because it was actually good. And actually, the bottom line is that Gastwerk Saboteurs is again good, albeit in a different way and partly because it confounds expectation. But then, what are the expectations? The only expectation of The Fall was that whatever they did, they did, they’d like The Fall. And it wasn’t purely down to Smith’s atonal off-kilter verbiage that this was so: there was something that filtered through that was subliminal, and existed on another level.

So, here we have the debut album by The New Fall. But this does and doesn’t sound like The Fall. For the most part, this is a full-on, no-pissing punk album. It is not a Fall-resurrected album. What do you do with that? The features which defined the band’s final years are all in evidence, and unashamedly here, and on that basis, it’s impossible to sidestep the fact that Gastwerk Saboteurs sounds quite Fall-like in places. But then again, it sounds like a band ploughing hard at a punk-rock furrow with real zeal and loving it.

It drives in fast and hard with ‘The Art of Projection’ which is a straight-on punk effort on one hand, but on the other, it’s got post-punk and a mess of Krauty Fall-iness in the mix.

Prefatory single ‘No Man’s Land’ displayed a heavy Fall influence, but then again, can one rightly describe the band that was The Fall as ‘Fall-influenced’? While some purists beefed that nothing produced their last two decades couldn’t touch anything they did post ’79, ‘81, ‘83, ’85 (because they’ve all got different perspectives and time markers for what they consider the band’s ‘golden age’), the fact is that while they may have settled into a certain groove in later years, if Mark characterised the band with his unique and inimitable vocals, the band backing him, which marked the most stable lineup of their entire career, was a formidable riff-conjuring unit responsible for the music – both its composition and performance. And on that basis, while the closing lineup may not stand as a ‘classic’ in vintage terms, but make no mistake: they were The Fall to the end. But then, they were contractually obliged to sound like The Fall, no doubt. It’s no disrespect to MES that his band should want to cut loose a bit. And Gastwerk Saboteurs finds them cut loose, if only for a bit, kicking out some solid four-chord riffs with sneering attitude.

‘Saying Nothing’ packs a primitive post-punk chop, and there are plenty of fine and overtly unpolished songs wedged in tight here. If anything, it’s the rough ‘n’ ready rawness of this socio-politically-charged album that defines it far more than any musical lineage. It’s a fresh start, and a strong one.

AA

502565