MRR COLUMN REVIEW

Five record reviews

The magic of finding and buying records in unexpected places is a thing I love, and the simple pleasure of exploring parts of a city you never otherwise would by mapping out its secret spots. I’ve just always found the weird competitiveness that seems to rear its head in that game rather a poor substitute for people who are just super stoked on actual music on the records, which should surely be available to all interested parties regardless of income status.

For this reason, I have very little interest in talking ‘about’ records as objects, rather than as a collection of songs or a document of a band. Procurement stories are cool and interesting, receipts and dick measuring are not. Yeah, pokemon punks and their ‘gotta catch em all’ disposable income derby do very little for me, in fact it makes me feel a bit nauseous if I am honest. I’m not up for scoring points about who had the most dough to give to eBay that month, to cleave a chunk of someone else’s story off and hold it in a dust case forever. Ugh. With the continued prominence of filesharing as a neat way to try and achieve that goal, not to mention the upsurge in cool tape cassette demos, it occurred to me last week that I had been neglecting my actual physical collection of records somewhat. In the interests of remedying this, I’ve been having a dig about. Here are five LPs (and Minutemen technically-EP) I listened to this afternoon:

Ultimo Resorte – Post Mortem (Radikal)

This was first up, because I got given this last week in the cinema, an eight month late birthday present, but by no means unwelcome. Thanks Ralph. We had gone for an afternoon movie (one of the mobile phone networks here run an offer that means you get half price movies on a Wednesday, meaning that I haven’t been to the cinema on any other day for at least five years) and the place was somehow deserted. I opened the mailer in almost total darkness and had to decipher what LP it was. Exposed nipple, red fishnet, slightly pixelated art… ah-hah. I had been told this was ‘their goth record’ but this is way more bouncy than it is funereal. The glossy insert is almost entirely in Spanish, which is slowly becoming less of a problem as I rekindle the reasonable ability I once had at school, not least through my new band with a lady from Madrid of all places, where I have to sing backs up in Spanish. I digress! Spooky is an overused adjective in these times, and this hits a way more Neo boys-y or even Kleenex style spot than any kind of melodramatic lace trimmed vibe, but still with all the frugal darkness of both the aforementioned bands.

The Minutemen – Project: Mersh (SST)

Layla gave me this record the last time I was in San Francisco, and it’s pitiful that I’m only just now getting around to hearing it. With its sonic departure founded on a ruse to pillory bands out purely for commercial (‘mersh’) success, and presumably play havoc with the climate of the time where SST were pissing out half-arsed records, it strikes me that only a band of this calibre could attempt such a bizarre feat, detouring at Steppenwolf covers, bringing in vocal harmonies, pushing the limit to nearly six minutes on ‘More Schpiel’, with not a small amount of Doors-esque fripperies, and yet still make such an interesting and let’s face it sort of awesome record.

Combatwoundedveteren – I Know a Girl who Develops Crimescene Photos (No Idea)

The records in this room have not been strictly alphabetised for a long time. There are, loosely, three sections: ‘go to records’, ‘new purchases’ and then a heap of records that is basically anything I bought pre 2004, that tend to get ignored, but for some reason cannot be parted with. My propensity for nostalgic retention is at its wildest worst when it comes to these records. I could have sold some stuff, but absolutely missed the boat on selling anything of worth that could be called ‘screamo’ (a tag, incidentally, that got slapped onto anything vaguely chaotic sounding during the trend’s latter years, and caused for a lot of good shit to get overlooked.) This could well be the case to some degree for Combatwoundedveteran, whose Floridian desctruction of various kinds is arguably at its peak on this LP, which I’m shocked to see came out way back in 1999. It totally destroyed me when I first listened to it, and every subsequent obsessive spin. I couldn’t tell you when it fell out of regular favour, probably around the time that bands like bloody Righteous Jams started to seem like a serious prospect on this island. Ouch. I thought the CWV artwork was cool as shit and tuneless oblivion of the songs blew my mind although I had no frame of reference for it. Returning to it now, there’s a kind of knowingness to some of it, that irks me a little in the same way that a lot of bands like the locust do, even though teenage me somehow heard more in them than just hollow stylized self-regarding turd music for the same brand of turds that I know see it to be. CWV save themselves from that fate though, because there is nothing ‘sassy’ about this record (remember that tendency? certainly didn’t age well) and the lyrics are stark and unapologetic (if a little zany in places) and play off well against the music’s opaque tunelessness. The songs are way more standard sped-up, distorted hardcore than I remember, but are definitely still raging and definitely have me a little regretful that I never got that crazy looking boxed set. That the label that released this, Twelve hour turn (another ‘special place in my heart’ band) The Swarm and even the terribly monikered but I-won’t-apologise-awesome I Hate Myself, is now mired in heinous beer-d koozie plaid rock ‘lol’bro rape joke cheese fest singalong chest pump hell, is a savage downturn, but hey. Hey.

The Radiators from Space – TV Tube Heart (Chiswick)

So I said I hated talking about records as a commodity, but that doesn’t, I don’t think, preclude a fascination in the strange enduring physicality-in-the-age-of-digital they still have, especially the real old ones. DNA swabbing some sleeves like this one, released on Chiswick, first purchased in 1977, would yield some pretty varied results, I imagine. I can totally see, in that sense, why first pressings have a charm that some people just can’t get over, the endurance of ‘the original’, and all the hands that have touched it (eek) in age when everything is geared towards disposability. I picked up this LP, battered to shit, from the record exchange in Notting Hill after my dearly departed to Australia friend Maya paid me in vouchers for the place, for proofreading her dissertation. The only safe currency! Just like this one’s sleeve, the songs on here are pop tunes perfectly ragged and ripped around the edges. ‘Contact’ is the clear hit on here. Obviously it has the record exchange’s trademark stickers with the squares that illustrate just what kind of bargain you are getting, and also how long the record has sat in the shop, as they mark down the price each week. Just inside the sleeve, there are marks of many a previous resell, including one from a shop called ‘John Sheridan’s’ of Hull, proprietor of all kinds of second hand wonders, it seems. If the trend for marking one’s records with a name/something to show what belonged to who (‘sup Tim Yo) had persisted, we would have an even less ethereal history to wonder over – I love the idea that each record would come with a list of previous owners inside the dustsleeve, too, but it may just be a little late to introduce such a trend.

The Men – Leave Home (Sacred Bones)

I bought this a while ago and (see above) somehow hadn’t listened to it yet. It seems that bands talked about excitedly by punks need not, in these heady times, necessarily fulfil the criteria of being anything other than loud and exciting. The first song on this record, after the quiet intro, sounds very much like the Stone Roses on weak acid. That I’ve read reviews of this previously that dropped in some heavy shoegaze references is probably testament to the known fact that people who get paid money to review music often only get as far as the first song, those lazy payroll fucks we all hate. Right? Right. Second tune is a huge, bombastic garage stomper, but the parts are chewed up and spat out and it makes for a confusing, urgent listen, a feeling that continues all the way through. Weirdly, I feel like I can hear elements of the more recent Fucked Up material, major-y sounding euphoric chords nailed against hardcore drums, but in being largely instrumental, The Men don’t have the jarring incongruity that Fucked Up’s laudable experiments in that field sometimes fall victim to. This recording’s also beautifully orchestrated, like really full and blown-out without sounding like that was their only instruction. Third tune, Think, is a sweetly furious banger. When the singer does come on strong with the vengeful admonishments, he sounds a like Greg Mantooth of Slices (and MRR, way back when) at least in this song.. The last song on the LP is a slow, unexpected ‘throw the drums down a flight of stairs’ moment, quite different from the others on this side, bringing in almost Bastard noise levels of misanthropic bass nadirism, especially so at its drums-and-coughing-fit conclusion — one that, so the liner notes inform, reaches a climax worthy of Justice Yeldham with two ‘glass and metal’ players credited. The other side continues the separate but equal feel of each song, so much so that it almost feels like a mixtape, something that probably comes about because the players switch up roles a lot. The guy playing Clarinet (apparently?! I must have missed that) on Side A, lends some Goo-era-T.Moore-meets-Piciotto vibes to vocal proceedings on ‘Bataille’. Seriously, I don’t know, this is fucking great. File it next to that Merchandise record for an LP that blows holes in what you expect, demanding 100% attention. Whether they’ll pick one of these styles to plump for, and go Rites of Spring or Spacemen 3, is still up for debate, but the fusion is not too much to stomach as far as I’m concerned. If this is a sign of where punk-rooted bands will be going, or where the new shoots of that same spirit are growing fastest, whatever in the hell that might mean, I’m not sure, but I hope they prove me right.

**

For real, it’s going to get cold here soon, I’m staying home, maybe I’ll leave the house in June. 

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