MRR COLUMN REVIEW

New demos and old records for May

It’s been a brilliant month overall for falling in love with music again. Pulled out of a rut of listening to the same three songs on repeat (since you ask; Blame it on Gravity by NATIVE TONGUE, the version of St James’ Infirmary Blues by ABNER JAY and Feels Blind by BIKINI KILL) Suddenly I’m catapulted between new songs, old songs, even strange songs by familiar bands, getting lost in tributaries all over the place. As well as immersing myself in newer records bought on auto-pilot that I’ve previously neglected, obsessions abound for certain songs that are perfect for the slowly warming weather and late-for-work bike rides, cruising over the river with burning thighs.

Record Store Day was actually attendant to this phenomenon but because my local record shop, an all-used Aladdin’s cave called Rat Records in Camberwell, took a no-bullshit approach to the event, with none of the new releases but a shit ton of exciting old singles for a few quid each, it was a lot more fun than I imagine that queuing for shrink-wrapped 180g snoresville would be. On top of all that, there are a chunk of bands coming out of London at the moment that are pushing things ahead, as witnessed by a gig happening in a newly opened squat next week where the line-up is all new to new-ish bands. I am really pumped that it finally feels like I regularly see women playing in killer punk bands – although still probably in single figures across the board for London, this is bloody exciting. Spring Forward! Here’s some notes on all the above:

CISMA – grabbed this tape last month.  Punk radical from the Canary Islands! I am totally envisioning the bass player has his tongue stuck out the whole way through as the comedically walking bass lines give this already great demo a weird and cool edge!

GRABBIES – Some years ago a man named Roy emailed me offering a live by this band record in trade for a particularly subpar issue of a fanzine that I haven’t written for some years now. I must have forgotten to reply to the email, but I received a new boot of record from a friend in Australia who had put it out, and it reminded me of that. It is totally obnoxious and ridiculous, and the completely deranged drunken spitfire stage rage between songs only adds to this. Bar brawl ignorance with a guitar speed and tone reminds me loads of a band from Bari, Southern Italy called Chain Reaction, part of the mid ‘80s Italian hc explozione. I only hope they would have been equally rampant live.

My friend Louis has a band called THE LOVE TRIANGLE that he’s been doing on and off for a few years now. Occupying a strain of punk that can sometime fall victim to schlocky garage turkey vibes, TLT has always been saved from this by outstandingly good song-writing, which fool you into thinking its ‘throwaway’ yet stay in your head for days, and by resolutely No-fi production values that are often more hiss than riff. Now there’s an LP that was produced by Daniel Hussayn of North London Bomb Factory studio and RED DONS, who’s polished the loveable TLT turd right up to a shine that lends a heavy Justin from CLOROX GIRLS vibe on the vocals. It’s slightly disconcerting to have all the fuzz removed, and this recording does have more of a sped up power-pop style as a result, but the baleful notes match the saccharine flourishes and form the whole thing into something pretty neat, plus it has their best song on it. On repeated listens I can’t shake the two comparisons of the DANDY WARHOLS and THE WHO – make of that what you wish. Think this is out on Sorry State next month!?

The demo’s online-only so far as I know, but Meredith Graves, guitar and howl of SHOPPERs is now singing in a new band out of Syracuse, a relief for all obsessives still mourning their early demise. New outfit’s a five piece going by the outrageous of PERFECT PUSSY. Google ye not yest ye be blinded by fanny. This whole PP demo has a slightly harder vibe overall and is more insistently noisy, still riven with intense Sonic Youthful feels and mountains of feedback. It’s not hugely dissimilar to Shoppers but has a deeper feel somehow. Interesting stuff.  I can imagine this is a serious experience live, yet I don’t even know if they have played any gigs yet. Prefigurative internet dreams.

So, Record Store Day is for chumps, we hold this truth to be self-evident. However, I was up early and it was sunny, and it happened to be Saturday, the day of the when devotees queue up outside my local second hand record shop, Rat Records, while staff put out new old records for their delectation. As it happens, there was no queue, but the tiny shop was rammed full despite them having no interest in the special RSD releases. They were giving away coconut water for some reason? I had to squeeze between beer bellies and angry elbows to get to the singles box, placed annoyingly up high and far back on the front counter, useless if you’re under 5”8! I persevered and came out with some greats! Sensed a small line of jostling sweaters behind me and chose my moment to make sure I got every last drop of killer records out of there even as toxically stinky sighs coming from behind me started to blur my vision.

For £2 each I got HUMAN LEAGUE – Being boiled, CRASS – Shaved Women, pouty Oi boy stompers MENACE – I need nothing, MAGAZINE – Rhythm of Cruelty, and classic faux-Northern soul from the 80s in the form of one hit wonder Heartache Avenue by THE MAISONETTES – plus about six Blondie singles for 50p each and only a little bit more for THE FALL – Bingo Master’s Breakout on the wall. Also got NERVUX REX single which I’d never heard of, entirely on the strength of the sleeve, which didn’t let me down. Drummer from the CRAMPS and Village Voice journos doing downbeat new wave. It was a great morning.

I also grabbed WIRE – A question of Degree, which was battered to fuck, barely held together, but still played fine. I did not know at that point in the day that in a few hours time I would be watching Colin Newman fumbling with an iPad to photograph an audience of well-dressed thirty somethings day-drunk on expensive beer. WIRE played to on an outdoor stage on a closed street in Soho in dubious honour of ‘Record Store Day’ …shit got weird. Let’s just say as an experience it was significantly less interesting than the browned, crumbling twenty-year old sellotape holding together that record.

Between that trip to Rat Records and witnessing that strange performance, I helped out with another equally strange but markedly more pleasant performance, taxi-ing some backline for some bands playing in a bookshop called Foyles, probably the only multi-story independent bookshop left in London. Surprisingly none of the bands cleared the room (their always-rammed café) and Josephine Public seemed reasonably interested. After winsome gospel from SISTER and costumed debauchery from RAVIOLI ME AWAY, who play all in a line and peddle taut, looming funk punk, SHOPPING ‘headlined’ the afternoon. They’re a newer band spawned from the WETDOG/TRASHKIT/COVERGIRL triumvirate and related high-functioning conceptual punk weirdowinners mostly centring round the Powerlunches café in Dalston. They have just put out a single, and on it lies Rachel Aggs of said TRASHKIT with her trademark single-picking noodles, backing up propulsive bass mastery from Billy Easter and Ms. Andrew Milk on the drums. There’s a touch more edge and aggression to SHOPPING than of said members’ previous bands, and it gels together brilliantly. Tumult/rigour. Possibility explosions.

***

By way of an endnote, two fests I am pumped on:

SCUMFEST! Now in its 8th year, Scumfest is a benefit festival that happens over three days in London and even has a Punk Olympics afternoon – If you’re not fashioning a javelin from your ossified dreadlocks, yer doin it wrong. We’re playing on the same day as DOOM and OI POLLOI, been practicing ducking projectiles and a Flux cover, to be safe. This year the project we started to make a DIY Space for London is the benefit which is crazy and awesome.

LADYFEST PHILADELPHIA. I made a friend from said city when she was living in London and I remember her saying ‘I wanna do a Ladyfest in Philly next Summer’ and it felt far away and I didn’t wanna think about her not living in London, and then some months later she was gone so I went to visit her there, and went to a meeting at a big punk house with a porch and everyone had great ideas and everyone was friendly and then she asked me if I would come and do a reading at it and I was scared and honoured and excited. I plan to read slow and mosh hard to IN SCHOOL.

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