=  MARCH 2009  =

Quick Links

  Wolf People

Written by:

Pretty Things
  Ian Anderson

Simon Lewis

Soundtrack Of Our Lives
Mick Wooding

Ice Bird Spiral

Jeff Penczak An Outbreak of Twangin' comp

Phil McMullen


Nigel Cross

The Leisure Society
  De Rosa
  Aidan Moffat
  The Phantom Band
  Niagra Falls



(gig review, February 2009)


OK I hold my hand up!


I am a late convert to the Wolf People and had it not been for an email our esteemed editor Mr McMullen sent out just before Christmas, I’d still be in the dark about them.


This email brimmed with more missionary zeal than Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry – one of the most enthusiastic urgings to check out a band since Nick Kent’s review of Marquee Moon in the NME back in 1977! *blushes* - Phil


I simply got on the Net and bought a copy of the EP he’d so evocatively reviewed and was hooked immediately. I was soon extolling Wolf People’s virtues to anyone who cared to listen! Even bought a bunch of the EPs to give away to friends as Xmas presents! They had become as important a discovery to me as Television had been in the 70s and the Rain Parade in the 80s.


Next stage – catch a live gig. I missed their Hoxton show in December but then what do you know - two London gigs back to back in February! Barely containing my excitement I headed over to the stylish What’s Cookin at the Sheep Walk in Leytonstone for their set on the 25th February. I wasn’t disappointed.


Both musically and visually the band live are a force to be reckoned with. They look like they might have stepped straight off a late 60s album sleeve – lots of beards and straggly hair – and in a quiet sort of way bags of charisma and intelligence. In contrast to bopping flautist Ross Harris who looks like a cross between Pete Brown in his Piblokto days and Quintessence’s Raja Ram, singer and guitarist, Jack Sharp (what a great name) has the air of a true band leader about him. Reminding me a little of a blond Tony Hill, Sharp is the genius behind Wolf People, a band he has nursed from bedroom project to full blown five-piece live experience.


The rest of the band fall in behind him – drummer Tom Watt has all his Drumbo/Artie Tripp moves down pat and gives the band much of its distinctive basic sound. Bassist Daniel Davies with his academic looks locks down with Watt to provide a driving rhythm section and importantly adds some much-needed backing vocals into the mix whilst Preston-born guitarist Joe Holick flicks out licks, solos and rhythm parts with equal abandon. His slide playing is also something to be reckoned with particularly on ‘Caratacus’. And it’s always a joy to see two guitarists bouncing off each other as their amps warm up and their adrenalin takes hold. In the days of guitar heroes, Sharp and Holick would have been revered with the same sort of hushed tones we’d normally have reserved for Duncan and Cipollina, Jones and Leonard or Lloyd and Verlaine.


Wolf People have both a finely tuned musical discipline and an ability to extemporise as and when the mood takes them. At their gig at the Social in London’s West End on the following night (26th), they played as a quartet (Ross had a prior engagement with his other band) and towards the end of ‘Empty Heart’, they broke into an intense 12-bar boogie which would have given vintage Canned Heat a run for their money. The group seamlessly blends together various genres – most obviously they love the blues as any of you who own any of their 45s or the EP will know. They also have a firm grasp of both traditional and contemporary folk music. This is no more evident than on ‘Black Water’ (a tune on one of their singles but not featured live) where the band slips into the kind of folk rock groove redolent of Ashley Hutchings’ Steeleye Span or Full House Fairport. The epic, current set closer, the gothic ‘One by One from Dorney Reach’ exudes a similar feel.


Yet at their best Wolf People are very much their own men – one minute re-treading Black Sabbath or Black Widow riffs into stunning psychedelic hard rock tour de forces, the next steaming along with a rhythmic intensity older readers won’t have witnessed since the glory days of This Was, Ahead Rings Out or Mr Fantasy. I hope the band will forgive all my retro referencing but there are few contemporary bands that play or sound as original as these guys. There’s this weird 40 year correlation – if I close my eyes I can almost believe it’s spring 1969, John Peel’s Top Gear is on the radio, copies of Gutbucket, The Rock Machine Turns You On and You Can All Join In are on the hifi and the first issue of ZigZag magazine is literally about to run off the presses!


But this is 2009 and when I open them and see all the shit around, it’s a glorious realisation that Wolf People exist NOW, one of the  most exciting and vital bands playing anywhere, as yet unsullied by the music business and playing a raw, carnivorous brand of music that defines all we hold dear here at the Terrascope.


There’s a new single ‘Tiny Circle’ b/w ‘Mercy II’ 7” 45 due out in April on Battered Ornaments and housed in another fabulous bag designed by Luke Insect. Their gig sheet seems currently fairly empty but watch this space because on this evidence, they’re gonna be in big demand. (Nigel Cross)






For those of you not familiar with this LP, lets start with a potted history of its origin.  (If you are familiar with it, skip this bit – you’ll get bored!)


It’s 1969 and the Pretty Things are at the height of their psychedelic brilliance and in between the classic LPs ‘SF Sorrow’ and ‘Parachute’.


They are approached by Philippe DeBarge, French philanthropist and Pretties fan, who would like them to record an LP with him.  DeBarge will provide vocals and has the money (and, as it turns out, the singing ability) to make it happen.  The Pretties, fresh from the departure of guitarist Dick Taylor and with new guitarist Vic Unitt in tow, go and have a good time in the South of France as guests of DeBarge before returning to London to record the LP at Nova studios.


The songs included are all Pretty Things originals sung by DeBarge with the Pretty Things providing instrumentation and their trademark harmonies and backing vocals.


Acetates are cut but DeBarge never gets enough distribution interest to release the LP and it is destined never to see the light of day except for a few dodgy bootleg CDRs….UNTIL NOW!


Thanks to the superb Ugly Things fanzine-come-website-come-record label overseen by the inimitable Mike Stax (Yes, he of ‘Tell Tale Hearts’ fame), you now have the chance to own a copy of this Pretties treasure.  And whereas the CDR used an acetate that crackled and jumped as its source, Mike has managed to track down one that is in much better condition.  Considering the origin of the source material the results are excellent and these guys have painstakingly produced remarkable audio quality for this release. (See all things ‘Ugly Things’ at: www.ugly-things.com)


On top of that, as well as the CD issue, there is a magnificent limited edition deluxe vinyl version, which is orgasmic and I salivate and gibber uncontrollably every time I think about my prized copy.  (If you want one – better hurry!)


So, to the sounds themselves.  First thing to mention is probably DeBarge’s vocals.  When I mentioned this LP to a friend recently he said, and I quote, “I’m not sure I want to hear some dodgy French bloke with no prior musical experience trying to do the vocals for the Pretty Things!”   A thought provoking and eloquent critique I’m sure you’ll agree?  Well fear not!  Not only does DeBarge do a very good job, but to these ears he’s not actually that dissimilar to Phil May in style and I don’t really notice a dramatic difference when listening to the release.  (I am now bracing myself for the inevitable backlash from die-hard Pretties fans who will see this as flagrant disrespect for Mr. May’s vocal abilities.  Chill out!  Just my view, OK?)


The LP opens with “Hello, How Do You Do” which is superb.  The acoustic strumming on this track sets the theme for the guitars throughout this LP.  The drum and bass combine to make a sort of funky backdrop for the repeated vocal refrain.  As always, the harmonies are faultless and the whole thing has the feel of a laid back jam.  Towards the end, Vic Unitt provides a psychedelic reverse guitar solo over the rhythm to mess with our heads.


We move into the beautiful “You Might Even Say”, the vocal line and riff being reminiscent of ‘Forever Changes’ era Love.  The acoustic vibe of the LP continues with the picked guitar line and Twink employs a shuffle rhythm on the drums to great effect (I think he may be using brushes here).  As the song moves to a close the vocals become drenched in dreamy reverb.


“Alexander” is the first of three tracks already recorded by the band for the De Wolfe Music Library under the name Electric Banana.  (If you haven’t got these recordings – go find – they’re essential).  I have to admit that I prefer the Electric Banana version of this track as it is quite simply a classic, but this is still an interesting take.  It is more laid back than the DeWolfe version, which is in keeping with the rest of the tracks on this LP, and the understated arrangement and strummed acoustic feel emphasise the vocals more than the original.  It is interesting to note how Vic Unitt’s guitar solo has a completely different feel to that Dick Taylor’s on the original DeWolfe version.


The next track, ”Send You With Loving”, was released in a different form on the ‘BBC Sessions’ CD (along with the wonderful but otherwise unreleased ‘Turn My Head’ and ‘Spring’) but personally I think that this is the better version.  The strummed guitar and sparse bass and drums give the song an ‘olde’ folk feel.  This one is played straight with no effects and the keyboard utilises a beautiful harpsichord sound on the solo.  After the solo organ chords add drama, pulsating under the main riff.


Side one concludes with the magnificent “Your’re Running You And Me”, this time the acoustic guitar chugs out a sort of Bo Diddley rhythm and DeBarge rises to the occasion with a spirited vocal.  Nifty guitar runs punctuate the riff and the track is enhanced even further by the tight backing vocals of the Pretties.  The guitar break plays excitingly against bass piano licks and this is one of those tracks where you just have to tap your foot.  The jammed ending brings the side to a close in fine style.


Side two opens with a very short mellow track entitled “Peace” that segues into “Eagle’s Son”. This is the second track that was also recorded for DeWolfe as Electric Banana, and it is quite similar in style to the original.  This version is slightly calmer but the superb harmonies and great riff signal the Pretties at their best and this is nothing less than a psychedelic classic.  Unitt hits his stride again on the superb soaring guitar solo.  This track segues into “Graves Of The Day” a very short instrumental piece that would evolve into ‘Scene One’ for the ‘Parachute’ LP.


“New Day” is another masterful psychedelic track, DeBarge’s mournful vocals singing over Wally Waller’s impassioned strumming.  There is a haunting quality about the vocal line on this track and reverb and echo surface in the mix then drop out again creating a shimmering effect for the listener.  The verse is imbued with tight harmonised backing and Unitt produces an exquisite guitar solo.


“It’ll Never Be Me” is the third track also recorded for DeWolfe and this is a moodier take, organ based rather than guitar, chords descending under the verse.  Again, the harmonies are tight on the chorus and there’s a strange discordant solo from Unitt.


“I’m Checking Out” is probably the weakest song of the LP, more of a late 60s Pop/Rock feel to it.  It’s played straight with no psychedelic effects and it’s a nice enough song, just not up to the standard of its peer group.


Side two concludes with “All Gone Now” keeping the strummed acoustic guitar sound that predominates throughout.  There is very sparse bass guitar and bass drum accompaniment and a solitary voice makes the cymbal sound.  A very mellow tune, think: late night, turning down the lights, closing time.


Overall this is a superb LP, not just because of its ‘lost treasure’ status, but also because it contains some truly great Pretty Things tracks that are otherwise unavailable.


A hearty well done to Mike and his team for finally making this available to the populous, and for doing so with such aplomb. (Mick Wooding)






No, this isn’t Jethro Tull’s country album. Unlike Davy Jones, who elected to change his name to Bowie to avoid confusion with a certain Monkee, Ian Anderson (of the Weston-super-Mare Andersons) steadfastly stood by his family name, even though it cost the album a release on Island, thanks to the management of a similarly-named Scot, who, to quote Anderson’s wonderfully thorough liner notes, “threw a wobbler about the confusion that might be caused.”


    Thankfully, Liberty came to the rescue and Anderson’s debut effort hit the shelves in May, 1969. The UK was in the midst of a big blues boom centered around bands like John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac, and Chicken Shack, and Anderson was in a friendly race with fellow blues artists, Mike Cooper and Jo-Ann Kelly to see who would score the first album release. So on a Saturday afternoon in November, 1968, Anderson rallied 18-year old harmonica wunderkind, Chris Turner (from the Missouri Compromise) and Deep Blues Band bassist, Bob Rowe into London’s Chappell Studios and, with the support of three members of the Panama Limited Jug Band and the production guidance of Sandy Robertson, he emerged after “five hours and a fair amount of drink” with the album at hand.


     Inspired by Muddy Waters, Charley Patton, Sleepy John Estes, Sun House, and Mississippi Fred McDowell, for whom Anderson had organised a lengthy club tour and installed his band as the opening act, the album has since been recognised as a landmark recording in the UK country blues scene and Fledg’ling have managed to locate the original master tapes to source this 40th anniversary remastered treasure. The album is evenly divided between traditional arrangements and Anderson originals that so faithfully recreate their traditional counterparts that you’d have to look at the writing credits to distinguish the two! You’ll also find hints of Canned Heat (‘My Babe She Ain’t Nothing But A Doggone Crazy Fool Mumble,’ ‘Short Haired Woman Blues’), as well as the powerful pipes of “Harmonica Annie” Mathews, whose from-the-toes belting on ‘New Lonesome Day’ confused many into thinking that her name was a nom-de-disc for Jo-Ann Kelly.


     The war whoops and banshee wailing on the instrumental title track suggest the recording session was loose and as free-flowing as the alcohol, and I should also mention the wonderful, country vibe created by the members of the backwoods, good-timey Panama Limited Jug Band: Pete Hossell’s jug and Brian Claxton’s washboard add so much down-home, Southern flavour that you can practically smell the fried chicken. Toss in a couple of contemporary bonus tracks and you’ve got one (Big) Easy listening experience. So crack open the bourbon, mix up a few pitchers of mint juleps and sit back with a bucket of chicken and ribs and let Ian Anderson’s Country Blues Band while away those lazy, Sunday afternoons. (Jeff Penczak)




(Rep Roc www.yeproc.com/)


The Soundtrack Of Our Lives have released four fine LPs and a rarities compilation and return with their fifth LP, ‘Communion’, which oozes with the skillful song craft and instrumentation of its predecessors and thankfully shows no signs of lessening quality.


Just a note on the record label as it is a little confusing for prospective purchasers.  ‘Communion’ will be issued on Yep Roc in March but the CD seems to have been on distribution through Warners since December last year anyway.  In addition, there is a vinyl edition (the version I have) that is on Akashic Records (no website) and seems to have been put out independently by the band, as the Cat Number is TSOOLLP1.  Their distributor in Sweden is Bengans Records, so you may want to check out the following if you want a vinyl copy: www.bengans.se.


The Soundtrack Of Our Lives evolved from the ashes of the wonderful Stooges-infused Union Carbide Productions who finally imploded in 1993.


By 1995 three members of UCP, Ebbot Lundberg, Bjorn Olsson and Ian Person, had hooked up with Martin Hederos, Kalle Gustafsson and Frederick Sandsten to create TSOOL and released the incredible debut ‘Welcome To The Infant Freebase’.


Guitarist Olsson moved on shortly after this, being replaced by Mattias Barjed, (though he did make some contribution to the band’s 2nd LP) and this line-up went on to release another three superb LPs.  It is this Line up that is still going strong on ‘Communion’.


The LP is a delight with multiple textures and styles throughout.  TSOOL have always had the ability to give an appreciative nod to late 60s/early 70s psychedelia, pop and rock whilst maintaining their own distinctive sound.  Their songs often remind me of something I already know; yet I’m never sure exactly what it is.


Their expert musicianship and production skills mean that throughout a single LP you can veer between a wall of sound and sparse instrumentation or from up-tempo to mellow without any of it sounding out of place.


The LP comprises of 24 tracks and I hope that what follows will give you a taste of the delights contained therein.


“Babel On”, the album’s opener, begins with an atmospheric soundscape, then a pulsing bass line emerges joined by an almost tribal drum pattern.  The insistent guitar riff completes the sonic assault and we’re off.  One of the best things about TSOOL are the catchy vocal lines always superbly sung by Ebbot, and this track is no exception.


“RA 88” is another great up-tempo number, it’s riff hurling us back to the latter days of Union Carbide Productions – great bass, overdriven guitar and Ebbot busting a lung on vocals.  The track drops out teasingly in the middle before erupting back into the riff for the guitar solo.  Other examples of TSOOL’s ability to rock out in style are”Distorted Child” with its staggered rhythm and proto-punk feel and” Saturation Wanderers” with its spacey vibe.


Mellow tracks are well represented on this album too, “Universal Stalker” begins with a picked guitar line then reverb drenched keyboards enter the mix. The track builds and increases in tempo as the guitars begin to chime and keyboards begin to swirl.  “Second Life Replay” begins with just voice and guitar adding gorgeous harmonies as it progresses.  Instrumentation is added slowly throughout building the texture of the piece until the full riff emerges to support the repeated chorused vocals; Ebbot bursts forth in full voice to bring the track to its crescendo.


“Songs Of The Ocean” is one of my favourite tracks on the LP.  It is a dreamy pieces built around a 3 / 4 rhythm with a magnificent vocal line.  Cymbals crash evoking breaking waves and lush orchestrated strings emerge, the track climaxing in shimmering layers of instrumentation. 


Some tracks display a melancholy haunting feel like “Just A Brother”, which had already seen released on a compilation, this new take retaining the ambience of the original.  “Lifeline” stirs the listener with its beauty – clever restrained instrumentation embellishing the vocals whilst allowing them to dominate. “ Everything Beautiful Must Dieis another haunting moody piece utilising an effective interplay between the picked and slide guitar lines.


The variety of styles and sounds is what gives this LP depth and breadth; “Mensas Marauders” has a wonderful 60’s garage punk feel to it.  The guitar and keyboard sound are spot on and its reminiscent of a more leery ‘You’re Gonna’ Miss Me’ by the Elevators – excellent.  “Without Warning” is a ballad – simple and enchanting, whilst “Thrill Me” is somewhat a shock to the system being a sort of 12-bar rock song.  Interestingly, this was chosen as a single for the LP, which is odd as anything less typical would have been hard to imagine.  The flip of the single is a cover of Nick Drake’s “Fly” and is also included on the LP.


The album contains songs that are more simply structured but no less catchy like “Flipside” or” Lost Prophets In Vain” with it’s modulated vocal line, or “Reconnecting The Dots” with its psychedelic feel and wall of sound mix driven by the snare on the first beat of the bar.


“The Passover” is the last track on the LP and is the perfect close.  Congas establish the rhythm for another magical vocal line.   I love the feelings this track evokes as there is an air of sadness about it, yet paradoxically it has a sort of hopeful feel too it as well.


The Soundtrack Of Our lives create masterful sonic journeys for the listener and ‘Communion’ continues the quality established by its predecessors.  Let’s hope the band continues to produce music like this for years to come. (Mick Wooding)




(CDR from www.myspace.com/icebirdspiral )


There is something haunting, edgy and yet majestically wonderful about the music of Ice Bird Spiral, a duo consisting of Cloudboy and Kek who create the perfect soundtrack to scare the hell out of the neighbours with.


Starting with the sound of a swarm of insects hurling themselves to death against the glowing valves of a vast 1950s B-movie computer (‘Flyscape One and Two’), the cacophonous electronics, tape-loop manipulation, found sounds, sonic bleeps and automaton murmurs find our friends being led by an enchanted space-whistle into the cavernous bowels of the machine, where mere sounds become noise and voices become increasingly persistent echoing chants. A wash of gentle Satie-esque piano accompaniments gradually make themselves heard above the din whereupon, thirteen minutes into the nightmare, a narrator introduces the main theme: the story of Swineville, a place of lost souls where “good and evil are abstract concepts and the dead can’t sit still”. I’m picturing the set of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ as I listen to this, but I’m probably way off the mark here as ‘Swineville’ is an American rather than British place name – in fact I seem to remember the Monkees once placing a song, or maybe it was a film, in a hick town of the same name as well. Gradually the screaming insects and haunted night-time animal sounds overcome the intonation and finally the Icebirds deliver their coup-de-grace – a poetic, Betjemanesque paeon to the lost days of the Great Western Railway in wartime, the rich West Country voice inevitably falling away, down, down into a pit of lost sound fragments collected together by the Ice Birds and turned against you. This is high art indeed, brilliantly placing the homely and comforting outside of one’s usual sphere of reference and instead making it seem frightening and almost demonic.


What’s not hinted at here is the creative wonder which is the Ice Birds’ live set, once seen and never forgotten as the masked figures hunch over their playthings creating a fabulously unholy atmosphere like alchemists of sound.  


Watch for dates on their My Space site (above). There’s also a self-titled album released by the now sadly defunct Australian label Music Your Mind Will Love You, lovingly packaged with colour inserts and a special bloodstained mortuary toe-tag track-listing. Just as you’d expect. (Phil McMullen)




(CD from Psychic Circle)


            While fans anxiously await the next Bevis Frond album, Nick Saloman has been busy raiding his extensive record collection to assemble theme-based compilations like this one, which presents “26 Cool Early 60s Guitar Instrumentals.” Fans of his multi-volume Instro Hipsters A Go-Go series should gobble this up quickly, as it presents an excellent overview of the international instrumental scene, with contributions from Sweden, Norway, France, Australia, and Denmark, as well as England and Wales. Copenhagen’s The Cliffters open the set with the Ennio Morriconi-ish spaghetti-western twang of ‘Django,’ leading into Marty Wilde’s backing band, The Boys, who combine Tony Oakman’s phat guitar licks with ethereal, female wordless vocals on the first of two tracks entitled ‘Polaris.’


            Since it would be sacrilegious to curate an instrumental album without the participation of Joe Meek, Saloman offers the first of four Meek-associated tracks with The Saint’s ‘Husky Team.’ And speaking of husky, these Saints were also the backing band for Meek’s protégé. Heinz. The light-fingered vibe backing is the highlight here.  Shel Talmy completists (show of hands, please) will dig his handiwork on The Hearts’ cover of Dutch beat rockers, Electric Johnny’s ‘Black Eyes,’ a rollicking entry in that beloved nonstarter subgenre of British surf music, and if Hawaiian guitar is more your style, then Australia’s enigmatically-named Rob E.G.’s stirring version of ‘Jezebel’ from his Hawaiian Guitar album will nicely fit the bill!


            The late Alan Caddy enjoyed a prolific and successful career as a founding member of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and Joe Meek’s Tornadoes, but here he basks in the spotlight for his solo offering, ‘Workout’ an energetic addition to that exercise mix tape you’ve been compiling! The Saxons were another Meek discovery who are represented by their feverishly animated ‘Saxon Warcry’ before Meek rechristened them as the latest lineup of his Tornadoes! And trainspotters may recognise guitarist, Robb Huxley (aka Gale) from his brief stint in Israeli psychsters, The Churchills!


            If you were a budding guitarist, you probably own a copy of Bert Weedon’s guitar manual, Play In A Day, and ‘Ghost Train’ gives you a chance to hear your mentor in action. I also liked the swinging soiree of The Sunspots’ ‘Paella,’ the finger-lickin’ pickin’ of Australia’s eponymous ‘Mandrake’ and the wonderful Duane Eddy-styled vibrato surf twang of Richard Harding’s ‘Temptation.’ The ubiquitous Joe Meek pops up behind the controls of Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers’ theme song, ‘Jaywalker,’ a 100-second burst of fresh air from the legendary outfit that featured guitarist Pete Miller before a name change to “Big Boy Pete” and his classic psych effort, ‘Cold Turkey.’ The Jaywalkers also counted Terry Reid amongst their numbers, but this being an instrumental compilation, you’ll have to seek out his wonderful solo efforts elsewhere!


            Joe Meek also had a hand in The Ramblers’ career (no pun intended), and their ‘Just for Chicks’ effort features everything from a drum solo to a wailing sax solo. It was no doubt Meek’s influence that got them the support slot at one of Billy Fury’s appearances at The Royal Albert Hall. Unfortunately, it didn’t help their career much and they splintered after this lone single. I’m sure the composers of the theme from ‘Exodus’ never envisioned their song turned into a surf instrumental by a Norwegian pop band, but in the hands of The Runestones it all seems to make perfect sense. The set comes full circle with Nero & The Gladiators’ ‘Boots,’ named after bassist Rod Slade’s nickname. Slade and keyboardist, Mike O’Neill were part of Tommy Steele’s brother’s band, Colin Hicks & The Cabin Boys, as was Johnny Kidd & The Pirates’ drummer, Clem Cattini, who shared time with Pirates’ guitarist, Alan Caddy, whose solo effort we enjoyed earlier in the set.


            I could listen to this stuff all day, so let’s hope Saloman is busily preparing the next volume in the series. (Jeff Penczak)




 (LP/CD from Drag City www.dragcity.com )


The genre, proto-punk, has become rather over used in recent years and seems to have come to mean any music that 70’s punk bands paid homage to.  I prefer to think of proto-punk as a very specific lineage leading up to 70’s punk that encapsulated noisy experimental rock music fused with a ‘we’ll do it our way’ attitude.


Fitting with this definition there are several LPs of the genre that stand the test of time and have achieved ‘classic’ status. There’s the Velvet Underground’s ‘White Light White Heat’, MC5’s ‘Kick Out The Jams, all three Stooges LPs, The New York Doll’s debut, ‘Go Girl Crazy’ by the Dictators and the more recently released ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ containing the Rocket From The Tombs legendary mid-seventies rehearsal tapes.


All these set a very high standard against which newly unearthed recordings may be judged.  Combine this with the fact that we are continually being presented with ‘lost gems’ that do not bare scrutiny, (as evidenced by the endless re-releases of mediocre sixties garage punk bands), and any new proto-punk release has much to live up to.


How very pleased I was then to hear Death’s aborted 1975 LP ’… For The Whole World To See’.  It is a fantastic adrenalin fuelled album that sits very comfortably amongst its aforementioned peers.  The more I listen to it, the more I think it may well attain a ‘classic proto-punk’ tag.


Death were three Afro-American brothers, David Hackney: Guitars, Bobby Hackney: Bass, Vocals and Dannis Hackney: Drums.  From Detroit, they evolved from their R&B roots into a much heavier sounding rock outfit, not so unsurprising when you consider that MC5 and the Stooges had formed and played in and around Detroit earlier in the 70s.


The tracks on this LP were written between October and December 1974.  Producer Don Davis picked up a demo of the band and they recorded the material contained on this release at United Sound in Detroit with Jim Vitti as engineer.  (Vitti also engineered sessions for Parliament and Funkadelic.)


Unfortunately, Don Davis wanted the band to drop the name ‘Death’ but the band refused and the ensuing animosity resulted in only seven songs being recorded and the LP never being released.  The band did manage to release a single from the sessions, ‘Politicians In My Eyes/Keep On Knocking’, but later relocated to Vermont and decided to pursue a more Reggae inspired direction.


Thanks to Drag City the aborted LP and single tracks are now available on vinyl and CD.


What sets this LP apart from others of its ilk is the clever arrangements and instrumentation.  Far from being a straight four beats to a bar thrash (though there’s nothing wrong with that!) they create texture using multiple rhythms within songs, each instrument punctuating the other.  Several of the tracks keep things interesting using neat rhythm or tempo changes and the LP also has a charged up energy to it.  I keep having to remind myself that there are just three musicians on these recordings.


The album opens with Keep On Knocking, a straight-ahead rocker showcasing Bobby Hackney’s powerful vocals and the trademark overdriven guitar and tight rhythm section setting the scene for what follows.


Rock-N-Roll Victim launches in with a riff like some dirty sped up drag-strip instrumental.  The stop/start arrangement creates a jerky rhythm as Bobby snarls the vocal; ‘You roll yourself another stick of grass/Jump on the seat and start to move your ass/You’re just a rock-n-roll victim and I know this is true//’Cause I’m a rock-n-toll victim too.’  They don’t write ‘em like that anymore! Classic stuff.


Let The World Turn changes the LP’s direction.  Slowly strummed guitar chords hang in the air under spacey vocals.  Reminds me of early Funkadelic in their more mellow moments.  Bass and drums join in and the riff slowly builds introducing the tuneful vocals of Bobby Hackney.  Then the whole thing erupts into a juicy fat riff.  There are echoed guitar breaks then staggered instrumentation in the middle eight.  A short drum solo takes us back to those mellow strummed guitar chords and the whole cycle starts again culminating in a rousing assault of guitar, bass and drums.


You’re a prisoner is a punchy punkish number, David Hackney’s guitar flourishes punctuating the end of each bar.  The band makes use of a clever change in arrangement and tempo for the chorus adding texture to the track.


Freakin’ Out begins with an explosion of noise leading into the up-tempo punky riff.  There is a fine stabbed rhythm on the chorus and the track finishes, as it started, with another great crescendo of noise.


As if this track isn’t superb enough the high spot of the LP must be Where Do We Go From Here???  The track begins with bubbling bass from Bobby Hackney, his vocal line joining over the top.  Drums and guitar crash at the end of each bar creating tension that is released as all the instruments pound into the main riff.  The ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’ chorus is incredibly catchy and pre-empts the melodic punk of two decades on.  Sparse guitar, throbbing bass and echoed laughter create contrast in the middle eight before launching back into the main riff.


Politicians In My Eyes is also a contender for highlight of the LP.  Snare roles on the drums counterpoint the bass runs whilst the guitar jabs its chords on the first beat of the bar.  The vocals play effectively off the rhythm created by the instruments.  A rhythm change on the chorus boosts the dynamics of the song contrasting against the verse.  The jammed chorus riff drives the song to its conclusion embellished by pounding drums from Dannis Hackney, flowing rolls crashing in every now and then.  The guitar is lifted in the mix becoming more overdriven and then seems to pulsate as its volume is raised and lowered.  A fitting finale to a fantastic album.


How sad it is that Death could not see this project realised at the time.  At least now they have a shining testament to their ability and musicianship in this fine release from Drag City. (Mick Wooding)




(CD from www.willkommenrecords.co.uk)


     In a world where Fleet Foxes and Iron and Wine are held in great esteem, there is reason why The Leisure Society should not be as equally successful, their softly spoken songs and divine melodies just as captivating as their peers work.


     After a brief haze of instrumentation, “A Fighting Haze” displays an open hearted approach and some marvellous arrangements, the varied instruments and close harmonies adding a sparkle of magic to the tune. Next up, the title track is wistful and beautiful, a simple guitar and more wonderful vocals lifting the song on a summers breeze, an aural perfume that will catch you unawares. In a world without X-Factor, “Last of the Melting Snow” would have surely graced the Christmas charts last year, a gently psychedelic folk song with aching strings and just the right amount of nostalgia to be sad without being twee or maudlin.


   A jauntier take is to be found on “A Short Weekend Begins With Longing”, a definite hit for fans of new folk, the happiness of the music is slightly add odds with the lyrical content, although the strings add a sense of loneliness to the song. Sounding something like the Walker Brothers covering Nick Drake, “We Were Wasted” is a short and delirious song that needs to be played several times, each time becoming more meaningful each time, without saying anything direct, as all the best songs do.


   Listening to the songs on the album, you can hear the influences of all the previously named bands, as well as artist like The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and even the Grateful Dead (early seventies version), yet the band has a sound of its own, absorbing their influences and creating new from them, something that the excellent “Save It For Someone Who Cares” ably demonstrates. Equally as compelling is the tension between the generally happy and mellow music and a darker lyrical bent, meaning the songs bear repeated listens as on the percussive happy, not as cheerful as it sounds, “the Darkest Place I Know”. The fact that “Are We Happy”, only emphasises the point, then again most of my favourite songs play the same game.


    After the lovely whimsy of “Come to Your Senses”, The room is filled with some tumbling notes as “A Matter of Time” takes off for six minutes of wonder, everything in place for the perfect ride, lyrics, music and arrangement all working in harmony for the benefit of the tune. Finally, a jangly mandolin, I think, heralds a simple song as “Loves Enormous Wings” lead us out with a smile on our faces, sounding like a McCartney composition in its eloquent uncomplicated structure, providing the ideal ending for an album you will want to keep at hand. (Simon Lewis)






(all from www.chemikal.co.uk )


     Judging by the quality to be found on these three discs, Scottish label Chemikal Underground is a organisation well worth keeping an eye on, the magnificence of the music matched by the variety of the artists to be found on their roster.


    Right from the off, it is obvious that De Rosa are a band who pay attention to detail, the gentle ripple of guitar that opens “A Love Economy” is complemented by some wonderful vocals, the whole softly rising song a tribute to the song writing skills of the band. On “It Helps to See You Hurt”, there is a definite hint of King Creosote, not only in the melody, but in the carefully constructed lyrics, something that is a feature of the whole album. Generating a lazy ambience, “Pest” is an album highlight, a warm arrangement adding sparkle to the perfectly knitted instrumentation, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the song.


   Disturbing and judged to perfection, the sinister feel of “Under the Stairs” owes as much to the melodies as it does to the well crafted lyrics, the result a wonderful blend that makes you listen carefully as the tune unfolds. With hazy guitar that jangle from the speakers “Flight Recorder” sounds like China Crisis if they were a Terrascopic pop band, the way pop music should sound in fact, a strong hook, bundles of energy and something to say.  Finally “Tinto” shows as much care as the opening song, ending a consistently strong and cohesive album with class and reputation intact.


     A collection of songs about love is about the last thing you would expect from the frontman of Arab Strap. However, I am pleased to report that not only has Aidan Moffat pulled it off, but he has also managed it whilst  retaining his usual lyrical excellence, producing a collection of songs that will make you smile, shuffle around the lounge and occasionally stop dead at the brilliance of the words. Featuring some vocal percussion, lilting violin and a glorious melody, “Lovers Song” sets the tone for the album before “Big Blonde” gets you moving, a bright country shuffle driving the song along, so much so you almost forget to listen to the lyrics. It is hard to ignore the wry lyrics of “Atheists Lament”, although a haunting guitar riff does its best to grab you attention, aided by a soft psychedelic sheen that wraps around your head, whilst an aching cello allows your mind to wander with its sad refrain.


   After the lewd folk classic of “Oh Men”, the five and a half minutes of “A Scenic Route to the Isle of Ewe” is completely magnificent, a pulsing backing filled with all manner of melodies and instruments, sounding, strangely, like a folk Leonard Cohen, the poetic lyrics only reinforcing this feeling.


     Sweet and wonderful, “The Last Kiss” is possibly the most immediate song on the album, seemingly simple, it will leave you with a smile on your face and a need make contact with the person you love and steal a kiss if possible. The kind of song that makes the world a better place (soon to appear on a million compilations). Dealing with the perils of love in all its glory, “Living with You Now” is honest and thought provoking, the lyrics again holding the key to the song. Finally, “My Goodbye” is almost over before it has begun, yet says so much, a comment on love itself, perhaps, the album ending with the sweet sound of birdsong, as you reflect for a minute letting the album drift from your mind.


    Finally, the most psychedelic, wide ranging album of the trio is the latest from The Phantom Band, the music ranging from trance inducing kraut workouts to softer songs, encompassing all points in-between and sounding like a a heady brew of Super Furry Animals, Can and The Incredible String Band. Mind you opening track “The Howling” sounds like none of these, possessing an art-rock soul as it spirals into a lysergic forest, adding a Grateful Dead groove to the proceedings. Sounding like a cowboys lament played by a group of desert freaks, “Burial Sounds” glistens with possibility, a time stretching psych tune that springs to life when you turn the fucker up and twirl like a madman!


    With the hypnotic power of Can or Neu, “Crocodile” has enough repetitive energy to blow a huge chunk out of your head, filling it with weird visions, the shadowy organ twisting those visions with every note until finally, a overdriven guitar turns everything Day-Glo, just for a while. More Beefheart in intent, the swamp boogie of “Halfhound” gets your feet a-tappin’,  before  “Left-Hand Wave” dissolves the boundaries with acid soaked precision, chanted vocals creeping under your radar.


    Over eight minutes in length, “Islands” is a blissful haze of gentle acid-folk brilliance, a place to go and re-charge, one for late night reverie and stoned smiles. Wrapped in a shirt of paisley design, “Throwing Bones” is bright and upbeat, some fine slide guitar adding a crisp sheen, whilst the rhythm section maintain a jaunty pace, the breakdown in the middle adding a sense of fun with the vocal arrangements. Finally, “The Whole World is on My Side”, is a mellow groove with electronic flourishes and a warm glow, leading the listener out in triumph and with a positive state of mind, knowing that they will be visiting again in the not too distant future.


     So, three albums that are varied yet seem to contain a sonic thread that runs between them, although it is hard to put your finger on what it is exactly that binds them. I guess it doesn’t matter in the end, suffice to say that all three are worthy of your attention. (Simon Lewis)




(Bureau B, Stahltwiete 10, 22761 Hamburg, Germany)


            With a career spanning nearly 40 years and what seems like as many collaborators (OK, so they disbanded for half that time, but at least they reunited with some very strong releases in the mid ‘90s) , Faust’s original rhythm section of drummer, “Zappi” Diermaier and bassist, Jean-Hervé Péron are back with Ulan Bator guitarist, Amaury Cambuzat for their ninth studio album, the first non-reissue or compilation from Hamburg’s excellent indie label, Bureau B. Age has only slightly mellowed the confrontational artistes to the point where their trademark industrial, metallic sturm und drang has yielded to tracks like the heavily-tremeloed, fuzzy wah-wah of hypnotic opener, ‘Kundalini Tremolos,’ which at times bears a distinct relation to some of Neu!’s more accessible motorik efforts.  


            Any fears that this might indicate a kinder, softer Faust lies within are immediately put to rest as Péron spits out his French lyrics to the syncopated, meandering ‘Accroche À Tes Lèvres’ as if he’s picking words out of a hat, while Diermaier and Cambuzat shoot martial drumbeats and random guitar notes at each other like combatants in a game of Paint Ball. ‘Stimmen’ [‘Voices’] is exactly that – two (three?) grown men groaning, mumbling, and speaking in tongues. It might remind some listeners of some type of ritualised initiation ceremony that may or not involve imbibing ayahuasca, but it just left this listener a little dazed and completely confused.


            Old school Faustians (Faustites?) will relish the quick return to banging on metallic flotsam and jetsam that forms the centrepiece of ‘Petits Sons Appétissants’ and the unstructured chaos at the heart of ‘Bonjour Gioacchino’ is ample evidence that the group has not lost its anarchic sense of humour. Not everyone can go into a studio and play three different songs at once…intentionally… and get away with only slapping one title on the mess! I’d like to think that Johnny Lydon might have achieved this level of insanity with his PIL project if he hadn’t acquiesced to pressures (label or self-inflicted) to come up with something “more commercial.” The cat scratch feverish intensity with which Cambuzat attacks – no shreds – his guitar on the brutal ‘En Veux-Tu Des Effets, En Voilà’ fondly harkens back to the seminal guitar (sc)rapings of Keith Levene, Bauhaus’ Daniel Ash, and Siouxsie & The Banshees axe slingers, John McKay, Robert Smith, and the late and dearly missed, John McGeoch.


            And if that isn’t enough to make you put down that sandwich and go pick this up, wait until the 14-minute title track rears its ugly, cacophonous head and starts spewing all sorts of atonal sax skronk, while dragging metallic shards of industrial waste across your brain. It’s all clanging chains, ominous, stalking electronic fx, gaseous eruptions, and assorted post-apocalyptic horrorshow sputum that combine the creepiest aspects of GWAR, Throbbing Gristle, and Nine Inch Nails into a snorting, gasping, heavy-breathing monstrosity that makes Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos sound like Mother Goose. Not for the feint of heart…and isn’t that what we come to a Faust recording for in the first place?! (Jeff Penczak)




(LP from www.honeymoonmusic.com)


   Now a three-piece, featuring Norman Fetter, Noah Levey, and Sam Cusumano, the third album from Niagara Falls is a glorious romp through the musical landscapes pioneered by bands such as Tangerine Dream, Gong and Popol Vuh. Featuring drifting chords, an electronic flute, and some tribal drumming in the manner of Pink Floyd, “Flatlands” is a sonic delight, moving from ambient to a more pulsating rhythm, every sound having a purpose as the band levitate, then head for the stars. Even better is part one of the title track, a tour de force of spacey electronics that bring to mind mid seventies Tangerine Dream whilst retaining a freshness that is invigorating to the senses, a new slant on an ancient ritual, brimming with emotion and musical imagination.


      Having enjoyed turning the record over, side two opens with “Nibiru Occult”, a short burst of psychedelic noise, that is more experimental in nature than the rest of the album sounding like the approach of a winters storm. Part two of the title track is also short (2:52), with the hypnotic drumming creating a platform for electronic swirls, raindrops, and swathes of echoed ambience,  all of which ends far too quickly for my taste. Mind you, as someone who loves “Angels Egg” era Gong, the following track “Goloka”, is a small slice of heaven in vinyl form, tuned percussion, mellow sequences and West-Coast keyboards blended into lazy days perfection, just lie back and let it wash your troubles away. If by this point, you are not feeling suitably relaxed, then the warm glow and gentle tones of “Illuminated Atlas” will finally win you over with its soft groove and meticulously constructed charms.


     Limited to 500 copies, this is an essential purchase for cosmic heads everywhere, perfect for late-night ritual or sunny afternoons, whatever you decide this album will enhance your enjoyment. (Simon Lewis)