Afflicted Man I’m Off Me ‘ead LP
The strange and twisted history of Steve Hall aka The Afflicted Man is best recounted elsewhere (not least of which in the liners to this reissue), but suffice to say it includes hippies, punks, skinheads, anarchists, glue-huffers, speed-freaks, junkies and, never one to be excluded, God his damn self. Oh, and techno. I wouldn’t say this is Hall’s best album -- general consensus is the glorious din of Get Stoned Ezy (billed under High Speed & The Afflicted Man) is his apex – but it’s still an essential piece of the jigsaw. “Survival in the 80s” is a prime chunk of drunk stumble, lurching between the seemingly disparate poles of thug and psych rock. Hall seems to be trying to channel earlier gen freaks like Pink Fairies, and the sheer wrongheadedness (offme’eadedness?) of how his attempt comes out coats the proceedings in a sheen of enthusiastic, intoxicated amateurism, triumphantly emerging as unique DIY psychedelic post-punk rock n’ roll. In my mind’s eye, I see burly bikers with death’s head tattoos and fey cardigan-clad Homosexuals enthusiasts in a circle, hands clasped tightly, all enjoying these gone sounds together. Maybe I’m just a hopeless utopian, but, brothers and sisters, can’t we all just pass this communal glue-bag, take a huff, turn off our minds, float downstream, etc….?
(Permanent // permanentrecords.com)
Androids of Mu Blood Robots LP
Sometimes I wished I lived in an alternate universe where the majority of rock n’ roll bands were comprised of mostly female members -- that the almighty cock did not hold sway, and in fact, the feisty V was where the power sat. I could get down with this Amazonian utopia if the popular bands of the day were lady-powered dynamos like the Raincoats, Kleenex, Girls at Our Best, Dishrags, The Nixe, Wrecks, Nog Watt, Bound & Gagged, Neo Boys etc. Count the fantastic foursome of the UK’s Androids of Mu in that stellar lineage. Originally released in 1980 on the seminal Fuck Off Records, Water Wing does a splendid job providing a faithful reissue of this overlooked classic. Supposedly, Crass offered to do an album but requested a drummer change. The women of Mu promptly said “Fuck off,” and went and Fucked Off. Emerging out of the intoxicating smoke of the Gong off-shoot Here & Now, Androids of Mu wedded ecstatic freedom with sharp post-punk grooves. According to the accompanying dossier, the guitarist had a “previous deployment” with Inner City Unit featuring Hawkwind’s Nik Turner. Co-producer and Fuck Off Records founder (and main shaker in the great World Domination Enterprises), Keith Dobson provides liner notes and direction to this first-time reissue. The intertwining strands of British freak-rock and outer-limits post-punk weave a nice tapestry for the trainspotting record-geek. But these ladies were not fucking around for your benefit. They were forging their own path through the ’77-as-year-zero forest. “Atomic X” opens the album like a ska-influenced answer to Ubu’s “30 Seconds…” with bombs exploding on the horizon for the song’s duration. The Androids utilize that dub/ska rhythm quite a bit, which is a deal-breaker for some, but they leaven it with spikey guitars, whooshing bits of synth-noise, and alternately pleading or too-cool vocals. “She is A Boy” fucks with your gender biases something fierce as a woman observes a drag queen in action and it “makes me feel strange/when I’m in her range/hope she don’t hate me/I don’t hate her.” This is followed by the smirking “Pretty Nun,” which wonders “How do you really give up the good times/sacrifice your pretty youth?” Hey, who doesn’t love a hot nun? “Bored Housewives” is a legit classic, mixtape material when The Slits get to be old hat, providing a similar rejection of society’s incessant need to compartmentalize half the population. Most telling is the line “Sunday afternoon I take the kids to the park/never have a chance to meet a stranger after dark.” Ironically, this seems like a great song to sing along to as you do the dishes. “Lost in Space” is the track the singers from Sun Ra’s band never made, Joe Meek transmissions darting around the mix like a malfunctioning satellite. Blood Robots isn’t necessarily the album to break you into the wonderful world of femme post-punk, but if you’ve already got a taste, then this record is mandatory.
(Water Wing // waterwingrecords.com)
German Shepherds Music for Sick Queers LP + 7”
Complete fucking freaks. I’m not sure how I was made aware of this album, but way back in Y2K I found myself with access to a college radio station’s music library and I proceeded to go as apeshit as possible within a few hours each week burning obscure LPs onto CDRs. Music For Sick Queers was one of the first, and one of the freakiest. This record will never not sound like the product of disturbed minds; no surprise that surviving original member Mark Hutchinson hails from Northeast Ohio. Once again, Superior Viaduct gives up the goods, cementing their rep as the finest retro outsider-punk label in Christendom. If the menacing drawings that serve as German Shepherds artwork don’t clue you in as to the damaged nature of this SF duo, one listen to “Communist Control” will set you straight. This is music that considers Throbbing Gristle’s “Hamburger Lady” a love song. All of the classic subjects are touched upon: apocalypse, Hitler, Commies, Satanists, drugs, pedophilia. This last one is a touchy (ouch) subject for the Sheps. There were rumors for years that the now-deceased half of German Shepherds, Stephen Scheatzle, had been accused of some sort of child abuse and then committed suicide. It appears that this was merely a media stunt (and perhaps an inspiration for The Dwarves and He Who Cannot Be Named?), but I wouldn’t put anything past these damaged cretins. The kid-stalking anthem “Booty Jones” practically implicates you in an unspeakable crime, tossed off so nonchalantly that the creep factor rises as the song progresses. “I Adore You” is more throbbing fluorescent light-buzzing and insistent rhythm, like the gait of a persistent stalker, clinging to the shadows, patiently. “Mr. Tupper” is an audio collage, not unlike Orchid Spangiafora, cutting-up radio adverts and snatches of conversation. “THC,” the Devil’s weed, brings the Satanic goods, as only the mid-80s could, a peak time for ol’ Beelzebub and his countless minions. I wonder what Bob Larsen would’ve made of this cacophonous invocation of psychedelic music, heavy drug use and patricide. Satan is boring? Nah, not always. Christ almighty, I wanna shove this record into every noise-dork’s earholes. Don’t worry, children, I brought lube.
(Superior Viaduct // www.superiorviaduct.com)
Giant Henry Big Baby LP
When I was in high school, my two favorite currently-existing bands were Unwound and Gaunt. To the astute ‘90s punkologist, much about my younger self could be inferred from such knowledge. Gaunt was local(ish), kicked major ass, were snarky as fuck, but wore their heart on their sleeve, like every great Midwestern band should. I Can See Your Mom From Here was a crucial album in my life, and remains a go-to staple. On the other side of the river stood Unwound. A power trio from the rain-soaked PNW, Unwound sometimes seemed like Nirvana’s younger siblings. And they kind of were. Per the liner notes from their classic debut Fake Train: “thankyounirvanaforthebuyingusbeerthankyounirvanaforlettinguspracticehere.” But, in many ways, Unwound was the superior band. They were far more punk and underground, and their music evolved by leaps and bounds over the years. While they certainly never had the innate ear for melody like Cobain & co. did, they still managed to write dozens of memorable songs over their decade-plus existence. While sonically closer to Mission of Burma, Unwound’s howls of rage and sorrow had more in common with the emotional terrain of Husker Du’s Zen Arcade. Unwound’s songs were dust-storms of existential fury that channeled teen angst like few bands ever have (see Fake Train’s opener “Dragnalus”). And now that the Nineties are “back” (whomever said that pop culture moves in twenty-year cycles should get a MacArthur genius grant), Unwound has come around again, with new reissues on Numero Group, including a deluxe representation of the hard-to-find true first-album (posthumously committed to wax by Honey Bear in 1995). And that takes us almost back to where this record sits in the continuum. Before Justin Trosper, Vern Rumsey and Brandt Sandeno got Unwound-proper going, they had their high school band, Giant Henry. One Giant Henry song, “Crab Nebula,” managed to find its way into the early Unwound set, but all of the songs contained on this record are previously unheard. Recorded in their hometown of Tumwater WA in 1991, this is what teen spirit truly smelled like. “Super Nova” blasts off with a thick sound, unexpected noisy breaks and Trosper’s Cobain-esque yowl. On the insert, Rumsey is wearing a Nirvana t-shirt and the influence is transparent -- “Listenator” sounds like a Bleach outtake -- but Giant Henry manage to sculpt it into something that can stand on its own. And, much like Nirvana, these kids “loved the Melvins to death.” This kind of noisy off-time sludge seems to come natural to our friends up in the Loggerlands. As the trio morphed into Unwound and became more serious, the music grew even noisier and more unhinged. Big Baby is for completists-only, of course, but I can’t imagine any such person would be disappointed with this unexpected early glimpse into one of the ‘90s crucial bands. 1000 copies; silkscreened jackets w/ silkscreened inserts.
(The Numero Group // numerogroup.com)
Murderedman Love in Danger LP
Clevo noise rock vets do some of their best work yet. “Sleight of Hand” is a concise and electrifying burst of power that could have come straight off of Six Finger Satellite’s Paranormalized, secret melodic bass line included. “House of Eyes” is full of Bauhaus-ian drama; spiraling guitar and bass lines wrap around singer David Russell’s throat, threatening to choke the life out of him, and us. “My Catastrophe” is a relentless slice of avant-hardcore, buried blastbeats competing with fragmented electronics. “Toil & Toll” is Murderedman’s nu metal cut, featuring Russell’s most effective vocal performance overtop a hammering groove and sheets of skree. This is a brutal record, modest in its ambitions, but ambitious nonetheless. As good as they are here (and live), I feel Murderedman’s finest material has yet to come. But for now, this record will satisfy those who miss the likes of Drunkdriver and White Suns, not to mention Slug and Glazed Baby.
(A Soundesign Recording // polarenvy.com)
Poor Lily Vuxola CD
I wanted to like this; really, I did. I’m a sucker for things in this nebulous genre – post-hardcore pseudo-artpunk whatchamacallit, obviously inspired by the Minutemen and most specifically recalling the mighty Nomeansno. Poor Lily are old hardcore dudes based in the Bronx who still feel the fire and wanna jam out their socio-political issues via tight power trio dynamics. And they almost succeed. But then there’s the singer’s nasally voice which falls on the wrong end of the Biafra Annoyance Spectrum. And when the other guy occasionally chimes in, you’re wondering how the CD player suddenly switched to a Biohazard album (and I only have a single-disc player). Despite some promising song titles (“The Days are Not Piano Keys,” “Justice Kennedy Has a Cold,” “The Drunken Mapmaker”), not one of these 19 songs stands out. To their credit, Poor Lily only waste a half hour of your time, but then again, that time would have been better spent listening to Sex Mad.
(self-released // poorlily.com)
Sonic Youth Smart Bar Chicago 1985 2xLP
Nineteen eighty-five was a peak year for da Yooth, what with arguably one of their finest albums, Bad Moon Rising, coming out on Homestead, and them beginning to tour the entire country, often with Swans and at least once in the Mojave Desert with the Meat Puppets and Redd Kross (and *cough* Psi-Com). This gig from Chicago is a helluva live document and might remind you why Sonic Youth, at their best, divorced from all the recent drama, really are a unique and powerful band unlike any other. The set is basically all of Bad Moon Rising with a few things off the impending EVOL. The recording is excellent, utilizing both board and room mics to give a real presence to the room, while still being able to hear what each instrument is doing. You know the guitars are going to be gnarly and otherworldly, but what really comes through is how pulverizing the rhythm section is. Steve Shelley had just joined the band following Bob Bert’s departure, and his time in Wisconsin’s Crucifucks had prepared him well for Sonic Youth’s intense sets. He’s a more straightforward drummer than Bert, and live it comes together as he keeps the band from floating away or jamming too long. They start things off with “Halloween”s slow grind, then get “Death Valley ‘69” out of the way. It thrashes pretty hard, but it’s “Intro” into “Brave Men Run” that really kicks the set up an extra level. Shelley and Gordon drive the song forward as Moore and Ranaldo make Swell Maps chimes on their guitars. The dark, tribal threat of “I Love Her All The Time” is so focused it feels like an incantation. “Ghost Bitch” sets hackles on edge with arcs of achingly abrasive feedback, eventually erupting in what sounds like a voodoo dance in pitch-black darkness. Older gems like “The Burning Spear” and “Making the Nature Scene” get feverish readings. This is before Sonic Youth felt compelled to weld their outre’ tendencies to traditional rock songcraft. At this point in their career, Sonic Youth sounded like no one else, not the least of which was their heavy use of tape loops during this period. They had shed all of their No Wave forebears’ trappings and established a singularly menacing style of rock noise. Smart Bar has some of the heaviest SY action I’ve heard on wax, we’re talking some real head-banging noise rock, so come get ducky, dodos.
(Goofin’ // sonicyouth.com)
The Thing From the Crypt LP
Seminal comp of an isolated sub-scene gets the treatment by coldwave impresarios Dark Entries. There’s a gothic sensibility to much of this music, but it’s not heavy-handed, and often, tongue-in-cheek. Released in 1981 and containing two songs by each band, this comp’s quality is, for the most part, excellent. Exhibit ‘A’s “Rain” sounds like a New Zealander’s take on darkwave, ditching the menace for an extra dose of melancholy. “Take Me Inside” by Sad Lovers & Giants comes off as a more accessible, new wave Screamers, while Flying Beechcraft’s sly “Bugger Off” is a minor classic. Of course, half the reason to own this LP is for the two songs by the supremely satisfying Soft Drinks, a synth-vocal-drum combo that approach their arch songs with a thuggish glee. Imagine early Passage in a caveman karaoke and you’re getting close. “Squash” does just that, but “Pepsi Cola” is the choice of a new generation (of miscreants). A muscular drumbeat pounds away as synths act like a quickening pulse, while the singer yammers on about drinking a soda, literally, everywhere. Flying Beechcraft come up with another winner in “Frog Girl,” almost like an angles-rounded-off Embarrassment, or perhaps a slightly less pretentious Verlaines. I really dig how most of the bands walk this strange line between synth-punk-pop-new wave-goth. But trust me, there’s more than enough guitar here, this is still rock music, generally speaking. Joy Division looms large, but taken in creative directions. S-Haters provide good, noisy mope but Sad Lovers & Giants “Clint” could easily get an ‘80s nite dance floor moving. On the other hand, Mex’s “Functioning Fripp Girls” has more in common with Danny & The Dressmakers, and the album closes out with Gambit of Shame’s nearly trad garage-rockin’ “She Lawn.” If anyone would like to send me a copy of Soft Drinks’ lone 45, “Popstars In Their Pyjamas,” well, shucks, that’d be just swell.
(Dark Entries // darkentriesrecords.com)