Music Reviews

Anarchistwood: The Nasty Album – album review

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The Nasty Album (Ex-Gratia Recordings)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Out Now

08/10

Anarchistwood prove there’s still life in anarchy.

You would be forgiven for thinking that anarcho-punk, as epitomised by Crass, had its death throes sometime in the late 80s. But, just as dissent and rebellion have become a hidden, ignored or just plain ridiculed by the capitalist owned media who have their own agenda to stupefy the general populace with reality television and demonise difference, so subversive art still thrives, if you only make a little effort to search it out.

Anarchsitwood are from London and they’re a fun bunch of subversives.

Crass are an obvious influence. But, where so many bands took up the Crass torch of anger and noise, few saw the sheer intelligence and humour. Anarchistwood aren’t a screeching anti everything band, they take that hippy/punk union of subversive chaotic love and peace and ally it to a musically proficient and tight sound that can veer between out and out punk to a Gang of Four funk or a Zappa style shift of rhythm. Add to this a clever use of sound bites and vocals that switch between anger and beauty, and you have a whole record that is bigger than its parts.

Rats Live On No Evil Star is rollicking fun with vocals shared between members extolling the virtues of anarchy whilst questioning the use of colonoscopy. Bomb In A Luggage Rack is a great punk song, and was rightly released as a split single with Flowers In A Dustbin, playing on the fears that plague Western society to keep people blind to the crimes of their own leaders. There’s dub here and a version of Minor Threats Straight Edge. Bucketae Cuntae looks at the role of women and men and Wake Up Marie is a homage to the killed American journalist Marie Colvin.

At the end of the album you feel you have been on a journey on a path less travelled, through a news report from the fringes populated by court jesters and insane clowns. But, as in Shakespeare’s King Lear, it is the fool who is brave enough to speak the truth to the king and the fool who is the one who sees the real truth.

 

Anarchsitwood is on Facebook and Twitter.

 

This review first appeared on Louder Than War.

Music Reviews, Non-Fiction

The Clash – Hits Back

Hits-Back2The Clash are busy. Two new collections are released this month. Here. Louder Than War reviews Hits Back for you.

Having a Clash compilation to review should be easy. I’ve been listening to them, been inspired by them, ever since I heard my older brother playing them over 30 years ago. These are songs that have stayed with me all those years: ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’, ‘Garageland’, ‘Armagideon Times’, ‘White Riot’ and ‘Straight To Hell’, to name but a few. A look at the track list and I know it will be 10/10, so why do I have misgivings?

The remaining Clash members are busy promoting the release of Sound System (a hefty collection of all things Clash (bar Cut The Crap – airbrushed out of the orthodox Clash canon)) plus loads of ‘fun’ extras. Like dog tags and badges. It’s released simultaneously on 9th September with a best of 2CD release, which is the CD we at Louder Than War have been sent to review.

Hits Back has 33 tracks. The first 24 tracks are sequenced from the set list the band played at the Brixton Fairdeal show in 1982, with an added 8 tracks; it contains songs from across the 5 studio albums and singles.

As the remaining Clash members put it: “Every show was different. Joe would spend a lot of time composing the running order, considering dynamics, emotional impact and the key the songs were in. This record is based on Joe’s set list from The Casbah Club UK Tour, Brixton Fairdeal, 10th July 1982.” Mick, Paul and Topper.

Almost every song on the CD is a stone cold classic. Many of them I haven’t listened to in a while and they sound great, and, perhaps more importantly, still relevant. ‘White Man’ seems to grow in stature over the years; this was the song I played when I heard Joe Strummer had died (Jesus, was it really nearly 11 years ago?) and it brought tears to my eyes. ‘Armagideon Times’ is the best white reggae I’ve ever heard. Songs like ‘White Riot’ and ‘I Fought The Law’ stir this ageing punk into action. ‘Garageland’ still bristles with teenage egotism and fuck you attitude. ‘Straight To Hell’ is an intricate sounding lament that sends shivers down my spine. ‘Should I Stay’ is just straight out great rock ‘n’ roll.

 

This is one of many compilation Clash CDs – as well as a couple of live albums – that have been released over the years, along with a multitude of merchandise ranging from coffee table books, posters, badges and t-shirts. What we’ve seen is the turning of one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands to walk this earth into mythic status. And the reason for this? To make money for the corporate gods of the music business (in this case Sony – “Give me Honda, give me Sony: so cheap and real phoney”). Now I’m quite happy to put money into Jones, Headon and Simonon’s pockets – they have given me so much that I’m happy to give something back – but I don’t want to feed the corporate maw.

To be fair to Jones, Headon and Simenon they have always shied away from the spotlight and rarely commented on their time together. Indeed, thank God, there was no McCartneyesque attempt by Jones to turn Strummer/Jones into Jones/Strummer as McCartney did with the song credits of his dead song writing partner. They just got on with their lives as the myth about the band was built up by those who would profit from it. 

The Clash are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band Britain has produced. But they were human. They weren’t perfect. Let’s explode the myth. For a start, let’s not forget that some old time punks have never forgiven them for signing to CBS. Sell out, they did cry! Turning rebellion into money? The Shea Stadium gig? Many forget they were supporting The Who – a band considered old farts when the punks started. Coolest band on the planet? Have you seen what they were wearing for ‘The Call Up’ video? During the run up to Combat Rock being released, with poor tour sales, Bernie Rhodes and Strummer decided that, as a publicity stunt to drum up interest, Strummer would ‘go missing’. Strummer then turned the tables on Rhodes by actually disappearing. Publicity stunts? Poor ticket sales? Is this the history of a mythic band?  

Get out your bullshit detector and don’t let anybody re-write history. Don’t let them take The Clash from being an inspiration to a generation into being a myth. Once The Clash are turned into a myth then they can be turned into anything the corporations want and sold to you over and over again.

The silver lining to this is that maybe, just maybe, some sixteen year old kid will buy this CD and hear the Clash for the first time and be inspired.

The Clash weren’t the only band that mattered, but God how we miss them.

The Clash official website here

The Clash on Facebook here

The Clash on Twitter here

 

This article first appeared on Louder Than War

Music Reviews

The Danse Society: Scarey Tales – Album Review

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The Danse Society were one of the most interesting Positive Punk/G|oth bands to emerge from the early ‘80s – if you haven’t heard their 1982 release Seduction, then track it down, it’s a classic from that period – and they were one of the few bands to flirt with mainstream success. They split in 1986 but, like many bands, the itch was still there and they reformed in 2009, sans vocalist Steve Rawlings who was replaced by Blooding Mask founder Maethelyiah. In 2011 the new group released Change of Skin and now their second release is upon us: Scarey Tales.

Firstly, I should mention that the packaging for the CD is beautiful: it’s in the form of a booklet with lyrics, photos, illustrations and a poem. In this age of instant downloads you gotta offer the punters something more to encourage them to get the physical format, and this does the job excellently.

In the sleeve notes, Paul Gilmartin calls Scarey Tales a Goth concept album. With titles like ‘The Scarecrow’, ‘The Wolf’ and ‘Jekyll & Hyde’, you know the sort of territory you are in. It’s odd but Danse Society seem more Goth now than they did back in the ‘80s.

The drums pound out a dark, tribal beat whilst the bass rumbles in the background, laying down a rhythmic repetition that hammers at the brain like a zombie pounding at your door. The guitars are discordant, edgy and the keyboards ethereal, making the darkness uplifting. Maethelyiah vocals are superb (whether by serendipity or design, the decision to replace Rawlings with a woman immediately cut short any comparison with the original band and gave them a new dimension). Her voice soars, like a rather sinful choir girl, and at times has a vibrato like a middle eastern houri, singing in a desert, calling the unrighteous to explore the dark sides of their nature.

At the beginning of ‘The Scarecrow’, Maethelyiah recites spoken word/poetry, which is difficult to do without sounding naff, but she pulls it off with a staccato reading and with the band making eerie noises in the background.

They also do one of the best versions of ‘White Rabbit’ I’ve either heard, though with only 6 tracks on the CD I’d have liked to hear more original compositions.

Perhaps ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ sums up the the theme of the album best.  Maethelyiah sings: “The temptation to do what is forbidden, because it is forbidden. It is the strongest temptation of them all.”

Scarey Tales is a a celebration of the old tales that lead us into a greater understanding of our own natures. There can be no true self-awareness without an awareness of our own dark sides. Without death, life has no meaning. A fascination with the darker side of life doesn’t mean you’re a Satan worshipping cult member. Goth took rock to the extreme opposite end to the sugar coated boy meets girl pop. It lifted the coffin lid and delighted in what it found in the corners of attics. Unfortunately, like so many movements, it began to take itself too seriously and became a cliché of itself.  With Scarey Tales, Danse Society have shown that you can revisit your past and make music that both celebrates that past and reinvigorates the present.

I’m seduced.

The Danse Society webpage: http://www.thedansesociety.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-DANSE-SOCIETY-REFORMATION-PLOT/227357422417?ref=ts&fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheDanseSociety

Music Reviews

Hugh Cornwell – Totem and Taboo

Incredibly, it’s been 22 years since Hugh Cornwell left The Stranglers. With his former band he released 10 studio albums in 14 years, with Totem and Taboo he is releasing his ninth solo album.

Hugh has always been an intellectual, often ignored in his punk roots, and has an urbanity and eccentricity about him akin to David Byrne, so it’s no surprise that Totem and Taboo is a reference to a collection of essays by Sigmund Freud. Cornwell appears to be saying that he walks a different walk, that he sees things differently, that what he enjoys we would revile at. With such a strong claim one might expect the music to be difficult and experimental, but the sound is classic guitar, bass and drums. It has the sound of a 60s band; the bass is, at times, as rumbling as anything JJ Burnel ever put down between grooves and Hugh’s guitar work has always been interesting and individual.  In keeping with the 60s sound, ‘Stuck in Daily Mail Land’ sounds like a Ray Davies number and ‘God is a Woman’ has a bass line straight from Cream’s ‘Badge’.

Cornwell’s song writing has often revolved around well known phrases and this album is no different, with song titles like: ‘I Want One of Those’, ‘Bad Vibrations’, ‘Love Me Slender’ and ‘In the Dead of the Night’. But where once his lyrics were mysterious and open to interpretation, now they all too often banal; take this from The Face: “Amongst the faithful there was Paul/he shook my hand in the hall”.

There are great songs on here, though. ‘I Want One Of Those’ and ‘Stuck in Daily Mail Land’ may be attacking easy targets, but they are great numbers. Similarly, ‘Bad Vibrations’ and ‘A Street Called Carroll’ are great little rockers.

In ‘Gods, Gays and Guns’ things get a little odd as Cornwell implies that all of European history revolves around the trinity of the title. With ‘God is a Woman’ I wonder if Cornwell is finally burying the charge of sexism that always lingered around The Stranglers like the smell of rohypnol, but this is followed by ‘Love Me Slender’.

I always defended The Stranglers against charges of sexism (it was reportage, it was tongue-in-cheek) but can’t defend ‘Love Me Slender’. As the title suggests it is a song about how slim girls are more attractive than larger girls: “I like the way you look/the diet that you took” and “you really do look great/now you’ve lost that extra weight” and “Rubens was a fool/to think he held the jewel/when tubby was the rule”.

The fascistic nature of the beauty media does not need any more promotion, especially from somebody who is admired by so many.

Thankfully, the album ends on a high note. ‘In the Dead of Night’ is easily the best track on Totem and Taboo. It’s 10 minutes of steamy music noir that prowls the sidewalks of a rain drenched city nitescape. It is the memories that haunt us, the wistfulness, the melancholy, the longing in the dead of the night. I think it’s the best thing he’s written since ‘Lay Back On Me Pal’ and ‘The Big Sleep’ (both from 2000s Hi Fi).

This is a good album. But, maybe because I’m a long time fan, I want something more. The catalyst for Cornwell leaving The Stranglers was watching Devon Malcolm bat with abandon in a Test Match and I wonder if Cornwell needs another epiphany to discover how far he can really take his music.

Totem and Taboo was recorded at Electrical Audio, Chicago, and produced by Steve Albini. It is available through Pledge Music. The official release date will be in September.

Hugh Cornwell: Stuck in Daily Mail Land on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd21X8WCw6s

 

This article first appeared on Louder Than War: http://louderthanwar.com/hugh-cornwell%E2%80%A8-totem-taboo-album-review/