Saturday, 27 April 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Naked Aggression - Revolt (15 May 1992)

The band are Naked Aggression and the song is called Revolt.  You can probably guess what you’re getting without hitting the play button, but I hope you will.  Peel compared the spiky, angular, agit-prop sound of the Madison, Wisconsin band to early 80s UK band, !Action Pact!.

While the sentiments expressed in Revolt may sound like Revolution for Dummies (“Break it down/The system/Break it down/The system...” “Revolt against big business...”) I find myself sympathetic to the track for two reasons:

1) It contains a line which should be manadatory and printed in 10 foot high lettering in the office of any group that agitates for political change: “Stop fighting among ourselves/Stop fighting among ourselves”.  It reminds me of a meme I saw recently, which seemed to sum up the mindset that has propelled us towards the Western nervous breakdown that has been drawn out over this decade.  Using a still from The Frost Report’s Class sketch,  the meme stated “The problem with the UK is that people earning £1000 an hour have convinced people earning £12 an hour that people earning £7.83 an hour are the problem.”  The last three years of sound and fury over Brexit, especially the screams of “betrayal” as the government finally comes clean about just how difficult this is all going to be to pull off have almost, but not quite, caused us to forget the narratives that drove us here: demonisation of immigrants, the unemployed, benefit claimants etc.  Stoking the fears of the JAMs and the squeezed middle that their money is going to support those worse off than them and draining resources from the country that should be spent on...well no-one ever specified quite what the money should be spent on.  Well, not until Boris Johnson hired a bus.  It was all soaked up by a readership, who were encouraged through front pages and editorials to see those with less than them as a threat, something to be despised and castigated.  A mindset that said, “The system may not allow me to better myself, but I’m damned if I’ll lose what I have or let anyone below me get past me or level with me”.  In an aspirational society, such thinking made no sense, but it ensnared such numbers of people that the battles were fought not against the “system” but between those whose greatest difference was their postcode.

2) This blog has often touched on the sense that 1991/92 represented The End of History and with the major Western post World War II political battles having been fought and seemingly decided in “our” favour, then any bands who were reacting to the glorious new era of peace and optimism that the decade promised by continuing to turn the mirror on to “us” and pointing out “our” faults, were regarded as something close to cranks.  “Lighten up, crack open a drink and enjoy the party, guys.  The hard work has been done.  Why are you getting so angry?”  Bill Maher described it as the Left’s tendency to take a victory lap and go to a party, once they have managed to gain any semblance of demonstrable power.  Revolt makes the point that these battles are never won finally and conclusively.  If you want change, it has to be perpetuated and protected.  Sitting back is not an option.  It’s interesting that Naked Aggression make no obvious reference to political change in Revolt instead focussing their eye on business.  They seem to see that in the 90s, people’s fates would be decided in boardrooms instead of in government chambers.  Whatever political gains had been made by this point would be rendered worthless if the next battleground was not taken.  Revolt was a call both to vigilance and continued action.  Sadly, in the early 90s, too few people were listening.  If we ever see the West return to that optimistic mood again, pray that lessons are learned and that the battle goes on.  Feel confident about that?

Video courtesy of Rodgerio Tasalco
All lyrics are copyright of their authors.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Syncope - Frankie (15 May 1992)

On the recording that I heard of Peel’s show from 15/5/92, I only caught the opening minute of this slice of hardcore techno, but it was enough to enchant me.  Despite the track title, this is not a techno reimagining of the appallingly anodyne Sister Sledge UK chart-topper, although as Peel used to say, I’d like to hear them have a go at that.  Instead, between the burbles, beats and snares, Syncope receive endorsement from a very special guest....

Syncope was an alias adopted by former Bassline BoyFabian van Messen.  Frankie formed part of an EP on Dance International Records called Vol. 1 but despite the promise of more opuses from Syncope, van Messen retired the name as quickly as he had put it together.  However, the track Jump has been resurrected a few times by other DJs, although anyone looking for the endorsement of Eddie Van Halen will need to look to Kid Carpet.

Video courtesy of picolettouao.

Friday, 19 April 2019

The Comedy of Errors: John Peel Show - BBC Radio 1 (Saturday 9 May 1992)

“In the last 10 minutes I’ve transmuted rather horribly from Andy Kershaw to John Peel.” 24 hours after their “fantastically amusing” trail for it, Abana Ba Nasery played a live session which straddled the end of Kershaw’s programme and the start of Peel’s.  On the 3 hour recording of this show that I heard, they played four tracks - none of which I can share with you beyond the link to the show, though the tracks on the Kershaw show have turned up on YouTube.

Peel had had a trying day.  Nerves over the live session, even though, “I’ve been doing live radio programmes since Queen Anne - God bless her”, allied to his continued grumbles about having been unable to either go to that day’s FA Cup final or watch the Eurovision Song Contest.  But all had ended well.  Liverpool had won the cup, Abana Ba Nasery had delighted him and Eurovision was due
to return to Ireland next year after Linda Martin’s victory.  Over 20 years later, Ipswich Town fans would be sitting open-mouthed in amazement when her 1991 duet with Mick McCarthy was brought to our attention.

The incursion of the Abana Ba Nasery session into his airtime led Peel to warn that his show was even more under-rehearsed than usual. The reorganisation of the show meant that Peel had to drop his plan to draw winners from a competition he had set the previous week in which entrants had to send him something interesting in an envelope.  However, he did draw winners for a competition in which entrants had to draw a Werefrog.  Apparently Peel’s wife, Sheila, always warned him against setting competitions in which he had make judgements over winning entries, because he would be so racked with guilt about those entries he hadn’t picked, he would end up taking them home with him where they would be left hanging around the house for months while Peel tried to think what to do with them, mainly because he couldn’t bear to throw any of them away.

Away from my selections and near misses, of which more in a moment, Peel continued in his mission to drive Sonic Youth completists to madness by playing Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s contribution to a Bob Dylan covers album on Imaginary Records called Outlaw Blues.  He recommended  The Dead Shall Inherit, a new album by US death metal band Baphomet on the grounds that the cover of the album would appeal to people, even if they had no intention of playing the record.
Regular visitors to this blog (hi Webbie) will know that I always mention tracks that either I wanted to share here but couldn’t or ones which I had originally slated for inclusion only to go off them when  I returned to listen to them.  This show brings me a potential new sub-category namely, tracks I was never going to include, but which may be of interest to others.  Towards the end of this programme Peel played Factory by Sonic Violence, a slice of sonic-metal with dancey overtones.  It almost persuaded me, but not quite despite the fact that it sounded like a union meeting of zombies in a post Dawn of the Dead world.The hit rate on this show was pretty high for me.  Only one initial selection fell from favour with me:

Booker T and the MGs - Can’t Be Still - I know it’s against the law to go off a Stax record, but I’m afraid that this 1964 single got in on reputation only to be shunned when I found that was all it had.

There were three tracks I would have liked to share but couldn’t:

The Last Peach - String-like - Catchy Stereo MC’s influenced guitar pop, leading Peel to wryly comment about “The unwholesome stench of melody creeping into the programme”.

The Werefrogs - Don’t Slip Away - the single version of a track which the group had played in a Peel Session 8 days previously. Copies in blue coloured vinyl were to be sent to the winners of the “Draw a Werefrog” competition.

Gut Logic - Undecided - coming out of Texas, this was one of Gut Logic’s contributions to an album
on Anomie Records called Manifestation.  A lo-fi industrial-electronica-death metal hybrid which put me in mind of the kind of content that Load Records would start to put out from the following year onwards.  The Manifestation album featured a number of hilariously named bands such as Pain TeensJesus Penis and Turmoil in the Toybox named after a Christian TV show of the same name which looked at how children’s toys were becoming corrupted by ungodly and satanic forces.

I had thought that I was going to have to add the Japanese/Mancunian stylings of White Kam Kam (or White Come Come according to some sources) when I was unable to locate a solo video of their swirling, stratospheric track, Rise.  Despite sounding similar to any number of bands that Peel would have played in the preceding 2 or 3 years, I thought Rise put many UK bands’ efforts to shame.
However, the band’s sole release, the Skin EP can be shared.  Go to 18:24 to hear Rise in all its splendid glory.

You can access the Abana Ba Nasery tracks that they played for Peel by clicking on the link to his show further up the page.  To whet your appetite, enjoy the tracks they played on 9/5/92 for Andy Kershaw.

Videos courtesy of Asian Shoegaze (White Kam Kam) and Fruitier Than Thou (Abana Ba Nasery)

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Unwound - Caterpillar (9 May 1992)

Imagine you love an unsigned band so much that you not only form a record label, specifically to put that band’s music out, but your label becomes synonymous with US hardcore music.

The band were Unwound.  The label was Kill Rock Stars and the starstruck musical entrepreneur of the Olympia, Washington scene was Slim Moon, who was quoted as saying, “...I started the label expressly to put out Unwound records because I thought Unwound was an incredibly exciting band that K Records and Sub Pop were totally overlooking.”
I heard Peel back announce Kill Rock Stars releases countless times in the period that I listened to him, probably because the label provided a number of bands who went through the Peel show playlist en route either to mainstream success like Gossip or to wider socio-political recognition like Huggy Bear.  Let’s not forget other stalwarts of Peel’s playlists who came under Kill Rock Stars wing such as Bratmobile or Deerhoof - all of whom had a door of sorts opened to them thanks to someone loving Unwound past all sanity.  Moon wasn’t the only one either.  A little bit of cursory research ahead of putting this track on here shows me that Unwound were widely loved and devotedly followed through a 11 year career which ended in 2002.  Furthermore, conventional wisdom seems to be that Unwound’s music got better as they progressed, and that they achieved rock’s impossible dream by splitting up on a high note after releasing a carefully nurtured double album, Leaves Turn Inside You (2001), widely considered to be their masterpiece.

It’s all been a bit of an eye-opener, because I’d never heard of them at all prior to hearing Peel play this debut single.  He may well have agreed with the feeling that Unwound got better with age as they recorded their only Peel Session nearly six years after this show.  Caterpillar catches Unwound trying so hard to sound like Nirvana, it’s almost touching.  Nevertheless, comparing the raw ‘n’ ready thrills of an Olympia track called Caterpillar to an Oldham track with a similar title shows why American rock was catching more imaginations and hearts than British ones at the time.  Unwound managing to pull off that difficult trick of saying nothing at all, but making sure the listener remembers every word.

Video courtesy of samuraiinCfede.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Depth Charge - Daughters of Darkness (9 May 1992)

A week ago, I talked about Invasion of the Bodysnatchers style horror being set to music, and now here we are again.  But while the punky thrash of Half Japanese’s UFO Expert had its roots in the musical past, Jonathan Saul Kane’s Depth Charge project was creating a musical future in what would become to be known as Trip hop.

In 1992, we were still some way off recognising this as a musical genre in its own right and venerating Massive AttackPortisheadTricky et al, though Peel had been giving exposure to tunes which with the benefit of hindsight can be seen as laying the foundations for the 90s most intriguing musical development, such as Smith and Mighty’s Too Late.  Daughters of Darkness, which takes its name from a 1971 Belgian horror film that happened to turn up in Danny Peary’s fabled Cult Movies 2, is a bit of a game changer.  Since 1989, Kane had been ploughing a furrow of mixing together long sound samples from exploitation films with breakbeats and deepened sound through a series of 12-inch releases through Vinyl Solution.  Tunes like Bounty Killers and Goal were frothy and brilliantly silly.  Packed with samples from spaghetti westerns and South American football commentary, they invited listeners to get up and dance but with a touch more discernment than would be found within the acid house or nascent drum ‘n’ bass scenes. They’re light and don’t quite fit, but they’re clearly pointing the way ahead to something different but unformed. 1990’s Dead by Dawn gets a little more serious, starting to push the vibe away from the dance floor and into the listener’s head.  The sound becomes stretched, more languorous and dreamy, though with an abrasive edge.  By the time Kane reached Daughters of Darkness atmosphere started to trump energy and the abrasive had become decadently seductive, like its vampiric inspiration.  With its whispering synths, suffocated strings, heavy snare drum thump and sensual samples, Daughters of Darkness opens a door through which others would, in time, stampede.  But when the history of Trip hop is written, I hope it includes a chapter on Jonathan Saul Kane and the compilation of his Depth Charge Vinyl Solution singles, Nine Deadly Venoms.

Video courtesy of VinylSolutionRecords.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

The Comedy of Errors: Yami Bolo & Blacka-T - Waiting for a Sound (9 May 1992)

A second Yami Bolo record on the 9/5/92 Peel show and it was one that I initially misread.  With its chorus line “Sitting here in limbo/Waiting for another soundboy to die”, I had thought that it was talking about the kind of violent incidents among Caribbean musicians that saw the likes of Dirtsman lose their lives.  But Blacka-T’s toasting puts the mind at rest and it becomes clear that the “killing” in mind here relates more to battles between sound systems than street gangs.  There’s all the usual braggadocio and front on display with particular sarcasm for country boys coming into Kingston and trying to take on the established crews.  I was recently lucky enough to watch a UK-based semi-take on this when Mubi screened Babylon (1980) a reggae dub version of Quadrophenia (1979) with whom it shared a screenwriter, Martin Stellman.  I call it a semi-take, because the movie’s set in London and the furthest anyone has to come in to town to compete at the climatic sound system battle is Lewisham. Well worth a watch if you can find it.  I actually thought it was better than Quadrophenia both musically and cinematically.

Had I been listening to this in 1992, I expect that I’d have taped it because I liked the tune and the vocal.  In 2019, what gets it onto the metaphorical mixtape, apart from the aforementioned vocal and melody, is the fact that it is an Augustus Pablo production. I have had his tune, AP Special stuck as a constant earworm since reading about its use on the 1980 ‘end of punk/birth of new wave’ documentary, D.O.A. In fact, I love it so much I’m going to use it as curtain music on a play I’m directing at the end of this month.

In keeping with a number of the dub videos on YouTube, we get both the vocal and dub instrumental versions of Waiting for a Sound.  The version played by Peel ends at 3:38.

Videos courtesy of vital sounds (Bolo/Blacka-T) and Rodrigo Pablodub ((Pablo)