Hi, the name's Dom Powers. My nom-de-tropé means Miserable Skeleton in Hebrew. This is ironic since I'm the happiest man I know and very much alive (non-smoker, teetotaller, not-pot-head). Yup, this
. In my spare time I listen to
. I love 90s Neon Industria and the noise of machinery. Don't even mention cable trays to me, I'll drool!! I also like walking around suburbia, preferably in warm rain and mixed weather.
!! Some of my favourite albums (full reviews to come. Might migrate to review pages for the artist)
I Warned You
(1978) - Ferre Grignard
One of the best albums ever recorded and definitely up there with Led Zep (II) when it comes to blues. This is one of tose albums where my favourite isn't necessarily the best.
(2006) - Juan Mutant
Juan proves yet again that he knows what he's doing. He also proves that 75 mins isn't too long (!) for an album. It ends as it begins. Sudden, angry and EPIC!
I'm going to review my favourite songs and then the album as a whole.
"Let the Ignorance of Desire Grow Part 1" starts innocently enough with a percussion barrage. This continues for 15 seconds then the song's intentions show. The percussion breaks down into the song proper. "LET THE ARROGANCE GROW" these lyrics pull no punches, they are as aggressive as the song. Usually, it's nice to have an aggressive backing track and nice lyrics or vice versa, but this works so well that I wanted the song to drive on. I imagined even more aggression in my mind. Like "Reasons to be Cheerful" there is no "Part 2" but would you want a sequel which could disappoint? The Deliriant Mutant version may be better but this one is more of an album opener than a single and it has its own charms.
"Battlefield" is less than 2 minutes long but it's one of my favourites. If you thought "Ignorance" was angry, you're in for an electric shock. Get ready for the battlefield of music to take place on your head. The album sets up its 2nd plan; the elimination of traditional song-writing, melody presentation and arrangement. "Ignorance" has a structure. "Battlefield" is an angry, constant assault with a deliciously simple bassline, excellently executed harmonics. The distorted drums will cut across your ears and if you're not careful you might actually like it.
There are 3 versions of "Follow the Dollar" and although this isn't the best one, the album wouldn't quite be the same without the Deliriant Mutant classic. It's the most jampacked version in any case and the high production does it dividends; it almost
has a full string and brass section on it!! Actually, I can imagine a fully orchestrated "Follow the Dollar" with timpanis and everything. Once you're well into the song, you realise how good Juan is at getting the most out of the genre. None of the songs sound like each other and considering "Follow the Dollar" is the type to be guilty of that it's amazing. Remember we're not even 1/4 into the album. The distorted drums return at the end, even better than before and it ends very well.
"Tomorrow Never Comes" may well be one of the most well written songs I've heard. The intro is sparse but when that opening chord comes in . It also does well to shift between a major and minor key in the same passage. To me this creates a longing and, again it abandons traditional song-writing etiquette of sticking to the same mode all the way through. But hang on, Blues and Folk music does the same thing and sounds great for it. I get a lot of pleasure when the guitar goes to a diminished opposite[note1]. Once you're accustomed to the verse conditions, the chorus smashes into you and you get a lovely symbiosis between the guitar and vocals. After the 3rd chorus, there's more loviliness. Is that a Middle 8 I hear?
"Prisons". Yes, PRISONS. Its sparse nature does well in the middle of the album and offers a welcome relief. This is one of the only songs on the album where you can actually hear the vocals. The guitar provides a lovely drone and the percussion isn't overdone or unnecessary. Then every thing changes and you're left hanging on a line. This is one of the ones where you don't have a traditional structure, but it's better for it. The only complaint I have is that sometimes this doesn't come across well and there's a loss of coherency.
If you want to hear the backing tracts of over half of these songs, check out the "boxset" "Iconoclasta" or sift through "The End of Deliriant Mutant". If you want a more raw experience check out "Follow the Dollar"
[note1] Where two tones appear to clash or sound "wrong" played after each other. It's okay to use any kind of diminished transition in music, it's just the way Juan does this is frowned on in traditional song-writing.
(1981) - Cardiacs
The only reason I don't generally like >1988 Cardiacs, is that their early/mid 80s stuff is actually better. Tou World & The Seaside are proof of this. Recorded on a tight budget and 'live' (higher ratio of band recording : overdubs), they are at the top of the post-punk game and it shows. Where the sound quality lacks, it makes up for it with raw power, song-writing like you've never experienced and a sense of urgency which is heard from "Aukamacic" to "A Time for Rejoicing". More importantly, when was the last time you've heard punk in 5/4?
Engineered by Mark Cawthra who has given more to the Cardiacs sound than any other member, it's a masterpiece of mid-fi which considering it was recorded 8track is quite a feat for '81. Mark manages to squeeze the very best out of each signal and nothing sounds overpowerful. Maybe the vocals peak a little too often but it was a valuable lesson used in The Seaside (whose vocal mixing is some of the best I have heard).
Some songs are better than others.
Dead Mouse has a wonderful phased guitar intro which really rips into your ears and when the drums and bass come in and you know you've got a rather special pop song on your ears. I call it the 1st proper Emo song for a reason. The lyrics are considerably more darker than those of their contemporaries. One of the few 4/4 Cardiacs songs - possibly their best - it goes along like one of those miniature trains but then evolves into a freight train which is something very few songs I've heard has achieved. It's with this song they invent shoegazing, emo, 90s music. Mark thought it hit gold for a reason. Isn't it an awful shame they didn't record it for The Seaside.
As Cold as Can Be in An English Sea is a classic 7-minute epic which crashes through its length and you emerge from the sea wondering why they didn't record it properly on a later release. Did the ABC silence all their best stuff? Maybe. But it's here for you to enjoy in crappy mid-fi. The intro passage is great. Jim's basslines are awesome. Mark's drumming in the verses is jazzy, VERY inventive and fresh. The several sections are better than the last. Then you get to the codas and they invent shoegazing AGAIN!! It was my first Cardiacs songs and it will always have a special place in my heart, but it sets up the next two songs perfectly.
"Verses/Is This The Life/Nurses Whispering Verses" suite.
Although all three versions of Is This The Life are excellent, this is my favourite; the guitar at the beginning is nice too, a nice break from their chord bashery and played so well it's one of my favourite bits of the album.
Yeah, the pond knows the intro of Nurses sounds like the intro of "Pictures of Matchstick Men", but when it comes down to it they've both very different very well written songs.
These songs were recorded for The Seaside in reverse order and "Verses" was dropped. [note: Verses is "Nurses" reversed] It was often played at the start of Cardiacs gigs of the time - arranged to play forward!! - and of course better live. It sets up the two succeeding songs.
There's a reason I keep on mentioning The Seaside. Toy World and The Seaside are very similar albums which are in stark contrast the rest of their material. They show the band in a transition period and feature the bands' best songs. I always felt that Toy World was The Seaside's older (seemingly younger) less mature brother.
Fiendishly impossible to get under Ł300, you'll have to rely on MP3s in varying qualities ranging from crap to the area round granny's greenhouse. It's worth it though. Also get Obviosu Identity and you're well on the way to enjoying some of the best early 80s music ever conceived, recorded and copied to washing up sponges.
(1986) - Barrett & Two-Names
I once said to Dad when discussing best albums that Organic Bondage by my favourite musician/Cool Old Guy
was THE best because of a number of factors.
- Production. Most of this album was recorded live and with the intent to produce something unique, there are hardly any influences. Barrett thus achieved something which musician's strive to do but few pull off.
- There is no drumkit. So how does it sound so fucking powerful? Have you ever tried miking up wood, compressing it to hell and putting DECENT amount of reverb on it? Nope. This is the first time someone had successfully made a powerful record without a traditional drumkit. There is no reverb cloud, no peak which makes you cringe. This is the definition of a perfect kit sound.
- The live show/tour. How do you play this stuff live. Properly. With only two men. With difficulty, but Barrett & Two-names did it. And somehow it's even more ballsier and better live. God knows how they'd sound with a full band behind them. Also, check out that stage set. When was the last time you saw a rock band with a far too large stage set for 4 sweaty blokes? This stage set fit into pubs and is eye (and ear!) candy. It is also part of the sound. That's right. All inclusive. No frills. Yours for only ~Ł2000.
- Deal 'em Down/Moose Loose Kicking. When you think OB has offered the best possible rock of the 80s these two give your ears what a good pie gives your tongue. Meat. And good meat; lots of it. Barrett's spoken introduction of D'eD is always funny and fresh and the way he builds it up is in stark contrast to other rock which is assult 'em early. Barrett had already done that on side 1 so surely, this gives it even more genius? Whilst your soul makes the deal with the Devil Barretthazar, he pulls out another card. It's not a joker. We saw that on Call of the Wild. It's the Moose Loose KICKIN' CARD!! And boy, it's a hard card to play. It may sound a bit quiet at the start but Barrett again uses the build-up and within the first minute we're well away. It sounded good live, right? Barrett does a very good version on "Open Toed and Flapping" but it doesn't feature Two-names' insanely good bassing or Barrett's inanely devillish woodwork, does it? Then to finish it all off, The Late Show provides a moments restbite and really kicks it home. You don't know? You will!
- The cover/sleeve. It is essential here to understand Barrett's ethic. He'd much rather make something than get a complete stranger to do it. He'd been influenced by the Gnomes who made the stage set he used between 83-87. So he decided to make some wooden sleeves when he couldn't get the money together to get bits of cardboard printed. There was also a a 'wooden record player' available with flip lid and wooden record. Also that illustration by Johnathan Purcell is as much part of the epicness of the album as the music contained on it. If you want a unique album, get a unique cover. 3rd time right.
- The song-writing. I've already said on Barrett's page that Eddie Stanton is criminally under (tick all that apply) represented/heard-of/respected. Who else could have written songs like "Please Don't Throw Me To the Christians" and "Fokker Wulf"? That's right. Stanton's songs are *ahem* CO?-written with Barrett (although he only heavily arranged them and added his own stuff) and it's a shame Willy didn't do a follow-up album again with Stanton's material. I would love to hear and Organic Bondagesque "Young and the Free" and "Focke Wolf". Ah well, guess the single's gonna have to do.
- THE HITCH-HIKER AND THE PUNK SINGLE!!! It's in the top three of his best singles, but after repeated listening on my 1st day I almost cried. It may be more difficult to follow than OB but it's a vast improvement to Stanton's ham-handed chord bash. The b-side is all right (it's on the album too), but it doesn't measure up; it's a shame he didn't use the A on the album instead. OR BOTH!!
There is, however a negative of Organic Bondage. It's not mind-numbingly huge and it doesn't stop Organic Bondage being one the best things ever recorded. It just means you have to skip it if you want to listen to pure organic bondage.
- The only negative is the inclusion of Jack O'Diamonds. It sticks out like a sore thumb. Not only is it in 3/4 (the base signature of the rest is 4/4) it doesn't even feature Two-names and is essentially a violin piece. It's a great bit of folk, I'd even say of his best, but it doesn't really fit here, does it? I suppose Barrett included it here as a well-meant contrast. It wasn't even recorded with the rest of the album and that makes it feel even more like the Elephant in the Raj. He did well to place it relatively early on instead of in the middle of the two rockers.
(1980) - Ian Dury & The Blockheads
The only reason I didn't choose "Apples" or "Bus Drivers' Prayer" is because they don't work that well as albums.
(1968) - The Beatles
Ima Ani Lo Rotze Lehigamel
(1981) - The Clique
You know you've got a seriously good album on your hands when one song is borderline filler and the other 11 are, well written, well played and well programmed. From beginning to end the debut album by Israel's own The Clique is a fast ride of songs which you may not understand but you will love the little melodies and Dani Dothan's voice which sounds like it should be in an anime.