With a stick of liquorice in my pocket and adventure in my heart, I got myself to the venue and waited patiently for the doors to open. It was only after spending 90 minutes stroking the hessian walls and blocking the way to the toilets that I thought of asking somebody what the darn heck was going on.
“The show? That’s next door, mate,” said the nice man with his craft beer.
This comeback was off to a great start.
Thankfully I didn’t miss any of openers CHAMBERS despite being a moron and that is a very good thing. CHAMBERS are loud as shit and that’s why their name is in capital letters. They’re certainly a capital band.
CHAMBERS describe themselves as a two-piece sister doom band which is probably one of the best things I’ve ever heard and tops anything I could say about them, so I’ll just add that they’re really good. Here’s a terrible photo to prove I was there.
Also, here’s a video to make up for the fact that I wrote my notes in the dark and helpfully smudged them all, leading to this section being a lot shorter than it ought to be.
CHAMBERS. As somebody behind me exclaimed when they finished, “shittin’ ‘ell!”
Shittin’ ‘ell indeed.
Fuckin’ love this band. They just keep getting better and better.
Their new single kicks so much butt that if my butt had a butt on it then it would also have been kicked. La Bête Blooms are clearly as influenced by classic indie rock and Sonic the Hedgehog as everybody else but they stand out with their superior songwriting and passionate performances. Alliteration.
Opening with the wonderful TV Speak from their debut EP, La Bête Blooms played a fast and powerful set full of new songs. A particular highlight was the second song of the night which I am assured will be appearing on their next EP. It was all dreamy and mysterious and it made me feel feelings. Always a good thing.
Sadly, all great nights must come to an end but memories are for as long as you remember them. La Bête Blooms put on a great show as they always do and CHAMBERS were absolutely superb. Give ’em a look for me, will ya?
In keeping with their “let’s just release things when they’re fuckin’ ready” philosophy, Pixies stuck EP-1 on our internets recently, promising more to come.
We have two die-hard Pixieholics here on Off Your Shelf, so instead of fighting over it like hobos over meat it was decided that we both cover a side each. That’s a lot better, isn’t it?
Side One, by Sean
1) Andro Queen
2) Another Toe
Right from the start, Andro Queen is an unusual song in Pixieland. It’s not Gouge Away, so we’d better hate it, yes? Fuck you, Pitchfork. Fuck off back into your stupid hidey-hole of wankery.
Anyway, Andro Queen. It’s really quite pretty. Very spacesome, a little bit Bossanova II – Surfer’s Revenge. Is there a smidgen of auto-tune? Mayhaps, but it’s quite subtle and seems to be used as an artistic tool rather than to mask a lack of talent or ability. It’s certainly not as intrusive as it is on modern dancefloor smash Black Paisley.
It’s quite remarkable to have a Pixies release that doesn’t start off with a massive explosion of a song. Andro Queen is intriguing and invites you into the greater Pixiemystery that awaits within EP-1.
Another Toe is an interesting beast (and it is a beast). The rhyming progression takes a little getting used to at first, but it leads into such a stunning chorus that they could have just farted for the first 30 seconds and it would have been fine. We are treated to our first classic Joey Santiago licks on this track, masterfully underlining and enhancing without wanking all over the place like certain other guitarists might be tempted to.
Of course, when you let him loose he comes up with a great ghoulish bastard of a solo. Can you call it a solo? I’m calling it a fucking solo.
Are these songs insta-classics? No, but the Pixies have never been that way. EP-1 might take some time to sink in next to Surfer Rosa but it’ll get there. Buy it! And listen to side two, of course…
Side Two, by Holly
3) Indie Cindy
4) What Goes Boom
As a huge Pixies fan since the tender age of thirteen when a rather catchy track concerning a Japanese man driving his car over a cliff somehow managed to reach me on an existential level, I, like Sean, embraced this new EP with a happy face. Their first collection of songs in a number of years, and since the replacement of the inimitable Kim Deal with Female Bass Player Called Kim #2, a heavy sense of anticipation settles on the ears as one sits down to listen. Luckily, it doesn’t disappoint.
Indie Cindy takes its title from a term popularised by a semi-well known song by a band about as far removed from the Pixies as Meshuggah to Miley Cyrus. The good news is that the influence ends there. The song kicks off as classic Pixies, a smooth easy-going rhythm with the confident, casual lead guitar we’ve come to expect from these guys. Personally I hear a little Where is My Mind? influence touching the first half of the song.
The ‘new’ Pixies blasts into its own in the second half; fast, furious guitar licks just slightly too chaotic to be called ‘tight’, Francis’ hectic babble-singing riding over them. This works, somehow, by the quick transfer to the softly spoken, hypnotic chorus that has practically become a trademark. The song, according to Francis himself, is a direct attempt to re-seduce fans after their hiatus; suitably enough, it is comfortingly familiar while demanding that listeners stand up and take notice. And it works.
What Goes Boom, after the slow seduction, seems at first to be decidedly un-Pixies song. Squealing licks continue throughout, carrying Francis’ newfound confidence as he loudly proclaims his lyrics with an air of knowing that his seduction was successful. While the track slips past as generic rock on the first listen, subsequent attention reveals that many of the nuances and characteristics of the Pixies we’ve loved for years remain present, bold and strong. This track is just louder, more confident, slamming the band’s return to the music scene down in a way that can’t be ignored. And why would you want to?
It’s raining. I’m at work. The servers are down, meaning no actual work to do…
So what should I do?
Listen to Disintegration by The Cure, you say? Well, if I must…
Plainsong has a bunch of pretty chimes, very chunky keyboards, very big drums. Robert Smith’s guitar playing is immaculate and ethereal as always, though I don’t understand a word of what he’s singing. It sounds like it’s probably super meaningful though. Something about cold and death and the end of the world. The usual.
The glittery shimmer effect makes its first appearance here. It’s always ridiculous. It fits.
More shimmers for Pictures of You, which is a million fucking minutes long. It’s about that time Robert Smith’s house killed itself (with fire) and he found some pictures of his wife afterwards. Or something. This marks one of the few times in history anybody has ever known what a Cure song was about.
It’s around this point where you start to think that Robert Smith is probably playing all of the instruments, apart from the drums. Everything is very… Robert. The drum sound is almost your typical EIGHTIES DRUM SOUND, but on closer listening sounds more or less like natural drums if they were played in a deep well. Very poetic.
Closedown continues similarly. Instrumentally it’s really quite stunning, with the wettest bass I’ve ever heard and a return to the chunky keyboards. Mmm, chunky. There are words in it somewhere, I think. It’s safe to say that they probably don’t live up to the music though. This is the Robert Smith problem, but I forgive him. Maybe you can too.
Lovesong is, according to Wikipedia, one of the more cheerful, upbeat songs on the record. Like fuck it is. It is, as the name suggests, a love song… but a remarkably desperate one. Cheer up, you bugger.
Last Dance sounds like elevator music. It’s dreary and murky and not very exciting, like Doncaster. Boring. Just… fucking boring. Thankfully, Lullaby is next. You know this one. It’s the one where Spiderman is taking Robert Smith for dinner. It’s good and plinky, and occasionally you get a nice cold sweep of synth. What a shame there was such a shit song before it.
Fascination Street follows, with the best (only) extended bass intro you’ll ever hear. This is one of the few songs where it sounds like there’s somebody else playing instruments as well. Lots of nice guitar interplay while Smith sings like he’s driving his car too fast. His voice seems to serve as a reminder that it’s totally not murder if you die at the same time.
It’s a good song.
Prayers for Rain. Mope. Fucking mope, Robert. Unfortunately, the band decided to set their Yamaha to a sound that can only be described as ‘bass duck’ for the backing. How distracting. This song did not need to be six minutes long.
The Same Deep Water as You is nine fucking minutes long. That’s fucking ages. For fuck’s sake, Robert. I said I’d listen to your problems but this is a bit much. It’s good, but perhaps not nine minutes good. Seven minutes good. It’s all a bit dirgetastic. Maybe it’s symbolic and all, like Robert Smith is having a funeral for his fucking heart or something. Jesus. It rains at the end, like he prayed for.
Now it’s time for the title track! Yay!
Eight fucking minutes. I’ll be a fucking grandparent by the time this album’s done. Thankfully, this song has more in the way of progression and is also a bit faster. I swear I almost heard a gospel choir backing around five minutes in. Clearly I’m going mental.
Anyway, title track… lyrics about ‘the end’… should be the last track, shouldn’t it?
Nope. Bonus tracks for CD. You lucky vinyl bastards.
Homesick. Seven bastard more shitting minutes.
You know what? It’s great. It’s a real mid-afternoon hangover of a song. It brings with it a nice atmosphere of possible redemption. Maybe it’s because Robert is feeling better, maybe it’s because this fucking album is nearly over, who knows?
Untitled is a short track at only six minutes. It’s more or less a straight continuation of Homesick, thematically speaking. There’s a nice loooong fadeout at the end, leaving us with some synth accordion. Lovely.
Far from being superfluous, these bonus tracks serve to finish the album the way it ought to. Robert Smith deserves to be happy, as do all of you.
BONUS REVIEW – ENTREAT
It’s all the songs from Disintegration – apart from Plainsong, Lovesong, Lullaby and The Same Deep Water as You – played live in concert.
While the arrangements aren’t radically different, the songs do benefit from having the studio murk stripped away and the missing songs help to streamline the whole experience nicely, turning a 70+ minute slog into a neat 40 minute joyride.
The live sound is better for some songs than others. Last Dance is no longer so fucking boring, but Fascination Street loses some power. I can live with it though.
Prayers for Rain suffers the most, as bass duck is now one of the most audible elements of the track. Thankfully, it’s a full two minutes shorter this time. Thanks, Rob
All told it’s pretty straightforward, but a nice thing to have if you can get it for £2 like I did. I hear that the super-deluxe edition has the whole Disintegration album live. I’ll let you decide if that’s a thing you want.
“Okay, everybody look like you’re having a really bad day. That’s smashing.”
The most remarkable thing about Crocodiles is that the Bunnymen had their classic sound right from the start. It might be a little way off the perfection of Ocean Rain but it’s just as essential.
If you’re not super familiar with Echo & The Bunnymen, they’re a post-punk band like Joy Division or The Cure but with more Bowie and less hair.
Like most in the genre, Crocodiles is full of chunky basslines, slinky guitars, atmospheric keyboards, vocals with heavy echo and also some drumming. I believe there is also a spot of xylophone or some similar instrument in Pride. How exciting!
The most Gothic of all the instruments.
That’s not to say that this is a typical ’80s goth’ album though. The thing is, when you invent your own style of music, you can kind of do whatever you want with it. Crocodiles sounds fresh and exciting to this day because the assorted Bunnymen were innovating rather than assimilating.
There are always exceptions, of course. Producer David Balfe (from The Teardrop Explodes) pops in for a spot of Ray Manzareking on Villiers Terrace. It’s rare that such an obvious tribute can fit well in the middle of an original song but they pull it off here – while the song is not necessarily in the style of The Doors it’s not hard to imagine Jim Morrison hollering about how he’d “been up to Villiers Terrace, saw what was happenin’.”
This expanded edition doubles the length with out-takes, early versions and the entirety of live EP Shine So Hard. For once these are welcome and actually enhance the album experience as a whole. Isn’t that mental? There’s a nice little gap between the album proper and the bonus material so you can pretend you’re flipping a record if you really want to.
Do It Clean and Read It in Books were both on the original US release of the album but not the UK one because some Warner Bros. bigwig thought they had swears in them. Read It in Books is especially notable for being the one song that Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope wrote together before they hated each other to death – Cope’s version with The Teardrop Explodes features on their album Kilimanjaro.
Julian being normal.
Simple Stuff was the b-side to single Rescue but I’m pretty sure it should have been the other way around. The demo tracks that follow aren’t terribly different from the album versions apart from being a bit more stripped-down. It’s like seeing your school photos again – same songs, a little younger.
The live performances prove that not only could Echo & The Bunnymen do it live, they could do it BETTER too. What’s cool here is that we’ve got early versions of Zimbo (later retitled All My Colours) and Over The Wall from their next album, Heaven Up Here, alongside some absolutely smashing takes on Crocodiles and All That Jazz.
Shine So Hard is one of the few live recordings that truly seems to capture the chaotic feel of a real show, they may not be leaping about like they’re Slayer but the Bunnymen play with such intensity that you’re worried their instruments might fall to bits.
This compilation is at once a cheap cash-in and an incredible bargain. It’s structured without regard for chronological consistency or even who happens to be in the band but it also has no less than 14 B-SIDES AND RARITIES, making this a ‘Best of’ that’s far more valuable to people who already have every album than people new to the band.
Things start off pretty normally, blah blah blah We Care A Lot blah blah blah Epic blah blah blah Midlife Crisis. You’ve heard them all before. The album actually manages to mix up its own track list at this point, with Midlife Crisis and Falling To Pieces swapping places. How the hell do you manage something like that?
The sexy e-bow vibes of Stripsearch are a welcome addition, although it is bizarrely followed by eight-minute epic The Real Thing. While it is perhaps one of their greatest overall, it also marks where this collection starts to go a bit wrong.
That’s right, here come the b-sides! The World Is Yours is fine enough but the tracks that follow are kind of shite, especially the over-long instrumental, Instrumental. Much better is Sweet Emotion, which was recorded during sessions for The Real Thing and later reworked into The Perfect Crime for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Adventure, earning it a double obscurity bonus. Score!
Arabian Disco and As The Worm Turns from the band’s yet-to-be-reissued debut album are really quite good, with As The Worm Turns in particular being far superior to Mike Patton’s recorded version. Unfortunately we have two from The Real Thing smushed in the middle – War Pigs and The Morning After. These are great and all, but it would be nice for Chuck Mosley to get a little more recognition for having been the singer for two albums rather than being the bread in a Patton sandwich.
Disc 2 is much better, mostly because it starts with Everything’s Ruined, one of the best songs from the already stellar Angel Dust. Bee Gees cover I Started a Joke is the first relatively obscure track and features Mike Patton singing with an awful fake English accent. Ick.
Defying all logic, This Guy’s In Love With You and Theme From Midnight Cowboy from the same (incredible!) live performance are separated by no less than four songs, one of them being the very excellent R’n’R from Chuck Mosley’s Introduce Yourself. Why’s it there? No idea.
Light Up and Let Go isn’t very notable at all but certainly quite tolerable. The perfect b-side! I Won’t Forget You andThe Big Kahuna show us where all the nu-metal bands got their ideas from – as with all things Faith No More it’s probably a massive piss-take, but in this instance maybe they took the whole ‘irony’ thing a little too far.
Underwater Love is very welcome afterwards, because mermaids.
The cover of Spanish Eyes that follows is one of the greatest things I’ve ever heard – best synth-horns ever? Absolute Zero is the last b-side and is one of the few originals featured that really should have been on an album, perhaps if it had a little more polish we’d know all the words.
We finish up with totally awesome The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Maybe the people who sequenced this album really did know what they were up to after all?
The Very Best of Faith No More is a worthy purchase as long as it’s a very cheap one, and is ultimately a bit redundant if you already own The Real Thing and Angel Dust. The Chuck Mosley era is a little better represented than usual but 5 out of 39 hardly seems fair, not to mention the lack of anything that’s not a single from both King for a Day… Fool for a Lifetime and Album of the Year.
What you ought to do instead is just buy each of the albums. There are only five. Chop chop!
Midlife Crisis track list…
We Care A Lot
From Out Of Nowhere
Falling To Pieces
Easy (Commodores cover)
Digging The Grave
The Real Thing
The World Is Yours
Hippie Jam Song
Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)
Sweet Emotion (not an Aerosmith cover)
War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)
The Morning After
As The Worm Turns
A Small Victory
I Started A Joke (Bee Gees cover)
Last Cup Of Sorrow
Ashes To Ashes
This Guy’s In Love With You (Bacharach/David standard)
My Brother the Cow couldbe considered an unusual album (not least for the colourful cover art) amongst the other lot from the Seattle scene, seeing as Mudhoney most definitely don’t hate themselves and want to die.
The album starts off with the sickly slide guitar of Judgement, Rage, Retribution & Thyme. My girlfriend makes me change to the next song every time because it somehow gives her motion sickness or something. I think it’s great, but maybe take your pills beforehand.
Generation Spokesmodel is the first stand-out track, showcasing singer Mark Arm’s horrifically sarcastic, slightly camp delivery (in true Iggy Pop style). The song, along with Into Yer Shtik is an attack on grunge itself and the absolute miserypies associated with it – featuring lines such as “Hey kids, how would I look on the cover of SPIN?”
The dudes bring it down nicely for In My Finest Suit before bringing it the hell up again for F.D.K. (Fearless DoctorKillers). F.D.K. is absolutely my most favourite song on the whole album – besides having a great groove it also features some of the best lyrics on the record, somehow managing to be humorous and accusatory all at once.
Orange Ball-peen Hammer is all about Florida or something and also has slide guitar in the style of the first track, so beware. The album finishes in outdated style with the grungiest song yet, the menacing 1995. Very end-times.
If you’re lucky enough to own the 2003 reissue, next comes six torturous minutes of bonus tracks.
Mudhoney Funky Butt through to Small Animals were featured on a bonus 7″ that came with the original vinyl release of the album. They’re sort of funny for a while but also agonising to listen to and the whole sequence is overlong and I kind of hate it.
Salvation comes in the form of Not Goin’ Down That Road Again, b-side to Generation Spokemodel – if only because it means the album ends on a Real Song. It’s a cool bluesy Captain Beefheart type song. It’s got the slide guitar, it’s got harmonica and it probably should have been on the real album. If nothing else it’s worth suffering through what comes before it.
It says a lot for the quality of My Brother the Cow that it can have no less than six fucking awful songs on it and still be a great record.