Sunday, 30 August 2009

Jeff Simmons: Naked Angels OST

So I picked this LP up a couple of weeks ago from Borderline in Brighton. It's the score to some old Roger Corman biker flick from 1969. Jeff Simmons played bass with Zappa's Mothers Of Invention at some point. Whatever. The album, it probably won't surprise you to learn, largely consists of heavily fuzzed funk-rock, in the contemporary style. Sorta sits somewhere between Dennis Coffey and Dave Allen & The Arrows. It's pretty good. Actually its really good in places. It just isn't gonna change your life. I'm a sucker for this sorta thing and happy to get suckered outta some bucks for it, but I guess you might not be. 'Naked Angels Theme' is the standout track, a full-on buzz-saw attack with a killer break. If you wanna invest in a really great biker movie soundtrack album, I'd recommend you go with Les Baxter's 1970 'Hells Belles' OST, which I already wrote about here. So I guess if you already read the 'Hells Belles' post, you didn't really need to waste your time reading this review of a less impressive album. I mean, that's two minutes of your life you're never getting back. Look, I'm sorry. If I were you, I wouldn't buy either album. You've already spent a buncha time reading about them - now you're gonna spend money on 'em and sit listening to them as well? Fergeddaboudit. Treat yourself to a nice meal or something instead. Go for a walk. Anything. Just don't sit around reading about pretty good but totally inessential biker movie soundtracks. This whole thing is my fault, really.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

El Michels Affair: 'Enter The 37th Chamber'

It goes without saying that hip-hop is fundamentally a postmodern experiment. It is engaged in a dialogue with all pop music which has preceded it. Hip-hop is not just pop music - it is a commentary on pop music. It exists within it, but also beyond it, outside of it. For hip-hop, the vinyl record represents not the end of the creative process, but the beginning. Hip-hop's relationship with musical history is hands-on. Hip-hop re-arranges and re-contextualizes the past. It manipulates, cuts and pastes. It deconstructs. Hip-hop is irreverent, does not recognise does accepted 'high' & 'low' categorisations of musical forms - any and every record, from every imaginable genre, is approached as a legitimate source of sampleable material. It is the end of history, and everything is up for grabs.

So dig this. New York funk outfit El Michels Affair have produced an LP which consists almost exclusively of instrumental cover versions of Wu Tang Clan tracks, tracks which themselves consist almost exclusively of samples lifted from old funk & soul LPs...and it is produced to sound largely like authentic 70s soul. Postmodern enough for ya? Theoretically this could mean that the Affair's version of 'C.R.E.A.M' (an album highlight) just sounds exactly like an instrumental version of The Charmel's majestic Stax/Volt single 'As Long As I've Got You', from which the main 'C.R.E.A.M' loop is lifted. Infact, the Affair have wisely chosen to use the specific samples lifted for the Wu Tang tracks covered here more as jumping-off points for their own experiments and jams...therefore the Affair's 'C.R.E.A.M' sounds neither exactly like the Wu's original version, or the song it samples, but references both.

More important than any of this high-brow nonsense is that 'Enter The 37th Chamber' is a super-funky LP in its own right (perfect late-night listening) and could be enjoyed by any funk fan, regardless of how much or how little interest they have in the Wu Tang - in some respects, maybe a lack of interest in the 'concept' would benefit the listener. The concept is so mind-bogglingly genius that it's quite hard for a nerd like me to judge the album objectively...the idea of a cookin' funk combo doing wild, live versions of old Wu Tang joints is so ace that the album itself inevitably struggles to live up to it's own hype. The Affair have produced what is undoubtedly a fine 'cinematic soul' (their phrase) LP, peppered with some excellent moments ('Shimmy Shimmy Ya', featuring a children's choir, is guaranteed floor-filling club madness)...but personally I've found myself too caught up in the IDEA to enjoy it on its own terms. This probably says more about me than it does about the album....which, like I say, it really pretty great...but maybe not as great as the IDEA promised it could can see how I'm having trouble with this.

Look: this album's really cool, it's a cool idea, and if you're home with your feet up and a bottle of cheap red, you'll be well into it. Shoulda covered '4th Chamber' though.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Attic Records, York: A Righteous Venture In Straight Up Old Schoolness Powered By Mammoth Titanium Balls

I've been totally hyped about this place opening ever since the York grapvine started buzzing 'bout it a couple of months back. This is Attic Records, a brand new vinyl emporium operating out of a third floor bedroom above a Barbers in the Ancient Cathedral City Of York. And it's just as cool as it sounds. You gotta hand it to the cats (a couple of local faces called Gaz & Foxy) who run the place - opening up a record store in the Current Economic Climate takes mammoth titanium balls. But somehow you can actually see the store really working, surviving and thriving, 'cos Attic Records has got something about it which is undeniable and un-buyable - it's got a great vibe.

The Attic ain't just a place for record junkies to score a pile of the black stuff. Attic Records is simply an exceptionally hip place to hang out. A place to rap with good folks about good music, and generally make the scene. Y'know - like a Real Record Store. Attic Records is an exercise in straight-up record store old schoolness. The suits told ya this sorta place just couldn't make it no more, not with everybody hooked on free downloads and cheap-fix mp3s. But everybody knows that this analysis is baloney - there'll always be a market for funky downhome vinyl shacks, just as long as the stock is right, the price is right, and the vibe is right. People still like going to quirky, interesting little places where they can Buy Records. With LPs displayed on the mantle piece of a cast iron victorian fireplace and the walls plastered with posters, Attic Records is literally like somebody opened a record store in their bedroom. How great is that?

Most record stores have the stench of death about 'em these days. Attic Records feels fresh, psyched, and ready to Take Care of Business. But they can't make it on their own. A righteous venture like this like this needs support. Your support. Yeah: YOU! Luckily supporting a place like this don't take no effort at all - all you gotta do is go in, shoot the breeze with the guys behind the counter, pick a couple of records, and buy the damn things. Then you can feel good about yourself all day 'cos you've contributed to A Totally Positive Thing, and have landed some new tunes to boot. I'm tellin' you, dude, I laid down some greenbacks for a pile of rekkids in there at the weekend and I feel great. Dig what I dug outta the crates!

So I was pretty knocked-out to find a top-drawer copy of Alice Cooper's 'Billion Dollar Babies'. I'm on a massive Alice Cooper kick at the moment. 2009 has been the year of my personal Glam revival. Mr Cooper was pulling his freaky guy-liner shtick back in late 60s Detroit, and his early stuff is a whole lotta wacked-out oddball Zaapa-fied wonkiness. It's OK, but when he got pop, he got better. Billion Dollar Babies is Cooper's number one all-time pop-shlock horror-show multi-million sellin' stadium slaying gatefold-sleeve concept monster, the tunes are sweet and the riffs are's The Best Non-Stop 70s Death-Jams And Doom Rock Album In The World...Ever! S'all pantomime, of course, buy whadda performance.

Maybe even better still is the mondo-bizzaro super-heavy Glam-Psycheness of Wizzard's 'Wizzard Brew'. The whole album is like this dark, acid-fried glitter nitemare, cosmic-weirdness of a genuinely unsettling and creepy kind. Anybody expecting 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday' is gonna be mighty freaked by the pure hallucinogenic dirge offered here. Roy Wood made some kick-ass records in his time, from his garage-fuzz experiments with The Move to the shiny orch-pop classicism of ELO. But 'Wizzard Brew' is some whole other thang. Check out LP centre-piece 'Meet Me At The Jailhouse.' 13 minutes of buzzing, squarking, megaton-funky prog rock heaviosity. With a ridiculous backwards sax interlude. Bonkers stuff. Attic Records has my eternal gratitude for stocking this cult masterpiece of distorted scuzzadelia.

And to round out my purchases, I picked up a copy of Kylie's first LP - a definitive SAW pop album no home should be without, a nice Nutbush City Limits-era Ike & Tina collection, the deathless 'Return Of The Mack' by Mark Morrison on 12", and some budget Miracles best of. (I didn't even get a chance to look at the 45s.) Like I say - I'm just doing my bit to support a righteous venture. I invite y'all to do the same.

Check the Attic Records facebook, here.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

SLAM Magazine: The NBA's Greatest 50 Players

Ever since I was a kid I've had a distant, but on-going, sorta fascination with basketball. The only sports team I've ever followed in any regular way was the long-forgotten Doncaster Panthers, who played out of the Doncaster Dome in the mid '90s before disbanding in 1996 due to financial difficulties. I have hazy recollections of watching the Harlem Globetrotters on TV in my formative years, I guess on variety shows or Blue Peter or whatever, and being utterly entranced by them. These guys could fly. And they looked Bad. Ass. I even owned a 3/4 size Harlem Globetrotters basketball. And like many my age, me & my friends spent endless hours playing NBA Jam on the Megadrive - "He's on fire!" "The nail in the coffin!" "Puts up a brick!" - perfecting skills with our thumbs that in real-life looked positively super-human.

When the 1992 Barcelona Olympics came around, I had the opportunity to dig on The Dream watch the sport played at it's absolute best, by the best international team ever assembled. The Dream Team were simply off-the-hook. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing...Coach Chuck Daly described being with the Dream Team as like "travelling with a rock band, like Elvis & The Beatles put together." It's often said that watching great basketball is like watching a great jazz concert - the improvisation, the opportunity for individual flair and moments of off-the-wall genius, the back-and-forth dialogue between the players - and sure 'nuff, watching the Dream Team play was as mesmerising as a night at Newport with Miles Davis' first Quintet.

Anyway, in the spirit of educating myself further in the ways of shooting hoops, I bought my first ever copy of SLAM magazine yesterday, which features a perfect So You Want To Get Into Basketball-type feature listing the NBA's 'Top 50 Players'. The guy pictured above left here is Julius Erving, aka Dr J, who ranks 15th. He was a spectacular slam-dunk artist, maybe the finest ever seen. He was ruthless, used the ball like deadly weapon. He defined basketball in the '70s, and ushered in the modern 'above-the-rim' era of the game. He was a stone-killer on the court, and a gentleman off it. He had a cool afro. He's my new hero.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Taxi, Season 2: The Golden Age Of US TV Comedy

So I was watching the 1978 second season of Taxi this weekend with my folks. This is real Golden Age of US Comedy stuff. The quality of the cast is just mind-boggling. If this is your bag, watching Judd Hirsch, Andy Kaufman, Christopher Lloyd & Danny DeVito riff off one another in Taxi is no less than the equivalent of watching the Rat Pack swaggering on stage at the Sands or CSN&Y harmonising at Woodstock.* By all accounts relations amongst the Taxi cast were not always easy, which is hardly surprising given the highly volatile mixture of clashing creative egos on set. Kaufman alone was about as erratic and unmanageable as they come, and it's amazing he survived within the button-down constraints of Sit-Com land for as long as he did. The 'Taxi' of this era is simply magical, peerless popular art. Treat yourself to a copy of Season 2, here.

*I'm not kidding about this era being a spectacular time for US comedy. While the '78 season of Taxi aired, the Saturday Night Live cast counted Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi amongst it's number, Steve Martin was at the very height of his success, and Richard Pryor recorded his magnificant 'Live In Concert' concert film. In-sane.

Club Preview: Fuzz @ Dusk 07/08/09

So how's this for some shameless self-promotion, huh? Yessir. I'll be DJ-ing at a bar in York this Friday, from around 9 'til 2am, and I'm gonna be joined on the Wheels Of Moulded Plastic by Jack Jewers, bass-player with exceptionally hip local garage-rock combo The Federals. I'll be spinning tons of old breakbeat-heavy psyche rock, funk & old-skool hip-hop. Jewers will almost certainly be playing tons of Dee-troit garage rock and dirty ol' RnB. It'll be a double-live gonzo, intensity-in-ten-cities, live at Budakon type of affair. Please join us to drink, dance, and make requests that Recent Studies have shown to have at best a 23% chance of being granted.