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Indie Rock Music

The Flaming Lips – Flowers Of Neptune 6

A new single from psychedelic oddballs The Flaming Lips dropped on Friday, Flowers Of Neptune 6.

Flowers of Neptune 6 is the kind of Flaming Lips ballad you probably know & love if you’re already a fan of the band. Downtempo beats, atmospheric bass line & synthetic strings form a gorgeous soundscape for the pretty lead guitar patterns & Wayne Coyne’s distorted, delayed vocals to inhabit.

The moody video, featuring Wayne Coyne wrapped in an American flag & walking in a giant bubble before a backdrop of flames, seems strangely apt in this moment.

Here’s hoping this is heralding a new album on the horizon.

Available now on all streaming services.

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Indie Rock Music Post Punk Punk Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Fugazi – Waiting Room

Day 23 (W) & here we are, Post-Hardcore perfection. Waiting Room by Fugazi is a spiky slice of furious & bouncy Punk Perfection. It’s an ode to the DIY work ethic which Fugazi are famous for. I’m including two videos because the live one has terrible sound, but demonstrates Waiting Room’s power to electrify an audience like few other songs can. Don’t you just want to be there?

A better audio quality on this version:

I am a patient boy
I wait, I wait, I wait, I wait
My time is like water down a drain

Everybody’s moving,
Everybody’s moving,
Everybody’s moving, moving, moving, moving
Please don’t leave me to remain

I’m in the waiting room, I don’t want the news
I cannot use it
I don’t want the news
I won’t live by it
Sitting outside of town
Everybody’s always down
Tell me why?
Because, they can’t get up
Ah, come on and get up
Come on and get up

But I don’t sit idly by
I’m planning a big surprise
I’m gonna fight for what I wanna be
And I won’t make the same mistakes (’cause I know)
Because I know how much time that wastes (and function)
Function is the key

I’m in the waiting room, I don’t want the news
I cannot use it
I don’t want the news
I won’t live by it
Sitting outside of town
Everybody’s always down
Tell me why?
Because, they can’t get up
Ah, come on and get up
I’m from the waiting room

Sitting in the waiting room
Sitting in the waiting room
Sitting in the waiting room
Sitting in the waiting room (tell me why)
Because, they can’t get up

Stuck for something to listen to? Why not wrap your ears around this playlist of my Song of the Day (A-Z) series.

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Indie Rock Politics Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Parquet Courts – Violence

Day 22 (V). I was originally going to choose Venus In Furs by The Velvet Underground for today. Event’s in the world have forced me to reevaluate though & it feels correct to choose Violence by Parquet Courts from their 2018 album Wide Awake! Violence is a rallying cry against the Violence inherent in American society. “Violence is daily life”.

In the wake of the murder by Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin of unarmed & handcuffed black man, George Floyd, it seems respectful to acknowledge & pledge resistance to the systematic racism which grips America an always has done.

This post signals solidarity with the people of Minnesota & wishes them well in their uprising. Keep up the pressure, comrades, & watch out for police agent provocateurs in your midst, like Jacob Pederson, the Minneapolis police officer who donned a gasmask & smashed the windows of a branch of AutoZone while carrying an umbrella.

Violence is the fruit of unreached understanding 
That flowers from the lips of scoundrels
It is a forest so dense and rooted in our past
It tempts us to become lost in its darkness
And stinks like the piss test you were forced to take
Just before you were told that you didn’t meet
The standards of integrity that this organization strives to maintain

Why are there no folk songs about ATM machines
That produce the likeness of the blazer of the trail of tears
Issuing overdraft fees from beyond the grave
Prison TV shows in an endless queue
Containing the robust nourishment of a commissary
This is why we cannot afford to close an open casket
You protect no one by obscuring the mirror 
That reflects our own problematic reality
Allow me to ponder the role I play
In this pornographic spectacle of black death
At once a solution and a problem

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

Violence is daily life
Violence happens every day
It’s hard to get used to getting used to violence

Savage is my name because Savage is how I feel
When the radio wakes me up with the words “suspected gunman”
My name is a warning for the acts you are about to witness
Which contain images that some viewers may find disturbing
My name belongs to us all
So if they ask for yours give them mine
My name is a threat

Riot is an unfinished grave that was dug to deposit undepleted anger
Like barrels of uranium leaking into something sacred
It is a word to use to delegitimize your unrest
And to make your resistance into an overreaction

The pink tube of paint called flesh
Used in portraits of chairmen of boards and
Men who clean up streets named after those who fought
For erasing the lives they now claim to protect
What is an up and coming neighborhood and where is it coming from?

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

A cause, an effect, a rejoice, a regret
Violence is daily life
A promise a pact that the world never kept
Violence is daily life

What’s wrong with the air you breathe?
The water you drink?
Violence is so omnipresent
So ingrained in your daily reality
You forget to notice it happens everyday

Stuck for something to listen to? Why not wrap your ears around this playlist of my Song of the Day (A-Z) series.

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Politics

Chilean anti-cop techniques for protesters

From here in the UK there isn’t much I can do to help my comrades protesting against police violence in the USA. What I can do however, is share these pics I saved from last winters protests against the right-wing coup in Chile. There are some extremely useful ideas for protestors who will be going up against violent cops over the coming nights.

  1. Grab whatever you can & form a shield wall. When the cops are firing teargas canisters or beanbag rounds at you they should be able to harmlessly deflect the projectiles away from you.
  2. Another ingenious technique that was used to great effect in Chile was the laser pointers which were used to blind drones which were used to monitor protestors movements. They can also be used to blind violent cops & spoil their aim or prevent them from identifying you.
  3. Face coverings are very useful as they both conceal your identity & help against teargas. Bearing in mind that we are still in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic, face coverings are just both common sense & commonplace at the moment. A gas mask is preferable to a face mask but obviously less common. If you have one, wear it.

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Indie Rock Music

Grandaddy – The Sophtware Slump Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of a modern classic

I tend to get overexcited & hyperbolic when I’m writing about bands & albums that I love. I expect my readers to cotton on to this & adjust the way they think about my reviews accordingly. There are a few albums though, which I don’t think I could get hyperbolic enough about. Albums which are so important to me, my taste in music & my outlook on life, that I can barely even conjure the words I want to sya about them. The Sophtware Slump by Grandaddy, to me, is one such album. It’s definitely a top 5 album for me & maybe even a top 3.

It’s hard to believe that for 20 years now, that humanoid robot, Jed, has been a part of my life. The heartbreaking story of his alienation, depression, alcoholism & death, a mere subplot on the massively ambitious concept album The Sophtware Slump, has haunted my own creative output since then. Interestingly, Futurama’s alcoholic robot, Bender, debuted on our screens the same year that Grandaddy were locked in the studio, working away at their magnum opus. It’s impossible to not wonder if the early Fururama episodes were an influence on Jed. Obviously Bender & Jed are not, aside from the alcoholism, similar. Bender is brash & arrogant. He drinks because he has to to survive. In the canon of Fururama, robots must maintain a certain level of alcohol. When Bender is deprived of alcohol, he starts to act like a drunk human & grows a five-o-clock shadow made from rust. This is a stark contrast to the tragic tale of Jed. Jed was created by a loving group of scientists. His tale is told, in the mournful Jed The Humanoid, posthumously. The scientists tell us how proud they were of Jed. They looked on him like a child. Over the years though, they had begun to pay less attention to him & neglected him. They had new inventions. He turns to drink & the drink kills him. “Shocked & broken, shut down exploding”. I picture his electronic components fizzing & melting as the alcohol corrodes them. There is a strong sense of guilt that Jed “found our booze”.

Jed resurfaces on the wonderful Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground). The introduction explains how after his death, the scientists found some poems, written by Jed. “Perhaps I’ll show them, here’s one of Jed’s poems”, singer Jason Lytle sings before launching into the song proper. The song, in universe, was written by Jed & is one of my favourite Grandaddy songs. Pumping synths & lush, simple chord structures underpin Jed’s melancholic verse.

You said I’d wake up dead drunk
Alone in the park
I called you a liar
But how right you were


Air conditioned TV land, 20 grand
Walk to the bank
With shakes from the night before
Staring at the tiki floor


High school wedding ring
Keys are under the mats
Of all the houses here
But not the motels


I try to sing it funny like Beck
But it’s bringing me down
Lower than ground
Beautiful ground

I love that Jed was aware of Beck. Possibly a fan since he writes about imitating his vocal style. Another strange parallel with Futurama. In the season 3 episode, Bending In The Wind, Bender actually meets Beck & ends up performing in his band, playing washboard.

Beck & Bender, Futurama, Bending In The Wind

The song ends mournfully with a verse from the scientists again. This is something that you’d expect to find inscribed on Jed’s gravestone. If Robots were given burials.

Test tones and

Failed clones and

Odd parts made you

I seem to have spent way more time on the Jed subplot than I originally intended. Even beginning with it was an unusual & inexplicable step to take. Why did I do that?

The main plot of The Sophtware Slump is a kind of technological apocalypse story, equal parts influenced by the Y2K Millennium Bug, which dominated late ’90’s news broadcasts, & Radiohead’s ’97 ode to pre-millennial alienation through technology, OK Computer. Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle has said in interviews that there would have been no The Sophtware Slump without OK Computer. There’s a palpable unease about the systems which were, even in ’99, starting to take over our lives. This sense of unease, in both albums, was artfully rendered by imbuing their Indie Rock sounds with elements from forward looking & futuristic electronic music & Hip Hop. Radiohead filled OK Computer with digital soundscapes, analogue effects (funny how vintage analogue equipment still helps to give music a futuristic feel) & even vocal synthesis. Grandaddy, by contrast, play melancholic, country-tinged Indie Rock but with a strong emphasis on synthesisers (or synthesizers, as they’re an American Band). I read a comment on a Facebook post once which described them as how the commenter wished Neil Young sounded in the ’80’s. When participating in a game where you had to describe your favourite band, but badly, I described Grandaddy as “Sad & bleepy. Not Radiohead”. Nobody got it.

Opening track, He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s The Pilot, is a soaring ballad of softly strummed acoustic guitars which morphs over 8 minutes into bleeping & fizzing Space Rock. It’s lyrics convey a sense of having no control over your life. & the horror of realising that the people who are supposed to be in charge, supposed to be responsible for us, are too completely out of control. In my opinion, it satirises the attitudes of authorities to the Y2K Millennium m Bug. The panic of Y2K spread throughout society & we watched on in despair as even our leaders didn’t know how to deal with it. Or if it would even be a problem. There are two schools of thought about this in the present. Obviously Y2K wasn’t a problem in the end. Many authority figures put this down to the huge amounts of money that were poured into combatting it.

After the melancholic fade out of the opening track, we end up in more Pop orientated territory with Hewlett’s Daughter. This is scene setting for the post-collapse society we live in. I’ve always assumed the name Hewlett was a reference to the technology firm, Hewlett Packard, but I may be wrong. The song unfolds a story about Hewlett’s “stolen guns” & describes the wreckage of the world. “High above the wrecks on ice shelfs and glaciers” & “where sofas float on roads”.

After Jed The Humanoid (see above) we stay in the upbeat Pop territory with the sublime The Crystal Lake. The Crystal Lake is one of my favourite singles of all time & has a wonderful video too. The juxtaposition between the fairly straightforward Indie Pop & the arpeggiated, bleeping synth patterns creates is atmospheric indeed. Lyrically, The Crystal Lake, feels to me to be the regrets of one who has gone too far from where they want to be. Almost like floating downstream & getting further & further from safety. There’s a luddite sensibility to The Crystal Lake which also seems to address the encroachment on nature of the modern world. The video shows this conflict in reverse, with country, outdoors types wandering in awe & terror around a modern city.

Chartsengrafs follows this conflict with the closest Grandaddy ever get to Alternative Rock (except for the glorious Levitz). Simple synth leads clash against power chords & the lyrics deal with the despair of leaving behind fun for more mathematic or science-based pursuits. I’m uncertain whether Lytle personally feels that way. He’s always come across as a proud exponent of “Geek Culture” to me.

Underneath The Weeping Willow is a gentle ballad of piano chords & arpeggiated synth notes. It feels like a refuge from modernity in nature & I suspect that it is supposed to represent the calm before the storm. The following track, Broken Household Appliance National Forest is the most on-the-nose track in the main storyline. It has downtempo, atmospheric synth verses which build up into the heavy riffing of the chorus (another rare example of them approaching Alternative Rock. Twice on one album). The lyrics detail nature adapting to the waste of mankind & the discarded technology which was wiped out by the Y2K. I was going to select a couple of lines as examples but they’re all so good, & so essential to the storyline, that I’m just going to reprint the lyrics whole:

Sit on the toaster like a rock
No need to worry about a shock
All of the microwaves are dead
Just like the salamander said
The refrigerators house the frogs
The conduit is the hollow log

Broken household appliance national forest
Air conditioners in the woods
Broken household appliance national forest
Mud and metal mixing good

Meadows resemble showroom floors
Owls fly out of oven doors
Stream banks are lined with vacuum bags
Flowers reside with filthy rags
A family of deer were happy that
The clearing looked like a laundry mat

Broken household appliance national forest
Air conditioners in the woods
Broken household appliance national forest
Mud and metal mixing good

From Broken Household Appliance National Forest we come back to the conclusion of the Jed subplot with Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground) which I discuss above. This is followed by a short instrumental track, E. Knievel Interlude (The Perils Of Keeping It Real), which serves as a sinisterly atmospheric palate cleanser. It alos has an air of waiting room or elevator music to it, which I think is appropriate to the following track, Miner At The Dial-A-View.

Miner At The Dial-A-View is an older, unused track which Jason Lytle adapted for The Sophtware Slump. He says it’s about a miner on another planet who is able to use the Dial-A-View service to view the places he misses back on Earth. Despite the sci-fi concept, Miner At The Dial-A-View essentially predicts Google Earth or Streetview long before they became a reality. The lyrics convey a sense of alienation, isolation & longing for his old life. Lyrically, it contains some of the most vivid imagery that Jason Lytle has ever created, in my opinion. “Tire tracks on federal roads look like crash-landed crows from the Dial-A-View” is one of those lines that I wish I had written. It’s probably my favourite song on The Sophtware Slump. I love the melancholic vibes & the thin electronic sheen. It ends with a single word, “dream”, echoing off & segueing gloriously into the albums closing track, So You’ll Aim Towards The Sky. A soaring, elegiac pop song which builds & builds into an epic soundscape of twinkling piano notes, synthetic strings & repeated falsetto vocals.

So today, on The Sophtware Slump’s 20th anniversary, give it a listen & just try & bend your head around the fact that this contemporary masterpiece is now two decades old.

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Indie Rock

British Sea Power

Tonight, I was supposed to be seeing one of my favourite bands, British Sea Power, at the Crescent Community Venue in York. Needless to say, the Covid19 pandemic put paid to that idea. The concert has been postponed until October (which from this point in time still appears optimistic) & my ticket is still valid for the rescheduled show, but I’m still feeling a sense of loss about this.

So today, I’m having a British Sea Power day & listening to loads of their music. I’m sharing with you, dear reader, a selection of my favourite songs by them in video form. If you’re not familiar with them, I can’t recommend them enough. & if you get the opportunity to see them live, you should. They are one of (maybe the) best live bands I’ve ever seen.

For now though enjoy some of their great music.

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Indie Rock Music Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Us

Day 21 (U). Us is the closing track from Stephen Malkmus’ second post-Pavement album, and first under the ‘& The Jicks’ moniker, Pig Lib.

Built around trademark Malkmus guitar figures & a solid backing by the Jicks, who are an excellent band. Lyrically, Us features Malkmus’ trademark brand of off-kilter, abstract storytelling & seemingly throwaway lines. Malkmus has confirmed in interviews for his 2018 Sparkle Hard album that some of his weirder lyrics are placeholders which he never got around to changing. I don’t know about you but I take great comfort from human imperfections in one of my heroes.

This version of Us was recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

I’m a big fan of the concert that this performance is taken from & watch it fairly regularly. It’s just Malkmus with an acoustic guitar & an overdrive pedal. He seems drunk & he plays loads of Pavement tunes. He even plays Blue Arrangements by Silver Jews. Here as a bonus is the full version.

I wish we could get our act together
Make some sense of present tense alright
Take our time with what we find and fear it
Don’t you know there’s someplace else that we can go
Billions of trees to climb

I don’t really know your taste in ceilings
I don’t know the RPM you rev
But for now I think I’ll keep on reeling
This adventure needs a little game, my friend
It never ever ends

We’re locked in to talking a lariat knot to a Cree
A walk in the cotton, a rebel attempted to ski
We’re locked in to talking, I’d rather you not than agree
To walking in cotton, a rebel attempted to ski
On gypsum slats, you can’t do that

Streaking through the ferns in Allegheny
Chatting up a panda in a bar
Well, I like wearing slippers when it’s raining
This attraction bleeds into a thirst
Like it always does
Hey

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Politics

Rare political post to set out some thoughts I’ve been having

image shamelessly “borrowed” from The Guardian

A primer to the cyclical nature of British politics

I’ve often heard it said that American politics is incredibly complicated to British people. Where I don’t know as much about it as I’d like, I believe I have a fairly solid grasp of how it works. Thinking about our own (British) politics however, I see archaic ritual & intentionally obtuse language used to mask the hidden simplicity of our system. I’ve been thinking recently about how our politics seems to follow a cyclical patch & I wanted to get my thoughts down on paper about it. So, this blogpost is my ham-fisted way of attempting to describe the simplicity & the cyclical nature of British politics to one who is bamboozled by its pomp & ceremony. Please note that I am a “loony lefty”, so expect partisanship in the extreme. I make no apology for this & swear by political hero Aneurin Bevan’s 1948 assertation that Tories are “lower than vermin”.

British politics is a two-party system. One party is the Conservatives (or Tories). The Tories represent the interests of the richest in society. We’re talking everyone from aristocrats to hedge fund managers & everyone in between. Basically, anyone higher in the British class system than the upper middle class. The other party is the Labour Party. Birthed by the union movement, their original job was to represent the interests of Labour. The working classes. As they’ve evolved, however, they’ve taken on the unenviable task of attempting to represent the interests of everyone who isn’t represented by the Tories policies. This means everyone from the unemployed through to the fairly wealthy upper middle class (why many contemporary observers scornfully refer to as the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’). This position, as you can imagine, is like balancing spinning plates. There are third parties in the British political system, most notably the Liberal Democrats (or Lib Dems), but their main function, whether intentional or not, is to syphon votes away from the Labour Party.

So, the eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that nothing I’ve said thus far constitutes a cyclical nature (except for the existence of a two-party system). All will become clear. Since we have to start describing the cycle somewhere, let us start it with the beginning of a new Tory government. The Tory government & its policies concentrate on redistributing as much wealth as possible from the hands of the poor into the hands of the rich. A primary engine of this change is the lowering of corporate taxes & the relocation of corporate profit into offshore tax havens. The policies which facilitate these goals are often concerned with underfunding & privatisation of key public services like power supply, healthcare & education. Concurrent to this, sophisticated propaganda campaigns are waged against the Labour Party &  any other convenient scapegoat. Why blame the governments pro-billionaire policies for your poverty when you can blame immigrants instead? This propaganda campaign is waged with the help of the class whose interests they represent: the extremely wealthy. We’re talking about billionaire media moguls like Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers & others. The campaign in turn is aided by the intentional erosion community values & political literacy.

This goes on for a while, usually for two or three terms, until the extent of the Tory crimes becomes so large that the propaganda in the media is unable to excuse or mask them. The people, understandably, flock to the Labour Party at the following election & vote them in in a landslide. The Labour government then has to spend all of its time & resources repairing & making up for the economic damage that the Tories have inflicted while in government. Meanwhile, as we’re seeing real improvements to our way of life & the stability of our economy, the Tories have begun their campaign of propaganda & misinformation again. With the aid of the same billionaire media moguls whose interests they represent. From this point on the Labour Party’s public perception is eroded even as they are doing quantifiable good. Interestingly, even more right-wing leaning Labour prime ministers, like Tony Blair, oversaw stable economic activity & greater public funding than even the most liberal Tory equivalents. After a while the Tories are able to turn the public back against the Labour Party, despite the fact that their lives have been better during the Labour government.

The most recent time that this has happened, the Tories were only able to scrape together a coalition government with the help of the Lib Dems who, despite their protestations to the contrary during the leadup to the 2010 election, capitulated to the Tories on absolutely everything. This included their flagship policy of preventing a rise in tuition fees. The Lib Dems voted through the Tories rise in tuition fees & then bragged how they’d managed to secure a 5 pence charge on single use plastic bags. This ineffective policy, which the Lib Dems deemed worth sacrificing their tuition fees promises for, actually oversaw a rise in the use of single use plastic bags.

At the time of writing, the Tories are at the beginning of their third term. They have been in power for a decade & have overseen deregulation of worker’s rights, chronic defunding of public services (like the NHS & Police force), the Brexit debacle, 130,000+ deaths as a result of benefit “reforms” & a woefully inadequate response to the Coronavirus pandemic. This response to the pandemic, in an ordinary world, would be the final nail in the coffin for the Tories. After an initial reluctance to react to the threat due to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s egotistical self-image as  a “Superman of Capitalism” & chronic misunderstanding of the scientific term, “Herd Immunity”, the United Kingdom has seen the highest number of deaths in Europe with 37,837 at time of writing (though many contest this figure due to irregularities in reporting & claim the real number is likely to be between 50,000 & 60,000 as a conservative estimate) & the highest number of deaths, per capita, in the entire world.

This appears to be the point of the cycle where the propaganda machine can no longer mask or downplay the Tories crimes. Trust in the Prime Minister is dropping on a daily basis & record numbers of people are incandescently furious with him over his handling of the latest scandal to hit his government: the breaking of lockdown rules by senior advisor Dominic Cummings, who helped draft & design those rules in the first place. The governments reaction to this insulting treatment of the voters ranges from Boris Johnson preventing scientific advisors from answering questions about it on live TV to Matt Hancock laughing hysterically about it on live TV. I’m expecting a Labour landslide at the 2024 general election, though it is by no means guaranteed after a decade & a half of eroded political literacy & propaganda. We would be foolish to rest on our laurels.

As a kind of footnote, some of what I say above may suggest a fondness for Tony Blair that I don’t actually feel. Blair was terrible Prime Minister who led us into an illegal & pointless war which saw huge numbers of people lose their lives. This makes him among the worst of Labour Prime Ministers but, in my opinion, he still stands head and shoulder above every Tory Prime Minister.

If you’ve made it this far, I thank you & I’d definitely be interested in hearing any thoughts about this. I welcome genuine debate but will not respond to insults, false equivalences, strawmen, whatabouterry, sealioning or bad faith arguments.

Justice before peace

Solidarity

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Britpop Indie Rock Music Song of the Day

Song of the Day (A-Z): Suede – Trash

Day 20 (T) & we’re listening to Trash by Suede. Trash was the first single from their ’96 album Coming Up. With it’s heroic depictions of the faded glamour of working class Britain & it’s soaring, reverb-drenched chorus it was a surefire hit for Suede at the absolute peak of Britpop’s chart success. It’s hard to imagine a song celebrating the underclass reaching number 3 in the charts in 2020.

Singer Brett Anderson describes Trash as being “about believing in the romance of the everyday.” He describes it as the soundtrack of is life & it’s about the ethos of Suede & about “being a Suede… person”.

Oh maybe, maybe it’s the clothes we wear
The tasteless bracelets and the dye in our hair
Maybe it’s our kookiness
Or maybe, maybe it’s our nowhere towns
Our nothing places and our cellophane sounds
Maybe it’s our looseness

But we’re trash, you and me
We’re the litter on the breeze
We’re the lovers on the streets
Just trash, me and you
It’s in everything we do
It’s in everything we do

Oh maybe, maybe it’s the things we say
The words we’ve heard and the music we play
Maybe it’s our cheapness
Or maybe, maybe it’s the times we’ve had
The lazy days and the crazes and the fads
Maybe it’s our sweetness

But we’re trash, you and me
We’re the litter on the breeze
We’re the lovers on the streets
Just trash, me and you
It’s in everything we do
It’s in everything we do

We’re trash, you and me
We’re the lovers on the streets
We’re the litter on the breeze
Just trash, me and you
It’s in everything we do
It’s in everything we do

Oh, you and me, yeah
You and me
(We’re the litter on the breeze)Oh, you and me, yeah
You and me
(It’s in everything we do)

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Indie Rock Overlooked Classics Punk

Overlooked Classics: Comets On Fire – Blue Cathedral

Image by Gary Smith

During my blogpost about Sub Pop’s Patient Zero sampler a few days ago, I discovered that I really enjoyed the track Antlers Of The Midnight Sun by Comets On Fire more than any of the other tracks. Strangely I had little memory of this track from when I used to listen to this compilation regularly in 2004/5-ish. As a result of my love of that track, I have since been checking out their catalogue. Blue Cathedral is the album which Antlers Of The Midnight Sun is taken from, so I thought that would be a good place to begin.

Blue Cathedral runs the gamut from psychedelic ’60’s Garage Rock to punishing Sludge Punk & takes in all manner of other genres in between. Think The Stooges or the MC5 temporally displaced into the mid-’80’s US Indie Underground.

Comets On Fire are well known for their use of the Echoplex tape delay. All of the tracks use it fairly liberally on singer, Ethan Miller’s vocals, which helps to turn his Iggy Pop-esque primal screams into thrilling & surprisingly deep sonic structures. Opening track, The Bee And The Cracking Egg has dub-siren-like delayed synth tones embedded deep in it’s psychedelic noise jams. A feature which resurfaces several times throughout the album, & which is as fun as it is chaotic.

Echoplex, image from wikipedia

Whiskey River & the short instrumental jam, Organs have that ’60’s Garage feel encoded deep in their DNA, the latter due to the heavily delayed Hammond Organ patterns. The former employs what sounds like (and I’m sure actually is) dial-up modem tones, distorted & mangled through their trademark Echoplex. Strangely enough, this ’90’s & early ’00’s specific sound doesn’t sound out of place among the screeching guitars & pounding rhythms of the otherwise retro sounds.

Antlers Of The Midnight Sun is the oddball Indie thrash-a-long I wrote about in the Patient Zero article &, if anything, sounds bigger & more exciting in the context of an album of similarly sonically structured songs. The heavily distorted lead guitars sound almost as if they are threading in and out of the crunchy rhythm guitar patterns.

Brotherhood Of The Harvest takes off with an extended noise jam of screeching guitar noise, clattering drums & early-Pink Floyd style organ drones which break down into a downtempo, Organ centred Psyche Rock jam. Definite Pink Floyd or Procol Harum vibes to the lead guitar parts & chord structures too.

Wild Whiskey features acoustic guitars & unusual percussion embedded in a wash of feedback-drenched guitar drones. It has an upbeat, spaghetti-western feel to it that I kind of wish they’d utilised a bit more on the album. It’s similarly off kilter to the Floydian previous track.

Epic 10minute closer, Blue Tomb begins with sludgy guitar drones which give way into downbeat Garage Rock drumming. There’s an improvisational looseness to the guitar playing which fits the lethargic rhythms beautifully. As well as the perceived looseness there is an almost hypnotic feel to the repetitive (in a good way) rhythms which propel the song forward through it’s noisy psychedelia & Echoplex-soaked vocals. Towards the end the Echoplex is truly put through it’s paces with some incredible delayed siren sounds which scream out dub.

On a tangentially related note, I had the opportunity to use a similar machine to the Echoplex while in the studio with my band, Nauseous Skies, & I can confirm that it is incredibly fun to use. It is also addictive & I can understand the temptation to record almost every instrument & sound effect through it.

Tape Delay used in my band’s recording sessions, photo by me

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