Wednesday, 30 September 2009



Not sure if I’ve tapped into a general trend in music but my features on Amon Duul II seemed to be very much in vogue, especially the latest part on Carnival In Babylon, a folk heavy idealized snapshot of the early Seventies when some were still clinging to the era of Woodstock whilst violence reigned all around. Both spiritually and musically we are dipping back into the often-criticised naïve period of hippiedom with all its idealized politics and sense of community, it soon all turned to shit by 1970 but it has to said – they had a go!
So don’t be surprised to hear bands such as Fairpoint Convention, Incredible String Band, Country Joe And The Fish, Canned Heat, The Trees and Jefferson Airplane being name checked in the next 6 months, as well as German bands like the featured Amon Duul II and future feature stars Popal Vuh.
A renaissance of sorts has recently ignited round AD II, speaking with front man John Weinzerl recently he informed me that he was re-recording some of their best known back catalogue which will appear on his new LP, also there’s talk of performing ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ to a select audience as well as a BBC feature to be aired sometime this Winter. Any recognition will be welcoming for these pioneering innovators.

Angry Badger Records – New UK south coast label.

Southampton based unsigned bands champion Xan Phillips and his mysteriously only Christian named music partner Jules have set up a new label Angry Badger to help promote local groups in the area.
Now the only badgers I know of usually come with the words TB and baiting or there is the famous doyen of Wind In The Willow’s whose sole aim is beat weasels about and put Toad on the straight and narrow, all I know is that in itself its a rather odd name for a label but we can cast that a side for now.
With there hearts in the right place the label aims to release a multitude of different musical style groups and artists to a wider audience, also they will be staging various gigs and will offer a guiding step up from the local scene to the top, well that’s the general idea.
The first release is a 16-track compilation entitled ‘Showcase Sett’ which attempts to break cover some of those unknown acts that haven’t quite broke out of the back room pubs or bedroom circuit.
To be honest not much on offer appealed to me except for two bands that really leapt out at me.
Compilation opening act Jazica come on all Ladytron but with a twist of Massive Attack and Britpop era StudioLab. Lead singer Frankie has an interesting voice, which just about saves them from being too sound alike as they straddle both Little Boots style electro and angular style indie.
Their track ‘Illusions’ really shows off their true talent and flair for a commercial sound and dare I say it a hit, which should really propel them beyond their backyard of Southampton. I hope Xan and Jules can dig up more gems like this.

The unusual mix of influences on Sine Star Project’s track ‘Temptress’ make for a rather strange experience as they mix Muse, Bowie’s rockier leanings, Soundgarden (eek!) and even King Crimson to produce a sound that I imagine Kerrang and Q magazine would love. So I found it strange that it actually grew on me dear reader, and though usually when anyone mentions Queen as an influence it sends me instantly off in the opposite direction I actually quite liked it! They even appealed to me after I checked out their Myspace and found a thinly veiled nod to Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’, which seemed to have been cut to pieces and assembled to make their own version but at least they picked a great tune to pay homage to. It seems that Sine Star Project have had some success with supporting mainline acts and been given some pretty rave reviews they have also been signed to One Little Indian record label but obviously haven’t managed to break through which is a coup for Angry Badger as it adds quite a lot of weight and kudos to their enterprise which is great as Xan is a genuine local music scene hero who goes out of his way to promote new music with his digital radio show and regular feature in the Southampton Echo.

Keep an eye out for the label and CD, below are some links so you can find out more with constant updates and gig listings.

The German Music Odyssey

Part Four

Amon Duul II – ‘Carnival In Babylon’

When you feel compelled to write the statement “Thanks to all the paranoid people who meanwhile moved out” on the record label you can kind of guess that there were some possible tensions around the Amon Duul II camp. After the drawn out seminal but distracting disjointed ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’, the band shook off some of their wider circle of friends and instead, like any good commune, invited a load of new recruits to the course.
Gone were the free spirited everyone gets the credit approach of old and in its place came the band leader John Weinzerl’s more structured and controlled system, which as it turned out mightily improved things.
In interviews Weinzerl has stated that they were pushed towards the market at that time due to their small success with the first two albums and that their producer Olaf Kubler, called a thief and despised by Weinzerl, tried to make them a more commercial sounding band. In all honesty the leaning towards a more folk friendly inspired sound did help build them a bigger fan base, for one thing John Peel played many tracks off ‘Carnival In Babylon’ and they managed to tour the UK for the first time that same year, the live LP ‘Live In London’ was recorded on this trip though not released till later.
This was a pivotal and creative period for the band as they released both this LP and ‘Wolf City’, the latter being critically acclaimed as possibly their best album.

‘Carnival In Babylon’ personal changes included drummer Peter Leopold having to share duties with Danny Fichelsher, formally of fellow German band Popol Vuh – more of these guys another day, he wasn’t the only new boy as Karl – Heinz Hausemann joined to take on all the effects heavy keyboards and organs.
Also a few guests pitched in such as the wonderfully named Joy Alaska who helped out Renate on backing vocals whilst F U Rogner stepped back in to tinker with some organ trickery.
Producer Olaf Kubler who obviously wasn’t just happy enough to be credited on production also played a bit of sax and dry wittingly added the credit of playing the door! Though to be honest he should have concentrated more on the mixing, as it sounds pretty empty in places and rough in others, maybe one of the reasons Weinzerl felt compelled to vent his frustrations in interviews.

The sound and direction of this LP is extremely folk heavy and at times leans towards groups such as The Incredible String Band and Fairpoint Convention, while were at it we can also mention groups such as Jefferson Airplane and even Pentangle at times influencing the musicianship on display.
The band flexes its hippie credentials to the full as they take a completely different approach to the worryingly violent political upheaval happening in Germany at the time as the government and various left wing fractions were rubbing each other up the wrong way and acts of extreme violence were meted out on both sides. Amon Duul II decided to continue the Woodstock era doctrine of free loving and thinking, very much out of step with there contemporaries though this didn’t stop them being raided or being watched by the government as John Weinzerl himself told me recently when I put a few queries and questions to him, he also stated that they were appalled by the actions and politics at the time and wished to stay away from it.
If anyone is really interested in this period then they should check out both the book and movie The Baader Meinhof Complex, it has a lot of poignancy today with everything that’s been happening of late.

‘Carnival In Babylon’ takes both elements of the free rock out grooves of ‘Yeti’ and the cut down jams of ‘Dance of The Lemmings’ and places it on a more traditional path, which takes in a lot of the folk sounds played by bands in the UK around the late Sixties and early Seventies.

‘Carnival In Babylon’

United Artists (UK/USA)
Liberty (Germany)

1972 Gatefold Sleeve.

Track List:-

A Side
1. C.I.D In Uruk (5:36)
2. All The Years Round (7:24)
3. Shimmering Sand (6:36)

B Side
1. Kronwinkl 12 (3:55)
2. Tables Are Turned (3:37)
3. Hawknose Harlequin (9:50)

Line Up:-

John Weinzerl: e-guitar, Acoustic 12 String, Vocal
Chris Karrer: e-guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Violin, Soprano Sax, Vocal
Lothar Meid: Bass, Vocal
Renate Knaup- Krutenschwanz: Vocal
Danny Fichelscher: Drums, Congas
Peter Leopold: Drums, Percussion
Karl Heinz- Hausmann: Keyboards, Electronics, Organ
Joy Alaska: Backing Vocal
F U Rogner: Organ
Olaf Kubler: Producer, Soprano Sax, Door!

The opening bars refrain tips its hat to Fairport Convention as a socially charged folk song beckons in the new change of direction, the German tongued ‘C.I.D In Uruk’ is a fitting good start to this more structured framework now erected.
Though we can’t possibly translate the lyrics, the intention is plain to see as Renate with her new backing vocal partner Joy, bring a cosmically floating vocal which sounds so delicate and light that it needs pinning down, the backing manages it in the style of obscure English folkies The Trees.
This is where Alison Goldfrapp should be right now! Taking a notebook and jotting down the tones and inclinations of this starry hippie journey, which could be complete nonsense, or a premonition from the Old Testament brought to life in a cosmic ideology.
The Uruk of the song title is after all one of the oldest human settlements ever found and is said to be the mythical capital of Gilgamesh so the reference is there for all to see and hear.
Renate’s voice sounds like she could easily fit into a period 6000 years ago as she waits on the outskirts of this old city waiting for her warrior husband to return from conquering another civilization, sent by Nimrod himself to impress a more primitive peoples with his superior knowledge like the monolith that falls on Earth as the apes dance around.
The track bounces along on a well placed drum break and with sterling work from Lothar Meid on the bass who emphasis every line of the song with his ever changing style of twists and turns that always manage to sound familiar but create a steady and at times reverent rock signature.
‘All The Years Round’ is a Woodstock period costume ready to be fitted onto a slice of cosmic soup delivered by Amon Duul II, a hymn to the fallen free spirit that managed to get along on just hope and a pray.
Renate again sings of the man, the man who puts us all down, the man who allows US bombers stationed in her homeland to be sent to drop napalm on Vietnam, the man who welcomes the corrupt and dictatorial Shah of Iran to Germany and then lets his goons attack demonstrators, the same man who allows a student to be killed in cold blood just because he’s in the wrong place at the right time.
Yes this is the backdrop of the red fraction army, students demonstrating and the harsh realities that nothing has changed, Renate can only deliver a tale of woe and exasperation as the violence just spreads and engulfs all it touches with scepticism yet courses a change.
Closing the A side is the Jefferson Airplane influenced ‘Shimmering Sand’ which bobbles along on a see-saw bass line whilst those guitar solos threaten to take hold and plunge us into a darker and more beguiling direction.
From a cut down jam to a raving r’n’b rock out we are plunged into a sax battle, which brings us into the realms of free form jazz as they squeal with delight at being allowed onto the record.
In three acts like something off a Yes album, a space age restoration version of an harpsichord adds to the proceedings a touch of the mournful as Weinzerl reads his lyrics like a reading from the book of the dead. In all a proto gothic prog rock last act in which three individual parts are stitched together by sheer audacity, naïve but charming in all its glory.

As we flip over to the second side a dash of a more funkier folk groove revs up and we are treated to a real change in sequence as we chill to a jazzy rhythm that throws up similar themes found on the other side of the record but which has a real cool laidback manner. Renate and Weinzerl sing of Hey no worries take your time, we’re cool but hey hang on a minute what’s happened to the outside world?
The commune door has been truly left of his hinges so this tune only acts as a comfort for a short while until ‘Tables Are Turned’ soon brings us our gothic heroine Renate back from the idealised frontier of blissful ignorance to singing of analogies as a barefoot rendition of Pentangle is played out by the band. Bathrooms hide snakes and other parable sounding affiliations are made as we are transported to the boundary of Altamont, thankfully we don’t tip over quite yet.and
This folk obsessed sounding ditty traverses across the rich tapestry of The Incredible String Band, which lends a certain pastoral colourful fable to the mix.
The finale is an epic cut up and paste jam entitled ‘Hawknose Harlequin’ which wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’. A slow building doom set piece that comes on all spooky and brooding as a tale which could be read from a set of tarot cards lays down an inspired trek through a Seventh Seal like landscape, along the way we meet two ravens who sit on the Harlequins shoulder, a slightly creepy Harlequin who delivers verses in an esoteric and snide manner. We are slowly faded out before the middle section of the song starts a slow built up free form jam; guitar solos compete with some dark heavy bass playing over a three-minute session that ends in a final act. Cream era guitar work soars ever upwards as a whirling organ joins a Sun Ra intrepid descent to the higher plains, our transmition sounds like an earnest and unpretentious Floyd before they decided that space wasn’t cool any longer now there aviator Barret was chemically dead.
Closing through another Yes inspired segue way our heroes on the north face fade out until as they are lifted towards some kind of satisfactory spiritual conclusion.

We are forced to leave our galactic seeking folkies, as we are near the end of this short but endearing set of songs that make up this Carnival In Babylon. But we are indeed fortunate enough to be soon receiving another slice of psychedelic genius with ‘Wolf City’, join us for another journey into the far reaches of underground music from Germany.

Part Five: ‘Wolf City’ the second LP from Amon Duul II most prolific year is a critically acclaimed work and said to be there finest. We shall take an in depth look at both the making of and the songs found on this seminal LP, the record that may have pushed the group towards the fateful signing by Atlantic.

Also live review on the Fiery Furnaces and Esben & The Witch.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Monolith Cocktail 006 - The Fiery Furnaces & The Krautrock Odyssey Part 3

The Fiery Furnaces – ‘I’m Going Away’

Thrill Jockey Records
LP Version

Track list: -

I’m Going Away
Drive To Dallas
The End Is Near
Charmaine Champagne
Cut The Cake
Even In The Rain
Starring At The Steeple
Ray Bouvier
Keep Me In The Dark
Lost At Sea
Cups And Punches
Take Me Round Again

The Friedbergers, our very own awkward indie version of the Carpenters, return with their latest LP
‘I’m Going Away’ a rather pleasant and subdued listening experience, which echoes some of the more commercial sensibilities found on ‘Widow City’ yet lacks a certain punch.
This easy listening inspired album tips its hat towards the melodies and arrangements found on Carole King and Burt Bacharach songs but manages to give them that off kilter approach and abstract quality that is found on Pavement’s records. In fact the influence almost borders on Bond themes in parts, I’m thinking ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and ‘Octopussy’.
On title tune ‘I’m Going Away’ we are treated to a bluesy/rockabilly ditty that rushes straight through at a breakneck speed.
‘Even In The Rain’ reminded me of George Harrison era ‘All Things Must Pass’ whilst ‘Keep Me In The Dark’ goes all American collage rock on us as a poodle permed guitar lick plays out over an angulated pop tune.
As usual the lyrics are observational and manage to shoehorn in some elaborate references, which feature a cast of characters that share a suburban light middle America, think Jack Nicholson in ‘Five Easy Pieces’. You only need to look at the art work to see that this group mean to create a environment rich with the kind of soap opera like lives that throw up those often trivial but important little nuances that speak volumes. This set of songs use allegorical statements such as found in ‘Lost At Sea’ and ‘The End Is Near’ while we find ourselves in the centre of some love quarrel on ‘Drive To Dallas’. A unique picture is painted and every track fits into a bigger picture.

This time around the Furnaces have gone for a more accessible sound, which is still way out there compared to most of their contemporaries but lacks the excitement and originality of ‘Widow City’. Don’t get me wrong this has plenty of those juttering time signatures and features many surprises still. In fact it has a touch of maturity to it, which leads me to believe that they have found their natural stride, though I won’t say comfort zone, as the connotations don’t sit happily with me.
Warm and homely this record will easily slip into the top albums of the year just give it a chance.

Dominic Valvona

The German Cosmic Odyssey Continues.

Part 3

Amon Duul II – ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’

Tensions and the usual personal differences that are inevitable in most bands began to surface on this Amon Duul’s third LP ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ in 1971. Bass player Dave Anderson jumped ship and joined Hawkwind whilst the enigmatically named Falk – Ulrich Rogner left but continued to lend his artistic talent to the LPs and some keyboard duties.
Renate Knaup-Krotenschwanz left but kind of never left if that makes sense, she does appear on this LP briefly and made it back to sing lead on the next.
Well I know nothing of the inner group tensions but you can defiantly hear a very different incarnation on this LP, sometimes for the better sometimes for the worst. Directionless but ambitious, there are plenty of highs and lows to be found, if nothing else bass replacement Lothar Meid shines.
‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ has a strange concept running through it, almost akin to a stage play in many acts which along with its St.Pauls Epistles to the Corinthians like long winded titles and sub sections can be read as quite pretentious. These track titles range from the amazingly elaborate ‘A Short Stop At The Transylvanian Brain Surgery’ to the cringing ‘Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight’, which could be found on the first King Crimson album.
A maelstrom of ideas and hints to undercurrents which range from far left politics to the commune free spirit, remember this was the Baader Meinhof years where left wing sensibilities turned from waving Che Guevara flags to acts of terrorism within only a couple of years. A dark and scary period certainly for German history, in fact the Baader Meinhof Complex book and movie are really important works which I recommend to anyone whose interested in learning more of the cultural background to what was happening both socially and politically around this period.

The album artwork itself has plenty of suggestive pointers to where the band is coming from, a collage of historical figures mingle with what looks like some time travelling spaceship which is making its way through some kind of worm hole; in fact very much rubbing shoulders with and tipping a hat to Hawkwind’s ‘In Search Of Space’ concept artwork, which evidently came out the same year.
The dashboard of the time machine has pictured on its panels the various band members and an illustration of The Tower Of Babel, which points to the biblical finger waving warnings of lost morality and greed. The back cover features some shamanic looking character whose wearing the skull of some poor unfortunate creature that happened to get too close to the bubbling cauldron in some ancient druid ritual.
A mythology has been created that takes in Arthurian legend as written by Tolstoy, the mysterious Germanic myths from the past and the old testament whilst the music itself sits between the cosmic and gothic of ‘Yeti’ and the ambient tones of fellow German band Popol Vuh.
So this their third LP has some real difficulties which critics either love or hate, even Julian Cope left it out of his top 50 krautrcock LPs though he is being way too harsh. In fact I still think for all its failures it’s a really good listen, one that has to be done in the privacy of your own home with headphones on, also you need a good hour or so of uninterrupted time to really absorb yourself.

One last thing, which Cope mentioned as well, is that the album title sometimes goes under ‘Tanz Der Lemminge’, this is the German translation, which is a bit of anomaly and appears from time to time on the market. It’s safe to say the original UK/US versions are ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’.

‘Dance Of The Lemmings’
United Artists (UK/USA)
Liberty (German)

1971 Double LP Gatefold.

Track List: -
Side A.
Syntelman’s March Of The Roaring Seventies (15:51)
a. In The GlassGarden
b. Pull Down Your Mask
c. Prayer To The Silence
d. Telephone Complex

Side B.
Restless Skylight- Transistor- Child (19:33)
1. Landing In A Ditch
2. Dehypnotized Toothpaste
3. A Short Stop At The Transylvanian Brain Surgery
4. Race From Here To Your Ears
a. Little Tornadoes
b. Overheated Tiara
c. The Flyweighted Five
5. Riding On A Cloud
6. Paralized Paradise
7. H.G Well’s Take Off

Side C.
1. Chamsin Soundtrack – The Marilyn Monroe Memorial Church (18:05)

Side D.
1. Chewinggum Telegram (2:41)
2. Stumbling Over Melted Moonlight (4:33)
3. Toxicological Whispering (7:45)

Line Up:-
Chris Karrer – Guitar, Violin, Vocals
Renate Knaup – Krontenschwanz – Vocals
Peter Leopold – Drums, Percussion
Lothar Meid – Bass, Vocals
Falk- Ulrich Rogner – Keyboards. Organs
Christian Thierfeld – Vocals, Percussion
John Weinzerl – Guitar, Vocals, Piano

Guests –
Jimy Jackson – Organ, Choir Organ, Piano
Al Gromer – Sitar
Henriette Kroetenschwanz – Vocals
Rolf Zachner – Vocals

The grand opener ‘Syntelman’s March Of The Roaring Seventies’ comes in four sections, the first being ‘GlassGarden’ which oscillates a haunting intro of psychedelic settings before some soaring build up delivered via a military tattoo band; we have arrived at our first cosmos inspired destination.
More of the choral like haunted tones backed with the guitar work of ‘Yeti’ announce Karrer’s opening gambit vocals, an invocative lyrical start point with which to kick off proceedings.
‘Pull down your mask, wolf in the sheepskin’ is sung with a wry and knowing accent, if we were in any doubt of the theme then they have made it quite apparent.
Part two of act one continues with its wise pronouncements ‘A dollar a day keeps the fuss away’ and a heroic chorus of more Germanic gothic choirs bring us to a crescendo before we reach a slight breather as the record changes direction with the bongo heavy introduction of ‘Prayer To The Silence’.
The ever-present psychedelic tripped up guitar licks set the tone whilst Leopold’s drums hold the whole piece together, a instrumental pause that acts as a segue way before we get a heavy dose of acoustic folk and new boy Lothar Meid’s bass rumbles into the centre for the first time. Like the Moody Blues hiding in the dark fairytale forests of Bavaria whilst attempting to compose an ode to Hansel and Gretel.
So far we have followed the blueprint of ‘Yeti’ and ‘Phallus Dei’ as well as dipping into the odd Yes musicianship, especially their acoustic guitar work.
‘Telephone Complex’ the last act as it were on side A, starts with a bass solo frenzy before both the piano and lead guitar decide to grab a piece of the action wrestling control from each other at every turn.
It all ends in what sounds like the band falling down a steel flight of stairs as someone decides its best to call it quits.

Flipping over we are given a most presumptuous second act title ‘Restless Skylight- Transistor – Child’, like some reading of the themes found in Kubrick’s 2001 by an MA student or some sub heading nightmare found in the sort of lectures that I imagine Wittgenstein the philosopher delivered.
Musically we have a rock guitar playing alongside Meid’s menacing bass line before abruptly changing into an all out progressive jam. Again everyone takes part, the true commune spirit in effect, as we fly past ‘Landing In A Ditch’ and ‘Dehypnotised Toothpaste’ before our sensibilities are given room to take in the bubbling broth of folksy and Far East influences.
Lines about Mona Lisa and and time traveling are bounded around as the sitar and theatrical operatic choirs play like some Hammer Horror film set in the Capuchin mountains that leaves a slight unsettling feeling.
Show stopper, and a tune I always try and add to any mix I do, is the enigmatically titled ‘A Short Stop At The Transylvanian Brain Surgery’, a whirling and thunderous dose of both Sabbath and Led Zeppelin fighting it out in the beer hall of Beau wolf. Multiple effects and a harrowing hysterical vocal sung in vibrato fashion sounds like three different tracks playing at the same time. ‘The bank of Babylon is closed’ and other such intriguing lines are lost in quagmire of utter deeply disturbing backing where Leopold’s drums constantly disappear then mysteriously reappear out of nowhere.
The chaos finally ends as ‘Race From Here To Your Ears’ story arc gets going and ends up in another far out space jam, solos chug in and out yet again as members drop by. The vocals come on like some kind of voodoo rites as we play catch up; the familiar themes of the LP so far are reintroduced as Renate delivers her brief backing vocals into the pyre, much appreciated but almost so small a part as to hardly bare a mention.
‘Riding On A Cloud’ features the narration style vocals of John Weinzierl, who acts as some kind of Edger Poe like storyteller as lashings of phaser heavy effects give it a cosmic feel, our ship has ploughed into the abyss.
It sounds like Klaus Kinski riffing through passages of Parsifal whilst taken a sip from the electric kool aid, a veritable three minutes of epoch acid rock.
Side two is brought to a conclusively psyched out end.

Our third side is the experimental soundtrack epic that over two sides features whole tracts of almost nothingness whilst the odd jam like intentions make fleeting appearances.
Tangerine Dream and Can along with fellow mates Popol Vuh make guest appearances in both influence and camaraderie. A soundtrack to a movie that was never made is the best way to describe this.
Our journey begins on the lunar surface of the Forbidden Planet as our astronauts attempt to play in zero gravity, Moebius as purely music.
We find ourselves suspended in some kind of animation as the good ship Amon Duul is swallowed into the belly of some higher universal being, like that bit in Star Trek the motion picture when the Enterprise is drawn deeper towards Voyagers giant mother ship and Spock tries to mind meld with the machine.
Back to Earth and our ship lands in a dark lagoon where we languish in a humid and windless seas before our intrepid hosts break us out of our slumber and hit us with some deconstructed piano and what can only be described as lasers start to rock our ship.
In the vast emptiness Leopold’s drums gallop along and act like Queegueg’s coffin, our only hope to cling to in the ocean of space left by the band.

The final side continues along the same route, though it begins with a prompt jam session before it quickly fades out of sight. It becomes pretty evident that it’s all pasted together, which is where the turmoil within the group shows.
The heavy drums sure show off Leopold’s skills as he adds his break beat style to the abstract ambience, this all pours into a quasi- funky jam session via Salem rather then Detroit.
Returning to more of those segue ways before we come to the interrupted session of ‘Toxicological Whispering’, which sounds like we’ve come in half way through and missed the beginning.
Slow and calm grooving played along the lines of Woodstock era Jefferson Airplane, the LP starts to sound very much like the best of ‘Phallus Dei’ Every riff is pulled out of the bag as Ginger Baker plays on in the background uninterrupted, almost blues rather then the progressive, its as if the band are really together on this and play a real tight and harmonic jam. This the final track plays out as possibly the most joyous transcending moment of the whole album, its as if their problems have been set aside for a brief five minutes.

We find a difficult third LP that most critics believe is a blip, though it seems harsh. ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ is a really good album and is a snapshot of the band member’s mindset during the 1971. Problems aside it documents a free spirit and progressive direction for which the band never really returned to, ‘Carnival In Babylon’ would see a more song based pathway for the band as well as a coherent structure.
The soundtrack elements may sometimes grate but its well worth picking this LP up for the steering and Herzog inspired movie themes that Popol Vuh would later become renowned for.
By all means it is not the most important work in their cannon but no collector or general interested music fan should be without it.

PART 4: A detailed look at the return to form LP ‘Carnival In Babylon’, the folk heavy seminal album that sounds like a cross between Goldfrapps ‘A&E’ and Fairport Convention.

Dominic Valvona

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Monolith Cocktail 005

Welcome to Monolith Cocktail 005, glad you could make it.
Well our last post seemed to go down well with our biggest readership yet, so thanks everyone for showing an interest, lets keep the good work going.

MC 005 brings you reviews on the latest LP's from current indie darlings Slow Club and Canada's latest left field indie greats Sunset Rubdown.
Also we have part two of my major work on the German music scene between 1968 and 1975, this installment features Amon Duul II's seminal and improvised classic 'Yeti'.
This feature has even had the thumbs up from front man John Weinzierl himself who would like me to point out that they hate the term Krautrock, also he tells me that they've just been interviewed for a future BBC feature so I will keep you up to date on when its being shown.

Without further ado read on.

Sunset Rubdown – ‘Dragonslayer’

Vinyl version reviewed

Track List: -

Silver Moons
Idiot Heart
Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna oh!
Black Swan
Paper Lace
You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)
Nightingale/December Song
Dragons Liar

Wolf Parade vocalist/keyboardist Spencer Krug’s sideline project Sunset Rubdown, though sideline is probably the wrong word as in fact he’s now released more LPs through this moniker then he has with Wolf Parade, is an outlet for his more experimental song writing and sounds collages.
‘Dragonslayer’ sees Spencer assembling a fuller band sound this time round with backing vocal duties by former Pony Up! Camilla Wayne Ingr.
Sounding somewhere between his more famous alter ego and at times The Walkmen and The Psychedelic Furs, this LP is full of interesting and creative moments that encapsulate a feeling of accomplishment and manages to show that he has more strings to his bow than we originally thought.
Though it features only eight tracks, each one is like a mini opera that features numerous tempo and directional changes, going from all out indie rock to polka to quirky eighties leftfield pop, a multitude of styles that never stray from being both highly engaging and entertaining.
The songs verge on the descriptive and poetic, which paint pictures of love lost and gained through a modern day style fairy tales telling that uses a plethora of different animals as analogies, such as swans, nightingales and horses. Sometimes the storytelling moves towards the ambiguous, though it’s always delivered honestly and doesn’t come across as pretentious, in fact it’s not a million miles away from ‘At Mount Zoomer’ which also featured some literately reading up skills if you wanted to get the most out of it.
Lets have a look at the tracks themselves starting with the opening track ‘Silver Moons’ which has the lush piano tones of Tori Amis and the orchestration beauty of The Dears and Final Fantasy before Spencers semi- hysterical lyrics sweep in. The familiar tempo and step change just over half way through makes it pre-empt the listener, a trick repeated on most of the album. A glorious start to proceedings and already we have one of the stand out highlights.
‘Idiot Heart’ is more like an attempt to strike a middle ground with a sound not too far from The Killers, but only if they’d come from Montreal rather then Vegas, a brave up-tempo drum rolling strike of a tune which conjures up the Editors for some reason, though in a good way.
Quirky ‘Apollo and the Buffalo and Anna Anna Anna oh!’ could be my favourite of all the tunes, as it has the most interesting melody and jerky chord structure like some eighties ‘Let’s Dance’ Bowie track or even Josef K.
At times it even sounds like the vocals have the hint of The Psychedelic Furs about them. Camilla offers support as this song twists into a blissful classic, the two voices often working well together. The final strains of Anna Anna Anna oh! Strike up in the songs last two-minute outré refrain.
‘Black Swan’ has a slightly disturbing edge to it that goes from sounding like Adam and the Ants to a full on maelstrom of activity which stops and starts all the way through before yet again the sea change near the end as it turns into a more interesting indie number.

Side two begins with ‘Paper Lace’ another interesting and goofier tune in which a Pavement like bass line proclaims a false start. The vocals reminded me of Gary Numan era Tubeway Army, more laid back until the tune builds to the exasperated cries of “Stupid house you made it fell away like paper lace”.
‘You Go On Ahead’ has the sound of Tapes’n’Tapes jamming over Super Mario on the SNES, those crazy tones of old school gaming underpin a slow burner of an indie track.
The electro continues, though this time with a much cooler sounding intro like something Warp would release, bringing in the next track ‘Nightingale/December Song’. A Levellers like folksy tune appears from the mire as the lyrics tell a story of escaping to Nashville.
Some swirling Viennese like synths come in and add some esoteric strains wonderment.
Closing epic ‘Dragons Liar’ slowly builds up over 10 minutes creating a lush sound-scape as the vocals paint a eulogy that features some of the best lyrical work yet. With lines like “I’m sorry I was late, I went blind, I got confetti in my eyes” and the chorus of “You’re not a widower yet” it can only get better, well that’s what I think I’m supposed to gain from this insight. Anyway a great track those just builds and builds ala ‘kissing The Beehive’ off WP ‘At Mount Zoomer’, a joy to behold that just sounds better and better on further plays.
A fitting end to a fine LP that leaves any Wolf Parade fans well and truly satisfied.

All in all pretty much another great set of songs from one of Canada’s finest, where he finds the time I don’t know but I’m glad he does.

Dominic Valvona

Slow Club - 'Yeah So'

Moshi Moshi

Track List:-

1. When I Go
2. Giving Up On Love
3. I Was Unconscious, It Was A Dream
4. It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful
5. There's No Good Way To Say I'm Leaving You
6. Trophy Room
7. Because We're Dead
8. Dance 'Till The Morning Light
9. Sorry About The Doom
10. Come On Youth
11. Apples and Pairs
12. Our Most Brilliant Friends

Yeah so… for those of you who don’t know, Slow Club were a two-piece from Sheffield who wrote and played gloriously twee and catchy songs and, in my view, deserved all the hype and praise that came their way.
But now they are a two-piece from Sheffield who have recorded a record so plain that even the title cannot sum it up. Yeah so, what does that even mean. Is it nonchalance, arrogance or just an acceptance of what they have become?

Slow Club have turned into a two trick pony. They can either play cutsie, 60s pop influenced up-tempo songs with an occasional rock-a-billy and surf feel to them. Or they can play stripped back, bare folk tunes reminiscent of Bright Eyes (but not as serious).
But these two styles become tiring after a couple of plays, as almost every fast song sounds similar (‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ is the only differently faster track) and every slower song sounds similar. The songs are all anti love song rants, which also becomes a little grating.

The albums fast tracks include: ‘Giving Up On Love’ with vocals duelling (which is something Slow Club do rather well) around a 50s rock-a-billy styled melody, ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful’ with the simple and rousing folk pop chorus, ‘Trophy Room’, debut single ‘Because We’re Dead’ which is one of the few high points of the album and closing track ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ which ends up in a mass of shouting and chanting.
These faster tracks seem to hold up better than the slower ones do, which plod along without changing. The main offenders are: ‘I was Unconscious’, ‘It Was A Dream’, the two tracks from the debut E.P. ‘Come On Youth’ and ‘Dance To the Morning Light’, ‘Sorry About the Doom’ (which I like to think, should be an apology for including a Doom metal song on the album!) and the unfathomable inclusion of ‘Apples and Pairs’, the b-side to ‘Me and You’ (and poor relation) which would have suited the album better maybe?

Don’t get me wrong, Slow Club are capable of some truly great pop songs, ‘Me and You’, ‘Trophy Room’, and ‘Our Most Brilliant Friends’ to name a few, but nothing stands out against the insipid tracks. The band have just recycled the same ideas over and over and in the end, the ideas ran out of legs and couldn’t carry the album. Slow Club need a reminder of what made them a good band in the first place, energy and catchy songs.

I’m left with a sense of bewilderment and disappointment. But ultimately I ask myself, Yeah so… what went wrong?


A German Odyssey Part 2

Amon Duul II – ‘Yeti’

Welcome back to part 2 of this ongoing epic feature on those golden years of 1968 – 75, when Krautrock (we don’t like this name but will stick with it for now) was at its epoch and the World had yet to steal all its ideas.
I hope part one was to your satisfaction – good; let’s continue shall we…

In this instalment we cover Amon Duul II second LP ‘Yeti’, which was released upon the public in 1970. A natural progression leading on from the debut ‘Phallus Dei’ but an improvement, both in structure and musicianship.
This was a double LP bursting with ambition with one side dictated to a series of song based material whilst the other side held three improvised jams, all wrapped up in a concept of sorts.
‘Yeti’ included some of the bands best songs, and a lot of them would become staples in their live sets for years to come including the brave attempt at what appears to be dare I say a strong contender for their first single ‘Archangels Thunderbird’.
This could be said to be their magnum opus, which covers a multitude of styles including blues, rock, opera, raga, psychedelic (as ever), medieval style larking and folk. At times they sounded like an esoteric version of early Yes.
Amon Duul II dipped back and forth with this collection over time always trying to emulate it on future albums, ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ and ‘Wolf City’ came closest.
Unfortunately sometimes the playing occasionally sways towards the noddling and can be melancholy in places, but overall this is one of the best LPs from the period and a good barometer to judge others by.
In the UK John Peel became a big fan and stirred up an underground following after playing this album relentlessly on his radio show.

Incidentally the cover star is bongos player extraordinaire Sharat who left not long after recording this LP, his serf like smock and scythe regalia would be adopted as the bands logo in the future.


1. Soap Shop Rock (13:48)
2. She Came Through The Chimney (3:02)
3. Archangels Thunderbird (3:33)
4. Cerberus (4:21)
5. Flesh Coloured Anti Aircraft Alarm (6:04)
6. Return Of Ruebezahl (1:41)
7. Eye Shaking King (5:41)
8. Pale Gallery (2:17)
9. Yeti Improvisation (18:12)
10. Yeti Talks To Yogi Improvisation (6:18)
11. Sandoz In The Rain Improvisation (9:00)

Dave Anderson – Bass
Chris Karrer – Guitar
Renate Knaup – Vocals
Peter Leopold – Drums
Falk Rogner – Keyboards
Christian Thierfeld – Vocals, percussion
John Weinzierl - Guitar, vocals, violin

1970 released on Liberty Records
Opening with a salvo of rock ambitions, ‘Soap Shop Rock’ introduces us to some poor woeful account of a woman whose eyes are on fire before the ever progressive backing builds into a shocking rumbling riff by way of Cream.
A straight up rock track that has Renate enter proceedings with the merest hint of Jefferson Airplane’s ghost hanging around.
We continue to hurtle through this tune before a half time signature announces a change in direction as Weinzarl and Renate perform some Wagner theatrics as the violins ascend towards the centre stage, all the while the rhythm section keep it all tightly packed together.
Ten minutes in so far and we’ve almost rushed through more ideas then their contemporaries could muster in their entire catalogue.
‘She Came Through The Chimney’ is a welcome interlude that features tables and bongos very much in keeping with the sounds of fellow Germans Popal Vuh (more of them another day), a dreamy delicate ditty interrupted by the trapped bird like tones of Weinzierl’s violin.
This distracts us for a brief moment before the amazing and quite soaring ‘Archangels Thunderbird’ scowls its way into our affections.
A break beat classic of a drum kicks it in as the bass riff tears into the song, almost imploding on its own timing.
Renate sings her first lead, a warbling hymn to some higher plain demi- god high on some plateau or a poem that’s part of a lost piece of the Ring trilogy. She name checks both the towers of Babel and Edgar Allan Poe in the same sentence, a lost lament to the fallen and those about to die, maybe I’m being too strong here!
This version in my own opinion is slightly improved when they perform it live at a faster pace, though even at this speed it sounds like the first offerings of heavy metal.

‘Cerberus’ brings us a very different version of the three-headed mythical beast, in fact rather Spanish flamingo than Greek. An ensuing battle of the rhythm guitars is gate crashed by the court musicians of Henry II. A breather of sorts this instrumental features some deft finger work and more of those tables/bongos we so adore before plunging into some more prog rock grooves. A cacophony of oscillating guitars and keyboards do their best before the tune ends.
‘Flesh Coloured Anti- Aircraft Alarm’ may have a long title but its 1970 so we can forgive them. Featuring some storytelling vocals and distanced sighs, Anderson and Leopold deliver some effortlessly smart backing whilst the violin takes on the lead, a rallying call of arms before we find ourselves facing the short instrumental ‘The Return To Ruebezahl’. This short little ditty features some reverent drumming on the snare and cymbals as the guitar and bass play some proto Deep Purple like riff, it could actually be a Sabbath debut track.
Right here it comes, huge drum crescendo’s and rolls we must be ready for ‘Eye Shaking King’ the slow menacing and heavy as hell favorite of fans, a mainstay in the live sets. Distorted vocals both irrational and hysterical border on the comical and insane, the warbling falsetto is back through a myriad of effects.
All this transcends a free form jazz hook that scatters the bones of Hendrix across the wastes of Munich; I could imagine Clapton from his Cream days guesting on this, this all builds us up into the outré that forms the next track ‘Pale Gallery’, a Leopold strong lead of continuous drum rolls accompanied by some erratic ambient guitars before proclaiming an end to the first side of the album.

Side two is all about the improvisation. ‘Yeti’ echoes the later work on ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ as a drum kicks off the first few bars before rolling off in and out of the distance pushed through a number of reverb effects. Everyone else lines up to take a go and we are treated to a mixed result of gestures and riffs before Leopold breaks the party up and Anderson can only try and keep in the running.
Karrer does his best on guitar, he leads the direction but is not entirely convincing as the improvised playing hurtles towards some good old rock out only to be eclipsed by an amazing section that sounds like its been planned from the start.
Renate and Karrer share vocals as a Led Zeppelin like backdrop soars towards one of the best moments found on this entire record.
The west coast of America meets Baader Meinoff in a sprawling epoch to the free spirit.
It has everything that a quality piece of the genre should include, pretensions aside and everything this kind of gets you going, in fact makes you want to join a band yourself.
Back to the track as 14 minutes in we are introduced to some high-octane raga played by a Hammond sounding keyboard that culminates in a dreamy pillow to rest you weary head on.

The second improvisation ‘Yeti Talks To Yogi’, I think we can guess where this is going, continues on similar lines to ‘Yeti’ but features an heroic thunder of kettle drums drowned out by Leopold’s erratic drumming rolls. An entire two minutes elapse before he gives in, the reverbed up guitar and Anderson’s bass jockey back in for a neat positioning before Renate’s siren like vocals sweep in again.
Awash with dramatics and mystery it soon fazes out to make room for ‘Sandoz In The Rain’ a Muslim occupied southern Spain backdrop as the jamming knocks up a trusty trestle to hang all its proceeding influences from.
The lyrics conjure up some lost tale of love and woe; an ultimatum that has passed yet there is hope. Whatever their singing about the bass line feels it needs to delicately watch where it’s laying down it’s notes as it tiptoes round the rest of the cast.
The heavy mists arise and we are lost but for the vocals that navigate us through this loose shifting improvised tale, the opening riff beckons back and we are once more stood on a shore waiting to be introduced.
And like that its gone, finished, the last faded out tones being taken by the tide.

Our trans Middle Eastern ride is over and it’s a bit of a wait before ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ is released, but we can wait.

Join us for part three as we follow up with the much criticized ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’, the ambitious second double album which saw the move towards a slower building sound, often ambient and soundtrack inspired, this LP suffered turmoil and in house fighting.

Hope you can make it.

Dominic Valvona

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Damo Suzuki @ Hoxton Bar & Kitchen - Tuesday 11th

Just a quick alert.

Our friends at London based club night promoters 'God Don't Like It' would like me to mention that they're putting on a gig next week with krautrock legend Damo Suzuki.

Can contributor Damo Suzuki, famous for delivering the ad lib vocals on such classics as 'Vitamin C' and 'Mother Sky', is performing at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen on Tuesday, supporting act will be the interestingly named Drum Eyes.
Expect improvised music a plenty and some reverent jamming.

Price on the door is £7

For further details go to

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Monolith Cocktail 004

You lucky, lucky people! We have a bursting at the seams posting for you this time round that features a new writer as well as my first part of feature on the golden period of Krautrock.
Not forgetting dear young Richie's review of the latest LP by Lets Wrestle.
We really are giving you people too much.

It's epic it's smart so what are you waiting for?


Let's welcome new contributor Marc Lawrence to the blog, below you will find his well informed and brilliant review of Regina Spektor's latest (I'm jealous).

Regina Spektor
‘Far’ (Sire)

Tiny, bosomy and mad as a brush, Russian-born émigré Regina Spektor’s sixth album, ‘Far’, released on Sire, is easily her most approachable to date. Every track works by itself, and melds together to create an easily listenable whole. Spektor’s trademarks – her left-field, abstract song writing, classically-trained background and epiglottal vocal gymnastics married to expertly structured piano arpeggios – are here in spades, but this album springs to life from the first listen, unlike a lot of her earlier offerings, which at times feel like a degree in music or some sort of endless supply of barbiturates is needed to actually enjoy them. From the jolly oomph-band rhythm of opener ‘The Calculation’, through the theological considerations of ‘Laughing With’ and former ELO-man Jeff Lynne produced album highlight ‘Human of the Year’, to the closing trembling notes of waltz-esque ‘Man of a Thousand Faces’, there’s not really a duff track here. A couple you feel could have been left off without too much damage done (‘Dance Anthem of the 80’s’ is the weakest track, and feels like the token “quirky” effort), but none of these songs are bad. With ‘Far’, you get the impression (if you’ve heard Regina’s previous offerings, particularly the moody ‘Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers’ and earlier, even lower-fi ‘Soviet Kitsch’ and ‘11:11’) benefits enormously from the higher budget production evident here. Regina Spektor’s loyal, hardcore fans, the ones who’ve been onboard since Mary Ann… and before (like the girl stood next to me in the marquee in Hyde Park who screamed in my ear at the top of her voice, as Regina banged out the first notes of ‘Us’: “this song is about my life!!”) will love ‘Far’. Regina branches out into user-friendly pastures new, but she doesn’t make the mistake that so many others who have made the move to mainstream have, forgetting what she’s all about. Instead, she sticks to what she’s good at, but adds a little something new, all of which means ‘Far’ will appeal to fans and new recruits alike.
Marc Lawrence

'In The Court Of The Wrestling Let's' - Let's Wrestle - Stolen Recordings

I first heard 'I won't Lie To You' about 16 months ago on the radio. Soon after that, the band released their first E.P ' In Loving Memory Of...’ And now they have bestowed upon us their debut album, 'In The Court Of The Wrestling Let's' (hereby referred to as 'ITCOTWL' to save my fingers). 'ITCOTWL' continues on from the blueprint laid down by 'In Loving Memory Of...' It is musically simplistic but a joyous listen. Slices of Pavement, Blur and Punk merge with Wesley Patrick Gonzales' (aka WPG) naive lyrics about being young and having fun. The instrumentation is a glorious mix of wandering bass lines, droning guitars and punky drumming. But Let's Wrestle have stayed entirely true to their tried and tested method. They have expanded and elaborated their sound from the previous efforts. The Songs 'Tanks', 'Insects' (a rerecorded version from 'In Loving Memory Of...') and 'In The Court Of The Wrestling Let's' all feature keyboards. This new development in the sound shows a band that is willing to learn and experiment. 'Tanks' is one of the many strong tracks on 'ITCOTWL'’, t has WPG's trademark shouty howl as well as the staple wandering bass line that has become a mainstay in their sound. 'Tanks' plods along at a medium tempo whilst you fall more and more in love with the band's naivety. Other standout tracks on 'ITCOTWL' (pretty much 3/4 of the album) include: the Pavement-esque 'My Arms Don't Bend That Way, Damn It', the last single 'I'm In Fighting Mode' with its lovely bass and melodies, the last track 'In The Court Of The Wrestling Let's', a 60s psyche influenced jam and 'We Are The Men You'll Grow To Love Soon', the strongest track on the album. 'We Are The Men You'll Grow To Love Soon' is a song about finding a job and having fun with the money, "We're going down the job centre/ And soon, we'll come out with a job" and "We've got enough money to buy some G&T's for the girls" are examples of the tracks subject. It has a fast tempo and brilliantly shabby instruments. But it's not all blue skies and butterflies with 'ITCOTWL'. 'Diana's Hair' clogs up the middle of the album. A dead weight of a song that features many interludes, there are four of them, are startlingly unoriginal. They borrow heavily from Pavement and defeat the object a little. Also, the constant shabby and ramshackle sound of the band may tire a little. In all this album delivers. A lively effort with a wrestling pedigree about it. It is brash and punky and loud. But Let's Wrestle also have a knack of writing a catchy tune or six. It may be a little formulaic, but it’s a contender for one of the top ten albums of 2009.

One Man’s Thoughts And Observations On Krautrock's Golden Age. By Dominic Valvona



Krautrock, what a term, I mean when have we ever used this suffix to denote anything other then in spite or ridicule. Lets just say its hardly a term of endearment.
No Krautrock was coined in the sneering adolescence hotbed of British music journalism back long ago when they needed to group all these interesting German chaps who were changing the very landscape of music, a pigeon holing was needed and one particular journo did just that.
Hell the Germans didn’t mind too much, they even included it in some of their song titles though I’m pretty sure it was meant in the same context that German artists would use it later in the Eighties, such as Martin Kippenberger’s legendary piss taking show titles and puns which openly ridiculed the country’s own dark past.
The trouble is any term is difficult as its impossible to lump all the many different bands and musicians who are filed under this moniker, as well as the fact that their was a big chasm in style differential, ideologies, hell even in their ages. I mean Can consisted of teachers in the mid thirties and one of their younger students, almost a generation difference in fact.
A common thread was found in the explosion of collective minds which spawned forth the first seeds of a German sounding musical phenomenon that pushed the boundaries of rock, pop, electronics, folk and World music. An unbounded energy, which was born of its time, music made for the first time inherently by Germans without having to cover or rely on the UK or US.
By 1970 these groups had ploughed their very own furrow and it was everyone else who copied and took notice.

Make no mistake these Teutonic sonic druids and cosmic composers changed the very fabric of music, they took your West coast Californians like Jefferson, Grateful Dead and your Cream, Hendrix, Mothers, Beefheart and they ran with it, ran with it till they’d had enough and so they began to sprinkle some Pink Floydd and Hawkwind into the mix. They added electronics to the equation and made themselves at home in the great classical composers of German folklore whilst taking tea with Stockhausen, in fact so many of these musicians were taught or brought up with old Stocky that he could be said to have been the chief instigator.
I mean Irmin Schmidt and Holger Czukay, both of Can, studied with him as well as its believed Kraftwerk (who evidently are not really a Krautrock group).
We can not understand enough the vast differences amongst these groups, Amon Duul II were socialist based and came from the communes of Munich whilst Can were respected music composers and teachers already in their mid thirties before they made a record in 1968.
Neu! Kept their heads down whilst Faust openly made an anarchic stand.
From manifestos to just a group of guys making some serene sublime soundtracks, I refer to Popal Vuh here, there were many reason why they shouldn’t even get on, some didn’t.

OK so what we are looking at is the golden period between 1968 to 1975, anytime after and we’re at the dog-eared end of the scene where God knows what some of them were thinking.
I also want to concentrate on seven of these groups in particular who are:-


The great Julian Cope has extensively covered most of these in part and has written the ultimate tome on the genre, The Krautrock Sampler, which had a limited couple of runs and is not to ever be reprinted again due to Cope’s own wishes. So you may have to search high and low, otherwise there are a multitude of great little sites dedicated to particular groups worth finding.

Before we go any further just a few points.

1. This is not meant to be the most comprehensive guide to either the genre or the bands themselves. In fact its more of a guide to the most accessible and enjoyable LP’s of this period and it is also a personal series of my thoughts and reviews on these very LP's which I hope you can in turn share with others. If you’re new to this then it acts as a beginners guide of sorts if not you may find it a useful reference.

2. There are bound to be people and stories missing, as I said it’s a personal set of reviews and writings on my favorite music of this genre. Cope does a sterling job of mentioning some obscure acts so if you need to delve deeper he’s your man. Though deeper and obscure is not always good, in fact when you get into people like Edgar Fosse or Cluster you start to tire. Even dedicated club nights such as Kosmiche hardly touch anything other than the main groups such as Neu! Or Can.

3. Hopefully you will be able to find these LP’s yourselves, most never sold heavily when they came out but I have been able to come across these records in second hand shops quite regularly, the only problems are usually Amon Duul II ‘Yeti’ and ‘Phallus Dei’ which really are like finding hens teeth. Spalax and Spoon do great reissues of many seminal Krautrock groups on vinyl.
On CD you should now be able to find most LP's no matter how obscure.
No matter how many people like your Kasbians or Horrors mention it they don’t actually truly reflect this music or have anything in common with it. More people are aware of Krautrock then would have been when it came out to be honest and its still not really exactly well known. So no matter how many times the likes of even Oasis or Blur talk about it take it from me its meaningless.

Basically this will be a series that is to found here on Monolith Cocktail blog.
Each issue I will feature one LP, with a piece on its content, musicians who played on it , label, track list everything in fact that is worth mentioning.

The first 6 parts will be dedicated to Amon Duul II (my particular favorites).


Background:- Amon Duul II is said to have derived their name from the Egyptian sun god ‘Amon’ and the Turkish word for Moon ‘Duul’ though some members of the band have come up with a list of meanings and stories behind the moniker. Amon Duul II arose from the Munich communes of the Sixties and started off as one giant hippie spiritual pseudo collective before splitting into the two groups mk I and II. Apparently so the story goes some of the more with it and series musicians noticed that they had something and wanted to branch out. In fact the commune democracy spread to music allowing anyone to play in the band even the kids, which varied in degrees of success from pointless to shit. Founder member Chris Karrer and drummer supreme Peter Lepold decided to form a more structured band and had guitarist John Weinzierl join him as well as former teacher Renate Knaup, who did vocal duties. A little later artist turned organ/bass player Falk-Urich Rogner and former Kippington Lodge roadie Dave Anderson from the UK joined. Dave was later to appear in Hawkwind. In 1969 LP ‘Phallus Dei’ (see review below) was the first LP proper though most of it was made up of loose jams and edited together. With the odd extra guest such as bongo and violinist player Shrat, who is famously pictured on ‘Yeti’ cover waving a huge scythe later to become their logo, they made quite a dramatic impact on the German scene. For one thing the LP title translates as Gods Cock, so you kind of announce yourselves with some controversy straight away. The music found on this LP was progressive and even dare I say almost heavy metal, in fact a reviewer said of their live LP they shared a common sound with Led Zeppelin. They signed onto Liberty overshoot United Artists which was run by some very forward thinking young chaps who also signed Hawkwind, who very quickly made friends with their German counterparts. Big in Germany but relatively untouched in the UK, the group didn’t wait around long before going back into the studio. After this shocking debut came the most well known LP ‘Yeti’ in 1970 which followed on from some social upheaval amongst the commune with members dropping out not long after finishing recording. John Peel instantly loved it and gave it heavy radio play; it was certainly an improvement on the last with more structure and direction. Unfortunately the golden line up disintegrated with Shrat sodding off to form a bongo frenzy band called Sameti while Dave Anderson left for Hawkwind. Even dear Falk-Ulrich dropped out though strangely kept on doing the bands artwork. Something must have been going on as Renate also buggered off for a while, bad vibes indeed. The next LP ‘Dance Of The Lemmings’ (though its often referred to as Tanz Der Lemmings) was seen as a disappointment, this atmospheric double album included huge sways of ambient sound-scapes with the odd ferocious bout of drums and vocals. Derided but actually a great piece of experimental music for 1971, anyway it made few new converts and the band went back to the drawing board. 1972 brought back Renate and a more song structured set of tracks, which made up the brilliant ‘Carnival In Babylon’, unfortunately tensions remained and members left. This LP was popular in the UK and made way for a tour, which led to the legendary Greyhound in Croydon gig, much dismissed by Cope the fool. A resulting LP ‘Live In London’, with the menacing winged insect wearing a German helmet devouring London, appeared and is a very decent record capturing the guys going back to their roots and performing tracks off the first three LP's. The same year brought out the critically acclaimed ‘Wolf City’ one of their finest, again the structured songs played prominence and the band were now becoming a slick production outfit. A side project was confusingly set up and resulted in an off shoot called Utopia which is in all but name a Amon Duul II LP though I’m omitting it from my very own reviews. Next up came the so-called glam period which resulted in the sketchy but still good LP ‘Viva La Trance’, a often toe dipping Euro nonsense experience which is where they really lost their way. The next two LP’s saw them move to ATCO and an assault on the Americans. ‘Hijack’ was another inspired piece of Euro tat though I’m quite fond of it, with its illusions to Mott The Hopple and even stealing lines from Bowie this record really did it for most fans. Following on from this came the seminal though often ridiculed ‘Made In Germany’ a Teutonic rock concept opera that took in the history, folklore and myth of their homeland and spawned a double LP’s worth of what can only be described as genius. Every genre is touched on this there truly last big furrow. Unfortunately they cut it in half and repackaged it as it was thought to be too much for especially the US market. So there are two versions out there, on CD you can only get the shortened version. The original has the band line up wearing all manner of Bavarian and Kaiser inspired regalia, tongue firmly in check. Sadly this experience culminated in a fall out but we won’t go there. Amon Duul II in short were pioneers and made from the start their own brand of fantasy, folk, myth, politics and spiritualism that resulted in some of the best playing ever put on record and the most conceptual LP's. Everything to an extent was a concept to them, they didn’t care what anyone else was doing and just got on with it , sometimes they led sometimes they were out of step but always they made something worth listening to. Read on below the first in the series as we look at the debut LP ‘Phallus Dei’.

‘Phallus Dei’

Year: 1969
Label: Liberty/United Artists – Sunset (uk)
Line Up: Dave Anderson - Bass
Chris Karrer - Guitar
Renate Knaup - Vocals
Peter Leopold - Drums
Falk Rogner - Keyboards
Dieter Serfas - Drums
Christian Thierfeld - Vocals, Percussion, Violin
John Weinzierl - Guitar, Vocals, Violin

Track List: 1. Kanaan (4:01)
2. Dem Gutem, Schonen Wahren (6:11)
3. Luzifer's Ghilom (8:33)
4. Henriette Krotenschwanz (2:02)
5. Phallus Dei (20:43)

Grabbing your attention with some inspired bongo and tabla enchantment, ‘Kanaan’ is halfway between the Stones ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and George Harrison’s spiritualism left unchecked, all being demonically sowed beneath the bedrock, which will eventually form heavy metal.
The first vocals announce some almost black rites initiation ceremony before the most beautiful ascending guitar hook and accompanying bass riff seep into the following track ‘Dem Gutem, Schonen Wahren’ or for those who don’t speak the German tongue that’s ‘To The Good, Beautiful And Genuine’. This is a melodic touch of class, which stands as the first proper hint of ADII unravelling musical manifesto. Renate’s first vocal echoes can just be made out as Weinzarl’s almost hysterical and goofball outpourings burst forth like some escaped loon whose been let loose at the medicine cabinet, a cabinet that includes just as much uppers as downers.
I have no idea what they’re singing, it could be some jolly ditty on the benefits of eating yogurt or some Third Reich era workers swan song, whatever it is I’m convinced its interesting and slightly exotic (I say exotic but its actually possibly because its delivered in thick German accents almost bordering Prussian).
As soon as you get used to this vocal barrage someone steals a megaphone and this is where the rites of passage campfire ritual really kicks off as the swirling sounds of the mellotron announce an otherworldly presence with a layer of oscillating effects that are notched up to a factor of ten, a fitting end to the second track indeed.
Next up is ‘Luzifer’s Ghilom’ an amazing title if nothing else, but as you may find yourself chuckling a break beat drum intro invades your eardrums before a Turkish themed epic tome on the bongos rolls up to invade your personal space.
The backing is a full on groove that sounds almost like the first glimmers of heavy rock, this is broken by the narrated vocals, which err towards the ludicrous though this is soon brought to a halt as a second jamboree of drums descend us into the prehistoric worlds of Conan Doyle and the primordial soup at the beginning of time, too much? You check it for yourselves but I’m sticking by it.
Side one is brought to an end with the curio ‘Henriette Krotenschwanz’, a short two-minute piece for the vocals of Renate who swoons delicately over the military opening. Kind of a forgotten tune but it has some interesting aspects, which reflect the main undercurrents of the LP so far, yet it feels almost like its been shoehorned in, like an extra hidden track rather than a flowing continuation of the tracks so far.

Side two is made up entirely of the album title track ‘Gods Cock’, sorry I mean its Latin name ‘Phallus Dei’, though that’s the actual translation I’m assured.
The first murmurings and moaning bars bring us a twenty minute abstract and soundtrack like opus, which features doors creaking and band members accidentally standing, by the sounds of it! , on a cacophony of musical instruments, all before the very first beating drums of a tune appear slowly from the background. Like Beefheart jamming on Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention if they’d stole aboard a boat to Hamburg, we find ourselves hurtling towards the Californian freak-out of The Grateful Dead or even The Fugs.
I swear that there’s the merest hint of banjo that brings to mind the Monks, who spent their US air force years based in Germany. All of this takes up the first half of the epic free form jam, along the journey so far we’ve heard progressive, heavy metal, ambient and psychedelic threads and there’s more to come!
The next section has a respite with some exquisitely enchanting violins, which are fed through some reverb and echo, a harmonious delicate little 2 minutes before we are interrupted by that ever familiar drums, though this time its tribal drumming ala Adam Ant or Bow Wow Wow, though it brings to mind those corny old movies that show some white hunter type tied to posts in some far flung savages village in darkest Africa, all waiting for their fate as a boiling cauldron menacingly bubbles away in front of them. The savage’s are Amon Duul II who’ve worked themselves into a fever and have gone completely native.
Again we find the old Beefheart influence coming back in as a riff not too unfamiliar to his ‘Safe As Milk’ period rumbles along while fiddles pre-empt a brave attempt at a conventional song.
Weinzierl warbles to great effect, a precursor to his work on ‘Dance Of The Lemming’, an unsettled melodrama nonsense that could be pushing it a little too far now.
The last few minutes goes from the intricate bedrock of guitars, chimes and beats to a unsettling chord change that summons up the unholy army of the night before we are slowly left with nothing, the music is faded out and we come to the end.

Amon Duul II debut delivers a real classic of the genre and has been used as the stick to measure other LPs by. To be honest I think its both been heaped with too much praise and importance, the later records are an improvement as ‘Phallus Dei’ is really a cut and paste job that shows some positive seeds for future tunes but also luckily losses some of the more random noddlings that go no where.
Critics point to the vocals as a sore point, but at this point in their career its still all commune obsessed outpourings which probably felt right at the time but once recorded for posterity it sounds a little goofball and you never know if the old tongue is firmly in check.

A great LP to start your collection off with, I recommend you purchase it though be aware theirs many LP’s to come in this series so if you’re on a budget hold back a while.

Next time Part 2 brings you Amon Duul II follow up ‘Yeti’.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Monolith Cocktail 003

Monolith Cocktail 003

Dominic Valvona
Richie Ainger

White Denim’s ‘Fits’

First thing first guys whose bright idea was it to release the vinyl version in the thickest and stiffest piece of cardboard ever produced in the known World?
It was so rigid and awaked that when the shop assistant tried to put the record into the said concrete like sleeve she nearly broke it, yeah yeah so I got a free poster and all that but please next time think about the practicalities.
Oh and yes we do buy the records we review by the way, though a freebie would be nice once in a while, it gives us empty pockets but we can feel free to write how we want and with a smug impunity.

Right we got the sleeve issue out of the way so lets take an actual look at the record itself.
‘Fits’ is either the first LP proper or the follow up to the hastily assembled ‘WorkOut Holiday’ LP, depending on how you see it, from the Texas power trio. Its nice to see the guys are working to the Sixties work ethic, soon they will be releasing three singles a year that don’t appear on the album just like the bands they are obviously influenced by.
In short White Denim are a blues/garage rock/psychedelic/funk/afro beat jumble of a band that manage to straddle all the aforementioned genres whilst achieving a indescribable unique sound all of their own.

A lot of reviews have already garbled on about the disjointedness and multitude of ideas thrown into the incredible thirty-five minute record, which is all true and apparent but theirs a much more refined and melodic approach to this LP.
In fact its much more subtle and calm than ‘WorkOut Holiday’, they’ve also moved on into a late Sixties/early Seventies feel though they still rock out in the vain of Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Overall it’s more subdued and dare I say a little safer.

Come with me now as we take a more detailed look at the tracks.
Opener ‘Radio Milk’ sets us up comfortably with the familiar grooves were used to form previous records of theirs. They easily slip into Sonics, Cream and the Music Machine whilst the vocals are purely from that era, invoking the spirit of Hendrix. I think the late great Lester Bangs would have loved these guys.
‘All Consolation’ sounds like Royal Trux playing the songs off Radioheads ‘The Bends’ whilst someone treads on a whammy effects pedal and gets it stuck.
Incredibly this tune emits a real soulfulness that you really don’t expect, the kind of moments you find on The Stooges ‘Fun House’, maybe more blues but still something really moving. This is one of the many highlights found on ‘Tight Fit’.
‘Say What You Want’ ventures into some Eastern raga with front man James Petralli giving it some more of that Hendrix magic, not sure where we are going on this one as it kind of filters out as soon as it starts.
Rolling into ‘El Hard Attack DCWYN’ we treated to a heavy dose of Tex-Mex vocals and backing which arrive via those San Antonio garage bands you find on the many compilations from Sundazed and the like. Think Question Mark And The Mysterians mixing it up with Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds at their most ferocious.
It took me longer to write that sentence then the song took to start and finish,
Time for the single I believe, ah its here in the form of ‘I Start To Run’, a great little burst of chaos that seems to have a rhythm all of its own making. Strangely catchy this tune also comes across as quite ridiculous.
The first use of synthetic toms I’ve heard on a White Denim record, what next?
Infectious and very angular it’s this years ‘Lets Talk About It’.
Side A close with ‘Everybody Somebody’, be aware the download/CD have a different track list layout, a slice of Sixties classic garage rocker ‘Action Women’ by The Litter which transcends any actual age as it fidgets left and right until it finds the groove it likes.
So far we are only seventeen minutes into the record these boys don’t mess about.

The B side opens up with ‘Sex Player’ a jazz instrumental as performed by The Doors era ‘LA Woman’, theirs also some Sun Ra creeping in there too.
Effortlessly cool as usual we move into ‘Mirrored And Reverse’ a broody Dead Meadows stonk that’s been given a sedative or two just to calm it down.
More of those jazz grooves follow with ‘Paint Yourself’ a pleasant enough melody and again calming influence after the extreme workout we have so far had to endure. Theirs lots of space here which tends to step into meandering at times leading to a loss of direction which carries on into the next track ‘I’d Have It Just The Way We Were’.
We are now invited to a dare I say it a sweeter mood, which drops a chord every now and then just to keep us on our toes. White Denim pens a romantic lament, which seems to be a key theme, especially on this side of the LP.
‘Regina Holding Hands’ opens with an acoustic guitar that actually sounds like a radio friendly tune that has something of early Lenny Kravitz about it. The similar themes are continued as Petralli croons what could be their most commercial track yet.
The closing ‘Synch’ reminded me of Jeff Buckley, which also seemed to be influential on the last album. Also the chord sequence and feel of the track took me back to the dark old days of Nirvana, though I maybe wrong.
Another broody piece of blues tinged jazz that could be a taste of things to follow.

So we have a second extraordinary and feverish LPs from one of the most exciting and talented bands of the moment. ‘’Fits’ is not as such an improvement on ‘Workout Holiday’ but instead it is a more mature and polished record.
The space and subtlety opens a new avenue for White Denim, still edgy but a potential for crossing over into a more radio friendly proposition.
I’m a little worried but I rate this band so much that I’m assured they will sidestep the success and stay in the rougher edge territory we loved so much and which is evident in their live performances.


Canadian LPs you should own

For some reason Canada have really got their act together this century. The sheer quality and amount of amazing bands coming out of our North American friends is staggering, just feast your eyes over this small quality list of bands - Arcade Fire, Besnard Lakes, Broken Social Scene, Metric, The Dears, Wolf Parade and Holy Fuck just to mention a few.
Maybe those guys have just been sitting in wait all those lost years, planning an invasion of such intensity that we poor Brits can’t actually muster a defence. I mean we have churned out some right old shit and even our top bands can’t seem to manage putting together a complete LP yet which is any good all the way through.
These Canadians make the best LPs – sorry no argument it’s a fact.
Every example below has been heaped with, which is rightly so, huge critical acclaim, though sometimes sales have not followed.

So here it is me and Richie guide to twenty Canadian bands LPs that you should rightly own, if you dare call yourself a music fan.
I have been naughty and added some extra bits but then it’s my blog so deal with it!

Just a little bit about the criteria for this list. Basically every LP had have been released in the last 9 years and had to be by Canadian bands – simple yes?

If you would like to add comments or argue the toss feel free.

Arcade Fire – ‘Funeral’ (Rough Trade 2005)

The best debut I have had the pleasure of hearing this (almost) decade. It came from nowhere and took me by surprise but the album on the first listen took me. It is just simply stunning.


This really changed the music scene for the better and upped the anti, their can never be enough praise for this LP. Kids when your Dad says the bands of his era were better tell him he’s a fool.
Rarely has the immense power of their songs been rivalled, I cried when I first heard it – really that did happen.
God bless you guys.


Arcade Fire – ‘Neon Bible’ (Rough Trade 2007)

The follow up to the almost unbeatable Funeral, but Win Butler his band almost do it. Amazingly upbeat songs about dark subjects, but it is let down by a weak moment or two. This doesn't stop it from being an outstanding effort.


Controversial but I actually prefer this to Funeral, it has a much darker and political tones as well as being to my ears more mature.
They manage to actually get better. I’m looking forward to the third effort.


Besnard Lakes – ‘Are The Dark Horse’ (Jagjaguwar 2007)

Classic underground LP from one of Canada’s quite kept secrets. Again critically acclaimed at the time but failed to make an impact which is unjustifiable.
Brian Wilson heavy vocals with songs about war, apocalypse and history all played out to the most beautiful and sensuous melodies imaginable. One of the most pleasant listens you will ever have the fortune to listen to.


Broken Social Scene–‘You Forgot It In People’ (Arts and Crafts 2003)

Twee as fuck but a very good listen, a mixture of Yo La Tengo's longer rambling tracks and Belle And Sebastian makes this album one of the must have Canadian efforts.


The Canadian super group of sorts, every member has played in every band that’s come out of the country. Feist maybe the biggest name so far to have come out of BSS but the rest of the band have been behind some of the best tunes this decade.
Great introduction LP that sets out their experimental stall for all to see.


Clues – ‘Clues’ (Constellation Records 2009)

With the founding member of The Unicorns, Alden Penner, and a member of Arcade Fire, Brendan Reed on board, this Montreal 'super group' have made one of my favourite albums of 2009. With nods to the Fiery Furnaces and produced by Canada's own genius Efrim Menuck, Clues is a jittery album full of quality.


Dears, The – ‘Gang Of Losers’ (Bella Union 2006)

One of the most underrated bands of recent years that release seminal LP after LP, if there were truly any justice these guys would be huge. Indie anthems, which use startling melodies and multi layers of such exquisite lushness that you, find yourself welling up.
You almost forget how actually poignant the lyrics are as homelessness, suicide, lost love and the government putting us down.
From start to finish this is one of the greatest LPs ever.


Death From Above 1979- ‘You're A Woman, I'm A Machine’ (Last Gang 2005)

A wonderfully dirty, brutal album., two guys, a drummer and a bassist, making music about sex and doing it very well. A very good album if you want to get a party started or vented some frustrations. Very fun indeed!


Heavy as hell, electro played out as hard as can get. This disco metal LP will kick start any party or riot off. Who’d have thought that just a drum kit and a bass guitar could make such great tunes, though it only lasted this one LP and the guys went off to form Masterkraft.
‘Pull Out’ and ‘Turn It Out’ are examples of turning metal into dance floor fillers.


Godspeed You! Black Emperor -‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’ - (Kranky 2000)

If you don't know about GY!BE then this is the place to start. Truly amazing, this record is both uplifting and heavy in the same chord. The album is untouchable. Everything about it is well thought out, Coney Island quotes et al. GY!BE had no peers but post rock will never reach the same heights again without this band.


Experimental sounds capes and snippets of media played out to the merest hint of a tune, like Clouddead without the vocals. Less is indeed more with GSYBE.
Great LP to lose yourselves in, soundtrack to a movie never conceived.


Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Yanqui U.X.O.’ (Constellation 2002)

The final album released by this Montreal outfit before they went on hiatus. An album filled with angst at the world around them (major record companies monopolising the market and the illegal wars America was fighting at the time). Not a patch on earlier efforts but still very good.


Like Aphrodite’s Child’s seminal 666 but without any tunes this LP certainly pushes the listener. Like the music Eno should be making instead of pissing around with MOR rock bands, GSYBE manage to craft a slice of post rock excellence worth every second of your precise time.


Holy Fuck – ‘Holy Fuck’ (Young Turks 2007)

A relentless, unforgiving and mad brilliant indie-electro album that will have you moving your feet in no time. Check these guys out live if you ever get the chance. Even better!


A worthy take on the krautrock genre played to a modern electro sensibility. Canada do dance music just as well as they do indie and post rock.
Awesome heavy beats and twiddle twitchy sounds overlaid to the coolest baselines.


Metric- ‘Live It Out’ (Last Gang Records 2005)

With sultry female vocals courtesy of Emily Haines and outstanding songs (Monster Hospital and Glass Ceiling), this band have made a 'controversial' album in Live It Out, Pitchfork gave it 4.2/10. But I love it so there!


New Pornographers, The – ‘Twin Cinema’ (Mint Records/Matador Records 2005)

Critically acclaimed and one of Canada’s most popular bands, The New Pornographers haven’t quite made the impact that Arcade Fire achieved.
This third of their four LPs so far, it features complex chord structures and melodies it even features on the Rock Band game.
Search these guys out as they are truly a visionary band.


Ohbijou- ‘Beacons’ (Bella Union records 2009)

Too soon to fully take stock of the impact this album may have. But on first impressions, this band has a good future in front of them. Influences include fellow Canadians Arcade Fire.


Stars – ‘In Our Bedroom After The War’ (Arts & Crafts records 2007)

Now this is a grower. Initially, it comes across as too polished and bland to listen too. But on further investigation, it is a quite sumptuous album with lovely duets and harmonies, mixed with spacey synths.


Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra And Tra La La Band- ‘Born Into Trouble As The Sparks Fly Upwards’ (Constellation)

And the award for the most pretentious band and album name to come out of Canada is….. but joking aside, what an album. Efrim Menuck and co carry on where GY!BE left off, plenty of epic instrumentation and original ideas, which leave the listener wanting more.


Tokyo Police Club- ‘A Lesson In Crime’ (Paper Bag records 2006)

Ok, so this is technically an EP or mini album depending on your point of view. But it is stuffed full of good indie pop songs, Nature Of The Experiment and Shoulders & Arms (this track borrows the Bloc Party blueprint). It is a shame they couldn't follow this up with their album 'Elephant Shell'.

Yes yes The Strokes whatever! They actually manage to surpass them on this record, heavy distortion and vocals through a megaphone may not be on first listen highly original but take time to listen and you find it’s a very infectious.
Not bad for a set of young rascals debut, though as Richie says they couldn’t quite follow it up on their anticipated next LP.


Unicorns, The – ‘Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone’ (Alien8 Recordings 2003)

Odd and strange in equal measures, this Canadian underground three piece write campfire tunes to cut your wrists by. This shouldn’t put you off just look at the track list ‘I Don't Wanna Die’ and ‘Inoculate the Innocuous’ for fun.
They even manage to reference fellow peers Arcade Fire by featuring a sample of their song ‘Headlights Look Like Diamonds’ reversed in the track ‘Tuff Luff’.


Woodpigeon- ‘Treasury Library Canada’ (End Of The Road records 2009)

Sounding like the child of Grizzly Bear, Camera Obscura and belle and Sebastian, this Canadian outfit are in the same predicament as Ohbijou. But as The 405 (a well respected online music site) gave this 9/10, expect more from these guys.


Wolf Parade- ‘Apologies To Queen Mary’ (Sub Pop 2005)

The second best debut I have had the pleasure of hearing this (almost) decade. Plenty of evidence of sublime song writing and odd melody structures. Listen to 'I'll Believe In Anything' and you'll understand. Amazing album by an amazing


Quite possibly the greatest debut LP of the last decade, even surpassing Arcade Fire – what do you think about that!
Every track is instantly a classic, believe me when I say this is a must have LP.
Elegant, melodies a plenty, interesting chord changes and a vocal style you either love or hate. Jesus please just get a copy, I can’t possibly do this record justice.


Wolf Parade – ‘At Mount Zoomer’ (Sub Pop 2008)

Almost impossibility, At Mount Zoomer comes close to bettering Apologies To Queen Mary. Full of quirky numbers and catchy insightful songs, but it doesn't have the impact of the debut, which is shame really because many bands wish that they could record an album as good as this one.


I have already written a pretty compressive piece for FAULT on this LP but I will just say it’s a worthy follow up to one of the most seminal debuts ever made.
Great playing and great tunes culminate in a future lost classic.
The opening salvo of ‘Soldiers Grin’ and ‘Call It A Ritual’ represent one of the highlights of last year, worth the three-year wait.

Caught Live

Manic Street Preachers w/ The Answering Machine - Brighton Dome - 2nd June 2009

This is the fifth time I have seen the Manics in two years and every time they have seemed to be a vibrant and refreshing live band, until this evening. They seemed to be flat onstage. Granted, Nicky Wire was suffering from a slipped disc and couldn't prowl the stage in his usual manner, but something about their performance was different. This feeling wasn't aided by their choice of support act, The Answering Machine. No slight on these guys, but they didn't seem to fill the stage (which is quite a size at the Dome). They tried to interest the crowd, but their style of music, a blend of indie pop and Franz Ferdinand, isn't something that the middle aged Manics fan (who is still wishing that it was 1994, that The Holy Bible had just been released and that the Manic Street Preachers were at their creative peak) would go for. They tried 'interesting' and pretentious stage moves but it just wouldn't work for them. Maybe playing to a more musically receptive audience in a smaller venue would suit these guys.

This evening, the Manics played two sets. The first was Journal For Plagued Lovers in full, whilst the second was a greatest hits set. I hadn't had time to familiarise myself with the new album, but on first impressions I wasn't taken by it. I was hoping a live rendition would help sway me. But it didn't. I struggle to see why the Manics thought it was relevant to release this. Lyrically, it is of a high standard as you'd expect from Mr Edwards, but musically the Manics have tried to reach the heights of The Holy Bible and failed quite dismally. It sounds bloated and almost Foo Fighters-esque, hollow guitars with no depth behind them. I got restless during JFPL as parts of it were embarrassing to watch. The set started strongly with 'Peeled Apples' and 'Jackie Collins Existential Question Time', but it soon faded with 'She Bathed Herself In A Bath Of Bleach'. The set never picked again after this song and it seemed to be lifeless, as if the Manics were just going through the motions.

The greatest hits set injected a little life into floundering gig, unfortunately some of the song selections baffled me. JFPL is the 'follow up' to The Holy Bible. I expected there to a Bible heavy set, but only Faster got an airing. 'All Surface, No Feeling', 'Ocean Spray' and 'Tsunami' could have been replaced for stronger songs. The set grew stronger after this but the damage had already been done with the lacklustre Journal For Plagued Lovers set. 'Stop In The Name Of Love' into 'Motown Junk' got the crowd moving for the finale of 'You Love Us' and finally 'A Design For Life'.

During the whole evening, I couldn't help but feel that the Manic Street Preachers were 'cashing' in on Richy. They have had this material a long time and choosing a more suitable time (maybe the tenth anniversary of The Bible?) to release it may have been appropriate. But to tour it badly, whilst that Jennie Saville painting stared out at the doting crowd who have moved on with the band over the last 15 years, disappointed me a lot. Relying on lyrics from a man who has been missing for the best part of 15 years to get an ailing band restarted should tell the Manics something about their situation now.