A motley crew of albums for you this week, from the sublime to the blind leading the blind and most inane weirdoes, with entries from Bixigia 70, Public Enemy, The Telescopes, CAT AIDS & DJ URINE and Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut.
Bixigia 70 ‘III’ (Glitterbeat Records) 11th September 2015
Speaking Fela fluently with marked respect and reverence, going as far as to borrow part of the late Nigerian bandleader and doyen of Afrobeat’s backing group moniker, Bixigia 70 may be inspired and informed but Kuti but they do so much more with his high energy polyrhythms and feverish hot-footed anthems. The eclectic Sao Paulo band, returning from a recent global tour off the back of the last album Ocupi adds even more flavour to the Afrobeat template. Energised by their performances in the hotbeds of fusion, from North Africa to Europe, and working with a decentralised method of producing new material, their third LP (conveniently entitled III) reaches out and embraces an even richer array of world sounds.
Finding a natural new home with Glitterbeat Records, Bixigia 70 confidently and organically lures the listener in with the woozy horn opener ‘Ventania’. A cornucopia of influences in itself, the song saunters magically to nuzzling drifting soul jazz, Samba sways and twinkled sleepy Hammond organ notes. Moving towards Africa, a tropical sweltering heat wave of relaxed and strident Ginger Baker works with Fela on a version of Shaft in Lagos soundtrack is evoked on the following ‘Niran’, and the lingering dusky tones of the finest imported Ethio-jazz enrapture ‘Lembe’. There may even be a spiritual nod to the Afro futurists of jazz, Pharaoh Sanders and Idris Muhammed’s presence – certainly in the introduction’s roots-y and blues-y cerebral sentiments – on the album’s finale ‘7 Pancades’: a pinning saxophone ushers in a vine-swinging pendulous Afro jazz backing.
Incorporating the rhythms and dances of their own continental home, Bixigia shake and shimmy to the local customs of cumbia and the sensual hip movements of the carimbo on a trio of slinky paeans to the indomitable spirit of joyous release.
Congruously they go, flowing from one source to the next deftly, passionately and with a raw powered energy, our Brazilian friends new relationship with Glitterbeat has proved to be a sound move; an ideal home for the group’s ever expanding fields of sound and exploration.
Public Enemy ‘Live From Metropolis Studios’
“London is ground zero, this is Public Enemy’s base.” Chuck D
“28 years in.” And so Chuck D, grandee progenitor of the most hardline, volatile charged protestations in Hip Hop, announces in 2014 to a very lucky Metropolis Studios audience of fans. For a musical form granted the same fatuous decries as the advent of rock and roll – a flash in the pan, a fad -, it’s an achievement to have lasted more than three decades and still remain relevant. But in one form or another Chuck and his comrades-in-arms have been manning the barricades since their inaugural baptism of fire in 1987, lighting the touch paper with their debut album Yo! Bum Rush The Show.
Far from diminishing returns in popularity and creativity, Public Enemy has enjoyed a renaissance of late. With a flurry of celebratory anniversary collections, the reappraisal (not that one was ever needed) of their greatest opus on wax, the conceptual masterpiece that is Fear Of A Black Planet, the inspired use of their ‘Harder Than You Think’ as the theme tune for Channel Fours Summer Paralympics 2012 coverage, and the release of their thirteenth studio album Man Plans God Laughs, the group have once again caught the zeitgeist. And now, a year after their special one-off performance, the live recordings and video footage taken at the Metropolis show is finally being released to the world. On film you can chose the bog standard DVD or the high definition Blu-ray, whilst the sound recordings versions vary between double CD or Vinyl versions to the obligatory Super Deluxe box set: boasting all the above but with cleared pressed vinyl plastic and a 12” booklet plus a MP3 download coupon.
Quite an intimate gathering in an unassuming location, the Metropolis show attempts to close claustrophobic style in on Public Enemy’s powerful and reverent performances; the roof threatening to literary lift off as Chuck and Flavour Flav let rip to a crowd that is barely a arms length away from the action. Trying to light a fuse with the usual barrage of bombastic Bomb Squad drum breaks and missile-guided samples, supported by their usual live band, the S1Ws and DJ Lord, PE are able and willing, even if the wear and tear of age tires to scupper proceedings, to raise the audiences enthusiasm and “bring the noise”. Kicking off a greatest hits package in a volatile fashion with the warm up saluting the legends of Hip Hop (“Publlllllllllllllic Enemy!!!”), a siren flashed air raid is unloaded on the studio as the group launch into ‘Lost At Birth’ from their Apocalypse 91… LP. From the same ’91 release, PE perform raucous, and by this time after forty minutes without catching breathe, a energy-sapped but still decent version ‘Can’t Truss It’, and an exhaustive and more rounded funked out free riffing take on ‘Shut Em Down’.
Going way, way back to where it all began, Yo! Bum Rush The Show is represented by the sole car screech like punctured scratching anthem of ‘Miuzi Weighs A Ton’, with the lion’s share of material coming from their duo of most impressive albums, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back and Fear Of A Black Planet. Pulled from It Takes A Nation, the growled, J.B’s riff heavy, rap anthem ‘Rebel Without A Pause’ hasn’t aged a bit and is handled with sagacious pride by Chuck. ‘Black Steel In The Hour’ makes a worthy appearance, as does the Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s borrowed wondrous pining saxophone rich ‘Show ‘Em Whatcha Got’ instrumental vignette. And what PE performance would be the same without a jumping, bouncy call-out version of ‘Bring The Noise’ and, in this case, a swinging chopped funk guitar riffing ‘Don’t Believe The Hype’? From the latter album, the spotlight falls upon Flav, who laps up the attention and conducts the audience in a call and response introduction to ‘911 Is A Joke’, later on having fun with ‘Can’t Do Nuttin’ For You Man’. A song, an unwieldy maelstrom and strafe attack of a tune that I find captures the group’s genius is ‘Welcome To The Terrordome’. Not undervalued as such, it doesn’t seem to be as highly regarded as, another live staple, ‘Fight The Power’ (the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and synonymous with the end of the 80s civil unrest and ferocious calls for change). It appears with grit and veracity here, fading out until Chuck and Flav perform acapella to a live drum backing as they freestyle into the next track.
They finish of course on the revitalised ‘Harder Than You Think’, one of their returns to the glory days, a fist pumping stirring tribute to the trade and history of both rap and PE. Taken from their twentieth anniversary LP How To Sell Soul To A Soulless People Who Sold Their Soul? – As harsh a condemnation on the state of modern music and civil rights as you can get – was a flammable retort, and its rousing anthem to survival in the industry. An inspired choice, brought back and somewhat out of its original context, it fitted perfectly to the spirit and mood of London’s 2012 Paralympic Games, and is now another staple of the PE live sets.
Chuck informs us that he “ain’t retiring”, and that’s a relief. Though fatigued at times, the 55 year old Chuck and 56 (!!) year old Flav still sound just an animated, angry, and on form – Flav in my opinion never sounding more fresher and energised. Alongside KRS-One, PE are the only Hip Hop artists to have survived so long and remain so relevant, and live they still maintain the adulated status as figureheads, whilst showing up their younger rivals.
The Telescopes ‘Hidden Fields’ (Tapete) 7th August 2015
Like their Scottish counterparts, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Telescopes have over their career mined the depths of despair for a hint, a glimmer, of unearthing all the best caustic and abrasive hewn melodies. Approaching their thirtieth anniversary, and now onto album number eight, the vapoured drone experimentalists are still mopping around in the gloom as they drag out tunes from the abyss.
Breaking the bones of the Mary Chain and the Velvet Underground over a rocky primordial landscape, The Telescopes’ ‘anti-myopian’ forms of daemonic shoegaze and discordant sculpted feedback can be a hypnotically sensorial experience despite the corrosive gnawing of white noise. When Mogadon‘s roamed the Earth, Hidden Fields emerges whining from the soup, slumbering onto mount doom with the opening opus, ‘You Know The Way’; a seething mass of high pitched feedback that sharpens its ritualistic spear on Sunn O))) and Boris – two groups that have arguably benefitted from the band’s template. Following in its wake, both ‘Absence’ and ‘In Every Sense’ slip between the pit and the pendulum as Stephen Lawrie’s vocals dissipate; our protagonist’s obscured murmurings are transmitted from the shoreline of the topographic oceans. Even in the miasma, a quivered sliver of sensuality can be heard fighting to break free.
The final track really does sound like “THE FINAL”; an ending that drags its carcass hypnotically back towards the tar pits at the dawn of time on ‘The Living Things’, the album’s suitable epitaph. Aping the lord of dark morose and salvation, Lawrie’s Lou Reed intonations are lost to the lengthy and churning Venus In Furs sonic vista on this lengthy peregrination.
The Telescopes latest is a densely occupied suite of “Heavy Meta”, a prolonged journey through a dense field of fuzz and feedback that promises little respite for the listener but offers a glimpse of hope once in a while.
CAT AIDS & DJ Urine ‘CAT AIDS & DJ Urine’ (Nasty Wizard Recordings) 18th June 2015
From the twisted minds of Nasty Wizard, via the regular round up of crazed, maniacal and most esoteric music, the Ring Of Fire newsletter (sent out by Metal Postcard Records), comes the piss soaked kitty litter indulgences of Beijing’s finest, CAT AIDS. The Wizard’s house band so to speak, the Cat’s plunder GG Allin’s defecated offerings and post punk’s treasure trove to offer the most repellent noise and squalor D.I.Y ravings. I’m told that this time around the band have reemerged as a trio with the additional skills of virtuoso session guitarist Meow Ze Bong – not that you can tell. I have no idea what the hell is actually going on at any point during the bands seven song fiasco, only that they produce an ironical row; a bastardized shambles of The Killing Joke, PiL and industrial bellowing. It could be an utter waste of all our time, or perhaps one of the best things to ever be recorded. Nan Guazi’s rutting shark mounting a lovesick (spewing) unicorn cover art is worth the entry price alone, but the band surprise us all with their sometimes melodic, bass guitar prowls: sounding even vaguely sensible and serious on ‘Selfish Nation’ and ‘Heart Transplant’.
As you may have gleamed from the title, this is a shared experience with half the album’s running time given to DJ Urine’s deviant tasting misshapen soundscapes. Another of these underground miscreants, going about their noise shows, happenings and extemporized performances without any hope of exposure, Urine’s cut and paste mixes are absurd, weird and accompanied by a constant fuzz of tinnitus on the featured ‘Kosmos Bakelit’. Randomly splicing back together a car boot of smashed up and degraded records, the piss master plays his hybrid monstrosities live to an unsuspecting audience. Sometimes, as on this particular mix, happenstance coincidence and the odd in synch loop result in some exotic or tuneful highlights. The Bakelit’s dial is honed in on 40s and 50s matinees, goofball UFO stories, Foley sounds, faux-pastiches of the Orient and African jungles, and tales from the hokum crypt, all accompanied throughout by a steady stream of traffic, static and withering white noise.
I’m not sure if featuring this unholy union will just encourage them, but it’s too late now to turn back. I’m a sharing, giving sort of guy, and so here you are, Beijing’s least hopeful or best musical hope yet.
Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut ‘GIMME! GIMME! GIMME! PEANUT PUNK!’ (Musical Bear Records) 21st August 2015
Serving various diatribes and affronted shots across the bow of modern life in “peanut punk” morsels, Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut confront the mediocre, inanity and banality of both below stairs and the elite custodians of society’s shitpile. Hitting home without the Ritalin starved pecking ferocity of many; the group narrows its attacks on a collection of sneering, sarcastic catchphrase song titles. We’re in the disused, piss-stained mattress Sleaford Mods ballpark here, yet Here Are The Young Men and Uncle Peanut are more composed, less volatile and in many ways, more humorous: like David Shrigley or Modern Toss put to a cheap post punk combo of Casio keyboard pre-sets, Sham 69 and The Fall.
Not so much poetic, not really rap but observational snatches of overheard misnomers, condemnations and Estuary patois; their debut LP takes potshots at a cast of life’s most cunty personalities – including that 80s Tom Cruise throwback ‘Les Fucking Pardy’, and the middle management, rep company stooge on the road to a lifetime of delusion, ‘Job Satisfaction John’. Elsewhere there’s good use of Timothy Carey’s “Boys. Never but never, make fun of no cripple now” lines from The Monkee’s most excellent Head movie, on the knockabout, and I take it localism, ’78 Bamsey’, and a cake shop sexual predilection tale of GILF woe on ‘Custard Doughnuts’. A litany of the most vapourous pop glitterati troubadours are given short shrift on ‘This Is What We Call Music’, and there’s (and I can sympathise with this; a sufferer in my past) an incessant snarling retort to the bastard ‘Migraine’.
Ennui hasn’t time to set in, as each track barely troubles the two minute mark – well, a couple do -, the band are in and out, doing the damage and leaving before the bill arrives. A Margate The Streets, or a sillier Sleaford Mods, Here Are The Young Men & Uncle Peanut deliver an indictment on the betting, charity and Poundland shop proliferated landscape of a despairing England.
Words: Dominic Valvona