Scraping the Barrel 011
nd so another day, another set of discs. It’s a beautiful day here, actually, Father’s Day in the LA/OC area—I should be out and about but I’m terribly tired still from an exhausting week at work, though thankfully that’ll be the last one for some months, so it’s all good. Already checked in with my dad and wished him well on the day; got him the latest John Prine and it sounds like he can’t wait to give it an ear. Caught up with a variety of friends, had a good time out last night—nothing left for me to do but start in on this batch. And will I find the next Mary J. Blige, the next Orbital, the next Public Enemy, the next Keiji Haino? Dare I whisper it, the next…My Bloody Valentine?
inserts Purest Spiritual Pigs album into player, listens
…well, maybe the next Jarboe?
Which is not a bad thing at all, Jarboe generally ruling the roost, but not what I expected, and again I’m always happy when that occurs—just with a name like that and a front cover featuring an omnisexual grotesque with wings that seems like an H.P. Lovecraft character crossed with an H.R. Giger one, I guess I was thinking “Oh right, aggro art noise.” But only soft drumming and steady bass is heard besides the singing from Helena Thompson, the woman behind it all. And there is a distinct feeling of the mystic and haunted late Swans years on here, though she’s a less immediately gripping vocal presence than Jarboe—a little more conventional, and beholden to influences from all over the place (acid folk here, Kendra Smith’s work in Opal there, definitely some Siouxsie Sioux on a song like “Blood-let” and so forth), but put together well. Nice, definitely a surprise, and a sign that things sometimes go right when listening to all this.
Meantime, I’ve already heard about Lesbian and their album Power Hor some months back from folks who follow all the twists and turns in metal more thoroughly than I could hope to do, and since these dudes (and they are all dudes) are on Holy Mountain, that made for an even better sign. And so it proves—basically if this came out on Load it would sound like, I dunno, a more straightforward White Mice (who I adore) and if it came out on Candlelight nobody would blink an eye. But since Holy Mountain are more seen as a zoned-and-stoned label, hearing all sorts of chops and riffs and anguished scratchy vocals is a bit of a switch (but then again, this is the label that brought Om to the world, so they know heavy by default). There’s all the quiet moments too, which I suppose is what they mean on the promo label where it says that one could compare these guys to Pelican. (But that’s not always a good thing—heard that new album? Yech, what a boring trudge.) Also, points for credit for a proper logo, though it’s actually readable, which might count against the band in some corners.
The following two albums I listen to are an object lesson in how to work and how not to work. If you are called One Trick Pony, I’m going to wonder about you, and if your tastefully packaged little slipcase with the wax seal stamp on the back does not in fact contain a baroque art-pop chamber-quartet effort but in fact is some sort of vaguely half-demi-sorta ‘experimental’ rock band that does things like start off with a pseudo ‘20s showtune complete with fake vinyl crackle—thank you, folks, that is TRULY an imaginative detail in 2007, absolutely never tried before in the digital age by anyone anywhere ever—and then create this mélange of vaguely whisperingly sung songs that suggest some sort of unholy alliance of Interpol and Antony and the Johnsons, bands that I wouldn’t let stink up my place under any circumstances, then it’s entirely likely I’m going to slump on my couch, yawn and fall asleep. Which I did. I woke up and thought, as I heard the final song, “I have missed nothing and I don’t care.”
So that did not work. Beretta76, however, worked. Their album Black Beauty had a tattoo-styled drawing of a woman with a snake on the cover and I admit I thought to myself, “Ah right, garage trash rockers, well at least it’ll be louder than the waffle I was listening to.” But no, in fact there were two things that really went for this release—first, a very good lead singer in the form of Camille Escobedo, who can indeed actually sing and more so didn’t immediately suggest any one performer in particular but a combination of a lot of good ones with just enough of an individual voice, sharp, sad, sassy in equal amounts. Second, the feeling is less all out garage than taut new wave with a lot more feedback mixed with a sense of cool control, and on songs like “Paper Doll” the combination is killer. This I didn’t fall asleep listening to, nobody should—it was just what it was supposed to be, a good solid album. No wax seals needed.
Kongos, the spine of the CD case said. Okay. Like the guy who did the original “He’s Gonna Step On You Again,” maybe? His kids, perhaps (and so it proved). On the front cover—two guys with their eyes closed, two guys with their eyes open. Kongos, it also said. More was learned. Back cover: “In the Music,” “Remember Me,” “Nothing,” “What About You.” Various other assemblages of words in similar fashion. They denote songs, presumably. And Kongos. And a Kongos copyright. And a Kongos logo. This read “Kongos.Com,” and I learned more about myself as a result. Or not. I learned more about Kongos. Kongos. I opened the package. CD. Kongos. Mmm. Liner notes. Names. “All Kongos Compositions.” Dylan Kongos, Jesse Kongos, John J Kongos and Daniel Kongos. And John Kongos. Not John J Kongos. John Kongos, the original Kongos, the one without whom. Kongos. Produced by “Jesse, John J and Dylan Kongos”—Daniel must have been out of the room. Engineered by “Jesse and John J Kongos.” Executive producer: “John Kongos.” Photography: “Daniel Kongos.” Cover art: KONGOS. Kongos. The photos on the inside held no Kongos in words, but in photos. One was wearing a Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge T-shirt. WHY? A Kongos T-shirt would say more. Kongos.
I played the music of Kongos.
Some Kongos music sounds a bit like ur-Kongos music from the original Kongos. Glammy stomps. Weird production. Odd bits and pieces. Kongos pieces. I am fine with this Kongos music, actually. Kongos music is not per se modern music, but it is recorded in modern ways so the Kongos music may work for the people that wish to embrace that which is Kongos. Some Kongos music is more semi-classic-rocky but this is not so bad, it’s got bits that are almost Scandinavian, but Kongosized. Or is that Beach Boys but Kongosized. There are Kongos riffs and they are okay, and sometimes angry and wound-up, and then there is bhangra. Kongos, yes. It is not post-punk Kongos. It is not Killers Kongos, or even Strokes Kongos. It is here and now and yet there and then, there is piano ballad and there is rock stuff and there it all is. It is Kongos. I may not play the Kongos music again but the Kongos music is all fine. There is one problem I might suggest to Kongos. One thing to point out. But I need to remember what it is. I might have been staring at it all this time. Kongos.
So, calling yourself Kick in the Eye is a good thing, since that’s presumably taken from the title of the Bauhaus song, and I loves me some Bauhaus, quite a lot actually. But then I’m looking at the “Cheese Wars Episode I: The Vegetable Menace” cartoon in the inside and thinking, “Umm…well…” And one song, according to the lyric sheet, begins, “Alone and listening to/The Rolling Stones and Chicago blues,” which, my being horrible and petty, I find to be a crime against nature. (I murder puppies as well.) The album is called Starliner so maybe this is just Gary Numan for Black Keys fans. Behold! It’s…dim sounding power-pop dork rock? Uh-huh. Handclaps and quirkiness! Gooniness! This is music to cook jasmine rice to and otherwise ignore while doing so, which I am now going to do.
Wolfgang I’ve met before. There’s some sort of involved story about how The Wicked Truth About Loving a Man is about a futuristic 1930s via 1970s style robot falls in love with a guy and how the musician behind this or behind the label is some sort of synthpop legend or something, and how the combination of Neil Young on Trans and the Magnetic Fields is supposed to be the new way forward and/or a return to the glorious past or something. I mean, I don’t want to knock the goals. But the first time I heard all these songs I thought, “Yeah, you know, can I just listen to all the stuff from 1981 that this is inevitably reminding me of? And that way I can sorta ignore how the tweaked vocoder stuff with the singing eventually grows irritating?” There’s some review of mine elsewhere I could quote further and I was probably kinder there but here I’m just, whatever.
By: Ned Raggett
Published on: 2007-07-25