November 2, 2010

Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours
garage-rock, garage-punk, post-punk

Australia’s garage-rock/punk scene of the 1970s, which delivered a slew of brilliant albums, gets a far-better-than-you’d-ever-expect revival in the form of Eddy Current Suppression Ring’s sophomore effort Primary Colours. The Melbourne foursome deliver a blast of straight-from-the-gut, minimum-frills rock that channels Aussie-Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Primary Coloursgarage kings The Saints with surprising ease, making for an old-school record that feels like a long-lost hit of a bygone era. While the group keep it predominantly simple and familiar, they do throw in some individualistic touches to establish a distinct identity (even if these touches are also mostly pilfered from other groups) – there’s some long, loose guitar lines, reminiscent of the hypnotic loops of Television and Can, that give the album a bit of a post-punk flavour at times, particularly on “That’s Inside of Me” and “Colour Television”, while “We’ll Be Turned On” employs ultra-cheap keyboard lines and goofball lyrics to deliver the album’s least serious and most amusing cut. Lead singer Brendan Suppression is classic frontman material, a big personality who oozes rock ‘n’ roll charisma every time he opens his mouth (which is useful since, in a technical sense, he can’t really sing out of it). He stumbles his way through Primary Colours with the on-the-edge spontaneity of Iggy Pop, to the point that you can almost hear him dancing spasmodically as he belts out his punchy vocals. The album opens stunningly, as the short, sharp and straightforward double-hit of the strutting “Memory Lane” and the bombastic “Sunday’s Coming” ensure that you’re instantly transfixed, while lead single “Which Way to Go”, deceptively over-simplistic at first, over time gets stuck deep into your head and simply won’t let go, making it one of the decade’s most durably exciting rock songs. Essentially, this album is a perfect example of what rock music should be when you boil it down to its essential elements – tightly played, consistently exciting and economical in a way that leaves you satisfied but hungry for more.




October 14, 2010

The Ex Turn

Turn was my second experience with long-running Dutch anarchopunk group The Ex, after hearing their awesome work with Gétatchèw Mèkurya on Moa Anbessa, and I was delighted to find that I liked it even more than that excellent record. I was initially a little worried about the longer track lengths (average track time is about six The Ex - Turnminutes, with nothing under four) and the fact that it’s a double album, as too often that sort of thing just leads to an overstuffed package of songs that repeatedly outstay their welcomes. In this case, however, it’s just a case of getting that much extra Ex goodness for your buck, as Turn is so pleasingly consistent that the listener need never labour through a relative lull. The band approach their distinctly global brand of punk music with a loose playstyle, all murky guitars and thumpy percussion, that enables the music to really tumble along with a great deal of scrappy energy, and it’s all very well complemented by lead singer G.W Sok’s aggressively sardonic, near-belligerent vocals (Mark E. Smith fans, take note). Big personal favourites include “Dog Tree”, “The Pie” and “Theme From Konono”, the latter of which perfectly captures the excitement of Konono No. 1 (whose Congotronics we’ve already seen on this list) in an entirely new way, borrowing that group’s most recognisable thumb piano melodies and then redirecting them through a furious, post-punk prism.



August 20, 2010

The FallImperial Wax Solvent

It’s almost impossible to talk about Imperial Wax Solvent without focusing on its 11-minute highlight “50 Year Old Man”, Mark E. Smith’s snarling, acidic ode to being exactly that. With its ferocious guitar assault, sneering lyrical challenges (“I’m a 50 year old man / What you gonna do about it?”) and surprise banjo-solo interlude, it makes for an incredible centrepiece. Pleasingly, the rest of the album measures up, trading in lean run times and snappy hooks which perfectly offset “50 Year Old Man’s” excesses. Plenty of stylistic ground is covered: “Alton Towers” sounds like The Fall in a haunted house, and opens the album in a cool and arty way; “Wolf Kidult Man”, “I’ve Been Duped” (featuring Smith’s wife Eleni Polou on The Fall - Imperial Wax Solventlead vocals) and “Tommy Shooter” all veer into boozy-but-tempered post-punk; “Strange Town”, “Can Can Summer” and “Is This New” are closer to rumbling garage-rock; and “Tourig” springs up out of nowhere with a detour into thumpy electronica. In the end, though, it comes back to “50 Year Old Man’s” themes of age and experience, as “Exploding Chimney” winds up the album with Smith coolly claiming “Believe me kids, I’ve been through it all.” By all accounts, he has, and to still be making albums as brilliant as Imperial Wax Solvent is damn impressive.