Category Archives: Favourites

“When your love of life is an empty beach, don’t cry”: Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (2016)

“Wild animals they do
Never wonder why
Just do what they goddamn do”

In some respects that’s The Stooges.  They never attached themselves to the goings on of the time, did they?  Which I guess is what makes them timeless.  Or at least it’s one of the reasons.  Iggy Pop could be considered, by some, to be one of the wildpeople.  Clearly a smart and articulate chap, he has, for years, projected this image of him being wild-eyed.  Appearing topless pretty much all of the time and even, occasionally, writhing around on live TV with some crazy see-through plastic trousers.  Commando.  Was he reckless?  Or just carefree?  Positively bonkers, though.

I can’t really remember the first time I heard Iggy Pop or The Stooges.  I remember the first time he really appeared on my radar, though.  The Crow: City of Angels (terrible movie) and the live version of I Wanna Be Your Dog that appeared on the soundtrack.  Yeah, not quite the plastic trouser caper, but it was substantial enough for a 17 year old who was into Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Radiohead to take notice.  I listened to that soundtrack a fair bit and may even have had a wee look around the internet for Iggy Poppery.

The game changer, though, was Trainspotting.  The door was opened.  Iggy Pop had just stepped through in time for tea.

The opening scene.  Lust For Life playing while Renton makes a dash through the backstreets of Edinburgh in an attempt to make a getaway after a spot of shoplifting.  Both the scene and track inhabit each other… the spirit of Iggy Pop.  A good natured rogue.  Laughing in the face of the law shop security.  Or maybe it’s all just about being a right wild-eyed crazy bastard, right enough.

A year or so later, his turn on Aisha from Death In Vegas’ Contino Sessions convinced me Iggy was a genius.  I duly delved in to his music and that of The Stooges.  What struck me about Iggy is that his music was fierce.  Even when it appears he’s captured in a moment of reflection or the stylistic detours.

Experiencing Iggy live was really special, though.  If I wasn’t already sure, it convinced me Iggy Pop was, and is, something else.  A force of nature.  Even looking at live footage now.  At the ripe old age of 102, Iggy Pop has the youthful energy of, say, someone who is, eh, dripping with youthful energy.  The man is an icon.  A musical action man.  A legend in a world where few legends are left… and there he is waving his “go fuck yourself” flag.

[[for complete transparency and the likes, I should disclose now that I quite like Iggy Pop and his co-conspirator here, Josh Homme]]

It would be easy to throw about statements that suggest that Post Pop Depression is a career highlight.  And it is easy, cause Post Pop Depression is really that good.  So good, in fact, that it’s, well, a career highlight.  Trust me, this is amazing stuff.  It’s inspired, chock-full hooky kooky hooks and Iggy is witty, fun, strutting and spewing vitriol.  Is it really his last album, though?

Conceived as something of a goodbye letter, Iggy Pop hunkered down at the Rancho de la Luna with Josh Homme with a bunch of ideas that they’d been corresponding over for a while.  The correspondence revolved around chats about things like mountains and working with David Bowie.  A complete collaboration, each had ideas, but the aim was not to bring in complete songs.  Homme invited Queens of the Stone Age colleague, Dean Fratita, and Arctic Monkey, Matt Helders, and they got to making an album that sounds like a Desert Session disco.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Iggy Pop and that guy from Queens of the Stone Age? Making albums together!? Whatever next, Margaret!?” … and I can understand the misgivings, but this is not the postured ‘trying-too-hard’ shenanigans of The Weirdness here; this is fierce.  And Homme is a great co-conspirator.  He really is.  His attention to detail really ensures that he and Pop create a piece of uncluttered majestic angled rockery that has plenty in common with Pop’s 1977 albums without trying to replicate them.  Even if I wasn’t a fan of Iggy and that Homme guy, I’d take my hat off to them and say “jolly good work, gentlemen”.

Y’see, there’s a swagger and groove that is infectious from the first few seconds.  Pretty much as soon as Fertita and Helders burst through the paper ‘welcome to Post Pop Depression’ banner on Break Into Your Heart.  The creative spirit, sinister grooves, winding guitar, and post popaclypse philosophising never fades.  Iggy (almost) never sounds wild-eyed, but rather like a ragged topless disenchanted Sinatra while Homme & Co. sound like a bunch of scruffy nerf herders all dressed up and playing some bright disco.

So, without further jibber jabber, let me tell you what I love about Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression.

  • Gardenia

Man, this kicks in and it throbs and pulsates like a bright migraine glow.  The hand claps… the sharp guitar chops and the bouncing bass… like a boat on choppy waters.  This is ragged disco, man… this is what The Killers would sound like if they had a mean bone.  This is dark.   The story of a prostitute with a dangerous habit.  What is her dangerous habit?  Was that the catch?  That’s why she’s there laying in the darkness with Iggy?

Now, Gardenia happens to be the first Post Pop Depression track that left a mark on me… his performance on that yon American chat show is truly majestic… his vocals are incredible… he’s definitely a ragged Sinatra… and here, on record, the raw awesomeness of Pop, his words, and performance are intact.  Homme has captured that thing about Pop… and that’s truly special.  Listen to him wonder what happened to Gardenia… and the delivery on the final verse.

“Alone in the cheapo motel
By the highway to hell
America’s greatest living poet
was ogling you all night
You should be wearing the finest gown
But here you are now
Gas, food, lodging, poverty, misery
And Gardenia
You could be burned at the stake
For all your mistakes, mistakes, mistakes”
  • American Valhalla

The distorted bass kicks dust and the guitar chimes.  Looking around an arid wasteland for signs of something.  A sign that says this way.  Who is James Osterberg?  What will become of him when Iggy Pop is gone? “I’m not the man with everything.  I’ve nothing but my name”.  Will it be like Clark Kent?  A pair of glasses and a suit and suddenly he just blends into the crowd?

There’s definite air of Queens of the Stone Age about it (d’uh).  Especially the “I don’t know” refrain (echoes of I’m Designer).  Loads of great lyrics in this one that speak of identity and mortality even if James Osterberg isn’t particularly feeling weary… Iggy is… “Death is the pill that’s hard to swallow.  Is there anybody in there and can I bring a friend?”  is a great line.

  • In The Lobby

That Queens of the Stone Age vibe continues on the wicked corkscrew shenanigans of The Lobby.  There’s something quite ferocious about this one.  The playing… the zinging guitar, the stomp and Iggy delivering angry lines like “And it’s all about the kicks.  And it’s all about the dancing pricks.  And it’s all about the clowns.  And it’s all about the guns”.  Modern life is rubbish, it seems… and I love the yelp at the end of “I hope I’m not losing my life tonight”.

  • And then there’s Sunday.

Without a doubt my favourite here… it really is quite something.  The groove is insatiable, my friends.  Iggy’s vocal is brilliant (again) as he sneers and spits out lines about politicians and corporate pricks like that disenchanted Sinatra (yeah, I know, I tend to compare to Sinatra a bit, but I like him and, well, he’s the benchmark for vocal delivery).  Again, it’s about shedding his identity… getting to rest… reaching Sunday.

Honestly, there’s so much about this song to love… the rhythm section really are incredible… Fertitia’s bass really keeps you grooving… Helders playing is exceptional… the shrug in Iggy’s voice when he says “I’m a wreck… what’d you expect?”… and the slicing of the guitar.  It’s all great… and then there’s the big orchestral section, which is just lovely.

  • Vulture

The bare bones of this one are adorned by some of Homme’s trademark screeching and some rattling snare.  Absolutely brilliant… it’s like a Morricone piece, I guess… and like Morricone’s work, the atmosphere shakes you.  Again, Iggy’s vocal is vibrant and raggedly ferocious.

In fact, it’s hard to fault anything here and while I’ve tried to avoid a blow-by-blow, I can’t not mention opener Break Into Your Heart with its sinister synth punching and that piercing guitar line?  It’s a bit creepy and there’s even some lines straight out of Billy Gibbon’s Guide To Double Entendres™ (“your heart is buried underneath mountains capped with snow”) before the creep wins.

Elsewhere, German Days eases off on the swagger and Chocolate Drops has a bit of a sway to it.  And what is Iggy talking about? “When you get to the bottom, you’re near the top.  The shit turns into chocolate drops”.  Huh?

Like I say, the arrangements aren’t cluttered.  They lock onto a groove and let Iggy do his thing.  They don’t try too hard to replicate anything Iggy’s done before, but they provide a backdrop for an old wanderer who is maybe a tad cynical and a bit weary.

If Iggy Pop does decide to call it a day, then Post Pop Depression is a perfect final statement and the closing track, Paraguay, is a fitting goodbye.  A 7 minute ‘electric, volatile and free’ groove where Iggy croons about getting out of Dodge before the song breaks down and Iggy rants like a more balanced John McAfee while Homme & Co. chant that wild animals “just do what they goddamn do”.

“… You take mother-fucking laptop
Just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth
Down your shit-eating gizzard
You fuckin’ phony two-faced, three-timing piece of turd
And I hope you shit it out with all the words in it
and I hope the security services read those words
and pick you up and flay you
For all your evil and poisonous intentions
Cause I’m sick and it’s your fault
And I’m gonna go heal myself now”

And just like that, he was gone.

As you’ve probably guessed, I love this album… unreservedly so.  I honestly reckon the album is more consistent than you would, or could, hope for from an album this deep into a career.  When you consider Iggy’s discography, it’s quite possible that this is his most consistent album since the The Idiot and Lust For Life, which came just about 40 years earlier! (though during a chat with a pal a few days ago, we agreed that Kill City with James Williamson should be considered as another – again, released in 1977 (though the bones recorded in 1975)).  Sure, there are great moments on a lot of the stuff in-between, but nothing quite captures the spirit of Iggy Pop like this one does.  There’s no doubt that Homme created an environment that inspired Iggy’s creativity and his performances aren’t all bravado, but or a guy who has experienced it all and just wants to put his feet up.  I’d say there’s a good chance that both weren’t daunted by the prospect of working with the other, which meant that there was respect, but not too much respect that they were afraid kick uninspired ideas into touch.

… and, y’know, the sessions appear to have heavily influenced the latest Queens of the Stone Age album, too.  So that’s no bad thing.

Most importantly, it joins his awesome radio show in making up for those fucking Swift insurance ads.

*I’ve owned two copies of this, the standard release and the deluxe (according to Discogs, it’s limited to 2000 copies).  The standard edition was, naturally, a fair bit cheaper and therefore the safe “I’ve never bought an Iggy Pop album on vinyl” purchase.  I regretted not opting for the deluxe version quite quickly and eventually ‘upgraded’ last year when I saw a cheap sealed copy.

Unlike the standard edition, this one comes with a nice full size booklet with images and credits and notes, etc. and a thick gatefold sleeve.  The LP sounds great.  Really great.

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New Additions: Where’s the Danzig?

It was my Birthday at the end of March there and, naturally, some new records have somehow found their way into my collection (nestling snugly into the ‘need to listen’ pile).

I also decided to pick up an album that’s been on my list a wee while.

What are they?  It’s funny you should ask.

Rainer – Worried Spirits

Fire Records has been releasing Rainer’s albums at a bit of a snail’s pace, though they made some serious progress last year.  I had picked up Barefoot Rock a while back, but I’ve been waiting (im)patietly for my very favourite Rainer album to receive the vinyl release it deserves for a couple of years.  I had contacted Fire Records last summer to query whether it was on the cards and they didn’t let on that there were any imminent plans.  It was only via a vinyl group earlier in March that I learned it had been released… in December!!

Anyhoo, my wife picked it up for me and it was surprising to see that it’s on really lovely sun yellow vinyl.  This replaces an old Demon Records CD copy I had which was somehow misplaced or lost.  I love everything about this one and unreservedly so… from the front cover, the text, the album title, the song cycle.

My only gripe with the Fire reissue is that the track-listing on the back includes tracks that are available only via the download.  The release really could have benefited from a second slice of vinyl for the bonus cuts they’ve included.

Still, I’m not gonna complain, cause I have one of my absolute favourite albums and it sounds pretty brilliant.

These next two were purchased using a wee voucher I had got and they just arrived yesterday.

Earthless – From The Ages

Black Heaven has been on heavy rotation here and I’m on an Earthless kick (no bad thing).  I was looking for a copy of Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky on vinyl, but it was sold out and I thought I’d have a look for their last one instead, cause I wasn’t all that familiar with it cause I never really found the time to sit down and consume all 60+ minutes (30 minutes of that are the title track!).  I’ve yet to drop the needle on it, but I have been consuming all its enlightening glory via the instant download I’d received at the time of purchase and I’m looking forward to hearing how they split that title track!

Jeff Tweedy – Together At Last

This was a bit of a no-brainer, really (though I did ask JH if he’d heard it and if he’d recommend it).  It’s not often you see a record for less than a tenner, let alone one that was a) just released last year, b) by an artist you like a whole lot, and c) features a half dozen of your favourite tunes by that artist’s band.  Together At Last ticks all those boxes (or at least it did when I purchased it).  It’s basically Tweedy and his acoustic guitar performing tracks from his career (Golden Smog and Loose Fur, as well as Wilco).

Admittedly, I had been on the fence about this one, cause, well, I have the songs I really like and didn’t know what benefit having them again would be.  But this is pretty exceptional.  Intimate and fragile… and the versions of Via Chicago, Ashes Of American Flags, Muzzle of Bees, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart and I’m Always In Love are really pretty special.

Lastly, that album I finally decided it was time to pick up?

Screaming Trees – Last Words: The Final Recordings

Like a lot of records, this has been on my list for a long time.  That Mr. Yellowface guy kinda got me looking at copies online.  I spotted one for a tenner on eBay and thought “yeah, it’s time”.  There’s not much to look at – no liner notes or detailed credits, etc – but it’s a lovely slice of red vinyl (and the songs sound amazing).

And that’s it.

I reckon there’ll be something of a record buying break for a while as we weigh up life stuffs.

But I’ll definitely be writing stuff more often, though.

“All my dearest companions have always been villains and thieves”: Lionel Bart’s Oliver (1968)

Musicals.  An interesting genre, huh?  At one point they were rife.  However, these days it appears that Disney are the biggest champions of the musical.  Mostly animated characters expressing themselves with their dead eyes and dramatic hand gestures, with only the odd foray into the live action motion picture world.  Back in the day, it seems that every second picture was a musical.  Or at least that’s how it appeared during Bank Holidays.  As a youngster, enjoying those Bank Holidays, I was awfy fond of three musicals; Tom Thumb, Wizard Of Oz, and Oliver!  Truth be told, I’m still awfy fond of them.

The memories attached to those three are particularly strong.  Popular Festive Calendar flicks for the television companies, you could pretty much guarantee that we’d be sitting down to watch all of them over the school holidays.  Every year.  I never tired of them – mimicking characters and repeating lines while sharing the box of Roses or Quality Street that sat on the coffee table.  “That’s one for you… and two for me…” (that scene between Terry Thomas and Peter Sellars in Tom Thumb).

Anyhoo, when I spotted the Oliver!soundtrack among a bunch of undesirable records at the Record Fayre for £1 way back in October 2013 (I think), I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.  Y’see, as well as being a movie that I have a lot of attachment to, Lionel Bart’s songs here are really pretty incredible.  Hardly surprising, I guess (given Bart’s pedigree and the performances of some of the cast).

I’ve tried and it’s too difficult to pick out a favourite in an album of highlights.  My wife, however, still shakes her head when I reach for this LP.  Think again, I can hear her thinking as she scrolls through the spines of the LPs on the shelf and focuses her stare on something like The Fabulous Johnny Cash or even Neil Young’s Harvest (I still don’t think she’s warming to this one).  Anyhoo, me?  I reckon this is one of the very best musicals.

The late Ron Moody is stellar as Fagin and his performances here are rich, colourful, and full of character.  His tone and delivery on, say, You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two, immediately bring images of him on screen.  In fact, scrap that statement about hard to pick favourites, cause it’s easy – it’s Moody’s moments (this and Reviewing The Situation).  They’re just so enjoyable.

The ‘medley’ of Food, Glorious Food and Oliver! is memorable – I dare say most have whistled or sang the former while hurrying excitedly to the dining table, while Harry Secombe’s bellowed Boy For Sale is a dramatic shift in mood.  The strings convey dread and resignation… perhaps cause old Mr. Bumble hates roaming the street selling young kids.  Or he just doesn’t like bartering.  I actually really like Harry’s tune, though thinking about the scene is pretty grim.  As much as trekking the streets selling a kid probably isn’t a great deal of fun, there’s some really funny lines in there (“He’s going cheap… only seven guineas.  That or thereabouts”).

While Where Is Love? isn’t a bad song or anything, Lester’s vocal chops aren’t strong and I know that Moody’s Fagin is up next and we’re in for a treat!  See, it’s the introduction of Fagin and his gang that really lift proceedings and it’s at that point that the soundtrack (like the movie) comes to life.

There’s humour in the darkness of the themes throughout and, as I mentioned already, Moody’s performance as Fagin is really pretty brilliant.  He’s a shifty chap for sure, but he clearly likes the kids that he mentors.  While they’re obviously out stealing for him to earn a keep and what have you, they’re his family and you can see that with how he looks out for the new kid and his attachment to Dodger.  And this is all part and parcel of what makes Pick A Pocket Or Two so wonderful.  It’s jovial, the arrangements light and Moody’s delivery is magnificent.  Full of energy and hijinx.  Truly wonderful.

Mark Lester and Jack Wild’s Consider Yourself is another favourite.  Right now, it’s quite relevant too – welcoming strangers and such (“there isn’t a lot to spare.  Who cares!?  Whatever we’ve got we share!”).

Side 2 has the big hitters.  Moody’s back with Be Back Soon, which is relentless, really.  Fagin telling his proteges to fill their pockets, stay out of bother, and get back up the road for some kip.  Shani Wallis’ As Long As He Needs Me is a show stopper.  The kind that comes along like Bill Sykes and smacks you right in the gut and leaves you breathless.  I’m not talking Celine Dion (thanks, Canadialand) type emotion here, but the real heartbreak kind.  Dread.  Heart in mouth.  I’m going to be sick or cry kind.  The performance conveys the sheer devotion Nancy has to that (violent) bad bastard Bill Sykes.

I always liked Who Will Buy?  It’s the uptempo cheery number.  Probably the cheeriest, really.  Oliver awake in his new surroundings and looking out to a brand new day.  On yirself, Oli.

Anyhoo, moving on, it doesn’t get any better than Reviewing the Situation.  In fact (spoiler alert) the sub-plot here is as captivating as the age old tale of orphaned-lad-finds-happiness-with-rich-family.  It’s Fagin who really shines, with his insecurities and uneasiness comes to the surface a little more as he watches what’s happening around the young Oliver chap.  He longs to get out and, truth be told, he’d have given up this game years ago.  But the man has no family and these kids and the scoundrels (like the violent Bill Sykes) are all he has.  They keep him going.  They give him drive and purpose.  To feel important… wanted… loved… respected.  Anyhoo, Reviewing the Situation is all about that desire to get out and the insecurities that stop him.

I just realised that I don’t care too much for our lead character’s numbers.  Fancy that.  I don’t think they’re bad songs or anything like that, but they lack the vibrancy and the character of the others.  Mark Lester (a young lad, mind) doesn’t have the vocal chops or character to compete with the likes of Wallis, Secombe, or Moody.

And you know what, all that stuff I was saying about Fagin?  Well, Wallis’ wonderful Oom-Pah-Pah! is Nancy’s stand.  Creating a commotion that will allow them to do the right thing.  It all ends in heartache, though, but it’s rousing and joyous and it yet it’s tense.

Anyhoo, the Oliver soundtrack is a real joy.

Thanks for reading.

“You’ll never pass beyond the gate if you don’t hear my warning”: Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)

Americana:
“contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.”

fox confessor

I remember when I first heard Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.  I think the word stunned just about covers it.  I was heavy into her two previous albums and this wasn’t what I expected.  It’s a dark, mysterious, emotional and captivating album filled to the brim with Ukranian folk mythology.  Not to mention the Lynchian imagery.  And it’s over in just over 30 minutes.  Talk about intense.  Did I mention that it’s dark?  Well, it is.  It’s also tender and beautiful.  That big voice that belted out the bruised ‘country sounding alt. country’ on Furnace Room Lullaby and Blacklisted is restrained and, dare I say it, a tad vulnerable.

The country noir of Neko Case’s early albums is now furnished with intricate new sounds, textures, and open space.  It’s still unmistakably Neko, right enough… Neko and the sound of another of my favourite bands (and Case conspirators) The Sadies – Travis and Dallas Good’s guitar twang and sound looming large on a number of tracks.  Anyhoo, despite it all, Neko’s voice … that voice… just cuts through everything.  This, ladies and gentlemen, if I may be so bold, is Case’s finest work.

Margaret vs. Pauline is a haunting opener and I’m still trying to decide whether one of them is dead (I think they might be), Star Witness is jaunty and there’s a music box kinda quality going on there and Case’s delivery is wonderful.  Anyhoo, each of the six tracks on the first side are great, but my favourite here is The Sadies co-write Hold On, Hold On.  It’s a pretty remarkable tune with a nifty guitar hook and a line that smacks you in the gut.  That line being “the most tender place in my heart is for strangers”.  It’s awfy cynical, but also hopeful.  I dare say we often have more faith in people we haven’t met, cause ultimately they haven’t let us down. Yet.

The second side has the pretty exceptional three track run of Dirty Knife, Lion’s Jaws and Maybe Sparrow.  Picking a favourite from that bunch would be difficult.  Yikes!  Did I mention that Garth Hudson appears on the album?  He’s all over it.  Piano here and organ there… always lovely and subtle.  The playing on Maybe Sparrow is particularly special, I reckon.  Dirty Knife has some of my favourite Neko lyrics.  “So suddenly the madness came with its whiskered, wolven, ether pangs” she sings and it’s all swirling and dizzying – madness indeed.  “… Cats are wild… you can’t even touch the tip of their tails” … the cello as Case sings “the blood runs crazy with giant strides”… and then her etheral falsetto!  Lordy!  I also love the closing refrain in Lion’s Jaws (“momentum for the sake of momentum”).

fox confessor LP

It’s easy to say it’s all very David Lynch.  What with the animals and surreal mystery and suchlike.  Neko’s voice is as expressive as it is powerful.  It’s sad and heavy, but it’s also beautiful and warm.  Anyhoo, what’s it all about?  Well, it’s all interpretations of the Fox Confessor mythology.  Sure there’s some other stuff in there (personal stuff and what have you), but the true beauty of this one is what it says to the listener and how it resonates with them.

I mean, folks love to talk about music, books, poetry and movies (including me) but we don’t need to connect the dots and fill in the blanks.  That would undo the mystery of this one.

… and the title? Well, that’s a really pretty wonderful slice of mythology that fits all this pretty well. The relationships that animals have within the songs and that opening line of Hold On, Hold On and the message of the title track (“It’s not for you to know but for you to weep and wonder when the death of your civilization precedes you”).  Essentially, the person you put your faith in will wreck you. Like the frog and scorpion tale, but not just death, but complete annihilation of your confidence and soul.

So aye, there ya go.  Giant strides indeed.  In every sense this is Americana.  A rich and strange brew.  As a myth-interpreter and myth-maker.  Fuck, I’m delighted this is in the collection. You can tell that, right?  Right?

This copy is the 2015 Record Store Day release, which came with a smashin’ RSD slipmat.  Thanks to Aaron over at KMA for finding a copy for me.

Set The Dials To Thrill Me

So, at the start of the week there I received an email.  The Afghan Whigs Newsletter, actually.  ‘The Afghan Whigs’ Black Love Turns 20’ It declares.  I know this to be a fact, as I am only too familiar with the album (it is, after all, one of my ‘Fifteen’).  However, I figured there must be a reason for highlighting this to folks who likely know the album’s age.

“Perhaps a few dates of The Afghan Whigs play Black Love”, I think to myself as I hover over the email ready to click …

“maybe a reissue?”

*click*

“though Music On Vinyl reissued it a while back and I have that already …”

The news?  The release of Black Love (20th Anniversary Edition) for Record Store Day Black Friday.  As I’m thinking “I don’t need that” I read the detail…

‘released on November 25 as a double-CD and a triple-LP’

“triple-LP!”

… ‘Both include a newly remastered version of the original 11-track album, plus nine previously unreleased recordings, including demos, outtakes and studio jams’.

So, that’s that pre-ordered.

unnamed-4

“Out of the engine came a flame with a name. It burned up my mind and it made me insane”: Masters Of Reality – Masters of Reality (1988)

masters of reality front

Another largely overlooked album here.  This one being Masters Of Reality’s self-titled debut.  Often referred to as The Blue Garden on account of John Leamy’s painting, it’s an alternative rock masterpiece and one of my absolute favourites (so much so that I paid £36 for a CD copy once upon a time!).  Like Burning Tree’s sole albumMasters Of Reality is an outstanding showcase of creativity and pshychedelic tinged blues rock revisionism.  Unfortunately, just like Burning Tree it’s criminally overlooked; suffering from arriving at a time when rock was represented largely by hair metal bands who were pedalling drivel while fighting it out with soulless pop music and the Golden Age of Hip Hop.  Just before ‘grunge’ hit.

Although the band had taken their name from a Black Sabbath album (legend has it from a Warner Bros. pressing of Master Of Reality with misprinted labels that read Masters Of Reality instead), there’s only traces of shrapnel from the heavy slabs of concrete those chaps threw around.  Instead, the music is laced with late-1960s and early-1970s riffage as well as insatiable grooves.  A modern take of The Doors if you will, with a splash of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Queen, ZZ Top and pinch of those psychedelic noodlings that Cream had going on with their awesome Disraeli Gears (Ginger Baker was even a member of the band for a brief period). Under it all, there’s the melodic influence of the Beatles and some blues.

Rick Rubin signed them to Def Jam in 1986 and, after splitting with partner Russell Simmons, released the debut on his Def American label. Rumour has it that it all fell apart during a cold and wet chicago evening in 1989 when the jazz meandering of guitarist Tim Harrington and stick man Vinnie Ludovico got in the way of the songs. A phone call was made and Delicious Vinyl got involved – buying the contract, album, publishing rights, etc – and set about re-mastering the album and releasing it with an alternative track-listing (also cutting Magical Spell by 2 minutes and adding the amazing Doraldina’s Prophecies) and horrible, horrible cover.

However, they were clearly excited about having this one:

“An amazing, mystical, rocking experience, the album delivers with a crunching authenticity rarely heard in today’s rock arena. It is, in our not so humble opinion, one of the best albums of the last ten years”.

gatefoldI discovered Masters Of Reality in 1998.  The name appearing in an article about Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman Scott Weiland.  See, Weiland had appeared with them at a gig at The Viper Room, guesting on a track called Jindilee Jindalie.  As luck would have it, that gig was recorded and released as part of the live album, How High the Moon. I then discovered that Masters of Reality is a project led by Chris Goss. The same Chris Goss who acted as a vocal engineer on Stone Temple Pilots’ marvellous Tiny Music … Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop (I dare say if you pick up any proper good alternative rock album made over the last 20 years or so you’ll see Goss in the credits. Be it Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan and The Duke Spirit, Stone Temple Pilots or The Cult).  So, I kept an eye out for some Masters of Reality goods – without much success – until I finally got my hands on a copy of How High the Moon at a record fair in 1999. Cost me £7, but it was the best £7 I’d spent that day. I remember pressing play on the stereo and thinking “what’s this?”  Goss’ vocal was smooth, there was an insatiable groove … some blues riffery, but a pummelling rhythm.

That album happens to be my favourite live album. It’s tremendous – from the energy of the band and the love the crowd has for them. I soon picked up a CD copy of the Delicious Vinyl reissue of their first album.  Now, as I said, the artwork on that CD was really, really horrible and the tracks are in a different order, but I really love Doraldina’s Prophecies (it’s one of my all-time favourite songs).  However, I was keen to get a copy of the original Def American release.  So keen, in fact, that when I saw a copy I honestly paid £36.  Yes.  £36.  For a CD.  Off eBay.  But man, did I play that album over and over.  Despite missing Doraldina’s Prophecies, the album went from ‘awesome’ to ‘OMG awesome’ thanks to the additional solo shenanigans in the extended Magical Spell and the sequencing. Man, that running order is just perfect.

The line up for Masters Of Reality differed from How High the Moon, too.  Here Goss was joined by Tim Harrington (guitar), Googe (bass) and Vinnie Ludovico (drums).  Goss’ voice has always been one of my favourite elements of the band – a mellow but rich tenor delivering lines that could have been:

  • ripped from the pages of Billy Gibbons’ songbook (“go down and see the sugar girl, she’ll know just what to do” (The Candy Song))
  • sinister hocus pocus spell conjuring shenanigans (“Then when the circle spoke. The light fell. The spell broke…” (The Blue Garden) or “Eraticus, Kill the King. Magentus, Kill the King” (Kill The King)); or
  • just some plain ol’ alchemist riddling (“Call the fire in winter when it snows and it won’t be cold. Call the wind in summer if the salt should reign as gold” (Kill The King)).

masters inner closeAs one of my all time favourites, I was seeking a copy for my modest record collection.  However, finding an album like that in the racks of my local haunts was proving difficult.  That was until my wife and I attended a record fair a few years ago.  While I browsed through the many records of various sellers, she caught my attention and said, all casual like, “James – is this one you’re looking for?”  I look over and she’s holding the record!  Zoiks!  I reckon she never seen me move so fast.  £8, too.  My word!

Side A starts with Theme For The Scientist of the Invisible, which, despite sounding like the title of a Flaming Lips track, is actually a short instrumental intro before the driving fuzz of Domino.  Goss sings “Paint me a picture. Make it the devil. Then run down the hole if the roof ain’t level”.  There’s elements of Sabbath here, but the big fuzzed blues licks suggest there’s certainly something more.  “Dominos fallin’, black spiders spinning”.  Welcome to stoner rock, baby!  It also happens to appear in Steven Seagal’s outrageously awesome Marked for Death.  Just before the big shoot-out in the bar.  So that’s double points there.

As well as DominoThe Blue Garden and Candy Song are highlights of Side 1.  The former being a nice slice of prog-psychedelia, with some wah drenched soloing complimented by a wordless mantra.  The drumming is brilliant, and Harrington and Goss’ guitars really get to sparring.  Goss drags out the hook “lightning came downward and I fell as a tear”.  Oooft!  So good.  There’s a bit of ZZ Top sizzle during Candy Song.  Seriously, this could have been a cut from Tres Hombres, Tejas or Deguello.  Goss explains that he’s “been working so hard, baby, working all night and day.  Sometimes I feel like getting blind and jumping in the bay.  If you feel like I do too, you know what you gotta do?  Go down and see the sugar girl and she’ll take care of you” before proclaiming that he wants a “piece of that stuff”, that he’s “crawling outta my skin and I’m down on my luck”, that the sugar girl “knocks me off my feet”, and that the “price is high but the candy’s sweet”.  The marvellous drunken tinkering of Magical Spell wraps the side up perfectly.  There’s some really outlandish guitar shenanigans happening on there also.  Top marks!

masters of reality recordSide 2 is one of the best sides of recorded music ever.  Fact.  It kicks off with the dusty and spiralling blues of The Eyes of Texas before the Led Zeppelinisms of Sleep Walkin’ and Lookin’ to Get Rite.  Goss’ vocal is particularly brilliant during Sleep Walkin’.  The delivery staggered and deliberate when he says “I got nothing in my eyes and an aching in my bones” and particularly unsettling when he explains that he “got taken away when the sun went down. I stood there in my own mind, the way a stranger prowls around”.  It’s a highlight.  A swirling dusted blues pie drenched with psychedelic gravy.  The blues driver John Brown is an anthem for that town called Red.  Bells chime as Goss shouts “Holiday, holiday, I declare a holiday. Holiday, holiday, no matter what the doctors say” before closing “we pull John down at noon today”.

Kill The King is all sorts of crackin’ and is an epic closer.  A 7 and a bit minute big bowl of awesome – complete with whammy-bar noodling, slide guitar, a sweet stop-start thunder drum, tempo change, and some surreal Ren & Stimpy type imagery (“and in many degrees of heat, the fire looked at the meat, and said ‘if I cook you the least you could do is lay there and be sweet'”).

And then it’s over.  The record spins.  The needle picks up static.  Then I flip it over.  Here we go again.

Trust me, Masters Of Reality is a masterpiece.  A stellar album and one that I’ll never tire of.  Ever.
masters innerThis is the original Def American pressing of this one.  John Leamy’s painting splashed across the gatefold sleeve, some bits and bobs of lyrics, band images, and symbols on a scrawling and intriguing inside spread, and a nice Def American inner sleeve.

It’s worth looking out for the most recent Delicious Vinyl double LP reissue. The second LP is that How High the Moon live album, which really is tremendous.  The set includes the track order of that 90s CD reissue I mentioned, meaning that Doraldina’s Prophecies is included (the live version from How High the Moon is the essential one, though).  Thankfully, the 5 minute Magical Spell is restored and John Leamy’s splendid painting adorns the cover of that reissue, replacing that alternative (Microsoft Paint rendered) cover.

For further reading, check out the Delicious Vinyl site and this piece from a fellow enthusiast.

“Staring at the stars wondering what it’d be like to get to go that far”: Burning Tree – Burning Tree (1990)

burning tree

I picked this one up recently cause it was £4.99 on Discogs and I’ve been looking to add this long forgotten album to my record collection.  It’s strange when you listen to albums like this.  Y’know, the type that are largely ignored and become forgotten until, in 2121, the Indiana Jones of record digging uncovers it in some dusty storage archive.  Wiping the dust from the sleeve they proclaim they are startled by the discovery.  “The Holy Grail! After all these years …”  Or something like that.

Burning Tree’s one and only album came just before the ‘grunge’ boom.  Legend has it that there was enough of a buzz about the band to land them a deal with Epic and a support slot for The Black Crowes.  So, they were, at some point at least, highly thought of.  The album itself is a wonderfully psychedelic coloured slice of rock n’ roll.  Complete with loose grooves, snaking guitar, and swamp stomp.

Opener, Burning Tree, is brilliant. Seriously good.  So good that I’m happy to waive the penalty points that I dish out for self-titled songs.  Anyhoo, it has a real Hendrix Experience vibe going on.  Even the snaps of lead – with just the right about of buzz – and the solo.  Nice, restrained, snazzy, but not too showy.  Wigs, Blues And High Heeled Shoes is worth sticking with if it doesn’t light up immediately.  Ford’s subtle guitar and the breakdown around the 1:35 mark is particularly smashin’.  In fact, there’s a real ‘Washington State’ buzz there – like Nirvana, Mudhoney, and early Screaming Trees especially.  The bass roaming and the guitar snapping.

Fly On that’s the real highlight of the album, in my opinion.  A swampy stoner swagger.  Some psychedelic guitar flourishes and a wonderful vocal from Marc Ford.  There’s also some incredible harmonies between the three of ’em, too.  Fly On is a great example.  All Alice In Chains like.  I should actually add that the vocal responsibilities, like the songwriting, is shared by all three of the chaps here.  All do stellar jobs, though Ford’s vocals appeal more to these ears.  Baker’s Song and Playing in the Wind complete side 1 brilliantly.  Particularly the latter, with is flowing psychedelic grooves about dreams, man.

Side 2 lacks the immediate ‘yowsa!’ factor that kicked off side 1.  In fact, there’s not a song as great as either Burning Tree or Fly On, but it’s no less stellar.  Actually, that being said, Masquerade, Last Laugh and Mistreated Lover are probably pretty close.  The latter having something of Hendrix’s version of All Along the Watchtower about it, while Masquerade is the side opener; coming across all 70s psychedelic rock n’ rolla before the likes of Kula Shaker came along and briefly made that whole psychedelia revisionist thing happen with Hush and their version on Hey Dude. Again, the playing from all is exceptional, but Ford knows when to play and when not to – simple rhythms lit up with some really intricate lead playing.  Man, that guy can play.  There’s loads of nice wah laden solos, hanging notes, and crunching staccato flicks here and there.  Last Laugh on the other hand is all buzzing chainsaw swinging from a rafter and a nice big buzzing lead.

The other tracks on side 2 are Crush – a ‘being in a band’ ballad – and Turtle.  Both have some really brilliant melodies and Turtle in particular is a really exceptional take on 60’s rock n’ roll.  Also happens to round things off really well too.

So yeah, there you have it. Burning Tree’s sole LP.  A masterpiece?  I’d argue that it is.  There’s definitely the shadow of Hendrix, Cream, and some Stevie Ray Vaughan (which I only really noticed after getting into Stevie Ray Vaughan pretty heavily the last year!).  Of course, Ford would quit the band to join The Black Crowes.  That move made The Black Crowes great, though it signalled the end for Burning Tree.  Bah.

burning tree backThe LP comes with a plain white inner.  No lyrics, no detailed credits, and, most importantly, no glamorous band shots.  My copy is near mint.  Really doesn’t look as though it had been played!  I also noticed that the track order is different from the 2010 CD reissue.  Aside from the order, there’s two less tracks (Same Old Story and Baby Blue are missing).  Personally, I prefer the LP.

Well, of course I do.

Fifteen on the Fifteenth: Favourite Albums

15“What’s your top ten albums?” is a question that gives me high anxiety. What are those ten albums? List after list after list is made before I settle on one. That list rarely changes. A constant ten jostling for first position. On occasion, one or two reaching new hights (the top five), but I don’t like to assign numbers. That’s just way too tough.

When asked about a top 15, my head near enough exploded. So many possibilities. An endless list of albums that are just ‘bubbling under’. Whittle them down to just five!? Challenge accepted. Countless notepads later and the list has been decided. Not necessarily the best albums I’ve heard, but these fifteen are favourites. Albums that I’ve turned to time and time again.

Masters of Reality – Masters of Reality (1988)
often referred to as The Blue Garden on account of the splendid painting that adorns the cover, this album has long been a favourite. So much so that I paid £36 for the original Def American CD from eBay and thought nothing of it. It’s a classic rock album flavoured by psychedelic stoner blues and 60s and 70s vibes.

Screaming Trees – Dust (1996)
I totally subscribed to that whole ‘grunge’ thing after hearing Nirvana. I was late to the Screaming Trees, though – this was the first album of theirs I bought. Utterly brilliant start to finish despite the troubles within the band and the label. It transcends ‘grunge’ and surfs on rays of psychedelic splendour.

Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking (1988)
I posted about this one a while back if you want to read all my thoughts on it, but in short this is classic rock dragged backwards through glass.

The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen (1993)
My friend Joe had given me this back at the dawn of the millennium. Back then I was hooked on K-Billy’s Supersounds of the 70’s and alternative rock. When we got talking about music and he identified that I was into a whole load of alternative rock, he says “do you like The Afghan Whigs?”. I’m glad he asked me that question. Aside from the slap on the chops when I said “no”, he told me he’d give me a loan of Gentlemen. “It’s fuckin’ awesome”. Yup.

The Afghan Whigs – Black Love (1996)
… and I don’t understand exactly how The Whigs were overlooked. They really are one of the best from the alternative rock boom back in the 90s. Swagger, soul, sparring guitars, imagination, and a whole load more. This is my favourite, though. Just. Dulli took his demons and wrapped them all up in a wonderful slice of noir.

Tom Waits – Mule Variations (1999)
This one is perfect. Sprawling, warm and beautiful. Not only is there not a bad song on here, but it boasts some of my favourite Tom Waits songs.

Johnny Cash – The Fabulous Johnny Cash (1958)
This is an audacious album to release as your debut. So many great (and timeless) numbers and I honestly never tire of it. One that we’ve listened to a fair bit over the years. I dare say it’s my wife’s favourite, too.

Johnny Cash – Orange Blossom Special (1965)
The first Johnny Cash album that I properly listened to and the one I tell folks to listen to when they start that whole “all Johnny Cash stuff sounds the same” shenanigans. It’s a special record – wonderful cover, Dylan songs, murder, prison, a train, and You Wild Colorado.

ZZ Top – Tres Hombres (1973)
Is it possible to discover an album within the last five years and call it one of your all-time favourites?  I reckon so.  I can’t believe that I overlooked ZZ Top for so long. Seriously, it’s ridiculous.  Craig Hughes was baffled when I explained that I had never heard any ZZ Top albums.  He assured me they were only one of his favourites and responsible for a bunch of absolutely essential albums.  Highlighted this as a life changer.  He wasn’t wrong.  I’ll never tire of this.  Ever.

Stone Temple Pilots – Purple (1994)
I remember hearing this back in the day and falling in love with it from the off.  Big riffs, darkness and all sorts of energy.  There was loads of noise about the band being Pearl Jam copyists – ‘grunge-lite’.  But they were completely different bands.  Plus, for my money that other lot never made an album this good.

Mark Lanegan – Scraps at Midnight (1998)
Lanegan has so many great solo albums, but this one will always be my favourite and it’s one I just keep going back to.  I bought this on release day and took it back to my friend Alan’s place.  We sat and listened to this sucker and then got Blast Corps on the old Nintendo 64.  Then we listened to Izzy Stradlin’s 117° (which I picked up the same day after ordering) and Scraps at Midnight again.  Good times.

The Doors – Strange Days (1967)
Magnificent stuff this – and I covered it fairly recently.

Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R (2000)

Yup. This is awesome. The first great alternative rock album of the millennium and one I honestly don’t think has been bettered (though I do reckon their … Like Clockwork comes really pretty close!).  I still listen to this an awfy lot.  Just absolutely incredible.

Spirit – The Family That Plays Together (1968)
Twelve Dreams … is the one folks pick out as being the bonkers psychedelic masterpiece, but The Family That Plays Together is looser, and, for me, the perfect marriage of Strange Days-era Doors psychedelia and 60s pop. Utterly infectious, too.  You can pretty much draw a line to everything that’s good about alternative rock, ‘stoner rock’ or ‘desert rock’ from this album.  Or at least this band (and The Doors and ZZ Top, of course).

American Music Club – Mercury (1993)
Another that Joe introduced me to.  Late 1999, I believe.  Took a copy on mini-disc and listened to it practically every day until buying my own copy after a couple of weeks.  Love this album.  Joe introduced me to a lot of great stuff and this is one of the very best.

So, there you have it, 15 of my absolute favourites.  I noticed while putting this list together that there’s a whole bunch from the 90s.  Well, I guess you can tell when I had my major ‘musical awakening’, eh?  The stuff I discovered then has inspired me and stuck around with me, too.  Through a whole host of different things.

As the question was thrown out there for all to participate, there are a bunch of other writers out there posting their 15 top albums (or books about music in 1537’s case).

Here’s a bunch of others for you to check out (I’ll add links to others as they appear).

1537
Keeps Me Alive
– Aaron
– James
MikeLadano.com
– Mike
– Uncle Meat
Iron Tom Sharpe
Living a Beautiful Life
1001 Albums in 10 Years
Arena Rock
Caught Me Gaming
Pop Culture Forays
Boppin’s Blog
Tangled Up In Music
80’s Metalman
KingCrimsonProg
A Hole In The Head
The Audible Stew
Nick Green Reviews
Another Bad Conversation
500 Reasons Why The 80s Didn’t Suck

*note the exclusion of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. Easily in my top 5, but I have no idea where my CD copy is, so I couldn’t possibly include it.

“I found the simple life ain’t so simple”: Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

van halenVan Halen are a band that I never paid any attention to.  Overlooked them completely, to be quite honest.  I knew Jump and part of me even liked it, but it was no more than a novelty really.  Big keyboards and guitars, flourescent lights, cocaine smiles and long hair.  That was my opinion on that stuff. Then over the last year or so I started reading about Van Halen over at Mike Ladano’s place and I thought “eh?”  Then a ‘heavy metal’ loving friend gave me a bunch of albums in an attempt to broaden my musical horizons.  An attempt to get me on-board the heavy metal and hard rock train.  Among those albums was Van Halen and Van Halen II.  Oh, okay then.

Fast forward a couple of months and, a few grumbles aside, I’ve fallen in love with the band.  I hadn’t really appreciated just how unusual Eddie Van Halen’s style was.  Especially given these guys came on the scene in the 70s!  He’s definitely not your typical 70s ‘hard rock’ guitarist; most of the others are clearly influenced by the blues, while he plays all sorts of hard rocking grooves that were more angular and out the box.  A real signature sound with added bells and whistles.  How he utilised the whammy bar, the finger tapping, and the harmonics within his playing. Not just to hang, but to shred. tap-tap-hammer-on-hammer-off-tap-tap-harmonic-whammy …

Aside from Eddie there’s Roth.  Man, he just swaggers all over this record.  Confident, charming, and outright audacious.  Lyrically he doesn’t tackle much, but his character looms equally as large as the shredder.  Anyhoo …
vh1Opener Runnin’ With The Devil is outright outlandish.  The riff is brilliant, and Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony give it a prehistoric swagger.  Roth’s opening line is “I live my life like there’s no tomorrow”.  Each time I hear that riff and the swagger I shake my head in disbelief – why hadn’t I explored Van Halen further?  I mean, this is awesome.  That whole guitar thing I mentioned earlier?  All over the short guitar Eruption.  A perfect intro for their take on The Kinks’ You Really Got Me.  Brilliant stuff and a real highlight.  Roth’s vocals are excellent too – smooth yet visceral.  The high energy and the fun is dropped a bit for the dark Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.  Probably my favourite song this one.  As much as Eddie’s riffing is great and all, Roth’s performance has a gravity to it (“I’ve been to the edge and there I stood and looked down, you know I lost a lot of friends there baby, ain’t got time to mess around…”) that sticks.  I’m The One ends the side on a high note with that monstrous rhythm, Eddie’s noodling, Roth’s flair and a whole load of fun.  They even through in some barber shop quartet / Beach Boys shenanigans.  It’s one of the best sides of music in my collection.  Really pretty brilliant stuff. Mike described it as “non-stop smoke” and I tend to agree.

The second side doesn’t quite reach those heady heights, but it’s really pretty close thanks mainly to Jamie’s Cryin’, Feel Your Love Tonight and Little Dreamer – all of which are great songs.  Jamie’s Cryin’ is the one I love most on this side – the backing vocals as well as the guitar and vocal melody during the chorus are really excellent.  Sandwiched between that and Feel Your Love Tonight is Atomic Punk, which is a bit of a diversion.  Here the band let their punk tendencies loose a bit more.  It’s strange, cause I actually didn’t appreciate this one fully until today.  Listening again after a chat with Craig Hughes last night about this album it’s hit me that the relentlessness of this is really pretty ace. Plus, the way the guitar compliments (or is complimented by) the delivery of “Nobody rules these streets at night like me – the atomic punk” is just perfect.   Little Dreamer is a slow burner with a nice stomp, great vocal and really marvellous solo.  Things are rounded off in a bit of inconsistent manner with the last two numbers.  The first of which is a swell (and less than subtle) reading of an old John Brim number (Ice Cream Man), though I’m not so keen on the closer, the throwaway On Fire.

Seriously, though – this one surprised me.  Maybe it shouldn’t have, but it did.  Big time.  I mean, here’s an album released 37 years ago by a band I thought were all cocaine smiles and big hair and it sounds vibrant and urgent and all that good stuffs (what a sentence, eh?).  More importantly, it’s just damn good fun – full of strutting and big riffs.  I love it.
back coverMy copy is a Dutch reissue and it’s in really good condition.  The cover has a few battered corners, but the original inner is in there which includes some of the usual stuff – credits and some images and the likes.

“Prehistoric phenomenon”: Headless Kross – Volumes (2015)

volumesI never much liked metal or any of the prefixes, suffixes, genres or sub-genres.  Especially the stuff with the screaming.  Lordy, that’s always been a bit too much for me.  However, despite my dislike of metal, I started to really dig the whole ‘doom’ thing about ten years ago after discovering the awesome sounds of Dylan Carlson’s Earth.  That opened my ears to a whole bunch of stuffs.  Particularly those who worshipped at the church of Earth.  Those big riffs and slow-motion crashes.

There are two lovely ‘doom’ records in my collection.  Earth’s latest and this one, Volumes, by Headless Kross.  Now, I’ve known Tommy for a couple of years and I mind being really taken when I first heard Bear (their first album).  They took rock n’ roll and all that other good stuffs they liked and played it real slow and real heavy.  Over the course of a couple of years they’ve evolved into swaggering psychedelic doom pedlars.  Volumes is full of slow riffs, droning bass and slow-motion drum crashes.  It’s like dinosaurs roaming scorched landscapes.  The vocals are the screaming kind, but they bend and flow with the music.  Like an instrument, really – a melodic freak-out.  And did I mention that this is a three track album?
innerRural Juror takes up the whole of side A and it’s utterly and wonderfully malevolent.  It kicks off with a big discordant wall before it’s taken over by sinister wailing guitar, big riffage, minor-chords, psych noodling and some of the slow-motion drum crashing that I love.  It’s a lot like Earth’s last couple of albums, actually – sounding all warm and hypnotic and suchlike.  It locks into a different kind of groove around about the 8 minute mark – the guitar taking control and sounding like it’s hammering down a wall – before the vocal creeps in like some sort of ancient evil throwing warnings about.  The psychedelic stoner-doom awesomeness that kicks in around about the 15 minute mark is pretty special.

Just when you’re used to 20 minute stoner doom grooves, side B comes along and has the audacity of including two songs.  The first, Who Is This Who Is Coming? is relentless.  Pounding and spiralling as Derek shouts about stuff that I can only imagine to be warnings of the malignant beings that may, or may not be, summoned by the sounds of the Kross.  The guitars here are brilliant, buzzing all over with some some exceptional little touches.  My favourite here though is Even the Destroyed Things Have Been Destroyed.  When I picked up my copy of this from Tommy, that title caught my attention straight away.  The riff is magnificent and Derek, Tommy and Jonny hitting a groove like dinosaurs swaggering through a scorched landscape – fuzzy psychedelic fuckery.  Each time I listen I’m tempted to turn the volume up.  Again, there’s some great guitar work and keyboard before it crushes your skull with repetitive riffage and psychedelic wanders.  Truly magnificent stuff.

The artwork is really pretty special; while I hear dinosaurs, I’m willing to accept that this is also the sound of big wooden evil beings rampaging through villages.  I’m really fond of the image on the inner sleeve, too.