Monday, 30 September 2013

Hypnotist (Song For Daniel H.) - Lullaby For The Working Class

 Alt. Country is one of those genres that has so loose a definition that it's hard to really pin-point what, if anything, makes a country band “alternative”. It's used to describe loud, punky bands with a country twang to them and quieter more introspective folk-rock bands simultaneously. I've often thought that the term, born about the same time as alternative rock, was just lazy band wagon jumping on behalf of record labels to re-market country rock and in some cases the less serious sounding genre of Cow-Punk. But despite my internal debate over genre definitions, over the years alternative country has produced some of my favourite music.

Lincoln Nebraska's Lullaby For The Working Class were one of the more interesting bands of this genre to appear in the mid 1990's. Whilst they released three strong, clever albums of rootsy, acoustic rock, it was their single “Hypnotist (Song For Daniel H.)” that has earned itself a place on my list of favourite tracks. “Hypnotist” is the rare song that is clever, emotionally honest, meaningful and devastatingly catchy all at the same time.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Dead Head - Residual Echoes

The art of evoking the past without losing your grip on the present is a tricky thing to do in music. There's always the danger that any band trying to emulate elements of their heroes music will end up going too far down the rabbit hole and sounding like a weak imitation. There's nothing wrong with being influenced by the past but a healthy dose of originality is never a bad idea.

Residual Echoes have managed to find the perfect balance. Theres something at once familiar and totally new about their psychedelic version of Punk Rock. On first listen, the similarities are obvious. The cascading guitar noise of Dinosaur Jr and the acid fried, spaced-out feel of the Meat Puppets are a main influence for Dead Head. But there is something refreshingly new about it too. In a world where the vast majority of the music you hear (including rock music) is polished to within an inch of its life, Dead Head offers a more visceral and raw experience.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Fumble - Scream

Compared to other cities across the USA and the rest of the world, the D.C Hardcore punk scene was remarkably diverse. As Hardcore evolved over the 1980's it became known for its strict do's and don'ts. Despite the early non-conformist attitude, by the mid 80's in order to gain acceptance from the audience, bands needed to look and act a certain way. Of course, telling this to musicians is like showing red to a bull. One of the most ferocious, and most influential DC hardcore bands, Bad Brains had begun to diversify their sound pretty early on. Incorporating their Rasterfarian beliefs as well as elements of heavy metal to their sound, they sounded like no-one else before or since. After Minor Threat, one of the bastions of Hardcore and a genre defining act, broke up, frontman Ian McKaye formed Fugazi. Gone was the punishing, rapid bombardment of his previous band, replaced with a far more considered, artful and just as effective attack. Even Black Flag in LA (featuring DC expat Henry Rollins) had stuck their fingers up at Hardcore's expectations, grown their hair long and slowed their music to a deadly, creepy, crawl.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Nashville - Josh Rouse

It's rare that you can pinpoint the exact moment that an artist went from being good to great in your eyes. The change is usually gradual, protracted and in a lot of cases, non-existent. It's quite a stunning thing to see the change happen instantly. For me, Josh Rouse's moment came with the release of his fourth album, 1972. I'd known and liked Josh Rouse's music for a while but it wasn't until my Dad played me an advanced copy of 1972 in the car one day that I realised how good he was. It wasn't just straightforward singer/songwriter stuff anymore. He'd taken on board new influences and sounds and made an album with a real groove to it. It was Shuggy Otis by way of Freedy Johnston, yet completely original sounding at the same time. 1972 was a huge leap forward for Josh Rouse. Then, two years later, Nashville came out.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Confession - The Last

To a lot of people the mere mention of music from 1980's LA conjures up images of huge excess. Drugs, booze and hairspray, all in huge, unmanageable quantities and bands like Mötley Crüe revelling in the mess of it all. However 1980's LA was a far more diverse than that and played host to far more than just hair metal. Hardcore was in full force on the tough streets of Los Angeles, with bands like Black Flag and The Germs tearing audiences apart with their faster, angrier breed of punk. Indie labels like SST and Bomp! were gaining a foothold and churning out records that would have far more cultural impact than was apparent at the time. On top of all of this, the often overlooked paisley underground scene, with bands like The Three O'clock and Rain Parade was taking 60's psychedelia and shaping it into a whole new beast.

The Last were one of the few bands to bridge the gap between the LA punk scene and the more pop orientated paisley underground. Hugely admired by both sides of the fence, they have been cited as an influence by the Bangles and in Andrew Earles' great Hüsker Dü biography, Bill Stevenson, drummer for the Descendents, Black Flag and producer/co-conspirator for numerous other punk bands said: “The biggest influence on The Descendents was a band called the Last who were from our hometown, Hermosa Beach.... Songs by the Last were the blueprints for the South Bay Pop Punk sound. The Descendents got the credit for it, but the Last did it.” The band recorded two influential albums between 1979 and 1980, the first of which was released on Bomp!. However apart from a collection of rarities that the band released on a small french label in 1985, the band all but disappeared from view for the next few years.