Tuesday, 24 February 2009

004 - Adam And The Antz - "Dirk Wears White Sox" (1979)

Adam Ant is more known for his pompous, grand costumes, unique make up and brilliant, joyous pop tunes like “Prince Charming” and “Friend or Foe”. Before all that - before even Marco - was “Dirk Wears White Sox”, a slice of abstract art posing as punk rock.

The sound is minimalist - full of jerky, disjointed guitar riffs and driven by David Barbarossa’s eccentric and utterly unique drums that eventually evolved into tom-tom backbone for both Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow. The songs themselves are dark, witty, obscure numbers that never suggest the joyous bombasticism pushed when he found fame the following year; they rumble along like atmospheric musings, never quite fitting in the way they’re supposed to, running forward, bumbling backwards.

It’s a dark album, venturing into Siouxsie Sioux  territory and Adam’s lyrics are blackly quirky: screams of “I’m a spastic but my boots are clean”; musing about the death of John F. Kennedy in “Catholic Day”; the size of God’s knob in “Day I “Met God”; or Cleopatra as a prostitute in “Cleopatra”. His lines are melodious and sweet, swinging easily over the songs.

It’s all punk rock, but not as many know it. It’s difficult, interesting, shape shifting, genre-defying and not an easy lie down. This was before punk became it's slow decay into bordem, when it was more than “three chords and the truth” - it was an idea. Dirk's full of glorious ideas, experimentations, not being afraid to challange themselves or their audience. Whilst he went onto bigger things, this is Adam Ants most exploratory, interesting effort - a unique experiment. Oh yeah, and that’s Antz with a ‘Z’

Monday, 16 February 2009

003 - Super Junky Monkey - "Screw Up" (1995)

“Screw Up” opens with the sound of rhythmic clapping, tap dancing and vocal chanting, each noise and rhythm building upon what happened before, working up into a crescendo: it’s clear from the get go that this was something special.

Super Junky Monkey are one of those groups that stand alone in music, breaching a gap between the familiar sound of funk metal and the left field world of the jazz, avant guarde and noise. Their debut studio album compromises of sixteen furious, deranged, dark, humorous, jazzy, funky, heavy songs that defy expectation even after a hundred listens.

It’s the brilliance of the musicianship, imagination and chemistry of each member which at the heart of the record. Whilst bassist Shinobu Kawai expertly weaves funky bass around (the fantastically named) Matsudaaahh!!’s intricate and precise beats, guitarist Keiko wonders around on top _ switching between jazzy, funky and metal lines, all weighing a ton - and front woman Mutsumi ‘623’ Takahashi delivers everything like she’s possessed, giving everything a grunt and a hefty dose of metaphorical balls like few men could ever hope for. It’s a band of equal parts, each adding their own unique brilliance and complementing each other so perfectly. There’s an untold centre of each piece which they all weave around, all going in the same direction in their own way: always funky; always heavy.

Of course, it was only the beginning and the uniqueness of the band built up with ever release, never a let down, always different. So few bands have ever been able to do what Super Junky Monkey did: the bridge between the known and the unknown, sounding like everything came natural and none of it was difficult. In the end, the brilliance only lasted four more years until Mutsumi’s dead in 1999, leaving an open world of possibilities at what was only hinted at by this awesome record.

Monday, 9 February 2009

002 - The Gadjits - 'At Ease' (1998)

Whilst most ‘high’ art of the twentieth century steamrolled its way towards abstract noise, and ‘low’ art became pastiche and boring, it’s easy to forget that for a few talented, imaginative, skilled individuals can still add something to a genre that everybody else missed.

A few of these fellows happened to be The Gadjits, and this is exactly what their second album did. Now a forgotten gem of the ‘Third Ska Punk Wave’, when they signed up to Tim Armstrong’s (Rancid) Hellcat in the late nineties The Gadjits were barely out of short trousers, but it’s a work of surprising maturity, clarity and richness: a forgotten gem of the genre.

At its best, the fifteen tracks are pitch perfect combination of ska and 60s beat music: Brandon Phillips’ vocals offer a relaxed cool tone over clean ska guitars, soulful 60s beats, funky bass and the always exhilarating tone of a Hammond organ. The sound is clean, punchy and exciting and reeks of youth yet defined by a defined, mature sound.

As it stands, the album that will be – unfortunately – long overlooked in the histories of music. It’s infectious and joyous from the start, retelling classic stories of death, love and drinking, covering ‘Mustang Sally’, and with a crucial classic number - ‘Beautiful Girl’ - to finish

Truth be told, this is probably the first in a long line of albums that inspired this heinous blog: any music enthusiast has a wealth of albums they feel are overlooked, ignored and forgotten. So, for me (and maybe a few others), this album is just one in many that represents the tragedy of a music industry.

Monday, 2 February 2009

001 - Little Richard - 'Here's Little Richard' (1957)


“Wop-bomp-a-loom-op-a-womp-bom-bom”: the world changed with this joyous, nonsensical scream by a black drag queen tortured by his own religious convictions. Although to this day Little Richard has never quite figured out if he’s a sexually promiscuous rock’n’roll star, a preacher, or both: Little Richard is the spirit of rock’n’roll. Elvis may’ve been the looks, Chuck Berry the songs, but Little Richard is its soul: driving, raw and crazy.

The twelve tracks of his debut hold a power of their own over 50 years later and were before the complications set in. Looking sharp with a mile-high quiff and zoot suit: to this day it rocks like little else has or will ever do. Musically, it’s classic rock’n’roll: every song is pretty much the same (a sped up blues jam), made individual by Richards relentless hammering of piano chords and his unique squeal of a voice. It’s a celebration of chaotic, confused, hyper youth: he screams, yells and hollers his way through twelve undeniable things: ‘Tutti Frutti’ (the original lyric was “A wop bop a loo mop, a good godamn! Tutti frutti, a loose booty. If it don’t fit, don’t force it, you can grease it, make it easy”), ‘Long Tall Sally’, “Slippin’ And Slidin’”, “She’s Got It”, “Jenny Jenny”.

By the time of his release rock’n’roll was just emerging out of the Southern US states, and it’s hard to specify what Richard did so differently from the pre-runners or his contemporaries, except that the unique appeal of his raw, gospel-driven, lunatic vocals and relentless, pounding, unyielding piano are a both powerhouse performances.

He only did two more albums like this – Little Richard and The Fabulous Little Richard – and then found God, but he was book at the keys soon enough, but never quite like this. The album’s a pure wheel of excitement:  pure, innocent, addictive - the original appeal still lingers. If you want to know where modern popular music really started, this isn’t a bad place to begin. He may’ve not been the first; the most musically proficent; the most successful, but it is the best.