Friday, 30 April 2010

Generation XYZ

I've just been rooting around my collection of vinyl albums to see if they were getting musty in a little visited corner of my from room. There I came across an album that at the time of buying was the greatest single musical artefact I'd ever owned. Actually I'd still rate it up in the top half dozen. That album was Get Action! by a little-known but majorly loved Japanese rock'n'roll band called Teengenerate. Prior to stepping into the late lamented Replay records back in the middle of 1995, in an underpass just off the Homeless Donut in the centre of Bristol, I didn't know the band even existed. But while flicking through the racks after some other band beginning with T who sadly elude me now, I was dazzled in my tracks by what I still reckon to be one the best record sleeves I've ever seen. That's it over to the right. Cracking, isn't it.

Four Japanese mop tops in tight jeans standing glued on front of a Yakuza movie poster? What isn't to like. 

I've got a bad habit of buying an album for its cover alone - but have a pretty good hit rate. I figured and disc with a cover this good must surely belong to a right doosie of a band, but I wasn't prepared for the fabulous racket that belted through the stylus of my cheap old Matsui when I placed it gently onto the black shiny plastic.A stunning seventeen slabs of pounding garage punk noise hurtled off the record at me at breakneck speed - and every one of them under the magic three minute mark. Indeed, so quick were they all that I'd scarcely settled in my chair before I had to leap up and turn the record over (these were the old days, folks). After that I stayed on my feet and leap about a bit and kept turning and turning until I forgot which side I was listening to.

The sounds on Get Action! were fabulous. It's one of the most rustically recorded albums you'll ever hear. Each song sounds like it was laid down on selotape and rubbed with a musty brillo pad. The vocals, drums and scratchy guitars all merge into one, and sometimes you're not sure which bit is what. And then there's the lyrics. For the first few plays I assumed they were in Japanese, but soon it dand on me that no, this was English - but like no English I'd ever heard before. Indeed, the version of Shake, Rattle & Roll that closes the selection was so unhinged that it took me a couple of listens before I even realised what it was.

That was it, I had a new obsession. I swiftly ran out and got their next platter - the compilation Smash Hits!! It didn't have the same fantastic production values as my new favourite album, but it was still a cracker. There was even news of them coming to play in England - but they were so underground, by the time I found out where, it had already happened.

The following year, Fifi, Fink, Sammy and Shoe folded the band. But I guess the perfect teenaged rock and roll bands should burn bright and die quick, but I'm still dead miffed I never got to see them. Mind you, they've recently reformed for a couple of quick tours. It might not be the same now that they're creeky twenty-somethings, but I'm sure it'll still be a marvellous thing to behold!

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Monday, 26 April 2010

Argentine Delights

Towards the end of last summer, the community arts centre up the end of my road put on what it billed as a punk night, with a Camden style market and a barrage of great bands. I figured that must be worth the small trot up the lane, but unfortunately it was a little disappointing. The market turned out to be one t-shirt stall and a couple of charity leaflet tables, while the bands were mainly a sorry collection of MySpace-source Busted alikes, headlined by the ace Bristol old skool punk band The Bolsheviks - who'd already played a free show earlier that eve, so quite understandably prove to be much of a punter draw.

But smack in the middle of this disappointment was a short half hour of absolute pop beauty. I can only assume that they were either booked by mistake, or as favour to a friend, but Las Kellies from Buenos Aires were an absolute delight.

Four girls dressed up as tubes of toothpaste singing songs about flying to their sister's weddings and sitting up trees in a smashing popped up blend of The Slits, The Raincoats and The Go-Gos, they held the few shuffling gig goers in their thrawl from start to finish.

I had a quick chat with them after their show and they were equally great fun to talk to. It turned out they had decided to play their way around Europe, and were smack in the middle of the tour - which seems like just about the best kind of holiday imaginable! I immediately grabbed a copy of their then most recent disc, Kalimera, which saw the girls as demon ninjas on the cover, and have been playing it most weeks ever since. Their simple, happy-go-luck charm is properly addictive, and I reckon you might enjoy it too.

So go pay them an internet visit, buy one of their three fabulous albums, and try and convince them to get back over. You'd just love it if they did!

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Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Riot is back on

The Digital Hardcore has returned. Oh yes, Atari Teenage Riot have reformed with some new noise and a few short dates. The Berlin filthy techno merchants, who last saw the light of day at The Big Day Out festival in Australia a decade ago have enlisted Brooklyn rapper MC CX Kidtronik to fill out the noise, and I must admit I'm really rather excited.

I first heard the band on a mix tape sellotaped to front of the sadly missed Deadline magazine in the early 90s. In among all the dreary jingly jangly indie pop was an explosion of sparkling techno called Midi Junkies. I was hooked in five seconds. A month or so later they were due to play a tour in support of Sheep On Drugs, but by the time they were supposed to play my nearest gig hall the tour had been cancelled. One rumour suggested that one of Sheep On Drugs had nearly died after the show the night before. Another that their bus had simply broken down. Either way I was devistated.

I heard little more of the band for a couple of years until one night our old chum John Peel played what I thought at first was a quaintly serviceable Huggy Bear-alike tune, which quickly magnified into one of the most blisteringly banging spots of gnarly techno I'd ever heard. It was like happy hardcore plunged through an industrial grinder and I wanted to know more. Of course dear old Peely forgot to say who it was after it finished, and it took me another fortnight to discover who it was.

The song was Not Your Business, a new, gnarlier stance for the band - and I was hooked all over again.

I eventually got to see them a few times live, but as time went on it was clear things were self-destructing. All this ended with Carl Crack's brutal suicide less than a week before September 11th 2001.

After a disparate bundle of solo stuff from the surviving members I was expecting the band to remain an anarchic nostaligia - until this morning, when I was forwarded a link to their new single - the fabulously boinging nose of Activate. The band are actively encouraging us all to download an early mix of it by mentalist Dubstep producer The Builder, which I would advise that you do right here.

Rumour has it that key member, the disturbingly aluring Hanin Elias has decided not to get involved, leaving founder member Alec Empire and later-comer Nic Endo to take up the mantle. They're playing a bunch of dates across Europe in May, including Camden's Electric Ballroom on May 12th - although I might suggest hanging on until August for their appearance at the rather ace looking Berlin Festival. The shows will either be utterly fabulous, anxiously grumpy or completely horrific - but whichever way they'll be joyously, unpleasantly memorable.

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Friday, 16 April 2010

Cocktail Credibility

Punk rock is like a cross between an international cottage industry and the masons. Everyone helps everyone else out, and trade is often performed by like, with hardly a penny crossing hands. You play with a band you like the look of and the old reciprocal merch swapsies soon gets going. And once in a while there'll be a distro table there, run by a committed punk fan who just loves getting the stuff out there. The protocol there is, give them a bundle of yours and they'll give you a bundle of theirs - and that way you get your hands on all sorts of fabulous stuff you amy never of otherwise heard.

And that's how I first got my ears around Beng Beng Cocktail.

After an ace all dayer at the fabulous Sawyers in Kettering, we came home with a huge heap of punking stuff from around the globe from the Pumpin Records table in exchange for a few tawdry Hacksaw CDs. But the one that really drew me in was totally different to all the rest. There wasn't a drum, bass or distortion pedal to be heard. Instead three worldly sounding youths were strangling noises out of their acoustic guitars while spitting politics out in a gurgling and gallically mangled English. These kids meant business, and it was the kind of business that I liked.

Now usually when you give acoustic guitars to punkers they either go all agit prop busker, or quiet and introspective on a stool. But the Beng Beng boys are an entriely different proposition. Pure venom flicks out of every string strangling finger, while their larynx hurl out spatter gun flobs of verbal drool, fully diseased up with their barking ire.

They're kind of familiar, in that sort of black T-shirted hat wearing neo-skank punk that's been kicking about for a couple of years now, but at the same time utterly and refreshingly original. And best of all, they do the acoustic thing without ever being wanky, folky or resorting to reggae - and that can only be a good thing. I'd highly recommend getting your hands on their present album From The Bottle To The Swallow, and if they ever come round your way, get and see them. I know I certainly will!

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