Round 61 – Rob’s Jello Biafra mixtape

Jello BiafraJello Biafra is, or was, one of the guiding stars of my universe. I feel guilty that he’s fallen from my firmament. Although I love his records as dearly as I ever did, I’ve lost touch with what he’s done in the last ten years as i’ve become more and more of the chickenshit conformist he always warned me about. Perhaps I knew I wasn’t living up to his expectations. It’s not you Jello, it’s me. I’m sorry. I genuinely feel bad about it.

Biafra is most famous for his time as lead singer of San Francisco punks Dead Kennedys, but the musical collaborations and long string of solo spoken word albums were arguably even more powerful and, as it happens, more prescient about where we were all headed.

Biafra had his naysayers who considered him anywhere from a strident hectorer to a hysterical doom-monger. Neither were fair criticisms and now, the records he released around the turn of the 90s are very, very funny – they always were – very penetrating and, pretty much, very right.

Musically they are a varied bunch, although most share a desire to crack your skull open, but throughout runs Biafra’s amazing voice, an insistent cross between Daffy Duck and a Dalek. I suspect that music is primarily a means of delivery for Biafra. Each song carries a wild payload of hotwired facts and delirious conjecture. But when the musicians he’s with match the intensity of his singing, the results are spectacular.

1. Dead Kennedys – ‘Pull My Strings’ (Recorded live in 1980, Released 1987)

Pull My Strings is a song the Dead Kennedys only played once, on 25 March 1980. The organisers of the Bay Area Music Awards thought it would be great idea to invite some local punk rockers along to their bash to give a little credibility to the proceedings. Enter Jello Biafra, East Bay Ray, Klaus Fluoride and drummer Ted. The band rehearsed the song they were asked to perform, ‘California Uber Alles’ and when they took the stage that evening they cranked out the first few bars, then, having walked on stage wearing white shirts with black ’S’s painted on the front, they stopped playing and pulled around black ties to form dollar signs before telling the audience precisely what they thought of them. ‘Pull My Strings’ swerves into an evisceration of the New Wave scene which was getting into bed with the music industry, selling out the aggression and political bite that the Kennedys cherished in return for radio play.

Biafra believes in pranksterism as a political and social tactic and ‘Pull My Strings’ is the sound of someone taking his opportunity. When it would have been easier to do what was asked and scrabble a few inches up the greasy pole, Dead Kennedys rip into a pastiche of ‘My Sharona’ by crossover one-hit wonders The Knack before leading the audience in a singalong “Is my cock big enough? Is my brain small enough? For you to make me a star?”

Lard – ‘The Power of Lard’ (1989)

After Dead Kennedys split in 1986, amidst their prosecution (failed) for alleged obscenity, Biafra and members of Ministry formed Lard. ‘The Power of Lard’ is the lead-off track from their first EP. It blew my mind when it first came out and it still delivers a hell of a jolt. The band shifts from tribal pounding to a nervy skitter and finally into a piledriving industrial thrash whilst Biafra slices through with an electrifying sermon lurching from cultish entreaties “Lard is the Om! Lard is revolution!” to yuppie pastiche to twisted headlines from a degenerate culture. It’s a terrifying, overwhelming psychedelic whirlpool that never fails to suck me in.

Jello Biafra and D.O.A. – ‘Full Metal Jackoff’ (1990)

Whilst working on a film soundtrack Biafra collaborated with both DOA and NoMeansNo, in the process finding partners for his next two albums.

‘Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors’ is four direct chunks of steely speed punk plus a great cover of ‘We Gotta Get Out Of This Place’ and then, across the whole of side 2, ‘Full Metal Jackoff’. It’s Biafra’s widescreen epic (“Mein Kampf! The mini-series!”), spinning out from a black-windowed mobile crack lab circling the Washington DC Beltway to take in the whole of an America under an undeclared ‘Narco-Military’ dictatorship, slowly being crushed by the bootheel whilst drugs are pumped into the ghettos to pacify the poor, deliberately stoking poisonous sectarianism. It’s an astonishing achievement, a song genuinely worthy of a movie adaptation. DOA riff away, slowly ramping up the pressure over 14 minutes whilst Biafra paints the bleakest possible diorama, his voice no longer comic but chilling. The intensity builds and builds and builds and the end result is as thrilling as it is horrifying. By the closing chants of ‘Ollie for President – He’ll get things done!’ you’ll want to run and hide.

Jello Biafra and NoMeansNo – ‘Bruce’s Diary’ (1991)

The second spin-out collaboration was ‘The Sky Is Falling and I Want My Mommy’ recorded with existentialist provocateurs and Alternative Tentacles stalwarts NoMeansNo. The record is frenzied and hilarious by turns, from the Space Shuttle panic of the title track to the Wild West escapism of ‘Ride The Flume’ and on into the urban nightmare of ‘Chew’. ‘Bruce’s Diary’ is an out-of-step jazz-punk number told from the perspective of a spook spying on an entire population. It starts with surveillance

No one ever sees me/Yet I know all of you/ It’s sort of like a small town/When your whole lives are on my computer

then swerves into political and social control

A lethargic population/Is the key to our control/Who’d rather watch someone’s life on TV/Than participate in their own

Mentally they feel helpless/Physically they just give up/We priced the healthy food so high/They can only buy soda pop

A housebroken bee colony/That goes home after 5/Too burnt and glazed to threaten us/With purpose in their lives

And on it goes…

We melt you with acid rain/Keep you poor for economic gain/Convince you your biggest threat/Is drugs and terrorists

They don’t even have to be real/Just find a face, make up a crime/Run sensational headlines/Works every time!

The people must not realize/They are being manipulated/For them to be manipulated effectively

We give ’em things to worry about/Buying clothes and losing weight/Your lack of curiosity/Is the key to our success!

And of that sound familiar?

When this record came out, it sounded like hyperbolic and often hilarious exaggeration, so wild it was relatively easy to laugh off whilst fuelling the dismissive view that Biafra was a tin-hat-wearing conspiracy nut. Now, in an age where we accept that we are being spied upon by our own governments, we’re terrified of other people in case they want to kill us, we’re assailed by images of bodies and things we are supposed to want and told that consumer spending can be the key to economic progress, then let’s reflect that the of the words above only the reference to ‘acid rain’ sounds dated. This song was written in 1991 before we’d even heard of the internet.

Tumor Circus – ‘Take Me Back Or I’ll Drown Our Dog (Headlines)’ (1991)

Biafra’s collaboration with scuzzy sample wranglers Steel Pole Bath Tub was perhaps his most darkly persuasive in its sound. This rattling number stitches together genuine newspaper headlines into crazed non-sequiturs, constructing a cracked mirror to reflect the media’s complicit role in distracting the masses:

Designer beef/Surfing for Christ/Horse molester must be stopped/Police kill man to stop suicide/City burns, Party goes on!

Headlines! I wanna hear some/Good News! Even if it’s a lie/Scandal! For me to graze on/Entertain me tonight! 

Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon – ‘Love Me I’m A Liberal’ (1994)

‘Prairie Home Invasion’ was, of all things, a country and western meets psychobilly album. It’s pretty great. Biafra is perhaps less direct, at least as concerned with creating an authentically bonkers american folk vibe as hitting his targets full on, but when he hits he scores. See the point blank pro-choice anthem ‘May The Fetus Be Aborted’.

My favourite track was always ‘Love Me I’m A Liberal’. Lyrically it’s a straight update of the Phil Ochs classic and credit for most of the best lines goes to Ochs, but it’s performed with such brio by Jello, Mojo and his band the Toadliquors that it raises a smile even as you realise it’s probably you he’s knifing in the front.

So there you have it. A terrible choice for Devon Record Club, where scabrous noise tends to fare badly and lyrics are the last thing we want to concentrate on. Nonetheless, Biafra is an important figure for me and whilst I wouldn’t have wanted to choose a specific album, Tom’s compilation theme gave me the perfect opportunity to share the Virus.

And hey, Biafra! We should get reacquainted.

Tom listened: Although we had carte blanche to choose whichever songs we liked, Rob’s chronological tour through Jello Biafra’s recordings was a stroke of genius. Not only did it allow me to become acquainted with the surprisingly eclectic discography of the Alternative Tentacles main man but also it allowed him to cherry pick from a vast array of music and, I suspect, in this case Rob used the opportunity to paint Jello in the best possible light. Songs were bright, exciting and refreshingly accessible, lyrics obviously irreverent and witty and it certainly helped to have Rob set the scene for each song so expertly. I thought Full Metal Jackoff in particular was exceptional and its 14 minutes fairly flew by in a rush of intense energy and ever more unhinged vocals.

As someone who had the required lone Dead Kennedys’ obsessive whilst in the sixth form (who seemed to hog the stereo and ‘treat’ us to Fresh Fruit and Rotting Vegetables as often as he could), I was particularly surprised at how unlike that most of the music Rob played us sounded.

A great idea for a future theme Rob, I can think of a few recording artists in my collection that could well benefit from similar treatment.

Graham Listened: As we went round the table with our choices, I have to say I was feeling initially nervy when we stopped at Rob’s turn each time. As time went past the sense of foreboding diminished and each track was more intriguing than the last.

I have avoided Mr Biafra since 1984 when the obligatory fellow 6th former in my year tried to convince me that the Dead Kennedys were the most important band in the world and forced me and many others to listen to their music. Sadly he became ostracized from the entire 6th form as his determination to convert us got stronger and stronger. Wonder what ever happened to him? Expect he formed a band.

Clearly someone who has important things to say and possibly good foresight into  the way the world is going/has turned out. ‘Full Metal Jackoff’ was brilliant and everything to do with the live performance and imagery of ‘Pull my strings’ was inspired.

Nick listened: Did one of those stupid Buzzfeed quizzes the other day about ‘which 80s hardcore shouty American underground rock dude are you’ and, because I ticked all the anti-capitalist answers rather than the drug hoover answers, I got Jello Biafra. I was way too young to know anything about The Dead Kennedys at the time, and they’ve not been an act I’ve sought out since for numerous reasons (being British, not being into much hardcore, etcetera), but I pretty much thoroughly enjoyed everything played on Rob’s list, and, moreover, agreed with it all ideologically pretty strongly. We could really do with more of his ilk now. Really.


Arctic Monkeys – AM – Round 60 – Graham’s Choice

‘Album of the year’, always a difficult one for me. untitled This year even more challenging given the record breaking 5 options I had to pick from. Hands down would be Hookworms, which Rob played earlier in the year. Nick inspired me with These New Puritans and The National, while I made a mistake with Boards of Canada. All this points to Tom not yet being forgiven for the stunt he pulled when introducing Al Green earlier this year.

I don’t own any other Arctic Monkey’s albums having never really felt the need. Liked the well known singles but never felt there was a substance that needed to be explored. But having heard extracts fom this I took the plunge and felt well rewarded. Being pretty transparent in my tastes, the first things that hit are the guitar licks of ‘Physical Graffiti’ era, cleaned up in a no need to ‘rock out’ way. The evidence for this being my daughter listening in the kitchen on her knees, in an an attempted power slide with her acoustic guitar gripped in a way which bodes well for NOW86 to be leaving her cd collection very shortly.

Mainly dirty, grubby style and lyrics but plenty of commercial appeal, which I am still a sucker for. Ends beautifully with John Cooper Clarke’s words on ‘I wanna be yours’, “And let me be the portable heater that you’ll get cold without”.

The Hookworms would make me want to be in a band if I was a teenager, the Arctic Monkeys just made an album I really liked.

John Wizards – John Wizards: Round 60 – Tom’s Selection

JohnWizardsALBUMART624The prospect of our ‘Album of the Year’ meeting for 2013 had been causing me some concern for some time. Come November I had precious few records that I could have realistically taken as my album of the year: Bill Callahan’s Dream River was probably at the top of my pile but we’ve already had our fill of Bill; not that you can ever have too much of him in my opinion, but it shows a certain lack of breadth to have three records by the same artist within the space of three years. And besides, it’s not as good as his previous two solo albums, or his last two (amazing) efforts as Smog. Other albums I have acquired from 2013 have largely been disappointing for me: Parquet Courts is a tired rehash of early Pavement, bafflingly revered for some inexplicable reason; Kurt Vile’s latest is some way off the brilliance of Smoke Ring being overlong and meandering; Phosphorescent’s Muchacho is pleasant enough but hardly album of the year material and John Grant’s Pale Green Ghosts starts off so strongly but peters out in its second half. To my mind the best record I had heard from 2013 was Rob’s Pinkunoizu thing but I could hardly bring that. Then, at the bum end of the year, as the forums began to gear themselves up to listmania (lisztomania?) I struck gold…twice.  One of the two albums I am saving for another meeting so more of that at a later date. The other is John Wizards’ self-tilted debut. Neither album made much (if any) impression on the album of the year lists. I guess I am just becoming ever more out of touch! But for sheer life affirming joyfulness John Wizards takes some beating.

Somewhat surprisingly, given the fact that our tastes share much common ground, my album of the year is kind of the polar opposite of Rob’s emptyset record. Whereas his record is all bright melodies and colour and…oh, hang on, I may have got that the wrong way round! Rob’s album is the absence of music, it’s the sound of what’s left when some alien species has beamed down to Earth and removed everything but heavy machinery. In contrast, John Wizards is crammed to overflowing with music. Ostensibly comprising of 15 ‘songs’, the album sounds more like 200 ideas spewing forth from a very active (ie hyperactive) brain. There’s so much going on on John Wizards’ debut that I find myself worrying about their sophomore effort already…not only will it be hard to match the genius of this album but surely they can’t have all that many ideas left? There are, after all, only so many permutations of notes on a scale and most of them have been used here! So I guess I should just enjoy it while it lasts, something that seems to happen that little bit more with each new listen.

Maybe it’s the mathematician in me, but I love albums like this. Albums which require work, that are like a puzzle, where it takes time just to work out where one song ends and another one starts and then to gradually realise that what sounded at first like a set of disconnected motifs actually do hang together as ‘songs’. Albums like A Wizard A True Star or Alien Lanes or Mark’s Keyboard Repair or, even, Smile which has recently (completely by coincidence) been my album of choice in the car and is slowly revealing its worth despite sounding abysmal during those early plays. But, unlike all of these records, John Wizards sounded glorious on a first listen. A glorious mess. There’s nothing really that jars, the way the songs develop, the movement between sections, is never abrupt and each part of every song could be fleshed out into a 15 minute jam and I would be quite happy to listen to it. And whilst Nick played us some Syrian wedding music that had just a whiff of Western production values detectable, John Wizards’ African roots ground the album in someplace unique but the African influence is subtle and used sparingly so that, whilst at times it sounds a bit like Junior Boys crossed with Ladysmith Black Mambazo at other times it might just sound like Junior Boys. It all adds up to something fresh and, to my mind, unique and highly addictive. The perfect antidote to those emptyset blues!

Rob listened: I spent a fruitless and frustrating couple of minutes this evening trying to describe ‘R Plus 7’ by Oneohtrix Point Never, another of my favourite records of 2013. It’s a dizzying blizzard of a thing, blinking from one stanza to another, apparently teleporting in and out of entirely different tracks. There’s no way on this earth that it should work, but it’s beautiful and moving. To some extent, I could have saved us all the bother had Tom gone first instead of last. I hadn’t heard of John Wizards before tonight, but, crudely put, it’s ‘R Plus 7’ played on real instruments rather than a laptop. Perhaps not quite so deliberate – there are flows and dissolves across the record, but ultimately both artists are getting away with an approach which should spell disaster, at least in part through their energy and attention to delicious detail. I loved it. If this is what a post-internet global music sounds like then for now it sounds pretty good.

Omar Souleyman – Wenu Wenu: Round 60, Nick’s choice

Omar-Souleyman-Wenu-WenuWhat the hell is an “album of the year” anyway? Despite Tom’s exhortations, I couldn’t pick just one record from last year, and of the four or five that I like an awful lot I’ve already played some either here or at the other place (Melt Yourself Down, These New Puritans) and the others are 75+ minutes in length (Holden, Nils Frahm). So I thought I’d just play something that I liked quite a bit and found fascinating and thought would make for a really good record club experience.

Step forward Omar Souleyman, Syrian wedding singer.

Souleyman’s musical career spans more than 20 years, and superseded his earlier career as a labourer. He’s released more than 700 albums, the vast majority of which are live recordings of performances at weddings, dubbed straight to tape and handed, as a single, unique copy, to the bride and groom. His essence is his live performance, and Wenu Wenu is his first “studio” album, and was produced by Kieron Hebden, aka Four Tet.

Compilations produced for a western audience exist (mostly on the Sublime Frequencies label), hatched together from live recordings, but this is the first time he’s recorded something specifically as an album, to be released on CD, for a British record label (Domino, the same label as Arctic Monkeys, also played this evening), and that can be reviewed, purchased, listened to, and ranked in end-of-year polls according to the suffocating orthodoxy of how we consume music in the US and UK these days.

Souleyman, a native of Syria who now lives in Turkey, plays a type of music called dabke, a popular style of performance and dance across the whole of the Middle East, which is particularly well suited to celebratory events. Like weddings. It consists of intricate, almost hysterical instrumental leads played (on Wenu Wenu, at least) on electric saz (a teardrop-shaped stringed instrument that looks a little like a lute) and a synthesizer imitating traditional Arabic reed instruments. These riffs spiral at the edge of chaos over the top of relentlessly thumping 4/4 rhythms, the mournful lyrics (“wenu wenu” means “where is she?”) and dramatic delivery at odds with the rampant tempos.

If you need a western comparison as an entry point, then it’s dance music. Really fast, electronic dance music. Wenu Wenu is a string of club bangers, only relenting when the final two tracks slow the pace a tiny bit. “It used to be slow, but when the keyboard came into this music, every year we made it faster, until we reached what we have now,” Souleyman said to The Guardian last autumn. You can hear why DJs looking for something esoteric and different to drop into a set without breaking pace would choose Souleyman, why Hebden wanted to record him.

“I have a good voice, and am interested in music,” Souleyman also said, and he does. I gather from people who are properly into dabke and other Middle Eastern genres that there are better wedding singers out there than Souleyman; some of them seem perturbed that he has crossed over into the European and American musical consciousness when others haven’t. I can’t speak for that, but I can say that Wenu Wenu is great fun, and strangely moving, and slightly uncanny in its fusion of familiarity and otherness.

Rob listened: More reports from the frontline of a fracturing musical landscape. Say what you like about Omar Souleyman, call him a novelty cross-over, a hipster breakthrough act, the fact is that we’re at a point now where we can discover the work of a frenzied Syrian wedding singer and marvel not only at the energy, the textures, the sheer fizzing pizzaz of it, but also at the fact that it sounds pretty much like the sort of stuff we could be hearing on niche dance labels or on a 3am dancefloor. I don’t know whether this means we’ve come full circle, whether music is running out of ideas or catching up with its own future, but I love the implied chaos and I specifically love the idea of this chap rocking up at a wedding in some corner of Syria and banging out tunes most scowling dance acts would kill for.

Tom Listened: Although I enjoyed Wenu Wenu, I found the first two thirds of the album pretty exhausting. It’s my age! At first the relentlessness of the sound was captivating but by the time I had finished my Balti, I was wishing for a bit of variety. And, almost instantly, it came, the last couple of songs being much slower and groovier. If the album had a bit more shade to go with the light (or, even, if it had been sequenced differently) I would probably be championing it unequivocally.

emptyset – ‘Recur’: Round 60 – Rob’s Album of 2013

emptyset - recurI’m breaking the rules here. I don’t own ‘Recur’. Not yet. Normally, that would preclude me from choosing it for a meeting, although I have a get out of jail card (a physical copy) winging its way to me in the mail. But this is Album of the Year night, and 2013 has been very different for me, album-wise.

We’re battening down the financial hatches at the moment and as a result I haven’t bought any records for 6 months. In total, and adding the five which I (very, very) gratefully received over the Christmas period to the 11 I got before the spending freeze, I’ve gained just 16 records released in 2013.

But I’ve listened to many, many more through Spotify and so my 2013 has been rich in new music. I’ve given time to around 60 more albums, the vast majority of which I would not have taken a chance on had my only choice been to buy or forget. It seems appropriate therefore that one of these turned out to be my favourite of the year.

There’s a dominant strain among them of largely abstract works, probably ‘electronic’ even if only technically, which have come to me from different angles, hit me in different places, and coalesced into something that feels like a significant shift in my tastes, or possibly my wants. Genre tags aren’t much use for these records, not to me at least. Alongside more graspable fayre such as Daniel Avery’s thrumming ‘Drone Logic’, Vatican Shadow’s portentous ’Remember Your Black Day’ and Forest Swords shambling ‘Engravings’, the most fascinating and moving of this clutch are closer to something I might lazily, naively call ‘contemporary classical’, but again, that’s hopelessly wide of the mark. But ‘electronica’ doesn’t really suggest anything that they sound like. They sure as hell aren’t ‘dance music’.  Labels aside, albums by Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never and The Haxan Cloak have been the ones which have caught my attention and my imagination and have come to fill a gap, a need, I barely knew I had.

One of these, the one which made most impact on me, was ‘Recur’ by Bristol duo emptyset (it seems that the lower case ‘e’ is their preferred usage). I heard a single track, the pummelling ‘Fragment’, on a Bleep podcast. Following up I found a few reviews, but without the opportunity to grab the album and listen to it properly offline it would have slipped into the growing, ever shifting morass of new references. But I did grab it, played it at work then played it in the car and soon it was almost all I was playing.

emptyset describe themselves as a ‘production project’ and that seems as good a bracket as any. Interviews with them seem to support the suggestion that they are as much sound artists as music makers. Their previous works have been a little more ‘ambient’ than ‘Recur’ although I use the term advisedly. If those works were ambient in the literal sense, you wouldn’t want to be confined in the space they represented. They have previously recorded works live in mines, power stations and mansions, using sound as a pressurising force to interact with and even to resonate the buildings. Their works which don’t actually utilise physical spaces still sound like indoor firing ranges suffused with toxic fog.

‘Recur’ is tighter, more focussed than the works that preceded it. Where these were claustrophobic and overwhelming yet often blurred at the edges, ‘Recur’ is laceratingly sharp and viciously direct. To call the music ’stripped down’ would be to do it another labelling disservice. This is what’s left after removing music. No melody (the closest it gets is the repeated register shift that runs through ‘Fragment’), no harmony (there is no opportunity for it to arise), no beats (there’s nothing you would recognise as such) and, essentially, anything resembling an human-played instrument. Once stripped away, it seems all that remains is a throbbing, pulsing, spasming machine which is about to eat you alive. If any image comes to mind whilst listening to ‘Recur’ it is of vast, unknowable alien insects stirring, their body parts grating and whirring, about to either strike or take flight.

I’ve never heard anything like it, and no record has had such a deep and repeated effect on me this year. ‘Recur’s 9 relatively short tracks, which span 35 minutes in total, are harsh, liberating, intoxicating, mind-altering. Its concussive percussion leads to a blissful percussive concussion.

Through all this, the sound, the tracks, the accumulation, is always challenging but never, to my ears at least, punishing, despite its pure, channeled force. I’ve used records in lots of ways and in lots of situations this year, but ‘Recur’ is the one I’ve reached for most and been most unable to ignore whenever I’ve put it on. It feels like a breakthrough, I’m just not sure I want to know into where.

Nick listened: To say this was abstracted would be an understatement; huge swathes of it were almost unrecognisable as music, and I faintly suspect that sitting in Graham’s chair near the subwoofer caused me an upset stomach the next day…

Whether it was growing familiarity with their aesthetic, or deliberate sequencing on emptyset’s part, I found the second half or so of the album more structured and easier to follow; some parts weren’t a million miles away from the more abstract parts of Holden’s The Inheritors from last year, albeit shorn of any dancefloor lineage and melodicism. These parts, which perhaps veered close to drone or dark ambient, felt more enjoyable to me, if ‘enjoyable’ is the right word to use.

I’m intrigued, given the very abstract, sound-art nature of the music contained within, as to why emptyset deigned to parcel Recur up into “pop song” sized capsules of 3-4 minutes; it seems faintly arbitrary and oxymoronic, albeit intriguing.

I’ve not really got any idea of whether or how much I enjoyed this, or would enjoy it if I went back to it. I’m very interested in Rob’s strong reaction to it; I’ve been exploring a lot of similar, post-electronic, quasi-classical, experimental music over the last year, much of it very minimal, but none of it has been this far out, and the things that have moved or fascinated me the most have usually been very… phenomenologically beautiful… which Recur almost deliberately isn’t. Not that it’s horrible; just strange. But what does strange mean, these days?

Tom Listened: Of the four of us, Rob is by far the most likely to bring something really challenging. As in challenging your notion of what music actually is, what it’s for and what makes it good or bad. Personally, I am drawn to acts that manage to bend the light rather than obscure it completely and some of Rob’s more demanding offerings have elicited conversations/ruminations recalling The Emperor’s New Clothes. But there was none of that when we listened to emptyset. Maybe the reason for this is that what emptyset do is barely music at all. Maybe it’s because it sounds so alien that we had no idea at all how these sounds/noises are made. Maybe it was because we were all so fixated on Graham wobbling his way across the living room in his armchair as his subwoofer unleashed merry hell (please note, Graham was being wobbled by the chair – I am in no way insinuating that he is inherently wobbly). On the night, I sort of enjoyed the experience and can see why Rob likes it so much but, for now, I’ll happily retreat back to the light benders in my collection.

Afterword: A few days later I was in the shed looking for something or other when I suddenly caught myself listening intently to the sound of the freezer. Sounded pretty good Rob, maybe you should save your pennies in future and come and listen to our household appliances instead.

Graham hid in the corner: Bloody hell. Not since the comparative “Sunny Delight” of Sunn o’ my word have I have been so intimidated by a piece of music (was it?) Weirdly engaging while it was on, but wanted it to be over. Will shortly be checking structural integrity of arm chair by subwoofer and as reviews go that’s best I can offer, but fitting. By the way for all those looking for cheap thrill or crash diet, my chair by the sub woofer is available for hen parties and constipation and Rob’s choice recommended listening. But actually I’d like to try it again from behind the sofa, this time!

Carpenters – The Singles 1969-1973 – Round 59- Graham’s Reluctant Choice

Oh it looked so easy when Rob set the $_12 theme  of a UK No:1 album. I sat firmly on my laurels having estimated 50 or so CD and vinyl albums to choose from after a quick scan of the possibilities. Then came the crunch of getting them together and making a choice. In a matter of minutes I proved to myself that I sat high on the “commercial whore index” by having a collection of stuff that I hadn’t played for years and certainly had no intention of playing at record club without body armour. Add to the mix some work issues requiring a prompt getaway, I opted for some novelty choices (what ever did happen to Terence Stoke-on-Trent D’arby?) which included the above. This was rescued from my parents record collection at some point in the late 90’s and is in pretty much the state of the thumbnail above.

Thinking we would only last a couple of tracks, we eventually finished up with the whole of side one as the precise, yet syrupy voice of Karen Carpenter began to wash over us. Growing up, Carpenters seemed a strange MoR/TV special/Pop type crossover that were to despised by any spotty youth taking music seriously. I taught my self to ignore them, which wasn’t easy given there huge radio and TV coverage in the 70’s. Little did I know that as a brother and sister, behind the scenes they were enduring drug and  lifestyle issues, a world away from their clean-cut image.

Not sure if some of these songs count as guilty pleasures or whether years of radio bombardment have just weakened my defences really. The arrangements are so crisp on ‘Weve only just begun’, ‘Ticket to ride’, ‘Rainy days and Mondays’, ‘Goodbye to Love’, Yesterday once more’, and Karen’s voice just eases you back in the chair.

Highlight of the abridged listen was a reminder of the nuts guitar solos midway and on the ‘outro’ of ‘Goodbye to Love’, Simply creams anything Richey Blackmore ever came up with!


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