Archive for April, 2010

Heavy metal is a music I’ve never come to grips with, nor ever will, despite the links – tenuous in my mind, but strong in others – to punk.

It’s difficult to take such a sound seriously when the musicians adorn spandex trousers, have long, sometimes permed, hair, and somewhat unfortunate views on women, politics and the world in general. A generalisation I know but that was my memories of the style in the 1980s. But then I was an indie-kid.

However, I need to, ahem, admit to something, I find myself watching films about heavy metal/ hard rock and all it’s myriad of sub-genres, and reading magazine articles about Metallica, Motley Crue, Led Zep, Motorhead and all the others. I’ll explain this later, but first, let’s look at the scene itself.

The first time I came across metal was as a young lad at the local youth club. There was a turntable on which a group of hipsters played The Specials, Madness, The Beat, Bad Manners and the Selecter, at the peak of the 2-Tone craze. Blondie might get a listen as Debbie Harry was the hottest chick on the planet, and the band were damn good too, and maybe the Police would get a turn or two. Otherwise it was Adam and the Ants.

But one kid would always try to put on Gillan, AC/DC or Iron Maiden. I’ll be fair, Maiden’s Run To The Hills is a great song, and I love Motorhead – how can you not when they play straight-edge punk ‘n’ roll with the lovely Lemmy at the front. But as far as I was concerned you could stick Gillan and Van Halen up your arse and the lad who was the main metal fan was a shitty fucker who had a face you would want to slap. I see him occasionally as a bouncer in a notorious club in my home town and I still, after all these years, want him to get a good doing from a nutjob who’s going to take that sucker who looked at his bird out and woe betide any bouncer who’s gonna get in his way.

I’d love to blame him for my aversion to metal but, frankly, if I hear Def Leppard, W.A.S.P, Twisted Sister, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Pantera, blah blah blah, I turn numb. It’s cold, heartless music about subjects I can’t relate to with a penchant for black, and the grotesque.

In could go on and on, but you’d shout at me before I finished.

So, what about this interest in reading and watching about heavy metal/ hard rock?

It’s simple: the tales, the excess, the failures, the humour, the laddishness, the outrageous stage shows, the arrogance, the rebeliousness even, when that particular terms alludes to a refusal to conform rather than making statements about society’s failings.

While Iron Maiden albums are, surprisingly, absent from my record collection the likes of Doves, Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand and REM are all very much among the elite of that scattered collection.

All nice clean-cut boys who’s music has the seal of approval from their mums, but none of those acts could justify a decent book or documentary. How could you possibly get 20 pages of racy material from art-school boys Franz Ferdinand.

I prefer my rock’n’roll tales to be about working-class lads (and I use the male noun as metal is predominantly made by people with a third leg), who would be joiners or brickies otherwise, and who like to bite the heads of farm animals or have a trail of drugs, women and bottles leading to their hotel rooms.

One of the finest music docos is Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey which examines metal’s origins, censorship, Satanism, women in metal and the different elements to music. The highlight is the interview with Dee Snider of Twisted Sister who’s articulate and a good talker on Tipper Gore’s PMRC with-hunt.

Prior to seeing this, the only “metal” films I’d seen were Spinal Tap and the Comic Strip Presents … episode Bad News, both of which were mockumentaries of metal but brilliant nevertheless, although not without a considerable amount of truth. Apparently, the Metallica doco, Some Kind of Monster, is in the same vein, albeit totally unintentional, but I can’t comment having not seen as yet. But you film most ageing bands and you might get some of the same kind of madness. Take Dig, the doco on the rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre in which the slightly demented Anton Newcombe of the former makes the entire film with his unhinged antics.

On the reading front I have to mention Hammer of the Gods, the famous book about Led Zepellin by Stephen Davis even if the truth behind many of the stories are disputed.

Other books on my Amazon wishlist include The Dirt, on Motley Crue which even if it only covered half the antics of this lot, would be mesmerising reading; Michael Moynihan’s exporation of Norwegian death metal, Lords of Chaos, and, at number one, I Am Ozzy, by you know who.

I’m going to leave you now, I’ve found an old music mag with a feature about the ex-Sabbath frontman. Rock on.

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Who? Goldfrapp

Title: Head First
Mute records
Tell me more:
For the uninitiated – and where the hell have you been? – Goldfrapp are Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory, who combine her sonic voice with his electro genius.
The Lowdown:
Having delved into whimsical, pseudo-folk territory on Seventh Tree, Goldfrapp have revisited electro-glam with an album that’s unashamedly steeped in the glorious synths of the 1980s. The opener, Rocket, sounds suspiciously like The Pointer Sisters’ Jump, but is followed by Believer, a beauty that harks back to the radio-friendly Supernature album of 2005. It ends with Voicething which wouldn’t sound out of place on the last Kraftwerk album.

Anything else? It’s no surprise that Serge Gainsbourg and The Wicker Man film have had an audible and visual influence on the band.

Who? The Courteeners

Title: Falcon
Tell me more:
Debut album produced by Stephen Street, The Smiths’ favoured producer, spawned a number of decent-sized hits in the UK. They are the background music to Coronation Street, Shameless and Gavin & Stacey.
The Lowdown:
Music is global in the 21st century: there’s no reason why a kid in a housing estate in Glasgow can’t listen to a dub-funk band in New Zealand. So, in these trans-oceanic days, it’s nice to hear a band that revel in their locale. Falcon is an album born of the musically-rich north-west of England, the lyrics resonating with Mancunian landmarks, of lovers being in faraway London, and all the things that working class people in the towns across the breadth of dear old England do, like “girls singing Blondie with their heart of glass.” There will be comparisons to a Birmingham outfit, Editors, the typical “indie-rock band” but the Courteeners are the mature version of the Arctic Monkeys, their tales being of late 20s heartache and exuberance.

Anything else? Morrissey has gushed praise on them, notably in a US radio interview in which he played one of their earlier songs.

Who? The Transistors

Title: Shortwave
Tell me more:
Three youthful oiks from Christchurch without, presumably, a love of punting and gardens which the city is famous for. Eleven tracks, clocking in at 21 minutes: why so long??
The Lowdown:
Punk punk PUNK!!! Green Day – are you listening you Hard Rock Cafe residents? It take two seconds of the opener Pleased To Meet You for the chorus to kick in, it takes a few more for me to think ‘hey, guys, perhaps you might want to slow down a wee bit’. But they ain’t listening, they just pummel on. But, despite a couple of lame tracks (so short you hardly notice them anyway) the quality’s extremely consistent. It’s the 21st century equivalent to Wire’s 1977 buzzsaw classic, Pink Flag.

Anything else? http://thetransistors.tumblr.com/ then go to http://www.myspace.com/thetransistorsband

Who? Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Title: Welcome To The Pleasuredome deluxe edition
ZTT/ Bang
Tell me more:
In 1984, these Liverpudlians had it all: Number ones hits, T-shirts sold in the High St and daytime radio bans. Two Tribes was top of the charts for nine weeks, with a video showing Ronnie Reagan and the Soviet leader Chernenko having a good ol’ fashioned punch-up in the street, a metaphor for the Cold War battles of the time. Relax, with it’s sordid gay overtones was banished from Britain’s main radio station, virtually ensuring it rocketed to the top spot in an era when the charts were still meaningful. Politics AND sex, Frankie had them both down their trousers. By 1986 a poor second album signalled the end of that career.
The Lowdown:
Given the inclusion of those two monster hits, and the Christmas smash, The Power of Love, you’d be excused for thinking this was a radio-friendly give-to-the-kiddies for Xmas kinda big seller. But it’s actually a minor concept album with songs seguing into each other, tracks lasting less than a minute and some adults-only sound effects. There’s a brilliant, very individual, cover of Springsteen’s Born To Run and they also have a bash at Edwin Starr’s War and the gloriously campy San Jose.

Anything else? DJ Mike Reed is famously credited/ blamed for the banning of Relax after condemning on air the lyrics and suggestive record cover. However, Radio One had already decided to quietly shuffle it under the carpet, so quietly in fact, that Reed was unaware of the move.

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