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Archive for May, 2014

PORKY HAS a burning suspicion for bands who reform after years away. “Unfinished business” the oft-cried reason for the get-together tends to translate as “we spent the fucking money.”
In saying that, some of our favourite bands have reformed successfully – House of Love for example recorded the excellent She Paints Words In Red last year; but for every Chadwick and Bickers reconciliation there’s a glut of others whose Mark 2 material has been a massive letdown. Dexys, Madness and The Undertones are three that come to mind.  Indie Cindy
The Pixies haven’t just exchanged telephone numbers for the first time in decades, however; they have actually been together for ten years, touring without recording material, until three recent EPs. These have been put together for Indie Cindy [PIAS], but it makes sense to digest them together.
Long-time producer Gil Norton is again at the knobs, but Kim Deal decided to leave the band last year. Indie Cindy, therefore, lacks the feminine touch that the Pixies possessed to such surprising effect during their 1987-91 heyday, and also the Francis-Deal tension, whether real or contrived, that surfaced in past material.
Highlights include the opening sonic screech of What Goes Boom, with its relentless barrage of metallic riffs and a mid-song chorus that deflates this aural assault; the bombastic stadium boom of Another Toe In The Ocean, the title track in which Black Francis sounds exactly like he did in 1989 with some cutting lines: “you put the cock in cocktail” and Bag Boy with its artful eeriness.
Nevertheless, more than half of the album leaves me cold. I have to fast forward the sombre/ grim Magdalena 318, and there’s little in Silver Snail to merit their inclusion on any album. Let’s stop there.
The weight of expectation makes disappointment easy to come by, but regardless of the artist, I I would have found it impossible to provide an exuberant review.
Many Pixies fans – the folks who’ve been going to the gigs over the past decade – will have all three EPs, so it is strange that there’s nothing new in here. There are a few versions about, and the one I have includes a live disk featuring a blend of tracks from Indie Cindy and older material such as Bone Machine and Something Against You. Make sure that, if you buy this, you get that one too.

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YES IT IS. And No it is too.NO
You read correctly. Yes, xBomb Factory have released an album. It’s called NO and has been a decade in the making.
The story as to why the agit-punk outfit (as I lazily label them) from Cambridge have taken so long to record a full-blown album, and why it has been released by the German label Noisolution is explained in our in-depth interview with frontman Ranting Jack done just last week (read here, https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/bomb-factory-speak-to-porky-prime-cuts/
Anyone familiar with the DIY EPs and demos they’ve seeped out over those years will know that xBF are steeped in the politics of the cynic, the disillusioned and the angry. And for some that will be an immediate turn off. Why, I don’t know as we all huff and puff about the abysmal world we live in, is there any valid reason we can’t listen to a band that actively takes on such concerns.
Otherwise, let’s all live in a Justin Bieber world.
The opening burst, My Name Is Gulliver, contains the clang and the cling of an Au Pairs album from 1981, with Jack’s corruscating chant of the title enough to make small children cower. Gulliver is an everyman figure, someone forced to conform to stereotypes. “My name is a label/ pinned to the door.”
Tapes relates the true tale of man pushed to the very edge by mass surveillance and the assumption that we all could be guilty of … something.
Ranting Jack’s vocal style is a few notches below the point at which a commanding timbre has become an ungainly screech, but he does breach that normally disciplined style on both Interference and Reflected, though this is in the context of the subject matter and the person dissected in the song.
The stand-out track of the album, and their live set, God Loves Us and He Hates You, sounds better than ever, with even a run-out that makes me think of Simple Minds in 1982. This is about the finest expose of right-wing conservatives imaginable, painting odious sects such as the Westboro Baptist Church as hateful tendencies. “Don’t drink or smoke, or be a girl/ Or we will bomb you – straight to hell/ Kill your kids if they’re in the way.” And for Godsake don’t be gay.

Tesco
Bought Or Sold sparkles with jangular post-punk guitars, pillorying the consumerist society and the banality of the supermarkets, “Is there freedom in the choosing/ Are you doing what you’re told?”. Then there’s the girl who wants the glossy dream and the boy after the chemical thrill, who “thinks it will fill the void”; they are people who are succumbing to the Same Surrender. There is no escaping our dark world, where the worst type of unemployment is the unemployment of the mind. “They’re on the sofa, my life is over,” is the eerie revelation of how the Idiot Box has taken over.
NO is not an easy ride, but it is a fulfilling one. The clatter can be overwhelming, and the bleakness stultifying. But I often felt like that after the Gang of Four’s Entertainment. Among the anger and the cynicism is a manifesto for a better lifestyle and an empowered mindset, the two precursors for a better world. Free your mind and your ass will follow someone once sang (it wasn’t Justin).
The next step for Noisolution and xBF is for a collection of all the material released on demos, EPs and online, that didn’t make it onto the album. How hard would that be?
Buy it at …

http://www.noisolution.de/

Look at the band site …
http://www.xbombfactory.com

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AS YOU CAN PROBABLY imagine xBomb Factory are an incendiary agit-punk band with a singer who has been known to use a tannoy at gigs. They originate from Cambridge, eastern England, a city full of students with plummy accents, who are kept far away from the rough and tough working class estates on the outskirts.
I interviewed Ranting Jack from what was then known simply as Bomb Factory in October 2009 and described them as “offering a bit of a push against the perpetual shove, an antidote to the poison we’re dealt with every day.”
Read the full article,  https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/bomb-factory).

 

Bomb Factory supporting The Fall (Chris Boland)

They now have their debut album, No, out – ten years after their first released anything. I will review this very soon. It is an appropriate time, then, to catch up with Jack and his merry men to find out about police computers, an ever-eccentric Mark E. Smith and that slight name change.

Porky: Firstly, the obvious one, why the name change, is there a purpose to this or was it that there’s a Japanese band by the same name and you want to play in Tokyo?

Ranting Jack: It’s because we’re all puppets of the sinister internet overlords. We always knew there was a Japanese band called Bomb Factory but it didn’t bother us and it really didn’t matter until we got signed. Then the label pointed out we’d never show up on an internet search because the Japanese lot had got there first and spread themselves over the web like a fine paste.
It became clear that confusion would reign and the clouds would weep blood. Or something. So we changed it. Naming a band has got to be one of the hardest things to do. Every name you can think of is already taken by some half-arsed fucking skiffle group in Patagonia. So in the end we got pissed off and just stuck an x on the front, xBomb Factory.

Tell us who is in the band just now … and why.

Well, there’s me, Ranting Jack. I’m in the band because the band was my idea. Mine, I tell you, mine. I am also the last surviving member from the original line-up.
The others, in order of longevity, are:
Mills, who went from watching early gigs to being in the band. He’s the one who gives it the spiky, trebly, scratchy guitar action.
Dave, who is in so we can have someone with a proper rock haircut. Also, because he’s an amazing guitarist and actively wanted to be in the band. Never look a gift guitarist in the mouth.
Ed. Ed drums and screams. Got to have a drummer, right? Well, try finding one. It’s a big investment, drums. We’re lucky to have Ed. He can never leave… ever.
Tom. He can play the bass line from Leave Them All Behind by Ride. That’s enough for me. Plus, the ladies love the beard.
We all knew each other before to a greater or lesser extent. Cambridge is a small place and if you’re in a band you get to know the people who play in bands.

It’s been nearly five years since your career highlight (being interviewed by Porky) … what has happened in the meantime, and why has it taken so long to pin down an album?

We’ve been to the high places and breathed the ancient air that drifts from the melting glaciers. I don’t honestly know. Time just … goes. We all have lives and they don’t stop until they stop, so just living I suppose. A few line up changes, an EP. But, to be honest, there didn’t seem any point going to the bother of an album until we knew someone wanted it and it would get heard.

Who is the character in the opening track My Name Is Gulliver, and why should we want to get to know him better (or less)?

He’s a sort of everyman. The song is about people getting labelled, about being forced to conform to stereotypes, but also about the bullshit situations you find yourself in. I just had the line, ‘my name is Gulliver’ and then all these other fictional characters came pushing in – Oliver Twist, Robinson Crusoe. They’re all everyman figures dealing with the shitty hand their dealt and that the reader is meant to identify with. That’s why the last line starts ‘my name’s not important’. So, maybe you know Gulliver quite well already.

Bomb Factory in action (Chris Boland)

Tapes, from the Bomb Factory EP, is about a man who went insane at the mass surveillance of society and sent letter bombs to government agencies. Given what has been revealed by Edward Snowden and The Guardian newspaper, mass surveillance has become super mass surveillance and virtually everything we do is being detailed in some way. It must be quite demoralising to read all this?

The most depressing thing about the whole Edward Snowden thing was how everyone just shrugged and said, “well of course they’re watching you when you take a shit. Duh!” People feel powerless, perhaps. Maybe they’re just too busy getting by. But I think most people – most people who think about it anyway – have this nagging anxiety. It’s what we’re trying to tap into with pretty much all of our stuff really.

What can be done to preserve our last vestiges of privacy?

You need a private self. An inner self. Don’t be hanging all your innermost on the washing line of social media. They can see your bank details and all that, ok, but there’s no need to go giving people a window into your head too. If they’re going to try and piece you together from your online habits, then make sure you’re more than just a digital jigsaw of shopping and Daily Mail celebrity sidebar porn. Consume less. Value your private life. Refuse to love Big Brother.

With a name like Bomb Factory/ xBomb Factory I imagine the spooks would have an alert to whenever the name is posted online, even inadvertantly, given the dangerous words that they follow.

Maybe. Someone did tell us that a few years ago – he was looking at our website on a library computer when someone seized control of his mouse to have a look at what he was up to. We did also get a series of visits from police computers – at least that’s what the analytic software told us. We got a load of visits from a Metropolitan Police computer in a short space of time and then it stopped. Maybe someone was checking us out because of the name. Maybe someone working there was a fan! They’ve probably gotten bored shitless and scrubbed us out of their Boolean search terms by now.

How did the connection with Noisolution come about, and tell us about how you are doing in Germany and beyond. I would have put a bet on that you would have released the album through Repeat Records.

We’ll always love R*E*P*E*A*T. They gave us our first gig and put out our first record on a white vinyl split single with Attila the Stockbroker.

Noisolution came about through a German magazine called Ox. We sent them our EPs and they gave them both the big thumbs up. Seems the guy who runs the mag knows the guy who runs the label and he pointed them in our direction. It happened very fast when it finally happened, and now we’ve got an album out and we’re going on tour in Germany. Berlin beckons. There’s been a good reaction to the record over there, good reviews and lots of radio play. Radio 6 have played a couple of tracks here too, but the other big highlight recently was supporting The Fall in Cambridge. Couldn’t ask for a better warm up really. Mark E. Smith disappeared off with a mic on a long lead about four songs in and phoned about half the gig in from the dressing room while the band soldiered on out front. There was a kind of fatalistic acceptance from the punters.

Links

xBomb Factory on Facebook … https://www.facebook.com/bombfactory

Website that’s not being updated but has plenty of information on past activities …. http://bombfactory.blogspot.co.nz/

Chris Boland, photographer who provided the photos here … https://www.facebook.com/chrisbolandphotography

 

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IT PASSED ME by at the time, and it is only now, three months later, that the landmark has dawned on me: Porky Prime Cuts is five years old. Michty, as Our Wullie might say in the Sunday Post.
There have been more than 150 posts in that time, including interviews with artists and some great personal features such as the series on my life in record stores, from Aberdeen to Wellington.
Looking back at that first article, in March 2009, is like going back to another time in my life. It looks like how a first-post would look like, but the blog hasn’t changed radically since then. (Check it out here, https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2009/03/).
In tricky times it has been a relief to be able to write something I want to write about, on an album, a band and even sport. The feedback is generally good, and artists have been in touch after an article I’ve written about their former band, such as 5:30 and the Blue Ox Babes. I took some flak when I exposed The National as the phoneys they are, and I fully expected that. (see review here, https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/?s=The+National).
It has been, at times, difficult to keep writing knowing that sometimes few people are reading. There are posts that cause a massive spike in the visits graph, and there are others that barely trouble it. That is part of the process, of course; swings and roundabouts.
There is plenty to come. Very soon Porky will post an excellent interview with Bomb Factory’s Ranting Jack, and a review of their new album. I have plenty of ideas and partly-written articles so keep an eye on this space. Feel free to post links to the site where you can, and everyone is welcome to make comments.

Porky

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It takes a brave, or perhaps just deranged, record label to celebrate their 20th year, with an album of miserable songs.
It’s certainly an unusual way for Fierce Panda to declare their survival for two decades in a cut-throat industry, and one in which labels, large and small are currently swimming against the online tide.
Fierce Panda have had a proud roster over the years, and a meritable history of giving acts their first start (Coldplay, for example), and endangered: fierce panda 2004-2014 allows me the opportunity to hear the current crop of young British bands. Naturally, in any Fierce Pandacompilation there are certain acts you would rather not have heard, and Acres of Lions sound like a mid-Atlantic outfit on their morose contribution.
Ultrasound, perhaps, typify the Fierce Panda spirit most tellingly, a larger than life indie band who took a long break out before their second album which included Sovereign and is included here too. “Tramline tears tear tracing paper laces/ Down your face/ Purge your sins, lowly stick-think things.” sings Andrew Wood on one of the more intriguing tracks of the 18.
Among these tales of lost love, rejection, and poverty, is a story of impending death, courtesy of The Raveonettes’ Last Dance, “And everytime you overdose, I rush to intensive care.”
There are songs with a pace that matches the subject matter, and there are those such as Hatcham Social’s Sidewalk, which is more sprightly with its never-ending riffs and brutal fade out. Other artists offering sad songs include The Crookes, Woodpigeon. The Hosts, Art Brut and Dingus Khan.
Endangered is available on its own, but if you go to the label’s website (http://www.fiercepanda.co.uk/link here) and buy any other album you can get this for free.

 

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