Sunday, September 30, 2012

Show Time!

SUBHUMANS - BIG JOBS - SEX PEST - PAUL HOOLI - King’s Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 22nd September 2012
It must be at least 15 years since I last saw SUBHUMANS. I was just too young to catch the band before it originally split up but caught two excellent shows in the UK from the band’s reformation in the 90s. SUBHUMANS was probably the first Anarcho band I really got into, thanks to a cassette I ordered via Sounds (ancient UK music mag/ paper that was way better than NME or MM) back in about 1983 called ‘Punk... An Acquired Taste’. This lead me to ‘From The Cradle To The Grave’ album and away I went. The band’s songs mixed the velocity of Hardcore Punk with other genres, be it Reggae or Dub or even a bit of Psychedelia and the lyrics of Dick Lucas were imbibed with wit, intelligence and a political line of thinking that was both informative and pointed.
So, when Tim Edwards and his Punk Rock Road Trips team arranged a New Zealand tour for SUBHUMANS, it was a no-brainer that I’d be there. Unfortunately, I was there early enough to see PAUL HOOLI.
I’m not quite sure how HOOLI got the gig - possibly on the strength that he used to be in THE MANAGERS. It was a solo set with just HOOLI’s voice and his acoustic guitar doing a bunch of songs that ranged from MOR Ska-esque originals through to a few covers from the likes of WHO, BUZZCOCKS and more. He wasn’t necessarily bad, just way out of place and more than a bit tiresome.
Thankfully the relatively new Auckland band, SEX PEST, came on and delivered a set of snide, sneering and embittered Garage Punk Rock that fused the likes of SEX VID and SHITTY LIMITS with vintage Kiwi Punks, THE HENCHMEN. The band includes members of TENTACLES OF DESTRUCTION and MALENKY ROBOT among others. The ten or so songs they played were uncompromising and powerful, but didn’t really on hyper speed to get their message across; instead the songs pivoted around a mid-paced guitar riff and a vocal that was spat out.
The King’s Arms had filled up nicely by this time too with a mix of Punks, some long hairs, a few Joe Normals and the odd, wasted Sid Vicious clone.
Next up was the endearingly titled BIG JOBS that feature ex-members of CITY NEWTON BOMBERS and MISSING TEETH. They blitzed through an incendiary set of raging Hardcore Punk (and not your shitty Metal-tainted macho bollocks either) that was over all too soon. The songs were short, direct and rippled with the fury of prime-time Boston Hardcore but delivered with an instant accessibility.
As 11pm dawned, Dick, Trotsky, Phil and Bruce assembled on stage and it was Show Time! Dick said his brief introduction and then it was into ‘Apathy’. It didn’t take long for a minor scuffle to breakout as one of the Sid clones got a bit of a hiding, but that was the only spate of violence I saw.
From there, every SUBHUMANS release was represented except ‘29:29 Split Vision’. It was an interesting choice of songs in places too - the obvious were there: ‘All Gone Dead’, ‘Mickey Mouse Is Dead’, ‘Wake Up Screaming’, ‘Joe Public’, ‘No’ (my personal fave), ‘Parasites’ ‘Businessmen’ and ‘Animal’ along with a number of tracks from the more recent ‘Internal Riot’ album including a scorching ‘This Year’s War’ and ‘Too Fat, Too Thin’. The gig closed with the excellent sing-a-ling-a-Dick ‘Work Rest Play Die’ (which was one of the tracks on that cassette mentioned above), and as usual, the classic ‘Religious Wars’. The interesting tracks came in the form of ‘Who’s Gonna Fight In The Third World War’, ‘Til The Pigs Come Round’ and, more specifically, ‘Germ’ that I had never heard live before - it was a superb take too really emphasising the groove of the bass line.
One of the main faults with SUBHUMANS though, is there are just too many great songs. I was really looking forward to ‘Waste Of Breath’, ‘Black And White’, ‘Peroxide’ and, even though it was a long shot, ‘Fade Away’. Biggest surprise though was no ‘Subvert’.
What I did notice about this gig that I had failed to before, is just how musically adventurous guitarist Bruce and bassist Phil are. Previous SUBHUMANS gigs I’ve been to, I’ve usually been a little too alcohol-soaked - this time I was virtually sober (mainly cuz I ain’t gonna pay the inflated booze prices at the King’s Arms - $10 a pint of Guinness? Get real...) which allowed me clearer vision and a clearer head the next morning! The excellent sound from the PA no doubt helped also.
As 12.15 hit, the band said their thank yous and the gig was over. SUBHUMANS certainly lived up to their reputation live and I’m pleased to say the intervening 15 years or so since I last saw the band has not diminished their power one jot. Unfortunately though, the world is still fucked and these songs- even those recorded way back in 1981 - are still as relevant today as they were then. Whilst that is the case (and let’s face it, things ain’t gonna get any better), this Punk Rock scene of ours should be very thankful that there is still a spokesman who possesses the clarity of vision and power with words as Dick Lucas.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Obituary - Adam 'MCA' Yauch

On Friday 4 May 2012, bassist, MC and founder of the BEASTIE BOYS, Adam Yauch aka MCA, passed away at the age of 47 due to cancer. According to his mother, Frances, he passed at 9am surrounded by family. He had been fighting cancer since 2009, when the disease was discovered in his salivary gland.
Yauch was born in Brooklyn, New York on 5 August 1964. Born of a Catholic father and Jewish mother, he taught himself bass guitar while attending Edward R. Murrow High School in the Midwood area of Brooklyn. While still at school, along with John Berry, kate Schellenback and Michael Diamond, he formed the band that would take him to global notoriety - BEASTIE BOYS. The band formed as a Hardcore band initially and played its first show on Yauch’s 17th birthday. In 1982, BEASTIE BOYS released its debut record, ‘Poly Wog Stew’.
He attended Bard College for another two years before dropping out. At the age of 22, Yauch and BEASTIE BOYS had mutated into a Hip-Hop trio and released their controversial debut album, ‘Licensed To Ill’ in 1986 along with the iconic party anthem, ‘Fight For Your Right’.
The official statement from BEASTIE BOYS tells Yauch’s history as well as any could:
It is with great sadness that we confirm that musician, rapper, activist and director Adam "MCA" Yauch, founding member of Beastie Boys and also of the Milarepa Foundation that produced the Tibetan Freedom Concert benefits, and film production and distribution company Oscilloscope Laboratories, passed away in his native New York City this morning after a near-three-year battle with cancer. He was 47 years old.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Yauch taught himself to play bass in high school, forming a band for his 17th birthday party that would later become known the world over as Beastie Boys.
With fellow members Michael "Mike D" Diamond and Adam "Adrock" Horovitz, Beastie Boys would go on to sell over 40 million records, release four #1 albums – including the first Hip Hop album ever to top the Billboard 200, the band's 1986 debut full length, ‘Licensed To Ill’ – win three Grammys, and the MTV Video Vanguard Lifetime Achievement award. Last month Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with Diamond and Horovitz reading an acceptance speech on behalf of Yauch, who was unable to attend.
In addition to his hand in creating such historic Beastie Boys albums as ‘Paul's Boutique’, ‘Check Your Head’, ‘Ill Communication’, ‘Hello Nasty’ and more, Yauch was a founder of the Milarepa Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness and activism regarding the injustices perpetrated on native Tibetans by Chinese occupational government and military forces. In 1996, Milarepa produced the first Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, which was attended by 100,000 people, making it the biggest benefit concert on U.S. soil since 1985?s Live Aid. The Tibetan Freedom Concert series would continue to stage some of the most significant benefit shows in the world for nearly a decade following in New York City, Washington DC, Tokyo, Sydney, Amsterdam, Taipei and other cities.
In the wake of September 11, 2001, Milarepa organized New Yorkers Against Violence, a benefit headlined by Beastie Boys at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, with net proceeds disbursed to the New York Women's Foundation Disaster Relief Fund and the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA) September 11th Fund for New Americans – each chosen for their efforts on behalf of 9/11 victims least likely to receive help from other sources.
Under the alias of Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch directed iconic Beastie Boys videos including ‘So Whatcha Want’, ‘Intergalactic’, ‘Body Movin’ and ‘Ch-Check It Out’. Under his own name, Yauch directed last year's ‘Fight For Your Right Revisited’, an extended video for ‘Make Some Noise’ from Beastie Boys' Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, starring Elijah Wood, Danny McBride and Seth Rogen as the 1986 Beastie Boys, making their way through a half hour of cameo-studded misadventures b efore squaring off against Jack Black, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as Beastie Boys of the future.
Yauch's passion and talent for filmmaking led to his founding of Oscilloscope Laboratories, which in 2008 released his directorial film debut, the basketball documentary Gunnin' For That #1 Spot and has since become a major force in independent video distribution, amassing a catalogue of such acclaimed titles as Kelly Reichardt's Wendy and Lucy, Oren Moverman's The Messenger, Banksy's Exit Through The Gift Shop, Lance Bangs and Spike Jonze's Tell Them Anything You Want: A Portrait Of Maurice Sendak, and many more.
Yauch is survived by his wife Dechen and his daughter Tenzin Losel, as well as his parents Frances and Noel Yauch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Show Time!

THE SPECIALS - NEWMATICS - Shed 10, Queens Wharf, Auckland, New Zealand - 10th April 2012
I thought I’d missed the boat; the boat being THE SPECIALS live experience. Among the very first records I bought back in 1980 at the tender age of 11, was the ‘Too Much Too Young’ EP, which remains a firm favourite of mine to this day. Obviously, I was too much too young to see the band then.
Move forward to 2009, I’m living in New Zealand and the band announces some reformation dates in the UK, but minus the band’s main creative force, Jerry Dammers. "Sad old tossers," I thought. "Milking the legend and boosting the bank balance." Snag is, many friends of mine saw the band on this tour and said they were smoking. "Well, it ain’t THE SPECIALS without Dammers," was my rather half-hearted conciliation.
But then a New Zealand show is announced! "OK, I’m going..." I thought. Second snag - it’s the very same night I was flying back to the UK to see my none-too-well Mum. Oh well, "It ain’t THE SPECIALS without Dammers...."
Soon after I saw the live DVD of the reunion tour and it was obvious: the gig was indeed out of this world - Dammers or not! More than a tad gutted, I resigned myself to never hearing ‘Too Much Too Young’ live by the band that recorded it.
Come 2012 and there is another NZ show announced and this time, no matter what (including a new job which didn’t really entitle me to any time off so soon after starting it), I was going. Chuffed. Prior to this Auckland show, the band had just done about five Australian gigs. The final night of a tour is always risky; while there is the possibility of watching THE show of the tour, there is also the greater possibility of a tired and jaded band, or one too intent on end-of-tour celebrations to give a shit about the music.
So, on a humid and surprising hot early April evening, I walked to the Auckland waterfront and entered what was basically a huge tin shed with a concrete floor - a venue that calls itself Shed 10. I had visions of the sound bouncing off all of these hard surfaces making just one big Rude Boy mash-up of noise. Thankfully, due to a rather low ceiling and heaps of wooden beams, somehow the reflections were absorbed, making the sound quality among the best I’ve heard.
So, with an over-priced beer in my hand, I awaited my debut experience of New Zealand’s own vintage Ska crew, NEWMATICS. The band played a more Funk-orientated take on Ska and while they were far from dull, they never really excited me as much as I had hoped. It was all rather polished and while vintage tunes like ‘Five Miseries’ and ‘Playing the Champion’ entertained, a lot of the remainder was filler. My fave song, ‘Walkie Talkies’, never made the show, but the closing ‘Riot Squad’ was certainly the band’s finest moment. After a mere 30 minute set, the band had gone.
And so THE SPECIALS. I’d read the band promised a different show from the 2009 tour (as seen on the aforementioned DVD) and it was instantly apparent with an almost acapella introduction to opener ‘Do The Dog’. Once the band kicked in, a non-stop celebration started up as the diverse crowd (and I mean young and old Punks, a few hippies, some old Skinheads, a good number of suited-and-booted Rude Boys and plenty of Joe Normals) skanked, grooved and sang along to every song.
Highlights were plenty: a stunningly pointed and graphic ‘Doesn’t Make It Alright’, the sublime quality of ‘Do Nothing’, a mega-up tempo ‘Monkey Man’, ‘Hey Little Rich Girl’ that got dedicated to the recently deceased Amy Winehouse, ‘A Message To You Rudy’ that received the biggest cheer of the night and the mass singalong set closer ‘Enjoy Yourself’.
The band clearly appeared to be having a good time. Lynval in particular seemed to be the heart of the band, constantly smiling and dancing, climbing the PA columns and being chatty with the crowd while Neville Staples was pretty much the voice of the band imploring the crowd to dance harder and sing louder. The famed sardonic wit of Terry Hall was in evidence too, suggesting that he was ‘bored’ and wanted a ‘nice cup of tea’ while also saying the venue needed ‘a good dust’. With Roddy Radiation pulling his rock ‘n’ roll poses at the front, it’s often easy to forget the duo that make THE SPECIALS such a formidable live at - Horace Panter and John Bradbury form an incredibly tight and effective rhythm section that allows the rest of the band a great deal of freedom. And as for Jerry Dammers replacement? Well... Jerry who???
As for surprises, well, there was no ‘Ghost Town’ nor ‘Guns Of Navarone’ this time around. In their place came ‘International Jet Set’, and ‘Too Hot’ (the entire first album was played in fact). I’d hoped ‘Why’ may make an appearance but no. The fact the venue had a low ceiling also created a bit of a surprise as there was no room for any over-head lighting. The massive SPECIALS backdrop was there again, but with stage and floor level lighting in front of it creating a more intimate yet slightly threatening and oppressive feel.
Close on to two hours after hitting the stage, the encores of ‘Little Bitch’ and ‘You’re Wondering Now’ signalled showtime was over and all that remained in Shed 10 was a lot of smiling, sweaty people all proclaiming that it had been a great night.
And yes, I did finally get to hear ‘Too Much Too Young’ live and it lived up to each and every expectation I had.
More photos here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Obituary - Michael Davis

On Friday 17 February, Michael Davis, bassist with legendary proto-punks, MC5, passed away due to liver failure at the age of 68. His wife, Angela, confirmed that after a month of hospitalizaton for liver disease at Enloe Medical Center in Chico, CA, Davis passed at on Friday afternoon.
Born on 5 June 1943, Davis studied fine arts at Wayne State University in Michigan but dropped out of the course in 1964. It was then that he came to prominence as the bassist (replacing original member, Pat Burrows) in the infamous Detroit band, MC5. With revolutionary politics, combustible unhinged musical chops and a decidedly anti-establishment polemics, the band is often cited as one of the forerunners of Punk Rock with their debut album, 1969’s seminal ‘Kick Out The Jams’ causing as much controversy in its time as any Punk album has done since 1977.
Succeeding albums, ‘Back In the USA’ and ‘High Time’ continued to set a template for Punk bands of the future and continue to cast their shadow over every Punk Rocking, Garage shaking band of today.
By 1972, Davis had a Heroin habit and was kicked out of the band. This drug habit lead him to a prison term - one that saw him reunite behind bars in Kentucky with MC5 guitarist, Wayne Kramer who was also incarcerated on drug charges.
Upon his release he joined DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (that also featured fellow Detroit Punk icon, ex-STOOGE Ron Asheton) for a term of seven years and played with BLOOD ORANGE and RICH HOPKINS AND THE LUMINARIOS.
Even though MC5’s vocalist Rob Tyner and guitarist Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith had already passed away, Davis - along with original MC5 band mates Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson - resurrected the band in 2003 under the moniker of DKT-MC5 that toured extensively.
In 2006, Davis had a major scare when, due to a motorcycle accident, he injured his back on a Southern California freeway. He later co-founded the non-profit Music Is Revolution Foundation, dedicated to supporting music education programs in public schools. Around this time, he also joined Garage rockers LORD OF ALTAMONT.
During his latter years, Davis became a record producer and returned to his love of art. Recently, he had studied in both Oregon and California with the ultimate intention of completing a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.
As a musician to the end, Davis had been planning a recording session in Belgium with Sonny Vincent (best known for his roll as frontman for early NYC Punks, THE TESTORS) just a week after he passed away.
Davis is survived by his wife, their three sons, and a daughter from a previous marriage. At the time of writing, memorial plans are pending.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Year-end recommendations - 2011

Everyone else seems to do a year-end best of list, so here are mine. Have to say, the musical highlight for me (and many others it seems) was the Steve Ignorant Crass Songs tour that arrived here in New Zealand in back in July. It really was something I never expected to see - and I certainly didn’t expect it to be executed with such aplomb.
Here goes....

1. FUCKED UP - David Comes To Life {Matador}
2. STEVE ADAMYK BAND - Forever Won’t Wait {Dirtnap}
4. CUTE LEPERS - Adventure Time {Damaged Goods}
5. NIGHT BIRDS - The Other Side Of Darkness {Grave Mistake}
6. SECTION 13 - Burning Bridges {Boss Tuneage}
7. GENERATORS - Last Of The Pariahs {DC-Jam}
8. CULTURE SHOCK - Everything {Blurrg!}
9. DWARVES - Are Born Again {MVD}
10. SCREECHING WEASEL - First World Manifesto {Fat Wreck}
Notable mentions: ZOUNDS - Redemption Of Zounds {Overground}, STANDOUT RIOT - Gentlemen Bandits {TNS}, TIM BARRY - 28th And Stonewall {Suburban Home}, MEASURE (SA) - Notes {No Idea}, DIRECT HIT! - Domesplitter {Kind Of Like}, FAITH - Subject To Change + First Demo {Dischord}, BANGERS - Small Pleasures (Kiss Of Death}, DOPAMINES - Expect The Worst {Paper And Plastick}, DEEP SLEEP - Turn Me Off {Grave Mistake}, HDQ - Hung, Drawn And Quartered + You Suck {Boss Tuneage}.

1. THE SHIRKS - Cry Cry Cry {Grave Mistake}
2. THE MAGNIFICENT - 1981 {Drunken Sailor}
3. JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE - Enhanced Methods Of Questioning {Alternative Tentacles}
4. JD AND THE FDCS - Burn This City Down {Delerict Records}
5. COBRA SKULLS - Bringing The War Home {Fat Wreck}

I should mention a couple of books that have impressed me this year also. The first was ALICE BAG’s autobiography ‘Violence Girl’ and the other was ‘Taking Punk To The Masses’. Both are well worth your time.

For further info on all of the above, check the appropriate reviews on the Scanner site.