Sunday, November 3, 2013

Obituary - Lou Reed

Lou Reed Obituary - Scanner zine
On Sunday 27 October 2013, founder of the VELVET UNDERGROUND and respected solo performer, Lou Reed, passed away at the age of 71 due to liver disease. He died at his home in Southampton, New York. In May 2013 he had a liver transplant and claimed on his website shortly after to be ‘bigger and stronger’ than ever.
Born Lewis Allan Reed on 2 March 1942 in Brooklyn, Reed’s parents (Toby and Sidney Joseph Reed) were Jewish and he grew up in Freeport, Long Island. He learned guitar from listening to the radio and made his recording debut on a single by Doo-Wop band The Jades in 1958.
Two years earlier, Reed, who was bisexual, went through electro-convulsive therapy. A method used to cure homosexual feelings, Reed went onto comment about the experience in the book, Please Kill Me and it also provided inspiration for his 1974 song, ‘Kill Your Sons’.
Come 1960, Reed was enrolled at Syracuse University studying journalism, creative writing and film directing. Displaying early signs of subversion - something his future work in VELVET UNDERGROUND in particular would be noted for - Reed was dismissed from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps after reaching the status of Platoon Leader after he held an unloaded gun to his superior’s head. The following year he began hosting a late night radio show, playing Doo-Wop, Jazz and Free Jazz.
It was at Syracuse University that Reed discovered Delmore Schwartz - a poet who Reed studied under and who he called, "the first great person I ever met." Schwartz inspired some of Reed’s future work too, with ‘European Son’ from the VELVET UNDERGROUND’s first album being dedicated to Schwartz and in 1982, ‘My House’ was recorded as a tribute to Schwartz.
In 1964, Reed moved to New York City and became the in-house songwriter for Pickwick Records, scoring a minor hit with the single ‘The Ostrich’. Recorded as a mimicry of popular dance songs of the era, the song inspired the formation of a band history has come to overlook, but a band which became the nucleus of rock ‘n’ roll history - a band called THE PRIMITIVES. In this band was a Welsh man who had travelled to NYC to study music - one John Cale. Reed apparently already had an early version of ‘Heroin’ in his song-arsenal. Impressed, Cale and Reed’s partnership progressed.
Sharing an apartment on the Lower East Side, a guitarist named Sterling Morrison and a drummer named Maureen Tucker - both college friends of Reed’s - joined the band and so became VELVET UNDERGROUND.
From here, the rest is history that can be read in books, magazines, blogs and in film in any part of the planet. With Reed, the band recorded four classic albums, had close association with Andy Warhol and, whilst achieving little success during their tenure, went onto become one of the most influential bands of all-time, having big influence in the Punk scene, and more specifically the post-Punk scene and all the bands that splintered from that.
Reed quit VELVET UNDERGROUND in 1970, taking the decidedly un-Rock ‘n’ Roll job of a typist at his father’s accountancy firm. It was short-lived however as in 1971 Reed signed to RCA to record his self-titled debut album. A career spanning another 25 albums followed, including a reunion of the VELVET UNDERGROUND in 1993.
As stated, Reed’s history from the VELVET UNDERGROUND onwards is easily accessible to anyone who wants to read it. I am not going to suggest I was Reed’s biggest fan - far from it in fact. I only own three VELVET UNDERGROUND albums (and that includes the live set ‘MCMXCIII’ recorded in Paris when the band reformed and is highly recommended), and of Reed’s solo work, I have about six or seven. I never saw the man live, although seriously considered seeing him in the early 90s when he seemed to go through a bit of a creative high with the excellent albums ‘New York’ from 1989 and 1992’s ‘Magic And Loss’.
No doubt Reed will be remembered chiefly for his work in the VELVET UNDERGROUND, to the wider public for the hit single ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ and thanks to the film, Trainspotting, ‘Perfect Day’ which was also recorded by a star-studded line-up for the Children In Need charity.
Two solo albums define his career, ‘Transformer’, his second solo album, released in 1972 is considered to be the classic of his solo career and features both of those tracks. Conversely, ‘Metal Machine Music’ is a double album and is considered by many as one of the worst albums ever, consisting only of guitar feedback and guitar noise. I’ve never heard it - and don’t really want to. 
However, the follow-up to ‘Transformer’, 1973’s ‘Berlin’ is for me, Reed’s musical masterpiece. It’s a concept album, based around a doomed couple and takes its themes from drug use, depression, domestic violence, prostitution and suicide. It’s a heavily orchestrated album and, as you can imagine, a sombre album but one that gets better with age. It has also been playing while I write this.
In more recent years, Reed played for Pope John Paul II at the Great Jubilee Concert in Rome 2000, while the following year incorrect reports of his death from a drug overdose surfaced. 2003 and 2006 saw books of Reed’s photography published while 2008 saw him debut a new band that would become known as METAL MACHINE TRIO.
In 2011, Reed released his final album, a rather ill-received job that was recorded with METALLICA.
Reed is survived by his wife, Laurie Anderson, who he married in 2008.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Show Time!

MDC - PCP EAGLES - ELECTRIC MAYHEM - King’s Arms, Auckland, New Zealand - 17th August 2013
The last time I saw MDC was at the Camden Underworld on a bill that also featured YOUTH BRIGADE and TSOL. To say it was quite a night is an understatement in the extreme - it was one of those legendary nights made all the more special by Shawn Stern saving the day and getting me in on the guest list. This marked MDC’s first ever gig in New Zealand, and with the exception of an acoustic gig the Monday night after this, it was their only gig.
It was good to see a large crowd turn up for this latest show promoted by Punk Rock Road Trips. That must have been a bonus to ELECTRIC MAYHEM as they plugged in and ignited into a ball of thrashy, intense Hardcore. There were certainly tinges of Crossover in the sound, bringing to mind a mix of ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT and FINAL CONFLICT with a few DRI moments for good measure. Can’t tell you a single song title as the band was new to me. Add to that fact the singer was suffering from a serious throat problem - the dude could barely talk yet belted out the songs with conviction - good work fella! Pretty smoking guitarist too.
Electric Mayhem
PCP EAGLES followed with a furious sound that fused RAMONES riffs with an early FUCKED UP intensity. The songs were short, snappy, gravel-vocalled and raging with ‘PCP Anthem’, ‘Nature Boy’ and ‘I Hear Static’ all impressing greatly, along with the title track of the band’s debut EP - ‘I Hate The Mall’. Plenty of RAMONES riffs were ‘borrowed’ in parts but this is a band far from simplistic, crass RAMONE-o-core; PCP EAGLES already has an identifiable sound and the appropriation of the bruddas’ riffs came over more as a quirk than a mindless homage. Excellent stuff from a band that includes ex-members of several NZ bands. Also noted on the band’s EP there’s a track called ‘Taumarunui Hates The Kids’! Haha - excellent - a home town song!! I’ve no idea if the song was played - I certainly don’t recall it in the blitz of tunes. Guess I need the EP!
PCP Eagles
And so MDC. In some ways, they seem to be one of the most over-looked bands of USHC. Many lesser others have kudos-a-plenty piled on them with MDC receiving only a cursory mention. The classic debut album alone ranks on par any slice of DEAD KENNEDYS or MINOR THREAT work. Its influence was highlighted by a set that kicked off with six songs from that album. ‘Millions Of Dead Cops’ was the obvious set opener but gig highlights for me were ‘My Family Is A Little Weird’, ‘Founding Fathers’, ‘John Wayne Was A Nazi’ and an excellent take of ‘Deep In The Heart’.
It was a massive set - about 36 songs in all. It has to be said though, time has not been too kind to Dave Dictor who resembles Iggy Pop’s ever so slightly younger brother!! Not that that matters; he’s still an impassioned and outspoken man, declaring his politics and thoughts freely from the stage and still giving a full-on performance. Star of the band, in fact, was the bassist whose playing was tight, intricate and volatile - he was particularly valuable when guitarist, Ron Posner, needed to change two broken strings.
I have to say, the band was not as impressive as the recent JELLO BIAFRA gig in Auckland (but there again, that was a pretty fucking awesome night) but for 90+ minutes it was one classic slice of USHC followed by another. There was none of the cliched ‘encore’ ending either. Dictor announced the last song, the band unplugged and then mingled in the audience. Much more convincing than another band doing another contrived encore.
Unfortunately, the night finished on a bit of a low. Some tough, ‘Punk as fuck’ knuckledragger decided to destroy the sink in the gents. Really?? Does this kinda retarded behaviour still go on? I saw this happen far too often in the 80s at Punk-friendly venues. Unsurprisingly, those venues soon became not-so Punk-friendly! I wonder if the fuckwit sink smasher had any idea who has to pay for his wonderfully precise act of asinine vandalism? The venue? The band? The promoter? Nah... of course he didn’t - such simple thought processing is beyond such inbreeding. I had hoped this Sid Vicious dumb-fuck thuggery (I bet he even wore a Swatika to ‘shock’) had been evicted from Punk Rock on this DIY level. Obviously not entirely. The only bonus was a bit of (but not enough) blood on the floor and surrounding area. I can only hope it was the needle-dick sink smasher’s own - preferably from his head.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Show Time!

HARD ONS - SHUT THE HELL UP - GRIPPER - GENERATION DEAD - Rhythm, New Plymouth, New Zealand - 9th August 2013
The HARD ONS can now claim the honour of being the first band I have seen in four different countries. What makes that even more confounding is that the band has never really been one of my most favoured; I suppose the fact I have seen them so often is more a testament to the band’s dogged touring spirit rather than any ardent fandom on my behalf. Easily the best gig I’ve ever seen the band do was in a smallish bar in Sydney. It was loud but clear, songs got played and they basically rocked in a huge manner. Unfortunately, this New Plymouth gig - which like the rest of the tour was put on by those wonderful people at Punk Rock Road Trips - was probably the worst I have seen them.
The venue was actually quite smart. It used to be a gay club apparently and this was still evident via a neon blue room at the back and one of those illuminated dance floors akin to Saturday Night Fever’s 70s disco scenes. While The Roxy may have once been a gay bar, I am sure it was never quite like this and it made a slightly surreal setting for four Punk Rock bands.
First to plug in and fire up was GENERATION DEAD, a trio from Napier on New Zealand’s East Coast. The band’s recent CDEP really impressed, mixing Anarcho politics with noxious and rocking Hardcore Punk sounds. All the tracks on the EP got an airing and the stand out was, again, ‘In Fear Of Fear’ although the sing-a-long HARD SKINisms of ‘Hospital Hill Hooligans’ worked really well live. The sound was pretty good, the guys looked confident and certainly appeared to be into it. Special mention should be made of Matt who was not only a stellar fella but a shit hot bassist. He had a great DISCHARGEian distortion about his sound but played it more like Matt Freeman on speed!!
Next up we had GRIPPER, a four piece from Nelson - a city at the top of the South Island. The band feature Neil Singleton, who was the original singer in UK Punks THE DESTRUCTORS back in the 80s. It was a solid set of fast, well played Street Punk gear too, featuring tracks from the band’s split with VICIOUS RUMOUR and a few new tunes too. Highlights that come to mind included ‘Public Executions’ and ‘Stalker’. The band has a great sense of humour about it, which is mixed with an uncompromising, out-spoken attitude and delivered with a tight, razor-sharp sound. Guitarist Scott certainly impressed with some frantic riffs that would put many metal guitarists to shame. As good as all the Kiwi bands were, I think GRIPPER may just have been the best band of the night.
The tiny stage suddenly looked even smaller as New Plymouth locals SHUT THE HELL UP launched into their turbo charged, garage-land core. As a five piece, the band made a massive, convulsive sound with the imposing figure of Craig Gunn (formerly the drummer of NZ horror Punks HORROR STORY) on vocals, who spent much of the set on the dance floor giving the band a few more, much-needed, stage inches. Songs? ‘I Need A Drink’ and ‘I Gotta Go’ come to mind, along with the band’s own self-titled anthem. The closing trio of covers pretty much defined the band’s sound - two TURBONEGRO tunes and an incendiary burn through BLACK FLAG’s classic ‘Nervous Breakdown’. Say no more - maximum rock ‘n’ roll indeed.
So, three excellent New Zealand bands set the night up for Australia’s HARD ONS to dazzle us at 1am - except they didn’t. As always, the band was as loud as can be but in the small confines of Rhythm, it really came out as a bluster of punishing drums, a fuzz of nondescript guitar noise, the odd shout of vocals and, thankfully, Ray’s bass holding things together. There has always been two HARD ONS: the one with Keish that wrote classic songs like ‘There Was A Time’, ‘Where Did She Come From?’ and ‘The Girl In The Sweater’; then there’s the one minus Keish that sees Blackie’s guitar histrionics take over with a bile-laced vocal, unrelenting noise and a general sound that would appeal more to a Black Metal freak than a RAMONES nut. Needless to say I favour the former and this was, distinctly, the latter. I recognised a couple of songs amidst the radio static-esque blur - ‘Watch Your Step Boy’ being one - but ultimately, I got pretty fucking bored. After about 20 minutes I moved toward the back to see if the sound was any better. It wasn’t - but at least I could get a beer.
There’s no doubting HARD ONS rocked, and rocked hard - they always do - but some songs would’ve been nice amidst the noise. So, this trans-Tasman battle saw a resounding 3-0 victory for New Zealand. One the strength of this, I won’t be seeing the HARD ONS in a fifth country - but I would not rule out our paths crossing again.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Show Time!

JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE - LAS TETRAS - Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand - 8th May 2013
During my 30 years of gig going, be it in the UK or here in New Zealand, this was the first time I had ever seen Biafra live. The last time Jello Biafra was in New Zealand with a full band was back in 1983 with the infamous DEAD KENNEDYS and I am guessing a lot of the crowd here had never experienced Biafra live either - although there were more than a few of older faces with grey hair who probably had attended.
My expectation was quite high; Biafra has recorded very few sub-average records and those with GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE must rank among the best of his post-DEAD KENNEDYS career. The new album, 'White People And The Damage Done' is the band's best yet. The band he’s assembled also leads to high expectations, be it former VICTIMS FAMILY guitarist Ralph Spight or former WEEN, ROLLINS BAND, PIGFACE, BUTTHOLE SURFERS (and more!) bassist Andrew Weiss, both names suggest quality. Round the band out with original guitarist Kimo Ball (who looks incredibly like the nephew of Malcolm and Angus Young and used to play with Spight in FREAK ACCIDENT) and drummer Paul Della Pelle (ex-HELIOS CREED) and it’s apparent this ain’t no band of slack, faceless session musicians playing second fiddle to Biafra’s infamy.
But before Biafra appeared, we got Auckland’s own LAS TETRAS. Made up of three young ladies, they played an impressive brand of moody and dramatic sound, mixing TH’ FAITH HEALERS, BREEDERS and a hint of JOY DIVISION. Unfortunately, the guitarist was plagued with problems from a (I think) distortion pedal that either crackled or, more often, just cut out. It was good to see the crowd who had bothered to come early get behind the band with some vocal support. Whether it was the technical issues or the size of the venue, the band did seem a little intimidated by it all.
TGSOM appeared amidst a volley of aural noise that seemed to go on for about five minutes; squealing guitars, pounded drums and destructo bass gave birth to a noise of intensity, of tension and almost apprehension before the opening notes of ‘The Terror Of Tinytown’ rang out and our hero Biafra bound on - dressed in a white doctor’s coat and surgical gloves all covered in blood! It made for an imposing sight and, with the band locked in in some heavy duty riffing, an excellent opener before ‘John Dillinger’ from the new album kicked in.
Given Biafra is now in his 50s and a little pot-bellied, it was great to see all of the theatrics and mime that make his live performance so compelling still intact. Once that doctor’s coat got removed, there was a Stars and Strips shirt under that with a ‘Shock-U-Py’ T-shirt under that! Nor has he lost any of his outspoken political rhetoric as between songs we got the Biafra ideal of what’s wrong with society, be it Obama’s failings for not impeaching the Bush regime for war crimes before ‘Barackstar O’Bummer’, some thoughts on religion prior to ‘Crapture’ or the scary science behind ‘The Cells That Will Not Die’. Nothing was held back from his performance - even getting shirtless and stage diving (several times) at the end.
As for the songs, tracks were played from all of TGSOM releases with highlights being a stunning ‘The Brown Lipstick Parade’, ‘New Feudalism’ and ‘Panic Land’ while ‘Three Strikes’ laid down some serious Hardcore that could be a lesson to 90% of bands today. ‘Shock-U-Py’ proved to be as effective live as it does on the new album also.
Some DEAD KENNEDYS songs got aired, including a revised ‘California Uber Alles’, ‘Police Truck’ and a stunning ‘Holiday In Cambodia’ that sounded frighteningly intense with two guitars. I could have done without ‘Kill The Poor’ and, especially, ‘Too Drunk To Fuck’. Both songs seemed out of place in the set - both in terms of sound and theme. I sense they were played as they were expected, much like crowd pleasers. Personally, I would’ve rather heard 'Victory Stinks' or something off ‘Plastic Surgery Disasters’.
The band also lived up to expectation - locking into some seriously intense riffing and a butt-swaggering rhythmic groove while the micro-stops mid-song were beyond tight. As for when the band kicked in after ward, it brought an uncontrollable smile of pleasure as the punch to the gut could be physically felt as well as aurally punishing. Spight in particular came across as the definition of a dynamic Punk Rock guitarist.
All too soon it had ended - Biafra had done his stage diving, the hum of feedback dwindled and the lights went up. I didn’t hear anyone complaining though - it proved to be an incredible night in every sense. Not only that, but it was also thought provoking. I remember going to gigs in my teens and coming away with new perspectives and ideas; now in my 40s it happens less often - but when it does, you know it’s a special person that can create such cogitation.
Only negative? Walking back to the hotel in the bloody rain of Auckland! And let’s face it, Biafra can’t control the weather!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Year-end recommendations - 2012

Along with everyone else, here are my recommendations for the best bits of 2012. Much like last year, this year’s highlight was a gig - this time it was THE SPECIALS. Back when I was but 10 or 11, I bought the band’s ‘Too Much Too Young’ EP and have loved the band ever since. I really did not expect to get to see them live after missing the initial reformation a few years ago, so this was a big bonus. Great warehouse style venue too. Anyway - on with the recommendations!!

1. PARANOID VISIONS - Escape From The Austerity Complex (Overground)
3. THE DICKS - Kill From The Heart/ These People reissues (Alternative Tentacles)
4. TOYS THAT KILL - Fambly 42 (Recess)
5. ANTHRAX - All For The Cause (Grow Your Own)
6. CROSS STITCHED EYES - Decomposition (Alternative Tentacles)
7. BOB MOULD - Silver Age (Mearge)
8. OFF! - OFF! (Vice)
9. NOFX - Self/Entitled (Fat Wreck)
10. REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN - Shattered Dreams Parkways (TNS)
Notable mentions: 45 GRAVE - Pick Your Poison (Frontier), D.O.A. - We Come In Peace (Sudden Death), DOWN AND OUTS - Forgotten Streets (Boss Tuneage), DOWN BY LAW - Champions At Heart (DC-Jam), STICKY FILTH - Fourth Domain (1157), POLITICAL ASYLUM and EXIT CONDITION reissues (Boss Tuneage), JAH WOBBLE AND KEITH LEVENE - Yin And Yang (Cherry Red)
1. THE BRIEFS - Singles Only Box Set (Modern Action)
2. THE CROWD - No Other/ Landmark (Hostage)
3. DEAD ENDING - Dead Ending (Alternative Tentacles)
4. CHANNEL THREE - Land Of The Free (Hostage)
5. PUSRAD - Smart Trams (Just4Fun)
Notable mentions: STATE FUNERAL - Protest Music 7" (Artcore), GLAM - 7" (La Vida Es Un Mus), RATIONS - How Much Land Does A Man Need (multiple labels), SEX PEST - Sexx Pest Epp (Batshitinsane), CITIZEN FISH - Dancing On Spikes (Bluurg)
1. Everybody Loves Our Town: An Oral History Of Grunge - Mark Yarm
2. We Got Power! - David Markey and Jordan Schwartz
3. Punk: An Aesthetic - Johan Kugelberg and Jon Savage
4. Commando: The Autobiography Of Johnny Ramone -Johnny Ramone
5. Armed With Anger: How Punk Survived the 90s - Ian Glasper
Most of those have reviews on the Scanner site, so go there for more info.