Sunday, October 15, 2017

Show Time

ADAM ANT - DIANA ANAID - The Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand - 9th October 2017
Back in 1980, aged a mere 11, I was quite an Ant Fan! I had all the singles but felt I needed more. So, one Saturday while shopping in town with my Mum, and after having saved my pocket money, I ended making the first album I ever bought ADAM AND THE ANTS’ ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’. It’s an album that has stayed in my collection ever since and it still sounds superb today, with those fantastic, tribal drums and Marco’s menacing guitar lead lines.
So, when I heard that ADAM ANT was going to be playing the album in full live (plus assorted hits) here in New Zealand, I had to go. I’ll admit I was a tad concerned at the idea of seeing a man in his early 60s try to relive the genuine ‘Pop Star’ status he had 35+ years ago, but reasoned with myself that ‘Kings....’ was the first album I ever bought, so attendance for me was pretty much mandatory.
Before the event, several friends in the UK said that ADAM was in fine form so my expectations were heightened - but I was still a tad apprehensive. Thankfully, The Powerstation is not just Auckland’s best venue, but among the best I’ve been to anywhere in the world (unlike the fucking Studio), so I knew sound and vision would be top notch. Merchandise proved ANT still has ‘Pop Star’ status however...$50 for a t-shirt, $60 for a signed photo... Pah! Lots of people were buying the shirts, and good on them for that. I passed.
With a beer lovingly nestled in my hand, I awaited the arrival of DIANA ANAID. Never heard of her before but apparently she’s from Australia and used to be known as Diana ah Naid and has released about half-a-dozen albums. It was just her and her guitar and, much as I love those solo singer-songwriter types, she pretty much passed me by. I remember a song called ‘I Go Off’ and one about same-sex marriage, but that was about it. Her vocals were a bit over-performed for me, although the guitar sounded good. However, I wanted to hear some Ant Music, not Alt-country music. 
The arrival of ADAM ANT and his band was met with an orchestral fanfare before the dual drumbeats of ‘Dog Eat Dog’ kicked in. While the two drums sounded bombastic, I noticed there was no original ANTS in the line-up, which was a disappointment. However, the band was top-notch, both looking and sounding good. ADAM bound on, hero’s reception and - by jingoes - sounded great!!
‘Ant Music’ and the rest of the ‘Kings....’ album followed. Highlights were certainly the album’s darker tracks - ‘Feed Me To The Lions’, the double hit of ‘Ants Invasion’ (a personal favourite) and ‘Killer In The Home’, along with the stunning title track and album closer ‘The Human Beings’.
With the album having been played, ANT finally decided to address the crowd. He’d made the odd cheeky suggestion during the album, but it wasn’t until it was complete that he finally addressed the crowd. I was anticipating about 30 minutes of the ‘obvious’ other hits but he kicked off the non-’Kings...’ set with a complete surprise - ‘Beat My Guest’, the b-side of the ‘Stand And Deliver’ single. It’s always been a fave track (and wafts stuff like ‘Making History’ and ‘Los Rancheros’ from ‘Kings...’) and it was played with total intensity. This second part of the set actually went on for over an hour with other highlights being ‘Friend Or Foe’ (another track that could’ve made ‘Kings...’ better) that saw the dual drumming really grab the attention with those tribal, tom heavy beats, a set-stealing ‘Xerox’, ‘Car Trouble’, ‘S.E.X’ and, of course, a set closing ‘Stand And Deliver’. ‘Prince Charming’ was played (not that effectively but it’s far from an ANT classic, even though it was a huge hit) and both ‘Strip’ and ‘Ant Rap’ could’ve been ditched in favour of ‘Young Parisians’ and ‘Kick’. Small criticisms really - but that’s my opinion. Encores were ‘Good Two Shoes’ and a monstrous, riff heavy blast through ‘Physical (You’re So)’ that singed the ears.
Have to say guitarist, Will Crewdson, made the absence of Marco a virtual bonus. He looked fucking fantastic (surely a pre-requisite for an Ant though!) and played a smoking guitar, be it those leads from ‘Kings...’ which sound almost Spaghetti Western(Ish), to heavy duty riffing and onto the dam-busting, STOOGES-esque guitar noise during ‘Phsyical’. He didn’t really put a foot wrong from what I saw AND he plays his guitar low - just like all the greats! The rest of the band were really on form too.
And ADAM? Yeah, he’s still got ‘it’ - whatever ‘it’ is. He wore the tunic for the ‘Kings..’ set (but not the white nose stripe) and looked great with longish hair, the ends of which appeared to be dyed red. His voice surely was not broken, he put in the hard work, could still move with the best of them and seemed genuinely enthused by the reception he got at his first ever New Zealand gig.
So, was I happy I went? Too right I was!! The dual drumming was spot on (plus the addition of two floor toms for additional tribal percussion!), the set list was massive, the performance passionate and the execution way better than I could have dreamed.
Still didn’t inspire me to buy a $50 t-shirt though!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Obituary - Grant Hart

On Wednesday 13 September 2017, Grant Hart - founder, drummer and vocalist for HUSKER DU, guitarist and vocalist for NOVA MOB and a renowned solo artist - passed away at University of Minnesota Medical Centre. The cause of death was terminal Liver cancer that he had been diagnosed with in recent months; he was also afflicted with Hepatitis C. He was 56.
Born on 18 March 1960 in St Paul, Minnesota, Grantzberg Vernon Hart was the youngest of his family, born to a mother who worked at a credit union and a teacher father, and attended South St. Paul High School. Aged ten, he inherited his brother’s (who was just two years older) drum set and records after he was killed by a drunk driver. During his high school years, Hart was in a cover band named TRAIN, playing keyboards.
On leaving school, he landed jobs at various record stores, including Cheapo Records where he worked with Greg Norton. It was at this shop that he met New Yorker, Bob Mould. The three went onto form HUSKER DU.
The history of this great and influential band (arguably, the most influential US band after the RAMONES) has been widely documented, from the blur of ‘Land Speed Record’, through to the groundbreaking ‘Zen Arcade’ double album and onto a major label deal with Warner Bros and the ‘Warehouse: Songs And Stories’ double album swansong. There’s been the book, Husker Du: The Story Of The Noise-Pop Pioneers Who Launched Modern Rock, the chapter in Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life and the extensive Husker Du Database - to name but three - so I won’t detail too much of this iconic band’s history.
However, it should be noted that besides writing and singing songs, he was also responsible for most of the band’s artwork. He also designed a number of other sleeves, notably fellow Minneapolisians, THE REPLACEMENTS and their album, ‘Hootenanny’.
During the band’s tenure, Hart developed a Heroin habit and was also incorrectly diagnosed as being HIV-positive in 1986, just as the band’s major label debut, ‘Candy Apple Grey’ was released. It is said that it was Hart’s drug addiction that lead to to the 1988 break-up of the band. That was no doubt partially true, but the feuding between Mould and Hart about who should retain most creative control was another major factor. Then the band’s manager, David Savoy, committed suicide. If that wasn’t enough, the fact that during the end of HUSKER DU, Hart had already got together a project named SWALLOWS no doubt indicated Hart’s dissatisfaction and rankled Mould's ire further.
Following HUSKER DU’s demise, Hart released the ‘2541’ EP in October 1988 - a mere six months following the split. This was followed early in 1989 with the ‘Intolerance’ album. Later the same year, he formed NOVA MOB, taking on guitar duties along with vocals. It was an often misunderstood band and its fortune was not aided when Rough Trade, the label that released the band’s 1991 debut album, the excellent ‘The Last Days Of Pompeii’, declared itself bankrupt on the very day the album was released.
A second NOVA MOB album was released in 1994 before the band split following a European tour. From then on, Hart continued to play intimate, career-spanning sets and releasing impressive solo albums, culminating in 2013 with the epic ‘The Argument’, a double album based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost and William S Burrough’s adaptation of the same book as Lost Paradise. In that same year, the feature length documentary ‘Every Everything: The Music, Life And Times Of Grant Hart’ was released.
At the time of his passing, Hart was working on another concept album about Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, titled ‘Pop Manifestos’.
Hart is survived by his wife Brigid McGough Hart, his adult son Karl, granddaughter Grace and siblings Nett, Roxanne and Craig.  
Putting into words the importance of Hart and his music is no easy task. I was fortunate to see HUSKER DU at the very end of their career - at the 1987 Glastonbury Festival no less. Sure, it wasn’t the ideal venue or the most intense period of the band’s existence but I felt, and still feel, very fortunate to have seen the band before they imploded.
It is without a doubt that of all the bands that were spawned by the US Hardcore boom, it was HUSKER DU that pushed the boundaries the most, be it the warp-speed of ‘Land Speed Record’, the influence of psychedelia as typified in what must be one of the best cover versions ever in the band’s take of THE BYRDS’ ‘Eight Miles High’, an unerring Pop sensibility often channelled through Hart’s uplifting vocal, through to the ultimate taboo of signing to a major label. 
Hart himself challenged the pack too - long-haired, usually barefoot, openly bisexual and in possession of a voice that could soar to the heavens. I had my own personal nickname for him: Mr. Golden Tonsils.
I was fortunate to see him live here in New Zealand in 2016 - and he was stunning. Classic song followed classic song and yes, those tonsils were still golden! I managed to have a conversation with him also - something I am profoundly grateful I did now. We spoke of that Glastonbury performance and the turd who threw a bottle - which exploded as it hit his vocal microphone. We spoke of NOVA MOB too, a band I also saw at the London Marquee in 1991. And, rather embarrassingly, I mentioned his 'golden tonsils'!
Hart’s passing is tragic on so many levels. Not only was he so young, but he was still stunningly creative. ‘The Argument’ could be his finest work in fact, laden with stunning songs and invention. I desperately hope the album he had near-completion when he passed will be released.
Go well Grant and always Shine, Shine, Shine....

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Show Time!

The Damned
THE DAMNED - LEATHERHEAD - The Studio, Auckland, New Zealand - 8 March 2017
I thought my days of seeing THE DAMNED were pretty much done. After 35 sightings, the last of which was in my home town of Ipswich, I was set to call it a day. Then this 40th Anniversary World Tour is announced, along with a New Zealand date. How could I possibly refuse the band I’d seen that many times? I knew what to expect - which was minor disappointment but laced with great songs, a great vocalist and a few laughs. So, I bought me ticket to DAMNED 36.
I’d never been to The Studio before and, I have to say, it’s a shit venue. One big room with a narrow entry, crap sound and fucking $10 for a (small) bottle of beer!! If it’s competing with The Powerstation (Auckland’s best venue), it has a long way to go!!
Waiheke Island locals LEATHERHEAD started things off and bored me. Imagine BEASTS OF BOURBON Garage Blues ballistics fused with COWS noise-Rock bluster and you’re kinda there but without being as genuinely unhinged as either band. The guitarist (who was in THE PHANTOM CHORDS along with Dave Vanian) had a great sound it has to be said. Of the songs, the only original I recall is something called ‘Bacon’ but, without a doubt, the highlight was a maniacal cover of VELVET UNDERGROUND’s ‘White Light, White Heat’. They left the stage with a few expletives and that was that.
It was a bit of a ramshackle start to DAMNED proceedings. Keyboard player Monty came on and, from that moment, was very nearly the star of the whole show leaping around, playing stellar keys, providing lots of laughs and a genuine enthusiasm I haven’t seen from someone in THE DAMNED since Bryn. That said, it’s THE DAMNED and no one gets to upstage Dave Vanian, who appeared sporting a straggly beard and a long, black gothic coat and looked, as always, magnificent.
Monty - The Damned
A few pleasantries from Captain were said and then the tinkling piano intro of ‘Melody Lee’ was played and it was into things - full throttle. A brilliant ‘Generals’ followed (surely the band’s most underrated song) and from there it was a set culled mainly from ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ and ‘Strawberries’. Highlights were plenty: a thunderous ‘Love Song’, the double hit of ‘Black Album’ classics in ‘Wait For The Blackout’ and ‘History Of The World’ and the surprise inclusion of ‘Street Of Dreams’ which was dedicated to the late Bryn. Truly could’ve done without ‘Alone Again Or’ and ‘Eloise’... originals from that era would’ve been way preferential, but, certainly in the case of the latter, both songs were probably expected by those who discovered the band in their latter days. Never really liked ‘Noise Noise Noise’ much either...
Only two Brian Jones era tracks were played - the obvious ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat Neat Neat’. Both tracks proved a couple of things: Capt can’t get anywhere near the cranked garage punk jams of Brian James and, as good as the current drummer is (and he is very good), he ain’t no Rat Scabies. You gotta remember that Rat was the best drummer of the ‘77 Punk era and would be Top Three drummers ever if there was any justice, so any one brave enough to steal his sticks and replicate his beats is on for a massive job. And yeah, those who get pissed off with ‘Neat Neat Neat’ being drawn out to epic lengths would’ve been pissed off again. I was. I’ve been seeing the band do this since about ‘88 if not earlier and it fucking irks me every time that one of the most urgent, adrenalin laced songs ever is nullified and morphed into an epic ‘moody’ rock workout. ‘Ignite’ was also drawn out into crowd participation leaves usually reserved for Bruce Springsteen and his ilk.
Captain Sensible - The Damned
Predictably ‘Smash It Up’ was saved for the encore (with Captain sporting a neat black and red stripy shirt a’la Dennis The Menace with ‘Smash It Up’ written across it). What was most unexpected and probably stole the gig for me was ‘Jet Boy Jet Girl’ - it even got me pogoing like I was fucking 15 again!!! Haha!! Another surprise was the second encore (by which time all the ‘Eloise’ listeners had left) of ‘Anti-Pope’ which was presaged by some anti-religious vitriol from Monty.
And that was that. All of ‘Machine Gun Etiquette’ was played (bar ‘Looking At You’), a clear half of ‘Strawberries’ and nothing from the band’s output post ‘Anything’. I was hoping for ‘Curtain Call’ as always, likewise ‘Thanks For The Night’ which I ain’t seen the band do since mid-80s I reckon, but alas no to both. A few of us tried to get the "Captain Is A Wanker" chant going but again, the ‘Eloise’ lovers seemed a bit confused.
After the gig I discovered my hearing was damaged - genuine long-term damage. It was brutally loud and that shit sound system didn’t help. A few weeks since the gig, the ears have cleared a bit but not the extent of being back to where they were prior to the gig. It’s kinda fitting THE DAMNED was the band to do the damage.
So, the big question is, will I see them for a 37th time or more? Well, if Rat and Brian James get back together with Dave and Captain again (unlikely now I know), I’ll be there.
Until there - I'll remain a member of The Limit Club and say over and out.... Probably!!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Year-end Recommendations 2016

I’m a little late in posting this, it has to be said. Why? Ohh... Lots of things got in the way. Lots of good music was heard in 2016, travelled a bit during the course of New Year and then there was the return to work...
Anywhoo... 2016 was an odd year. David Bowie passed away early on which was a major downer for me. I went to Vancouver - my first ever trip to Canada in fact - and caught SNFU live in their hometown. Then I headed back to the UK and saw... Nothing!! Caught up with lots of great friends of course, but in terms of gigs, it was quieter than a mortuary. Oddly, it was the first trip back that made me think the UK was no longer home, but it was also very, very hard for me to walk away from family and long-standing, loyal friends.
Best gig of 2016 had to be GRANT HART blasting a set of classic after classic songs with a New Zealand backing band. Joyous, uplifting stuff and old golden tonsils Hart still has it.
Anyway - year-end Top Sounds!! An awful lot of quality albums were released - and I guess there were HEAPS I haven’t heard. I should point out that some of the below were apparently released in 2015... The versions I cite however were released in 2016 and only came onto my South Pacific horizons in 2016.
So... Let the ceremony begin...

1. RUTS DC - Music Must Destroy {Westworld}
2. TOYS THAT KILL - Sentimental Ward {Recess}
3. RED DONS - Dead Hand Of Tradition {Deranged}
4. SPECTRES - Utopia {Deranged}
5. ROUGH KIDS - s/t {Sorry State}
6. CULTURE SHOCK - Attention Span {Alternative Tentacles/ Blurrg}
7. CULT VALUES - s/t {Deranged}
8. STEVE ADAMYK BAND - Graceland {Dirtnap}
10. SHIP THIEVES - No Anchor {No Idea}
Also rans: EXTERMINATORS - Product Of America {Slope}, RIKK AGNEW BAND - Learn {Frontier}, SHATTERED FAITH - Volume III {Hostage}, DANGER!MAN/ LUCKY MALICE - Handicap, WONK UNIT - Feel The Wonkness {Boss Tuneage}, DAYLIGHT ROBBERY - Accumulated Error {Deranged}, DRAKULAS - Raw Wave, BAD SPORTS - Living With Secrets, MIND SPIDERS - Prosthesis {Dirtnap}, PANSY DIVISION - Quite Contrary {Alternative Tentacles}, MEAN JEANS - Tight New Dimension, DIRECT HIT - Wasted Mind {Fat Wreck}, JOHNNY MOPED - It’s A Real Cool Baby {Damaged Goods}, LEE HARVEYS - Bullet For The President {FOAD}
2. DEAD ENDING - Class War {Alternative Tentacles}
3. VIOLENT ARREST - Authors Of Our Own Demise {Artcore}
4. MEAN JEANS - Nite Vision {Fat Wreck}
5. RUTS DC - Psychic Attack {Westworld}
6. COLOR TV - Color TV {Deranged}
7. DOA - Fucked Up Donald {Sudden Death}
8. NOFX - Sid And Nancy {Fat Wreck}
9. DOMESTICS - Brutal Regimes {Kibou}
10. PANSY DIVISION - Blame The Bible {Alternative Tentacles}
Also rans: OAF - Oaf {Deranged}, NIGHT BIRDS - Who Killed Mike Hunchback {Fat Wreck}, PAGANS/ GIILLOTINES - Split {Just 4 Fun}, TRANSMITORS - Cuppa Jarra Brozza, MOTOSIERRA - Buzo Nuevo {Spaghetty Town} 
1. VARIOUS - Action Time Vision {Cherry Red}
2. HOLLYWOOD BRATS - Sick On You {Cherry Red}
3. THE SUSPECTS - Voice Of America {Grave Mistake}
4. VARIOUS - Dope Guns And Fucking In The Street Vol. 1 - 11 {Amphetamine Reptile/ MVD}
5. VARIOUS - Mild In The Streets {Fat Wreck}
6. THEATRE OF HATE - Do You Believe In The Westworld {Cherry Red}
7. RIPCORD - Defiance Of Power/ Poetic Justice {Boss Tuneage}
8. TENEMENT - Bruised Music Vol.2 {Grave Mistake}
9. GRANT HART - Oeuvervue {Bang}
10. THE ENEMY - The Enemy {Westworld}
Also rans: FACE TO FACE - Reissues {Fat Wreck}, GBH - Hahaha, RUTS - Babylon’s Burning {Westworld}, COWS - Reissues {Amphetamine Reptile/ MVD}