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diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #2

Posted: February 17th, 2009, by Stuart Fowkes

(Originally posted April 2002)

Freedom From Excessive Noise by Stuart Fowkes

So this is a column designed to shout about a few new bands you might want to check out, but you’ve got to have a system, right? You get a huge pile of miscellaneous tapes, CDs and records to pick and choose from, and like a magpie trapped in a giant box of Quality Street, the nice shiny things catch your eye first. So I’m going to review these bad boys in order of how nice they look from the outside, even if they end up tasting like those horrible coffee creams that make you gag every Christmas. Send me pretty things. I like pretty things. Mind you don’t send anything that sounds like the Pretty Things, though.

First up is West Wales’ Jarcrew, whose press release takes the form of a bit of A4 with some scrawl on it in black felt pen, which is a nice personal touch. It does, however, promise the bribe of several – several, mind – Kit Kats, none of which I’m yet to see, so words will have to be had [sorry, I steal all the bribes – overlord]. The CD’s a fantastic home made package covered in brown parcel tape, black cardboard and that silver pen that only the pretty art teacher at primary school gets to use. Quite apart from the quality packaging, they also have things like ‘kill all musos’ and ‘sex ‘n’ hugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll’ written all over it, which puts me in a good mood straight off. First track ‘Deemo’ is 30 seconds long: drums, bass, weird keyboard flid-outs and a man who has reverb in his mouth shouting ‘deemodeemodeemo’ over and over. I’m not sure what ‘Deemo’ is, but I like it. ‘Deth Car’ is one and a half minutes of dirty garage rock and distorted vocals that I entirely agree with – it’d ace to drive round, pull up next to a load of girls and invite them to get in my deth car for a ride. And if I did, this would be the soundtrack. ‘Boy Wonder’ is more expansive and instrumental, and gets going just when you think it’s just a mimsy instrumental to link tracks together. The most disappointing track is ‘Opakow’, if anything because it’s the most straightforward, after the band have set themselves the (high) standard of being wilfully strange. More please.

Next, it’s disoma from Southampton, whose tape package must have taken longer than the songs to put together. Every line of text is individually cut out on separate bits of paper and stuck to the tape sleeve, hopefully not with Pritt Stick but with industrial strength atom-bonding glue they guzzled between takes. ‘Squeal, squeal, squeal – DAH DAH DAH’ would be my answer if I were asked, for example in an oral examination to pass my GCSE in math rock, ‘how would you describe disoma’s music using only the medium of onomatopoeia?’ And I like to think I’d get at least a ‘B’ for that. ‘I Like Me, You Like Me, Let’s Be Friends’ stops, starts, stops, then chugs off in all the right places, punctuated by one of the young scamps shouting ‘BLAAAR’ (the Emo Noise(r)). So far a cracking tune, until it goes into a hilarious sub-solo that sounds like it might have sounded funny turned up dead loud in the practice room. It’s not funny, at all. In fact, it’s rubbish. Second track ‘God vs. Prog’ does pretty much the same thing, only without Joe Satriani turning up in clown shoes, so it wins the day in my book. ‘Ollie’s Dead Too’ does the quiet/loud thing, but not half as interestingly as the rather splendidly-titled ‘Providence Exotic Fish’, which builds up ‘Yes I Am A Long Way From Home’ style like the world’s biggest sandcastle made by a busload of kids with attention deficit disorder. I bet they’re ace live. I’d go and see them. ‘Have you ever been so low that you cried?’ What kind of a lyric is this, please? It’s like ‘have you ever found something so funny that you laughed?’

There’s understated and there’s understated, and the Stars Of Aviation are u n d e r s t a t e d. Like a Leonard Cohen for annoying types who say things like ‘worse things happen at sea.’ It’s all pleasant enough, pootling along with nice little keyboard lines that you feel would be well suited to a smoky jazz club, but you get the feeling that their ‘Greatest Disappointment of the Year’ might have been missing Eastenders or something. And final track ‘The Boy Who Held His Breath Too Long’ sounds like the Manics’ ‘The Girl Who Wanted To Be God’ with the Plath references replaced by Victoria Wood sketches.

It’s taken Glasgow’s Cayto two years to get their six-track demo to diskant HQ by the looks of things, but we’re glad it’s here now. ‘My Own Advice’, the best song present, is what Elbow might sound like if they’d had a massive kick in the arse and would be all over the radio in the alternative universe we all dream of every night (until that squawking bint Sara Cox reminds us otherwise in the morning). ‘Media Martian Maker’ starts off in the same vein, all lush keyboards and warm bass until it kicks into the kind of guitar break that really should watch it before it starts dressing in Spandex and listening to Heart, but just gets away with it. This is all epic minor chords, heart on sleeve vocals and little verse/big chorus expansion – music for folk who like to be able to sing along in the bathroom. A word of warning though: watch the soft rock, boys. First you start thinking you’ll grow your hair a bit longer at the back to enhance your rock credentials, then you decide you’ll keep it short on top to look a bit tidier, then – WHAM! – you’re Curtis Stigers.

Cheers to Silent Front for sending an entire album of shouting and riffs (Are You Anywhere?) to diskant Towers – we like this sort of generosity. Especially when it’s shouting that so obviously starts off in the right places by taking Fugazi, cutting four fingers off everyone in the band and forcing them to play at gunpoint while they stand in the corner with a tape recorder and cook the dismembered digits over a hot copy of Bleach. Silent Front do nothing of any originality, but who cares when you can stick this on over a muted TV and pretend that MTV2 actually knows what decent alternative music sounds like. Try it – it’s a nice fantasy.

Ronsons don’t sound like they’re from Leicester. They sound like they came from Mars, crash-landed their flying saucer in a trailer park in Tennessee, heard a LOT of Beck records, mastered skeet shootin’, wife beatin’ an’ liquor drinkin’ and then decamped to the East Midlands, which is an interesting resuméto say the least. Bizarre skittering drum machine rhythms meet crushed folk and country vocals with the odd twang of guitar floating in and out of the mix, like the middle ground between Jack Drag, Jack Daniel’s and Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Beck is the most obvious reference point – a bit more focus and a few ‘Devil’s Haircut’-style vocal hooks and Ronsons’ schizophrenic jumble of country and big beat will be the soundtrack to barn dances across the cosmos in 2030. They even do a space age cover of Kenny Rogers’ ‘Ruby’. Recommended.

The Sonic Torpedoes thought it’d be a good idea to take the sleaze and sex rock of Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby-era Girls Against Boys and drag it into the world of digital recording, and by God’s face, they almost pull it off. Demo opener ‘Hazy’ is sludgy and drenched in squelches, burps and Star Trek blips (actual ones from the bridge and everything), but doesn’t quite have the guitar-down-by-the-knees low-slung sexiness of GvsB or the sleaziness to pull off what the Sensational Alex Harvey Band were doing 25 years ago. Good tune, though. Things go downhill as the Torpedoes not only see fit to name the second track ‘:-)’, for which they ought to be shot, but it’s also pretty inconsequential fare that brings to mind the distinct unsexiness of shoddy Britpop. More sleaze please, we’re British. Tommy used to work on the docks, as any proper, right-minded fan of Bon Jovi will tell you.

Oxford’s Six Ray Sun probably wouldn’t count themselves amongst the bemulleted one’s most devoted fans, but there’s no denying that the main riff to ‘Wildcats, Killer Kids’ (XFM Session) bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’. Umm, but in a good way. It’s a great track that best showcases their combination of Oasis swagger, Xtrmntr-era Primal Scream noise and crunching drum machine beats. On other tracks like ‘Narcissus HK’ (also included here), there’s a touch too much of the Liam Gallaghers about the vocals at times – in fact, a recent enforced spell as an instrumental band did wonders for the Six Ray Sun sound. Session opener ‘Football de Salao’ is a testament to this, a fantastic combination of skittering beats and repetitive riffs that’s the real soundtrack to a hundred action movies set in space in an alternative universe. They don’t make enough use of the inhuman possibilities of a big fat Roland drum machine sometimes, leaving just a bog standard 4/4 to carry the guitars where a live drummer would do the job better. As it stands, when Six Ray Sun are good, they’re outstanding, but a few tweaks on the old 909 and they could go supernova. Packaging was cack, though.

Stuart Fowkes

Stuart is possibly one of the tallest people you have ever seen. He towers above your puny skyscrapers like Rodan on steroids, his blonde spikes puncturing the atmosphe re like crazed, gelled knives. In real life he is part of the Sunnyvale Noise Sub-element pop outfit, and writes for other websites as well as this one - the cheeky blighter. He favours the noisier end of the musical spectrum, with a fervour which would seem to indicate a dodgy heavy metal past.


1 Response to diskant rewind: Freedom From Excessive Noise #2

  1. simonminter

    The Pretty Things are about a million times better than all of these bands combined.