The Short Read – Parallels

I’ve always thought of Led Zeppelin’s 1976 album Presence and …And Justice For All released by Metallica in 1988 as very similar albums.

There are feelings of anger and hurt caused by death and hardship. Guitars and drums utterly dominate the sound and song-writing. They even share white album covers. Both signaled the end of an artistic blooming and yet, for a hard-core of fans, these albums represent the best of both bands.

Up next would be commercially successful but critically divisive records (though possibly less so in the case of In Through The Out Door which has few advocates) for each act and gargantuan stadium tours. However, Zeppelin would split the year after their eight album came out while Metallica rumble on to this day with a new record Hardwired…To Self Destruct released late last year.

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Prince Billy

Smashing Pumpkins have released a new album recently – Monuments to an Elegy – and a good one too by the sounds of it too, however, this does mean that Billy Corgan has been talking to the press again.

The Guardian interview threw up the usual combination of ego and weaknesses with its “Nobody believes I made a three star record. Nobody!” headline giving you the idea. Billy the genius slighted again, right? Well, it does seem weird that a man that has made albums as memorable and ambitious as Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie… split his band while still popular and then come back with the goods many, many years later is not more widely praised. Especially when you consider the number of acts that have reformed without new music or other marquee acts that have permanently sidelined the act of making new music to keep offering up the hits.Not that the Guardian article disagrees with that but Corgan clearly feels differently.

The obvious counterpoint to this (to me anyway) is the reception Prince has received with his two new projects last year. The praise was unanimous for someone who has, frankly, been doing things like Billy has: a clearly defined artistic vision where he is the King of the Castle no matter what, a consistent aesthetic (funk, feather, females…) and a pretty big gap between those ‘classic’ releases and his modern output which, on the whole, conjures up memories of his best work if not reaching those enviable past heights.

Shouldn’t Billy Corgan get the same rub of the green for his longevity, quality of output and individuality? Well, yes and he does but not to the same extent. The reason could be very simple. Prince doesn’t give interviews and if does rarely does he engage as directly and irritably as Pumpkin #1.

 

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Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden (Profound Lore)

Pallbearer group photo

Swampy

There have been lots of metal releases this year from acclaimed acts; Opeth, Mastodon, Triptykon and the like – and it’s clear that you can’t necessarily go faster or slower in pursuit of inspiration now that, to a large extent, extreme metal = metal. What you can do is what Profound Lore recording artists Pallbearer have done – by being memorable, by being individuals within a lineage which is what many of those illustrious names have also achieved. Pallbearer’s quality was obvious on their weighty, deathly reflective debut album Sorrow and Extinction back in 2012.

Since that debut there have been the usual yowls of dissent (‘hipster metal’ – groan) from the supposed keepers of metal’s purity but if Pallbearer have been listening you wouldn’t guess from it from the ornate grandeur of their new album, Foundations of Burden. Adding the deft skills of new drummer Mark Lierly and the studio nous of renowned producer Billy Anderson (High on Fire, Neurosis and more) has only improved the band. Another development is the greater prominence of guitarist Devin Holt’s vocal cords. He takes the mic for two of the most wandering, ruinous songs on the record, opener Worlds Apart and Watcher In The Dark songs that aren’t afraid to ditch the riffs, creating mood and intrigue before weaving the riffs back in.

As you would expect from a second album the palette Pallbearer are drawing from is more extensive, Rhodes piano and synthesizers are used to good prog rock effect. There are certain moments on this record that few other bands in the genre are going to reach for such as the echoey post-rock rattle and melancholic vocal harmonies on Foundations, the bass dropping out in The Ghost I Used To Be to expose singing guitars, and the keys and synths that create the textured stillness of Ashes. The lyrics, whilst remaining as resolutely doom laden as ever, combine with the music for nuances all the other doom-by-numbers Sabbath worshipers eschew.

Foundations of Burden is definitely a step forward from its predecessor and Pallbearer have clearly gained confidence from the success of Sorrow and Extinction here. To paraphrase the lyrics on the record’s closing song, Vanished: the band are “…always shifting. Always becoming.”

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I’ve been away for too long…

Ahoy, hoy. Just been lazy I suppose.

My best of 2013 for Echoes and Dust is over there. Sneak peek at what is a pretty retro looking top 5:

Top 5

1. Power Trip – Manifest Decimation

2. Wolf People – Fain

3. Mount Salem – Endless

4. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats – Mind Control

5. True Widow – Circumambulation

 

Back soooooon…

 

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Conan, The Black Heart – Camden, 5th October 2013

A damn good show this despite Slabdragger’s untimely cancellation. If Conan were a footballer they would undoubtedly be “top, top”.

Check out the review over at Echoes and Dust.

 

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Disappears, “Era” Kranky

Era record cover

Chicago’s Disappears release their new record Era on Kranky Records and it’s a crashing, looping mantra of spooky noise and circular lyrics making for a album of occasionally unsettling character. The skeletal thrum of Girls opens the album setting up things perfectly for what’s to follow with singer Brian Case sounding so close, as if his breath could be felt on your ear while the music distracts your conscious mind using slinky electronics, metallic guitars and shadowy electronics.

Ultra clicks in after Power humming with menace like a White Hills tune. Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space and it is uncomfortable… real uncomfortable, especially when three voices haunt the last minute of the track: “if you go, I’ll go…Does it end together? Does it end soon?” Weird House could almost be a tag for the music that Disappears have written for Era: all dance music for zombies with a hard hitting beat from Noah Leger making the undead twitch.

The creepiness continues with Elite Typical poking and prodding and Case goading, “you think about her all the time.” Disappears revel in sparse constructions and the creep and murk of their freakish industrial-kraut-psych. Ultra does this best, Era (the song) toys with something approaching rock while the rest of the album stays closer to the minimalism of Spacemen 3 with Case’s voice providing the personality.

The album signs off with New House with its Doppler screeches and Case telling us that he “can’t seem to shake this anything, anything, anything, anything” and you’ll feel that way too after completing this obsessive noirish record.

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Dead Meadow, “In the Marrow” Spiderbomb Records

In the Marrow record cover

Like their career so far Dead Confederate’s music is a slow burning affair. On new album and third overall, In the Marrow, the band ditch some of the immediacy they found on the previous album – Sugar – for some more of the grunge meets Pink Floyd smouldering jams they favoured on Wrecking Ball. Hardy Morris’ languid yowl takes the initiative, such as it is, as slide guitar and pedal steel loop in autumnal decay with drums that do just enough to move these molten songs along.

In the Marrow is another enjoyable record but not necessarily the great one I might have envisaged back in 2008 when they first played in the UK with the Black Angels just before their debut album Wrecking Ball emerged. Back then they were spiky, sloppy and endearingly uninterested whereas the follow-up Sugar suggested a proper tilt at success.

That all sounds disappointing, like a missed opportunity or something but it isn’t really. Clearly, Dead Confederate regrouped – lost a member, recorded some Neil Young covers, self-released an EP and played lots of gigs – and returned. They come across like that friend everyone has – who is happy with the quiet life when everyone is scratching their heads at the lack of supposed ‘progress’ in their life. The band knows what they do best.

That’s not to say that In the Marrow is some free wheelin’ weed and beer dude rock as the mulchy opener Slow Poisons demonstrates. Flitting around a sketched out structure it is a melancholic dirge.  The ragged psych of Vacations follows and pulls at that thread of doubt: “acting like nothing’s wrong/sooner or later it all dissolves… I’ve been to school; I’ve been to church now I’m seeing what that’s worth.” Morris and bassist Brantley Senn continue to share song-writing duties composing separately but coalescing into one coherent outpouring (out-drizzling, perhaps?).

Dead Confederate stretch out their flesh coloured canvas one more time for the title-track and it is, by now, their sonic signature: long haunting guitar sounds and gloopy mid-tempo drum hits. Overall, In the Marrow is alt. rock by way of Southern disharmony Morris having shed some of the more obviously indebted Nirvana throat shredding angst and reined in the lengths of the tracks. Shorter they may be but tracks like awkwardly titled Best of the Worst and Big City Life are hardly hook laden powerpop. The closest number to a radio song is probably Dead Poetry with its Pixies indebted jaggedy guitar line and slow dance rhythm.  Maybe that radio play would come on a college radio station but that’s what we’re dealing with.

Where Wrecking Ball rocked and Sugar occasionally raged In the Marrow feels more crafted in its approach. It’s retro, heartfelt and tangible feeling but there’s also a nagging feeling of doubt there too. The second act of their career starts here.

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Catch-up

Been busy not being here. Wrote some stuff for Sonic Shocks though.

Pan American – Cloud Room, Glass Room and a new comp Sea Monsters 3: Best of Brighton

 

Back real soon.

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