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January 25, 2007

Two Perfect Songs: The Story of Tintern Abbey

Filed under: Artist Profile — RadioFly @ 12:55 am

Tintern AbbeyIn London’s Summer of ’67, “psychedelic” was the word on everyone’s lips, while the Beatles, Hendrix, and Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd were the sounds in everyone’s ears. As a result, lots of middling R&B groups became lots of middling psych groups. Amidst this craze, many new psych outfits managed to churn out an LP and many more managed a single or two. All these groups, virtually without exception, faded into obscurity, to be heard from again only on compilations like the (wonderful) second volume of Nuggets. One of these bands was Tintern Abbey. With a total output of only one single, Tintern Abbey’s odds of being remembered were all but nonexistent. Fortunately, great music has a way of being heard.

While tracks like The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” Kaleidoscope’s “Flight from Ashiya,” or The Syn’s “14 Hour Technicolor Dream” sound like artifacts from a forgotten era, Tintern Abbey’s songs hold up to this day, delivering on a movement largely characterized by wasted potential. Tintern Abbey’s sole a-side, the ironically titled “Beeside“ may never have been a hit, but it stands alone with Tomorrow’s “My White Bicycle” as a perfectly forward-thinking psych pop single from London ‘67. The flip side, “Vacuum Cleaner” (actually the more anthologized song of the two), does not reach the soaring heights of its counterpart, but it’s nothing if not flawless, recalling The Who in many ways.

“Beeside” opens with a beautiful, gentle piano that continues throughout the song, sounding as good as anyone tripping on LSD thought Rick Wright sounded. Then, in a beautiful rush, the rest of the instruments descend into the music, including an uncommonly graceful mellotron. John Dalton’s deliciously psychedelic drumming provides the backbeat for Dan Smith’s understated guitar. Perhaps most impressively, however, front-man Dave MacTavish manages to turn in perfectly elegant lyrics while adhering to the whimsical psych style of the time. Even such giants of the scene as Barrett and Keith West struggled with corniness in similar songs. All in all, “Beeside” is the perfect song to play in your car on a sunny day or in your headphones and get lost in or, best of all, when you can’t think of anything else to listen to.

Unless you want to drop a grand on ebay for the original, you can buy a repressing of the single from VVMO. Also, check out their unofficial myspace.

January 15, 2007

Shit and Shine – Toilet Door Tits

Filed under: Hype,Music — Shiny Beast @ 2:49 pm

[Conspiracy; 2006]

Back in the 60’s, a catalytic German scene known absorbed the music of the time, let it congeal, and then recorded its process of expanding and mutating into a musical behemoth. On the fifteen minute opening song, Shit and Shine call upon an analogous method, starting with a condensed ball of recent experimental history ranging from Derek Bailey to Wolf Eyes. Instead of a mutation, however, the combined mass of ideas cannot remain compact and explodes in a rhythmic Big Bang, blasting static-filled clouds of inspiration in every direction while only the huge drums follow for the duration. The subsequent track appropriately sounds like a dark celebration of the previous song’s creation.  Guitars with various effect pedals squeal over an outright danceable beat, while deranged, possibly misogynistic vocals make a futile attempt to claw their way up through the ruckus on the title track.

 The Biggest Cock in Christendom, the aftermath, runs with a galactic drumbeat progressively more tainted by distorted interference. Whatever universe this all transpires in likely doesn’t see many couples waiting for a second date before engaging in promiscuity. While not symphonic, this album isn’t overbearing and can be played even with low levels of audible masochism. The chaotic coating that drenches its exterior is applied with proficiency and helps achieve their desired sound making this half hour journey worthwhile.

January 10, 2007

The Dirtbombs, Pt. 2: The Albums

Filed under: Artist Profile,Music — ihggy @ 7:11 pm

So, about these Dirtbombs albums. This Dirtbombs were, according to Mick Collins, never even supposed to be an “albums band”. They were gonna make fifteen 7″ singles, disband, and be relegated to relative obscurity. Albums would force the band to stay in one place too long for Collins’ liking, I guess, so they were never a part of the original plan. However, presumably due to their amazing singles and live performances, the band grew in popularity, so much so that there were expectations that the band make an full-length. At a certain point I think it’s impossible for a band not to give in to such expectations, regardless of whatever principles upon which its members might have originally based its existence. And so we have Dirtbombs albums.

Collins has said that when he finally decided to make full-length record with the Dirtbombs, that he wanted to strictly adhere to the “one complete idea maintained for the course of the entire LP” thing, and so the Dirtbombs are “a punk band on the first one, a soul band on the second one, and a pop band on the third.” The fourth one might be a pop-psych combination. This is true, but the whole catalog is filtered through that loud, dirty Detroit “garage” sound for which the band is best known.

The first LP, Horndog Fest, released in 1998 on In the Red Records, is pretty obnoxious. All kinds of snot pours from these songs, they are fast, loud, as dirty as the Bombs can make them. Even the cover is raunchy as all. Take this tune, “Vixens In Space”. This is ear-punishing blue punk-noise, which, despite the band’s two drummers and two bassists, has no low-end at all. Most of what you hear is unintelligible guitar feedback. Naturally, it rocks in a really wonderful way. But it’s obnoxious, rude as fuck. No class at all. To an extent, the rest of the album proceeds similarly.

Somewhere between 1998 and 2001, when their second album Ultraglide in Black was released, the band developed a real sense of style, a sense of propriety (at least when compared to other garage punks). The record is mostly covers of funk and soul classics (by artists like Smokey Robinson, George Clinton, Lou Rawls). The song selection is the height of cool, the Horndoggy edge is severely diminished, the rhythm section asserts its essential presence, the band tightens up, and the result is a soul-punk classic. The band’s cover of Sly and the Family Stone’s “Underdog” is a perfect example of the Ultraglide idea. It’s got all the energy and anger of the original, and you can tell that the band really loves the song. It rocks as hard as anything on Horndog, but it does it with a hell of a lot more class.

2003’s Dangerous Magical Noise, the band’s so-called “pop” album, is somewhat harder to pin down. The Dirtbombs throw in elements from all over the place (bits of glam, power-pop, 70’s AM pop, and more), thus the sound on this record is not as uniform as on the others. Because of the variety, and because the songwriting is as consitently high-quality as ever, this is probably the band’s most approachable record. It’s a little cleaner than the first two, it’s got a generally friendlier mix, but it’s still a Dirtbombs record, so it still pumps out pure excitement with every note. “F.I.D.O.”, the record’s closer, is busting with sunshine-y good feelings and boasts a groove you just want to drive to forever. It’s a pop song, for sure, a brilliant, tight, catchy pop song.

Their side of the split LP with King Khan and His Shrines, called Billiards at Nine Thirty (released on Sounds of Subterannia in 2005), bears resemblance to a tightened-up, cleaner version of the more garage-psych “experimental” tracks on the If You Don’t Already Have a Look singles compilation. It’s a really cool record, but because it only has six of their songs, I don’t think I can count it among the band’s proper full-lengths. I don’t think the band meant it to be taken as seriously as their real LP’s or the singles, and for this reason it seems to lack the urgency and energy of their other releases.

The Dirtbombs don’t apparently have any new releases in the near future, but according to Mick Collins, the next record is gonna be their “bubblegum pop” album. Oh man, it should be awesome.

Buy Dirtbombs records from In the Red.

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