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Columnfortably Numb: Psych Rock For February Reviewed By JR Moores
JR Moores , February 28th, 2022 09:39

In his inaugural column of 2022, JR Moores tries to disentangle himself from a web of lies and get on with reviewing some cracking avant rock. Home page portrait: Wovenhand

The Web Of Lies – see below – is an apposite band name for this day and age. Behold the (not) sorry sight of Boris "what illegalities?" Johnson, plodding gormlessly towards the precipice like he's an extra in the worst ever episode of The Walking Dead. The man-boobed miscreant will be fine in the long run, as privilege guarantees. No doubt we'll soon see him cracking mildly-risqué-for-daytime-television banter on a future episode of Loose Women and/or swinging corpulently in a straining hammock on I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Dignitas. He'll simply be following in the goosesteps of his cuddly father, Stanley, who abused his wife (Boris' mother) so vilely and violently that he drove her to a mental breakdown. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE who is hidden beneath the novelty turnip costume on the twelfth series of The Masked Singer. Mr Johnsons deny all allegations and reported facts.

Prise your eyes away from Facebook, with its business model reliant on the insidious spread of misinformation. That's if you can endure the crippling withdrawal from discussion groups about what the selfish neighbours have done this time, users posting crying-laughter emojis beneath a tragic news story about refugees, highly strung knee-jerkers protesting to the headline of a longform article without bothering to engage with the nuances of its multiple paragraphs, and knowing the exact dates of your loved ones' birthdays without having to write them all down. I know I can't! Imagine, in the 1980s, if every twelve pages or so a pamphlet written by a radical lunatic had dropped out of your ringed binder and convinced you that whooping cough had been invented by Boots to shift their backlog of Calpol. Filofax missed a trick there. FreedomFax, they'd have called it.

Slap your sweaty, rumpled brow in disbelief as the world's wealthiest podcaster, who dropped out of university because he couldn't concentrate properly and preferred to spend his valuable time being kicked in the head, thinks he's the right person to outwit medical science. What word do the Americans use for "gammon"? Rogan almost rhymes with slow ham. Keep on hockin' in the free world.

Listen to Christopher Anthony John Martin on Radio 2, speculating that Coldplay will not release any more music after 2025, and will concentrate solely on touring instead. Like bollocks they will. And if he really cared about the environment, as he so earnestly claims, then Mr Martin would put a stop to the whole touring rigmarole as well. Coldplay say they're trying to make their concerts as eco-friendly as possible but it'd be easier, quicker and better for Mother Earth, in the long run, if they just sodded off forever.

The same goes for their audience, as well as everybody's kids and, come to think of it, the rest of humanity. Too misanthropic for the first column of the year? You should see the line about a compassionate global holocaust that I just redacted.

I'd rather not have an Agent 007 of any gender sniffing around my nuclear base.

The Web Of Lies – Nude With Demon
(Wrong Speed)

The Web Of Lies' appeal should be tastefully limited enough for this Leeds/Glasgow duo to offset their own carbon footprint by planting a couple of acorns in a field off the A66. The riff to the first track, 'Receiver', could have been written by Tim from Part Chimp and sold to Rock Action for a couple of crumpets or whatever those cool cats deal in. The nonchalantly harmonic vocals might remind listeners of The Breeders. It's off to a good start, then. 'RnR Resurrection' and 'Crossed Arms' seem more concerned with channelling pre-Daydream Nation Sonic Youth or, let's say, Liars if you'd like a more recent reference. (I've just double-checked the original release date of They Were Wrong, So We Drowned and have burst into tears.) 'Yeah Yeah Yeah' has the title of a pop song but the sound of a tumble dryer being punched in its plinth. 'The Golden Road' and 'Redeemer' are a little more rustic because of violins or something. Sticking with the theme of household appliances, Side B feels like someone's moved on from EVOL and onto Washing Machine, while simultaneously discovering Pelt. Cool combo. Ain't that the truth.

Rangers – Out In The Sticks
(Baked Whale)

The last time Joe Knight's Rangers project appeared in this column, it was back in the comparatively carefree days of 2018, with the album Late Electrics. Its slacker-rock humdingers were compared, unimaginatively enough, to the likes of Stephen Malkmus and Trans Am. Well, slap me round the earholes and call me Geddy. Out In The Sticks is a whole different kettle of sole. Like Liam Neeson admitting he is the true Ra's al Ghul, Knight has let the mask slip and finally foregrounded his previously suppressed love of heavy metal and the Canadian prog titans Rush. He's even got Rangers written in a new typeface to match the reinvention, all spiky and scary like the logos of most of the acts at Damnation Festival. There are glimmers of Knight's older work, somewhere in the mix. In the keyboard textures, for instance, or the tranquil intro to 'Buzzard Crest', before it begins to resemble a Pelican demo. Hear, also, the krautrockingly cosmic third track, 'Refrigerated Air'. But what really dominates is the difficult-to-resist combination of tyrannical riffs, explosive blasts of lead guitar, and neck-jerking about-turns in time signature. Knight hasn't added any vocals to the tracks, unless you count the wordless choral shenanigans of 'Grainbelt Supernova'. It would be interesting to know what a Rangers record in this pulverising style would be like with singing overlaid. It might resemble the joyful heft of Circle and/or Pharaoh Overlord, for instance. Could that be the plan for its follow-up? Don't trouble the bookies. For all we know, Rangers' next step could swerve almost anywhere. It's good to keep us on our toes.

Drug Couple – Stoned Weekend
(PaperCup Music)

Columnfortably Numb appreciates acts who wear their hearts on their sleeves, especially if the old ticker is pumping at an abnormal speed and/or rhythm due to the herculean intake of recreation narcotics. Late last year, Weak Signal impressed with their chugging gonzo anthem 'Drugs In My System'. The funniest thing about Drug Couple's debut album is that it is bookended by its title track, 'Stoned Weekend', and a reprise of said track, which in its second incarnation is retitled 'Still Stoned'. It takes a special kind of edibles-scoffing bonghead to come up with something that inspired. Of course, you can't pass muster simply by going, "Look at us! We dig the herb." This isn't a college paper on the Harold & Kumar franchise. You've got to have the tunes to back it up. Luckily, in this case the condition of being utterly baked has not impeded the ability to pen wistful ditties with pretty melodies. The not-quite-lo-fi production gives everything a suitably warm and, yes, hash-like glow. The pair are influenced by Yo La Tengo, Dinosaur Jr, and (more surprisingly, if still in the 90s ballpark) Shania Twain. Maybe Evan Dando can hire them to write the next Lemonheads LP for him, seeing as the last two have been covers albums released ten years apart. That guy makes John "I'm only sleeping" Lennon look like he was full of beans. 

KEVIN – Aftermath
(Riot Season)

It's not easy to find much concrete info about this band because they are called, simply, KEVIN. Algorithmic Google results offer the New York punk rocker Kevin K, a dance-rock outfit from LA who are also called Kevin, and a YouTube video of The Band Called Kevin covering an Offspring song in the Hard Rock Café, Anchorage, which has since permanently closed its doors, though presumably not as a direct result of that set. Then you've got your Kevin Parkers, Kevin Bacons, Kevin Keegans, Kevin Shields-es, and Kevin Ayers-es. But KEVIN? Not a sausage. No matter. Sometimes it's best to approach without any pesky preconceptions. This KEVIN is/are a three-piece from Osaka, the press release tells us, with a strong krautrock influence. Certainly there are echoes of contemporaries with similar tastes – Acid Mothers Temple, Hibushibire, Qujaku – and older Japanese acts like Flower Travellin' Band, but let's not lump everything together so crudely. The rhythms recognise the pleasure that can derive from repetition. The vocals feel distant, as if someone's trying to call your attention from a nearby ditch. The guitar "solos" are not designed to show off digit-dexterity. They seem more concerned with trying to make the instrument sound like a different object altogether. John Coltrane's saxophone. Jimi Hendrix's food blender. Pete Townshend's amplified indigestion. There's an earthiness to the mix and an almost skeletal nature to the trio's take on psych, which makes them stand out from others' denser and more polished efforts. And the rhythms recognise the pleasure that can derive from repetition. And the rhythms recognise the pleasure that can derive from repetition. And the…

Christian Fitness – Hip Gone Gunslingers

Andrew "don't call it noise rock" Falkous is back with another set of ear-chompers which he thinks are pop songs fed through the filter of self-respect and everyone else hears as noise rock. You don't find Tom Grennan on the coveted Graham Norton music spot spitting bizarre lyrics about Guildford over a riff that's spikier than a livid hedgehog, do you Falco? The title of Christian Fitness' seventh album is a jab at that now-doddering pair of professional bigotry spouters, Burchill and Parsons, so several thousand bonus points for that. Elsewhere, Falkous turns his glare on paranoid uncles and at one point mutters something about a futon. The songs get their point across quickly, and then they end. No messing about. No welcomes outstayed. The groove of 'Male Guitarist' or the stupendously fat bassline of 'Endless North London Police Helicopter' might well get your hips a-swinging, if you are that way inclined. The latter is at least partly influenced by Mud's 'Tiger Feet'. The title track ends with falsetto ooh-ing. 'Everyone Knows You're A Desperate Man' wraps things up with blockbuster synth chords. After hearing the songs a few times, just try to resist singing along to lines like "CHRIST! Another boutique festival…" Maybe it is pop music, after all. Not 'My Campaign Against The Common Cold', mind. It sounds as if one of the more "difficult" moments on the third Mclusky LP is having an absolute migraine.

Wovenhand – Silver Sash

Which artists pop into your mind when you hear the word "EPIC"? Nick Cave, perhaps, gesticulating lankily in that svelte suit of his. (When he's not knuckling down to answer everybody's agony aunt queries, that is.) Swans? To these ears, they are (or He is) now stuck in a rut of unintentional self-parody. How about Godspeed You! Britt Ekland, reliably hitting that inevitable crescendo just as the triple espresso kicks in? Well, consider David Eugene Edwards and his Wovenhand project, which has continued to evolve from its Americana beginnings in remarkable ways. Adding to the familiar biblical dramaticisms, the musical progressions this time include the occasional appearance of industrial beats. Don't worry though, nothing here resembles 'Ava Adore' by Smashing Pumpkins or that dodgy Danny Saber track on The Jesus Lizard's final album. It sounds as though Edwards and his latest partner in sonic grandness, Chuck French of Planes Mistaken For Stars, have taken considerable care in honing the balance and making sure they don't overuse the technology. They may have been listening to Einstürzende Neubauten (whose Alexander Hacke has worked with Wovenhand before) and have avoided making a pig's ear of the emulation, unlike what that Rammstein do. Edwards' work is always written about in such serious and solemn terms. Take a quick glance at his reviews and it's all "haunted strings", "cavernous woe" and "menacing percussion". This is entirely understandable, given he often comes across as a genuinely tormented preacher-man. However, such assessments do overlook how much enjoyment can be had if you put on a fake moustache and a wide-brimmed hat, and croon along to Wovenhand in an outrageously deep voice, even if you can't match Edwards' level of FAITH.

Thank – Thoughtless Cruelty

I don't want to fuel local rivalries or spark a Yorkshire turf war[1] but while everybody is busy lapping up that overhyped group from Leeds who presumably sound fresh to those who are yet to pick up Disguise In Love by John Cooper Clarke for four quid in Fopp, you are hereby advised to turn your attention Thank-wards instead. The quintet's songs draw on the apparent limitlessness of human cruelty, the globe-mangling failure of liberalism and the rise of the far right, while also taking swings at "bands who express radical political ideas in their lyrics but don't seem to live their own politics." Can't for the life of me guess who they might be talking about there. All that disgruntlement might make them sound a bit solemn but the racket they make is actually quite the hoot. Utilising phat grooves and electronic scrapings to bring noise rock kicking and screaming into the volatile 2020s, Thoughtless Cruelty is snotty and abrasive, fuelled by impotent rage, and includes a scatological fantasy about ITV's Stars In Their Eyes. There has never been a good band from Leeds, as Thank's wry "singer" insists on 'Dread'. He's on the money there, give or take. Nor have there been any good bands from London, he says. Damn right. Depeche Mode are from Essex. Furthermore, "There's never been a good band that's ever been alive". Another valid point. For 30-odd minutes though, Thank had me fooled.

[1] I definitely do want to do that. Divide and rule!

Electric Wizards: A Tapestry of Heavy Music, 1968 to the Present by JR Moores is available in all self-respecting bookshops. It's got a chapter on acid rock, another one on noise rock, plus a handful of amusing quotes, shoehorned in, from the mouth of Andrew Falkous