Columnfortably Numb: Psych Rock For May Reviewed By JR Moores

JR Moores is ready to "review" the latest psych and noise rock releases... and no backlash from grouchy musicians is going to stop him

The previous edition of Columnfortably Numb seemed to ruffle the feathers of a certain alternative Washington DC duo of veteran status. In a since-deleted post, their official Twitter account retorted with these words: "Got it all wrong th contrarian bet is so fkn Played lol Ur google skillz r on point but Yr horses are pulling up lame and will be shot and put down before we even leave gate bro shldnt take urself so seriously specialy wn lauding a host of played out psych". It just goes to show that long-term hard drug use does as much for your spelling and coherence as it does for your ability to produce washed-up retro slacker rock.

Is it me or are famous musicians getting more and more prickly? A few weeks back the polymathic superstar singer Lizzo celebrated hitting a new height of fame via the success of her inaugural major-label album by tweeting, "PEOPLE WHO ‘REVIEW’ ALBUMS AND DON’T MAKE MUSIC THEMSELVES SHOULD BE UNEMPLOYED" (her caps). That’s exactly the kind of psychological trauma that a 6.5 rating from Pitchfork will have on a person. It’s also an excuse for me to finally unveil my previously unreleased collection of post-croon chillcore ballads. So you’ll have Lizzo to thank when Radio1 playlists my debut single ‘Chlorinated Chicken Blues feat. Mr Hudson’.

Why stop there? Why not outlaw all arts criticism entirely, whether the critics in question produce their own art or not? (Arts criticism is not an art in itself, of course. That would be a ridiculous idea. As the composer Jean Sibelius once reminded us, "A statue has never been set up in honour of a critic.") Following the justifiable purge, we’ll live in an idyllic utopia where the only things we are able to read on the subject of the art and music being sold to us will come from marketing departments, PR firms, and Instagram posts written by a Californian bot posing as Timothée Chalamet.

In fairness, Lizzo did issue a follow-up tweet once every music hack in the western world had gotten their thrift-store knickers in twist about her initial post: "THIS IS AN INVITATION TO ALL MUSIC JOURNALISTS TO KICK IT IN THE STUDIO WITH ME FOR MY NEXT ALBUM! I’d like to understand your world as much as you can understand mine." Excellent idea, Lizzo! Count me in. I’ll pack my collection of assorted kazoos. In return for this benevolent gesture, I hereby invite ALL MUSICIANS to kick it behind the laptop with me next time I have a virtual pile of psych-rock MP3 files to assess. Anton Newcombe can brew the coffee when I’m flagging. Luke Haines from Black Box Recorder will be asked to provide reinvigorating backrubs. Lizzo can help me think of a suitable synonym for "moderately fuzzy guitar tone".

They’ll soon see this is the toughest job in the world besides stand-up comedy, acting in the theatre, and entering the TV cookery competition Masterchef.

(Sibelius didn’t live to see the bronze statue of Roger Ebert that was erected in Illinois in 2014. And perhaps he never bothered to visit Luxemburg Gardens in Paris, where a bust of the literary critic Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve has stood since 1898, when Sibelius was in his 30s. Future sculptors take note: please be faithful to the permanent stooped spine I have incurred from leaning over the keyboard. Pay attention to the squinty glower of my screen-burned eyes. Feel free to use your artistic license in order to convey the tinnitus most effectively. A palm to the ear, perhaps, or a slight furrow to my brow that suggests an undetectable irritation but which could also be interpreted as the sign of a perceptive yet empathetic intellect.)

Who says JR Moores takes himself too seriously?

Big Business – The Beast You Are

(Joyful Noise)

Big Business’ spiritual godfathers are obviously Melvins into whose line-up they were temporarily absorbed in the late 2000s. Melvins have always been brazenly upfront about their weirdness. Mastering CDs as one long unbroken track so listeners would have difficulty in skipping the more "challenging" numbers. Producing a collaborative album with industrial noisenik Lustmord without ever being in the same room as him. Interspersing tracks with eerie passages of musique concrète or long periods of silence. More difficult still, covering Kiss. Those are the high jinks Melvins get up to in between carving out immaculate slabs of alternative sludge rock. Big Business’ weirdness has been less overt. Rather, theirs tends to be buried under an avalanche of riffs, chesty bellowing, and ambitious drum fireworks. But the weirdness is certainly there. And is it just me or are Big Business growing steadily and more confidently weirder with each successive record? This, their sixth if you can count that far, includes ‘Time And Heat’ which appears to be Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ as reconceived by scruffy shorts-wearing fans of The Rollins Band. It’s followed by ‘The Moor You Know’, a slow and spooky ogre of a song which benefits from the addition of a sinister keyboard tone reminiscent of those that Roddy Bottum has long supplied for fellow oddballs Faith No More. Most surprising of all is the track, only 25 seconds in length, that’s all pretty Beach Boys vocal harmonies. A-whoa, oh, whoa, oh! ‘Under Everest’ includes sleigh bells for Santa’s sake! The album is still mainly about the phatknacker riffs, insane drumbeats, and grumpy bellowing, which is as it should be. Arrive for the riffs and stay for the sleigh bells and mince pies.

Orchestra Of Constant Distress – Cognitive Dissonance

(Riot Season)

Orchestra Of Constant Distress render all words ineffective other than a good old hearty "OOMPH". In fact, it’s probably best to abandon reviewing Cognitive Dissonance altogether. Instead, let’s simply try to stretch OOMPH out for a few hundred characters. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMPH. OOMPH! OOMPH! OOMPH! OOMPH! OOM-friggin-PPPPH! etc. Orchestra Of Constant Distress include members of The Skull Defekts, Brainbombs, and other projects. Their distinctive style of instrumental and minimalist noise-rock is repetitive and ragged and heavier than a golden Buddha. They are locked in together, more so than the cast of Porridge, and are intent on churning out a roaring nothingness. Their commitment to not progressing or changing or doing anything other than churn and churn and churn away like a pioneering model of semi-sentient cement mixer makes most other groups look like frivolous sell-outs for having songs in which stuff actually happens. For this, Orchestra Of Constant Distress earn our upmost respect. Cognitive Dissonance is the follow-up to last year’s Distress Test and it doesn’t exactly… Oh what’s the use? OOMPH OOMPH OOMPH OOMPH OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMPPPPHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Raketkanon – RKTKN#3


Brexit being the biggest shitshow since Chris Ofili exhibited his elephant dung paintings, it’s time to decide whereabouts to relocate after whenever the next suspended apocalyptic deadline may be. That is, if we are even permitted to emigrate without being tarred, feathered, and imprisoned by a UK Home Office who’ll soon be forcing us to wear armbands embroidered with a snowflake symbol. Where could we move? A French vineyard perhaps? Berlin, where all the musicians seem to want to live? Bonny soon-to-be-independent Scotland? How about Belgium? One advantage about that part of the world is that several of its rock bands are so crackers it’s as if they’ve been raised on a strict diet of superior beer and Mr Bungle.

Raketkanon stand out for a number of reasons. Pieter-Paul Devos has the habit of singing in his own made-up language (and not in the serene way that’ll secure them many nature documentary commissions). They use meaty synth tones where most groups would settle for bass guitar lines. It’s normal for musicians to be unable to pick a favourite of the songs they’ve written because, as they always inform us, "That would be like choosing between my children". Raketkanon take this concept one step further, bringing each song to life by giving it a human name. ‘Ricky’, for example, ‘Robin’, or ‘Hannibal’. Raketkanon’s third LP sees the Ghent-based noise rockers expand their sonic ship without forcing it to spring a leak. There are a greater number of quieter moments. An acoustic guitar can be identified at certain points. There’s a virtually silent passage that goes on just a little bit longer than expected, demonstrating that Raketkanon can cause discomfort with both sheer volume and its opposite. Elsewhere, the synth has been awarded a more prominent role than before. ‘Harry’ hints at a future industrial-fusion direction. ‘Ernest’ is a huge lumbering warthog of a tune. They’re also worth seeing live because the last time I caught them Devos nearly decapitated one disengaged audience member with projectile tambourine.

Centrum – För Meditation


It’s safe to say Sweden’s Centrum are in no rush to get anywhere. Their track lengths can grow pretty long. The driving bass lines are slow and simple, yet warm and pleasing. John Peel could’ve placed the old needle down, nipped off to the BBC bogs, had a chat with the work experience kid, drafted the intro to his next Sounds column, had a cup of tea, and been back before the end of ‘Som En Spegel’ to introduce the next Ukrainians session track. Across four movements, Centrum plod pleasantly and repetitively along in a manner that can’t help but recall their country’s psychedelic godfathers Pärson Sound/International Harvester/Harvester/Träd, Gräs & Stenar. Fans of Goat may also be interested, although Centrum are a lot less hyperactive, like Goat’s ambling cousin. The occasional vocals sound as if they’re being chanted by a bedraggled hermit from the back of an echoing camper van. At certain points, it’s a little like listening to Acid Mothers Temple at accidental half-speed (something Peel might well have done). Having said that, is this album really peaceful or ambient enough to be entirely suitable ‘for meditation’ as its title suggests? Track three has a bit of a spindly Warren Ellis fiddle part that could have you picturing rotting cowboy corpses. The second track concludes with some solo honking that is not entirely dissimilar to the untamed sound of the bagpipes. It’s magnificent, of course, but you might find that when meditating to that noise you’ll be unable to clear your mind fully because it’s going to be suddenly filled with images of demonic imps jigging across some multi-coloured mountainsides.

Hibushibire – Turn On, Tune In, Freak Out!

(Riot Season)

The second album by Hibushibire shares much in common with their first. They’re still a power trio from Japan. Once again, they have been produced by Makoto Kawabata from Acid Mothers Temple (the most appropriate appointment since St Vincent befriended David Byrne). Their singer and guitarist can still whip out effortlessly Hendrixian guitar licks like he’s possessed with Jimi’s spirit and stolen his trousers. Just like 2017’s Freak Out Orgasm!, here the fourth and final track takes up a whole side of vinyl all to itself. What’s the difference then? Why not just sit on the debut LP and persistently listen to that one instead? Well, the main point is simply that everything is even better than before. Loads better, in fact. It may have the same producer but the production is much richer and a lot more faithful to the blistering sound and loudness of Hibushibire’s feisty live sets. The band appear to be tighter and more tuned in (and turned on and freaked out) with each other. Every single guitar riff and every blast of lead… every rolling bass line and animated clatter of drums… the occasional wild vocal parts… everything just works so well. What do they do next time? Take it up another notch? It’s hard to imagine how. Can’t wait to find out.

Terminal Cheesecake – Le Sacre Du Lièvre


After a lengthy hiatus, cult bad-acid-rockers Terminal Cheesecake made a welcome return with 2016’s Dandelion Sauce Of The Ancients. Boisterous and experimental in equal measure, it proved to be just the ticket. "Whack it on your headphones while you chase killer clowns around the parking lot with a rusty bicycle chain," wrote one nonsensical critic. Le Sacre Du Lièvre, then, is Terminal Cheesecake’s "difficult second comeback album". The question is, will it float like Pixies’ Head Carrier (quiet at the back, I LIKED IT) or sink straight to the bottom like The Smashing Pumpkins’ appropriately titled Oceania? Happy to report Le Sacre Du Lièvre kicks harder than Eric Cantona at a fan’s face (that’s enough of the 90s references for now). Hot enough to melt a Nazi’s head, the berserk riff on the ferocious opener ‘Wipey’s Revenge’ sounds like it’s been channelled through a stomp box mail-ordered straight from the very depths of Hades. ‘Saddle Shower’ is also pretty crunchy albeit in a slower and doomier fashion. More meandering is ‘South Sea Wall’ which will lift you up and drop you into a barren field lined with the skulls of starved sheep and will soon have you wondering if you’re about to be ambushed and sacrificed by some cannibalistic pagans masquerading as The Countryside Alliance. In contrast, ‘Bull Of The Woods’ is a clattering freestyle rumble of no-wave harshness which makes the echoed yelps and distorted choogling on the following number appear almost jaunty. Terminal Cheesecake really are the bee’s kneescake. They’re exactly the kind of band where a random stranger who’s been standing next to you in the audience will munificently hand you some of his or her drugs and, because it’d be frightfully rude to refuse, you accept the offer even though it risks rendering the rest of the festival a jelly-limbed write-off. Doth thou speak from experience, sir?

Hey Colossus – Four Bibles


"Hey Colossus are probably the best ‘mainstream’ rock band in the world right now. And if we hadn’t all slipped into some D-minus ‘will this do’ alternate hellscape reality, they’d probably be quite famous now innit." So tweeted John Doran a few months back. With their walls of guitars underpinning deftly written lunge-along rock nuggets, Hey Colossus should by all rights be supporting The Foo Fighters but are unfairly overlooked each time because backscratching management would rather book somebody recommended by Tim Lovejoy from Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. The problem is nobody listens to us. Well not enough people anyway. Plus, Hey Colossus shot themselves in the foot by, before going "mainstream", releasing a bunch of underground albums that sounded like the nightmares suffered by Tom Hardy’s character in Taboo before he wakes up all sweaty and trouserless to have another pop at nobbing his own sister.

From the outset what Hey Colossus should’ve done was to plagiarise a few phat riffs from the Palm Desert Scene and then, a few months after forming, cajoled an unfortunate Arctic Monkey to wear one of their t-shirts while headlining Glastonbury just like what Royal Blood did. If they’d followed that route, Hey Colossus could have 30,000 Instagram followers by now instead of trundling along in a tiny van. Still, that’s probably where they’re happiest. After all, Hey Colossus wrote the book on being underground. Well their bassist did – literally. See Joe Thompson’s excellent new Sleevenotes tome.

There’s an 11-minute dirger in the second half to prove they haven’t gone full pop but for the most part Four Bibles is so accessible it shouldn’t even have to wallow alongside other psych- and noise-rock obscurities down here in the pits of Columnfortably Numb. Christ, the indignity of it all. If there was any justice, Four Bibles would see Hey Colossus infiltrate the VIP lounge where they could rub shoulders with Roger Daltrey, Brody from The Distillers, Crank Farter & The Snattlerakes, Matty "Matt" Healy’s ever so proud parents, Dido’s comeback album, Seashanty Steven, and Mary Anne Hobbs. That won’t happen though because as Moby once warned us everything is wrong.

Next month: JR Moores commits harakiri after referring to himself in the third person, Royal Trux raise a glass of cognac in celebration

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