Skip to content

INAPPROPRIATEPLANK

Art, Life & Earth. THROUGH THE EYES OF A DEAF SNOWBOARDING MUSIC NUT.

Tag Archives: sonic youth

9/10 UNIQUE, WARM & BONKERS

Back in the 60’s & 70’s music lost some of it’s brightest lights. Many people who’s work influences music still today tragically passed away in their prime. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Ron McKernan of the Grateful Dead. Each one of them was only 27 years old when they died.

In December 1985, somewhere between the deaths of those legends and Kurt Cobain (who was also aged 27), a man called Dennes Boon had a fever and was lying down in the back of a battered tour van. His band had just supported REM. At their request. REM like them so much they had gone against their own label’s wishes to book them. They had won a very powerful ally and friend in Michael Stipe. The world was at their feet.

Boon’s girlfriend was driving them back to San Pedro, California when, somewhere along the I-10 Highway in the Arizona Desert, she fell asleep at the wheel. The van careered off the road, rolled and the prostrate “D” Boon was flung from the vehicle’s back doors. The impact broke his neck, killing him instantly. He was twenty seven years old.

To me, his death was every bit as devastating to music as the death of any of those mentioned because it signalled the end of the Minutemen, there and then. At the very point that the band were almost singlehandedly de-constructing the burgeoning US Hardcore & Punk from the frontline. While their (brilliant) contemporaries were going harder, darker, deeper, fuzzier and faster the Minutemen were tearing punk apart and dropping lumps of latin music, classical guitar, funk and free form jazz structure into it. This looks absurd on paper, but it sounds like it was always meant to be that way. They were unique, yet genre defining. And, after that crash, we will never know where they would have taken this new approach to.

The other two members reformed some years later (as Firehose) but they never got close to the magic of anything they did with Minutemen. I’m not suggesting they were passengers on Boon’s ride. Not in the slightest. The basslines of Mike Watt and snapped shut drumming of George Hurley is there for all to hear. It’s as integral to the overall Minutemen sound as anything Boon did himself. But the Minutemen was always a sum of all three parts.

The band formed proper in 1980 when childhood friends Watt & Boon added Hurley to the line up. Their name is derived from the Minutemen Militia (American Revolutionary War) and not from the commonly held belief that it referenced their standard track length (confirmed by Watt in the 2005 documentary We Jam Econo). They released various EPs & LPs before Double Nickels On The Dime came out on SST Records in 1984.

What makes this LP so very special in my eyes is that, although it is clearly a Hardcore/Punk based record it’s so incredibly difficult to pin down. It changes all the time, from one eclectic influence to another, from political satire to straight up humour, from brute force to incredible beauty. And yet, it all sounds like it’s one style. This is a coming together of 3 exceptional musicians, lots of very different approaches and a huge array of influences that together make something very unique.

On top of the band members input this LP was produced by Ethan James, famed for working with Black Flag, Sonic Youth, Jane’s Addiction and many many more emergent bands. His influence shouldn’t be underestimated.

The Album opens with “D’s car jam” and “Theatre”, a mix of Hardcore and funk pulled together over tight jazz forms before winding it’s way into “Vietnam”‘s Gang Of Four-esque-post-punk-funk territory and onto a sublime piece of classical guitar in “Cohesion”. That clears the air before “It’s Expected I’m Gone” throws a jazz bomb at Credence Clearwater Revival. All that and we’re not even 8 minutes in!

The whole album continues to move effortlessly between sounds and moods for over an hour. This ramshackle collection of songs is a whole so it’s nigh on impossible to pick out singular highlights though everyone in the world will know “Corona” after Jackass used it as their theme. I’m a huge fan of Television so have always had a soft spot for “Jesus & Tequila” and it’s Venus’ tinge. And “West Germany” & “Storm In My House” always catch my ears. But that will change again next listen. All these years later and I’m still finding hidden corners in this collection.

As for the mysterious “27” conspiracy. Load of rubbish in my opinion. But it certainly throws up a worthy list of hugely influential artists that D Boon’s name can comfortably sit among. Add Robert Johnson to that list. A tragic, bizzare anomaly.

RIP D Boon. Sadly missed

Tags: , , , , ,

9/10. Bleak, bruiser.

For many years I’ve been listening to Daydream Nation, 13 Songs, Young Team and Lift Your Antenna, amongst many others, wondering where all these droning, monotonously bleak works of beautiful rambling soundscapes would take me to next. But I never seemed to find any successors. No more examples of that level of craft came my way for a long time. I was stuck with these LPs, looking upon them as some kind of endgame, an evolutionary musical dead end.

I always knew that those albums weren’t really the end. But I couldn’t find anything to hold a torch to their stark power. Everything seemed either too melodic, or too bland. I didnt know what pigeon hole people had put the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed, Sonic Youth etc into. I didnt want to know. I hate bracketing art like that. It restricts and governs it. I really didn’t know where to start looking again. So I waited.

Instead I spent years ploughing through Madlib, DOOM, Zeke, Lee Perry’s back catalogue or a host of other genres. I delved back into Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Authechre, Bowie. I’d put this “post rock” or whatever it is known as, firmly on the back burner.

Just as my copy of Daydream Nation was finally about to disintegrate into overworked dust I stumbled into this LP. I can honestly say, I don’t think I have ever been so instantly blown away by a new album. Ever. Right from the point the first chords of No Words/No Thoughts (below) whacked me in the ears like Mogwai’s Herod did so many years before I knew this was what I’d been waiting for.

Long, drawn out, droning riffs hammered from a single note dragged me down into the Swans’ peculiar world. Soothing pulses calmed everything down before the vocals crept up behind me with some hacked off, industrial guitar drones and kicked the fuck out of my head for the best part of 10 minutes. Wonderful. Almost 30 years since Michael Gira chose the band’s name beacuse “”Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures. With really ugly temperaments” they still fit the bill, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Dont get me wrong, it isnt all hard, brutal music. This LP is a beautiful, subtle, crafted masterpiece with many moments of melodic, warm, almost folk/country tinged songwriting. But these moments just serve to make you relax as waves of bleak white guitar noise and deconstructed percussion slide under the melody and drag you back into the hypnotic dirge all over again. It’s an overwhelming LP that commands all of your attention or none at all.

This is head and shoulders my LP of the moment. I have developed a very unhealthy obsession, finding my headphones virtually glued to me wherever I be. The sheer level of craftmanship is astounding, dragging 7 minute tracks out of smashing a single note inside out over and over is no mean feat.

The band’s modus operandi has always been to create music that is at once “soul-uplifting and body-destroying”. An intention they still manage to this day. The highest compliment I can pay this album is to compare it with one of the most powerful, bleakly beautiful books of our times. The similarities with Cormac McCarthy’s epic, The Road, are startling. Much like the book you’ll need a bit of time to yourself after you finish this LP, it’ll drag you down to a dark place but fill you with hope. And you’ll be immensely glad you experienced it.

9/10

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here’s a strange mixtape of mine from a few years back. Lots of off kilter experimental “rock” from Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Mogwai, Sonic Youth, Beta Band, The Melvins and others. Lots of guitar loops and long mellow builds. Was pleased with it, still am. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Asked Steve Mason of the Beta Band on Twitter if it was OK to post this mix…. He not only said “of course” but also RT’d it to his followers. Mighty approval indeed.

PLAY HERE

DOWNLOAD HERE

1.SonicYouth – Trilogy

2.The Beta Band – Assessment

3.Sonic Youth – Trilogy Pt2

4.Godspeed You Black Emperor! -BBf3

5.Sonic Youth – Trilogy Pt3

6.The Melvins – A History Of Drunks

7.Times NewViking -TeenDrama

8.Pink Floyd – Breathe

9.The Beta Band – ItsOver

10.Sonic Youth – Silver Rocket

Tags: , , , ,