Membranes – “What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away”

memb 19

Virgo season. Summer is coming to an end. Discarded knickers drifting away from the Central Blackpool Pier, just about to sink to the sea bottom…

Allora, where have proper seasons gone? Central European continental belt, where  Zagreb lies and belongs, obviously lost them. The varied beauty of temperate climate with distinct four seasons started to fade two decades ago. God damn the Sun. God damn the naked apes. What nature gives, nature takes away. And what about (The) Membranes? After having orbited in the cold black space for couple of years, old codgers fell from the dark skies & landed on Earth (North England, Blackpool). Unrelenting bassist & band leader John Robb knows no obstacles. „What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away“ is a double album comprised of dark side tunes with different emotional resonance (what was previously grief after the loss of father & contemplation on mortality and miraculous origin of life, now is concern for primordial mother). At the first look the songs may seem loosely connected in a conceptual manner reminiscent of prog-rock excesses. But the fundamental quality of the new record is closer to late ’70s British art-rock tradition. The prominent role of bass guitar, implementation of dub techniques in the studio & immersion in Gothic imagery come from post-punk past times. And the alchemy of all the elements is pure 21st century Membranes: Nick Brown – guitar and keyboards, Peter Byrchemore (ex The Nightingales) – guitar & Rob Haynes (ex Gold Blade) – drums. The choir inclusion would be a real surprise if they hadn’t worked with them in concerts on different occasions in recent years. „What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away“ is certainly  their most grandiose recording up to date. Is this The Membranes’ crown achievement? Time will tell. They’ve kept their mature inspiration in enviable form, only the psychedelic dressing applied is earthier and in abundance. There are no songs that I’d recognize as “filler”. In overall the sequence works fine and keeps my attention from start to finish. The mournful guitar melodies (e.g. What Nature Gives… Nature Takes Away, Deep In The Forest Where Memories Linger) are my current favorites. It’s important to mention that Membranes are great live act. I was lucky to have watched them in concert when they promoted “Dark Matter / Dark Energy”; as “a last minute” opening act they played before Gang of Four  in Zagreb. Keep your eye on their tour dates. I and I () Membranes.

Spring: The City Is An Animal

Summer: Deep In The Forest Where Memories Linger

Autumn: Demon Seed / Demon Flower

Winter: Pandora’s Box

 

memb tour 19

Window shop: Louder Than War

Half-Year Album Review

Summer in Wonderland.

2018 (addendum)

The end of ’18 also brought three outstanding albums that I’ve listened to in this year. They shouldn’t be left behind unmentioned.

Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace

Believe the (moderate) hype in this case. The festering psychedelic quality of “Laughing Death in Meatspace” deserves praises heaped upon it. It sounds mesmerizing despite being unpleasant and toxic in essence.  — Losing your mind on the porch in hot and humid Australian weather unable to move, with worn out and scratched Neil Young & Crazy Horse records as only company (There are old Buffalo albums in the cupboard too, but you haven’t had enough energy for that kind of blues / doom for ages). —  The visions of Gareth Liddiard are respected here. He could be one of the four honorary evangelists for this blog column.

tfs

You Let My Tyers Down

Two Afternoons

Rubber Bullies

A Laughing Death In Meatspace

Wax Chattels – Wax Chattels

Just a thousand miles down south-east, in subtropical Auckland, youngsters flocked together in a power (NRG) trio of a different kind (bass / organ / drums). Such band format is not really extraterrestrial but it is uncommon and thusly more interesting. How many more great (debut) albums from Southern Hemisphere.  Fantastic! Rated X.

wax

In My Mouth

Parallel Lines

Stay Disappointed

Gillian

The Nightingales – Perish The Thought

I could easily recommend any of their post-reformation albums, not only “Perish The Thought”. Perhaps The Nightingales require few introductory lines. In the previous century they started as young ’76 punks from Birmingham (City of Black Sabbath) called The Prefects. Alongside Robert LLoyd as frontman, brothers Alan and Paul Apperley were crucial and lasting players in the band. The comparisons with The Fall are inevitable but The Nightingales obviously didn’t have work ethic on the same level as them.  The three studio albums issued in the period 1982-85 are genuine post-punk / pub-rock classics,  platinum certified on John Peel Show. The Nightingales’ German patron saint was Faust (rather than Can). After having been dormant for many years The Nightingales re-appeared in early 21st century and here they are with the latest line-up: Andreas Schmid as bassist and studio engineer, Fliss Kitson on drums / vocals and the new guitarist James Smith recently replacing Alan Apperley. As an uninformed and out of time person, I missed The Nightingales when they played in a lovely old fashioned club in Austrian village Ebensee few years ago. I also could not reach Belgrade nor Budapest last November. I wish I’d been there or some place else where they were touring. Give ’em a chance, and if you like their pop art you can buy their records (and CDs) or simply offer them drinks after the show. In an Austrian Gasthaus or an English pub, old man pop star Robert Lloyd is a people person. And the band plays on… Cheers.

perish

Intro (from “Mind Over Matter” (2015)):

Gales Doc

Perish The Thought (2018):

Enemy Of Promise

Chaff

Lucky Dip

I’m A People Person

2019

I am being loyal and boring again. What can I do? No time to mess around. Serious reviews of all these brand new albums you can read in proper English elsewhere on the infinite internet. This is not a “best of selection”, just a list of almost all records from ’19 that I’ve heard so far. 

Test Dept. – Disturbance

Construction time again? Of course that Test Dept. went digital / techno right after the Thatcher era. Who needed metal / manual workers in post-industrial neoliberal Britain or anywhere else in EU for that matter. Do they owe them a living? Of course, they fucking do! Industrial culture is not luxury. “Disturbance” as a whole is a fine protest album with seething anger kept in check.

test dept

GBH84

Information Scare

Speak Truth To Power

Sleaford Mods – Eton Alive

Well, since I’ve recently accommodated Pet Shop Boys (in the format of cheap ugly plastic compact diskettes on the CD shelves), there’s no reason not to support Sleaford Mods and buy their own vinyl products [Extreme Eating Records]. Hoarding stuff, it’s a sin! Unlike PSB, SM are minimal synth pop duo that mastered dirty language of POP (with plenty of local references which are hardly understandable to foreigners like me). Singer usually attacks in disgust, spewing venomous words at fake posturing and overwhelming stupidity. And with very special pleasure, at the R’n’R icons from the past! Change has come with “Eton Alive”.

eton alive

Discourse

O.B.C.T.

Negative Script

The Young Gods – DATA Mirage Tangram

Swiss Air night flight. Mind numbed with whisky. Chill out grooves and nice guitar playing obscure traces of apprehension.  What will come next?

YG DATA

Entre en matière

Figure sans nom

All My Skin Standing

Mekons – Deserted

I & I feel deserted while suffering series of  heat waves in the big city, dragging overheated body through the dusty streets and hiding from the burning sun. Of all music only roots reggae (with small doses of funk & West Coast psychedelia added) can help I & I live through the hottest months of prolonged summers. As a matter of fact, music by The Mekons is a potent remedy too. During their latest joyful gathering Mekons even brought the rain upon the desert. I () Mekons. Cheers.

mekons                         

Into The Sun

Harar 1883

Lawrence of California

Sunn O))) – Life Metal

lifemetal

Between Sleipnir’s Breaths

Earth – Full Upon Her Burning Lips

earth

A Wretched Country Of Dusk

Saint Vitus – Saint Vitus

Scarred tissue all over but the vital force is still with them. Don’t worry, Saint Vitus are not zombies. Not yet. Original hard & heavy singer Scott “White Stallion” Reagers rejoined after Scott “Wino” Weinrich had left the band again. Great album.

saint vitus ver

Remains

12 Years In The Tomb

Last Breath

City Park

Hey Colossus – Four Bibles

This English modern rock band from the weird side of Great Britain is a fairly new name for me. But they struck a chord with me immediately through their previous album “The Guillotine”. [in the period between these two albums I checked Hey Colossus discography backwards album by album (studio stuff only) and reached “Happy Birthday”. and I wasn’t disappointed. they range from very good to great!] I didn’t expect any new recording thinking that Hey Colossus were over & out. And here they come. Eerie.

heycolossus

Babes Of The Plague

Carcass

Four Bibles

Drahla – Useless Coordinates

Useless!? The debut album by Drahla is very inspired interpretation of tired and often predictable post-punk formula. Sax (art) punk does me good. After half an hour of their music I am truly energized and stimulated for more. Erase Errata used to produce similar effect on me. Bravo!

drahla

React / Revolt

Pyramid Estate

Stimulus For Living

Bill Callahan – Shepard In A Sheepskin Vest

What a breezy summertime double album! Unreal. Bill Callahan is an inexhaustible songwriter. So many things (albums) happened along the way.  The scenes from the life of young artist — e.g. “37 push ups in winter rate motel (while listening to “Highway To Hell”)” — seem to belong not only to his distant past but a previous lifetime. That black dog could be a restless and shaggy Croatian sheepdog. For better or for worse, harmless and healing sunshine for all (and a clear body of water for me).

BC

Black Dog On The Beach

The Ballad Of The Hulk

Released

Young Icarus

Watch Me Get Married

 

Sexagenarian (Punk) Rock

Brijačnica ’19 (Tvornica kulture, 15.03.2019.) or Sexagenarian (Punk) Rock

Valter svira Paraf (Rijeka)

A večer je tako lijepo počela. It started with brief and energetic warming up under command of 60 year old punk rocker Valter Kocijančić shouting the repertoire of  the earliest Croatian punk-rock songbook  (Živjela Jugoslavija, Goli otok, Visoki propisi, etc.) written by  his 20 year old self. Original Paraf rhythm section could not join him for this senior gathering so he reassembled backing  band of younger friends / colleagues from “the biggest hole in Juga” or the most beautiful (post-industrial) port town in Croatia: Rijeka. Something better change. For the better, please. Forza Fiume!

Pankrti (Ljubljana)

The classic line-up (early 1980s) of sexagenarian punk-rockers Pankrti dressed in black followed. They were recalling tempi passati with a grin. Good bad old times when they were often playing rock ‘n’ roll concerts, chasing girls and drinking beer all over Yugoslavia. Pankrti were great and delivered the goods (Lepi in prazni, Sedamnajst, Anarhist, Metka, etc.). Songs from overproduced albums “Državni ljubimci” (slightly) and “Sexpok” (overtly) sound so much better live, even today. Povera “Bandiera rossa” was echoing throughout Veliki pogon Tvornice kulture too. “Vogliamo fabbriche, vogliamo terra!! Ma senza guerra, ma senza guerra…”

Partibrejkers (Beograd)

Then followed injection of timeless rhythm & blues hits honed in Belgrade garages over the decades and spiced with Cane’s gospel. Partibrejkers have always been dear friends of Zagreb, so I suspect that most of the people in public last night came to see primarily them. Partibrejkers were excellent as well, no doubt about that. Anton is a beast of guitar player. Great performance and loyal response.

Trobecove krušne peći (Zagreb)

Trobecove krušne peći climbed the stage after midnight, post r’n’r climax. They were sax less, but not headless at all. Actually, last night they were surprisingly well-balanced and focused. TKP shepherd priests on fire! Purifying fire. Maybe their best show I ever saw. As impressive as KSET ’17, a gig in smaller jazz club space. Once again TKP demolished trad rock in front of  the congregation of fans (aka “pastva”) & curious spectators that remained in half-emptied hall.  Then they invited all present for the closing number of the long evening of entertainment: Badel Badel Tanz. A cool ending for a great night out. Đavo je bio vruć.

Nostalgia? No, no way. An occasion for (alive & kicking) celebration? Yes, for sure.

Long time ago, in the year 1985, all four of these groups (in one form or another) were playing concerts across the country and promoting recently issued albums or recorded material: Pankrti (“Pesmi sprave”), Partibrejkers (“Partibrejkers”), Trobecove krušne peći (“85” aka “S mukom žvaču trubadurov vrat”) & Paraf II (“Zastave”). 1985. Not a bad year at all. Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declino. La città è quieta… ombre parlano.

Spring. March Hare is out of his winter lair and on the streets again. Still aimlessly wandering all around Italia. Last month he was ruining his sensitive hearing in hard-core circles which resulted in today’s Declino / Peggio Punx split blogpost. It would be unfair to have a quick (super fast!) look back at Italia ’84 without mentioning phenomenon of local HC punk. I could have picked anarcho Milanesi Wretched and their seven inch EP “Finirá Mai?” that preceded excellent debut LP “Libero Di Vivere / Libero Di Morire”. Yeah, there were quite a lot of bands that managed to issue worthy plastic (in relative terms). Negazione were on the way to become the most popular name of them all, slowly building the European connections. While Raw Power were gigging across the pond in USA, etc. Ascoltate!

Peggio Punx ‎– La città è quieta… ombre parlano (1984)

peggio punx

Guerra

Noia

Linea diritta

Solitudine

La mia vita

Credi di…

Declino – Declino (1984)

declino

Rivolta e negazione

Scelte imposte

Mortale tristezza

Terra bruciata

Coscienza distruttiva

Nessuna fiducia

This blogpost would not be possible without the history lessons / source materials coming from metal-head Erich (defunct ‘Bad Good Music from Bad Bad Times’ blog) & rude boys of ‘Killed By Death’ old school punk site.

In our neck of the woods hard-core punk didn’t catch on so impressively.  UK influenced Sköl could be worthy of passing mention when we speak about Zagreb. Not only early phase of the band but trajectory of the band leader Tomislav Peterlić Fix: SkölBlitzkriegSköl II. Unfortunately Sköl didn’t leave behind qualitatively recorded material. HC punk was bigger deal in SR Slovenia & SR Serbia at the beginning of the decade.

From Italodisco to hard-core punk and back, I am off the middle path of purity and righteousness… The decline and fall.

 

 

Siberia

Diaframma ‎– Siberia (1984)

siberia

Pop consumer confession again: I am not well versed in Diaframma’s work. It wasn’t destined for export, like Italian hard-core punk. Diaframma remained inside their homeland boundaries.

“Siberia” is recognized as capolavoro of Italian new wave / postpunk. Upon initial listening I wasn’t impressed but once I started to recognize signs of life underneath thin copertina of icy reverb the picture fell into place. Eight songs in half an hour, quite fitting for a Sunday afternoon indoors in allegedly depressive month of January. (Finally with some snow and chill in the air outside, as proper winter should bring.  Where have all the seasons gone? You can have six months of fake summer. I want four seasons back!) But as I said, “Siberia” isn’t immediate listening experience and an impulsive savage/naturalist in me wished for the rough mixes or 8-track garage recording of instrumental tracks.  The studio recording gives aura of the group scattered across a large freezing empty space with the strongest echoes emanating from the singer. Synthscapes are very tasty but barely audible on few tracks. Bass slaps I dig, as usually. The leader in the band, prolific songwriter / guitarist (in later line-ups on vocals as well), Federico Fiumani, decided to suppress the rock ego and toned down the role of guitar in this arty stage of Diaframma. And although the songs gathered for their debut LP  have wintry pace, the group energy captured on other recordings generally reveals lively and forward oriented shape-shifting dynamic. I wouldn’t say that Diaframma were bunch of depressed Italian youth thou. First and foremost, their main muse seems to have been Venus. Followed over the span of the decade, they can be valued as Italian contemporaries of Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure, Simple Minds and The Wedding Present. I suspect that they were cherished on a local level. Early Diaframma shares some common ground with Pingvinovo potpalublje too. In mid 1980s their vocalist was very distinctive Miro Sassolini who gave Diaframma touch of romantic glamour. But for the purpose of “Siberia” even he was a bit down. (on songs like “Elena” or radio friendly “Tre volte lacrime” which followed after “Siberia”, he flies despite the heartache, and pulls the band higher off the ground).  I might check other albums by Diaframma one day. I hope I won’t be disappointed by overtly populist moves. Diaframma =  drama.

Neogrigo

Impronte

Specchi d’acqua

Desiderio del nulla

Siberia

 

diaframma

Diaframma pre 1984

Englishmen in Europe

Meninblack in Europe (revisited)

A bittersweet tribute to synth makeover and aural decline of The Stranglers. They couldn’t fall from grace anyhow.

Manifesto

Aural Sculpture Manifesto

Feline (1982-83)

It’s A Small World

All Roads Lead To Rome

Paradise

European Female

Savage Breast

Ships That Pass In The Night

Aural Sculpture (1983-85)

No Mercy

Here And There

Laughing

Let Me Down Easy

Souls

North Winds Blowing

Through the looking-glass, and what they found there…

Meninblack in USSR

Vladimir and Olga*

Vladimir and the Beast

Hot Club

Vladimir Goes to Havana

*The strange circumstances which lead to Vladimir and Olga requesting rehabilitation in a Siberian health resort as a result of stress in furthering The People’s Policies

stranglers-ljubljana-1978

Summer of ’78 – The Stranglers in Ljubljana & Zagreb

Ortodossia II°

Sunday morning in a commune house in the outskirts of Reggio Emilia with communist art-punks CCCP-Fedeli alla linea. Listening to their punk filosovietici. Slowly sipping prime quality espresso (instead of doing it properly in two fast gulps, like all true Italians do) & getting flashbacks (some of them mildly disturbing).

cccp

CCCP-Fedeli alla linea

CCCP-Fedeli Alla Linea Ortodossia II° ‎(12″) Attack Punk Records 1985

ortodossia ii

Live In Pankow

Mi Ami?

Spara Jurij

Punk Islam

I like this red 12” and all CCCP-Fedeli alla linea records that I’ve heard so far. “Ortodossia II°” is thrilling art-punk achievement, recommended for all lost cases who dig rhythm machine postpunk in the frontlines, side by side with The Three Johns, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry and Italo-American band Grande Nero among the other comrades. I wasn’t aware of  CCCP-Fedeli alla linea existence back in the 1980s. Their music wasn’t spread on tapes and listened in my hometown. Perhaps few copies of original LPs still could be found in record collections of older punks from Ljubljana, Pula or Rijeka. As a side note, in 1984 the same small label Attack Punk Records issued hard-core punk EP “Corpus Delicti” by U.B.R. from Ljubljana and made it part of international HC community even more.

Live in Mosca, live in Budapest
Live in Varsavia
Live in Praga, live in Sofia
Live in Pankow
Haupstadt der D.D.R
Haupstadt der D.D.R
Haupstadt der D.D.R

Compagni est-europei
Uno sforzo ancora
Dalle sale da ballo
Un po’ più che di merda
Un’opinione pubblica
Un poco meno stupida
Dalle sale da ballo
Un po’ più che di merda

Voglio rifugiarmi
Sotto il piano di Varsavia
Voglio un piano quinquennale
La stabilità
Live in Mosca, live in Budapest
Live in Varsavia
Live in Praga, live in Sofia
Live in Pankow

Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Ost Berlin, West Berlin
Trance Europa express
Trance Europa express
Trance Europa express
Trance Europa express

 

I am glad that there isn’t a line “live in Belgrado” in the song text. I did appreciate belonging to non-aligned Third World and having a passport. At the age of sixteen I could hop on a bus and go to Trieste (window) shopping for records without problems. In addition to that, I am thankful for all the modest products of Socialism available at home – licensed new wave and punk rock albums from US/UK major labels which were generally well pressed by Jugoton label. Those days I’d look in any direction but cold and frightening north-east where CCCP sprawled. Today: Voglio un piano quinquennale. La stabilità. New Europe without solid welfare state is utterly pointless. Trance Europa indeed. Tanz debil / ganz debil.

Psicopatico Party or Sick Soundtrack

Saturday night in a discotheque in Bologna, Italia.

Italo Disco d/evolution of Gaznevada? Non mi frega niente. Mi piacciono i sintetizzatori italiani.

gaznevada

Psicopatico Party (1983) Italian Records

Whispers

Fashion Crime

I.C. Love Affair

A. Perkins

Psicopatico Party

Sick Soundtrack (1980) Italian Records

1980

An important New Wave recording for Bella Italia, I’d say (as a casual retro listener / onlooker). There is only one cardinal sin – Gaznevada gave up on the mother tongue entirely on their debut album which leaves me a bit heartbroken everytime I listen to “Sick Soundtrack”. During the time of finding their own voce dadaistico, the band were trying out new sounds arriving from USA so one can hear traces of Devo, Talking Heads, Ramones, James Chance & The Contortions, Blondie etc.

Going Underground

Shock Antistatico

Pordenone UFO Attack

Japanese Girl

Now I Want To Kill You

Nevadagaz / Blue TV Set (1980)

 

A great single.

Blue TV Set

Gaznevada (1979) Harpo’s Music (tape)

The opening number “Everybody Enjoy The Reggae Music” could be an obstacle because they couldn’t pull off white reggae nor make fun of it properly. It’s simply a warming up track  for wild Gaznevada ride.  Dada punk-rock bolognese presented on this tape was already quite competent. Plus Gaznevada here sang in Italian, la lingua di popolo!

Mamma, dammi la benza!

Donna di gomma

Criminale

Teleporno TV

Nevadagaz

Viva Italia!