Marcus Austin, Jimmie Blackburn, and Colin Hamilton cast their eyes over this months indie releases.

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads - Mute

Everyone who stays in the music business long enough will, sooner or later, make a concept album. Nick Cave has chosen to sing about murder. Ten songs, each describing a violent killing or killings. There are stabbings, drownings, lots of shootings and even one attack with a circular saw. Some of the murders are validated, some are committed merely because someone was having a bad day. Some are due to love and some are due to hate. Some of the killers are mass murderers some kill just the one person. Nick seems to have covered all the possible angles. Musically it's the same Nick Cave that we know and love. Slow, deliberate bass and drums with Nick crooning along.

Most of the tunes develop gradually as the vocals build up a haunting image. For variety, Kylie Minogue guests on Where The Wild Roses Grow and gets murdered for her troubles. P J Harvey fares better, taking the role of the killer on Henry Lee.

Lovely Creature is more energetic than the other songs, featuring Katharine Black happily singing backing vocals. Until she dies. The Curse Of Millhaven is another of the faster songs which also has the widest variety of murders on it. The song with the most murders is O'Malley's Bar but they are mainly shootings and at fifteen minutes in length it doesn't give many deaths to the minute. The album concludes with a sombre version of Death Is Not The End sung at a speed which implies that the singers don't quite believe that they are telling the truth. Murder Ballads was a good idea but ultimately fails to be great album because it has too little variety. For Nick Cave fans only.

4/10 CH

Baby Bird Fatherhood

Baby Bird are the brain child of Steve Jones who sat down one day with a four track portastudio and, six months later, had written and recorded four hundred songs. It then dawned on him that he should find someone to release them so he took them around the record companies with little success. Eventually he found someone prepared to take a chance and Baby Bird became available to the general public. It was agreed that their would be an album available every month or so, each one consisting of tracks from the original four track recordings.

Fatherhood is the third album of the series and will doubtless become a collectors item. The first two have already sold out. Twenty more lo-fi tracks make up Fatherhood each has a hook that lodges unwittingly into your brain. The album is less eclectic than the first two collection but still has some stand out tracks. The high points are Cool and Crazy Thing To Do with it's almost funky bassline and the splendid Aluminium Beach which has a consistent drone all the way through it. Fatherhood is currently receiving a fair amount of air play which will probably mean that it is selling even more quickly than the last two. Act in haste or regret at leisure, the choice is yours.

7/10 CH

G LOVE AND SPECIAL SAUCE: Coast to Coast Motel (OKeh/Epic)
What is it with well educated young men from the United States that makes the irony barriers come up whenever success beckons? This month we have Rocket From The Crypt playing about in matching shirts pretending to be fifties JD’s, Frank Black ( not his real name) making a return, and three nice young men from the East Coast letting us believe they hitched a lift to the show on a freight train. Still G Love ( born Charles something the Third I believe) and SS make an often delightful noise as they ramble on in a faux-country blues style, letting us know that They Have Located The Source, the fount of all American music. This stuff works better live, when the band’s laidback to comatose style reaches full flower as each song is dragged to amusingly painful lengths, but ‘Kiss and Tell’ and ‘Sweet Sugar Mama’ are good examples of the natural shambles that is the band. At times it’s the modern equivalent of Les Dawson’s piano style, but they retain their charm through always remaining the same. Whether there’s a career in a good pseudonym is yet to be proven, but they seem to be enjoying themselves.
7/10 JB

Goo Goo dolls A boy named Flat Top. WEA 833 Starts in with a crash bang and a wallop, not since I first heard "Nevermind" have I heard quite such an impressive start to an LP. It’s not quite in Nirvana’s league but I would regard it as a brilliant start never the less. Stand out tracks are legion, it’s trying to find a duff tract that’s the hard part Lou Giordano has done an excellent job on getting just the right sound out of the Goo’s ( you do call them the Goo’s don’t you ?). It’s not too rocky to get in the heavy metal charts but there again it’s not too indie to make me want to puke. The nearest equivalent is Sugar, yes Sugar, there are melodies choruses and singalong bit’s that really remind me of Sugar, and that’s no bad thing. "Eye’s Wide Open" Is a straight Sugar Bob Mould classic, part from an extremely rockist solo just at the end . Their rawness also reminds me of some of the power pop groups that were around just after punk hit the streets, although with the addition of 90’s Hi-fi rather than the 70’s Lo-Fi 16-track sound.
8/10 MA

An unwieldy name, and a history of beach bummery (does that sound obscene?) around the former British Empire would hardly appear to presage great things from this member of Surfers Against Sewage, especially in view of Evan Dando’s precipitous decline when leisure took over his life. But Bruntnell has come up with a small gem here, a deceptively loping and sun tinged collection, in a similar vein to the Lemonheads before they went crap. With a far from passing resemblance to very early Neil Young and Crazy Horse and other more laid back sounds of California circa 1970, and some fine songs like ‘I Want You’ , ‘Heron Speaks’ and the dislocated tribute to unfocussed travelling ‘Trip to Commercial’, this is something of a find. A small good thing, make no mistake.
7/10 JB

NOFX: Heavy Petting Zoo (Epitaph)
Americans and Punk Rock eh? They go together like locusts and honey, Morecambe and Pace, Lady Thatcher and sanity. NOFX are no exception to the ancient rule that says that underachievement is a key part of the punk ethic, despite this being about their tenth album or so. They try, they really do, but their feeble sixth form punk scrabblings are so dated as to be positively primeval, they wouldn’t know a tune if it took its top off and waved its chest in their faces and the rest of the world seems to have no place in their self obsessed little world of booze, tattoos and skating shoes. Still, some respect for taking the piss out of the recently dead Jerry Garcia and mourners and ripping off the sleeve of the last Lambchop album. Honestly even the fucking Macc lads are better than this, though I suspect NOFX may cite them as a major influence.
2/10 JB

LAMBCHOP: How I Quit Smoking (City Slang)
I know this works, because I’ve tried it, so follow this recipe carelessly and you should find the same results.
1 Go out and get wasted, to a state of extreme excitability.
2 Get back with a deep urge to ‘chill out’, as the young folks say.
3 Find Lambchop record and put it on.
4 Reach state of mellow relaxation within minutes.
This seems to work just about every time as Nashville’s Lambchop make you wonder just how so many people (13 plus string section credited) can make such a gentle sound. Quiet meditations on various subjects are the order of the day, as mainman Kurt Wagner muses aloud on tracks like ‘The Militant’ (about the less welcoming side of the Southern States) and the self explanatory ‘The Man Who Loved Beer’. This soothing variation on the classic ‘countrypolitan’ sound of Sixties Nashville, with its understated strings and horns is quite beguiling. Apparently it’s also useful for seduction too, especially if the target of your affections is required to be unconscious.
7/10 JB

THE MR. T EXPERIENCE: Love Is Dead (Konkurrent)
Where do they all come from, these mediocre American pop punk bands, these friends of Green Day with their bouncy, floppy and frankly boring little tunes, their overwhelming lack of ambition and their Morrissey in LaLa Land lyrics, small tales of suburban self pity neutered by hopelessness. Still, Mr T Experience ( and just how bad a name is that?) have a certain wry humour. On ‘Dumb Little Band’ they make their position clear-’Our friends are all busy with their own affairs, Becoming punk rock millionaires. They’re taping their live album at the Hollywood Bowl, we’re taping our flyers to the telephone pole.’ Titles like ‘I’m Like Yeah, But She’s All No’ and ‘That Prozac Moment’ give a better idea of their milieu, but tied to pedestrian pub rock they fade in the gloom. A collection of prosaic moments...
4/10 JB

NAPALM DEATH : Diatribes (Earache)
‘Wow! Are they still going?’ is the obvious initial reaction, as Napalm Death, the band that put 120 songs on a one sided 45 back in the Eighties ( or something like that) return. It’s pounding, it’s nasty, it holds the attention as all those good memories come flooding back from the days when the Death were centre of attention, like a particularly nasty car crash. The song that lasted one second, the day a friend of mine lost his teeth when a stagediver knocked half the PA into his face, the scenes at Casualty after one epic London show...
Such sweet reverie is rudely interrupted by the usual gargling vocal noises and you suddenly remember why they always were a bit of a joke. Still, the reminiscing was nice while it lasted...Touring a lot of countries cited by Amnesty for human rights abuses seems to be their eternal reward.
4/10 JB

WESLEY WILLIS : Greatest Hits (Alternative Tentacles)
Wesley Willis is a 320 pound, 6 foot 5 schizophrenic from the streets of Chicago who writes and releases albums at a tremendous rate, at least 20 in three years, possibly under different names. Seeing as most of these tracks consist of Wesley yelling over a sub Karaoke backing, usually in a strictly descriptive manner of something that has happened to him, the concept of the ‘song’ is being stretched to the limit here. But it’s hard to resist the appeal of such ditties as ‘ Urge Overkill’ ( a description of said bands show in the Windy City), ‘Skrew’ (ditto) and ‘Stabbing Westward’ (ditto, ditto). Wesley’s reviews are more to the point than say, the Melody Maker however, giving details of crowd size and general ambience (‘the jam was excellent’). ‘Chronic Schizophrenia’ and his tribute to his doctor, ‘Aftab Noorani’ may be pushing the envelope too far, but if you’re the kind of person who laughs in the face of mental illness this could be the record for you. Rock over London, rock over Chicago.
(8, but you can probably tape a friends copy) JB

FLIPPER: Sex Bomb Baby (American)
A curious reissue this, a collection of spare tracks from early Eighties American ‘legends’ Flipper, a band whose imaginations certainly outran their musical abilities. The obvious inspiration is the original line up of John Lydon’s PiL, but Flipper filtered it through a distance of 5000 miles and a sincere attempt to follow. The great ‘Sex Bomb’ still sounds almost entirely improvised, and even stuttering rants like the comical ‘Ha Ha Ha’ and ‘Sacrifice ‘ still have a certain charm, and not the slightest whiff of a major record company out to spot a single. Such naivete is right out of fashion these days, but this is often rather sparky, and some whippersnappers should cover the title track, if only to prove their interesting taste.
6/10 JB
THE RENTALS: Return of the Rentals (WEA)
Though I confess that the idea of a Weezer spin off is hardly going to set my head whirling with joy, this curious pastiche of the Beach Boys sound circa 1966 has certainly got me scratching it in puzzlement. In Weezer’s case not even the audience’s parents have any more than a hazy memory of this stuff first time round, and after a while the record becomes more of a pleasant exercise in pointlessness. Professors of pop like the High Llamas do this stuff so much better by approaching it as a strictly intellectual exercise. This is the Beach Boys and sixties light pop filtered through years of advertising jingles. Not without charm by any means but something of a mystery nonetheless.
5/10 JB

MC5: High Time (Rhino)
Another recent reissue, this, the third and final album from 1971 from Detroit’s legendary Motor City 5, has long been forgotten by all but a few in favour of their incendiary live debut ‘Kick out the Jams’ , with its atmosphere between religious revival and rock show. But today ‘High Time’ sounds the better record, with no ideological baggage to carry. For a start it’s in tune all the way through. It’s got stronger songs on it too, from the bizarre bubblegum of ‘Sister Ann’ (somewhere between the Stones and the Archies), the more Lennon than Lennon, soul vocalising of ‘Miss X’, the eternal call to arms of the powerful shuffle of ‘Future/Now’, the catchy proto-HM of ‘Poison’, ‘Over and Over’ s endless cycle of disgust and best of all, the still unmatched jazz/rock’n’roll collision of ‘Skunk (Sonically Speaking)’. All but a handful of recent records sound feeble in the face of this onslaught, which compares to the Who circa ‘Live At Leeds’ for power and deftness and...well, no one else really. This is a great rock record, and I apologise for reviewing it a couple of months late, but after 25 years it’s about time a great bands last throw of the dice was fully acknowledged. Indispensable.
10/10 JB

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