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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Alternative Histories

I did these sleeves and reviews for a section in a fanzine I was doing. So please don't go looking for them. They only exist in my fevered imagination.

The Sex Pistols - In it for the money
They're back.
Rising older and wiser from the wreckage of that disastrous US tour that was nearly the death of the band - and Sid - they have returned to the fray ready and more than willing to lead the pack from the front.
Effortlessly they've silenced the critics who held up the glut of shoddy compilations as proof that they were a one trick pony.
This, their second studio album, is set to take music in a whole new direction.
Not punk music, or music for myopic droogs as John Lydon (as he would now like to be called) put forward, but music in general.
Already it's mired in controversy as the heavy dub that is the signature sound of this album is something that few can believe Sid is capable of.
Rumours that another John AKA Jah Wabble is the bassist could well be true, but the Pistols camp are remaining tight lipped about it.
Who plays on it is irrelevant anyway as John Lydon has steered the band forward into unexplored territory.
There are hints of space rock, glam rock and traditional rockabilly all battered into submission under that heavy, heavy bass. No band has ever managed to meld so many styles together to make a sound that works on this level. It sounds right. It sounds complete. Everything fits.
Lydon. Jones, Cook and maybe Vicious have worked as sonic alchemists here.
This is the sound of the future and it's here now.
All Hail The Pistols.

Howard Devoto's Buzzcocks - ST
The story of Manchester's Buzzcocks has been a long and convoluted one. It's also one that has been heavily reported in the music press. So we are all aware that in the race to get an album out Pete Shelley managed to pip Howard Devoto to the post with last months 'Another music in a different kitchen' under the Buzzcocks name, but who would have thought that Devoto would stand by his claim to the name and follow suit so soon after?
It may be a bit confusing to some but on giving them a listen it could be argued that one is the yin to the others yang.
Between the two releases we could have had Spiral Scratch extended to over an hour, but instead we separately get the best of both worlds.
Devoto has managed to side step the pop overtones of his previous writing partner and created a somewhat austere and grandiose ode to the end of an era.
It sounds like Shelley's Buzzcocks are still waiting to get the girl, while Devoto's is casting a weary eye over a lifetime of decadent indugence with equal measures of regret and pride.
While others are attempting to discuss the merits of each album without mentioning the other I would argue that this is futile.
As long as both players hang onto the name them it will be impossible to mention one without the other. They are the seperated co-joined twins of the music world.
They needed to part as maturity found them looking in different directions of expression.
So to put it simply, if the joyous part of spiral scratch was your bag then grab yourself Shelley's Buzzcocks and if the jaundiced world weary aspect was what attracted you then here's Devoto's.
No need to get upset about it as in this situation everyone's a winner.

The Clash - Rebel sounds for modern lovers
After Strummer licked his wounds from the debacle that was Cut the crap and Jones mourned the demise of the ill fated Big Audio Dynamite a reunion was always on the cards for the Lennon and McCartney of punk rock.
Yet even with all the hyperbole the return of the only band that matters arrived with more of a whimper than a bang.
Take the worst aspects of Cut the Crap and BAD, pair them together and what you get is 'Rebel sounds for modern lovers.'
Even the title of the album hinted at a dearth of ideas.
Christ. The cover shot is at least four years old.
So what does that tell you?
It's been a slow and torturous decline for a band that once straddled the world.
The main problem seems to be a loss of focus. Do they even know what they want to do now? Do they even know who they are?
In the past they'd been accused of spreading too many ideas too thinly and in hindsight they may well wish that they had stored some of those ideas away and expanded on them now.
Instead we get a rehash of half formulated directionless twaddle.
This is the band you want to like. You want them to win, but if their hearts not in it then why should we continue to support them.
They've shamed themselves with this. Oh why did they even bother. I didn't think it could get any worse than cut the crap, but it just did.

Generation X - Live
A clever marketing move or a genuine thank you to the fans?
Regardless of what side of the fence you sit you can't really knock the most famous band in the world giving a quadruple album away for free.
As each year passes Generation X have failed to put a foot wrong in their climb to the lofty heights of super stardom. From humble beginning they have grown to become the band who everyone looks up to.
Biggest selling album in the world ever. Second biggest selling album in the world ever. The band who played to the largest audience in the world ever. Do I need to go on?
It would be easy to have a dig at them, but a more unassuming bunch of guys it would be hard to meet.
Mention that they gave away half the profits of the largest and most successful tour ever to developing countries and they simply say 'you do what you can.' and sound sincere when saying it.
Then with this release they issue a statement saying that financially they have more money than they could ever spend.
So all their albums from now on are free to the public, and from this day forth any live appearances they make will be for charity events.
Back to the album though. Is it worth grabbing.....even if it is free?
The simple answer is of course it is.
The first album is devoted to the early years playing in clubs, the second to the larger venues, the third to the stadiums and the fourth is an uncut and unvarnished recording of the much sought after acoustic gig that they did for the global hunger campaign.
It's difficult to imagine where they can go from here as this release neatly ties up their whole career.
Essential is an of over used term, but in this case it's apt.
Generation X set the benchmark and it will be a long time, if ever, before anyone can even dream of coming close to emulating their success.

The Ramones - Keep it simple
When Adios Amigos shot straight in at number one in seven countries, making it their biggest selling release to date, the brothers had to retract their threat to disband if it bombed and get back to work on a follow up.
So three years later it's done and dusted, with nothing I mean NOTHING, having changed.
Well I'm a liar. There is one change. The difference is that the Ramones have turned back the clock on the energy dial and attacked this album like teenagers.
The ten tight tracks scream that they aint gonna **** with the formula, but there's a renewed urgency about how they're delivered.
Tracks like 'I don't wanna like you' and 'Get with the program' are prime slices of simplified rock and roll while 'I don't want you to leave' could be straight from the Brill building via CBGBs.
You could keep the first two albums and this one as desert island discs and rotate them daily for eternity and never get bored with them.
If I was in the band I would bow out on this one.
I can't see how Ramones fans could ask for anything more from them.
So it would be best to go out on a high. They don't have anything to prove now.
They did it. They showed everyone that there was life in the old dog and now they can sit back and let the young whippersnappers get on with playing catch up.
Keep it simple. I couldn't have said it any better.

Stiff Little Fingers - A tribute to Bob Marley
Motorway service station bargain bin fodder by the once mighty punk warriors who now feel the need to torture the songs of an icon with the stick of mediocrity.

and here's a couple I did without reviews.



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