Louder Than War : Newsletter 12
Hello Warriors and welcome to newsletter 12!
And so finally we get to stand in tightly packed, sweat stained cellars full of dust and high decibel memories. A ferocious PA blasts the sonic skree at our flapping - thrilled by the timeless vibrations - skin and we feel more alive than at any other time in our lives. Yup, live gigs are back and up ad down the country we rushed back with a mixture of exhilaration and trepidation and back into the breach. Fingers crossed it will all pan out ok and the numbers seem to holding with the virus stats showing a reduction in cases this week despite ‘ freedom day’ - maybe just maybe we will get to breathe again and immerse ourselves in the real front line of our culture.
Of course our team have been out and about reviewing stuff and one of the our reviews was of Manchester based band Stepford Wives whose singer once gave me a dog when he was a young child - now he is a grizzly old man who delivers snarling and inventive post punk as as Wayne Carey reports.
It was also great to see The Lovely Eggs back out on the road - they seemed to be gagging for the live release and were treading the boards writhing days of the release date. With their recent single featuring Iggy Pop and their fast growing reputation the Lancaster based band are selling out big shows now and the excitement at their return saw Andy Brown in Leeds in the mosh pit!
Gigs are strange beast aren’t they - a real mixture of people from core fans to newbies, from teenagers to a community of hardened old vets who have been to hundreds of gigs over the years. These are the familiar faces lurking in the shadows or twitching away at the front or carefully placing recording equipment on venue rafters! . Where these people come from and what they do in between sows it always tricky to guess but every city has them. Manchester has a strong season ticket gig crowd but one of its key faces John Hall who has recently been sadly diagnosed with cancer. He plans to go out in a glorious blaze of colour though as this great show at the Ritz with many of his favourite names like Peter Hook, Cabbage and some yet to be announced bug names playing on the bill underlies.
The much loved Denise Johnson who dies last year was the Manchester based singer whose voice made the Primal Scream hits scorch into the top 10 as well as being a key part of A Certain Ratio. Denise was much loved in the city and her hugs were almost as legendary as her voice. To celebrate her posthumous birthday and her life there is a special event on this Saturday…
A different kind of gig and a different kind of celebration and one that is a bit baffling in many ways but is huge is the Spike Island revisit where the bill is full of covers bands - the sheer audacity of pulling it off is something to be admired though.
The past is a safe island and should be celebrated of course but it’s not that music suddenly ground into a retro streak! The Mercury Awards announced their short list this week and even if it champions a narrow bad of music that has been cheekily labelled ‘6 music playlist awards’ its still a handy guide to that small cross section of music - as ever most rock and metal has been ignored along with a myriad of other musical forms but there are some good bands in there even if it’s a tad comfy!
One type of music that is rarely championed by 6music or the Mercury Awards is metal. It’s tantamount to its low media profile the shock of people when one of its key players dies and there is a massive out pouring of grief. We were shocked to hear of the death of Jody Jordison the drummer from Slipknot - one of the most popular bands on the planet you will never get to hear on the BBC! Having seen the band play a few times we were witness to his extraordinary drumming skills and also witness to just how brilliant they were musically. The dystopian cartoon image was a clever ruse that worked in getting them an evil blizzard of attention ad selling multi millions of records but their musicality and originality was breathtaking in creating these dark percussive landscapes full of melancholic textures and explosive angst. They were heavy but in many ways closer to film sound track noir of a Batman soundtrack composed by a Hans Zimmer with added herd of elephants high decibel noise to get lost in. Jody was one of the founder members of the band when they came together in Des Moines - a city we have actually been to and one of those big humongous nowhere towns of the mid west USA that seems to create that endless emptiness that you either block out with drunk and drugs or very loud music. A mighty fine drummer we salute you Jody.
This week has seen the release of good new tunes from old favourites like Shaun Ryder. His new single ’Pop Stars Daughters’ summons up the spirit of his old mate Joe Strummer and you hear a shiver of mid period Clash in the track - kinda like Combat Rock with a melancholic shuffle - its a great tune.
At some point all classic bands have to deal with their history - what was once shiny and new and dangerous ends up as being anecdote and history. Bauhaus have never been truly recognised as the amazing art rock band that they really were and the music press was always pointlessly sniffy about the band but their catalogue was relentlessly and restlessly brilliant and never settled into cliche. It’s quite fascinating to find out how they seemed to arrive fully formed in post punk to take the post punk youth on another trip like Gothic pied pipers of Hamelin. Their early pre punk years had been spent in many local bands in Northampton where they learned their craft and the tale is full of interesting twists and turns as this new book details.
In the same period music was moving fast and there was a darker hue to the sounds. Maybe it was the end of the world nuclear war atmosphere that was swirling around or maybe we were an odd generation but the darker and more intense the bands were then the better. One classic tour was a very early jaunt by Joy Division with Killing Joke - it boggles the mind that there two bands played a mini tour together and at the time very few saw that this was a historic pairing but our correspondent was there…
A modern equivalent of this tour goes out this week with LTW faves Bob Vylan taking their invigorating and scathing punk grime on the road with the unfettered brilliance of Witch Fever in support. Its a thrilling bill that manages to embrace that adventure of the post punk period but with a visceral and thrilling 2021 post pandemic (hopefully) edge.
I guess we were always drawn to these bands that create a new sound at LTW, a new way, a new narrative…A typically idiosyncratic band were Super Furry Animals who were signed to Creation Records by Alan McGee who, at the time, thought he had discovered a new version of Blur! The band had their own ideas and their eccentric brilliant run of albums created a whole different narrative as this in depth exploration grapples.