Stretchy New Year with a barrel of brown acid and Steppenwolf’s trippy oncoming to you.
In a lost year when the only thing that seemed to happen was that thinking man’s crash test dummy Miley Cyrus became increasingly uncomfortable to look at. Irlanda leader Enda Kenny surprised the Irlandese by exclaiming that we were all going to be okay, when in fact it was only he and his friends who were going to be okay. A lot of great music came out, mostly from bands that are really old in Miley’s tonguey head.
Stretch looked at Pitchfork’s top one million albums for inspiration and realised he’d forgotten to write a promised Trainspotting article. Stretch dinnae know half that shit, ken. Stretch thought to hisel. Nae be relevant man na more. ‘s the fuckin skeetles. Ah bah, wha I do knaa es that not a caboodle u that Pitchfawk shite will be anybut fuckin relevant this time next year. Tennants ya!
So, methinks like a rabid munki, I should throw out a few suggestions as to what was nice last year and there’ll be a Stretchcast out on the day whenever the fuck I finish this reportage. Like mah pissant granddaddy before me, I couldn’t but give the peoples what they wanted, especially when they hadn’t asked for it and even more so that they don’t really want it. It’s enough to make ‘mad as a box of potatoes’ Sinead O’Connor’s face tattoos cry.
Jennifer Lawrence though. What the fuck? Right?
Bonobo: The North Borders
This is definitely not the best Bonobo album, but The North Borders provided a warmth of sound and beautiful sonic sound scape that fits perfectly with Simon Green’s back catalogue. The first song “First Fires” features strings and the mellow (nasal) voice of the brilliant Grey Reverend. From then on your mind is dropped into the album, with the snappy, choppy beats and what sounds like the hand rails of the lifts in my place of employ. In fact everyday I use that lift, I tap out the beat to Cirrus and wonder how Green managed to get into the locked down building and record without the annoyance of our marketing department. For reference, they appear as a beautiful line drawing beside the words “whatevs” and “pointless” in most modern dictionaries. There are odd sounds on this album that make my mind queasy, but end up adding to the general tone.
The soundscape makes you feel like you are wandering through a dense forest while aggressively awesome chipmunks tap out rhythms on hollowed out logs, causing the park ranger to lose her shit and give birth to some horrific synthetic baby. This feeling dies down after a while and once you get hold of yourself, the great but annoying on twitter Erykah Badu appears and starts going “ayaayahayaayahayaayahayaayah” over and over a-fucking-gain. This leaves you feeling spent and harps fly about and you feel downbeat in an upbeat kind of way.
In fact The North Borders is a perfect companion piece to Black Sands and his production values have gone stratospheric. It does take a few listens to get totally immersed and doesn’t work as background music. The album also feels like something an established super-artist would use as a backing track for a dreadful rap or ridiculously over the top gurgle-singing fest. But no pretensions exist in this music and the heady basslines that punctuate songs pull you out of your dark slumber and make you feel all sticky, but y’know sticky in a nice way.
At the end the beautiful “Pieces” sung by Cornelia brings you right back down and you exit the album feeling utterly spent, but y’know in a nice way.Listen to it and then buy it.
Mogwai: Les Revenants Soundtrack
This summer, a weird town in France inhabited by creepy dead people (are there any other kind?) and creepy cigarette smoking French peoples (are there any other kind?) became staple viewing for many. We wondered what the fuck was going on and why that kid was so fucking expressionless. Bleedin Victor wha? As Dubalinese people are fond of saying far too much. Unfortunately a great show was let down by a less than satisfactory ending due to it being a lead up to a second series. However, the title sequence is one of the best of any show and the amazing song “Hungry Face” is an instant red pill.
Anyways, the beauty of the show was the music, written by Glaswegian balding men, Mogwai. The music was a character in the story, according to producers , and it made sense. The band started writing the music after hearing a synopsis of the show and the music was played on set to give that eerie feel. You were alerted to a scene getting batshit weird by a simple piano or eerie guitar lick. The malevolent, slow-moving cello told you something odd was going to happen and if you stayed behind the couch, well motherfucker, you were just going to miss it. The oddest and nicest song on the album is the almost country “What are they doing in heaven today?” which makes you feel really happy and doesn’t unnerve you like the rest of the album, even though they still are singing about dead people, wha?. Sorry.
Even now, when I listen to Les Revenants on the car stereo, it pulls you into that world and out of the corner of your eye, you expect fog, mad yokes and fucking Victor. I will put on record that I believe that John Carpenter’s The Fog is the only other foggy movie I have seen that has an equally creepy soundtrack for a foggy based situation. This I believe to be true. Ain’t no doubt. Even without seeing the show, this is a cracker of an album.
Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds: Haunted Head
Kid Congo Powers is a 54-year old man whose CV includes the Cramps, the Gun Club, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Having to go up against Blixa Bargeld on Tender Prey must have been a true life experience. He seems to exist solely in a world where it is always rockabilly/psychobilly Halloween and the expectation that cast members from the Rocky Horror Picture Show would wander into the seedy club where he tends bar. Donning his leather cap he smiles and just makes everyone feel better about themselves. A true hero. I wish I was him, only that he is closer to death than I am, and that is not good.
In this bar, everyone and everybody is weird, kooky and far out, and the mad eyes of Danny Glover will make the music stop when he puts the moves on you. The only way to stop him is to slowly zip up your dress and say you have to go do a conference call. He may not believe this, so be prepared to be sodomised by that angry man throwing his arms in the air and shouting “I’m too old for this shit.” You will painfully exclaim, “Yeah, well this shit is too old for you, bustah!”
The vibe of this album follows on from Gorilla Rose and Dracula Boots, a joyous ode to the Cramps and all bluesy rockabilly done with a smile as you will see from the live show at a French folk festival below. The kind of gig you just wish you could wander into once in a while. A joyous human being. Kudos dudo.
Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus
I was very excited about hearing this album. The powerful drums of “Brainfreeze” kick in and the world in which the two guys from Fuck Buttons exist snaps into view. I used to think that Amon Tobin was going to be the soundtrack to the apocalypse, but maybe, just maybe these guys will be ringing in your ears as toads enter your oesophagus while your ear burns in tandem with your bellybutton fluff.
I know there is a lot of great electronica, but nothing matches the power of this. Sometimes it feels like a Michael Mann movie put through a blender; other times it seems to fit perfectly into the stratosphere of David Cronenberg’s early work. Everything is insistent and Slow Focus demands you plug it into your ears which for my munki ears after years of abuse, probably can’t even register every sound Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power are trying to force-feed my aural cavity. (Almost like an audio version of Danny Glover).
My favourite song of the year “Stalker,” is something I dream about. A slow build up and a trip through space at screaming speed until you are washed up in a melty galaxy that is trying to choke you. I know that doesn’t sound like the best situation to be haunting your dreams, but it’s thrilling. Sometimes it feels like that point in an acid trip when your brain can’t take anymore and fucks off, exits the room, leaving you unable to be happy, scared or just ready to piss yourself. Then your brain flips back and you say something mundane like, “Whoa horsey,” and then everything is just alllllllllllllright.
The album finishes with “Hidden XS,” a song that Stretch sings lyrics to. It demands these maudlin lyrics I have created. You hear me, Fuck Buttons. Shit, they’re not listening. Answer you phones!
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
Since I was a teenage munki, Nick Cave has always been God to me. Granted, some of the Kylie and Nocturama stuff left me cold, but for a man who always sounds like himself, no album sounds like anything else he has ever done. That make sense?
After the thrilling noise-fest of the Grinderman albums, Push the Sky Away was like an antidote. Quieter, subtler, but never feeling overly melancholic like “God is in the House” or funky fun like Dig! Lazarus Dig!.
No, this is probably the most complete and tight album Cave has ever done. Not the best album, but it’s a gem. The backing vocals are both grimy and desperate. The Bad Seeds are very hairy and wear cool shirts and slacks, the kind of clothes that would make most of us look like bums. They always wear shades, because fuck it, they are cool and probably don’t see much light through the smoky nite-clubs they call home. Probably my favourite thing at Glastonbury was seeing these guys playing their set before a Mumford and Sons crowd. The fear in the Mumford children’s eyes and the nervous shuffling of their parents as Cave leered and screamed over them was hypnotic. It would be a hard thing to explain on the car journey home.
“Daddy, why was that man so angry and scary?”
“Well Felix, it’s because he is the devil incarnate and he will kill us in our beds if we don’t get home quick.”
“Mummy, what do you think of the foul-mouth devil that will have me seeing therapists until I can figure out why that bad man sang to my face, ‘I’m a bad motherfucker, don’t you know, And I’ll crawl over fifty good pussies just to get one fat boy’s asshole.’? Mummy, mummy?”
“He’s kinda hot though in those pants.”
Anybut, the rolling “Jubilee Street” about prostitution in London is almost cinematic and the slow burning “Higgs Boson Blues” is quietly epic. It includes this perfect verse,
“Hannah Montana does the African Savannah
As the simulated rainy season begins
She curses the queue at the Zulus
And moves on to Amazonia
And cries with the dolphins
Mama ate the pygmy
The pygmy ate the monkey
The monkey has a gift that he is sending back to you
Look here comes the missionary
With his smallpox and flu
He’s saving them savages
With his Higgs Boson Blues”
I mean, that really explains it all, doesn’t it? What more do you want? I once worked in an office where mention of Nick Cave seemed to cause apoplexy. They said people who listened to him were probably off their meds or their happy pills. They said it in a really obvious, cheesy way. So much so, I was mouthing their words back at them as they were talking. They wouldn’t shut up and kept banging on about Today FM DJ Ray fucking Foley. Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley in the morning, Ray Foley,Ray Foley,Ray Foley, Ray Foley in the evening, Ray Foley,Ray Foley,Ray Foley…..
That very clean modern room was covered in blood by the time I left…
Mazzy Star: Seasons of your Day
When I was a spotty, greasy haired, paisley shirt wearing teenager, covered in weird and wonderful stains, I was madly in love with Hope Sandoval. I listened to She Hangs Brightly incessantly while I was in love with another girl, thinking, hey, she might be into hanging out and listening to Mazzy Star while smoking hash. Unfortunately, she was into fucking Take That and the Backstreet Boys and all the important emotions that music like that brings. Huh!
Anyway, I retreated to my room and all that that gave me and threw back on aul Mazzy. It still reinforced my belief that Hope was the damn hot woman for me. This floated me through that beautiful summer and particularly while walking slowly (baked) on the beach (baked), skimming stones (baked) and looking off into the distance with meaning (totally baked).
My love for Hope ended when I saw her being interviewed on some weird rock show. I tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried, but eventually pulled clumps of greasy hair off my head and screamed,
“Get out of your own fucking ass, Sandoval!”
Gawd, she was hard to take. Bullet dodged, says me, wha? Sorry.
So, like waiting for a My Bloody Valentine album, Mazzy Star kicked back into action this year and released Seasons of Your Day. Sandoval’s solo stuff was nice, but uninspiring, so Stretch was very surprised to hear how good this was. It is a really good Mazzy Star album and although she seems a bit scraggy in places, David Roback’s simple bluesy guitar work and MBV’s Colm O Ciosóig’s bass blows every song into the realms of beautiousness, as Will Oldham do be saying.
I listened to “In the Kingdom” and said “Oh” quietly, “this is a really good” to nobody in particular. Then the minor chords of “California” kick in and you realise this is a proper fucking album. So for a while I fell in love with aul Hope again. I was fifteen again, not the bald munki I am now. I was skimming stones (not baked), waving at ducks and swans (not baked) and generally feeling moist. Then I saw a new interview with Mazzy Star…
For fuck sake, 24 years later and she’s still up her own arse. For the love of Jaysus and all his tiny bagel babies!
So, that’s the first part of my ridiculously late music review of 2013. The next installment will come in the next few days, if I’m lucky.
Remember, living in Europe might just make you incontinent!