record reviews - march


Beat Poetry For Survivalists (Cherry Red)


The former frontman of The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder and REM’s guitar legend crossed paths when the latter brought one of the former’s paintings and they decided to make an album together. The result, which also features Scott McCaughey from the Minus 5 and latter day REM and drummer Linda Pitmon, is this fascinating, if not a touch eccentric collection, albeit more Haines than Buck in terms of sound, not least since he wrote the lyrics and sings them.

It opens with Jack Parsons, a conspiratorially sung number about legendary rocket scientist and occultist that kind of mingles Lou Reed with Richard Strange and David Bowie, mentions L Ron Hubbard and features interview samples and moves on to Apocalypse Beach, a dreamy psychedelic strum about a radio station that only plays Donovan records, namechecking Atlantis and Season The Witch. Then table arrives to set the scene for The Last Of The Legendary Bigfoot Hunters, a recorder-heavy voodoo rhythm, fuzz guitar and lyrics that include the line “cover me in feathers, like dead Liberace”, leading into the sort of title track with its squalling guitar effects, steady percussive beat, spoken lyrics, mantra title refrain and a call to “smoke weed in America”.

More echoey psychedelic guitar pervades Witch Tariff a number with a foundation in the Enfield Hauntings and lyrics about making ouija contact Johnny Ray with Billy Fury and how “if you wanna be a legend you gotta break a few legs”. Which, perhaps, rather naturally, leads into a number titled Andy Warhol Was Not Kind, a sort of Bowiesque space glam heavy stomp that somehow contrives to mention Richard and Karen Carpenter. Its electro-sleaze vibe heads down some louche discotheque for French Man Glam Gang with what sounds like robotic dogs of hell guarding the door.

Indeed, they even get a mention on Ugly Dude Blues, another strobe-lit swagger through some toxic , radioactive Top of the Pops before, again recalling Strange and the Doctors of Madness, a steroid-pumped angular bassline takes Bobby’s Wild Years by the leash before finally ending with the soft hey, hey, hey Ziggy-caress of Rock N Roll Ambulance, boarding the “the rock n roll hearse” with, as he puts it, “the closest to a hook that we’re ever gonna get”. At one point Haines sings, “everyone’s a genius in varying degrees”. Well, yes. Mike Davies


Anybody Out There? (Thirty Tigers)


Should you not already be aware, Verdan plays guitar in Jason Isbell’s The 400 Unit, but also has his own solo career going. This is his second album and opens in guitar ringing style with the big crashing almost Townsend-like chords of Next To You, a song about balancing life on the road and a relationship. It’s a great track but nothing else on the album quite matches it with that same dynamic immediacy.

Don’t Worry slows the pace down to a bluesier groove that calls both Dylan and The Band to mind, the more ballad side of things also embodied in the acoustic strum of Curtain Call, a number about Tom Petty (an obvious influence on Modern Times), the reference to Won’t Back Down also returning on the gutsier Good Man, and the five-minute Be Here, Right Now with its keening electric guitar. On the rockier side of things, Golden Child, a song about privilege, lays down a choppy riff, the title track’s build around heavy drums and a snarling blues guitar riff while it ends in fine form again with hints of Petty but also the psychedelic folk of The Byrds on Tried and True. I think it might have felt a stronger and more impactful album had the opening and closing numbers been reversed, building to a rousing anthemic close, but it’s certainly no disappointment. Mike Davies 2020