Why do I write reviews? Largely so that I can blag free music instead of buying it like everyone else, and so I can kid my conscience that my inane ramblings are an adequate substitute for paying musicians their due. Of course I can (and will, given half a chance) list any number of more high-minded motivations, but I always feel that the transaction is balanced in my favour; so when this CD was pressed on me by guitarist Simon Rollo, and a review requested with the circumspection of a man asking me to clean the diarrhoea off his sofa, I was amused, embarrassed and confirmed in my impression of Three Thrones, which is that whatever they’re full of, it’s not themselves.
Schoolday nostalgia seems to be a current in many branches of music nowadays. It’s by no means a new thing, but it’s definitely growing. It’s curious how it lends historicity and distance to times that probably don’t seem at all distant to a greybeard like me; my theory is that it represents a re-appropriation, a staking out of territory in which an artist can feel rooted. It’s definitely not the dominant theme on NAM KYO, but it’s an important presence, and not just in ‘Were Still The Same’, where it is explicitly referenced. We live in an era where history is fragmented and recycled, and individuals are as disenfranchised from historical agency as from political agency. Asserting the significance of personal biography is one way to reclaim that agency …
In recent years the avant-garde fringes of metal have become one of the most fertile sites of musical creativity and invention; while my central musical inclinations might be towards other areas, such as jazz or folk, and while those areas certainly harbour some radically creative minds globally, the majority of music produced and performed locally to me is pretty conservative. Earthmass is one of several bands I have the opportunity to engage with directly (attending gigs, meeting the members, building an ongoing relationship as a music writer, etc.) that pursue a radical formal agenda, and really keep their eye on the ball creatively. There is no uncritical regurgitation of the tropes of heavy music here, no taking the language as given …
What a lineup. Any casual punter could readily be forgiven for being carried out in a box. Not that the sounds on offer were remotely toxic; on the contrary, they were entirely wholesome nut cutlets of crunchthudriffery, but seriously, heavy things can crush you, and things as heavy as this can crush you flat. Perhaps that’s why Colchester Arts Centre is ‘never knowingly understood’: stand under this sort of malarkey and you can wave goodbye to three-dimensionality.
It’s very nearly a year since I last wrote a live review, mainly because I find them disproportionately time consuming, but I’ve decided to lighten up a bit, and start doing them again, with a less obsessive approach to the whole thing. Also Paul Rhodes keeps smiling sweetly and asking me politely, so I felt bad and stuff. This particular occasion was marred only by the last minute cancellation of Mouse Drawn Cart, some of whose recordings I reviewed a while back, and who I was looking forward to seeing in action. Stepping into the breach, however, was the enigmatic and dynamic Cornflake Box Head, who bore more than a passing resemblance to Hobopope And The Goldfish Cathedral.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, when you realise you’re not likely to hit the big time with your art, and you’ve already invested so much, with so little to show for it in material terms… it certainly can make you feel like an underachiever. Ben Black seems to conflate his focus on his work (rather than work) with a persistent immaturity, and looks wistfully around him at the homes, wives and cars of his friends. ‘How can I look my children in the eye/ and tell them Daddy didn’t make it because Daddy didn’t try?’ he asks, though, which more or less answers his own questions.
Meadows play some pretty extreme music. You could make all sorts of comparisons: The Melvins are an obvious point of reference; they also put me in mind of Bongzilla, although they have some fast thrashy passages to go with the slow stoner doom, and a turgidly saturated bass distortion that makes everything as thick as treacle. Although this is full of riff and incident, there’s something about it that almost crosses over into ambient