Bushman telegraph

Standard

The brothers Kellner have had a while to perfect this…

Part Stereophonics, part Pink Floyd and part The Grateful Dead was how guitarist/singer, Brian summed up the Bushman Brothers during inter-song banter at last Saturday’s gig; and it’s hard to image a better description: hooky, blues-based rock – check; proggy, instrumental flights of fancy – check; extended jams -check.

My girlfriend and I don’t always coincide with our musical tastes, but The Brothers gig at Brighton’s Ranelagh pub grabbed us both by the earballs and, shaking off our creeping exhaustion, we ended up staying and hour and a couple drinks later than intended. The Ranelagh is well-known locally as a live blues venue, but almost inevitably, the style and quality of the entertainment varies considerably: open-mic hopefuls armed only with acoustic guitar or piano and professional, full-band outfits; folksy to rockin’.

The BBs fall firmly into the second camp. Their set encompassed familiar staples of any self-respecting blues-rockers repertoire – J.J. Cale‘s Cocaine; Hendrix‘s Fire and Gary Moore‘s Parisian Walkways – as well as original BB compositions. Of those, Urban Madness, Whale Song and Travelling Man made a particular impression on the night. All of those appear on the 2012, all instrumental release, Tone Tonic. Persuaded to purchase both that album and their latest, the Condensation Fear EP, it’s the latter which has impressed me more on repeat listening. Whilst TT has more of a Joe Satriani/Steve Vai kinda virtuoso vibe, CF leans in the Stereophonics’ direction: ‘proper’ songs, aided and abetted by guest singer Paul Fulker. At £15 for both discs, value for money isn’t an issue and showcases two sides to the band. Brian Kellner possesses both David Gilmour‘s fluidity and Satriani‘s mastery of lightning-fast picking; along with a more than passing resemblance to Clapton on the vocal side, albeit grittier, which my girlfriend, a huge fan, appreciated. His chemistry with brother Steve on drums was clear to see: they were seriously tight; and I even managed to enjoy the latter’s drum solo, which is rare for me; generally finding percussion breaks something of a bore. They performed as a duo, with bass and keyboard backing tapes, though a full-band performance is scheduled for September 4 at Brighton’s Albert,with further dates to follow

Brighton residents but half-year-round (they spend the remainder surfing and jamming in Hawaii) catch ‘em while you can…

Download/order HERE

 

 

 

http://bushmanbrothers.com/

It’s Prog Jim, but no pale imitation

Standard

Some fine rock albums have been released this year: Pixies’ Indie Cindy; The Arcade Fire’s Reflektor; Elbow’s The Take Off And Landing Of Everything; Mex’s Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde; Bushman Bros. Condensation Fear (of which more later) and Mastodon’s Once More ‘Round The Sun. I’m tempted, on first impression to say that Opeth’s just-released Pale Communion has earned its place on the top of this distinguished pile… and then some.

Much of previous album Hertitage (2011) sounded like Opeth were trying to be a different band: out with the metal, in with acoustic, jazz-folk meanderings. If their previous ‘departure’ album, Damnation was merely Opeth without the loud bits, that album pointed the way down stranger paths, often veering miles away from anything resembling rock. If you’re not familiar, imagine Talk Talk‘s Spirit Of Eden meets Nick Drake. Even when metal did occasionally rear its head and holler – as on Slither – it sat uneasily amongst the other brooding, wandering compositions. Being an homage to metal of yore, and the – then – recently-departed Ronnie Dio in particular, it exposed a little of trad metal’s roots in the R’n’B scene which was a proving ground for Dio and his contemporaries. It’s perhaps noteworthy that this is something that Scandinavian ‘extreme’ metallers have, historically, eschewed doing; especially whilst labouring under the moniker ‘black’. But if the album had soul – and even the harshest of prog/metal critics must surely acknowledge that singer, Mikael Åkerfeldt possesses a spine-tinglingly soulful set of pipes, when resisting the temptation to growl like Cookie Monster – it was rather of the ‘tortured’ variety.

So it surely comes as a surprise to come across a track like Goblin, five tracks into PC: as if relocating a Dirty Harry car chase to ’70s Stockholm streets in winter, Opeth have never sounded so groovy. There’s an element of homage/pastiche (most writers have reached immediately for the song’s Italian namesake – I’d also venture Barrett Martin‘s Tuatara soundtrack collective, and also the instrumental breaks featured on the last Steven Wilson album) but not a whiff of ripe Gorgonzola. And PC is full of such statements of intent.

Opener, Eternal Rains Will Come has the feel of fellow Swedes, Katatonia when they dial back on the metal, replete with sweet melancholy, albeit pushing the ‘prog’ further than they’ve yet dared. It’s three minutes before we hear any vocals: a knotty, stuttering instrumental section giving way around the two minute mark to some characteristic Åkerfeldt clean guitar melodies. Heritage also began with a three-minute instrumental but they have little else in common: this song – and album – are a very different proposition, despite my initial impression formed from hearing trailer single, Cusp Of Eternity. The latter – and second track on PC – would have fitted fairly comfortably on their previous release. Most everything else, not so much.

If Steven Wilson once purloined a little of Opeth‘s metal grit when he first hooked up with the band back in 2000, then River suggests Åkerfeldt has called in the debt: the two writers evidently share a certain melodic sensibility, but Opeth have never so closely approximated the bittersweet tone and structural development of a Wilson/PT piece. The harmonies are beautiful.

Voice of Treason‘s stabbing strings and twinkling Rhodes piano recall Apollo 440‘s most Stealth Sonic exploits at the start, before taking off on a thrilling crescendo that finally gives way to a few bars of quiet, almost spiritual reflection. This fades into final track, Faith In Others: also a cinematic, string-drenched piece it’s surely Åkerfeldt‘s best ballad to date. It’s a fitting closer that reminds me, in its emotional maturity and expert mastery of tension and release rather than style, of Marillion‘s latterday balladic excursions; such as Sounds That Can’t Be Made.

And yet, all musical reference points aside, the tone, melodies and arrangements are unmistakably Opeth. If Heritage represented Åkerfeldt‘s time in the wilderness, ruminating and expanding his musical mind in all directions; PC sees him digging deep, consolidating all that he has loved and absorbed over 3-plus decades as a music fan and bringing it to bear in the evolution of his own style.

Where Heritage was sparse, this is lush; and whilst the former’s twinkling, intriguing subtleties are still there, they here serve to augment rather than carry the songs. Åkerfeldt told it true: this album is very much about melody, but it also resurrects and reimagines what was great, dynamically about the band’s latter metal recordings; keyboards, strings and drums lending much of the weight once provided by guitar parts. Yoakim Svarlberg (keys) and Martin ‘Axe’ Axenrot (drums/percussion) really excel thruout; and on reflection I realise – as I suspect many fans will – that it was that dynamic range and richness, as opposed to the metal per se that was missed on Heritage. I’ve grown to appreciate and enjoy, if not really love the latter; but this… this is something else. If you’re an Opeth fan of old who lost the faith over the last couple releases I urge you reconsider. PC is stunning from start to finish – or as near as damn. To date, Blackwater Park has been my gold-standard Opeth release (honorable mentions for Ghost Reveries and Deliverance: silver and bronze) but with this album the band have crested a new peak of creativity.

Metal health (2): Gender edition

Standard

Following on from Metal Is Gay, another enlightening and welcome article from  Terrorizer staff addressing sexism within the metal community

On the one hand, I applaud Yardley for his, at least partial, honesty and willingness to confront – after a fashion – said sexism. I Blogged the article on homophobia he references (above) in a recent mbg post: as a longtime metal fan and occasional reader of Terrorizer it’s heartening to see exponents of that community addressing the bigotry – sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism etc – that are all too often glossed-over within a scene (extreme metal) that, musically at least, champions progressiveness and originality.
Aaaaand, yet, his article throws the elephant, the big contradiction into sharp relief: if Yardley is passingly familiar with the feminist position, enough to be gender-critical, just why does he still embrace the ‘Trans* identity? Stop short of owning up to being a fetishist, or at least jaded by the putative demands of masculinity. Or maybe he doesn’t see it that way? Maybe Trans* means something else to him? Which loo does he use, I wonder, in any case?
Still glad (GLAAD?) he wrote this piece, though. It’s noteworthy that whilst the definition of Trans* (Gender questioning/queer) grows ever broader to the point of near-meaninglessness; that the ideological criteria for inner-circle membership continue be confined by good ol’ boys club values of masculine entitlement and fear.

(This post is based on a comment I posted on GenderTrender; your one-stop-shop for gender-critical analysis and discussion in a hostile, narrow-minded media).

An extreme metal injection at this point seems apposite: Baying Of The Hounds fits the bill, I think….

Out of the box…

Standard

A tenuous link to be sure – not so much comment or reflection on the recent Frank Maloney brouhaha: the song was inspired by Mikes Tyson and Jackson; with bonus OJ Simpson years back – as an ex use to throw up a good tune:

‘Is this what it means to be a man, boxing up all your emotions?’

‘Now the ring is just a band of gold.’ Indeed.

A lyrical dissection of masculinity worth revisiting for all that. As for our Frank‘….

Call me cynical if you will, but there’s a whiff of ‘career re-launch’ hanging about that ‘story’.

Yes. And no…

Standard

Heaven and Earth, or Himmel und Erde is a traditional German dish of potatoes mashed with apple sauce, served with black pudding or fried sausages. What’s missing from Yes’s recently-released album of the same name is the meat (Linda McCartney onion and rosemary for me, thanks :) ): several listens in, I’m quite enjoying the flavours but I’m still hungry, the latter being more than one can say about the cast of players on the album.

It’s a fine line between joy and mere contentment that divides H&E from its predecessor, 2011’s Fly From Here. I listened to FFH just today, and its fresh, vibrant melodies resonate in my mind as strongly as they did on first listen. It would be a mistake to suggest that the latter was a spiritual successor to Drama but it was undeniably a product of the same chemistry. In particular, the fingerprints of Trevor Horn are all over it in terms of the smooth production and emphasis on memorable melody. H&E is altogether a more restrained, low-key affair in the main. On the one hand, I salute Yes for, as ever, refusing to repeat themselves; on the flipside, I have to say I miss the passion and commitment that they so rarely failed to muster. Even during the ‘pop years’ with Trevor Rabin, one never doubted that the band were unwavering in their dedication to a revitalized, AOR vision of Yes, even when the results were not always to my taste.

The ‘no Jon, no Yes’ brigade will probably be quick to pin the blame on latest recruit (singer), Jon Davison; but that would be unjust: he does his utmost to get his ‘Jon‘ on and carries it off well enough- more so than Benoit David, if anything. The problem here is an overpowering whiff of complacency in the musical department. The closest the band come to old-school Yes is on closer, Subway Walls, which is a Davison-Downes composition, ironically (they’re the group’s two newest recruits). Much of the rest veers uncomfortably close to Asia at their ponderous, soulless, prog-lite worst. What we miss is depth, detail and cadence that, even if not immediately memorable, resonates and draws us back to listen again and anew. This is something that Yes mastered early on and that more recent exponents of ‘Art Rock’ from Opeth, to Fair To Midland, to Sweet Billy Pilgrim, to Everything Everything have done much better since.

H&E isn’t as bad as some critics might have one believe: it’s a pleasant listen and many Yes fans will enjoy it. But if this turns out to be the band’s swansong, it can scarcely be said that they’ve left on a high.

Is a far cry from:

And it’s the difference between applying cleverness to bolster a weak idea and enhance a strong one; albeit both simple.

More meat; less potatoes thanks…

Phoney Maloney

Standard

Sickened by years of orchestrating brutality for profit, boxing promoter takes the only way out his little mind can conceive…

Maloney, who believes ‘she’ has always been female, nonetheless feels a need, or perhaps an obligation to resort to invoking a raft of feminine stereotypes in order to satisfy society’s expectations of said female-ness: dressing appropriately ‘feminine’, high heels and coiffure; adopting a suitably ‘female’ name…

‘hormone therapy, hundreds of hours of hair removal electrolysis, voice coaching’

One can scarcely miss the irony that Maloney dedicated his former life to a profession that, the armed forces aside exemplifies more than most, pure, unreconstructed masculinity. If one accepts the broad feminist analysis of ‘femininity’ as ritualized submission; then boxing surely represents its counterpart as ritualized domination. The prostitution of the male gender rôle. In this context, Maloney, where once he pimped others; now pimps himself: and it’s telling that he felt it necessary to ‘take a step down’ to do it.

In the former Maloney‘s world, you can beat the shit out of a guy and still adopt a position of ‘respect’. It’ll be interesting to see how he will fare in the face of the inevitable brickbats; whether from sexist reactionaries or feminists.

Can you imagine me walking into a boxing hall dressed as a woman and putting an event on? Can I (as a man) imagine Maggie Thatcher’s parliamentary career; or Rosa Parks taking her place on that bus? Well, no: but they did it, as women; unlike this chap; who clearly fell headlong into Orwell‘s memory hole.

What he has done in effect is to substitute one gender stereotype for another; a move which certain pundits describe as brave. Whether one accepts that or not, there’s surely an imperative to interrogate the nature and substance of said bravery?

The feeling of wanting to be like and dress like a woman has always been there,” she says. “I consciously made the decision that I wouldn’t dress like a woman but it was a constant urge.

Popular liberal doublethink rejects the notion of gender dichotomy in favour of a ‘spectrum’, fluid and various. What this spectral model fails to adequately address is why men – or former men, if you wish – are praised for said bravery upon coming out (i.e. rejecting their masculine rôle and affectations) whilst so many women are harshly-criticized, threatened and abused for rejecting the trappings of femininity.  Second-wave feminism has largely lost what political currency it once had precisely because it demands what so few politicians – and pundits – nowadays live in fear of doing: taking sides. Intellectual debate and heartfelt emotional commitment are subsumed in the mud of the political mainstream; the desperate grab for the vote; the popularity contest. A Bush-esque ‘with us or against us’ mentality, facilitated by social media has filtered down to the hoi polloi. ‘If you disagree with me, you must be a hater – and it’s never been easier to shoot that load of egotistical bile into the electronic ether, uninhibited by social conscience.

He certainly demonstrated little conscience with regard to his wife of 15 years, which in itself is unremarkable: unfaithful men rarely do.

We’re all sexist to some degree, because the socio-political environment in which we’re raised is. We start soaking it up long before we’re even aware of the fact. The ‘hardest’ of men, imprisoned for their criminal violence recreate gender – both deliberately and at least in part, subconsciously – within captivity, complete with female slurs and pronouns. The softest still rail – or not – against an internalized sense of entitlement and inadequacy, even as we try to do good.

In this context, it’s hard to entirely blame ex-boxers and ex-servicemen who abruptly announce to the world that they’ve really been female all along. They’ve been raised in a toxic environment where taking blame or otherwise exhibiting weakness is ‘other’. Feminine. Female. But the truth is out there, to quote X Files; and the reality is that ‘Frank Maloney‘ did make a handsome living from training young men to beat the shit out of each other: he’s exploited his position of ritual dominatrix in a way that makes his latterday ritualized submission a decidedly comfortable prospect compared to many less-privileged folk; and if we let him identify out of that responsibility we’ll be letting ourselves down.

Here’s another one that got away…

 

What Does Being “Cis” Mean For A Woman?

Standard
What Does Being “Cis” Mean For A Woman?

Guls:

You’re gonna see more writing like this in the blogosphere as time goes on. Commentators who don’t necessarily present themselves as ‘radical’ yet who nonetheless find themselves kicking back against mainstream political morés in the face of undeserved, unasked-for hostility.
There are – admittedly imperfect, if not entirely unrelated – parallels here with Western political reactions to ‘Radical’ Islam: criticizing – or living outside the rules of – either religion in particular or patriarchy in general can be fraught with danger: the consequences or exercising freedom of speech and action literally life-threatening for gay men, lesbians, atheists, women in general.
But there’s a distinction to be made between Islam – or indeed Christianity, Judaism – as a monolithic political force and the actions of individuals within the doctrine. Recognizing that the proliferation of Tesco within ‘the market’ is not a healthy thing is not equal to a blanket condemnation of all its employees.

There are two strands to Islamophobia: common-or-garden racism – a mechanism of patriarchy in any case, albeit unacknowleged as such – and the conscious recognition of the (religious) monolith’s power.
Driving a wedge between women, and other potential dissenters has always been foremost amongst the ways that our military-industrial-consumerist-patriarchal rulers have maintained order.
On the basis that ‘the friend of my enemy is my enemy’, the liberal mainstream is very much the enemy of women; hence the enemy of social justice: a fact that might surprise many committed to the movement – or maybe not…
The Guardianistas will move on; memories of Moore, Burchill and Jeffries will fade from the public consciousness but the war against women, against social justice will continue.
Caroline Criado-Perez has put herself in the media firing line over and over. She has earned the right to be listened to. She is emphatically not a ‘hater’ in this overly-polarized, post-Bush ‘with us or against us’ media culture.
Read. You may even weep.

The significance of this current head-to-head, liberal versus radical ‘gender war’ is perhaps lost on many – even many in the thick of it – but make no mistake, it is the debate of our time.

Originally posted on Week Woman:

Today I got a bit cross. I do that occasionally. I have been watching the non-binary versus feminism wars getting increasingly heated and thinking, one day, I’ll write a considered post on this. It is an important issue that deserves my time and effort – but it is such an important issue that it deserves time and effort that I simply don’t have today. So days go by and I say nothing. I tweet out articles by women far more cogent and intelligent than I am. I endorse them in the strongest possible terms. But it doesn’t feel enough. I feel like I’m ducking my feminist duty: the duty for women to SPEAK. To not feel scared and cowed. To not suffocate under the weight of not saying anything until that mythical perfect moment when all her ducks are in a row, when the sun is at the right point…

View original 1,535 more words