The Pusillanimous Pulloverine: Part Four

Heroic Lol Loxby has undergone a strenuous Jägermeister-fuelled transformation into the “being” soon to be dubbed the Pulloverine. His first selfless act, rescuing a gormless hipster from certain death, has resulted in an untimely squashing, leaving him buried beneath flaming wreckage. The Panic Cell concert is now a smog-choked disaster, having been literally electrified by seeping Jäger from idiot Luke Bell’s stupid fucking bottle microphone.

(Click to enlarge)

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Oh Axl

Most readers of this site will be well aware by now of the recent furore over the various different ‘incidents’ involving Axl Rose and his merry band of jobbing guitarists (and Dizzy). Suffice to say if any of you out there rely on Demon Pigeon as your sole resource for all of your Metal news then you will probably be unaware of anything that happens at all in the music world since January, because we don’t really ‘do’ news. But just in case you either haven’t logged onto a computer until this very moment, or as is more likely the case you royally couldn’t give a monkey’s scrotum what Axl Rose does, here’s what has happened:

Guns n Roses were booked to headline Reading and Leeds festival, the second time they have done so. On the first occasion they came on ridiculously late, played way over their allotted time and the festival was fined a shitload of money which to my understanding was enough to momentarily place the future of the Festival. Roll forward 8 years and the band are booked again, but are warned by the promoters explicitly and very publicly that they cannot fuck about and come onstage late again. Nonetheless Axl rolls up for show 1 in Reading a full hour late, and then throws a hissy fit when told they can’t go over the schedule. He vows not to play Leeds Festival, starts talking like a Republican confronted by the prospect of an Islamic Cultural Centre and quite possibly wakes up with his teddy bear pyjamas covered in his own gold plated tears.

Leeds Festival rolls around two days later, and he decides that actually, having signed a very lucrative contract and given that it was all his fault in the first place and there are a lot of people who have gone to see him he should probably play. Once again he strolls on half an hour late, and once again throws a massive hissy fit when he is told he can’t do a full set.

So that brings us up to date, more or less. Since then there are rumours he’s sacked his whole crew for not waking him up in time for the first show (surely he could have set the alarm clock on his phone?) and he’s gone very public slagging the organisers off, etc etc. Oh, and apparently he went to a gay club. Not quite sure how that qualifies for news, but anyway. But in all off this melange of coverage, the debates on whether it really is GnR and so on, none of it particularly flattering to Axl, there is one thing that has not been discussed. And that is how utterly horrible the performance was.

Firstly, a bit of personal perspective. I was seven when Appetite for Destruction came out, and was cajoled into buying it by a friend on the grounds that ‘they swear all the time.’ Which for most seven year-olds is pretty much a five star review. So I got it on cassette, and I think it’s fair to say that it changed my life, in the way that only that first great musical love can. I saw through the sweariness and grasped firmly onto the aggression, the power, the guitars. Some 23 years later and I set up a metal site in no small part because of what Ben Shepherd said to me on the swings that day.

Which is not to say that I am still a fan. The follow ups were bilge, Lies was clearly a record fuelled by misogyny and racism even to a ten year old, and the recent return with Chinese Democracy was nothing short of appalling. Not only that but I discovered better, heavier and more interesting bands. That said I always held a soft spot for them, and when they came back I had no real issue with Axl continuing under the Guns name. At the end of the day the rest of the band quit, he didn’t so he keeps the name. It’s not the first or last time that it’s happened.

I actually had the (mis)fortune of seeing the original line-up, as a wee 13 year old boy, at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in Wembley. They were to be frank not very good, drunk as skunks and out of tune, Slash was out of time with the others the whole time, and they had the most out of place backing singers you could imagine. But it was the kind of shambolic alcohol-fueled performance that appeals to a thirteen year old, and I loved it at the time, even if the performance was slightly overshadowed by the fact that I had been introduced to Metallica, who opened the show an hour earlier. But it was memorable rather than excellent. I loved it at the time but looking back on it now it seems a slow, unpractised shambles. But then I also thought wearing a shell suit was a kick ass fashion statement at the time, so what the fuck did I know?

In comparison, the next time I saw them, at the aformentioned first Leeds Fest show in 2002 was bewilderingly excellent. Like most people in the crowd, I had no idea what to expect after such a long absence, and the delay didn’t help (the one thing nobody ever mentions about festivals is how much it paggers your feet after a full day) but the band he had assembled were tight as fuck, his voice had held up reasonably well, and having Buckethead as his main guitarist meant that as well as a bewildering guitar solo, we were also treated to a nunchuk display from a man wearing a KFC bucket on his head. The most Metallica ever managed was when they set Hetfield on fire, and I didn’t even get to see that. As well as that the band played with an exuberance borne of Axl being at that time a man not knowing if he had any relevance any longer to a music scene that had moved dramatically on in the decade since he had last been a part of it. Leeds was one of the very first gigs he did, and it was brilliant. I don’t care that it wasn’t really Guns. Nunchuks!

A few years later and a completely different line up turned up at Download Festival, ostensibly to promote Chinese Democracy, although that was still some time away. The contrast was stark. Axl’s voice seemed tired, the new band couldn’t cut it, and it was just a mess. Crowds were streaming away from the main stage by the third song, somehow I managed to hold on to the end out of some sheer lunatic sense of loyalty to the man who sparked something in me so many years earlier. I left that night feeling utterly deflated, along with the whole festival, who seemed to talk about nothing else for the whole night.

Which brings us to this year. I wasn’t at Leeds or Reading festival. I’ve been done with that festival for some years now, and the prospect of yet another new Guns line Up and Queens of the Stone Age is not enough to entice me to a festival when I couldn’t even afford Bloodstock, Sonisphere or Download. But what I did do was watch the coverage on BBC3, and in between throwing insults at the charisma vacuum of presenters Edith Bowman and Reggie Yates when they finally showed a clip from Guns I couldn’t believe just how truly awful they were. Axl’s voice is now nothing approaching melodic, like the wail of a thousand executives at Endomol when the weekly Big Brother viewing figures come out. The band, no longer a rag tag group of exceptional talents and more a rag bag of whoever works near Axl who he hasn’t pissed off yet, are so loose and awful that really I think all the hi-jinks were a smokescreen to just how truly awful this once global icon has fallen. How sad to see my childhood, bloated, bankrupt of talent and undeserving even of pity. I now include a link to the BBC’s coverage of this truly awful spectacle, but for your own health please don’t watch for more than a few minutes, or if you do, may be just get really really high first. Oh, and if you’re not in the UK then you probably wont be able to get this. But that’s ok. No really, you’re better off.

Give it up Axl, please.

Iron Maiden- The Final Frontier

(EMI)

Iron Maiden are on top of the metal tree; pricking about the world on Flight 666, speeching up their gigs like they’re campaigning for something indefinable, and now, against some of the odds, a number one album. Problem is, their own hype is coming to define them. Allow me to explain.

Nobody can deny that Maiden have achieved a level of success about which most noise-making fucks can only dream, at least on this side of the Atlantic. It’s all a distraction, though, from the crucial question: Is The Final Frontier actually any good? The fact that it’s on the album chart at all might give you a clue that I tend to think not.

Listening to this record has actually been a chore. A Matter of Life and Death was a formulaic trudge through Iron Maiden’s standard set of ideas, and while The Final Frontier is a bit better, it is not, to my mind, worthy of the critical gushing it has prompted. Admit it, most of you like it just because it’s Iron Maiden.

What of it? Well, for a start it’s 75 fucking minutes long, nearly twice as long as any album needs to be. It’s full of proggy digressions that aren’t bad, taken on their own, but together, add up to a load of overlong waffle. Six out of ten tunes clock in around nine minutes, and it was a similar story with Matter. It’s almost like they’re chucking shit at a wall, trying to outdo Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The Maiden-hype says their epics are the best, so lads, lads. Got an idea. Why not do absolutely everything as an epic?! Thus, we traverse the looking glass.

Similarly, the record seems to be drowning in reverb, presumably because expectations say Maiden’s sound is like, massive and brutal. And Bruce Dickinson is going at full bore almost constantly, belting out every single song from somewhere in the vicinity of his bowels, because that’s just what he does now, I guess. But I know I’m not the only one who misses the dynamic shifts, both subtle and massive, the shade and light heard on To Tame a Land or Out of the Silent Planet. The Talisman seems to be the only song here where he’s prepared to rein it in a bit, and even that doesn’t last longer than a couple of minutes.

First single El Dorado is a competent enough variation on the standard Maiden gallop, and the best thing on the record’s first half. Way too long, though. Starblind is actually alright, mainly because of the chorus melody, the use of synths, and because of Nicko McBrain’s off-kilter drumming, which offsets the bog-standard cantering riff nicely. Still, I’m bored by the end of seven minutes. Isle of Avalon isn’t bad either, but it’s too long, and I’m getting too long in the tooth here to bother trying to describe it.

On the other hand, Mother of Mercy is the song the word ‘generic’ was coined for. The Alchemist is just annoying filler, much like Coming Home, and When the Wind Blows has got a rubbish title. Also, it sounds like something else. I invite you to try and spot it.

Ultimately, the progressive elements of The Final Frontier are both the best and worst things about it. The record unquestionably picks up in the proggier second half, but at the same time, taken in totality, it seems bloated and overcooked. By the time you reach the end, you’re so exhausted you might as well have wasted an hour listening to Queensrÿche or Dream Theater instead. Iron Maiden’s final frontier is apparently self-parody, and they’re heading for it with all the celerity of a Boeing 757 with both engines a-Blaze Bayley.

Moor Music Festival 2010

This is not the sky we ordered

While most of the rest of the Demon Pigeon staff are off to Bloodstock this weekend (and Noel goes to a beer festival to get silly on Cider) I thought it would be nice to head off to the more family friendly and local Moor Music Festival. I even packed up my three year old for her first ever festival, safe in the knowledge that with the bands all being local talent rather than the likes of Meshuggah (not at all bitter about not seeing them, honest), I wouldn’t be all that bothered if I missed anything.

With these small festivals it’s as much about the experience as it is the music anyway, and on that front Moor Music does pretty well, but not outstanding. Mainly this is because there appear to be two festivals stuck in one place. The first is a chilled out hippy-lite festival that has two stages ranging from indie to folk and blues, has tents that cater to families with young children, other tents that preach sustainability and global warming solutions, food vans that sell organic food at decent price and a beer tent that has a variety of lovely cask ales rather than the horrible muck that passes for beer at your larger festivals.

But then you have the other festival, where there’s a big tent playing wall-to-wall dance music for pissed up chavs; where there is a slight sense of menace, hooded teens walking around at night selling M-Cat at the top of their voiced and not enough toilets. Where the staff directing people to the campsites don’t think to tell people arriving that they’re about to camp in the family field. And most of all, where it decides to piss down buckets of water for two solid days, at one point so bad on Friday night that I’m convinced I will awaken to a mud-based Armageddon that would force us to abandon the whole thing.

Still, mindful that after two days of downpour the site still doesn’t turn to mud, and the sun does come out, put the two aspects of this festival together and you have a very nice festival that has the potential to be more, but which after a while grinds on you a tad. In the end we only stayed for two of the three days, so apologies in advance to the bands who played on Sunday, but I didn’t see you.

Of the bands that I did see, on Friday morning The Tempus (6) have the unfortunate duty of opening the weekend’s proceedings in front of a crowd that doubles when I enter the tent, which is a shame as they’re not half bad. They play a mix of Nick Cave and bluesy stoner mixed with unfortunately predictable indie fare, but if they were to dirty up and thicken their guitar sound and write more songs like their set closer, they could be a good band.

The Luminaries (6) are on next, and despite all resembling freshly birthed calves in trendy shirts, are the band of the day that are most likely to become stars. It’s not my cup of tea really, this new indie thing essentially being nothing more than a retread of The Smiths with added harmonics on the guitars, but while they are far too young and out of step with each other to make much impact, their frontman is very assured, quite talented, and possessed of the sort of presence that may see them very well in the future, once they’ve rehearsed a bit more.

Kong

After this promising beginning to the day it all goes a bit horrendously indie for a while, and the next band I want to see, The Suzukis, don’t show up, instead replaced by two teenage fucknuts called Alt Track (1) who seem to think bleating over the sound of a Casio keyboard constitutes a valuable way to spend time. We retire to our tent for some grub and return in time for Kong (8), who proceed to piss over everything else that I’ve seen so far. Dressed in matching red uniforms (well, if you can call red Y Fronts a uniform) and grotesque masks, Kong peddle a snarling mix of Jesus Lizard and Fugazi, all accompanied by a belligerent drunken swagger that is excellent, and nearly starting fights with the somewhat bemused audience. A fine way to round off the day. Or it would be, but there are two bands after them that are so hideously awful that I wont even give them name.

Jon Jon & the Beatniks, just about good enough to pull off this look

Saturday takes a little while to get going, the first band worth mentioning being Tigers That Talked (5), who peddle a reasonably proficient but somewhat bland mix of Arcade Fire and Sigur Ros. It’s nice enough, but lacks any real hooks to keep you interested. Next up are Jon Jon & the Beatniks Movement (7) and as they warm up I reason that they are going to have to be very very good indeed to pull off looking like such an absolute cluster of cunts. But as soon as they come on stage, all MC5 swagger and Iggy Pop moves, married to Amen-esque riffing, it all comes into focus. Like all the bands here, as undiscovered local bands they have a way to go before they can be real contenders, but there’s enough talent on display to think that it’s not outside the realms of possibility that it could happen to them, even if their lead singer does look like a Russell Brand clone gone a bit wrong.

Bo Ningen

Bo Ningen (6) are next, four horrifyingly thin Japenese men who play a distorted and fractured breakneck version of Rock n Roll. They’re not actually very good, but they are tremendously entertaining, not least because the lead singer throws some of the silliest shapes I’ve ever seen. After this I was supposed to go and see Male Bonding, but got distracted in another tent by the excellent Being 747 present Amoeba to Zebra (8) who are back from a recent stint in Edinburgh to do an hour long musical based on the evolution of life on Earth. It’s barmy and funny as fuck, and instantly becomes my favourite thing of the weekend. At least until fifteen minutes after they finish and Chickenhawk (8.5) walk on stage in the other tent.

Being 747 present Amoeba to Zebra, science in action.

I’m not prone to getting many predictions right, although I did win my World Cup predictions league at work, so maybe I’m getting better at it, but I predict that within the year Chickenhawk will be a very big deal indeed. What we have here is a four piece Brit Metal band who do that thing that the kids seem to like where they make everything sound a bit dancey every now and again, and they have bloody great big melodies that will make teenage girls and boys in tight jeans go all giggly and squee. On the surface I should hate them, but what they also do is marry their commercial sensitivities with a love of dirty great big Helmet riffs, Will Haven bludgeon and a bloody magnificent drummer. The melody is far more weighted towards the earthtone9 end of the spectrum rather than the woeful BFMV chud that everyone else seems to do, and the dancey bits are more 65dos than anything else. It’s a triumphant homecoming, and the crowd are clearly fans going into the gig, but I hear a lot of ‘bloody hell that was good’ type chatter from the crowd on the way out.

Chickenhawk

At this point I should really have just headed back to the tent, sated, but instead I go up to the dance tent out of curiosity, only to leave approximately 15 seconds later, when I set eyes on a scene that makes me feel both self-righteous and old at the same time. I am well aware that in this country more people will listen to the sort of bilge spewing from that tent than will ever appreciate ‘teh metulz’ (Editor’s note: I am putting at least one hideous ‘internet-speak’ line into every review from now on, because it annoys Dan) but I despair when confronted by this fact. It’s just all so fucking horrible. But anyway.

I return to the main stage for Errors (3), who from their description could be a bit math-rock. The clue that they weren’t going to be should have been when lots of people around be started dancing like gurning tools to the background music before they even come on. When they do come on they start with 20 seconds of the lushest and most beautiful intro outside of a Mono song, but then it all goes crushingly wrong and descends into dancey shite, and everyone around me starts making odd shapes, and staring at me like an interloper for daring to stand still. To be fair everyone else seems to rave (no pun intended) about them the next morning, and they seem very capable. But to me it just sounded like someone playing crushingly boring and self indulgent indie over a cacophony of car alarms.

The next morning I am faced with the choice of trying to do one last day with no money and no supplies, or going home to a nice warm shower and Mad Men on the telly. It wasn’t an easy choice, dedicated as I obviously am to giving you dear readers the fullest picture of events, but I am really getting into Mad Men, so I went home. So, Moorfest, a highly enjoyable weekend that provided a much better quality of bands than I had any right to expect from a local festival, and a great place to take a young one for their first festival. On these grounds, a top weekend.

Towers of Flesh- The Perpetual Paradox

(Dissected Records)

I feel kind of sorry for Towers of Flesh. Not only have they chosen themselves a right daft name, one that might conceivably adorn a special interest below-counter Digital VD product (about willies), they’ve also managed to record an album that doesn’t just hide their lamp under a bushel. It seals it in amber, lead and reinforced concrete, then buries it in the Mariana Trench.

If I knew the first thing about black metal, I imagine I might be saying that The Perpetual Paradox sounds about as generic as black metal gets. All the right bits are in place, as far as I can tell. It has those vile, clattering, witless blast beats that I hear you fucking idiots are so fond of. It has some dark riffing, and vocals that sound like the Cookie Monster coughing up bits of woodbine-flavoured biscuits. The songcraft seems reasonable – if unremarkable – as well, all made up of quick, thumping bits, interspersed here and there with bits of nice atmospheric stuff. I find I can get from one end of the record to the other without any particularly venomous reactions.

In fact, there’s only one reason I can think of to properly, actively dislike this: The sound is as limp as my grandad’s dangle.

Not sure what’s gone wrong between writing and recording, but there’s just no power here, no balls whatsoever. The guitars are all but hidden under the bellowed vocals, while the drums seem to occupy a sonic dimension entirely their own. When he’s not doing utterly generic, ubiquitous, omnipresent blast beats, the drummer seems to like striking absolutely all of his many cymbals, absolutely all of the time. It’s highly conspicuous, given the desolation of the soundscape, yeah I totally just said ‘soundscape’ bitches, and it actually sounds like the band members are in different rooms or something. Consequently, accents carry little emphasis, and the sound never actually coheres; never actually clicks into place. And speaking of clicks, is he using Starcraft players for bass drums?

There’s not much I can say about the individual tunes. Mostly, they do this (fast), then they do that (slow). Then they do this again. That is as much description as I can muster. I don’t hate anything on this record, but I honestly do not care if I never hear any of it again.

Oh alright, if you must. Let’s see here.

Forbidden Gnosis is probably the best thing in a middling bunch, and might indicate that Towers of Flesh are a band with some potential, if they can sort their sound out. Mostly it’s down to the long instrumental passages that stray into progressive climes from time to time. It judders along on the back of 32nd note bass drums that quickly begin to sound monotonous, yet in spite of that, manages to continually metamorphose. Not quite enough to compel you, but enough to take your mind off the intoxicating prospect of inevitable murder-suicide for its ten minute or so length.

Otherwise, The Perpetual Paradox is not that hot. I don’t think it’s a bad record, it’s just an unremarkable one. And production-wise, it sounds fucking terrible. Back to the drawing board on that score, phallus (fellas).