Category Archives: Indie Rock Punk Noise

SHIT AND SHINE: Charm And Counter-charm (7″, For Us FU038)

Shit And Shine - Charm And Counter-charm

The second mention so far here of Shit And Shine, despite my record collection being inordinately weighted in their direction, due to them being not only an endlessly entertaining and fascinating it, but also to them being ridiculously productive in terms of their vinyl output.

Full disclosure: for this website I like to use a random number generator to genuinely select a random record for me to blather on about. This time, I must admit, I felt like writing about a 7″ record, so I rolled the electronic dice more than once in order to do so. I feel my integrity remains intact.

Interestingly, looking up this record in my big old spreadsheet made me realise that it was actually listed in there twice for some reason. I’m pretty sure that was a mistake (unless a second copy isn’t in the alphabetically-ordered shelves, shock horror) so has now been corrected.

The other Shit And Shine record I’ve written about on here, released in 2013, is a lot newer than this one, although there is no release date shown on the record. Discogs has it as 2007. ‘Charm and Counter-charm’ is a 45 rpm early example of the mutated disco music that S&S have since gone on to do a lot more of: a thumpingly repetitive beat backdrop, with hacked-up and squirked samples chucked liberally around the place. There are two tracks on the B-side – ‘Creepy Ballerina’ and ‘Flower Petal Sword’ – that are totally different. The first is a cheeky little sound experiment, with a spooky child voice echoing and echoing; the second is like S&S of old, guitar-and-drums-based repetition and cut-up that feels like a Butthole Surfers outtake stuck in an infinite loop. Not too shabby.

Not a lot I can share about the For Us label, as this is the only record I have from it. Endless fount of knowledge Discogs describes it as “Rough Trade Shops in house label”, which is interesting. Its roster includes a huge variety that takes in Liliput, Gravenhurst, The Undertones and Spearmint at a brief glance – so perhaps it’s a label that releases whatever Rough Trade staff are currently into?

The artwork is functional but not unpleasant: a jarring red and blue colour scheme subverts the cutesy imagery and typography. Shit And Shine throw in various challenges for the vinyl archivist – on this release the cover has them as $hit and $hine; I’ve also seen Shit & Shine, Shit And Shine, $hit & $hine, and possibly more. In my records they all get bracketed under ‘Shit And Shine’, as I haven’t got time to deal with their lexicographical nonsense.

THURSTON MOORE: 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose VDSQ – Solo Acoustic Volume Five (LP, Vin Du Select Qualitite VDSQ-005)

Thurston Moore - 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose front cover

Thurston Moore was, of course, the frontman of my all-time favourite band, Sonic Youth. He – and they – are therefore responsible for a hefty wedge of records in my collection. As a band, their output is pretty huge and varied in style; as a solo artist, even more so. This album was released in 2011, according to Discogs, although no release date is given on the sleeve – the only date mentioned is that the recordings for the album were made in ‘early 2010’. Sonic Youth ended in late 2011, after the unfortunate shenanigans going on between Moore and bandmate/wife Kim Gordon, so this album was released at around that time. Before and after that time, Moore is/was involved in a relentless number of solo and side projects – he’s famously a fan of records, musical history and the avant garde, and seems keen to make his mark in recorded form whenever possible.

Jack Rose, for whom this album is named, was a much-loved American experimental guitarist, who sadly died in 2009. The ten tracks on 12 String Meditations For Jack Rose, performed on an acoustic twelve-string guitar, are in a Jack Rose style, but are I think original Moore compositions. The rear sleeve mentions “song titles courtesy Byron Coley”, suggesting that the pieces on the record were played and recorded first; named second. Vin Du Select Qualitite released ten of these Solo Acoustic albums, including work by Chris Brokaw, Sir Richard Bishop and Bill Orcutt. Read about the label, and its output, here.

The artwork for the record is in the style of the whole Solo Acoustic series: thin white card stock, typography in Trajan, and a high-contrast monotone image on the cover. It feels like it’s letterpressed. On the rear, simple centred type has credits and a track listing. It’s clean, neat and slightly boring, although I don’t know who is pictured on the cover, so perhaps that carries a story that would add depth. The design is credited to Anthony Pappalardo, which is the name of a famous skateboarder, according to Google. Is this the same person? Who knows. An ‘Artist’s Edition’ of the record also exist, with ‘limited exclusive artwork’. It’s signed and numbered by Thurston Moore, limited to 100 copies, and on coloured vinyl.

SONIC YOUTH: Helen Lundeberg (7″, SY-0001)

Sonic Youth - Helen Lundeberg

This is the first 7″ record that my random number generator – the website I use to decide which record from my collection to write about – has pointed me towards. That’s a little intentional, as until very recent times my 7″ records were in no order whatsoever, and it would’ve been tricky to track down any specific one. However! I spent a couple of weekend days a little while ago organising them into alphabetical order and, naturally, life now feels much more intentional and relaxed.

This seems to be only the second Sonic Youth record I’ve written about here, which is somewhat surprising, as their records occupy quite a hefty chunk of my collection overall. Quite an odd record, this one: I think it was released by the band, but I can’t remember. It doesn’t state a label, or indeed a release date, on either its sleeve, its labels, or the insert included within the sleeve. Discogs tells me it was released in May 2006. I will have almost definitely bought it as soon as it was released, such was my approach to any new Sonic Youth release; I think it was ordered online and delivered mail order.

Not a great deal to say about the sleeve design; the front and back are almost identical, except for in the positioning of the letters. One side has ‘SONI / C YO / UTH’, the other has ‘SONI / CYOU / TH’. Dull stuff. A stencil font (the font is actually called Stencil, as well as being ‘a stencil font’), black on white, no nonsense. It’s a relatively commonplace design, although not entirely unpleasant.

The insert seems to have been cut to its square shape with a rusty butter knife – it’s all rough-edged and crappy-feeling. It shows nothing more than the lyrics for the two songs on the record (‘Helen Lundeberg’ and ‘Eyeliner’), presented in plain old Verdana, black on white, no nonsense.

A weird record, a weird release. So little effort seems to have been put into the physical presentation of these two songs. The songs are fine – latter-period Sonic Youth; i.e. melodic and nothing like as freaked, spaced, or zoned out as in their earlier days.

VERVE: She’s A Superstar (12″, Hut HUTT 16, 1992)

Verve - She's A Superstar

That’s Verve, of course, not The Verve, as they became, slightly later in their career. I can’t quite remember why they changed their name, but it may have been to do with potential mixups with the Verve record label…? I think they were also known as The Verve UK  in America: it must be pretty painful to have to lessen the coolness of your one-word band name when market forces come into play.

Anyway. What a band! This 12″ is from the sweet spot for this band before Richard Ashcroft decided to sing and sing and sing all over every second of every track. ‘She’s A Superstar’, along with other singles from around this time, and the album A Storm In Heaven, was for me some of the best music around. It dovetailed perfectly with the chemically-altered/chemically-enhanced sound of shoegaze that was sweeping the world at the time. Dreamy, tense, soulful music.

Around the time of this record’s release I saw Verve supporting Smashing Pumpkins in, I think, Wolverhampton. Smashing Pumpkins were fine, pretty enjoyable – even despite Billy Corgan deciding to end the set with a fifteen-minute solo poetry reading – and Verve were outstanding. The enjoyment was doubled because the band I was in at the time used to include a cover of Verve’s ‘Slide Away’ in our set – as did, presumably, roughly 1,000 up-and-coming-but-never-really-going-anywhere bands of the time.

The artwork on this record is proper Hipgnosis-style conceptual ambition: bearing in mind that in 1993 digital retouching would have been much more expensive and difficult than now, I’d love to know how this sleeve was put together. The band look on, Pink Floyd Live In Pompeii-style, as multicoloured waterfalls swoop over the band’s name, spelt out in (real?) neon. It’s a Brian Cannon / Microdot design; Brian Cannon was responsible for much of the tripped-out look of Verve’s output and, in later times, went on to craft the record sleeves of Oasis, which I have no doubt played a huge part in that band’s success and image. There’s a Microdot archive of sorts here. I think Oasis supported Verve in their early days – not, unfortunately, on any Verve gigs that I saw.

UNCLE WIGGLY: Non-Stuff (LP, Hemiola HEM 7, ?)

Uncle Wiggly - Non-Stuff

The lot of a small-time reviewer is an odd one. I reached merely moderate levels of coverage and/or influence with a series of fanzines – and an associated cassette tape label – back in the early/mid 1990s, selling fanzines to people around the world and maintaining an enjoyable and rich amount of postal-based correspondence with huge numbers of people. However, you’d think I was single-handedly running NME based on the longevity of mailing lists on which I seem to have found myself; only after several moves of house have the postal submissions for reviews been stopped, and I still receive emails asking for demos to be listened to.

Back when review submissions took the form of actual, physical discs and cassettes, it was a rare treat to accidentally stumble onto somebody’s press list and to receive wares from labels I actually wanted to hear. Hemiola was one such label – a Leeds-based emporium that released great things by bands including Fly Ashtray, Cha-Cha Cohen, Eggs, Unrest, Dymaxion and Kenny Process Team. These may not all be familiar names, but they’re all good bands that are worth looking up. Uncle Wiggly are too; an (I think) New York band that combine slacker-esque indie rock with odd hints of Krautrock repetition and experiment, all wrapped up into a fuzzy melodic ball. Here’s side A of Non-Stuff, with the lead track ‘Kakaphonic’ elegantly summing up the feel of the album:

Some facts about Uncle Wiggly according to Wikipedia and Discogs: They released records on the marvellous Shimmy-Disc and Teenbeat labels. Non-Stuff was only ever released in this format, even though “many consider this to be their finest work, deftly combining their art-rock influences with some killer pop tunes”. The band has not played together since 2000. Band member James Kavoussi played in Fly Ashtray before Uncle Wiggly existed; and continues to play in Fly Ashtray to this day.

No credit is given for the album sleeve design – with its understated typography (including, in my opinion, a pretty ugly typeface for the band name) and somewhat sinister cut & paste photographic montage. The back cover shows a distorted, TV interference-like image, which is credited to Tonya Smay. If it’s the same person I just found on LinkedIn, she has a massive amount of experience in digital art and animation, including working on a Kanye West video and the “Yahoo 2014 Logo Rebrand Animation”!

HOOD: Silent ’88 (LP, Slumberland SLR 59, 1996)

Hood - Silent '88

Hood always felt very much like an English band – specifically, Northern English. Their songs had a gritty, blurred, romantic, hopeful and bleak combination of things going on. For a while, it seemed like they were on their way to becoming a bit of a Big Deal; Silent ’88 represents their ‘let’s break America’ album, in as much that it was released on the always excellent Slumberland Records. They went on to sign to Domino, play All Tomorrow’s Parties, gather a growing amount of positive vibes from around the globe before… fading away. How appropriate for a band that felt like they were documenting thoughts and memories, rather than contributing to an overall grand plan either within their own minds or within a wider context.

Slumberland, by the way, are a great American label, having released hundreds of records with a discography that stretches way back to the late 1980s. They’ve released Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine, Stereolab, Lilys, Boyracer, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Crystal Stilts and, well, endless lists’ worth of good stuff. They were always plugged into the rich underground world of pop-influenced independent music; and in fact they still are, as they remain active to this day. Their priorities were often right; for example, the rear sleeve of Silent ’88 includes the message “thanks for buying this record on vinyl”. There are treats within, as the sleeve not only includes the album, but also an A4 photocopied insert and a four-track 33rpm 7″ single.

There’s no credit given for the sleeve or insert artwork, but I’d hazard a guess that they’re at least in part due to Hood mainmen (and brothers) Chris and Richard Adams. Throughout their career Hood’s artwork maintained a strong feeling of mystery and a conscious air of DIY – from the hand-coloured artwork of early releases to their last, which still used the familiar Hood logo, photographs taken by band members, and hand-scrawled/typed track listings and notations. That hand-scrawled writing was in the familiar handwriting of Richard Adams, who was an active participant in the vibrant 1990s fanzine/letter-writing/tape-and-record-exchanging scene and from whom I received many letters.

Some great song titles on this album, by the way: “Trust me, I’m A Stomach”; “Delusions Of Worthlessness”; “Smash Your Head On The Cubist Jazz”; “Being Beaten Up”.

Links: Hood / Slumberland Records

SEAWEED: Deertrap (7″, K IPU 16, 1990)

Seaweed - Deertrap

The K label, and in particular its International Pop Underground series, are an item on my mental ‘over time, I’ll collect all of these records’ list. It’s not a hugely pressing task, it’s more that in the occasional quiet eBay/Discogs-searching moment I may stumble across a bargain or two and decide to go for it.

So, this Seaweed 7″, along with another International Pop Underground record (Beck’s ‘It’s All In Your Mind’) found their way to me over the past couple of weeks. Seaweed are a hazy memory of a name, and listening to ‘Deertrap’ take me right back to the early ’90s boom of indie rock. It’s typical of the time at which hardcore music was morphed and sculpted into something different, something poppier but no less noisy. Just a little slower, I guess. Out of this time came the grunge ‘thing’, spearheaded by Nirvana’s world-conquering popularity. It was a fervent and inspirational time that also – in no small part due to the passion and dedication of labels like K – spun out Riot Grrl and a new wave of networked independent music-making that was exciting and endlessly productive.

I didn’t know (or couldn’t remember) a whole lot about Seaweed before writing this. So, Wikipedia to the rescue. They disbanded in 2000, but reformed in 2007 and continue to this day. In the past they toured with Green Day, Superchunk and Bad Religion. They had a song on the Clerks soundtrack. Good stuff. The K label’s International Pop Underground series started in 1987, and that too continues to this day (although it’s been quiet for the last couple of years), with over 130 volumes so far. According to the K website’s page about ‘Deertrap’, this record was “recorded in their first flush of youthful enthusiasm before they recorded their first album and went on to grunge-era stardom.”

There’s very little on the sleeve to hint at who created the artwork for the record. The only credit provided at all is to producer Dan Pelton. It’s not the most exciting record sleeve, and the kerning of ‘Seaweed’ leaves a little to be desired, but the graceful sweep of the shape on the front isn’t unpleasant, and the black-and-white-Xerox feel of it has a certain punk charm.

Links: Seaweed on MySpace / K

VARIOUS: Crystallized: Celebrating 15 Years Of Rocket Recordings (2LP, Rocket Recordings LAUNCH060, 2013)

Various - Crystallized

I bought this two-album set very recently, after discovering the outstanding weirdo noise outfit Anthroprophh and taking myself on a Spotify-led journey through various releases and connected bands. After being somewhat blown away by the sounds on this compilation when listening online, I read that the physical release came on spattered clear/black vinyl and featured a die-cut sleeve, and needed no further convincing.

It’s a superb collection for anybody that’s into out-there sounds, distorted noise rock/Krautrock/space rock or, indeed, experimentalism in all its forms. Rocket Recordings have carved out a niche as a label with high standards of quality control and releases that include rather a who’s who of the recent modern (real) psychedelia scene, such as Teeth Of The Sea, Gnod, Shit & Shine, Goat and Anthroprophh (all of whom appear on Crystallized) and White Hills, Oneida and Mugstar.

The vinyl here is a joy to behold: two slices of clear space with smeared black/white spatters emanating from the centre. The artwork, too, is special: credited to Luke Insect (who has worked on a vast range of music packaging that stretches from The Prodigy to Wolf People via Young Knives), it consists of digitally-treated illustrations of intersecting shards of crystal, printed in silvery-grey and black and coming together in the held-aloft centrepiece on the sleeve’s front. The shape being held up on the cover is die-cut into the sleeve, meaning that the content of the shape’s interior can be changed at will to a selection of images across the two records’ inner sleeves. On the rear sleeve, an exact replica of the shape – nice attention to detail there – is printed as a black backdrop to the track listing. It’s a great looking artefact.

Anthroprophh, by the way, constantly remind me of the movie Anthropophagous, an unpleasant 1980 horror about “an insane, violent, and grotesque killer that slaughtered the town’s former residents”. This was one of the films to appear on the infamous 1983 ‘DPP list‘ – aka the video nasties list – created by the UK Director of Public Prosecutions as a knee-jerk reaction to the lack of rigid certification of video cassettes at the time. Since then many of the films on the list have been released with varying levels of cuts – a market still remains for avid collectors who seek out ‘pre-cert’ video cassettes of the original releases. I once collected a few of these, and subsequently gave them away to a local charity shop: visitors to that branch of Oxfam may have got an unexpected surprise while browsing the shelves…

Links: Rocket Recordings

GUMBALL: Light Shines Through (12″, Paperhouse PAPER 012 T, 1991)

Gumball - Light Shines Through

I don’t remember where I picked up this record, but I’ve a feeling it was one of those ‘randomly acquired in a record shop’ purchases – on one of those record-shopping trips where I’m not looking for anything in particular, but usually emerge with a stack of unexpected new things that I didn’t realise I was after.

This record contains meaty, organ-heavy, dumbo garage rock that’s simultaneously of the grunge era and of the endless ‘influenced by mid-60s garage punk’ era. More than that, it spins off into widdly-diddly-guitar-solo worlds a la Dinosaur Jr, as well as the lysergic freakout of ‘Saint’ and the power pop of ‘Damn! Bam!’.

Once, in the past, perhaps around the time of this record’s release, I saw Gumball play an in-store at the Rough Trade shop in London. (Which one? The one that was below Slam City Skates in, I think, Neal’s Yard). That was fun, but not as fun as seeing Trumans Water, who played a set at the same event, and who were insane, unhinged and brilliant. Before the show I attended a Gumball press conference – presumably they had an album or something due out; perhaps Special Kiss, from which a couple of tracks on this record are taken? – and it was so busy that I had to stand outside, tape recorder in hand, straining to hear what was happening. Upon returning home I wasn’t entirely surprised to discover that my recording didn’t yield much more than a hissy mess with some very quiet, almost entirely unintelligible voices. That article didn’t get written. Still, thanks for the invite, whichever PR company invited me!

The illustration on this record’s cover is a bit of an Ed Hardy-by-way-of-Savage-Pencil thang, credited on the rear sleeve to Robert Parker. I’ve found this Robert Parker through Google, but I presume they are not the same person, unless he has a very diverse stylistic range.

Gumball features Don Fleming (both as musician and, on this record, producer). He’s a guy with a long, varied career in America’s indie rock underground scene, including:

  • Producing records by Sonic Youth, Hole, Teenage Fanclub (yes, they’re not American) and more
  • Being a member of Dim Stars (with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Television’s Richard Hell) as well as, for a while, Half Japanese
  • Playing in the Backbeat Band, a beat combo put together to create music for the 1994 movie Backbeat, featuring Dave Pirner (Soul Asylum), Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Mike Mills (REM), Dave Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters) and Henry Rollins (Black Flag). Funny old situation, that. Read about the movie here.

Oh, and look: here’s Don Fleming the American football player.

SHIT AND SHINE: Find Out What Happens When People Start Being Polite For A Fucking Change (12″, Gangsigns GS004, 2013)

Shit And Shine - Find Out What Happens When People Start Being Polite For A Fucking Change

Shit And Shine are an extraordinarily enigmatic, shapeshifting band. It’s difficult to tell at any point in their history so far – they’ve been going for five, ten, twenty, fifty years? – who is in the band, where they are from, who decides what they are going to release (and how), and, vitally, what they’re playing at with their music.

I’ve got a lot of their records, and they skid about from all out atonal noise to guitar-heavy drone pounding to electronic experimentalism. Find Out What Happens When People Start Being Polite For A Fucking Change (a great record title – more on this band’s excellent titling skills later) is five tracks of relatively light-sounding rhythmic disco electronica, striated by moments of weirded-out distorted vocals, and saturated in an overall sense of Shit And Shine not being quite right in the collective head. This is in no way a criticism.

I don’t know if this record is supposed to spin at 45 or 33 – it sounds good at either speed. The sleeve is as vague and strange as the music – beyond the title and band name it shows nothing except a super-sinister photograph, although the labels include track titles, label name and catalogue number. The record and its artwork is, for a cataloguer and designer like me, equally frustrating and rewarding.

A few years ago I put the band on as part of a music festival that I run, and even though I met several members (who were all genial and accommodating), they maintained an air of mystery and oddness throughout the day. Musically, they were outstanding – multiple drummers packed onto a small stage, and around 45 minutes of relentless repetition and unbearably tense dynamics. It still remains one of the best live sets I’ve ever witnessed from any band, anywhere.

As mentioned, Shit And Shine have a propensity for brilliant and confrontational record and song titles. To wit:

  • Toilet Door Tits
  • The Biggest Cock In Christendom
  • When Extreme Dogs Go Wrong
  • Creepy Ballerina

…and so on. Who knows what these titles mean, if anything. I imagine that the band themselves don’t even know. Or maybe they do? Maybe it’s all part of a very carefully-constructed plan. Enigmatic, see.