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“Psychiatric Tissues:

The History of the Iconic Noise Rock Band Arab On Radar” by Jeff Schneider

 (Pig Roast Publishing)

This book, a memoir by the guitarist of one of the most ferocious, original and provocative bands of the past quarter century, is one that I have not just read, but have lived with for over a year. I have imbibed from it at regular intervals, have sought advice from it, argued with it, found solace in it, walked in step with it, have been challenged by it and have been challenged, quite rightly, back by it. It is that sort of book: one that you cannot and could not ever shake from your innermost core once you had read the merest sentence.

Arab On Radar were/are a phenomenon – a unit measured out in shards of fearless and gruesome abrasion which formed themselves into songs, albums performances that burned onto the retinas and scorched the ears of everyone lucky enough to hear and see them during the band’s brief lifespan. But their story begins (of course) with the biographical tales of each of its members, and here guitarist Jeff Schneider is in the driving seat. His origins as a dislocated, Skinny Puppy-loving teenager seeking more than high school has to offer are coolly realised, the prose of the desperate boy coming alive as his journey towards other music and other culture took hold of him. Those are resonant notions that struck many chords of anguish within me. How many of us out there still seek the other, the strange, the marginal, and the obscure? All of us, surely.

The passages devoted to the group’s foundation and early incarnation possess an ecstatic quality, relief at finding kindred spirits despite the harsh environment they had all found themselves in. No one chooses to make the music that AOR dared to score upon the world; the joy of forging their way to that crystalline blast noise destination was long in the making. I could describe Jeff’s tale of finding a Travis Bean guitar in a thrift store is relayed with the fervour of Perceval alighting upon the Holy Grail, or of Excalibur being wielded for the first time, but that would be to deny the materialist orientation of the book. Every detail is recreated in literary form with the greatest of care for accuracy, bringing back to life that era in all of it’s manifest wondrousness and multifarious flaws. The early years of the band with Andrea Fiset in their ranks are tenderly recalled, her maturity and powerful presence looming as large as her battering bass playing over the narrative. She is a truly intriguing person, flesh and blood upon the page, one that you wish to see return again and again, but you know that her appearances will sadly soon end. The insectoid frenzy and dub-like space of ‘Queen Hygiene II’ is a muted debut to conjure with all these years later, but Eric Paul’s fictive/furtive lyrical/verbal gifts were already present and (in)correct. Their sound would well and truly descend from here on out.

AOR bookThe book nimbly evokes the musical milieu that AOR attempted to inhabit. Bands with alluring and exacting names like Astoveboat, Six Finger Satellite, Landed and The Laurels bob up and down in the narrative, mentoring and hectoring AOR. Their daring raids on gigs with bands ‘a level up’ from them are dutifully distilled, royally fucking off the likes of The Make Up and the heir apparent, Marilyn Manson (or his audience, anyway). Sterling missionary zeal is displayed by these behind enemy lines endeavours, and kudos well earned. As a member of a band that never got to tour (well, we did attempt to play this one show in another city, but that’s another story…), the road warrior recollections of working the tour circuit, playing gigs and building their own unique following are easily the most compelling of the ‘professional’, band-oriented tales. What resonates most however, are Jeff’s own examinations of his feelings and behaviour, looking down on his younger self as an omnipotent narrator, neither endorsing nor condemning outright his own failures and mistakes, but are nonetheless excoriating of his personal struggles. They make for uncomfortable reading amidst the underground excitement. That never-ending search for a way forwards musically is the great universal current running through all bands everywhere, and so when AOR reach their zenith that is ‘Yahweh Or The Highway’ you will punch the air in celebration with the group for having gutted it out and realized their intentions as truly as they could. I’ve read a ton of a band biographies – haven’t we all? This is the first that I have read by a member of a band that I saw live, and I have every confidence in declaring that it will be the best I will ever read by a member of a band that was extant during my lifetime. Want to know what I thought of that show? Jeff published an article I wrote about the stunning AOR DVD ‘Sunshine For Shady People’ in the latter half of this book, an act of generosity for which I will be forever grateful. This review is my small attempt at reciprocation. I could use quotes to make my point about this book. I could quote from it endlessly. But I want you to read it for yourself and immerse yourselves in it for as long as I have. ‘Psychiatric Tissues’ deserves your full and undivided attention.

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Mark Hollis RIP

To dare to have to write this down. Mark Hollis is dead. The baleful bellow of pastoral pop and architect of post rock passed long ago from our vision to our memory, now only seen in ancient music videos clips of former adventures and experiments:

Lips in enforced closure amid zoological scenes/lines blur the features as the chorus gleams ‘IT’S MY LIFE! DON’T YOU FORGET!’ Beneath the branches and a fretful fringe, playing piano condensation in an English idyll. Fearless and forlorn as redundancy grips his shoulder. Enraged and playful, looming in an under-cranked, dying Britain. And all the while, that beguiling voice is a jewel set among aural garlands in successive phases of a band’s evolution, each more startling than the last.

To regard Talk Talk as a cut above would be an insult to butchery. One definition of immortality might be mean to be only half-remembered. The hit singles of Talk Talk are tied to their ‘1980s’ context, and are thus signifiers. But to hear them anew brings an entirely different resonance. They bristle and sparkle, soak in sourness and grasp the major lift utterly. “Life’s What You Make It” is a giver of that force, energy captured, a symphonic revelry of clatter and consolation.

It has been with me for most of my life – before I could even comprehend it. It found its way to me, on a dolorous ‘Q’ cassette, and rescued my life. A voice that could shrug, sidle up, with all the power that wisdom contains, granting a way forward, letting you know what beauty was, being beauty itself.

The languor of “Laughing Stock”, its precision and halting eddys of guitar is another lifeline branch. Close by, not daring to leave you in the state you’re in, quietly parting the gloom for streaks of conscious daylight.

There can never be a goodbye, Mark Hollis. You lie in wait for the future, just as assuredly as we in the present cherish you now.MH

I contributed to this Top 40 Music Books anthology published recently by The Quietus. My choice was David Bowman’s remarkable book on Talking Heads:

http://thequietus.com/articles/24830-top-40-best-books-about-music

This is a link to a piece I’ve recently contributed to issue two of the excellent multi-media zine “Secret Cave”. It contains the germ of an idea for a novel that I’m currently experimenting with. Stay tuned for more details

http://secretcave.co/contusions-greying-culture-vulture/

 

Best of 2017

Best of 2017

Books

Harley Flanagan: “Hard-Core: Life of My Own”, John Berger: “Art and Revolution”, Jack Olsen: “Last Man Standing: The Tragedy and Triumph of Geronimo Pratt”, Cosey Fanni Tutti: “Art Sex Music”, Edmund Gordon: “The Invention of Angela Carter”, Dave Sherry: Russia 1917: Worker’s Power and the Festival of the Oppressed”, Tim Sanders and John Newsinger: “1917: Russia’s Red Year”, Dave Randall: “Sound System”, Manning Marable: “Malcom X: A Life of Reinvention”, John Molyneux: “Lenin For Today”, Erdmut Wizisla: “Benjamin and Brecht: The Story of a Friendship”, Victoria Lomasko: “Other Russias”, Tony Cliff: “Trotsky 1879-1917 – Volume One: Towards October”, “Trotsky 1917 – 1923 Volume Two – The Sword of the Revolution”, “Trotsky 1923 – 1927 Volume Three – Fighting the Rising Stalinist Bureaucracy”,  George Paizis: “Michel Martinet: Poet of the Revolution”, Adelle Stripe: “Black Teeth and A Brilliant Smile”, Tom Mills: “The BBC: Myth of a Public Service”, Ryszard Kapuscinski: “Nobody Leaves”, Paul Foot: “Red Shelley”, Holly George Warren: “A Man Called Destruction – The Life and Times of Alex Chilton from the Box Tops to Big Star to Back Door Man”, John Newsinger: “Fighting Back: The American Working Class in the 1930s”,

Exhibitions

“Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932” at the Royal Academy, London

COUM Transmissions at the Humber Street Gallery, Hull

“Boom For Real: Jean-Michel Basquiat” at The Barbican, London

Films (DVD)

“Vivre Sa Vie” (Godard), “Comrades” (Douglas), “Hara Kiri” (Kobayashi), “De Palma” documentary (Baumbach), “Larks on A String” (Menzel), “Hard Times” (Hill), “Peppermint Soda” (Kurys), “Mouchette”, (Bresson), “Love Is Colder Than Death”, Katzelmacher”, “Gods of the Plague”, “The American Soldier”, “The Niklashausen Journey” (Fassbinder), “Secret Defense” (Rivette), “A Touch of Zen” (Hu), “Alice” (Svankmajer)

Gigs

Guttersnipe/Ragana/SBSM at Wharf Chambers, 2nd June, Leeds, Acid Mothers Temple at The Crescent, 24th October, York, Algiers at the Brudenell Social Club, 27th November, Leeds.

Music (New)

Power Trip: “Nightmare Logic”, Thundercat: “Drunk”, The Clientele: “Music For the Age of Miracles”, Unearthly Trance: “Stalking the Ghost”, Children of Alice: “S/T”, David Bowie: “No Plan” EP, The Obsessed: “Sacred”, “Arcadea: “S/T”, Anohni: “Paradise” EP, Pharmakon, “Contact”, Mastodon: “Emperor of Sand”, Pyrrhon: “Running Out of Skin, “What Passes for Survival”, Royal Trux: “Platinum Tips and Ice Cream”, Beastmaker: “Inside the Skull”, Chelsea Wolfe: “Hiss Spun”, Circle: “Terminal”, Laibach: “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, EMA: “Exile in the Outer Ring”, Zola Jesus: “Okovi”, Inter Arma: “Paradise Gallows”, Primitive Man: “Caustic”, St Vincent: “Masseduction”, Ryan Adams: “Prisoner”, Bell Witch: “Mirror Reaper”, Electric Wizard: “Wizard Bloody Wizard”, Angel Olsen: “Phases”,

Music (Old)

Erase Errata: “Lost Weekend” EP, Lifetones: “To A Reason”, The Lord Weird Slough Feg: “Down Among the Dead Men”, The Plasmatics: “Coup D’Etat”, Graeme Miller & Steve Shill: “The Moomins”, Buzzoven: …”At A Loss”, Music Blues: “Things Haven’t Gone Well”, Yoko Ono: “Fly”, Cloud Rat: “Discography 2010 – 2015”, Celtic Frost, “Morbid Tales”, “To Mega Therion”, “Into the Pandemonium”, Voivod: “RRROOOAAARRR!”, “Killing Technology”, “Dimension Hatross”, DAF: Das Ist DAF”, Flying Lotus: “You’re Dead!”, Alex Chilton: “The Complete 1970 Sessions”, A Certain Ratio: “The Graveyard and the Ballroom”, “To Each…”, Miles Davis: “Get Up With It”, Mahavishnu Orchestra: “The Lost Trident Sessions”,

RIP

John Berger, Jaki Liebezeit, Overend Watts, John Hurt, Emmanuelle Riva, John Wetton, Dick Bruna,  Bill Paxton, Hideo Ikeezumi, Raymond Kopa, Maggie Roche, Derek Walcott, Chuck Berry, Colin Dexter, David Storey, Elyse Steinman, Darcus Howe, Leo Baxendale, Kevin Garcia, Chris Cornell, Gregg Allman, Anita Pallenberg, John Avildsen, Barry Norman, George Romero, Martin Landau, John Heard, Sam Shepherd, Jeanne Moreau, William Hjortsberg, Robert Hardy, Hywel Bennett, Glen Campbell, Dave Gibson, Liz McKean, Brian Aldiss, Gustav Metzger, Tobe Hooper, Walter Becker, Holger Czukay, Grant Hart, Frank Vincent, Harry Dean Stanton, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Anne Wiazemsky, Sean Hughes, Martin Eric Ain, Chuck Mosley, Malcolm Young, Jana Novotna.

 

“EP” by Cuntroaches (cassette)

2017 has been a year of years for underground/experimental music. Seriously, it has been amazing. But I wanted to go back to a release that has been one of my constants throughout the year, the second cassette “EP” release by Cuntroaches. These wonderful denizens of Berlin unleashed this sharp jab of tape early this year, and it is a true marvel. Now, it has become common currency in extreme music to use the term ‘brutal’ to describe what you are listening to, and with more than enough actual brutality taking place in our flyblown world, I will leave that word alone for this review. What Cuntroaches have brought forth on this tape are slices of raw, unadulterated, beatified noise. “Fraud” scared the living devil out of me with its rough-hewn bass blasts from Suckles and Martina’s shattered vocals tailing out in drenching hails of feedback. Love it. The skull-popping drag of “Short Fuse” dials down the tempo but ratchets the tension, Martina’s flaying vocals still whipping through your nerve endings all the while. Drummer relentlessness is always something I can throw my full support behind, and the blessed Claire obliges repeatedly. The eruptive “Pig Woman” swings in blissful derangement, grinding away incisor-like. Sweet surrender never sounded so good. There are almost no words for the raging solar force at work on the climactic one-two shots of “Shit Show” and “Road Trip” suffice to say that after the 16 minutes and 34 seconds of this wholly righteous cassette have elapsed, you and your hearing will never be the same. That isn’t just hyperbole, that is just a fact of life.

http://cuntroaches.tumblr.com/

https://cuntroaches.bandcamp.com/

Best of 2016

Books

“Militant Modernism” and “Uncommon” by Owen Hatherley, “The Devils Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government” by David Talbot, Kate Evans: “Red Rosa”, “Trotskyism” by Alex Callinicos, “The Paris Commune: A Revolution in Democracy” by Donny Gluckstein, “Stone Male: Requiem for the Living Picture” by Joe Carducci, “1956: A World in Revolt” by Simon Hall, “Showa: 1926 to 1939” by Shigeru Mizuki, Vladimir Mayakovsky: “Volodya: Selected Works” (ed. Rosy Carrick), “Mayakovsky: A Biography” by Bengt Jangfeldt, “1966: The Year The Decade Exploded” by Jon Savage, “Lenin 1917 to 1923: The Revolution Besieged” by Tony Cliff, “Jubilee Hitchhiker: The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan” by William Hjortsberg, “Critical Lives-Lenin” by Lars Lih, “Critical Lives – Alfred Jarry” by Jill Fell,

Exhibitions

“The Beholder’s Share” by Hwyl Nofio, “Night Moves” by Adam Keay at Spelman’s Bookshop.

Films (Cinema)

“The Black Panthers’ Vanguard of the Revolution”, “The Neon Demon”, “Hard Stop”, “The Confession: Living the War on Terror”, “Jason Bourne”, “I, Daniel Blake”,

Films (DVDs)

Jacques Rivette: “Out:1”, “Love on The Ground”, “Gang of Four”, “Histoire de Marie et Julien”, “Le Pont du Nord”, “Paris Nous Appartient”, Abel Ferrara: “Pasolini”, Agnes Varda: L’Une Chant, L’Autre Pas”, Alan Clarke: “Dissent & Disruption: Alan Clarke at the BBC”, Kevin Brownlow & Andrew Mollo: “Winstanley”, Georges Franju: “Judex”, “Nuits Rouges”, Miklos Jancso: “Elektra, My Love”, Dziga Vertov: “Man with the Movie Camera”,

Gigs

Stand Up to Racism gig at the Crescent, York, February: Algiers at Headrow House, Leeds, 27th April, Common Eider King Eider/Gabriel Salomon/Earth Eater at Café Oto, London, 25th June,

Music (Old and New)

David Bowie: “Blackstar”, Savages: “Adore Life”, Tindersticks: “The Waiting Room”, Bernard Szajner: “Some Deaths Takes Forever”, Laddio Bolocko: “The Life and Times of Laddio Bolocko”, Deux Filles: “Silence & Wisdom”/” Double Happiness”, Steve Mason: “Meet the Humans”, Jenny Hval: “Blood Bitch”, Death Grips: “Bottomless Pit”, Common Eider King Eider: “Extinction”, Factory Floor: “25 25”, Scott Walker: “The Childhood of a Leader”, Emma Ruth Rundle: “Marked for Death”, Exploded View: “S/T”, Cuntroaches: “S/T” cassette, Leecher: “I’m All Wet”, HTRK: “Psychic 9-5 Club”, Adrian Belew: “Lone Rhino”, “Twang Bar King”, “Inner Revolution”, Anohni: “Hopelessness”, Bat For Lashes: “The Bride”, Halo of Flies: “Music for Insect Minds”, Helios Creed: “The Last Laugh”, Unsane: “Scattered, Smothered and Covered”, V/A: “Dope, Guns ‘N’ Fucking in the Streets volume 1 to 11”, Cows: “Daddy Has a Tail!”, “Cunning Stunts”,

Television

“Deutschland 83”, “Flowers”, “Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle” series 4, “Drifters”, “John Berger: The Art of Looking”, “Rich Hall’s Presidential Grudge Match”,

Highs

Finally meeting Andee Connors after 15 years of email friendship and seeing Common Eider King Eider play at Cafe Oto in Hackey/meeting Garret Hamill at the same gig along with so many amazing people/meeting Ken Loach in the foyer of York City Screen before a screening of “The Spirit of ‘45” and sharing his popcorn with him/attending the Stand Up to Racism conference in London in October/Marxism 2016/Standing Rock protests/Durham TAs on strike/activism on the rise everywhere

Lows

Bryan Danielson forced to retire from professional wrestling/ROCK-A-ROLLA magazine goes under (2005-2106)/paroxysms on the left over Brexit, personal and professional relationships breaking down in the aftermath/lack of understanding/the entire audio-visual media failing us all in every possible way with regard to news this year (a failure sure to continue into 2017)

RIP

In the immortal words of Warren Oates, “too damn many” …

David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Dale Griffin, Jacques Rivette, Franco Citti, Axl Rotten, Trifon Ivanov, Andrzej Zulawski, Frank Kelly, Eiji Ezaki (Hayabusa), Barry Hines, Johan Cruyff, Zaha Hadid, Tony Conrad, Howard Marks, Balls Mahoney, Kris Travis, Prince, David King, Muhammad Ali, Dave Swarbrick, Peter Schaffer, Kimbo Slice, Peter Owen, Hector Babenco, Alan Vega, Davey Hopper, Gene Wilder, W P Kinsella, Andrzej Wajda, Steve Dillon, Tom Hayden, Raoul Coutard, Leonard Cohen, Robert Vaughn, Leon Russell, Dario Fo, Fidel Castro, Greg Lake