Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Light is Only Perfect for a Very Short Time

In the early 1990s, the mainstream music industry found more alternative sounds coming to the forefront of the scenery and assimilation started to occur. "Alternative radio stations" like KNNC in Austin, Texas came in to being and some of the gimmicks that radio stations used in an attempt to get people to buy were being employed with this perceived "new" musical style.

These marketing techniques led to a free plane ticket to Dallas to go see The Levellers play a gig with Robyn Hitchcock and Uncle Green at the legendary Deep Ellum Live venue. The enclosed two-disk box was a promotional set given away at the gig by reps from China Records (aka, Elektra). Hey, what the hell, it was all free, right? The only money being spent that weekend was the cab fair getting to the gig itself!

The Levellers put on a great show but unfortunately their experience touring in America was not the best. The stretches between venues was more distant than what they were used to trekking in the UK and they found that the audiences weren't as loyal or devoted to where they were coming from philosophically. Being musicians who were borne from the loins of the once-thriving anarcho-punk scene of Britain, this was probably difficult to take.

The Levellers took their name from the 17th century political movement in England. The term came into use as a result of commoners levelling of stone walls and shrubbery that was grown in an attempt to enclose land on behalf of those who were landowners. Some of these skirmishes led to violence while others did not. Although no official manifesto was ever drafted, the general ambition of the group was committed broadly to the abolition of corruption within the Parliamentary and judicial process, toleration of religious differences, the translation of law into the common tongue spoken by those in a particular region, and some kind of expansion of the suffrage that few felt entitled to.

Robin Holcomb's inclusion in this package deal is interesting because on the surface, the musical style differs from that of The Levellers. Having been a Nonesuch Records recording artist who went on her own, she has been likened to a jazz musician with an interesting mix of roots, folk, and spoken word even. Her past poetic works influenced her lyrical content in such a way that misheard phrases can paint differing imagery or thought-processes in the mind of the listener and wind one into tunnels they wouldn't have imagined they'd be taken into before hearing her work. Hearing the fiddle-playing in the Levellers band and their "crusty" traveller lifestyle harkens back to the days of bands busking while on the road and Robin Holcomb's music ties into this background as well.

Reading reviews of those who have seen her perform live carves an intriguing sculpture of her presence. Many recount the pained expression and her reluctance to interact with the audience in between songs while on stage. Most photographs taken of her show her looking away from the camera, evoking a spark of the enigmatic and confronting the viewer in a rather backward and unexpected manner with her nonconformist approach to music-making and interactions with her audience.

The tracks taken for this collection, small though it may be, were from her first self-titled album, which met with much acclaim from those interested in the newer variety of roots-related musical forms. No Depression magazine readers take note if you haven't already!

Levellers/Robin Holcomb

Thursday, January 3, 2008

You Da Victim!

Italy always had the most energetic hardcore scene and bands like Raw Power were proof of it.

Despite the death of their singer, original band member Giuseppe Codeluppi, they still play gigs and are planning a US tour in the summer of 2008 with a few stops in Texas and Mexico thrown in at the end of August 2008.

It's interesting to read their band website and then comb through memory banks back to their gig at (yep! it's been mentioned before...) The Ritz in Austin, Texas. The support band may very well have been Morally Bankrupt; it's all a blur at this stage so that might be incorrect.

The band state on their website that they "never had the chance to express in a studio album the great potential that the band is able to unleash in a live concert." They also mentioned that they "never managed to get a foothold" due to "a lack of professional managers and structure." There's truth to this statement. The gig in Austin was poorly "advertised" as such- not even a flyer was posted! The show was on a Sunday night and there were about half a dozen people in attendance. The show was really boring, being indicative of what one experienced at most of the shows for bands that were part of the "crossover" phenomenon of the mid to late 1980s. Remembering this gig and how anti-climactic it was to finally get to see this band, it's odd that the band espouses the feeling that they were so much more live than in the studio.

The humorous thing about all of that being said is that Raw Power didn't seem to be a blatant part of the whole crossover into metal like bands such as DRI and Corrosion Of Conformity, who actually signed on to Metal Blade Records. This 7-inch record and the LP that preceded it were released by Toxic Shock Records, a punk label. In hindsight, it could be said that some of the bands on this label delved closely into metal territory; bands like Modern Industry and Marching Plague come to mind.

Crossing over into the metallic realm was perceived to be a big deal to a lot of musicians in the hardcore scene because heavy metal had this "rebellious yet easy to control" feel to it that didn't really channel rebellion into a form of action but created a cathartic ritual that resulted in no push for social change. Since a lot of punks felt spurred to create change through that particular musical style, merging music into the direction of heavy metal felt like a step backward, rather than a step forward. However, when one thinks of bands like Septic Death or even Amebix, one can see a merge with metal that still doesn't compromise the integrity of the musicians who were playing it, nor does it water down the message underneath the sonic barrage.

Although, other blogs have posted this record, Kamikaze Conniptions sees fit to post it as well. The lyric sheet that accompanied the record will follow shortly. The record title is a piss-take on those who feel the need to hurl racial epithets on those from Italy; but beyond that, it's laughable because if you read it outloud, you sound like Elmer Fudd would if he were to pronounce the band name!

Wop Hour