on ‘consumer guide’ by simon morris

March 3, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | 2 Comments
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Simon Morris – Consumer Guide (hardback, 176 pages, Tegenaria Press, numbered edition of 100, dustjacket text by Philip Best)

consumer guide

This book contains a selection of autobiography and opinion from Simon Morris, best known ‘round these parts as front-man of The Ceramic Hobs. Discovering its existence (by eavesdropping on a twitter conversation between John Eden and Andie Brown) brought on a lust for ownership that shocked me with its meaty fervour. Was I bollocks going to miss this. Those who have read Bang Out Of Order, Simon’s augmented history of the early days of Power Electronics, or his occasional pieces for zines such as Hiroshima Yeah!, or who just know the man and his band, will need little convincing. Allow me to work on the rest of you.

Here’s Simon with the spec:

The first 30 pages ‘Mergers’ is the heart of the book – you may not believe I lived it, I can barely believe I wrote it. Pages 33 to 167 ‘Acquisitions’ features essays and profane outbursts on music ranging from Art Garfunkel to The Grey Wolves, on cinema, on fast food, on alcohol, on love, on literature. The short accompanying text from Dr Best ‘kith and kin’ should speak for itself.

(nicked from the Tegenaria Press blog, as are the pictures)

The opening section is indeed only 30 pages long but is so dense with incident it shames many biographies ten times the length.  An account of some recent dreams leads into a eulogy which in turn becomes a list of those in Simon’s orbit who have died prematurely which flows into an episodic, roughly chronological life story albeit with vectors overlapping: drugs and drink, death and sex, madness and music.  Given its brevity you might expect a collection of anecdotes shorn of context and worn pebble smooth by the retelling, or maybe a stream of consciousness piece more suited to an open mic night.  But it is neither.  Instead you’ll find a moving, funny and profoundly human description of one guy’s attempt to deal with difficult circumstances – occasionally of his own making – and the people he cares about whilst figuring himself out at the same time.  The tone is perfect: recognizable and straightforward but knocked off the ecliptic by enough to make it unique.

The second, much longer, section (set in a Courier-style font for some reason) is a very entertaining collection of (mostly) reviews – music, film, books, fast food, drink, seaside towns and so on are all encapsulated.  Simon does have an arresting turn of phrase but there is nothing overly ‘literary’ about this exercise, nor, thankfully, do you have to hack away at anything academic (no ‘phenomenology of transgression’ here).  It reads like this:

Imagine being at a gig and, in-between acts, chatting to a friend who you don’t see as often as you’d like.  ‘Band X’ gets a mention and your friend says

Oh right, are you into them then?

‘Band X’ being a mystery to you, you shrug sheepishly and your friend says:

ah, I’ll send you some links or something

…and two days later, to your surprise and delight, you get an email from your friend containing one paragraph reviews of pretty much their entire back catalogue written in a perceptive and open-hearted way but with the odd wry barb or flailing complaint chucked in to keep it well seasoned.  How lovely they took the trouble, eh?  And off you pop to YouTube, or Spotify, or to the record library with a print-out in your coat pocket.  This kind of stuff is gold dust and there is a hundred pages of it here.  In fact, it is very hard to remain disciplined and not skip forward pages or flip on the tablet to look up one track and have it playing whilst you read about the next.  I had to read it all twice to calm down enough to take it in once.

There are plenty of negative opinions expressed, something readers of this blog will know I’m not that interested in, but Simon never comes across as a prick because he wears his erudition lightly and his trenchant confidence is clearly borne of passion and experience.  Have to admit I punched the air at this bit though:

THE CLASH – the single most boring rock band that ever existed, clueless politics, tuneless lumpen riffs, overproduction and stylised painful fashion input.  I’d take Jon The Postman over these clowns as far as punk goes.

I wholeheartedly agree – once I heard some teenage aficionado smugly answer the question ‘what is your favourite reggae band?’ with ‘The Clash!’ and I had to be physically restrained from caving his head in with a fire extinguisher.

I found the final two chapters, ‘BAD ADVICE’ and ‘SELF-CRITIQUE’, very moving.  In the first Simon offers a kind of taxonomy of desire and relationships with definitions of the various stages (from: 1. Crushes to: 8. Arguments).  Despite the chapter’s title I found his observations – rueful, comic, joyous, human – to be thoughtful and charming.  The very last section is an account of The Ceramic Hobs’ recorded output in release order with added detail – fascinating to a fan like me – of wider context, of how things were put together and the love and/or turbulence between band members.  It is easy to forget when watching Simon perform, drunk and channelling whatever monster it is that produces that amazing, unique voice, that there is a lifetime’s work involving countless people behind all this.  He seems very proud of it.  He bloody should be.

—ooOoo—

OK: the object – a coat-pocket-sized, black bound hardback – arrived via insanely expensive recorded delivery, carefully packaged and slipped into a candy-stripe paper bag to ensure its matt white dustjacket remained pristine in transit. Both the bag and the book itself are hand-numbered. Yeah, I can sense the fetishists amongst you tremble with excitement. You perverts. Those not prone to hoarding don’t have to worry though; the zen minimalism of the design (by the impeccable Bracketpress) is guaranteed not to fuck with your chi. It sure ain’t cheap (£23.23 all in for the UK, less magical sums if you live abroad) but is apparently being sold at cost price. Given the distinction of the product, and the tiny edition of only 100 copies, I can believe it.

I’ll let Simon have the last word:

There is no plan for a second edition, e-book version or kindle amazon tie-in or film script or community arts funding – you can call it a kind of clandestine integrity if you wish … Satisfy your depraved bibliophiliac lust while you can, dear libertines.

simon

—ooOoo—

Tegenaria Press

sorting the lego part four: soundtracks for decorating the tree

December 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Ceramic Hobs – Spirit World Circle Jerk (vinyl LP in silk-screened sleeve, Must Die Records, MDR 032, edition of 250)

CASTRATO ATTACK GROUP – blood porridge from the islets of langerhans (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, MOA 666-13, edition of 100 or download)

La Mancha del Pecado & Culver – collaboration six (tape, Matching Head/Agorafobia, mh 199/27)

Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerkcastrato attack group - blood porridge backcastrato attack group - blood porridge front

I think I’ve written enuff about depression for now, don’t you?  See the preambles to parts one, two and three of this series for an account of the development of my current illness and what I am doing to combat it.  Suffice to say the struggle continues but I am very well supported and am looking forward to the break in routine that Christmas will provide.  I’m trying hard not to make a ‘mulled whine’ pun.  Damn, just did it…

Thanks again for the music and messages of encouragement – it all means a great deal to me.

These will be my last reviews of 2013 – if you have stuff on the review pile then it will be dealt with in the New Year.  Continued apologies for any delay but we have caught up considerably during December.  Articles by Joe and Scott on Colectivo N, Smut and Caroline Mackenzie are in the works and will probably appear sometime during the holiday period to tide us over until the Zellaby Awards are announced in January.  Exciting!

Have a lovely Christmas, dear readers, and I wish you peace, health and love from all at RFM HQ and Midwich Mansions.

—ooOoo—

It isn’t often that I agree to review something without having heard it first.  I’m not concerned about accusations of insider trading, or conflict of interest, nor are there brown envelopes stuffed with payola for me to collect in motorway service station car parks.  It’s more to do with not wanting to feel obliged, nor wanting to accept freebies under false pretences – I know resources are scarce so I don’t want to trouble someone for their warez only to say ‘no thanks’ once it is too late.  However, I thought I was on safe ground when Simon Morris of Ceramic Hobs pulled out a copy of their latest album and handed it to me at that Skullflower show with the words: “You MUST review it!”  I agreed, of course.

Here’s the spec: The Spirit World Circle Jerk is a vinyl LP in an edition of 250 from the ever-impressive Must Die Records, the covers were created and screen-printed by Dr. Adolf Steg of Spon fame and a handy lyric sheet and download code are included for maximum convenience and enjoyment.  One side features six of the seven tracks, the other side contains just the epic ‘Voodoo Party’.

Initally, it seems a bit more straightforward than the psychonautical adventure that was the last ‘proper’ Hobs LP I heard – Oz Oz Alice – but flip it over and over during the course of several afternoons and its depth, complexity and sense of humour are revealed.  Ideas, characters, lines of lyrics, references to popular culture, mass murder etc. that are largely lost on me (a great track-by-track description of the album on the Must Die Records site helps decipher all this) are repeated from song to song which gives the album coherence.  Don’t worry – this isn’t a tedious ‘concept’ piece, more a series of linked short stories (‘Simon Morris as the Robert Altman of the psychiatric underground’?  Discuss).

Simon’s voice remains remarkable: utterly different from his speaking voice, it ranges from bassy growl, as if gargling with multi-coloured gravel and slimey algae from the bottom of a tropical fish tank, to overdriven power electronic screech, like William Bennett flicking through the Ikea catalogue in bed and getting a paper cut on his bell-end.  The band are totally up to it too and the music works an accompanying range, from oi punk and pub rock to psychedelic collage.  There are plenty of laughs.  For example, the opening line of ‘Glasgow Housewife’: “I… BELONG… TO… GLASGOOOOOOOOOOWWWWW” cracks me up every time I hear it.  It’s as funny as Wile E. Coyote stamping on the trap that Road Runner just failed to activate.  There is head-down boogie – try and resist singing along to the ‘Hong Kong Goolagong’ with your thumbs in your belt-loops.  And then there is ‘Voodoo Party’…

The side-long seventh track is a companion piece to the 35 minute long title track of Oz Oz Alice.  It’s a category-defying collage, a psychedelic ritual, or maybe a cut-up screed by the author of a conspiracy website where everything is grist to the mill and the more you deny it the more sure he is that you are hiding something.  For example, the ‘true’ story of Rhonda’s journey through a stargate, lifted from an American talk radio programme complete with dumbfounded hosts, is totally fascinating in itself and calls to mind ’22 going on 23′ from the masterpiece Locust Abortion Technician by Butthole Surfers.  Surely, there can surely be no higher praise and yet this is just one of the many elements to be found sliding over each other, slotting into an order of things dictated by the track’s own gurning and fluid internal logic.

I’m happy to conclude that this album is perfect music to accompany tucking into a lovely Christmas dinner of roast turkey and all the trimmings – well, you might have to reheat it after making sure that the family whose house you have just broken into are securely tied up in the basement first…

blood porridge from the islets of langerhans is perfect music to accompany chestnuts roasting on an open fire – that is if the fire was caused by a gas explosion and is roaring in the rubble of what used to be your house.  The album comprises two twenty minute plus tracks of crackling free rock.  Despite the band’s name, this is clearly the result of the nine balls belonging to the four band members (which member has three is a closely guarded secret) swinging back and forth like a hairy Newton’s cradle.  Nothing clever-clever here.  ‘triceratops badmouth’ starts in a paint-huffing, head-banging mood and remains that way throughout – a tethered crescendo of thrashing and bucking.  ‘temple of glue’ is even less structured, if that is possible.  At first it’s like a squadron of dragonflies attempting to free themselves after having accidentally landed in a puddle of beery piss then, rescued at last by a beat at around the nine minute mark, they spend the rest of the track shaking themselves dry and drunkenly vowing revenge on the fool who dared urinate under their flightpath.  Terrific.

collaboration six is perfect music to accompany dashing through the snow – that is if you have been thrown from a helicopter onto the tundra because your colleagues think you may have been infected by an alien shape shifter and now night is falling.  The latest in a series of all-star team-ups featuring friends-of-RFM Lee Stokoe and Miguel Perez, this won’t hold any surprises for those already familiar with their work but it is perhaps a little more delicate than you might expect.  The album comprises a single track on a single sided tape in a black and white cover not reproducible on a family blog like this due to, well, tits.  In the spirit of seasonal goodwill I won’t make my usual prudish complaint about this ‘aesthetic’.  The music, a deceptively simple, multi-layered drone is magnificent, a high water mark in the recent catalogues of both artists.  How you take it could go in two opposite directions depending on your mood: is it evocative of a warm, enveloping, womb-like environment in which you shift about, satisfyingly comfortable, in a cocoon of amniotic jelly or is it a windswept mountainside, treacherous with snow-covered ice and bottomless crevasses below?  Essential either way.

Buy the Ceramic Hobs LP direct from Must Die Records, where you’ll also find the track-by-track description I mention above.  Buy the Castrato Attack Group CD-r (or download) via the Memoirs of an Aesthete Bandcamp site.  The La Mancha del Pecado & Culver tape can be had from Matching Head, contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.

recent zinery, part two: yol and the turnip flag

July 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Posted in art, new music, no audience underground, not bloody music | 2 Comments
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Yol – Always Looking Down

Yol – Adventures in the House of Chicken Feet

Yol – Brighthouse (CD-r, self released)

The Turnip Flag: Selections from the Ceramic Hobs Magazine, 1986-1988

The following envelope contained two booklets of art and poetry: Always Looking Down and Adventures in the House of Chicken Feet, and a three track CD-r: Brighthouse, by Hull based artist Yol.  Now, I try not to bandy about the word ‘artist’ too much but it is chosen quite deliberately in this case as Yol uses several media – poetry, graphics, music, performance – to express a singular vision.  A vision that is as coherent and relentless as arithmetic and as undeniable as death.  Everything, Yol explains, everything that we are told to do, to want, to consume, to enjoy is FUCKING BULLSHIT.  He was once the child who pointed out that the emperor was naked, now grown up and driven mad by the fact that no-one listened to him and the idiocy continued, business as usual.  His persona is reduced to delivering his raging, stuttering, retching critique whilst flailing through anonymous city streets, ankle deep in litter and dog shit.  I realise I may not be selling this to you.  However, I’m hoping that, like me, you always find a strange beauty in the truth, no matter how grim.

A word about Yol’s graphics: they are terrific.  His pictures have the brute elegance of cave painting, the violent immediacy of stencilled street art and the liquid cool of a Saul Bass title sequence.  They compliment the clipped, jagged, stream-of-id writing perfectly.  And did I mention how funny it can be?  The CD-r, named half for the high-street usurers who provide loans for household items at hair-whitening interest rates and half as a pun on ‘Whitehouse’, alternates between harsh digital power electronics and Yol’s vomited bellowing.  The ‘lyrics’ to the first track make me laugh out loud each time I hear it.  To paraphrase: “You’ve got the long arms of a strangler/You’ve got the neck, the fat neck of a murder victim/You should both hook up.”  The delivery of that punch line kills me.  This is humour at its hearing-a-strange-noise-and-fumbling-for-the-light-switch blackest.

Yol tells me that this stuff is available from him, presumably for sale or trade, and that one of these days he’ll set up a site to punt his warez.  In the meantime you’ll have to email him at yol1971@hotmail.co.uk

…and finally we have the truest zine of the batch.  The Turnip Flag is a collection of excerpts from the Ceramic Hobs magazine dated 1986 to 1988.  This was a silver age of zinery remembered very fondly by me as I was involved in the small press comics scene around that time (does anyone remember the distro ‘Fast Fiction’ run by a pre-Sound Projector Ed Pinsent?  No?  Oh well…).

Sent to me by the great man himself, Simon Morris tells me that ‘beyond the occasional jejune phrase I’m not embarrassed by it at all!’ and, after a sheepish peek at the dictionary to find out what ‘jejune’ means, I think he is right not to be.  What you get are typewritten articles, very short stories, prose poetry and interviews chopped, pasted and interposed with illustrations and pre-photoshop collages of headlines, adverts and the like.  It is all created with a normality-bashing humour that will be familiar to Hobs fans.  Timestamping the content perfectly are, for example, an appreciation of Butthole Surfers (Locust Abortion Technician and before – all the solid gold stuff) and a short but very interesting piece on United Diaries Records including an interview with Steven Stapleton, no less.  Scoop!  I’d heard somewhere that Mr. Stapleton makes a comfortable living from his endeavours now so was intrigued to hear about the money lost back in the (relatively) early days.  And, as they say in publishing, much, much more inside!

I liked this very much.  The object emits a sunbeam of nostalgia that will help you dry off after being out in the unseasonal rain.  It is of interest both for the content and as an historical document of how this information was shifted from place to place in the pre-internet era.

Simon says that this can be had from his address – 124 Condor Grove, Blackpool, FY1 5QY – whilst stocks last in return for a ‘trade or nice letter’.  And you have to do what Simon says don’t you?

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