Sunday, December 1, 2013

March Violets- Made Glorious

I never really got into the "Goth" mindset. I liked a fair number of bands who got called "Goth"- Mostly Joy Division, Bauhaus, and Killing Joke- but also the Sisters of Mercy ( more precisely Andrew Eldritch.) and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and, the band currently being discussed- the March Violets. I'll be dead honest, here, and say that I liked them for 3 reasons- "Walk into the Sun", the guitars sounded a bit like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and ( this is key) how Cleo looked in those pleather pants. Seriously, she was smokin'.
That's not enough to garner interest now, though- and apart for my 12 inch single of Walk into the Sun, I had no need for the March Violets. So, I wasn't part of the pledge to create a new LP. I just found a copy of it at my local used emporium, and listened to it this week. Not bad, not bad at all.
The kind of "goth" they play owes a pretty big debt to 1960's music. As Andrew Eldritch put it " We come from 1969" and that seems to fit the whole Leeds scene- Whether you're talking about The Sisters of Mercy, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry or, yes, the March Violets- the guitar, the beats, and the general attitude are a slightly darker version of Byrds meet Stones late 1960's garage rock. So, within that pretty narrow spectrum, March Violets seem to go with the most dance-able variations. They also are more based on other post-punk than the Sisters, but less so than the Lorries. Where the Sisters went from Rickenbacker rock to Stooges, to Meat Loaf, and the Lorries went from Wire to Magazine to UK Decay to Killing Joke, all with a heavy Joy Division beat- March Violets seem to occupy a Byrds to Magazine axis. I prefer to think of it as post-punk that mixes psychedelic folk with dour robo-punk like early Joy Division, and late period Chumbawamba .
The good news is that the songs are catchy, and the guitars are mind-melting enough. The bad news is there's no Cleo for the visuals, but their bass player does seem to rock the pleather, and I'm good with that.  Looks like the main dude- Si, I think, has put on a lot of weight, and lost a fair amount of hair, but still is that kind of British eccentric I have a lot of sympathy for- the kind of guy who apparently wishes he could be in a Dickens book.  He ends up reminding me of Nicol Williamson in Boorman's Excaliber. That's a good thing.
So a pleasant bit of psychedelic postpunk....

Capsula- Solar Secrets

So, yes, I've been waiting for the new Capsula and, I'm not disappointed - This is some great Psychedelic Punk. They're the next Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who were the next Jesus and Mary Chain, who, in turn, were the next Velvet Underground- all of them played what I think of as the ultimate expression of Psychedelic Punk- as opposed to what, say, the Butthole Surfers, or early Flaming Lips did- You've got your 1-2-3-4, all on the beat pop structure, your "I've only got a minute to tell you everything I ever wanted to say" urgency, and mind-altering guitars. The total package.  So, what's the message, this album? What are the Solar Secrets? Simple- that we trap ourselves in the modern world, and then, trap ourselves trying to escape that modern world, by following well-worn paths to "rebellion". But, let's back up and take it in-
Capsula have the advantage from being from Argentina. Argentina is a modern, somewhat middle class country, with a well-educated urban population, but because of both their history ( Colonialism, Juntas, and dirty, secret wars) and geography ( other side of the world from Europe) they're off the map, in terms of culture. Apart from an outsiders' perspective (Evita) I bet most folks couldn't tell you much about Argentinian culture. So, Capsula have the advantage of operating in a Vacuum. They're like us, on the Internet- they can see everything, but few can see them. That leaves them room to really concentrate on what they want their music to be- so, despite my line-drawing, they really are a fairly unique beast, in terms of Rock- garage-y, yet referencing very little, musically, from the 1960's. Psychedelic, yet eschewing your usual Flange and chorus effects on the guitars- vocals are another matter. Punk, in all the best ways, without having to overtly spell out either their politics or their anger.
On top of that, one look at them, and you can tell their Rock diehards. One listen, and you can confirm it. The new record sounds, repeatedly, to me, like another group of Rocknroll diehards-turned-pioneers- Lords of the New Church. It's got that same punk/garage fire of all downstrokes, all instruments, all the time. The bass is mixed loud, and carries the riffs, while the guitars are treble-boosted, surfy and grouchy, and Martin Guevera has more than a few snotty similarities to Saint Stiv. ( Not to muddy the waters, but that brings up the Damned tangent- Punk, Garage, and Psychedelic music belong together- Brian James and Captain Sensible are proof, enough)
So, here's my bottom line- If you like a Fender guitar cranked very loud, with a Gibson bass played like a rhythm guitar- with some echo, reverb and fuzz for flavour- what are you waiting for- this might really be your cup of fur.

Coming to terms

So, I realize just how pretentious it might seem for me to dictate terms, but please understand that I most want to get it straight and out of the way before I get back to what I much prefer doing- talking about Art that edifies.
So, some terms have been over-used to the point of being meaningless . Like "Punk", for example. For me, "Punk' refers to a structural formalism in music, mixed with an attitude of urgency.  As in, the "anyone can do it' element basically is saying "Look, follow these rules, and you'll get these results"- hence "Loud Fast Rules"- get the idea? But that urgency that can be confused with aggression- that's equally important. If you don't have a burning reason for the loud fast rules, you'll soon be playing rockabilly or show tunes.
"Psychedelic" is another term that I'd like to set down. Usually, it is taken to mean "trying to simulate a drug experience" which seems foolish to me, since experience is subjective and individual. I prefer to think of the term as referring to a rapid shift in perception that alters thinking. So, those whooshing guitars are meant to evoke, say,  jet fighters or a bullet train so that you'll think something different about both the guitar, and the jet fighter- get the idea?
Then, there's "Stoner". Again, usually meant to talk about drugs- Pot, to be specific. I look at the function of drugs, with this term- being Stoned is being chemically altered to be more comfortable with a situation than you would be otherwise.  There are lots of drugs out there that do that- Beer to Cocaine to Xanax. Likewise, add a lot of distortion and a steady beat, and some simple guitar line can seem awfully comfortable, and if you remove all that, the actual notes might seem awfully sing-songy or discordant.
So, if I refer to something as "Stoner Rock" I mean something very, very different from "Psychedelic Rock"- get the idea?
Let me get pretty concrete and real, here- I think Red Fang play Stoner Rock, and Baroness play Psychedelic Rock.  I think neither is punk, even though they apply a formalist structure to their songs. They don't have the urgency of, say, Kylesa, who do have a kind of punk approach to both stoner and psychedelic rock- starting to make sense? Furthermore, please note that none of these are value judgements- simply judgements - I like all three bands, and consider them all valuable.
So, if you disagree on terms, fair enough- but this is how I mean them, so bear it in mind as I do the next few discussions...