Thursday, 27 November 2014

Krankschaft - Three

 

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Krankschaft have slipped past me a little bit since I reviewed their excellent album The Flame Red Superstar a while back, where they were essentially Steve Pond and Dead Fred and had produced a record that was a loving re-examination of some of the lesser known writings of Bob Calvert, who they’d worked with on, and around the time of, Bob’s career-affirming show at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, itself recorded for posterity and released back in the day.

Fred’s no longer involved with the band, as I understand it that’s because of his recently revived Hawkwind membership and its associated commitments, so Krankschaft are now Steve Pond with newer recruits Alex Tsentides (bass) and Kevin Walker (drums). And, not to overdo the use of the ‘H’ word, since even those bands that most proudly wear their Hawkwind influences on their sleeves like a badge of allegiance to a common cause, the opening track of their new LP launches itself with unashamed, unabashed, Hawkwind riffs, effects and lyrics that have an early ‘Wind vibe and an influence from multiple Hawk-numbers. Bloody great it is, too.

Though they never drift away from the central space rock theme, ’Dark Energy’, as the record’s starting point, is the most overtly in debt to Hawkwind and they stretch their space-faring legs more widely and very ably across the other seven tracks. The wistfully disappointed ‘Jetpack’ (‘When I was young they said you won’t grow old / I hate this future we’ve been sold’) chimes with all of us who grew up in the scientific optimism of the 60s and 70s, a twist on the old notion of the jetpacks we were promised that’s touching and affecting… and very perceptive. Whatever happened to the future? ‘Day of the Quake’ is a driving and muscular interpretation of a Calvert poem; that regular returning to Bob’s words a reminder, I’d think, of just how much working and associating with Bob in the latter part of his life still means to Steve Pond.

‘Come Fly With Us’ has a jagged and spiralling guitar intro that’s catchy and attention grabbing and leads into an appropriately uplifting, really rather poppy song, that will do extremely well played live with its soaring lead guitar punctuated by Brock-like riffs. None of that is intended as a pun, either! (From the credits, I’m not sure whose song this is, by the way).

I try to put my finger on the opening of ‘Silent Witness’. Not sure whether to think it has some early 80s, New Romantic, leanings; whether it owes something to John Foxx, and/or Ultravox, or to Visage perhaps, twisted into a heavier rock thing as with Depeche Mode. I don’t know… but it’s a strong piece, it feels like it has substance and heart and it’s a memorable blend of electronics and guitar that stands out and a bit to one side from the rest of the record, an alternative pathway Krankschaft could explore – not out of place by any means, but just different.

The science fiction theme of ‘Moon’, the call of something lost millennia before, waiting to be rediscovered and reclaimed is beautifully realised in a quite charming song that’s more about the singing than the music so that instead of the words and vocals being the icing on the cake of the soundtrack, on this one the music is there to help describe and underline the vocals, and if the lyrics are a bit hippie in their outset they reach a satisfying conclusion.

‘Sheep’ has the band sounding like an updated middle-era Inner City Unit in some ways; I didn’t care for what I heard as the clichéd and hectoring lyrics (Sorry Steve!) so likely in the future this one is my ‘skip’ track I’m afraid, but ‘Who What Why’ plays us out energetically… should be a set closer in a live show. So, one track that I didn’t much care for – seven that are properly terrific. I think that counts as a result.

Krankschaft Website

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Paul Roland–Professor Moriarty’s Jukebox

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This could be just the start of an on-going series of unreleased recordings from the Gothic Godfather not just because it contains re-workings and recorded as radio sessions material from Paul Roland’s extensive songbook but because it comes at a time when the muse is strong with a copious amount of new albums and re-thought reissues having appeared in recent years, alongside Roland’s parallel creative pathway which has seen him releasing books on Marc Bolan, Steampunk, and, most recently, H P Lovecraft.

The first ten tracks were recorded in January 2013 with a full band line-up that had been assembled for a charity show in London that winter and which, when a mooted series of British gigs failed to materialise, came together to lay down some potential radio session tracks. Largely, the versions they cut are more muscular, rocking, interpretations: ‘Re-animator’ from the album of the same name, ‘Captain Nemo’ from its Nevermore successor. ‘The Puppet Master’ and ‘Cairo’ which hail from Burnt Orchids, much further back in Paul’s catalogue. There’s a sense with these re-visitations that he really had a ball in playing them again, with an upfront and vigorous vocal performance full of menace and attack. And, while this reviewer gives thanks to the terrific reissue programme that has brought much of Paul’s canon back into circulation, there’s songs such as ‘Aleistair Crowley’, from the still pending reissue Gargoyles that reaffirms the yearning for the remainder to make their way along the queue.

These ten songs are so strong in the craft that created them and the verve with which they are played, as well as the gothic / steampunk / occult themes that tie them together, that they would have made a satisfying and internally consistent album by themselves. Recorded back in 2007, the following track here, a rip-roaring cover of Marc Bolan’s ‘Meadows Of The Sea’ almost feels like it comes from the same session, even while being perhaps more aggressively delivered while a version of Joy Division’s ‘Day Of The Lords’, originally released on Shadowplay, a Joy Division tribute album, is a brooding, pent-up and coiled take on the original that brings something new – as a good cover should. A largely acoustic version of ‘Kali’ from the recent Bates Motel [where ‘Tortured By The Daughter Of Fu Manchu’, from the January 2013 sessions here also appeared] is a exotic delight among the remaining selections, while another acoustic cut, the Bates Motel title-track is full of foreshadowed doom.

So it’s two different albums really, a internally consistent set that makes up the first half of the record and a more scattergun assembly of the remainder that has a lot of great material but has the feel of being bonus tracks to the main event. As a whole, though, this would make an excellent entry point into Paul Roland’s music… if you’ve not heard his work previously this one is recommended from that point of view. If, like me, you’re a fan, this one is an essential part of a Roland collection.

Strange Boat Reviews

There are a few reviews starting to appear for the new edition of Strange Boat – Mike Scott & The Waterboys (Gonzo Multimedia paperback / Lumoni Press E-book).

Goodreads Website has a terrific review from musician and author Stephen Palmer that’s associated with the original SAF edition but is a commentary on the new edition. “In summary: a particularly well assembled biography of a fascinating musician. No fan of Mike Scott or the Waterboys, of ‘eighties music, or of the many strands of Celtic music will want to miss this entertaining book. Definitely recommended.”

Strange Boat Goodreads Review Link

The Rocker website doesn’t much care for Mike Scott or his music I’m afraid, but still thinks that Strange Boat is “still a good read… it filled an otherwise dull Monday afternoon quite comfortably.” You’ll need to scroll down to their 16th October entries to read this review.

The Rocker Review Link

At Get Ready To Rock website Jason Ritchie thinks Strange Boat “a comprehensive overview” and notes that Mike Scott comes across “a thoroughly nice person,” which I’m not quite sure chimes totally with his single-minded nature myself, but does conclude that “interviews with the man himself would have really provided a deeper insight into the lyrics and ways of creating music.” Which, of course, I can’t disagree with.

Get Ready To Rock Review Link