Allowing for a near death experience and a lengthy hiatus, they’ve been around for 20 years. It’s been more than a decade since their last album. So does Rocket Science still matter? Yes.
“Snake” is their fifth long-player and in the genre classification stakes, Rocket Science is still playing hard to get. Psych-rock? Post-punk garage rock? Trashy new wave? Whatever you want to label them, go right ahead, it’s probably fine by them. The one thing we can all agree on is that “Snake” is one very dark hombre of an album.
Dark, you say? Whatever do you mean? It is hard to out a finger on. It doesn't have to be explicitly stated in the lyrics or through minor chords. In the case of "Snake", it's a mood thing and very much a sum of the band's parts.
Odds are that this release and its maker are unfamiliar to all but a select or knowledgeable few and they live in Europe. If you don’t - or even if you do and you’re in the dark - here’s what you need to know:
Uffe Lorenzen is the frontman of Danish bands Baby Woodrose and Spids Nøgenhat. The onetime bedroom musician created a stir on the European festival circuit a decade or more ago, but now records under his own name.
Baby Woodrose was acid-flecked garage rock and Spids Nøgenhat trippy space rock. “Triprapport” is folk-ish psych rock with a glossy sheen that’s well-produced without discarding its earthiness.
Mushrooms were involved in the making of this record. Loads of them. Uffe locked himself away in a wintry country house for two weeks and wolfed down enough of those little buggers to melt most peoples’ minds as he sketched out these seven original songs and one cover. He later worked them up to their present form in a swish Copenhagen studio.
He’s taken it to the vertical, he's gotten all mean and twisted and more recently he’s been lost for words. “Fast Freight” strips things right back to the bone.
The cover doesn’t lie: It is indeed the good Doctor teamed with tattooists and former pro skateboarders Art (bass) and Steve Godoy (drums). It’s The Band Formerly Known as The Golden Breed. Nobody else. No frills, a few spills. Ten songs recorded over two days.
There was a track called “2Chloride Pam” that surfaced on a Japanese compilation many years ago, taken from a Deniz Tek and Godoy twins show. It exploded like a grenade. For all its spontaneity, “Fast Freight” doesn’t have that same recklessness. Which isn’t to say there’s not plenty here to please the fans, plus some variety.
I was pondering the nature of what genuinely constitutes the avant garde. Encountered live on a good night (they weren't always good) outfits like Joy Division or the New York Dolls, would have had a considerable impact. But they still operated within the confines - sort of - of the rock'n'roll structure.
One wonders what the ordinary punter (ie, not a seeker of bonkers enlightenment) would have made of that extraordinary masterpiece, "Trout Mask Replica" much less "Sketches of Spain". However, here we have two recordings which well and truly fit the term avant garde.
First, to Eric Mingus, a man of considerable talent, who rarely seems to give interviews - probably because he keeps getting asked about his dad, Charlie (if you don't know who I mean, do some digging), which would miss the point: Eric is well and truly an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist and composer.
In case you haven't noticed, trans-global duo Fast Cars kissed their mod past goodbye a long time ago. moving into dreamy shoegaze and pop-psych. On their second full-length album, “Soft – Songs of Love. Distance & Destinations”, the core of Di Levi and Fabian Byrne has staked its claim on folk-pop.
“Soft” leads with the A and B side of the seven-inch single that preceded it. “Real Love?” and the slightly acerbic “Stainless” grow with each listen, reverberating with echoes of Britpop and the faintest strains of the Church. It’s Di Levi’s elegant vocal that’s the distinctive take-out here and that rings true for all 13 songs.
Expect no in-your-face rockers on “Soft”. Fast Cars are aided and abetted by an array of guests in Australia and the UK and there's some quality playing. Melody lines and musical textures abound. On this one, Fast Cars seek to beguile rather than badger.
An unlikely pairing or a reckless act of inspiration? The contrasts on this split LP couldn’t be more obvious, but somehow the partnership works brilliantly.
Fraudband is an Australian duo (drums and guitar) that plays stark and evocative instrumentals, while Donovan’s Brain is a long-running American collective with roots in psychedelic West Coast and paisley pop. This LP, which you can buy on either side of the Pacific, gives each a toehold in the other’s musical market. As is often the way in these digital times, the vinyl comes with a download code for six extra tracks, all of them as good as the 10 LP cuts.
Half the Fraudband contribution comes from a CD release called “Blinkered vision and blurred horizons”, the rest of which ended up on a Bevis Frond split album. The Donovan’s Brain stuff is drawn from a seemingly bottomless well of material, pieced together by leader Ron Sanchez.