Sunday, 20 June 2021

An R.E.M. summer: The Imaginary 7"s - part 3



#5: An Imaginary 7" from 'Lifes Rich Pageant' (1986)

I've long felt that the opening four songs on 'Lifes Rich Pageant' form as good a sequence of songs as you'll find on any record anywhere ever. For all those fans who came into LRP from any of the first three albums it must have been a bit of a shock to hear something so loud and brash from a band who had been tagged as 'folk-rock'. For me, it was the second R.E.M. album I heard, having worked back from 'Document', so it was of no surprise to me.

For the really early fans though, perhaps the biggest surprise was the inclusion of a number of the band's oldest songs. Were they already struggling for material? Did they have to look to the past in order to move forward? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever, it didn't stop them releasing one of their finest ever songs (Fall On Me) as the album's first single. A shame the second single (Superman) was a cover version tacked onto the end of the album at the last minute. For me, there were three better choices.

Cuyahoga is a wonderful song, but perhaps a little too similar in tone to Fall On Me, while I Believe was an immediate fave of mine, maybe helped by that frantic banjo solo in the intro. But there can be no disputing that in Begin The Begin we have a song that smacks you square between the eyes from the off. Buck's riff, Berry's pounding drums, screeching feedback, and a snarling, sneering Stipe. This was R.E.M. as they'd never been heard before - and to this day it sounds incredible. That's why it's my imaginary single #5.

The b-side is an outtake that remained unreleased for 20 years before it appeared on the limited edition 2-disc version of the 'And I Feel Fine...' compilation. An earlier demo also appeared on the 25th anniversary edition of 'Lifes Rich Pageant'. Theme From Two Steps Onward is regarded by fans as a bit of a lost gem which, considering the brevity of the album and the seeming lack of new material, really ought to have been included in the set.

The sleeve is a segment of a larger picture I found featuring Michael Stipe and a friend. The original also shows Peter Buck on the other side of the road. I added some colour and a couple filters to give it a kind of LRP-type feel.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #5
'BEGIN THE BEGIN'
(IREM7-05)

A: Begin The Begin
B:
Theme From Two Steps Onward

side A: from the album 'Lifes Rich Pageant'
side B: outtake from 'Lifes Rich Pageant' sessions

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

No video for this one, so I've gone for the performance of it captured on The Green Tour a few years later, as released on Tourfilm, arguably one of the greatest concert films ever made.



#6: An Imaginary 7" from 'Document' (1987)

For once R.E.M. (or the record label - whoever was pulling the strings) got it right and released the three most obvious tracks from 'Document as singles. This was the record that started it all for me, a life-changing record in fact, and that's no exaggeration. I therefore wanted to choose a song that was worthy of being an imaginary fourth single from it.

As well as the obvious ones, the song that struck me immediately on first listen was King Of Birds, opening with Peter Buck playing a dulcimer (which ultimately led to him picking up the mandolin for the next album). It's a completely different-sounding song with its marching rhythm. It's one I even recorded myself one weekend after borrowing a neighbour's four-track. I played acoustic guitar, mandolin and some random things I could hit as percussion instruments which may or may not have included a cardbord box. You will never hear it. N.O. No!

But despite my affection for King Of Birds, I've gone for Disturbance At The Heron House, one of my favourite R.E.M. songs of the IRS era. It's probably one of their most overtly political songs and draws comparisons to Orwell's 'Animal Farm', though you'd not really get that from Stipe's rather obtuse lyrics. Still a great song though, a big sound and another one I love to play on guitar.

In the spirit of the b-sides from the first two 'Document' singles, I've chosen another track from the McCabe's Guitar Shop benefit show from May 1987, three months before the album came out. To my knowledge, it's never been officially released. And the sleeve art is a photo I saw when looking for potential things to use. It stood out as such a great shot to me. Unfortunately I saved it before noting who the photographer was and typically I can't find it again so if he wants a credit, just get in touch!


An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #6
'Disturbance At The Heron House'
(IREM7-06)

A: Disturbance At The Heron House
B: Finest Worksong [live at McCabe's]

side A: from the album 'Document'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

Next week, imaginary singles from the first two Warner Bros. albums 'Green' and 'Out Of Time'. What do you think they should be?


Sunday, 13 June 2021

An R.E.M. Summer: The Imaginary 7"s - part 2


Thanks to everyone for leaving your comments and suggestions last week. I should point out, for the most part these pieces were written some time in advance, so I've already made my mind up as to what tracks are chosen. However, don't let that put you off suggesting them. It confirms whether or not I've made the right choices. On which note, let's see what you think of these...

#3: An Imaginary 7" from 'Reckoning' (1984)

'Reckoning' is a strange record for me. Side 1 is exceptional, side 2 not so much. It's not one of my Top 5 R.E.M. albums but it is the one most other fans will put in their top 3. Nevertheless, there are some very singleworthy songs that were overlooked. Harborcoat is a fantastic opening track with one of the album's strongest melodies. Pretty Persuasion is another really strong contender, cited by many as the second-best track on 'Reckoning' (after the eternally brilliant So. Central Rain, of course). It actually dates back to early 1981 and became a live staple despite being passed over for both 'Chronic Town' and 'Murmur'. I've also long had affection for Time After Time, but while that's a great album track, it's really not a single.

I struggled, really struggled, to decide on 'Reckoning''s imaginary single. I kept flip-flopping between Harborcoat and Pretty Persuasion. Both are equally worthy. I toyed with the idea of making them a double-A side, but that's cheating isn't it? So I tossed a coin (yes, I really did) and it landed on tails. Pretty Persuasion it is then! I wish I could make every decision that way.

The b-side is a live version of Old Man Kensey, a brand new song which would end up on R.E.M.'s next album. The performance captured here is from an appearance on MTV's Rock Influences show in 1984. While the full show is available on numerous bootlegs, it has never been officially released.

The band's friend Jim Herbert made an artsy, surreal film for the first side of 'Reckoning'. The two sides of the LP were labelled 'L' and 'R' - 'Left' and 'Right'. Thus the film's title was 'Left Of Reckoning'. I've included the Pretty Persuasion segment of the film as your video for this week, and I've also used a still from the Harborcoat section for the sleeve art.


An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #3
'PRETTY PERSUASION'
(IREM7-03)

A: Pretty Persuasion
B: Old Man Kensey [live]

side A: from the album 'Reckoning'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)



#4: An Imaginary 7" from 'Fables Of The Reconstruction' (1985)

'Fables...' is one of my favourite R.E.M. albums. It saw the band move into Southern folk storytelling territory and contains some really wonderful songs. The problem I've had is deciding on an original idea for a single. In the UK, Can't Get There From Here and Wendell Gee were released, while in the US, Driver 8 was the commercial single. So while I'm catering for the UK here, I'm ruling out Driver 8 as it isn't really an Imaginary single as one actually exists (I have a copy), albeit only as an import over here.

I know there's a lot of love for Feeling Gravity's Pull, and for good reason. It's an extraordinary track and one of the band's finest album openers without doubt. But it really isn't single material, is it.

Therefore I've considered my other two favourite songs from the album. Maps And Legends has some lovely vocals in it from Messrs Stipe, Mills and Berry, but if I'm being honest, Life And How To Live It was always my fave. It's based on an apparently true story of a man who split his house in two and would spend some time living in one half, then move to the other half for a while and so on. He wrote a book, published it and kept every copy for himself. The book was titled 'Life And How To Live It'.

The reason I wasn't completely sure about it being here though is because it was put out as a 12" promo in the States with the same b-sides as we got with Can't Get There From Here. But to hell with it! It wasn't released commercially and there was no 7". I've used the text elements and colour scheme from the promo sleeve for my artwork, and added a tweaked still from the Jim Herbert video for the track.

For the b-side, it's a cover of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song. The band was playing Belgium's premier music festival Rock Werchter when the heavens opened. They subsequently played So. Central Rain and Have You Ever Seen The Rain? during the downpour. It's the latter you get here from a bootleg I have.

Oh, and by the way, the edit to the a-side simply removes the opening seconds of the intro to bring it under 4 minutes.


An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #4
'Life And How To Live It'
(IREM7-04)

A: Life And How To Live It [edit]
B: Have You Ever Seen The Rain? [live]

side A: from the album 'Fables Of The Reconstruction'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

Next week, imaginary singles from 'Lifes Rich Pageant' and 'Document'. Make your suggestions below!

Sunday, 6 June 2021

An R.E.M. Summer: The Imaginary 7"s - part 1


Yes! I'm back! Re-engergised, re-invigorated and, more importantly, re-inspired. The stint I've spent over at The (New) Vinyl Villain over the past 12 months has really fired me up, especially as it was spent writing articles about R.E.M., arguably the most important band in my lifetime. The responses I've had from JC's kind readers have played a large part in me deciding to resurrect Is This The Life?, even if for just a few months.

Despite the number of pieces I wrote, I feel I'm left with some unfinished business, so I'm going to indulge myself and, well, finish it right here over the summer months. There will be a short series re-imagining some of the band's albums at a later point, but first I'm going to cover a subject that came up a few times over at T(N)VV - that of the often neglectful choices of singles from R.E.M.'s 15 studio albums.

What I'm going to do here each Sunday is, in chronological order, offer up some thoughts of tracks that were not released as singles but perhaps should have been. I'll then state my final selection along with a b-side and some cover art. An Imaginary 7" if you like. Thanks JC! I'm going to TRY not to waffle on too much, but I can't make any promises. 

One simple rule I've invented: all A-Sides must be less than 4-minutes long, meaning I may need to perform a homemade radio edit or two. Don't vilify me, it makes it more interesting! To kick things off, the band's first two studio releases 'Chronic Town' and 'Murmur'.


#1: An Imaginary 7" from 'Chronic Town' (1982)

Firstly, you may wonder why I'm even bothering with choosing a single from a 5-track EP. It's practically a single anyway, right? Well, first off, 'Chronic Town' wasn't released in the UK until it was tacked onto the end of the 'Dead Letter Office' CD as bonus tracks in 1987. Two or three songs were put out as b-sides in 1983/4 but what if it had been different? What if the plan was to launch R.E.M. in the UK before they recorded their debut album? What if 'Chronic Town' was going to be put out over here and the label wanted a single to promote it?

Well, for me, there are two contenders and they are the opening tracks Wolves, Lower and Gardening At Night. Both stood out to me when I first heard them, particularly the latter. I love Stipe's quiet, reflective voice on Gardening At Night, he's really singing within himself even more than usual. I think that's why it wouldn't make a great single though - it was perhaps a little too understated for 80s radio, even for the underground stations who heralded R.E.M's arrival early on.

Therefore, it's got to be Wolves, Lower hasn't it? That wonderful chiming Rickenbacker in the intro, Stipe's soaring vocal just before the chorus (the bit that goes "In a corner garden / Wilder, lower wolves") which is perhaps the earliest sign of what he was capable of. Then there's Mike and Bill's "House in order" vocals displaying their natural chemistry which would provide some of the most brilliant harmonies of the 80s and 90s.

Talking of Bill Berry, aren't his drums amazing on this? He really gives the song a jittery, uneasy sort of feel during the verses, like a wolf's prey constantly being on its guard, reacting to every sound and being ready to make a run for it when the hunter pounces. There's more than an air of tension running throught the song, but I think Bill accentuates it wonderfully.

So, there it is - R.E.M. Imaginary 7" #1 is Wolves, Lower. There's a minor edit for running time purposes, but you'll barely notice it. Honest. Now, how about a b-side? From the first session recorded at John Keane's Drive-In Studio in North Carolina in October 1981 which would yield the songs that ended up on 'Chronic Town', here's an early version of Shaking Through. The quality here isn't quite so top notch - this recording was never mixed or mastered as it was never considered for 'Chronic Town' so this is the raw version straight from tape. It would be redone for the debut album during sessions in 1982/3.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #1
'WOLVES, LOWER'
(IREM7-01)

A: Wolves, Lower [edit]
B: Shaking Through [Drive-In demo]

side A: from the EP 'Chronic Town'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

There's also a video for Wolves, Lower which strengthens its case for a single release...


#2: An Imaginary 7" from 'Murmur' (1983)

The one problem with 'Murmur' is that it has so many potential singles on it. I have a shortlist of five, so let's start by dispensing with two of those for obvious reasons. Sitting Still was the b-side of the original Radio Free Europe single and sounds almost identical to the album version despite being re-recorded. Shaking Through was considered too, but I've just used a version as the b-side to Wolves, Lower, and it was also an actual b-side to the Talk About The Passion single in the UK, so it's ruled out on those grounds.

So that leaves me with three other possibilities. Catapult has obvious single credentials - a strong melody and a punchy chorus. Personally though, I get a little bored of it halfway through. Not every time, just sometimes, which sounds weird but it's true. Perfect Circle on the other hand is just gorgeous and a huge fan favourite. But perhaps contentiously, I'm going to go for Pilgrimage which is my personal favourite on 'Murmur'. I like the way it builds to the chorus with Stipe's ascending vocal: "The pilgrimage has gained momentum." Then that triple-vocal attack in the chorus with Stipe, Mills and Berry playing off each other effortlessly like they'd been doing it for 30 years rather than less than 3. A brilliant song from one of the greatest debut albums of all time. Is there anyone who doesn't like 'Murmur'? 

For the b-side, an early version of Romance. Tried out for 'Murmur' and a part of the band's live sets for a good couple of years by this point, it never made the cut. Years later, a new version popped up on some second-rate movie soundtrack and, subsequently, on the 'Eponymous' compilation. This is the version recorded during the original album sessions and has never been officially released. You'll recognise the abandoned railway trestle on the artwork. It's also shown on the back of the 'Murmur' LP and is a must-visit landmark for anyone on an R.E.M. pilgrimage to Athens, GA.

An Imaginary R.E.M. 7" #2
'PILGRIMAGE'
(IREM7-02)

A: Pilgrimage [edit]
B: Romance (outtake from 'Murmur' sessions)

side A: from the album 'Murmur'
side B: previously unreleased

(click sleeve art to enlarge)

Next week, imaginary singles from 'Reckoning' and 'Fables'. Make your suggestions below!

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

20 for 2020 #4


I'm not going mention any of the records that disappointed me this year - there were a few. God knows we've had anough negatives over the past 12 months. I'd rather focus on the positive side of things, so here's the final selection of my favourite albums of 2020.

PUBLIC ENEMY 'What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?'
What makes me happy is that Public Enemy are still making music in 2020. What makes me sad is that the messages they were preaching in 1987 remain just as relevant in 2020. For their 17th album, Chuck, Flav and Lord roped in friends from the hip-hop community including the Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Ice-T, Nas and Cypress Hill to name a few. A couple of old tracks were given a makeover too including 1990's anthem Fight The Power, one of the most powerful protest songs of all time. In the current landscape, it's never sounded so necessary.

CULTS 'Host'
There were two distinctive firsts on Cults' fourth 'proper' album: they used mainly live instruments instead of synths and electronics; and it contained songs written by vocalist Madeline Follin, who had been hording them for some time. The result is possibly their best album to date.

SORRY '952'
Another duo - Sorry hail from London and released an intriguing debut album which kind of defies categorisation (though if you like Beetlebum-era Blur, you might well enjoy it). There's a lot going on here, and they certainly wear their influences proudly on their sleeves. I play this album when I'm not sure what I'm in the mood for, and it always does the trick.

LAURA MARLING 'Song For Our Daughter'
I mentioned earlier in the year how Laura Marling's latest effort is an absolute joy. An album of intimate and sparsely-arranged songs for an imaginary daughter, it was inspired by an eclectic bunch of writers and musicians including Maya Angelou, Graeme Green, Paul McCartney, Leonard Cohen and Robert Icke. Laura Marling is fast becoming a national treasure, and she's still only 30!

THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS 'Made Of Rain'
And to finish off, how about the comeback record of the year? Despite reforming in 2000, the Psychedelic Furs toured for the best part of the next two decades without releasing any new material. And then this little beauty hit the shelves, a full 29 years after their last record 'World Outside'. Got to say, it was worth the wait. Some brilliant, brilliant songs on this one.


Shout outs must also go to:
Sparks - 'A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip' (one of Mrs Robster's faves)
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - 'Viscerals' (definitely not one of Mrs Robster's faves...)
Ian Skelly - 'Drifters Skyline'
Mourn - 'Self Worth'
The Strokes - 'The New Abnormal'

OK, I'm done. I could make this list twice as long but that would be boring. Hopefully this time next year I'll have just as much to write about, maybe I could even get a few gig reviews in as well!

Back to the burrow I go. Wake me up when something good happens...

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

20 for 2020 #3


Another five of my faves of the year, all of these have been played a lot. This is probably the most stylistically diverse selection of this run of articles.

YOUNG KNIVES 'Barbarians'
Young Knives' fifth album was their first in seven years, and if you were expecting anything along the lines of classics like Weekdays And Bleak Days, Here Comes The Rumour Mill and Turn Tail, you were in for a shock. For 'Barbarians' is completely bonkers, a turbulent masterclass in off-the-wall experimentation rooted in chaos and nihilism. They ask the question: "What if cruelty to others is just part of who we are? How do we live with that?” 'Barbarians' is the rather disconcerting answer.

WILL BUTLER 'Generations'
If you want to know who the real brains behind Arcade Fire's best moments is, just listen to 'Generations', the second solo record by the Canadian band's keyboard player Will Butler. In complete contrast to the Young Knives, Butler offers hope and optimism wrapped in terrific melodies and exhuberant delivery. The closing track does sound like that song from Toy Story (it really does!), but the rest is good enough to let that slide.

WIRE 'Mind Hive'
Once again, Wire hit the mark. 43 years after making one of the greatest, most influential debut albums of all time, they delivered their 17th album and they somehow still sound fresh. It met with some of the highest critical acclaim of their recent career too.

THE KILLERS 'Imploding The Mirage'
Now, this one was a bit of a surprise. Ever since their brilliant debut, The Killers have got worse and worse. I personally lost them when they released the dire Human and hadn't gone back since, until I heard some of the tracks from 'Imploding The Mirage'. I know I risk losing whatever crdibility I have left, and it doesn't reach the heights of 'Hot Fuss' - not a lot does - but it reminded me that, on their day, The Killers can be such a good band.

TORRES 'Silver Tongue'
Another one I featured back in my Lockdown posts, and I still haven't lost any of my love for what is by far Torres' best record to date. After an acrimonious split from her record label 4AD, she refocused her energy into writing an album of songs about love and relationships. But, as you'd expect, these aren't typical soppy ballads, and it's difficult to pin a genre on it. It's just beautiful.

Next Wednesday, the final five.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

20 for 2020 #2


Last week I gave you my Top 5 albums of the year. The thing is, it wasn't quite that simple, as when it came down to it, only the top 3 were unarguable. For positions 4 and 5, I had three to choose from. In the end I plumped for Nadine Shah and Katy J Pearson to take the slots.

So while the rest of the albums in this series are not listed in any particular order, the first of today's choices is 'the one that got away', the record that just missed the top 5 by an absolute whisker.

PHOEBE BRIDGERS 'Punisher'
Phoebe only became known to me in the latter part of the year. I can't really believe how she'd escaped me before. 'Punisher' is an album of personal, confessional, sometimes confrontational songs that no one her age should be able to write. But she's channelled her experiences into making some of the most beautiful songs of the year. The apocalyptic I Know The End also has one of the most stunning videos of 2020.

POLLY SCATTERGOOD 'In This Moment'
I was a big fan of Polly's debut album way back in 2009. It took her four years to follow it up and sadly that one didn't do much for me. Her new album, arriving a further seven years later, is a real return to form. Plenty of quirky songs that veer from dark masterpieces like Red, to gentle piano ballads, to strange electronic spoken word pieces. She's not one to rush things, but on this evidence that's no bad thing. Another exceptional video here.

SONGHOY BLUES 'Optimisme'
What a record this is! Mali's finest Songhoy Blues have been building to this, their third album, which knocked me for six. As wll as the sociological lyrics that depict struggle and adversity, the power of the music is ramped up a notch, giving us their hardest hitting set of songs to date. "Ir Badala in Songhai means "I gon't give a fuck", and is inspired by the youth in Mali, especially young women, who are pushing back against patriarchy & societal controls. This song celebrates that courage, fearlessness & agency through the story of a woman ending her relationship, and choosing her own destiny."

BOB MOULD 'Blue Hearts'
After last year's album of sunny, happy songs, Bob made a quick turnaround with a record of extra-loud angry noise. In many ways, it sums up the times we live in, especially this past 12 bizarre months. My fave track on the album is also its most melodic, but its message is as powerful as Bob's usual barrage of sound!

IDLES 'Ultra Mono'
Having reached mainstream-level status, Idles are showing no signs of letting up. Some may write them off as punk for the woke generation, but you know what? They make great music. That's all I care about. 'Ultra Mono' saw the band reach out to friends and acquaintances, and as a result you'll hear David Yow of The Jesus Lizard shouting on this, as well as a piano intro from, erm, Jamie Cullum...

More to come next week.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

20 for 2020 #1


Well. Fuck me! That was one completely messed up year, wasn't it? The things we'll tell our grandchildren about 2020. The pessimist in me wonders if they'll say: "We know what a pandemic is granddad, we've had six of them in our liftetime!"

And on that jolly old prediction of the future, let's look back at the sounds that got me through the weirdest 12 months I've ever known. I've already told you about some of my fave records of the first half of 2020 in my Lockdown posts, but it's time to round up the whole damn year. There have been quite a lot of really good records, despite many getting delayed and delayed again, now not due until 2021. But, of those that did make it out into the big bad world, I've chosen what is probably my top 20. These are the albums that kept me going, the ones that made me smile, that made me sing, that made me feel some sense of normality when the rest of the world was bulk-buying bog roll, hand sanitiser and alcohol.

I'm going to give you five records a week for four Wednesdays - today you get my Top 5, the rest will be in no particular order. All five of these are nestled snugly in my vinyl collection.

WAXAHATCHEE 'Saint Cloud'
I mentioned this album back in April and said it would be right up there on my best of the year list come December. And what do you know - it is. not only that, it holds the honour of being my album of the year. A wonderful record I haven't remotely tired of.

IST IST 'Architecture'
Another one I featured a while back - it's perhaps to easy to write off Manchester's Ist Ist as mere Joy Division revivalists, but while their debut album evokes the spirits of Ian Curtis et al, it also has some exceptional songs. So good they are in fact, that 'Architecture' is also one of MrsRobster's fave albums of 2020. High praise indeed.

THE BETHS 'Jump Rope Gazers'
New Zealand's best new band continue to show their worth. Their second album feels a little darker than its predecessor, yet after a few listens it truly sparkles. The title track could well be my song of the year. In Elizabeth Stokes, The Beths have one of the most promising songwriters in pop music right now. The video is, I think, some metaphor on falling in love. Personally, I think you should listen to the song without the visuals. It's perfect that way...

NADINE SHAH 'Kitchen Sink'
It's bound to happen one day that Nadine Shah will let us down, but she is showing no signs of that at the moment. 'Kitchen Sink' is another collection of songs tinged with biting social comment and sharp wit, delivered in Nadine's inimitable style.

KATY J. PEARSON 'Return'
And wrestling with Ist Ist for the title of debut album of the year is this little beauty. Katy J. Pearson has been teasing her album all year. When it finally arrived, we weren't disappointed. I absolutely love her voice, which certainly evokes Stevie Nicks in places - a very good thing in my book.

There'll be another selection next Wednesday.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

John Peel Day


My good blogging chum Webbie posted a tribute to the late great John Peel today, the anniversary of the legendary DJ's untimely passing over on JC's The (New) Vinyl Villain. I posted a comment which included links to the Peel podcasts I posted (and subsequently reposted) for Webbie's own Keeping It Peel project back in the day.

For some reason my comments haven't appeared on t(n)vv, so I thought I'd post them here instead. I've re-upped the files but they will only be available for a limited time. Enjoy them.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

The final lockdown

Yep, this really is it. Is This The Life? is going back to sleep. You may have noticed (or not) I've been doing some R.E.M. stuff for JC over at The (New) Vinyl Villain and will continue to do so. That's been fun up to now, far more fun than writing stuff for this place. Plus people actually read Jim's blog!

I'm signing off with something very loud, very heavy and very, very good. Japanese experimentalists Boris must be one of the most prolific bands in existence. Their discography is vast and complex so I'm not even going to hazard a guess at how many albums they've put out, but it's not unusual for them to release more than one album a year, with or without collaborators. No two albums sound the same, different styles are interwoven throughout their output over the years. Last year's 'LφVE & EVφL' sat proudly on my top 50 albums of 2019.

Boris' latest record was released a few weeks ago. Entitled 'NO', it harks back in places to their roots as a doom metal band, but it mainly has lots of of hardcore, thrash and black metal coursing through its veins. The songs are short - only three breach the five minute mark, with most clocking in at less than 3 - out of step with much of their other recent material. But these bursts of angry disgust provide the perfect soundtrack to our world right now. The band describes the album as "extreme healing music", a frantic catharsis in which the anger and frustrations many of us feel right now can be released in the form of a primal scream therapy with very, very loud guitars.

No, it's not for everybody, probably hardly anyone who's still reading, in fact. But for me, right now, this is aural heaven and is where this blog ends for the foreseeable future. I'm gone. Here's Anti-Gone. Stay safe.