THERE’S A WORLD OUT THERE! From a poor January catch, Howard Male still manages to find some choice sounds you might want to treat your ears to
hings are always pretty quiet in January as regards new releases, but this year the usual trickle has reduced to just an occasional drip. It must be something to do with the continuing disintegration of the music industry. As a result of this, rather than picking my favourites from a generous pile, I am essentially writing about the only CDs of a reasonable quality that I’ve received. But that’s no bad thing because what you are getting is more of a subjective overview of what’s currently out there, rather than a selection filtered through my – often idiosyncratic – taste in music. First up we have Punch Brothers, who (despite being from Nashville, and despite being labelled ‘progressive bluegrass’) for some reason remind me of Crystal Palace’s own Peryls (whose debut album I reviewed in the previous Transmitter). It’s something to do with a certain droll melancholy, the chord progressions and a leaning towards vaudevillian storytelling. But similarities aside,
Punch Brothers songs are powered by boisterouslystrummed banjos, violins and acoustic guitars. Who’s Feeling Young Now? (Nonesuch Records) is produced by Jacquire King (who has also worked with Tom Waits and Kings of Leon) and is a spirited – if sometimes meandering – effort even if it does only tick one or two boxes for me. Doctor L on the other hand, had me ticking away as if ticking were an uncontrollable tick I have. His first claim to (relative) fame was to take Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen’s 2000 album Black Voices and turn it into a cubist funk dub masterpiece. The press release for The Great Depression (Comet Records) informs us that since then he’s been ‘pursuing his vision of a protean kind of music, bringing together the past, present and future in a resounding Big Bang’. Nice work if you can get it. But looked at in a less highfalutin way, all you really need to know is that it slickly, slyly, sexily, eccentrically struts its stuff
with echoes of Zappa, Beefheart, that Tony Allen album (Allen actually plays on it) and much else besides. Mike Doughty first came to my attention around 2004 when I picked up his band’s first two albums at a car boot sale for 50p each. And so, long after the event, Soul Coughing became my favourite American band of the 1990s. Yes and Also Yes (Megaforce Records) lacks the edgy rock/funk/ jazz atmospherics of Soul Coughing but replaces these characteristics with a honed pop sensibility which, at times, brings to mind early Elvis Costello with a dash of Lou Reed. If you doubt me, check out the gorgeous, touching duet with Rosanne Cash, Holiday (What Do You Want?) or the very Costelloish Strike the Motion. Doughty simultaneously publishes his searinglyhonest and self-lacerating memoir The Book of Drugs which charts his years of substance abuse and his time as front man for the world’s most dysfunctional rock band, the aforementioned Soul
Coughing. Its sharp, spare New York prose lifts it way above most other efforts of the genre. Buy both the CD and the book for the fully rounded Doughty Experience. Finally, rapper Baloji with Kinshasa Succursale (Crammed Discs). Though born in the Congo, for his own safety Baloji was shipped off to Belgium aged three. Several runins with the law later (and 20 years since he had last seen his mother) he returned to the Congo to work with a number of different bands on what is a surprisingly cohesive album given that it embraces reggae, ska, salsa, hip-hop, funk and half a dozen local Congolese styles. Take a look at the intense visceral videos Independence Cha Cha and Karibu Ya Bintou on YouTube. They’re like mini feature films, brimming over with atmosphere and striking imagery. If you’re not impressed then I question why you were reading this piece in the first place.
Howard Male 47
A South East London Lifestyle Magazine