Ahhhh, the greatness that is NoMeansNo. One of the (many) reasons that I feel proud to come from British Columbia. While you could certainly pinpoint influences in their music (prog-rock, punk rock, even jazz), you would be unable to put them in any scene at any given time.
To be fair, the main influences you could point out in their music would be from the original post-punk variety, like Gang of Four and Public Image Limited. I know that Rob Wright, has cited J.J. Burnel of the Stranglers as an influence to his bass playing, for example. But there are certainly other influences going on too, such as the aforementioned jazz (check out their cover of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew).
I have to admit though, the first time I ever heard any of their music, I was definitely misled. I first heard the song Big Dick over 10 years ago, which, although is a fun, humourous song, isn’t really representative of the majority of their work. So, unfortunately, I dismissed them as a “jokey, funk” band, perhaps even similar to a band like the Red Hot Chili Peppers! (because, as you EVERYONE knows, RHCP is the first band EVER that had prominent and funky bass playing!).
-Big Dick, from Wrong, 1989
Later on, I eventually checked out more of their discography, starting off with Wrong. This is probably my favourite record from them, and is probably the best starting point for a newcomer to their music. The Tower is definitely one of their classics.
-The Tower, from Wrong, 1989
Another song in particular that I love from them is Obsessed, from their Sex Mad album from 1986. It’s such a great instrumental. I love the start-stop rhythms and the odd time signatures throughout the song. In a way, it almost sounds like a “punk-rock” response to Rush’s YYZ (at least to me anyways).
-Obsessed, from Sex Mad, 1986
To be somewhat fair to my initial comment though, alot of their lyrics definitely have a dark sense of humour. The song “Everyday I Start to Ooze” is a great example (from 0+2=1, 1991):
Heard they were dismembering people down the street
Those Joneses, you gotta love ’em!
A bold plan drawn up by assholes to screw morons, you gotta love em!
News at eleven, but first
A long serious look at what\’s seeping from open sore
Perhaps you should STOP PICKING AT IT!
If every fourth animal in the world is a beetle
Perhaps every fourth person is a DUMB FUCK!!!
I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface the reason why I love this band (the side-projects related to the band, such as the Hanson Brothers, are a different, although certainly not bad, story altogether). I am glad to have seen this band twice (once in Edmonton and another time in Vancouver). They are definitely a band you do not want to miss.
I always felt that of all the musicians from the 1970’s post-punk scene, Keith Levene’s history was always the most interesting. His guitar work for the early Public Image Ltd. work was so memorable: just listen to those repetitious guitar lines from the Metal Box record or listen to the opening dirge `Theme`from the first record. And even though he hardly played any guitar on it, his influence on the “overall sound” Flowers of Romance LP is undeniable too (Although, the real notable musician on that record would be the great Martin Atkins on drums, but I digress).
For example, when you hear the song Public Image now, you can totally tell how influential Levene’s tone was to countless guitarists, especially the Edge of U2 fame. Hell, that song almost sounds like the blueprint for the majority of U2 songs in the early 80’s. (It should be stated that Edge once said that the song Public Image was one of his favs from the post-punk period). Of course, nowadays, with the revival of plenty of dance-punk bands in the 2000’s, Keith Levene’s influence is quite easy to hear.
Another interesting note is that this is a guy who was a self-described progressive rock fan, and was an early roadie for the progressive rock band Yes. He even states how much he worshipped Steve Howe as a teen. To be fair though, he’s not the only guitarist from the punk scene who credits Steve Howe as an influence (see Pat Smear).
For proof of the Yes worship, compare and contrast the classic PiL song Poptones with Yours is No Disgrace. The same cyclical guitar line throughout the 7 minute song, Poptones, bears an eerily similar sound to the intro of the aforementioned Yes song.
-Poptones (from Metal Box, 1979)
-Yours Is No Disgrace (from The Yes Album, 1971)
For more evidence of an anomaly in the punk scene, although Keith was originally a guitarist for Clash and even got songwriting credit for the first album, he eventually left because he felt they were lame. Essentially, he thought Joe Strummer was terrible frontman and that Mick was a bad guitarist. Although, he did appreciate the Sex Pistols.
Keith Levene: You wanna know the truth? The truth is I hated their sound. Even though I wrote some of their first album, I can’t listen to it. That’s the truth. There is the printed version of what happened, and then there is the real version of what happened. It didn’t bother me when I left The Clash, not at all. I mean, how could I be in a band which played songs like ‘White Riot’! Fuck off! What did we have to riot about? Then there were the fucking stupid lyrics like “No Elvis, no Beatles and the Rolling Stones.” Fuck off! I didn’t want anything to do with it. Then there was some bullshit like Mick Jones told me he predicted the death of Elvis. Bullshit.
Many punk purists would probably cringe to also note that while he dismisses the first Clash album as “lame,” he would later claim to be a fan of alot of alternative rock artists, such as Queens of the Stone Age and perhaps, more surprisingly, Stone Temple Pilots(!!!). Here’s even a video of him playing the bass line to Big Bang Baby (with poor quality, admittedly).
-Bass cover of Stone Temple Pilots`Big Bang Baby
On the other hand, getting more into the history of post-punk, maybe it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to note Levene’s musical interests. After all, it’s a matter of public record that Levene’s old band partner, John Lydon loved progressive rock bands, including Van Der Graaf Generator, Hawkwind, Genesis, and even Pink Floyd. Although Lydon is infamous for wearing the “I Hate Pink Floyd” T-shirt before meeting up with the Sex Pistols, he would later claim that this hijinx was misinterpreted and that he was a avowed fan of the Syd Barrett years.
Regardless, Keith is definitely one of my favourite guitarists from the all-encompassing post-punk genre. I wonder what would have happened to PiL if he didn’t end up in bad terms with Lydon after the Flowers of Romance record. Anyways, to conclude, here are some more recent songs he has done in the last several years.
-Pigface – Closer to Heaven (from Easy Listening…, 2003)
-Killer in the Crowd (from Killer in the Crowd EP, 2004)
Show: Feb. 25th, 2011 @ Rickshaw
Wow, not a lot of updates in that last little while (okay, more like half a year).
Anyways, last Friday I saw the Swans at the Rickshaw Theatre. It was definitely one of the most intense shows I have ever been to. I realize that the Swans of now are nothing like what they were in the Cop / Young God era (in terms of utter brutality, anyways), but anyone in that audience could not deny the power that Gira & Co. had in that room.
While the majority of the songs were from their recent My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky LP, many of the songs were expanded in their live setting. From Norman Westberg’s feedback drenched guitar to Phil Puleo’s hard-hitting and repetitive drumming throughout the night, all the members contributed the the performance.
But overall, you knew that it was none other than Michael Gira who was the conducter, if you will. At times, you could see on his expression how he would “command” the other musicians to perform harder, including the getting irritated at the sound guy (i.e. using the finger) for not turning up the monitors. One memorable part of the 2.5 hour long show they played was when during the middle of Sex, God, Sex (from their Children of God LP), Gira shouted like a preacher, repeating “Praise God! Praise Christ!” in front of the audience.
The openers, Wooden Wand, gave a solid if not standard performance, playing their psychedelic folk songs mostly from their last album on Young God Records, which also happened to be produced by Michael Gira.
The only problem for me, is that I was so caught up with the Swans’ performance that I didn’t even bother to post any pics from the show. Ah well.
Anyways, here’s one of the songs from the latest Swans record, which deals with the time that Michael Gira spent in jail in Israel.
-Eden Prison (My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, Young God 2010)http://soundcloud.com/thequietus/07-eden-prison
In addition, here’s also a great re-working of I Crawled from last year’s Supersonic Festival in Birmingham, England.
I really need to get more in tune to the music scene in Vancouver. I have discovered a fair bit of bands in the independent scene here, and consequently became interested in a lot of the bands participating in “Fake Jazz Wednesdays.”
To think it all came about from a trip to the Surrey Art Gallery. One particular piece which was on display there was a sewing machine which could also “play” actual noise effects done on tape (or something along those lines anyways, don’t remember the specifics). I noticed that it was made by a person named Anju Singh, who specializes in “noise recording.” I initially thought: “I’ll try to remember that name, maybe she’s involved in some interesting noise-projects.” After forgetting about it for a few days, I used the power of Google, and low and behold, that’s how I got into AHNA.
While they are a self-described “drone violence duo” (featuring the aforementioned Anju on drums/shouting/violin and Graham Christofferson on bass) they also seem to add other noise and even black metal elements, especially in some the drumming. I have a feeling that fans of Japanese noise-rock bands (such as Zeni Geva or Boredoms) may even dig some of their music.
The song Cast Out By Vomit from their Cult of One release is probably my favourite song from AHNA. It starts out very minimal (well, they are a duo after all), then the rhythm really builds up, eventually ending with bass-drenched feedback. The song seems reminiscent of the Greed/Holy Money era of the Swans as well, although the rest of the songs on The Cult of One are at times more fast paced. However, their earlier Red Tape release is even much more drawn out and loop-based (similar to early industrial acts), and this is where the use of the violin truly becomes prominent.
I also have to thank the Weird Canada site, for providing a bit of info (and mp3s) on them. I noticed that they are gonna open for Jucifer on August 6th at the Funky WinkerBeans in Vancouver, and I hope that they’ll get a good reception for that potentially VERY LOUD show.
-Cast Out By Vomit (from The Cult of One, 2008)
-Side Job (from Red Tape, 2008)