The Cynics: Rock’n’roll is a very jealous bitch

Pablo Gonzalez, Angel Kaplan, Gregg Kostelich and Michael Kastelic. The Cynics for 4-4

The Cynics ble dannet i Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania i 1983, og har holdt det gående mer eller mindre kontinuerlig siden den gang. Med ett bein i garasjerocken og det andre i en pøl med relaterte stilarter tilhører de en eksklusiv gruppe artister som The Cramps og Dead Moon: Standhaftige, rettroende og ikke minst sikre leverandører av pur, uforfalsket Rock. Stor R.

Sentralt i bandet står Gregg Kostelich og Michael Kastelic, førstnevnte gitarist, produsent og grunnlegger av det helt supre plateselskapet Get Hip (i tillegg til The Cynics, ansvarlig for utgivelser med blant andre A-Bones, Thee Headcoates, Gore Gore Girls, våre egne Kwyet Kings, Sloppy Seconds, Hellacopters og en drøss andre ujålete band). Vokalist Kastelic har vrengt lungene sine i tre tiår, mens rytmeseksjonen har derimot vært svært omskiftelig.

Det har ikke alltid vært like lett å bli en del av partnerskapet til Kostelich og Kastelic, forteller den omgjengelige vokalisten til meg:

– The rhythm section changes over the years are very frustrating! I guess Gregg and I are both very extreme personalities, so sometimes we just drive people nuts! I also think we’ve had some people who like the idea of being in a band but they are not really true musicians.

– Rock and roll can be a very sad and hard life sometimes and if you don’t have it in your soul, then you can’t hang for decades like we have. You find other things that take priority like families, love or real jobs. But rock’n’roll is a very jealous bitch and she won’t let anything or anyone be more important, she owns your soul. Adam and Nathan, the two brothers we have in the band playing bass and drums now, are real musicians, and live only to play. This makes them my favorites ever to play with.

Psychedelic lollipops & midnight special
Jeg ber Kastelic fortelle litt om bakgrunnen til hvordan han og Gregg startet det hele, og han kan berette om hvordan tilfeldigheter førte dem over til en viktig innflytelse: Blues Magoos:

– Gregg and I have had a very similar musical development over the years. We both have childhood memories of hearing 60’s stuff like the Stones & Paul Revere and The Raiders and especially The Blues Magoos’ Psychedelic Lollipop album. We both have that record in common big time. My grandfather was a policeman and they arrested someone who had stolen a bunch of records from a little radio station. After his trial the radio station had replaced the records so my grandfather gave the stolen booty to me. It was stuff like The Blues Magoos, The Foundations, and of course The Animals, and it really blew my mind after listening to Winnie the Pooh records until then.

– As we were children in the 70’s we of course were drawn to the Bowie/Stooges/Cooper scene. I was really into Roxy Music, Eno, Velvet Underground, John Cale, Bowie. I remember seeing The New York Dolls and The Sparks on some TV show called Rock Concert and the David Bowie 1984 Floor Show on some show called The Midnight Special when I was about 10. I had a feeling that there was something more important than music going on. This of course led us to end up in the 70’s Punk scene. We were both in lots of punk bands in the early 80’s and late 70’s. Unfortunately punk rock only really existed until 1978, so being totally disgusted that our beloved punk rock had been corporatized and homogenized, we went back to the earliest music we remembered. Well it was that primal 60’s stuff that really sounded more punk than anything! We weren’t the first to realize this, and we soon discovered there were bands like The Lyres and The Fleshtones who were doing this sound.

Revenge of the living
Dette soundet har The Cynics i stor grad holdt seg til siden de startet i 1983. Det har ikke medført den store kommersielle suksessen, men det er en skjebne Kastelich ar slått seg til ro med:

– I’ve spent my life in the world of ‘sex drugs and rock’n’roll’ but it was a decision that I made when I was just a child. Of course I had planned to be very rich and very famous, and that part of the plan never really worked out now did it? That started to become less and less important and now I’m actually grateful it never happened. If we had gotten money and fame I would probably be dead now.

Michael Kastelic har vært gjennom en ganske tøff periode. Det tok 8 år fra Get Our Way (1994) til den talende titulerte comebackplaten Living is the Best Revenge (2002). Hva skjedde egentlig?

– I find it really hard to believe. I was on drugs and a little jail time during that period. I also believe I had a nervous breakdown and was suicidal. It all seems like a dream now and in retrospect, it only felt like it was a few months, not years. At any rate there is no excuse and I cannot figure out why we don’t record more. We usually end up playing so much after a record comes out that recording a new one gets put aside…

Hvordan vil du beskrive deres hittil siste utgivelse som ble til i samarbeid med Tim Kerr?

– I really liked working with Tim Kerr. He has a fantastic attitude that puts you at ease, yet keeps you on your toes and trying your best. I think it’s a really great record. I really love the songs “Revenge”, “Making Deals”, and “I Got Time”. I also think the cover and layout are really outstanding.

– I still hope, in my mind though, that someday we can make a record that I will just love more than anybody else’s!! This could probably never happen because I can’t really look at my own work and be objective. I think I can feel it if a show is going well, but a record could be different at different times. Sometimes a record sounds great, and on a different day I don’t love it. Living is the Best Revenge is the best garage record I’ve heard in a while. It sounds best if you play it really loud and listen in a different room!!

Get hip, or get lost
– Personally, I’ve never been happier in my life. I think the band has a lot of really good fans who dig our music and that makes for really great tours and shows. I would much rather have a bunch of really cool people who know what the music is about, than to try to convert the world of assholes to garage rock. We still preach the good word, but remember, it’s Get Hip or Get Lost!!

Hvordan har bandet utviklet seg gjennom årene?

– I believe we are more focused now than in our early years. Older? Of course. Wiser? I dunno’ but I hope so. More Cynical? Maybe less cynical and more accepting of our fate. I think we’re more relaxed and comfortable in our own ugly skins, but that’s only natural. In most ways it’s still the same as the first show ever, every time we play I still get the same feeling. That feeling when Gregg’s guitar and my voice blend together to make this unique and thrilling sound. I’m really a fan of that perfect live show sound. It seems like we’re getting more of that magic lately than in some previous line-ups.

Som en av de opprinnelige garasjerockerne der ute, hva kan du si om dagens tilstand for genren?

– The state of garage rock today I think is very good. I realized this again when we put the band on MySpace and I see again how many young people are really into the sound and how many young bands are so good at it. There are of course always people who are trying to make garage rock into a commodity, and tell you that bad new wave like The Strokes is garage rock. But who cares? They can’t kill the punk spirit just by misrepresenting it. As long as there are snotty young brats, whether they have basements, or garages, or just make music alone in their rooms, then garage punk will live in the subterranean dark caves as it always has and always will. That’s where it belongs and the hip people know where to find it.

Hva kan publikum forvente av en konsert med The Cynics ?

– With Adam and Nathan in the band we like to do a straight forward ‘power set’, we call it. Just bang-bang-bang song after song without any breaks or me babbling. We try to do the songs that people like to dance to. You never know though, they can certainly play some of the ballads beautifully and we will try to throw in some different selections for each show. What can you always expect from The Cynics? The singer will be drunk and the guitar will be loud!

Kastelic kan også gi følgende eksakte beskrivelse av vårt land:

– Every time we have been to Norway it has been cold, expensive, delicious food and very beautiful. Beautiful people and beautiful scenes. The land, the air, the architecture, the fashions – I love it all! I know everyone in Norway knows how to dance and shake! I know the food is rich and filling! I know the liquor is very expensive!

Noen spesielle minner fra tidligere besøk?

– I remember going to the cool college radio station in Bergen in ’94, riding a train and seeing both moose, and the town of Hell, eating moose steak, playing in a fallout shelter, having my sinuses explode on a plane to Tromsø, hanging out with The Launderettes, Johan from Thee Mono Sapiens, Egon – the rock’n’roll mayor of Tromsø, how bad King Kahn’s body odor smelled in Moss, eating at a Chinese buffet in maybe Bergen again… In other words I have nothing but fond memories of Vikings and cavemen and cavewomen!

Sier Kastelic, som har hatt en nær-døden opplevelse også her:

– One time, we took a plane from Oslo to Bergen, and our tour manager & merch person took the van to the next place after Bergen. They almost died in a van accident in the ice & snow. If we were in the van we probably would be dead because all the backline crashed through the passenger area. So I know that Norway is lucky for us and the Nordic Gods approve!

Vi får håpe det går bra også denne gangen. Det er i hvert fall ingenting som tyder på at denne gjengen ikke gir alt når de nå igjen nærmer seg norske scener:

– As far as playing the punk garage in front of people, it’s something I can’t STOP doing. It’s an addiction worse than the smack. It is also very selfish on my part because I think I’m having a better time than the people in the audience!! Really, when I see people smiling and dancing it makes me so happy I want to cry. Sometimes I do cry…

Bjørn Hammershaug

Dette intervjuet ble først publisert i 2006.

15 Ways to Nirvana: Albums That Shaped the Band

black_flag_warNirvana frontman Kurt Cobain was 27 years old when he ended his life in his Seattle home on April 5, 1994 – leaving this earth perhaps the most iconic cultural figure of his time. As Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross emphasized, ‘He isn’t the last star in rock ’n’ roll, but he is the last true Rock Star that we’ve had to date who earned Icon status. He existed in a period that is now lost to history, when a rock artist could be played on all formats of radio, when rock was the dominant musical form.’

The tragic story of Nirvana’s rise and fall, and grunge’s parallel emergence from underground cult to worldwide phenomenon, have been duly told and retold over the years. This article instead looks closely at the musical building blocks that set the foundation for Nirvana, illuminated by 15 selected albums, in an attempt to grasp the essence of their subsequent sound – and thus get a little closer to explaining their unlikely success.

As Cobain himself said, ‘I think we sound like The Knack and the Bay City Rollers being molested by Black Flag and Black Sabbath.’ An assessment not without accuracy or charm.

Nirvana leaned against the obvious persuasions of hardcore and hard rock, but this was interspersed with a broad and more commercially friendly side that appealed far beyond the inner clique. Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman put it this way, ‘Part of what was so captivating about Nirvana’s music was not so much its stunning originality, but its remarkable fusion of so many different strands of influence.’

Kurt Cobain was very open to the music he liked and took inspiration from, and shared passing lists of Nirvana’s favorite bands, albums, and songs. Such was the case in this famous paper in which Kurt scribbled down Nirvana’s Top 50 favorite albums – a list that has led many fans to increase the volume of the album collection.


These were not necessarily Cobain’s favorites, but rather 15 bands and albums that are co-responsible for laying the musical groundwork for Nirvana – and by extension, for the development of the alternative rock into the ’90s.

* * *

black_sabbath_bsBlack Sabbath:
Black Sabbath (1970)
Black Sabbath were the foundation for what would become heavy metal, and, naturally enough, their debut album is one of rock’s dark mastodons. The rainy intro opens the gates to a post-industrial wasteland in 1970 Birmingham, with a resonance that carried itself to the ears of a couple of boy ears on the west coast 10-15 years later.

Black Sabbath‘s leaden sound spawned many bastard children over the years, not least of which includes Nirvana’s debut album. Bleach plods though the same muddy tracks – which would help define grunge in the late 1980s.




iggy_raw_powerIggy & The Stooges:
Raw Power (1973)
Iggy Pop was one of Cobain’s role models, with similarities in both music and attitude. Iggy was a demon on the stage, writhing on the floor, rolling around in broken glass; he was as an out of control force of ‘raw power’, destructive drug use and uncontainable energy. Cobain absorbed this persona into Nirvana, not least in their early gigs where anarchy and chaos were prevailing forces. Musically, of course, proto-punk machinery from Detroit also had an obvious effect on Nirvana. The Stooges – and Raw Power especially – are punk rock required reading.




Destroyer (1976)
There’s an obvious superficial distance between the cynical, flannel-clad Seattle rockers’, and pyrotechnically-aided arena rock of four men dressed like superheroes. Yet Kiss was an integral part of growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, and they offered a sense of escapism to the misfit youth of the time. Like it or not, Nirvana has roots elementary school scribbles of Starchild. They recorded a cover of ”Do You Love Me” off of Destroyer, which also includes “Detroit Rock City” – later paraphrased as “Sub Pop Rock City” by Soundgarden. And as fate would have it, on a December’s day in 2013, Kiss and Nirvana were both inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.



Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)
With their first and only album, Sex Pistols sent shock waves into the establishment, catapulting punk into a mass movement that shaped culture and opened up opportunities for a new generation of artists in its wake – a similar effect to what Nirvana would repeat 15 years later. Could it be a coincidence that Nevermind and Never Mind the Bollocks… made their greatest mark not by shaping musical trends but in shaking the music industry and the cultural establishment? Both mark the boiling over point of an underground phenomenon – the beginning of a new era where the boundaries between alternative and mainstream became more porous. A game-changing work of its time and a killer plate of punk rock to boot.



cheap_trickCheap Trick:
Cheap Trick (1977)
‘I’ll be the first to admit that we’re the ’90s version of Cheap Trick or the Knack’ stated Kurt Cobain in his liner notes for the compilation album Incesticide. Cheap Trick had a penchant for British pop invasion (think The Kinks) which they used as the foundation for their fusion of power pop and hard rock, with a dash of punk. Their eponymous debut is chopped a bit rougher than their later more radio friendly sound. If you’re wondering whether Cobain was referencing the same Knack that produced the one hit wonder, “My Sharona”, you’d be right. In the Cobain biography Heavier Than Heaven Kurt meets up with a friend in 1988: ‘There’s this great record that I’ve discovered that you HAVE to hear. Kurt pulled out Get the Knack. Romero thought Kurt was being sarcastic, and inquired, ‘Are you serious?’ ‘You’ve got to listen to this – it’s an awesome pop album,’ was Kurt’s deadpan reply.’


neil_young_rust_never_sleepsNeil Young & Crazy Horse:
Rust Never Sleeps (1979)
‘It’s better to burn out than fade away.’ The stanza, taken from Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)”, is the penultimate line of Kurt Cobain’s suicide not. Young would dedicate the entirety of his 1994 album Sleeps With Angels to Cobain. Like Iggy Pop, Young had been trying to contact Cobain shortly before he died. In Young’s autobiography, he writes: “I, coincidentally, had been trying two reach him through our offices to tell him That I thought he was great and he should do exactly what he thought he should do and fuck everybody else…” Neil Young was early to popularize the flannel shirt as the preferred rock uniform. The echo of his thundering guitar rang deep into the forests the northwest, earning him the title, ‘Grandfather Of Grunge.’



young_marble_giants_youthYoung Marble Giants:
Colossal Youth (1980)
Minimalist and magical: Young Marble Giants’ first album from 1980 is a something of a forgotten masterpiece, and it has its natural place here as a representative of the British post-punk that Cobain felt most at home in. Far from the angry, snot-nosed punk image his stage persona let on, Cobain shared much of their introversion, as well as their self-destructiveness. Together with their Scottish counterparts, The Vaselines, these Welsh were among Cobain’s most relatable artists. In an interview with MTV Brazil in 1993 Kurt Cobain underlines that he was ‘heavily influenced by them’ – less in sound than in terms of ‘their emotions, the feeling, the sincerity and their fantastic songwriting.’




Album – Generic Flipper (1982)
Kurt Cobain could make a band cool by simply muttering their name in passing – as he did The Vaselines – or by sporting a concert T-shirt in public – as he did with his well-worn Flipper shirt. And glory to him for that – if there’s a band that deserves to be lifted out of obscurity, it’s Flipper. The San Francisco band’s epic debut from 1982 check’s every box in the rock handbook: rule breaking, destructive, infantile and reckless. Flipper slowly cranked their songs through a meat grinder, without fully knowing what would come out the other side. En route, they stumbled upon such punk anthems as “Sex Bomb” while blazing a magnificent trail to madness.




black_flag_my_warBlack Flag:
My War (1984)
As pioneers of American underground rock into the ’80s, and originators of the California hardcore sound, Black Flag is obvious primary school curriculum for Nirvana. On their later album, My War, the band took punk into a slower, heavier and more militant territory. This had a clear effect on bands like Melvins and Nirvana. Black Flag frontman Greg Ginn started the SST label in 1978, which went on to become one of the most important publishers of the ’80s – and a role model for Sub Pop’s rise some years later.




husker_du_new_dayHüsker Dü:
New Day Rising (1985)
New Day Rising marks an important transition for the power trio of Hüsker Dü. Without losing their frenetic power and strength, here they write pop-flavored melodies that shine through the layers of treble fuzz, albeit not overpoweringly. With a little more polishing, New Day Rising could have been the Nevermind of the ’80s. As Krist Novoselic admitted, ‘Nirvana’s blend of pop, punk and metal was nothing new, Hüsker Dü did it before us.’ From the same circuit and time period, it is also worthy to mention the parallel developments by The Replacements, Butthole Surfers, and Meat Puppets – all of whom were significant fertilizers for the ripening of Nirvana.



beat_happening_jamboreeBeat Happening:
Jamboree (1988)
Sub Pop rapidly grew into a multinational brand in the ’90s, but they initially came from a proud tradition of strong underground labels from the heyday of SST, Touch & Go – and K Records in nearby Olympia, Washington. K was formed in 1982 by Calvin Johnson, the frontman of Beat Happening. Lo-fi aesthetics dominated the label’s releases, casually produced by friends and acquaintances in the region, which helped chart course for the “alternative revolution” and the rise of indie rock as a mainstream phenomenon. Musically, there is a certain distance between the compact guitar rock of Nirvana and the more quirky indie pop of Beat Happenings, but the relationship can be illustrated by this quote from the band: ‘We are Beat Happening, and we do not do Nirvana covers. They do Beat Happening covers, so let’s get that straight.’



Twelve Point Buck (1989)
Madison, Wisconsin band Killdozer ruled the 1980s underground, along with acts like Butthole Surfers, Laughing Hyenas, and Scratch Acid (pre-Jesus Lizard). Their slow, sludgy punk-on-downers sound distinguished them as early predecessors to grunge, especially for the periphery scene outside of Seattle. The band became known for its original and unexpected cover songs – such as a throaty rendition Don McLean’s “American Pie” – a talent Cobain and Co. also became known for after the live recording, MTV Unplugged in New York. They worked repeatedly with technician Butch Vig in Madison’s Smart Studios. As a result of hearing Killdozer’s 1989 LP Twelve Point Buck, Nirvana hired Vig to work on In Utero. After Cobain’s death, Killdozer also record 1995’s God Hears Pleas of the Innocent with Steve Albini.


dead_moon_graveyardDead Moon:
In The Graveyard (1988)
Barbarous garage rock has a long history in the Pacific Northwest, with bands such as The Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”) and The Sonics as key originators. Portland-band Dead Moon push forward this rich legacy and remind us that neither Nirvana, nor grunge as a whole, appeared from nowhere. Unlike Nirvana and the landslide that followed in their wake, the Dead Moon remained in the garage while the other left the scene in limousines. And there they still had it pretty good until dissolving in 2006.




Surfer Rosa (1988)
Telling the story behind “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Kurt Cobain confessed, ‘I was trying to write the ultimate pop song. I was basically trying two rip off the Pixies.’ And indeed, Nevermind shares countless similarities with Pixies, in song structure and, notably, in the powerful soft-loud dynamics that Nirvana would further perfect. Sound engineer and producer Steve Albini was commissioned to produce In Utero as a result of his signature work on Surfer Rosa.




Ozma (1989)
Seattle rock’s anomalous emergence came out nowhere, and in a matter of years the city’s musical profile transitioned from a loser-like sense of coolness to streamlined factory for mass culture. But one band never changed. Melvins were heavier, stickier and gloomier than all the others – and they were among Cobain’s biggest musical influences, especially noticeable on Bleach. Melvins would later serve as role models for an even heavier, slower and more somber drone rock formulated by bands like Earth and Sunn O))). Melvins have definitely left a heavy imprint in the rock history books, and their first two albums are authentic sludge rock at its best.




Bjørn Hammershaug
Originally published on October 12, 2014.

Live & Forgotten

Verden er full av kåringer over tidenes beste livealbum, som stort sett sirkulerer rundt en pool mer eller mindre faste gjengangere. Det er åpenbart at utgivelser som Live at Leeds og Birdland, Allman Brothers på Fillmore, Deep Purple i Japan og Johnny Cash i diverse fengsler er tidløs dokumentasjon av artister i sin prime og foreviget i sitt rette element. Men skreller man bort disse ikoniske platene, så dukker det opp en ny bunke liveplater som sjelden får sin rettmessige hyllest. Dette utvalget plater som er live & forgotten er plukket fra egen hylle, og består av mer eller mindre oversette liveskiver fra 80-tallet og fram til i dag. Hør på disse også, og kom deg ut på en trang klubbkonsert etterpå. Hvem vet, kanskje kveldens svette ekstase blir morgendagens plateklassiker.

butthole_pccpepButthole Surfers: Live PCCPEP
(Alternative Tentacles, 1984)
Ingen band var vel stort fetere på 80-tallet enn notoriske Butthole Surfers. De brøt med det etablerte hardcore-dogmet som rådet i tiden, og fulgte heller opp en stolt tradisjon av Texas-loonies som 13th Floor Elevators og The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Med sin syrebefengte og tøylesløse miks av aparte punk, skrudd psykedelia, smakløs humor og abstrakte støyeksperimenter skaffet de seg raskt et navn i undergrunnen, et alternativt alternativ, drevet fram av radikal framferd og trippy turneer. EP’en Butthole Surfers (aka A Brown Reason to Live) fra 1983 står igjen som en av det tiårets mest bisarre og uforglemmelige debuter. Den ble i hovedsak revitalisert året etter, da de fulgte opp med Live PCCPEP unnfanget live hjemme i San Antonio, og stort sett bestående av låter fra debuten.

På dette tidspunktet hadde surferne etablert sin klassiske besetning; Gibby Haynes, Paul Leary, King Coffey og Teresa Nevrosa, og lagt grunnlaget for en karriere som skulle føre dem fra pionerstatus til etablerte MTV-favoritter et snaut tiår senere. Men det er deres første plater som er best, med Locust Abortion Technician (1987) og Hairway to Steven (1988) som ubestridte høydepunkter. I bandets første fase ga de fullstendig blanke og overkjørte alt av etablerte regler. Det er godt stykke mellom en alternativ radiohit som ”Pepper” og ”The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave”.

Tidlig på 80-tallet lot bandet galskapen flyte tilsynelatende uanstrengt som en integrert del av musikken. Det betyr ikke nødvendigvis at sluttresultatet blir spesielt holdbart, snarere er dette en dokumentasjon av den alternative rockens spede fase, ubesudlet av noe annet enn ungdommelig faenskap, billig rus og motstand mot alt som smaker konformitet. En klassiker altså. ”There’s a time to live and a time to die, I smoke Elvis Presley’s toenails when I want to get high.” Sånn er livet.

Anbefaler også denne artikkelen fra Dangerous Minds, om Butthole Surfers’ smått legendariske konsert på Danceteria i 1986.

syndicate_rajisThe Dream Syndicate: Live at Raji’s
(Enigma, 1989)
Live at Raji’s er en liveplate som vitner om formatets fulle potensiale. The Dream Syndicate hadde på denne tiden, i 1989, alle studioalbumene (fram til nå, nytt album ventes i 2016/2017) bak seg, samtidig som de var helt på høyden som band. Deres studioproduksjon var preget av eminente låter, men også av tidvis varierende studioproduksjon. Monumentale The Medicine Show (1984) fikk en grandios, men noe blodfattig innpakning av Sandy Pearlman og undervurderte Out of the Grey (1986) skjemmes av et slappere lydbilde enn det som tross alt bodde i bandet. Til tross for dette står deres samlede innspillinger igjen som merkesteiner innen den gitarbaserte 80-tallsrocken. De skilte lag på topp, og satte punktum i et regn av gitargnister og feedbackorgier.

Med Steve Wynn som naturlig midtpunkt ble The Dream Syndicate raskt båssatt som en del av Los Angeles’ blomstrende, men kortlevde Paisley Underground-scene, sammen med blant andre The Bangles og The Rain Parade, altså band som mikset 60-tallsrock med psykedelia, og de regnes sammen med f.eks R.E.M helt fortjent som et av foregangsbandene innen framveksten av alternativ amerikansk rock.

Men drømmesyndikatet hadde også en mer ekspresjonistisk side, og det var nettopp i skjæringspunktet mellom radiorock og frijazz de skapte magiske øyeblikk, som i særlig grad kom fram på scenen. På Live at Raji’s byr de rundhåndet fra hele sin karriere, men tyngdepunktene ligger i de lange, malende låtene, som ”John Coltrane Stereo Blues” og ”The Days of Wine and Roses”, slik de aller best utbroderte disse fra scenen som et slags amalgam av Television, Velvet Underground, The Cars og John Coltrane, der impresjonistiske, frijazza gitareksesser smelter sammen med lyden av en AM-radio fra et åpent biltak en glovarm sommerkveld.

cosmic_psychos_slaveCosmic Psychos: Slave to the Crave
(Rattlesnake, 1990)
Cosmic Psychos er en breial trio fra Australia, bestående av røslige, øldrikkende blokes med karslig humor og et relativt primitivt syn på det å lage rock, hvis slik den ble formulert av The Stooges og Ramones er det. Et sted mellom disse klassiske grunnpilarene fant Cosmic Psychos sin nisje, og mellom bondegården og puben laget de også en av de mest ubehøvlede, råeste – og beste – liveplatene gjennom tidene.

Deres tidligste skiver; den selvtitulerte debuten fra 1987 og Go The Hack (1989) inneholder noen av de mest minnerike ølskummende anthems i pubrockens historie. Cosmic Psychos forsøkte aldri å være mer enn harry og macho powerrock med infantil humor, tre grep og et lydnivå som blåste ut de siste restene av vett i skolten. Det låt fett i studio, men det var på en svett, trang klubb foran et tørst publikum de virkelig kom til sin rett. Deres beste øyeblikk fanges dermed på livealbumet Slave to the Crave fra 1990 – tatt opp på hjemmebane på the Palace i Melbourne.

Innledet på brei australsk med ’We’re the Cosmic Psychos, and we’re three male models’ harver de gjennom 14 låter i et sett som aldri hviler, der ”Pub” og ”Can’t Come In” fremdeles duger som vorspiel når som helst, mens monstrøse ”Quarter To Three” er et godt eksempel på deres knallharde motorikk og ukontrollerte gitartripper. Så tidløst som bare rock’n’roll kan være. This is blokes you can trust, mate.

deadmoon_liveDead Moon: Live Evil
(Music Maniac, 1991)
Dette er et livemusikk i sin aller pureste form, fra et band som dyrket det autentiske og upolerte i hele sin framferd. Oregon-trioen Dead Moon spilte kupunka garasjerock i klassisk nordvestlig tradisjon som strekker seg fra The Kingsmen og The Sonics til The Wipers og Mudhoney, og de fravek aldri sine musikalsk estetiske prinsipper. I løpet av sine snaue 20-årige eksistens siden oppstarten i 1987 etterlatte de seg en omfattende katalog, der denne liveskiva står igjen som en glimrende dokumentasjon av deres tidlige fase. Her tar vi del i det varme samspillet mellom mann og kone Fred og Toddy Cole, og deres trofaste trommis Andrew Cole som gikk bort i mars 2016, bare 54 år gammel.

Dead Moon vekslet alltid mellom det ekstatiske og det sårbare, eksemplifisert i en sjelden ute versjon av ”Can’t Help Falling in Love” etterfulgt av klassiske ”54/40 or Fight”. Spørsmål de to i mellom som ”Are you still in tune?” blir alltid møtt med et likegyldig skuldertrekk, før de harver løs igjen. Like surt og deilig som alltid.

Dead Moon var et band plent umulig å mislike.

nomeansno_cuddlyNomeansno: Live + Cuddly
(Konkurrel, 1991)
Nomeansno hadde noen av sine beste album bak seg da dette doble livealbumet så dagens lys i 1991, i ikke minst klassikeren Wrong som kom et par år i forveien. Opptakene fra Vera og Effenaar i Nederland fanger Vancouver-trioen, anført av allerede da det godt voksne brødreparet Mr. Wright, i sedvanlig spillemessig godlune og proppfulle av energi.

Nomeansno var aldri enkle å presses inn noen som helst bås, der de brakte impulser fra jazz, progrock og funk inn i en elastisk, hyperaktiv og anarkistisk punk-variant. Med sin voldsomme rytmiske motorikk og et frenetisk samspill i det dynamiske trioformatet var de i hvert fall alt annet enn kjedelige. Musikalsk var Nomeansno en viktig innflytelse for både math-rock og post-hardcore som kom senere, det er vanskelig å tenke seg band som eksempelvis Shellac og Fugazi uten Nomeansno, og som band var de herlig udefinerbare og ganske så unike.

twrThin White Rope: The One That Got Away
(Frontier/RCA, 1993)
Hedersbandet Thin White Rope har høstet ufortjent lite heder og ære etter endt karriere, og det på en katalog som er kjemisk renset for svakheter. Fra en litt nølende debutplate, leverte de en kjede av klassiske gitarrock-album utover på 80-tallet, der Moonhead (1987) og …in the Spanish Cave (1988) står igjen som påler. Anført av Guy Kysers autoritære, stoiske røst omgitt av kvernende gitarsaging, skapte Thin White Rope et sound beslektet til både Velvet Underground, Neil Young & Crazy Horse og Television, for kompakte til å være jangle, mørkere enn gjengs collegerock og for sære til å egentlig å tilhøre noen bestemt bølge falt Thin White Rope mellom de fleste stoler – bortsett fra den som er merket kvalitet. Et blikk på deres covervalg sier noe om spennvidden, og inkluderer Can, Dylan, Lee Hazlewood og Hawkwind. Det er vel egentlig selve destillatet de brygget sin egen musikk på.

Deres svanesang – om det er egentlig er et passende begrep på dette mørke monsteret av en liveplate – heter The One That Got Away og utvalget fungerer ikke bare som en tour de force over noen av deres beste låter, den fanger også bandets upolerte, massive lydvegg som de gjerne skrudde ned i studio.

giant_sand_bbqGiant Sand: Backyard BBQ Broadcast
(KOCH, 1995)
Gjennom hele sin karriere har Howe Gelb og hans musikalske livsprosjekt Giant Sand vært et utløp for noe dypt menneskelig og organisk. Giant Sand har aldri dyrket det perfeksjonerte, de har aldri vært statiske kopister av eget materiale, og aldri vært i nærheten av å gå i opptråkkede spor. Giant Sand har liksom alltid levd sitt eget liv, slik alles liv er en evig runddans mellom opp- og nedturer. Studioplatene deres er alle utelukkende tilfredsstillende, hvis man aksepterer dette som premiss: Det er ikke noe i livet som perfekt, og det er det som gjør det så rikt.

Med sitt kjære Tucson, Arizona som bakteppe har Howe Gelb blitt selve personifiseringen av sørvestens grensemusikk, ikke bare mellom USA og Mexico, men også mellom rock, jazz, country og whatever. Gelb kan gjerne plasseres et sted langs aksen Dylan og Young, men også mellom Thelonious Monk og Tom Waits.

I 1995 var Giant Sand midt inne i sin periode med det som i ettertid nok vil anses som deres klassiske besetning: Med Joey Burns og John Convertino (før de henga seg fullt til Calexico) og steelgitarist Bill Elm og Mike Semple (før de ble Friends of Dean Martinez).

Backyard BBQ Broadcast er ikke en ordinært liveskive fra én bestemt scene, men ulike opptak fra diverse lokasjoner, i hovedsak tilknyttet radiostasjonen WMFU i New Jersey. Halvparten av låtene her er tatt opp ’behind WFMU’s big old house’, og som tittelen indikerer er dette en plate som tar oss med ut av klubbens fire vegger, til åpen himmel og sene kvelder rundt leirbålet.

magnolia_electric_trialsMagnolia Electric Co: Trials & Errors
(Secretly Canadian, 2005)
Da Jason Molina byttet artistnavn fra Songs: Ohia til Magnolia Electric Co. i 2003 var det mer enn bare en kosmetisk navnendring. Med sitt nye kompani bygde Molina opp et skikkelig band et godt stykke unna den lo-fi stilen han representerte tidligere i karrieren. Trials & Errors er en liveplate som dokumenterer Magnolia i en tidlig fase, og den står som en ren hyllest til rockens hardt arbeidende kultur. Dette ble noe av det råeste Jason Molina festet til tape, men med den såre følsomheten som alltid lå i både melodi, vokal og tekster bevares det intime uttrykket som alltid har vært hans kjennemerke.

Konserten er tatt opp i sin helhet i Brüssel i 2003. I tillegg til Molina spiller folk med erfaring fra blant annet John Wilkes Booze, The Impossible Shapes og Okkervil River. De danner en tett enhet som virker langt mer samspilte enn de i realiteten var. Gamle Ohia-fans vil nikke gjenkjennende til det upolerte soundet som først ble utforsket på Didn’t It Rain (2002) og ikke minst Magnolia Electric Co. (2003). Jason Molina utviklet en mer raspete sangstil, mens det duellerende gitarspillet mellom ham og Jason Groth veksler mellom lange flytende soloer og buldrende kraft. Hele kvartetten oser av svette, spilleglede og framdrift som gir ny kraft i Molinas beske poesi.

Det er lett å nevne Neil Young i samme åndedrag som Magnolia, men her legger de selv opp til det. To ganger i løpet av konserten trer Young fram fra skyggen. Først på ”Almost Was Good Enough”, der ”Out On The Weekend” inkorporeres i selve låten. Young kommer igjen helt på slutten, i massive ”The Big Beast”, der Molina drar strofer fra ”Tonight’s The Night” som en rungende avrunding. Rust never sleeps.

Cover foto: Butthole Surfers (Edward Colver)

Bjørn Hammershaug