This pigeon pairing of albums by Switzerland's finest garage trash band The Monsters isn't so much chalk and cheese as the musical equivalents of festering offal and last week's maggot-ridden steak. They're offensive, distorted representations of rockabilly and its variants, chopped up and put through an industrial shredder. Which is exactly why you need them.
Whoever took the danger out of rock and roll forgot to tell The Monsters. Thank fuck for that. "Masks" is the "lost album" from 1989 andthe product of The Monsters going into a studio for the first time. Long-gone label Record Junkie Records (an off-shoot of the shop where Beat-Man worked) saw fit to issue it and it's been long out-of-print.
Monsters leader and Voodoo Rhythm label owner Beat-Man thinks "Masks" is embarrassing - although not to the point that he stopped short of re-issuing it. He need not recoil from the amateurish nature of parts of this record. It's raw, lyrically perplexing and a lot of fun, recorded to two-inch tape in the most basic of studios with needles bordering on the red.
Everybody into this sort off music raves about The Mummies and fair enough, but for mine The Monsters are better. I mean, there's nothing on "Masks" likely to surprise, but the guitar sounds grates in all the the right places and the drummer in this line-up had a bit of swing. Beat-Man's vocal swings from angry yelp to tonsil-shredding croak. Plus, they massacre "Wild Thing" in a way The Troggs could only dream of.
"The Hunch" (named after one of Hasil Adkins' nom de plumes) dates from 1992, is half-studio and half-live and much better recorded. There's a bunch of covers sprinkled throughout and one of the cuts ("The Creature Form The Black Lagoon") made it onto Dionysus Records. It's proof garage punk doesn't have to sound like abysmal shit to stay true to its roots.
Hands up who wasn't a Cramps fan in the late '80s and early '90s? This version of "Drug Train" is pretty great. "Day Of The Triffids" and "Drag Is Back" have their rockabilly roots on show and pulse with energy.
The live side picks up a couple of songs from the first record ("Teenage Werewold", Wild Thing") and prominent covers ("Be Bop A Lula" and "The Witch"), and is a little light on the bottom end but who's going to pick nits? My guess is they ran out of studio time or got bored. This stuff should never be too polished.
INTO THE PRIMITIVE - The Future Primitives (Voodoo Rhythm)
It took a few plays to work out what makes this South African garage trio such a compelling listen. The sparse, echo-ey production from straight out of 1966 is one thing, the simple songs that would do Billy Childish proud are another, but in the end it's the pure energy and urgency of the playing that's the winner.
SOUNDS FROM THE OTHER SIDE - Tumbleweed (Shock)
The portents were good. A reformed band, firing live and determined not to be a heritage act. Old burned bridges rebuilt. New songs. Reunited with the producer of their best-sounding work and taking the time to make sure they hit the mark in the studio.
And they did. Make no mistake. This is Tumbleweed's best moment since 1995's "Galactanphonic" and it might even eclipse it. Paul McKercher's chunky production gives full scope to the trademark fuzzy guitars and the swing is back in the big bottom end. The songs are keepers and the performances are on the money.
FOUR (ACTS OF LOVE) - Mick Harvey (Mute)
To start with the obvious, when a musician whose talent has appeared to grow over time such as Mick Harvey writes an album about love, giving it a listen is mandatory. Mick comes to us from a big, busy, eventful life stuffed with everything from near-misses and frustration to giddy success and associations the world can only gape at.
The cover depicts a beautifully chaotic night sky, the rear cover a scorching, flaming sky - we of course rarely look up, or around us to see the grand, glittering dance of burning chaos.
The label doesn't lie. "Todo Roto" ("All Broken") is the third long player for Wau y Los Arrrghs and the description of "1966 punk style from an Iberian garage" - writ in capital letters, just in case you don't get the message - is accurate. If you like your fuzz raw and unbridled, look no further.
HITS BACK - The Clash (Sony)
Welcome to my new favourite Clash album. Well that’s an odd statement, isn’t it? I mean to say, it’s just a compilation album, isn’t it? Another entry in a seemingly endless series of Clash compilation albums bearing titles like “Story of”, “Essential”, “On Broadway”, “Singles” and “Super Black Market”. Who actually needs another reshuffling of this well trod back catalogue? According to Sony Music, we do. Like, surely this is an anniversary of something or other. This time the compilation explores the central conceit of a “hand written set list by Joe Strummer.” This begs the question; was there ever a set list that wasn’t hand written before, say, the early nineties and the availability of the home computer with printer to even the most drug addled musician? Love the hand writing and spelling, Joe. Slade and the City of London Freemen’s School would be proud.