Monday, August 25, 2008
Me here with an interview and live review of Comets on Fire. Listening to their music makes me think that if the 90's was a repeat of the 60's (as Select magazine many aeon's ago spuriously once wanted us to believe), then the "noughties" (what an awful phrase that is to describe the 00's) is a repeat of the 70's, what with the likes of COF, Espers, Sunburned Hand of the Man, MV & EE with The Bummer Road / Golden Road etc., Wooden Wand, Smegma, Wooden Shjips etc. Despite these bands' ostensibly owing huge debts to the 60s, I would argue that they actually reference the 70s far more - specifically the pre-punk period from 1970 up to around '76 (punk's 'year zero' approach wiped the slate clean in most people's minds to the point that even if the likes of Hawkwind continued beyond the 70s, they still remind inexorably bound to that certain period).
True, you could find tenuous links between those bands and out-there early 'primitive electronics' outfits such as Silver Apples and the United States of America, both of whom are firmly rooted in the late 60s, as well as other examples. But really, these bands' antecedents lie much more in that aforementioned 70-76 period that saw coming to the fore Hawkwind, disparate Krautrock acts (Can, Faust, Neu!, Amon Dull II, Ash Ra Temple), Träd Gräs och Stenar, Gong, Henry Cow and Led Zeppelin's 'Battle of Evermore' (still an incredible track despite what ever prog-rock horrors the band may have committed post-Physical Graffiti). Equally, too, the DIY approach of Sunburned and other acts of a similar ilk, and festivals such as Terrascope in America, reflect the children-friendly free festival ethos that dominated during that period (even though Terrascope itself isn't actually free). Admittedly it's easy to laugh at the worst excesses of that period, with it's preponderance of beards (something I couldn't help but notice was replicated at the Comets on Fire gig, where they were in abundance), flute solos, and Tolkien-referencing lyrics. But these bands also reference the fact that much of this music reflects the dark side of the original hippy dream as it slowly extinguished in the late 60s: Amon Duul II's Yeti in particular sounds like the acid trip gone bad, the music overloaded and dangerously out-of-control; the same could be said for Ash Ra Temple's howling ghost epic 'Traummaschine'. The drugs went sour and recession loomed (at least in Britain), giving birth to the equally bad trip vibe of Throbbing Gristle - who, ironically, appropriated much of the synaptic live spectacles that Pink Floyd (in their 60's era) and other innocent psychedelic acts employed to enhance their music five or six years before. In terms of the present, too, Selfish C*nt - forever associated with Shoreditch - and the other similar wannabe confrontational electroclash outfits that seem to congregate weekly in that area are, when it comes down to it, really just a throwback to Suicide's audience bating in late 70s in pre-gentrification Lower East Side NYC.
Incidentally, the Green Man festival that I just went to had echoes of the early 70s era, with Pentangle on the main stage on the Sunday night and much of the acts on the (cringeworthily titled) Folky-Dolkey stage in a similar vein, not to mention children running around everywhere. A shame, then, that any hopes of shamanic dancing in fields was obliterated by three days of torrential downpour, to the point where I missed Comets on Fire offshoot Howlin' Rain's set due to, well, howling rain. The only thing to do was play cards in the tent instead. Such is the pitfalls of British outdoor festivals. The first picture below was took on Friday near the main stage, when a faint belief in a beautiful, sun-kissed weekend persisted; the latter was took on Sunday at the top of a hill at the festival.