Noise Annoys: Craig Walker and The Cold, Wheezing Maniac, King Cedar, Rory Nellis
Craig Walker and the Cold - Electric Shoes (album, self-released)
AS PROMISED last time around, this week we get stuck in to the excellent new record by Craig Walker and The Cold, a collaboration between the former Power of Dreams man and Canadian producer/songwriter Erik Alcock that finds the pair paying tribute to their adopted home, Berlin, and some of the hugely influential music inspired by the former East German capital.
I've already explained how great the lead single Golden Ticket is - "a superb soaring, psych-tinged guitar pop stomper" and happily the rest of the record lives up to the same high standards.
It kicks off with a swaggering statement of intent in the deceptively uplifting 40 Years, a tale of wasted talent masquerading as perfectly poised post-punk-informed pop, before title track Electric Shoes takes listeners for a leisurely walk on Berlin's wild side in a slinky singalong style (think Iggy's Nightclubbing scrubbed clean of its scalding guitars) and haunting synth-pop hymn Junkie Sunset finds Craig and Erik mining the former's memories of Dublin's mid-80s drug hell for yet more pop gold.
Get Arrested's gently jaunty piano-powered lament pokes at a former hero fallen from grace (M*******y, perhaps?), while Andy, Lou and Edie - as in Warhol, Reed and Sedgwick - takes us back to the clubs for a moody, psychedelic, Beatles and Chems-informed trip. And that's just what used to be called 'side one'.
Happily, the quality doesn't dip on the flip, where subject matter and musical stylings get a bit weirder/bolder: Circuit Rider finds Craig crooning a catchy, heartfelt lovesong to/about a robotic (in the Android sense) lover, Midnight Express provides an unexpected dalliance with weiss reggae, Small Mercies sounds appealingly like late period Bowie but far more radio-friendly and Iris starts off stripped-back, then erupts in a rush of euphoric symphonic shoegaze beauty before gently resetting.
Basically, with Electric Shoes, Dublin's finest Craig Walker proves that he's still very much alive and kicking all kinds of 'arsch' 33 years after that incredible Power of Dreams debut. Try it on for size now via ffm.to/b82rby3
Wheezing Maniac - Shade Through The Night Door (album, Putojefe Records)
ONWARDS to a long-overdue vinyl debut for the complete recordings of short-lived late-80s punk weirdos Wheezing Maniac, the San Diego-based El Centro trio who existed for about five minutes and are best known for the two tunes contributed to the soundtrack of H-Street's seminal Hokus Pokus video in 1989, which - as you'll no doubt already know - helped birth modern street skateboarding thanks to the jaw-dropping skills of Matt Hensley, Sal Barbier, Colby Carter et al.
Anyone who saw Hokus Pokus ended up with Wheezing Maniac's infectiously silly punk-funk nugget Dollar On A Platter stuck in their head for weeks afterwards, but it and their other Hokus Pokus tune, the thrashy post-hardcore of Don't Come Close, were impossible to get hold of for a good 25 years.
Skaters the world over resorted to taping the Hokus Pokus soundtrack onto audio cassette in order to better savour their sonic delights along with other otherwise unobtainable musical gold by mysterious acts like Kirk and The Jerks, Sub Society, Wonderful Broken Thing and Plaid Retina.
Then came the digital file sharing revolution, which finally allowed Wheezing Maniac's music - a total of three demo tapes and one split seven-inch single - to escape into the wider world.
Happily, Berlin-based label Putojefe Records have now gathered their entire output together in freshly remastered form on one lovingly presented vinyl album, Shade Through The Night Door, complete with lyrics and liner notes. Turns out their entire career amounts to just 25 minutes of music, with the longest song clocking in at a sprawling two-and-a-half minutes. More bands should follow their example.
Appropriately, it opens up with Dollar On A Platter, a feverish, funky tale of god only knows what - "I got a dollar on a platter / it really doesn't matter" - featuring memorably nonsensical lyrical exclamations ("screwdriver in my leg, pancake batter!") over a grooving bassline, primitive backbeat and a magnificently dumb guitar riff which trades places on the verses with psychedelic guitar squawks. The whole thing barely lasts 90 seconds, but hear it once and it's in your head for life.
Don't Come Close - a potent brew of nasty guitars, fast beats and angsty hollering ("I need someone to blame!") that remains an ideal soundtrack to destroying curbs, ledges, pools and ramps even after 34 years - doesn't appear until the start of side two, by which time listeners will have enjoyed mostly unheard highlights like punky folklore-fuelled post-hardcore number Spring Heeled Jack, The Tipper's jazzy, wonderfully creepy proto-Slint spoken word slink, the nihilistic Black Flag-informed guitar scrawls of Jack Sharkey and Pine Valley Bridge and wacko, lyrically problematic nightmare ballad I Forgot The Ham.
It's also amusing to hear U2's Adam Clayton and Dinosaur (Jr) being negatively namechecked in the manic diss-track Shogo Don't Learn.
The fact Don't Come Close is followed by a mellow, playful singalong like Lunkhead underlines Wheezing Maniac's apparent determination not to be pigeonholed - it's just a shame it suddenly fades away in the end, a bit of a recurring theme for side two as a whole. Clearly, most of these tunes were only ever documents of song ideas to be tidied up/finished off at a later date.
What might have been, eh? Certainly, the unsettling Slint-meets-Pixies serial killer ballad Get In The Car could and should have been fleshed out into a proper monster.
In his liner notes for the record, Mike Morris of Long Beach CA punk 'n' rollers The Thingz describes Wheezing Maniac as "a suburban soundtrack to an urban nightmare." Listening to Shade Through The Night Door, it's hard to disagree.
King Cedar - Songbird on The Gray Hill (single, Third Bar)
ANYONE in need of a more soothing listen should proceed directly to King Cedar, aka singer-songwriter Stephen Macartney, who strikes a nice Nick Drake-y, James Taylor-esque chord (or three) with the gentle strum 'n' croon of his current single Songbird on The Gray Hill, a pleasingly mellow yet impassioned tune packed with pretty finger-picking-enhanced melodies. Put it on and feel your stress just melting away.
It's the current single plucked from his new album Everything More & Other Stories, which is released on Friday - expect a full review of that to appear here in the very near future.
Hear Songbird on The Gray Hill now at kingcedar.bandcamp.com and wherever you stream music.
Rory Nellis live album shows at The Black Box
LAST but not least for this week, be advised that Belfast-based singer-songwriter extraordinaire Rory Nellis will shortly be recording a two-night solo stand at The Black Box for a live album showcasing highlights from his excellent 2022 album Written & Underlined and other favourites.
Tickets for the shows on April 5 and 6 are apparently running dangerously low, so if you'd best hurry up and get one via blackboxbelfast.com if you want to be immortalised shouting for Video Shop and/or singing along to Picture Postcard Sublime.
Best go to both nights too, just to be sure. Listen to Rory online via rorynellis.bandcamp.com.