Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dark And Menacing Sounds With A Little Ray Of Shine From Fuchsia And Gravestone- ''The Music Is Your Only Friend Until The End"

My life has been in an absolute shambles since I got back broken hearted and empty from Montreal.
To quote Jim Morrison twice from the same song ("The End"):
        "He Took A Mask From The Ancient Gallery And He Walked On Down The Hall"
         "The Music Is Your Special Friend. Dance On Fire As It Intends. The Music Is Your Only     
          Friend Until The End- Until The End."
Jim suffered a heavy hatred of his parents. He didn't have many friends. He was a star, yet as always is the case with a star he was a tortured, mournful spirit. Eventually, he died long before his time and before he could live out his dream of turning from rock Demigod into revered Poet. I can identify with Jim Morrison, Freddy Mercury, Jimi Hendrix, and a lot of living musicians and writers and artists who have to suffer to fulfill their dreams, but I seem to be truly plagued by a deep, impenetrable, and unforgiving self-hatred and hatred of those I live with except my two wonderful cats. Sometimes hate passes for a long time, but then it comes back again and my blood becomes oil when lit with fire. It is then that music saves me. I put something mournful, something mystic, something warm, something that is omnipotent on and the music does just what Jim sang of- It becomes my only friend. I think back to high school, to when I had really strong friendships and life had an upside for every miserable thing it threw at me. They weren't easy times, but I was a lot better off. Now if only I got out in the world more I'm better than ever. I know I am. Yet my self-laceration stems from my home life, my paranoid state of mind, and my complete and total distrust for the two people I have to live with. I am at my best late at night listening to music and these two I keep coming back to possibly because of the dark and haunting nature of the music within and possibly just because this is really great stuff- it kicks arse, but it's filled with real power and sensitivity.
Both these bands are ultra rarities. You probably will have trouble finding them, but you'll differ from me because you won't be murdered and then forgiven for getting them only to be destroyed again. Something around here is doing me in. Something Is Rotten In The State Of Laurel Circle Princeton and it ain't me, babe to quote another favourite of mine- the one and only Bob Dylan.
    Fuchsia apparently took most of their inspiration from Mervyn Peake's novels and classical music and to make Tony Durant (Vocals/guitars) truly unique this Exeter University student formed a band with a 3 piece all female string section who also contribute some haunting voicings to these 7 powerful songs. One of the most notoriously rare and one of the first British records to gain a huge cult following before that has become almost redundant with high prices and raves, most of them however deservedly, Fuchsia are the kind of band who will exist for but once in the entire time of the world. That's how special this record is.
     Combining mysterious beauty with hard charging horrors and Gothic illuminations this is right up there with Asgard for dark, soaring, otherworldly, and society/establishment hating heavy progressive rock with psychedelic pop leanings too. That is perhaps the most unique aspect. Combining a kind of Peter Gabriel/David Bowie assault with a heavy similarity to Kaleidoscope UK's brilliant Peter Daltrey and if there'd been a silver lining to Syd Barrett there are both the menacing overtones and some whimsical toytown popsike to fall in love with here.
   I don't like to just give credit to the leader of a group, so Tony Durant is a brilliant visionary, but he also surrounded himself with first rate musicians to create a unique, hard hitting, melodic, unusual, brilliant sound. The rest of the band comprised Michael Day (Bass guitar) Michael Gregory (Drums, percussion) Janet Rogers (violin/backing vocals) Madeline Bland (Cello/harmonium/piano/backing vocals) and Vanessa Hall-Smith (violin/backing vocals). The unusual 3 part female harmonies are used sparingly, but the strings are an integral part of Fuchsia's sound and the comparisons to Electric Light Orchestra are definitely very apt. However, this is Electric Light Orchestra's two brilliant songs on a patchy first album "10538 Overture" and "Look At Me Now" crossed with the later more mature sound that would grace albums like ELDORADO and A NEW WORLD RECORD. I love Jeff Lynne. However, Jeff Lynne was hugely influenced by The Beatles while Tony Durant seems to have a bit of an obsession with Syd Barrett and Gothic literature. He also has a heavy military/soldier obsession often portraying himself in his songs as a hardy and robust warrior. This endears him to me all the more, but the songs have plenty of variety.
   The first track "Gone With The Mouse" is a hard, powerful, ominous, and violent epic with really dark lyrics that make Gabriel's "The Knife" look like nothing and some really amazing guitar riffs. The playing of the entire group is incredibly good and very tight without being uptight. They really go for the jugular on this one and I imagine both Victorian grandeur and Gothic childhood nightmares when I hear this. "A Tiny Book" is spacier, perhaps a bit lighter in tread than its predecessor, but in no way is it less powerful. The strings are amazing and again Durant is very appealing both as a vocalist, lyric writer, songwriter, guitarist, and visionary. This track is one of two that runs for over 8 minutes and you never hear any self-indulgence or obnoxious pretensions which plagued a lot of progressive rock. Thankfully here we have soaring strings instead of screaming saxophones or a bad imitation of Keith Emerson's organ and keyboard thrashing which was so common at the time. For a band where Emerson inspired the keyboard player, but he managed to make something of it there are the ones who are subtle about their Nice/ELP fanaticism who work whilst many bands in the early to mid 70s had keyboard players who treated their instruments like a spoiled rich kid's new gimmicky yo yo. There are hardly any keyboards at all on Fuchsia's record and who needs them when you have a full string section.
    It would be impossible to pick out one highlight or a "best composition" here, but two songs that I feel the most strongly about are on Side Two. "The Nothing Song" spills over with venomous angry disdain for society, conformity, convention, and the established way of life that most people lead. Tony Durant sounds like an angry Syd Barrett here or perhaps a less mechanical Peter Gabriel. He also throws in some nice wry vocals when singing lines like "On Saturdays I Wear My Sunday Best/On Sundays I Stay In Bed Till Two Or Three." If you love Barrett, King Crimson, if you want the classiest of the classy progressive then look no further. "Me And My Kite" is so close to Syd and Kaleidoscope that they'd kick themselves for not writing such a fun, whimsical, cheerful little song if they heard it. Its together with "Shoes And Ships" the brightest moment on the album- a very much cheerier song than the rest. All 7 tracks pack a lot of punch and you need to hear this album, but expect to pay a huge amount of money for one. Fuchsia also came out in a very fragile, thin, textured cover that is prone to wear so finding a mint cover on one is actually completely impossible. However, my copy is really, really good, and I got it for a good price so I'm very happy. You need to find this record. It is essential to any collection of great music.
      German band Gravestone are a complete new one to me. I'd heard much about their famous first album DOOMSDAY and their later change into a more conventional (but actually not half bad at all) Heavy Metal band later on after releasing WAR, but WAR is such a brilliant album, such a perfect masterpiece that I feel like I can take on the world and fight to the death every time I hear it. I bought it on a whim after being blown away by a track or two on Youtube, but don't buy into the "Progressive" tag usually addressed to their first two tiny only 1,000 pressed records. This band sound like they recorded the album a full 9 or ten years before 1980 and are such a raw hard psych sound as you will think you are listening to an album straight out of 1970 including, yes including, flashbacks to the late 60s UK sound and brutal hard heavy fuzztoned guitars. Germany is quite the country for music. It has been that way since the classical greats, but mention any number of German rockers to me Epitaph, Lucifer's Friend (when they were good), Frame, Curly Curve, Scorpions, my mouth waters! The Germans much of the time create a unique sound- heavy, raw, violent, dark, tortured, yet there is a sense of true comradeship in the playing of the entire band. Gravestone and this brilliant little record called WAR are no exception.
   The lyrics to the title track which begins the album are of very broken English and appear a bit narrow minded blaming the war on the soldiers, but it could be some kind of guilt for WW2 again which is so often the case. Why feel bad about it when you weren't born in time to fight in that awful war for that useless cause!? I have always believed that Germany gets way too much bashing over the war and if you were a German soldier there is no reason why you should have felt bad about yourself just bad about your situation. It was a war that had to be lost, but as always without the horrible loss of life. Many young men's dreams have been destroyed by war since the dawn of history. That's what I wish the lyrics said, but I may be hoping for too much on a lyrically crude album. In fact everything is so raw here and a few of the guys look like they are 16 or 15 even so you can't make rash statements about their lyrics. There is a wonderful instrumental and the mainly instrumental and very exciting and beautiful song that follows "War" "Waiting For Peace" which features some really good lyrics. You can obviously discern that English is not this band's first language, but that doesn't matter.
Two songs are sung in German and they fit perfectly in with the songs sung in English.
    A 5 piece band keyboards are not a constant, but do appear occasionally to add even more depth to a very guitar oriented group. Lead guitarist Rudi Dorner is an amazing musician and his thick, hard hitting, fuzzed out tone and scathing leads dominate nearly every track on the album whilst bass guitarist Dietmar Orlitta does a valiant job on vocals and even throws in a few harmonica passages. I sometimes can hear early heavy prog like Denmark's Ache or Germany's LONESOME CROW era Scorpions, but this album is much rawer, much more flavoured with a distinct basement/bunker/garage vibe that it ends up as a unique sound. The beginnings of heavy metal can be heard in the angry and crazed "It's Over" where Orlitta's bass threatens to blow out the speakers if his enraged vocals don't do it first, but Gravestone were 5 guys lost in a different era, a different world. The sound is as I said 1970-1971 with remnants of 1968 and that is alone astonishing. I have no idea where in Germany this band is from, but I know from listening that they definitely grew up on all the right influences and managed to miraculously by virtue of their complete unawareness of what was going on at the time sound Wunderbar unique! I think back to the happiest days of my life when I listen to this album. I picture all the joy, all the struggle, yet all the victory I had when music wasn't my only friend and before hatred spoiled my home life. Right now in the present state I am resigned to the sad conclusion that love is out of my life. Especially at home. I have my music. That's all I need. A long break from records and all the bullshit that goes along with trying to collect them in a Puritanical household is more what I need. A nice long respite and TO HELL WITH ALL WHO DON'T BELIEVE IN ME AND DON'T LOVE OR CARE ABOUT ME! I've had enough of your shit and you can forget about being forgiven at this point because you won't be. That is for my enemies. People I know who are sworn enemies and the government and all the cheating, lying, and backstabbing that goes on every day. Have you ever stopped just once to ponder on the fact that while you are feeling stronger by hating somebody and being selfish that EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY SOMEONE DIES IN A WAR OR FROM STARVATION? I'm a human rights advocate. And animal rights very much. What the world needs is a lot less selfishness and a lot more giving and a lot less taking. I know that I am only satisfied by music, that hatred and death roam in my domain way too often and I wish they'd piss off. Can I get on with rebuilding and loving my life instead of hating it now? I sure hope so. As for now music is the only salvation and to Hell with everything else. I've ended where Jim Morrison started. I hope this feeling of betrayal and staleness will end soon. Wish me luck and wish me well. I wish you a lot of music and a lot of joy that I one day hope I too will find. Gravestone are the best. To end on a positive note this album is just awesome, brilliant. You may never see an original, but you just might run into one and if you do don't pass it up for the world.

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