Much on With Nirvana’s Legacy…? Do Re Mi as Dream Pop

CEffect_1

Just enjoying perusing my copy of the Cause & Effect Vol.1 triple 7″ set. I was made aware of the release, and of the Joyful Noise label, via Adam Harding of Dumb Numbers. This bloke has done a lot for my listening habits this year – a few months he even gifted me a link to this little beauty:

I admit I actually stated that I prefer it to the Cobain solo demo; it was such a surprising reconfiguration, the muscular backing rhythm giving some heft even as the vocals retain the fragility of the original effort, while still using backing vocals to give the song a gorgeous dreamy effect. It’s light and heavy all at the same time and I totally adore it.

As for the Cause & Effect set, heck what’s not to like? There’s something lush about vinyl and the packaging on this one is wonderfully intricate – outer package, inner sleeves decorated with images of the various artists, coloured vinyl on the inside… I don’t want to fetishise the object(s) but it did give me pleasure studying these this morning and seeing how much effort had gone into them. Buy it! Go buy it! You’ll also find the new LP from David Yow (former Scratch Acid, formerly The Jesus Lizard, definite vocal influence on early era Kurt Cobain) and the new EP from Sebadoh too. Goodies!

Meanwhile Duluth, Minnesota’s finest – Trampled by Turtles – are playing a batch of shows in the U.S. and have an entertaining new video up which made me chuckle:

http://trampledbyturtles.com/

And what of my 2012 meisterwerk, Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide? Well, it rolls on alongside my efforts on the blog front, alongside fresh ideas germinating and generally sprouting in a way that makes it hard to find time around work to translate it all into full-blooded words on paper… I admit, on the topic of object-focused fetishism, a normal Saturday morning topic, that people often asked me last year whether I’d considered just doing it as an e-book. I was very firm that given I was writing, ultimately, out of pride and ego, that I wanted to hold the physical object in my hand, I wanted a book, not just data on a screen. It was the right choice. OK, it meant I worked hard to make the words what I wished of them, to make something I felt said new, interesting stuff about Nirvana, about Incesticide, about Kurt Cobain – but it felt great seeing the book. I’ve got about 20 copies of the second print run left now, not bad, not bad. Just drop me an email at nirvanadarkslivers@gmail.com if you want to inquire about it.

Inner and Vinyl

Saturday Salute to True Originals: The Dwarves

The early Eighties saw the original punk confrontational edge taken to its (il)logical extreme. Stories abound of Michael Gira (Swans) punching a man in the audience for “having too much fun”, James Chance (The Cortortions) regularly ending up in fights — it echoed but barely expanded on Iggy Pop’s actions of a decade before. Simultaneously, however, confrontation within the music (both the aforementioned bands being fair examples) had exploded with punk-influenced bands wedging an ever increasing openness to avant-garde noise, no wave noise, industrial noise into the gears of their guitar playing. The one element that hadn’t been recalibrated for this new age was the theatre of horrors element represented, at his peak, by Alice Cooper and, to a certain degree, by KISS — it had perhaps become too much a part of the hair metal androgyny and make-up vibe to be immediately swallowed whole.

http://thedwarves.bandcamp.com/album/the-dwarves-must-die

But then it happened. The combination of punk rock, openness to new music, stage performance as truly a performance and not just a lo-fi rehash of songs that would end up polished definitively in studio, the aggressive, transgressive, often violent stage presence all came together with The Dwarves, alongside the notorious GG Allin, being a crucial purveyor. These acts deserve credit for creating something that, through its recombination of elements, was indeed something new, fresh and original.

That’s what has often been underappreciated when speaking of the bands that emphasised the performance element — every band that has found success in the live arena has required a degree of gimmick even if the gimmick has been a po-faced, minimal movement or a supposed ‘natural’ style. The examples are well-known; burning guitars, smashing guitars, windmill chords, matching outfits, extended solos, extended/intro/outro jams, set destruction, self-harm, stage diving, stage invasion — whatever, it’s all a form of performance. To make it crucial to the identity of a band then wrap that identity in grotesqueness was no more nor less a quality approach than the musical switches of a band like Nirvana.

The Dwarves, with their rabid on-stage quality tore a new and refreshing hole somewhere between the po-faced early Eighties hardcore scene and the drunken but surprisingly straight-edged North-West scene.
The Dwarves are an ongoing concern, still pushing forward, moving on — its nice seeing another long-term survivor alongside the Sonic Youth (R.I.P.), Mudhoney, Pearl Jam contingent; not just another reheated nostalgia trip, but then, The Dwarves never seem to have been about adhering to the norm or paying too much notice to peoples’ comfort levels. I mean this as an absolute compliment! Now enjoy the music…

27 Ad Infinitum: The Death Club?

Kurt Cobain_27

I admit to finding coincidences intriguing. A coincidence, the admission of the hand of chance on a seemingly repetitive basis, sparks my curiosity regarding whether what we’re seeing is an actual trend that can be shown with data, or merely a deceptive slice of cherry-picked data points, or a case that the belief that one should see a particular something leading the mind to filter out contradictory information and home in on reinforcement for what one believes.

Luckily, other people look at something like the well-known coincidence of rock star deaths at age 27 and use it as a point for creating art and items of deep and less geeky engagement.

Jack Dowd – 27: When the Music Died

I’ve known of this exhibition for months courtesy of a fellow rock enthusiast at work, the VP of Corporate Communications to be exact; I just didn’t get round to sharing it. I’m not sure I have much feeling for the images, they’re a little too photographic to inspire but I recognize the difference between being in a gallery studying the paintwork up close versus a flat Internet image; it’s like the comparison between being at a live show versus the YouTube clip.

The overall concept engages me more but brings me back to my reasons in the first paragraph, that I enjoy coincidences because they make me want to look more closely. A few months back a major study concluded that music stars did indeed have higher mortality than the average population until they reached their forties and fifties at which point mortality was no different (https://nirvana-legacy.com/2013/02/01/the-effect-of-childhood-trauma/). The combination of a relatively volatile grouping of individuals, in risky and unstable circumstances, with an excess of opportunities to engage in risk-increasing behaviours was what was, apparently, responsible for the trend. The data-set is good, it’s sheer size giving it authority, the source authority is excellent. They didn’t dwell on the 27 issue at all…

…But in the same Journal another article a year before did:

http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d7799

The study limited itself to just the U.K. and noted no stand-out number of deaths associated with the age 27 though it confirmed the overall heightened chances of dying among musicians. Does that kill the myth?

Not at all. Like all good stories no amount of data can eliminate the enjoyment of an ominous portent, tales of the grim reaper will always remain something to relish…Or to paint.

Friday January 31, 1992: The Guttersnipes

God Bless Australia. While I’d never wear an England sports shirt and God forbid I ever wear a football shirt from the egregious business venture (as opposed to a sport) that is the English Premier League, I’m presently endeavouring to buy an Aussie Wallabies shirt — it’s justifiable because I have no idea what sport they play nor have I ever seen them so it’s not a tribal thing. What snobbery!

In other things I’m grateful to Australia for, my favourite Aussie Josephine receives a respectful bow firstly as ever, then I’m pointing specifically to The Guttersnipes today. Michael, Paul, Mark and Andrew have been a pleasure to speak to recently and kindly furnished me with this:

nirvana_palace

I double-checked as much as I could and as far as I can tell this is the only copy I’ve ever seen of this particular Australia tour poster featuring the late addition of Sunday February 2, 1992.

They’re certainly my music pick of the present week so I’ve ripped the OFFICIAL Guttersnipes Live at the Great Britain in 1992 YouTube set from their Facebook page and would like to present it to you as a fun and healthy way to add some Antipodean colour to your day:

If that doesn’t please your ears, well try a slice of the Southernhemisphereplayaistic studio version of Face the Day:

The gritty vocals are given me a good feel (like Rancid at their peak), the willingness to let the music soar in a jumble of indie sunshine, hammer-on-off rock riffs and a wicked outro well-worth waiting for; a nice touch. Interesting hearing a bit of their story too, peoples, look around you, some of these people you’re going to take with you for decades to come:

“(Paul) We four had fairly similar backgrounds, we all met at uni and lived at the same residential college. Musically the tastes were pretty diverse…One guy was into Depression, Misfits, Butthole Surfers, Mass Appeal and others. Another guy was into Minor Threat, Fugazi, Pixies and Steve Albini. Another was into more folk-pop oriented, (The Saints, The Church) and me, I had a bit of everything (Deep Purple, Kate Bush, The Damned, Einsturzende Nuebaten, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Swervedriver). We all had a bit of crossover with each others tastes. Husker Du, Black Sabbath, etc. Musically, it was an interesting mix and our priority was staying friends believe it or not. Our matrix was the fun factor. We played good songs, and we had plenty of mates who drank a lot of beer. A rent a crowd as it were, which made us instantly popular with the venues.”

“(Michael) I’d add Dinosaur Jr and the Pixies to the list Paul had, and possibly some other Australian bands like God, Bored, The Throwaways and Venom P. Stinger. We were all aware of Bleach around the time we formed too, and a lot of other post hardcore stuff from 88/89.”

“(Mark) There were a lot of very good bands around Melbourne at that time, and a lot of places to play. It was a very unpretentious scene, there was not a lot of fashion bullshit. If you were good people came to see you. I have no doubt the best live music on the planet at that time was in Melbourne, not that we realised it then. You could go see the Powder Monkeys in a small pub then cross the road and see Damaged, two of the best live bands that ever existed.”

Intriguingly, the band state they’ve still got material from their final studio sessions they never got around to releasing…Curious…The unknowns of music past; watch this space and check out The Guttersnipes over on Facebook; there’s a lot going on in Melbourne.

For the record, here are the other three Australia tour posters I could locate:

Nirvana_Australia_Grouped

Further Dumb Numbers Plus Lou Barlow Videos

As ever I’ve been talking to the people I’m lucky enough to be in touch with. At the moment a lot of my attention is focused on one Mr. Adam Harding and his Dumb Numbers project…So I asked if he’d mind me asking a few questions and sharing the answers. In addition, Adam was responsible for creating a number of videos for Lou Barlow/Dale Crover in 2009 so, I confess without asking, I’ve woven them into the piece just to provide some audio/visual amusement as you read…Plus, credit where it’s due! This is great stuff, why wouldn’t I want to share it?

(Adam – earlier email) It was hearing the song ‘Soul and Fire’ on a community radio station in ’93 that really made me want to put my songs onto tape. Then a decade later it was actually Lou Barlow that told me passion is more important than technical ability and to trust my instincts. Lou became one of my closest friends and my proudest musical moment was when he asked me to sing and play on this song:

(Adam) I grew up on all the obvious stuff I guess.. the Beatles, Neil Young, Aersosmith, Cheap Trick, Kiss and AC/DC then in my early teens I was into the Stooges, Wipers, Black Sabbath, Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Dead Kennedys and by my mid-teens I was into Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Melvins, Sebadoh, the Jesus Lizard, Fugazi. I’d pretty much check out anything that was on SST, Homestead, Amphetamine Reptile, Touch & Go, Dischord, Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars, and Australian labels like Au-go-go, Waterfront, Fellaheen and Dog Meat Records. We’re pretty lucky to have some awesome independent radio stations like RRR and PBS in Melbourne and ZZZ in Brisbane.

(Adam – earlier email) In the interest of sharing, here’s a couple of videos I made back in 2009 for some of Lou’s songs with Dale Crover…

(Adam) I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a town called Geelong, which is an hour drive south of Melbourne. Geelong was a no bullshit working class town, with the Shell oil refinery and Ford motor factory being the major employers. It was home to some amazing local bands like Bored! and Magic Dirt who were a huge influence on me, although it didn’t come out until much later when I finally put a makeshift band together. At the time I was making embarrassingly derivative acoustic 4-track recordings and sending them to Lou and his girlfriend in Boston.

(Adam) It wasn’t until my 20s that I got together with Lou and some friends from Magic Dirt and finally recorded full-band electric versions of my songs. The excitement of this is what led directly to the formation of Dumb Numbers. Dumb Numbers is kind of a revolving door roster with members including Lou and Murph from Dinosaur, Dale Crover, Bobb Bruno from Best Coast, Chad from Emperor X, Steve Patrick from Useless Children and Bonnie Mercer from Dead River. So there’s no real definitive line-up, although for recent live shows it’s been Murph on drums, Steve on bass, Bonnie on guitar, and I play guitar and sing.

(Adam) I’m very lucky to be able to write songs with particular musicians in mind and then get to have them play on the songs. I don’t like to tell people what to play. My band mates are some of my favourite musicians in the world and I prefer to let them bring their own thing to the songs and make them better. Surround yourself with people more talented than you, that’s my motto!

(Adam) So the first Dumb Numbers release is a song on the Cause & Effect 3×7″ release on Joyful Noise Recordings along with tracks by Lou Barlow, Thurston Moore and David Yow. I’m still pinching myself about having a track on this release alongside 3 of my biggest musical heroes. Then we just finished mastering the full-length Dumb Numbers album will be out in a few months and we’re also planning a US tour for later in the year…

And here it is; the first Dumb Numbers release:

Lou Barlow – “Crack And Emerge” (Stereogum Premiere)

Holiday Post: Music for Covering the World with Love and Making it Taste Good

I hope you’ll indulge me this week while I’m on holiday, Nirvana musings don’t grow on trees but general thought sprouts wildly from every nook and cranny. I remembering thinking I’d only do this if I felt like putting up something different, well, I’m sitting in a sunbeam and feel like matching the mood. So! For this one off occasion, I’m going to explain my favourites. Apologies for being slack!

Album for Lying Down in the Dark with your Head Between the Speakers
I’ve always meant to do the family tree diagram showing my tastes evolving from the summer of 1993 where Nirvana reverted everything, for me, to Year Zero on toward the present. I’d want it to show the branches that tied Beck and Rage Against the Machine together to mean I could accept Public Enemy, Cannibal Ox and Dalek – while another branch would wed Sonic Youth and Swans to say yes to No Wave, Industrial, Electronica. Swans “Soundtracks for the Blind” is a resurgence, Michael Gira was bookending Swans career at the time and signposting the way to his future, this was after having the guts to change direction so thoroughly that he shed his entire existing audience, after a battle with alcoholism, constant money worries of dire dimensions, relationship issues, label breaks…And he came up for air at the end of it with a two and a half hour snake of an album that slowly winds between ambient noise loops, onto vast post-rock epics where guitars ring like bells and his wonderful baritone echoes, raves or purrs, through acoustic diversions stripped down to blackened bone, tapes of unnamed individuals talking about their psychological and physical ailments, one track laced with a gorgeous disco beat, his female counterpart Jarboe’s vocal showcases…Yet, despite all this, it always feels coherent, unified, as if everything belongs. It’s rare to hear an album where, though the track order barely matters, not a single piece doesn’t belong, it’s the rarest thing, a non-concept album of vast length that possesses a unity that leaves more deliberate constructions feeling so ‘try-hard.’

Songs for Gritting the Teeth, Steeling the Soul and Deciding to Conquer the World
I have an album put together by a guy called Boyd Rice, an unpleasant character who has flirted so long with Fascism it’s hard to tell where the art-joke starts anymore. On the other hand, he did put together a great record called Death’s Gladsome Song consisting of marching songs of the pre-war Romanian Iron Guard Fascist militia. Hard to detach the songs from what the people went on to do just a few years later but the songs do capture the core of a good martial tune; stirring peaks, something that could bring the boots down hard, simple sounds that could engage a thousand voices as one. That’s what brings me to Pantera ‘Walk’; the best exercise song of all time. I mean, seriously, the chorus breaks down to individual syllables ”RE! SPECT! WALK!” A street full of people with fists in the air would make that line feel like gunshots. The steady grind of the main riff likewise has cunning pauses that jerk the head forward. It’s a vengeance song and perfect for that jolt of adrenalin.

Most Unlistenable Record Ever Made
Now, clearly the true contenders here would be lift muzak, generic radio rock and the kinds of R n’ B where the performers are now so plastic and incapable of real emotion that they mistake technical multi-octave acrobatics for human expression. But if I really want to clear a room…There’s only one candidate; kids, if you want to make the house sound like the world is ending, Borbetomagus are the shriek that will emerge when God’s vengeful angels split the sky in two and pour through to uproot man from the Earth. I possess the gloriously well presented “Feel the Magic” release and all I really remember at this remove is saxophones screeching like the seas just boiled up and squeezed through the eye of a needle, what’s supposedly a guitar being choked to death in the background and having no real ability to distinguish between them. Contenders for this award included 2nd Gen Rushing at Thresholds, a track sourced from a cello recording that once caused a neighbour to enter my room and yell (with hands to ears) “it sounds like the furniture is coming through the ceiling!” John Wiese also performs a tasty line in laboratory tested noise under a variety of guises.

Album that Makes me do Hand Gestures and Mouth Lyrics at my Desk
I sit at work, I survey the domain of decent people scurrying about or buried facedown at laptops, and I need something to pep the place up. The answer is always the same; Waka Flocka Flame “Flockaveli”. I know, I’ll get crucified for this but it has everything I love in a good rock track; bombast, heavy rhythm, hooks that won’t let go…It sounds like punk always promised it would, like an riot going on. Plus, unlike a lot of mainstream hip hop, it’s relatively low on the usual infantile sexism that makes so many artists near unlistenable – I described it the other week as “more gunz, less bitchez” and that’s pretty accurate. And boy, there are a LOT of guns. The casually humorous violence has me waving gang signs at appropriate intervals I admit. Gun Sounds and Busting at ‘em are masterpieces. The only competitors in recent years have been Lil Wayne’s Six Foot, Seven Foot and A Milli, both stream of consciousness, barely room to breathe density, I admire the control, the pacing, both the twisted connections and the topic-jumps.

Massacring the Audience at My Own Funeral
I think of funerals the same way I do birthdays; it’s an occasion when one can force ones’ friends (and I’ll have precious few left by the time of my funeral if this is my attitude!) to do whatever one wishes for a day and, for the sake of politeness, it’s really hard for them to refuse. I’m looking forward to old age for a variety of reasons (pretending to slip away in the armchair then springing up just as people lean in to check my breathing; developing selective hearing that only hands out admission passes to mention of food, drink and trips to the horse-racing) but I think having the full twenty minute version of Sonic Youth’s The Diamond Sea played at the funeral is going to be a joy. There’s a longer 25 minute version (plus an 11 minute live version and a 7 minute edit) but the 20 feels most exact. There’s always been talk of music attempting to approximate natural sounds yet The Diamond Sea’s outro is the only one that truly makes me think of the rise and fall of waves post-storm. At root the song is an impressionistically expressed love song, a simple boy-girl lament. The words play out over a combination of verse-chorus-verse chiming pop music and improvisation, I can listen to it over and again and end up following completely different elements within the song – the separation between the two guitars, the bass, the drums, is so pristine that the whole can be teased back to its its parts and each one followed individually. The long instrumental outro rises up to a crescendo, dies with the kind of dignity I hope I can still muster, then rises, piece-by-piece, back from the grave, each instrument slowly reentering at creaking, soiled pace. It’s the sound of a band who collaborate so seamlessly, who are so honed as a unit, that they need only the slimmest chalk outline to be able to summon up the body as a coherent whole. Sonic Youth; the greatest band of the last thirty years.

The Records I wish Everyone Knew but No One Does
I’ll pitch two candidates in this category. In about 1999 myself and a dear comrade watched a French singer called Francois Breut in the backroom of a pub in Cambridge. The support act were a very British Americana band and when we saw their name pop up a few months later we went again…And soon again…And again…Six times in all. I bumped into the lead singer at Kings Cross Station once and garbled something like “real sorry to disturb you…But you’re what’shisname Adams from The Broken Family Band aren’t you? Just wanted to say you guys are great, we’ve been X times, we keep taking different friends to see you…” he replied “gosh, it’s a cult!” we shook hands and off we went. Or maybe he just said thank you, oops, I think he said that “it’s a cult” line six months later in the bar at a gig in North London where I was trying to get served and he pointed and said “I know you…” and I explained the group attendance thing. Anyways, go find Cold Water Songs, Jesus Songs and, my favourite, the King Will Build a Disco EP. It’s the croaky voice, the recognisable discomfort with love and romance and the opposite gender, the striving to be better than one is… I know as well that personal connection can make anything more than it might seem to an outsider; this is maybe one case.

The other entry would be Urusei Yatsura, how the heck did these guys not conquer the world? They came out around about the same time that Arab Strap (stunning!), Mogwai (magnificent in their prime) and Belle & Sebastian (…) were also emerging up in Scotland yet never seemed to break through. That’s despite writing wonderfully noisy rock songs wedded to pop choruses and great tunes all in a foil wrap of static and feedback, banged guitar bodies and screwdriver-wrecked strings. And it all sounded so joyous, everything they did sounded like they were having such fun. All of it from the significant number of single b-sides out there (Yon Kyoto Iri EP – I’ve spelt that wrong), right through the albums was played with frantic happiness. It felt good but no one else seems to feel that. When I’ve played it at other peoples’ houses sometimes it sounds like there’s too much treble, or I notice excessive hiss, or the unfriendly edges… But, on my own, it reverts to being what I’m sure it is; blissful alternative pop music. You should own Slain By. And Pulpo. And that EP I mentioned. And We Are. Just don’t buy Everyone Loves – I don’t know what happened there.

Those who Made Good Music but Never Pulled off a Good Album
This happens all the time – Eminem had cracking song after cracking song, conquered the world…But his albums were made at the peak of efforts by the music industry to make CDs seem appealing so 20 track long albums, always too long, were the norm and diluted the punch. Adding to that, even though Eminem’s skits were of higher quality than most, breaking off for some lame joke always spoilt the momentum. That was on top of the perennial album issue of filler tracks that might as well go anywhere. People really should learn to take the Nirvana route and go for twelve songs deep of solid gold and after that they should have to justify each and every song’s unique right to be there, Oasis got this more or less right in their heyday. Anyways, my candidate here is Throbbing Gristle. Let’s get this straight, I love the music. I looked after the family’s first dog once while my parents were away. I sat in the conservatory and played the entire Throbbing Gristle “24” live box-set which contained 24 hours of music – occasionally the dog would hear something on the recording that I hadn’t noticed, he’d appear at the door, cock his head to one side and stare into the room like he could see ghosts. The individuals involved went on to make albums I adore; Coil’s Musick to Play in the Dark (both volumes) or Psychic TV’s Force Thee Hand of Chance. But in that initial entity, they never quite managed it. Their most coherent release was 20 Jazz Funk Greats, but it cohered around some clear single quality tracks while much of it felt dashed off. Other releases were like compilations of whatever unholy spine-pricking nastiness or willowy keyboard prettiness they happened to be staring at for that moment. As a body of work, it’s immense, but as single disc entities…None have that golden glimmer. But seriously, spend some time with twelve inches of Throbbing Gristle.

I’ll leave it there. When it comes to Nirvana, the last thing to really spark me was a good quality live rendition of Run Rabbit Run on the bootleg The Chosen Rejects – love it. More please. What am I listening to in general? Waka Flocka Flame free mixtapes, the soundtrack to Blood on Satan’s Claw plus other weird library music and 70s exotica from Trunk Records, Black Boned Angel “Verdun”, Sleep Research Facility “Stealth”, a load of stuff by experimental guitarist Fear Falls Burning…

Nick is on Holiday: But Here’s Melbourne, Oz Plus Adam, Murph, Steve and Bonnie

Today I’m off to see what Gibraltar looks like so, alas, no post of depth and quality today…

…But here’s Adam Harding (guiding light and guitar), Murph (Dinosaur Jr – drums), Steve Patrick (Useless Children – bass) and Bonnie Mercer (Dead River – guitar) – A.K.A. Dumb Numbers – kicking out a cover tune on stage in Melbourne, Australia last month (big wave to Josephine, Melbourne’s finest, oh, and Cheeky too!) Note the neat video fade-in prior to the song screeching into place; oh, this is a Kim Deal tune! There’s a Mudhoney cover up on YouTube too plus a couple of quality originals.

And the original post for more detail:
https://nirvana-legacy.com/2013/04/20/dumb-numbers-make-beautiful-sounds-new-music/

Enjoy! And yes, Spain is beautiful as ever. Thank you for asking.

Dumb Numbers Make Beautiful Sounds: New Music

Around this exact time a year ago I was here at my parents, carrying a notepad everywhere to scribble down indecipherable reminders of ideas I’d later get home and dash into the laptop, all ready to spend the six months that followed trying to fashion it all into some kind of sense until, eventually, a book emerged at the end of it.

A year later it feels a bit of a privilege to have been given the chance to communicate with so many decent and intriguing individuals; the world is full of friendly people, especially in the land of Nirvana fans, and so, I’d like to introduce you to a guy I’m honoured to have spoken to.

Lou Barlow – “Crack And Emerge” (Stereogum Premiere)

Back before Christmas a gentleman called Adam Harding was in touch buying a copy of Dark Slivers: Seeing Nirvana in the Shards of Incesticide and in passing mentioned his own musical project; Dumb Numbers. To my shame, I admit I was expecting some barely formed garage demo but I’m endlessly interested in other peoples’ works so I asked him if he had anything he could share. Modest soul said something like “hmm, well, I’m always nervous showing stuff that isn’t finished…But here ya go.” Three songs and I clicked play.

And my jaw hit the floor. Three songs, three very different vibes, a talent for layering the instruments, for undeniable catchiness, for memorable hooks that still never betrayed the alt. vibe, for vocals that ranged from dreaminess to punk rawk snarl. The music had that scattershot Sebadoh vibe while tempering it with some more up-to-date sheen and digital precision in the mix. I vaguely remember having to go back on email and more or less prostrate myself in bowing position – you may be surprised to hear that, in one case and one specific scenario, I stated honestly and without reservation, that what Adam had done beat Kurt Cobain – I still mean that. After so many years consuming music it’s SO rare to be stunned anymore, it was one of the most inspiring moments I’d had all year, knowing that there are people out there, plugging away in the mists, unseen, but creating things that can surprise. Beautiful.

So, anyways, Adam returned and pointed out that the very first release by Dumb Numbers, consisting of Adam, plus Lou Barlow (come on, do I really have to say “of Sebadoh and of Dinosaur Jr”?) and Murph (again, hallowed denizen of Dinosaur Jr), has been released on the 3×7″ Cause & Effect set alongside tracks by Lou Barlow, Thurston Moore and hallowed soul David Yow.

Heck, I’ve already bought it. $18 dollars and not much more to get this to the U.K.? No brainer. Peoples, I’ve been itching to share something, anything, by this guy for months – a talent. Hope you enjoy this as much as I do and, oh, just as a concluding thought ripped from an email Adam sent me:

“I remember playing some early tracks for Lou and his first response was ‘do you miss Nirvana?'”
“He was poking fun but the truth is, yes I do miss Nirvana.”

Amen brother, amen.

Kurt Cobain Singing Aged Two/Frances Bean Singing

It’s impossible to look at something like this without trying to ‘read backwards’, attempting to see the man in the child’s voice. And of course it’s an illusion, any fleeting similarities are pretty much in one’s own head. Ultimately, it’s a simple reminder that there are no set paths, one’s genetics only dictate so much of who one is or could be, but or does one float free of one’s origins in a bubble of pristine innocence.

So what is this? Well, it’s not an early attempt at a long-lost album; it’s not an evolutionary milestone in the development of an icon; it’s not even an insight into the pre-fame era. It’s just an unknown child, somewhere in the now distant past, one of millions who at some point sang into a mic and mimicked whatever the hits of the day were that appealed to a two year old. It’s authentic, but it’s simply a reminder that without the genuine intent behind it, it might as well be anyone…
…And that brings us to this.

Again, we’re faced with a shred of material barely worth a glimpse (not helped by the irksome commentary and the appalling quality.) In this case, we’re looking at a human being and trying to read backward to the person who came before them — just another space-filling “oh doesn’t she look like her father/mother…Oh look at the eyes, look at how she’s dressed today…” It’s a nothing really. Trying to read genetic singing characteristics, trying to seek a voice that had been honed and gristled by a decade of growling from the tones of a young girl who wasn’t yet two years old when that voice departed.

Hard not to look though isn’t it? There’s an air of importance provided because of who it is rather than what it is which partially obscures any question of quality or ability. It’s why the greatest album ever made probably lives in the bottom drawer of a dusty and abandoned desk unit and we’ll never see it — because greatness is as much a consequence of consumption and exposure as it is about innate aural quality or natural talent.