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The Pieces - Pretty Crazy ep
Minor Mine - Where They Go

PAS - Flanked by Women and Pumpkins (Alreason Musique)

I’d hung up the "Gone Fishing" sign a while back, but things are still arriving in the ‘In Tray’, and that's no problem when they're as good as these.

It's about a year since Mudkiss first heard the Pieces when they won a local talent competition and made a big impression on me and fellow-judge JC Carroll (of Members fame). They were a cut above the competition that night, so it's been interesting to see how things have gone since then. The group's been playing regular gigs on the London circuit - playing places like the legendary Half Moon in Putney, Water Rats, the Camden Barfly, and Nambucca to name a few. Now they've recorded their second ep, “Pretty Crazy“. The four songs here play to their strengths - writing their own material and showing how they've honed their act over the last year. They draw on a range of influences - the classic Mod bands of the 60's provide a great template for how to pack a load of ideas into a single-length song, and there's a matching punky energy and attitude to show this is a lot more than a revival act. Throw in an awareness of past heroes like Dr Feelgood, a bit of psychedelia, the 70's pub rock sound, a trace of Britpop, a dash of the Libertines, and you'll get an idea of their sound - combine these influences with their own energy and ideas, and things get interesting.

“Pretty Crazy” kicks off like a real statement of intent, the guitars interlock just right and there's a strong Clash + harmonies feel. “Too Old” has a really good early Kinks (c “Well Respected Man“) feel to the lyrics, nailing eternal issues of social hypocrisy and teen frustration, all set to a "Nuggets"-style garage sound, but the concerns are totally 2012. “Play” - inspired by the Beatles b-side "Rain" (best ever b-side?!? Discuss) - slows things down and shows how the Pieces have worked on crucial details like backing vocals, and arrangements. “Tripwire” rounds things off, with an introspective, slower acoustic vibe. Available direct from the Pieces (Chiswick) facebook page, for a mere £3.00.

Minor Mine: Band of Holy Joy came back from a recent series of Greek dates raving about Thessaloniki's 'Minor Mine', who'd not only supported them but they'd ended up playing together - see the results on YouTube, with Johny Brown plunging headfirst into Minor Mine's rembetika/post-punk sound. "Where They Go" shows what they're about - a dense, psych/folk brew that invokes Nick Cave minus some of the sturm und drang ("Are You Sure" for example), or Australian visionaries the Triffids,with maybe even a dash of Richard Thompson.

Personally, the opening track - "All the Grief in my Heart" - is a bit too close to Jethro Tull in their folkie waistcoats'n'whiskers phase for my taste, but there's no looking back after that, as Minor Mine generate a swirling insistent mix of intently strummed guitars and garagey keyboards. "Ado in my Head" could be a “Born Sandy Devotional” out-take.

It’s a really strong set, that hardly draws breath and whips along at a compulsive pace, like the Bad Seeds jamming with the Doors (once the Lizard King's passed out in the corner!). Tracks like “Where They Go” have a vintage mysterious swirling organ sound, while “Where You Belong” and “Waiting” for are if anything even more intense, generating the kind of storm rarely heard since the days of Arthur "King of Hellfire" Brown. There's a real dramatic sense of build-and-release throughout the album, with a great blend of deep menacing vocals, churning layers of guitars and of course those gorgeously sinister keyboard sounds. I've loved this album more every time I've played it. In my understanding, rembetika is as much a state of mind - not unlike Rastafarianism - as a musical style (Greek blues), and is about representing for the outsider in society, and there's a similar overall feel to the lyrics here. I'm just hoping there's a 'return fixture' with Band of Holy Joy” in the pipeline - I want to see Minor Mine live! Take a look at their facebook page for more info (they're on ye olde MySpace too).

PAS: Robert L Pepper and the rest of New York's PAS crew are back in town with a new collection of their 'electroacoustic soundscapes'. Sure, they won't be playing the Rebellion circuit any time soon, but I'd suggest their approach is as punk and more than any retro revivalists. PAS deal in layers of sound - this time they use conventional instruments (not always as intended, maybe), as well as the usual collage of samples, fx , drones and improv. There's also a strong Suicide/Galaxie 500/”Low”-era Bowie influence to their sound (especially in the first few tracks), along with more contemporary sounds like Coil and Throbbing Gristle, although really music is just one aspect of what they do, alongside film, performance art and graphics. Possibly the collection's a little on the long side at just over an hour, and is maybe better dipped into - but that's a minor consideration, especially as I'm usually moaning about rip-off short albums. 

If you subscribe to "The Wire", this should appeal to you! Otherwise, if you’re ready to step outside your comfort zone, I’d suggest going to PAS’ facebook page, where you can really see and hear the full range of their activities, sonic, visual and otherwise.

The Pieces -
Minor Mine -

PAS - 

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