Words Don’t Hold You: A Closer Listen to Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen

Words Don’t Hold You: A Closer Listen to Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen

This is an excerpt from an essay in AdHoc #7. Purchase this issue or subscribe.

Nothing else on Steve McQueen sounds like “Faron Young,” making it a strange choice for the opening track of Prefab Sprout’s second, and finest, album. A Fairlight-sampled banjo that rolls in and out of the bridge gives the impression of parody, but there is something too sinister, and even trippy, about the track for it to be dismissed as such. Additionally, it is the most lyrically oblique song on the 1985 album. The band’s principal songwriter, Paddy McAloon, sings, “I’ve lost just what it takes to be honest.” The lyric can be taken literally as a comment on a romantic relationship—Steve McQueen is above all an album about infidelity and dishonesty—but it reads just as well as one on his relationship to pop music.

In the chorus, Faron Young becomes the name of an act: “You give me Faron Young, four in the morning.” To make sense of the act though, we need to understand Faron. Faron Young was a country singer; his first hit single, “Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young,” was released in 1955. The track is a jaunty celebration of appetite—an almost disarmingly amiable take on a sentiment that, twenty years later, might have made for a nihilistic punk declaration. Coming from Faron Young’s elastic voice, you detect an element of naïvite. How likely is it, after all, that all the women he hopes to leave behind will be “thinking pretty thoughts” of him? There is no room for being hurt in this death wish. Joe Allison, the songwriter, was inspired to write the song after watching the 1949 Humphrey Bogart vehicle, Knock On Any Door, which features a very young John Derek in the role of petty criminal Nick Romano, whose life goal is “live hard, die young, and leave a good looking corpse.”  

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Syllabus of Errors: The End of Sightings

Syllabus of Errors: The End of Sightings Credit: Andrew W.K.

For the 15 years of its existence, Sightings rode a searing squall that fell somewhere between no wave, noise, free jazz, and a number of other dissonant micro-genres, always presenting themselves as a rock band. The Brooklyn-based trio-- comprised of Mark Morgan (guitar and vocals), Richard Hoffman (bass), and Jon Lockie (drums)-- led a consistent regimen that saw the band perform local shows, tour all over the U.S. and Europe, and release album after album of caustic beauty on labels like Load, DaisPsych-O-Path, Fusetron, and Ecstatic Peace!, among others. But with Dais' announcement of Amusers and Puzzlers, Sightings' tenth album, came the news that the trio was officially over. Serving as an epilogue of sorts, the new LP shows the band in its waning moments, not slowing down or losing power but transitioning to an older, more refined and potent version of itself. We caught up with Morgan and Hoffman to trace the band's final moments, as well as the various highs and lows of Sightings' career.

AdHoc: When did Sightings actually break up?

Mark Morgan: Two years ago. Jon, the drummer, quit. He was sick of shit and just said, “I’m done.” And that was that. I think when I was one of my more grandiose moments I’d thought, “Everyone in this band is irreplaceable.” Being Mr. False Modesty, I did actually think that. I thought everyone has their unique playing styles, so if someone left the band and someone else came in, it would definitely be a different thing. You could say that about a million other bands too. We didn’t make a fucking blood pact or anything to say if one person leaves, the band is done. Jon quit and Richard and I thought about trying a new drummer and we vaguely entertained that idea – maybe 50% serious – and it got to a point where we were like, “Fuck that shit.” I think we had our run. We weren’t going to shit at the end, but after you play music for 15 years it’s like, yeah.

Richard Hoffman:  We don't really know why Jon quit, but I will say Mark and I were pretty aware that playing challenging music was unlikely to garner much tangible success.

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Bruce Smear: "Pick and Roll"

Bruce Smear:

Glitched-out, "yo, omg"-inducing vides are nothing new for electronic music, at least since Chris Cunningham warped minds with "Rubber Johnny" almost exactly a decade ago. This doesn't stop director Anton Tammi from working some serious magic on Bruce Smear's (a.k.a. Tommy Davidson) recent single "Pick and Roll," from last year's CHLORINE EP.  Following a particularly funky crustacean in his ongoing attempts to both get down and avoid being eaten, the video's packed with more eyebrow-raising cuts and post-production FX than I could shake a stick at, particularly one incredible, twisting shot where said crab warps around the screen's periphery to startle an ostensibly hungry scorpion, who turns in a marked gesture of surprise. It's this equally hilarious and perceptive shot, mixing the near-robotic movements of these critters with a perceptively human affect, that sounds such a true note with Davidson's work on the project, and with the genre at large: that the personal, emotional highs of the genre's best tracks are inseparable from its often mechanical backbone.

CHLORINE is out now on Driftless Recordings.  

Pleasure Leftists: "You You"

Pleasure Leftists:

Cleveland post-punk group Pleasure Leftists will be releasing a new LP, The Woods of Heaven, in August on Deranged Records. The band (who share members with Homostupids, another band you should keep an eye out and ear for) released a collection of small releases for the likes of Katorga Works and Fan Death Records, but this will be their first proper full-length. Single “You You” plays out gracefully but covered in spikes— its propulsive groove has an immediate jolt, making the chorus-drenched guitar riffs and vocal lilt light up with a sort of delicate urgency. You can listen to it below via Deranged Records’ Soundcloud.

The Woods of Heaven is due out August 21st on Deranged Records.

Stream a Live Puce Mary Set

Stream a Live Puce Mary Set

Danish musician and Posh Isolation affiliate Frederikke Hoffmeier makes haunting industrial noise as Puce Mary. She performed at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn on April 18th as part of an Ascetic House after party for this year’s edition of New York’s Alright, the NYC hardcore festival that draws from an international pool of punk’s best and local favorites like Dawn of Humans, Warthog, and Anasazi. Sex Magazine recorded the performance, and it’s available for stream below via their Soundcloud.

Puce Mary will be playing on August 12th with Pharmakon, Damien Dubrovnik, and Varg at Palisades in Brooklyn.

Container Remixes Panda Bear's "Mr. Noah"

Container Remixes Panda Bear's

Ren Schofield has a knack for the distorted and the disturbing, whether as a member of Form A Log or with his solo project Container. In his remix of Panda Bear’s “Mr. Noah,” (his contribution to Panda Bear’s PBVSGR Remixes EP) Noah Lennox’s vocals morph from the rhythmic affectations of the original into nervous zoo-cage taunts over his thumping, blown-woofer drum programming. You can stream it below via Animal Collective’s Soundcloud.

The PBVSGR Remixes EP is out now on Domino. Container’s 2015 LP is out now on Spectrum Spools, but the LPs are sold out at the source. Catch him August 15th at Palisades in Brooklyn with Cut Hands and Ligature.

Mykki Blanco Starts Dogfood Music Group, Preps C-ORE Compilation

Mykki Blanco Starts Dogfood Music Group, Preps C-ORE Compilation

Musician Mykki Blanco’s work has always had a rabid appetite: unpredictable, multidisciplinary, and off the beaten path throughout a series of albums and performances since breaking out a few years ago. Though it’s relevant to look at Mykki as a symbol of a more modern concepts of gender or race, his work transcends those interpretations. With his latest project, the Dogfood Music Group label, he bands together with like-minded peers to offer a cohesive, collaborative visualization of this:

"We are a group of friends who have created a release that represents a slice of what we're into, our culture and what we want to show the world.
People all over the world are only fed this singular image of "African American Music" and we want to disrupt that. We all come from backgrounds outside of the black American norm, and the world deserves to see our culture as much as anything else."

The label’s first release, following its inaugural party with AdHoc last weekend at Palisades in Brooklyn, is the C-ORE compilation made with the help of Yves Tumor, PsychoEgyptian, and Violence.

It’s due out September 18th on Dogfood Music Group / !K7. You can pre-order it here.

Our Favorite Albums of 2015.5

Our Favorite Albums of 2015.5

This list appears in AdHoc #7. Purchase this issue or subscribe.

Container: Appliance (Spectrum Spools)

Spending nigh zero time fucking around, Ren Schofield starts Appliance with a squall of feedback to orient us and then unsettles us once again with a flamin' hot kick line. Last year's stellar Adhesive EP marked a major progression for the Container project, with Schofield's decisions to up the pace and blow out his timbres proving modest on paper alone. Furthering this maximally raw aesthetic, Appliance cements Schofield's status as a purveyor of some of the most visceral, psychedelic party music out there, thanks to grooving industrial rhythms that would hopefully make Esplendor Geometrico proud. The palette is economical, and during moments when Schofield works in some non-percussive element—such as the siren synth on the exemplary “Cushion”—it feels like emergency glass has been smashed so that he can flick the switch labeled “Jack All Bodies In The Vicinity.” But after a few listens to Appliance, when you've been desensitized to the gleeful romp of quantized ultraviolence, marvel at how much drama Schofield can build, how much variety he lends these tracks, using a palette of sounds that you can more or less count on one hand. -- Mike Sugarman



Dawn of Humans: Slurping At The Cosmos Spine (La Vida es un Musica Discos)

Dawn of Humans was ripe for a full-length record—or rather, rotting for one—and so here comes the 26-minute-long LP Slurping At The Cosmos Spine. After several tape demos and 7” records, the band has become more refined, at least as refined as a band with a perpetually naked frontman could be. It should be obvious that Dawn of Humans will never be a pretty face for the press or make catchy tunes to appease the airwaves. But in case we needed proof of this fact, the bouncy rhythm on “Horse Blind” is countered by a mutant vocal effect. The melodic experimentation on “Mangled Puzzle” and “Fog Sclope” is sandwiched between bursts of classic Dawn of Humans auditory ferocity. Even the most sprawling track on the album, “Secretion / Grapitudonce of Hinsenctor,” is pure ooze, no air sockets. They’ve dragged the torch this far for NYC punk; they might as well brandish that beat-up, blood-covered thing proudly, because they know by now how to do it without burning their hands. -- Maddie Rehayem 

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Chino Amobi: "They Don't Really Care About Us (Remix)"

Chino Amobi:

The siren, the sound of shattering glass, these sounds provide contemporary club music with an ominous sense of drama. They are anchors placed in an otherwise abstract form, both indices of reality and fabrications. Yet, as Chino Amobi (formerly Diamond Black Hearted Boy) deploys them, they stage a different tangible/intangible dichotomy. The Virginia-based artist’s remix of Michael Jackson’s 1996 single “They Don’t Care About Us” locates the song in a whirlwind of street-level chaos. The original was a protest song and a personal explosion, written in the context of a humiliating strip search and the 1992 LA riots. Amobi’s remix conjures the embodied experience of protest and the mobile network of solidarity activated by looking outward. Amobi’s position as one third of Non Records, a collective of African artists, both from the continent and the diaspora, is significant. In this light, the song resonates with both the massacre in Charleston and the deportations of black Dominicans in the DR. 

You can stream "They Don't Really Care About Us (Remix)" via Non Records' SoundCloud.

AdHoc Issue 7 is Here

AdHoc Issue 7 is Here

Purchase Issue 7 or subscribe.

“All inquiry into antiquity, all curiosity respecting the Pyramids, the excavated cities, Stonehenge, the Ohio Circles, Mexico, Memphis—is the desire to do away with this wild, savage, and preposterous There or Then, and introduce in its place the Here and the Now.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson “History” (1841)

This month, AdHoc looks back. In the first iteration of our newly expanded bimonthly zine, Mike Sugarman outlines the history of British label Planet Mu; Beth Tolmach looks back to dub’s formations and traces its iterations from then to now; Bobby Power speaks with veteran artist Robert A.A. Lowe and living legend Ariel Kalma; Miguel Gallego interviews pop guru Todd Rundgren and dissects Prefab Sprout’s 1985 opus, Steve McQueen; and a host of AdHoc contributors dish on our favorite albums of the very recent past: 2015 thus far. In each instance, we learn from the past, from established genius. Us music fans love the past after all. We’re happy to shell out for reissues and reunion shows. But by dissecting facets of the There or Then in this issue, AdHoc seeks to unlock the Here and Now.

Dub is a decades-old genre, for example, but its traits are malleable and, as such, ever-relevant. Maverick artists have mined dub’s roots and principles throughout the genre’s history, imbuing their own revolutionary musics with the spirit—and importantly, the bass—of dub to break down various cultural and political hierarchies. In present day British grime, the aesthetic and ideological histories of dub are emphatically present. Grime artists honor the dub heroes of yore, not with distant worship but fluid and tactile engagement.

Prefab Sprout’s Steve McQueen further demystifies our conceptions of the hero. As Gallego notes, whether it’s country singer Faron Young or the album’s titular handsome actor, Prefab Sprout presents a way of showing reverence for our heroes while integrating their legacies into our own time and place. Emerson writes, “We, as we read, must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner; must fasten these images to some reality in our secret experience, or we shall learn nothing rightly.” The topics discussed in the subsequent pages render more explicitly the presentness of history. Don’t treat the music of the past like a relic; instead, fasten it to some reality in your secret experience.