Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Volume 8 Side 4 - Sonic Boom, Loop, The Telescopes, Thee Hypnotics

1. Sonic Boom - Angel (Silvertone) - Vinyl Only

Sadly, I have the CD edition of "Indie Top 20 Vol 8" and therefore don't have the sleevenotes for this epic, nine minute long track, which was clearly left off the CD version for reasons of space. If anyone knows what they are, please enlighten me and I'll add it above.

Nonetheless, on vinyl and cassette versions of the LP, this track gave Sonic Boom two bites of the royalty money cherry, after "Hypnotised" on Side One. Perhaps it's safe to conclude that if you really, really hated Spacemen 3, and Sonic Boom in particular, this compilation was going to contain two major let-downs.

The only thing that sets "Angel" apart from the shimmering, heat-haze psychedelia of "Hypnotised" is its relative minimalism. Beginning with what sounds uncannily like a basic click track and a very simplistic guitar line, "Angel" gradually climbs a monumental hill before hitting a mournful church organ and gospel influenced vocals at the end. Proof positive that the "spiritual" element of Spacemen 3 was by no means entirely Jason Pierce's trademark (though he apparently helped out on this track) "Angel" really howls as it moves with its head bowed down the old gospel road.

Lyrically, the track appears to be a tribute to a recently deceased friend, but there's little information available on who it might be, or why this track didn't feature on a standard Spacemen 3 album. It's unsafe to assume, but it seems fairly likely that this was simply a very personal record for Peter Kember.

2. Loop - Arc-Lite (Chapter 22)

"Arc-Lite captures the noise of a motorbike chain deep in swampland and revving into the red, a frictional mesh of metal and rock that won't rub down. Like nothing on earth and out of this world" - Melody Maker 2.12.89.

Melody Maker's journalists and critics sometimes wrote some absolute tosh about records, but that's one of the best summaries of the sound of "Arc-Lite" I think I'm ever likely to read, and no, I can't top it across a few paragraphs.

In the same way that The Kinks "You Really Got Me" had a churning great stop-start primal riff at its very foundations, "Arc-Lite" is the pounding, crashing Suicide-influenced late eighties vision. From the booming, chugging drums to the howled, distant vocals, seemingly lost in a wind-tunnel, this is simultaneously brutal and hypnotic, and certainly an acquired taste.

The video was played on "The Chart Show" and featured Loop standing around with their long manes of hair in the wind near the then-derelict land at the London Docklands. Both the video and the song remind me of a distant time when the visual and musical landscape of London was entirely different - brash rather than flash, with lots of rubble and hard edges. How far we've come since. Or not, as the case might be.

3. The Telescopes - To Kill A Slow Girl Walking (What Goes On)

"...is like a sarcastic approach to religion. Well, not so much religion as people who easily led, y'know, people in a flock looking for a shepherd, people who don't think for themselves looking for a new Messiah all the time" - Steve Lawrie, Feb '90.

With an opening of ear-splitting white noise created seemingly by the entire band thrashing on their instruments, "To Kill A Slow Girl Walking" continues with a swaggering riff and sneering vocals, only to punctuated by more white noise at regular intervals. It's a thrilling burst of arrogant rock and roll which has one foot in Loop's world, another in the land of the MC5 and The Stooges.

The Telescopes would later steadily become more psychedelic and were even occasionally tagged as part of the Shoegazing movement, but "To Kill" shows that there was a roughness and a rawness to their sound as well which very few of those bands had in the early nineties. This has stood the test of time unbelievably well, and still manages to sound extraordinary.

4. Thee Hypnotics - Earth Blues (Situation Two)

"Throws The Who and the early Stones together and adds a rare sense of soul. Thee Hypnotics blast the blues into the nineties!"

Raw, ragged and furious, "Earth Blues" doesn't feature any kind of progression in the sound Thee Hypnotics had when we last encountered them, but is a reliable continuation of their scuzzed up garage noise. What's thrilling about is that it sounds so incredibly spontaneous. There's no sense that the group aren't hanging the whole performance together on a frayed piece of rope, and at its best, that adrenalised feeling a band has when they're playing free and loose can be very contagious. "Earth Blues" isn't a neat, structured piece of songwriting, but it's the sound of some strong musicians tearing the place up. Nothing wrong with that.


  1. I have the cassette version, which does include the Sonic Boom track but - alas - no sleevenotes. Gareth

  2. jessie@mail.postmanllc.net

  3. Sonic Boom note: "Single of the epher. An epic, in length, stature and execution"- Everett True "Melody Maker"