wears the trousers magazine


sounding off: june 2009 (iii)

In part three: Lydia Lunch makes a wonderful racket, Catherine MacLellan provides a soothing antidote, and Tegan Northwood’s ambitions prove to be more admirable than her achievements.

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Lydia Lunch
Big Sexy Noise EP ••••
Sartorial

Spoken-word artist, poetess, actress, collaborator, playwright, author, composer, muse, narrator – Lydia Lunch’s CV could be the life’s work of five or six different people combined. Big Sexy Noise is her latest project, a collaboration with Terry Edwards, James Johnston and Ian White, erstwhile collaborators known collectively as Gallon Drunk, who have over a decade of history with the dirty, sexy godmother of punk, from her 2004 album Smoke In The Shadows to multimedia performances ‘Real Pornography’ and its follow up, ‘Hangover Hotel’, Described as “raunchy rock for the rough road ahead”, this six-track EP is all the things we’ve come to expect from the dark poetess – sex, religion and unrestrained violence.

The abrasive, stream-of-consciousness guitars are heavy on the distortion, as relentless, thumping drum beats and cymbals crash around Lunch’s sordid, indefatigable narratives. From the sexy saxophone on ‘Bad For Bobby’ to the thrashy, exorcist blues of ‘The Gospel Singer’ (co-written with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon) and the grunge-heavy cover of Lou Reed’s ‘Kill Your Sons’, Big Sexy Noises practically oozes with curdling blood. Quite possibly the most unpredictable comparison of the decade, but searing closer ‘Your Love Don’t Pay My Bills’ could be the hardcore, pornographic version of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Bills Bills Bills’. Always apocalyptic, the self-styled ‘No-Wave Nostradamus’ has attached a caveat to this blistering EP: “It’s time to stop complaining, quit your crying and embrace the coming End Times. Let’s fucking rock.”

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 15/06/09; www.myspace.com/lydialunch

 

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Catherine MacLellan
Water In The Ground ••••
True North

Native to the Maritime Provinces of Canada, Catherine MacLellan is proving a fine exponent of the country’s folk-roots music tradition. Water In The Ground, her third album, is an easily digestible slice of that genre, dominated as it is by an array of delicate and charming guitar-led ballads. That’s not to say it trudges along at a snail’s pace. Mixing things up a little with the heavy boogie woogie bassline of album opener ‘Take A Break’ and the breezy shuffle of ‘Set This Heart On Fire’, it all holds together well to form an accomplished piece of work. MacLellan’s vocals are pitch perfect and crystal clear, her clipped style at times resembling her contemporary Shawn Colvin.

While it doesn’t break any new sonic territory, Water In The Ground is a lovely album that successfully manages to combine some heart-stirring moments with occasional lighter ones. It’s worth noting that the album comes with a copy of MacLellan’s largely acoustic debut Dark Dream Midnight which, while similarly strong melodically, demonstrates how she’s moving forward, hopefully into a bigger arena.

Ben Urdang
UK release date: 01/06/09; www.myspace.com/catherinemaclellan

 

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Tegan Northwood
Last Days Of Home ••
Endgame

Land and our connection to it is at the heart of Australian artist Tegan Northwood’s third album, Last Days Of Home. Music and landscape inform each other for Northwood, who has studied “bush regeneration, energy healing for land and humans and sound healing (using harmonic singing)”. The word ‘healing’ is a poignant one, as the album is part celebration, part elegy, capturing the experience of losing her family property of Murramarang National Park as it was sold off to housing developers. Determined to keep some part of the land, Northwood recorded all the sounds that animated her home, from “the frogs in the dam, birds, the back door slamming, the fridge, storms on the roof.”

These field recordings are an integral part of the album, which sees a love of electronic wizardry, including samplers and loops, blended with more traditional acoustic guitars. With an ambient, easy-listening pop sound, Northwood may be likened to a rural Dido, and her very particular style may not be to everyone’s taste, but it can’t be denied that the love resounding through the songs, and the message behind them, are powerful. An album that wants to be better than it actually is, it explores the crucial, and ultimately life-shaping, relationship we have with nature, healing and home.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
Available on import only; www.myspace.com/tegannorthwood

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