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Music Review - The Terminals - "Last Days of the Sun" [Jul. 23rd, 2007|10:15 pm]
[Current Location |Invercargill]
[mood |coldcold]
[music |The Terminals - "Crown of Teeth"]

One of the great missed opportunities of popular music is that the Vacuum never got around to releasing any records. Because, just going by the quality of the output of all the groups which can trace their musical family tree back to the Vacuum, if that group had ever put out a record it could well have been something fairly bloody good.

The latest such recording is the Terminals' Last Days of the Sun. This may be their fourth or fifth album... it's difficult to tell (the Terminals not being a particularly publicity-hungry band, and also not being particularly good at keeping their back catalogue in print - to the extent that this is only the third CD of theirs I've actually managed to find!) However, there's a good chance that this album is their best yet.

On this release Steven Cogle, Peter Stapleton and Brian Crook share the songwriting credits fairly evenly. Unlike Little Things, in which the Brian Crook-penned title track stood out like the proverbial from the other songs on the album, his contributions fit in seamlessly.

The opening song on the album is the characteristically sombre (and uncharacteristically quiet) Vertigo, and it's instantly apparent right from the start that Steven Cogle's voice has lost nothing of the power and resonance that made the Terminals' earlier recordings stand out from the crowd. The second track, Undertows, demonstrates a return to the organ-heavy `sixties garage rock sound the Terminals do best. Just how much Cogle's singing voice is important to the band's overall sound is obvious from Premonitions, which features whispered vocals instead and overall seems to lack something.

Other standout tracks on this album include the title track, Different Air, Creepers, and Crown of Teeth. The closing track, I Saw My Ghost, bookends this album with another impressive and quietly sombre song.

Lastly, the band seems to have changed record companies again. Their other CDs that I have in my music collection - Cul De Sac and Little Things - were released on Flying Nun and Raffmond, respectively. This new CD is released on Last Visible Dog Records - of whom I have never previously heard - and who have very kindly made Vertigo available for download.

Overall, 4½ stars out of a possible 5.

[User Picture]From: primary_benelux
2007-07-30 07:09 pm (UTC)
I found your journal at random while trying to look for other people's thoughts on this album and I think I'm in complete agreement with you. As for Last Visible Dog, they're based out Providence, Rhode Island here in the States and most of their output is experimental in nature -- the Terminals might be the most conventional record they've ever released.
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[User Picture]From: southerndave
2007-08-05 08:33 am (UTC)
Thanks for the message. I did have a quick look at the record company web site and the other groups I recognised were the Renderers (who might be one of the most listenable country and western groups around, but are still country and western for all that) and the Dead C (who are simply too weird for me to have any great liking for them).

Also had a quick squiz at your journal... interesting music you're listening to (I don't think I've ever "talked" to anyone else who has both Yazoo and Roy Montgomery in their music collection...) but what's this about "Vertigo" being banned from the radio?

It's a great shame that so few people know about the Terminals... I first heard them some time around `88 when "Mothlight" came out on a compilation CD and have tried to pick up anything of theirs I could find at a reasonable price (i.e. not more than a few dollars over the normal price for a brand new popular CD). With the last Terminals item I was watching on Trade Me going for an astronomical sum it might be a long wait before I get an anywhere near complete collection...
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[User Picture]From: primary_benelux
2007-08-05 02:25 pm (UTC)
I think Last Visible Dog seems to be this decade's answer to the Siltbreeze label -- Americans offering up mostly experimental weirdness but the occasional bit of NZ treasures.

I'm sure I'm not the only one with Yazoo and Roy Montgomery in my collection! My old friend Eve probably has both of those, too.

The Terminals were among a number of Kiwi groups that I've been aware of but never had the opportunity to listen to until recently. I don't think anything else of theirs has ever been in print in the States. In fact, most records from Flying Nun/Xpressway/Propeller have probably never received distribution here, which has made it difficult for me to track down physical copies of something like Blam Blam Blam, Bird Nest Roys, or Look Blue Go Purple (and forget about even trying to find something like The Victor Dimisich Band!). Only The Clean, The Chills, The Verlaines, the aforementioned Roy Montgomery (and everything he's been involved with from The Pin Group onward), The Dead C., The 3-D's, The Renderers and Pumice have had any sort of distribution here.

As for "Vertigo", it can't be played on American radio because the lyrics contain the expletive "shit." That definitely won't fly with the Federal Communications Commission and their often-hypocritical policies.

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[User Picture]From: southerndave
2007-08-05 07:49 pm (UTC)
I think the only Siltbreeze CD I've got in my collection is Pin Group's compilation. Not sure if it ever actually got distributed over here... in the last couple of years I've bought a lot of second hand CDs off Trade Me (the local version of Ebay) and this was one of a large number I bought off one collector who seems to have bought most of his CDs in Europe.

Most people I know don't have Roy Montgomery in their collection (they probably wouldn't even know who he is!) and Yazoo are a largely forgotten group over here - they never had a major hit in New Zealand (I think "Nobody's Diary" might have scraped the bottom reaches of the top 20 for a couple of weeks, but that's about it).

The only Victor Dimisich Band anything I've ever managed to find was the Mekong Delta Blues cassette tape on Xpressway something like 15 or so years ago now. Other than that, "Native Waiter" has shown up on a couple of compilations (Xpressway Pile-Up and the otherwise rather disappointing Flying Nun 25th anniversary boxed set).

The Blam Blam Blam Story is still in print in CD over here last I heard, and the Look Blue Go Purple compilation CD isn't too hard to find. But some `eighties stuff I have on vinyl is practically impossible to find and I don't think it's ever had a CD release... generally slightly warped and highly original almost-pop sort of stuff like Car Crash Set's No Accident and a couple of singles; The Body Electric's Presentation and Reality and the Pulsing EP, and Low Profile's Elephünkin' (interestingly enough, I just picked up the 12" single of Elephunk In My Soup second hand a few weeks back). This is despite the fact that a much more obscure ancestor of Car Crash Set has appeared on CD (Danse Macabre) and that they later teamed up with Greg Johnson, and as the Greg Johnson Set are still in print; and that Alan Jansson of The Body Electric was one of the team behind the Otara Millionaires' Club worldwide novelty hit "How Bizarre".

I suppose I've never figured out how censorship works in America... over here, I was quite amused when our (traditionally solid and conservative) national public radio station played the whole of the Scavengers' "Mysterex" as a "taster" for a programme about punk rock later that night. The song in question has a couple of cases where the singer drops what some friends of mine call "the F-bomb"; and these went out on air completely un-bleeped. I've never heard of any sort of complaint about it either...
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[User Picture]From: primary_benelux
2007-08-05 09:12 pm (UTC)
I think I used to have a Charalambides album that was released by Siltbreeze -- they were a Texan group that were kind of lo-fi/psych/drone with usually wordless vocals from Christina Carter -- and I know The Dead C. had a few releases issued by the label in question. It looks like The Terminals also had a 7" on that label. They also had a neat little compilation called Harmony of the Spheres that featured Montgomery, Loren Connors, and the aforementioned Charalambides.

I heard Roy Montgomery by accident while listening to WFMU, this freeform radio station out of Jersey City, New Jersey that's quite possibly the greatest station to exist. They've been around for about 40 years and seem to have everything in their position -- the college radio station I DJ for seems really disappointing in comparison. We do have The Pin Group and three Roy Montgomery CDs down here, and the wall of our station features posters for And Now the Rain Sounds Like Life is Falling Down Through It and True.

Yazoo were huge in Britain for about two years in the Eighties and had a nice slightly-larger-than-cult following in America through achieving Number One Dance hits, and they've achieved longevity through influencing trance and being sampled and referenced a lot. (For example, Los Del Rio's "Macarena" samples Alison Moyet's echoed laughter, DJs like Diplo will mash-up songs like "Don't Go" and "Situation", New York dance-punkers LCD Soundsystem mentions them in one of their two best known songs.)

Look Blue Go Purple's still in print? That makes me happy. I have recurring dreams where I've flown to New Zealand and I keep wanting to look for their compilation but I'm always taken to the wrong stores!

I can't explain how censorship works here in the States, either. Part of it comes from Puritanical traditions, part of it comes from the spread of conservatives over rural areas and their leadership of major corporations (and now in the past decade the government), and it's further enhanced by this silly belief about corrupting the minds of children when life experience itself will do that on its own. The Federal Communications Commisssion does not actually list words that are offensive to radio and leaves it up "community standards". There is a watershed period between 10 PM and 6 AM where you can supposedly air/show almost anything, but even at my college radio station we still won't dare to play songs with expletives in them because we're worried that someone (most likely the FCC themselves) will shut us down. For all the complaints about, say, Janet Jackson's breast (with her nipple mostly covered by a star) being bared during the Super Bowl or Bono saying "fuck" during an award ceremony, the controversy is largely stirred by conservative ethics groups like the Parents Television Council, who are responsible for 99% of the complaints to the FCC. The number of those complaints has risen dramatically since Bush went into office (because they know an administration as reactionary as this one will react) from about 400 to over 1,000,000 if I'm not mistaken.

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[User Picture]From: southerndave
2007-08-06 08:08 am (UTC)
I've known about the Pin Group for years... they accidentally made history by being the first release on Flying Nun records... but I never actually heard any of their music until "Ambivalence" showed up on one of the Flying Nun compilations ("Where In The World Is Wendy Broccoli?") a couple of years back. It sounded interesting enough that I picked up their compilation when I got the chance, and after noticing that the songs I liked most on the CD were Montgomery / Brice co-compositions, I picked up a couple of Roy Montgomery's CDs on the off-chance that I'd like them. "Scenes from the South Island" is nice background music, but doesn't really interest me much otherwise. The CD of his I really like is the "324E 13th Street..." singles compilation... the first half of it is really good and the second half also has its moments.

I lived up in Dunedin for a couple of years and heard a lot of interesting music on the local student radio station, although, ironically, the most interesting musical discovery I made listening to Radio One was Bob Mould! I've got fairly wide and mildly weird musical tastes anyway, although lately I've been mostly getting into some of the less "ordinary" "classic rock" thanks to a co-worker who for a couple of years couldn't live without Radio Hauraki and a steady diet of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, etc. etc. He soon learned not to try turning off the radio when it was playing something like Cream, Jethro Tull or Iron Maiden...

I don't think I've ever actually heard anything with a Yazoo sample, but I've been fairly much "out of the loop" as far as new release music goes for a decade or so... everything seems to be so depressingly mainstream these days and there isn't anything nearly as interesting as "Radio With Pictures" on the TV any more... I bought a lot of music after first seeing the video on RWP (most memorably the Verlaines, back when "Bird-Dog" first came out). I did, once, hear a weird hip-hop / rap sort of thing which pinched lines out of a whole lot of left-field music... got the biggest surprise when, completely out of the blue, they quoted a few lines from the Pixies. Quite odd indeed.

"The Federal Communications Commisssion does not actually list words that are offensive to radio and leaves it up "community standards"." Honestly, this sounds like the problem. Any code which leaves it up to lawyers (because, let's face it, when it gets to the court it's not broadcaster vs. community, it's lawyer vs. lawyer) to set precedent serves nobody but the lawyers themselves.

Otherwise... I could never decide which side to laugh at with regard to that Janet Jackson falling-out-of-her-top incident: the corner of American society which made such a big deal about it, or Janet Jackson for being so desperate for publicity in the first place...
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[User Picture]From: primary_benelux
2007-08-06 03:34 pm (UTC)
I really like Scenes from the South Island but I don't get to listen to it very often because A) my upstairs neighbor is a complete twit who doesn't allow us to listen to music (even though he apparently feels free enough to play his acoustic guitar at midnight) and rarely leaves his apartment, and B) it doesn't sound that great on my headphones. I'm definitely in agreement about 324 E. 13th Street #7, though.

Ahh, Bob Mould -- funnily enough, I downloaded a bootleg of a 1984 Husker Du concert yesterday. Lately I haven't been able to stop listening to the first Hunters & Collectors album or Gal Costa's 1969 self-titled LP.

There's so much more music out now (I think I read a statistic that 30,000 CDs were released in 2003 -- compare that to 3,000 LPs in 1979!) that it's more difficult to find good music, and even so, with most of the music I get to review these days it usually seems that someone else has done it better. There's a handful of releases that I've gotten into this year, like the new records from Parts & Labor, Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses), Mary Timony (of Helium), The Rosebuds, The Spiritualaires of Hurtsboro, Alabama, The Twilight Sad, and a few others. I barely listen to anything that I liked from last year -- The Big Sleep put out my favorite record of 2006 but I've hardly listened to it since the new year started. I pull out Marisa Monte or the Orlando hip-hop group X:144 and SPS from time to time and listen to Daylight's for the Birds and a couple of songs from the last Scott Walker record occasionally, and the other day I was moved to pull out American Watercolor Movement, but that's about it.

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[User Picture]From: southerndave
2007-08-08 05:35 am (UTC)
I think my favourite CD of `06 (and that's if I haven't got the release year wrong) was something that actually got recorded some time in the early `90s... There's a fairly new-ish record label based somewhere in Auckland (I think) that's been disinterring some great-but-never-released-for-some-reason music and finally putting it out on CD. Of their CDs, I've got a Bill Direen and friends CD recorded some time about 1990 (one of said friends being Hamish Kilgour, it's quite an interesting effort), a Robert Scott CD of unknown date (some of which sounds like it was recorded on a dictaphone! - but some of the songs are great) and what's currently probably my favourite CD of last year: The Puddle's "Songs for Emily Valentine".

Have got another couple of music reviews I'm planning on typing up some time in the near future... Bill Direen (as "Bilderine")'s "Split Seconds" and Human Instinct's "Peg Leg". Just waiting for me to actually think of enough to say about them.
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[User Picture]From: primary_benelux
2007-08-08 03:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, my favorite overall release of 2006 was also from the past, too -- the reissue of The Comsat Angels' Sleep No More. Moody, pummeling post-punk from 1981 in Sheffield, England, and they added a few bonus tracks that weren't on the copy I owned.
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[User Picture]From: southerndave
2007-08-13 09:15 am (UTC)
The only Comsat Angels song I know is "Independence Day", and that one I actually first knew as a cover done by a local band. Liked the song well enough but I haven't had the opportunity of listening to anything else by the band yet.
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[User Picture]From: primary_benelux
2007-08-13 07:18 pm (UTC)
I'll try to post some stuff of theirs soon, then!
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