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10 August 2009

Axemen - 'Big Cheap Motel' (Siltbreeze)

Just about every Kiwi noisenik has been in and out of this band at some point, but their available material has been scarce, at least outside of the NZ cassette scene from the early 80s. This vinyl reissue of one such tape, from '84, is quite welcome; it's done with minimal remastering and the properly lo-fi quality is saturated. I mean, this is when lo-fi meant lo-fi; cheap and warbly, but the guitars still know how to slice through things and the low end is surprisingly present as well. The live portions of this come from a concert where they wrote a set the night before to protest the milk company sponsoring the event for their sexist ads. The songs are as ramshackle as it gets, with drum set falling apart, bass farting in and out of time, sax glue and these little prickly guitar lines that skirt all over the place like a stone skipped on a frozen pond. The sloppy black and white graphics, plus the lyrics, suggest some crust-punk, Crass records kinda thing - and I think that spirit is here, cause it's certainly "punk" in some way. The band is all-male but just about every song attacks male attitudes head-on; there's not much subtlety in a song like 'The Pornographic Milk Drink' or 'Can't stand up for 40-inch busts' but I don't think I bought this record looking for subtlety. I can go back to the Au Pairs record from the other day for that -- but funny how the name Axemen suggests a big cleaving phallus? The avant-leaning tendencies of the Axemen come more from ineptitude than staying up all night studying MEV records; but there's also a freedom present, meaning that I don't think these guys had really tightly defined rules about what could and couldn't be done. And these days, that factor is more thrilling to me than whatever subcultural boundaries a certain record might skirt. The purpose of listening to this in 2009? I'm not sure that I can venture a proper guess; I guess great rabblerousing is timeless and this certainly tickles the alveoli. There are a few soaring, anthemic songs that get fairly melodic and recall the Clean's earliest and best work; Wikipedia says that Peter Gutteridge was a member once so maybe there was some cross-pollination at work, and it's a small island anyway.

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