Reprinted from Kel E. Burnette’s pronouncement at:
Note: CD material is available from http://sleekbott.com
Title: Scary! Part III
Long known underground stars from New Zealand, The Axemen are now gaining some well-deserved notoriety here in the States thanks to one of our finest labels, Siltbreeze. Tom Lax has again exhibited sterling musical sense in [repressing – sic.] – re-pressing “Scary! Part III” and “Big Cheap Motel.”
And while it’s not an easy task trying to pin down their sound, especially considering the variety of their entire discography (much less the territorial span of music on this release), I’ll give it a shot.
On my first listening, I immediately drew a comparison to Royal Trux, but that was basically drawn from the majority of vocals on the record, featuring some of the coolest, junked-out vox either before or after the Trux hit the scene.
From the get-go, the song “Heart Bullet” features some insanely fucked up vocals and word play. Unlike a lot of New Zealand music, the vocals are uncharacteristically mixed up and not buried in the instrumentation. It kind of paradoxically makes the voice seem like another instrument—I’m at a loss finding (other than Herrema) anyone to compare the vocals to while maintaining any real dignity. Suffice it to say that they’re easily in the upper echelon of all rock vox, and it’s continued across both wunnerfuly screwed tracks on the double LP set.
Though the music is varied, you never get the feeling that the album was thrown together as pieces. As incoherent and absurd as it is, the record has a marvelous cohesion, at times overtly a downer, such as the track “10 Miles (as the crow flies)” and other points like the near-sinister, hardcore influenced “Join the R.A.F.”
It’s near-put impossible to fix these fellers into any genre, and that’s a damn good thing. Not only that, it’s a fucking difficult thing to pull off convincingly, yet the Axemen do so with, well what’s the write word, grace? How about ‘instinct?’ That seems more apropos. It’s an instinct which speaks more to an overall aesthetic than does it any attempt to play this or that style of music.
This one of the strangest records ever sludged to wax, and it’s caused that compulsive collector in my to try and track down any and all of their recordings, which, from what I’ve read, is going to be a formidable task. This is no surprise since they formed around 1981 and have recorded pretty consistently since, and even through the broad spectrum of music the venerable Flying Nun label have pressed over the years, The Axemen stand totally on their own. Flying Nun wasn’t their only label over the years—there have been several, but as an American touchstone, it’s appropriate to mention them as one of the better-known imprints to bring up.
All I can tell you is that, even on this one double LP, influences include American hardcore and DIY, Beefheart (though nothing obvious springs to mind at the outset), a sort of Zappaesque sense of humor, bizarre synth music, employ of loops and on and on.
The Axemen are their own entity. The only downside to this is that it took so long for an American pressing to go down. I’ve heard that they’ve met with largely great critical press on their recent tour of the U.S. One can only hope that it continues and that we see them again very soon.