Axemen – Derry Legend (Agitreader review)

Reprinted from: http://agitreader.com/wp2/axemen-derry-legend/

AXEMEN Three Virgins 2XLP

If New Zealand was the world’s WTF scene in the early ’80s and beyond—producing slightly deranged, slightly pop jangle and discordance from a place as isolated as they come—then it was Christchurch’s Axemen who were the island’s leftfield misfits. With Lil’ Stevie McCabe and company, nothing was off limits, not even their Flying Nun labelmates at the time. Years before bands like the Boredoms, Butthole Surfers, or in a larger perspective, Ween, the Axemen mocked and ridiculed the norms, both aesthetically and sonically. And like a magic trick, the Axemen managed to tweak The Clean’s template with a slanted glee unheard before—and not heard since, though the band is still active. All of their collage-based, bric-a-brac punk barbs and general weirdness can be gleaned by the essential trilogy of recordings reissued by Siltbreeze earlier this decade, with 1986’s Three Virgins/Three Versions/Three Visions being their Sgt. Pepper’s meets Trout Mask Replica meets Raw Power masterpiece. If ever there was a peak, it was it.

AXEMEN Derry Legend LP

By the time Derry Legend arrived at the Flying Nun offices in 1989, the Axemen seemed actually impressed with their own idiotic glee. Not only is the album, now back in circulation courtesy of Luxury Products, the most cohesive Axemen record the band ever released, it also contains the most mainstream pop moments they were to conjure. That said, it is grotesque and blatantly jokey enough to reject itself from any classic cannon (that I know of), despite its inherent greatness. (Youtube the group during this era and witness their built-in repulsion.) As sung in the psych-acoustic dirge of “Mourning of Youth,” they were lovers of “finery both new and foreign,” but occupied themselves as strangers in a strange land. It was a revolution of sorts, mucked up in political statements, nihilism towards commercialism, physical turmoil, and chugs of  “coffee wine.”  It was independent to independence.

P1060925_AXEMEN_SICK P1060926_TNVIf ever the Axemen had a greatest hit, though, it was “Rocks in My Heart,” a slab of etiolated cretin pop filled with sardonic wiggles and a sharp sense of melody, history, deconstruction. It is the Axemen in a nutshell, a summation of their ability to wed their idiosyncratic nature with the expected Kiwi status quo. Its formula of multi-hued, quivering vocals and sketchy rhythms indeed turned out to be ahead of the curve. Witnessed in this somewhat dull wave of NZ revival, many of the bands that are continually celebrated (i.e. The Chills, The Verlaines, The Bats) were of their own very particular realm of sound. And though there are no hard feelings against plying the same stroke, the Axemen were all over that small map, while their tentacles stretched back to Memphis and Detroit decades prior. The same kind of polyglot fuck-off is found in “Disc to Disk” and Bob Brannigan’s joyous “Human Hot Dogs.” Again, both borrow freely from The Clean, but the Axemen are lifers and these songs’ seemingly perpetual motion has done nothing but enhance the subversive tactics of the Axemen sound.

Still, “cohesive” isn’t the right word for this record. Were it not for the purely rockist intent of the album, Derry Legend would be yet another grab-bag of demented pleasures. “The Tragic Tale of a Rock and Roll Legend” could very well be the first rap single produced in the country. “He’s Leaving Home” could be drunk(er) Sinatra on a lo-fi bender; “That’s Finland Dear” encapsulates the powder-keg quality of recording on a miser’s budget, and the finale, the aforementioned “Mourning of Youth,” now ranks high on the list of New Zealand’s best death-march psychedelia moments. All this culminates in what, for a band that thrived on the next moment, is the Axemen going for broke.

AXEMEN Sac Tap Nut Jam LP (2013)

AXEMEN – Derry Legend (LP) – Luxury Products [2014 Remake/Remodel]

Reprinted from: http://www.othermusic.com/products/axemen-derry-legend

Derry Legend
Derry Legend

As with their fantastic 39 Clocks reissue, Luxury Product once again live up to their name with a beautiful package on this LP, originally released on Flying Nun in 1989. Derry Legend was the second proper Axemen album and it is also the band’s most immediate and coherent statement. Coherent is a pretty funny term to apply to this group, who always seemed to teeter on the brink of it and more often fell into chaos, but compared to their earlier work, the sprawling double album Three Virgins and earlier cassettes Scary Pt. III and Big Cheap Motel (all of which have been reissued by Siltbreeze over the past few years), Derry Legend is a perfectly distilled statement of all that the band was capable of. This is a record that shifts from off-kilter rock ‘n’ roll to Tin Pan Alley ballads to what is most likely New Zealand’s first (and only?) anti-drug, conscious, rap/rock hybrid — and all of this is even before you get to the track called “Human Hot Dogs!”

I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of any New Zealand bands that might have been the forbearers of such insanity and can’t really come up with any. Surely there must have been some Captain Beefheart and Bonzo Dog Band records involved and there are a few moments, like on the album opener “Disc to Disk” and closer “Mourning of Youth,” where they don’t seem too far off from the sound that made Flying Nun famous. You get the sense that if they wanted to they could have made a classic LP in that mold, but thank god they didn’t, as what they did make is far more unique and wonderful. If anything this record reminds me of a Kiwi version of Alex Chilton’s Like Flies on Sherbert, as it embodies that same sort of free-spirited, devil-may-care attitude, and like that album the more you listen to it the better it sounds. (March 19, 2014)

Reviewed by Dave Martin

The Axemen 30 years on – where are they now?

Pete Street Breakdown
Pete Street Breakdown c.1985 (McCabe, Kawowski, Brannigan)

Sunday 22 September 2013 marks the 30th anniversary of the seminal ‘Equinox’ gig at Dunedin’s luminary bat-corridor The Empire Tavern, pseudo-Transylvanian Castle (at the time) of the infamous Maureen, an actual vampire who was to become the Axemen’s gothic nemesis for a spell. And spell she could, she could cast a spell as evil as any of her coven, some say she was possessed, some say haunted, some kinder souls benevolently passed her off as merely ‘troubled’.

Axemen @ Neon Picnic near Auckland 1988 (L to R: Stu, Steve, Bob)
Axemen @ Neon Picnic near Auckland 1988 (L to R: Stu, Steve, Bob)

In 20/20 hindsight through rose-tinted spectacles perhaps her evil was somewhat exaggerated; after all many of the bands who were to go on to become the golden boys (and girls) of Flying Nun cut their teeth (in some cases literally) on the establishment’s beer and whiskey stained ‘stage’ – actually a minimally raised platform approximately the height of a matchbox – and many found the Axemen’s anti-establishment attitude towards Maureen and her hardline treatment of them and their music hard to stomach at the time.

“Why are you guys so hard on Maureen?” they would ask provocatively. ‘What’s wrong with the Empire?”

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away

They may as well have been asking the question of Luke Skywalker. Interrogation sessions such as this would often last into the wee small hours (the little hours) in the early years and would frequently rope in the entire rabble of a pub up to and beyond closing time with the Axemen often ending up leaving with a comet-like ‘tail’ of pub riff-raff hideously weaving their way down George Street or Colombo Street like lemmings following a pied piper in their worn boots and torn black jerseys.

Of course this was in the bad old days before they were ‘saved’.

Derry Legend recording session at Writhe Studio (1987), left to right: Stu, Dragan Stojanovic, Little Stevie McCabe and Bob Brannigan
Derry Legend recording session at Writhe Studio (1987), left to right: Stu Kawowski, Dragan Stojanovic, Little Stevie McCabe and Bob Brannigan

These days the amorphous almost mass-less collection of rubble and nuggets of pure energy and spit that started at the ‘big bang’ Empire gig back in ’83 are disseminated through space and time like a less organised Ort Cloud of ego-prodding drunken barnstormers cartwheeling their way across the universe like they were god’s gift, which in a way they were and still are. Oh the cavities they have filled, the intertwining they fostered, twirling together unlikely entities like the Anti-Crick & Watson slamming together strands and pieces of mean-old acid and nuclear tides into a semicoherent twisted whole.

theywere
Axemen: Hell Yeah

As if they had discovered Fusion and, not knowing how to enhance its mighty power, allowed it to burn wildly like a brush fire spreading its heat and energy in every direction, some pockets burning uncontrolled then dying out, others pacing themselves and emanating a warm glow for centuries, others sputtering and still others smouldering and eventually dying down not with a bang but a whimper.

Class of 2011
Axemen Class of 2011

They were the Axemen – like Hell they were!

These days things are just as complex and yet fundamental as they were in the beginning, only with emergence now beginning to happen as the positive feedback kicks in and the unknowing knower starting to know, as if today were a new tomorrow. The knower always knows and never knows – knowledge is like a bolt of lightning whumping down from the sky and enlightening the world like the perennial ‘knowers arc’.

Axemin, Whangarei
Axmin, Whangarei

Through thick and thin, good times, bad times, you know they’ve had their share – these are the Good Times, so lucky we got ’em, that scoop of chips on your shoulder aint heavy, its the bluebird, thats the blue jay way just turn your love around and take me back to where I belong – back to the future the past is the future history never repeats and a 600 lb elephant in the room never forgets who or what he or she is, even on a trunk call they’ll come up trumps, towering and trumpeting like a boogie woogie bugle boy, and yes, yes sir I can dance! Sally can’t dance bitch broke her back carryin’ water for the man he simply wouldn’t wait. Bilbo Baggins spinning in his Muppet-hole, a hobbit is a muppet without the personality, a hobbit can knock, a muppet can not – who can hold a hobbit up to the merest scrutiny I ask but who has the right to knock?

Happy Anniversary Axemen, let’s have no more repeats lest you end up dead on your feet!

Axemen vs Big Brother(s) – round one

In a stunning David and Goliath legal challenge backdown, the Axemen came out with pea-shooters and slingshots blazing to bring the heavy handed but hamfisted WARNER BROTHERS franchise to its knees after its bullying challenge to the bands right to post their own material online.

The bizarre set of events began when Warner Bros, with their hordes of copyright lawyers and the huge stick of the publishing industry behind their back simply GOT IT WRONG, accusing the Axemen of infringing copyright which it claimed on the bands own material. A simple copyright search on APRA/AMCOS records would have shown the rush-to-judgment giants that all Axemen material published and released on Flying Nun, Sleek Bott, Silt Breeze, Negative Guest List, etc. is the sole property of Sleek Bott Publishing, with royalties being divided amongst the songwriters as appropriate.

The arrogance of Warner’s in assuming because they are the top feeders, swallowing up Flying Nun from the stomach of Mushroom records as almost a burp but finding some remnants of possible income in the bowels and seeing an opportunity to squeeze out a couple bucks from the ruminant remains, is astounding and simply serves to expose their greed and arrogance and highlight some of the injustices and the inherent unfairness of the existing copyright system.

A timely reminder to register your songs and protect your rights inasmuch as they can be protected, but at least avoid the ridiculous situation where a corporate can legally force you to remove your own material from display….

You can see the allegedly offending video at the link below in the backdown email from YouTube/WMG (Warner’s Music Group).

Never let it be said the Axemen take shit from the man!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: YouTube <no_reply@youtube.com>
Date: 29 July 2012 3:21:37 AM NZST
To: N0ISYLAND <noneofyourbusiness@somewhere.nz>
Subject: Information about your video ""Mourning of Youth" (1987) by AXEMEN"
Dear N0ISYLAND,
WMG has reviewed your dispute and released its copyright claim on your video, 
""Mourning of Youth" (1987) by AXEMEN". 
For more information, please visit your Copyright Notice page
Sincerely,
 - The YouTube Team
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Done and Dusted – Dusted Magazine review of 3 Virgins re-release

Reprinted from: http://dustedmagazine.com/reviews/6567

Normally, when people use the phrase “a musician’s musician,” it’s meant to describe some Les Claypool nightmare whose dexterity and technical skill can only be properly appreciated by people who have also dedicated themselves to a life of fretless guitars and sweep arpeggios. That being said: When New Zealand’s Axemen want to be, they’re musicians’ musicians. It takes some effort to crack the self-serving exterior of their approach (getting drunk, recording off-the-cuff songs with whoever was hanging around, and releasing as much of it as humanly possible) but, as anyone who’s ever tried this approach themselves can attest, it’s completely intoxicating as long as you don’t muck it up by throwing in any pretensions of sophistication. By making their methods obvious and leaving very little to the imagination, Axemen have created a bunch of music that perfectly encapsulates the feeling of fucking around creatively with your friends.

Three Virgins is the final release in a series of terrific Axemen reissues Siltbreeze has put together, and by now it’s pretty clear that these records, pressed to wax in 1985, were a relic of their time and place. The idea of starting a non-terrible band with the expressed purpose of protesting a sexist milk advertisement has been left by the wayside, to say the least. Their willingness to experiment using the rock and roll song as a launchpad, but with few clear reference points, has gone almost unmatched in the DIY community since these albums were released the first time around. Granted, their apparent creative process has lived on in a less slapdash form, but the fact that Axemen were playing and releasing music with this mentality when recording your garage band could still be considered “hard work” is admirable, and near-singlehandedly makes these reissues worthwhile.

Methods aside, Axemen’s songs tend to do more than scrape by on the band’s charisma, falling somewhere between the droll bounce of Axemen’s countrymen Tall Dwarfs and the more stream-of-consciousness Swell Maps songs. (Emphasis on the “tend to,” though, if only because Three Virgins is 88 minutes long and is therefore destined to include some downtime, but the hilarious single-mindedness required to craft an entire double LP in the league of Three Virgins is to be commended regardless.)

While their Flying Nun contemporaries were crafting songs with relatively clear-cut roots in pop, punk and noise, Axemen were paving new routes into all three. While their results might not reach the transcendent heights of The Clean or The Verlaines, their charming lack of ambition and rickety, fuck-it mentality created something else entirely; misogynist ads and traditional song structures be damned.

By Joe Bernardi

Axemen Aussie Tour 2011 – early dates info

reprinted from: http://www.messandnoise.com/discussions/4305304

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv-iM_1h5uA

Australia December 2011

http://tinyurl.com/axemenaustralia2011

10th: Brisbane Negative Guestlist Festival

14th: Newcastle

with

  • Cock Safari
  • Bare Grillz

15th: Sydney – Red Rattler

with:

  • Alps (Newcastle)
  • XNobbqx (siltbreeze)
  • Mad Nana( Melbourne supergroup)
  • School Girl Report
  • Satanic Rockers( Melbourne/NZ)

17th: Batemans Bay Festival
with:

  • Circle Pit,
  • Paul Kidney Experience,
  • Kitchens Floor,
  • School Girl Report,
  • Mad Nanna,
  • Cured Pink,
  • Alps,
  • XNOBBQX,
  • Satanic Rockers,
  • Meat Thump

plus many more…

19th-21st: Melbourne

22nd: Hobart

23rd: Adelaide