Review: Big Cheap Motel ’09 from Satan Rulez

Reprinted from: http://satanrulez.blogspot.com/2009/03/zap.html

Who's Nailin' Paylin? HUSTLER COVER

“…Built around a thick guitar line that is distorted until it becomes a fluid conveyer belt of sound… ”

“…hermetic tribes… ”

“… The Pornographic Milk Drink contains rotating metal spoke on a ferris wheel guitar… ”

“…Pleasantly skewed junkyard Buddy Holly rhythm lines played atop walls of distorted uber-rock riffs that contain the weight and force of a Flipper-like death dirge and the occasional saxophone blurt frame the basic vehicle for the band’s Brautiganian lyrical worldview... ”

Outside of a few ardent music fans, hipsters and record collectors, how many Americans ever heard of the Axemen before the Siltbreeze reissue campaign? I’m guessing not many of us had the pleasure and, yet, the band steadily released albums throughout the last two-and-a-half decades. At face value, it seems like the band just wishes to entertain themselves and devotees by performing and recording their take on the music they enjoy. These hermetic tribes usually end up being the most effective musical acts because their mission really cannot fail. If the mind’s creation gears continually turn and you possess the unique ability to, at once, channel and transform the music that inspires you, not much could go wrong. Such is the case with the Axemen.

The Big M corporation shamelessly used this appallingly sexist image to promote their range of flavoured milk in the early 80s - the axemen were not about to let these corporate milk merchants milk mens mouths with their product
The Big M corporation shamelessly used this appallingly sexist image to promote their range of flavoured milk in the early '80s - the Axemen were not about to let these corporate milk merchants milk mens' mouths with their product lying down

So, TJ Lax provides the public with a vital service and a history lesson by releasing not one but two Axemen reissues in 2009. The first installment, 1984’s Big Cheap Motel, proves why this band deserves the reissue treatment and the attention it will likely receive by bearing the Siltbreeze tag. Like a more cohesive version of their UK brothers from other mothers on the Street Level Records roster, the Axemen kick grimy, postmodern, crooked punk-jazz sermons filtered through a boombox haze and serious subject matter that is littered with in-jokes. Milk, sexism and breasts all factor into a biting take on UK anarcho-punk lyrics soundtracked by a serious defacto homage to the aforementioned Street Level sounds.

In fact, the second tune on the album—billed as a rehash of album-opener “Big Fat ‘M’”— sounds like a looser a Good Missionaries outtake tracked on top of a Danny and the Dressmakers tune. A dense, plodding rhythm line lays the grounds for a strange, possible anti-sexism rant wherein the singer exhibits the same off-kilter, slurred sing-speak vocals as Mark Perry. Interrupted by chatter and greasy guitar-driven sound experimentation, the song detours into a shapeless pile of intersecting ideas before briefly rising back into its initial structure. The results of the expedition on the second rendition of “Big Fat ‘M’” could be disastrous and annoying if its slant on song construction continued for an entire album.

This appalling image appeared on New Zealand for one of Big Ms early 80s campaigns
This appallingly sexist image appeared on New Zealand billboards and TV sets for one of Big M's early '80s campaigns

But the Axemen duck this possible pitfall and keep Big Cheap Motel fresh and exciting by providing a home base of sound to which they can return after their journey into a foreign territory commences. Songs like the title track and “The Pornographic Milk Drink” showcase this sound without sacrificing the variety of execution techniques that runs through the album. Pleasantly skewed junkyard Buddy Holly rhythm lines played atop walls of distorted uber-rock riffs that contain the weight and force of a Flipper-like death dirge and the occasional saxophone blurt frame the basic vehicle for the band’s Brautiganian lyrical worldview. “The Pornographic Milk Drink” contains rotating metal spoke on a ferris wheel guitar leading into a sludgy sewage drain of a riff. Lead guitar lays the groundwork for a boogie-infused take on the band’s sound, as big ‘70s hard rock sounds collide with the band’s surrealist take on Crass Records political sloganeering.

Big Cheap Motel - the Axemen's ode to the fight for womens rights
Big Cheap Motel - the Axemen's ode to the fight for womens' rights

Built around a thick guitar line that is distorted until it becomes a fluid conveyer belt of sound, the title track reaps the benefits of its relative simplicity. The mantra of “Big cheap motel/ Big Tamla motel” pairs with the lava guitar flow to form a song that would work fine with guitar and vocals. But each time the Axemen run through things, a slight variation on the initial theme seems to arise on the next go-round—an off-rhythm guitar line, extra guitar fractures, a more minimal drum beat. The initial riff melts into small, blurry guitar bridges. A faux-Dick Dale guitar construction spackled in the cracks of “Big Cheap Motel” wanders to whatever rhythmic variation that the guitarist feels best compliments the tune. All the slight variations keep the sense of adventure that Big Cheap Motel showcases intact.

Big Cheap Motel LP Label

Big Cheap Motel is one of those records where you can imagine the band’s thought process as they delve into any musical alleyway that pleases them. Though the names and age range of the band members are hard to discern from the liner notes (the insert contains poorly Xeroxed photos of the band and each band member’s name printed in black magic marker with an arrow pointed to his place in the photo), Big Cheap Motel contains the wide-eyed looseness of a bunch of kids in a garage trying to mimic the music they enjoy. Let’s do a hardcore tune. Let’s try inserting a drill sound on this one. The refreshing results vary wildly from the artists’ that may or may not have inspired the Axemen but the band’s affinity for the challenge and reward of artistic creation shines through.

Posted by s. kobak

Gig Report – The Ambassador, Pt Chevalier, Auckland, March 20 2009

March 20,  2009

Axemen, Hairdos, Smokin Daggers at the Ambassador

Ambassador Gig, Auckland, March 20 2009
Ambassador Gig, Auckland, March 20 2009

Following the flames of resurgence in punk music in Auckland being fanned by the wind from beneath the wings and between the buttocks of the recent phenomenally successful and oversubscribed AK87 gigs, Dogs Bollix new years eve gig, North Shore kids parties and others, punk in Auckland is once again rearing its ugly (or is more often the case on the isthmus, cutesy) head.

Axemen – Animals Have Rights Too
(soundcheck version, mp3)

Smokin' Daggers, The Ambassador, Pt Chevalier, Auckland, 2009

Smokin' Daggers, The Ambassador, Pt Chevalier, Auckland, 2009

Opening proceedings were the Smokin’ Daggers, Mr Tolley and his cohorts providing a typically energetic set; Tolleys guitar slung so low it conjures the image of a cricket player sizing up a yorker, the band knocking out the singles throughout the over and setting off the odd spinner, occasionally pushing out to the boundaries.

Closing off after a respectable innings, the mostly well behaved crowd expressed their approval and the band members melted into the crowd.

Hairdos
Hairdos, The Ambassador, Pt Chevalier, Auckland, 2009
n668166485_2027322_78292
Souvenir Poster

Next up were the Hairdos, Grey Lynn’s next big thing. The vibrant three piece hammered out their trademark edgy punk-pop numbers with their usual irrepressible glee to an appreciative audience.

The movie theatre foyer-themed movie theatre foyer venue suited the hairdos (pronounced hare-doos) music to a tee, you could almost imagine the torches and spilt popcorn as they played and jaffas rolled freely about during their show.

Mo Money Mo Money Mo Money
Mo Money Mo Money Mo Money

“That has to be one of the whackiest Axemen gigs we’ve ever played!” Stu Kawowski was heard to pronounce at the end of the Axemen’s set.
“Snailclamps closing was pretty whacky…” chimed in Steve.
“One of the whackiest gigs I remember” qualified Stu.

Songs by Axemen - Steve's Hair by Birdstock
Songs by Axemen - Steve's Hair by Birdstock

The Axemen, dormant for 15 years but exploding back on the scene in Auckland like an eighth volcano in a training run for their upcoming US tour with indie rockers Times New Viking came along tonight to see if they could out-punk all the young punks, all the young dudes, the brothers and sisters young enough to be their sons and daughters, the movers, the shakers, the young ones.

The Axemen - Stu, Steve, Bob
The Axemen - Stu, Steve, Bob

Airing out some of the more ascerbic and acrid tracks from their bulging back-catalog (‘Animals have rights too’ [from the soon-to-be-re-released on Vinyl ‘Scary!’  LP], ‘Big Cheap Motel’, ‘J.O.R.J’, ‘Money’ to name a few), the Axemen’s tiny overdriven amps were swamped by the booming drums and vocals for the most part giving the show an almost acapella feel, with Bobs keyboards and Steve’s guitar squeaking out in the (infrequent) drum breaks from pentarion beatmaster Stu Kawowski, still pounding the skins like he was 25.

“We really gotta get some bigger amps” commented Bob after the show.

“Its the thought that counts” Steve  muttered cryptically.

Post: Mecca Be Vest

This is WWIV – LSM confronts the Iron Eagle

WWIV Song Cycle

01_Rock_Mountain

Rock Mountain

02_Push-A-Way

03  What Is Rock?

04  Back_2_The_City

05  Man-i-mal

ascent_of_man

06_I Wanna_Rock_It

07  Rock-n-Roll_Neanderthal

snake

08  Black_Snake

09  Heavy_Water

10  Iron_Eagle

Iron Eagle

This is WWIVIn 1999, Marty Sauce and the Source’s principal songwriter and G.I.C.S.N. conceptual guru Davey G approached Little Stevie McCabe about doing the soundtrack arrangements for his visionary (but alas unreleased – until now!) apocalytic concept album and rock opera, tentatively entitled “This is WWIV!”*USA Eagle

The libretto for this ethereal and ungodly masterpiece revolves around the epic journey of a young shepherd boy ‘Hombreo’  (to be played by a clean-shaven Marty Sauce) to the city after he sees a nuclear missile launch from the hills of his homeland, where he is tending his sheep.

Indian Nuke

In the still of the clear Afghani night Hombreo can see its trajectory for miles with crystal clarity, and follows it with his keen shepherds night vision [his eyes being locally referred to as so-called ‘sheep seeking missiles’] to its destination, where he sees an awe-inspiring and terrible sight; a huge white-orange flash followed by a billowing mushroom-shaped pillar of smoke rising in slow motion over the horizon like a startled king cobra emerging from its basket, shimmering against the rhinestoned velvet wallhanging which is the desert sky.

This is WWIV symbols

“Red Sky at night, shepherds delight” he murmers to the assembled throng of sheep,  now huddled, shivering, at the base of his rough-hewn towelling and sackcloth candlewick bedspread.

Hombreo takes off for the city and has his shepherd-boy eyes opened clockwork-orange style, real horrorshow like, by the myriad bestial and despicable sights he sees along the way, culminating in the grand finale, which takes plays in the lair of the bald, beclawed and bewildered Iron Eagle. Afight ensues ansd the inevitable happens.

Hombreo at first tries to behead, then is bemused by, then finally befriends the metallic bird, and together they rule the land forever from 1000 feet below the scorched earth at ground level.

This Is WWIV - Poster

* Other names shortlisted: “Apocalypse Soon”; “Nagasaki 2000”; “Boom!!!”; “Miss Afghanistan”; “Where Eagles Iron”; “It Aint Half Hot, Omam!”

Post: Talc Betel Vices Emit

You’re in the army, now, lad!

Gig Report – Eugene Chadbourne support gig, the Whammy Bar, Auckland, 29 Jan 2009

Axemen, Dr Chad clowning at the Whammy Bar
Axemen, Dr Chad clowning at the Whammy Bar - L-R Stu Kawowski, Steve McCabe, Emeritus Professor the honourable and distinguished Dr Eugene Chadbourne, Bob Brannigan - Bob Brannigan: "You guys should know - where can I get some food around here?"

Photo: Axemen International

On 29 Jan 2009, the Axemen fulfilled one of their lifelong dreams, meeting and playing as humble support to legendary musicologist, Shockabilly geezer, generally dexterous solo artist and fellow mayhem cohort Dr Eugene Chadbourne. The Axemen played a short sharp set as a 3 piece, the first time in 16 years Stu Kawowski, Bob Brannigan and Steve McCabe had publicly aired their particular brand of rock’n’roll as a cohesive unit, and sounded as if they had never put down their instruments.

On the verge of the worldwide re-release on new vinyl of their legendary 1984 protest album “Big Cheap Motel”, the lads whisked through a timewarp of tracks covering many crucial aspects of their long, speckled and bespectacled career – the Dunedin years, the Christchurch years, the Frisbee sessions, the Auckland wilderness years – all encapsulated in their electrifying 20 minute set.

View Video [Big Cheap Motel, Live]

Set ListAfter complimenting the boys, (“Wild set guys!”), Dr Chad proceeded to perform a chilling fingerpopping solo banjo set before taking a quick break, during which time McCabe stumbled across the stage to pick up his guitar and inadvertantly stepped on Eugene’s infamous electric rake, inflicting horrifying facial injuries which doctors say will likely scar him forever (“that’s rock’n’roll!” McCabe shrugged to the waiting papparazi).

Steve McCabe puts on a brave face after standing on Eugene's rake - Dr Chad tries to make amends for tying his shoelaces together by playing him a song on one of them.
Steve McCabe puts on a brave face after standing on Eugene's rake - Dr Chad tries to make amends for tying his shoelaces together by playing him a song on one of them.

After playing a blistering set with the Vitamin-S guys on bass, drums/percussion, stratocaster-slide and vibraphone the Chad-meister, obviously fired up and hepped out on steroids, pushed his way across the bar to Bob Brannigan and proceeded to arbitrarily pick a fight with him, deliriously warbling about being the best pummeler in the land of the long white cloud… Brannigan, in a foul mood after missing his evening insulin shot, stepped up to the plate, accepted the challenge and proceeded to take the pounding of his life.

Repeat after me - "Eugene is the best pummeler in the land of the long white cloud!"
"I'm a Bully!".....EC: Repeat after me - "Eugene is the best pummeler in the land of the long white cloud!"

 Story: Electable Vice Mitts

Vosburgh on AXEMEN

Vosburgh playing Shustak's Segovia 12-string 05/01/09
Vosburgh playing Shustak's Segovia 12-string 05/01/09

At the recent MONSTER GIG at Christchurch’s glamorous crumbling Media Club, Bill Vosburgh handed Kawowski a single A4 sheet with a few paragraphs written on it all in capitals, relating to his earliest recollections of THE AXEMEN days in Christchurch (1983-1987).

Phosby Still, with 'tash
Phosby Still, with tash - Dec 2008

Luckily he stuck around and performed an incendiary blues rock set that night, as well as jamming with Steve, Stu & Helm at 4am New Year’s Day out at South Brighton, and also playing a few songs on various acoustic guitars on subsequent visits to Kawowski’s seaside hideaway.

Vosburgh's perfectly spelled memories all in caps
Vosburgh's perfectly spelled memories all in caps

I REMEMBER WATCHING THE AXEMEN PLAY AT THE GLADSTONE AND THE FIRST 45 MINS CONSISTED OF STEVE FIDDLING AD INFINITUM WITH HIS ‘PAUL BUNYAN MACHINE’. AN ENTHUSIASTIC AMATEUR ELECTRICIAN, STEVE HAD SOMEHOW ATTACHED A FUZZ-BOX AND IT TOOK HIM THAT LONG TO FIX IT WHILE BOB AND STU MANFULLY IMPROVISED IN THE BACKGROUND.

AFTER A WHILE, THEY TRANSCENDED THE COMICAL AND THE PIECE BECAME A SURREAL EPISODE OF PERFORMANCE ART.

**********************************

AS I RECALL, THE AXEMEN WERE INCREDIBLY PROLIFIC, AND THEIR RECORDINGS, WHICH WERE PRIMITIVE TECHNICALLY IN THE EARLY STAGES, CAME THICK AND FAST. THEY GOT SOME LIMITED SUPPORT FROM RADIO U.

STU KAWOWSKI WAS AND IS A MARKETING GENIUS AND PRODUCED NOT JUST T-SHIRTS, BUT TROUSERS, STICKERS ETC, AND PRODUCED A MURAL THAT STOOD PROUDLY IN CHRISTCHURCH FOR OVER 10 YEARS, AS WELL AS MANY OTHERS THAT DIDN’T LAST SO LONG.

ALL IN ALL I WOULD HAVE TO SAY THAT THE AXEMEN ARE ONE OF THE LOOPIEST AND MOST ORIGINAL BANDS I’VE EVER SEEN AND I’M GLAD THEY’RE BACK ON THE ROAD.

A NOTE ABOUT STEVE’S COFFEE WINE: STEVE MADE THIS COFFEE WINE AND THEN DISTILLED IT – STRANGEST ALCOHOL I EVER TRIED. IT WAS MORE LIKE A BARB, AND I RECALL WALKING ACROSS THE SQUARE AFTER A COUPLE OF SHOTS AND HAVING TUNNEL VISION!

-Bill Vosburgh Dec 2008

Axemen – Three Virgins, Three Versions, Three Visions (1986) on lost-in-tyme blog

PLEASE NOTE: Read comments below

for an update on the lost in tyme AXEMEN article

and news of their removal of the “Three Virgins” download.

The administrator RainyDaySponge is a thoroughly cool guy

who has a very interesting site (full of muchas oscuridades)

that is always getting better.

Check it out.


The lost in tyme site specialises in offering unavailable music to appreciative fans.

picture-17

Here’s the manifesto:

Site Info & Archives

This is Lost-In-Tyme’s new site.

As it is a site and not just a blog, you can now enjoy our forum discussions, read lengthy articles about Lost In Tyme (but not forgotten) bands and artists, and of course visit our blog for a trip back in Time with some of the best (and rarest) music you can listen.

Once again we want to make clear that we post only records that are out of print and you can’t buy them at the record stores (physical or digital). The only way to find some of them is to pay a good deal of money for a used copy, and several you can’t find them at all. In the 21 months of Lost In Tyme first circle we received over 50 e-mails or comments from the artists themselves, saying thanks for posting their music. Someday we will post these comments (at least what we could rescued – because several were deleted along with Lost In Tyme).

So, if an artist/band don’t want his/her music posted here, or a label has re-released a record (and we’re not aware of this) or if someone of our visitors knows that something we’ve posted is still in print (and provide the link to prove it) just send an e-mail or make a comment about it. We will remove the link and we will replace it with the link pointing to the site where one can buy the record or the artist’s site. It’s that simple. We don’t want to harm anybody, especially the artists we love.

Remember that this site was made with just this in mind: the gathering of music lovers, the exchange of any knowledge we may have about this kind of music and the discovering of Lost In Tyme music.

We are waiting for your comments, suggestions etc. about this site, in the Guestbook page. You are very welcome to contribute if you like and of course to participate in Lost In Tyme’s forum, where we hope that out friends will find interesting threads.

Well it so happens they have been offering a download of Three Virgins, but they’ve been asked to cease and desist. According to their manifesto above that shouldn’t be a problem.

Anyway, here is their somewhat charming post on lost in tyme:

Axemen – Three Virgins, Three Versions, Three Visions (1986)


three-virgins

Early Swell Maps blues sessions? The Fall playing Kinks’ songs but they don’t know the lyrics?
There’s no other album in the entire New Zealand music so chaotic, so brilliantly cacophonous and so totally denying any label, music style or genre, like this double album from the Axemen, released by Flying Nun, in this great label’s absolute peak, in 1986.

49649Flying Nun was so great because, for several years, would release music by any, and I mean any, band that Roger ShepherdChris Knox andDoug Hood thought that had something interesting, no matter what musical style it had. This concept produced some of the best music of the 80s, not only because the three mentioned above have an excellent taste, but also because, 20 years before that period, there was something in New Zealand’s water, that caused the appearance of a continuous series of very talented artists – the more obscure of them can be heard in the 3 volumes of Rarer  Than Radium compilations herehere and here.

But even for Flying Nun “Three Virgins…” was extreme and something that couldn’t get under the “Flying Nun sound” no matter how we expand the term – and here is the proof: There’s not a track from the Axemen in any of the several compilations that the label released though the years. Even in the non-exclusively Flying Nun based Rarer Than Radium series, I couldn’t fit them in.

So what is this all about?
Three Virgins, Three Versions, Three Visions is a double album, made by three 20-years old Kiwis (Bob Brannigan, Steve McCabe, Stu Kawowski) with the help of their friends. In the 22 tracks of this album they managed to include every musical style under the sun – from Mark Stewart’s mumblings to good-time tunes, from blues played with “big, huge pipe organ” to Krishna chants and from post-punk saxophone-based tracks to muddy guitar noise. The recording and production is totally (and deliberately) DIY and although the mixing was made in two different studios, the singer’s voice often seems to come from a different room that the rest of the band.

I’d say that the Axemen did a Kinks-style, ironic comment on music and life, passed it through Frank Zappa & Mothers lunacy and they paint it with the punk/DIY colours of the early 80s. Sharp, brilliant and full of references songs like “Chant Number Nine”, “The Yeasty Mayor” “Talk With God”, the full-of-ideas playing and the nerve to put out a 2LP set as their first release, prove once again that the hormones of youth are magical things.

26473

If you search for the Axemen in the web, you’d be surprised from the many videos of them you’ll find – several of them in Stu Kawowski’s Axemen page on myspace (and his YouTube site -ed)

Here is the first part of Axemen’s story, as written by Steve McCabe (you can find the rest here – along with many releases (as a band or solo from the members) – I don’t know if these have been ever actually released or are simply existing in Steve’s archives.

Axemen say– “Yes indeed, all of these albums are available here on CD

A Brief History of The Axemen – The Early Years.
In The Beginning (by Steve McCabe)

The Axemen began life as a seething mass of algae in a cess-pool located at the back of a disused factory somewhere in North Dunedin, New Zealand.

The exact location of the cess-pool has unfortunately been lost to the ravages of time, but the factory still stands – a disused, vacant shell with little hope of being restored to its former majesty.

Following a sudden meteor storm in 1983, the Axemen rapidly evolved, developed fully functional hands and ears (where before there had only been useless stumps) and metamorphosed rapidly into one of the most radical, chaotic and inspired rock bands of all time.

The exact details are hazy now as I pen this tome from my Hotel room in Auckland, New Zealand, June 1997, but as I recall…

23303

Bob [Brannigan] and myself were happily punting along the River Avon in Christchurch, New Zealand in January, 1983 – I distinctly remember the occasion as Bob was, for once, holding the punt-oar. The day was dreary – grey, overcast and drizzling with a fine mist which settled gently before condensing and trickling off the seven plastic beer flagons placed [for ballast] in the centre of the bright red punt.

From which direction the football came I do not directly recall, but come it did – striking Bob squarely on the forehead and causing him to swagger, try and get his balance back, then topple over backwards (I often wonder how much worse it could have been had he been standing at the time). Next thing you know, who should pop around the corner hollering “Can I have my ball back, please?” but Mr Stu Kawowski. I had not encountered this man before, but I can still vividly recall the moment; the cheeky grin, the Joe 90 “milk bottle” glasses (later to be replaced with the trademark John Lennon style spectacles), the wind rustling through the shaggy tresses of his russet-red hair.

Mopping the beads of sweat from his furrowed brow, Bob lurched up, hoarsely shrieked “I’ll give you your ****ing ball back allright and fair clocked him one with the aforementioned orb. The tense situation now somewhat diffused, Kawowski piped up, “Gizza ride in your punt, mate!”. I can’t quite recall whether it was Bob or myself who replied “Step aboard, Matey!” but next thing you know, there we were, the three of us, in the bright red punt, cruising at a rate of knots that particular punt had not previously thought itself capable of.

There was something about the rhythm of Kawowski’s deft strokes wit the punt-oar; something vital and overwhelming about the way he pushed that punt to its very limits. There was an unspoken, unfathomable feeling that this was perfection, this was bliss, this was the way of the future – Brannigan, Kawowski & McCabe – an untouchable, dynamic unit not to be messed with.

After formally voicing what we all knew we were feeling, that we should immediately form the most invincible and solid rock combo ever known to man, the pact was sealed with a flagon of beer apiece. The day ended with a solemn blood oath and a resolution that we would have our first rehearsal the very next day, but in order to maximise our potential, to ‘potentise the blend’, a pilgimage would be required to the famous “Seedy Dive” boondocks area of Dunedin. This area was well-known in the early eighties to have the highest ratio of musicians and artists to the square mile of any region in the country. Of course, the remnants of the thriving mime and clown scene from the seventies still lived in the area, but we had the feeling that in the searing Dunedin summer of ’83, the Dive was going to be the place to be. That year, Dunedin had the longest, hottest heatwave in recorded history.