Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The RoQnRoll Must List: Butch Willis & The Rocks on Forestville Rocks/Reflections: The End of New Order

I discovered this video, pretty much by accident as I recall, about a year ago. Its power hasn't subsided one bit since then for me. From one of the most incredible public access intros of all time (it's apparently from a public access broadcasting out of Forestville, Maryland), to the bemasked, chip eating host, Mr. Rock and Roll, to the gold high heels and wavering voice of Mr. Willis himself (he was on some sort of medication at the time), to the final fog machine incident that cuts the show short, I am in legitimate awe of this piece every time I see it. I have heard whispers that this is simply a portion of a longer performance available somewhere on VHS, but I've been unable/too lazy to search it out. What stands out most of all, I think, is the power of Butch's two songs performed here, "The Garden's Outside" and "The Girl's on My Mind". That Butch Willis & The Rocks' star isn't brighter in underground/outsider circles is simply unfathomable. I own three of Butch's albums (which you can find on Amazon and, what's more, even on iTunes) and they are legitimately hard rocking, quirky, excellent affairs, with songs about cigarettes, pizza on his jeans, kitty cats, TVs from outer space, being a rock star and long lost love, among other topics. Check out related video "Bring Me the Head of Butch Willis" which opens with the following:
"Butch Willis has moved into the most selective rock n roll territory, that of the inspirational primitive. Guided by neither the commercial concerns of mainstream pop nor the calculated artsiness of new wave nor the hip rage of punk, Willis stands quite alone; undaunted, he dreams the rock n roll dream..."
For dreaming the rock n roll dream like no other, Butch Willis makes the RoQnRoll MUST list.

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

You Got Looove Technique: Pete Hook on Other Side Of Midnight with Tony Wilson

Well, if it wasn't official about, what, two or three years ago, it sure is now:
New Order is dead. New Order remains dead.
(thanks to my bro and fave New Order fan, Dave, for
bringing this to my attention).
If you'll recall, Hooky left the band in 2007, and things had been a bit blurry since, with Bernie threatening to march on regardless and Hook, I can only assume, telling him to fook off. How perfect, then, that Bernie, what's left of the original lineup (that would be drummer Stephen Morris) and Gillian's 2005 replacement Phil Cunningham would arise from this blur with Hooky's replacement, the bass player from... Blur! You'll excuse me if I don't have a whole lot to say about Blur or their apparently Hook-replacement-worthy bassist. I honestly had heard their name only about a handful of times before reading the announcement, and literally learned about two days ago that the one "WHOO HOO! WHOO HOO!" song from the 90s (which, I'm being told, is entitled "Song 2") was in fact done by this selfsame Blur. Wikipedia informs me that they are considered Alternative rock, Britpop, and Indie rock, further solidifying my position that I would have very little in common to talk about with the members of Blur were I to sit next to them at a soccer game (or a football game, for that matter... they are British, after all).
Anyway, if I could veer violently back to the topic at hand, this new former-New-Order-with-guy-from-Blur collective has christened itself Bad Lieutenant, a name that I'm honestly not sure how to feel about. Yes, it has traces of the transgressive snark that's characterizes New Order since, well, Joy Division (when you can get an utterly befuddled and clueless Bono to ask "what's up with the whole fascism thing?" as he did in the NO documentary New Order Story, I'd say you're doing something right), but there's just something to it... maybe blame it on my infatuation and familiarity with Abel Ferrara's 1992 film of the same name and, perhaps, also on the fact that Werner Herzog's new "re-imagining" of Bad Lieutenant that'll be out soon, but there's something so... obvious about the connotations. It gives me the feeling that some of the cheekiest wankers in music, the same guys that would name their songs "Weirdo" and their albums Low-Life, are really grasping at straws here. That said, it's not their new name that's leaving me none too hopeful about their upcoming album- it's the fact that Waiting for the Siren's Call and Get Ready had about two or three enjoyable songs each crowded out by filler that ran the spectrum from forgettable to kinda appalling ("Working Overtime", eh?). It's also, perhaps more importantly, the lack of the one member that may just be the reason I started loving New Order in the first place...

There are quite a few parts of my personality that I think I can attribute to my near obsession with Peter Hook my sophomore year of high school. If nothing else, though, I am certain that it was the combined force of my repeated viewings of New Order's " The Perfect Kiss" music video and Big Country's Tony Butler (and, later, Jaco Pastorius) that caused me to forever and unalterably view the electric bass as my favorite instrument. Rewatching the nearly ten minute long video again for the first time in ages, those close-ups of Hook wailing on that red bass still strike me like lightning. In a band full of moody and disaffected post-punks, he was the moodiest, he was the most disaffected, and he slung his bass lower than anyone. I remember telling a friend that I wanted to start a band and, following Hook's example, play my bass almost exclusively in the high registers. He scoffed off the idea as too difficult and a bit goofy; I took this is as a challenge. When my cheapo red Rogue bass finally arrived at my house in late March of 2004 (the entry from the day it came is still up on my embarrassing Blurty I kept at the time) the first thing I did was hit the frets as high up on the neck as I could. I had no idea what I was doing and I felt like the coolest person in the world.

Favorite New Order Albums
1. Brotherhood (1986)- Technique is the popular pick for the top spot, but I think New Order's 1986 LP is their true peak, an album consistently breathtaking and breathtakingly consistent and the truest statement of the band's synthesis of the organic and the robotic.
2. Low-Life (1985)- If it weren't for the fact that the album version of "The Perfect Kiss" is far inferior to its 12" counterpart (which is easily my favorite NO song ever) this could very easily be my top pick. Still, it's certainly their darkest post-Movement entry and a perfect soundtrack for late nights, alienation and never-ending Hudson Valley winters.
3. Technique (1989)- It doesn't congeal as well as a complete album in my mind- songs are rather rigidly divided into the extremely electronic and the extremely guitar/rock-pop heavy- but that doesn't stop almost every second of it filling me with such strong emotions that I can almost taste 'em.
4. Power, Corruption & Lies (1983)- There's uncertainty and hesitation to be found on nearly every track here, no doubt. It doesn't take too long, though, to also find the first real "New Order" here after the ruminations, growing pains and long backward glances of Movement. "Your Silent Face" could single-handedly save this album even if the rest was utterly useless- it's as elegant and beautiful as anything New Order would ever do.
5. Republic (1993)- I realize putting five New Order albums onto a faves list only leaves out three albums, but I just can't bring myself to ignore Republic. I got this on cassette my junior year of high school and played it to death while driving around town in my Volvo wagon. It's a pretty oblique affair, one that, on consideration, required that I play it to death while driving around town in my Volvo wagon to make heads or tails of it. Give it some time to sink in, though, and I'd argue there are moments later on here- the layered synths of "Young Offender", Hook's ethereal bass line in the middle of "Times Change", the heartbreaking majesty of "Avalanche"- that actually exceed the album's too-good-to-be-true opener "Regret" and large swaths of NO's classic output.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...