Friday, November 06, 2015

Motorcycle Black Madonnas - These Days

This is another record that I have been meaning to get to for quite a while but just never seem to have a chance to. When albums are a bit more unique it is harder for me to find the words to talk about them and I always seem to fall short. But, I always try...

Led by husband and wife team Marea (vocals) and Jonathan Hall (guitar and vocals - also of Backbiter, the Freeks and many more), the Motorcycle Black Madonnas (Dylan reference, for those who didn't catch it) also include Richard Jones on bass and John Collinson on drums. If you are familiar with Hall's Backbiter, there is some similarities to that Who/Roky Erikson-styled power trio, but, of course, here we get Marea fronting the band with her distinctive vocals and poetic lyrics.

Opening with Jonathan's ringing chords, the rhythm section powers in and Marea gives a somewhat quiet, melodic reading of "Sliding Into Red" while the gents vary in dynamics, creating a strong piece of moody melancholy - and, wow, what a high energy ending! Jonathan is one of my favorite guitarists and you can hear why here. The title cut is a somewhat drone-y bit of psychedelia with Marea screaming about being "so fucked up" - potent stuff - and then "Point of View" gives off-kilter rhythms and odd chord changes kinda reminiscent of the first Siouxie and the Banshees record. The whammy-bar guitar solos just add to the sense of imbalance. A bit more straight-foward, "We're So Sensitive" lets Marea delve into her feelings while Jonathan takes another killer solo and "You Can't Make Me" is a shrieking punk rocker.

One of the most melodic numbers here is "Taking the Fall", with more superb guitar work, then there is more almost no-wave tendencies in "New Life" and back to melodic, practically pop (in their own twisted way) for "Used and Abused". Nice tempo variations in "That Was Then, This is Now" (Jones and Collison show their strengths here), tremelo'd guitars dominate "Need Your Lovin'", a 60's sounding number, and I'm reminded of Bloodrock, of all bands, in "Trust", while Marea sings self-affirmation lyrics. Jonathan pulls out a slide for the 70's rocker "Take It From Here" that also has some exceptional harmonies, and he gets to completely cut loose on his tour-de-force "Misunderstanding, Understanding, Forgiveness" - fantastic playing here! For the finale, Marea shrieks painfully "fuck it all!" during the high energy "I Wish you Had".

Plenty of variations here, but plenty of exceptional guitar work, intelligent lyrics and just cool songs! Check 'em out!