By Christopher Nosnibor
In his 2007 novel Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis proffered the theory that in the age of the Internet, everything is mainstream. And yes, in theory, this is perhaps true, in that the digital age has facilitated a new egalitarianism. But such is the nature of capitalism that the moment the everyman gets a sniff of a mass market, the instant the status quo is threatened, the big money motherfuckers restructure and not only impose but impinge upon and restrict those newfound freedoms.
And so, out of necessity, the underground has been reborn. This is of course, emblematic of the ever-cyclical avant-garde: what emerges from the underground is diluted and raised up to the mainstream, while the underground continues to ferment and develop the next thing. The underground is always ahead, always the place where the ideas happen, and where the most exciting creative work can be found. Steve Fishman (that’s the veteran punk bassist, not the former Scientologist guy) has spent a lengthy career moving in underground circles, and this is perhaps one of his most ambitious projects to date. Look closely and pay attention, for all is not as it seems.
Bubbling Up From Underground isn’t a label sampler or curated compilation, but the work of Steve with various friends operating under various guises. The press release provides as good a summary as I could give, so I shall quote at length here:
TRASHBEAT who combines Punk, 70’s Glam, Post-Pop and Art-Rock with flavors of Garage and Psych; TRASH KULTURE mixes multiple flavors of Rock with Noise, EDM, Industrial and Punk-Funk; THE SHADES is Steve with Shawn Lee yielding a pronouncedly British vision of all that is funky and freaky and their output to date is a fave of many influential DJs including Tom Middleton, Coldcut, and Giles Peterson among others.
CHROME are, of course the 70’s psychedelic art-punk originals; JAPAN SOUND ENSEMBLE is an open door project based in Tokyo with guests from all walks of musical life ala Mod comp, improv, Electro.
The funny thing is that the first cut, ‘Cool Me’ by The Shades is simultaneously well executed and spectacularly corny in its electro-funk grooves – to the extent that in our post-postmodern world, parody and homage fold into one. Just as the mainstream news media has come to ape ‘The Day Today,’ so the contemporary underground is bursting with bands drawing on vintage stylistic tropes: everything more than five years old is now retro and ripe for the picking, and as such, the material on Bubbling Up From Underground sounds credible.
‘Bullet 4 U’ is an indisputable fizzing rock pop classic, with hefty hints of Iggy Pop, and of the ‘acts’ featured here, the gloriously-monikered Trashbeat (I’ll do my best to resist the urge to make any references to Nathan Barley here) do provide more than their share of the standouts, not least of all ‘Come Slumming,’ which is ballsy garage blues with a colossal hook.
The Trash Kulture tracks are again emblematic of the collapse of boundaries between irony and, er, not irony. The name is the epitome of po-mo self-parody, and the schizophrenic leaps from squalling scuzzed out rackets to sparse electronica within ‘their’ tracks is either spectacularly dumb or spectacularly knowing. Or it would be, if they were a real band. And herein lies the real achievement of Bubbling Up From Underground, in that it doesn’t answer any of the questions it poses regarding authenticity, doesn’t offer any indication as to which side it sits regarding pastiche or retro-revivalism. And nor does it need to, because ultimately, it makes for an enjoyable listen and packs in a fair few decent tunes. And that’s all you need to know.
Bubbling Up From Underground: The State Of The Art-Rock Part 1 is released by Major Records