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Stereo Embers Magazine

Break the Mold then Use it Anyway – “Bubbling Up From the Underground: The State of the Art-Rock Pt.1″

Break the Mold then Use it Anyway – “Bubbling Up From the Underground: The State of the Art-Rock Pt.1″

Steve Fishman & Various Artists
Bubbling Up From the Underground: The State of the Art-Rock Pt 1
Major Records

Written by: 

As idiosyncratic planetary busy dudes go, heavy-duty, heavily-in-demand bass player Steve Fishman may qualify as front of the class. The fact that said class, in his case, includes punks and pre-punks and post-space punks and nearly every other breed of high class noise degenerate only upgrades the status of the crazy man standing up there at the blackboard, chalk and bass in hand, all his classmates rapt with attention (and no, no whiteboards and dry erase pens here; we’re talkin’ analog all the way, baby, in spirit if not in fact).

So OK, admittedly, that’s a wack way to begin a review but this debut outing from artist co-op label MAJOR Records, a raucous, wild-haired collaborative romp dressed up as a compilation (it’s a hustle, darling), deserves an entrance that’s at least that errantly extravagant. If anything I was a bit restrained there, showed a bit too much decorum. Even considering its pedigree, its exemplary musicianship, Bubbling Up From the Undergroundhas something of an unleashed quality to it, a salacious gleam in its knowingly decadent eye that recalls all we lived and loved during the glam-slam-tastic mid-to-late 70’s, the slinky shadowy dark dark club-cultured early 80’s, the pre-punk garage aesthetic years, and all those interstitial years spent grooving to boundary-less cross-genre hybrids that had our imaginations out there with our asses on the dance floor (Chrome, after all, is involved here, Fishman having on occasion occupied that band’s bass captain’s chair for a few years now).

In conventional terms – to the extent they can be applied and I’d suggest their use is limited – this is a solo album by a deeply experienced, highly respected bass player (McCartney, Elton, Roy Orbison, and members of the Damned, Blondie, and the Stranglers top a long list of employers and playmates) who’s enlisted a few near-legendary friends to help out. In more accurate terms, the results are laughably beyond this. Yes, the likes of Clem Burke, Helios Creed, Hugh Cornwall and various others dot the landscape here but the vastness of panoramic terrain covered on this album is, aside from the Chrome cut, which is borrowed from last year’s Feel It Like A Scientist, primarily the product of one fervent rocker’s electric neon paintbrush (the tracks do indeed bristle with their own particular pop artist vibrancy), Fishman’s ‘vision,’ if you will, somewhat overshadowing the impact of the invited guests, great as it is to have them along for this thrilling joyride of a record.

Never once wavering from its compilation ruse, the eleven non-Chrome tracks, interspersed now and again by snippets from the Troggs Tapes and some wicked, unflattering snatches of vitriol from Murry Wilson (“Why don’t you just fucking do what you set out to do?”) are shared by five different ‘bands’ and run some righteously cool gamuts. Opening buzz blast “Cool Me” by The Shades (‘they’re’ only track) is a funk garage amalgam with a lead vocal that embodies equal parts mid-60’s fuzzed-out trash rock 45’s and classic bar band soul, its funk factor ensured by Fishman’s phat, Bootsy-worthy bass shapes, drum monster Shawn Lee’s popping rhythm and some backing vox that are pure sass and allure. Small wonder that work has found favor with the likes of Coldcut and Giles Peterson. Trashbeat and Tripp Kulture both rate four tracks each, the former treading with adroit recklessness through the furrows of 60’s-70’s flavored pop outrage – “Bullet 4 U” is Stooges by way of Death of Samantha that nonetheless has a power pop nightmare vibe; “Hollywood Dream” sounds like a Kim Fowley project auditioning for the part of ‘the band’ on an I Dream of Jeannie episode, Fishman’s vocal dripping with a knowing sleaze, “Come Slumming” could’ve (and should’ve) scored a deliciously cheap switchblade biker gang flick while “Hey Atlas” is “Wild Thing” on seconal, dissolute, resigned, and pretty much the final statement of the heavy American AM radio dream. Tripp Kulture, on the other hand, runs on a whole ‘nother engine.

Moogy, slightly paranoid, and more often than not injected with a krautrocky post-punk dose of industrialized rhythm juice, Tripp Kulture might well be the trophy winners here in terms of individual tracks jumping out and swallowing you whole. “Frozen” would seem to be reconstructing “Final Solution” out of salvaged factory parts and leftover slabs of the Berlin Wall, its undercoating a kind of motorific grunge drone that’s quite possibly what it would sound like to hear the autobahn breathing. Both “Offer” and “Concrete” give a fair approximation of what PiL could have achieved had they paid just a little more attention to Chic, the grooves somehow both sleek and gritty, basslines that trace a path between party-ready and menacing. “Offer” is the livelier of the two, it’s pulse breathless, the vocal phlegmatic, while “Concrete”‘s a bit trippier if just as pulsy, the two tracks definitely brothers of the same disco-funk mutha. The short “Step Into the Future,” on the other hand, has spacier ambitions and is thus far less grounded.

Skimming past the brief paranoia-blip of a 2001 outtake “Off on God” by Japan Sound Ensemble (an “open door” improv project based in Tokyo) we come down an exit ramp to find Hugh Cornwall fronting an ensemble that includes Burke, Carina Round guitarist Tom Livemore and of course Fishman. Adopting the throwaway moniker “Major Collective,” they close this swerving ride of an album with a mesmerizingly trenchant and deliberate outing called “Bloody Lies” that slyly takes all that’s come before and rather neatly synthesizes it into a track the anarcho-dancey nature of which aligns it quite favorably with Pop Group’s Citizen Zombie from earlier this year and you’re right, that’s not a comparison I care to make casually.

An out-of-nowhere record put together by an unfairly obscure musician that regardless is unimpeachably respected by the muso class, Bubbling Up From the Underground ranks as 2015’s shiniest tucked-away gem. The fact it’s presented in a way that mirrors the eccentricity of those involved and especially its ‘compiler’ just makes it that much more of a delight. Before he could even use it, Fishman’s broken the mold here, then went ahead and used it anyway. Marvelous.

[Bubbling Up is available on iTunes and from CD Baby here]

Metal Jazz

Record review: Trashbeat, Chrome, Tripp Kulture, The Shades, "Bubbling Up From Underground: The State of the Art-Rock Pt 1 (Rock & Roll, Art-Rock, Dance-Punk, Post-Alternative)" (Major Records)


Walking through Hollywood on a Sunday morning, I spied a fella in Spandex pants, lying in the gutter. He rolled up bloodshot eyes and proposed a choice in exchange for a $10 donation: He would either blow me or give me a cassette.

He didn't look healthy, so I chose the tape. (Yes, I make it a point of honor to keep a working player.)

The boxless Maxell showed enough wear that this could have been an authentic relic of the 1970s. Its faded, hand-printed label, Scotch-taped where it had begun to peel, read, "Bubbling Up mix." I couldn't wait to get it home.

The music floored me -- how could these classic manifestations of glam and proto-punk have escaped my notice? Then a web search revealed the shocking truth: "Bubbling Up" is actually a new 12-song compilation with the above much longer title. It consists mostly of several band projects featuring multi-instrumentalist Steve "Trash" Fishman, whose former sideman credits have included work with the Stranglers' Hugh Cornwell and '70s psychedelic punx Chrome, both cameo performers on the album.

Fishman's involvement as a writer, singer and player makes for a consistent aesthetic (is that still a word?), despite the variety of styles -- party rock in the mode of Bowie's "Aladdin Sane," Roxy Music's first album and "The Rocky Horror Show," along with moody distorto-plod and sterephonic sound collages designed to mess with your head when you're wasted. Throughout, Fishman pulls off a tour-de-force vocal impersonation of a cocaine queen tottering in a vast, reverberative arena of numb ecstasy.

The more I listen, the more layers emerge, and the more Fishman's hook-obsessed arranging talents shine. Further, his circusy lyrics mock every obsolete Hollywood cliché, engage in thoughtful inquiry ("Hey Atlas, how did you end up with a job like this?") and issue irresistible invitations ("Come slumming with me!"). Although I favor the four Trashbeat tracks, there ain't no clinkers here -- "Bubbling Up" blasts effervescence from first to last. A glorious surprise.

When I strolled through Hollywood again yesterday, Spandex Pants had ascended from the gutter to a bus bench. He said he was off dope and on antibiotics, and he regretted the loss of his precious tape -- he offered to blow me if I'd give it back.

Well, it was a win-win; I had made a copy.

* * *

"Bubbling Up From Underground" will be available here and elsewhere beginning Tuesday, July 6.


The Big Takeover

Various - Bubbling Up From Underground: The State of the Art-Rock Pt 1 (Major)

Various Bubbling Up From Underground Major

25 June 2015

Veteran punk bassist, Steve Fishman(BentThe DeadbeatsDFOThe Playboys) showcases his numerous current projects on an eclectic compilation that spans from glam to noise rock.

Though Fishman connects the various artists with his distinctive songwriting and bass playing, Bubbling Up From Underground does not come off as a one-man-show masquerading as a collection.  The Shades open with “Cool Me,” a soulful, sexy romp blending funk with early ’70s glam rock.  Trashbeat appear with four songs that could be Roxy Music with a touch of David Bowie and The Stooges, while Tripp Kulture’s four tracks conjure the industrial punk weirdness of Helios Creed and Butthole Surfers insanity. Not surprisingly, Chrome make an appearance with an excellent cut from their latest album, Feel It Like a Scientist, and Japan Sound Ensemble offer a one-minute sound collage. It all comes together with “Bloody Lies” by Major Collective, which features The Stranglers’ Hugh Cornwell on vocals over a driving Massive Attack-like groove.

Borne from the sweat and toil of one Steve Fishman, Bubbling Up is a solid collection of music that deserves to be more widely heard. Turn it up and bask in its unusual aura.


That Music Magazine

Steve Fishman, Bubbling Up From Underground: The State Of The Art-Rock Pt 1

Bubbling Up From Underground: The State Of The Art-Rock Pt 1

Reviewed by: R Brian Roser 

Most of the things that are described as ‘bubbling up from underground’ are not pleasant. I am happy to say… for the most part… that is not the case here. Steve Fishman brings together several bands for this album. Maybe not one for the limelight himself, Fishman is nevertheless a longtime veteran of the music scene. His songwriting and bass playing are on display here in all their glory. The style of the album is late 70s punk. Sometimes there’s a hint of funk, sometimes it’s hard rock, but this is music that would make The Clash and the Sex Pistols proud.

Bubbling Up From Underground is a grab bag of offerings from several different guest artists: The Shades, Trashbeat, Trash Kulture, Chrome, all make appearances, along with a sprinkling of Japan Sound Ensemble weirdness. As such, the results are also mixed. I love the imagery of “Hey Atlas”, the defiant lyrics of “Bloody Lies” and the snark of “Hollywood Dream”. On the other side of the coin, The track “Frozen” is not great, ditto “Lady Feline”, ditto the instrumental “Concrete”. Dissonance is fine as a brief counterpoint, or a way to end a song, but if you base an entire track around it, the sound just gets annoying.

Taken as a whole, this is a great album. There are hiccups, but the gems more than make up for the dregs.

Rating: Bad-Ass!