Share SECOND WINTER - Ed Kuepper & Mark Dawson (Prince Melon Records)
There was little pre-release intelligence about this one so hopefully anyone who plunged their heard-earned down the belief it was a record of all new tunes wasn't disappointed. Frankly, the re-working of these songs from two of Ed Kuepper's best solo albums, "Electrical Storm" and "Rooms Of The Magnificent", is so radical that it renders "Second Winter" a whole new listening experience.

You probably know that Herr Kuepper is Also Sprach, The King of Re-Invention and it's his sparse and inspired duo configuration with the immensely talented traps man Mark Dawson that's occupied his recent touring time. Going into the studio to record something together sounds logical enough, in hindsight.

"Second Winter" is an intimate affair with close-mic'ed Kuepper vocals and all manner of Dawson percussive gymnastics laying down the pattern. There's occasional augmentation (cello on "Told Myself", bells on "Master of 2 Servants") and frequent waves of odd dissonance that create ethereal sonic textures. Case in point is "No More Sentimental Jokes" where the guitar sits starkly against Dawson's bare bones beat and lingering atmospherics.

The nearest "Second Winter" goes to full-throated guitar Sainthood is "Palace of Sin" where a passage of distorted six-string shreddage creeps in and out of the tune. Dawson's feels come into their own on this one and he drags/pushes the beat along with Ed intoning over the top. It's the rocking-est song on the disc but not the least out of place. The intensity of most of these songs lies in their playing.

Committed Kuepper fans have heard countless versions of "Electrical Storm" and this one resists the original's break into a canter, slipping instead into another synthesised fade-out. It's an easy segue into "Rainy Night" and the song's put to bed in similar style.

If you were lucky, you'd have grabbed the "tour edition" with a bonus CD of a Kuepper-Dawson gig at Sydney's Basement. This is from the 2011 tour where they reprised "Today Wonder" - with a few choice extras tossed in.

It's wonderfully recorded and a great performance with very relaxed banter that forever belies the oft-written journalistic depiction of Kuepper The Curmudgeon. Then again, the picky ones will write, he was among friends. - The Barman

 

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LIVE IN LONDON (PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 17) - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon)
LONG RIDER ON THE SHORTWAVES, RADIO SESSIONS 1986, 1988, 1990, 1993 (PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 18) - Ed Kuepper
(Prince Melon)
If you grabbed the free MP3 download of the 15-minute, unrehearsed version of "Eternally Yours" Ed and band played with Louise Elliott in London in 2007 that's been hanging around online, you will have been hoping this show (Volume 17) would be released in its entirety. And so it goes.

This was a sideshow to an All Tomorrows Parties gig by Kuepper and Jeffrey Wegener , and it must have been one amazing night. "Eternally Yours" is awe-inspiring in its dynamics, initially skeletal with Wegener running rampant and covering all ponits of his kit before he, Elliott and Kuepper begin the build. Not far behind are versions of "Messin' With The Kid" (with Chris Bailey guesting on vocals), a dark and stormy "Fever", and a swirling "Cypress Grove Blues."

It seems superfluous to pile on the superlatives but the Prince Melon Bootleg Series keeps delivering. Volume 18 showcases three line-ups of Kuepper bands (including the duo with Mark Dawson and The Yard Goes On Forever) as well as Ed in solo mode. The song selection leans towards the "Rooms Of The Magnificent" and "Today Wonder" albums. There's also a post Clowns radio interview. The tremendous Rebecca Hancock gets overdue star billing on a widescreen version of the Saints classic "The Prisoner" that's edgily splendid and downright haunting.

The album track-listing's slightly askew (there are 15 songs, not 13) but you'd have to be an ungrateful bastard to quibble about shit like that. Kuepper's been reprising his partnership with Dawson with live shows lately so the appearance of three songs by the pair on this release is timely. If they're not dedicating at least one song to late Cardboard King Dick Pratt in honour of Dawson's makeshift drum kits, the disappiointment should be palpable.

Just noticed that Judi Dransfield-Kuepper's artwork hasn't been mentioned in this series of reviews. It's been a thread in the look of Kuepper albums since way back then and you'll notice from the thumbnails here just how striking her covers are.

Wondering where the missing volumes are in this sequentially-numbered series? Go to the Laughing Clowns reviews page. The bad news is that these discs sell-out almost as soon as they're issued. The good news is they're appearing on Amazon On Demand. - The Barman

- Both

 

 

ED KUEPPER LIVE - LONG RIDER ON THE SHORTWAVES, RADIO SESSIONS 2000 THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 14 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
ED KUEPPER LIVE - LONG RIDER ON THE SHORTWAVES, RADIO SESSIONS 1999 - THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 15 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)

Here's a pigeon pair of releases in the seemingly never-ending series of tapes from the shelf near the window in Ed Kuepper's shed, and if you're a fan you'll make sure you don't blink and miss them. Volumes 14 and 15 find Ed in solo and ensemble mode respectively; both were taped in a studio for FM radio consumption and with Kuepper at the top of his resilient game.

The 2000 solo session draws on Kuepper's mid and late '90s records for its playlist and echoes the "With A Knapsack On My Back" live album period of a few years previous. It's him, his guitar and his effects rack, sans band. You hear "Weepin' Willow" without its big production, "Ill Wind" in skeletal form and a charming "Highway To Hell" that segues into the Stooges' "We Will Fall". That sounds bizarre, sure, but it works.

The band Ed assembled in '99 (Johnny Gauci on keys, Alex Compton on bass and Dave Aston on drums) may not have toured as often as recent line-ups but it was a damn fine outfit. This show finds them reaching right back into the the catalogue to draw on the durable "Electrical Storm", "Horse Under Water" from Ed's duo days with Mark Dawson, and "Honey Steel's Gold" from the LP of the same name, among others.

The thing you can rely on besides death and taxes is that Kuepper and his combos never let the grass grow under their feet. It's more like they're spreading Dynamic Lifter all over it with no need for Jim's Mowing. It's a process of re-working and re-interpreting, so although fans have heard all of it countless times there's a new feel to the songs.

Sonically speaking: Live radio shows often have the life squeezed out of them by compression. That's not the case with these two. There's also an endearing lack of separation in the instruments on the 1999 session (the bass bleeds all over the place.) Call me a deaf bastard instead of an audiophile but that sits well to these ears. Mrs' K's cover artwork rocks, too.

The irony is that back in the early '90s, every second reviewed waxed in the mainstream media about how many releases Ed Kuepper was sending out. The last two years have made his '90s output look positively pedestrian-paced, but do you hear a squeak of recognition from what used to be called the music (not fashion) press? The question's rhetorical but there's a comment box below if you want to sound off, you fellow old fart. - The Barman

- Both

 

 

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THE AINTS LIVE - THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 10 -The Aints (Prince Melon Records)
ED KUEPPER LIVE - THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 11 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
STUDIO DEMOS 1988 AND 2007 - THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 12 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
ASCENCION ACADEMY - THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 13 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)

The sniff of one of these releases is a big deal around these parts. As it seems to be in lots of other places because at the time of writing almost all of the latest wave of Ed Kuepper official bootlegs are sold out - just on the strength of pre-orders. So read on and stew about what you don't have and then email Prince Melon Records nicely to ask them for another pressing. Or hop onto iTunes, you digital thing.

The Aints didn't play out very often but if you were lucky enough to catch them you'll recall the experience as awe-inspiring. This was a return to high-volume and rawness for Ed Kuepper, as well as a reclamation of the Saints' songs in the (then) unlikely prospects of a reconciliation with Chris Bailey. Read whatever you wanted into all that (plenty did at the time) but the bottom line was that it was unadulterated fun.

Volume 10 of the Prince Melon archival series is an audience recording of The Aints from Melbourne in 1991 and the sound quality is surprisingly good, leaving the sweaty but claustrophobic "SLSQ" for dead. This line-up is propelled by Mark Dawson (drums) and Celibate Rifle Mike Couvret (bass) - apparently still Ed's preferred engine room for the actual Saints reunions nearly 20 years later- with the embellishment of Tim Hopkins' scorching sax. I'd humbly suggest that this is the definitive Aints live recording. It makes me wonder why Ed doesn't take the plunge and revive this band. It would be cloody exciting - especially if they tackled new material.

The set list is close to "SLSQ" - and by default that of the recordings of the early "real" Saints - so nothing appears from the Aints' two albums. The band's relentlessly tight and Ed's obviously relishing the decibel fest with his guitar sounding nigh unstoppable. If you's a Saints fan who uses "Nights In Venice" as a yardstick to compare bands old and new, you'll find sonic heaven in the dense harmonics and jackhammer rhythms of the 11-and-a-half-minute version here. Likewise the driving "Swing For The Crime". A recording to flog, preferably with the sound at painful levels. The only regret is that they don't play any more.

Doing justice to "Jean Lee And The Yellow Dog" in the live context presented a challenge for Ed but Volume 11 of the series, documenting a gig in Brisbane which was one of a handful of 2007 dates with the Kowalski Collective to promote the release, shows it was met.

The Collective (Peter Oxley on bass and Jeffrey Wegener on drums) was souped up by cello, keyboards and a horn player and there's the usual dip into the back catalogue to keep set-list obsessives on their toes. Six "Jean Lee" tracks are at the core, with "Too Many Clues", a thunderous "La Di Doh" and an instrumental "Eternally Yours" among the welcome ring-ins.

There's even a cover of "I'm Here To Get My Baby Out of Jail" that the Everly Brothers did, but played in a way that would have made it sit well on "Jean Lee". Of that album's songs, "Hang Jean Lee", "Yellow Dog"and "Skinny Jean" are the picks of a great bunch.

Kuepper's in fine vocal fettle (his interlude to intro the band is a giggle) and needless to say he's a one-man orchestra on guitar. Sound quality is rich and is past, more affluent days this would have been a deluxe, full-blown album double LP in gatefold cover with illuminating liner notes. Those times are gone but this holds up as a quickie CD in cardboard sleeve,no risk.

It might not make much sense to you or meet release selections of demos from line-ups nine years apart on the same disc but what did either roof us ever know? The 15-track "Studios Demos 1988 and 2007" (volume 12 in the Prince Melon series) more than holds its own.

Kuepper really has become King of the Studio down the years so the aural enhancements and idiosyncratic touches that are now stock-in-trade for his recordings are a treat rather than a distraction. Two unreleased "Jean Lee" songs and six sometimes radically re-worked tunes make up the first part of this album, with the balance of being seven outtakes from the Yard Goes On Forever band.

Last things first and The Yard is a band I fondly remember as one of the very best of the late '80s Australian scene, before over-work and their leader's ever-present need to do new things conspired to end their formidable run. Here, they take an instrumental stab at a churning "King Of Vice", a pop take on "Closer" and a waltz version of the Saints' "The Prisoner", that's a duet between Rebecca Hancock and Ed.

As much as no-one should fuck with greatness, I simply can't fault the pop version of "The Way I Made You Feel".

Outtake collections can be a drag when the tunes on them should have stayed in their creator's sock draw. "Jean Lee And The Yellow Dog", on the other hand, holds up to regular re-exploration and by default, and so do the songs leading this disc.

There's a psychedelic take on "That Depends" that has its off-the-wall elements like gated vocals and acid-tinged cello, but they pale against this version of "Daddy's Girl" where the underlying crowd sound undercurrent resembles a Munich beer hall meeting of session players from one of those yuppie Paul-Simon-swings-by-the-tribal-ghetto efforts.

"Shame" gets a longer treatment with the guitar turned up a notch and there's a contrasting, lighter "Real To Me". If you want to know whether the unreleased "Bob Ascends The Heavenly Stairs" and the skeletal "Went Down That Road" are any good, you shouldn't be reading this review.

So to the "Ascension Academy" disc and here where the going will get weird for many. It's not so much a song collection (although the parts do have names) as a soundscape, spanning 58 minutes and played by Kuepper, Laughing Clowns keyboardist Alister Spence and saxophonist Louise Elliott, Judi Dransfield Kuepper and the mysterious Sir Alfonso (presumably on bass.)

The project was assembled for a one-off show for the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane in 2008. This is a live recording with some post-performance studio trimmings attached.

There's a thread of ambient noise running right through "Ascenscion Academy" that glues it together. Washes of sound and/or music fade in and out. Beats stop and start. Vocals appear sparingly. Like chain-gang chants or fragments of a woman talking.,

It's occasionally jarring, consistently left-of-centre. Which is an admission that I don't really know what to make of it all. - The Barman

- The Aints Live

 

- Ed Kuepper Live

 

- Studio Demos

 

- Ascencion Academy

 

 

 

DUBS, SOLOS AND TRIOS - THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 5 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
Exactly what it says. It's a mixed but by no means uneven bag of live material recorded in Australia between 2000-08.

That means the Old Firm of Kuepper-Wegener-Oxley (The Kowalski Collective) is present on most tracks, with the welcome addition of relative newcomer Spence on a handful. You also get some the odd duo configuration (Kuepper-Spence) and songs where Ed's accompanied only by guitar and a box of tricks.

Listen up, Kuepper-philes: You get to hear four "Jean Lee and the Yellow Dog" tracks in their live form. "Skinny Jean" in particular grinds and sways with great power live.

This "Electrical Storm" is a duo version (with Spence adding keys) and although it lacks the obvious power of a full band there's a densely brooding feel that gives the song a different intensity. "Rue The Day" (almost 10 minutes long) appreciates similar treatment and these are the two songs here that I'm going back to.

Remember "If I Had a Ticket"? It was rollickingly radio-ready in its original form. This version is a step short of The Aints treatment but it fairly ploughs along in ragged style, with Kuepper, his treated guitar, a minimal beat and little else.

The Chameleon getting by with some help from his friends. Hard to believe you can pick this up for ther price of two beers. - The Barman

3/4



HONEY STEEL'S GOLD LIVE AT THE FORUM - THE PRINCE MELON BOOTLEG SERIES VOLUME 4 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
If you're a fan you'll hardly need to be told to buy anything from this series. Plenty of people are and have, so the limited editions tend to sell-out quickly. Volume Four finds Ed reprising his breakthrough album, "Honey Steel's Gold", and you'd again be well advised not to snooze.

This is from the 2007 Don't Look Back series in which Ed opened for a revitalised Died Pretty who were playing "Doughboy Hollow" and a few more. You don't get the whole Kuepper show in complete running order (as far as I know he did the album from start to finish in Melbourne and "Not Too Soon" and "Closer (But Disguised)" are MIA - but you already have the studio album, right?

An extended "King of Vice" shows off the work of keyboardist Alister Spence nicely. The engine room of Peter Oxley and Jeffrey Wegener is surely one of Ed's best ever and the crisp recording lets their every note and accent shine through.

"Honey Steel's Gold" retains the majesty of the studio version but takes on a fresh urgency. A nervy "Summerfield" leads into a bristling "Electrical Storm", added to the set as a bonus, where Spence's swelling keys dominate.

OK, I said you wouldn't be told to buy this because if you're a fan you wouldn't need to. I lied. Here's the link. - The Barman

 

 

ED KUEPPER LIVE VOLUME 2 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
And so to the second volume in the Ed Kuepper Live fest and it's proof that there's always something for everyone in the Kuepper oeuvre. This is a 2001 Melbourne show from one of many evolving line-ups that have done the road thang with the man and it seems almost a hanging offence for it to have been languishing in a bottom drawer for this long. Not that anybody's going to Swing For the Crime - Kuepper's masters at Prince Melon are benevolent in their dictatorship.

Keyboards are to the fore on this one - and rightly so with the talented Johnny Gauci the provider. As usual, the band's ace: Longtime Kuepper sideman Alex Compton is on bass and the thoroughly excellent Dave Aston (Trout Fishing in Quebec) sits behind the traps. Also briefly prominent is the band leader's unique line in between-song patter with recollections of his days in a Sonny and Cher tribute band among one of his best lines.

"When She's Down" sheds her folk stylings to take on a jazz face and remarkably achieves more swing than Bob Massey in the 1972 Lords Test. By way of contrast it's followed by a bombastic version of "Everybody's Got To" with enough ballast in the bottom end to right a Sydney-to-Hobart maxi yacht in a force six gale. If they're synthesized horns on "Everything's Fine" you're hard pressed to tell amid the locked-in groove. His endless ability to re-arrange and refresh his songs apart, the other thing Ed has (in a big way) is a knack of sounding like a bigger band, even when playing as a trio.

While the set list won't provide many surprises for konfirmed Kuepperheads, the re-arrangements may; the knowing "Rue The Day" is head of the pack with its quasi-Eastern textures that trace a line right back to the Fillmore East, circa 1967. "Eternally Yours" shimmers harshly before a warm keyboard glow swells and lifts it a level. "All Of These Things" is almost a footnote rather than an encore but that's partly because what preceded was a hard act to follow.

Deserving of your procurement? I should think so. - The Barman

 

ED KUEPPER LIVE VOLUME 3 - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
Third and possibly last (at least for the time being) in the Live Bootleg Trilogy and the news is if you didn't buy the first it's too late. It's not too late to score Volume Two (Live in Melbourne 2001) or this one, which captures Ed in duo mode with Jeffrey (Wegener) from 2008 dates in Europe, where they supported Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

When it comes to life on the road, the management at Prince Melon are notoriously dictatorial and tight-fisted. This CD bears that out with songs recorded at places as far apart as Rome, Prague and Copenhagen. Rumour is that Wegener and Kuepper managed to survive traveling between shows in an open top truck with a family of gypsies and a pot of foul-smelling Hungarian oxtail stew as their only backstage sustenance, but drew the line at sharing a motel with the Bad Seeds because Saint Nick had stolen all the Gideon's bibles. Who could blame them?

Anyway, the rigours of the road certainly didn't affect their performance with eight glittering performances reprised here. There's a dirty-as-old-boots version of "When I First Came To This Land" with the distortion pedal turned right up, a 1793 Danish love song called "Demolition" (no doubt written in honour of the future Pricecss Mary) that chimes like a European timepiece, a sharply focussed "Laughing Clowns" and a rockin' "Yellow Dog".

"Eternally Yours" is on the set list and a swelling, dramatic version that Ed and Jeffrey build from the ground up. Mighty stuff and its sits well, cheek to jowl, with a take on "The Way I Made You Feel" that has that masterful Wegener rhythmic feel stamped all over it.

Gloriously alive. If you are, get your ya yas out (or at least some of your hard-earned) and buy it here.

3/4

 

 

ED KUEPPER LIVE - Ed Kuepper (Prince Melon Records)
You might have missed the little things - and that would be missing a lot - if your reaction to the plainly-named tour CD "Ed Kuepper Live" is simply: "Meh, it's just another exercise in minor (chord) reinvention". Musically speaking, it's true that Sir Ed's worn more masks than a middle-aged Double Bay matron with a gold Amex card at an around-the-clock day spa, he's done his shape-shifting in a way that's never been boring.

Some of the reinvention on "Ed Kuepper Live" is by degrees, granted. But if those nuances in "La Di Doh" or the hypnotic "Honey Steels Gold" are lost on you, or alternatively you're not bowled over by the rock and roll power of his latest band The Kowalski Collective's take on "Little Fiddle" or "The Laughing Clowns", then cash in your deposit on the hospital TV and ask them to turn off the life support machine, there's no hope for you.

The Collective are drummer extraordinaire Jeffrey Wegener and the rock solid bassist Peter Oxley, two storied players whose combined musical history and cooking finesse would fill a stack of scrapbooks or pile of pizza boxes (whichever is more appropriate.) With Ed, they've been traversing the country for a few years now, sometimes as a trio or sometimes in stripped-down drums-and-guitar mode. They're at the core of the most recent studio album, "Jean Lee And The Yellow Dog" and up there as one of the man's best ensembles. Which is saying something.

I don't know what it is about Ed Kuepper, an occasional capo, a row of effects pedals and six strings, but after all these years he still summons up some incredible sounds. Horns are central to "Eternally Yours", right? That glorious line is at its heart. Well here's a version where you scarcely miss it; Kuepper compensates while Monsieur Wegener traverses every piece of his kit.

If there's a criticism it's that "Collapse Board" doesn't match the original Laughing Clowns version for outright tension, but even so it has a certain molten magnificence that deserves a hearing.

"Ed Kuepper Live" spans 51 minutes and while it's contents won't surprise many it won't disappoint most either. Copies were pressed for the 2008 Kuepper supports to Nick Cave in Europe - if you're quick/smart you'll grab one at an Australian show near you. After they sell out, eBay might have to become your friend. - The Barman

3/4



JEAN LEE AND THE YELLOW DOG - Ed Kuepper (Hot)

This will be the first Ed Kuepper review in the history of the written world that fails to use the words "prolific" and "re-invention". I won't mention the War either (that's a cheap German joke, for the benefit of the slow learners or anyone that hasn't seen a reference to Ed's ethnic background in interviews, ad infinitum.)

Reviewing the first Ed disc in a month of Sundays should be easier than stealing Stephen Hawkin's lunch money from under his nose in the university cafeteria during a black-out; I own almost everything he's recorded (Ed that is - not Professor Hawkins - hey, anyone gotta second-hand "Cloudland" they don't want?) and they're all like close relatives/drinking buddies, laid out on the shelf in chronological order.

I can remember where I scored each of them and what I was doing at the time (this is so "Hi-Fidelity".) Even the disco-fied "Frontierland" gets a spin. There are high points on most of them. There are songs that have a direct lineage back through others. I can tell you exactly why I think "Electrical Storm" or "Honey Steels Gold" is The Shit. But "Jean Lee" is one complex lady and can't be explained away in 400 words.

"Jean Lee" is a concept album but that's not what I'm getting hung up on. I know the back story of the last Australian woman to be hanged and how she was used and abused by her male co-conmspirators and the legal system, but that's not the issue. Nor is the inability to succinctly explain why this album is so good a problem for anyone but me. Unless you like reading short paragraphs. Staccato statements even. Tough shit. So I'm going to go with the flow and just say it is what it is and not for the last time urge you to listen and think for yourself and tell me that this isn't as good as anything Ed has ever committed to tape or hard drive.

The core of most Kuepper albums is usually the band and the fascination is how they work with what may seem on the surface simple songs, but are in reality many-layered and sometimes quite complex.

Journeymen (not a slight) Peter Oxley (bass) and Jeffrey Weggener (drums) have played numerous gigs with Kuepper in recent years. The Wegener-Kuepper relationship especially is deeply historied. The trio's combination and empathy is inspiring. Cock an ear to the groove they work up in "Shame" and say it isn't so. The studio and Ed Kuepper became comfortable fellow travelers long ago and he also uses that to the fullest advantage.

So it sounds great and the playing is a treat. The songs aren't remotely commercial (no "Real Wild Time" here) and haven't gotten within a bull's roar of commercial radio airplay. No matter. The songs demand attention and stand up to repeated exposure. Dark and abrasive.

There's a lot to say. Chris Bailey has a vocal cameo (not that you'd pick him right away) and there's occasional instrumental augmentation (notably horns and violin) and there's the occasional rude word and "Hang Jean Lee" sounds just like The Aints and there's a two-disc version with out-takes and extra songs (only a few of which are redundancies.)

So if you're into being challenged by music just buy the fucker. I dare ya. - The Barman


THIS IS THE MAGIC MILE - Ed Kuepper (Hot)
And this box set is the Magic Era of Ed, spanning the decade 1990-2000 over three glorious discs.

There are 49 tracks on "Magic Mile", culled from a 10-year period. Kuepper spawned 18 full albums (a couple of live ones in that tally, but omitting compilations) in that decade and, for the most part, the quality never faltered. In many ways, Ed could be considered to be the Phar Lap of Australian music, such is his staying power - except, of course, he's not a horse. But you get the drift.

Some critics take Kuepper to task for occasionally falling back on his past material like a comfy chair. They miss the point. A great song is a great song - and Kuepper has written some crackers. There are only so many chords you can play, and there isn't a guitarist or composer of any longevity that doesn't have some familiar phrases that they re-visit. The knack Kuepper has over his contemporaries is an ability to make whatever he writes smell fresh and new. Plus a prodigious talent for musical and lyrical understatement that's grown since his Saints days.

So many highlights, so few paragraphs to praise them without boring the shit out of anyone. Needless to say, the shelves at home are bulging with Kuepper back catalogue. It's all in the ear of the beholder and everyone will take out something different. The stand-out factor, for me, over the course of these (admittedly non-chronological) discs is the way Ed became more attuned to using the studio as a means to different sounds. That's not unique - anyone here played with ProTools? - and empowerment of just about anyone to make music in their back shed surely is A Good Thing, but Kuepper's production muse never gets in the way of the songs.

Consider the varied offerings: While "A King in the Kindness Room" (1995) dabbled in samples (and I found the songs a bit weak), "Honey Steels Gold" (1991) explored soundscapes with grandeur and poise (and made the mainstream take notice). "Today Wonder" (1990) predated both, and showed what Kuepper, a guitar, minimal effects pedal and a killer drummer with a set of cardboard boxes could do with skeletal folk tunes. If he recorded it today, they'd call it bent blues and promote the shit out of it. 1996's "Frontierland" ("Weeping Willow", "Fireman Joe" and "MPPD" representing it here) is still the only techno album I've owned - mainly because it actually rocks.

Both Aints studio albums - where Ed reverted to the primal basic-ness of the early Saints with lashings of Coltrane and a touch of "Funhouse" Stooges overlaid - were simply among the rawest and most visceral Aussie guitar releases of the '90s. Conspicuous by its absence is anything from "Everybody's Got To", the big budget stab at the US market by Ed and his then band, The Yard Goes on Forever. So did the touring, so maybe that's a reason.

There's a sprinkling of singles tracks (a remake of "Car Headlights" from '94) or songs that can only be found on tributes or compilations (Slim Dusty's "Camooweal") to give the set a left-of-centre feel. Both instrumental sound-grab albums ("Starstruck" and "Cloudland") are represented. I can't confess to either of them sitting in my collection - they're just too fragmented - but that raises an interesting aspect of Kuepper's music: his vocals. Much-maligned in his Laughing Clowns days (and ex-bandmate Chris Bailey has delivered regular shots over the years) but a fully-fledged part of the package. Is it overstating it to say that what was once an acquired taste is now an asset? Probably not...although I do listen to a lot of people who have "guitar player's voices".

The package is nicely mastered too (only owning the original versions of many of these means their descendents are an aural revelation - "Maria Paripatetica" being an ear-bleeding case in point). It's all part of the attention to detail that made the Saints and Laughing Clowns box sets so great.

About the only thing missing - "Also Sprach the King of Eurodisco" and "Electrical Storm" not withstanding - is a decent set of liners. You'll have to make do with lyrics which is a pity; a good proportion have appeared elsewhere and Kuepper's Brisbane brogue ain't that hard to work out.

After digesting this three-course feast, you'll be hungry for a new Kuepper studio effort (and the thought of Ed and Jeffrey Wegener collaborating on tape for the first time in two decades or so is compelling). There's an extensive schedule of live dates for those two over the Australian summer, so there's no excuse is there?
- The Barman



OUT-TAKES, CASTAWAYS, PIRATE WOMEN & TAKEAWAYS - Ed Kuepper (Hot)
At last count, Ed Kuepper had seven retrospective compilations and/or collections of B sides and outtakes on the market, not to mention scattered re-visitings of old material in live or mail-order only form (and if that's a drawback, leave now.) I admit, I had misgivings about yet another collection of rarities/alternate takes but forked out anyway. I shouldn't have worried. This is proof, to borrow a term from Uncle Lou, that Ed's shit is other peoples' diamonds.

The Barman is the most Anti-Techno Retro Bore on the planet (love that Monarchs line about techno being a neurotoxin, and Birdman alumnus Mark Sisto's description of the genre as "robot music" is superb) but I dare you to put track one ("Also Sprach 2001") on the player and not testify THAT IT ROCKS. Sequencers and noodling (some of it alarmingly close to my phone tone) give way to a big booming drum sound and shards of stun guitar. It's a long way removed from the Morricone-meets-the-Shadows twang of the original and there's not a Saint in sight.

Not so startling aside: 1996's "Frontierland" album's lush studio soundscapes were a shock to the system... a major shock. Still, "All of These Things" from that disc remains a Kuepper fave. It's redone here, with identical backing but with a sultry Rachel Holmshaw vocal bumping Ed off the mix. It's from a project of other people recording Kuepper songs (a novel concept) and works a treat. While "CCR Versus The 3rd Reich" is an indulgent by-product of the "Honey Steel's Gold" album, a jaunty take on Dylan's "If Not For You" follows and more than makes up for it.

"Outtakes" is not flawless and has its moments, aside from the indulgent "CCR". Looking at it subjectively (as only a fan-reviewer can), "Okie from Muskogee" still has me scratching my head and asking why (is it a pisstake or is he serious?) "Kissing Cousins" sounded nothing like this on some record El Kuepper was involved on many eons ago, but is a bit of a grower. "Eternally Yours" is a bona fide classic and the heavy-handed treatment it's given here adds to the canon. While the "Poor Howard" representation here is a cousin to Yothu Yindi's abhorrent dance floor standard "Treaty" and the version of "Rough Neck Blues" almost indistinguishable from the one that went before, the live version of "La Di Doh" is a killer with netherworldly de-tuned violin.

The thing that stands out is the sheer class of some of the line-ups that have graced Kuepper bills. It's been a long and varied road since the commercialism of The Yard Goes On Forever days, with the brilliant Mark Dawson one of the few constants on drums (or cardboard boxes, as the mood takes him.) From acoustic duo-dom to eclectic big band, Sir Edmund's done it all. The only unrepresented phase seems to be the guitar overdrive of The Aints (who are due for a grease and oil change and spin around the block.)
- The Barman

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