When I saw Machineri at Zula in Long Street in June 2010 I quite disliked what I heard and said so in print. Some while later the band responded via their Facebook page and ostensibly commended me on my awesome and intelligent review. As the "review" was brief and scathing I guessed that Machineri were being sarcastic.
The other day I bought my wife the latest South African edition of Cosmo, their annual "music" issue. Guess who is featured in a full page spread, with large photograph and brief text? Machineri!
I guess it helps having some heavy PR. IF you can persuade Cosmo to give you a bit of hype as hot new young guns, somebody must know somebody and be working hard on your press and publicity. The Cosmo hack tells us the band mixes up a blend of rock 'n roll, country and blues and calls it music to feed our soul. We are also urged to get to their live shows. In the photograph Sannie Fox wears a short, thin summer dress beneath some kind of jacket, with short socks and comfortable shoes, and gives a shy yet bold look. Kind of like Maria McKee back in the day.
This expensive publicity made me wonder whether I'd missed something in Zula. Had I got it all wrong?
In passing I should mention, apart from favourable comments about my Nico Burger piece, that most of the responses to my blogs, when there is any, are from people who think I'm a clueless bastard for slating their favourite artist or maybe their mate. I guess any recognition is better than none and if means that unflattering pieces draw attention, then I should be even more like a blunt object in my battering attempts against crap music.
Machineri at Zula was loud, shrill and not very entertaining. There was no sign of country or blues. I trusted my instincts and called it as I saw it.
Anyhow, Machineri succeeded in drawing me to their Facebook (maybe I should now become a friend of theirs) and MySpace pages. After listening to the studio version of Machineri music I thought it good and even proper to re-evaluate the band and perhaps change my mind altogether. Now I do get the rock 'n roll, country and blues references. Machineri in the studio has some smarts, some musical sense and is long on the subtlety their bludgeoning performance had nothing of.
Damn! I like this stuff!
On MySpace the band displays its wares: a mini album of tunes that I find I cannot buy and download. Now that I have listened to the studio version of the tunes the band might have played at Zula, I am most distressed that I cannot download the songs to listen to more often.
This music is quite good!
"The Searchers" is allegedly inspired by the John Wayne / John Ford movie of the same name and the first impression is that Sannie Fox sounds like Jefferson Airplane period Grace Slick and the second impression is that his song almost has a grand tune and that it ain't half bad. Is this the hit?
"Drop Us A Line Ladder Operator" (I am a sucker for mysterious titles like this) is driven by a glorious lead riff, propulsive bass, freak out lead guitar, popping drums and gleefully thrilled vocals about a subject that makes no sense to me.
"Stranger on the Water" sounds like slowed down early Grand Funk Railroad, with touches of Blue Cheer, fronted by a less tense Siouxsie Sioux. That's a positive.
"Cukoo Child" is scuzz rock Howlin' Wolf style backing, psych fuzz guitar and an almost sweet vocal. This is the Nuggets tribute.
"Shunting Train" mauls the Delta theme of railroads with some spooky blues. It ends rather abruptly just as I am starting to enjoy the ride.
"Machine I Am" has an Eastern music effect and sounds like budget psych-pop, Grace Slick again, and has an almost anthemic chorus. It ends on wordless wailing and a bit of raga rock styling.
Obviously I listen to this stuff with ears attuned to music from the mid and late Sixties and early Seventies. Jefferson Airplane is one of my top favourite bands of all time. I owned the first Blue Cheer album and the first couple of Grand Funk Railroad albums. The original punk rock of the Pacific Northwest area of the USA, and the bands enshrined in the Nuggets and later Pebbles compilations, especially the stupidly lysergic dumb ones, rock in an awesome way. I hear this kind of influence in Machineri, whether they know this older music or not.
Machinery is not doing anything new, except perhaps for the role of Sannie Fox's guitar in the line up (and, hey, is a woman playing a guitar in any way still a novelty as Fox says in her Cosmo quote?) but from the evidence of the recordings they are doing something fun and rocking. The production values of the demos (as I think of them) need some boosting but I guess that will come with time and budget. For now, Machineri probably deserve the attention they are getting. Machineri does not sound like most of the bands on the scene and I guess they never will. If this is blues rock for the current millennium I am all for it, as blues is my passion and basic, primitive rock 'n roll my heart's desire.
The chances of me ever hearing Machineri live again would probably be quite slim. I would however shell out for a CD or downloadable tracks when available.
Never let it be said that I have blind prejudices.