The Dry Retch
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EDC are proud to announce to digital release of two Dry Retch classics! 2019's 'A Kick in the Gulags' and this year's 'Pyongsang Kaengsaeng!' will be yours to own from this very website here and from over 300 other download and streaming sites, including Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon from Good Friday!
The Dry Retch 'A Kick in the Gulags'
Review by Alice Jones-Rodgers, from Eighth Day Magazine Issue Eight, May 2018.
Welcome to the world of The Dry Retch, the self-proclaimed “living embodiment of down and dirty excremental rock and roll”. The band originally formed in Liverpool in the late nineties and cite their influences as The Stooges, Chrome Cranks, MC5, Mudhoney, Radio Birdman, Destroy All Monsters, Thee Hypnotics, Cosmic Psychos and the New Christs. During their initial run, The Dry Retch released three albums worth of original material, ‘The Eagle Has Fucked Off’ (2002); ‘Columbus Was Wrong, The World is Square’ (2002) and ‘Smells Like Fat Lass’ (2006), the single ‘Like A Woman’ b/w ‘Bleeding Bad’ (2000) and the mini-album ‘Her Arms Plum Came Off + 6 More Ripsnorters’ (2006). ‘Smells Like Fat Lass’ and ‘‘Her Arms Plum Came Off + 6 More Ripsnorters’ were released on the band’s own label, Stalingrad Records, the name of which first hinted at the band’s interest in the Soviet Union. Currently boasting a line-up featuring Australian vocalist and guitarist John Retch with JP on stun guitar, Dav on bass guitar and Wils on drums, The Dry Retch have recently returned after a lengthy hiatus and as their Facebook page states, “if the good lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, it’s time for The Dry Retch to once more teach the young people who’s the daddy!”
Back in 2006, The Dry Retch released the eight track album ‘The Dry Retch Play The Stooges’, on which they lovingly reconstructed The Stooges’ self-titled debut album in full. Thirteen years on, the band present their comeback EP, ‘A Kick in the Gulags’, on which they present five further Stooges recordings.
To fully understand ‘A Kick in the Gulags’, we must look back to 1971. Having released their poorly received second album, ‘Fun House’ the previous year and with the band, with the notable exception of guitarist Ron Asheton, having developed serious heroin habits, The Stooges had been dropped from Elektra Records roster of artists. In the same year, the band had also parted company with founding member, bassist Dave Alexander, replacing him with a succession of new bass players, including Zeke Zettner and James Recca and introduced second guitarist James Williamson, a childhood friend of Alexander, Ron Asheton and his brother, drummer Scott Asheton. Despite having no label backing and various band members spiraling further still into their drug addictions, The Stooges continued to write new material and perform live, whilst managing themselves. With factors such as vocalist Iggy Pop often being unable to stand up on stage due to his extreme drug abuse, the band’s performances became even more unpredictable.
Much of 1971 is undocumented due to the luxury of a recording studio having been lost and any revenue from gigs feeding the band members’ drug habits. However, there were four known audience recordings made of 1971 Stooges shows, including performances at the Electric Circus in New York City; The Factory in St. Louis and the Vanity Ballroom in the band’s home city of Detroit. The recordings featured five songs which were never committed to tape in the studio: ‘You Don’t Want My Name’; ‘Fresh Rag’; ‘Dead Body’; ‘Big Time Bum’ and ‘Do You Want My Love’. The Stooges soon broke up into obscurity until they were briefly coaxed out of retirement by David Bowie a year later to record their third album, ‘Raw Power’.
So, what became of those 1971 live audience recordings of the five lost Stooges songs? Well, thirty-eight years later, they resurfaced on the four CD box set ‘You Don’t Want My Name … You Want My Action’, released on the British reissue label Easy Action.
Fast forward to 2019 and The Dry Retch have taken these tracks and ingeniously decided to head into the studio to give them the presentation that they always deserved. The band has characteristically claimed that the resulting six track EP, ‘A Kick in the Gulags’ is “The greatest album of the millennium”. It is certainly the bravest and a lovingly crafted tribute to The Stooges’ least mentioned period.
Opening with the suitably fuzzed-out stylings of ‘You Don’t Want My Name’, which finds John giving the vocals more Iggy than Iggy and JP offering up one of the finest ‘stun’ guitar solos that we have heard in recent times, whilst Dav’s sleazy bassline and Wils’s thunderous backbeat only just stop the whole monstrous epic from exploding out of the stereo speakers and measuring on the Richter scale.
Following track, ‘Fresh Rag’ is an urgent three minute blast of proto-punk fuelled noise that not only places the listener firmly back in the era that it was composed but also reminds us just what an important influence The Stooges have been on the many generations of punk and garage influenced bands that have followed. For example, listening to the guitar riff on ‘Fresh Rag’, we were instantly reminded of Ash’s 1995 single, ‘Kung Fu’, which was featured on their debut full length album ‘1977’ the following year.
‘Dead Body’ is the EP’s longest track at just under seven and a half minutes and with its gargantuan jam-derived introduction, growling and somewhat hypnotic bassline positioned high in the mix complimented by meandering psychedelic guitar work and John maniacally screaming “Who do you love?” for all it’s worth, is one of the many highlights of this extraordinary release.
Meanwhile, The Dry Retch’s interpretation of ‘Big Time Bum’ takes the pace back up to breakneck speed and breathes new life into the lost classic. Entering with a perfectly poised drum roll before erupting into a ferocious cacophony of booming Motörhead evoking bass and heavy buzzsaw guitar riffing before coming to a sudden halt, ‘Big Time Bum’ is probably the most exciting and ear splintering three minutes you will enjoy since those the days of The Dry Retch’s late ‘60s / early ‘70s garage rock heroes.
The Dry Retch end their tribute to The Stooges’ year in the wilderness with ‘Do You Want My Love?’, on which sordid lyrical content such as “She gave me money, She gave me head, She gave me everything, And then she played dead” are positioned against a reinvigorated backdrop of pounding rhythm section and sublime improvised guitar work. As ‘Do You Want My Love?’ reaches its exhilarating guitar feedback drenched climax with a neat bit of studio hiss thrown in for good measure, one cannot help but feel that The Dry Retch have achieved something truly spectacular with ‘A Kick in the Gulags’ and that, for a split second, their claims to have produced “The greatest album of the millennium” may be justified.
But this joyous jaunt back to a time of kicking out the jams with the MC5 and getting deep down and dirty with some filth-infested garage rock isn’t over yet, for tagged on to the end of ‘A Kick in the Gulags’ is the original Dry Retch composition, ‘Soviet Girls (Who Bleed)’. Cited by the band themselves as being “a Dry Retch classic”, ‘Soviet Girls (Who Bleed)’ is a rather sinister sounding seven minute epic full of droning guitars and sonic exploration which merges all of the band’s influences into one track.
And then there is the EP’s title, which aside from being a clever pun on the slang term a kick in the goolies, also continues the band’s long-standing Soviet Union themed presentation: a gulag being a system of labour camps maintained by the Soviet Union from 1930 to 1955. This, coupled with a sleeve depicting Joseph Stalin, who established the gulags during his long reign as Soviet leader and the cover caption, “Make the gulags full again”, makes for an interesting finishing touch to possibly the most fascinating release of the year so far.
The Dry Retch 'Pyongsang Kaensaeng!'
Review by Alice Jones-Rodgers, from Eighth Day Magazine Issue Nineteen, April 2020.
Having attached a distinctly Stalinist Russia theme to much of their previous work, most notably on March 2019's exquisite six-track part Stooges 1971-era tribute, part original EP, 'A Kick in the Gulags', Liverpudlian / Australian band The Dry Retch return with a brand new album entitled 'Pyongsang Kaengsaeng!' and a new country to get their late sixties / early seventies garage rock inspired yet highly unique creative chops around. This time, the focus is Russia's neighbour and that hotbed of ongoing political turmoil, North Korea. In particular, it is the previously Soviet-controlled country's official state philosophy, Juche, the belief that through self-reliance and strong independent state, true socialism can be achieved and its underlying principle of centralization which provided the inspiration for 'Pyongsang Kaengsaeng!'
Once again, the band characteristically promised in their lead-up promotion that 'Pyongsang Kaensaeng!' would be the "album of 2020" and this time, have also claimed it to be the "Soundtrack for a generation", but before we get to the music, let's look at the artwork. Designed by stun guitarist JP, the car on the front cover and that gave the album its name is the Pyongsang Kaensaeng 4.10 (also known as a Kaensaeng 88). After long-time enemy, the Americanized and much more technologically-advanced South Korea, which since the end of World War II has been separated from North Korea by the Korean Demilitarized Zone, started designing and producing cars from scratch, dictator Kim Il-sung was keen for North Korea to show that they could build cars too. So, having imported several examples of the 1987 Mercedes Benz W201 (also known as the 190E), they got to work stripping them down, attempted to learn how they were made and copied the parts so that they could build their own version. However, due to the fact that the North Koreans hadn't got a clue what they were doing, the result was a fairly dreadful Frankenstein's monster of a car consisting of reasonably classy German styling underpinned by mechanics that were anything but. Not that the average North Korean would ever be allowed to own one. Instead, the very few examples ever made (the picture on the front of the record is thought to be the only photographic record of this automotive travesty to exist) were strictly reserved for members of Kim's family.
You will be pleased to know that 'Pyongsang Kaengsaeng!' is nothing like its namesake and, as expected from comrades John Retch (vocals and guitar), Dave (bass), JP (stun guitar) and Wils (drums), the album absolutely lives up to the self-generated hype that proceeded it.
On strident opener 'Hate the Young', John gets all totalitarian and with suitably sneered vocal menace, sings lyrics about feeding anybody without grey or lines to his dog and taking great delight in watching it excrete them. This is complimented by a cacophony of fuzzy, distorted guitars, throbbing bass and pounding, almost tribal drums and with this, The Dry Retch set their stall out early for a white-knuckle ride back to a time when the MC5 were kicking out the jams and The Stooges were scuzzing up rock 'n' roll forever, paving the way for all things 'punk' for the next five decades ... "It's 1969, OK!"
Following track, 'Pray the Rain' continues in the same vein, with its lyrics this time concerning taking Travis Bickle style revenge ("I pray for rain, To wash it all away, My DNA, Needs washing today") on a salesman who sold the narrator a leather coat with a broken zip and is notable for almost definitely being the only song to refer its audience to "The sale of goods act 1979" in order to assert its writer's disgust.
'Insect-O-Cutor (Locked on You)' is an excitable, buzzy little number which doesn't just kick out the jams, but zaps them into oblivion. Meanwhile, 'You're the Reason Why' introduces itself with a pared-down tempo and stripped-back instrumentation consisting of low, growling bassline, some inventive drumming and guitar feedback before erupting into a simple but effective chorus of "Well, you're the reason why!" complete with one of John's most ferocious vocal deliveries yet.
Before we had heard 'Pyongsang Kaengsaeng!', John told us, "It's a little different in parts, some may even say self-indulgent even." We suspect what follows, five short songs segued together under the title 'Road Rage Suite' is what he was talking about. Usually the territory of prog rock, such an excursion was certainly unexpected (but when have The Dry Retch ever been predictable?) but works incredibly well and sees the band head out on the rock 'n' roll highway to take on all manner of driver irritants, including Chelsea tractor road hogs on 'Hey Rover!'; drivers who slow down at green lights on 'Don't Stop'; those who stop where they shouldn't on 'Driving at You'; parents parked up waiting for their children outside the school gates on 'Make Them All Walk'; drivers who don't observe the speed limit on '40 in a 70 Zone!' and, last but not least, that perennial cause of so many drivers' hatred, the BMW driver on 'Die, Beamer, Die'. And all this without even a hint of a fifteen-minute keyboard solo or the need to tell the story through the medium of an elaborate ice show in sight, just full-on, glorious, garage punk!
'Pyongsang Kaengsaeng!' is brought to a close with a faithful but nether-the-less exhilarating cover of Pere Ubu's 1976 classic 'Final Solution'. Like The Dry Retch, Pere Ubu were heavily influenced by The Stooges. However, one suspects the band choosing this to cover this particular song, given the war imagery that graces both the music and the sleeves of their releases and the fact that there is always more to The Dry Retch than meets the eye, was probably more to do with its likening of society's attempts to 'fix' its protagonist to the Nazis' global plan to 'fix' the Jews with the Final Solution during World War II.
With 'Pyongsang Kaengsaeng!', The Dry Retch have not only managed to release a worthy follow up to last year's Eighth Day Magazine favourite 'A Kick in the Gulags', they have exceeded it and once again, just as they predicted, have placed themselves as early contenders for Album of the Year.