Mick Farren

To the Masterlock Live in Japan 2004

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Time was, Mick Farren albums were the kind of secrets that you hunted out in the darkest basement record stores, on the off-chance that one had crept surreptitiously out of its owner's record collection, in search of fresh ears to abuse. Nowadays, they're everywhere, as Britain's greatest living psilocybic street-punk poet has both overseen an exhaustive reissue campaign, and masterminded a brilliantly reborn recording career. And To the Masterlock -- Farren's second live album in six years -- is where anyone who's missed the last decade should climb aboard. Recorded in the same Japanese strongholds that spawned 1999's Barbarian Princes, the 12 songs here trawl deep through Farren's fertile psyche. A lurchingly majestic "Waiting for the Man" conjures images of Lou circa Rock N Roll Animal, backed up by Thee Headcoats, "Heartbreak Hotel" is so scarifying that it makes John Cale sound like SpongeBob Squarepants, and the point where a furiously motorvatin' "Slum Lord" meets "Lost Johnny," while the band grinds through an angry "Gloria," is worth the price of admission on its own. Concentrating its attentions on Farren's last decade's worth of work, but never afraid to dip back to early times ("Half Price Drinks" is still more invocation than invitation), To The Masterlock is raucous, raw, and rabid, qualities whose virtues Farren has now honed to perfection. He has done the same thing to Zappa's "Trouble Coming Every Day," and the eight-minute barrage that all but closes this album reminds listeners that those sentiments have seldom been so apt. (The silence at the end of the album is deceptive, by the way. A manic "Papa Ooh Mow Mow" surfaces right at the death.)

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