James Hammontree likes to keep busy, pursuing visual art while also playing in an assortment bands like post-punk act Sex Snobs, local shoegaze favorites Power Pyramid and the now-defunct hardcore outfit Chud. Hammontree also just premiered his brand new solo project Sensitiv Southside Boy with a demo cassette released in late October, and you can see his Sex Snobs support NYC act Future Punx at HiLo Club on Black Friday.
So what records helped shape such a diverse creative output? Hammontree breaks down the five albums that had the greatest influence his respective musical projects.
Neu! Neu! (1972)
This is basically where music that has a direct influence on me begins. Along with bands like Kraftwerk, Can and Faust, Neu! is responsible for the krautrock era of the 70s freeform, open-ended, experimental, uninhibited and even spiritual rock and roll. Musically divorced from its predecessors from the 60s, this album takes a whole new direction on the limits of modern music. Many of the songs start, build, climax and end at their own pace with no regard for normal pop structures. Its compositions flow freely, allowing layers to build without restriction. Sonically, Neu! is the most dynamic album I have heard to this day. The bands name is a perfect description of the sound: pure and totally new art. David Bowie even championed the band, naming his hit Heroes after the Neu! track of the same name.
Wire 154 (1979)
Wire completely redefined the limits of punk, and it is one of the most original and creative bands to date. The definitive post-punk band, Wire took punk far beyond what The Clash, Buzzcocks and their contemporaries were doing at the time. Taking a very artful and angular approach, the songs vary wildly in sound; many are dark and atmospheric with daunting lyrics and clashing instruments, while others are beautiful pop nuggets with catchy choruses even your grandma could hum along to. 154s creative palette is almost infinite. After hundreds of listens since a young age, I still hear something new each listen. Though they never acquired substantial mainstream success, Wire is regarded in many circles as one of the most integral and influential punk bands of all time.
The Birthday Party Prayers on Fire (1981)
The Birthday Party was a band from Australia that featured Nick Cave on vocals, but it was very different from Caves solo career with the Bad Seeds. Prayers on Fire required a bit of a learning curve for me, but after my music taste matured as a listener and a player, it became obvious how important the band was. Defining its own brand of menacing and aurally assaulting goth-punk, The Birthday Party was a rusty needle in the vein of the pretty- boy new wave movement, with music that was dark, angsty, dissonant and downright dirty. Whether fast or slow, each song leaves you with an anxious feeling. Thriving on nervous energy, this band did whatever it wanted as long as it left you uncomfortable. Music this demented could have only come from Australia. Whatever they were drinking must have been much stronger than Victoria Bitter.
Sonic Youth Goo (1990)
Lightning Bolt Hypermagic Mountain (2005)
Print headline: Music Made Me: James Hammontree, The multitalented rock enthusiast offers a glimpse into his informed and reverential musical universe.