Mikkeller & Stillwater with Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon

TWO GYPSIES OUR SIDE [7.5%] by MIKKELLER & STILLWATER

paired with PRAIRIE HOME INVASION by JELLO BIAFRA & MOJO NIXON

Hey! I'm in travelling band...

Mikkeller had a hand in two of my favourite new beers of 2011. Clerkenwell Lager [5%] is brewed exclusively for the Craft Beer Co and is undoubtedly the finest lager I’ve ever tasted – it’s a delicious beer with a crazy fruit salad hop explosion backed-up by a lovely fresh green bitterness. Black Tokyo* Horizon [17.2%]  is a collaboration between Mikkeller and BrewDog and Nøgne Ø – it’s an imperial stout which is dense and dark and complex and every sip I’ve had has brought a huge smile to my face.

When I visited Craft Beer Co for the first time, a week or so after it opened, the first beer I purchased there was Mikkeller’s Monk’s Elixir and every subsequent visit has seen me have to force myself to try something from a different brewer – the Mikkeller draught beer selection at Craft is rather extensive. I’ve never come close to having a bad beer from Mikkeller… actually, I don’t think I’ve had a Mikkeller beer that was anything less than excellent. They really have become one of most loved brewers.

The only Stillwater beer that I’ve encountered previously was Gypsy Juice which was brewed in collaboration with Mikkeller and Grassroots and was damn freaking tasty

In May I head to Copenhagen for the Beer Celebration where Mikkeller, Stillwater, et al will hold court  – it can’t come quick enough.

* * *

It is a little known fact (primarily because I just made it up) that Leonard Cohen’s immortal lyric “you don’t really care for music, do ya?” came to him when he was flicking through someones record collection and discovered that didn’t own anything by the Dead Kennedys. I know! I know! It’s hard to believe but there are some people who have yet to discover the power and the fury and the beauty of Jello Biafra. The Dead Kennedys are long gone and Hallelujah has been fucked over by many a warbling screeching maniac but the mantra still holds true: if someone doesn’t have any Jello Biafra in their collection they don’t really love of rock n roll, do they?

I was into the Dead Kennedys before I was even aware that I’d heard any Dead Kennedys music. I can remember being a young kid and asking my Mum how to spell Kennedys. Naturally, she asked why I wanted to spell it and I told her there was a band called the Dead Kennedys and I wanted to write it on my sketchpad. She was ever so slightly upset and refused to spell it for me and also refused to explain why she’d refused to do so. I doubt at that age I was even aware that there was a dead Kennedy, nevermind dead Kennedys. I don’t even know where a 7 or 8-year-old from a mostly music-less house would’ve encountered such band name – I assume it was via my older brother who was always into whatever music he thought made him look cool and trendy (these days he listens to the shittest form of RnB). It would be several years before I would encounter their music for real. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (which was probably their sole release at the time they were upsetting my mother) is one of the true great debut records and it’s also one of my all-time favourites but it’s not Jello’s finest moment…

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It's Alive!

The beer was a lively little number and just a few millimetres produced a froth that threatened to erupt out of the glass and flow over the kitchen bunker. The head itself was a almost a perfectly clean white. Being a bit a hopeless dick, I didn’t realise that the beer was bottle conditioned and consequently it poured an impenetrable but gorgeous and vibrant orange, which over time faded to a weirdly satisfying sludgy fudge colour. Fortunately, I don’t have the traditional Britlander hang-up with cloudy beer or I might have cried at my error.

The nose was instantly alive with a sour fruit tang: apples, pears, grapes, strawberries starfruit, passionfruit – a great big bowl of fruit salad topped off with a generous dollop of Belgian farmhouse yeast in place of the usual fresh cream. There are hints of mock orange, farm fields during harvest season and those watermelon gobstoppers that used to exist when I was a kid… and, of course, there is the vague but intriguing suggestion of surgical steel.

Taste wise there is a lot going – it’s certainly a very tasty and complex little number. The fruit isn’t quite as noticeable as it is on the nose but orange is certainly present and there’s also the suggestion of lychee and passion and kiwi fruit. Overall, the beer exudes a very pleasant green bitterness – in some ways it tastes like a walk in a beautiful wooded valley: a grassy, tree sap, pine needles, bubbling brook and a breathtaking view – you can taste it all (if you’re that way inclined).  There is also a subtle bit of sweetness reminiscent of a chunk of creamy homemade fudge or perhaps a slice of marzipan chocolate. As I said, there is a lot going on and I’ve probably missed loads of it but that doesn’t matter because what I did discover was truly delicious.

Best enjoyed in hearty gulps instead if inquisitive sips.

* * *

Prairie Home Invasion

The opening bars of Prairie Home Invasion let you know that Jello ain’t taking us back into the punk territory… but then again, is he? Is punk rock a clearly defined sound or is it a state of now that does not conform to mere aural barriers? Unless you are a bit of a crazy mentalist who thinks it’s a good laugh to beat crap into people you’ve gotta plump for option two.

The album opens with 9 minute anti-epic Buy My Snake Oil – a deconstruction/destruction of rock n roll sell-outs. Like all of Jello’s finest lyrical endeavours it makes you laugh and think – add in Mojo Nixon’s super-funky rock n roll rhythms and you got a song that make you laugh and think and whoop and holler and dance! You can feel the joy flowing all through album – I’m sure this must have been immense fun to record and everyone involved would certainly have had an absolute blast.

There is no filler on the album but especial highlights are:

Are You Drinking With Me Jesus? Mojo takes lead vocals and regales us with crazily stunning lines such as ‘I know you can walk on water but can you walk on this much beer?’ A classic ode to the power of positive drinking.

Love Me, I’m A Liberal. An updated version of the Phil Ochs classic – a deliciously joyful swipe at modern-day trendy liberals, which could easily be the national anthem of countless internet forums.

Nostalgia For An Age That Never Existed. A faux dewy-eyed look back at the days that used to be. The closest that Jello has ever got to actually being a crooner.

Will The Fetus Be Aborted. To my ears, this is where it all ties together perfectly – you can just imagine a Southern USA church congregation going absolutely mental as they belt out a live rendition of this song. An absolute joy.

The album closes with a raucous cover of Plastic Jesus – all crazy guitar and piano solos and what sounds like Jello pretending he’s a Telecaster in full-on country mode. A fun an over-the-top ending to a truly brilliant LP.

A friend once told me that he doesn’t understand why this album isn’t embedded into the American consciousness in the same way that Pet Sounds is. I hate Pet Sounds and so does he but the premise is a solid enough one. In many ways this is the true album of the American people and their hopes and dreams and their misery and despair. One day the working class will inherit the world.

This is a country album.

This is a rockabilly album.

This is a bluegrass album.

This is a rock n roll album.

This is the most punk album ever recorded and it’s (possibly) Jello Biafra’s finest moment…

So there we have it, two genius musicians at the top of their game paired with two genius brewers at the top of their game. Whack Prairie Home Invasion on your stereo, turn the volume to max and then lose yourself to the crazy sounds while you take heroic swigs of Two Gypsies Our Side

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Prairie Home Invasion is available from Alternative Tentacles

* * *

… all photography by landells except Prairie Home Invasion …

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~ by landells on February 18, 2012.

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