BLAXXX For No Apparent Reason 12” EP
We pick up the action as our hero Bim Nox teams up with the power source of Austin’s OBN IIIs to fight rock n’ roll crimes with proto-punk powers bestowed upon them by the mysterious Gods Of Ohio/Michigan Underground Axis……*jam already in progress*........”Blaxxx” eases you in under a cloud of sativa smoke, sax squeals and bourbon burps, eventually drifting into a song-like form that is probably close to what happened when Seger went to ball and his band was left with the keys to the recording studio and a stocked liquor cabinet. “Cut Em Down” is the prime cut from this impromptu session, a full-bore Detroit smackdown as if Mick Collins stopped by to drop some knowledge at a Puffy Areolas hotboxing marathon. Flip it over and “Let Me Hold Your Hand” opens with Bim ranting about idiots at SXSW and asking for your cash to make more of what follows -- big, lumbering phased-out blues sludge that has more in common with Groundhogs, Sonic’s Rendezvous Band -- hell Edgar Broughton Band -- than any prepared ground beef in a bun. There are a lot of bands trying to access this same level of heavy fug and Blaxxx upstage most of them in one hazy afternoon. Imagine what they could do with three whole days. The mind boggles.
[12XU; put you in a corner put you in a corner oh no no no]
CHRIS BROKAW The Periscope Twins 2xLP
My main exposure to Chris Brokaw was as guitar-slinger in Come, and he was also in Clint Conley’s underrated post-MOB reformation band Consonant. Beantown royalty. But he’s journeyed far and wide since before and after those days. Now he’s in Seattle where he laid down these live-to-tape improvs, two 45-minute hermetically-sealed drone/blast brownouts. The first 12” is all sputtering, crackling, grinding sounds of indeterminate origin (“electronics”). You can sense the tronic base, but the sounds are tactile and industrial in the literal sense of the word. You could probably pass this off as a Haters record if so inclined (hey people are weird). Not a whole lot happens but it’s more about immersion into this close-mic’d world than any sense of narrative or drama. The second side takes a swing up into higher-pitched territory, utilizing piercing drones that sound like they are being squeezed thru a Boss DD-3 with a fading battery. Man, I miss my DD-3. I actually have a tape of myself doing something similar back in 2000 in the front room of my row house in Cleveland, Ohio. I just wrote that to remind myself to find it in the box of tapes I can see out of the corner of my eye. Given that this is one long jam it naturally kind of peters out then rallies, but the first side is definitely the more interesting of the two. As for the second 12”, here Brokaw straps on his trusty geetar and makes like Neil Young making like Dead Man. My favorite guy at this kinda thing is Roy Montgomery, and nothing here approaches his kind of mastery, but its a pleasant drift out into the ocean, nevertheless.
[12xU; saw you in a mag, kissin a man]
CCR HEADCLEANER Cokesmoker 12”
Damn fine fried bad-trip rock music by and for dirtbags. Give yrself a Royal Trux jamming with Monoshock wedgie and at least your underwear and poop chute will be closer to understanding. Reigning on the kingly format (12” 45 rpm), the bass is real fat and thick *insert marijuana pun here* and the guitars trip all over themselves in an effort to out-nod-out the others and the real winner in that equation is you, the Listener. Congrats, it’s all downhill from here (your life that is). But seriously, Don Hill, this toad-lick of an EP is the best Trux damage since that Circle Pit album (and not nearly as slavish), and here we’re talkin’ Cats and Dogs with a whammy jam jones. There’s more than a hint of a drunk-ass Spacemen 3 in them thar Hills. Side B starts out with a bongfire singalong then it dives into a black hole with disembodied voices calling out from the beyond and then it gets all Morton Subotnick on that ass and then Lenny Bruce or someone is making people laugh and then there’s a bad-ass reprise of the biker-psych from Side A and at this point you’re probably wondering if this record will show up on the theoretical Best of 2015 thinkpiece I probably won’t write, and the answer is…………..GOOD FUCKING CHANCE!
[Stale Heat/Pollen Season; http://staleheat.tumblr.com/]
DAY CREEPER Central States LP
Based on Central States, Day Creeper’s 2nd LP, last year’s Ipps album and their upcoming releases, Superdreamer appears to be the new standard-bearer of Columbus’ storied indie pedigree. Day Creeper are the kind of no-frills indie rock band that every town needs. They are as comfortable plowing straight through you as they are reflecting on where it all went wrong. I guarantee people get wasted and bump uglies on nights they play shows. Take the ragged glory of The Replacements and temper it with the forward rush of prime Superchunk. “Luxury Condominium” is the hit here, a nice ironic anthem that is a screw you to the nu-yuppie hordes. Main Creep Aaron Troyer’s singing is a bit flat (not one of the better indie hallmarks), so it’s nice when bassist Laura B. steps up to add some color to the palette. If you came of age in the ‘90s, this sound is like chicken soup for the soul, and no one does it better than Columbus.
[SuperDreamer/Heel Turn; http://www.superdreamerrecordsmain.com/]
THE PEN TEST Interstate LP
Two smart guys go all-in on a homage to “Autobahn” and you might be surprised at just how good it is. It’s kind of impossible not to examine the sidelong “Interstate” through the lens of the Kraftwerk classic, but this does not necessarily diminish it. I think The Pen Test hail from Minneapolis, so they are no stranger to long drives on endless roads, monochrome horizon whizzing past. That being said, there is more than enough derivation in this re-imagining so that you let go of the conceit rather quick. With its heartbeats and ticking counters, “Interstate” is actually almost more like something off of Radio-activity (the most underrated of KW LPs?). It goes pretty deep, as you end up traveling the spaceways instead of some terrestrial route. Any way you slice it, it is an excellent piece of music and works at home or on the road. Functional tunes. Side two does present a few speed bumps however. “Za-Zen” is a great start, introducing chanted vocals much like our fave showroom dummies. A track like this makes you realize how thin and empty the majority of synthesizer music ends up; The Pen Test are really hitting a groove here, and it’s far more blissful than a lot of their peers. But then they follow it up with a kind of ridiculous early Ministry-like cut called “Like Machine.” Fortunately, it’s brief. Then it’s back to the werks of kraftmanship, “Geo” really nailing that pulse-racing aspect of “Autobahn,” BPMs matching a cocaine rhythm that Moroder would be pleased with. Who knew Dub Narcotic Studios (where this was recorded) could get so, oh wait….yeah, narcotic. OK you got me. “Great Eroder” takes another stab at Wax Trax-tion and again, it’s not really bad per se, but I don’t really wanna hear it. Sounds like a super-goofy version of shit I had to hear way too much of as a young’un. But those other trax, they werk like a narcotic.
QUTTINIRPAAQ Dead September LP
One of my more-stalked bandcamp artists, I finally got my hands on some Q(...) wax. Dead September is their third album and maintains their high level of quality. I say “their,” but I recently found out that Q-paaq is essentially the work of one man, Matthew Turner. Coulda fooled me! It really sounds like a band, or at least multiple people collaborating, which is just a testament to the skill and organic weirdness on display. Q-paaq conjure thoughts of no less than my beloved (and woefully underrated in the States) Terminal Cheesecake, a blunted-out group of Butthole Surfers-gone-Middle Eastern electro-dub speed-freaks. Q-paaq have a similar sense of throwing everything into the pot and stoking it til it boils over. On the first side there is a near-constant slather of noise and slurred vocals, as if Jesus & Mary Chain had never heard the Beach Boys. “White Witch” straps in for a Suicide ride, but the record really starts to cook when we get to “Dead Birds” which leans on a Chrome’d-out riff/groove that slunks around til a tidal wave of static eventually overwhelms it. “Lifestyles USSR” leads off side two with a journey into the dark heart of grinding loops and anti-gravity fuzz. “Spine Tree” introduces a submerged techno pulse beneath the miasma. Buy this record, grab a severed head full of drugs and stuff yourself into the garbage can. You’re gonna like the way you look.
[Rural Isolation Project; https://quttinirpaaq.bandcamp.com/music]
SLOW WALKER s/t LP
Here we have some solid (read that as “non-flashy”) Midwestern Milwaukee rock that drinks deep at the well of Mudhoney, and that will probably always be a positive thing in my book. Slow Walker know how to work out a quality riff and also show increasingly rare dexterity on the wah pedal. They’re able to floor it or pull it back for breakdowns or psych-outs. Even when they drop the fuzz on the ‘60s garage of “Never Comin’ Back” they get it done, although the Cheater Slicks-y “Desperation” demonstrates their youth to their detriment. Give it a few more years in the bar, fellas, you’ll get there soon enough. This is a fine debut; Slow Walker write good rock n’ roll songs and take the time to play and record them with conviction and that’s still a thing we need in this world.
[Stale Heat; http://staleheat.tumblr.com/]
SOMA COMA Dust 12”
Melbourne slobbercore that sounds like what I imagine Death Dust Extractor does by their name alone. Imaginecore. There’s also a sizeable Crazy Spirit influence present thereby splicing a mutated rock n’ roll gene into Soma Coma’s heavily Jap-indebted Pusheadian thrash. “Area Boys” even -- jeepers creepers -- swings before its inevitable rush to climax. Can’t expect such young folk to show restraint and patience; that kind of lovemaking evolves along with its maker. Punk is the same. Sort of. Cool Death (name nicked from a Crazy Spirit song, natch) has been putting out some weird hardcore that is resonating with weird hardcore types. Are you one of these types? You’ll probably dig this record. The drumming is punchy and snappy and not relegated to just d-beating itself around a bush. But still, it’s in that vein of that thing. Skulls. and shit.
[Cool Death; http://cooldeathrecords.bigcartel.com/]
TOUPEE’ Leg Toucher LP
Interesting and intense Chicago band with a grody name. Reports have leaked out of the Windy City about these folks, implying that they were one of the hidden treasures of the Chicago scene. Well, the secret is out with this debut on the reliable Moniker Records. To Toupee’s credit, it’s hard to nail them down to a particular sound or subgenre. They are without doubt a noisy rock band, but they don’t attempt to adhere to any particular playbook. The most striking songs on Leg Toucher (“Glitter Roach,” “Come Back To Camp” ) pair tightly-coiled unnerving post-punk with the singer’s blood-curdling banshee shriek. At times, I am reminded of Atlanta’s Dasher, another fierce band who ignore and explode genre conventions. “Gramma In The Slamma” though, might be the cream of this particular crop, as the band operates in a less harsh realm, making like Sonic Youth as the singer -- they have stupid nicknames that I don’t have the patience to suss -- keens about. Despite all that, the off-kilter pop rant of “School” is the one that grabs me tightest. It sounds like smoking a joint in the high school parking lot, gazing up at the sky and wishing you were anywhere but here. “Constrictor” seems like a breather until it morphs into a shivery Siouxsie & The Banshees coda. “Water Torture” closes out the album with an Unwound-like squall/calm/squall.
XETAS The Redeemer LP
Xetas are an Austin TX trio who have ambitions beyond your typical local rock band. This debut LP follows their well-received (that’s official talk for I liked it) 7” from last year, and while The Redeemer sports a titling scheme, we’ll let ‘em slide on that. The Xetas rock it mighty hard -- “The Fake” juxtaposes a hammering riff with harmonic vocals in the manner that Jawbox used to excel at. “The Butcher” closes out the first side with authority; for some reason I’m having this image of Shearing Pinx covering an Arcwelder song. No, seriously, it works! “The Ashes” leads off side two with Def Leppard-meets-Husker Du riffing and ends up in the same territory as Nervosas. “The Tether” is probably the best Lost Sounds song that’s been written in at least a decade. “The King” is the ripper with an opening riff that could have come out of the Effigies. Xetas give off a vibe that is far more serious than your average underground rock band in these ostrich-like times. They are tight, professional, well-plotted. It’s refreshing as everyone seems in a competition to see who gives less of a shit. (I do, so fuck you!) Umm, nah, not really. Xetas are not an “Umm” band. They are intent and intense -- “The Line” is almost painfully earnest but still convincing in its rockness. “The Deep” ends things like a threat, guy and gal screaming over Melvins riffs/changes. What’s that you say, Xetas? “Get in the van.” Umm.
BRANDO’S ISLAND 7”
In theory, this is something a guy like me would enjoy. Synth punk with ranting vocals and xylophone? But I’m just not vibing *chortle* with this effort. “Autism Vision” starts out spazzy but then Segways *cackle* into a poor imitation of Total Control. “Auto Warfare” has more agitated vox and annoying vibe-trills, but then the second half is straight Troubleman post-punk pre-electroclash and that’s a road that I never really condoned in the first place. There’s def a bit of a early 2000s Load(scrubbed clean)/T-man kinda thing going on, and while I wanna like it (members here of Zingers whose LP is pretty great esp. if you like Arab On Radar), this debut single falls flat. Look, it’s no Gerty Farish. But I’m keeping an eye on.
[Million Dollar; http://milliondollarrecs.blogspot.com/]
MYSTIC INANE 7”“Eggs Onna Plate” has a funny video that you should watch at least once. As a song, it’s pretty good, but Mystic Inane has better stuff. I saw em play most of it live. “Polite Society” is straight offa Not So Quiet… and has a cool fuck you woozy aspect to it. “Manhood” throws a pinch of boogie spice into the mutant hardcore stomp -- not unlike Brown Sugar recently did -- and I think it’s the winner on here.
SCREAMING SNEAKERS Marching Orders 7” EP
I’m not even sure why I’m reviewing this --almost positive it’s a boot -- but I was wearing out mp3s of this 4-song killer, the only record by Florida’s SS. Originally released on 12” in 1982, here it gets compacted into a 33 rpm 7” but I don’t have 200+ bucks to drop on this baby, so I’ll take it where I can get it. The overall sonics of this version is a little dodgy (sounds like a combo of source + pressing), but serviceable. As for the music, “Violent Days” is an insta-classic, a rush of almost-metallic guitars coupled with Lisa Nash’s siren-clear vocals. This is what Pat Benatar should’ve sounded like (granted I still like Pat Benatar anyway). It’s tough, it’s melodic, it’s punk. “Grin and Bear” is nearly Batcave, perfect for any ‘80s night, or maybe an early Van Damme ass-kicker’s romantic scene. Believe it or not, I’m trying to say that it’s great. You could back this up with “Kids In America” or “99 Luftballoons.” Damn these pops are getting to me though. The B-side repeats the formula with a fast, punky number (“I Can’t Help It” originally by fellow FLA punks The Reactions) followed by a moody slow burn. Even though “Reflections” speeds up it still reeks of cigarette smoke, dusted mirrors and ripped up clothes. Listening to a song like this (and taking a gander at pics of Nash) and you wonder why Screaming Sneakers weren’t huge. Punk is weird (and great and tragic) like that. Who knows, a couple more years and a snappy video and Screaming Sneakers might be on their sold-out reunion tour right now. I know that there were some sort of shenanigans with Billy Idol and Johnny Depp but fuck all that; y’know what sounds like the best show ever? Screaming Sneakers/Dishrags/The Curse. and fuckit, Slant 6 too, we’re already in fantasyland. and Nasty Facts, definitely Nasty Facts.
[trunk of a car]
SEWERS “Chain of Command” b/w “Life’s A Boar” 7”
Hoisted, Sewers’ 2013 debut, was an overlooked trawl through the gutter that invoked King Snake Roost as patron saint, and evoked Killdozer and Country Teasers in equal measure. In anticipation of Weight, their full-length follow-up on Homeless, upstart Brisbane (Sewers’ hometown) label Tenth Court gives us this brief taste of raw sewage. “Chain of Command” is one of their faster numbers, convincingly thug-like, which is to say convincingly cop-like. “I got your badge/I got your number” growls singer Shan Corrigan. It’s full of junk, but it’s got plenty of hooks piled on top of each other. No let up on the flip, so keep your eyes peeled for the new LP in June and a full US tour in July.
[Tenth Court; https://tenthcourt.bandcamp.com/]
THIGH MASTER Songs To Wipe Your Mouth To 7” EPI really dug Thigh Master’s debut single last year, but unfortunately this one falls slightly short of that standard. “Flat City” on the A is the best song here; “Red Worms” on the flip is a moody meander, but just a slight dip in quality really -- looking forward to see what they can do with a longer format.
[Tenth Court; https://tenthcourt.bandcamp.com/]
cassettes coming soon...