Sunday, November 9, 2014


Said she was a slut with a slit. Said she was a real stupid cunt. Said she couldn’t find her ass even if she fell in a hole in the ground. Said she was a hopeless miserable bitch who he wished would die. Even if he had to kill her himself. It was the most eloquent shit I ever heard him say. But he talked about it a lot, so it was almost like he was a poet. Shakespeare and Travis Bickle, together at last. The bastard was a real piece of work.

Four days a week, at 10:45 PM, Digger would pick me up in his beat-to-shit taxi and shuffle me off to work at the plant. My job was to police the silence of nighttime and midwife it into daybreak. I read a lot of thick, impenetrable books and tried not to fall asleep. Come quarter to eleven, if I wasn’t down on the street waiting, Digger would lay on his horn like he had just been shot execution-style and his head had found its final resting place in the center of the steering wheel. After I’d get in, careful not to blow my knees out rushing down the stairs, he’d carp, “Goddammit, Smecks, you know I hate the Puerto Rican doorbell. Why you make me do that shit?” I’d catch his eye in the rearview and throw a sneer at him, but I always ended up grinning like a doofus. The guy was an asshole, but at least he was a punctual asshole.

On a typical night, Digger would floor it, peeling out like a teenager who had just seen his first Steve McQueen flick. This might be the only time he ever approached what you would call happiness. Digger was a sour man, bent and twisted by life. He didn’t have any illusions. There was no happy ending off in the distance. I imagine he saw his life as one long complaint – a self-perpetuating gripe as deep and wide as a galaxy, and twice as old. Digger enjoyed needling his invisible enemies endlessly, as if he were engaged in some sort of joust on the astral plane. He unfurled many a winding tale of seething annoyance, narrating all sorts of mundane details from his irksome existence. It could be exhausting, but undeniably entertaining, especially when he jabbed at some vague figure’s character, drawing on all his powers of description to launch a pitiless attack. To sail the unassailable. It was glorious, in a pathetic way. But he saved the real hatred, the bloodletting fury, for his poor, dear mother. The bitch. The cow.

“Y’know what happened the other day? I got up to piss in the middle of the night, as I often do. I’m gettin old. My bladder was bursting. I tripped over some fuckin box on the way to the john, nearly broke my goddamn neck. Anyway, I’m leaning on the wall, letting it fly, when what do I fuckin see? Of course, you guessed it, Einstein, I saw my cunt of a mother’s face in the bowl. That stupid smile she used to walk around with. Like nothing was wrong. Like life was peachy. Like God gave a fuck about her. So I drain the whole lizard on that whore’s face, but then I feel a little rumble down there. A gurgling, y’know? So I hadda seat. I start pushing, really pushing, like I was giving birth to twins. Some fat fuckin twins. Comin out shoulders first, too, I might add. We’ve all been there, right, Smecks? You’ve shit out your share of kids, I bet."

An unwanted image of Digger on the toilet, straining with the might of a demi-god -- red-faced, near heart attack -- comes barreling into my mind’s eye. A hint of a gag, but I manage to subsume it with a swig of lukewarm joe. God damn you, Digger, you’re already halfway towards ruining my night.

“I tell ya, Smecks, I can’t remember what I ate that day, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a leg of lamb with a side of lasagna. It hurt like a sumbitch, lemme tell ya. Felt like it was stuck up there, wedged in hard.”

Flash on an image of a soldier during World War One. A frightened teenage infantryman stuck in a trench, surrounded by his dead comrades, pinned down by enemy fire. Sweat and blood rolled down his filthy face. The soldier was Digger’s obstructed nugget of shit, and all I can think is, Lord, if you are there, please take this unfortunate soul to heaven, his time on earth is complete.

“Smecks, I’m telling you. I was contemplating doing a C-section on myself. Has anyone ever C-sectioned their guts to remove a giant piece of shit? A half hour must’ve gone by -- I tried reading a titty mag, I tried doing my taxes in my head, I recited the London Bus Driver’s Prayer a few times over, all sorts of crap. Nothing doing, but no way was Ma gonna get off that easily. Not again. Not this time. She had it coming. She was gonna eat my shit if it was the last thing I did. I was willing to pull an Elvis if it meant that Ma had to swallow it. At least I could die happy.”

Digger kept glancing into the rearview, trying to gauge my reaction. But by this juncture in our relationship, I knew it was best to remain mute, body language included.

“Smecks, c’mon man. Nothin?”

Then Digger ripped a massive fart, nearly fatal in its repugnance. Motherfucker was engaging in biochemical warfare. I cover my entire face with my shirt and yell out, “Not fuckin cool, Digger!” But my voice is muffled and Digger is staring into the rearview, laughing his ass off.

“Can you at least look at the fucking road, man?!”

“Smehhhhhhhhhhks, c’mon, guy, you’ve smelled worse. I saw your last girlfriend.”

At this, he lets out a bellowing guffaw, and I curse his mother for not having smothered this piece of human garbage in the crib. I look out the window, but all I see are long shadows cast by telephone poles and hulking factories looming over the city. Everywhere seemed doomed, like it barely even had a chance to actually live.

“Hey, it’s not like I haven’t smelled your shit. Remember? Do I have to remind you?”

“No. Of course not.”

My name isn’t “Smecks.” Only Digger called me that, and I tolerated it.

Because Digger saved my life one night.

It was back when I used to drink like a fish who thought he was gonna run out of water. I drank whiskey like water. And sometimes rum. Even though I hated rum. Rum is for fucking parrots and flamingos and crocodiles. Or the human version. Regardless, it’s disgusting and it made me careless and detached. Even more than normal.

The night in question, I was careening home, my legs trying to run off without my torso, when these three kids, who must’ve been extremely bored, or maybe it was a gang initiation, who the hell knows these days. It doesn’t matter. They beat the shit out of me. They threw me down and just started kicking. 1-2-3 and a 1-2-3, the only thought that I had was my brain trying to lock down on the rhythm in which they were pummeling me. It wasn’t quite 4/4, but it wasn’t a waltz. It might take two to tango, but it takes three to put a lush in a coma. I was only a block from my apartment, but I might as well have been a million miles away. I felt myself giving up. I blame the rum, but really I just wanted it to be over. All of it.

Call it fate, call it what you will, but Digger and his hack came squealing around the corner, probably on a drunken joyride. When his headlights flashed on the power trio beating the life out of me, he slammed on the brakes. From within his car, with the windows up, Digger could hear the kicks landing on my prone body. To Digger, safe inside his machine, it sounded like SMECK SMECK SMECK. He later told me that he was struck by how fake and cartoon-y the sound was -- even the sight of these teenagers kicking the crap out of me seemed staged, like some goofy reality show. None of this stopped Digger from rolling down his passenger-side window and pulling the Saturday night special out from under his seat. He pointed it at the startled kids and said, with a measure of convincing bravado, “One more smack and your mother goes to a funeral next week.”

Sometimes I think I made this part up, but with the brief respite in blows, I was suddenly aware of the world at large, not just the self-pitying part of me that wouldn’t mind slipping off this mortal coil.

After dragging me into his taxi, Digger rushed me to the hospital at nearly 100 mph. He didn’t seem to flinch when he realized that I had lost control of my bowels. During the beating, I had shit my pants. Gooey, runny shit-stuff ran down my legs and pooled in my shoe. My socks turned from black to brown. I smelled like a corpse who had let loose his last load. Digger didn’t mind.

He even came to visit me in the hospital. When I got out, he offered to drive me to work at a generously reduced rate. I couldn’t refuse. Despite his noxious character, he had a heart of gold. A heart of gold and a stomach full of putrid waste, locked up tight.

“I’m pushing and pushing and pushing, picturing Ma’s ugly mug at the bottom of that toilet bowl, big smile on her dumb face, getting ready to gargle this huge turd working it’s way out. I was straining so bad, I pulled a muscle in my chest. Don’t ask me how, but I felt it kinda snap, and then it felt like someone knifed me.”

We were almost at the plant. It was going be a long night.

“Christ, Digger, what the fuck are you telling me this for? I already know how much you hate your mother. Why don’t you call her up and tell her this shit? I’m sure she would appreciate it more than me.”

“Oh that ain’t gonna happen.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Cuz she died.”

“What? How? When?”

“Giving birth. To me.”

“Digger, I –--“

“Shut the fuck up, Smecks. Seeya tomorrow night.”

--originally appeared in Expatlitjournal #2

Saturday, August 30, 2014



Hey stupid!

Yeah, you, you fuckin idiot, is there anyone else there?

Course not, yer all by yer lonesome, wallowing in yer own filth, drinking last night’s dinner, eyeballing days-old pizza perched precariously above the trash (aka the floor). Luckily for you there is LiveFastDie to keep you company. Get on yer knees and pray to the almighty Lord GG, cuz LFD wrote a song for each of your life’s concerns. For instance, there’s the uplifting message contained in the dirt-boogie grooves of “Not A Dog” (“you’re not a dog/you’re a man”), and even a piece of free advice: “Don’t shit where you eat.” Kim Fowley would be proud (maybe? who cares). For dirtbag New Yorkers in the latter part of the first decade of this century, LFD was the closest we were gonna get to a “new Ramones.” If you think that’s hyperbolic, my guess is that you haven’t heard “Pissing on the Mainframe.” You wouldn’t think a message board could spawn such an infectious international hit, but therein lies the cunning of Camero Werewolf. “Webshits and BlahBlahBlahs” was made solely as an internet-only piss-take/kiss-off based on some Goner Board shenanigans that most people have probably forgotten (not I, said the fly), and it sounds better than ever – proof of the idea of spontaneous inspiration from unlikely sources. “Dawn of the VHS” celebrates those sources with one of LFD’s finest songs, and typically blazing axe-action by the Wolfman. He protests that he ain’t no “Guitar Star,” but the way he tosses off molten leads left n’ right proves otherwise. Camero’s got you nailed – who hasn’t woken up from a night of “fun” feeling like you had “Alcoholic AIDS?” Tough titty, they still haven't found a cure, but I hear you can lead a "normal" life these days. Is there a more punk song title than “Pizza and Vomit?” It’s like Camero Werewolf is looking directly into the abyss of your soul. And he approves. I never really gave a fuck about video games, but I bet you do, or at least did, nerd, and the sick swivel-shake of “Got Nitedo” will make y’all nostalgic and want to smash your dumb face into the screen. “Do I Look Like a Bank to You” is a totally legit question, and I’ve been on both sides of that one. Um, I’m going with “sometimes.” One time I witnessed a tense table session regarding the authorship of “Thought You Could Steal My Beer." It took a few massive bong hits to sort that one out. Phew. Another time, I tagged along on a 3 day tour of the Midwest. We spent 24 out of 72 hours in the car. An El Camino. We got ripped off for a bag in Clevo. There was a lot of farting and snoring. 

After listening to these ear-peeling shit-fi anthems of yesterday, you may be wondering: Camero Werewolf – genius or con artist? As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle -- the middle of your fat fuckin’ ass.

- Doc Toxic


DEVO  6/19 @ Best Buy Theater

Some forty-odd years ago, the men known as Devo began concocting their strange music in a moldy basement in Akron, Ohio. A little over twenty years ago these early experiments were made available to the listening public via the Hardcore Devo collections. Reissued last year by Superior Viaduct, the two volumes of pre-Warners Bros. Devo have been rightfully hailed as visionary examples of prime proto-punk. To honor recently passed founding member Bob Mothersbaugh (aka Bob2) and raise money for his family, Devo decided to embark upon a ten city tour performing, for the first time ever, the material from their gestational years of 1974 to 1977. 
As show time approached, you had to wonder – did the aging spuds still have it? Would they be able to do justice to the freakish, funhouse nature of their initial incarnation? Any lingering doubts were laid to rest immediately as the foursome emerged from an ingenious backdrop mimicking the cinderblock confines of a dank Akron basement, and launched into the malfunctioning robot lament of “Mechanical Man.”  There was to be no skimping on the weirdness as the run of “Auto Modown,” “Space Girl Blues,” and “Baby Talkin’ Bitches” demonstrated. As if the last forty years had transpired in the blink of an eye, Devo slipped back into these songs with great ease, shedding their commercial skin and reveling in the primordial ooze of their founding years. 

It was striking how effortlessly Devo dusted off these old, musty tunes and thrust them into a hyper-modern, movie palace-esque venue like Best Buy Theater. While still retaining their quirky lurch and mad scientist synth blurts, these songs were heavy, and thrillingly alive. Ace drummer Josh Freese is likely one of the few humans alive who could replace the late Alan Meyers, and his powerful, precise touch added a weighty bottom to the devolved mutant funk of songs like “I Been Refused” and “Midget.” Of course, the bizarre, decidedly non-PC lyrics of a song such as “Bamboo Bimbo” still perplex and amuse in equal measures. Bassist and noted ham Jerry Casale seemed to particularly relish glimpses into his own twisted, young mind. Except now there are several generations of weirdos to laugh along with him.

And then the suits came out. Forgoing the iconic yellow hazmat suits and flowerpot domes, the quartet donned “Akron janitorial wear” and bank robber masks. As the previously nondescript basement set split apart into a dazzling yet tasteful lighting backdrop, Devo delved into the songs that established them as one of the great pop-art groups. Their genius take on the Stones’ “Satisfaction,” early hit “Be Stiff,” debut album kickstarter “Uncontrollable Urge” and the slow burn of “Gut Feeling” contrasted perfectly with lesser known tracks like “Soo Bawls,” “Ono” and “Fountain of Filth.” To the packed crowd, they might as well all have been number one hits as the band whipped the Devo-tees into a lather with official anthem “Jocko Homo.” 

After creepy mascot Booji Boy waddled out and serenaded the audience to the warped tones of “U Got Me Bugged,” Devo ended the nearly ninety minute set by dedicating “Clockout” to the late Bob2. Since the band seemed to have as much of a blast as the gathered faithful, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these old chestnuts found their way into the regular Devo set. Bob, Alan, General Boy and Rod Rooter would be proud.


Cosmic Psychos-Pampers-Call of the Wild @ Cake Shop Saturday 9/22

This past weekend, the three-man Australian wrecking crew known as the Cosmic Psychos steam-rolled their way through the city with consecutive shows at the Cake Shop. Friday night was a certified rager, a top-to-bottom killer bill of beer-guzzling rock n’ roll, right in the heart of the increasingly douche-oriented Lower East Side. The Psychos made their name back in an era when the LES still provided a sense of grit and threat, and they are touring the US in celebration of thirty years of blowing eardrums and mooning audiences.  A new documentary about these hard-livin’ Aussies, Blokes You Can Trust, fills you in on the nitty-gritty, and Goner Records is issuing their initial run of records -- Down on the Farm (1985), Cosmic Psychos (1987) and Go the Hack (1989). In this business, stick around long enough, and someone is bound to make a movie about you. 

Friday night, Cosmic Psychos unleashed a nonstop barrage of fan favorites like “Lost Cause,” “Custom Credit,” “Pub” and “Hooray Fuck.” Singer/bassist Ross Knight dedicated “I’m Up, You’re Out” to “the cunt who tried to take my farm.” The raucous set ended on a ridiculous note with the sarcastic wish fulfillment of “David Lee Roth” (“I want long golden locks/I want a great big 20-inch cock”). The Cosmic Psychos may not be able to execute mid-air splits like Mr. Roth, but they had no problem splitting heads open with their Stoogeoid pummel on Friday night. Next stop: Gonerfest, where they’ll team up with old mates Mudhoney for dual headlining nights. 

Before the burly men from Down Under graced the stage, the surly dudes in local outfit Pampers strafed the crowd with their nasty garage spew -- the nervous tics of Devo sifted through the blown-amp aesthetic of prime Oblivians. In case you hadn’t heard, sci-fi love song “Purple Brain” was the jam of the summer. Pampers’ debut album on the In The Red Records is imminent.
Leading off the night was Brooklyn power-trio Call of the Wild, a perfect foil to the following bands. Guitarist Johnny Coolati solos like a demon, burning his way through the muscular throb of the rhythm section. Call of the Wild is probably the closest thing Brooklyn is gonna get to Thin Lizzy; pure hard rock, emphasis on both words. They sweat, you sweat, everyone goes home happy.



Saturday, April 5th @ Death By Audio

This past Saturday at Death By Audio, a diverse bill of touring and local bands played to a house packed with all stripes of the punk rock rainbow represented. Perfectly mirroring the bands, all of which are female-fronted and –dominated, there were a lot of ladies in attendance. 

Unfortunately, we missed locals Nuclear Spring, but suffice to say that if you have ever put Crimpshrine on a mixtape or own the Blatz/Filth split, you should make it a priority to see them. Boston’s Exit Order tore through a set of clench-fisted hardcore punk led by the assertive presence of singer Anna. Priests have played their fair share of NYC shows of late, but they were off their game on this night. Equipment problems and long pauses stalled any momentum the Washington, D.C. band was able to muster, although they did manage to close with a decent version of their most bracing track, “Radiation."
For their first show in the US, London’s Good Throb justified their small-scale hype with a tense and fun set of poke-in-the-eye punk featuring songs from their brand-new Fuck Off album. Singer KY Ellie has a classic British snarl that cuts through the band’s spikey post-punk. The jagged “Acid House” recalls Erase Errata while the minute-long screed of “Double White Denim” is Wire stripped of all archness and going direct for the throat. Good Throb are an exciting band, partly because of their lack of pretense. 

Local quartet La Misma closed out the night, and none of their recorded material prepared me for their stomping pogo-punk. I can’t say I can understand the singer’s Portuguese lyrics, but her high-pitched yammering paired with an occasional guttural utterance gives the band a unique focal point. She bounced around the stage while the band raged behind her like Nog Watt’s long-lost sisters. La Misma are an appealing blend of obscure influences and just good ol’ fashioned ripping punk rock.


Saturday, June 7th @ Music Hall of Williamsburg

It was a family affair this past Saturday at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. International rock n’ soul collective King Khan & The Shrines headlined an excellent triple bill that mined the deep reservoirs of Montreal’s fertile underground scene. As Arish Khan leads his Shrines to the promised land, he’s also bringing old friends and co-conspirators along with him. Tourmates Red Mass and Vomit Squad feature former members of The Spaceshits, Les Sexareenos and CPC Gangbangs – Montreal legends all. 
Vomit Squad opened the show by ripping through a set of snotty punk as singer Richard Ritalin hopped around and contorted himself into poses that conveyed his paranoid rants as effectively as his adenoidal, Doc Dart-like vocals. 

Red Mass followed with a genre-defying mix that seamlessly blended garage rock, mutant disco, heavy riffing, bursts of free improv noise, and impressive soloing by leader Roy Vucino. The head-spinning set ended with Vucino smashing his guitar in ecstasy or rage, both key elements of Red Mass’ raison d’etre. The crowd responded with approval, hootin’ and hollerin’ for more.

Enter Mr. Khan and his ragged band of troubadours – a nine-piece group that functions like a juke-joint version of Sun Ra’s Arkestra. Khan is a consummate showman, unafraid to get down n’ dirty, like some sort of demented cross between GG Allin and a tent revival preacher. He led the band through old favorites and selections from their most recent album Idle No More on Merge Records. Cuts like “Born To Die” and “Bite My Tongue” got everyone moving, but it’s Khan’s special brand of stage banter that really loosens the crowd up. A lady in the upper levels was even moved to discard her pants and let it all hang out. The Shrines have that kind of effect people, and far be it for anyone to tell other folks how to have a good time. It was Saturday night, the band was rockin’, and everyone was having fun.


Friday, June 6th @ Bowery Ballroom
Toronto institution, the six piece rock unit known as Fucked Up, were in town last Friday celebrating the release of their latest magnum opus, Glass Boys (Matador). Truth be told, I lost track of Fucked Up after their first opus, Hidden World, so I’m not overly familiar with their subsequent opuses (opii? nope. Opera). But, to their credit, Fucked Up always bring the noise in their live incarnation (except the one time the singer had to go to the hospital after smashing a lightbulb on his face during the first song). On record, frontman Damien Abraham’s one-note bellow is a liability, but on-stage his good-natured fury is an asset. With his ever-present basketball shorts and bare-chested demeanor, Abraham comes off like the world’s most pissed off teddy bear. The crowd loves him, and when he makes his way onto the floor of the sold-out Bowery Ballroom, the people embrace him, literally and figuratively. There is an undeniable anthemic aspect to Fucked Up’s music, which, despite their epic song lengths and endless bag of riffs, reminds me of Avail shows back in the ‘90s. Everyone from punks to squares to the hardcore faithful would go to those shows, and even a grump like me couldn’t ignore the explosion of energy generated by the subsequent dissolution of the band/audience dynamic. Like any good hardcore show, there is no difference between the two. On the strength of Jonah Falco’s muscular drumming, the chugging guitars, and Abraham’s sweat and record-nerd between-song banter, Fucked Up put on a pretty good show for a bunch of aging hardcore kids. They closed the set with a spirited run through of fan favorite “Police.”

Local punk quartet In School opened the show with a clutch of DC hardcore-indebted stompers like “Conquest” and “Apocryphal Scum” from their Praxis of Hate 7”. Ending with a cool take on what’s become a virtual punk standard, The Urinals’ “I’m A Bug,” these ladies did a nice job of transferring their basement/loft-dwelling hardcore punk to a bigger venue like Bowery. 

The much-hyped Big Ups occupied the middle spot, and, while showing some promising moves, failed to fully deliver the goods. Spazzy singer Joe Galaragga has a good punk scream and plenty of nervous energy, but his band drops the ball at times. Their second song was a weak Jesus Lizard imitation by a freshly-showered high school band – not a good look. Big Ups is better when they are operating from a Dischord Records template, echoing latter-day post-hardcore heroes like At The Drive In. Galaragga’s urgent, motormouthed delivery on a track like “Goes Black” is dampened somewhat by the guitarist’s got-a-gift-certificate-to-Sam-Ash-for-Christmas guitar tone. Big Ups shows promise, but, based on the pedestrian “Wool,” I get the feeling they need a year or so of serious roadwork before they can truly provide the catharsis their audience craves.


TOTAL CONTROL  Typical System  [Iron Lung]

Total Control’s Henge Beat was a tour de’ force of future-shock post-punk. On Typical System, the Melbourne-based band’s follow-up, the paranoid urgency remains -- “Systematic Fuck” and “Two Less Jacks” are satisfyingly jagged blasts -- but the album throbs to an electronic pulse. “Glass” and “Flesh War” are stellar examples of the icy yet sensuous new wave on which Gary Numan based a career, and John Foxx-era Ultravox perfected. “Black Spring” reaches back even further, gradually accruing layers of sound overtop a Neu!-style motorik groove.  After the group comes to rest during the Stereloab-meets-Cluster chill-out of “The Ferryman,” Total Control closes the album with "Safety Net," a dose of elegant and majestic synth-pop.

DEATH COMET CREW  Ghost Among The Crew  [Diagonal]

Back in the early ‘80s, New York City’s Death Comet Crew helped invent the future. Not many people outside of their downtown axis noticed, but that didn’t stop DCC’s polyglot approach from having an impact. It’s hard to imagine the industrial-strength hip-hop of El-P, much less Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad, without the blueprint provided by Death Comet. Dedicated to MC and muse Rammellzee, the Crew picks up where it left off, fusing 808 beats, radio detritus, turntable scratching, and sampling that favors grit and texture over Pro Tools perfection. There is a cinematic sweep to Ghost Among The Crew, encompassing sci-fi spy soundtracks, immersive set pieces and dystopian club bangers. Don’t call it retrofuturistic, this is music for the present.

15-60-75 The Numbers Band  Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town  [Exit Stencil Recordings]

Ohio-centric label Exit Stencil Recordings steps up and reissues this lost classic on vinyl for the first time since it’s initial 1976 release. In Northeast Ohio, The Numbers Band are legends, renowned for rollicking live shows, dense with extended jams and percolating rhythms. This six-song set, recorded live in 1975 while opening for Bob Marley and The Wailers at legendary Cleveland venue The Agora, shows off The Numbers Band’s strengths – muscular, economical but unpredictable vamping on traditional blues motifs. The seven-piece band (including Chrissie Hynde’s bro Terry on sax) was a nexus where the dominant strains of ‘70s music collided; elements of rock, blues, jazz and funk get tossed in, and it all comes off so naturally, it’s a wonder more bands have been unable to emulate its peaks. While there are antecedents in groups like the Hampton Grease Band and even some of Captain Beefheart’s catalog, a song like “Narrow Road” most closely resembles Tony Williams Lifetime; a jazz/rock hybrid that appears loose, yet is so rhythmically tight, your ass and brain are in complete agreement -- shut up and get limber. There are also brief flashes of the kind of epic guitar-dueling that would make Television’s impending Marquee Moon so striking. “Thief” brings to mind a dream collab of The James Gang and Can, but “Jimmy Bell” is the album’s cornerstone, a song that holds the set in place. A fluid, ever-moving full-band take on Cat Iron’s blues classic, “Jimmy Bell” is ten glorious minutes of gyrating rhythms and locked-in guitar soloing. Few groups have managed to be so accessible while still taking their audience on a journey to parts unknown. And if this seminal set isn’t enough for you, Exit Stencil unearthed three bonus tracks to fill out this double-LP labor of love. A stripped-down version of “Who Do You Love?” is the best front-porch jam session you’ve belatedly been invited to, while “Drive” provides more guitar fireworks and avant-garage churn that didn’t go unnoticed by the likes of Pere Ubu and Devo. This may be a bitter pill to swallow for some, but Jimmy Bell’s Still in Town is exactly what I’ve always wished The Grateful Dead sounded like – psychedelic boogie rock for the masses.

OBNOX  Corrupt Free Enterprise 2xLP  [1-2-X-U]
Obnox is on a tear. Based on Corrupt Free Enterprise, ‘Nox’s ninth and most ambitious joint to date, Lamont “Bim” Thomas -- who, for all intents and purposes, is Obnox -- is just getting warmed up. From a foundation of dirt-level garage punk, Thomas sculpts deep cuts out of blown-out beats, redline guitar damage, and sneering yet soulful singing, like if your local gospel choir was raised on a steady diet of The Pagans and Back From the Grave comps. “Ciara” soars, “When Will I See You” aches, Cheater Slicks cover “Ghost” points to a key influence, while “Deep in the Dusk” is like a Rust Belt Freestyle Fellowship. Obnox is on fire, and you’d be wise to look toward the light. 

CUNTZ  Aloha  [Homeless]
On their debut LP, Australia’s Cuntz cycle through various noise rock motifs with a brutish force, challenging your eardrums and your sense of decency. The opening salvo of “Homeless” and “Casual Drinker” hits as hard as any Pissed Jeans 1-2 punch, but the album truly hits its stride with the dizzying paranoia of “Lost” and “Meth.” Singer Ben’s desperate roar recalls the unhinged bellow of Dugald McKenzie, deceased shouter from ‘80s hellions, Venom P. Stinger. Cuntz are the latest and current greatest in a long line of degenerate scuzz-rockers from Down Under, gifting us with one of the finest albums of its type to come down the pipe in ages.

THE FRESH & ONLYS  House of Spirits (Mexican Summer)
The Fresh & Onlys are perplexing. Although they are linked to the recently ascendant San Francisco garage rock scene, they are not really a garage band per se. The Fresh & Onlys traffic in the sort of late ‘80s jangle best defined by Flying Nun’s roster, hewing particularly close to the literate sensibilities of bands such as The Verlaines, The Bats and The Chills. Unfortunately, House of Spirits, The Fresh & Onlys’ fifth album in nearly as many years, is far too languid for its own good. 
The Fresh & Onlys bear a superficial resemblance to standard-setters like Echo and The Bunnymen but, filtered through their Laurel Canyon-leaning West Coast haze, the music is lacking the kind of drama and tension that marks the truly memorable. Where Tim Cohen’s vocals should soar, scream or sink low, they remain at a consistent monotone, rendering his occasionally poetic lyrics into lukewarm sentiments that do not invite further investigation. Cohen seems almost embarrassed to show any visceral emotion that may get the listener’s blood pumping. 

Ironically, it’s the songs that intend to slow the pulse down that make the strongest impression. “Bells of Paonia” ditches the guitars for a bass-heavy throb featuring elegiac vocals. If “I’m Awake” doesn’t put you to sleep, “Hummingbird” will quicken the pulse a bit, it’s still not enough. After a stretch of colorless, Paisley Underground-recalling, ostensibly rock songs, closer “Madness” mines similar territory as “Bells,” and is far more successful than the bland tracks that precede it. In a different era, The Fresh & Onlys music would have been deemed “college rock,” but, all things considered, now such sounds are quite firmly in the realm of NPR “rock,” tote bag not included.

[as previously seen in High Times and]

Monday, March 24, 2014


 Autodramatics  ‘Reaction’ LP

Former Horror (Iowa not UK) Andy Caffrey comes roaring back on this self-released platter. Plenty of fuzz coats some pretty good songs, with some pretty women singing most of them. “Tigerman” tears it up, hell the whole record does. ‘Reaction’ could’ve come out on Crypt circa 199something and you wouldn’t’ve thought anything was amiss. Ironically, mebbe ahm jus’ gettin’ ol’, but a little more fidelity could’ve helped a bit, there’s not a lot of sonic depth to the band itself. But they could prolly give a shit, so why don’t I shut it. Side B opener “Go Be a Lesbian” is the headsticker, and the swampy blues of the title track get you prepared for the last-call jones of “Methadone."  (Obsolete //

Bone  ‘For Want of Feeling’ LP

Bleak and uncompromising, Bone pull off the weight of their intention. Any band who uses scenes from one of the most fucked movies ever filmed (‘Begotten’) is not dicking around for shits n’ giggles and nuthin’ but a good time. Bone is originally from Perth, with Cuntz drummer Mike on bass, but neither of those bits of knowledge prepare you for the desolate sound of math-rock stripped of all equations, post-punk stripped of any hope, replaced with a steel exoskeleton. A song like “Pedestal” is a perfect fusion of the choked hopelessness of early Swans and the right-angled grooves of the best Shellac. The construction of these songs sneaks into your head when you’re not listening, and when you do listen, they reveal themselves to have all sorts of memorable passages embedded. There is a similar path being trod as Drose, although less metal, more wire-y. Over the course of steady listens for the past half year or so, For Want of Feeling has maintained itself as a compelling listen. (Tenzenmen //

Division Four  ‘1983 Demo Cassette’ 12”

This is goddamn glorious. I live for this shit. Thank you Smart Guy and dude from anti-PC punx Rupture for digging this little gemstone of a post-punk EP up from the cellar. Thirty years ago, five guys on the far side of the world (Perth, Oz) got together, jettisoned the guitar (doubling up the bass in lieu), and squeezed out this six-song mini-masterpiece. Of course, maybe a hundred tapes get made, and Division Four sink into the memory of the punk-scarred few that are still drawing breath following their self-destructive youth. There are similarities to what Soft Drinks were doing as regards to synth-driven punk, but Division Four were far more serious, and even more acerbic. “Doctor’s Wife” busts in like an accessible Screamers, singer Alan Hooper asserting himself with incisive lyrics and a snide vocal delivery that slices quick and deep. “Blank Prostitutes” is my kinda synth-punk, Hooper delivering the lines “Open your wallet and I’ll open my legs/Fuck me til you’re broke/ Your 20 dollars will buy me a hit/Take me away from life’s tedious shit” with such knowing disgust, that you imagine him creeping through alleys, telling himself he’s just doing “research.” It’s that Travis Bickle kind of disgust, the sort that comes from being at the same level as the scum surrounding you. But just when you think it’s all curled-lip bile, side two opens up with the lovely OMD-on-a-budget “I Was Walking”; it’s sensitive New Wave underpinnings go exactly where you expect them to, and the song is no weaker for it. “Azzaria” combines both these modes, verses positively seething in a Rotten-esque manner, chorus resolving into melody, the whole thing reminiscent of Flowers of Romance-era PiL, and reverse vice-versa, Total Control. This EP-that-never-was wraps itself up with the epic trudge of “Sewer Song,” a pit of sonic quicksand sucking you deeper into its foul embrace. Much like this 12”, it’s life-affirming in the worst possible way.  (Smart Guy//

The Gotobeds  “Ipso Facto” 7”

Now here’s something to sink your goddamn teeth into. Who'da thunk it? A kick-ass new indie rock single in 2013?!? Say it is so, Joe. Packaged in a snazzy sleeve w/ a printed inner, this “record store day” release (part of a singles series of local bands by Pittsburgh’s Mind Cure record store) hits all the right buttons at all the right moments. “Ipso Facto” is like a great lost Volcano Suns tune rung thru a Swell Maps sweat towel. One rocking guitar, one chiming guitar and a melodic bass driving an insistent rhythm; is that so fucking hard, people? (help, I’m turning into Andrew Earles) Look here, folks, a cool breakdown followed by an extended coda. Is it too late to make up my mind? B-side? Oh, just an above-average run-thru of a lil’ rager called “Television Addict.” Personally (and you know I like to get personal), I wish someone would attempt to out-trip-over-your-own-guitar-chords “TV Freak,” but I also like American Horror Story, so whadda I know? I think I know that there’s an LP coming soon courtesy of 12XU, so…… beans.  (Mind Cure //

The Invisible Hands 2xLP/CD  

Following the dissolution of the long-running esoterrorist art collective Sun City Girls (feels disingenuous and pedestrian to call them a “band”), Alan Bishop found himself in post-Tahrir Square Cairo with a fistful of songs and a need to make sense of the chaos around him. With the help of a few skilled Egyptian musicians, Bishop was able to complete this excellent self-titled album. The Invisible Hands conjures a somber and elegiac mood; the bitter, biting humor of songs like “Hitman Boy” and “Nice On Ice” is pitch-black, nearly suffocating in its hopelessness. “Soma” brings sha-la-las and bright, nearly Beatles-esque accompaniment to an aching plea for “freedom from the slaughter.” Despite its carefully orchestrated and masterfully executed musical framework, violence seems to stalk every step of The Invisible Hands’ existence. “Black Blood” finds Bishop channeling Leonard Cohen; a lament for fallen friends, abducted and tortured by secret police. “Death Zoo” closes the album with a shuddering finality. Fortunately, Bishop is able to balance his fatalistic gallows humor with meticulous sonic detail and deft playing from his cohorts. And this really comes in handy for part two of The Invisible Hands, which shows that Bishop is no mere dilettante cautiously dipping his toes into exotic waters. On this companion album, the same songs are performed (with slightly different mixes), but here they are given voice by Aya Hemeda and guitarist Cherif El-Masri. This is protest music, and it needs to be heard by everyone. Apparently a documentary is in the works, so stay tuned. 

Joel RL Phelps & the Downer Trio  ‘Gala’ LP

The people love Silkworm, as well they should, but the best Silkworm stuff is early-mid 90s when they were a four-piece, and this cat, Joel Phelps, played second guitar and wrote/sang about a third of their songs. After he split following ‘Libertine,’ the band was still good, but diminished without his idiosyncratic voice, both literal and writing. His physical voice is a weedy but strikingly powerful presence, and it enhances songs of naked emotion and a sort of existential clutching -- for others, for meaning, for something, for anything. Phelps’ trio of songs from personal S’worm high point Into the West, still send shivers racing down my spine. Even now, I’m still slightly unnerved by the time I saw this line-up and Phelps played the entire set sitting in a chair with his back facing the crowd, periodically and reluctantly stepping up to the mic, and letting loose with a caterwaul that sounded exactly as his contorted body looked. And that’s pretty much where I’ve kept Phelps all these years, trapped in my own little memory box. But, with his Downer Trio, he went on making records every few years. I never really checked in, which was stupid, cuz the guy is talented, and he’s not so far removed from those twenty year-old songs. ‘Gala’ is the first new one in nine years, and opens with two meticulously-recorded (you can hear every inch of that drumkit, in a warm, non-clinical way) songs -- sparse, yet tense, full of feints, parries and surges. And it continues apace, stopping for the occasional murder ballad (“Exiting the Garden”). ‘Gala’ is an excellent record of minimalist rock music played with a subtle grandiosity that compliments its blatant honesty. (12XU //

Neo Boys  ‘Sooner or Later’ 2xLP/2xCD

I was pretty excited by the prospect of this release, but decidedly underwhelmed with the finished product itself. While it’s obvious that a lifetime of love went into this career-spanning collection, I’m not so sure Neo Boys deliver the musical goods. At least not to an extent that justifies this overlong overview. I’ve always dug the first Neo Boys single (put out by fellow Portlander Greg Sage’s Trap Records), particularly the B-side “Rich Man’s Dream.” Their excellent ‘Crumbling Myths’ EP opens with another of their finest songs, “Poor Man’s Jungle” (detecting a theme here?). ‘Sooner or Later’ jumbles a pile of Neo Boys recordings into a sprawling mess of mid-level femme post-punk. Neo Boys are not boys, but they don’t quite equal the heights of the best in the worldwide boom of female-guided post-punk. As a local concern, the Neo Boys are a classic Portland punk band, but too much of this collection is flat, tuneless and doesn’t quite justify their legendary rep. I’m not trying to out-and-out diss da Boys, they have some good stuff, and you can certainly hear their influence in a band like Grass Widow. But a single LP with the 45, the 12” and maybe the best of the unreleased stuff would have gone a lot further in solidifying their legacy. We don’t always need the kitchen sink. And no, that’s not a “wash the dishes, woman” pun, it’s a plea against warts n’ all. Calvin, some more careful curation next time, please. (K //

Pampers  s/t LP

I’m completely biased re: Pamps by both geography and friendship. I don’t care. You’re a dumbfuck if loud-ass banging cavemen-who-can-write-songs-type rock n’ roll is your bag. And you’re a dumbfuck if it ain’t. If the cover (by bassist/singer Jordan Lovelace) grosses you out, we’re off to a good start. These guys are getting up there in years, so any resemblance to an Oblivian or Spit-style pummel is not a coincidence, nor is it some new affectation. It just is. Lovelace-yelled “Not” is a live favorite, a relentless rocker with a sweet change-up. With bad-ass new slamma-jammas like “The Wigga,” I’ll admit I was slightly bummed about re-recorded 7” cuts, but damn this version of “Monkey Drip” is just stellar. Carl’s songs are generally more melodic, and his “Purple Brain” is the winner on this debut, and was quite literally, my favorite song of this past summer. To me it sounds like a science-fiction ode to love – spacejunked Devo. But the extended psyched-out pounding of side one closer “Sack Attack” comes in a close number two (and live it’ll make you doo-doo). Nice to see the boys on such an esteemed label. I think this was recorded in a cabin in the middle of the woods. Well done, boners. (In The Red //

PYPY  ‘Pagan Day’ LP/CD

PyPy are somewhat of a Montreal supergroup, pulling together Choyce from Red Mass/CPC Gangbangs and Annie-Claude, dynamo singer of aggro-electro unit Duchess Says. ‘Pagan Day’ is a hard record, and a party record. PyPy songs are not quite Andrew WK posi-anthems, and based on the death disco of “Too Much Cocaine,” hard drugs may have contributed to the decadent squall made by this quartet. “New York” captures a sleazy post-punk vibe better than just about any bearded fuckface from the 11211 zip code (or 11249 to you johnny-cum-latelies), and if you think “Molly” is about a girl, then this probably isn’t the record for you. Meanwhile, “Daffodils” could score a Miami Vice drug-dealing montage. “Ya Ya Ya” is a warped dance number that sounds like Les Sexareenos got left out in the sun too long. “Psychedelic Warlords” brings you down easy.  (Black Gladiator //

Quailbones  ‘In Lord Dion’s House of Discovery’ 7”

Good but ultimately forgettable garage moderne. Which means > a whole lotta OhSees. Now, I like them OhSees, still do, if less attention is paid (and payed). And I would put these cats near the top of Oh Sees tribute bands (that Wooden Indian Burial Ground band does a striking imitation too). Well-played, energetic, pretty deece recording, but all the hallmarks of that band’s style are here in droves, spades, and other things that come together. The flipside’s “The Long Hair of Death” does stick to the ribs a bit, but between its yodeling vocal hook and even the title itself, it’s just Dwyer-damaged thru & thru.  (Ghost Orchard //

Sex Tide  ‘Flash Fuck’ 12”          

Things sure have been Sex-y as of late; between yer vids and yer churches and yer cults and yer tapes and 8-traks’s enough to make you say Sorry, not tonight honey, I’ve got a headache. But here’s another Sex rolling in, and once again, we gotta say Yes, let’s fuck, as if we were in a flash-flood of Biblical proportions. UNFFF-NNNGGGGGG-UUUUHHHHHH----OH goddDDDD. Ain’t no atheists in the bedroom, who said that? Here we have 8 songs of loud n’ crude bashing from Cowtown USA (that’s Cbus to you). Sex kitten on obnox vox/standing Moe-drums, two dudes on geetars (one ex-Geraldine, who did the best Gun Club cover I’ve still seen yet).  Plenty of Pussy refs for you ref-heads, plenty of stanky punk for you panty-sniffers. Let's go deeper, baby, and say "Jackknife w/o the speed." Final cut “Gone” is a slo-burner that nicks the lead lick from “You Only Live Twice.” There ain’t no wheel reinvention going on here, but plenty of groovy hate-fucking. How else can we mention swampy genitals in fetid basements? Hey, what’s your name by the way, wanna fuck?  (A Wicked Company //

Sperm Donor  ‘Accidental Incest’ LP

The underground will always have room for bespectacled geeks who carry around bucketfuls of pent-up rage, and attempt to exorcise said rage via tight rock group dynamics, angular riffing and non-melodic speak-singing. Call it the Albini factor. Sperm Donor are the latest to don the wire-rims, and they acquit themselves……okay. Opener “She Fucked Kevin Bacon” is def Rapeman outtake material, and the following “Compulsive Fornicator” doesn’t do much to dispel the notion of Sperm Donor as, well, a collective of compulsive masturbators. “So Long Motherfuckers” and “Dolly Parton” bring the proceedings down to a typical ‘90s plod. I’ve heard enough sludgefeasts like this to last a lifetime. It’s Melvins-lite, and it’s no fun. Besides, isn’t Dolly Parton getting a bit saggy these days? I mean, she’s like 100 years old (OK, yeah I would, fuck you, you would too). These “heavy” rock tropes are goddamn saggy. Soggy, even, but still not heavy enough. Side Two opens with “Song X,” which I wish sounded as close to Karp as Sperm Donor probably thinks it does. Dammit, I wanted to like this more than I did, and while it hits its markers well enough, in the end, that’s really the whole problem. (self-released //

Ultrathin  ‘Minimum Payout E.P’  cass/download

Melty Montreal negative space punk more onna Blade Runner tip than a blast into interstellar overdrive; fun stuff like Monoshock, Simply Saucer and Chrome gets the bomb-shelter treatment. “Walk Into the Void” and the relentless/obsessive “Downward Spiral” seethe with frustration and noisy head-down effects-riddled riffage; not gazing at shoes, just trying to avoid the average citizen’s zombie stares. Didn’t everyone hear yours truly when I declared a moratorium on Urinals covers? It was on Twitter (j/k #notfunny). Despite being slightly gauche, the live “Black Hole” here acquits itself well, but we’re more keen to hear the ‘thin’s take on The Pagans’ “Real World,” which they killed on stage. “A.K.A” is the two-minute punker that makes the Pagans influence more than apparent, convincingly desperate and thoroughly rockin’. If Ultrathin only wrote songs like this, they could open for The Spits in Halifax. No surprise that the cut called “Cyborg Skin” is the Chrome-iest of the lot, but, despite it being a bit long in the tooth, I’ll be damned if it don’t scratch that itch better than anyone has in awhile. “Spaceman” gets loose and far-out, all 3 Ultrathinners going for broke, like Loop huffing gasoline in the garage.  (Bruised Tongue//