Thursday, April 30, 2015



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;]

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;]

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.

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;]

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.

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;

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.



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.

“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.

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.

THIGH MASTER Songs To Wipe Your Mouth To 7” EP
I 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.

cassettes coming soon...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015



Boogalou Reed LP 
The Juke That Sat By The Door 12” EP

First things first -- if you haven’t partaken of the scathing satire that is 1973 “blaxxxploitation” (not really at all) classic The Spook Who Sat By The Door, then correct that pronto. Great flick, with a soundtrack by Herbie Hancock. Bim throws out a lot of hidden references amongst all the punny titles, so it’s worth paying attention beyond the quick laugh. Bim also loves his radio, so the fuzzbanger on the A is “All Hail The Deejay,” followed by the stoned-to-the-bone “Sit Yo Ass Down.” On the flip, “(Do) The Clap” sounds like an early Oblivians tune pan-seared with another few layers of grime, garlic and scuzz. That ain’t fuzz on your needle, holmes, that’s a dance party happening beneath the planet’s crust.

I know this has become a common refrain, but Obnox’s brand new LP Boogalou Reed might just be his best yet. Like last year’s much-heralded Louder Space, Boogalou was recorded and mastered for maximum damage. The bass detonations on “Slaughter Culture” are positively subatomic. I would kill to hear these breaking up from a clown-ish car stereo system in the hood or a similarly clowny rave party in the woods. Right before that beast of a cut, Obnox slips in what is my favorite song of this young year, and will surely near the top eleven months from now. “Cynthia Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” connects with me on all levels: cascading amounts of fuzz, an unstoppable chorus (echoed later appropriately in “Marinol”), and it’s about smoking grass (a personal Top 5 life activity) with one of my favorite people in all of Cuyahoga County, Ms. Piper. Cynthia is an old-school head and has seen more cool bands than any one of us. Any time I booked a show in Cleveland, if Cynthia was there, I knew it was worth it. “Cynthia Piper…” also encapsulates one of the things that makes Obnox great -- Bim’s knack for using the people and places around him as inspiration. It’s already well-documented about Bim’s employment of local Clevo (and Columbo) musicians to help him achieve his vision. Why fake a guitar solo when you can get Fuzzhead maestro Bill Weita to play it better and weirder? Need some beats? Plenty of hip-hop crews in the 216. Does this cut need some fucked-up sonic steroids pumped into it? Adam Smith’s got yr back. At a loss for what this song could be about? Make it about a friend, tell the truth while injecting a larger than life aspect. And speaking of things Bim knows quite well, after the bomb-blasts of “Slaughter Culture,” we get “Too Punk Shakur,” perhaps the most melodic and straight-ahead Obnox punk song yet. There’s no question that, at least sonically, “Too Punk” is a loveletter to Gaunt and New Bomb Turks. It’s got a Turks vocal line coupled with in-the-red Gaunt basement damage. Accordingly, it makes me feel like a teenager again. 

Four songs in, and we’re talking Record of the Year material here. The title cut solidifies something I’ve been toying with -- when Obnox does these unclassifiable beat/fuzz jams, almost like a (gulp) garage rock/trip-hop hybrid, he’s getting to a similar space as the Beastie Boys circa Check Your Head. Think about it: “So Whatcha Want” could be on an Obnox record and you'd just be all, “Yo this jam is sick.” Hell, there’s even a second here and there that sounds like Tricky (fo' real). But on “Situation,” the real influence is classic ‘70s soul, cozy blanket of noise added gratis. First side closes out with a version of “Ohio” that Crazy Horse probably wouldn’t even touch. Although side two yields fewer highlights, there is no dip in quality. Juke’s “All Hail The DJ” gets cleaned up slightly and the whole mess collapses into “Protopipe,” an “LA Blues”-style freak-out. Super duper record, and only the first of three (3) 'Nox full-lengths of 2015 A.D.

EP = Chunklet / LP = 12XU

'Used Kids’ 7”
A multi-part epic about a fine record store situated in a town called Columbus, Ohio. For the strange year-plus I lived in Cowtown, I used to sell records to the Cheater Slicks’ Tom Shannon for food. I always felt like he was giving me the “poor bastard” eye. Aye. I used to find great shit there on the cheap too. Everyone did. One time, Jerry Wick lent me a shitty Chuck Eddy book (“Here, read this, it’ll piss you off”) and when I brought it back, I found out it wasn’t even his. “Typical Wick,” was what Ron House said. Bim cut his teeth in this milieu and he has thrown everything he learned in Columbus basements and attics into Obnox. It’s the secret ingredient. Two parts Cleveland, one part Columbus. Or maybe the other way around. This record was recorded in Cleveland (ye olde Black Eye) and mixed in Columbus. The guest musicians are Ohio vets (Fuzzheads and Pere Ubus and mores) and there’s an adorable pic of young Lamont on the cover. Not sold yet? The music is a dense fug of guitars, sax and abused drums. Bim calls it “child psych.” New genres are born every day. [12XU]

Corrupt Free Enterprise 2xLP  
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. 
originally appeared in High Times mag

Tuesday, January 27, 2015



@ Cake Shop
Thursday, Dec 4th 

Van Gogh never got his due; while he was alive, at least. Neither did William Blake. Poe died penniless. There was a time when it seemed that one John D. Morton was destined to follow in such tragic footsteps. Following his muse for the last forty-odd years has led Morton down some dark alleys, but score one for the freaks -- and maybe the internet -- because, against all odds, Morton, professional artist and shit-stirrer, is finally getting his due. The man hasn’t met a convention he hasn’t mocked, or a rule he hasn’t kicked in the ribs til it broke. If they handed out MacArthur Genius grants for misanthropy, Morton would be short-listed.
Morton’s main claim to fame is his mid-’70s Cleveland band of nihilistic rock n’ roll lowlifes, electric eels. The eels plied their trade surrounded by post-industrial strife, the crumbling landscape providing inspiration  -- and a reason to get the hell out. But before Morton pulled up stakes for New York City, he made one more attempt to give Cleveland the soundtrack it deserved. X__X terrorized the city’s punk scene with a smart and muscular take on no wave, which Morton had already prefigured with the eels. X__X were more “musical” than the eels, as evidenced by their two singles, collected, along with unreleased and live material, on this year’s essential XStickyFingersX (Ektro). This past Thursday, X__X played the Cake Shop and proved, beyond a doubt, that you’re never too old to smash yer art into yer punk and vice versa.
The set started off a bit shaky, but after a too-quiet run-through of “You’re Full of Shit,” guitars were turned up to their proper volume and the band roared to life. Grinding versions of art-puke classics like “No Nonsense,” “A.” and “No No” followed, hammered out with conviction by Morton’s cohorts -- original member Andrew Klimek, Rocket From the Tombs’ Craig Bell and drummer Matt Harris. At one point, Morton whipped out an electric saw and used it to systematically sever a length of bamboo. Why? Why the hell not? The band crashed back into their set as if it had been a tuning break. Speaking of tuning, Morton’s other obscuro Clevo outfit, Johnny & The Dicks, didn’t bother, as they posed in rock-out freeze-frames while a friend snapped photos. Prescient as ever, it seems Morton invented “vogue-ing” years before Madonna. A reprise of “No Non cents” had the crowd howling for more, and during the set-ending anti-anthem “Cleveland Sucks,” even Morton, high priest of fuck you, couldn’t suppress a smile.
Due to a rip in the time/space continuum, your correspondent missed the first two acts of an all-around excellent bill, but we did manage to catch spazz experts Cellular Chaos.  Conducted by the tireless, irrepressible Weasel Walter and finding a voice within the charismatic Admiral Grey, Cellular Chaos flirts with no wave shred, but just as often reaches an MX-80 Sound level of density. Invigorating stuff.


@ 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.


@ Union Pool
Tuesday, January 13th

Under the seemingly innocuous name of “Music Blues,” three of the city’s finest craftsman of loud n’ heavy sonic demolition occasionally gather together to grind out their frustrations through the miracle of amplification. The power trio formed to bring bassist Stephen Tanner’s Things Haven’t Gone Well (Thrill Jockey) album to lurching life. You may know Stephen from his time with kings of slo-mo power-sludge Harvey Milk, or perhaps you’ve sampled his mouth-watering fried chicken at The Commodore (or the original Pies n’ Thighs). In either capacity, the man shows an abundance of skill, and he made a smart decisions in recruiting his bandmates (Tanner performs all instruments on the album). Just to make sure his band, in addition to crushing your skull, could cook you under the table, Tanner nabbed James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Brooks Headley to smash the skins. You may also know Headley from bands such as Universal Order of Armageddon, Born Against, and Wrangler Brutes. Finally, with Ben Greenberg (Hubble/Uniform/Pygmy Shrews) on guitar, it’s clear that Music Blues is a part-time band consisting of full-time dudes. Yet, the band is casual; Tanner seems unsure of his role as leader, which is kind of charming. After an (intentionally?) awkward beginning, the band roared to life as it navigated what seems like Tanner’s brain in riff form. Much like Harvey Milk, Music Blues deal in molten riffs with long pauses and gaps of near-silence between notes (which were conveniently written on the floor of the stage for the musicians). As the oddly-shaped off-time riffs pile on top of each other, you find yourself sucked into Tanner’s weird head-space. It’s not an unpleasant sensation, especially when Greenberg starts peeling off harmonic bends and brief flashes of solo shred.

Occupying the middle slot, Ice Balloons presented an entertaining spectacle. Warped visuals were projected onto the band as the fly-masked singer fronted a pulverizing rhythm section over which all manner of electronic noise was spread liberally; they even have a keytar. At their most aggressive, Ice Balloons brought to mind ‘90s greats like Brainiac, Six Finger Satellite and even Cows. Halfway through the set, they calmed down a bit and played some weird hybrid of surf rock and spastic new wave. Suffice to say, you should probably book Ice Balloons to liven up your next loft party.
Opening the show, Call Of The Wild brought their usual combustible mix of punk and metal. Basically, Call Of The Wild is the band that Crispin Glover’s character in River’s Edge should be blasting out of his souped-up Volkswagen Beetle. Hurry your ass!


So Percussion feat. Man Forever 
Battle Trance 
@ Judson Church

Winter Jazzfest is a sprawling three-day festival that occurs at multiple venues throughout Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. While traditional forms are represented in abundance, the festival is careful to incorporate a selection of acts from the outer regions of avant-jazz and improvised music. The Saturday night showcase set by So Percussion, featuring Man Forever, at Judson Church was a perfect example of the Jazzfest’s adventurous programming.
Before the percussion-based ensemble took the stage, Travis Laplante’s Battle Trance stilled the audience with their Palace of Wind composition. Comprised of four saxophonists, Battle Trance utilize extended breathing techniques to weave an undulating tapestry of overlapping tones that stretch out and occasionally snap, erupting in squawks, barks and even mimicking unruly flatulence at times. The set was a nice counterpoint to the impending rhythmic display.
After a brief intermission, the four members of So Percussion came out and sat down at their homemade tabletop guitar stations. To call these constructions guitars isn’t quite correct, and they certainly aren’t played as such, but each one is plugged into a Fender Twin amp, so there is still a link to rock music. The quartet performed a composition that consisted of the musicians bowing and striking their lapsteel-like instruments in synchronicity, conjuring gamelan-like textures that at times echoed Tortoise-style post-rock while the louder moments harkened back to Glenn Branca’s massed-guitar orchestras.
The second part of the set featured local drummer/composer John Colpitts aka Kid Millions, longtime skinsman of Brooklyn fixtures Oneida, and a fearless musician willing to tackle any playing situation. Colpitts and So Percussion collaborated on last year’s excellent Ryonen (Thrill Jockey), an album that somehow achieves a glacial beauty amidst its flurry of percussion. On this night, the group, with an expanded line-up of drummers, performed the title composition. The piece began with almost African rhythms, introduced forceful, hammering blasts, and eventually settled into what can only be described as a landscape of drums. Despite the seven different percussionists on stage, the piece never felt busy or fussy. It’s not easy to be satisfied hitting one drum for twenty minutes, that’s why it’s best to leave it to the professionals.


@ The Marlin Room at Webster Hall

There was an interesting dichotomy at Manhattan’s Webster Hall last Thursday night. In the main room, NYC indie faves Parquet Courts headlined a sold-out show that was the culmination of a productive and triumphant year, while in the more intimate setting of the Marlin Room, longtime Sonic Youth leader Thurston Moore played with his eponymously-named band.  Since time immemorial, the young have always devoured the old, but the eternally floppy-haired Moore is still the world’s oldest teenager, and he can make a guitar shriek with the best of them. Although this performance was a bit light on such moments, it still provided some insights into Moore’s newest project.
Featuring material from his most recent album, with the seemingly rom-com-inspired title of The Best Day (Matador), Moore’s seasoned vets gave the songs heft, channeling ballsy rock more than any avant tendencies. It was nice to see My Bloody Valentine bassist Deb Googe in a different setting, laying down a thick bottom end with local Ryan Sawyer on drums. Youth drummer Steve Shelley plays on the album, but on this night he was head-nodding approvingly from the audience. With the presence of Lee Ranaldo as well, there was a possibility of some SY nuggets, but Moore stuck to the program of his recent efforts, except for an encore of “Ono Soul,” a college radio hit from his first solo album, 1995’s Psychic Hearts.
While lacking Sonic Youth’s combustible chemistry, Moore’s band makes up for it with fluid guitar lines that occasionally erupt into hard rock riffing. Pedal-hopping instead of string-abusing, Moore engaged in call-and-response sparring with British guitarist James Sedwards, as on the propulsive mantra “Forevermore.” The chugging “Detonation” was dedicated to Chelsea Manning and recalled past Youth screeds like “Youth Against Fascism.” Twisty rockers like “Germs Burn” and the title track seemed to satisfy the crowd’s desire for classic Thurston moves, but the billowing, Polvo-esque instrumental “Grace Lake” proved to be the highlight of the evening. Although he may have tempered his sonic terrorism of old just a smidge, Moore can still hold his own with today’s youth.



@ Cake Shop

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.



@ Death By Audio
Saturday, April 5th 

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.


@ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Saturday, June 7th 

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.


@ Bowery Ballroom
Friday, June 6th 
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.


The above -- along w/ photos -- originally appeared  at