Tuesday, August 28, 2012



Dunno what it is exactly, but Light Up Gold has gotten under my skin. It’s basically an indie rock album, but in a throwback sense, cuz it’s actually good and has sharp edges and smart-ass lyrics that ring true. Parquet Courts echo several generations of stripped-down rock, with an ear for a hook and a harmony (not some Beach Boys bullshit, just regular dudes finding cool melodies that aren’t corpse-fucked to death). The clean-toned guitars and steady rhythms recall The Feelies, while the inwardly angsty vocals and occasional spazz-outs bring Tyvek to mind. Maybe even some of the neurotic romanticism of the Modern Lovers. Not a bad place to plant your flag. Parquet Courts do it with a grace that belies their years.
Originally a solo project by either Fergus or Geronimo, Parquet Courts released an excellent cassette last year called American Specialties that seemed to fly under everyone’s radar. Light Up Gold is a full band full-length, and while each song is distinct, the album works together nicely as a whole; great care was obviously put into the sequencing. The recording by Jonathan Schenke is crystal-clear, and it suits the band perfectly. “Master of My Craft” is an instantly memorable song, and takes the  Tyvek influence and runs with it, as does “Yonder,” which might be the best song on the album. “Borrowed Time” feels like the sort of indie rocker that everyone forgot how to write. Like a sober Archers of Loaf, guitar-spray toned down, but the bitterness is unmistakable. “Donuts Only” has a sideways swagger with A. Savage’s choked vocals fighting to be heard; “Yr No Stoner” has the elastic twitch of Come On, while “Career in Combat” is a brief rumination a la Minutemen. Side-ender “North Dakota” has the slack charm of Crooked Rain-era Pavement.The second side isn’t  quite as strong, but “Stoned and Starving” is the most Feelies-esque song and is a winning five minutes of red-eyed spaced-out New York rambling, even name-checking my ‘hood - Ridgewood, Queens (bitch!). It drifts into Neu! territory, but instead of motorik, it’s more of a walking beat. “Caster of Worthless Spells” is a respectable GBV rip, and “Picture of Health” is a suitably moody and ambivalent closing song. Sleeper record here, folks.  [self-released]


This band came completely out of nowhere and knocked me flat on my ass. Hate-drenched Midwestern hardcore that recalls all sorts of past throat-punchers like Mecht Mensch, early Tar Babies and Void. Not “they’ve obviously studiously researched the history of deranged early USHC,” but legit “these guys hate everything, including you, especially you, and maybe someone should make sure they’re not stockpiling weapons for a ‘Reckoning.’”
There is zero pretension here. Based on the shitty cover art and rudimentary lyric sheet (w/ shout outs to YDI, Desperate Bicycles and Husker Du), it seems Brain Tumors channel all of their remaining excess energy, after breathing, smoking and chewing/half-swallowing microwaved burritos is out of the way, into pure basement-rip that burns like a cleansing fire. Brain Tumors give me the same tingling, stabbing, puking sensations of We March, but with absolutely no rock n’ roll dirtying up the punch bowl. The majority of this LP is remastered from a demo tape, with a few songs from a 7”, and a couple new joints. Opening trilogy “Group Therapy, V-Neck Reject, Whatabummer” is a frantic assault of constant gear-shifting, all at a thousand mph, signaled by relentless drum fills. A three-sided story with no happy ending. “Midnight Surgery” flirts with anthemic riffs, twisting them into new, malformed shapes. A song like “Improper Execute” isn’t so far removed from the kind of murky street-thrash that Crazy Spirit and other Toxic State bands are currently gracing the pages of MRR with. Perhaps I’m biased, but there is a certain kind of suicidal boredom and winter-driven self-hatred that the Upper Midwest (I believe BT hails from balmy Minnesota) breeds like New York City breeds rats. It gnaws at your mind and threatens to unmoor you from reality. Two choices: Join the Army, or join a hardcore band. Brain Tumors opted to go to war with themselves. As my grandmother used to say: “I wish ‘em luck.”  [Dead Beat; http://www.dead-beat-records.com/]

 FACTRIX/CAZAZZA  California Babylon LP/CD+DVD

Have no doubt, I am quite aware that it is bordering on sacrilege to recommend the digital permutation of any given release, but fuck your rules, man, and plunk ‘er down for the shiny little discs instead of the large matte-black future ashtray/target this time around.
Hear me out:
There’s a funny thing about California Babylon. It kind of sucks. Factrix’s Scheintot is a milestone of the early American stabs at Industrial (in the TG sense of the word) music, comparative to a Cabaret Voltaire or an SPK. Maybe not quite reaching the early highs of those units, but certainly a respectable showing in the grand scheme. You’d think that pairing the San Fran ensemble with noted freak/raconteur/mail-art superstar Monte Cazazza would yield fascinating, or at least loud n’ weird, results. Sorry to break it to you: It doesn’t. The team-up comes off as awkward as a pair of tits on Genesis P. Orridge.
For the most part, California Babylon was recorded live at a dance studio in 1981 (a few tracks from a show in ’80). Half the “songs” sound like the first few minutes of a Sonic Youth show; level-checking, OK yeah, here’s the place to stand for good feedback, what’s that tuned to? etc. I suppose some of the textures could have influenced Bad Moon Rising. “Pro Man Son” introduces a Cab Volt-style thudding rhythm accompanied by vague samples and amorphous guitar (and violin) noise for seven full minutes, going nowhere, and taking its damn time getting there. Any time Cazazza decides to open his mouth, instead of the televangelist hellfire you might expect to erupt, he just sounds like a tentative nerd, with no grasp of drama or tension. Even though California Babylon was made long before the now-cliched tropes of noise coupled with television samples became a subcultural punchline, the album still fails to deliver on its promise. Closer “(Look at That) Lesbian” implies some boundary-pushing, but no, it’s the same ol’ strum und din.
So why am I even recommending this album at all? Bonus tracks, baby! It boggles the mind that the 5 extra tracks on the CD didn’t either comprise the original LP itself (These tracks originally appeared on a 2003 double CD collection put out by German label Storm), or come out as a supplemental EP, something. Cazazza is in fine voice here, imbuing these subtle, haunting songs (yes, songs) with implied menace and palpable sorrow. “Silver River” is a ghostly ballad that sounds as if it belongs on a private-press psych rarity from California circa 1971. Charlie himself woulda been proud of this one; him and Dennis finally laying down that righteous track, high out of their minds as the sun comes up. Talking about walking the line between unending bliss and all-consuming paranoia. Dig it, brother. With disturbing static eating at its edges, “Noctimbre” is the kind of spectral concoction that California Babylon tries so hard, and fails, to get right. The three tense minutes of “No Trees” is better than the entire LP in toto, IMHO. “Obsession” is excellent Throbbing Gristle-worship, effectively beating both Psychic TV and Coil to the punch. The compact disc’s final cut, “Prescient Dreams,” originally appeared on a 7” released by Subterranean. Thankfully, it’s saved from obscurity here, and now we can all revel in its beautiful Eno-inspired swells and Laurie Anderson-on-ludes narration. Conclusion? If Superior Viaduct threw all of the bonus tracks on a 12”, then you would have a worthy, perhaps even superior, companion to Scheintot. Wow! And I haven’t even gotten to the DVD yet! Night of the Succubus sheds all sorts of light on the proceedings. And along with light, come shadows. Expose yourself.
[Superior Viaduct]

TROPICAL TRASH  ‘Fear of Suffering’ 7” EP 

Featuring at least one member of the excellent Kentucky psych unit Sapat, Tropical Trash drop the lysergic leanings of said outfit, and instead heap all sorts of sonic praise on a currently overlooked (and unfairly maligned) segment of the underground rock continuum. Perhaps it’s a local bias, but I hear elements of late 80s egghead skull-crushers like Bastro, and Tweez-era Slint, in the alternately heavy and meandering side-long “Baltimore.” The song breaks down into some scurrilous free-rock before the talk-sing vocals lead back into the opening riff.
The B-side is 4 individual songs that blend together, creating the illusion of one long, strange track. “False Crypt” has an almost black-metal faux-symphonic bleakness, while “Pentagram Ring Finger” is more of a straightforward aggro cut, recalling all sorts of early 90s indie/punk outfits (the fantastic and severely undergivedafuckeabout Pitchblende comes to mind). “Raw Mind” sounds like Today is the Day buried under gallons of cough syrup; “Burning Ghost” is the frenetic closer. I’m interested to see where this band goes from here. There’s a certain ambition not quite fully realized, but intriguing possibilities are within arm’s reach. The cover of this record weirds me out in a good way. It looks like some bored 15 year-old’s approximation of Surrealism. A crude ink-pen take on Dali and Magritte. Only 200 copies. [Sophomore Lounge Records; sophomorelounge.com]

SHAVED WOMEN  ‘Static’ 7” EP

Recently, I saw these dudes tear it up in the live setting. Young, skinny guitarist ripped some sick leads; almost avant, like Derek Bailey getting ‘core. The rest of the band was solid as shit, deftly balancing slower, dirgier screeds with punishing hardcore blitzes in between. “Static” rides a head-nodding groove, slow enough to make you feel slightly nauseous, but not where you feel like you’re in quicksand. It’s the kind of song that is fed up with daily life. Who can’t relate? The flip picks up the speed a bit; “Exorcism” flails around pretty good, wrapping it up with a groovy ending. “Shallow Sea” sounds mean, and I think they like mean. I mean, like, mean mean. Nice packaging, housed in the typically great dada-esque collages of one Dr. Ilth.   [Pass Judgement]

LZR  Carbon Life Forms CDR

When he’s not gleep-glopping away in overlords of Detroit weirdness, Human Eye, Mr. Johnny LZR can be found researching all sorts of esoteric subjects, most of which apply to the realm of early, or at least pre-laptop, electronic music. The guy is both a vintage synth obsessive and a dabbler in unexplained phenomena. After a few early releases, some under The Solarians banner, LZR presents his most fully-realized set of solo music yet. Limited to 100 copies, this hand-packaged full-length also comes with several classy-looking business cards and a one-of-a-kind art booklet containing cut-outs from old sci-fi novels and discontinued textbooks from a bygone era. The music contained within also harks back to a time when outer space still held wonders, and humans were a few decades away from actualizing man-made reality-shifters like the Large Hadron Collider. “Source Code” opens things on an ominous note with a pitched-down voice uttering sinister instructions. “Transporter” is a disconcerting 9 minutes of wooshing and panning tones and flutters that has more in common with Morton Subotnick’s pioneering work than any digital hacks key-pressing their way onto Pitchfork’s good side. “Monolithic Drone” is anything but; instead it’s a pleasant walk down the same path Cluster took on their classic Zuckerzeit. A few of the tracks, like “Extrusion Direction,” are less successful, leaning more towards a “fucking around on my gear” vibe, than conveying anything beyond weird textures. “Echo Location” has some intense bass tones, and wouldn’t be out of place on the Drive soundtrack (that is to say, in a John Carpenter flick). The final cut, the title track, recalls Ralf and Florian-era Kraftwerk, and that’s not a bad place to find yourself.  [Before Common Era]

SUNFLARE  Ghetto Blast LP

One of my more exciting musical discoveries of recent vintage was randomly stumbling upon (not thru that site but indeed on the world wide web) the molten psych-rock of a mysterious Portuguese trio named Sunflare. I knew nothing about the band, but their intent and intensity rang true. My Spanish ain’t too hot, but my Portuguese is even less so; luckily I’m not missing out on much, as these pessoa choose to let the music do the talking. Last year’s Young Love blew me away with heavy psych moves featuring scorching guitar eruptions and a nimble but powerful rhythm section. A cassette from 2010 also brought the goods, recalling all-time brain-scramblers like High Rise, Mainliner, and Psychic Paramount. There was definitely PSF worship going on, but Sunflare carved out their own identity within that hallowed hall of third eye-openers.
Ghetto Blast is Sunflare’s newest offering, their first for a US label, and, while still a deadly set of primo head-kick, it suffers a bit in comparison with its predecessor. Featuring two side-long tracks, the 12” seems a bit one-dimensional. Not that you would ever expect something like subtlety from this crew, but the A-side, “Don’t Belong,” seems to run in place. It has an impressive density, but its stasis dulls the impact. It sounds more like a Noise band, like Air Conditioning or Hair Police minus the ‘tronics. It’s certainly not bad, and the second half digs into the pocket with single-minded force, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t expecting more. On the flip, “Biker Jinx” is more of the kinda Sunflare I wanna get blinded by. Blown-out groove with all kindsa wah-wah and phased axe-strangling darting in n’ out of the fray. The track is far more dynamic, and builds and resolves like a good blast-out should; it’s even got a backwards-tape cool-down before the grand finale. I don’t know of too many contemporary psych-rock bands hitting the kinds of sweet spots these dudes are capable of, and, even if this set doesn’t completely destroy me like the previous 12”, I’m HIGHly anticipating future releases.  [Batshit]

UTAH JAZZ  5-song 7” EP

Buffalo’s Utah Jazz features Brown Sugar guitarist Brandon, but, except for a refusal to be bogged down by genre conventions, the 2 bands don’t have much in common. The Jazz manage to cram this 45 with all sorts of ideas and energy. Opening up with a frantic instrumental, they charge full steam ahead into the flute-led (yes you read that right) good time rock n’ roll of “Florida.” Between these guys n’ gals and The Oh Sees there seems to be a friggin’ flute riot goin’ on. Where’s Rahsaan Roland Kirk when you need him? The B-side has 3 ragers that sound like a Rust Belt Huggy Bear. Righteous mixed-gender fury, with some cool guitar touches (no bass in this power trio). It would be interesting to hear an LP’s worth of sting by these lad n’ ladies.
[Feral Kid/Media Schlitz]


Even though they’ve been around for several years now, I finally took a listen to NASA Space Universe, and boy, did I like what I heard. Equal parts Die Kreuzen and Wrangler Brutes, these strange boys from SoCal were right up my alley. All of their records are testaments to high-quality forward-thinking hardcore punk, but their new EP takes it even further. Unlike many current hardcore bands who think cloaking their lack of anything remotely interesting in a haze of bullshit “noise,” NSU aren’t afraid of a good recording, and it helps the songs hit harder; everything’s nice and clear, but the intensity doesn’t suffer for it. Opener “Peeping Toddler” seems to be an apocalyptic rant about our oil addiction, but sussing out Kevin’s PKD-ian psychedelic sci-fi spew is half the fun. “Dionysian fire transmogrify man’s muted mire ignite” indeed. (that nugget is from “Fwap”) These guys can play (check that bass) and their willingness to fuck with tired old hardcore cliches pays dividends. Given enough time and acid, I can see these dudes turning into the hardcore version of Magma. NASA start all their songs off with a bang, and then don’t stop til they’ve ratcheted the tension up to near-bursting. This EP is an invigorating listen.  [self-released]

SLICES  Still Cruising LP

Slices’ debut, Cruising (duh), was a hair-raising mixture of brutal hardcore and brief, but effective, abstract soundscaping. Short and to-the-point, it was one of the better hardcore/noise rock hybrids of the past few years. This follow-up doesn’t radically alter the approach, but does feature what could be seen as slightly more conventional rock songs. The opener, “Trying to Make a Living,” was blazing live; classic punk riffs played with the ferocity of hardcore at its most rabid. The recorded version sounds great, not unlike pre-epic shoegaze Fucked Up, actually. The self-referential “everybody hates us” lyrics to “Slices is Dirts,” walk the line of being too self-aware, but its frantic instrumental backing is no joke. Unfortunately, the rest of the side doesn’t quite measure up to these initial blasts.
The highlight of side two, “Horserace,” is a loser’s lament that hangs its hat on Down-era Jesus Lizard. “All My Life” is half-successful; a tuneful, mid-tempo grunge throwback. The album closes with the satisfying, speedy punk of “Mustard,” which is about a sad state of affairs: “Ketchup/mustard/relish/mayo/sandwich/No meat/it’s not right.” If there’s one thing folks from Pittsburgh know about, it’s what should go in between two slices of bread.  [Iron Lung; http://lifeironlungdeath.blogspot.com/]

KIM PHUC  Copsucker LP

As much as I like this album, and I do, quite a bit, it was a little disappointing to find out that almost half of the songs had been previously released (in different recorded versions, but still). Then again, these dudes ain’t no spring chickens, and they have real jobs, real wives, and real lives. To paraphrase Mr. Show – “I can’t spend all my time fucking around in a punk rock band.” But when these guys decide to fuck around, they do so with a mighty wallop. I highly recommend catching Kim Phuc in a live setting. They have a single-minded head-down intensity; they mean business, and are able to hold their own at hardcore shows, even though most of their material leans towards a pounding, mid-tempo attack. At their best, Kim Phuc come off like a basement-punk version of Killing Joke. While firmly a US band, they have echoes of bleak UK post-punk running through their sound. Considering what a crusty town their homebase (Pittsburgh) used to be, it kinda makes sense. All of their hits are here: “Prostitute,” “Weird Skies,” “Wormwood Star.” My favorite of the new tracks is the punishing lead-off cut, “Animal Mother/Local Round-Up.” If you need a dose of darkness (seriously, stop smiling for a fucking second, the world is going to shit), snag this sucker.  [Iron Lung; http://lifeironlungdeath.blogspot.com/]

TRONICS  Love Backed By Force LP; “Shark Fucks” b/w “Time Off” 45

At last, two holy grails of UK DIY, now widely available in affordable vinyl editions for your home enjoyment, preferably the sleeping quarters. This is bedroom music for the ages. Fronted by the eccentric (British for “weirdo”) Zarjaz (billed here as “Ziro Baby”), Tronics’ minimal, ostensibly “rock,” songs are spare and affecting, like a snot-nosed, playful version of Young Marble Giants. The first time I heard “Shark Fucks” was as the lead-off track on Messthetics no. 3 (way back when it was still a CDR). I couldn’t shake the strange mix of innocence and threat that the song contained. The music seemed amateur-ish, but the ideas and emotions behind it were anything but simple. There was a distinct mind at work. You can now own this classic single, packaged in its curious newsprint fold-out poster, for yourself, and for anybody you may try to be courting via mixtape. The LP, from the same year, 1981, is surprising, both in its ability to maintain interest over the course of an entire album, despite its stripped-down approach (Zarjaz’ vocals and deceptively skilled guitar playing, accompanied by the conga percussion of Gaby de Vivienne), and in the sophisticated musical ideas at play (oblique references to Eastern music, and even baroque touches; see “Min Dama”).
But you’ll also find what are the roots of “twee;” certainly Calvin Johnson had heard this duo before forming Beat Happening. There’s the same uncomfortable tension between trying to stay pure (some would say “childish”), and between dealing with the complicated emotions that come with love, especially as an adult. Doubly ironic then, that my favorite song on here, “Crush On You,” inexplicably comes near the end of the album (if the LP had a single, this should’ve been it), and is the most nakedly emotional of these bizarre little love songs. It captures, like very few songs before or since, that lump-in-throat, butterfly-stomached perpetual nervousness that accompanies the pheromone avalanche of early L-U-V.  [What’s Your Rupture?; http://www.whatsyourrupture.com/]


Proletarian Art Threat, Self Destruct Button, Lives of the Saints, Jerk, Clan of the Cave Bear. These names might mean nothing to you, but if you’ve been kicking around the Cleveland music scene for a decade or more, you would recognize them as upper-echelon acts in the punk/hardcore/math/noise game (full disclosure: I did some time in Jerk). Murderedman seems to be the musical equivalent of that old small town (yeah Clevo’s a city..…until you’ve lived there) conundrum: between you and your friends, you’ve dated and/or slept with every boy/girl around. What’s a single human to do?
In Murderedman’s case, they decided to say “Fuck it” and have a giant orgy, although in this case, feedback, sludge, and negative vibes take the place of gyrating limbs and heaving breasts. “My Time As Fire” is a study in controlled chaos, alternating dense rhythmic passages with singer David Russell’s trademarked demonic vocals and broken sax bleats. “Deathtrap” is audio quicksand via subterranean bass lunges and steel-wool guitar scrapes. The side-long “Mountain Time” continues the unease; a suffocating stare into the abyss, and the abyss is laughing back.  [self-released; limited to 200 copies]

COFFIN PRICKS  “Group Home Haircut” b/w “Right Kind of Loot” & “Cielo Drive”

It’s always a pleasure to hear Chris Thomson sing in a punk rock band. His incisive lyrics and snotty, adenoidal voice has held strong for a quarter century now, and he still sounds as pissed-off and annoyed as ever (may be unfortunate for him, but a blessing for us). Coffin Pricks is his new Chicago-based four-piece, after laying low for a few years following the dissolution of Red-Eyed Legends. Other members of Coffin Pricks have done time in bands as disparate as Bob Tilton, Cavity and Daylight Robbery. Here they come together to make instantly familiar aggressive post-punk, not far removed from Thomson’s past bands. The quality is top-notch; “Group Home Haircut” holds the melody in the bass and Thomson’s sneering vocals. The guitar is jagged and slashing, the playing is on-point. “Right Kind of Loot” and “Cielo Drive” are both memorable quick-steppers, leaning more towards the Skull Kontrol side of Thomson’s fence, but with a Wire-like attention to keeping it succinct. Looking forward to hearing more from these vets.  [Stationary Heart; www.stationaryheart.com]

DAWN OF HUMANS  Blurst of the Bloodfish 7” EP

These NYC freakazoids used to play and practice occasionally at a showspace I lived at. Shredded-looking but nice dudes. Punks. Live, the singer usually has his cock out, is usually battle-painted or wearing something flamboyantly weird; almost like he’s being his very own totem animal. There is a shamanistic aspect to his performance. And the sleeve on this sucker! Big silk-screened fold-out with artwork that looks like Nick Blinko went to RISD.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that Dawn of Humans are a visual band. I like the music, but live is where they, err, shine. I’m sure someone far more well-versed in international HC could pinpoint their sound via a Brazilian demo tape from 1984, but, to me, it sounds like devolved, shit-fi hardcore. That ain’t a judgement, I dig it, particularly the second side, where it gets more unhinged, spaced-out, and desperate. Toxic State’s been on a roll lately, releasing some of the best of the “new wave” of NYC scumcore. All the kids say “DoH!”  [Toxic State; www.toxicstate.blogspot.com]


The first time I ever heard Noh Mercy was on the amazing 2000 bootleg compilation LP, I Hate The Pop Group, which collected a host of obscure (esp. at the time) songs from the late 70s/early 80s post-punk DIY home-recorded tape-trading zeitgeist. Every single track on there has something to twist your head into a knot. Halfway through the first side you are confronted with a lone drum kit pounding out a catchy drum figure. Just when you expect a guitar, or a bass, or a keyboard, to enter the mix, a siren-like voice cuts through the tape hiss: “I don’t wanna be politically correct/I don’t need no Caucasian guilt/I never cooked no Jews/I never took no Indian land/I never made no black my slave/I never dug no Latino’s grave!”
Don’t hold back, lady! Who needs metaphor? But it ends with a utopian optimism: “I don’t need no Caucasian guilt/I’m ready for a brand new race!/One concerned with the way you move/not the arrangement of your face.” This bracing cut originally appeared on the classic double 7” Earcom 3 comp (along with groups like DAF and Middle Class). Needless to say, I was in love. But it took until over a decade later til I (or anyone really) would be able to hear a full album’s worth of material from the two mercurial ladies who made up Noh Mercy. Potent, challenging, and eviscerating, Noh Mercy can hold their own with most any NYC No Wave act. They are a shining example of the still-little-known SF art-punk underground. But that’s all changing thanks to Superior Viaduct, a San Francisco-based reissue label focusing on lost (or never happened as is the case here) treasures of San Fran’s unheralded art-punk scene. This deluxe first-issue is beautifully done; from its striking cover to the informative and scene-setting oversized booklet that accompanies the album. Featuring reminisces by both the beat (Tony Hotel) and the voice (Esmerelda), there’s much to learn here. These ladies lived hard, and the music conveys the struggle and tension they worked through in their day-to-day existence. Whether it’s a deconstruction of the Beatles’ “Girl,” or the waves of noise that pulse through “Lines,” Noh Mercy were always challenging themselves and their audience.
Side two opens with their other Earcom cut; “Revolutionary Spy” is a showcase for Hotel’s drumming (also credited with “hubcap, anvil, ball-peen hammer”) and Esmerelda’s cunning lyrics. It’s not all wailing and banging with these ladies. “Bloodhound Blues” has funky new wave keyboards, and the synth touches on “Cross the Line” and “The Meek Shall Inherit the Mess” suggest a future direction that the band never realized, unfortunately. It may have taken over three decades, but there is finally a Noh Mercy LP, and I suggest you pick it up while you are able.  [Superior Viaduct; www.superiorviaduct.com]

CIRCLE X  “Heartbreaker” b/w “Look at the People” 7”

Circle X was a fascinating band. They moved through all sorts of scenes, cities, and situations fluidly, like a ghost, a wraith. First wave Kentucky punk, unheralded No Wave outsiders, French patronship, mover/shaker art-world ties; all the while experimenting with crushing, collapsing art-punk that walks an invisible line between rock n’ roll and high-minded aspirations, both sonic and conceptual.
The story behind what became Circle X’s first vinyl release (in a paltry number of 200 copies) is almost a piece of conceptual art in itself. Too long to go into here, but the informative liner notes detail exactly how and why the music turned out the way it did, and also the novel way the records were distributed (part of a European art zine). So, for their first record, Circle X was an entirely different band than what it actually was; yet, they still sound like nothing but Circle X.
The A-side is a dense, noisy rendering of a Rolling Stones song, Goat’s Head Soup ‘s “Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” that you would never mistake for the original. It chugs along with a stumbling groove, the thudding proceedings being slowly strangled by the mangled strings of abused guitars. Wondering if a young T. Moore managed to get ahold of one of these severely limited copies? “Look at the People” establishes the Circle X template; nothing less than a journey into darkest night, galloping faster towards the abyss, embracing the void the city provides to the true seeker. It’s a precursor to the impending EP’s “Albeit Living,” and also a nice companion to the Jack Ruby reissue from last year. Circle X wants you to get lost, wants you to end up in a puddle behind a dumpster, wants you to look in the mirror and be repulsed. This is thrillingly nihilistic music just as “entertaining” as your Flippers, your No Trends, your Mars, even your Black Humors. An outstanding reissue; from the excellent packaging, which both includes and enhances the original artwork, to the still-potent music contained within. Put down your “raw-noise-punk” flexi and embrace nullification, not as a pose, but as a necessary reaction to the filth around you.  [Poutre Apparente; www.poutreapparente.free.fr]

THE BLIMP  Not Beer one-sided 12”

I think that your appreciation for The Blimp may rest upon your tolerance for one Mr. Franklin Q. Zappa. I know that main Blimp Lucas Gunn took lessons from Zoot Horn Rollo or some kinda shit, and the dude can play (although not on the level his bro Chris of the Hunches can), but it leans less towards Van Vliet action-spew and more towards the self-consciously wacky shtick that Zappa-doo-dah so, um, excelled at. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some pretty ace rocking moments here, particularly on the title track. As art-school drop-out as this comes off, you can tell these folks come from a punk background. There is an element of the retard-prog Cleveland’s legendary late 70s/early 80s scene spit out (Styrenes, Tripod Jimmie etc.). But just as they are building up a head full of steam, the circus comes to town, and you find yourself front row at a Man Man gig. Final jambroni “Dead Bones Blood Orange Brown Mean Land” (was this title discovered on an old cocktail napkin of the Cap’n hisself?) has some cool moments of twisty rock, but, alas, The Blimp’s need to overburden their songs with “flourishes” renders the impact null and void. Not sure if all of the copies come w/ a DVD-R of Gunn’s Petertag film, but mine did, and, unfortunately, my laptop keeps rejecting it. Take that as you will.  [Violet Times; www.violet-times.com]

THE CHRISTMAS BRIDE  Planet Earth’s Motto: Someone Just Shit Out a Perfect Square

This is a weird record, spearheaded by a dude from Chicago band Wishgift. Wishgift seems to take long swigs off the AmRep flask, whereas The Christmas Bride is a hyperactive power-pop unit with all sorts of stops and starts and things that would drive most power-pop-punk fans nuts. Of course, those are some of the most interesting moments, like “Ge Rm Ans” which sounds like a Pixies outtake, or “K.O. Boyz” and “New Hit Mekanik” which distill some of the finer moments of the Stiff catalog into minute-and-a-half bitesize morsels. There are certainly some effective hooks on this LP, but ultimately it comes off as overly thought-out; constructed like a piece of architecture, not living, breathing rock n’ roll. If these guys could reign in their urge to mug for the microphone, they might be able to inch a little closer to something like the classic Midwestern shut-in power of The Suicide Commandos.
[Sophomore Lounge; www.sophomorelounge.com]

NICE FACE  Horizon Fires LP

Nice Face’s 2nd long-player deserves to be discussed on its own merits; free from being associated with _____ dogs, “weird” punk, “mysterious” bedroom suck artists, one-off punk jack-offs, and other detritus that went boom! then buuuuuuu…..
Yes, this is electro-punk made by one guy in his apartment, utilizing canned ‘tronic beats, Steve Jobs-approved hard/soft-ware, and effects on the vocals. Yet, the beats sound good, the lyrics understandable, and the songs and sounds transcend the equipment it was created on (third cut “Equipped” has a killer vid btw). Back in the early 2000s, who knew that the two best loner-punk “bands” of several years later, would be led by two guys in the same band, and the shit-kicking NYC combo Some Action to boot. SA lead guitarist Ethan Campbell practically invented, or at least pioneered, this genre/approach with still-kings LiveFastDie. Some Action’s lead mess/puncher/shouter Ian Magee cleaned his shit up, and quietly made some of the best records of this nebulous style. Really all I’m trying to say with this background jibber-jabber is that perhaps the reason those “bands” (and both have had ripping live permutations; Campbell was even lead guitarist for NF for a spell) succeed, is because they both feature blazing punk rock n’ roll guitar riffs and solos. Despite the laptop trappings, synths, and drum machines, they are still r n’ r bands. Nice Face in particular recalls the real progenitors of his sound: Tubeway Army/Gary Numan, Devo, Big Black even.
Lead cut “Liaison” has an almost “Girl U Want” groove, but substitutes the goofiness with a more sinister intent. There’s the Chrome-like forward-stomp of “Shaman” and “March of the Cosmic Man.” Similar to “Selectron” off of the debut Immer Etwas, the drums sound almost-real, but the stars of the show are the cool organ and synth sounds that show a real understanding of how to layer noise. “Killing Time” is all minimal-synth anxiety, whereas “You’re So Dramatic,” a minute-and-a-half punker with bursts of guitar shred, is pure nervous energy. I dig the goth-night dance party of “Asymptotes,” but when it comes back around again on side two it gets a bit too Love & Rockets for my taste. On the other hand, “Roll Over” and “Summer Shake” are cool rock n’ roll tunes that could be hit singles in an alternate college-radio-run universe. “Cold Shoulder” seems to encapsulate Nice Face’s raison d’etre – throbbing bass, threatening words, slicing guitar. It’s a winning formula.  [Hozac]


I really enjoyed The Sediment Club’s debut 7” on Brooklyn’s Soft Spot label a few years back (SS also released the mandatory Kebab collection). It was an abrasive and snarky example of a group of kids cutting loose on a No New York tip, as if they were born to it. Then again, main Clubber Austin is the son of former Voidoid Ivan Julian and Contortions/Bush Tetras singer Cynthia Sley. So, he comes by ye ol’ guitar-slash naturally. Julian even recorded most of this album. Time Decay Now is not quite the leap forward I was hoping for from this obviously talented crew. The band is still in fine form, the drummer in particular has mad chops, but stylistically they are running in place. The vocals are still the weakest part; mainly shouted-out sloganeering you’d expect from art-punks. A compelling vocal presence would go a long way. The fact that 3 out of the EP’s 4 songs are redone here demonstrates a lack of progress. The keyboardist Amina sings “Deeper Into Hell,” and its slightly more conventional, yet still frenetic, delivery does wonders. There are still choppy beats, rubber-band bass, washes of noise and bent guitars but it seems to lead somewhere instead of treading water. “Voodoo Puppet” recalls Big Flame with its sideways funk-guitar, and hardcore speed/length jitterbug “13” brings to mind Philly’s unheralded Stickmen. Despite my criticisms, I think The Sediment Club do their No Wave progenitors proud.  [Soft Spot; http://www.softspotmusic.com]

SCARCITY OF TANKS  Vulgar Defender & Fear Is Not Conscience CD

Scarcity of Tanks is an ever-shifting Cleveland-based ensemble that revolves around Matthew Wascovich. On previous albums, Wascovich has enlisted veterans of Clevo’s art/rock/noise nexus to back him as he cycles through his abstract poetry in a clear voice, like a more hinged Jack Brewer of Saccharine Trust. This time around, he put all the chips down. Recorded over a marathon weekend session in Brooklyn, these simultaneously-released CDs feature a pan-generational multi-scene-spanning underground all-star group of epic proportions. Some avant-Olympic dream team shit right here: John Morton (electric eels), Kid Millions (Oneida), Weasel Walter (Flying Luttenbachers), Jim Sauter (Borbetomagus), Nick Lesley (Necking), cover art by Chris Yarmock of the Easter Monkeys. Not too shabby, as they say.
Considering the decades of skillz these fellas have racked up, Wascovich does the smart thing and mostly gets out of the way. Vulgar Defender is a noisy affair, the players going deep into the skronk zone, guitars feeding back, bass loud and dirty in the mix. “My Fist” might be the best thing here; a near-tune with the bass providing a simple melody and the rest of the band trying its hardest to grind it into the dirt, Millions launching it into hyper-drive for the ending.  The last track, “Another Chance,” slash-and-burns like mid-period Sonic Youth.
Fear Is Not Conscience is a much more successful distillation of this particular line-up’s strengths (I saw them live and it kicked hard). “Stood Straight” takes a basic hardcore punk motif and slathers more and more sound on top of it as it speeds along, til it gets too heavy to move. “Already Alive” utilizes a familiar free improv motif like the pros these guys are, but a track like “Slut’s Rut” should be half its duration. “Impaired Nominee” has a piledriving groove framed by all manner of awesome and hard-to-identify guitar noises. “Winter is Here” is my favorite piece on either of these albums.  Wascovich’s words take center stage. The band lays down a droning fog of sound that moves from melancholic to menacing. It sounds like what looking at Lake Erie in December feels like. “Winter…” captures the icicle emotions of a scrapyard city deep in the throes of forced hibernation. Wascovich has seen more than his share of Cleveland winters, and the weight bears down like a shroud.  [Total Life Society; PO Box 6592 Cleveland OH 44101]

[all reviews originally appeared on www.terminal-boredom.com]

Saturday, August 18, 2012



I’m not so easily found
But you follow

I broke into the apartment
I ducked into the alley
I slipped deep in the shadows
You followed

In the window
I see
Your reflection
In the shadows
That’s my protection

I’m not so easily found
You’re not so easily killed
But still I'll kill you

How much did they pay?
How much to betray?
How much did they pay for you to kill me?


When you parked in the lot
The lot was empty
When you strolled through the mall
The mall was empty
When you walked in the store
All the aisles were empty
But when you look in your wallet
You’ve got plenty of money

When you go out at night
You feel so empty
When you come home to bed
Your bed is empty
When you finish vomiting
All your guts are empty
But when you look in your wallet
You’ve got plenty of money

When you look at the sky
The sky is empty
When you gaze in the mirror
The mirror is empty
When you look in your head
Hey! your head is empty
But when you look in your wallet
You've got plenty of money

But you come to easy
I think I’ve seen that movie
I walked right out of that movie

When I walked in the theatre
The theatre was empty
I took a look at the screen
The screen was empty
I even waited for the credits
But they were empty
When you look in your wallet
You’ve got plenty of money

When I get up inside you
I feel so empty
I put my fist inside you
You still feel so empty
When I come inside you
You’re so fucking empty
But when I look in your wallet
You’ve got plenty of money


I went to the museum
I tried to take you home
Everyday I’m at the museum
Looking at you
 but you’re made out of stone

You’re just a statue
But I love you

Gonna add you to my collection
Find a place in my stone garden
Then I’ll put you to work in the kitchen
See what you can do with no arms
 and these knives

I’ve been all around the world
To the finest museums
Ain’t seen nothin’ fine as you
 and I call ‘em as I see ‘em

Gonna put you in the back of my pick-up
And take you home to Mom
Then I’ll put you to work in the kitchen
See what you can do with no arms


Everyday I walk down the street
To go and go and go
Everyday I see you on the corner
So low so low so low
Everyday I look into your eyes
Hello! Hello! Hello!
Everyday you look away
cuz  you know you know you know

You got something to say to me?
Cuz I got nothin’ to say to you
You must have something to say to me
Cuz I’m picking up your frequency

You can fuck each stranger into knowing
You know you know you know
Fuck each stranger into knowing
Hello! Hello! Hello!
Fuck each stranger into knowing
Hello! Goodbye! It was so nice to see you!
You can fuck each stranger into knowing
Hello Goodbye Please shut the door

You got something to say to me?
Cuz I got an ear for this misery
Are you broadcasting on my frequency?
I can feel your current running thru me

It’s a cross-point bulletin:

New York to Switzerland
Cleveland to Richmond
Sacto to Brooklyn
Vancouver to Amsterdam

I think I saw you in a dream last night


They said you couldn’t do it
All that wire across the ocean
They said you’d never do it
“There’s too much water there”

They said you’d never do it
All that way across the ocean
You said you’d never do it
But I’ve seen that look in your eyes before

On that day
You sailed away
Scotland to Newfoundland
1500 nautical miles
Deepest depths charged

On that day
September 25th, 1956
Heard your voice 
 down the line

Every day
In the sun room

Heard your voice
 down the line

Every day
In the sun room

Your voice like a ghost
And then it -------- stopped!

Sabotage on the telephone line!

Miscellaneous anarchists
Claimed credit for this

Oh how I miss those days
Of copper wire
How I miss your eyes
But they are closed forever

O this mother of Pearl
Forty years passed
Still a slip of a girl

Possessed of divorced furniture
She grew old enough
To spurn nature

O this mother of Pearl
Said “Vampire habits die hard
 dontcha know?”

Her husband died fast
The rest of the family

O you’re mine
Frozen in time
One day you’ll become my kind

Two decades spent
Trapped in the cellar
Your mother is undead
And someone oughta tell her

She did away with the kin
But the checks
They still came in

Pretended she was
Pearl, her daughter
Until Pearl got revenge
With some holy water

“O beautiful mother,” said Pearl
 Vampires they die hard, I didn’t know”
“You killed Daddy so quick,
  I think I’ll watch you die slow”


Amidst the junkies and the whores
He found a reason for divorce

Can you get your mind around
  That part of town?

“I’m sick sick with dementia”
He tried to tell his wife
But she lay sleeping
On the other side of life

A white girl stuck him
While a black one bled
A white girl shot him
It went straight to his head

 -Did you hear what he said?-

“For this freedom I will commit
  any sin you ask of me
 For this sin I will repent
  any kingdom binding me”

It was a matter of course
Yeah the cops were worse
He found a reason for divorce
Sailing home in a hearse