Wednesday, January 9, 2013


The Avengers  “We Are The One”+2/”Paint It Black”+1/”Teenage Rebel”+1  7”s

Framed by the lens of history, The Avengers appear to be a curious band. Some people consider them amongst the greatest of first-wave US punk groups, while others acknowledge them as nothing more than a footnote in the history of American punk. The fact is, on the West Coast, they were one of the first, and, at times, one of the best. It’s a damn shame that the early San Francisco punk scene was so under-documented. I mean, think of all of the incredible Los Angeles bands that never had a chance to make their masterpieces. But then again, think of all the masterpieces that tumbled out of that scene. But San Francisco didn’t have a Dangerhouse, or a Slash. They didn’t have shit. Except for great bands. But those bands rarely escaped the city, or were heard much outside the Bay Area. Many great records were lost to the vicissitudes of SF bohemian life circa mid-late 70s. In between playing dress-up and sculpting their hair-dos, the mighty Crime managed to squeeze out a couple of classic sides, but The Avengers never got to make the landmark LP they had in them. Based on the Steve Jones-produced “The American In Me” 12” EP and the later collection, ‘The Pink Album,’ stillborn on CD Presents, The Avengers had the potential to make one of the great first-wave US punk LPs. If you cobbled together the best of that material, and the best of their singles, you would have a truly classic album. Instead, we piece it together ourselves, but make no mistake, these three reissued singles represent some fine punk rock, in pure form, undiluted by time or trend. Once again, Superior Viaduct rescues San Fran classics from obscurity, making them accessible to modern-day record hounds and voracious young punks hungry for the real shit. “We Are The One” is one of the first records Dangerhouse ever released, and kudos for looking up the coast for hot punk action, despite the scene raging around them. Is “We Are the One” corny? A dated anthem for yesteryear? Maybe, but you can still hear the fatalistic optimism and grasping at something beyond just being another American drone, all set to full-throttle rock n’ roll, with, yes, a powerful female singer leading the charge. If you can’t stomach “We…,” then “I Believe in Me” will make you gag, you cynical fuck. “Car Crash” is probably more your speed then. Reveling in gruesomely dead boyfriends and fast, muscular rock n’ roll that ends in a nice aural representation of an auto smash-up, this shit is tough. The “Paint It Black”/”Thin White Line” 45 didn’t emerge ‘til ’83 which is a damn shame (almost as much as the fact that the sides should be reversed, wtf). The Avengers chew up and spit out the Stones classic, retaining all of the drama (if less menace) of the original, streamlining it into a powerful statement that seems relevant, even after all these years. Sure, an incredible song to begin with, but easy to fuck up and make a parody of itself. But it should have been the killer B, because “Thin White Line” is as good as any song in their catalog. It’s a kiss-off that still manages to have an anthemic chorus. There’s a reason Steve Jones wanted to produce The Avengers; they have a similar monolithic power to the Sex Pistols, while still finding time to be snide and stick a finger in your nose. Finally, the third piece of this puzzle is the “Teenage Rebel”/”Friends of Mine” 45 that appeared in 1997 on Swedish label Really Fast Records, then kicked off the ‘Died For Your Sins’ collection that Lookout! released in ’99. Recorded in 1978, “Teenage Rebel” is a raucous slice of hormonal fuck-you, while “Friends of Mine” stands with the best of their catalog. Goddamn does Greg Ingraham’s guitar positively ROAR on these recordings. These singles solidify The Avengers as one of the early greats, as worthy of praise and respect as any West Coast innovators. Houston of course went on to a fairly successful singer-songwriter career (and eventually “reuniting” the Avengers, to unembarrassing effect), while bassist Jimmy Wilsey became the lead guitarist in Chris Isaak’s band and was later found dead, drowned in pussy.
[Superior Viaduct; www.superior]


The Clean  Odditties 2xLP

The reason The Clean is such a seminal band is partly due to their mastery of multiple forms of non-mersh songwriting. Sure, legions of bands can pen satisfying examples of common u-ground rock tropes, but how many groups can pull off the instant/unforgettable (“Tally Ho”), the sublime/otherworldly (“Point That Thing Somewhere Else”) and the show-stopping trick of uplifting defeatism (“Anything Can Happen”)? Effortlessly too, like a lazy magician, the bastards. Oft-times it seems only The Clean can accomplish this feat. This last decade has seen The Clean finally gets its props, on a level they probably never even imagined in their wildest dreams. One of the essential components of their catalog, ‘Odditties’ previously appeared on self-released limited cassette, a less-limited Flying Nun tape, then a CD in the mid-90s. Now, nearly 30 years after its initial release, you can own these odds ‘n sodds on fresh wax for the first time ever. Once again, 540 Records provides a public service for lovelorn record geeks the world over. As you might imagine, the versions of certain well-known songs vary in both performance and sound quality. Warts an’ all is the name of the game, so if you like your record albums to be perfectly-sculpted masterworks, this might not be the place to stop for a squizz up the block (or a whizz with yer cock). In fact, the roots of early 90s lo-fi can be found here; except, for the most part, The Clean wrote better songs. After side 1 plows through a few hits (title track, “Thumbs Off”), side 2 gets cozy with kitchen-fi cuts like “End of My Dream” and “This Guy” (“right heah!” - my head) which prefigure early Sebadoh strum, but with less whine and cheese. Side 3 opens with a sweet spot – “At The Bottom” – which comes close to “Point That Thing” depths. A driving instrumental with streaks of darkness, “At The Bottom” is the soundtrack to treading water, to listlessness. Oddly, it sounds so alive. Almost like a living, breathing thing. Sort of like that depression breathing fetid air into your ear. “I know,” you tell it. It doesn’t listen. Follow up that touch of grey with an embryonic version of the Great Unwashed’s “Hold Onto the Rail” and you’ve got The Clean modus operandi in a nutshell. On side 4 we’ve got a “dub” version of “Point” (which, it must be said, was written by early member and Snapper mastermind Peter Gutteridge), a couple of sketches that never were, and it all ends with the charming “Stylaphone Music.” My only complaint would be the lack of an insert/liner notes. It would have been nice to have the members put it all in perspective for us, maybe more details about the actual recordings themselves, but hey, a little mystery goes a long way. And it sure is fun to check out the flyers on the interior of the gatefold. Hey Mr. Time Machine, set co-ordinates for that Clean/Bored Games show, please…
[540 Records;]

Crazy Spirit s/t LP

Sometimes I’ll be at a Crazy Spirit show and I’ll look around and think, “Man, I am too old for this shit. What the fuck am I doing here?” But then the band will lurch into some kinda gnarly knotty thorny half-hook buried under gutbucket drumming, shit-fi guitar sputter, and an always-moving bass that sounds like a sabre rattling in its scabbard. Over top of all of that, a weird little dude with something greasy smeared on his face emits trebly screeches pitched somewhere between Darby Crash and a subway rat (rats do, in fact, scream). It “shouldn’t” work, but of course it does, and sometimes Crazy Spirit hits a glorious punk high-note that has been one of the better rushes the last few years here in The Big Rotten Apple. And, along with brother band Hank Wood (drummer here) & The Hammerheads, the Spirit has put out one of the most vital punk full-lengths of 2012. I’m not sure if these guys will ever write a song I like as much as the first EP’s “The Burning Churches,” but “Bed Bugs” comes close, bursting as it is with Crazy Spirit’s trademark B-beat (the kid from Accept the Darkness zine wrote something about CS’ frenetic drum-bash being its own version of the D-beat and damned if he ain’t on to something; nervous insect patterns). The wheedling guitar, especially during the eerie mid-song breakdown, is like a rusty scalpel in your brain, but it’s a lobotomy you don’t mind much -- it’ll all be over soon anyway. Manipulated movie soundbites are strewn haphazard throughout the LP, between songs and occasionally popping up during a few. “You” spazzes along memorably, while “What Have I Become?” is another one of their patented home-recorded ditties; kitchen-sink percussion, brittle blues guitar, treated samples. “I Become a Man” (“I become beautiful”) bugs out effectively, once again showcasing the slightly-off guitar leads that are like the beacon the rest of the band is rushing towards. It even shoehorns a relatively normal rock chorus in there. Full of surprises! This is the sound of roaming the city, skin itchy and flaking, feet sore and throbbing, people everywhere and nowhere. Being miserable and alone, surrounded by a million assholes, each one miserable and alone. Crazy Spirit and the Toxic State crew are attempting to reclaim the scum-filled streets for their own. The visual aesthetic is striking; the packaging for this record is impressive. Over-sized cardboard-thick “envelope” jacket with stamped inner sleeve, 12-page lyric/art booklet/zine, and a lovely, large screened poster. Some of the drawings are like extra-devolved versions of Charles Burns’ nightmare creatures. Interesting fumes and debris blows ‘round these parts. [Toxic State;]

Demon’s Claws  Lost in the Desert vol. II

- “Gypsie Wind” their contribution to the Anthology of Canadian Folk Music
- face-falling spirit of real ragged an’ fucked rockers
- shit-kicking country
- lysergic garage-punk every bit as good as Black Lips
- occasional Creedence whiff floats by
- actually able to evoke Goat’s Head Soup/Beggar’s-era Stones with a bleary eye
- “Pretty Polly” a Dock Boggs cover w/ backing from Movie Star Junkies
[Telephone Explosion;]

Drose  “A Voice” 7” EP

Austerity measures from Columbus, Ohio. Bleak, spartan and possessing a barely-withheld malice, Drose approach metal with an abstract mindset. As twin guitars drone and crunch, ringing out in iron tones like distant industrial machinery, minimal drums thud and crash, echoing the death-throes of midcentury Midwestern dreams. Drose are coming to terms with their own failures and fears, composing heavy music with a discipline rarely heard in such circles. There is an emphasis on silence and space, utilizing the inherent dramatic tension in moments of calm before the storm. In this way, Drose recall Harvey Milk, but substitute the underlying southern-boogie vibe with a stern, crushing seriousness worthy of Swans. Snatches of Godflesh, Melvins, fellow townies Sword Heaven, and little-known mid-90s Richmond VA group Sliang Laos, bubble beneath the surface, but Drose are on their own journey and they seem to have it plotted out meticulously. Besides this attention to detail, what sets Drose far apart from their peers is mainman and band namesake Dustin Rose’s high, keening voice, which soars above the lockstep skullcrush like a freebird. His singing wouldn’t be out of place on a Sigur Ros record, or even a pre-midnight swim Jeff Buckley session. No one-trick pony, Rose brings his register down to a foreboding rasp on the droning title cut. Live, they nailed it. Zero corny attempts at forced catharsis, just strategically-placed slivers of silence punctuated by huge swathes of jagged, streetcleaning sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a Drose album on Southern Lord within the year (Hydra Head has ceased operations, after all), but don’t let the nods to metal form fool you; Drose is more concerned with conjuring a dark night of the soul for their listeners, not throwing you devil horns while you attempt to headbang in your new Venom t-shirt.  [; 200 on black; 200 on red?]

The Feeling of Love  La Peur Es Une Illusion LP
This collection LP is comprised of Feeling of Love’s 7” offerings from 2006 to 2008. During this time, Feeling of Love were one of the better French “weird punk”/”gluewave” bands. Barely a fit for those half-joke genres, FoL were heavily indebted to US trash-punk bands, particularly Pussy Galore. They had the same fucked take on the “blues,” accompanied by clanging percussion, pained vocals and harsh guitar tones. This approach hit it apex on their debut LP “Petite Es Un Hit,” which was a respectable facsimile of gutter-rock. Feeling of Love stood out cuz they tended to head towards the outer reaches instead of trying to ape the Oblivians or (_______ pick a Crypt band). Nevertheless, while this collection is not a bad listen per se, it does not distinguish itself, and becomes a bit of a chore to get through. It wasn’t until their second album, ‘OK Judge Revival,’ when they dropped their PG fixation and instead found inspiration in Spacemen 3 and the Gris Gris, that Feeling of Love finally came into their own. Still informed by their raw past, ‘OK Judge Revival’ was a genuinely great record. Last year’s ‘Dissolve Me’ was on par, perhaps a slight step down, but more than worthy of your time. So, where does that place this early singles comp? Completists-only.  [Les Disques De La Face Cachée;]

Founding Fathers  Rapid Transit LP

I wanna let you know about this nifty new LP. The fact remains that I have been in a band with, and even lived with, two of the four people in this group. We have shared toilets, drugs, and fits of creative inspiration. That’s just the way it goes when you are a r n’ r loser in a small city. Founding Fathers are a Cleveland OH-based quartet. Principal songwriter and singer/guitarist John Kalman used to play bass in Clevo noise-rock heroes Roue’, while drummer Stanton Thatcher and guitarist John Neely have been in several noteworthy North Coast bands (Tokyo Storm Warning, Tall Pines, Cave Teens). Lastly, Carol S. Yachanin is a journeywoman musician, having plied her excellent bass skills in bands such as The Librarians, Tough & Lovely, and the Reigning Sound. Pedigree out of the way, what’s FF’s deal? I wouldn’t wanna call ‘em “rodent rock,” but they are perched somewhere between Modest Mouse and The Mice (throw in a lil’ Deep Freeze Mice and Mouse on Mars and have yourself an experiment). Rapid Transit has a distinctly “classic” indie sound; twisting, chiming guitars; nimble rhythms; duel male/female vocals. The vocals are one of the standout features. The natural way Yachanin’s angelic voice curls around Kalman’s pleading tenor is one of Founding Father’s distinguishing characteristics. Neely’s nervous, sideways guitar leads waver nicely between being hook-y and pushing the songs in unexpected directions. Yet, like aimlessly wandering around your hometown late at night, Founding Fathers feel familiar in the best of possible ways.  [Snax;]

Kraus  Supreme Commander LP

Kraus is some mysterious guy down dere in Noisyland, pumping away on some instrumental strangeness. Originally released last year on cassette, ‘Supreme Commander’ gets the wax treatment courtesy of upstart Chicago imprint Moniker Records. It’s not hard to hear why Kraus caught Moniker’s ear. ‘Supreme Commander’ is a unique take on home-recorded whatchamacallit, demonstrating a focus on sculpting a personal soundworld that brings to mind underappreciated fellow countrymen like Pumice and Crude, but remains singularly Kraus. Tracks like “Sumer is Icumen In” sound like a bedroom take on library music, while the grinding and noisy “Guinea Coin Blues” recalls King Loser honcho Chris Heazlewood’s solo work. I swear that the laser gun-like sounds in “Bath Tube” are made by a karaoke machine from the early 90s. “Speed Queen” tests the patience a bit; too long with a go-nowhere idea. Side Two opens with some tape fuckery and various chopped/screwed sounds. Midway through the second side and I’m starting to think of these bizarre little assaults of cheap audio gear as soundtracks to extremely short science-fiction flicks. Then “Mono Lulu” comes on with its echoed-out rudimentary drumbeat and sharp pokes of Hawaiian guitar and I realize I want to hear what Kraus could do with something a bit closer to a traditional song. He’s got great sounds feeding into his tape machine, but I’m curious to hear him apply them to something slightly more conventional. Not that this isn’t a very cool record, cuz it most certainly is.  [Moniker;]

Lazy  “Party City”+2  7”

OK, let’s get it out of the way. What a shite name. (Yeah my pasty ancestry comes out in moments of annoyance). There are literally 20 artists listed under “Lazy” on Discogs. Twenty! It mostly reminds me of a mediocre 90s indie band that used the name as a self-fulfilling prophecy. The glory days of slacker rock! And a quick internet research session reveals that, as of two years ago, this Lazy (from Kansas City; which one? no idea) was a fairly generic indie band themselves. I have no clue what transpired in these last 24 months, but I suspect it has something to do with mainlining the Dow Jones & The Industrials catalog, and maybe a brief obsession with Brainiac. “Party City” is an excellent jerkwave dance hit, but “Silence in Crisis,” a frantic punker with an instantly memorable chorus, is the winner on this platter. “Boys in The Girlsroom” is a speedy rant sung by a lady (no info listed), and makes me excited to hear more by this group.  [Moniker;]

The Max Block  Air Ache in the Belly of the Leech LP

Further treasures unearthed from the soil of Old Zealand. The Max Block only managed to squeeze out one 12” EP during their mid-80s existence, but the principal members went on to such greats as The Renderers, Flies Inside the Sun and The Terminals. The last of these is the closest analogue to The Max Block. Both bands imbue their particular version of rock n’ roll with a rollicking, funhouse spirit; but where The Terminals delve into agonizingly turbulent emotions, sounding as if they are fighting for their very lives, The Max Block, while still retaining a sense of drama, know that the dawn will eventually come, and with it, light, and another chance to make things right. Siltbreeze does us a favor here and bolsters the original six-song EP with nine extra tracks, two of which are live, but none repeat, and all are worthy of inclusion. Sixteen years later and The Max Block finally have an LP, and despite the fact that it is a stitched together affair, the music is strong enough to justify it’s reappearance. A nice companion piece to the recent Pin Group reissue, this collection is further proof of the intrinsic magic that flows through so much music born in Aotearoa. May it never be obstructed.  [Siltbreeze;]

Mil Mascaras  “Fuzz”+2 7”

I remember hearing a song or two by these ladies of France a few years back. Pretty sure the main singer is the same woman who fronted the great Crack Und Ultra Eczema. This 7” isn’t as good as Crack Und, but it’s not bad. “Fuzz” is a little too straight for me. A decent garage number, but nothing you haven’t heard before. “I Said So Far” is a little closer to what I expected, vaguely Slits-like, but still not quite up to snuff. “French TV” reminds me a bit of Girls At Our Best and is easily the best thing on this single.  [Hozac;]

McShitz LP

As most of us know by now, only Cleveland, Ohio, USA can get a certain kind of relentlessly, unapologetically stupid punk rock music just right. It ain’t easy, folks. The path is littered with the rotten corpses of bands that try to capture that once-in-a-lifetime genie-in-a-bottle transcendence of prime GG corn-holing the Angry Samoans while The Dwarves do coke off the dicks of each member of Adrenalin OD and then proceed to sell the snot-smegma to Fang fans high on acid in 1985, as drawn in a comic book by Sockeye. But if anyone can, it’s Clevo, dummy! I missed out on the prime McShitz era, but caught what seemed like the tail-end in the early 2000s. Made up of a tight-knit group of friends that have been in a bazigillionkamillion bands together before and since (family tree would look like a Sicilian’s scrotal-nest thru a microscope), the McShitz still play once in a blue moon, usually at Clevo shit-punk hoe-down Horriblefest. They veer from outta control hardcore insanity to catchy, desperate Hickey-like “pop-punk” (more like a basement thrash version thereof), all within a minute or two. They can also bite down hard on a classic-sounding punk song as good as..….anyone, really. This collection LP is their Faust Tapes, their gift to an undeserving world populated by squares, norms, and devolved mutoids. I guess we should be thankful, but, instead, my head just hurts. Owww, what happened? Where am I? Dammit, not again. [self-released]

Modra  The Line for the Men’s Room LP

Sleepwalking blues deconstruction from Aus-expat Michael Bray and assorted partners-in-crime. The recording is raw and intimate, claustrophobic at times. Guitars cycle through meandering, haphazard lines, at times almost pretty, until a sudden intrusion of wrenching sound will bluster up and disappear just as quickly. The music moves like smoke, a ghost of itself. “The Restless Dream” grasps for Denudes-style nullification, and, like that band, the descent into their own personal heart of darkness reveals the very reason to keep drawing breath. “She’s Too Big” is like a drunken bull in a hall of mirrors, gradually thrashing about until he slips on the blood and knocks himself out cold. “Her Taste in My Mouth” is most likely about eating pussy, but hey, you never know with these weirdos. After all, its barren Dead C. aimlessness seems to be disguising the piercing domestic anguish at the heart of the song. It’s all falling apart, it’s all crumbling down, the music crashes around your ears, too tired to even stand up straight. There is a palpable sullenness here; it lashes out in unpredictable ways. [Savage Quality;]

Obnox  Rojo LP

Lamont “Bim” Thomas has spent the last 2 decades playing drums in too many bands to list. A few of them are The Bassholes, This Moment in Black History and Puffy Areolas. The number probably hovers around two dozen. You always know what you’re gonna get with Bim behind the traps: full-on commitment, righteous swing and head-cracking beats. In other words: No holdin’ out. And anyone who knows Bim knows the man likes to talk. Too bad Gift of Gab was already taken as a hip-hop alias. But Obnox is apropos as well. So, it seems as natural as a morning hard-on that Thomas would eventually step out from behind the kit and tell us what he really thinks. The last couple of years have seen a flurry of activity, resulting in a blitzkrieg of 7”s, 12”s and shows around the Midwest (‘Nox is based in Cleveland). Bim found a sympathetic engineer in Paul Macarrone and the duo have holed up at underground Clevo shithole venue The Black Eye to record a whole lotta rock, groove and noise.
‘Rojo’ throws all of these components into a blender and mixes up a delicious, and nutritious, shake for that ass. This is Thomas’ ESP-Disk album. Full of stabs at free jazz, in-the-red tape saturation and snatches of fresh beats, ‘Rojo’ is the best thing Bim has done to date (although there’s a double album waiting in the wings). “Kristy Greene” (former guitarist of Drunkdriver) is some kinda swamp-rock/noise-jazz collision that gets damn near hypnotic. “Tia Vincent” (former Pygmy Shrews bassist/singer) spews out heavy beats and searing, half-submerged guitar solos. “Esme Barrera” (RIP) is an unclassifiable amalgamation of styles that sounds like a leftover from the ‘Check Your Head’ sessions. “Marcy Mays” (Scrawl leader) is the centerpiece of the album. I swear, at times, the blown-out skronk of this track sounds like a Laddio Bolocko jam, and that’s a rare bird indeed. If you thought Thomas was just a garage-punk drummer, this cut will get your head right. “Lili and Aggie” (Z. {Volt} & Magnetix drummer) brings more rumbling and squealing coupled with Thomas’ deep-voiced narration. If you haven’t picked up on it, all of the tracks minus the first and last, are the names of some of the underground’s most dynamic and kick-ass lady musicians. It’s nice to see Thomas pay respects to who most would see as unlikely inspirations. ‘Rojo’ ends with “You’re An Idiot” aka the foghorn leghorn. If you’ve ever talked to Bim for longer than 10 minutes, you’ve probably heard this sound. And now, you can hear it whenever you want. O joy.  [Permanent;]

Ono  Albino LP

Can’t say I’m feeling this attempt at a mélange of New Orleans voodoo funk, the darkside electronics of Burial and flashes of old-school industrial. These all come together on the six long minutes of “Veil” to sound like a discarded Foetus outtake. Speaking of six minutes, the next one, “Calvin” is that long, and just when you thought it couldn’t possibly be, yup, the mark of the beast 6-6-6. This last one is a painful cover of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” that I prayed would stop, but just kept going and going. Wait, I was wrong! The mark of the bleat, 6-6-6-6; “Berlin Cowboy” starts out like a parody of a Bad Seeds song and then jumps headfirst into spaghetti-western mutant disco. It’s not nearly as cool as it *might* sound. “Albino” opens with some noisy slide guitar, but eventually settles into some uninspired beats. “Good News” closes out the album and that’s an apt title as I don’t think I could have taken another extended tribal dirge, especially one with the gawdawful pseudo-rapping going on here. Ono is like the male equivalent to that TuN-EYaRDS;} chick. I imagine them wearing warpaint at their shows. Crash Worship this ain’t. 

Phantom Family Halo  When I Fall Out LP

Phantom Family Halo has been releasing quality psychedelic rock records for a good half-decade now. Principally a vehicle for Sapat drummer Dominic Cipolla, the Halo relocated from Kentucky to Brooklyn a few years back, and have several imminent records due on the revamped Knitting Factory Records (which, confusingly, has nothing to do with the world-famous music venue anymore, and also, apparently, own the entire Fela Kuti catalog). ‘When I Fall Out’ is the “sister album” to ‘Hard Apple Moon,’ and, while enjoyable as a whole, it doesn’t quite get “there.” The “problem” with psychedelic rock is that it is all about transcendence. Nothing more, nothing less. And transcendence ain’t some shit you can just download an app for, or buy at a store, or even pray your little heart out for; it comes like a flash of lightning, and vanishes quicker than spliff-smoke. The second track on ‘When I Fall Out,’ “White Hot Gun,” comes closest to RalphWaldo territory; a driving rock song with screaming, ascending leads and a real urgency to get somewhere, even if it’s just further from here. Something about “Dirty Blade” intrigues me. Echoed-out drums lead a languidly-paced near-ballad; it possesses a certain intimacy that borders on the sensual. Draw a bath, light some candles, you deserve it, girl. Unfortunately, the awkward funk-lite of “Light Year Girl” pulls you right back to reality and reminds you of your earthbound status. Closer “Vital Energy” is the most Sapat-like cut on the album, and, thus, my favorite. It’s got that ‘druids gather in the forest’ vibe that ‘Mortise and Tenon’ projected so effortlessly. There will be more forthcoming from this chameleonic ensemble. [Knitting Factory;]

The Pin Group  Ambivalence LP + CD

I wonder if a child has ever fallen down the well in Roy Montgomery’s throat. I can see him lying there, perfectly still, languishing in its darkness, snuggling into a slow, graceful death. Montgomery’s impossibly-deep voice often summons visions of stentorian figures of old, tragic Max von Sydow-type characters, admonishing Death, peasants, and his own broken heart. The doomed tones of someone trapped in a prison of his own devising. And that is to say nothing of the man’s uncanny ability to coax some of the most luminous, tranquil, and soothingly acidic tones out of a guitar, a few delay pedals, and a cheap recording set-up (see any of his solo works, particularly Scenes From the  South Island and Temple IV). Much like his masterful later group, Dadamah (which also featured PG drummer and NZ’s answer to Mick Harvey, Peter Stapleton), The Pin Group embody the sound of suppressed domestic strife. The silent accusations; the unseen, withering glances; the coldest shoulders in the warmest beds. It’s enough to make you want to self-snuff with a pillow.  Interestingly, especially for music that is at once so intimate, yet so cruel, the majority of lyrics to these scattered songs were not penned by the singer, but by mate of the band, poet Desmond Brice. The knowledge of this makes the songs even more devastating. As if Brice couldn’t bring himself to actually voice these forbidding words, so he needed to feed them to a puppet (sorry Roy) to let them loose into the air. Like a snake-tongued ventriloquist with nothing left but poison in his heart. This collection encompasses The Pin Group’s only two singles (Flying Nun’s first & third as a label) with a few other odds n’ ends (and includes the 1982 live EP expanded on accompanying CD). While the material is the same as the 1997 Siltbreeze CD (complete w/ baffling “Low Rider” cover and a very cool version of Red Crayola’s “Hurricane Fighter Plane”), the sequencing has been switched up a bit. Considering two of their best songs (“Ambivalence,” “Coat”) appear twice, this is crucial. But, somehow, you never get sick of hearing those songs again. It makes an inevitable sort of sense. We repeat the same actions, make the same mistakes, run in place for decades. The Pin Group understood this better than most. Here is your soundtrack to the rest of your life.  [Flying Nun;]

Protomartyr  No Passion All Technique LP

People seem to be digging this Detroit band, and I can see why. Protomartyr, much like cohorts Parquet Courts, play a new-ish twist on modern US post-punk, which is to say, they’re a stream-lined update of mid-90s indie rock (the good kind). I’ve actually seen people reference “late-period Black Flag” regarding this band, which is so ridiculous I wonder if everyone has lost their hearing and is reviewing records via the cut-up method. The Fall refs are slightly more on point (albeit lazy as fuck).
Main ‘martyr Joe Casey has an almost Julian Casablancas-esque mumble, which, hey, let’s not open up that can of worms. It works, though, for the most part. Occasionally he sounds like Pissed Jeans’ mouthpiece Matt Korvette, which gives Protomartyr the curious slant of Pissed Jeans covering Tyvek (I would buy that split 7”). An obvious touchstone for Protomartyr, Tyvek would have to be at the top of the hill as regards “modern US post-punk,” and the influence is unmistakable here (Tyvek mastermind Kevin Boyer sometimes steps in on guitar w/ PM). I’m not sure what these guys are rocking on the turntable/iPod during late night kitchen drunk sessions, but early Mekons has to be in heavy rotation. Both the new Tyvek album and Protomartyr’s debut LP are bursting with the kind of jagged, raucous near-anthems that The Mekons once pulled off so messily, ie. by the skin of their teeth. “In My Sphere” sets the tone; it’s a rousing lead-off that throws the album title at you and provides exactly that; a lot of passion, and just enough technique to make it hit home. There are some excellent songs here: “Hot Wheel City” has an agitated swagger, while the “Free Supper”/”Jumbo’s” double-shot is the peak of the album. “Free Supper,” perhaps the most Tyvek-like track, takes a generic punk riff and rides it hard, segueing into the spaced-out, mid-tempo ode to a beloved Motor City watering hole. Unfortunately, there are also moments that recall the notso-hotso aspects of that 20 year-old indie sound; “Three Swallows” and “Ypsilanti” give off the mothball whiff of sweater-rock of yore. “How He Lived After He Died” is a more successful distillation of this sound, but the one-note grayness gets a bit smothering after a while. “Feral Cats,” on the other hand, really does sound like The Strokes. “Too Many Jewels” justifies those Fall name-drops and the album ends strong with the biting “Principalities.” I think PC edge out PM slightly in the tunes dept., but why not snag both and decide for yourself?  [Urinal Cake;]

Psychosurgeons  “Horizontal Action” b/w “Wild Weekend” 7"

A true labor of love, Crypt Records pulls out all the stops on this reissue. Featuring a gatefold jacket, 8 pages of liner notes/history/interviews, and an excellent remastering job courtesy of Crypt boss Tim Warren, you have absolutely no excuse not to own this perfect slice of total KBD destruction. I’m so used to the muffled version on ‘Killed By Death’ #2 that it’s a welcome shock to hear the pounding drums driving the furiously-strummed almost-jangly guitar. A high-velocity hip-shaker about fucking, “Horizontal Action” never gets old. “Wild Weekend” is just as good, if not better. Put simply: This is a classic single, and you should probably get familiar if yr not already.

Puffy Areolas  1982: Dishonorable Discharge LP

A coupla few years back it seemed like everyone was ready to blast-out. Lotta noise, feedback, caveman rid-dumbs, bad vibes in search of worse vibes, the whole 9. The country was (is) fucked, so let’s get stupid and kill ourselves. Or something. There was no philosophy behind a lot of these bands, but they sure all liked Brainbombs. Most of the kids who helped this half-assed scene churn are probably all now strategic-fund managers (your father must be very proud). Ask me, they should all be more pissed than ever, but I guess sushi seven nights a week really does soothe the savage beast. Well Lord Almighty pass me that last whip-it, cuz the fuckin’ Puffys are still kicking and screaming and cranking the shit out of their amps and staring you down with waves of tumultuous psychedelic noise rock aimed at your crotch. On this, their second full-length, the Areola line-up stabilizes somewhat, and the focus is far more evident. These songs are a little closer to “songs” than before, and the band sounds “tight” (both meanings, dillweed). Opener/title cut “1982” is a vicious hellstorm of psychedelic hardcore that swings way harder than music this fast has a right to. Mega-fast boogie bassline, borderline free-jazz drum flurry, feedback-ridden pick slides. Mark McCoy, black metal is dumb; you should put shit like this out. “Not Tonight” is the lemme-get-closer-to-ya-baby smooth-talker; a blue-collar Midwest strut only concerned with carnal pleasures and chemical excess post-punch-out. “Dark Places (Guyana pt. II)” is the real head-soak here. While guitars phase in ‘n out of grace, the drums lay down some kinda clattering yet pummeling groove with demented bass stabs glueing it all to the floor like a fuckin’ rat-trap. This is a perfect example of the kind of molten force that can turn a shitty punk dive into a mound of ash. Why the fuck aren’t UK taste-makers (looking at you, Mr. Wire) shitting themselves all over this kinda wreckage? Sorry some cunt-slip professor-spawn from Northampton, Mass or film industry anal-fibber from SoCal didn’t jizz it over to you par avion, but yer fuckin’ asleep at the goddamn wheel. But apparently Sun Araw put out the best rec of the year or whatever. Not Not Fun is the ESP-Disk of our era. Total. “Funk Your Head Up” takes one of the all-time corniest puns and proceeds to lay a Funhouse-sized slap on that questioning brow. Yes, Nigel, this is rock n’ roll music. Fuck this shit, listening to this LP right now just makes me wanna see these fools live BLAMMMMMM. Is there anyone else even trying to do this shit these days???? Sure, a Monoshock reunion, but where’s your fucking band, DUDE. You too, lady, you don’t get a free pass. This music is for sweaty fucking, “rolling dirty,” shooting Drano, jerking off into a rusty pipe, or whatever the fuck gets you off. 

Rangda  Formerly Extinct LP

Honestly, it’s stone-cold baffling how three of the most exciting musicians in that nebulous zone we’ll call post-improv/free-rock, can get together and make such a dull, tepid, lifeless record as ‘Formerly Extinct.’ Snatching their moniker from a Bali demon-queen, Rangda consists of Sun City Girl maestro Alan Bishop, proponent of actually good modern-day psych-folk (in Six Organs of Admittance) and brain-shredding scree via Comets on Fire, Ben Chasny, and Chris Corsano, a drum savant possessed of nearly-inhuman skill and precision. Sounds like some kinda Marvel What If…? team-up. A Mahavishnu Orchestra for these complicated modern times.You know exactly what you want when these dudes step on stage together. No pussyfooting. Bring it, putos. And, on their 2010 debut, ‘False Flag,’ they sho’ nuff did. Elegiac Eastern-tinged instrumentals suddenly shorn in half by frantic yet assured moments of pointillist brutality, like tossing a rat in a cobra cage. It hit all the sweet spots you hoped for, and sometimes that’s all you can ask. So why oh why is this new album so damn boring? The recording may partly be to blame; it’s sterile and brittle, all of the instruments are stripped of their warmth and left there to stand naked, shivering. Since there is no bass, this coldness becomes a dominating aspect. The playing, of course, is excellent, but the songwriting seems a bit phoned-in. It’s all so lab-like it ends up coming off like a post-Sublime Freq take on late 90s math rock, of all things. Imagine if later Don Caballero was fleet-of-foot, and occasionally leaned on a wah-wah solo. Or if US Maple just played the extra-tricky parts of their songs for a few minutes straight. “Plugged Nickel” sounds like Shellac for Kali’sakes (and I like Shellac). All the out-of-body lift from the debut is anchored heavily here. You wanna try to break through, but Rangda doesn’t even extend a helping hand. Obviously, any offering by these fellas is gonna have some “moments,” and they are here, and there, but few and far between, and frankly, that ain’t fuckin’ good enough.
[Drag City;]

Rat Columns  Sceptre Hole LP

Interesting release here from David West, one of the minds behind Rank/Xerox, certainly among the brighter examples of post-punk these last few years. Rank/Xerox are an impeccably economic band, recalling Scavenged Luxury-era Middle Class, which puts a big dumb grin on a guy like me. West is a fantastic guitarist; live, he projects a subtle intensity that builds, coils and unleashes, not unlike an Andy Ex or whoever the hell the guy was who played guitar in Donkey (when are you assholes gonna get hip to them? It’s only been 15 fucking years and counting). As to be expected, this “solo” project displays far more diversity of style, and thus, a more forgiving sense of give-and-take. West is Australian (take a sec to dip West’s now-defunct power trio Burning Sensation, it’s worth yr time), and even though this album was recorded in San Francisco, there is that unmistakable Down there air wafting about, although much of it comes to us from those pasty-faced magical isles of Noisyland.
“Eastern Vibrations” hits an immediate G-spot for me, deftly conjuring an Alastair Galbraith-like shadow into the room, but imbuing it with some Jefferies bros. heft. A long slow beat thumps in the distance while guitars get bowed and bent and a gurgling analog synth threatens to overwhelm everything. The vocals are pitched at the perfect level of trance/cool and it never erupts, sustaining its hovering tension. It also could easily have melded into Total Control’s Henge Beat, and that’s a compliment to both parties. Whew, I coulda gone for a whole rec o’ that squeeze. But, alas, this is West’s showcase and he plus combo promptly burst into a winning splash of noise-pop called “Death is Leaving Me” that doubles as a killer new punkhouse dance hit, and a fairly exact recreation of prime college radio circa 1986. “Flowers” sounds like a more sophisticated, complex Kitchen’s Floor; which is to say, it sounds like really good Straightjacket Fits. Which is to say, it’s cool shit. Three for three, dude’s on a roll. Just as “Nearsighted”s jazzy guitar line starts to get too anemic-Monochrome Set, right as the yawn begins to blossom on your face, it does a neat little breakdown that resolves into a Comsat Angels-style slow-burn coda that actually ends a little too soon. Has this guy been breaking into my house and playing my records while I’m not home? “Dying Day” is achingly melodic sludge-pop, like a superslow Ride sipping tea with Flying Saucer Attack. Even in its more subdued moments, such as those during “Spectre in the Hall,” an evocative, dripping instrumental that has shades of lost explorers of post-punk’s ethereal outer edges like Dif Juz and Crispy Ambulance and bits of AGW Eno, West shows real craft and attention to detail. Flip the script (of the bridge), and the album hits a bit of a nadir unfortunately, with a few too many samey-chimey indie cuts; “Frozen Over” comes riding in like 18th dye, but never erupts into the kind of stately frenzy they could pull off. And the frustrating thing is, unlike most any “indierock” outfit these days, I know West can tear that guitar up, make it scream for sweet mercy while still drawing the melodic line fairly straight. But, hey, this ain’t my record now is it? I’m just blabbing about it, trying to drop a bunch of names of unappreciated outfits that this reminds me of; why, because this is good and that stuff’s good, and sometimes I can’t be bothered for anything else. The first half of this record is exceptional, and that bodes well for a shining Rat Columns future.  [Smart Guy;]

Razar  “Stamp Out Disco” b/w “Task Force (Undercover Cops)” 7"

I never thought I’d see the day when all of the timeless Australian punk singles collected on the ‘Murder Punk’ CD compilations would be available for reasonable prices on the vinyl format; and most of them legit, to boot! Hell, I’m reviewing two of them in this update alone! Thanks to labels like 540, Sing Sing, Crypt and others, we, the cash-strapped punk rock waxheads, can spin these klassik killers in the comforts of our own home, or blast them at the bar to drown out all of the empty-skull idiot-chatter. It’s pretty fuckin’ cool, and so is this single. “Stamp Out Disco” is self-explanatory, an obvious but necessary slag off to one of the prevailing trends of mainstream music in the late ‘70s. Why would you wanna slap on a bodysuit and try to re-enact ‘Saturday Night Fever’ when you can go wild to this kind of snarling rock n’ roll? Got me, Manero. “Stamp Out…” even ends with a burp. Classy, refined, proper. This song is so good it even inspired another great punk song 25 years later (Functional Blackouts’ “Stamp Out Techno”). “Task Force” is a sarcastic swipe at the eternal punk enemy -- the cops, the pigs, the fuzz. Jackbooted shit-lickers and fascist protectors of the rich and dignified; Razar spits and sneers at these state puppets and even throw in some “oinks” at the end to make sure you know which side they’re on. How about you: are you a punk, or a cop? [Razar;]

Scarcity of Tanks  Ohio Captives CD

With their third full-length of 2012, and sixth in four years, Scarcity of Tanks could never be accused of sitting around with their thumbs up their asses. Led by Matthew Wascovich, SoT is always changing, already on to the next phase of development. The Clevo ensemble has morphed yet again; this time a sextet with old and new faces. Pounding the drums is Elliot Hoffman (ex-15 Minutes to Fame), Rich Raponi of Murderedman/McShitz manhandles the guitar, legendary Mirrors founder Andrew Klimeyk picks up the bass, vet Cle saxophonist Dan W. blows some wind, and John Petkovic of Death of Samantha/Cobra Verde fame provides backing vocals, piano and other assorted instruments. This mix of people comes up with some of Scarcity’s most trad songs yet, and it works. Wasco sings more, stretching beyond his usual even-toned and repetitive poetic statements, at times getting into more of a Jack Brewer approach, twisting his voice around the words. “Paco Unfolds” rolls out heavy like Last Exit. “Fox Back” takes it slow and low like Lungfish until Petkovic’s sweet backing vocals come in along with a glockenspiel and the band crescendos and you don’t know quite what to call this stuff. Rock, jazz, punk, nothing is quite adequate. “Quigley Dictum” is pure Mission of Burma art-punk burn, while “Glenville Hermetics” settles into limber free-rock that builds into an affecting swell of sound. “Dear Pine” is the nod to hardcore while the title track sounds like an homage to one of Wasco’s muse’s, the Minutemen. Epic closer “Operational Choices” sounds like a return to Scarcity’s roots, but really it’s just a way station until the next pending trip.  [Total Life Society; P.O. Box 6592 Cleveland OH 44101]

Teenanger  Frights LP

Despite touring frequently and releasing records on the reg, Teenanger haven’t quite gotten their due. This LP should change all of that. Confident and completely comfortable in their own skin, this Toronto four-piece plays deceptively “straight”-forward punk. Meaning, they don’t lean too heavily towards a particular ghetto of the endlessly-reduced genres of punk everyone squabbles over. They “merely” play well-written, well-recorded, high-energy punk rock songs with hooks, grooves, and a self-assured cool. This is a short LP, but every song hits, and there are a few stand-out tracks. After “Cheap Thrills” and “Frights” start things off with a bang, “SLW” jumps in, guns blazing, and crams one of the best, and most classic-sounding, choruses in a punk rock song this year into its short duration. Teenanger is perched somewhere between hip-shaking garage-punk and snotty ’77 lip-curl. While I’m sure they throw-down with Ty Segall at the local indie haunt, I see them more at home in a dilapidated bar in the sketchy part of town on a bill with The Curse and Viletones. “Cops (But Not)” has a sex-brained bassline, a killer chorus, and a double-time rave-up midway through that throws your ass in the hoosegow and has its way with you. “Tired of You” sounds exactly like The PeeChees, and, ‘90s hate be damned, that’s a good thing. “Walking on Eggshells” is a fantastic song; coulda been an A-side on Radarscope Records, a less-wacked Soft Boys. “Bank Account” is a satisfying conclusion, more frustration set to a beat that hasn’t gotten played out, despite the decades of abuse it has endured. Teenanger do it justice.  [Telephone Explosion;]

Toy Love  Live at The Gluepot 2xLP

I think I cried the day I heard that Chris Knox had been the victim of a stroke (because it really is an attack, isn’t it?). At the very least, tears welled up with flood-water force and maybe I choked it back cuz that’s the kind of thing men do; stupid, small gestures that mean nothing. Chris Knox’s art is full of small gestures, but they mean everything. In his countless songs, comics, videos, writings, interviews and artist-nurturing stints, Knox displays an uncanny ability to make the everyday truly surreal, an altering of vision and dimension that reveals the hidden dynamics of how our world operates, the hilarious and terrifying constructs of modern society, laid bare like an old-world nude statue. A humble classicist energized and enabled by the simplest tools of his trade(s); pen and paper, reel-to-reel 8-track, stylophone, stop-motion, a cheap drum machine, the gift of gab.
But what about Toy Love? They were more than just Chris Knox’s band. Much much more. But I want you to keep Chris in your thoughts. Of course, the smart, prickly ones get shafted with life-rendering moments such as the one he has endured. As excellent, informative (gear breakdown!), and charming (Toy Love is always charming) as the zine-like booklet that accompanies the album is, there is a glaring absence in the band members’ first-person accounts. No Knox. Only one thing can fill that gaping hole; the music. The goddamn tunes themselves. And what tunes they are!
Toy Love is the blueprint for clever, acerbic, meticulously-crafted, yet go-for-broke, completely ass-kicking, punch-you-in-the-face-with-a-goofy-grin, tip-top outta controlling rocking and rolling. Forming out of New Zealand’s premier punk band, The Enemy, Toy Love’s music quickly became more sophisticated, while still retaining its intrinsic thorniness. They were extremely prolific for a band that existed for less than two years. Perhaps Toy Love really was the Antipodean Sex Pistols. Achieving instant success in their native New Zealand, they hopped over to Australia and experienced a year of intense gigging and dismissive indifference. Guitarist Alec Bathgate estimates they did 400 (!) shows in a five-month tour of Australia. No wonder they broke up a short time later!
We get to relish the fruits of that labor, as this first-time-on-vinyl gatefold double LP features Toy Love performances from their final shows, and the band is in top-notch form throughout. People will tell you that the production on Toy Love’s sole, self-titled full-length (which was preceded by a clutch of crucial singles), neutered the band. The band would agree with those people, as they remixed it for the 2005 collection ‘Cuts.’ I’m not for, or against; I love it all. And this record confirms what an outstanding band Toy Love was in their prime, and their “prime” seems to encompass their entire short career. There’s no point in selecting highlights from the 25 songs contained on this double-shot. Every single one is a gem; even the number entitled “2nd to Last Song T.L. Ever Wrote,” which has Knox ad-libbing venomous lyrics about the music business. Punk slashers, dramatic, almost prog pop-rock, stuttering post-punk; Toy Love did it all, and they rarely missed their mark. The sequencing is a little perplexing; despite the incredible songs, there is a bit of a lull on side three. With too many contorted, mid-tempo pop songs grouped together, the energy sags a bit. But then side four kicks up a dust-storm with some of Toy Love’s greatest songs: “I Don’t Mind” “Bride of Frankenstein” “Death Rehearsal” and The Enemy’s hit “Pull Down the Shades.” I might have put this side first, but it’s a small quibble. You can listen to any side you desire. It will be filled with wonderful songs and performances. You can’t lose. Toy Love is here for you. Somewhere, Chris Knox is smiling.  [Goner;]

Trin Tran  Dark Radar LP

Man, I dunno what’s going on at Drag City these days, but they be laying some stinkers lately. Why on earth they felt the need to issue this decade-old recording is beyond what my feeble brain can comprehend. Why not just reissue Numbers’ first album, because as dated as that record sounds, it’s the superior version of exactly what this record want to be (jerky angular robot-punk). Maybe I should root for Trin Tran cuz he’s only one guy, but so is Quintron and that guy doesn’t need any fucking help. This record would have sucked at the turn of the millennium and it sucks even more now. Apparently, this is the first record released under a new DC sub-label, God? Here’s further proof that he doesn’t exist (and/or hates the human race). Skip this turd and go buy a Factums record instead.  [Drag City;]


Useless Eaters  ‘Black Night Ultraviolet’ 7” EP

Fuck if I know. This shit is boring as fuck. Do the kids really wanna freak out to this? Eaters dude has gotten a few good songs out there; those Devo-flavored ones on that one record were pretty deece, but the demo-quality of his recordings doesn’t do him any favors. Sometimes (many times) amateur-ish recordings are not charming, do not impart a sense of intimacy, and essentially just suck all the power out of your music. Is it laziness? An aesthetic choice? Either way, unless you’re LiveFastDie, you should probably stop. This EP makes attempts at some sort of sexy new wave, but I think more time spent with the first Ultravox! record would do wonders. I mean, a song called “Moody Bitch” should strike a fierce pose, should it not? Being one degree removed from a Death Cab for Cutie song is not the way to convey your anger. This kid is obviously talented, but more time spent wood-shedding, and less time throwing every idea at the wall (13 singles in 3 years?!), would benefit all of us, including the environment. For godsakes, think of the children.  [Manimal;]

UV Race  ‘Racism’ LP

This is a pleasant album. I don’t mean that pejoratively. If you have an idea in your mind’s eye of UV Race as some sort of “crazy” and/or wildly unpredictable band, well then, you need to get out more. I can’t say I’ve disliked anything the UV Race has put out, but I can’t say any of it has blown my wig back. This album continues the streak. Ten songs in a half hour, most of which are simple and catchy. The most memorable songs are slow and pretty: “Be Your Self,” “Life Park,” and particularly “Sophie Says.” “Bad Egg” has lovely “Waterloo Sunset”-style horns. Less successful are the obligatory nods to punk: “I’m a Pig” and “Nuclear Family” come off like parodies, and maybe they are. But they’re still throwaway; B-side material at best. “Raw Balls” and “Unknown Pleasures” almost justify those off-target Swell Maps comparisons of a few years ago. The LP closes with the extended “Memenonome,” which seems to repeat some of the melodies from earlier in the record, and fades out with more horns and stoned chanting. Verdict? If you’re already a fan, this will satisfy; if you’re not, it’ll probably satisfy too.  [In The Red;]

Weird Party  Hussy LP

I know what a bad party is (, but what’s a weird party? EVERY FUCKIN PARTY. Get more than ten people together in a room and the peculiar vibes will fly, I don’t care how sober or intoxicated these persons might be; shit will get weird. People are strange, so said Sterling Morrison. (or was it Grant Morrison?) Or it could just refer to Republicans, who are freakier than most pierced-and-tattooed punk rockers these days. Weird Party is from Houston, and well, what else can be said about that? Business is BOOMING down there. And it’s hot. Weird Party ain’t sweatin’ shit, they’re cool as a cucumber. And they play a form of rock n’ roll, pitched somewhere between snarling 90s garage-punk and a more sharp-edged, post-punk style, that seems in short supply these days. Opener “Pale Brunette” nicks a snippet of a Beguiled lick and, while the band proceeds to beat it into the ground, the sneering, threatening vocals, courtesy of former Fatal Flyin’ Guilloteen Shawn Adolph, poison the soil. While WP is on more of a “garage” tip, there are a lot of parallels with a kick-ass old-guy (ahem, “mature”) punk band like Hank IV. Guitarist Kyle G. was once in Sugar Shack, a ball-busting Estrus concern that were “five weeks ahead of their time.” The title cut ends the first side, and brings a welcome descent into sleazy gutter-trawling a la Penthouse or a stripped-down Gallon Drunk. It’s hard to get that sound right when you’re 22 years young, but come back a decade later, and it welcomes you into its arms like a long-lost lover. The B-side keeps the frustration rock rolling, with “Bath House” being the pick hit. When the band digs in, as on closer “Itinerant,” it would be wise to shut up, respect your elders, and get weird.  [Sex & Death;]

White Lung  Sorry LP

I’ll admit that, after a perfunctory glance n’ listen, I wrote White Lung off as trashy hipster-punk. Y’know, Vice Mag horseshit that you can forgive your 19 year-old cousin for liking, but you wouldn’t be caught dead…etc. But I kept hearing word of a live show not to be missed, so, after ignoring them on a few trips thru my neck, I finally deigned to give ‘em an in-the-flesh look-see, and, hoo-boy, I don’t wear hats, but if I did, I’d’ve probably eaten right then and there. Bulldozer, steamroller, Sherman tank, whatever modern industrial equipment you wanna name; they had that thing. The rhythm section charges full-speed ahead, diamond-sharp, while the guitarist peals off endless hyperspeed variations of Greg Sage riffs, and the singer, she has a dramatic urgency that suits the furious dexterity of the band. It’s hardcore with melody that doesn’t rely on standard 1-2-3-breakdown hey-ho let’s-go riffing. ‘Sorry’ is the best-sounding White Lung stuff to date, but there are caveats. While it sounds great, it also ends up sounding quite monochrome. Each song seems merely a slight variation on the preceding. But, of course, if you approach White Lung as hardcore, then this becomes less of a concern. Yet, I still want more songs to stick their necks out. Even on a 10 song/19 minute album, we could use a hit or two. “St. Dad” and “Thicklip” come closest for me, but anyone who’s already a fan would most likely tell you that the whole damn thing is a hit. And maybe it is. I can see White Lung getting “big,” and they’re one show you wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with your youngers at. No use trying to hide the whiskey in your purse and the joint on your breath, it’s gonna come eventually. Might as well be cool about it and get it over with.  [Deranged;]

White Suns  Sinews LP

A few years ago, the neo-New York noise-rock scene was in full bloom. Bands like Drunkdriver, Twin Stumps, Pop. 1280 and others, were bringing a certain kind of 21st century angst to once-standard underground tropes, of which many a music-listener had left bleeding to death on the side of the road back in the early 90s. In a boring twist of fate, it had become uncool to be pissed off. Don’t you have an iPhone, man? Aren’t you on Twitter? Don’t you watch The Office? Isn’t The Now just so groovy? What war? Homeless who? Corporations wanna do what? Nah man, it’s all good. Chillax. After all, we’ve got WIFI, and cupcakes. It felt good to smash n’ bash and scream and shiver and make things go boom. But inevitably, life moves on, people change, anger dissipates, hotheads cool, and steam evaporates. At the time, White Suns were the junior bros on the scene. Skinny, nerdy dudes eager to flail along with the slightly older bands. But, as that scene faded, White Suns ascended, becoming the leading NYC noise band of the past few years. Their debut on Weasel Walter’s ugEXPLODE label, Waking in the Reservoir, was a bracing study of familiar noise moves with forays into blastbeats and outre’ screamo. It showed a band willing to wrestle with big blocks of sound (WS has no bass geetar, and both guit & drummer fuck wit da ‘tronics). Sinews is the logical extension of this wrasslin’, finding White Suns treating these blocks like pieces on a chessboard. Their attention to detail, and the ability to exercise great restraint, push White Suns beyond being merely a “sick” noise band, and into a higher-strata of makers of extreme sound. Featuring a stunning cover painting by former Twin Stumps vocalist, Alessandro Keegan, ‘Sinews’ is a seething, brooding album that trades in an oppressive claustrophobia, which is especially ironic, considering its greatest strength is the long moments of near-silence that punctuate the brutal, heavy bits, instead of vice versa. Seven-plus minute opener “Fire Sermon” is filled with such flashes, oscillating between tension-filled fuse-lighting and the detonations themselves. All pounding, hammering, and drilling, “Footprints Filled” demonstrates why White Suns fit so well on those Drunkdriver bills.  “Flesh Vault” is a dead ringer for Circle X. Decaying amp fizzle and random thump wander lazily around while singer/guitarist Kevin Barry speaks in a trying-to-stay-even tone, betraying the desperation that erupts into “Temple.” Having a six-and-a-half-minute closing cut called “Oath” may strike some as pretentious, over-reaching, corny. And, as Barry shrieks about speaking “with a thousand voices,” you start to wonder, OK, maybe an Instagram account is the way to go, but then the avalanche-style drums cave your head in and it feels good. Nihilism as hedonism. “I want you to hurt me,” she said…  [Load;]

 XYX  Teatro Negro LP

A bass/drums duo from Monterrey, Mexico, XYX released 2 head-turning 7”s a few years back. Then, they vanished. Some shows here and there, but no tour and no additional records. Bummer. Then, outta nowhere, an LP appeared this year, courtesy of Austin’s Monofonus Press. Apparently, the album was recorded back in 2010, and the time-lag is an indictment of how lame and boring much underground music is these days, as it took two years for someone to actually release it, and in a pitifully small edition of 300 pressed at that. It’s a crying shame, because this LP is in the running for Top __ of the Year. Man, I hate those lists, but I love this record. XYX is the brainchild of bassist/singer Anhelo Escalante. Her voice -- strident yet stirring -- is multi-tracked and delayed to excellent effect. “Simulador” establishes her presence immediately, followed by “Sobrenada” which showcases Mou Ortiz’ frenetic, tom-heavy drumming. The way these two play together is thrilling. Songs such as “Desierto” veer fluidly from heavy to melodic to danceable to psychedelic. The band they most remind me of is Yoshimi of Boredoms’ all-female psych-punk outfit OOIOO. There’s also the agitated fury of Brazil’s As Mercenerias, spliced with Load/Skin Graft Records-style bludgeon. In some ways, this is what a group like Pixel Tan was trying to do back in the early 2000s. But they couldn’t quite get the mix right, and they didn’t have the intense focus XYX evidently does. This duo is not flailing around. A track like “77 dias” stretches out with a sense of grandeur you rarely hear in music this stripped-down. A completely DIY affair, Ortiz engineered and mixed the entire LP. I’ll leave the final thought to Escalante, who writes on her website: “…we definitely made all we could make with two instruments, a delay pedal, tons of LSD, four arms, four feet, endless cups of coffee, and zero money for two years. This project helps to demonstrate how much you can do with so little. I didn’t know how to play bass, and Mou didn’t know how to drum. This project started from absolute dust, and I am comfortable with seeing it return to its original form.”  [Monofonus Press;]

{most reviews originally appeared on Terminal Boredom}