Fire Engines "Codex Teenage Premonition"
Fire Engines were a band from Edinburgh, Scotland that existed for exactly 18 months during those golden years of UK post-punk, 1979 – 1981. They released a few hard to find seven inches and one LP, most of which is collected on the out-of-print ‘Fond’ CD. They were outsiders lurking on the more melodically conventional Postcard Records scene of Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. They had more in common with bands like The Mekons and The Scars, thus drawing them into Fast Product’s orbit, resulting in a brief flurry of exciting releases. Fire Engines legacy remained one of polite post-punk legend, until dance-rock posterboys Franz Ferdinand sashayed their way onto the international rock scene and made it OK to be a weird Scottish post-punk from the past. They started name-dropping Fire Engines and Orange Juice in interviews and people were interested again. Orange Juice was recently rewarded with a nice retrospective, but that wasn’t good enough for Fire Engines; the original band reunited. They have since played shows with Franz Ferdinand and recorded some new material.
Unfortunately, instead of re-releasing ‘Fond,’ or, even better, compiling a newer, more definitive collection, the Domino label, in collaboration with Creeping Bent, has issued a live CD with recordings taken from a few different shows in 1980 and 1981. The recordings are of decent sound quality and it’s a nice thing to have if you are already a fan and it could even work as an introduction to the band, but it’s certainly not ideal. There are a few Peel Sessions tacked onto the end. Nevertheless, ‘Codex Teenage Premonition’ will give you an idea of what Fire Engines were all about: terse yet danceable rhythms, barbed guitars colliding haphazardly, but still nailing memorable melodies, some guy periodically bleating a bunch of nonsense. But don’t think this is some polished cuff-link rock a la Franz Ferdinand; Fire Engines keep on moving like nervous little sharks. Why stop to correct a mistake when you’ve got so much momentum built up? As they went along, they settled into quirky pop, but they never let go of their initial spark. We shall see if that still holds true, I suppose.
(Domino Records // www.dominorecordco.com)
Hospitals "I’ve Visited The Island of Jocks and Jazz" CD/LP
I come to the Hospitals relatively unscarred. Wanted to check the debut but never did, missed ‘em when they played my town cuz I was too busy traipsing around Europe like a dandy, and I definitely didn’t have the dedication to track down the Rich People 12” on Yakisakana that was mostly covers (of cool shit like Harry Pussy, Homosexuals, and The Who). Well, that’s OK, cuz I saw ‘em recently and they were pretty good, nothing earth-shattering, but it intrigued me enough to scoop up their new one. I also admit to being intrigued by a band that could move from In The Red to Load, arguably two of the best contemporary underground rock labels in the US. To the layman eye these labels appear to be on divergent paths, but go fuck your duck cuz Human Eye could also easily be on Load and Lightning Bolt recently appeared on a Guitar Wolf tribute comp. So, if my peanut butter tastes funky in your chocolate, maybe you need to redefine your palate, eh, mon ami?
How’s the rec, you ask? Not too shabby. It took a minute for it to sink in. Sure, there is plenty of disconnected, semi-interesting hoo-haw laying around like dirty laundry; hell, that’s half of the record (clocking at 24:46, it’s not exactly an epic). But then there are monster stompers like the aforementioned “Rich People” and “She’s Not There.” Sometimes drummer/singer Adam Stonehouse is a little too enamored with the sound of his voice through analog delay, but this is balanced by a suitably nihilistic and misanthropic atmosphere. Much of this atmosphere appears to be the work of producer (probably hates that term) Chris Woodhouse, who has yet to make a bad sounding record (that I’ve heard atleast). At first, the record seems muddy and washed-out, but once you adapt to the wet rag drumming and vacuum guitars, you begin to feel as if you are trapped in a closet that is slowly filling with dark swamp water. The second half of the record highlights the sing-songy rant “Problems.” Most of the album features Ned Meiners (also of So So Many Jabs at Their Band), but previous guitarist Jon Dwyer (formerly of Coachwhips) shows up on “She’s Not There” and the odd-timed yet tuneful plod of “Be.”
Made in Mexico "Zodiac Zoo" CD/LP
Chicago’s Skin Graft record label has been very quiet since the turn of the millenia. Maybe it was tired; you would be to if you had spent the previous decade redefining noise rock. Now it is trying to rear its four-colored head again. A couple lackluster releases last year didn’t promise much, but Made in Mexico comes a little closer. Featuring Jeff Schneider, former guitarist of Arab On Radar, these guys start off strong with “Farewell Myth,” which opens as a raga then bursts into a punishing forward groove that recalls the Jesus Lizard circa ‘Goat.’ The rhythm section sounds great on this recording, but too often they wade around in the same area of the pool. “Clockwork” introduces a slightly funkier approach coupled with Schneider’s US Maple-after-a-case-of-Red-Bull guitar, but it’s back to the same old dirge on the next song. Rebecca Mitchell’s infrequent vocals don’t add much to the proceedings, but they don’t really get in the way either. She lets out some nice shrieks to accompany the frantic blur of “Napalm Springs,” which is followed by a cover of MX-80 Sound’s “Face of the Earth” that reveals the one-dimensional bones of Made in Mexico. Maybe it’s just the dry recording and these guys might really come at you in a live setting. Too often, the songs are content to just sit there, never quite exploding or pummeling you as hard or as fast as you want. At its best, Made in Mexico conjure visions of a hardcore Art Bears, which is an intriguing proposition, so we’ll see how they do on the next one.
(Skin Graft Records // www.skingraftrecords.com)
Old Time Relijun "2012" CD
There’s something so right about Old Time Relijun. To most ears there probably appears to be something really horribly terribly wrong with said combo, but if those ears are looking for true American primitive stomp, well, Hasil Adkins is dead and it’s a new millennium. This is OTR seventh full-length, sixth for K, and they just keep on howling away. OTR is the brainchild of one Arrington de Dionyso, who is somewhat of a backwoods scholar, a rustic punk cross between Harry Smith and Albert Ayler. He scratches furiously at the guitar, wails crazy speak-in-tongues musings about menstruating witch-women and the end of the world, honks and drones on the sax like a man possessed, and even engages in the occasional fit of throat-singing or jew’s-harp jawing. It’s a lovely thing. Meanwhile, drummer Jamie Peterson and upright bassist Aaron Hartman lay down thick, insidious grooves for Dionyso to do his thing over. Songs like “Wolves and Wolverines” and “Your Mama Used To Dance” split the difference between the Contortions and Captain Beefheart, all fidgety slink and creepy growl. The upright bass is an essential element of their sound, adding a real physicality to the sound. After nearly ten years though, Old Time Relijun is showing a little professionalism, smoothing off a few edges and nudging up the fidelity just a hair. But 2012 is just as potent a brew as their older work, not-so-quietly carving out place for themselves in some aspiring ethnomusicologist’s dissertation, and, hopefully, even better, some punk kid’s overactive imagination.
(K Records // www.krecs.com)
The Ex "Singles. Period."
To a certain segment of the world’s punk populace, Amsterdam’s The Ex represent one of the pinnacles of this sub/counterculture we love so dearly. Drop any notions of rock n’ roll glory and you may be inclined to agree. Over 25 years since their first release and they are still going strong, still vital, if not better than ever. Basement shows are all well and good, but how about a self-financed tour of Ethiopia and then leaving all of your instruments in the hands of fascinated and thoroughly-rocked villagers? That's some shit, as they say.
This longtime-coming compilation collects The Ex’s non-LP, out-of-print vinyl appearances from their first decade. Beginning with a host of short, sharp songs that split the difference between Gang of Four and the Minutemen, following their early line-up changes and a growing obsession with murky, noisy, almost industrial tracks, and back into the solidified line-up’s mastery of rhythmically shifting and guitar-destroying post-punk. These guys and gals never lost their edge and it’s a thrilling listen. From the frantic “Human Car” to the bitter humor of “Gonna Rob The Spermbank” to the anthemic pounding of “Stonestampers Song,” The Ex continued to challenge themselves and grow, setting themselves up for the radical makeover of their impending interest in ethnic musics. It all wraps up nicely with a great and appropriate cover of brothers-in-arms The Mekons’ “Keep On Hoppin’.” The informative booklet reproduces all of the original records’ artwork and has first-person accounts of each release and the evolution of the band. Essential for fans, highly recommended for the neophyte.
(Touch & Go // www.tgrec.com)
Scritti Politti "Early" CD
Ah, British post-punk, how I love you so. A time when the sexes were equal, inspiration plentiful, and the rules were being rewritten for rock and roll. The three lads in Scritti Politti decided to join in the fun after seeing the Sex Pistols and picking up a record by DIY pioneers The Desperate Bicycles. A classic start. Although they were influenced by similar artists as their post-punk brethren, Scritti Politti sculpted these influences into a new and unexpected sound. Nial Jinks’ busy dub-style bass contains almost all the melody, nimbly working around small clusters of notes. The drums alternately thump and splash, playfully ducking and weaving the bass. Scritti Politti was Welsh-born vocalist/guitarist Green Gartside’s (now that’s a name straight out of Joyce) brainchild, and his odd approach to both instruments gives Scritti Politti its uniqueness. The guitar is a trebly, wavering thing, like a shy butterfly attempting to land on your nose. His voice sounds preoccupied, as if he’s singing these elliptical lyrics to himself as he makes himself a spot of tea.
Between 1978 and 1980, Scritti Politti released a series of 7” EPs, each one a little missive to the outside world. Their political and cultural concerns played out to the faithful willing to decode these cryptic messages. On the epoch-defining “Messthetics,” they tell us, “We know what we’re doing,” as beautiful ramshackle melodies crash around them. In other words, don’t mistake amateurism for lack of passion. Gartside later shed the rhythm section and began trading in smooth, if skewed, R & B-influenced pop. But thanks to Rough Trade, you now have a nice lesson in early, unfettered inspiration from a few disconnected smarties.
(Rough Trade // www.roughtraderecords.com)
Battleship "To Give Not a Gift" 7"
You should be able to peruse an interview with the queens in Battleship somewhere else around here; wait, back a couple pages, no, yeah, right there. If you figure the music has gotta be better than that interview, then go pick up this 7" for a quick glimpse into Battleship mk. II, a primer for their forthcoming LP. "Two Horses Too Many" alternates harsh angularity with galloping hardcore that spotlights Bean's deep, Jah Wobbly bass stabs. "No Time For Love" is a breathless rant that comes off particularly well live. The recorded version lacks a little of the live bite, particularly on the breakdown, but you can still feel the self-loathing when Aleks demands that you realize, "I AM THE PROBLEM, I AM TO BLAME." I knew it was your fault, asshole.
(Double Negative // www.doublenegativerecords.com)
Be Your Own Pet "Summer Sensation" EP
Are these guys (and gal) on MTV yet? I have no idea, I don't get that channel, but I'm not oblivious to the point that I am unaware of the massive hype behind this young Tennessee band. Their debut full-length just came out, but here I am with the EP (most of which looks to be on the LP). Not oblivious, but definitely late. Oh well. Hey, am I lame? I dig this! First two cuts, "Bicycle, Bicycle," and "Girls on TV" lay down the law with frantic guitars 'n drum beats and Jemina's bold vocals. She's calling you out, not to fight, but to party. I'm down. Let's gather the bikes and 40s and get dirty. "Fire Department" is as good as anything the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (an obvious comparison) have written and twice as exciting. Love those vocal cracks on the "safety pin" line; in fact, just love the vocals period. They really take this band over the top. The next track tries too hard to nail the YYYs vibe, but that's OK cuz it ends with another fast one. There's elements of indie rock, punk, garage, but nothing dominates. It's like what really good "Alt-Rock" should be. But jacked up on sugar rushes and tight shirts; a soundtrack to your next front-seat grope session. If the youth of America are smoking first joints and giving/getting first blowjobs to this, Mika Miko, Black Lips, and other youthful miscreants, then right on.
(Ecstatic Peace // www.ecstaticpeace.com)
Black Helicopter "Invisible Jet" CD/LP
Really gotta wonder what Thurston's thinking here. He inks a deal with Universal to manufacture a slew of new, rock-oriented releases on his formerly record-collector geek label, Ecstatic Peace!, and proceeds to sign some real head-scratchers. Lemme throw out a few names: Green Magnet School. Kudgel. If those names mean anything to you, you are probably staring 30 down the barrel, or,more likely, can barely make out that sign-post in the rearview mirror. We're talkin early 90s indie-grunge, folks, Boston-style. This band features ex-members of, and, honestly, it would've really put 'em over the top if they had someone who used to be in Spore. So, let's cut to the chase. 'Invisible Jet' is one of the most boring, useless, monochromatic albums I have heard in a long damn time. It's just one mid-tempo snoozefest after another. There is absolutely not one dynamic shift over the course of the entire 47 minute record. You almost have to respect a band that can manage to capture a feeling, one feeling (ennui), and take it to its logical end (zzzzzzz). It's virtually mind-blowing. Imagine a generic "meat and potatoes" rock rec prepared by an English grandmother, ie. every last bit of flavor has been boiled out. Not even a guest appearance by Roger Miller can save this disc. You'd be better off scoring that Green Magnet School/Six Finger Satellite split for $1.50 at the shitty used shop down the street. Oh, it's there, trust me, right next to those Skin Yard CDs.
(Ecstatic Peace!/Universal // www.ecstaticpeace.com)
Erase Errata "Nightlife" LP/CD
Erase Errata's third album finds them reduced to a trio and playing with less ideas than in the past. With the departure of guitarist Sara Jaffe, singer/trumpeter Jenny Hoyston moves to guitar and their organic progression has been halted somewhat. Erase Errata still sound like a nerd-pleasing blend of Crass, Dog Faced Hermans, and Delta 5, but, unfortunately, the music has lost a lot of the rough n' tumble instrumental interplay that provided many of their more thrilling moments. Things start off promisingly with "Cruising," a nice slice of no wave disco, but any steam is quickly lost. "Another Genius Idea From Our Government" wastes some tasty bass with obvious lyrics and a frustratingly truncated song structure. Many of the tracks feel unfinished and rushed. "Tax Dollar" sounds like classic Erase Errata, but it just seems like two steps back at this point. A good band, but perhaps their time (and the style they helped revitalized) has passed.
(Kill Rock Stars // www.killrockstars.com)
Hella "Acoustics" CD
Zach Hill and Mick Barr "Shred Earthship" CD
Too bad there's already a band called Headache City cuz these guys truly deserve the tag. Mick Barr (Crom-Tech/Orthrelm/Octis/etc) is an absurdly talented guitarist and Zach Hill (Hella and a bunch of "super" groups) is a ridiculously amazing drummer, but they have officially vanished up their own rectums. They held a ceremony somewhere in Buttfuck, Idaho. Mick got an Eddie Van Halen splatter-painted guitar and Zach was given a mini-replica of Neil Pert's drum-kit. Then they fisted each other, much to the delight of the gathered hordes of off-set silk-screened-T-shirt-and-black-horn-rimmed glasses-sporting mega-geeks who chattered away like nighttime insects blogging about the coming apocalypse on their Black Berries filled with eye-popping graphics and wacky samples from Cartoon Network shows. Then, Zach and Mick recorded this album and everyone's head exploded with glee and their empty corpses were retrieved by the (that's right) Shred Earthship and transformed into bearded hippies who began frantically searching for obscure English folk records.
Which brings us to Hella, and their new EP, 'Acoustics.' When Hella's first record, 'Hold Your Horse Is,' came out in 2002 it really was the next-step on the evolutionary math-rock ladder. Combining Breadwinner crunch with Don Caballero innovation, a new dawn rose on the seemingly dead world of instrumental calisthenics. A few interesting EPs followed, then a backwards-glancing LP, then a double CD albatross that hung very heavily around this former fan's neck. Maybe I was getting dumber, but when the duo grew into a full-fledged 5 person band, I jumped ship. Their music became so dense it actually achieved the opposite effect of evaporating into thin air. I never went to college, so, y'know, I still like a little groove in my music. The OG members, Hill and guitarist Spencer Seim, scale things back here and actually give us a glimpse into what a Hella front-porch jam might sound like. All the songs performed are past favorites from 'Hold...' and 'The Devil Isn't Red.' It's refreshing to hear these guys not buried under stacks of effects and technique. These older songs contain tantalizing snatches of melody and twists and turns that compliment the music instead of obscuring it. Perhaps one day some enterprising nerd will compile an 'Anthology of American Math Rock' and this EP will bridge the gap for the old-timers. (5 Rue Christine)
Inca Ore "The Birds in the Bushes" CD
This long, periodically interesting, occasionally torturous, CD is mainly the work of one Ms. Ore and some dude named "Lemon Bear," all recorded in a secluded cabin in Northern California. Or something. It doesn't really matter, although you do get that "Forest Feeling" (as one track is called) at points. You also get the feeling you're stuck out in some abandoned lumber facility in northeastern Washington and you're being hunted by an owl and his talking tin can companion. And they're tugging a sack full of murmuring corpses behind them. The music is made with all sorts of rattling junk percussion, like a backwoods Neubaten. The vocals are sustained yowls, grunts, cries, and elongated shrieks like a chorus of dead Japanese children in one of those horror flicks they like to remake over here. Sometimes the demon-exorcising gets a bit much and it's almost comedic. Other times they hit the creep factor of Animal Collective's 'Here Comes The Indian.' You may have heard better examples of this Caroliner-esque cacophony, but this one'll do for your next camping-and-shrooms trip.
(5RC // www.5rc.com)
Mika Miko "C.Y.S.L.A.B.F." CD/LP
If you've ever been on MySpace you've probably heard of this band (50,000 + views!). And you probably mentally discarded them as a bunch of shit, as a "MySpace band," the lowest of the low. Well, let me ask you this: Do you like the music contained on Dischord's 'Flex Your Head' comp? Have you ever jumped around your room listening to The Slits' 'Peel Sessions'? Then I've got a record for you, champ. Here 'tis. Yes, indeedie, "early Slits crossed with early harDCore," it's a no-brainer, and it's a fun thing to do for 20 minutes. The first song even throws a head-nod at The Slits with it's title, "Take Her Serious," but it could just as well be a lost Artificial Peace track. There's really not much to say about this record, except that it might be the most fun hardcore punk record to come out in ages and it's just fucking good and it will put a smile on your face, unless you just can't get down with five post-teenage girls totally making you wanna pogo like a doof, steal Reese's Cups and Red Bulls from the convienence store, sneak into the neighbor's pool and skinny-dip, and then take a bunch of those dumb-ass photo booth photos with even your ugly friends and paste 'em on your bedroom door, and then go get a burrito.
(CD = Kill Rock Stars // www.killrockstars.com)
(LP = Post Present Medium // www.thesmell.org)
Mission of Burma "The Obliterati" CD
Sure, you've read every asshole's description of this record, this band's triumphant re-emergence, the finally-recognized genius of this most influential of US proto-post-punk bands (makes no sense, right?). So, let's focus on the details. Like how near the end of this CD, Clint Conley's songs begin to sound like the textured rock he has put forth with his other project Consonant's (quite good) two albums. The dude didn't play music for over 15 years and then he writes 3 albums worth of songs! And how Roger Miller, the intellectual of the bunch, has two songs on here ("Donna Sumeria" and "Careening with Conviction") that lock down some almost-dance grooves, while his guitar performs its casual brilliant tricks over top. And Peter Prescott's final contribution, "Period," sounds like it could have come from an early Volcano Suns record (high time that shit was reissued). Hell, now I wish I hadn't got rid of those Kustomized CDs. Prescott is the last true believer in the healing power of burly, tuneful noise rock. Someone give that guy a plaque, he deserves 20 bucks for every time he shouted like a drunk guy in a bar. I love that yell. He still does it, perfectly off-timed during Burma gigs, somehow shouting over their overdriven squall. It's enough to bring a tear to your eye, like watching the Minutemen documentary and thinking about what D. Boon would be doing now, the amazing things he would have come up with on guitar and the lyrics he would have written. Lyrics that cut to the core, through all the bullshit of "advertising psychology." Why am I talking about the Minutemen? Because Mission of Burma are back to represent fallen heroes like them; great bands lost to the sands of time and the uncaring general public. They are back for some sort of US art-punk/hardcore redemption, for all "the bands that could be your life." It's fucking glorious and they have now put out two great albums full of new, topical, and exciting songs, and it feels right. Better than right: Righteous.
(Matador // www.matadorrecords.com)
Negative Trend "We Don't Play, We Riot" CD-EP
Negative Trend! NEGATIVE TREND!! NEGATIVE FUCKING TREND!!! You make me cream in my jeans, Negative Trend. I love you in all of your twisted histories and myriad guises. Some people want to write you off as "the band those dudes were in before Flipper," but those dolts must have never heard you, because then they would know that not a single early (we're talkin 77-78, bitches!) US punk band could hold a candle to the incendiary power and reckless abandon in your music. First, with Rozz, you tore up the nascent Mabuhay Gardens scene, daring any onlooking civilian to get up close to the stage, daring them to be immersed in the chaos, the pure anarchy of out-of-control rock n' roll. You wanted to rub their faces in your frayed-knot lives, your sick, violent everyman thoughts. (Beg, borrow, or steal the posthumous 'The Pop Sessions' EP.) Then Mikal Waters joined and you honed your attack, started seeing the world outside the urban paranoia wheel you ran on, and that's where this CD comes in.
You might think that Henry Rollins ruined Black Flag (and I'm not gonna argue with you), but goddamn if that musclehead doesn't have great taste when it comes to fringe rock n' roll. This is a guy who reissued essentials like Gang of Four, The Monks, The Contortions, Devo, The Birthday Party, and more, almost single-handedly leading to and subconsciously nurturing several mini-revivals of various styles (but we don't have time to discuss that now). The point is, Hank has rescued this first, classic 7" EP from Negative Trend (also reissued on 12" by Subterranean in '84), remastered it, and slapped it on a cheap (5 clams) CD for all the sorely-lacking punks out there. Keep doing that stand-up, Rollins baby. And writing those horrible books. I don't care, if you keep doing things like this. You might be familiar with 3 out of 4 of these songs from Posh Boy's 'Beach Blvd' comp (and the 'Tooth and Nail' comp and a 7" and...), where Negative Trend had deadage teen Rik L. Rik singing these songs (and billed under his name, which is kind of a shame). And, honestly, Rik sang these songs better, but he had one of the all-time great punk voices, and Mikal does just fine, sounding less haunted and more pissed off ("RHODESIA!"). And the one song they didn't re-do, "How Ya Feelin'?," is a delicious slice of kiss-off step-over-you-in-the-gutter punk. These guys invented hardcore as much as Black Flag, Middle Class, or The Germs. Maybe that's why they sought solace in the nod-out nihilism of Flipper; they had already pushed it to the edge before others even knew where it was.
Noxagt s/t LP/CD
On their second album, "The Iron Point", Norway's Noxagt had truly reached a peak. A perfect meld of skullcap crush and frozen lake beauty, the album moved methodically between tracks of Viking berserker rage and calm-before-the-storm placidity. It was a striking sound, enabled in part by their atypical 'heavy band' line-up of electric viola/bass/drums. If John Cale had ever sat in with Swans (and he should have), this is the havoc they would have wreaked. Now Noxagt come at us with their third record and you may wonder, "What happened to that sawing, mesmerizing viola?" It's gone and so is its master, Nils Egra. In his place stands Anders Hana and his "spring loaded" baritone guitar. Some of that previously discussed finesse is gone, but it is by replaced an even more bludgeoning attack, with weird axe effects that jump out at you like a dragon in its death-throes. Records like this are quite functional in day-to-day life. You can drink, fuck, pillage (that's drinking and fucking), or dick around on the internet to this album, and there's no pesky vocals to draw your attention away from the nonstop sonic sledgehammer. Noxagt - Add it to your toolbox.
Oneida "Happy New Year" LP/CD
Originally, this was supposed to be a triple-LP called 'Thank Your Parents.' Supposedly, that ambitious idea will still come to fruition, and if so, hopefully it will provide a few more highlights than this, perhaps my least fave record in the vast Oneida ouevre. It's certainly the gentlest, which may be part of the problem. There is a distinct lack of frantic organ stabs or marathon drum sequences or sweetly fried classic rock riffs drilling their way into your crainium. As they proved on their last full-length, 'The Wedding,' Oneida can lay down lullabyes for the forest nymphs as well as any furry freak folk ensemble. And as they've proved on almost every other album (and at every live show), no one can match their repetitive, acid-drenched trance-rock. This is by no means a bad album (I don't think they're capable). If you are a fan, I say you need it. If you are curious, I say head toward 'Secret Wars' if you need to grab onto something resembling reality, then you've got some serious work ahead with 'Each One Teach One' and 'Anthem of the Moon,' two masterpieces of latter-day US psych, and you haven't even gotten to the original band (w/ Papa Crazee) yet! I think they just added Phil Manley of Trans Am on guitar, so I can imagine we may be getting some fucked-up biker-rock soon (or maybe that Demolition Derby soundtrack they've always hinted at). Oh yeah, as for this record, I gotta say that my main beef with it, besides it's kind of there/not-there aridity (which works just fine in the post-coital state) is the ball-dropping on what should be the monster track, "Up With People." This mutant disco groove machine has been a staple of their live set for years, and yours truly pleaded with them to release it on a white label 12" w/ a super-danced out B-side version (ya know, for da club), but, alas, it comes at the end of side one and it just ain't the JAM. I mean, it's cool, but in no way does it capture the total hypno-groove I've seen them lay down on this bitch in various dingy rock clubs. Oh well, you can't win 'em all, and Oneida are winners, so don't get too comfy.
Red Limo "Soulful Attack" 7"/CD EP
When I was handed this, I was told, "This is my garage rock band," but damned if these New York-by-way-of-North Carolina black-clad dudes don't sound like some old Raw Records band, complete with English accents and tweaked practice-space sonics. Maybe they don't even realize how much they sound like a second-wave second-tier Brit punk band, but I actually find it oddly refreshing. (self-released)
Seconds "Kratitude" LP/CD
Dunno what it is, maybe I've changed, maybe it's the growing uncertainty of the international geopolitical situation, who knows, but all of the new releases by Bands I Like are relegating them to the category of Bands I Used to Like. Take this Seconds record, for instance. Their first LP, 'Y', was one of the great recs of the "dance-punk craze." Hyper, addictive, sharp, clean, Minutemen-esque, it really brought the goods. Years later, and this part-time crew (main dude Zach is in Ex Models and other projects; drummer Brian Chase is in some band called Yeah Yeah Yeahs) finally get around to following that platter up, and it's just kind of...there. Sitting in the middle of the table, not exactly spoiling, but not exactly begging you to consume it with its heady aroma. Again, the album jumps the gate in fine fashion with "Moving," which sounds like an homage to DNA's "Not Moving." Or perhaps its sequel. Or evil twin. The yammering vocals, "slowly moving moving slowly slowly moving...", continue throughout the album, as if the studio has been invaded by dead Dada poets. Most tracks are repeating rhythms churning away piston-like underneath random shards of guitar noise (they call this approach Krakitude, but you could just call it "La Monte Young for Punks"). Call and response vocals disorient, but mostly just distract. Nothing is being said, but maybe that's the point. Seems like a lot of these bands have given up on Song, and are now just going for Sensation, which is fine, but they are not meeting us halfway. They are beckoning from the other side of the river, but it doesn't seem worth the trouble to get there.
(5RC // www.5rc.com)
Shoplifting "Body Stories" LP/CD
From the ashes of the original Chromatics line-up (before they got all death disco) rise Shoplifting, a mixed-gender combo who carry on in a classic P. Northwest art-punk stylee. So far they have released a 12" (pretty good) and a 7" (really good). Now comes their first full-length and what can I say, but "It's a mixed bag." Much like the first Chromatics LP on GSL, you've got some nice highs and some rather tedious lows. The second track, "Male Gynecology," is a creepy-crawling tale of some dude trying to make himself pregnant (I think). It moves along deliberately, guitars shimmering and odd sounds clicking away in the background. It's followed by "Talk of the Town," an inferior rerecording of the single's highlight. Some meandering instrumentals follow and the album doesn't pick up steam again until "Illegalistas," which bares a lot of similarities to "Talk of the Town," so it seems kind of redundant. The album was produced by the great Steve Fisk, and, on a track like "Syncope Riders," he gives the band the same sci-fi sheen he gave Unwound on 'Repetition,' but even excellent sound can't disguise the fact that there's not a whole lot of SONG floating around. And the band seems oddly subdued, unlike the 7", where it sounded as if they would beat you up for calling them queer. You could do worse in trying to resurrect the glory days of past Washington State art-punk, but this isn't quite there yet.
(Kill Rock Stars // www.killrockstars.com)
Tam s/t LP/CD
Another dud from EP! Tam is some chick who bugged Mr. Moore with home-recorded CDRs until he acquiesced and compiled this pile of crap. Ugh. Makes you long for the days of early Smog or Sebadoh, when lone freaks and their 4-tracks really had something to say, and a whole new way of saying it. Everything Tam says is in this wailing, off-key, bad-lyric, grating tone and I don't wanna hear it no more. When I looked at the track-list I thought we might have something here. "Artificial Love"? "Better Off Dead"? "Modern Man"? Is this a lo-fi homage to vintage US punk/hardcore? Nay, nay, it is an homage to the formerly wonderful idea that "anyone can do it." Yes, yes, they can. Thank you, Tascam. Thank you, Protools. Thank you and fuck you.
(Ecstatic Peace!/Universal // www.ecstaticpeace.com)
Functional Blackouts/Fashion Fashion and The Image Boys split 7"
Last time Functional Blackouts were through, Rob (bassist) seemed amused/exasperated as I drunkenly tried to explain what the FBs sounded like to my roommate. "They make you wanna kill people," I kept saying over and over. Well, they do. "Frustration" is a good kill-people song, which is followed by "1-D March," that features Wendy Monitor on vocals and makes you wanna kill your TV set. I guess they are multi-faceted. OK, Rob? On the flip, Fashion Fashion actually make out pretty decent, considering they tested my patience heavily at Horriblefest. Their two cuts of gutter-dwelling Pagan-punk is satisfying, with "Busted Life" making out best, but they still suffer from a mild case of that dreaded disease, generica. I think these are just about gone, so hurry.
(Florida's Dying // www.floridasdying.com)
Car Commercials "Grant's Dead" cassette
Car Commercials is Daniel Home Blitz's (and possible collaborators'?) down-home folk-concrete outfit. Trading in the high-strung pop of his day job, Car Commercials is a lonely, clattering, late-night phone call from the junkyard. "I've been thinking about this film I want to make. Lou Barlow kills Jandek, drags his body around, calls up Steve Stapleton to chat about it, then invites The Shadow Ring to come over and write a concept cassette about it. Fuck it, maybe I'll just skip the movie and make the music myself." I don't have voice mail, so I can only imagine what he really said.
(Leaf Leaf Records // www.geocities.com/leafleafrecords)
Imaginary Icons "Eye-Cons" 7"
New NY ensemble featuring booker prize winner Tom Dash on bass and vox and at least one dude from MHz. "Eye-Con," with its stops and starts and shouty group vocals, has some serious Homosexuals damage. If this was on the Astral Glamour collection you wouldn't bat an eyelash, and you might even throw it on a "best-of the best-of." B-side is a nice burst of moody synthy pop that pays respect to the possibilities of the early Eno sound. A great start for this new label.
(Daggerman Records // www.myspace.com/daggermanrecords)
Necropolis "The Hackled Ruff & Shoulder Mane" LP
Now you can imagine how much a hate to disagree with my elders, but this time I can't just bite my tongue. Respectfully, Scott, there is more to be said about this record. Do I love it? Kinda. Have I played it a lot? Yes. It is impeccably played (sometimes too much so) and it sounds fantastic. Also, it is perhaps the most loving tribute to Pere Ubu ever put to record. It's really strange. These folks are all over the map, but it works most of the time. You might be able to detect fleeting moments of weird dance-punk, particularly in the singer's Ex Models-esque spazzy yelp, but dig deeper and a track like "Colors & #'s" is a virtual explosion of frantic and brawny (yes) new wave with a synth meltdown at the end that sounds like a sonic loveletter to Allen Ravenstine. "Ultraviolet" has a whole section of dub effects and playing that actually works. The last song on the first side, "Innerspace," dips a toe in so many styles of rock n' roll it's kind of disconcerting, but it's not in any sort of Mr. Bungle way, and it really is the song, and it fits. The fact that it ends with a section that is equally Pere Ubu, Neu!, and Th' Faith Healers, just makes perfect sense. I'm really harping on this Pere Ubu thing, huh? Well, flip the record over and witness how everything begins to stretch out into avant-garageland. More off-kilter wave-slash with real solid rock chops and more turns into dub. But it's at the end when the worship/homage really makes itself apparent. "To The Bar" starts off like something resembling a rock song that you can see a hundred kids jumping around like mad to, then it breaks down and switches gears into a high-velocity trip where they directly quote Ubu, "out in the real world/in real time..." as it erupts with noisy soloing, screaming synths, crashing everything. The last song, "Cloud 151" (yup, you read that right; "Cloud 149"), might as well be an Ubu cover. This sounds like an indictment of this album, but it's not. I really like it. The fact that these folks are from Columbus, Ohio makes it that much more understandable and laudable. Based on this record, Necropolis are sure to make some street waves (nyuk nyuk).
(Columbus Discount Records // www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
Pink Reason 7"
If you don't know who our friend Kevin (aka Vint) is, then you probably have a semblance of a life. If you do, then you spend time talking about dumb records with fellow nerds on the forum portion of this fine publication. That's OK, we all have flaws. And Kevin, despite his tendency to froth at the mouth over both mundane and arcane subject matter, understands this better than most. His solo joint, Pink Reason, is a means to come to terms with the shit we all wallow in, some more willingly than others. Kevin is unafraid to venture down deep, and we get to sit there in our cushy domiciles and ingest his findings. And they sound fine. This self-released 7" features a style-runnin gamut of sounds, from the nod-out strum of "Slate Train" to the seesawing electronic bells of "New Violence," which sounds like Skip Spence wandering into a Legendary Pink Dots recording session. The A-side, "Throw It Away," is especially choice, a moaning droning psych-blues with some nice, understated acoustic soloing at the end. Now inked to resurgent indie, Siltbreeze, and with a forthcoming 7" on Trickknee, be prepared to hear more fucked-up stories and haunted songs for awhile.
(Savage Quality Recordings // www.myspace.com/secondculture)
Coughs "Secret Passage" LP/CD
Coughs, I want to love you. We had such a great first date with that Bent Babies EP. We've got this like thing, this playful flirting, a couple quick but meaningful glances. All my friends love you and they think we'd make a great couple, but I dunno. I dig the sounds you make: oil drum banging and sax bleating and guitar scratching and bass pounding, but I just dunno. That chick you got hollerin and screamin kinda turns me off. I need more than one dimension, more than one feeling, to really get off, y'know? You could look at some sort of equation, like: Savage Republic + Ebullition hardcore + Load Records dayglo-noise = Coughs. It almost fits my dating profile, but there's something missing. Songs? A more graceful touch? How's your bank account look? Just kidding, I ain't no gold-digger. I really like the double percussion thing, but sometimes lack of a kick-drum leads to lack of forward motion, and I'm sick of standing in place. I like long walks down seedy alleys. I like watching rats scurry about. Sounds like you might too, but maybe you just wanna screen-print T-shirts instead. I liked you in the flesh, but maybe we should wait until the next album to consummate our relationship. Sincerely, (EEK)
Foot Village "Fuck The Future" CD
Foot Village are an LA-based collective that revel in lots and lots of drums and shouting ridiculous lyrics mainly about people and places, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Peru, and the Isle of Man. This CD collects several different vinyl releases from the last few years. The instrumentation is all drums, played vigorously but not particularly well, and chanted male/female vocals. Sometimes it reaches an impressive density as multiple kits are beaten into submission. Sometimes it just sounds like rejects from the high school marching band getting revenge on their classmates. Broken-up freak-poppers Weirdo/Begeirdo stop by for what is probably the most engaging track, "World Fantasy," but just when you think it's going somewhere, the bus stalls, and you're stuck out in the desert without a glass of water or a pocket pussy. Life sucks, huh?
(Deathbomb Arc // www.deathbombarc.com)
Hans-A-Plast "1" and "2" LPs
These two LP reissues are my favorite records of the year, and I don't know whether that makes me some sort of sad-sack nostalgia artist way behind the times or if that makes these guys and gals way ahead of theirs. Let's go for the latter, as these platters sound as fresh as anything coming out of the underground these days, or any day. If I there were a computer program that could design your personal perfect band (a la' Weird Science), then, for me, I'm sure it would skip the bullshit and spit out a couple discs by these Kraut-punks. Mixed gender membership? Check. Raw punk guitars? Hell yeah. Bouncy, spastic rhythms? Of course! Caterwauling in a language I don't understand? No doubt. Songs about Humphrey Bogart and consumer goods? Sho nuff. Occasional forays into girl-group balladry? Yes! Random overdubbed found sounds? Duh. And to think I had never heard of this band until friendly local record store clerk (ahem, manager) Prof. Snipes threw this on with one of those smiles that says, "You will love this and you now owe me your soul." Well, he was right, and there must be a special place in Hell reserved for me, but that's OK, cuz in that fiery pit they are nonstop-rockin Kleenex, Slits, Abwarts, Essential Logic, and Hans-A-Plast, and that sounds like a great goddamn party. These punks set out to be disposable ("Hansaplast" means something like Band-aid), but, like Kleenex or Wire or The Mekons, they instead became touchstones for an approach to the Punkly Arts that is still all too rare in this homogenized world. It's pointless to name highlights, because both of these LPs are virtually flawless. The first one (from '79) is "punkier," but the second one (from '80) is just as great. The second LP comes with the "Sex Sex Sex" single ('81) tacked on as a bonus, and they both come with cut-and-paste zines that further your understanding/confusion. If you have a taste for any of the aforementioned bands, then you owe it to your eternal soul to purchase these reissues.
(Re-Force // www.re-forcerecords.de)
Human Eye "Dinosaur Bones" EP
Finally, some new Human Eye vinyl and not a minute too soon. I almost forgot who was the best and most interesting punk band in the US. There are some worthy contenders, to be sure, but no group is as simultaneously thrilling and mind-altering as these Detroit dudes. Throw away the comparisons to Chrome and the Electric Eels and Debris' and Simply Saucer, because Human Eye have entered their own time/space continuum and pay no tribute to no masters. "Dinosaur Bones" (brief aside: on the Gonerfest 2 DVD/CD there live track on the CD is billed as "Sly Glass Foam," but is in fact this number; also, how come no HE live footage?!) careens along recklessly, a frothing-at-the-mouth meditation on the future's past and the end product of self-extinction. It sounds like a vortex and should be playing over loudspeakers at the La Brea Tar Pits. The B-side was either printed wrong, or the sleeve is mislabeled, but, either way, it starts with a cover of the Urinals' "Hologram" that is different from the one floating around on the Human Eye demo a few years ago, and ends with "Shapes and Numbers," which rides a bi-polar sad/celebratory crescendo off into the sunset. Get. Now.
(Ypsilanti Records // www.myspace.com/ypsilantirecords)
Rose for Bohdan "Then everyone hugged "Racism is God"" CD
Brian Miller, he of the Deathbomb Arc label and many of its bands, is like some sort of art-chewing music-spewing man-machine. Not everything that comes out of this goose is gold, but ya gotta give him credit for working that ass. Rose For Bohdan is his "rock" group, meaning they sound like a bunch of art kids invading a Guitar Center, plugging everything in, and having a cross-store jam (well, this is something I've always wanted to do, but still). The electronics on here use some of the worst sounds you could possibly find on a synthesizer, but that may be the intention. The bass rides a sort of clean-tone/sloppy-math thing with occasional forays into amped-out feedback, while Miller's panicked vocals recall legions of West Coast screamo dudes, but it's tempered with some humor, as they don't seem to take things too seriously. There are songs here though. The first track, "Friends Forever," (an ode to the van-rockers?) constantly breaks down and jerks around, even quoting "Love Will Tear Us Apart" for no apparent reason. That's pretty much indicative of the whole record. Lots of engaging and even catchy parts followed by another part that doesn't make "sense" and is sometimes incredibly dumb. But sometimes those parts of kind of rad, even if they're fleeting. Total ADD Destruction. (Deathbomb Arc // www.deathbombarc.com)
(Olfactory // www.thesmell.org/olfactory)
Roue' "Totally Fuckin Totally" 10" EP
In this man's (not-so-humble) opinion, Roue' (basically French for Bastard or Rapscallion, or something to that effect) are the best band from Cleveland, OH, and have been for several years now. Their debut album, "The Upward Heroic Motive", while having some production issues, was a beast of epic proportions. One major problem with that record was....no vinyl! They have addressed this issue by self-releasing this four song 10". It opens with the Unwound-esque "Some Future, Some Despair," then jumps into "Soft and Easy," which starts hard and punishing, slides into a moody bass groove, then brings it home with one of their poppier moments. On the flip, "Totally Fuckin Totally" features the kind of full-throttle dissonant guitar melodies that Sonic Youth wishes it could still pull off. The last track "Spirit and Opportunity," opens with two full minutes of stargazing guitar before bludgeoning you with blast beats and anguished screams of "I need more power/bring me the water." Get the man a whiskey instead.
(self-released // www.roue.org)
The Stapler "Metaphysical Haircut" CD
One of the best labels going right now, Columbus Discount is bringing back the shit-fi sound of early 90s indie punk in glorious fashion. One look at The Stapler's album art and you know they love early Pavement and Guided By Voices and The Grifters and Archers of Loaf and Superchunk and probably The Fall, too. This is all fine by me. Am I nostalgic for my younger years spent discovering these grimy but oh-so-delicious sounds? Probably. Is this retro? Maybe. Am I being too rhetorical? Definitely. This record is good. It kinda peaks with the first two songs, particularly "Subway Tunnel Charm Bracelet," which uses a keening violin to excellent effect. Sounds like they kidnapped a music student from OSU, fed him some Drixoral Cough and Congestion gel-tabs and told him, "Play this, and if you play it 'right,' we will kick the shit out of you." "The Calvary Lasers" is like hearing a classic Superchunk cut through layers of silt and garbage. "Temple of Fortuna, Part Three" throws down some sloppy punk angst that sounds like maybe they've been paying attention to fellow Cowtowners, The Feelers. But really, it's just an expression of the eternal FUCK EVERYTHING vibe of the best mid-Ohio bands, from Gaunt to Monster Truck Five to some band on Burnt Sienna that no one's ever heard. The album was recorded by Jared from Times New Viking and it has that 'as heard by the upstairs neighbor from a basement two floors below' feel to it, which is just fine; occasionally what might be some sweet riffs get a bit lost in the hiss and in-the-redness, but that's the trade-off you make for being real. I like haphazard pop music made by drug addicts (see fellow townsfolk Psychedelic Horseshit). If you do too, then get this limited to 500 CD.
Terribly Empty Pockets s/t 12" EP
More Columbo musings via our pals, Columbus Discount, and, woah!, what do we have here? Anyway Records split-release?! That's right, Columbus' premier indie label from the 90s, purveyors of all things cracked and lo-fi, co-releases this extended EP. But be warned: This is not your older brother's Anyway band; Terribly Empty Pockets are super-polished pop-rock. They recall literate 80s New Zealand pop like The Verlaines, The Chills, and The Bats, but there's a certain X-Factor missing that made the best work by those bands timeless. "Good for what it is," but I can't see many TB readers jumping out of their socks for this one.
(Anyway Records // www.anyway-records.com)
Vampire Can't "Key Cutter"LP/CD
Vampire Can't is Vampire Belt, Chris Corsano and Bill Nace's two man drums/guitar/electronics wrecking machine, and Jessica Rylan's solo noise joint, Can't, combining forces for maximum destruction. The two Vampire Belt homemade CDRs were two of the better "organic noise" (what I like to call noise that is made using actual instruments) releases of the past couple years. Now, to be completely honest, I would listen to anything Chris Corsano did, including a field recording of him taking a shit on the White House lawn or even in your grandmother's backyard, so, there's that. He is surely one of the most inventive and powerful drummers currently walking this earth. Kind of funny then how much of this album reminds me of Mindflayer, Brian Chippendale's (from Lightning Bolt) noisy-ass drum/tronics project with Matt Brinkman. There's not much to distinguish between tracks here, as most are just balls-out (apologies to Jessica) noise-meltdowns with Corsano flailing away in the background. Not bad, but nothing really sticks in the craw. The last track, "No Strings," stretches the proceedings out to better effect, but it's too little too late.
Creeping Nobodies/Anagram split 12" EP
The last few years has seen Toronto's fertile hardcore punk scene rise to international recognition, but there is more going on in that city than young kids channeling the speed and rage of early 80s US HC. Take The Creeping Nobodies, for instance. The name is a Fall reference, but their number one influence is the long-running, genre-bending punk of Holland's The Ex. With two LPs, a few EPs (including last year's excellent Half Saboteur 12"), and several lengthy North American tours to their credit, Creeping Nobodies are steadily building a rep as makers of quality records and an intense live act. Their side on this 12" features two extended songs that work like mantras with dueling male/female vocals, rattling chains, alternately chiming/slashing guitars and rumbling drums. Not their best stuff, but very worthy regardless. On the flip, the unknown (to these ears) Anagram impresses with two tracks of menacing post-punk that recalls early UK coldbringers like Killing Joke and Zounds. Not too far removed from France's Frustration and just as good. "Mt. St. Capt. Doom" throws some subtle squawky sax in amidst the pulsing bass and monotone vocals. "Manic Indulgence" is even better, lumbering along like a death train intent on delivering its cargo. All aboard!
(Blocks Recording Club/Dead Astronaut // www.thecreepingnobodies.com)
Brian Miller/Kevin Shields "We Had a Baby and It Will Die" DVD
Yeah, I wish it was that Kevin Shields, too, but it's not, it's some chick and the tireless Mr. Miller making some noise for 5 to ten minutes at a time. This DVD documents a West Coast tour of what looks like boring art spaces, which, un/fortunately, are the only kind of places you can get away with stuff like this. Give Miller some credit, though. His two main schticks at these performances are vaguely interesting. First, and best, is his "amp-as-instrument" tactic, which involves him slamming his two (assuming tube) amps together and throwing them around the room. This yields some cool sounds and keeps things visually stimulating. The other is him running around the room with a roll of duct tape and creating loops of stickiness to draw the audience in. Probably kinda fun if you're there. And this brings me to the real meat of the matter. Our world is becoming over-documented. Between the Internet and cheap methods of producing Artyfacts, we are destroying any notion of Time, Place, Moment, Present. You damn kids are taking this too far. When you document something that is purely meant to be "about the moment," you destroy what is inherently interesting about it. Instead of, "Yeah, I went to this noise show and this guy did [blank] and then he [blanked!]. It was fuckin nuts, dude!" Instead it becomes, "I went to this noise show. It was pretty cool. Hey, I'll send you a YouTube link and you can see what you missed." Maybe I am a cranky bastard, but we are all dying quicker then we'd like to think and I want to cling to the memories, embellished or not, and not have my life and what I may or may not have witnessed playing on some screen like a fucking Hollywood movie. Take back the means of production and dump them into the river. Do you think God watches YouTube?
(Deathbomb Arc // www.deathbombarc.com)
V/A "7" Up!" CD/LP
Last year, England's fantasticly-named Crippled Dick Hot Wax! label brought us a CD collection of (ex-Pop Group/Glaxo Babies) Maximum Joy's out-of-print vinyl output, now they present us with further diggings of the UK's once-vibrant post-punk scene. This comp covers similar territory as Hyped2Death's Messthetics series, and even though it is not quite as essential, it is still a worthy endeavor and a good purchase if the sound of disaffected Limey youth 25 years gone by is something that tickles your crippled dick fancy. Glaxo Babies' "This is Your Life," while not as innovative as their Nine Months to the Disco album (CDHW! please reissue this!), is still weird enough to please. Contact's "Constant Beat" is even better, with a great chorus only an art student from Manchester could come up with, while I Jog & The Tracksuits recall Tronics with their fey, home-recorded oddity, "Redbox." Gerry and The Holograms continues the creepy weirdness with their theme song, sounding not unlike Danny and The Dressmakers. Side 2 opens with They Must Be Russians' snarky STD-educational "Don't Try to Cure Yourself" (also on Instant Pop Classics). It's followed by Ireland's Moondogs, who, according to the informative liner notes, had both Ray Davies and Todd Rundgren slated to produce them plus their own Monkees-like TV show, Moondogs Matinee. Their track, "Imposter," is great power-pop as good as anything by The Undertones. Thomas Leer sounds like Howard Devoto covering Another Green World, Cult Figures get goofy and sarcastic like Black Randy and The Metrosquad, and Henry Badowksi is like a synth-driven Television Personalities on domestic ode "Making Love WIth My Wife." I think I just talked myself into loving this comp, and maybe you should too.
(Crippled Dick Hot Wax! // www.crippled.com)
Black Lips/Demon's Claws 7"
Part of Norton's ongoing Rolling Stones cover series (packaged in loving facsimiles of the original London sleeves), Black Lips turn in what sounds like a tossed-off version of "What To Do" (from the UK press of Aftermath). It ambles along alright, but I would have killed for their take on, say, "Stupid Girl." Demon's Claws, on the other hand, nail the slurred Irish ambiance of Beggar's Banquet's "Factory Girl." Unless you are collecting the whole series, I wouldn't say this is entirely necessary, but if you're a fan of either or both bands, it might be worth the five bucks.
(Norton // www.nortonrecords.com)
Black Time/Husbands 7"
So maybe Midnight World wasn't the ass-kicking world-beating noir-spiked punk rock thrill-ride you were hoping for, but it wasn't exactly dog-shit that you accidentally stepped in on your way to Starbucks neither (you fucking yuppie you). Black Time had been running through those alleys at a hectic pace and maybe they needed to run into a wall (and break a hand or two). A little distance did them good and their side of this West Coast (you fucking hippies you) tour-only (not really though, I got this at a store) seven-incher reminds you why you fell in love with these post-Riot modsters in the first place. "Downtown" is a bouncy urban rant with the whiny voice of Limey Caution reverbin over some almost psych-key action. Nice. "ESP Medium" is an instro the way they used to make 'em, drillin the beat but still catchy. "Charm Offensive" alternates its trad-garage verses with fast punk choruses. Husbands have always struck me as a novelty band, and their side doesn't dispel such thoughts. The Cramps-lite "Monster Party" was recorded live on WFMU which is.....fine. I don't think I need another cover of "I Idolize You," but if you do, well, here 'tis.
(Show and Tell // www.myspace.com/showandtellrecordings)
Bossy/Dirty Looks 7"
Two NYC bands featuring ex-members of Bent Outta Shape, a band I've never heard, but I see their name here and there, so maybe you have. Live, Bossy come off like the sort of decent indie-punk band that populated the underground landscape during the heyday of '90s indie rock. On record, they display some major K Records damage, the deadpan (female) vocals directly recalling Calvin Johnson, but they ain't quite (Beat) happening yet. Dirty Looks kick up a little more dust on their two cuts, but even the youthful enthusiasm of "Work in Progress" is not enough to save this slice o' wax.
(Salinas // www.unshadowed.com/salinas)
Times New Viking/Psychedelic Horseshit 7"
This split sucka by two of the current leaders of the lo-fi resurgence was pressed in honor of their short East Coast tour a few months back. Both sides are 33 rpm, so there's a nice chunk of music to chew on. On TNV's side, "Lover's Lane," which was recorded back in '04, hits the same noisy goodness as their Dig Yourself LP. "Common Cold" is a short hint at something bigger a la' Guided By Voices, and the newest of these songs, "Bad Looks," continues the winning streak.
The strange, garbled "modern folk" stylings of Psychedelic Horseshit sound like Bob Dylan tuning into a Fall-dominated John Peel radio show via shortwave radio. They even namecheck ol' Zimmerman on "No Soul 2" shortly after the graceful couplet of "I wanna fuck/and take a ton of drugs." Falling apart at the seams, these acid casualties are the sort of rejects you should be looking to for answers to life's mysteries.
(self-released // good luck)
Cross-country lovefest on this puppy. Trashies from Seattle give us a quick Devo-gone-hardcore sumpin sumpin called "Mongo Retardo" and then do a decent cover of "Sooprize Package for Mr. Mineo." Stab a motherfucker in the (hunch)back. Straight outta the Pine Barrens, New Jersey devils Hunchback lay down an organ-driven workingman's lament called "Sixteen Tons." They follow the format with a good but kinda puzzling cover of "Too Drunk to Fuck." We would've preferred their dirgy version of "Heart of Gold," but this'll do.
(Freedom School // www.myspace.com/freedomschoolrecords)
Wizzard Sleeve/LiveFastDie 7"
From the Deep Dirty Souf comes the molasses-and-cough-syrup spludge of Wizzard Sleeve. "Chrome Intensifier" conjures nasty thoughts of A Frames covering "Hamburger Lady" on a silt-barge. Hypnotic bass dirge meets clattering drum machine and moaning far-off vocals like some sort of chopped n' screwed version of punk rock. Get 'em to Houston, gather up some codeine, set up a sesh with the ghost of DJ Screw, and let's hear a new sort of "crossover." LiveFastDie are a bunch of poofs from the tri-state area who go by silly nicknames like Faghag, Bedshittalker, and Braygay. Oh yeah, cant forget Gozac Termbo. But they make some tasty punk, well, at least one of them does (think it's Faghag, but I can't keep it straight). "Armageddon" seems to be yet another song in the LFD canon about getting hammered past the point of no return, while "Pizza and Vomit" is a nausea-inducing bassy/tweaked vox number that almost lives up to their side of the cover art.
(Jeth-Row // jethrowrecords-at-yahoo.com)
Blank Dogs "First Two Weeks" 12"
Who is this masked man? Dunno, but who cares when he (and she?) are making such discombobulating sounds. Maybe Mr. Blank Dog is trying to teach us a lesson about our society's cult of personality. Maybe this person is a known quantity in our little underground circle-jerk niche. Maybe it's fucking Thurston Moore fer chrissakes. Taking both conceptual and musical cues from the original mystery group, The Residents, Blank Dogs are making the big come-up awfully fast, but it's well deserved. If you're familiar with any of the recent reissues of early "minimalist" synth-punk then these sounds will be treasure to your ears. Particularly the retarded synth freak-out at the end of Side One's "Surveillance Man." So retarded that The Spits are are sleepless in Seattle with jealousy. I like Side Two even more. "Ambulance" steals a guitar riff from some classic punk song that....I can't....quite...name. Yes, it's driving me crazy. "Dismorphobia" (fear of being ugly + early 70s hard rock ref?) is the real hit on this platter. Hell, I heard my roommate singing along to it the other day. Great nervous bass line and strangely haunting vocals plus the catchiest melodies on any of these songs. Here it is, kids, all your agoraphobic dreams cum true: Fad Gadget on a budget, lost tracks that should be on I Hate The Pop Group, Ralph Records, what the fuck did ever happen to Vileness Fats?
Blanks Dogs "Yellow Mice Sleep" 7"
Spankin new 45 by our mysterious friend, and it's even better than the 12. "Yellow Mice Sleep" betrays its creator's fond feelings towards My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain with its dreamy melody and thick, soupy guitar-bed. "Housefly" quivers and disturbs, while "Smashed Up People" is Mr. Blank Dog's best song yet, stuffing a catchy chorus into what sounds like a demo version of a Chairs Missing cut. Better jump on board, there's another 12" comin down the pipe! Scum Stats: 100 yellow vinyl (sold out?), 400 black.
(Hozac Records // www.myspace.com/horizontalaction)
Car Commercials "Jar" 7"
Not only sporting one of the best band names currently going, Car Commercials also features one Daniel Dimaggio, he of Princeton, NJ's manic pop thrill, Home Blitz. Dunno if you'd call this a "side project," but CC trade in a different sort of damage. Mostly this reminds me of the fractured bedroom musings of early Sebadoh recs like Weed Forestin' and The Freed Man, complete with tape fuckery and other messings around. Admittedly, there's nothing here on the catchiness level of "Little Man" or "Punch in the Nose," nor is there quite the late-night creep factor of their cassette release, but I can say with some confidence that none of these "songs" will end up on a Subaru ad.
(Leaf Leaf // www.geocities.com/leafleafrecords)
Cheater Slicks "Walk Into The Sea" LP
I know a dude who hates the Cheater Slicks. He says it's cuz they don't tune. All I can say to that is, "Shove the 12-tone system up your ass, throw out your copy of Psychocandy, and lick my hairy anal fissure." My God, what is wrong with people these days? The Slicks could give a fuck about tuning, and I could give a fuck about their not giving a fuck, cuz, well, they don't give a fuck about nothin (see opening cut "My Position on Nothingness"), and nobody seems to give a fuck about them (except for rabid thousand-strong fan base), so, fuck everything, OK? What's their to say, really? Yeah, it's lovely out. Fuckin great. Lemme pop a boner. I got a nice day boner and nowhere to stick it. NOwhere. Permanent state of existence for these folks. Maybe they're married, maybe they're record store clerks, maybe they're gravediggers. Maybe they'll buy you a shot of Whiskey at the watering hole, but they'll probably just save their money for another shot for them cuz Fuck You, right? "Run Run Run" and "Crackin Up" are the garage punk unknown classics on here, and they makes me real goddamn happy. This record makes me fucking happy, OK?
Cheveu "My Answer is Yes!" 7"
Ahh, Cheveu, the only French Glue-Wave (thank Killings or Boyd for that one) band to have brought their huffy taint to the dirty American masses. And we thank you for it, you fucking slimey hair-farmers. "My Answer is..." sounds kinda threatening, what with David pulling his "I just smoked a joint laced with PCP" vocal excoriations. Flip it over and you get the wacky, light-side-of-the-force style that reminds so much of Trio and also really makes you wanna to go out and ogle girls, cuz I think that's what it's pretty much about. Comment vous dites "pussyhound" en Francais?
El Jesus De Magnifico "Funeral Home Session" EP
Haven't hear these guys' full-length, but I am digging this 33 1/3 rpm 7" EP. Slurred musings sounding not unlike Royal Trux trying out a Joy Division cover. The spaced-out vocals hover above and around the meandering playing, but it has a sort of hallucinatory quality. A bit aimless, but I used to live in a converted funeral home in Columbus, so I can identify where these dudes are coming from.
Grinderman s/t CD/LP
Nicky, baby! Can I get a "Hell yeah!"? HELL YEAH. This is what I'm talkin' 'bout. All respect to your Leonard Cohen fantasies, Mr. Cave, but this is what the public wants. Grinderman is basically a slimmed-down Bad Seeds getting back to their roots. It's the most raucous thing they've done since Tender Prey, if not their debut, the classic From Her to Eternity. I guess there are some moments on Murder Ballads that go for the throat, but there is also a lot of superfluous bullshit on that one and this monkey skips all that. Newest addition, violinist Warren Ellis (of Dirty Three), shoves everything over the top with all manner of awesome wah-wah'ed, distorted, and delayed sawing. His textures replace the departed Blixa Bargeld's six-string molesting, and, look at this, Nick picks up a guitar and starts rockin'! Mid-life crisis never sounded so good! Who needs a Ferrari? Believe it or not, even in The Birthday Party, Cave wrote all his songs on piano, but he stops the ivory-tickling for just a sec and we like it. You've also got Jim Sclavunos on drums and that guy was in Teenage Jesus and The Jerks (when he was an actual teenager) and you can't get much cooler than that (Lydia Lunch took his fuckin virginity, ferchrissakes!). This album isn't amazing, but it is damn good, and it's nice to hear that even a debonair international man of mystery like Nick Cave has problems getting laid (the hilarious "No Pussy Blues"). "Depth Charge Ethel" takes the heavy-organ pseudo-gospel stylings of that double LP that came out a couple years ago, but strips it down so even the heathens will like it. He even sounds like he's singing with a sneer again. Recommended to all die-hard and fairweather Cave fans. The rest of you.......there's a Birthday Party record with your name on it, waiting for you, grinning seductively.
(Mute/Anti // www.anti.com)
The Hunt "One Thousand Nights" 7"
Pretty sure this band's from NYC, but they probably wish they were from Manchester, or maybe Leeds. Lots of early Cure worship on here, but, oddly enough, the singer's voice recalls a newer UK import: the dude from Bloc Party. Side A, "One Thousand Nights," drags on far too long and sounds a bit iron-deficient. The flip has a little more oomph and throws in some possible Killing Joke influence, but it still won't get these guys on the cover of Melody Maker (yes, I know it's defunct).
(Monster Squad // www.monstersquadnyc.com)
Los Llamarada "The Exploding Now" LP
Whether from the seedy streets of Gay Paris or the hairy backwoods of Northern California, Sacto's S-S Records is not afraid to venture far and wide for new strains of outsider punk music. Their newest discoveries hail from Monterrey, Mexico, not exactly a known hotbed of Weird Punk. There's some interesting junk on this LP, but, truthfully, much of it seems unfinished. I like things raw, but a few more stabs at some of these songs could've benefited the group. Maybe it's the lo-fi production on here, but a a lot of this stuff sounds like Times New Viking, which is kind of funny, but not really so crazy. Cycles, yo. I like when they layer noisy guitar and keyboard swirls as on "Lies." "The Discovery" is almost thuggish, but in a playful way. "I Welcome Tomorrow" has a great all-encompassing organ drone while some dude mumbles and screams in the background. "Je Sois" (can't escape them Frenchies!) could easily fit on one of those Sonic Youth SYR dillies; it sounds exactly like some breathy, sketchy Kim Gordon piece. The rest of side 2 drifts off in a haze of noise hovering over rudimentary drums and indecipherable vocals. Hopefully they keep it together for round two, cuz that one could be a doozy.
(S-S Records // www.s-srecords.com)
Necropolis "Stumpf" EP
Wow, this is quite a departure from their excellent, decidedly "pro" sounding LP. This 7" was recorded on 4-track at their practice spot and it sounds great! "Stumpf" is a an aggressive garage-punker with drunken vocals and screaming leads flying all over the place. "Van v. Art" steps back into the more post-punk sound they do, but is just as aggro and noisy as the A. I like when bands show us all their schizophrenic moods. Ace.
(Columbus Discount // www.columbusdiscountrecords.com)
Night of Pleasure "Godard vs.Truffaut" EP
Total Albini-damage here, especially in the wire-cutter guitar sound. But the songs veer into classic punk territory, off-setting the scrape n' clang. "Caesar's Palace" sounds like early Gaunt, but even noisier. "Bitch Pitch" has a New Bomb Turks vibe, but filtered through a decade of pig-fuckery. Actually, it all comes up smelliing like Monster Truck Five, which is as close to roses as you can get in Cowtown. Real classic C-bus shit here. Cool swirly black vinyl too.
The Ponys "Turn The Lights Out" LP/CD
Can't help but wonder if the title is a reference to Interpol's college-chart-busting Turn On The Bright Lights, which was also on Matador. Cheeky bastards, these Ponys. Now, the obvious joke would be, "What's the diff between these gay indie bands anyway?" Hardee har. Yes, The Ponys sure are sounding more "indie" these days, but that's apropos of nothing, really. Although I could see the first cut, "Double Vision," maybe burnin up a chart or two. It's similar to Celebration Castle's "Glass Conversation," with its deep reverb stabs and hooky chorus. The rest of the LP follows suit, walking the middleground between Laced With Romance and Castle. I think Romance is a classic and I think Castle could've made a great EP, instead of an OK LP. This one continues the streak. They head back into noisy, reverb-drenched waters on some of these cuts, but you've also got some sluggish, boring tracks like "Shine" and "Kingdom of Hearts." "Poser Psychotic" sounds like current Sonic Youth. Nothing on here surprises like "She's Broken" and damn I miss Ian's songs, they added another shade and kept everything from sounding so rote. Hate to say it, Ponys, but I don't wanna fuck you no more.
(Matador // www.matadorrecords.com)
SIDS "+/-" 7"EP + DVD
Let's start with the packaging: Absolutely stunning. Cut-out cover revealing not one, but TWO layers of etched vellum-like paper adorned with all manner of skulls, flowers, and band members. Honestly, this thing looks it should have come out on ThreeOneG and had the name Get Hustle or Love Life on it. (This is not an insult, by the way.) Instead, you get Hotlanta's Sudden Infant Death Syndrome bashing their way through a mini-album's worth of songs. First cut, "+/- (Swastika Heart)," is the winner, all frantic synth blurts and manic, Hot Rod Toddy vocals. "Acid One" is the funHouse jam, tripping you out with the mirrors bending your head this way and that. Other side has a lock-groove in the middle of the record which is pretty fucking cool if totally fucking annoying. There's some kinda repeating blown-out madness happening that I'll let you try to wrap around yr head. Bonus: Comes with DVD-R of the 7" tracks plus photos n' shit. Another quality release from Rob's House.
Times New Viking "Presents the Paisley Reich" 12"
Now that Times New Viking has made the jump to mega-indie Matador, let's evaluate their brief but shining career, shall we? Their debut, Dig Yourself, was a sleeper hit just a year-plus ago. One of those "you gotta hear this" records you play for all your friends until they see the light and love it just as much as you do. Well, it was for me at least. Last record I can remember being that pushy with was The Ponys' Laced With Romance. Before I moved to The Big Apple, I tried my damndest to turn all of the North Coast onto that sucker. Thank you and you're welcome. Soon after, seems the whole world was feeling the vibe as indie rockers, punks, noise freaks, and even hardcore kids were joining hands in solidarity with the blissed-out basement punk of TNV. Gerard Cosloy must've gotten a whiff cuz now they're "big time." Bout fuckin time Matador signed a band that references what made them in the first place. Enough of the goddamn Adult Contemporary shit, folks!
OK, so the credit really lays on the brow of Tom Lax, who brought back his defunct/classic label Siltbreeze just to put out this band's records (and now Siltbreeze is the toast of the town again). They say pop culture moves in cycles. Sometimes "they" are right. So, how's the new mini-LP (nice lyrical etchings on the flip)? No huge strides are being made, and that's OK with me and probably you, too. Some have implied that this one's better than Dig Yourself, but I don't really buy that. It's more like a continuation. Same perfect, fuzzy production style, same real good, catchy songs, same great boy/girl vocals singing witty lyrics about small town doings and big escapist dreams. Bottom line: You like this band? You like this record. We'll see what happens next.
(Siltbreeze // www.siltbreeze.com)
White Savage s/t 7"
Quite the pedigree on this beast: Hollywood from Tyrades, Jered from Ponys, Colin from Screaming Yellow Zonkers (lawsuit pending), some dude from Chin Up Chin Up, even a guy from post-rockers, Euphone. None of this really matters though when you put the needle on the record. "Destroy Your Style" is blistering tribal-punk intent on ruining your day, but it won't; unless you have shitty taste in music. You could dance to this mess of animal howling, trumpet bleats, and rolling drums, no prob. The flip has one those Tyrade-style covers where they would essentially turn a cover into their own song. I really dig that song-as-launching-pad formula, and here White Savage picks Teenage Jesus and The Jerks' classic "Orphans" (which originally was a kind of tribute to Yoko Ono's "Don't Worry Kyoto, Mommy's Only Looking For Her Hand in The Snow"). With its disco bass line, angular guitars, dive-bombing electronics, and paranoid vocals, White Savage is actually sounding a lot like early Liars, which is not a bad thing to me, and shouldn't be to you either. One complaint: This sucker seems like it could have been mastered a little louder. Other than that: Best super-group since Traveling Wilburys. Scum stats: 100 "fur sleeve edition." 400 "savage black."
(Hozac Records// www.myspace.com/horizontalaction)
Yukon "Mortar" CD
Saw these guys play a ripping show in a NJ basement that sounded like US Maple plundering a Black Flag fakebook. On a less immediate format, their well-played but fairly trad mathcore sounds more mannered and calculated (bad pun, I know). There are some razor-sharp riffs and rhythmic hairpin turns executed with panache and passion, yet, in this far-off world of 2007, it's gonna take some serious death-defying stunts to really impress. Vocals, of course, are an afterthought and remind you why the best of this style is usually instrumental. Wish there was something new here, but there ain't. Makes you wanna pull out the first Drive Like Jehu and hear it done right.
(Terra Firma // www.terrafirmarecords.com)
Abe Vigoda 7"
These kids are onto something. Previously wading in a No Wave-y pool, they have now set sail for the equator like an 18th-century Portuguese explorer. My only complaint about "Animal Ghosts," is that it's too damn short. They build up a storm of guitars and drums that comes to an abrupt halt just when you're sorting it all out. The B-side, "All Night and Day," sounds like a condensed version of the more rocked-out Animal Collective material. The reverbed/delayed guitar tones on this 45 sound like dew-drops from a rainforest. They call this "Tropical pop" and that is an apt description. Seriously makes you wanna crack open a coconut and a Corona, like one of those ubiquitous ads. They got sand in their joints and stars in their eyes.
(Post Present Medium/Mosher // www.postpresentmedium.com)
Pink Reason "By A Thread" 7"
Awesomely depressing Cakekitchen vibes on the side-long "By A Thread." Lowdown voice, like Ian Curtis from beyond the grave, or, hell, still-alive dudes like Roy Montgomery or a Jefferies brother. There is an undeniable connection to the fine tradition of New Zealand outsider/bedroom pop here. It manifests itself in the dirgey, yet somehow catchy and memorable, grinding guitar melodies and relentless forward motion of the drums. It all ends up sounding so far away, like your lover or dying mother gazing into the distance, but also so close, so intimate, like a cold hand on the back or a hot breath in the ear. "The Devil Always Wins" is the live hit staple. You clap along as Kevin sings the snot-encrusted "it only hurts when I lafff" lyrics. It's like a lost 'Anthology of American Folk Music' field recording, unearthed for these troubled times. "Down On Me" is the most-straightforward pop song yet by Pink Reason. It's comes on like a ray of sunlight peaking through the clouds, but ends up revealing itself as another bittersweet ode to life's gray moments, albeit with more "uplifting" melodies, a nice bridge, and fleeting moments of what might be hope.
Silver Daggers/Shearing Pinx split 7"
Silver Daggers are starting to wear out their welcome with their side of this split. One track is a passable cut, recorded live at The Smell, that is redeemed only by the pounding bass n' drums. The other cut is a tweaked-out practice space jam that reminds you of why hip-hop belongs in the street, or in the early 80s. These folks need to start writing some songs, or at least stop completely aping styles from the past. We still have some good will left, let's not blow it. Shearing Pinx, on the other hand, take some old styles (mainly early SY and G. Branca bands like Theoretical Girls) and make them sound fresh as a bar of Irish Spring. Their guitar sound alone scores big points, but this bass-less trio manages to craft interesting and somewhat hook-y sounds out of their No Wave slash n' burn. They have a bevy or releases, so maybe start somewhere else, eh? Scum stats: Limited to 400.
(Arbor // www.arborcdr.com)
We March 7"
Unbelievably, this is the first vinyl appearance by these broke-as-a-jokesters. Ridiculous, especially when you consider that We March is one of the rippingest, tearingest hardcore punk bands in the country. No, these guys do not satisfy your desire for textbook 80s HC, your taste for ironic bandana thrash, nor your OCD-complex need to pigeon-hole every riff and vocal sneer. If you must trainspot, then strap in tight, because you can check off a few decades' worth of small-town depression/hate with this band: Stooges, Negative Approach, Cows, Black Flag, Butthole Surfers, Necros, Saints, ah whofuckincares. The real point is: you need to see this band live. But if you can't, this EP'll hafta do ya. First side features two thrashers: "The Choice," and "Beep Beep Beep," which blazes by until the almost NYHC-esque mosh breakdown at the end. On the flip, "She Who Makes Dogs Shiver" is a dense, tough-as-nails rocker that bores a hole into your head. Rock n' roll made with an eye cast towards hardcore and vice-versa. Scum stats: Limited to 300
(Wicked Singles // www.wickedsinglesrecords.com)
Little Claw "Spit and Squalor Swallow The Snow" LP
The main objective for Michigan trio Little Claw seems to be hypnosis. 'Spit and Squalor...', their second LP, opens with a striking statement of this intent. "Hobo Baby Zeus" utilizes singer/guitarist Kilynn's multi-tracked stoned moan to invoke the gods of train-hopping and oil-barrel fires. Back that up with the fantastic "Movies For You," a dead-on replication of The Pin Group's late-night JD/VU strummathons, which actually puts it midway between the aforementioned Group and their later incarnation as Dadamah, Kilynn's voice echoing Kim Peiters' anguished wail. Except here, the mood is full of lust and fascination, whereas the New Zealanders were portraying the moment after said lust has been satiated, often with a lifetime of regrets to follow. "Brackish Stratum" brings it down to a Gories gutter-punch, while "Prickly Pear" steps into the junk-shop, rattling shit around and getting loose like a dime-store Tom Waits. "Polar Bear" closes out side one with more Dadamah-esque shudders. Side two is a bit of a come-down as its aimlessness isn't quite as bewitching as the first side. But "Shoplifting Cart pt. II" ends things on an approriately feverish note, sounding like a pagan ritual being performed in a Wal-Mart parking lot. 'Spit and Squalor Swallow The Snow' is a perfect record for rainy afternoons and wee-hour whiskey drunks.
(Ecstatic Peace // www.ecstaticpeace.com)
Shellac "Excellent Italian Greyhound" LP/CD
Is there a more divisive figure in underground music than Steve Albini? Sure, he's not poking a finger in the public eye as much as in his heyday of the 80s and 90s, but he still wields a hefty amount of influence and his skinny-ass shadow still falls on much of the indie/punk world. You can usually find me on his side of the chain-link fence, ready to excuse whatever blanket statement he has most recently made, and, more importantly, championing his music, which, until recently, has been almost uniformly excellent. Which makes this new Shellac LP (their first in 7 years) so painful. '1000 Hurts' was a grower not a shower, but this slab doesn't compel many repeat listens. Sure, the packaging and artwork is typically luxurious, eye-popping, and bizarre, but who really cares when the music itself is so devoid of life? I really think that Albini and bassist/fellow engineer Bob Weston have become so adept at recording themselves that they can't hear how the ultra-meticulous techniques have rendered their music so hermetically-sealed that it exists in its own vacuum. And that's probably the way they want it. Shellac's "minimal" rock is actually quite unique, despite its superficial similarities to the endless cavalcade of math rock for the last 15 years.
Yet, divorced of all recording issue ephemera, the songs here do not deliver. They sound lazy. The long opening track, "The End of Radio," starts as a lesson in snare-drum recording, segues into a pointless fractured-narrative (what does it all mean? who cares) by Albini, and occasionally trots out some guitar amidst the repeating bass-chords. It goes on way too long (but not as long as that first song on 'Terraform') and when Albini starts shrieking "Can you hear me now?!" you can barely muster the brain-power to try to tell if he's being ironic, or just out-dated. Maybe someone told him he looks like the dipshit in those commercials. "Steady As She Goes" is an inferior rewrite of 'At Action Park's "A Minute," while "Be Prepared" starts out promising but winds up going nowhere. "Elephant" is a semi-catchy Weston-sung ditty that succeeds on its own modest terms. The meandering "Genuine Lullabelle" opens side two like the companion to "The End of Radio," but really only distinguishes itself via a brief appearance by Word Jazz master Ken Nordine, who could liven up even the dullest of parties. His voice is like butter melting on every nook and cranny of an English muffin. The rest of the side chugs along with a series of unimaginative rhythmic lock-downs. "Boycott" is passable, sounding like another 'Action Parl' outtake, and then, ironically, the last song finally brings some rambunctious energy with the frantic "Spoke." This record doesn't "suck," per se, it's just boring as goddamn hell.
(Touch and Go // www.touchandgorecords.com)
A/V Murder 7" EP
I might be the only person awaiting new White Savage material, but if this is what Jimmy Hollywood and other Chicago nervous eaters like Bill from Cococoma (hey, they’re still around, right?) are gonna dish us in the meantime, I, for one, am superfuckinghappy. Maybe exactly what you’d expect; intense jittery knife-edged punk much like Tyrades, with definite Jenna-like vocals, but as good as ever and it’s nice to hear this paranoid sound again. Somehow, it’s soothing. Like walking the streets in a really evil mood and the secret joy that comes with imagining killing everyone in devious ways and smiling to yourself. Or maybe that’s just me.
(Dusty Medical // www.dustymedicalrecords.com)
Bad Party "Coming Out Slowly" LP
What if Whitehouse were a dance band from Detroit? What if you were at a party where there were no girls, no booze, but mountains of cocaine? Heavy pondering, I know, but it would probably sound something like this duo (one guy used to be in Tamion 12-inch). The beats could hit a bit harder, but the fuzz bass keeps things grounded in rock, while the Bennett-esque vocals make you feel like you’re cornered by a cokehead at a curtains-drawn party in a bombed-out part of town. Yes, a Bad Party, indeed. Gimme the Thorazine, maan…
(Animal Disguise // www.animaldisguise.com)
Jacuzzi Boys “Island Avenue” EP
All love affairs must end, but I wouldn’t write off The Black Lips quite yet. They still got mad tricks and a couple handfuls of great songs up their sleevelesses, but if you are yearning and burning for some of that olde tyme flower-punk sound then you can do no better than Florida’s Jacuzzi Boys. Get past the icky name (brings up semen-laden hot tubs in this perv’s mind) and surrender to what sound like third eye/bardo garage jams of a decidedly mystic quality. And what do we owe this too? Multiple viewings of ‘Holy Mountain’ sippin on sizzurp? Crowley by way of Crypt? I’m babbling. Here’s the dope: “Island Ave” has a guitar line that seems to directly reference that Shadowy Men/Planet ‘Kids in the Hall’ theme and will burrow under your skin in one listen flat. “Dream Lion” is astral punk par excellance (a new genre everyday!). It sticks a lucid thumb in Carlos Castaneda’s eye and sounds like a long strange trip through a painted desert. “You Oughta Know” is the party jam and it rounds out one of the best 7”s of the year.
(Hozac Records // www.horizontalaction.com)
Little Claw "Race to the Bottom" 7”
“Race to the Bottom” is a strum hard - ask questions later ditty with the urgent vocals driving it towards its conclusion. “Feeding You (Your New Home)” is the real winner here, creeping around in that junkyard rock thing they do with Kilynn’s vox sounding distinctly like Lydia Lunch’s circa “Honeymoon in Red" and it makes me wanna do some smack (with my hand!).
(Siltbreeze // www.siltbreeze.com)
Mayyors "Megans LOLZ" EP
The thing about Mayyors is they have this tremendous momentum, yet they also indulge in these time warp meltdowns that sound like an aural simulation of some hideous biochemical event. A perfect example is Side A, segueing from the get-ready head-churn of “Intro” into the propulsive punk of “Airplanes.” That bass sound KILLS and then it drops into a part that literally sounds like a plane taking off (almost like Silver Apples “You and I”) and then dive-bombs around some other in-flight emergencies. Time to join the Mile High Club. B-side “White Jeep” totally confirms my hunch that Mayyors sound a lot like prime Slug, ‘The Out Sound’-era, a fucking great record that needs to be sought out again and probably reissued on a lavish 2xLP set. I mean, I can practically hear Mayyors covering “Aurora f” and would not be surprised if they soon ventured into a noisy sort of dub, like a few cuts on that Slug rec and latter-day Terminal Cheesecake.
(Gomerdome // www.mtstmtn.com )
Short Rabbits "Dying By Inches" LP
Dark CLE punk like they used to do back in the bleak Reagan Eighties and all that fear and paranoia has come back around again as markets collapse and we’re scared of the skeletons next door. Makes sense as Short Rabbits are based and sung by Charlie Ditteuax, former 3-string bottom-dweller in seminal Clevo band, Easter Monkeys (still time to track down their lone LP, chump!). Easter Monkeys, along with bands like The Guns and Spike in Vain, embodied a drugged-out hero in the urban wasteland kind of ideal and Short Rabbits reconnect to that sound/idea. Nice to hear Buddy (former Neon King Kong/current This Moment in Black History) rip off some choice rock n’ roll licks on opener “Beat Seeker” while his wife pounds the skins like Ed Gein at a drum circle. You’ve got spacey alienation cuts (“Out of This World”) and sinister mood-Monkeys (“The Murder Room”) mixed up with classic hardcore punk (“R U Receiving Me?”). And that’s just side one. Side two features more desperation, but it ain’t all gloom and doom. “Little Insects” comes along just in time and will get you shaking some ass. Twenty-five years too late to be on ‘The New Hope’ comp, but just in time for Christmas.
(My Mind’s Eye // www.mymindseyerecords.com)
Sonic Chicken 4 “Midnight Girl” 7”
This is a no-brainer. Sonic Chicken 4 put out a mighty fine longplayer on In The Red last year, impressed everyone with their live show, and if that’s not enough, it’s on Rob’s House which is a sure-as-shit sign of quality. “Midnight Girl” has an almost Deadly Snakes-esque feel with a great rave-up in the middle. “Toe Man” could be a minute or so longer, but whatever, I’m actually more of a Neck Man.
(Rob’s House // www.robshouserecords.com)
Strange Boys “Woe Is You and Me" 7”
For some reason, I’d thought I’d hate this band, but this ain’t half-bad. The front sounds like a decent combo of Deadly Snakes/Black Lips, which isn’t the most ground-breaking thing right now, but they do it OK. I’d take the Midwestern grit of Goodnight Lovin’ over this, but you may prefer differently. You may also think you could never hear another version of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and you may be onto something, but Strange Boys don’t embarrass themselves with it, unlike The Go doing “Gloria” at this show in Cleveland years ago. You may have thought it was impossible to fuck that song up, but, hey, you’d be wrong.
(In the Red Records // www.intheredrecords.com)
Tyvek “Sidewalk” 7”
I think this EP completes the slow process of getting all of Tyvek’s hit CDR ‘Fast Metabolism’ on wax. Which is great. But, honestly, a song like “Future Junk” has so much power, velocity, and presence live at this point that these versions are nice to have for documentations’ sakes, but makes ‘em almost disappointing to listen to. “Sidewalk” doesn’t suffer as much for this, sounding like a lost Desperate Bicycles track. Worth it, but it’s time for an LP already, gentlemen.
(M’Lady Records // myspace.com/mladysrecords)
Livefastdie/Lover! split 7”
I’m a little dumber for listening to this one, or at least my girlfriend probably thinks so. There’s really no decent way to defend my singing “I’ve got a booger in my asshole” all day long. But, I’ll hand it to Lover!, it wouldn’t be my refrain this afternoon if it wasn’t a really good, really catchy song. Full of fuzz-toned guitar, an impeccable melody, and first grade bathroom lyrics, this fires on all cylinders. On the flipside, Livefastdie compliment nicely with a good punker that keeps the theme alive.(DH)
“Sick of Shit as Shit” is yet another in a solid line of LFD songs with killer riffs that are just this side of ass-shaking. The sound is maybe a little less grimy, which makes the Garageband beats sound a lil’ too fake. Time for a full-band record? Lover! Is Rich Crook’s prolific one-man (in the studio at least) pop-psych-punk band, perhaps not uninspired by Camero Werewolf. Rich goes for a real groovy new wave sound on this one. If it wasn’t called “Booger in My Asshole,” I could actually picture this playing in a pivotal scene in ‘Valley Girl’ or at least ‘Mannequin’ or something.
(Douchemaster Records // www.douchemasterrecords.com)
Mutators/Shearing Pinx split LP
Simply put, Shearing Pinx are just a perfect noise-punk band. Taking their cues from early Sonic Youth (‘Confusion is Sex’-style), but upping the brutality factor along with a mingly/mangly mix of chaos and precision, they contribute a side-long piece of ravaged guitars that plays like No Wave jazz. Smack! Mutators are fellow agitators from new-ish (?) punk hotbed Vancouver BC, and their Scratch Acid/Jaks attack is a beautiful beast to behold. Coming off a bit more hardcore, yet also dirtier, than those bands, Mutators have a singer that sounds like she wants to claw your eyes out. Scratch that itch, baby.
(Ugly Pop // myspace.com/catcall)
V/A "Shiftless Decay" LP
Maybe you thought the recent Detroit rock scene peaked years ago, when White Stripes were a genuinely exciting phenomenon and Dirtbombs were still new and laying down sick dance-floor jams between Tom Potter’s snarky remarks. Or maybe you veered more towards the damaged, genuinely dangerous sounds of Clone Defects and The Piranhas, easily two of the best punk bands in the country at the time. Well, I hope you never stopped paying attention, or at least started again. You’ve heard of Tyvek, right? This label called X! Records helped you out with that, and they’ve also released some great records by Frustrations, Fontana, and Terrible Twos among others. Now they’ve got a nice scene comp, the way they used to make ‘em. And shit is quality. Tentacle Lizardo kick it off. They were sort of like Piranhas' brother band and they show up here sounding mighty fish-bitey. Human Eye follow with “Fix Me Universe Nurse” and if you’ve glommed that LP, then you know what kind of epic astral-punk you’re in for. Frustrations are biker-psych-punk for a new generation and so they appropriately approximate a “Psychedelic Motorcrash.” Terrible Twos drop off “Negative Drip,” which kinda sounds like Catholic Boys w/ a synth. Heroes & Villains and Johnny Ill Band close out the first side with a couple of poppier numbers that sound like 80s college rock, H&V sounding particularly Clean-ish.
Flip leads off with a 2004 demo version of Tyvek doing “Flashing Lights,” which is nice to hear, followed by the ridiculous scum punk of The Mahonies, featuring some dudes from Terrible Twos. Hunt down their single, it’s good, and funny. The Fontana song isn’t quite as killer as their 7” from last year, but this is a band to watch. Anxiously awaiting their LP. Little Claw do a very different take on their “Feeding You Your New Home” than on their recent Siltbreeze 7”. This one is a noisy blues that I’m gonna call “the Gories version.” THTX is new to me, but their “Monorails to Nowhere” is cool psych inna George Brigman vein. Odd Clouds are an ESP-Disk-inspired semi-super group of noteworthy Detroit dudes and they get weird and communal and, shit, maybe you should spark that joint now.
(X! Records // www.x-recs.com)
Vivian Girls “I Can’t Stay” 7”
I’m not here to debate Vivian Girls with you, I am merely here to tell you that if you like the LP, you will also enjoy this 45. “I Can’t Stay” is as good as anything on there and has a dark undercurrent, which is beginning to bubble to the surface on their newer songs. The songwriting seems slightly more sophisticated, but not in any sort of forced way. The B-side is an apparently mis-titled cover (supposed to be “Run Spot Run,” by Daisy Chain), but regardless it’s a lovely vision of the Girls’ way with reverb-spectral voicings.
(In The Red // www.intheredrecords.com)
Zola Jesus s/t 7”
I can see why people wouldn’t dig this. I can see their little thought-bubbles with silent cries of “Tori Amos!” “Fiona Apple!” “Lilith Fair!”. Fair enough, I say, but I’m also thinking “Marianne Nowottny!” “Azalia Snail.” “Suicide?” Hell, in some ways, Zola Jesus sounds like a lo-fi Portishead. I kinda dig it.
(Die Stasi // myspace.com/diestasi)
Black Congress “Slums of Heaven" 7" & “London’s Burning” 7”
Black Congress are a Houston TX rock unit made up of some former Fatal Flyin’ Guilloteens and who knows what else. What I do know is they bring some heavy punk, unafraid to grind out hypnotic riffs with all manner of keyboard/sample noise adding to the din. “Slums of Heaven” almost gets into Loop territory, a rainy day bass-heavy dirge. You’d probably be happy to know that “London’s Burning” is not a Clash cover, but maybe less pleased with it’s rather pedestrian ‘90s post-hardcore vibe. I think it’s the unnecessarily distorted vocals, but the song itself never communicates the rage it’s attempting to channel. “Davidians” is better, circular bass groove and random noises adding some depth to the proceedings. I just realized how much this sounds like Slug (esp. the vocals), but without the latter’s, shall we say, charm. With a little more focus, Black Congress could be a deadly force. I really dig the black-and-white photo aesthetic they’ve got going on with the sleeves of these two self-released singles. Rumor has it that AmRep is gearing up again, and maybe we’ll be hearing more from these guys via those guys.
(self-released // blckcngrss.blogspot.com)
Circle X untitled 12”
Praise be to the holy god of Nihilism that this monumental slab of No Wave/proto-noise rock is finally once again available in the preferred format, 12” vinyl. Originally released in France back in 1979 on Not a Label, reissued on CD in 1996 via Dave Grubbs’ short-lived Dexter’s Cigar imprint, and now, once again, courtesy of Insolito, this 4 song masterpiece is out there roaming the dirty streets looking for kicks, and maybe to get kicked. It’s truly remarkable how contemporary this sounds, yet it is so utterly of-its-time. An additional paradox is how absolutely filthy ‘70s New York it comes across, yet it was written and recorded in France. Opening with the closest they get to a traditional rock song, “Tender” has a guitar line that predicts The Pixies ten years early, punctuated by perfectly-placed feedback breaks. Tony Pinotti’s anguished vocals complement the gradually-disintegrating track with maniacal shrieks to “Bow to me!” “Albeit Living” begins with layered voices reciting a brief poem then dives head-first into an abyss of near-hardcore velocities and eviscerated guitar entrails. “Onward Christian Soldier” is a dirge that plows endlessly forward, an awful invitation to a pointless slaughter; almost like a Black Sabbath song cut adrift from blues and groove, a post-“War Pigs” trudge towards annihilation. “Underworld” starts off prefiguring the violent hardcore poetry of Antioch Arrow and interrupts with mournful breaks before savagely ending just as you are getting a handle on the cacophony presented to you. It is a breathless listen, and it is highly recommended.
(Insolito // www.insolitorecords.com)
Lognhalsmottagningen "Fina Nyanser I Nya Finanser" 7”
Holy fuck, this record. I’m tempted to do one of those ultra-obnoxious “This is what punk should sound like” spiels, but I’ll spare us both and just say that This is what punk should fucking sound like. I have no clue what they’re saying and I have no idea how to pronounce their name, but I do know that the drums are recorded so perfectly it makes me want to cry. The snare just thwacks you in the face with every hit, the bass has a great gnarly, dirty, but not too distorted, tone, and the guitar coats it all in a glorious sheen of treble. The singer rants just right and I dunno, it’s just really goddamn good. The only thing I can make out on the insert is that they lift a “melody” from the Young Identities’ “Positive Thinking.” Hey, great artists steal. But it’s “Nya Lognhalsar” on the B-side that makes me want to jump off a building in pure ecstasy. I swear it’s one of the best punk songs of the last few years. The weird thing is one of these dudes was in Boyracer or something? There’s a Slumberland connect. I love this record. Buy it.
(Local Cross // www.localcross.com)
Scarcity of Tanks "Bleed Now" CD
Scarcity of Tanks is the ongoing concern of Matthew Ming Shank Wascovich, a reclusive poet perched on the shores of Lake Erie. Despite his playfully anti-social tendencies, “Wasco” has managed to rope many a talented Cleave musician (and sometimes beyond) into his free-rock band, flirting with noise, jazz, and the more avant-garde offshoots of hardcore punk. 2008’s No Endowments brought all of these disparate factors together in a satisfying long-player. Bleed Now finds the group as close to a “normal” rock band as they have been yet, maintaining a relatively solid line-up and playing shows on a consistent basis. The album storms out with “August,” establishing the template, as Wasco declares his lyrics over Ted Flynn’s guitar, which peels off new directions in Classic rock shred, like Joe Baiza raised on The James Gang. The rhythm section is all muscular throb, bassist Sebastian Wagner occasionally finding the hidden melodies beneath the avant-thrum (like on “Cardboard”); the drums are in the capable hands of journeyman Clevo skinsman (and painter), Scott Pickering, Puff Tube himself, member of bands ranging from Spike in Vain to Speaker/Cranker. At the mid-century mark, he still pounds harder than kids a third his age. The man is a rock. Not content with just monotoning his abstract lyrics, Wasco sings more on this release than ever before. “Requisite Fire” has a meditative Lungfish serenity, which is blown apart by the hardcore gallop of “Melt Dove Miles.” SoT has gone through some interesting transformations over the years, but this newest version may be the best yet. On Bleed Now, they come across like some sort of mutant post-punk avant-garage Jim Carroll Band, sans the Catholic guilt, instead a heaping pile of Rust Belt blues on their plates.
(Total Life Society/Textile // www.textilerecords.com)
Sleetmute Nightmute "Night of The Long Knives" LP
Recorded back in 2003, and quickly vanishing into a haze of on-again/off-again possible release (mostly through that notorious scene-hopping label par excellance, Troubleman Unlimited), this legendary (to a certain scene of people at least) album finally sees a proper burial via Gossip guitarist Nathan Howdeshell’s new-ish label, Fast Weapons. The Portland group was a No Wave nightmare, a post-hardcore/math rock MARS, chops to burn, especially the drummer, who executes some truly sick rolls, and alternately pleading and pestering vocals. “INTERFERENCE….B&B Girls” is nearly 6 minutes of relentless No Wave pounding, stripped of all the gimmickry of the majority of Skin Graft bands, leaving the song itself lying in the street, a naked, mutilated corpse. “Scaring the Birds…Don’t Speak My Name” sounds like what you always thought acid rain felt like. This is dark stuff, confronting the more uncomfortable aspects of flesh and its desires, similar to the body horror expressed by contemporaries like early Chromatics and Shoplifting. The slash-and-burn attack of The Scissor Girls (and even Bride of NoNo) comes to mind, but Sleepmute Nightmute shows no sense of humor, instead clamoring forth with an intensity and focus rarely seen in today’s underground. The musical dexterity is off-set by the palpable anxiety and despair. It’s certainly not a fun listen, but I find myself continuously returning to the album, surrendering to the corrosive sheets of guitar and agonized vocals, but most especially those drums, which sound genuinely pained. Despite all the emotional turmoil in these songs, it makes me happy to see this lost slice of early Ought noise is finally out there for the general public.
(Fast Weapons // www.fastweapons.com)
The Slugfuckers “Three Feet Behind Glass + Instant Classic” LP
The Fuckers of Slugs practically wrote this review for me. Contained within the thick-ass record jacket, in true Dada fashion, is a manifesto. It trumps any references to Down’s Syndrome PiL, Psychedelic Horseshit in a particularly foul mood, or even merely typing the names People With Chairs Up Their Noses or Makers of the Dead Travel Fast.
CONCEPTUAL OPACITY – AN ABBERRANT MUSIC: The Slugfuckers’ Test of Musical (Dis)Taste [a selection]: “This band is one big joke, one endless experiment, one eternal orgasmic wank, one in TERMINabLe BORE.” “…our only recourse is to be anti-music, therefore pro-noise.” “The audience as beggar.” “The music is just an excuse.” “…better than eating or sex sometimes.” “The sound of stoppage and breakdown.” “We spray it all back at you.” “You dose yourself with mucus, booze, and downers…”
They almost break the spew/spell with a list of “friends and heroes” that includes SPK, N-Lets (who?), TG, Pere Ubu, Lee Harvey Oswald, ATV, The Pop Group, Yippies, Tristan Tzara, Luigi Russolo, etc. But the “CRAZYMIX, SCAPDASH” rant continues, and concludes with a threat of an invitation: “We advise you to keep away. We want to pulverize you with our maniacal love squeeze, hot tears up your cunt, shove spiders up your prick, force hedgehogs up your nose: We want you to feel like us and die. Throw away your strings.”
(Insolito // www.insolitorecords.com)
Sperm Wails "Lady Chatterly" 7"
Anyone who is hip to the Sperm Wails knows that it’s a goddamn tragedy that they didn’t release more material. I don’t care if they toured with My Bloody Valentine, I don’t care if they personally rolled Kevin Shields’ spliffs every night, I don’t care if they wore their mums’ knickers when she went to church on Sunday mornings, I don’t care if they diddled dogs’ assholes with their tongues, I JUST WISH THEY HAD PUT OUR MORE SHIT. A 12”, a 7”, a flexi (hey it was the ‘80s), that’s it! Argh!! They had a modest legacy of being a relatively forgotten great band that time forgot, until five years ago, when a video from the Shelter Video Compilation (whatever the hell that is) was posted on YouTube. The video was for a song called “Lady Chatterley,” that didn’t appear on any of their records, and was perhaps their most vicious song (and this is a vicious band). The video seemed to hint at dark and terrible things, while the music sounded like Pussy Galore stripped of everything but the hate and yeah fuck the blues, we got plenty of depression and spite to draw from. A small-scale web sensation for fucked-up losers clued into such things. Enter S-S Records, beloved label of those same FUL, and now this song finally feels the kiss of wax. “Mr Wonderful” is a throwaway, a dalliance, but who cares when you’ve got that song on a little 45 rpm single. What is “Lady Chatterley” like? As scissorkicks comments on the youtube: “This song makes me want to smash everything ever.” (S-S Records)
Human Eye/Sex Beet split 7"
There’s plenty of talk on “the Scion issue” spread amongst various forms of readily available media, so let’s skip that and address the music itself. Human Eye’s side was recorded by Ivan Julian (Voidoids) and he’s got a nice touch, softening the Eye up a bit for their take on Timmy’s “Martian Queen.” It works. You can hear early Alice Cooper band in the rolling drums and melodic psych guitar action. Somehow these guys can take that in-bred Detroit influence and twist it into something fresh. Sex Beet, on the other hand, seem completely out of place on the flipside. Their tune, “Alone,” (and it really is a “tune”) is a pleasant enough slice of catchy, vaguely psych, pop, but, really, what’s the point? You’ve got to try a lot harder if you’re gonna be on a split with Human Eye. Saves the trouble of turning the record over, I guess.
Women in Prison "Strange Waves" 7”
Hey all of you heavy-hitting punk collectors out there, I got some news for that ass: Great punk records are still being made! I know, crazy, right? Here (along with that Lognhal… platter) is one of the best of recent memory. Straight-up raging scuzz-punk from Austin TX. This here 45 contains three of the world-beaters from their six-song demo that came out last year. I thought “Suicidal Exit” was the hit, but it’s not to be found here. Doesn’t matter cuz these guys got songs for days. Yeah, they actually remembered to write some!
I, for one, appreciate that kind of forethought.
This is what this record sounds like: Your cool friends just spontaneously formed a band, they’re bursting with a couple ideas, they get a case of beer, they go down to the basement (I know it’s Austin but bear with me), they turn on the old dust-covered PA, the one from the Seventies, the one with the sick reverb that’s got presence and depth unlike these goddamn tinny pedals of today; they crank the guitars up to a nice Saints-like roar, and as the drummer deals with the fact that the drum kit is a piece of shit, a reverse pride starts forming as a matter of fact. “I’m gonna make this pile of junk sound good,” he thinks. They start playing. You are three floors up, reading a book about autoerotic asphyxiation, slowly squeezing a lemon, when you realize that the distant thunder you feel shaking the house is actually the dudes downstairs and they are fucking killing it. “Strange Waves” makes you wanna freak out, fuck anything that moves, then snort it up your nose, hell shove it up your fucking ass. A lightning bolt hits you: “My dumb-ass friends are the best punk band in the city, the state, maybe even the whole country….?!”
(HozAc Records // www.hozacrecords.com)
X-Ray Eyeballz "Crystal" 7”
What’s the proper nomenclature for a group of bands that are all connected? A gaggle? A flock? A murder? What about “shit-ton?” X-Ray Eyeballz are part of the incestuous Brooklyn scene centered around Golden Triangle(band)/Live with Animals(art gallery/showspace)/Beacon’s Closet(vintage/used clothing store). You see a lot of these same people in a lot of bands (K-Holes, Heavenly Blows, etc.), but the fact is, most of these bands are pretty damn good. X-Ray’s got OJ and Carly from GT (on vox/guit and vox/bass repectively) plus Rop, late of PeeChees and a friend to dogs everywhere. They have a sort of woozy, spooky vibe that doesn’t quite ever fully plunge into the swamp or the garage, but sounds just strange enough to carve out their own identity. Part of that is Rop’s weird keyboard and synth moves that add little bits and layers for your ears to pick out. The A, “Crystal,” is a good example of this; it seems kinda familiar and traditional, but there’s something about it that worms its way into your head (there’s a great video up on the webs for it too). The B has two quick numbers, the first of which is a decent Oh Sees rip, the second of which, “Kam Sing Nights,” has a nice shuffle and more prominent keys.
(HozAc Records // www.hozacrecords.com)
NOTHING IS TRUE/EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED
Since Our Esteemed Editor deemed my previous attempt at a column too self-centered, rambling, and perhaps even "faggy," we're gonna try a different tact on approaching this thang. Records! You like 'em, right? OK, then, let's take a look at some recent releases by three totally happening underground rock labels. Let's start this bitch off with what is the no-contest Lord of Noise Rock Labels, muhfuckin Load Records.
In the 90s, we had Skin Graft bringing all sorts of masked insanity to the clamoring hordes (that would be aggressive, nerdy kids who wanted something beyond the ol' 1-2-3-4). Skin Graft had a glorious run, blessing the world with such headscratchers as US Maple, Flying Luttenbachers, (the underrated and totally bizarre) Zeek Sheck, Mount Shasta, Space Streakings, mighty Melt-Banana, Brise-Glace, and plenty of other art-punk super-heroes. I thought it was the greatest shit going for a minute, a cure-all to banal pop-punk garbage and boring-ass "punk" rock. But then Y2K happened and Skin Graft's circuits were scrambled. Just when it seemed as if we were about to plunge back into the Dark Ages, Load came along, shifting its focus from pretty alright but nothin-special "noisy" rock (remember Thee Hydrogen Terrors?) to full-on freak explosions. Of course, Load, like any great label, started out as a reflection of its local scene, and the art-student mecca (Talking Heads, dude!) of Providence RI was entering a goddamn renaissance of real-deal Noise Rock, emphasis on both words. Inspired by the anything-goes creativity of the fading Chicago Now Wave scene and Skin Graft's Dada/Pop Art attack, Load picked up the gauntlet, threw a fresh coat of Dayglo paint on it and BAM! CRASH! ZAP! there were lots of new fucked-up bands to spazz out with. Ten years later, Load is a brand name, and while all their releases aren't total mind-blowers, they at least warrant a closer look. Yeah, "Get to it, windbag," I hear you say. Wish = command.
At this late date, Load has expanded its focus far beyond Providence city limits, going across The Pond even. It started with Norway's punch-drunk Vikings, Noxagt, and continues with Finland's HETERO SKELETON, who feature some dudes from the much-lauded New Weird Finland psych-folk stream. Hetero Skeleton is not folk music, unless you consider the sounds of amp-torture to be folk music (admittedly, these old world definitions are being strained and rearranged with each new day). Despite the Finnish origins, the album is called En La Sombra Del Pajaro Velludo, which means Loud Ass Shit Made By Robots Who Are Trying To Quit Smoking, and is divided into two parts. The first is called "La Oracion Del Muerte" and sounds like Hair Police trying to approximate a BYG side (ie. free jazz through amps to eleven). The second part ("El Serpente Del Amor") lets the horns shriek a little higher in the mix and you can even make out drums and garbled, slobbering vocals. This shit is blown-out like a Teengenerate rec. If you can take early Sightings, you might eat this one up. Which brings us to AIR CONDITIONING and their new one, Dead Rails. AC are from the fertile and small-town sleazy Allentown PA scene that gave us Pissed Jeans, among others, and used to converge on the Jeff the Pigeon venue (where this LP was recorded) and maybe still does. The Sightings reference works real nicely here, as AC trade in the sort of distorted-to-the-brink-of-pain guitar scree as that group. But, you can also hear echoes of speaker-destroying Japanese hard-psych like Mainliner and High Rise. There's not quite as much Blue Cheer worship as those bands, but there are still some overtones of heavy rock pummel and groove, especially in the lumbering, monolithic final cut, "Accept Your Paralysis/Cephalexin.". Just hope you like some white noise with that riff. One band I just don't get/like on Load is WHITE MICE. They have all the classic Load signifiers: Satanic mouse costumes, towering amp stacks blasting unholy loudness, goofy album/song titles (the LP is called BLASSSTPhLEGMEICE and there's tracks called "Mousestasssh Ride" and "Turban Sprawl"), etc. To me, though, they come off as the noise scene's very own Anal Cunt, which isn't exactly a compliment. They sound like gODHEADSILO trying to play dress-up with some Scandinavian black-metal. It's just corny and the music is redundant. Live, it didn't move me much more. Taking a break from the kill-yr-eardrums assault, we have the debut full-length from SILVER DAGGERS, who hail from LA and are part of that city's thriving art-punk scene centered around DIY venue, The Smell. Although their name is most certainly an Electric Eels reference, Silver Daggers sound nothing like the greatest punk band ever (yeah, you know it), instead they explicitly recall Euro art-punk squall like The Ex, and, most of all, the incredible Dog Faced Hermans. This means you get lots of bass-heavy grooves paired with slashing guitars and squawky sax courtesy of Mika Miko's Jenna Thornhill. Now, this being 21st century US punk, there is the inevitable synth action, but it is tastefully used and doesn't get in the way of the tumbling, yet controlled rhythms. Also, these songs do not approach the astute political and social commentary of a Dog Faced Hermans cut, but it's still thrilling to hear the kids trying their hands at these sounds. I really like the lonely sax intro to "Faithful Unlawful," which segues into a pounding Gang of Four-esque bass/drums lockdown. New High & Ord was recorded by Mike McHugh and has cover art by Gary Panter(!). Jumping right back into the noise fray, we have what may be my favorite of the recent Load spew, MONOTRACT, which features Carlos Giffoni who, besides playing in various musical combos, organizes No Fun Fest, which is like the noise scene's mini-SXSW (I'm sure he'd love that comparison). Not positive of the exact instrumentation on here, but I would guess laptop, guitar, and drums. This clash between the organic drums/guitar and the swirling, grainy sounds of the computer gives Trueno Obscuro an interesting tension. The drums sound great, weaving in and out of the noise, which is curiously and blessedly non-harsh. And there are songs here, with understandable vocals and everything! Pretty radical in this milieu. Hmmm, here's a strange, but entirely appropriate, comparison: Laika. When Nancy Garcia sings on this sucker, and sounds are a-buzzin like a rainforest and the drums lay down that tribal beat...yeah, it kinda sounds like Laika (after being raped by Merzbow, of course). Who's Laika? Yeah, well, don't ask, but they were good and an unexpected precursor to the sounds herein. So, I fucked up last review cycle and forgot to do USAISAMONSTER's newest one, The Sunset at the End of the Industrial Age. It's fucking good. More stream-lined than the double-LP Wohaw, Sunset continues USA...'s record-a-year streak in fine fashion. More homeless-man-who-is-a-really-good-guitarist rants from Colin and more of Tom's multi-part epics about These United States, pre-European ruiner invasion. Manifest Destiny, my ass. Finally, while not on Load, we would like to mention Lightning Bolt drummer extraordinaire, Brian Chippendale's solo project, BLACK PUS. So far he has self-released three hand-packaged CDRs, of which I have 2 and 3 (MetamorPus). If you've heard Chipps' other project, Mindflayer, than you have some idea of what's going on here: piercing, feedback vocal noise slathered over frenetic drums that sound like Dave Lombardo taking a gander at Rashied Ali's recorded work. Just in case you think this shit ain't punk, here's the lyrics to 3's fairie stomp, "Earth Ain't Enuff": "come by my neighborhood/to buy my neighborhood/come at the crack of dawn/singing your slimy song/wearing a fresh pressed suit/crafted from wireless loot/then grab my neighbors place/leading the property race/buy all the water too/earth ain't enuff for you." (www.myspace.com/blackpus)
Now that we're done with that cacophony, let's focus on the triumphant re-emergence of legendary '90s indie, Siltbreeze. After taking a lengthy sabbatical, Tom Lax decided to get back in the game (like Michael Corleone) after having his ears pricked by some great new bands. We all know about Times New Viking, who have been rising fast n' bulbous and are now signed to Matador. But let's check out the newbies cuz this latest batch of releases yields three of the best records of the year so far. The mysterious DER TPK (Teenage PanzerKorps) charge hard out of the gate on Harmful Emotions with "Theme Control," then get all cloudy and faraway on "Headless Voice," and that encapsulates much of what they do. There's a distinct Dead C vibe running through this LP, but it's tempered with a Wiry commitment to short songs. The staticky, dramatic vocals and droning guitars are tempered with powerful, straightforward drumming and weird edits that interrupt songs just as they start to float away. You've also got fast punkers like "German Jesus" and "Blood Math" and ginchy, disconnected cuts like "Catholic Radio" and "Government Christians" (apparently they have issues with God). Needless consumer guide: If you have to chose between the Los Llamarada LP and this, go with Harmful Emotions; they're good for you! Now, for what could be fave LP of the year, now, and six months from now. SAPAT's Mortise and Tenon is one of the best homages/extensions to/of Krautrock I've ever heard. Not that it is a slavish imitation, far from it. It kind of sounds like what I've always wished No-Neck Blues Band would (and occasionally actually do) sound like. Starts off with "Vulvasonique," a lovely drone that very slowly and deliberately builds to a full-on senses-encompassing blissful rock-out called "Maat Fount," and goddamn is it beautiful; like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. And that butterfly takes wing on "Dark Silver," which gives off hints of second-album Amon Duul and....Fuzzhead! Yup, this album reminds me of Fuzzhead at their best, which makes a lot of sense cuz Fuzzhead used to be a major player in the '90s neo-psych scene (and they're still around and still great, goddammit). Mortise and Tenon is a head record the way they used to make 'em. It plays through various moods and sounds; graceful and spacey one moment, rocking out with lysergic guitar leads the next. There's little of the Beefheart vibe found on last year's 7", but this is just as good. From Kentucky, no less! Also hailing from a sort of backwoods, PINK REASON should be familiar to most regular TB readers. After the art-punk jag of Der TPK, then the graceful psychedelia of Sapat, Pink Reason is the perfect late-night come-down. Cleaning The Mirror is a drowsy mix of cough-syrup vocals, stoned acoustic strumming, distant almost-bluesy leads and occasional electronic beats and FX. The over-all effect is mournful, but the resignation seems to take on a Nietzschean slant. This record might not kill you, but it will make you stronger.
(Warning: I live with one of the proprietors of the following label and also he is in one of these bands, so take it with a grain of salt, I suppose).
Recently, Brooklyn scene-heroes/godfathers, Oneida, started a label, Brah, that is basically an imprint of their label, Jagjaguwar. Oneida gets to choose all the bands and lets Daddy do all the heavy-lifting, which is perfect if you think about it. After putting out some so-so records by friends' side projects, Brah signed Brooklyn bros Part and Labor and Pterodactyl. Around the same time, Parts and Labor started their own label, Cardboard. For these two releases, Brah/Jag released the CD, while Cardboard put out the LP. Blue Jay is PTERODACTYL's first long-player and it does not disappoint. All the spastic energy of their live show is translated along with studio touches that make this record one of my favorites of the year. This is headphone punk. "Polio" explodes in a frenzy with a manic drum beat and weird trebly guitar figures as the mutli-part high-pitch harmonies come out you like a swarm of bees. "Safe Like a Train" is reprised from an earlier 7" and sounds like Fake Train-era Unwound. "Three Succeed," too, was on a 7", but this version really nails the swelling noisy guitar and creepy harmonies. "Ask Me Nicely" is manic Ptero-style hardcore, threatening to derail at any moment. But, like the best of their songs, it manages to be memorable and unnerving. This record takes a step forward for any noise-rock bands trying to write interesting songs that feature innovative sonics. It ends with "Esses," their finest moment to date. Innovative sonics and catchy songs are nothing new to PARTS AND LABOR. Mapmaker is their third LP and shows why they are one of the best bands currently going. Last year's Stay Afraid was a watershed moment, combining noise with a Husker Du-like ear for melody and songwriting. I'm probably saddling Parts and Labor with a burden they don't want, but, then again, they are sort of asking for it. They represent a sort of post-[insert famous date here] cautious optimism that actually comes off as sincere and artfully accomplished. The lead off cut, "Fractured Skies" has punishing drums and squealing electronics, but also an uplifting horn part that swells like a cleansing wave. This LP isn't quite as bombastic and anthemic as Stay Afraid, but it shows a few other sides, like the danceable "The Gold We're Digging," and the fast n' fun one-minute hardcore of "Camera Shy," which could've been on a Blasting Concept comp. The whole SST thing really comes home to roost with their cover of Minutemen's "King of the Hill." Just to clarify. this is not "Brooklyn hipster shit," it's just really fucking good music. OK then. Finally, Cardboard has released a CD by LA's GOWNS, a guy and a gal who have done time in groups like The Mae-Shi and Amps For Christ. Red State has an underlying political pulse throbbing through it, but the first thing that struck me was how much the first track, "Fargo," sounds like vintage Laurie Anderson; not an influence you hear bandied about much, but one we wish was. There's a desolate, 4 AM atmosphere to these songs, all mushed out on drugs and loneliness.
A few more things to mention:
Davis CA's KDVS radio station is one of the finest in the country, holding its own with the standard-bearer WFMU, and they have now started a record label. Their first release is by Sacramento's WHO'S YOUR FAVORITE SON, GOD? (partial to Horus myself). A three-piece who alternate mathy rock with sky-reaching psych interludes, this LP could have used a few more months in the oven cuz it feels half-baked. Titan it up and then we'll talk.
Hey! Have you ever heard of WOLF EYES?!? Shit, you're Aunt Wilhemina probably has a limited edition cassette made out of rat skin and boar sperm, so get with the program, loser! What's the program? The one where you hit "scary noise" then "boring thunder beat" then "demonic harsh scream" then "sucking sound" then you get it mastered. For reals, ya'll, no doubt WE have put out some quality recs and played some burnin live offerings, but enuff already, aight? You need their new record like a hole in your belly. It's called Human Animal (Sub Pop), about as dumb a title as you could expect, but these guys don't sound like animals, not even geeky human ones. It sounds like they are playing thru the Wolf Eyes (tm) pedal. Maybe they see themselves as the heir to the wonderfully fucked tradition of outsider Michigan art-spew, but Destroy All Monsters this ain't. Where's the humor? Where's the dynamics? Where's the beef? If Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle were really into Swans and The Melvins........well, they would've made some really rad records. All respect to the entity of Wolf Eyes as such, but I am goddamn sick of their music.
GOD BLESS THIS FEST
When I first heard rumblings about Horriblefest, I thought, “Yeah fuckin right.” I mean, it’s Cleveland, y’know? Things have a nasty habit of falling apart here, rusting far quicker than nature intends. It’s easy to give up in or on this town. The sky is still gonna be grey tomorrow and the streets will still be broken, probably from the sheer force of half a million downcast eyes.
But then I slapped myself hard in the face and decided to get psyched. I mean, these are the streets where nobody lives. We deserve a fucking Punk Rock Hoedown as much as the next crumbling city.
So, God bless one local degenerate (Ryan Horrible), one transplanted degenerate (Russ Romance), and their little fairy helper (Jon G of The Feelers), cuz this three day weekend of fast guitar riffs, fat weed spliffs, and good ol’ fashioned liquorin’ up fulfilled all expectations. My only complaint is that it went by too goddamn quick.
The first and third nights were at the Beachland, an old Croation dancehall retro-fitted six years ago into one of the, if not THEE, best Cleveland rock venue. The first night was in the Tavern, a small-ish, intimate bar that comfortably holds about 150. I was waiting on a friend coming in from Detroit, so we arrived late, just as Buffalo’s Trailer Park Tornados was hitting its last thundering chord. I was bummed I missed them and Pittsburgh’s rock n’ roll spazz brigade, Radio Beats, but them’s the breaks and the evening was just getting started. Up next was one-man band sensation Jeffrey Novak and he delivered some goods and then came back around for a second trip. His picking hand clutched a drumstick and he furiously hacked out riffs and cracked the snare, simultaneously screaming his head off and kicking the shit out of a bass drum. Scuzz hate blues done by a young man with the whole world in front of him, ready to hear some pissed-off jams.
Just a few days before, me and Ryan Horrible had ventured down to the wilds of Akron for an early-look at the The King Khan and BBQ Show and The Black Lips, so I knew KK and BBQ were gonna shake shit down. And they did. Pitch-perfect vocals, like disembodied voices from long-forgotten 45s, wailed over thumpin drums and dueling guitars that went from soulful to nasty in the swig of a beer. Khan did his on-stage strip-tease and then rocked the stage like only a drag queen can. Lovely.
Black Lips were up next and this was gonna be my fifth time seeing these miscreants. Gone are the days of shambolic sets. Maybe it was the months-long trek around Europe, but these young guns have developed into a tight and powerful live band. Still plenty of chaos in the air, bodies gyratin, beer flyin, dudes smoochin. Like the kids say, “This is rock n’ roll.” They played a lot of stuff off the received-that-day ‘Let It Bloom’ and some nuggets from ‘…Forest Spirit…’ I think they ended the set with their hurricane ode, “O Katrina,” which needs a release, pronto, cuz it’s been stuck in my head and I need some relief (pun intended?). Psychedelics were exchanged for a personal copy of the not-for-sale LP and some dude was pissed I had one, even though I tried to tuck it under my jacket. Sorry, guy, come prepared next time! The traveling revue came back to the homestead and drinks were drained, grass inhaled, maybe something ended up in someone’s nose. “Hey,” I think I thought, “we’re off to a good start.”
Friday started slow. Lingered in bed with that half-sleep you get after a head-pounding good time has been drained out of you via salty pissings and hacking lungs. Legs shuffled, food took its good old time getting from plate to mouth, mouth moved like molasses, words stuck in the air. Groan. More rock n’ roll coming right up!
Friday’s show was at The Blacklist Art Gallery, a stand alone building on the West Bank of the Flats, where the Cuyahoga runs through. This area used to be bustling decades ago, when the Erie Canal system was running full steam. It’s an interesting landscape, especially as a back drop for a punk show. Kinda desolate and raw, moving bridges, broken bottles. The gallery itself had hosted a few shows and friends had made it seem small. So I was surprised to walk in, up some stairs, and then come out to a huge, cavernous room, two stories, with a few side rooms. The ceilings looked to be about fifty feet, so it felt very open, despite the throngs of punks milling about. Oddly enough, this seemed to be the best-attended show of the weekend. A good 200 people appeared to be there. Because of the aforementioned slow start and an extremely necessary detour for a bottle of Jameson, once again we were late to the party. The crowd was abuzz with the performances of Shoot It Up and Holy Shit!, two bands I wanted to see. So, a good half hour of meeting and greeting and sharing and swigging and lots of, “Did you see Holy Shit!?” “No.” “Dude, they were fucking awesome!” Yeah yeah yeah. Well, Rat Traps were setting up and I thought, “This could be a pleasant set of garage rock.” Zap! No! I was completely unprepared for the venomous hate-raunch that began spewing from the stage, the young Jeffrey Novak pounding the drums and still screaming his head off, sister April on guitar and vocals, and Joe on same, real Southern inhospitable fuck you dirt-punk. On one song (“Tennesee Rock and Roll”, maybe?), April dropped the guitar, grabbed the mic and just started screaming in people’s faces. Yeah! I was starting to wake up finally. But then I got sucked in again, wandering around, giving people pulls (of whiskey, smart-ass), and fielding too many questions of, “Hey man, you got any? You know where any?” Yes, no, maybe. I started feeling like walls were closing in, too much disconnection. A nice walk behind some abandoned factories, a good long piss, and a fat sticky joint, and I was ready for more.
Wolfdowners are Clevo hardcore dudes transplanted to NYC and doing something weirder for sure; almost old-school noisy punk rock in a Flipper vein, or something. Shit, I remember they had a sax and were kind of grinding away on these dark songs. I dug it. Later I heard one of the dudes from Fashion Fashion and The Image Boys pulled the plug on ‘em, power down to zero, but I guess I was too oblivious to notice. Couldn’t give you the details, but that is pretty fucking funny. I will stop to mention that the sound was really good for the most part; I think Lean Steve was in charge and hats off, sir. Next was either Clockcleaner or the Blowtops. I was jawin too hard and didn’t pay as much attention as I should have, but I know Big and Filthy Rich would have these folks sewn up, probably writing it in his head as he watched like a good journalist, so I eased back on the meticulous notes I was taking and decided to clock out for awhile. I do remember kind of zombie-walking around the floor when Blowtops were playing and bumped into someone and was surprised to turn and see it was the singer. He seemed to be half-wrestling a “fan,”, there were a couple dudes on the floor rolling around, and I didn’t really know what was going on. His band was laying down the soundtrack to my earlier walk and I couldn’t put two and two together and I was losing the thread. Maybe I was just too fixated on the dude’s homemade Big Black leather jacket, which might have trumped Timmy Vulgar’s homemade Negative Trend jacket in the Cool Jacket Contest.
OK, time to focus. Human Eye was up next and I knew for a fact that bass player Thommy Hawk was going to be sporting a ridiculous outfit, which is always a good start to any rock ‘n roll performance. It was his homemade Halloween costume: a character from ‘The Warriors.’ And let’s run with that cuz we can: Human Eye is like a gang from ‘The Warriors.’ No, even better: A group of freelance psychos wandering the post-collapse metro wasteland of ‘Escape From New York.’ No, ‘Beneath The Planet of the Apes.’ OK, they are merely one of the country’s premier edge-cutting punk bands and they brought it, harder and faster than I’d seen ‘em do it yet. Drummer Billy Hafer was on fucking fire, pushing the band hard. His playing seems to get looser, louder, and more explosive every time I see them. The crowd seemed entranced, maybe just really fucking drunk, or maybe it was cuz I was really fucking drunk. Regardless, spontaneous fits of dancing were breaking out and people were rocking. The high ceilings really leant themselves to the ping-ponging effects and splatter-guitar of Human Eye, sounding not unlike a hall of mirrors getting smashed. They played some new song that Thommy told me the name of, but I forget. I remember it being more methodical and deliberate, hanging on a repetitive guitar hook. The show was over and I thought that I was gonna be taking the full brunt of a combined Human Eye/Functional Blackouts attack/invasion, in other words, sleeping on the floor and various nooks and crannies in my small Ohio Shitty bungalow. But, the dudes minus Thommy headed back to Detroit and only half the Blackouts were yet in Cleave, so we just had a small get together; afternoon tea really. Tomorrow was gonna be a long one, plus I had to work, yippee.
Saturday began with a day show at Moe’s, an “under new ownership” bar in the no-man’s land of downtown Cleave. Moe’s had already had a few shows, including The Regulations, so the punks were starting to mark some territory. Walking up to the spot at 3 PM on a sunny day, not a care in the world, and we’re hit with looks of shock and awe before we even step foot in the joint. Yes, we had missed the infamous Rot Shit eel-throwing incident. I thought it sounded like great fun, but the owners of the bar didn’t agree and almost put the kibosh on the daytime festivities before they had barely begun. Thankfully, they were talked down from the ledge and the show went on. Some people seemed genuinely pissed at the Pittsburgh punks, which I thought was hilarious cuz they were all kinda small and cute and young. So what if they got something to prove? Maybe they just proved it. I don’t remember much about Fashion Fashion and the Image Boys except they played too fuckin long. Vaguely KBD, vaguely new-school version of good ol’ fashioned snot-punk, vaguely OK, vaguely vague. Admittedly I was pretty hazed. I did see the goofy-ass bass player pop a piece of psilocybin in his mouth whilst sitting at the bar, so maybe that accounted for their epic set. Just gave me a headache mainly. River City Tanlines were after that and they did a nice set of pretty straight-up rock and roll. Works for me. Cider and Kill The Hippies were coming up, but it was getting late and there were things to do and the show at the Beachland was starting early. Hell, I kept on trying to forget that I actually had to work that night. Yup, slugging beer for all the broke-ass punks. Across one room, up a flight of stairs, through the kitchen and then fighting my way through angry dudes and crazy chicks. There are worse ways to earn a buck, I guess. Plus I can drink and walk around and enjoy the show. So, I did.
Krunchies started off with a bang, flailing and spazzing their way through their electroshock punk anthems. Functional Blackouts came on and blitzed the crowd with some new songs of vicous hatecore. They sound like what getting shanked in prison must feel like. Or maybe just the fried-nerve anticipation of getting shanked. Dreading every mealtime. Unfortunately, the sound was not in the FBs favor, or any of the bands that night. The ballroom at the Beachland, where this final night took place, can be a tricky proposition with the sound. Sometimes it sounds fantastic, sometimes utter shit. The latter was holding true on this night. Part of the reason, in my humble opinion, is that most sound guys don’t know how to mix the kinds of punk rock that most of the bands were playing. Essentially, lots of volume on the guitars, turn up the vocals, but not where they are louder than the music, make sure the drums are crisp, and the bass bouncy, not muddy. Instead, you get metal-style drum mixes (HUGE kick drum), guitars that sound like dentist drills (but not in a good way), buried vocals, and flat, farty bass. It wasn’t helping anyone. The order is escaping me now, but I know that The Feelers rocked hard, careening around the (high) stage, totally in their element. Cuntpuppet was dumb as shit so I chose to stock the beer deep while they played and missed one of them running into the crowd after some heckling skinheads. Now that’s entertainment. Definitely funnier than mic stands and guitars with Busch cans all over them. Or cowboy hats and sub-ZZ Top “classic” rock. Supposedly they’re serious, but only if you spell serious “k i t s c h .” Upstab did their thing, which is not my thing, but certainly provided a flash of danger as the singer hurled himself off the stage brandishing a heavy chain that he slammed on the hardwood floor. OK, OK, you guys are alright. Damn, them Erbas mean business. I was stoked for the Catholic Boys cuz they were one of the few bands I hadn’t seen that I really dig. They didn’t disappoint. Super-tight instrumental interplay like very few punk bands can pull off, almost math-rock in the way they interlock then break apart again, but at the service of really fucking sweet songs full of cool twists and sharp turns, ie. hooks. They played the hits off of ‘Psychic Voodoo Mind Control’ and some friends who wandered over from the show next door asked me, “Who is this?!?” Catholic Boys! By this point, the energy in the sparse crowd was starting to wane, hell it had been a long weekend, but people stuck around for the “big draw,” The Jabbers with Wimpy, original singer of the Queers, standing in for the Geege. I like the old Jabbers stuff, but found this set to be pretty lame. Let them try to regain past glories, what the fuck do I care, I got beer to stock. It was kind of a dud ending to a great weekend though.
After the show was over, rumblings of non-payment and threats of ass-kickings started being heard. Attendance, particularly for the pricy final night, was not up to expectations and some bands were pissed. Ah, the inevitable come-down. Reality is not a punk rock utopia. Bummer. People were not stoked. A few days later I found out how not stoked. Someone stole all the mics from the Beachland Ballroom, over 2000 grand worth. Now that’s fucking annoying, especially considering that the Beachland had NOTHING to do with the paying of the bands. Assumptions can be made, sans facts, but suffice to say, someone out there better at least record a really hot record with those things or you’re gonna rot in the true underground: Hell, bitch!
The last hurrah before another miserable winter. Thanks Horriblefest!