Still Single, Vol. 1
We’re proud to debut Doug Mosurak’s new monthly column for Dusted, “Still Single,” where Doug will round up and review a sampling of singles from the past month and beyond…
Singles get the short shrift from many of today’s music publications for many reasons: they’re too limited in edition for readership to catch onto them; they’re not easily available or properly distributed; the market for singles is shrinking; the nation’s turntables are broken. If this is the case, then why are people still making them? Even with the mid-’90s glut of unusable vinyl product clogging the independent music industry, in some cases causing labels to close up shop and distributors to cut off accounts, the format still thrives. In Europe, where vinyl has never really gone away, it flourishes as strong as it can. Singles – and the people making them – are testament to how we found out about this music in the first place, and how we endeavor to foist it upon the world. MP3s and CD-Rs being what they are, they haven’t yet replaced the feel of a vinyl record, actual PRODUCT, in the hands of the public. Manufactured goods, exclusive and special, for some but not for all. Some truly great sounds lie within the grooves of singles, and we’re going to find it and expose it.
Destroyer’s Daniel Bejar returns to the acoustic guitar, rattling off a short and imprecise number (“Jackie, Dressed in Cobras”) that shouldn’t be too unfamiliar for fans, but will seem tossed off and irrelevant to everyone else. His Bowie-isms are still intact, he has a way with mincing little words, he exists. Black Mountain, on the other hand, fuse together the Kinks and the Stooges with their side, “Bicycle Man,” the catchy-as-hell single that should have been on their debut album for the complete package but instead is HERE on a limited edition, tough-to-find 7” which you really need to track down. Expressive and effortlessly rockin’, this is where Black Mountain hits its stride, loosely and confidently strutting out a creeper singalong, one side of wax that’s as perfect as you could hope. White vinyl. Get a copy before eBay gets yours.
New release on Mogwai’s label, which since its inception has battered the musical landscape with ultra-heavy releases by bands like Envy, Part Chimp, and Bolt Thrower drummer Earl Shilton. Glasgow’s Errors take a slightly different tack, embarking on the dreadful path of “rocktronica” (a path so dreadful, that word must be employed) with an aimless, post-rockin’ laptoppin’ instrumental A-side, and yet another sad computer song on the flip, reminiscent of 3rd string Boards of Canada. Don’t ask, don’t tell.
Here it is, a beacon of shit-colored light leading the charge for new new super heavy wasteoid relevance in this country. Pissed Jeans hails from Allentown, PA, which has quite a little scene going for it (see also: Air Conditioning, Pearls & Brass, show space Jeff the Pigeon, and the excellent Double Decker record shop). These four guys all spent time in the Ultimate Warriors and the Gatecrashers (and their singer started up the excellent White Denim label) but have since tuned into the muck-encrusted underside of mid-tempo burnout scuzz a la Flipper and Fang. Not since the debut Drunks with Guns LP (or maybe the Original Sins circa Self Destruct) has any American band stepped up with such a ferocious, totally-together-yet-completely-falling-apart display of angry, disgusting, uglified rocknoise on record so memorably. Rhythm section lumbers on bigger than Tad, guitarist leans in and tortures his rig, singer sticks his whole hand down his throat and barfs out indecipherable crud around it. This is the Baby Ruth in the public pool; please grab it and chew heartily. Their announced full-length album cannot come out quickly enough.
A nebulous conceit, Texas outfit Indian Jewelry have existed under enough names (Japanic, Swarm of Angels, NTX+Electric, Erika Thrasher) to stay one step ahead of the Bad Checks List of Indie Rock. From the sounds of the this single, they might next try to change their name to Twin Infinitives, or perhaps Cheree, as the three songs here lifelessly bodysnatch the smack-addled phases of Royal Trux and Suicide with little to no shame, or for that matter, originality. You’ve heard this before – if not the first time, then at some point, and if you haven’t, well, that’s why Dusted exists. Go look in the archives and enlighten your bony ass, live and learn. What’s on this record is less exciting than a used instant lottery ticket.
Nightingales ran an anachronistic post-punk gauntlet throughout the early and mid-’80s, shot forth from the dissolution of singer Robert Lloyd’s punk-era Prefects. With a steady stream of releases on Rough Trade, Cherry Red, Ink, and Lloyd’s own Vindaloo label, Lloyd and his ramshackle collection of fellow Birmingham players trod down an unconventional path of agitated post-punk, nervous pop, and the British approximation of country folk as backwoods cabaret (see earlier Mekons or the Folk Devils). After several years and no commercial aspirations in sight, Lloyd put the band on ice, concentrating on producing the notorious We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Going to Use It, but now and again the odd nightingales reunion (featuring Lloyd and his pickup band) would surface. Due to interest in all things post-punk, and partly encouraged by Acute’s Prefects reissue and some recent Cherry Red offerings, the Nightingales are back with six new releases, three of which we cover here. Running the gamut from lost desperado waltzes (“Black Country”) to Jesus and Mary Chain-style fuzz stomp (“Coo-Ca-Choo”), to Lloyd’s signature unnerved pop noise blowouts (the tracks from “Workshy Wunderkind” bear a strong resemblance to Goo-era Sonic Youth), to a less conventional but moderately arresting experimental side (the whole of the EFL single, also owing a sizeable debt to the Fall), these tracks hold up with most of the original Nightingales catalog, and as Lloyd gets more comfortable with his new lineup and playing out again (the band played their first-ever US shows earlier this year), expect great things to surface.
An essay on the back cover of this EP gives a few clues as to what’s at stake: Bao, a Nigerian vocalist, traveled to Bilboa, a touristy location in the Basque region of Spain. Experiencing the same feelings of oppression he felt in Lagos, Bao found an out through punk rock, quickly assembled a trio of drums and guitar, and spent three hours in a studio channeling his rage. The results are on this 7”, and it is punishingly prescient. Lyrics deal with state control of expression, a horrifying metaphor for what the third-world disenfranchised might like to do to people of privilege (“Give Them Virus”), and gentrification’s effects on those it pushes out. Ugly, atonal, and pounding, these three primitive rock songs slug their way through outbursts of power electronic noise, jackhammer rhythms, and thrashy, repetitive guitar. Vocals sound like the second coming of Kickboy Face, and this as a whole comes off as a terrifyingly real example of what human beings are capable of if pushed far enough. The real world equivalent to the Pissed Jeans 7”. An important record.
Another artifact of the Boston noise-rock underground. Bands like the ones listed on the Mister Records catalog insert come down to NYC frequently, playing some tiny club to brave few. Taken as a whole, there are probably a few interesting things going on up there, and at the very least, great parties. Ho-Ag has a sound that’s thinner and less ugly than their name, and their energetic “Man the Dam” charges forth with tinny lead guitar and a thick, limber SST-strength rhythm section. Not entirely memorable, but nestled into a whole set in a sweaty basement somewhere, this could be very worthwhile. Laughing Light (a trio to Ho-Ag’s quintet) comes off a lot weirder and with more ideas, a looser song structure, and an audible appreciation for Beefheart, Boredoms, and 30s jazz. Working around a 4/4 dance beat, they scream, twist, scrape, and moan through two songs with vigor and inspiration.
Io started as college freshman in Pittsburgh tinkering with Braid-style emo-pop in an earlier formation, thickening up over the years and two name changes into a monolithically heavy screamo outfit, dimming the lights of the tiny rooms they played with full stacks, warpath drumming, and lung-busting vocals. They shared a drummer with crossover thrashers Crucial Unit, then lost him to a move out of town, and recorded these last two songs before hanging it up. Thanks to a fine recording by the Modey Lemon’s Jason Kirker, both these tracks tomahawk across the turntable with all the chaos of their predecessors (Gravity Records bands in their prime, Union of Uranus, and Sleepy Time Trio, to name but a few) but with the skill and dexterity of any tech-metal outfit. A resounding triumph. Only 300 pressed; a handful on green vinyl, all copies in a beautiful silkscreened sleeve designed by Michael Budai. Seek this one out.
Lake of Falcons
Three guys from Seattle who presumably own rock instruments and some post-hardcore records, and decided to make one of their own. Such is the case here; very little to recommend. Both songs have two to three distinct parts to them, which aren’t all that complex or interesting; their sound hearkens back to the mid-’90s, post-Hoover wasteland occupied by June of 44 and any band that played with dynamics and had a nautical theme. It’s tough to discern who’s singing – and it could be the same guy – but the band’s “outdoor voice” is an unintentionally funny, throaty, mid-range yell reminiscent of Lemmy, while its “indoor voice” is the typical talkin’ indie rock guy. Here he talks about his job on one side, and robots on the other. As mediocre as this is, it does give evidence to some sort of local scene roots, which may be of historical note years down the line.
Always gotta be one record in the pile with little to no provided information when it comes to singles. Manchild is the product of a duo, possibly enrolled at Loyola College in New Orleans, as that’s where the label’s site links back to. The main instrument used is some sort of 8-bit synthesizer, creating a whole wealth of vintage video game sounds (I’m guessing it’s a SIDstation), augmented on certain tracks by guitar and drums. The artwork leads on to what’s in store – pen-and-ink drawings of conversion vans, the arcade game “Joust,” heshers, surfing dogs, and airbrush artists. Manchild crams seven songs and two samples from the movie “Surf II” onto one 7” single, played with the same sort of ’80s gee-whiz showoff chops you’d expect from the Fucking Champs or Oxes, only more fun and a lot more referential (I picked out the whistling intro music from “Space Fury,” remembered fondly from my days in front of the ColecoVision). The big problem here is the format. It’s hard to determine whether they got a lousy recording, or just had to compress the life out of it to fit it all onto a single, but the sound quality, dynamics, and signal volume suffer greatly as a result. Just because you can master seven minutes of music per side doesn’t mean you should. Hopefully they live on to another release with more professional, less anonymous execution.
A group like the Popular Shapes seems to always exist somewhere down below, constantly getting it right while so many others struggle to maintain balance. They’re from Seattle, in league with the A Frames and the Intelligence, but the most conventional sounding of the lot. Which is not to say they’re conventional at all; quite the contrary, as they write complex, whiplash-quick punk rock that isn’t afraid of technology or making difficult choices. Their music comes off as breathless, triumphantly paranoid, and novel, with lots of right-angle shifts and forks in the road that run right into the wall, flip, and turn over, like those unstoppable toy trucks of our youths. The lazy man will compare them to Les Savy Fav, but there’s a lot more at stake with the Popular Shapes than three riffs per song and a crazyman singer who tries to make you forget. Frontman Nicholas Brawley is too busy trying to wrangle these songs out of the masticated pile of Wire and Le Shok records littering the ground to take his pants off and shock the crowd. While the band’s Bikini Style LP from last year focused more on velocity, the band slows it down a bit with these offerings, songs of a series split across two records, while retaining all of their intensity. Of the two, I’m more fond of the even-numbered single on White Denim/Hate the Eighties, two tightly-knit party crash anthems (day of and day after on the flip) with more parts than a model airplane kit, and excellent splatter vinyl that seals the deal. The split 7” w/ Kurt is no slouch either, but cramming two songs per band per side cut down on the fidelity a good bit. As for Kurt, they’re German, have been around forever, and will remind you of Drive Like Jehu, which is still a great thing.
(White Denim: www.whitedenim.com)
(Hate the Eighties: www.hatetheeighties.com)
“Vida Loca” lives in a post-Strokes world and can deal with it. Actually, it’ll do one or two better and pound the Tar out of the box placed around it, with Midwestern-forged tool-and-die precision and flailing guitars that steer this track from waltz territory into death disco. But B-side wins again: “Cash is Fine” channels Roxy Music via Cobra Verde within the confines of advanced pop theory, as crooning vocals melt over the sides of an increasingly tense, melancholy riff that breaks out of its shackles by the end and threatens to flood Pittsburgh once again. Pittsburgh’s where Shopping was from and they’re on an indeterminate hiatus, this single being their only artifact. Please reunite and give us more. Be one of the 300 people who can own this gem.
What is it with defunct Pittsburgh bands and this column? Stilyagi hung in there, on and off for three years before a departing drummer put the band to rest. They played darting, discontented hardcore, topped with particularly scathing lyrics. Frontman Michael Siciliano calls bullshit on being used as a rebound (“You Do It and I Can Tell”), ineffective, rabble-rousing Black Bloc-style protests (“No More Puppet Bullshit”), guilt (the particularly rambunctious “Kill Today, Feast on Tonight”), and looking back on a destructive youth (the title track). Sounds like he’d just as soon punch you in the face as shake your hand, and the band backs him up with limber, to-the-point musical aggression. Only 300 copies pressed, on gold vinyl, some containing a CD-R with all four songs and a Quicktime video (ask for it).
One-man bedroom rock exercises, made out of vocals, guitar, bass and a sequencer. “Jolly Rancher” is menial pop, sung with candy in the mouth no doubt, and its many lyrics are decipherable as anti-American and against the status quo of rich white men, from oil barons to those currently elected in office. The flip isn’t so different thematically, and relies more on a minimal, pulsing beat – the artist is clearly looking from the outside in, and seethingly declares “I’m gonna fuck you in your tax shelter.” Look out, Cheney.
Yours must be a single pressed on any size of vinyl. CD-Rs of singles will not be reviewed; they will be destroyed. We need the artifact here with original artwork, not some duplicate/digital copy. Only records released within the past six months will qualify for a review.
Singles must be postmarked by the 15th of each month to qualify for the next installment of this column.
ANY genre of music will do – don’t hesitate to send punk, hardcore, metal, goth, pop, rock, country, hip hop, electronic, experimental, dub and reggae … all genres accepted and welcome.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
Submissions can be sent to:
This column will run the last week of every month on Dusted. Its success depends on you sending in singles for review. Right now we’re back down to zero, so May’s column is going to be pretty empty if you don’t send us some more singles! Step on it.
By Doug Mosurock