Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 15
A million sorries on the delay from the last Still Single. Things happen in life. Everything is OK. I have your records, if you sent them, and if they’re not covered here, they will be reviewed in two weeks. Meanwhile look for more coverage, somewhere, soon. The suspense is killing all of us (me, in particular), but it will be worth it. Thanks to all the artists who continue to support Still Single in the late-year crush of releases, amidst all the hurt feelings and limited edition hiding. Those of you with something to say have sent in your releases, and I’m happy to have heard them all. Keep ‘em coming.
A tour between these two artists begat this split single, unassuming but pretty good. On “Own Design,” Bathgate (no relation to Alec; this one’s from Michigan) does some quiet, folky balladeering for a few verses, which is harmless enough, and made memorable by his buttery voice. Then, out of nowhere, the band behind him surges to life and tears a hole in the song big enough to throw a decade’s worth of proud, loud, slow music to life, from Bitch Magnet to Engine Kid. When he returns, the strength behind this simple song reveals itself. Hezekiah Jones I though a little less of, a jaunty little piano ditty called “I’ve Got a Little Room (Cannonball)” that sounds like it was made to run over the end credits of some pay-cable drama series. But check it out for Bathgate’s sake. 500 copies, in silkscreened chipboard sleeves.
Beach House ranks above all the sad sacks out there moaning as music for a few reasons, chief among them being that they’re savvy enough to write and perform at a comfortable distance from their direct influences. Breathy vocals, strong backing drones, a nod towards ‘60s psychedelia and the ‘80s Paisley Underground revival, but with more layers, which provides a much-needed softening of some of that genre’s more prominent downers. “Used to Be” builds into something not so far removed from its cloying lullaby intro, but pulls a coup in that all the obvious touches you might have heard from generations before are stripped out of the track by the end. “Apple Orchard” is an early demo track, making strong use of harmonious, oscillating synth drone as both texture and interference to the melody. Nice tri-fold color sleeve as well; this duo is working head and shoulders beyond most performers in their given field.
Given that two-man wild’n’out bands are now culturally (Lightning Bolt, No Age) valid, as well as statistically, it’s nice to hear the Pope having paid the geometry of prog-punk the end it’s often been ignored for as of late. Seven short ones on their side of the split 10”, and curiously, that’s just enough. All over the place, but contained within a pleasing set of boundaries, i.e., they have a sound and they work inside of it. But let’s talk Bipolar Bear, who I’ve really grown to like over these two releases. They play squallin’, abstract, melodic indie-rock noise in a way that references all of the other squallin’ abstract melodic noise units since the ‘90s. Like the Mae Shi, you can tell that these guys listen to a lot of music, but where that band channeled their influences to a cumulative effect, Bipolar Bear attempts to build a commonality between them all. The results don’t always work, but it’s rare that they can’t, at bare minimum, keep things entertainingly derivative. They’re writing songs to match their footprint, curiously arranged and bent at odd angles. It’s great to hear lots of my old favorite bands of the day – Pitchblende, Unsane, Harriet the Spy, Sonic Youth, Unwound, U.S. Maple, and many others – living on through the sounds of Bipolar Bear. Split 10” limited to 330 numbered copies, but I didn’t receive so much as a track listing for the picture disk. Whatevz, it’s worth tracking these guys down either way. I miss bands like theirs.
Charming garage-pop from French guys clearly into the Velvets (hey, who from France isn’t?) and maybe late-period Roxy Music as well. For real, though, these buoyant, danceable numbers sound like last-wave Britpop in its prime, with either being strong, glamorous, and uptight enough to hang with Blur. Features a member of Cheveu on guitar, too. Another great French garage record – seriously, the countrymen just keep on getting it right.
Single #5 or 6, and the best in a while for Cause Comotion. I’m gonna euphanize the shit out of their name from here on out. I am simply tired of writing it out as they suggest. Anyway, CCM has two on here that rank among their best – “I Lie Awake” and especially “Cry for Attention,” which starts out in half-time like a Marine Girls song, before the drums kick in. Its arrangement spaces out the band’s signature elements (trebly guitar, reverbed lad vocals, heavy melodic bass, primitive drum thuds and cymbal hiss) into ways that make me think that they’re thinking about their band more, and where they can take this sound. It also makes me think that it would be really cool to hear dub versions of these songs (and I think Liam might agree with me on this).
Import-only single from Midwestern exports CAVE, enamored as they are of the spaceways and the motorik vehicles that move upon them. Following up a very solid LP, here’s a little more of the same, with an excellent two-chord Hawkwind style buildup on “Butthash” and a warm, excitable Autobahn activity on “Machines and Muscles.” CDR includes both sides of the single, plus two bonus tracks. A good band getting better; here’s hoping they find a musical approach that can rival their Krautrock competence, making something totally new in the process. Green vinyl.
One-man Spacemen 3 soundalike here, but that’s a good thing. Christopher Porpora gives “I Sleep” the ability to hover weightlessly, channeling Sonic Boom (who actually produces one of the tracks on the included CD-R). Beautiful stuff, sounds like it could have come from the Spectrum LP from way back when (and of which I am still in need of a copy, preferably with the color wheel attached to the front). Britta Phillips of “Jem and the Holograms” fame contributes a remix as well, but the vinyl is just one long take of “I Sleep” stretched out over two sides. There can’t be enough of this kind of music, and it takes so much thought to get it right. Cheval Sombre makes it seem as easy as breathing. For that alone, this record deserves notice. Green vinyl, limited pressing.
Ex-Deerhunter guy Collin Mee rolls solo on this debut single. I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that a prominent New Zealand influence is making its way back to new music. These Hollow Stars tracks win big with sentimental melodies and some formidable power behind them. “Only Your Love” gets down low (like a buffalo) with a greasy groove, but I’m partial to “In Herald Dreams We Wither,” which successfully finds the right patch of common ground between early 90s college rock/shoegaze and strong, loud singer-songwriter moves. Reminds me of Bob Mould solo. Looking forward to more. 300 copies, clear vinyl, includes a CD-R featuring two demo tracks.
Second single of doomy, dirge-like punk rock from Pittsburgh. Things sound less muddy and more in control this time around, with both songs hovering around the darker, deeper end of the scale, low-slung and mean. Through this treatment, simple ideas for lean, bruising approaches, like rearranging the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” riff on “Wormwood Star,” become effective and show-stopping. Rob Henry is better integrated into the band here, never once having to evoke Jello Biafra, and even slipping into a little bit of a phony British accent to do so. “Freak Out the Squares” doesn’t start out like much, but by the end, they’ve created this wall of depression, a forcing together of punk with the moodiness of dark, stark rock a la the Comsat Angels. A really good time.
On the real, this is the best Little Claw record I’ve heard yet. It’s still not totally my thing, but I sense they’re gathering a deeper understanding of who they are, and discovering a lot more music while touring extensively. “Race to the Bottom” is a good time, aside from those kewpie-doll vocals (which for me, along with lack of memorable songs, has been the deal breaker between me and this bunch) – the song here is great, however, a rollicking little lo-fi poot from the tape deck of Jared Phillips. Stomping, brittle rhythms collide with a very catchy chorus. Sounds like Bricks to me. “Feeding You” messes around with a more smeary sound, simpler in approach and a little less effective. But I dunno, I’m psyched on “Race to the Bottom” and you likely will be as well. 400 copies.
Mayfair & Huxley
Ten songs on a seven-inch from a really angry-sounding group out of Des Moines, laying down the law with the sort of nihilist-a-billy you used to hear coming off of Rapeman or Bastro records. Sometimes their aggression falls at odds with the limitations of a vinyl record, so things get particularly muddy when the band forgoes dynamics for a full-court press of everything louder than everything else. Fortunately for you, the band will allow you to download these songs for free, in multiple formats, so you can forget about vinyl entirely. Which is kind of against the point here, but I want you to have the best. And these guys, truthfully, are a pretty fun time, with “I Keep It Inside” impressing with its recklessness and overloaded headspace. Grey vinyl.
Men and Women
Given to me by a friend, this one sounds new and compelling to these ears. “South America” lays down a tense, cluttered pattern of synth stabs, rumbling pass and icy drums, over which electric guitar rips across, scattered by “scratch fx” processing, before succumbing completely to bass-driven chaos and a droning coda. It’s pretty exciting stuff, and could make for some interesting dancefloor transitions. “Flowing Blood” features similar stern, frigid drum tracks over a pensive piano melody and waves of synth interference, somewhere near where Balearic meets a Cocteau Twins record. Eliot Lipp and Cousin Cole provide remixes on the B-side. Lipp glossing up the sounds and glamorizing the beat into something just as driven and exciting as the original, but with more of a nod to those who want to stay in the bear. Cousin Cole keeps things a lot sweatier and dirtier, with hammering beats and a devastating refabrication of the guitar parts. There’s a huge break in his version that’ll break the dance floor in two. Hats off to this Greenpoint, Brooklyn duo. Great stuff, would love to hear more.
Third installment of the Singles Club’s most recent incarnation features live faves Mika Miko slowing down one of their older songs to a Delta 5-style pace, and turning it around from the punk you’d expect into the post-punk dancefloor filler you didn’t. They do a poor job of covering Black Flag on the flip though; there should be a moratorium on that action from bands across the board, though. 1500 copies, yellow vinyl – truly “eBay gold.”
Outta hand. New-ish Australian garage band that just toured the States with a debut full-length in tow. “Eddy Current” (Mikey?) does double-duty with the Ooga Boogas on guitar. Somehow, these songs come across as even more urgent, slashing and primal than Eddy Current Suppression Ring – “The Octopus is Back” is just under two minutes of fury, vertiginous riffs shooting upward at steep angles, and a throttling rhythm that never lets up. The band steps into budget rock showcase shoes on “Diggin’ a Hole,” a successful update on how the Mummies or Supercharger might’ve sounded if they were as heavy as they were catchy. I’ve been playing this one non-stop and recommend you dig up any of the remaining copies. Mine has a cartoon sleeve (there’s something like 14 variants, each numbered in small batches). Everything about this record rules.
Wothwhile little bedroom pop single by a Providence artist not too stoked on organization – it took a while to figure out what this record even was, or who it was made by. Fortunately, the Internet came through. A-side is some bouncy Elephant 6 type pop with the distortion cranked up; B-side shows a more sensitive, late-night brooding feel to it, with a prominent Xpressway bent – strongly reminiscent of the Jefferies Bros. or Pumice. A solid effort from one Raf Spielman and guests, aiming to keep it pure. 400 copies, collage sleeve, hand-stamped labels.
Congratulations are in order to Brent Tipton, who has successfully released the ugliest music of the decade. And it’s not even from this decade! These four tracks are from 1997, back when this Houston band was operating at its demented extreme (seek out their Rehab CD for an example). Somehow, Hot Sex is even more abusive and nihilistic in scale, the rock band beneath rumbling towards nowhere, and impenetrable layers of electronics, vocal torture, soundbites, and other audio filth obscuring it from view. Somehow it all manages to be rendered at a high enough fidelity that all of the elements stand out, and even better, they ruin your day completely. Any Brainbombs soundalikes out there would have a hard time getting these vibes down – there’s a lot more to it than greasy rock with questionable lyrics. Disgusting and awesome, because it sounds like they are reveling in the torture, rather than complaining about it. 500 copies, 30 with a DVD-R of the band playing at a strip club, and 10 of those with a DVDR free t-shirt (the latter editions are gone, btw). The last of the legend, oozing out onto the floor.
First in a series of Suicide tributes which pair up the artists with performers who are fans, though I don’t know how they plan to top this one. Getting the Boss on here is some sort of major coup for old Paul Smith and company, and it’ll be the reason most people buy this record. And good for them, because this is beautiful – Bruce alone at the harmonium, singing “Dream Baby Dream,” a reinterpretation worth most of the records released in the last couple of years. I’m not going to waste words telling you why Bruce Springsteen is successful; if you’re a fan, you need this, straightup. Suicide returns the favor with a live version of their own, taped for TV in 1978 but never aired. Who is Mr. Ray? 8000 copies, soon to be gone for good.
Naming your project after a Dead C. record predisposes any sort of mystique you could engender against your musical approach … well, maybe not; I’m wondering how many noise fans heard that band Trapdoor Fucking Exit and ran for the (fucking) exits. Still though, this is 2008, and such noise is back in demand. This French duo is more than happy to jump into the fray – A-side builds off of a pulsing cloud of guitar wash, as feedback and drone-und-drang ascend and recede throughout, while the B-side meanders in skuzzy, loopy murk. Interesting but non-essential. 300 copies, silkscreened sleeves.
Harsh old-school noise from artist Josetxo Anitua, who passed on just before this album was released. Long tracks of real-life torture, an agonizing crush of rock-based aggression and primal, baseline emotions that ooze conflict and showcase a forlorn, pained disconnect from reality. Mattin helps to shape these tracks into a dangerous assault, pulling even further away to the extremes than the Billy Bao records, but Anitua himself drops the veil towards the end of side A, leaving nothing but his voice, processed into submission, and the occasional electronic squeak or martial drum pattern. Howling, mewling destruction akin to old Ramleh and Splintered records, but with a last-straw desperation not heard since the posthumous Steven Jesse Bernstein album on Sub Pop from way back when. Not for the weak. 300 copies, silkscreened inner sleeve.
Very early all-girl punk band from the Netherlands, featured in a long-overdue discography. This release contains the band’s sole EP, a bunch of compilation tracks, some outtakes and six live tracks, all spanning 1980-81. Compared to other females-only outfits of the time (Liliput, Delta 5, etc.), the Nixe rarely strayed from any concessions to dance music or off-kilter melodies; this is pretty much straightforward second-wave punk, in which the band’s lack of traditional musical abilities pushed them forward rather than held them back. It’s a rickety ride, but an engrossing one, a populist analogue to the Ex’s agit-punk. Gatefold sleeve with full liner notes, color photos, etc. 600 pressed.
Yours must be a single (or vinyl-only album) pressed on any size of vinyl. I will not review CD-R copies of a vinyl release – you need to send the vinyl itself, even if it includes a CD. 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.
Still Single now runs bi-monthly, so there is no deadline for submission. I will do my best to make sure that records are reviewed in the order in which they are received.
ANY genre of music is accepted for review. Do not be afraid.
Information on your pressing (quantity pressed, color vinyl, etc.) should be included if at all possible.
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By Doug Mosurock