Still Single: Vol. 4, No. 16
This is the last big update of 2008. There will likely be one more, as my intern Josh Figgleman hasn’t finished up his slate of reviews, and there’s been a few records coming in at the last minute. After the next edition, we won’t be publishing again until January. Maybe by then the big thing that I’ve been hinting at will have come to fruition. Then again, maybe not. Anyway, enjoy – sorry for the delays, thanks for the support, hope this is worth it.
Members of the defunct NYC punk band Crimson Sweet continue to run their label, Slow Gold Zebra. This split is a pretty good indicator that they could be worth keeping an eye on. 1-800-BAND plays that sort of mannered, late 70s/early 80s FM radio rock (Tom Petty, Dwight Twilley, Tommy Tutone); there’s a real Benmont Tench worship vibe going on in these, especially “Tropical Meds.” Muted, downplayed, and more or less correct. Snakes pull off a much-missed late night Royal Trux-like swagger, mired in drunken, wasted blues. For right now, this’ll do quite nicely.
Bizarre record from Europe. Adolf Butler play this nodding-off noise rock that’s as sloppy as Drunks with Guns, but heavy on the technique as you’d want. Bands like Pissed Jeans could play circles around them, so don’t be surprised if the Vile cover puts you off for good. Fun to listen to, though, in a really wasted and misjudged kind of way. The Roccos play like a regional Motorhead, however, and are just about as awesome as that seems – and they have songs with titles like “Clitlickers” to boot! Five songs apiece, totally bananers. On red vinyl with crazy primitive artwork.
Bass/drums instrumental rudiments, should be unappealing to anyone who’s ever heard anything like this before. Not too exciting, but beautifully packaged in a silkscreened, die-cut sleeve. Hopefully someday their music will transcend a nice presentation.
Black Time has conducted itself with utmost care, with few missteps. They rock a vintage sound, but they’re not ‘60s traditionalists; instead, they scavenge for pieces of culture to weave into their dialogue (think Comet Gain or the Yummy Fur turned nasty and loud, and don’t lump ‘em in with the American striped-shirted scumbag set). Three new jammers here, with “Doomsday Parade” as the favorite, with a beautifully constructed, gauzy wall of noise to end things. Skulltones’ perfect streak continues. 500 numbered copies.
More chill vibes, much like the last Cheval Sombre single. Stripped down, clean presentation of the male singer in his most gentle pose. Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips contribute to a drum machine-led cover of “Where Did Our Love Go?” but really it’s all Mr. Sombre, and Sonic Boom behind the boards, doing the work here. And it’s not too tough of a job, but if you’re going to set about sounding like Sonic Boom on record, might as well have his guiding hands to help get you there. I didn’t think too much about this one afterwards.
Brutal, Bungle-worshipping prog pair on the Child Abuse side, but a new and strange action from Zs on the flipside’s “In My Dream I Shot a Monk,” trading in their classical chops towards something much more spontaneous and active. Dense sax/gtr/drum clatter rides right up against scream-shouted vocals and a generally hostile, tangled vibe that makes yet another left turn back into punk via their musical training.
New wave dance twelve par excellence, throw all the old ones away. Most minimal synth/modern darkwave bands don’t aspire to Depeche Mode, and really, not too many succeed anyway. Cold Cave makes it work. The songwriting talent is there, the ability to commingle coldwave isolation (staccato melody, phonetically spoken vocals) with several layers of harmony and this insanely uplifting beat to carry all of the emotional resonance. And that’s what they do on “The Trees Grew Emotions and Died.”Totally wins, completely catchy song I can’t stop listening to. The two B-sides aren’t as developed, hovering around the Goth end of the spectrum but keeping the tracks moving with well-positioned beats (“Our Tears Help the Flowers Grow” sounds like a remake of Q Lazzarus’s “Goodbye Horses,” which endears me to it). Serious breakout potential here. You will be hearing from them again (new single out on Hospital right now). 500 copies.
Two new songs from the upcoming singles comp Broken Record Prayer because there are probably 100 people in the world who have every Comet Gain record, tape, and CD already, and have essentially built a shrine to the band in their lives. There’s probably not another band around more worthy of that level of reverence. “Love Without Lies” moves into dancepunk territory, but far less offensive than that might appear. “Books of California” is the classic ballad you hoped for. Best band, every new record filled with moments to treasure.
Pretty tired exercise here, pairing up atonal sledgehammer riffs and screaming, “crazy” vocals with Jesus Lizard-style tuff white funk. Heavy as hell, but this has been done so many times and none of them have been particularly shocking, especially when they try as hard as Cutter does (offensive insert depicting abused women isn’t a great head start towards endearing themselves to any community I’d want to be a part of). No thanks.
Sterile, hermetically-sealed synth riffin’ on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and a similarly Numanoid flip. Record collecting for comic book fans. Cold. First one was pretty good but this one doesn’t engender itself to compliance of the moods one must be in to appreciate this kind of music to its fullest. After a while, they all start to sound alike. Maybe that’s the point, though.
This guy? Really? Sounds like the end credits music to “Joe Vs. the Volcano.”
Pia Fraus kicks out big, billowy multi-tracked textural pop, building off of former shoegaze notables like Slowdive. Music like this can only hope to sound pleasant and not trite; Fraus pulls it off on her new-agey “Mute the Birds”, with production assistance from Ulrich Schnauss. Unsurprisingly, Schnauss attempts a more rhythmically aggressive version of this approach on his “Ships Will Sail,” but there’s some really cruddy hair metal ballad hiding under all that fuzz. Good artist names, sounds like something Longmont Potion Castle would use in a prank call. “Pia Frausssssssssssssssss. How ‘bout Ulrich Schnausssssssssssssssss.”
Fucked Up/Katie Stelmanis
One more Fucked Up single to put with the others; I believe this one was given away at their “12 Hour Show” in NYC last month, and as such, is rackin’ it up on eBay. Pretty good for two already-released songs (“Royal Swan” from the new Fucked Up album, and “I’m Sick” from Katie Stelmanis’ last album – you may know her as the vocalist from “Year of the Pig,” and she turns up on both sides here). Katie’s dark carnival is part Nick Zinner fingertap, part Amanda Palmer goth renaissance. Your call. 500 copies.
Greasy sex-rock from Ohio, like a van full of fast-food refuse opening its doors on your block and two naked people roll out. They didn’t remind me this much of Boss Hog the last time, but here, they do. Not a lot to say; the songs aren’t as arresting as their first single. They might have broken up already too, so who knows.
Slow-burning sloth jams, pulling all of Codeine’s tricks out of storage and polishing them up for reuse. The singer sounds like Ian McCullough, the band waiting for those precise Godspeed/Mogwai moments to burst forth, but sounding proudly instead of cowering in dirges. It works really well on “The Good Air,” better than anyone I’ve heard in a while on the ice/epic axis of the post rock scrapyard (“Golden Moment” features some fragile, Talk Talk-style deconstruction, justifying the metaphor). Nice one, took a while for it to sink in, but it stands out now. The entire pressing of 300 is all on mixed colored vinyl.
Continuing in the series of singles Italy’s HEBV that’s been resurrecting Goth with post-punk muscle, here’s two more new songs for them, albeit not “new” in particular, the group returning to the well that dozens of others, from Chrome to Bailter Space, have drank. The violent approach that overtakes the group’s songs by the chorus tends to annihilate any sort of memorable melodies. They’re a fun time, but I’m wondering if they can sustain an album at this point.
Hunx from Gravy Train teams up with Nobunny, ostensibly to make a new Nobunny record. Bald-faced, shameless Ramones/Bay City Rollers worship that administers a much-needed dickslap to the heteronormative oppression of garage rock. Scratch-off instant lottery ticket-styled patches on the cover obscure Hunx’s junk, and I’ll leave it to you to formulate how few of these protective coverings are going to be removed. Great single, though, tons of fun.
Still unsure how Life Partners morphed from one of the most painfully high-pitched live bands I’ve ever seen into this uncircumcised Arab on Radar/Sockeye style party rock band, and doubtful I’ll ever get to find out. But back to the heres and nows – they’re a four-piece again, with trumpeter Greg Kelley wiggin’ out up front with singer Dave Dougan. “AIDS of Spades” has a nice lowrider quality to it, woulda fit well in a Cheech & Chong movie. “Teenager in Trouble” is even sillier, with some really off lyrics about pregnant, at-risk teens fuckin’ and drinkin’. I’m smiling, and smiling again. Memorable shit from what sounds like the party foul of Boston; where others tear down, they build up. First release on a new label co-run by librarian Chris Strunk. Great work!
Mexico’s Los Llamarada continue to deconstruct grotty noise-based rock from the inside out, finding itself back in song-based territory through the process. “Against the Day” certainly sounds like their most strident, speedy step forward yet, and though the track’s recording alone subdues it somewhat, there are many layers of interesting interplay happening underneath. The B-sides sound a little tossed off, like dance night at the vacant lot right before the cops show up. 500 copies.
Four tracks of blissfully dour ethereal float, the titular artist cooing over slowly developing pop-ambient landscapes. The dusky clouds that float through these songs cross the proceedings over into Goth territory, but not too far; Maya stays more on the side of the commoner, or moreover, the intellectual visionary. There is a strong kinship here with moon-eyed modern psych stylists like Valet, and towards the most delicate of New Zealand singer-songwriter, Alastair Galbraith. Plaintive melodies march through the ether, gaining confidence from unlikely corners of the atmosphere. Beautiful and rare. 500 numbered copies.
Slow live treated drum/loop zone. Not really “dub” per se, I think they forgot the “m.”
Stumbling, early rendition of some earnest, Strokes-modeled rock songs that were extremely impressive in the live setting. I don’t care much about seeing too many bands anymore, but happened to be around where these guys were, and they took off like a fuckin’ rocket, playing about 20 minutes’ worth of amped-up, energetic revivalism. They pretty much laid claim to a cover of Spacemen 3’s “Walking with Jesus,” really laying into it in an uptempo rendition that is as effective of a cheap shot as I’m willing to extend to a band willing to pick through the chewed gum and vomit this scene’s last round left behind. But yeah, they were a lot of fun to watch, so I’m hoping that a future effort might place more emphasis on where these guys shine – their formidable musical abilities tussling their way into the crowd. 1000 copies, the sleeves of which were individually shot with a gun. I think mine has blood on it as well.
Third single of local punk by Houston’s No Talk. Songs about the scene and getting priced out of life merge with a honcho overload of straightforward fast punk. Sounds homemade and oppressive, which really sells it. Only a few hundred copies, and each of these singles has been a treat and worth digging for.
Compositionally harmonious acoustic drone from O’Rourke, with what sound like round synthesizer tones gracing part 1. Really, what else is there to say about this? It’s part of Jim’s eternal ramble, somewhere far from the beginning and nowhere near the end. Fair enough?
Icy, sensuous minimal synth/coldwave duo from Russia, last heard on the second Wierd Records compilation. Three of the four tracks here stay in pop territory, with simple and ominous verse/chorus structures, deep female vocals barely raising a pulse. The last, “Emission,” is a satisfying, if common, burst of phased electronics, oscillating in anticipation of danger. Nice release from a label that continues to impress. Clear vinyl.
I guess this is where the Indian movie soundtracks get put through Ratatat’s squiggle of chrome-plated electro pop. It’s catchy now, but has a shelf life that ends about halfway through the Zongamin remix. If you think reading about Ratatat is boring, try listening to them!
Loner-with-boner garage stompin’ from Montreal, Red Mass is the project of one of the CPC Gangbangs members. Gets a lot weirder than you’d expect, with some jocko homo clangin’ on “Let’s Play Dead” which works despite its age. Fits nicely between somebody like Jay Reatard, whose mission is more or less defined by now, and far-gone abstraction from an outfit like Pink Noise. Doesn’t work against itself, which is important.
Columbus veteran Mike Rep returns in the wake of a rock scene reborn around, and more than slightly because of, him. The reunited Quotas (Tommy Jay and Nudge Squidfish back in position) ramble through four cuts here, one a reworking of “I Was There,” originally found on Jay’s Tall Tales of Trouble reissue from earlier this year, and a country bumpkin entitled “Time on My Hands.” Rep’s rock crooning might be an acquired taste for some, but the chilling solemnity here in the back pages of his typically unadorned tableau rings true, falling right into the canon with his earlier work. Sounds about right. 500 copies.
The first and last name in contemporary American hardcore expands to a five-piece lineup and a more clearly-defined recording, one which manages to balance both the basement BM claustrophobia will less-alienating elements. The juxtaposition between these moments – deeply evident in the double-headed title track, which lurches out of side-ending despair (think “All White” by Die Kreuzen) into a rancorous, thrash-metallic coda – adds a new element to Sex/Vid’s revision of hardcore. This group’s self-awareness and steadfast refusal to make the same record twice are things you’d hope to expect from all kinds of bands across all types of music, but rarely see at all, much less with any success. New anthems in “Sublimation” and “Footsteps,” and lyrics with more depth than you’d anticipate. Essential release for 2008, the sound of one big shitstorm blowing over the globe and the darkness behind it. Intense woodcut design aesthetic and a nice tip-on sleeve complete the package.
Sian Alice Group
What could possibly be remixed out of this bunch, you ask? More than you think. Leave it to Spring Heel Jack to extract a strobing, two-note guitar/percussion slam out across an entire side of 12”, and just leave it at that. It’s the right two notes and a feat that breaks this effort out of the traditional remix oeuvre, as simple delay and reverb turn this one into an outlier of heavily psychedelic proportions. Brian Degraw does some manner of world beat mashup, and Alexis Taylor (of Tussle) opts for a minimal, beatless approach. But I’m gonna keep this one around as a tool to sweep out the cobwebs in my own DJ sets. You would do well to follow.
Loose-necked Bo Diddley jangle from these French garage-pop notables. “Toe Man” swings with exacting economy, an energetic 90 second sprint across familiar territory that stomps in every puddle. “Midnight Girl” comes off as a leisurely stroll in comparison, despite a mid-song rave up. I’m into the B-side more. Good times.
Hey, another punk record with screaming vocals. Six songs of everybody else’s. Gets by purely on aggression, which is always notable, but when this guy’s voice cuts out, there’s not a lot to celebrate here.
Two Montreal outfits duke it out on this heavy split. Ste-Sophie go after the saturated, throttling tones of Les Rallizes Denudes, and really, what more would you expect? Kolumkilli isn’t quite as successful, hovering around Dead C./hometaper rock drone and diaphanous clatter and never quite escaping the weight of influence. But there’s at least a good 20 minutes of mindbend here that you won’t want to miss. 300 copies, paste-on sleeves.
Could be wrong here, but I doubt it: Superstar Quamallah is John Patton, Jr., and his father is the jazz organist who rocked it throughout the ‘60s, and again in the ‘90s. Acceptable rhymes and bobo Pete Rock/Large Pro production styles make this more of an artifact than anything else, but he at least gets to take some liberties with his dad’s custom-built breaks.
TNV continues to pick the right chords to carry a notion of “lo-fi rock” in 2008 to some order of stability. Here’s five new songs that fit right in the canon, the band now having figured out how to write within their sound and continue to surprise and invent without having to change too much of what makes them the band they are. “Pagan Eyes” works as their “Forklift,” if they even needed one, and the surfy “Sick and Tired” could be the true anthem of late ‘08, rolling up all the contradictions we’re feeling about music into one burning effigy. It’s time to feel something again!
West End Motel
Sun-cooked, whiskey-gargling folk anthems from Brent Hinds (Mastodon) and Tom Cheshire (All Night Drug Prowling Wolves). Sooooooo not raging; historical re-enactment that wants to maybe align to the Faces, but stumbles halfway over Against Me! No more!
Ms. Jesus is cabbin’ it up on single #2, even more isolated and chilly than the first. “Soeur Sewer” is all the proof that she’s more aware of her abilities than most artists plugging away in this corner, morphing from a tense, spare piano line with determined, soulful vocals into a double-time sprint through rattling guitar/synth interplay to the finish. “Odessa” is much more present, a throbbing two-note bassline dominating the foreground, feedback peeking around the top, as the artist charges forth with garbled vocal proclamations and a chunky patina of mechanical noise. Great stuff that goes into places where the forebearers of this sound didn’t necessarily explore.
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.
Submissions can be sent to:
Records need to be shipped securely in sturdy mailing materials and marked FRAGILE because the post office will destroy them otherwise.
Keep sending in submissions, please!
By Doug Mosurock