Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 5
Here’s a short one for you, as I’m in between several things at once. Hey, I need an intern to help with mailings now and again. If you’re a college student in the NYC area, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, care of Dusted. 5-10 hours a month.
Satisfying synth/dub/noise shoegaze haze by this family-oriented Brisbane drone rock outfit — three of the members are brothers and sister, must be a bummer if they get into band fights though. They attempt to apply a textural approach to rock instruments, creating a moody, in-the-moment feeling over these eight tracks. They have the capacity to rock hard and lunkheaded like all the Stooges-inspired bands from their homeland (see “Saint Tegran” for a weathered take on that sound), but often take a more nuanced route, vacillating from murky synth muck (“eBay Babylon”) to the title track’s dense noise pop that levels bell & whistle newjacks like Serena-Maneesh with the trepanning drone of the Dead C. Hey, if all we can do anymore is push pieces together, at least we can push the right pieces. While not everything on this record works, the band is willing to try new things in the confines of their lineup. It’s excellent when it needs to be, which is all one can ask for. Packaged in a foldover sleeve with dazzling metallic ink.
My heart sank just a tiny little bit when I saw just one word on the back cover of OK Judge Revival, album number who-knows by France’s the Feeling of Love: “was.” As in, the Feeling of Love “was” but maybe no longer “is.” Just checked their Myspace to be sure, and it looks like they still “are.” Being a French garage band is in their favor; those folks know how to do quite a bit with what they’ve been given, as most Still Single reviews of Franco product would bear out. But they’ve gotten good — scarily so — in the past year, and for any new music around to evolve so successfully, to dredge up this sordid sentimental racket from its baling-wiry past, would bring me down a bit more than I’d like to admit. Traces of earlier exercises in “values stomp” noise are still evident, but they’re dialing down the nihilism on spirit-loan from Pussy Galore, or at least rechanneling it. When they want to, they can pull off the low-rent, basement destroyer post-punk of a violent stripe not heard since Liars (or maybe even Clinic) first got going, but when matched with their understanding of c’n’c + r’n’r, like opener “You’re Better Than a Dog Detective” and the insistent “Mechanical Lamb,” you get the sense that their metered frenzy is going to derail at any second, headlong into tons of unharvested ideas that their predecessors didn’t think to digest. Even their more Velvets/Brian Jonestown Massacre-inspired moments have taken on an air of individuality that’d stand up to anyone else around today and make ‘em cower. The lengthy narrative of “God Willing” depicts a life of teenage desolation, murder, suicide, and the heaving ennui of male teen puberty, graphic details battling the French Joe Cool delivery of Lou Reed in training, G. Marietta. It’s their first truly great moment, one that could have gone wrong (that “I’m Just Trying To Fuck You” song by Hue Blanc’s Joyless Ones being an example that was unquestionably so), but they run this one all the way home, with nausea-inciting keyboards and a dense, chrome-plated atmosphere that covers all of their work. The “School Yeah” single serves as a suitable nightcap, closing things off with a cover of Gainsbourg’s “La-Bas C’est Naturel.” I’ve got about half of this band’s releases now, and am gonna be searching for the ones I don’t, so don’t take that single sentence review as anything negative. Truly this is a band worth obsessing over.
If any of you remember at all, you might remember the Garbage and the Flowers from a Twisted Village single dating back to 1992 (which can still be had for not much money); even less of you, by design, would recall their double album compendium Eyes Rind As If Beggars, issued in a blip in the mid-’90s. Yet this loose collection of individuals, who’ve lived their days between New Zealand and Australia, have been playing and recording pretty much since then, their music mainly available from cassettes and lathe cuts. Two of the three original members, Helen Johnstone and Yuri Frusin, are still participants, while Paul Yates joins in on one of these two tracks, recorded in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Both sound in line with their earliest body of work, but one would hope that nearly twenty years of playing music together would bring about a sense of normalcy about them, almost a calming sensation to know that a few people would make this sort of music their lives’ work. “Alamo Rose” drifts along with natural ease, between hushed, reverent sunset acoustic bask and a folkier, Eastern-tinged chorus. It’s peaceful, shambling, and constructed with ever the slightest nod to a pop anthem — one that’s not going to get up off the porch swing anytime soon, but an anthem all the same. You hear it again in the rangier, electrified “River of Sem” — this one could pass for an earlier Cakekitchen track, bar the vocals, but its chords of hope and slow beat of redemption are of a piece with everything I’ve had the fortune to hear by the band. Normally I’d be bummed about a group of artists who haven’t bothered to change or update their sound, but I don’t think progression is in the cards here; this is their national sound, so to speak, telling of across-the-world beauty that most of us will never experience. My friend Angela is a native and feeds me the most bizarre and enticing stories about growing up there. I can only imagine that this was a shared experience, and the music I love from that land only enforces that ideal in my mind. 300 numbered copies.
Months after their release, it’s never a better time to look at some of these records that come through SSHQ. It would seem that’s a fair amount of time to let the hype blow off of weirdo records like these, but time and again the Pink Noise escape all walks of critique, all the while beating out Crystal Stilts as the most disaffected-sounding band in relevant existence right now. Few if any of their compatriots can balance such compulsion from such simplistic tools (vocals, murk, synths, guitars, rhythms from someplace or another). They rarely if ever get tiring to listen to, and have successfully developed a self-image that causes people to scrutinize what it is they’re putting forth, even though the mud these are dragged through might not reveal any diamonds in the poop. Meaning that any dickhead around could do something very much like this, but apart from the innate smarts and arms-length delivery, there is a genuine talent and a thought process applied to their jams, something that cannot be said of said dickheads; an education of culture so erudite as to be alien to your average 20something hairmonster with GarageBand and a mild drug problem. Let’s say this: they don’t know what aliens look like either, but they have a better idea than you. Both LPs are weird in their own right; Alpha gets over on force, a little close for comfort at times, but a success all the same. People have said similar things about the Residents, and look where they are... Graffiti Youth might appeal more to fans of their first album Dream Code for Sacred Bones, as it’s a lot less defined but still totally formed and informed by its own internal logic, synths lurching klaxon melodies up and over the wall, continuing along for a few minutes before jumping along onto another, but the prepared rhythm track and WWII espionage feel of its closer, “Take the Last Train,” shows just how closely this lot hews towards classic British DIY sounds of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. They might as well be playing with their eyes and noses duct-tapes and ski masks over their heads as far as how removed this stuff is from modern music — this is futuristic in the same way that Cabaret Voltaire or early Human League (natch, the Future) was futuristic, an intricate cul de sac unto itself. There’s a slackness about them that keeps their sound in line with early Pavement or Trumans Water in presentation, but a coolness that neither of those bands could ever really pull off, which something like “Go Downtown” or “Love For Same” off Alpha ably and casually determines to be true. This is the band we’ll be remembering out of this whole mess ten years from now, so you might as well begin while you have any hope of obtaining their records.
An altered, faded photograph of a girl’s face adorns the cover of this LP, and the liner notes suggest a social conscience. Credit Daniel Martin-McCormick, taking a break here from his duties in Mi Ami and, coincidentally, from being a new writer at Dusted. There’s little of said themes represented musically, as tonal abstraction is the name of the game. We get three longform tracks of synth gurgles, gasps and vocal moans — nothing too shocking, given that Not Not Fun is co-run by a guy from Robedoor, but it’s cool, man, cause it gels. Soft edges and familiar sounds, a bit of hiss, or maybe that’s smoke I’m trying to see through? Though it’s monotonous and horizontal, I wouldn’t call it danceable ‘cause these aren’t so much beats as they are bumps. Tremelo, flange and phase effects are layered on but not at the same time, so it never risks turning to spacejazz soup. “Not Much,” the final track, gets into a more lyric-driven calypso melt, with murky steel drums and relaxed drum programming. It’s almost catchy before it dissolves, but it’s intriguing enough to demand repeated plays.
Somehow I missed the deluge of Wizzard Sleeve releases and any chance I’ve had to see them live. I know, right? Downer punk trio from Alabama, doing the “Mobile Mosh” and juggling a fascination with synthesizers against making music that most people are going to find a connection with. That’s probably not gonna happen here, sadly. Their one idea — monochromatic, mopey bonecreakers, sounding kinda junky and not well-considered — might be enough for a single or a side of a split, but over a full-length, things get tiring super-fast. Like Daily Void, Francis Harold, and several others in the wheel-spinning central recesses of nu garage/Termbo-favorited bands, this doesn’t necessarily do anything to build off of better records made like it in the past, and these decreased expectations cheapen the form to the point where nobody would want to pay for it. Good thing you don’t have to anymore... 200 on gold vinyl, and the rest on black.
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By Dusted Magazine