Doug Mosurock goes it solo this week and still manages to cover 13 new slabs of wax, including new stuff from Broken Water, Slices and Andre Ethier.
Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 9
“Playing Both Sides” b/w “Leaving”
Two songs of wound-up, punky pop with a few unfinished edges from this Bay Area trio (ex-Giant Haystacks). Vocals here are the weak link, but their plaintive, hoarse use here, backed by their springloaded, slightly mod-ish delivery makes it seem like a modern update on Empire’s big, meaningful riffs for kids who’ve been bombed out of their minds on TV and the Internet since they’ve been born. Both songs work off of the same spirit of economy and short shocks well enough that these guys might have cornered a tiny scrap of the punk landscape for themselves. Fans of everything from Mission of Burma to the Jam could find something suitable to groove on within. (http://www.dirtnaprecs.com)
Built from the ruins of OlyWa outfit Sisters (sounds like the screaming guy is gone), Broken Water retains the services of psychopharmacological image consultants to an ideal of indie rock once owned by fashionplate Sonic Youth or chainsmoking Unwound, right down to the vocals. If you ever heard Sisters, you probably came in expecting this, a band from Olympia, picking up the torch of the burly, fuzzily-remembered late ‘80s/early ‘90s flannel explosion from roundabout that way. Broken Water certainly possesses the required atmosphere to get there in a hurry, with eight songs that balance things we know with a homespun, accepting feel throughout, like getting to hide out, smoke cloves, and draw shoegaze band logos on your backpack in the art studio throughout all of junior year, or finding your own secluded oasis in nature before some asshole comes along and deposits a soiled copy of Swank and an empty halfrack there. Heaviness and noise are well-balanced with syrupy vocal harmonies, and an overall moldy weirdness that suits them better than you’d expect. The album’s running order is a bit lopsided, with the stranger songs taking up a bit more space than they otherwise would, but several listens in and I find their willingness to experiment here and there quite redemptive, bolstered by the right kind of studio grit (handily applied by Capt. Trips, who did up the Sex Vid records). Parts of this sound like they would fit right at home somewhere between Evol and the first Dinosaur record, which is where a portion of my own tastes were developed, so pardon my bias – if you liked the ‘90s, welcome back. Can’t wait to hear what they do next. There’s a beautiful, hand-screened test pressing version of 100 copies, and the regular release version, which doesn’t look nearly as nice. Still though, highly recommended to teenagers and those over 30, as well as select twentysomethings. (http://www.raccoo-oo-oon.org/np)
Brass Beads LP
Superb first outing from this Minneapolis trio, all ladies, playing within the confines of bass, viola both plucked and bowed, and drums, with what sounds like a little bit of organ in there now and again. Like White Magic and Grass Widow, the only modern groups in the punk/DIY circuit with whom Brute Heart has much in common, their music benefits from determination and practice, and the band doesn’t take their voice for granted. However, Brute Heart pushes further into quiet instrumental minimalism/abstraction, not just as an expression of artifice, but of worldview. These people have found a sound and learned to communicate to one another with it, something that far too many bands operating in indie/postpunk circles have bothered to understand. In another classy move, the production techniques used to represent the band (clean, dubbed, delayed, hyper- attenuated) add to their sound, but stop short of defining it. The form is distinctly loft-American, with shots of the kind of experiments that Davids Cunningham and Toop were performing in the UK throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. All three members sing, in techniques cribbed from the Billotte sisters, harmonizing in triplicate, and essentially distilling their combined voices into an instrument of its own, howling and cooing through lyrics that focus on personal politics and the forces that drive humanity to exist. The nods to nature, objects, and witchcraft in their words and imagery align with folk music, but drummer Crystal Brinkman is having none of it, pushing the band into steady, almost danceable pop rhythms. There are so many records that do exactly what you’d expect of them, and far fewer challengers who wish to extend forms which require practice and study, rather than merely decoupage a bunch of signifiers into something emblematic of the times. “Talebearer” is a prime example of this sort of thought put into action: hustling, brushed drums, melodies both deep and trance-laden, nervous energy exploding from all sides but skillfully contained. The members of Brute Heart have worked hard and come up with a sound that, while staying at the very edge of pop/rock based forms, proudly sets up camp in a space that’s all their own. (http://www.myspace.com/bruteheart)
“Metal Moon” b/w “Owl’s Nest” 7”
Pittsburgh’s most musically expressive rock band goes back out on the road, with this single and a forthcoming vinyl album on the horizon. “Metal Moon” bounces along on a galumphing country beat and the sort of evil-tinged bar rock you might have expected. Personally I find these guys the most interesting when they abandon any semblance of rock/roll completely and go off on bizarre instrumentation and haunting moods, which “Owl’s Nest” does admirably – steel drums, strings, and big fuzz bass shake seductively from across the junkyard, plying opportunist with original pressings of Sun City Girls records that will ultimately lead to their doom. In feeling, it’s got a good bit in common with the Rope single reviewed below, and I’m sure those two bands would make for part of a great bill somewhere in America. They’re headed out west on tour throughout April and May, so go see them before Josh Tanzer becomes a Scanner and makes strangers’ heads explode. 500 copies.
Compilation Tracks 1982-1985 “From Beginning to End” Vol. 1 LP (Dais)
As Deviation Social, a tape-based dark experimental project from the salad days of tape-based dark experimental musics, creator Arshile Injeyan was living his art – his story, partially told in the booklet for From Beginning to End, alludes to crime and drug abuse cutting his activities short. It’s reflected in his releases, which weren’t limited to music (excerpts from print matter and photo stills complete the package), but in the end has the same, oppressing effect: NON’s total war, Throbbing Gristle’s mutant ejaculate, and here we are. Most of the pieces feature heavy, sinister synthesizer abuse with Injeyan’s fascist-toned pronouncements on top, a sound which ties to my earliest experiences with experimental and industrial musics. If authenticity is your thing, get ready to get hard – this thing is pretty nuts, like serial killer level. In any case, and probably because of this, all I can think of when I listen is Manny Theiner, back turned in solitude to the camera, nefariously plotting against us all. 300 numbered copies. (http://www.daisrecords.com)
s/t 12” EP
(Les Disques Steak)
More people need to hear Andre Ethier, former Deadly Snake frontliner and current purveyor of songcraft well above and beyond any solo artist I can think of right now. If you’ve looked at this place before, you already have an idea of what I think about this guy and his skills. This EP collects a pair of songs from both of his past two CD-only albums, On Blue Fog and Born of Blue Fog, reminiscent of these great, glorious rock/blues metaphors that are too classy to be cool. Like, this guy is the next Warren Zevon, right? But Warren Zevon was the last Warren Zevon. DO YOU GET IT GUYS HE’S THAT GOOD, with a very sophisticated, adventurous, and ardently traditional way with arrangements, and the attention paid to these ones easily best most of the music that gets covered here, irrespective of genre. Barnbuster “Pride of Egypt” is here, as is the oh-so-crafty “Cop Killer” (a new folk hero, the vengeful woman who hides out at lefty protest rallies to murder law enforcement, it would seem), and the classy main riff of “Infant King.” Removed from their original albums, these tracks have renewed power, and work to be one of the best showcases of this guy’s talent to date. Most of his records are out of print, but steps are being taken to correct that. If you take away anything from this column, it’s that you should listen to Andre’s music. 500 copies. (http://www.myspace.com/lesdisquessteak)
Jerusalem and the Starbaskets
“Room 8” b/w “Swingin Vine” 7”
Back after a knockout album and a half, the Missouri duo Jerusalem & the Starbaskets bash away at two more tweedy, reedy slices of American rock, shot through with the distortion and overmodulated recording styles of these days. It’d be somewhat curious to hear these songs without the burden of lo-fi, because they’ve already proven themselves to be strong songwriters and shouldn’t have to rely on the crutches that fail to toughen such a winsome, Southern sound anyway. “Room 8” storms along at first, but recedes into heartstrung balladeering, to the point where you’ll check on the ghost of Phil Seymour hanging out in your room while it plays. “Swinging Vine” is a little more upbeat, borrowing both the open chords and braying phrase of R.E.M. in the early ‘80s. As good as these two tracks are (and they are good), I keep wondering how much it might benefit some of these bands to remove the husks of scuzz out of their finished products and work on their tone instead. In JATSB’s case, the songs are there, and stand well as their own bottom line. (http://destijlrecs.com)
s/t 7” EP
Trippy-dip longhairs splitting time between Philly and Baltimore. Junkers play fun, goofy paisley garage jangle, with little pretense – they avoid the uncircumcised tackiness of most of today’s gumflappers, instead going for the traditional, bluesy sort of band that might have played at Shout some Sunday night, the kind you might read about decades post-fact in Ugly Things. They have more in common with the Three O’Clock than anything else going on in the garage-psych realm right now, though, and that’s good enough. You’re not gonna need a map: think 1967, then 1983, doesn’t take a slide rule to figure out the rest. Thin, but strong enough, with decent songs. Hopefully they keep building on this slouching rock form and make it their own. 300 numbered copies. (http://genpoprecords.blogspot.com)
Otonaki Touge De Hagureta KMR LP
Tom Lax said this was his favorite album of 2009, so I’m sure that those of you who, like, needed to know, found out already. Japanese free-rock arm flail that is preeeeeeetty impressive in that they’re completely disorganized sounding and then right on top of it all the same. I couldn’t begin to tell you what the fuck was going on until I put headphones on and played this one again. Without proper separation, this is going to sound like a fucking disaster. They cover “Romanticist” by the Stalin, sorta, pulling apart the song to its ropey intestines. Sounds like two guitarists and a drummer, some manner of collaboration between Hirotomo Hasegawa (Aburadako’s vocalist) and guys that are hanging out in between dimensions. There’s a bit if formula here, in that one being is playing something traditional while the other two roam free around it, without any heed to structure or sensibility. Songs speed up, slow down, and writhe all over the place, getting out through any ways and means at their hand, but there definitely is rock here, despite all decent attempts to mask it, and it is real. One song is given a Longmont Potion Castle vocal effect treatment across its entirety, and at another point Blind Muskmellon Green and the Junkyard Band are allowed to guest on harmonica and washtub, and they decide to hang out for the rest of the record. None of the songs are named and there’s a crazy Dennis Tyfus drawing inside of some sort of crap-covered man/woman titmonster. That pile of shit on the floor that uncreative people always threaten us with as “art” has just sprouted wings and drawn that same image – with itself as the crayon – on the nearest wall. I better go. (http://www.ultraeczema.com)
“Montagne” b/w “I Can’t Pretend to Understand” 7”
(All Hands Electric)
NYC rock in name and deed, driving and electrified, bright and just a little dirty, with a sound that could have come from any point from the opening of CBGB onward. “Montagne” rides a persistent, upbeat drum lockdown across the nighttime party horizon, chilly and racing past with cleanly sung vocals, electric violin scratch and solid guitar riffage (courtesy of Zachary Cale and Federale’s John Stendrini). It fades out, only to come back in an extended instrumental coda that lays into that groove for just a little while longer. They’ve nailed that late ‘70s/early ‘80s studio vibe down cold, right through to the all-analog recording and mastering; if nothing else, it will remind you of the same sort of manufactured excitement you’d feel from hearing, say, “The Driver’s Seat” by Sniff ‘n’ the Tears, which, if you’re me, is not a bad thing to aspire to. “I Can’t Pretend to Understand” makes out with the girl you had an eye on right in front of you, slightly gloomy but earnest power-pop with the violin adding a level of sound you wouldn’t often consider in modern rock. For what this is, I love it. It’s cool when bands acknowledge what they are up front, but aspire to more than three chords and getting blackout drunk, and can effectively pull it off. I look forward to watching these guys play some time. (http://www.allhandselectric.com)
You’re Welcome 7” EP
Look, we like to play around here a little bit at Still Single, and occasionally our targets get kind of mad. Let this Rot Shit review stand: we don’t necessarily agree with the sentiments these three songs spill all over your floor, and an endorsement of their music removes itself from overall agreement for the band, their words and actions.. To wit: “2009, punk’s finally dead/Mike Sniper shot it in the head.” Or how about “what kind of punk show has imported beer?” Such is the way of these three angry, offensive songs, but you can’t argue with them for being punk and getting under people’s skin, which is what Rot Shit has always been about. Willfully obscured vocals by the guy who runs that Jim Shepard blog come to hideous life on the printed page, but the band (now backed by one professional musician, and a guy in a Bill Maher mask on sax) has no issue committing to this hate fest, and brings the roof down on one more “last show ever.” I like it, with severe reservations. Seeing their final performance at Death by Audio was a mixed bag –– saddled with boring patter by creepy ex-girlfriends of my colleagues, threatening drunken arguments featuring chest-shoving from people I’ve known half my life, Whip-It abuse, and teen spasmos moshing into every standing person, it was like an Internet messageboard come to horrible life, all personal space utterly sacrificed. Right down to the pictures of models with the name “DEAD” on each one that adorns the cover – Vin, you are never going to have sex, bro – GG avoiders and just people should refrain from spinning “Hipster Grandma.” But I back the sentiments in “Local Band Forever” – just have fun, leave your fruitless trips to SXSW and Tommy’s Tavern out of your lives, and realize that you have it pretty good to be able to play in a band at all.
Shake Shake Bolino
“Don’t Lose Your Friends” b/w “Please Pony Please” 7”
(Les Disques Steak)
It’s kind of incredible how many Beach Dogs we got going these days, and you can usually spot them from far away: if the band has a picture of the beach or surf anywhere on their record, they’re completely down; out of the cabanas, as it were. France’s Shake Shake Bolino is no exception: a rickety recording, clean reverberated guitars, and a plodding stomp of a rhythm grace “Don’t Lose Your Friends,” imbued with the grit of walking on the beach in flip flops. It’s got that folky jangle that bands like Thee Oh Sees have run off with, which of course sends a guy like me racing for my Mamas & the Papas records anyway. “Please Pony Please” is more in the line of the dual twangy rock/punky scum revival I’ve come to expect out of the Les Disques Steak crew, with an angry fuzz break that kicks sand in the face of the 98 lb. weaklings trying to impress their girlfriends. Kind of an interesting dichotomy for this side project of Cheveu, and hopefully they hang more with side B than the former. Edition of 300. (http://www.myspace.com/lesdisquessteak)
Things to know about Slices: they’ve been around in one form or another for almost ten years, the product of the brothers Kasunic – suburban teenage refugees of Pittsburgh – as a noise ensemble that has reshaped itself into a terrifying bastard of a hardcore punk/noise rock hybrid. One of their singles has a drawing of a turtle on it; the other one is called Pavarotti Facefuck, the opera singer’s mouth covered in a bloody smear. Their first album depicts the four band members guitarist John, bassist Mike, vocalist Greg Mantooth and drummer Mike Ovens (Brain Handle) standing outside around a BMW, outside a cement plant, in the Klieg-lit night. Calling the record Cruising sure doesn’t help their cause – this cover is being used as the dust jacket for a bootleg Chinese version of American Psycho by the time this review goes to print. Every scrap of that potential for evil is unleashed on the record, cutting across straight up fast punk, strangulating noise, and a few dirgelike groaners for the over-35 set hanging out in the back. Some things have been said here before about bands staffed by guys with exclusively hardcore backgrounds trying to do the slow/nasty/perverted, and the particularly awful things that can result. There doesn’t seem to be a desire to let one sound define this band, and though all of it is ominous and needling with aggression, they cut across bright punk riffs, weird/slow repetitive songs that descend without falling into sludge, a few quieter composed interludes, and strobing panic attack with no trouble at all, or desire to box themselves in. The songs are simple but tightly played, and John Kasunic’s guitar tone has this really trebly, clean voice amidst the distortion it’s pushed through. Mantooth’s lyrics are snippets, like military documents with portions of the content redacted. There’s not a lot of these left over of the original 700 pressing, so you had best hurry and order one now. Comes with a mask of one of the four band members, if it wasn’t creepy enough. Killer record. (http://www.myspace.com/lifeironlungdeath)
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By Doug Mosurock