Prepare yourself: Doug Mosurock and his crew take on almost 60 records, including new wax from Voice of the Seven Thunders, Ensemble Orlando and Jacuzzi Boys.
Still Single: Vol. 6, No. 13
The Shirley Jangle 2xLP
All-star improvisational drone which has all its bases covered: Lee Ranaldo on guitar, the pre-eminent avant-bagpiper David Watson, Christian Marclay on the turntables, and Günter Müller on percussion. None of these guys should need too much introduction, or reason to disbelieve that each other’s efforts wouldn’t jell into something substantial. The three sides presented here seem to make a real effort in combining a lot of disparate genres into one thoughtful whole. Marclay is the secret weapon in that regard, able to drop in any record he feels like; even with his manipulations in play, he’s the guy who brings the most tradition to the record. Ranaldo does great, understated tone work, Watson divides up between guitar and the pipes, adding percussive elements which are then bolstered by a Marclay sample, then realized into a drum pattern by Müller. Profound, convention-smashing work by veterans – you don’t get to be a veteran without learning how to play sounds this nebulous, this harmonious in relation to one another . Ranaldo’s etching on side four even works as a tribute to Marclay’s Record Without a Cover (don’t play it) (trust me). 500 copies, gatefold sleeve, striking artwork.
Alog/Astral Social Club
Astral Social Club/Glockenspiel
Reading from top to bottom (Lisa … Carol … Fremont): Norway’s Alog finds the medium between Amon Düül II, Fela, and acid electronics, landing on a sugar-smacked, galloping African groove and layering all sorts of textures and counter-rhythms atop this proud, shirtless jam. Really needs to be heard, and I think I’m gonna drop this next time I DJ and see what happens. Neil Campbell’s Astral Social Club has been the atavistic response band to his earlier collaborations with folks like Simon Wickham-Smith and Richard Youngs. Busted up hi-NRG dance riddims are shot into space and irradiated, from the dizzying (“Clarion Super-Cortex”) to the plangent (“Vurt Chorale #1”) to the violent (“Corby Kiss”) taking place on their side of this split. On the split 7”, their “Smash Crater #1” puts a donk on the entire affair, sounding like a chorus of children yelling loudly in the middle of a high-output plastic injection-molding facility, during which a rave sort of breaks out and the workers get scalded by molten polymers. Glockenspiel responds with defeated drone, fitted alongside long-delay percussion loops to make the track seem longer than it actually is. Hope this helps!
Reptilian Intervention LP
Is Richmond, VA still a dirt-cheap place to live? I haven’t been around there in about seven years, but this Bermuda Triangles record came from there, and I’m hoping it’s evidence of the sort of well-kept secrets a mid-sized town can have in its paths of musical expression. Compared to what little overall worth is shaking out of cities where one’s overhead overshadows the ability to really open things up, Reptilian Intervention is a fuckin’ trip and a half. The brainchild of Jason Hodges (better known for his ‘90s powerviolence band, Suppression), this band pushes a heavy, tribal rhythmic agenda, the band weaves in a thick paste of delayed guitars, timbales, electronic blitter and a conspiracy-baked mindset (hear the refrain of the title track: “Rockefeller, Bush, Windsor/Rothschild and Kissinger/Blood-thirsty reptiles/From the same bloodline”). There’s even a sax on some of the tracks, which pushes their entire presentation really close to Houston’s dark rock trio Balaclavas. But where that band relishes in striking riffs and sentiments that detonate under a glamorous dusk, Bermuda Triangles runs in the paranoid prog-punk runoff of Nomeansno. Limited to 100 copies, in eye-searing silkscreened sleeves and with a CD copy. Give this one a shot.
Wave High LP
Instrumental rock from Austin, playing it safe. Moody songs that tend to run long, with computer assisted ass-shaking to keep the kids from falling asleep. Not remarkable in any sense, that whole Miracle Whip on white bread sound done again. Why waste words, when the man-baby on the front tells you all you’ll ever need to know about not listening to this record, ever? No bueno. Green vinyl.
s/t 7” EP
It makes me want to hurt strangers when mentally-touched folk, and especially the things that mentally-touched folk make or employ, spark the use of the faux-adjective “buddy”. It’s almost as infuriating as the scene parlance of “boo you!” to express discontent with another person’s actions. But I’m referencing loathsome vermin here, and I’m almost convinced that the members of Los Buddies occupy an altogether different personality-spectrum. Check out this passage from the handwritten note (always a nice touch) that accompanied this 7”: “Los Buddies are from Jackson, Mississippi. We put this out on our own Buddy Brand label. There are 150. All black. All vinyl. MP3 cards included. They are available via Goner Records and Florida’s Dying – or as a last resort, the band.” Why is that last line so funny? Seriously. Belying the band’s self-deprecating tone is one major fact, and it will have the proverbial needle scratching across then grinding to halt, the day of each reader … and yet, within the context of the dismal garage-pop realm, this is next-level shit. The hooks are sterling hitters that underscore everyday activities like driving a car, making this a sublime experience. Opener “UFO” and its dumber-than-dumb lyrics are nullified by a chorus that MUST have be stolen from the Last or the Only Ones or some other top-shelf hook royalty. When the hook sounds stolen but one cannot place the song of origin (because there isn’t one), that hook is most likely a keeper. Driving the catchiness is a noisy form of garbage-pop that doesn’t beat listeners about the head and neck with reverb but DOES employ all manner of FX boxes (or just one box as a modeler – nothing wrong with that). When the songs stop, the squealing and ringing barbs continue for a few seconds or fire up first before the power-pop propulsion takes over. This is being noted because the noisy nature of this record is yet another quality built with QUALITY instead of affected for future party conversation. “Hey, love the extra reverb on your single … it goes perfectly with the discarded early ‘90s personal computer photo collage you used for cover art.” There will be none of that when one of the 150 copies of this record is the topic of discussion!
Spring St. one-sided 12” EP
(Quite Scientific Records)
Playing perfectly nice acoustic guitar-based pastoral pop from with occasional electronic flourishes, Fred Thomas’ City Center project makes some nice music that wouldn’t be out-of-place alongside similar artists such as Greg Davis, Mountains, and, hell, perhaps even Fennesz. Pretty decent, though not outstandingly great. Limited to 500, one-sided, screen-printed copies on clear vinyl.
(Anarchy Moon/Sonora Disc)
Oppressive, naval wall of hurricane noise/drone out of Puerto Rico, a place where the residents know from hurricanes. Side A is immense, just a gutbuster of layered white noise, while Side B adds in queasy sine wave bass beneath prop plane engine scream. Backed hard; when this sort of expression gives you visuals totally on its own, you can’t help but get lost inside of it. Edition of 200, with silkscreened obi strip.
First Word of Evil Omens – VITIUM 7” EP
Well, let’s just take this zoological/biological fad to its logical manifestation of unknowing self-parody. Isn’t that the final stage in any movement’s pathetic home-stretch? Coyote Slingshot is the artistic moniker of Domenic Rabalais, an (obligatorily) small-town kid who tried really hard to freak out the square-johns in his small Midwestern hometown by wearing truck-stop Native American head-dresses and attaching coyote skulls to his homemade sleeveless t-shirt, which appeared to be his only piece of above-the-waist clothing. After all, his folks own three motels, four service stations, and two restaurants in town and he could buy the entire outlet mall if he wanted. The shirt has the Black Flag logo underneath the words “Neutral Milk Hotel.” The locals didn’t quite understand the cultural car-wreck imagined by the latter … a band t-shirt is a band t-shirt … at least it didn’t say “Impaled Nazarene” like the one worn by the one weirdo kid that’s still in town. After he had lived in Austin, TX for a few months, Mr. Slingshot sent some small records back to a few of the locals. Mainly family, but also that neighbor girl who was able to wear a D-cup by the time she was eleven. The songs on the record, they aren’t crap, when you can comprehend what the hell is happening. Everyone in town who heard it had the same concern: Did he keep the receipt for his studio time? Sure, it’s pretty impressive that he played every instrument on that record but it’s not like there’s much drumming to be heard on the little record, and something on the computer showed him how to record all of those instruments, and showed him how to dress like that, too.
Dead Voices on Air
The Silent Wing LP
Vacuous rivethead drone from former Zoviet France member Mark Spybey, who fails to achieve the dark ambient textures of his ‘90s releases like Shap. Tedious songcraft definitely plays a part in all of this. It’s 2010, and from the sound of these offerings, Spybey is stuck in 1999, which was quite a nice year, but hardly a place to reside now, as the progress made in this genre seems to have been lost on this guy. Perhaps DVOA has hopes that his fans don’t listen outside of the goth/industrial spectrum he used to inhabit, but that seems like a recipe for diminishing returns. Can’t find much to recommend here. 400 copies.
Regurgitate Sunshine State one-sided 12” EP
This one-sided mini-LP (on baby-blue wax and housed in hand-screened artwork that looks like a hesher’s social studies notebook from 1989) reeks of rural idiot savantism and wafts in and out like a smacked-out Neutral Milk Hotel replete with banjo, trumpet, various rusty shit and probably some old mason jars filled with some kind of liquid your grandfather put in there back in the year Gimmel. Not sure what these guys have against Florida (except that it kinda sucks), but I do like these songs, especially this third track, “A Name Is a Diamond,” which is kinda awesome and reminds me of a slothier New Bad Things. There’s some 1920s flapper-type megaphone jams on here as well, for all you aficionados of the genre. Fans of Jeff Mangum would lap this excitingly-named Denton, TX group up, if they were ever to hear it. As an aside, all these years I thought his name was Jeff Magnum. Mangum is much more unfortunate, unless he pronounces it “mang-um” but I like to think he’s “Jeff Man Gum”… hey, if he ever decides to switch careers and make porno he’d be able to use his actual name. Thanks for reading.
At the Lake LP
In typical Murphy’s Law (not the band) fashion, the first real show of latent Thinking Fellers Local Union 282 respect would come from across the pond. Denmark lots-a-members outfit Ensemble Orlando formed in 2007 and proudly advertises a love of San Francisco’s greatest non-Steel Pole Bathtub export. But what really matters is that At the Lake expertly flies the flag of authentically-bent pop during an era when the charlatans and amateurs are flying the plane, while everyone (including those in their thirties or older that know better) gladly sits in front of the proverbial plates of shit being served, stuffing their faces like first-day-free ex-cons at a catered wedding. Some listeners or readers (who don’t plan on listening at all) will scoff at the fact that this album could’ve been time-machined from an especially adventurous corner of underground goings-on circa-1995. Hey, someone is buying all of the Thinking Fellers albums on eBay, and it’s not this writer (kept my originals …) It looks really awesome when the promotional organs of so many lesser acts of today reference a bunch of older artists that the collage-core set has memorized and understands as “seminal”, regardless of the past artists’ actual similarities to the entity being pushed. In the spirit of this, let it be known that the following artists really did inform Ensemble Orlando during the creation of At the Lake: Sun City Girls, Fly Ashtray, Furtips, Meringue, Uncle Wiggly, and you know whooooooooo … Highly, highly, recommended.
On the Street LP
Japanese re-enactment of early ‘80s streetpunk. Better than the Germ Attak record, at least, because it’s shorter. Live pic seats three Japanese punkers up front, leathers painted with the Adicts and Abrasive Wheels, so you know where you stand (unless you’ve never heard of those bands, in which case, this may not be for you). Most people know where they stand with this sort of thing: against the wall, in the pit, or elsewhere. Pogo your fuckin’ brains out dudes, I don’t care.
“Syllables” b/w “Got Lies If You Want Them” 7”
(Mammoth Cave Recording Co.)
Edmonton duo Famines speedbags two flat-out frantic Morse Code messages to your forehead. Guitar and drums rush forward at a breakneck pace, knocking everyone out of the way. They keep pushing forth on “Syllables” but the flip take some breaks for artsy recompense and solid, open-sky interplay at the bridge. Recorded with the fuzz on, for sure. Annoying how these Mammoth Cave singles just cut off at the ends of the songs, though, because I wanted to hear every second of this one. There’s another single, double 7” and cassette out, and I want ‘em all. Great hearing a band that has the parts and chops to rival most in the two-man (advantage) band format, is able to flex hard on their chops, and still finds a way to sound and play differently than most bands trying to figure it all out. Between this, the Radians single, that Bloodstains Across Alberta comp and the Outdoor Miners tracks I’ve dug up, something is definitely going on up north. Hot shit, sonny!
Sloppy, spastic, or confused hardcore LPs are always welcome, so long as they’re good driving (meaning, good for the car) records. By the looks of the cover, twee-tedium was expected, but that’s what expectations are for: a good dashing! Everything that makes this sort of record great: frustration, members are sick of everyone’s shit, everyday is a bad day, feel like a broke-dick dog by Monday morning even though you’re only 21, a sense of humor that’s worth a shit, and a band name that tricks people into thinking it might be one of those fake shoegaze/noise-pop bands assembled in a boardroom during the latter half of 1993. “Fellas, I like the striped tees, OK, so do you want to be on Seed Records, Grass Records, or SpinArt? The world is your polluted freshwater clam. Kidding, dudes! This is going to be awesome!” Truthfully, that latter attribute was just tacked on for the sake of observational humor, and no one thinks pathetic nonsense like that and no one buys Madder Rose or Dig or Sammy records but people should buy this record. Kudos for the song about Vietnam and the singer/guitarist’s non-ironic use of what appears to be a paint-splattered Charvel. Enter my gear-geek phase. Black vinyl.
“Bummer Bitch” b/w “Church” 7”
Last Laugh is a new label run by Almost Ready’s Harry H., focusing on the legit reissue of KBD singles. It’s an idea that’s time has come; it gives people the chance to own pristine, nearly-exact copies of records that may as well not exist, and it acknowledges the efforts of forgotten musicians whose fame stems primarily from being insane enough to capture their spew onto vinyl in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and only recognized through bootlegs. “Bummer Bitch” appeared on the second volume of the infamous Killed by Death series, and plays as a more raw “Earache My Eye,” 90 seconds of scorching punk that was likely conceived as a parody, but actually meets and exceeds much of the punk rock that had surfaced up to that time (San Francisco, 1978). Not nearly as many people have heard “Church,” which was likely considered their A-side; it’s lumpy, somewhat arty progressive-ish rock that denounces Catholicism. Sounds like both sides were designed to piss people off, but only one of them’s worth listening to. But the one side that is legit, is like the MOST legit punk collectible, and this is as close as most of us will come to the real thing.
“Charm” b/w “We Keep Our Victims Ready” 7”
Skin Graft is like that immortal drifter that the philandering wife simply cannot kill in Creepshow 2. Just when another Made in Mexico seemingly lets out a booming death rattle, a silly looking hand puppet pops out of your air-conditioning vent and growls “Thanks for the ride, lady…” before throwing a Gay Beast 7” at your cat. Both of these songs are constructed in an interesting manner relative to the confining musical prison cell that is warmed-over, modern-day No-Wave. Maybe four or five more atonal riffs or keyboard farts than normally heard on such a record, and more personality. Regardless, atonal riffing is a troublesome affair, yet this is just tuneful enough to transcend the irritatingly-typical four-year-old-with-four-riffs trap that no wave-ish nonsense finds itself in. Yep, I get it, no wave is supposed to irritate listeners, but is it supposed to irritate listeners through the act of seriously sucking? This doesn’t seriously suck, and it’s degrees friendlier than the company it keeps.
Punk for all the 18-year-olds with liberty spikes and acne shitting up MySpace, Germ Attak has received a bit of notoriety at this point, likely for playing simple, fast, traditional street/scumpunk. It’s loud, everything smashed up to the front of the mix. Makes sense, up to a point, where you want to hear something a little less lockstep conformed with the uniforms. These punks likely aren’t cops, but some punks are. Watch yourself.
Group Icky Rats
Free Rock LP
I find it annoying when a band writes something on its record sleeve like “FILE UNDER ROCK.” Even more so when it’s on the front. “Hey guys, you’re in for a treat: ROCK MUSIC. You know that filing system you have where you go by GENRE? Put this in your ROCK section. Seriously.” The bigger problem is that it obscures the content, while pigeonholing it at the same time. Anyone who deigns to address a potential audience with such a statement sends out the warning that their work is, to them, extreme. Will it be extreme to you? Where are we going with this? Those in the grind like ten years ago might recognize the label name – Coat-Tail did those Sixty Second Compilation singles, the Xerobot CD, and records for Melt-Banana, the Flying Luttenbachers, and Duotron; its founder Jon Skuldt played guitar in a noise project called White; everything on the slate seemed colder than it might have been, given the label’s Minneapolis upbringing. And from there, them what knew would sniff out the mode of performance all these records shared – no wave, informed by the Chicago revival, all broken glass guitar and hissing, usually with belligerent, or at least hyperactive, vocalese. Crazy person, comin’ through! Uh-oh! Group Icky Rats is a platform for vocalist Chris Besinger (late of boys’ club noise rockers STNNNG) to tear loose some rants from his lyric notebook. Besinger’s got the sort of barking, insistent voice that divides audiences, something shared with another Twin Cities alum, Craig Finn. But Besinger’s neuroses are a far cry from Finn’s backwards-ballcap nostalgia of late, instead supplying an Inferno of abstract imagery and internal dialogue, the words of a cube farmer about to snap. Skuldt returns to music and labeldom, improvising on guitar and synth against the complex, machine-like drumming of Bryan Reynolds. It’s about as jagged as you’d want, with 22 songs, all recorded live in various environments. Most of it doesn’t sound improvised, which is to its benefit; jackhammer riffs against math-man drumming can take many shapes, all of which have sharp edges. The tone is filament-thin, digital, and room mic’d, confrontational and jagged. The lack of fidelity and position of these sounds adds to the suspense, the band moving in and out of ideas, each one as stressful as the last. It’s clear that the participants are married to this sound, and have been for some time, which keeps it interesting. I’m not trying to sound noncommittal about this record, but I can tell it’s coming across that way. There is excitement within, and the 100 people who can own this record will let you know this, because they probably have a few things in their collections that sound something like this. Manfeelings has a posse (of course). Perhaps the group fleshes this out a bit more for the next go-round, works on its sound and presence, and makes something a bit more out of living in these terrifying times. Paste-on sleeve, covered in text.
Boerum Palace LP
(Three Lobed Recordings)
There’s been a lot of guitar players down the pike since the New Weird America became the same old shit, but Steve Gunn’s no joke. Former member of GHQ with Marcia Bassett (Hototogisu, Zaimph, Double Leopards, etc.), and occasional guest guitar grumbler with Magik Markers, Gunn doesn’t necessarily seem like the kinda guy to willfully approach the American Songwriter Tradition (with or without capitalization), but he does so with aplomb on Boerum Palace, his second full-length. The first song, “Mr. Franklin,” perfectly showcases Gunn’s approach, with its jaunty finger-picked guitar, slightly mumble-fied lyrics, and sweet pedal steel guitar that shows up towards the end (courtesy of D. Charles Speer & the Helix member Marc Orleans). Thankfully, Gunn’s got more than just one idea, and fills the album with lots of triumphant sounds. Though Gunn’s songs include flourishes of electric guitar and vocal melodies along with his acoustic figures, he in some ways is closer to the spirit, dare I say it, of John Fahey and Jack Rose due to the sheer joy his music provides. Edition of 823.
Hey Colossus and the Van Halen Time Capsule
Eurogrumble Vol. 1 LP
Vs. split LP
The six-member UK-based outfit Hey Colossus brings a whole mess of noisy rub n’ tugging on Eurogrumble Vol. 1. While the opening number “The Question” plows through the same post-Flipper fields that a number of their American cousins do, Hey Colossus manages, on their fifth full-length, to throw in a couple of substantial riffs, with some strange atmospherics, totally indecipherable vocals on top, and what sounds like samples here and there (so ‘90s, fellas!). Hell, some moments such as the riff-tastic “Shithouse” might described as downright metal, in a gloom way (nothing here approaches Van Halen whatsoever, despite the name). The title track starts off side two much more quietly, with some banjo scraping and synth-work which gives in to more metallic pummeling. Over the course of the side, pounding gives way to more formlessness, but returns now and again in varying degrees of intensity without any break. The eleven-minute long side-ender “Wait Your Turn” turns up the aggravation a notch, capping what feels like a side-long suite. On the split with Dethscalator, released on Riot Season’s “sister” label Black Labs, Hey Colossus present about the same sound as the full-length, while Dethscalator take a much more straight-forward approach, if aping the Jesus Lizard counts as straight-forward. Not really my kinda thing, but not unenjoyable either. Both releases limited to 500 copies.
(Another) Stunt LP
Part of the fun (for me, not necessarily for you, the reader) of reviewing records for Still Single is receiving new releases about which I have no earthly idea. Such is the case with (Another) Stunt, the new LP by Giuseppe Ielasi, who apparently is some sort of Euro turntable guy. And by turntable guy, I don’t mean just another hip-hop “turntablist” out to wow the crowd with his behind-the-back scratch skills, as Ielasi is rooted in what used to be called “glitch” music, of intentional skips, scrapes, and wheezes, micro-popularized at the turn of the century, by a group of almost-always-European artists such as Fennesz and Thomas Brinkmann. The impressive feat – that these acts managed to break into new audiences, impressing even more than just dudes with tiny glasses and receding hairlines – brings us to this Ielahtsi disc: there’s nothing happening here musically that wasn’t going on a decade ago. While it’s a completely pleasant listen, I’m not sure that it’s possible for anyone to be nostalgic for glitch just yet. Edition of 500. (http://www.schoolmap-records.com)
The members of Monoshock, a monstrous Bay Area acid-psych A-bomb that detonated in the ‘90s, reconvene under a name they used as a song title. This isn’t reunion as much as it is reorganization. Comets on Fire expanded upon nearly all of Monoshock’s themes anyway, and it’s refreshing to hear that the members of a powerful band won’t rest on their laurels in the decades to follow. The opening behemoth “Arise Superslide” announces their departure in familiar form, by blasting the paint and Sonex off the studio walls. It’s a formidable smear of heavy motor-psych blasting, but there’s not enough room for complacency, voices jumping in and out of the fray, as crushing rhythms shift around, bass surges up and down, and an overactive synths catfights the guitar. Verse chorus verse, something most Monoshock songs were proud to bear, is out of the Int’l. Hello lexicon, never shows up here at all. Some will want to reach for an easy latter-day companion band like Wooden Shjips, and while this band shares in their stance on repetition, the Hello wants to push the listener as far as they can push themselves. Plenty of other bands would have taken a walking blooz knuckledrag like “Someone’s Coming,” and never considered the vicelike mindgrip that the ricocheting sound of musical confusion could throw into the mix. Elsewhere we have a short synth piece, and the closer “8 Seconds,” which has the dazed raga-like rock retreat not heard this well since the Sun City Girls parted ways with Majora. Quite an accomplishment – maybe we don’t need to listen to the youth to get excited after all.
No Seasons LP
Bricks or Coconuts 7” EP
The familiar works on me, what can I say? Been a somewhat passive fan of this Florida-based garage trio for some time, particularly because they don’t ham it up, at least not on their records. You really get the sense that these guys give more of a shit than just getting wasted and getting their pictures taken, as their first album reflects a tough, boyish exterior across some very solid, brooding, haunted garage tropes. The single doesn’t expand on any of their ideas, and that’s fine. Great songs, great sound. Teen underpants squirm rock – go man go! MS 7” limited to 1000 numbered copies, and the LP is on its last legs.
Hardships & Headtrips LP
I could be wrong but this sounds kinda like conscious hip-hop with some cool production techniques. I’m not 14 and I don’t think the Disposible Heroes of Hiphoprisy are cool anymore, but maybe these guys do. That’s kinda what it reminds me of – mechanized sounds clang back and forth, looped feedback, and a dude who reminds me of Pete Nice rapping about “the cancer of the mind” or some shit. Sorry boss, but I’m afraid this record gets the gasface. Headz who dig current underground hip-hop will probably find something to salvage here, though. On a side note, the gratuitous use of Century Gothic as a typeface does more harm than good; if the untrained eye saw a shrink-wrapped copy of this in a Salvation Army, next to a stack of Encarta CD-ROMs and the inevitable cassette copy of R.E.M.’s Monster, you’d would think this was some “independently produced” local act’s album from 1998 (maybe by a band called “Plug” and perhaps featuring a track for “everybody who’s a slave to the grind,” called “Fuck Work”). I’m sorry King Rhythm, it’s not you it’s me.
Magik Markers/Sic Alps
split 12” EP
For most people, Magik Markers are an either/or proposition: you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em. I’ve never been anything but an unabashed fan, even through their more recent “melodic” period while recording for Drag City. However, it definitely took me a while to warm up to Sic Alps, despite their music being theoretically the sorta thing all thirty-something record nerds would go for. By the time of last year’s West Coast tour with Magik Markers, for which this split 12” was released, I’d put the skepticism aside and jumped on board the Alps train, which of course moves in fits and starts, is incredibly noisy and occasionally off-putting, but nonetheless is quite the thrill ride. On the Markers side of the split, things mellow out even more, but that’s not a bad thing. If you’re a fan of both bands, and you don’t have this yet, go ahead and spring for it.
The Modey Lemon
“Wandering Eye” b/w “Cheetahs for Chariots” 7”
(These Are Not Records)
First material in quite a while from this Pittsburgh garage-psych outfit. The showiness of this band in the Jack White-meets-Cramps/torch your face off phase of its early career gave way to some lucid, slightly Paisley Underground-esque wander by the time of their second or third LP. This new single finds the group in a leaner, tougher mode, with “Wandering Eye” cribbing some of ZZ Top’s swagger with a tough riff and muscular bass playing. Was told to pay close attention to the B-side, where drummer Paul Quattrone (also the current drummer for !!!) starts playing around with his MPC2000s. “Cheetahs for Chariots” is just as cool as the A-side if not better, riding a slick, two-note octave groove (reminds me of “Let’s Go All the Way” by Sly Fox, an unfortunate song that is forever lodged in my childhood memory bank), while frontman Phil Boyd dons a good Neil Hagerty impression and wraps this whole enterprise in snakeskin and acid wash denim. Quattrone’s doing a very similar thing in a new outfit called Expensive Shit, and it may be worth your time to check ‘em out (“there’s another band with that name, but fuck ‘em, they suck”). A quality-minded return to form for guys who have been sluggin’ away for over 10 years now. 475 copies, thick vinyl, thick sleeve stock.
Been holding back on this one. Sorry. I trust my team, and I listen to my associates. When exposure to Nerve City’s Hozac single caused friends of mine to head down to Cabela’s and put in for rifles with scopes, I feared the worst for our youngins. What if they woulda shot some kid who wasn’t in possession of a PowerBook with GarageBand and a MySpace page? Turns out they were just going hunting for whatever was in season. So there’s a pheasant in the pot but what about the record, you ask? It’s not bad, a bunch of shit-encrusted late night sessions which lean heavily on the blues. As a form, blues adopted its masculinity early on. It’s novel and somewhat interesting to hear this take on it, which by virtue of production choices, all but strips any macho posturing away. It’s hard to get too tough when you obscure your voice, pour on the reverb and saturate your guitar tone, so that everything bleeds into everything else. The lack of force here is quite a surprise, to where even instances of the expected instrumentation for these songs unadorned – tambourine, Hammond sound-alike keys – sound as if they stand well outside of the shuck-n-jive that most ‘90s revivalists bestowed upon this music, which pushes the issue of what this music might sound like when the artifice is removed, and it’s squirming in the sunlight. While it’s an interesting path, this guy’s songwriting is not yet at the point where it can stand outside of the artifice slapped on here. For now, that’s probably OK.
Fun and Games 7” EP
This debut 7” by Syracuse’s Night Owls (featuring one-time Still Single contributor Grant Johnson) is essentially very muscular pop-punk with just a pinch of grit on the vocals and the type of professionally-thick, dual-guitar riffs that causes an automatic mental association with Y2K, when we were seeing two things come to fruition: the popularity highpoint/creativity low-point of Turbonegro/Hellacopters & Pals and the first widespread instance of overnight Thin Lizzy and AC/DC love by ‘90s cruster, sXe, and post-hardcore dudes. Instead of the Hot Snakes/Drive Like Jehu wishful-thinking found in the bio-blurb on the Barbarossa Records site, Night Owls could easily be a holdover or recently discovered never-was from approximately ten years ago, rooted across the country in the Pacific Northwest. The introductory paragraph or review in Hit List almost feels real: “No one really remembers who brought the beat-up Johnny the Fox LP, the red Grand Funk album, or Montrose s/t to the Food Not Bombs holiday party last year, but once the overpowering aroma of cultivated B.O. and lentil flatulence was replaced by cheap tree liquor and grade-A rock, it wouldn’t be long before a hard-rock bond was formed between Gabi from Fat Fucks Better, Ray and Porter from Human Parvo, and Steven from grindologists Half-Eaten Ant-Covered Tampon. That bond is what we now know as Night Owls.” Before this Night Owls record – the real one that’s supposed to be the subject of this review – comes away with little more than an unfair dismissal, repeated listens have revealed what is probably a band of serious adults who are definitely as trained as a band can possibly be in the non-art of what was once disgraced with the sub-genre term of “Punk ‘n’ Roll” – a fact proven by an especially exciting minute or so of guitar swells and solos that rises up from the side-long “Germaphobe” with such confidence that the song may very well become a staple over the next week or two. A sonic monument to the down-stroked and blurrily-picked Gibson/Epiphone SG that behaves as though such a thing has never made it to record before. In this case, the quasi-obliviousness is a good thing. On red, white, and black vinyl.
Come Clean LP
Contemporary hardcore’s chattering class has split the Internet in half discussing bands who have taken certain musical cues, lyrical steeze and sleeve art hints from the recently-rediscovered Brainbombs. As much as the sheer aural hideousness of those Swedish loons has rocked me to sleep at night for years, I can certainly understand why anyone who actually takes their hyper misogynistic lyrics seriously could be cause for concern. Then again, the novel and movie “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” (Swedish title: “Men Who Hate Women”) seem to indicate there’s a layer to the male psyche that doesn’t deserve exploration. Yet, this thing is tremendous, a slab of molten jizz (see what I did there) hammered into rolling, thudding form by two former ‘bombers, Drajan Bryngelsson and Dan Raberg. Verse chorus verse has largely been scrapped in favor of largely instrumental riff-loops that would make you hurl if you weren’t pinned to your chair trying to make out what is making what grind/chop/bang/zoom/to the moon. “Forgetting to Suppress It” (hah!) is almost a song! There’s a shouted voice now and then, but, wisely, whatever the hell they’re yammering about is way deep in the mix, as if Lisbeth Salander herself has dumped these geeks, one of whom is now sporting a trumpet poking out of his anus, into a very dark hole and covered them with a thresher spewing shredded chunks of patio furniture at them. It’s Kraut rock if Sweden had been given control over Berlin following the war. It’s the cure for what ails you, especially if what ails you happens to be other people in the room.
I was replaced in the band before I even knew I’d been kicked out. We were still putting the finishing touches on the album, and the former keyboard player, now bassist, had said that she didn’t want to play music with me anymore after I insisted that they all show up for practice on a weekly basis. This was specifically because we were turning more and more shows down because they didn’t want to play the old material, which hadn’t even been released yet. Unfortunately, with no one consistently showing up for practice except me, new material wasn’t exactly materializing.
Superficial Artificial LP
If Petroleum By-Product existed in the early 2000s they would have been a hit at the nascent “punk dance party” scene of Start, Making Time, and their ilk. Shame the band’s members were 10 years old at the time. Their youthfulness works in their favor though, disarming my first impression of the cover depicting the band as Human League in the “Don’t You Want Me” video. Young Vancouver health nuts pick up where the Lost Sounds left off, and keep the sound moving in a dance floor-friendly direction, leaning heavily on synths and disco beats. Sass, that most-dreaded musical conceit, doesn’t overwhelm the album’s charm. PBP’s use of synth is varied and inventive enough that it took a few spins before I realized they were barely using guitars. Vocal duties are split, male and female, to keep with the theme, with the Sally songs veering more into the goth territory, particularly “Ain’t Got Money” (which is only missing the “No No No” guitar break to fully recall “Lost and Found”). Robin’s song have a slightly-less-flamboyant Fred Schneider quality, occasionally approaching a sort of Phil Oakey inflection, with the opening track “Mad About Plaid” (no Bosstones) being the most B-52s-esque. The eight songs move quickly and I’m definitely curious where they can take it.
UPDATE: In what may be Still Single’s first ever scandal, we received a series of responses to this review running on the blog from one Aaron Summerfield, a Canadian musician who claims that he played bass on and wrote all of the songs on this record. His side of the story:
“…it’s important that you know that Robin Borawski does not, in fact, sing on any of the tracks on Superficial Artificial. My name is Aaron Summerfield and I composed and sang those songs. In light of ongoing false credits, I’ve turned into a real hunter, with concerned parties forwarding links. I joined Petroleum By-Product after they had already started with that name, but made an almost completely new set with them. Our producer heard the new songs and took us on as a spec band, recording all of the material on ‘Superficial Artificial’ at Little Red Sounds Studio.
It was released in December 2009 after more than a year of them promoting themselves with material they never credited me for. I actually still don’t have a copy of the record myself, but I’m now living in Montréal.
I walked in on them practicing with a new bassist and quietly left, later hearing through a mutual acquaintance that they were making it big news that I’d flipped my lid upon discharge and apparently thrown things, yelled, slammed the door, etc. Then they blocked and deleted me from their MySpace page, and didn’t even list me in past members while songs I had written, on which my voice and bass were plainly heard, still played there.
I later made another MySpace music page where we were all credited, myself at the bottom of the list of members, with a disclaimer in the bio section describing that the page was for older tracks I had contributed to and not endorsed by the current line-up. Below that, I put a link to their official site. They applied to administrators to have it shut down for copyright reasons, but it still took mutual friends protesting in comments on their page for them to finally list me chronologically in past members, beneath the bassist who’d played something like two shows with them and above a drummer they’d initially had for what I think was only one performance.
I wrote to Robin, the current drummer, at some point (not sure if it was before or after the full credit version MySpace page) and asked him whether he would be upset if he was in my position. He admitted that he would. I noticed on one of the write-ups they’ve posted on their MySpace page, from Discorder Magazine, that they did leave a disclaimer regarding some vocal credit incorrectly given to Robin. Sally contacted me in the summer of 2009 to speak to me about the album production leaving the message, "You need to call me back really soon or we’re going to go ahead without you. I called her back less than an hour later, left a message, and didn’t receive a call back until a couple of days later, "I just wanted to call to let you know that we went ahead without you." That’s all the say I’ve had in it, aside from reminding them that they needed to credit me in the liner. Like I said, I still haven’t seen the record ... Sally did recently write to me saying, "you deserve a copy of the record. When you’re back west, I’ve saved you a couple of copies. It sounds like a big bitch-moan, but if they’re making all of these sales and getting write-ups with something I contributed to in such a big way, I’d like my presence to at least be known.”
Out of the suicide door of Baltimore’s The New Flesh leaps the debut album by Pfisters, featuring that band’s frontman Jason Donnells on guitar. For what this is – breakneck punk/HC-influenced noise rock, chock full of hooks and restless energy, including a well-matched drummer and bassist who really kick things into fast-then-faster mode. Donnells’ hollered vocals and unkempt demeanor play off the bouncing bombs behind him, like maybe Bastro as fronted by the guy from the Cherubs. Big rock sounds, make no mistake – they throw a lot of ideas at each song, and spread them around throughout each individual member’s contributions. No one person sounds like they’re in charge; rather, three people playing at a high and comfortable skill level lock in with one another and run around all over the place. You may remember their sound more than the songs, as they don’t stray from the formula, but it’s a hard, wild time for all of you drinking alone out there tonight. Silkscreened sleeves.
Pierre & Bastien
“No Sex” b/w “Crise Boursière” 7”
(Les Disques Flow)
Charged-up, chainlink electrified punk from two French gentlemen – guitar, drum machine, shouted vocals, maybe a little synth thickening things up in the very back. Zey play zese guitars like jockhammas but the songs and overall approach isn’t too far off from Metal Urbain or something like “Nag Nag Nag.” It’s a fine-tuning , of course; anyone doing this sort of thing had better establish themselves with some sort of presence or vision, because it’s been dun dun dunnnnnnn to death. Will definitely get some mileage outta this one though – the death surf riffing in “Crise Boursière” has a tightness only rivaled by its vision, like an organized Chris Heazlewood. 300 copies, minimal packaging and artwork (strips of white typing paper, holding French and English lyrics for “No Sex,” so that if you saw it sitting in a store you would likely buy it on that alone) round out a great example of a micro-genre.
Psychic Reality/LA Vampires
(Not Not Fun)
Solo projects from two Golden State ladies who are bold enough to stand topless on the cover of their record, slathered in tempera. The one on the left is Psychic Reality, and she looks kinda stoned. That fits the profile (she’s from San Francisco), and the music within, a droning, moaning pummel of digital delay, howlingly melodic singing, and a thick patina of distorted guitar, synths and drum programming. There’s indeed something to be said for opening up and just letting whatever music’s inside of you spill out, but the magic only materializes on the last of her four offerings here, “Elle/Elle Beat,” pairing up Leyna Noel’s free wild singing with the throb of Turkish cab driver radio broadcasts. On the right system, this would tear it up hard. I suppose a fuller appreciation of the rest of her side could come with time, but I will say that there is a specific vision here that is met on each track, and her music is far from a copout. LA Vampires belongs to Amanda Brown, co-owner of the Not Not Fun label. Her pupils seem to be pinned, and the music follows suit. She’s the half of Pocahaunted that didn’t split to become Best Coast. We haven’t checked in with them for a while, and for good reason, but the word going around is that they have evolved significantly – if Brown’s performance here, dark alley/post-urban apocalypse singalongs set to slow-then-slower samples and beat loops, lends any indication, there’s something deeper that she’s been holding onto, and her trite use of dub influences in the past has matured into something much heavier and more truthful. Again, vision created and achieved, the dust and dirt of ones and zeroes filling up the pockets of this sound. Pretty cool, will definitely listen to again. 450 copies, sold out.
“Birds Of Prey” b/w “Paradise” 7”
(All Hands Electric)
Believe it or not, Psychobuildings are a synth-pop band out of NYC, featuring a member of another NYC synth-pop band, Silk Flowers. No shortage of pixels has been spilled on the New Wave of Indie Rock New Wave and here is another group that could fuel wonderment or consternation regarding this found-again sound and its apparent return to popularity. Indeed they have been compared to Talking Heads (perhaps heard in the Byrne-esque vocal cadences and swirling synths vs. slashing guitars), The Cure (a vocal similarity right down to the hiccups) and to round out the trifecta allow me to add … shades of Ultravox/John Foxx. These are pop songs with enough “funk” to the bass licks and big synthetic snare hits to place them decidedly apart from the colder, darker and weirder factions of the land of synths. Vocals and lyrics are meant to be heard and hooks aim to take hold, which “Birds Of Prey” seems capable of doing, while a kaleidoscopic barrage of synth lasers lets it double as shape shifting experimentalism. The flip “Paradise” is less abstract and more like the dance-friendly tracks on their previous single. If this really was from the 80s and ‘twas plucked from deep within a dollar bin, genre fans would be psyched on the discovery. But what of its shelf life in 2010, and will they be played in the most influential of dorm iPod docks across the city? I haven’t the foggiest.
Puerto Rico Flowers
More dark hours from Puerto Rico Flowers, plying a somber Goth trade on one original and one Neil Young cover. Once the final Clockcleaner recordings come out later this year, something like what John Sharkey’s been doing under this name will make a bit more sense as a transition from that band’s sarcastic racket. Bass, preset synth, drums and vocals (a deadpan Martin Gore impression, even) heave that whole weight-of-the-world teen angst thing from the end credits of a John Hughes movie to their nocturnal depths, beating loud and slow within the skull. That goes double for the cover – “When Your Lonely Heart Breaks,” off the last of the Geffen albums, Life – which, when you hear the original, you’ll realize how it was dying for a treatment this stark. Overall, this single tops the EP from earlier this year. Really great stuff from a guy goin’ through changes, which are interesting (and brief) enough to keep us wondering what’s going to happen next.
“Iran” b/w “Bad People” 7”
(Mammoth Cave Recording Co.)
Rambunctious, kinda burly bar rock stomp from an Alberta band, sharing members with Myelin Sheaths but playing off like one singer-songwriter with vision. “Iran” has a bouncy, sing-songy demeanor and a strong enough hook to stay with you for a while, kinda like an immature Modest Mouse trying to figure out rock & roll from 8-track tapes instead of finding out that sad pop songs get you the affections of whoever you might desire. “Bad People” might be a little too juvenile, end-of-the-set sorta barnburner with a quiet, soulful intro, but I bet this one gets the Calgary kids screamin’. A fun, memorable little record. 200 copies.
Lunarsophic Somnambulist LP
Unfocused, “I-can-do-anything!” style folk/electronic monotony from Baltimore’s arts community. You will not listen to this and find genius; only tedium resides within, the sound of one young man spending his parents’ money. Ehse has gotten behind some real champs in the past but I can’t see any value in this one. Silkscreened sleeve.
Gil San Marcos
Domes is touted as “the definitive recordings from Gil San Marcos, who spent a few years performing, touring, and cultivating the sound” heard within, which ranges from spare glitch, to sweet drones, to noisy assaults. As if to prove that no sound present was made with an actual instrument, the sleeve lists the devices used for each track – it’s almost as long as the thank-you list! Stand-outs include “Every Clock and Wristwatch,” which includes both angry clouds of noise and a subtle background drone, and “Mass Grave (Live in Nashville),” recorded live at Grimey’s in Music City, U.S.A. If you listen closely, you can hear Conway Twitty rolling over in his grave. Colored vinyl.
Ty Segall & Mikal Cronin
Reverse Shark Attack LP
Reverb can the Bondo of noise-pop, soft-garage, and medium-noise riff-repeat rock (this). It can elevate sub-par flimsiness up a grade, but the trained ear can figuratively finger-thump the exterior, hearing and feeling the hollowness where there should be inspiration. On other occasions, reverb is like the third or fourth child conceived behind a marriage-saving motive. Or like the act of marriage itself, like when junkies get married to add a false-sense of normality to a chaotic life. Pile on the reverb, and songwriters of questionable merit will cause writers of questionable merit to uncontrollably pen phrases like “the records molest the listener’s ears with blown-out psych boogie filth piled on top of sugary hooks” or some such horseshit. Ty Segall almost fell down this slippery slope, before he started making different records. His first full-length LP from ‘08 or ‘09 proved a quick repellent, through the plain-jane garage-rock tedium of which ears in these parts (Memphis, TN) get beaten to death. Segall’s connection to Thee Oh Sees, plus the pop-hook hints he dropped in lieu of reality seemed to be doing the ‘ol hoodwink, but he was what, twelve years old when he made that record? Later titles have shown improvements here and there (or have slipped through the cracks), and while the maximalist desire to release recordings of breakfast table conversations and walks to the store in order to build a body of work is one that this writer admires, there’s always that quality-control issue sitting on the other shoulder. The 7” by this particular union is a little thing that, like Ty’s first LP, must be an indicator of a greater problem, because no memories of the three or four spins can be exhumed. So this LP was placed on the table-top ION portable turntable and Sony low-end studio monitor headphones of wonderful comfort and brain-rattling volume were slipped over the ear-holes, and the one thing came to mind immediately: sounds like someone’s been listening to what occasionally emanates from the Kyuss-commune half-a-state south of the Bay Area, be it from that Bjork fella, or from someone older and less cool. Since when did this guy get heavy? Or sort of heavy? The recent Goner 7” is heavy, too, on one side definitely, and this stuff is lifetimes ahead of the paper-thin mediocrity I heard coming off of a stage about a year or so back. Is it the other half of the duo? Progress is good. You got my attention, now get heavier.
“Northern Front” b/w “Ghost of Chance” 7”
“Crack Traps” b/w “Loaded Hearts” 7”
(Mammoth Cave Recording Co.)
Remember when everyone was comparing Interpol to Joy Division musically, yet it was clear that the comparison was rooted in the band’s cutout-bin Peter Murphy-meets-Carlos D’s Flying Burrito Bros. Go To West Berlin! agenda? No? Good…let sleeping dogs lie. Or die. Interpol did the vocals of Starfish-era Church and the guitars of 90’s indie-rock, and nothing more complex than that. HoZac could release an album that sounds identical to Interpol and people would go apeshit over that joint, mark my words! My point is…with Interpol, all of the garage-punk knuckle-draggers locked into homo-baiting epithets on vocab auto pilot, just like they did in the ‘90s when faced with anything that didn’t have some topless bar stool barnacle on the album cover and a “raw” appropriation of the same worn-out Gories riffs ad infinitum. But the Ponys are accepted? I love the Ponys, but they sound like the Church (who I also love). Am I the only person on earth that finds it hilarious that some of these same retro-robots have now stripped off their racehorse-blinders and fully embraced music that would have threatened their manhood some 10 to 15 years ago? These days, there’s very few degrees of separation between a former Estrus intern and someone filling Slumberland’s pockets with the stuff that makes the world go round. What’s my point again? Sharp Ends’ 7” on HoZac sounds IDENTICAL to the more rocking tracks from Turn On the Bright Lights, and the parties involved want you to believe that the single on Mammoth Cave Recordings is influenced by The Fall or No Wave, but I’m going to go with GoGoGoAirheart if you don’t mind. In case listeners feel like these records have more teeth or might be grittier than the influences or source material I’m claiming, step back and consider that “crappier production values” isn’t the same thing as “more teeth” or “grittier”. Would you believe that I really like one song off of each 7” (the A-sides)? Of course I do, because I’ve always dug stuff like this. I dug it when it when Coral, Candy Machine, Trenchmouth, Circus Lupus, etc did it, I dug it when Monorchid/Skull Kontrol, The In/Out, and Pavement did it, and we could keep climbing the ‘90s chronological tree and enter the last decade with strength and quality, but I keep having bad memories of a guy in a Rip-Offs t-shirt standing behind me in line at a to-remain-unnamed record store in Chicago and whispering “art-pussy” in reference to my stack of Siltbreeze and Slumberland purchases. Tunes have changed … tunes have changed.
Outta Reach LP
Giving it a shot in Sacramento, CA during the late ‘60s, the all-female band She knocked out regional audiences with bad-ass attitude, and incredibly tight, vicious songs. Then-modern psych-pop influences are a big part of their sound, but there is a definite toughness here that predates the Runaways, Poly Styrene. Starting as the Hairem, the band, founded by sisters Sally and Nancy Ross, hews closer to the rambunctious yet somewhat reserved recordings by the Pleasure Seekers. While the band learns how to play through early ‘60s pop as it hardened into rock and roll, you hear bumps in the road, but their messages are strong and progressive (the shambling, yet forceful “Not For Me” is an early feminist anthem that needs to be heard by everyone, now). By the time they had turned into She, the band had strapped down their instrumental prowess, and were writing and performing at a creative peak. The title track opener, released on a Kent label 45 in 1970, has this insane, thug-like swagger about it, as ramshackle electric organ, thumping toms and an air of danger flood out your memories of most music from the era. The band made a number of recordings, 19 of which were released on Ace/Big Beat, of which this fan club reissue cops the ten best. Kiss this band’s feet, if they allow you to. Unbelievable record. (check at a decent record store near you)
Positive (read: not aggro) noise-rock with semi-spazz setting glued in place. This band is from Canada so it’s friendly, approachable, and structured, more or less. Think Aids Wolf with the “confrontation” replaced with hyper-awareness (first song: “I am Jim O’Rourke”….probably NOT a tribute). Instrumental makeup is guitar, guitar, and drums with everyone yelping, yelling, and accidentally singing. Expect long exercises in improvisational drone and noise plus very short examples of the jittery song-blast variety. Invariably, this is one more record that feels, sounds, and lives out its days with one or two spins to its credit. Forever.
The Sloppy Heads
First Gasp! 7” EP
Pretty close to Sleepyhead and/or the Mommyheads in name and task, NYC’s the Sloppy Heads continue in a tradition of area pop bands given to brainy, possibly over-educated, ebullient modes of creative expression. Curiously, they start their approach with a ballad, and it’s a classic in the making: “Noland (2 Souls in Confusion)” trades off a simple, last-call reverb guitar melody, as male and female vocalist trade stanzas about two self-deprecatory romantics. It’s as stirring as it is comforting. B-sides are “I Need Yr Luv” (three chords, some intrusive synth, and a big oversexed heart) and “The Electric Momz,” dimly chilled-out strum that plays like a tribute to Small Factory. These are not bad things! Really stands out in a pack of new bands trying to adhere to some genre they can’t possibly improve upon; alongside that Fly Ashtray single that Earles is about to release, records like these make me wonder if 1991 begins next month. Fine by me. Oh, one last thing: IT’S NOT LO-FI! Thank fucking Christ people are starting to pull away from that sonic millstone. These songs ably recorded by Kid Millions of Oneida. Good times inside.
HiyaHoya 7” EP
(Slow Gold Zebra)
Are we too late for the Indian trend? I think the bulk of the Snakes’ conceptual energy for this single was spent on the cover, depicting a jacked, cyborg Cherokee tearing a pilgrim in half before a Cthulhu-esque tribesman and rocket ship. Y B Normal? “HiyaHoya” is modern slacker “Kaw-Liga,” opening with a war whoop and some Native American chanting. Musically it churns through the song’s clanging singular riff, like a lackadaisical Eddy Current’s “Memory Lane” with less character. Add in some mild trumpet droning while chanting “HiyaHoya” for a minute before delivering this winner: “We wrote this song about the ants that bombed the other ants, instead of writing a song about hot girls.” Kind of funny and infectious, if dumb, which is basically my review of the whole record. “Billy Jack 1” is a clumsy instrumental and everybody takes a fumfering solo before some over modulated blurting about going berserk wraps it up. “Billy Jack 2” extends the rant, replacing the blase instrumental with random plunking and detuning. Wonderful, wouldn’t want you guys to pull a muscle with effort. In the course of my due diligence I found their MySpace page has a different pairing of these two, with the same lyrics, but a differently clumsy instrumental “Part 1” and a randomly clunking “Part 2.” I guess these versions were the keepers, and got rebranded for the sake of concept? This sort of thing is funny when it shows up once a month in the review box but I wouldn’t pay for it.
Spencey Dude and the Doodles
s/t 7” EP
This 7” is about the girlfriend or spouse cattin’ around behind our Mr. Spencer’s back. Maybe some of our readers have “the fear” and need to give the rambunctious little lady some hints. Before ripping out the big guns (this 7”), I recommend Type O Negative’s debut album Slow, Deep, and Hard, specifically the opening track, “Unsuccessfully Coping with the Natural Beauty of Infidelity” – a 12-minute study of “fookin’ whooo-ahhs!” anchored by a chorus of the late Pete Steele yelling “I know you’re fucking someone else!!” followed by the remaining band members’ back-up shout-along of “He knows you’re fucking someone else!!” As your girlfriend takes a seat on the couch, stand next to the stereo and stare at her. Six minutes later, when Type O launches into the first of five identical choruses, try to adopt the worst frown possible while giving an affirmative nod to the rhythm of the song, pointing one finger at her, and the other at the stereo. Don’t forget the unblinking stare. If that doesn’t work, two songs on this Spencey Dude & the Doodles 7” are definitely about that stretch of a relationship ruled by paranoia and jealousy. If listeners happen to be suffering from one or both of those unflattering issues, the entire record (4 songs total) could be the perfect soundtrack to fumbling through your girlfriend’s phone while she’s in the toilet. Turn it up REAL loud so you can’t hear her flush. Busted! Spencer Hicks is the man behind these tunes, which are not entirely afflicted with the public-domain curse; I remember the words sung…..but not the music. That’s too bad, because the 7” has only been off the table for five minutes and I expected more sonic fuckery from producer Greg Ashley. The back cover is too charming to allow any more negative criticism. There’s just so much music coming out, and so much music I need to go back and absorb, and so much music that I’m enamored with…these three categories take up 150% of my listening time, is it too much to ask that everyone try a little harder?
Tyler Jon Tyler
“New England Street” b/w “Faster Than Light” 7”
(Trouble in Mind)
This lil’ guy is brimming with an amateur enthusiasm that would fit in comfortably with the Yoyo-a-Gogo crowd circa ‘94. You can almost feel the frays from their badly cut jean shorts and taste the sweat from their over-sized tank tops, all while their large, wire-framed specs slide down their runny noses. A-side “New England Street” is spiky home-brewed female-fronted rickety coffee shop punk-pop, but it’s the flip that takes home the TVP “bacon.” “Faster Than Light” posits a six-note repeating guitar line on top of a rumbling and more importantly uplifting rhythm section, and it’s like the little engine that could. A well-worn trick for sure, but it gets me every time. These guys were even nice enough to send me #1 out of the pressing MIKEY LIKES IT!
Sunshine/Pretty Girls 7” EP
Sub Pop MegaMart employee Dean Whitmore and his lovable gang of cronies hammer out four more Kwik Kuts of beach-ready sourmash bash ‘n pop in record time. The two songs on each side fall comfortably within the “grunge-lite” spectrum, with “Sunshine/Pretty Girls” being the classically-trained Jekyll to “Waiting Such a Long Time“‘s ugly-ass Mr. Hyde. Much like a follow-up appointment after having a wisdom tooth extracted, brevity is the key to the disc’s success; nothing here overstays its welcome, there’s no unpleasant news, you’re in and you’re out. Another way of reviewing this 7” would be to say that this sounds like the Flintstones if they formed a punk “rock” (ha) band and the bass was made out of brontosaurus bones and strung with saber-tooth tiger fur. I’d buy it for a dollar. 500 copies.
Voice of the Seven Thunders
Earlier this year I made note that a Voice of the Seven Thunders single sounded as if the band had pushed itself into a corner, trading off psychsploitational accessibility in lieu of new ideas to match the band’s furious, accomplished musicianship. Rick Tomlinson’s full-length has finally arrived to clear things up, which is good, because a band that works from one genre styling to another, song by song, often requires multiple facets in order to look good in the light. Eastern instrumental freakbeat ragas to rival Dungen (“Kommune,” “The Burning Mountain”) are played against more pensive experiments (“Cylinders”) to take the edge off of their hyper-proficient, stylistically adaptable, and borderline hammy approach. Of course, when presented with a monster jam like side B’s “Set Fire to the Forest,” all need to explain just heads out the window. This one’s goin’ for your throat, pal.
split 7” EP
UK’s Wankys (ex-Varukers and Extreme Noise Terror participants) play simple, cider-soaked D-beat punk, using harsh white/pink noise as a treatment of their sound. Run a guitar through enough pedals and you’ll achieve that Confuse/Exclaim-like sound of a sonic vacuum, to listen to which is likened to being beaten by fresh ginger roots the size and strength of 2x4s. The vocals, bass and drums sound as if they were mic’d through a wall; attempts to focus on the riffs means you force that focus on the noise itself. The trick itself is a thin one, as there’s not much the noise can do to distinguish itself against the three songs here (change in pitch, thinned to a crackling sound that could be mistaken for poor mastering, etc.), but it serves as a point of departure for whomever can figure out what to do next. DC-area punks Lotus Fucker offer a suggestion on their side: weaponize it! With more fury and structure to their playing, as well as a better separation of the noise channels from the music underneath, the group has this excellent, slipping-in-shit quality to their sound, allowing them the ability to shift tempos and layer their aggression, in lieu of sticking to convention. They’re reminiscent of the sort of late ‘90s confusecrust records that used to come my way so long ago. Would love to hear some more. Both bands toured parts of the US together earlier this month.
“Liquor Castle” b/w “Shattered Mirror” 7”
(Smokers Gifts/Memoirs of an Aesthete)
Lonely ladymoans from a West Philadelphia psych ward, art school style. “Liquor Castle” keeps rank with the tape culture petri dish, growing moldy gray lifeforms out of droning nightmare sound scenarios. Out-of-body vocal recitations burrow under creaking doors, reverb-gated guitar detunings, and a complete absence of melody. “Shattered Mirror” fares better, with some minor chord dirge inside the hull of a battleship, its broken façade recalling similar placements in the small, flat universe of Xpressway circa 1990. I wouldn’t be rushing to play this one again anytime soon, but plenty of folks who feel a kinship to this sort of damage have to take it as it comes.
When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
Peaced 12” EP
If memory serves, Austin’s When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth is a large format band. This new EP goes against such an idea – we can’t hear so many musicians when blatant Dwyer-isms are applied to their sound. The clarity is gone, and the use of the whole lo-fi/in-the-red recording aesthetic has removed all the subtleties from their sound. The songs on the B-side kind of counteract this theory, but good luck getting through the first three and keeping your interest piqued. Sad to hear this group taking a step back. Paste-on sleeve.
“Blank Czech” b/w “Humans #1” 7”
This rode into the PO Box with words of praise and expectation from the Twin Cities, where Whitesand/Badlands (one group, not a split 7”) is meant to be on the up and coming wave for local indie rock bands. If Minneapolis was looking for a meandering indie rock band that knows how to do the whole ‘90s short-hair moving change with respect to tempos and moods, then they most certainly have the band that can do it. Musicianship is solid, the electric piano is a nice touch, and some of the passages are well-executed, but the deadpan male/female vocals and the general listlessness of the enterprise leave something to be desired. It sounds like they’re approaching these sounds from the standpoint of 90 Day Men in endgame, when the Midwestern math-prog thing gave way to big, maudlin pop with the keys out front. It’s tough to listen to this and wonder how much money they sank on gear – there’s promise within but I hope they can recoup, creatively at least, on future releases.
Parade of Thought LP
This is a solo side-project of the Factums/Love Tan vector, and according to the Sacred Bones site, this is an album of “experimental synth pop” with a “desolate, murky atmosphere and references to Suicide, Joe Meek-style futures, the most paranoid Ralph Records releases and Industrial 80’s minimal wave.” Other loaded phrases and words include “Alan Vega,” “oscillating music box melodies,” “doomy three note keyboard patterns giving way to boombox drones,” “Hive Mind-style static,” “perfect weirdo edge,” and “Japanese Vanity label” (as in “would’ve fit nicely on one.”) I do agree that this album is experimental; it is an experiment in half-assed outcomes, in the art of fucking around with FX boxes and neglected keyboards, left over in a practice space from some other band, for what better not be more than one evening’s duration, the art of starting in one place and eventually reaching maximum threshold of cool-approved references in an online bio. By virtue of the names mentioned and nods made, reading the bio out-loud creates a far more interesting audio situation than is created when the album is physically placed on a rotating turntable.
Bloodstains Across Alberta 7” EP
(Mammoth Cave Recording Co./New Canadian Modern)
Regionalism is GO. Local scenes are GO. The best shit in the world: small towns with nothing to do but cut loose to avoid life as much as one can. I came from one (Pittsburgh), lived relatively close to others (Kent, Columbus, Cleveland), and get to enjoy learning about new ones through this organ. In light of globalism and technology’s crush, valid regional activity has started to sprout up again, an action which points to the only way punk music is going to survive in the coming decades: through the actions of people who make it the focus of their lives. Keeping it together; spreading that same sense of community out to wherever its participants choose to live, and living – that’s essentially it. The ten bands on Bloodstains Across Alberta turn in short songs about where they live (Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge), ranging from noisy garage punk (Topless Mongos, Moby Dicks), set to Dickies-style lunacy (Grown-Ups, Tension Slips), to female-led noisy rock (Fist City, Myelin Sheaths). While its closest satellite city of interest would likely be Vancouver, these bands don’t share the brooding, death-obsessed sensibilities that shroud most of its projects; Alberta’s scene, from this angle, seems to be more focused on priming the modern garage pump, and they do so with their own kind of abandon. They’ve already found the voices they need to get over. A few bands on here transcend referential categorization, and they’re mostly on the B-side: Famines, Radians, and Outdoor Miners really give it to ‘er, ranging from super-fast, needling rockarolla to super-hooky, basement-bred noise pop. Songs thrown on some comp usually don’t get stuck in my head so easily. I want to hear more by most of these bands, and Mammoth Cave has made that possible for a handful of them (Famines and the Radians have new singles out on the label, both great, which we’ll be covering soon). Co-released with a blog that chronicles Albertan art and music. Until people re-learn how to get along with one another and work together to extend their own good times, punk is officially on life support. Action like this gives me faith about a center which continues to hold through such shitty times. 300 copies.
Does Your Cat Know My Dog? LP
On this compilation, curated by the staff at a restaurant/venue somewhere in Switzerland that apparently hosts music fests, there’s a pretty wide range of styles, and names both familiar and unknown. Bonnie “Prince” Billy starts off the proceedings with a live version of “Love Comes to Me” which starts things off on a somber, sober note. The rest of the side features a bunch of similar sounding no-names, along with a collaboration between Carla Bozulich and Ches Smith, the former being a vocalist whose music I’ve never, ever been able to enjoy. Sorry. On the flipside, Sunn O))) and Sonic Youth are the only other marquee names, and aside from their tracks (neither of which are that essential), nothing much sticks out here, either. Edition of 650.
Flottante Tension D’éclipse LP
French punk/low-tech electro label SDZ celebrates ten years of operations with its tenth release, a compilation which reflects the left turns in their own history via a well-selected sample of modern bands on the lo-fi/ugly sound tip. We’ve got garage/slightly ‘billy punk (Anteenagers MC, Toddi Wellman, The Feeling of Love, Daily Void), drum machine stomp (Braindamage, Cheveu, Pierre & Bastien), and suffocating closet weirdness (The Rebel’s cover of Sade’s “Maureen,” Reynols’ Alan Courtis, ) living hand-in-hand with one another, a bunch of outsized personalities that find just enough room to fit next to one another without major conflicts. It’s a strong enough collection, with most bands turning in quality material. Hats off to these folks, and may they continue to challenge us with their product.
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By Dusted Magazine