The Abandos The Abandos 8″ (Bruised Tongue)
I get some cool records in the mail, but when this square 8″ lathe-cut by the new ex-FNU Ronnies band showed up at my door, I nearly did the worm back up the stairs to my turntable before immediately throwing it on. In true FNU Ronnies fashion, I went to one Abandos show, and arrived shortly after the doors opened on the flyer. Turns out, they decided to play a good 45 minutes ahead of schedule, and only made it through two songs before a verbal (and quickly physical) altercation broke out between band members. Not seeing them perform made them all the more mythical, and now that I am hearing The Abandos on record, I can say that they’re no FNU Ronnies, but they’re still pretty good. They’re kinda similar, but whatever Chrome-style alien feedback or monster-movie vocals the ‘Ronnies had is completely absent here, allowing for an early wave-o punk sound, like one of those first Devo recordings, maybe a touch of Geza X and a hint of The Randoms. Very simplistic, primitive punk rock tunes with underwater guitar, and for a lathe-cut, I can actually hear all the instruments being played. No idea how many of these exist, it can’t be many, but let’s be honest, no one deserves to own this record more than me anyway. You probably wouldn’t appreciate it like I do!
Actress Ghettoville 3xLP (Ninja Tune)
This may not be my most frequently listened-to album of recent weeks, but it’s certainly the one I’ve thought about most. Actress is just such an interesting, perplexing character, and his music illuminates that – for all the intentional weirdness going on in electronic music, Actress never feels like a put-on, or anything other than true honest strangeness. Historically, I’ve loved his EPs and been lukewarm on his albums (although I eventually fell in love with R.I.P. after a year or so), and this new one is just as expectedly unexpected as anything he’s done before. Gone are the microscopic, frantic bleeps and fast-cut synth disorientation – Ghettoville is a lackadaisical, waterlogged affair, a record that is in no hurry to do anything and will makes its 45 minutes feel like an hour and a half. It feels “chopped n’ screwed”, but not in the way that witch-house attempted; rather, Actress just grinds his beats to a low-battery halt, never fully dying but far from alive, and it leaves me feeling both exhausted and ready for more. It’s a fairly cohesive record, even if I randomly hear mutated Audio Two snippets, James Brown “huh!”s and frozen disco-funk mixed in with the modern tech-ennui of Elgato or Bandshell. While there are plenty of moments where I intentionally distance myself from Ghettoville, it’s a beautifully provocative record that stimulates my brain even when it’s on the shelf.
Bad Vision Bad Vision LP (Every Night Is A Saturday Night / Adagio 830)
If Jay Reatard were still alive today, he probably would’ve had a side project called Bad Vision by now. Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but at least there are other folks moved by his music enough to start such a like-minded band, this one coming from Melbourne. Thankfully, they get a lot of Jay’s moves down well – the tightly down-strummed guitar sounds good, the drumming is rigid and the vocalist has a melodic sneer reminiscent of the Whatever Brains guy, which does the trick. Bad Vision aren’t afraid to veer towards moodier, darker melodies too – I swear there’s a New Order hook hiding in “Shot In The Night”, and it works well when coated in a ’77 punk leopard-print. Mostly, they just end up balancing between speedy punk rock and the more introspective post-punk which historically followed, with results ranging from boring to great. I guess I dig it – it’s not the strongest classic-punk-inspired record I’ve heard lately, but Bad Vision do a fine job at it nonetheless.
Blank Realm Grassed Inn LP (Fire)
After Blank Realm redeemed any of their boring / aimless early records with 2012′s Siltbreeze masterpiece Go Easy, I was backing this group pretty hard. They tapped into a mix of mid-’00s lo-fi weirdness and late ’70s CBGB’s cool, and it really worked! Now on Grassed Inn, after receiving respect and accolades from folks cooler and more important than myself, they’re still sounding pretty great. The main difference I’m picking up is the lack of left-field, oddball recording techniques or noisy interludes – gone are the Psychedelic Horseshit-inspired basement pranks, and the whole thing seems cleaned up a bit, like it just came fresh from the barbershop. I’m still getting heavy Television vibes (“Bell Tower” could be their “Marquee Moon”), but they infuse it with a modern indie-pop melodicism, like they were invited to sit at Veronica Falls’ table after getting a favorable Pitchfork rating and are making the most of it. I would normally say I don’t need another version of “Falling Down The Stairs” (I think it’s the third I’ve heard?), but it sounds great all tidied up and fun, and even when the singer is at his most tunelessly tongue-tied, it still works in the comfortable pop framework of the music, a trick as old as David Byrne. I might’ve liked to see some of that Siltbreeze silt still intact here, but Grassed Inn is a breezy, pleasant record that reminds me that Australia has been having their summer while we are up here freezing and slipping on ice like idiots.
Bloodyminded Within The Walls LP (BloodLust!)
Can never go wrong with a new Bloodyminded album, that’s for sure, so it was a treat to place Within The Walls on my turntable and get blasted into a state of extended discomfort. If you aren’t already familiar, go read the interview I did with them a year or two back, but if you insist on being lazy, allow me to help – they are a Chicago-based power-electronics outfit par excellence. This new one (and their first full-length vinyl LP, I believe!) features more of what we’ve come to expect: long passages of ambient clatter and metal-on-metal scraping, harsh blasts of violated electronic feedback, and most importantly, the guttural, unmistakable vocals of Bloodyminded overlord Mark Solotroff and his friends. Every Bloodyminded record generally abides by a specific theme, be it psychological violence or the phases of the moon, and this one seems to be about the horrors of cramped city living, with the various vermin that scatter through your bedrooms at night and the people who have it even worse than you. Within The Walls is a great statement of this horror, really top-shelf material from a group that will clearly never do any wrong (and at five members/collaborators here, there clearly is plenty of inspiration to go around). Listening to this album is like re-entering your bedroom after the bedbugs were exterminated – you know you’re safe, but you’re still itching your calves instinctively.
Boom Boom Kid Música Sin La Intervención De Cristo LP & 7″ flexi (SPHC)
The SPHC story just keeps getting weirder – as noted in the press sheet for this, Boom Boom Kid’s seventh(?) full-length album, they are one of SPHC’s “top three favorite bands of all time”. I love that this is a hardcore label with its own taste, and their top three isn’t just Infest, Charles Bronson and Gauze or something, but man… this band is kind of awful. They are mostly an emotive, Fat Wreck Chords-style pop-punk band (I’m picking up both Hi-Standard and J Church vibes at times), but they will also throw in various thrash-core tracks with gurgled vocals, or straight-up sound like The Cranberries, no lie. They’ll do a song that sounds like that time Bigwig covered Slayer, and follow it with some seriously limp alt-country – I’m still not making this up! I appreciate how strange they are, and as they are apparently one of Argentina’s longstanding and most respected punk bands, there is clearly a lot of context I am missing out on, having only heard this one record and living thousands of miles away. But still, going on what I do have, this band is like a South American answer to the Runn-A-Mucks, in that they take a dynamic hodge-podge of musical influences and attempt to force them into punk rock with unfortunate (and occasionally unintentionally hilarious) results. While I tip my hat to SPHC sticking to their guns at all costs, I hope that my first encounter with Boom Boom Kid is also my last, unless I eventually end up in Argentina at some big Vans-sponsored festival and get to watch a few thousand kids stage-diving and singing along.
Breakdown Runnin’ Scared LP (540 / Painkiller)
I don’t know about you, but I could sit around staring at NYHC ephemera all day. A stack of yellowed flyers, grainy YouTube footage, third-generation zine reprints, you name it – this stuff is just so fascinating and vibrant and unique, it’s no wonder people are still paying Porcell thousands of dollars for whatever reunion of a reunion he’s scabbed together. On this nicely designed LP, we get Breakdown’s Runnin’ Scared tape and a live on WNYU radio session. I’ve heard some people (umm, I guess one of the guys that released it) rave that this is the definitive NYHC document, and while I certainly wouldn’t go that far, it’s a nice collection of metallic-tinged, proto-tough guy hardcore, taking cues from Cro Mags, Sick Of It All and Crumbsuckers and paving the way for all sorts of bad behavior and poor-intentioned bands to follow in their wake. None of these songs strike me as must-hear; there’s no shocking hardcore gem buried here, but it’s still a great listen, if not just for the tunes but the banter – hearing the band-mates introduced on air, girlfriends shouted out (and then teased), it provides a distinct audio environment that a regular recording session can’t, and it’s a lot of fun to hear. On the long list of great NYHC bands, Breakdown’s metal leads and jumpy rhythms put them somewhere in the middle of the pack for me personally, so take one look at the trolley-tossing skinhead giant on the cover and you’ll be charmed, too.
Connect_icut Crows & Kittiwakes Wheel & Come Again LP (Aagoo / Rev Lab)
Here’s another one of these stuffy, academic-looking Rev Lab records care of Aagoo. I dunno, I can get down with modern-composition drone and what-have-you, but none of this series has particularly grabbed me… maybe it just seems like it’s all trying too hard to be serious, from the design to the music contained within? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, besides touring with Flo Rida, Connect_icut put out this album, and it’s alright. I’m hearing some serious Fennesz vibes in the opening tracks, due mostly to the same sort of bubbly electric water sounds that Fennesz uses to beautiful effect. Whereas Fennesz runs through a meadow, though, Connect_icut often adheres to some sort of structure, be it a naturally-occurring loop or some other rhythmic device, and it’s quite pleasant, if not something I’ve never heard before. The rest of the album plays out similarly, some tracks relying on stardust and cosmic drift, and others firmly planted on terra forma, even if it’s alien terrain, with various glitch techniques applied throughout. Not bad music for zoning out, but I guess my dishwasher could provide a similar result if I paid close enough attention. Why buy an LP when you can just listen to your CPU’s fan whirr along for free?
Die Schacht Halber Selbstbetrug 7″ (Siltbreeze)
Noisy DIY German post-punk group doing a 7″ for the Siltbreeze label – is there any conceivable scenario where this could turn out bad? It’s one of those perfect Earth-based combinations, like sex and power or chocolate and peanut butter, and well, no shocks here, this Die Schacht 7″ is quite cool indeed. The a-side sounds like Der TPK covering the Beastie Boys’ Pollywog Stew EP, lots of dumbed-down early hardcore riffs played by stinking bass and scratchy guitars with just the looming shadow of actual vocals somewhere deep in the mix, at least until they get blurted out Factums-style toward the end. There’s a Spanish word for this: “perfecto”. Flip it over, and the band sounds drastically different, if not less effective – it was originally described to me by a friend as sounding Permutative Distorsion-esque (you can tell just what kind of jocks I roll with), and while I wouldn’t disagree, there seems to be even less going on – perhaps if the most simplistic, broken-keyboard-and-a-prayer songs by The Door And The Window were recorded for Zick Zack they’d have sounded like this. Let’s hope the Siltbreeze romance lasts longer than Kito Mizukumi Rouber – lock Die Schacht into a four-album contract while you still can, Mr. Woodbe!
Drown Under Sugar Daddy 7″ (Special Award)
Mysterious Australian band, and the first two tracks of this four-song EP both have the word “daddy” in the title. If they’re going for creepy, they hit the bullseye! For as lousy as the record looks, and intentionally sounds, I was charmed enough to do a little research, and it turns out I was onto something – this group features Jack from Circle Pit on vocals, backed up by various dodgy characters from Whores, Housewives and Ghastly Spats. They’re going for a homeless-chic, dirtbag drug-rock vibe, kinda like Fang with all the sweaty masculinity medically removed, or a Birthday Party that never got famous, just sick and deceased. None of these songs are that special, and I can’t imagine that they took much time to write, but that’s fine with me – Drown Under live off their bad attitude, Appetite For Destruction-era Guns N’ Roses promo-photo posturing and a constant insinuation that they do bad things for drugs (and might actually like it). Drugs and showmanship will always be a part of rock n’ roll for me, and even though these songs chug along on bruised bones and week-long hangovers, I’m putting myself in Drown Under’s corner.
Petar Dundov Sailing Off The Grid 4xLP & CD (Music Man)
Petar Dundov never goes small – here’s his fourth full-length, in a lavish four 12″ (with additional CD) set. It’s not just a glorious waste of money and resources, either – there’s a ton of music on here, with most of these eight tracks coming in around nine or ten minutes. That’s just Dundov’s style – he continues to work with a seemingly limited palette of electronic strings and synth-based percussion, his magic lying in the ways in which they slowly unfold and expand. He’s getting progressively softer and more eloquent, too – while I loved the kinetic power of Escapements, Ideas From The Pond mixed introspective slow-jams with the ’80s cardio-workout cuts, and Sailing Off The Grid takes it even further. The blood-pumping, adulterous tracks of previous albums are replaced with woeful tunes of the morning after, electronic tears dripping onto satin sheets as the movie script shifts from Cinemax to Lifetime. It takes more than twenty minutes before the pulse is raised to a slight jog, and after that track (the aptly titled “Moving”) wraps up, it’s the eight sad minutes of “Spheres” that bring you down to a morose afternoon in bed. It all still sounds really nice, I just miss Dundov’s simpler, faster tracks, mostly because no one writes them like he does (check out “Ideas From The Pond” off the album of the same name and see if you don’t instinctively start pumping barbells). I suppose even the fiercest Olympic athletes need an evening on the couch every once in a while too.
Egyptrixx A/B Til Infinity LP (Night Slugs)
I feel like I’m still discovering strange new moments in Egyptrixx’s debut album Bible Eyes; it’s just one of those records that is full of left turns and bizarre ideas, but never to the point of irritation. So then here comes the follow-up, and I’ll be damned if it isn’t great, too! Unlike Bible Eyes, A/B Til Infinity has a sleeker, more streamlined approach to the album format. It’s still full of unusual sounds and curious tweaks, but it all feels like it comes from the same place, rather than a collection of various ideas. I like either approach, so long as the output is good, and A/B really nails it – both the dance and non-dance tracks feel possessed, like you’re trying to outrun a demon on a futuristic Japanese motorcycle in the rain. Sounds of police sirens and freezing rain pop up frequently, sort of tying the whole thing together. I like Terminator-inspired techno, but this feels more in tune with sci-fi ideas of the 2010s as opposed to the ’90s – it’s like one of those Need For Speed video games come to life inside a Philip K. Dick novel. Not very far from Jam City, musically-speaking, but Egyptrixx is far easier to digest, and there are some serious bangers here (“Alta Civilization” and “Water” in particular) that could wake up even the most business-casual of gatherings. If you want to hear just how refined, creative and cool modern techno can be (without all the industrial greyscale misery), Egyptrixx provides a simple solution!
Gary Wrong Group / Wizzard Sleeve split 7″ (Jeth-Row / Pelican Pow Wow)
If I learned one thing from my interview with Gary Wrong, it’s that the band formed from the ashes (or semi-mutated corpse) of Wizzard Sleeve, sometimes playing the same songs and sharing band members. I dig splits that work like this, and I really dig splits that sound like this! The Gary Wrong Group tune is “Dream Smasher”, and it’s perfect slow-mo horror-punk – if Flipper just sat around watching Alfred Hitchcock movies on Halloween, they probably would’ve jammed a track like this, at least until they scared themselves to sleep. I believe Gary Wrong Group will be releasing a new version of this song in an upcoming 12″, and for good reason – it’s really one of the best things they’ve ever done. I am shamefully unfamiliar with Wizzard Sleeve, and this track is cut from the same cloth as Gary Wrong Group, that’s for sure – maybe more of a paleolithic ritual violence vibe to the riff here than budget-horror schlock, but it’s another dirge that grooves in the unmistakable Gary Wrong way. This one came out last Halloween, and while it’s certainly worth tracking down, I think it’s safe to just keep your eyes peeled for more Gary Wrong Group – we all need to do our part and buy records like this when they come out so the fine people at Jeth-Row continue to make more of them.
Gentlemen Gentlemen 7″ (Jeth Row / Expensive And Time Consuming Hobby)
I was semi-feeling the Gentlemen 12″ that entered my chamber last month, mostly into the music but decidedly against their vibe and style. As they have exchanged generic BDSM art tropes for random blurry imagery and angrily-scrawled song titles, my enjoyment has grown, although really, the a-side opener “Cholera” is such a nasty banger that I’d raise a fist of appreciation even if the song was called “Creepy Anal Bondage Sex (For Teens)”. The riff sounds like the sturdiest A Frames construction recorded at Mainliner’s studio, and that’s not just enthusiastic hyperbole – it really is that vicious. Flip it over and “Eastern Hate” has a similar feel, just replace “A Frames” with “Discharge” in my previous comparison – strange, but it works! And then they wrap it with “(Follow The) Pink Spider”, which feels like something Clockcleaner would’ve done had they gotten into Gary Numan instead of Neil Young. The singer maintains the exact same yowl through all the songs, which kinda sounds like someone blowing their nose, and while it’s not my favorite vocal approach, it doesn’t really detract from the solid trio of tunes offered here. Hoping Gentlemen’s winning streak has only just begun!
Glow God House Of Distractions LP (Play Pinball)
Sure, Chad Channing was recently denied entry to the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, but not everyone’s forgotten about the guy – like Glow God, for example. They’re mining the early days of Nirvana on House Of Distractions, as well as the rest of the first-wave of grunge (thinking more Sub Pop than C/Z). They’re pretty good at it, too – they go from barnstorming ragers to noisy janglers with ease, switching from Tad to Dinosaur Jr. without having to re-tune their guitars. I guess there are a bunch of kids really digging this sort of DIY grunge-punk revival, and while Glow God sound better to me than most of the Dope-Guns-N’-Fucking In The Streets comps I’ll occasionally spin, I’d allow you to make the argument that they are closer to Milk Music covering Silverchair than a punked-out Bleach. It’s really just splitting hairs though, so rather than try to figure out if Glow God are suited for the buzz-bin cut-out section or if they’re the righteous offspring of The Meat Puppets and Soundgarden, I’ll continue to just crank this one up and pretend my hair is long enough that it gets in my face when I headbang along. I bet Mark Arm would dig Glow God, and that’s really all that counts in 2014. He’s one of the few who haven’t gotten lamer with age, I’ll tell you that.
Gravel Samwidge Medicinal Requirements LP (Swashbuckling Hobo)
I know what you’re thinking… that spelling of “sandwich”. Unforgivable. It’s the sort of word the eyes can’t un-see, and seeing as this is a Swashbuckling Hobo band, I wanted this record out of my house faster than a bedbugged mattress. Still, duty called, and I threw it on, only to be surprised at the sounds of an Australian noise-rock band that just utterly kicks ass. How is this possible? Seriously, for all the noisy garage-punk spew that comes in from the land down under, so much of it enters this interchangeable purgatory in my head, so many bands with the same okay ideas and musical acumen. So then here comes Gravel Samwidge (ugh), just plodding along like they were raised in that horrible meat-locker where that one Lubricated Goat music video was filmed. They somehow split Flipper’s nihilistic, acid-tasting strut with the crotchety old-guy restraint of Shellac, and it’s probably the best out-of-nowhere noise-rock record I’ve heard from Australia since that Psy Ants album. Seriously, Medicinal Requirements is that good! Still, I’d rather legally change my name to King Dude than openly admit to any friends that I possess a record by a band of this name. I’m gonna take some black electrical tape to the cover and allow this newly unnamed band to knock me out over and over again, guilt-free.
Heisenberg Ripatti 02 12″ (Ripatti)
If I’m gonna give a pass to anyone for having a Breaking Bad obsession to the point of annoyance, it’s gonna be the upstanding Euro techno duo of Max Loderbauer and Sasu Ripatti (Luomo, Vladislav Delay, etc.). I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch the tale of a nerdy American chemistry teacher becoming a meth boss through the eyes of some Finnish minimalist dance guy, but I’m glad it inspired this set of wonky, kitchen-sink techno tracks. “#12″ is the a-side track, and it stumbles around the room, knocking over anything breakable before finally settling into a nimble little groove. It kind of feels like a basic tech-house cut with multiple Pop Ambient compilations being blasted and mixed simultaneously, which is an oddly comfortable feeling. “#19″ is my favorite, though – this track has an unstoppable pace, like a locomotive Denzel Washington is trying in vain to stop, and the energy just builds upon itself in ways that only Loderbauer and Ripatti can harness. There’s never any drop, so it’s up to the listener to determine at which very moment your head should explode, watermelon-style all over the floor. There’s an earlier Heisenberg 12″ I missed, and a new one coming in a week or two, and just like Breaking Bad, I don’t plan on skipping an episode!
La Misma La Misma 7″ (Toxic State)
In an underground landscape of a million-and-one indistinct punk labels, Toxic State manage to stand out, crafting their own unique voice (and putting out some absolutely killer hardcore-punk in the process). I knew I’d like La Misma before I heard the first note, and that’s not just because their band logo is yin-yang based (although that did help). Whereas most Toxic State groups sound distinctly modern, I could’ve easily been led to believe that La Misma existed over thirty years ago from the sound of their tunes. I’m getting a sort of “Utreg Punx meets Not So Quiet On The Western Front” vibe, or more specifically, Nixe plus No Alternative, which is a great place to be when it comes to regional punk sounds. The singer spits out her words faster than Twista (and frequently erupts into tribal war-whoops, for good measure), and the band rages on like their guitars can truly end the Cold War if they’re played with enough anger. Honestly, what fan of punk rock could find any fault at all with La Misma? These songs are simple, raging and direct enough that apathetic crusties, cubicle-dwelling record collectors, zine-printing activists and poseur mall-punks could all finally unite.
Libyans Expired Language LP (Sorry State)
Sorry State is one of the largest producers of quality hardcore-punk today – Prank and Sound Pollution held down this thankless, tiring role in the ’90s, and Sorry State (and Grave Mistake) have seemed to take over for the past decade or so, pumping this stuff out with ease. I’m so glad these labels are around, being the workhorses that carry the scene in so many ways, and I’ve accepted the fact that not every album is gonna grab me – like this Libyans record, for instance. There’s nothing wrong with it – they’re a fast (but not too fast) hardcore-punk group that falls closer to The Wipers than Tragedy in the grand scheme of buttons on their coats. It’s cool, but in the end, nothing about this record stands out to me – maybe it’s their unvaried approach, the average vocals, or the lack of hooky moments, but Expired Language comes across like a perfectly acceptable hardcore-punk record I never need to hear again. It’s inevitable for any punk label, and who knows, maybe I’ll hear it on accident in five years and fall madly in love (it happened to me before with Enewetak!). Although I’m pretty sure I won’t.
Liquor Store In The Garden LP (Almost Ready)
Just looking at the ugly mugs of the Liquor Store bunch on the back cover, semi-smiling, half-drunk, fully high and ready to get loose, I have to wonder – who could hate these guys? One look at this gang and you just wanna split a pizza and shoot off some fireworks out back near the dumpsters with them. Musically, I am pretty sure I’ve heard a record or two of theirs (although I missed the double LP) and I’ve definitely seen a bouncy, sweaty live set before, so I was a little surprised at the lack of numbskull garage-punk on In The Garden. Maybe I just haven’t been paying close attention (I haven’t), but Liquor Store are a full on powerhouse glam-rock band now, applying the suburban majesty of Cheap Trick to The Rolling Stones’ undeniability, sprinkled with a light sheen of Bowie-brand spacedust. These songs are all pretty long, and seem to mostly consist of choruses and the ways in which you can epically ride one out, with plenty of bar-room piano and guitars soloing in all directions. Nothing new in these riffs, that’s for sure, but the care-free, narcotic-positive attitude Liquor Store provide makes the whole thing way too much fun to turn away at the door. They’re the under-30 party-rock yin to Endless Boogie’s grumbly grey-haired BBQ yang, and it makes me feel bad for all those kids stuck in Omaha and Phoenix that have never experienced the pleasure that is Northern New Jersey.
Lorna Dune Miamisphere 12″ (Lo-Bit Landscapes)
First, Lorna Dune was romantic British lit, then a shortbread cookie, and now a techno producer. Quite a résumé! When it comes to Lo-Bit Landscapes, I’m usually ready for some sort of diary-clutching emo-house or transcendent instrumental hip-hop, something at the pop-fringe of electronic dance music, so I was surprised (and a little relieved) to hear Miamisphere, as Lorna Dune plays it pretty straight. “Plasmodium” and “Agnes Day” both have a serious Petar Dundov feel, due to their sparkling and regal arpeggios, although “Plasmodium” comes with some more interesting bass-play underneath, recalling Melchior Productions or Audion at his most playful; “Agnes Day” is more of the night-sky twinkler, with a straightforward groove. The title track has a similar airiness to it, the sort of thing you’d expect to hear at a dance night hosted inside a planetarium. It’s not quite as Miami-flavored as I was hoping – I love that city, and I want to feel like I’m inside a posh hotel lobby while listening to an inspired song. The Terreke remix pushes the vibe back up into Brooklyn-via-Detroit, with a very L.I.E.S.-sounding texture, damp-thuds for percussion and a constant swirl of the disembodied original floating about. This must be one of those low-calorie Lorna Dunes, because it tastes good without the guilt!
Mattin Songbook 5 12″ (Disembraining)
I will forever love the Billy Bao 10″, and that first 7″ was a real out-of-nowhere noise-punk explosion, but in recent times I look at new Mattin records with the zest of an airport security checkpoint. I am sure he is cool, but so many of his conceptual records seem like total B.S. to me. (This one is based on the number five, because it’s the fifth edition of his “songbook”, so he worked with five musicians and recorded five songs and it’s limited to 555 copies! – farrrrrrt.) Anyway, I was prepared to waste twenty minutes of my life listening to Mattin crumble a piece of paper with the number five written on it, but this record is actually pretty decent, much to my surprise. I’m reminded of that Tom Smith and Signtings collaboration, only a bit less focused and sillier – maybe if Tom Smith and Sightings recorded for a 7″ compilation on Stomachache Records, it would’ve come out identical to this. Maybe a little Fat Worm Of Error or Guerilla Toss vibe here too, or any post-millenium no-wave group that were more influenced by The Residents than Lightning Bolt. It’s annoying music in a highly entertaining way, and it certainly appeals to my taste, even in light of my eagerness to dismiss it. Could be a fluke, but I’m going to hold the optimistic belief that Mattin has gotten bored with his recent style and is once again entering the realm of the listenable.
The Monkey Power Trio Misreattached 7″ (Pocahontas Swamp Machine Recordings)
Here’s the deal with The Monkey Power Trio, as summed up on the back of Misreattached – these guys get together one day every year to play music and record it. This 7″ is from their 2010 session, which was their 16th year (and technically, day) of existence. It’s the second one they’ve sent me, and I dunno, it’s an interesting enough concept, and they clearly aren’t looking to land any publishing deals or radio syncs, so I appreciate their sheer enjoyment of just playing music with friends. This one opens with a funky and ultimately pointless strut (“Panty Groove”), and is followed by a sad cartoon dirge (“Holes”), with two dorky, Sockeye-esque hard-rockers (“Dilapidated Laundry” and “Downtown Woman”) wrapping up the b-side (and actually listed in reverse order as they play out on the vinyl – yes, I somehow noticed that). I celebrate The Monkey Power Trio’s intentions, and am kind of glad I’ve been allowed a couple glimpses into their dingy rec room, but I am kind of at a loss as to why this was pressed on vinyl – surely there are cheaper and easier ways this group could pointlessly destroy the environment than to send their songs to a factory to be pressed into plastic? Just empty a can of hairspray while starting a garbage bonfire in the backyard! Can’t you just burn a couple CD-rs for your immediate family and call it a day? One of these guys must have a real job and too much money on his hands, and well, I guess so long as he’s gainfully employed, these Monkey Power Trio singles may keep piling up all over our poor planet.
The Night Terrors Back To Zero 2xLP (Homeless)
The Night Terrors are not particularly terrifying at all, unless you have an intense phobia of electronically synthesized music. They’re an instrumental Australian group, operating within Goblin’s universe to pump out some decent-if-unremarkable electro-prog jams. There’s a drummer and bassist, and they act as an anchor to the keyboardist and theremin player, who clearly want to blast off into the deep space their instruments desire. My favorite tracks are when the drums are less hurried – there’s one where they are playing this big Led Zeppelin beat for a second, and it all feels so right, but generally the group locks into various brainy time signatures, bass and drums psychically melded, while the keyboard chuffs along and the theremin daintly pirouettes over top. The theremin player is really something else, really coaxing some beautiful solos out of that thing, even though I have never been a huge fan of the instrument (not unless it’s Jon Spencer in leather pants abusing one). They’re a talented band, but a very “standard” feeling one, like they are the perfect inoffensive, vaguely-psychedelic group to get on stage before Zombi or Death From Above 1979 or Goblin light it up. Maybe if they were a hometown hero of mine, I’d get into Back To Zero a bit more, but for now it’s like watching someone go five under par on a major golf course – sure, it’s a commendable achievement, but who cares?
1994! Fuck It LP (Square Of Opposition)
Never heard 1994! before, because I was too busy living it, man! Square Of Opposition is never short on emo-core one or two generations younger than myself, this duo included. If 1994! had longer and funnier song titles and a more jumbled collage-style art design, Level Plane would’ve released this as a Neil Perry split back in 2002. The recording is bad enough! (They recorded it on an iPhone and a “cheap vocal mic”, but honestly it still sounds better than any given Usurp Synapse record. It was almost an impressive feat, how awful those records sounded.) Joshing around aside, this band is pretty good, with both the drums and guitar going wild with pattern changes and rhythmic hiccups. I’m not a fan of rock duos as a general rule, but they manage to fill up the air with sound nicely, and I swear, the guitarist gets downright Bill Orcutt-ian at times. They’re like a Lightning Bolt for the handmade-zine-about-my-feelings set, a band that always plays on the floor (and sleeps on it afterward) and stirs up a chaotic pit of nerds in the process. If that’s your thing, you probably are already all about 1994!, and I’m happy to join you, if just for a brief moment or two.
Octagrape Red UFO LP (Thing Thing Thing)
My biggest complaint with Octagrape was that they went by “Octa#grape”, but they seem to have dropped the unnecessary hash-tag – it must be a nice, freeing feeling! Now that that’s out of the way, I can spend a little time with Red UFO, and it’s a pretty nice, standard indie-rock LP, one where the word “indie” is a positive attribute used toward bands who purposely avoid the corporate music industry… the ’90s definition of the word, basically. Most of this record sounds to me like some mid-point between the potent guitar upswing of Roomrunner, the buzzy pop of early Wavves and the general feel that Octagrape would’ve ended up on a Sub Pop or Matador singles series release had they existed twenty years earlier. Octagrape manage to mix it up a bit here, so while the generic sonic palate remains the same (it’s all fairly lo-fi, with a constant cymbal-hiss permeating throughout), there are dumbed-down riff-rockers, weary ballads and quirkly little ditties, all jumbled together. It’s not really my thing, just by the very nature of the style of music at hand, but Octagrape kept me entertained long enough that I made it through the album on more than one occasion, and my demeanor never soured. They dropped the pound sign, maybe you could drop the $12 or whatever on this LP if it sounds like your sort of thing?
Oily Boys Majesty 7″ (Disinfect)
If this Oily Boys EP didn’t come from an Easter Bilby mailer, I would’ve sworn that this is the latest band to feature guys from Warthog, Creem, Dawn Of Humans and Goosebumps, fresh from the Katorga Works or Toxic State presses. Check it: Oily Boys sound like early Warzone or Sick Of It All if they had an intense serial killer fetish (pretty much every song is about dead bodies and the things the singer did to them), with a slightly raw recording, the vocals running through some sort of subtle effect and at least a little flange on the guitar. Imagine the Together compilation sung by Nikki Sikki and recorded on a boombox and you’re pretty close to what Majesty is all about – just substitute tortured screams for youth-crew jumps. I enjoy their band name, and songs like “Suffer Beach” are winners no matter how you aesthetically slice it, but I can’t help but feel like Oily Boys fit too easily into the parameter’s of today’s highly-specific underground hardcore sound to really stand out. Maybe they’re the only band doing this in Australia, in which case they should be commended (every scene needs at least one band like this); I’m just not sure I’ll remember to pull out this 7″ all that often.
Personnel Personnel 7″ (Doubledotdash)
More cool-as-hell post-punk (with emphasis on punk) from the London underground here, this one featuring at least one Good Throbber and probably someone who is at the very least mates with someone in the Pheromoans. Personnel offer four tracks here, and they’re all pretty sweet – at times, I’m thinking of some sort of time portal where the late ’70s UK DIY scene was infiltrated by the Cupid Car Club EP, and at others, I’m thinking of The UV Race, just with half as many band members and all in black sunglasses. Or perhaps quite simply, if the Thin Yoghurts were organically-farmed and filled with pomegranate seeds. Definitely a cool single, and the fact that the sleeve is some big flimsy piece of office paper that’s stapled to the dust sleeve only adds to the classic charm here. All four songs sound great, “Hysteria” being my personal favorite (it’s got a serious dose of unintentional Eddy Current flair), and it’s a single I am proud to both display and sit and listen to. It’s getting harder and harder to not be jealous of a city where bands popping up like this is becoming commonplace.
St. Julien St. Julien 12″ (Apron)
Whoa boy, electronic single of the month right here! St. Julien is another alias of the guy who guys by Funkieven, and I much prefer him in this outfit – it’s sleeker, stranger and more unique. Opener “Jupiter” is what hooked me in first – it’s a very simple little riff, like something Joy Orbison and Boddika would’ve collaboratively produced on those Sunklown 12″s, but it twists and turns rather than builds. It’s like R2D2 slowly creeping onto a Daft Punk dancefloor, but just as the confetti is about to explode, the track ends. Bravo! “St. Julien” is next, with a cascade of hi-hat tics and blown-speaker bass, not unlike something I’d expect from Torn Hawk or one of the other left-field L.I.E.S. guys. It has a mutant New Order vibe that I can’t shake, which of course is awfully nice. Flip it over for the elongated “Lazor”, which somehow fuses the wise-guy acid-squirts of Mr. Oizo with the greyscale art-museum claustrophobia of Actress, and just extends the whole thing like Gumby’s midsection, extra-long and deformed. All of St. Julien’s ideas are simple ones, and he teases and tickles and twists them nearly to exhaustion, but here I am, desperately wanting more.
Seasick Eschaton LP (To Live A Lie)
New Jersey is probably responsible for more embarrassing hardcore music that I honestly enjoy than any other state. I came up on this stuff, and while I cannot explain to you why Ensign or Bound are in any way musically valid, I hold some of their records dear to my heart. And then comes a band like Seasick, also from Jersey, who actually nail the modern-day hardcore thing. Heavy, barked vocals, false breakdowns and near-grind speeds, feedback intros (and outros), it’s all here. I’d probably put Seasick in the Iron Lung Records school of modern-hardcore (somewhere between Walls, Slices and Hatred Surge), as their music is a noisy, early-screamo-infected take on modern fast hardcore. Eschaton could easily slip into the discographies of Deep Six, Youth Attack, Level Plane or Painkiller, kind of just grinding that all up into a very contemporary fury. Perhaps this is why Seasick don’t necessarily stand out to my ears, because they sound like so many different things, all kind of at once, but it’s still a nice sound indeed. They are apparently no longer a band, so while this is a nice document, I’m personally more curious to hear whatever these folks are up to now.
Skaters Manhattan LP (Warner Bros.)
So last year, I ended up at a show where Skaters were playing, and I was all excited and confused to learn that the ’00s psych-drone duo were back together. You can imagine my shock and disgust to find out that it was actually some new major-label pop-punk band using the name instead! I wanted to hate them, and I really tried, but honestly, these guys had some hits, and I found myself tapping along. Now they’ve got an album, almost sure to be lost in the “indie band on a major” shuffle, and it’s kinda great too. They unabashedly rip off The Strokes, let’s get that out of the way – from the vocalist’s subtle Lou Reed syllabic drawl to the Albert Hammond guitar-leads, this band clearly has studied The Strokes from their disheveled hair down to their tattered Chuck Taylors. It might be too much for some to take, but “Miss Teen Massachusetts” and “To Be Young In NYC” are clearly pop-rock hits, scrubbed down with that hissy, trebly Wavves-style recording that is so popular with today’s youth (for some reason I have yet to understand). I understand if this review is coming across negative, I just want to acknowledge the many valid reasons to dislike this band, but I find the music of Skaters to be perfectly-delivered “indie” radio rock, big on open-arm vocal hooks and Strokes-ian ennui, like you left your $400 leather jacket in the cab and don’t care because your model-girlfriend’s manager also represents Opening Ceremony and can just get you a new one. I was looking for some indignantly privileged, undeniably catchy guitar pop and I found it in Manhattan.
S.O.A 12/29/80 First Demo 7″ (Dischord)
Dischord’s recent interest in opening their classic hardcore archives is a welcome one, as bands like Void, Faith and S.O.A are the ones that myths and dreams are made of. I’ll admit, while I am psyched that they gave the S.O.A demo the reissue treatment, I’ve had this one in bootleg 7″ format for a while now (some shady punk booted the S.O.A and Youth Brigade demos probably twenty years ago at this point), but if you are a fan of little Henry Garfield and his rag-tag band of misfits, you might as well take this one home with you. For me, it was cool to see some new photographs from the S.O.A era, and the sound quality of this release certainly surpasses my years-old bootleg. I also appreciate that the liner-note band history seems to freeze in 1983 or so, providing an historical update that has long since been rendered obsolete. I know all these songs by heart, so it’s impossible to provide any sort of impartial critical analysis – either you wanna scream along to “I Hate The Kids” for the rest of your life upon hearing it or you don’t, and I am certainly in the former camp. Are you crazy, Wendel?
The Stickmen Man Made Stars LP (Homeless)
From the promo sheet to the inner sleeve to the sticker on the cover, Homeless Records is doing all they can to convince us that The Stickmen were incredibly important. I appreciate their enthusiasm, but man… are we listening to the same band? I can only fathom how hard it must have been in mid-’90s Tasmania to get your hands on any sort of underground music, and the difficulty and isolation with which The Stickmen existed, but even with that all fresh in my head, nothing about Man Made Stars appeals to me. Even the insanely thick and lavish tip-on jacket is kind of annoying, because it’s somehow like half an inch wider than any other album sleeve I’ve got, poking rudely into the air! Anyway, to my ears, The Stickmen sound like a local-band version of a Fugazi / At The Drive-In / Radiohead mixtape. Lots of moody guitar, cyclical off-beat rhythms, distorted spoken-sung vocals, tension, and just a general run-of-the-mill artiness that doesn’t feel very special to me at all. I don’t want to be a jerk, because I am sure there are people to whom The Stickmen mean a whole lot (and rightfully so – if this was the only “alternative” band I saw growing up, they’d probably be God-like to me), but as someone just stumbling in late to the retrospective awards ceremony, I wish I would’ve just stayed home.
Your Silent Face A Place Where Arms Bend Backwards 12″ (Fiedeltwo)
Come up with an artist name and EP title like these, slap it on a no-nonsense, white-label 12″ and I’m always in for a test spin at the very least. This sort of reductionist, minimal product will always appeal to me – it’s like the equivalent of some beautiful Ligne Roset couch sitting by itself in a white concrete room, and as for Your Silent Face in particular, the music lives up to my expectations. “A Place Where Arms Bend Backwards” is almost offensively simple – from the moment you hear the morse-code arpeggio that starts it, you’ve essentially heard the entirety of the track. Your Silent Face messed with its pitch, velocity, distortion and tone throughout, but it comes across so monochromatic and “DJ tool”-oriented that it starts to make sense on its own terms. “Fiedel’s Rework” is on the flip, and it feels very L.I.E.S.-ish (don’t they all these days!), with its unrelenting 4/4 bass thump, frantic hi-hat / wood-block interplay and a basement feel (the original’s hook is given a shock treatment). Cool record for sure, although I would expect the rest of you will rightfully sit this one out, as there’s really nothing particularly execptional. Just two more semi-anonymous sides of brittle, unwavering thunk for the heads.
The Zingers The Zingers LP (Million Dollar)
For all the great punk rock that Australia has been pumping out over the past few years, I haven’t seen any bands take the ’77 caricature-punk route… until now. Yep, these guys dress like they recently raided the closets of The Briefs and The Damned, with a slight outer-space Von Lmo motif for good measure. My tolerance for this sort of camp is limited at this point (somehow it’s 2014, after all), but The Zingers are actually totally great. Musically, it’s definitely classically punk, but after a little while the guitars start to sound more like Arab On Radar than The Dickies, and the vocalist does this highly-affected weasel-sneer that sounds like the guy from The Mentally Ill doing his best Darby Crash inflection, which of course is excellent. As well, there are plenty of spastic, almost no-wave moments that recall Mars, or even more accurately, The Stick Men (the short-lived Philadelphian no-wave group, not the one reviewed above), as there’s some sort of amputated funk thing going on here, too. For all the inoffensive indie-garage bands labels like Bedroom Suck and R.I.P. Society have recently gravitated toward, I am sure that The Zingers are the least cool folks at the party and all, but come on – this is wonderfully irritating punk right here, and it’s where we should all be focusing our attention.