A Model Authority Model 001 12″ (A Model Authority)
I am fascinated by the recent noise/techno cross over, and that goes for both sides of the fence. Particularly intriguing are the techno guys trying their hand at something less-studied and harsher, and A Model Authority are another recent example, this being the duo of Shifted and Sigha under a new guise. This definitely feels like the work of techno guys who’ve been impressed by Hospital Productions and Vatican Shadow – the songs are simplistic, rugged, minimal and jagged, as if these guys are throwing their keen production knowledge out the window, choosing rather to just press three buttons on the sampler and let it rip. There’s even a couple “noise” tracks here too: one that just kind of washes over, and another that features a phone conversation run through a Rat pedal (or something equivalent). When it comes to contemporaries, A Model Authority is probably closest to Karenn in sound, as they don’t have the sonic force of Regis, nor the peculiar structure of Andy Stott (nor are they distinctly in-between like Kerridge). I will admit, there isn’t anything particularly special or revolutionary about this 12″, but I am so enamored by the modern industrial-techno sound right now that this EP, along with its attractive packaging, gets a thumbs up from me. Eventually, I’ll hit my quota of this specific sound, but until then…
Atlantic Thrills A Day At The Beach 7″ (Almost Ready)
Richie Cunningham might actually be a bald and wrinkly senior citizen at this point, but his high school persona forever lives on thanks to groups like Atlantic Thrills. Inexplicably, they are a group of present-day musicians who want nothing more than some freshly churned cotton candy and a sweetheart’s hand in theirs, and while that sort of alternate reality seems like a less satisfying fantasy to me in 2013 than Juggaloism, the soft-serve power-pop of Atlantic Thrills gets my stamp of approval. “A Day At The Beach” could go toe to toe with Ronnie Mayor’s “Can’t Wait ‘Til The Summer Comes”, very saccarhine sock-hop with some Deke Dickerson-style leads over top. “Hold Your Tongue” is far ruder, like The Monks if they did a photoshoot in swimsuits, highly boppable and silly in a vastly different way than the a-side. It’s not gonna change your life, but Atlantic Thrills entertained me on both sides of this 7″ playing a style of music older than most teenagers’ parents, so I’d consider it a success! If you disagree, I politely invite you to sit on it and rotate.
Bad Energy / Bad Side split 7″ (Badmaster)
How ironic, that the Bad Energy / Bad Side split 7″ on Badmaster Records is… good! All three entities are from Philadelphia, and it’s the sort of local DIY hardcore-punk connectivity that warms my heart. Bad Energy are fast and thrashy, with a vocalist who yells as much as he screams – I’d say they’re like a mix of Double Negative and Dayglo Abortions, although I admit that’s not deadly accurate. They keep the songs moving all over the place, but it never feels like anything but hardcore. Bad Side are even faster and thrashier, and also sloppier, but that’s not a complaint with hardcore this unhinged, particularly as the singer comes across like a mix of Roger Miret and Kevin Seconds (both in their respective early years). Bad Side are also a little moshier – their second track opens with a bass/drums intro that is sure to crack open a basement pit like an egg on concrete. Both bands are quite similar in style, almost like a pair of identical twins where you have to keep remembering which one it is that wears the glasses, but in this case it’s just fun and exciting to know that multiple groups of people in the same city are capable of blasting out gnarly hardcore-punk. It’s nice when competition is unnecessary and replaced by pure hardcore expression.
John Bellows Fast Hits LP (Special Needs)
I went pretty hard on a John Bellows 7″ last month, which I kinda feel bad about, but that might just be because I haven’t listened to it in weeks, and have been able to remove myself from the anguish of actually hearing it. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to Fast Hits, but to his credit, Bellows manages to spread his sound out a bit here. There are fast power-pop tunes, jokey indie-rock tracks, and a bunch of ’90s “alternative”-sounding songs, all smooshed together. I’m reminded of guys like Eugene Chadbourne and Mojo Nixon, the sort of wacky punk provocateurs that seem particularly dated now, and might not have actually been all that funny to begin with, but without a time machine I won’t ever know for sure. Maybe a little Bugout Society in there too, just without the hardcore influence? John Bellows still isn’t my thing in the slightest, but Carrot Top managed to create a million-dollar empire out of annoying zaniness, so maybe Mr. Bellows is onto something too?
Black Time Blackout LP (Monolith Sound)
Black Time were one of many garage-punk bands of the previous decade to release over a dozen albums, tapes and singles. I can’t say I kept up with more than half, but somehow I owned Blackout on CD (a more innocent time, when people still bought CDs), and listened to it frequently over the years. Black Time wrote songs that really stuck with me (unlike many of their contemporaries), and for a band that was pretty clearly sticking to the garage template, they felt far more punk than the rest of the crowd. Maybe it’s because I never got the feeling that Black Time were trying to be anything in particular – they didn’t need to wear blazers with old-timey punk badges and funny sunglasses in their photoshoots. Black Time always seemed above that sort of nonsense. Plus, the songs on Blackout all come with their own signature sneers; from “Catholic Discipline” to “Young Professionals”, there are tons of rotten anthems on here to cling to, and it never feels same-y, an achievement in a genre where I have difficulty telling bands apart, let alone songs. The Monolith Sound vinyl reissue comes in a big-budget LP sleeve, printed inner and quality vinyl, pretty much as nice a reissue as you could ask for. Though really, part of me just wants to blast this thing on a crappy car CD player, on my way to a warehouse show where everyone smokes and I already know I’ll feel awful the next day. It’s one of those few albums that makes me nostalgic for second-hand smoke.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy LP (Palace)
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy is an indie-rock institution, and like most indie-rock institutions, my knowledge of him is spotty at best. Sure, like any other middle-class music nerd who’s had his own apartment, I own a couple Will Oldham records and maybe an old Palace Brothers 7″ or two, but I cannot speak of the many twists and turns Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy has taken throughout his career. (He collaborated with Kanye West or Coldplay, right? And discovered Bon Iver? Or was he just in a funny music video?) Anyway, I’m happy to speak on the music of the ostensibly self-released, self-titled album I have in front of me. It’s a beautiful collection of acoustic guitar and vocal accompaniment, very direct and stripped-down, as if he is performing in a tiny darkened cafe under a spotlight to a crowd of no more than a dozen, where you can count each whisker in his beard and hear his fingers squeak across the strings as they locate different chords. His voice is pained, sweet, curious and unmistakable here, and his understated-yet-nimble guitar performance is a sharp match. There’s a reason why some people become stars and others don’t, and even on an album as unstated as this, it becomes obvious that Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy didn’t gain a following just because his dad was Arista’s head A&R guy for 25 years or something. He got it by being talented and cool.
Buck Biloxi And The Fucks Holodeck Survivor / Not Getting Stabbed 7″ (Total Punk)
I missed the first Buck Biloxi single, but kept hearing praise aimed in their general direction. Leave it to Total Punk to finally hip me to these fellas, something they have done time and time again, and the reason why record labels are still valuable resources and more necessary than endless internet news feeds. “Holodeck Survivor” might be the best Star Trek-related song I’ve ever heard – the music perfectly replicates classic Orange Records-era GG Allin, crudely chugging out a song that strives to be tuneful at its core. The vocalist ain’t too far from ol’ GG either, and the fact that there’s a guy named “Pee Pee Ramone” on guitar makes me wonder if Dick Urine didn’t produce this single too (legendary GG Allin producer – go on, check the back of those 7″ sleeves!). Same goes for “Not Getting Stabbed”, although it’s a bit sillier, and catchier too, Biloxi listing rude things that he and his gang are gonna do to you. On a label of total punk releases, this very well might be their totalest punk yet!
Brainbombs Disposal Of A Dead Body 2xLP (Skrammel)
I consider myself a lifetime Brainbombs fan, but it’s the sort of thing I’d rather keep private – when I dig into Brainbombs, I want to retreat from real life for a while, into a world of utter horror and the basest human misery. Seems like their recent resurgence came and went, which makes sense. It’s not like they have a Led Zeppelin-esque discography to slowly reinterpret – either you get down with bludgeoning caveman guitar riffs and a serial killer on vocals or you don’t. I’m gonna keep buying their records, but I can tell you that Disposal Of A Dead Body won’t be the first, second or third Brainbombs record I reach for off my shelf. My reasoning is based almost entirely on the recording – the early Brainbombs singles sounded like they were electrocuting your stereo, and Obey and Fucking Mess allowed you to hang on every twisted word, but this one just kinda gets by, the vocals mostly unintelligible, the guitars mostly muted, the mix mostly neutered. The riffs are just as you’d expect, but over the course of four LP sides, it gets kinda boring, particularly as I can barely make out the vocalist (I only really get a feel if and when he repeats his words after the music has ended). The song titles are as despicable and morbid as ever, which just makes me feel like I’m missing out on the full picture. Worth a listen for sure, they are still the reliable ol’ Brainbombs, but if you didn’t scratch up a few dozen Euros for this one, I hope to have relieved your fears.
The Cartoons She’s A Rock And Roller 7″ (Last Laugh)
For a group calling themselves The Cartoons, it’s a bold move that a brick wall is the only cartoon featured on the cover! I hate to see a chance for a punk-rock Daffy Duck wasted, what can I say. I guess that’s to be expected of a rude bunch of punk rockers such as this though, originally released in 1981 in what was surely a miniscule amount, and obscure enough that a moderate record junkie such as myself never heard of them before. “She’s A Rock And Roller” is pretty cool, mixing up a Sex Pistols attitude with a less transgressive hard-rock swagger, feeling like a song that was written by guys who actually beat up the punk rockers a few grades below and decided they liked the fit of the leather jackets they stole off them. “Who Cares” is less punk, more bar-friendly, but still rowdy enough that it might be the missing link between The Rotters and White Boy & The Average Rat Band. Once again, Last Laugh flexes their archeological muscle here, unearthing more rare punk that probably no one was asking for, but through its arrival surely many are delighted.
Constant Mongrel Heavy Breathing LP (Siltbreeze)
Constant Mongrel’s debut album may have been my favorite slice of Australian punk rock last year, a real buzzsaw mess of Urinals’ simplicity and Lamps’ brute force. I was ready to injure myself to Heavy Breathing the moment I first got my hands on a copy, but much to my surprise, Constant Mongrel toned down their punk rock lunkheadedness in favor of a more thoughtful approach, mixing quick pours of goth and psychedelia in their punch. At first, it put me off, hearing that weirdly-affected guitar chime away, but I quickly became accustomed to their growth. And really, after I realigned my brain to Heavy Breathing, I realized it’s still stupid punk music just a stone’s throw from Taco Leg – “Choked” could’ve easily been an early Germs tune, and “Perks And The Thrills (Pills)” sounds like Rik L Rik and Rikk Agnew arguing outside the Masque directly after the Germs’ set. So nice to hear a band that can “grow” without maturing, as Constant Mongrel have clearly gotten more technically talented (there’s really no way to avoid it) but still insist on banging two chords against a wall and using the floor tom the way most bands use the hi-hat. Time for a US tour, don’t you think?
Division Four 1983 Demo Cassette 12″ (Smartguy)
I like to consider myself an Australian punk buff, the sort of guy who can tell the difference between Section Urbane and Just Urbain from the tape hiss alone, but I never heard of Division Four before. They only ever did a demo cassette, back in (you guessed it) 1983, and Smartguy, purveyor of many high-quality Australian punk records, has taken to pressing it on vinyl. On first spin, I thought it was a cool mix of ready-steady street-punk and new wave synths, but then I put it on again, and again, and again, and now I’m wondering how I ever lived without “Doctor’s Wife” or “Sewer Song”. It’s the kind of formula that is ripe for a modern band to plagiarize – clenched-fist, plodding punk with a synth riding shotgun and a bleak world view, and yet I don’t think I’ve heard anyone really attempt it. That is, besides Division Four back in 1983, who managed to write some super-simple tunes that really delivered the goods. Catchier than Iron Cross and more dystopian than Gary Numan, it’s truly a travesty that Division Four didn’t get their due back in their day, which would have allowed folks like you and me to viciously duke it out on eBay for their original short-run vinyl some thirty years later. I’m prepared for that fight!
Donato Dozzy 200 EP 12″ (Electronique.it)
For all the different techno styles Donato Dozzy has tried, I swear he’s never come up short. He’s like one of those jerks that looks as good in jeans and a t-shirt just as he does a tuxedo, you know? This is why I try to never miss any of his releases, and 200 remains another example of the wisdom in my choice. The story behind 200 is interesting – the Electronique.it label/website asked Dozzy to curate their 200th podcast, for which he wrote a long essay on the history of Italian electronic music and a mix of 55 Italian tracks. These three cuts were extracted from the set, and they are pounding techno par excellence. “200.1″ and “200.2″ take the relentless propulsion of Dozzy’s collaborations with Nuel and splash in some color through “tribal” drumming, unidentified chirps, swirling winds and the crisp sensation of whitewater spray. Both tracks lock into their groove and generally remain self-sustaining, with just enough subtle tweaking to feel alive. It’s on “200.3″ where he really builds up steam though – this b-side cut is twice the size of the first two tracks, and feels even more like a fight-dance performed by Klaus Kinski inside the Matrix – it’s utterly wild and scary, but Dozzy retains supreme control over the proceedings. Even for the measly twenty minutes here, it’s envigorating to experience life inside Donato Dozzy’s world.
Emptyset Recur LP (Raster-Noton)
Emptyset are one of my favorite current electronic artists out of the UK, and surely one of the most distinct as well – they have constructed and refined their template of radioactive blasts of static interference, released at particular intervals, and it has served them well. This new one certainly doesn’t stray from that formula – the tracks either slowly tweak their sonic explosions, or stutter into arrhythmic patterns, and either way, it’s as dense and sonically relentless as I could’ve hoped. I’ve enjoyed blasting myself in the face with Recur, but at the same time, I feel like the lack of variation may end up working against Emptyset in the end, as newer, dorkier groups start co-opting this sound (an inevitability with anything cool). While listening to some of the tracks here, I can already picture a Skrillex remix, or the guy from Death Grips angrily rapping over top, and it’s nearly enough to ruin my experience. Certain tracks are surely a hair away from being ruined by some “shocking” rapper over-top, and I wouldn’t put it past 2014 or 2015 for such a thing to exist. For now though, I am going to cherish Emptyset as my own, and live in this moment that they have created.
The Floor Above Bishop LP (Savage Quality)
I get really excited when a new Savage Quality release comes my way, because it’s almost a guarantee that I’ve never heard of the band and they’re noisy and unusual and generally pretty great. The Floor Above certainly fits the bill, as they’re a manic hardcore band that pushes the limits beyond classic hardcore into something more thrashy, discordant, and dare I say screamo-ish. Some of the songs could pose as fill-ins on Die Kreuzen’s first album, but then they end up blasting off into violent, fall-on-the-floor territory that groups like Honeywell and Antioch Arrow reached in the early ’90s. But it’s never emo, just wild hardcore music that occasionally recalls the full-steam-ahead nihilism of Maniax or maybe even non-commercial black metal. The vocalist has a Homostupids-style caterwaul, and it’s the perfect pitch for this messy hardcore assault. Out of nowhere, The Floor Above have released one of my favorite hardcore albums of the year!
Francisco Franco Francisco Franco LP (New Images Limited)
If I told you Rob Francisco of M Ax Noi Mach and Veiled and Matt Franco of Air Conditioning and Holy Family Parish had a new project together, you’d probably expect some sort of crushing electronic industrial music… maybe something like Vatican Shadow meets Hunting Lodge, right? Well, these guys are delighted to take the dramatic left turn that is Francisco Franco, an intensely quiet instrumental pop-rock group. The bulk of Francisco Franco sounds like music made for study hall – songs you can play on your Texas Instruments calculator out of sheer boredom or little rhythms tappable by pencil on textbook. These songs are very repetitive, very stressed and overtired, but never result in an outburst worthy of detention. This album specifically reminds me of that one instrumental Young Marble Giants EP, Michael Rother’s Fernwärme, and the criminally dollar-binned Themes For ‘Grind’ by Will Sergeant of Echo & The Bunnymen fame. Just two guitars, a bass, and rhythmic accompaniment working out their little algorithms of melodic woe, coming together to form something that I enjoy even more than I had initially planned. I recommend you dub the LP to a crappy tape, then listen to it on a Walkman while walking in cold drizzly weather through an aging apartment complex on a Sunday afternoon for optimal effect.
Huerco S. Colonial Patterns 2xLP (Software)
Not too long ago, Huerco S. dropped a killer 12″ on Future Times, the sort of thing that aimed for the dancefloor but took out a few experimental music nerds on its way there, so I was amped for the release of his debut album Colonial Patterns. The first time I listened to it, I was on an overnight flight in a tiny airplane seat, falling in and out of restless sleep, and listening on an iPod, so I wasn’t sure if this album really sounded as smeared and uncomfortably ambient as I thought it did. After multiple spins of the vinyl on solid ground, I can confirm that it wasn’t just me – Huerco S. has put together an album of finely corroded house music, so rusty and weathered that only the finest footworker could really get down to it. I don’t remember there being such an Andy Stott vibe on his earlier stuff, but Colonial Patterns reps it pretty hard, from the way the beats sound like they are played with dying batteries and the melodies and chords sound like they remained undisturbed for years before being resuscitated back to life. Sure, by like the third or fourth track the beats are revived enough that you can actually groove to the music, but this album is dominated by its sleepy, narcotic haze, not its beats. I’m definitely reminded of recent albums by Austin Cesear, Terrence Dixon and Darling Farah here – there are a lot of folks doing this sort of thing right now, and I’m not even sure that Huerco S. particularly stands out, yet I keep throwing on Colonial Patterns on purpose, happy to settle into its web of dusty rhythms, simplistic synth patterns and hypnotic sense of space.
Hysteria Ward From Breakfast To Madness LP (General Speech)
Never heard of Hysteria Ward before, but any punk band ranting about breakfast gets my attention. Threw the LP on, and I’m thinking “man, this band is doing a fantastic job of melding dark post-punk and Crass Records vibes with blatant ’80s new-wave… they don’t sound remotely modern!”. After like the third spin, I decided to actually check out the insert, only to discover that Hysteria Ward released From Breakfast To Madness on tape back in 1986 out of their London home, and it all made sense, even if it took a little bit of the wind out of my sails, wishfully thinking that a band this strangely frozen in time got started in 2013. I’m reminded of Strange Boutique or UK Decay, but with maybe a pinch of Poison Girls, or maybe even a surely unintentional Shattered Faith aftertaste? All while keeping in mind that the group looks like a cross between Missing Persons and Campingsex. I think I’ve thrown out enough band names to make this review almost completely useless, but putting that aside, From Breakfast To Madness is a nice serving of early goth-wave, one that relies more on substance than style (while still setting aside a portion of gig earnings for hair dye).
Impalers Impalers LP (540 / Todo Destruido)
The bar for hardcore is set so high these days, I am surprised at how many bands are willing to try… everyone has MP3 collections of the finest hardcore on Earth at this point, so if you aren’t coming somewhat close, why put out a record? If you are Impalers, though, putting out records makes sense, as these guys are in the upper echelon of modern hardcore, clearly well-versed in its diverse history while never settling into one specific sub-sub-genre. I can imagine an Impalers songwriting sesh consists of the bassist playing around with a Motörhead riff, the drummer playing along like it’s Deathreat, and the guitarist jamming like he’s in Negative Approach until testing out a Thin Lizzy solo he’s been working on. Impalers really seem to have that wide spread of hard-edged guitar-rock knowledge and the technical skill to put it all together (some of these tracks are so perfectly air-tight that I start to feel lightheaded). They can write a song that sounds like both Disclose and Cro-mags, and they do so in a way that I am content with dumbly banging my head instead of trying to pick apart which influence came from where. It’s a pretty nice place to be!
Lakes Blood Of The Grove LP (No Patience)
Australia’s most prominent Death In June acolytes are back at it with another LP of gothic post-punk neo-folk. This style of music is so easily mockable that I feel inclined to try to like it… these bands just seem so preposterously serious and morbid and empty that they are just ripe for a wedgie that I’d rather let someone else give. Lakes certainly fit the bill – from the chiming guitars, minor-key melodies, dramatic atmosphere, militaristic drumming and deeply affected vocals, this is as much a studied exercise as your co-worker’s Zumba class. If you can get past that, or if you just absolutely crave this sound, Lakes certainly deliver, and there isn’t anything particularly stupid or over-the-top about them – they politely sing songs about blood coming from things that normally don’t have blood, and all the imagery (old stone ruins, a sigil of moons and a knife, etc.) really just makes me want to play The Legend Of Zelda again. At least I made it through the whole review without mentioning Cult Of Youth. Wait… damnit!
Jessy Lanza Pull My Hair Back LP (Hyperdub)
I’m not sure if pop music is getting smarter, or underground music is getting greedier, but it seems like there is really no boundary between radio-pop and independent electronic music at this point. It’s both cool and troubling, but for the most part I dig the fact that nothing is out of bounds in late 2013 – a noise guy will write a Home Depot jingle, a teen-pop star will mosh at a punk show… the singularity is near. Anyway, Jessy Lanza is one of the more recent underground-grown singers performing a smarter form of pop music, and Pull My Hair Back is pretty sweet. It’s kind of like if Kylie Minogue came up going to Ramadanman and Boddika gigs, getting heavy into deep bass and post-dubstep beats while still just wanting to sing “Locomotion” or “Physical”. I get some serious Jessie Ware vibes on the (relatively speaking) torch songs, the humanoid feel of Jamie Woon on some of the upbeat tracks, and maybe even a dusting of Laurel Halo’s bizarre fingerprints on some of the more creative productions. And of course, the bangers come with that TNGHT-styled trap-rap gusto. Pull My Hair Back will probably sound hilariously dated by 2016, but I’m living for today, and happy to jam some Jessy Lanza while driving my coupe to the club (or basement show).
Murcof & Philippe Petit First Chapter LP (Aagoo / REV. Laboratories)
From the names alone, it’s pretty clear that Murcof & Philippe Petit ain’t no Brooks & Dunn, or even Simon & Garfunkel. No, these two are interested in only the strangest of soundscapes, the sort of music you’d expect to hear in a doomsday-prepper-themed haunted house run by 9/11 conspiracy theorists. The usual avant-garde ambient tone-drift shows up first, but before you know it, this dream’s become a nightmare, with disembodied opera-singing, a cat running across the inside of a grand piano, and something referred to in the credits as a “cymbalum” (I looked it up, and shame on me – it’s actually a real thing). There’s some genuine musicality being flexed on “Pegasus”, but this is mostly a long sprawling soundtrack to an art-house film that makes zero sense but has a fine time doing it, mixing acoustic and electric instrumentation into a moody, mysterious soup. I guess that makes sense, because if you intend to serve Mystery Soup at your next dinner party, First Chapter should be the first record in your queue.
The Native Cats Dallas LP (Ride The Snake / R.I.P Society)
The third Native Cats album has been out for a few months now, and I’ve been slacking on a review, simply because I’ve been having trouble figuring out how I feel about it. The Native Cats are without a doubt one of my favorite groups to sprout out of the last decade – they’re just so unique and witty and catchy and odd, but with each new album they seem to push further away from pop and deeper into uncharted territory. Dallas makes that pretty clear – the overall mood is darker than previous efforts, the tone is frequently hushed, and the melodies are more likely to have you looking over your shoulder than tapping your shoes. Definitely not a Native Cats album for beginners – you’ve gotta work yourself up to Dallas, to be familiar with where they’ve been to really appreciate where they are headed. It’s an intriguing record for sure, with some drum sounds that are so bad it must be on purpose (“Cavalier”), and an uncharacteristically noisy blast care of “Mohawk-Motif”. I can comfortably say it’s my least favorite Native Cats album, there just aren’t as many moments of ingenious wordplay mixed with New Order-worthy hooks, but I will probably pick up Dallas in five years and be shocked by how much I absolutely love it. Just one of those records!
Permanent Collection No Void 7″ (Loglady)
No Void? What, are these guys Faith fans? Anyway, this 7″ by Permanent Collection seems kind of out of place in a few ways, meaning that none of the parts necessarily fit together – you’ve got a gory death-metal cover photo for a band that seems to identify as punk, but they force the guitar into some sort of awkwardly-flanged Duran Duran shape and the singer just kinda deeply whines his vocals, the sort of whining you do when you are already late and your travel companion won’t leave the bathroom. The four songs here all tread similar tempos and tones, a very new-wave take on post-punk, with all of my least favorite guitar effects in the forefront. Not a bad EP by any means, and if you told me this came from Iceland in 1979 I might even be willing to pay like twenty bucks for it, but that just means I’m a fool, not that Permanent Collection are particularly notable.
Räjäyttäjät Awopbopaloopop Alopbam Räjä LP (Räjä)
Back with their second album in 2013, Räjäyttäjät are solidifying themselves as the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band. I’m not sure how they managed to refine their sound over the course of just a few months (or even write enough songs in that short amount of time), but this one tops their debut, which I also absolutely loved. The magic might be in the recording, which sounds like it was recorded on gas-soaked reel-to-reel tape and ignited instead of mastered. It scorches like the first Comets On Fire album or Mainliner’s Mellow Out, but instead of crushing you with feedback and guitar distortion, they use the best glam, punk and classic rock riffs to fry your brain. It’s still like an unholy mix of Ebba Grön, Sweet, Tampax and Chuck Berry, but these songs are loaded with hooks, in the form of vocal squeals or guitar riffs or whatever else they can muster. And the whole thing flows like some sort of outsider collage, thanks to the various bits of noise, talking, samples and other audio detritus that fill the gaps between tracks. I think a US pressing is on its way, but seriously, forget that IMAX film you were planning on going to see and use those thirty bucks to bring home one of these – it’s just as mind-bending of an experience, but exponentially more satisfying.
Saralee Saralee LP (Ride The Snake)
Ride The Snake seem to be hitting the indie-pop pretty hard lately. I’m okay with that, unless I find out it’s been cutting into their Life Partners budget! Anyway, here’s Saralee, a Boston duo fronted by Sara and backed up by Lee. I hate to say it, but this one’s got “local appeal” written all over it – they are probably fun to see around town or hang out with, but as someone who has no idea who Saralee is as people, this record falls pretty flat on my ears. The songs are fairly hook-less (particularly for a style that demands catchy melodies), the playing isn’t either inept or dazzling enough for me to take notice, and the singing is supremely adequate. I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something, but as I listen to Saralee, I’m reminded of numerous boring opening bands I’ve had to sit through over the years, waiting for whoever it was I want to see. I’m one of those weirdos who insists on showing up at the time specified on the flyer, and I can’t help but feel like Saralee would be one of the acts to punish me for being unreasonably prompt.
Sete Star Sept Visceral Tavern LP (SPHC)
I’ve been hankering for more Sete Star Sept after their split 10″ with Noise blew me away. Turns out they have a slew of splits and tapes and CD-rs befitting that of the heinous noise-grind band they are, so I’ll go to one of the more “proper” releases, this shiny full-length release on SPHC. The cover art is disgustingly gross, the sort of thing that I’d take for a mature-rated Japanese Playstation game. It’s almost enough to turn me off entirely, but I knew Visceral Tavern would be great, so I stayed the course. And oh, how it is! The a-side is a long list of micro gore-grind tracks, like a mix of Arsedestroyer, Gerogerigegege and Gore Beyond Necropsy, all served in tiny bites. Delicious! The b-side might even be better, though – it’s a side-long drum improvisation, flailing around like a drowning Chris Corsano, and it’s paired with vocals that are mostly just fake laughter, hyperventilation, grunting and screaming. Very Gerogerigegege in the way Sete Star Sept deconstruct the concept of horrible noise-grind, removing its vital organs (guitars and bass) and adding laughter to the mix, which manages to pervert the music more than I would have expected. Visceral Tavern probably won’t be one of my top five “desert island” records, but if the UPS guy delivered it to leaf hut instead of Appetite For Destruction or Landshark, I might not even mind.
Slow Warm Death Slow Warm Death LP (Square Of Opposition)
Nice debut album from Bethlehem, PA’s Slow Warm Death – now that’s a town in need of a good sweaty drunken young rock band if there ever was one. It’s pretty timeless, quality garage-inspired indie-punk, and I’m not saying timeless just because the Slow Warm Death website is inexplicably hosted by Angelfire – their riffs are open source for the most part, but played with the passion they deserve. I’m often reminded of a cleaned-up Coachwhips, or Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin and that whole entourage, but it’s heavy and fuzzy enough that they could’ve toured with The Fluid and Mudhoney in 1992 and it would’ve made sense too (except I’m not entirely sure that all of Slow Warm Death were born by then). They might one day have the honor of opening for Kurt Vile, but no one will mistake one for the other, you know? They mix it up enough to never get boring (the unexpected dirge that opens the b-side is particularly cool), and the whole affair seems like it intends to get a basement of drunken kids fired up, not find publicity management and gear up for ad syncs. There are plenty of bands that more or less sound like Slow Warm Death these days, but they’re one of the good ones, okay?
Systems Of Desire Control / Consumption 12″ (Happy Skull)
Another techno tag-team here, this one consisting of Hyetal and Kowton, two names associated with the Young Echo scene. I’ve been digging on a bunch of Kowton, and vaguely remember Hyetal’s name from a mix or two, but I still wasn’t prepared to love this Systems Of Desire 12″ as much as I do! “Control” has a huge current of bass running through it, but more than anything, this track swings with severity. It’s heavy and mean, but there are a few different melodies that charm it up a bit, enough where I would feel comfortable blasting this to a dance-floor of well dressed people who might run away from someone like Blawan. Maybe a slight Audion vibe too, but I don’t remember Audion ever being this dynamic. “Consumption” utilizes the same exact melody from “Control”, and while it feels like a dub version at first, Systems Of Desire turn up the heat with a giant slime-mold of bass and kung-fu percussion, forcing the track to live on its own. Definitely removed from the dance-floor, or at least a generic dance-floor, but as equally fascinating as “Control” (and perfect for listening at home, when you just wanna sink into your couch and never come out). Killer 12″ all around, and a name I have already committed to memory, for whenever it pops up in a “new releases” list next. I need more of this!
Tadzio Queen Of The Invisible LP (Edible Onion)
I don’t care if this record is just a field recording of babies crying at Wal-Mart, I’m already in love – the cover art is this beautiful hand-cut forest screen-print with an actual copper leaf floating behind it. Just making one of these must take at least half an hour, and there are hundreds of these LPs in existence! Truly beautiful packaging here, and the music of Tadzio isn’t afraid to flutter its eyelashes at me either. It’s the work of Mandy Katz and various friends, and she sings along to delightful and sprightly piano, frequently accompanied by violin, cello, harp, backing vocals, and whatever else they’ve got in the music room over at Downton Abbey. If Espers were harder into Comus than Fairport Convention, they may have had a slight Tadzio vibe, but that’s not totally dead-on, as Tadzio don’t really have anything sinister lurking beneath – this is a pond you can jump into without a giant fish slurping you up. It’s kind of like a fairy tale without an antagonist, just an airy walk through the meadow with butterflies landing on your tea cup, but in a way that is respectable and not Disney-fied. Not usually my thing, but seriously, who can say no to a cover like this?
Täx Bent Spear / Arms 7″ (No Patience)
‘Bout time Australia got their own peace-punk revival band, and it’s a good one! Sure, their artwork makes it look more like an early Fucked Up single than something on Crass Records, but the music ignores modern hardcore in favor of a more artsy take on droning agitprop punk. “Bent Spear” is like a an un-gothed Lost Tribe covering Box Of Fish’s “Erosion”, with some pretty killer electronic noise filling in where a guitar solo might have otherwise gone. Usually bands these days will keep the drumming simple, but Täx’s drummer busts out plenty of fills, and it ends up sounding great. “Arms” is surely referring to guns, not my favorite limb to wrestle with, and it’s a bit darker in atmosphere and has more going on than the a-side, but in kind of a Rudimentary Peni way, where it feels like chaos is subsuming everything, rather than a pointless mess. The vocals are pretty generic, but generic in the best way possible, as all I want with this style of music is some frown-mouthed guy bellowing about a frightening future anyway. Nicely done!
Tropic Of Cancer Restless Idylls 2xLP (Blackest Ever Black)
Another synthy goth record with a strange display of household items on a colored background! I noted Cairo Pythian’s design last month, and I swear, it’s not just a trend but a fully-blown epidemic at this point. Whatever though, Tropic Of Cancer are cool enough (and Cairo Pythian are too) that I can overlook the homogenous art styling. For as basic as Tropic Of Cancer are, they’ve managed to develop a signature sound, and it’s one that I enjoy listening to – gothic electro-pop slowed to Grief’s pace. Some of these songs are so slow that it feels like the music is on life-support, where it looks like it might be smiling but it’s actually just comatose. The vocals are so airy and echoed that they might as well just be another keyboard, and the guitars sound like a Sunn O))) remix of The Cure, ringing out for all eternity. All of that’s probably enough for me to enjoy, but the drum programming definitely comes with that Sandwell District touch; they’re very physical, slightly poisonous and equipped for full club potential. It’s the mix of beautiful goth-rock drift and menacing, snail’s-pace beats has me constantly venturing off into the Tropic Of Cancer, no doubt.
UBT Ego Orientation LP (Psychic Handshake)
I’ll admit, I’m generally not too keen on Psychic Handshake releases, as they seem to usually hit on a certain brand of lo-fi psychedelic rock music that just doesn’t rev my engine. I wasn’t expecting much from whoever UBT are, but that just worked to my advantage, as I was pleased to discover a fantastic album of exuberant pop-rock that is hard to classify but easy to enjoy. Musically, I’m reminded of anything from Royal Trux to The Apples In Stereo to King Tuff to Phoenix, as they are not afraid of a stadium-sized rock hook but insist on scuffing it up before putting it on display. It kind of fits into today’s “hold your cell phone at the band to take a crummy video instead of actually living in the moment” indie-rock world, but UBT just sound like they are absolutely delighted to be playing these songs, not like a bedroom project that accidentally got a Pitchfork “Best New Music” and then suddenly had to scramble to form a real band and play shows. There are bold guitar riffs, random flutes, at least a synth or two, a song called “I Feel Like I’m Alive” and the big-time party groove to back it up. Maybe all upper-echelon indie-rock sounds like this these days and I’m just not paying attention, but Ego Orientation is a really fun album with a high repeat-listen factor, rendering this tricky music simple and infectious.
Vaaska / Skizophrenia split 7″ (540 / Todo Destruido)
The pairing of 540 and Todo Destruido continues, scouring the globe for backpatch-worthy hardcore music. This one comes in the slowly-becoming-obsolete format of the split 7″, giving Austin, TX’s Vaaska even time with Skizophrenia (who are from somewhere in Japan – pardon my poor Googling). I figured with a name like Vaaska, these guys would be a mix of Kaaos and Totalitär (or some other hardcore band that comes from a country where moose are native animals), but it’s not any sort of homage, just sort of plain meat-and-potatoes hardcore. Not particularly strong material… somewhere between Limp Wrist and Discharge, but cleanly recorded? Skizophrenia are more my speed, mostly because the drummer is just playing these intense, super-fast rolls on what sounds like cardboard boxes of various sizes. The singer is a fairly insigificant player, if not a suitably snotty loudmouth, and the songs themselves veer somewhere between ’90s pogo-punk and say, Kikeiji or The Stalin. I tend to forget about anything besides this crazy-ass drummer though, who should probably join Dawn Of Humans and elevate them to “greatest band in the history of the universe” status. Overall, nothing to really fault on this split, which is probably the kiss of death in a musical landscape where you gotta be either really great or really atrocious to get anyone’s attention…
Veiled Veiled LP (Blind Prophet)
Veiled’s debut LP was on my mind for a while this year, after feeling the duo’s nocturnal funk through multiple live gigs. If you don’t know, Veiled is Rob Francisco (of M Ax Noi Mach and Francisco Franco) and Arnau Sala (of Vactor and the Ozonokids label), a bi-continental trip through dank club basements. This album certainly delivers the Veiled sound – imagine Kraftwerk’s “Tour De France” if it was a tour of S&M dungeons, or Giorgio Moroder slowly trying to pull off a pair of skin-tight leather pants (if you’re like me, you know how painfully time-consuming this can sometimes be). The BPM generally dips in around 100 (although faster on some of the acid tracks), making for a poor bowling score and a suitable pace for grind-bumping and bump-grinding. There’s really no evidence that the men of Veiled are “noise guys” at all on here, as Veiled is full of slinky, slimy beats and the feel of a windowless room with all the lights off, more indebted to dollar-bin New Beat 12″ singles and bad perfume than delay pedals and feedback. My only regret is that much of the material here is a couple years old, and I know from a recent live show that their songs have improved in both sophistication and catchiness. You won’t be sorry if you grab Veiled, though – I just know their best is yet to come.
Wildhoney Wildhoney 7″ (Nostalgium Directive)
Baltimore is one of those cities I just wanna root for, knowing how much under-appreciated cool crap has come out of there in the past ten years or so. Wildhoney are another recent export, and this 7″ is cool – it opens with “Like Me”, a fuzz-pop jangler that feels a grunge-free Helium, but with this weird layered effect where it feels like it’s playing on FM radio and the dial is sliding between stations. Kind of disorienting, but it’s nice to know that it’s not just electronic artists that are jacking up pop hooks these days. The rest of the EP has a similar swing, rocking in an echoing cavern, or perhaps like Belly if they were a Sarah Records artist. The recording feels deliberately woozy, but not lo-fi – there’s plenty of low end to grab onto, even as the shoegaze guitars try to pull you into space. Many bands are treading similar ground, but there’s something about Wildhoney’s particular vibe here that has me thinking they could deliver a fine album, that they are interesting and talented enough to write eight to ten songs that could keep my attention and avoid feeling too generic. I suppose there’s only one way to really know for sure though, and I hope the opportunity eventually presents itself!
The Ar-Kaics She Does Those Things To Me / Don’t Need Your Love 7″ (Speakertree)
I get wanting to be authentically vintage and all, but come on, mostly any picture sleeve is nicer than no picture sleeve! I’m not gonna stick this in my jukebox and then slick my hair back with Brill cream, you know? Anyway, The Ar-Kaics try their hand at a Kinks-y riff with “She Does Those Things To Me”, and they fare pretty well, even if it’s kind of like saying “man, that basketball team absolutely dominated their rec league.” These stakes aren’t very high. It’s catchy enough that I’d shake a tambourine along if someone handed me one, at least. Same pretty much goes for “Don’t Need Your Life”, shaking a Nuggets tree and biting into the biggest fruit that falls, maybe offering a slight whiff of Love if I had to place a name. At this point, I’ve probably had hours of unmemorable garage-rock fun in the past three years or so, thanks to bands like The Ar-Kaics. I won’t remember these guys in the morning, but I can still vaguely appreciate the night we spent together.
Bad People Pearls Before Swine EP 7″ (Feral Kid / Feeble Minds / Ut)
If you’re gonna call yourself “Bad People”, one way of really committing to it is to have your 7″ cover art feature a deranged, sore-covered freak murdering cats. No one wants to see that, except, well… bad people! It’s an appropriate setting for the seven tracks of snotty hardcore-punk offered on the Pearls Before Swine EP, which are sadly not just Pearls Before Swine covers. Unlike many underground, local-level hardcore-punk singles I hear these days, Bad People are actually able to switch it up a bit in their approach, from flailing thrash to anthemic hardcore grooves. That’s not to say they suffer from too much creativity, though – no matter what they do, they sound like they should be on tour with Quincy Punx and The Dwarves right now, which is nothing if not a seal of approval. The singer has a cool, frothy voice that is never less than incensed, and the band backs him up appropriately. I think they might live close to Rational Animals (all of upstate New York is the same to me, I’m sorry) – I hope the cops in their town are constantly trying to arrest all these guys and failing.
John Bellows Traveller’s Shoes / Second Nature 7″ (no label)
This John Bellows single has nothing to do with me or Yellow Green Red, but I guess what are your other options for sending out an ostensibly self-released 7″ single of boring sloppy country ballads if you want someone to write about it? Maximum Rock N’ Roll probably has a garbage chute specifically designed for records like these, and most other blogs will just copy the band’s press-sheet (or Bandcamp summary, as it were) rather than sit down and give something like this a listen. “Traveller’s Shoes” and “Second Nature” are both hokey-pokey goofball alt-country, and so painfully not my thing that I drift off and allow subtle details of this single’s existence to remind me of things I do like: the banana vinyl recalls the Gorilla Biscuits 7″ (I’m due for a listen!), the guy’s name recalls the great Tracey Morgan character Brian Fellows, the b-side song title reminds me of the label that first brought us Reggie & The Full Effect (thank God for that). If this record is the sorta vibe you are looking for, what are you doing reading this blog? You must’ve been so annoyed when you followed through on my FNU Ronnies recommendation.
The Cabbage Heads The Cabbage Heads 7″ (SPHC / Faded Novelty)
Thank goodness for SPHC, a label that loves introducing me to irritating and stupid punk bands like The Cabbage Heads! This single nearly shocks the needle out of its grooves with an Exit Hippies-level blast of screechy feedback mayhem, that is until it settles into a pretty rote noise-punk record, like if Disorder only used ’90s pop-punk riffs (which is to say, pretty damn similar to The Wankys). I love that even when the clean, undistorted bass is rummaging through Screeching Weasel melodies, the guitar still sounds like a broken Vitamix, and the vocalist is unconcerned with either, just concentrating on holding the microphone the proper distance from his face. This kinda record lives or dies by its charm, and I don’t know, The Cabbage Heads are pretty charming, from the song “I Don’t Give A Fuck” to the hand-drawn cover art that makes Home Blitz records look like Van Goghs (and the fact that Faded Novelty somehow located a Discharge font for their logo doesn’t hurt either). I just hope these guys are fermenting hops and oatmeal in the back of a dumpster somewhere, and not buying corporate beer. Maybe I’ll just pretend.
Cairo Pythian Unity Mitford 12″ (Perennial)
I dig a ton of synthesized electronic music, but the aesthetic uniformity can kinda wear on me… like look at the cover of Unity Mitford, I swear there are a dozen synth-pop records that came out in the past year or two that feature an unusual assortment of household objects laid out on a colored background. But at the same time, when you’re good, you’re good, and this being my first time enjoying the music of Cairo Pythian, I’m happy to say that they’re really good, and can do whatever they want for cover art – I don’t care. The two a-side cuts are primo modern electro-danse, taking cues from The Human League and Gary Numan and intensifying the paranoia while cutting out the signifiers that make those artists sound like ’80s groups instead of something fresh and modern. The b-side features a slightly danced-up remix and a twinkly little library piece, and both of which are worth repeated listens. Honestly, I think the reason Cairo Pythian stick out to me is that they’ve got real finesse; the vocal melodies are catchy without being generic, the songs announce themselves swiftly onto the dance-floor, and the whole thing just feels so right and natural. I’ve heard that Cairo Pythian just keep getting better, so now I’m not sure if I need to check out their earlier records, or just wait for whatever they do next.
Clay Rendering Vengeance Candle 12″ (Hospital Productions)
In the ’90s, underground punk dudes matured by getting into rockabilly and hot-rods, in the ’00s they sold their screamo records for funk and soul 45s, and now, they start industrial-goth duos with their legally-wedded partners. I am a fan of Mike Connelly (of Hair Police and Wolf Eyes, most notably), so I’m not trying to accuse him of trend-hopping or whatever, just noting that he is clearly no longer the baggy-pants-wearing, roll-on-the-floor-while-smashing-a-Casio guy he once was. Clay Rendering is him and Tara Connelly, in case the cover image wherein you can count their eyebrow hairs didn’t already make it clear, and it’s a pretty rudimentary take on dirge-based death-rock. “Nature’s Confusion” pairs a dying-battery drum machine with a sad, descending riff, played through what sounds like a tiny practice amp, and it’s completed by the vocals of either Mike or Tara (or both?) muttering some surely morbid prose. “Vengeance Candle”, which has one of the best song titles I’ve read in a while, is a bit more swirly, not too far from the recent Troller album, or maybe if Thrones and Duster worked together to quickly form a riff for a local goth night. You can drop the needle on either of these songs at any point without noting any big change – much like Vatican Shadow, Clay Rendering set the track in motion and shut it down about six minutes in. It’s good, although I might like it a little more because of my predilection for the people involved. It’s just nice to see happy couples sometimes, even if they are engaging in dark and morbid occult behavior.
Concrete Fence New Release (1) 12″ (Pan)
You wanna talk about industrial techno heavyweights, well this Concrete Fence collaboration of Regis and Russell Haswell is like Mike Tyson with Butterbean on his shoulders. This attractive 12″ (aren’t all Pan releases, though) features three tracks of squelching industrial techno, heavy on the industrial and rich with grey noise. It’s like you’re at an outdoor rave when a blizzard hits, numbing your skin and blurring your vision while one of the Concrete Fence guys runs rampant over the beat (I’m guessing Regis does the rhythm and Haswell crafts the noise, but who knows). I appreciate that the beat almost seems secondary to these tracks, as the main power-source that guides these tracks generally outlasts any rhythm, just coasting into space with full intensity. Very playful, but in an unfriendly way, which is often how I like my greyscale noise-techno to be. You’re not gonna be able to move any limbs with New Release (1) at your next DJ night, but you needn’t look any further for the perfect way to disturb your crummy neighbors.
Darkside Psychic 2xLP (Other People / Matador)
Been waiting on this Darkside album ever since the debut EP came crawling out of late 2011 like a bizarre little secret I wanted to share with everyone. Or actually, any new Nicolas Jaar material, for that matter – I try not to actively sweat college kids, but this guy just seems so confident in his weirdness that I am completely hooked. And now, Psychic is here, riding a tsunami of hype usually reserved for Thom Yorke and Vampire Weekend and relatives of Beyoncé, and I find myself in a similar position as I do with Iceage – I love the group, but can’t fathom why there’s an audience greater than like fifteen obsessive loner weirdos per city. Like seriously – Psychic is basically Dire Straits and Pink Floyd riffs (with a light sprinkling of Eddie Money and just a hint of George Thorogood), all drawn out past the standard bounds of monotony and buffered by quiet-noise interludes, with the vocalizations of a trembling fetus run through eight octaves of auto-tune, all of which is produced by a studio perfectionist wunderkind who probably actually paid money for In Rainbows. How is there an audience for this! The music is frequently perplexing, often incredibly sweet-sounding, just barely techno and barely not rock music. If you want a beat, it’s not there, and when it comes, it might just be some limp disco thing. I love Darkside for how unique and soothing and crafty it is, but I’ve gotta reassess my whole take on the world if this is something that can be marketed to Daft Punk and Arcade Fire fans.
El-G La Chimie LP (SDZ)
SDZ has been around since the early ’00s, but I feel like in recent years they’ve really come into their own, exploring mostly French weirdness and the post-est reaches of post-punk. This El-G album collects a few recent tapes and CD-rs and other barely-heard productions into one tidy LP, and it’s a delight! It’s a little hard to explain, too – most of these tracks involve some sort of hand-crafted electronic loop or warble, usually laced with some other sound effects of unknown origin, and some guy (presumably El-G himself) will mutter, sputter and cackle over top. I’m reminded of anything from Pseudocode to Floris Vanhoof to Felix Kubin to Nurse With Wound to The Rebel, or any mostly-electronic artist that is not afraid to completely abandon song structure and drift into a peculiar field recording or hallucinatory soundscape. It’s probably too punk and not academic enough for the Kye label, but also not really punk at all… maybe if Dan Melchior did a record for Ultra Eczema, it’d sound like La Chimie? One track mostly consists of some British guy reading the list of delayed trains at a station, and it seems right at home among the rest of the tracks on this record. I’ve got a big old stack of records at my desk here, trust me, and I keep pulling this one out – it just makes me feel good to have El-G’s bizarre banter and synthesized nonsense dripping all over my head.
Ensemble Economique The Fever Logic L.P. LP (Not Not Fun)
I often wonder why some underground labels use shrink-wrap for their albums – I mean, isn’t it just a huge environmental waste, just so that record stores can have the safety of selling a brand new product or whatever? In the case of this Ensemble Economique LP, however, it makes perfect sense, because as soon as I sliced it open, the LP sleeve coated my hands in baby oil as it emitted a thick blast of Acqua di Gio-scented smoke. What I’m trying to say is, I feel like Not Not Fun and 100% Silk are forever in search of the ultimate late-night ’80s soft-core soundtrack, and they may have finally hit the bullseye with The Fever Logic L.P.. Ensemble Economique’s synth-based music just kinda wafts in (the clouds thick with goth-club condensation), a reverbed snare drum slowly keeps time, and an androgynous high-pitched creature either wails or coos, depending on the stage of coitus… kinda like if Eyeless In Gaza were actually Topless In Gaza. I can’t imagine watching this group live, if they play live, or are even a group – this is music for piles of bedsheets and comforters and fresh lube and disinfected hotel hot-tubs, not a plainclothed audience to stand around and stare at. That’s even if you want to call it music – Ensemble Economique seem content to keep everything in the background, seeping into the room’s mood rather than announcing themselves as a band you should be paying attention to. It hits the soft-core mark for sure, but I’m not sure if I loved it or not… maybe Ensemble Economique should’ve taken me out to dinner and drinks first, if they really wanted me this bad.
Frustros A L’Attaque Du Rien 7″ (Mutant / Tocsin)
The cover of this Frustros single had me stuffing little balls of toilet paper in my ears in preparation for a sonic assault – the cover drawing of a rotten baby getting messed with by a hooded freak has to imply noisy crust-punk, right? Not so – this French punk band prefers to write melodies and hooks instead of explosively bludgeoning. If you called them a French Wipers, I wouldn’t disagree, but Frustros nearly touch on melodic grunge in these four songs, at times like mid-period Hole with an entirely different vocalist? Mix that with one of the less powerful Bloodstains Across Spain tracks and you’re getting close to Frustros. They almost verge on post-punk power-pop, but also just kinda remind me of No Hope For The Kids. I think the packaging helps this one, because the insert and cover are cool, as is the hand-written center sticker, and as I can kinda go either way on the music, the overall package leans me toward a thumbs up. Perfect for times when you want punk rock, but without all the screaming and feedback.
Good Stuff House Untitled LP (Holodeck / Indian Queen)
Good Stuff House had me at their name – I mean, it sounds like it should be some L.I.E.S. project where Jamal Moss disassembles classic Green Velvet tracks, right? That’s not even remotely what Good Stuff House are about, but my pleasant mood was continued through these seven untitled tracks of roomy drones, meekly plucked acoustic strings and creaking antiquities. That’s what this house is cooking – a very Constellation Records-y stirring of ancient dust mites, a haunted banjo or two, a rusty saw vibrated until sound is produced, pretty much anything that sounds like it wishes it remained undisturbed but is instead being played for you. I might even get a slight Taj Mahal Travelers vibe on the a-side, as I get the feeling that I’m secretly peering into a radical hippie commune jam session that was never meant to be recorded. It’s pretty cool, the sort of record that is unremarkable yet highly listenable for early-morning tea steeping and obscure yoga poses. If Whole Foods had a drone records section, you best believe this would be in the new releases bin.
Guerilla Toss / Sediment Club Kicked Back Into The Crypt LP (Sophomore Lounge / Feeding Tube)
Of all the ways the Sophomore Lounge label presents itself, I think I dig it most when they are in Load / Skin Graft mode. You know: day-glo neo-no wave sploodge with all cylinders firing. That’s pretty much what I’m getting from Kicked Back Into The Crypt, a split between two groups I never previously heard but am glad to have recently connected. Guerilla Toss fits the bill exactly, sounding like a three-way mix of Coughs, Arab On Radar and Skoal Kodiak. They’ve got the sheet-metal noise-funk of Coughs, the perverted guitars of Arab On Radar, and the synthesized thunk of Skoal Kodiak, resulting in a group I’ve added to my watch list. Sediment Club’s pants aren’t quite as covered in silk-screen paint as Guerilla Toss’s – they are probably too busy spending their money on black sunglasses and cigarettes to even buy a can of Krylon, anyway. They fit right in with the TV Ghost / Slug Guts school of modern-day Birthday Party enthusiasts, as the bass bumps along while the guitar wonders what it did to deserve such torture – if the strings aren’t being ripped to shreds, they’re getting tweaked like nipples. They present with a mid-fi recording that allows the music to actually be heard, and I appreciate that, as it helps put their “James White dancing to The Birthday Party outside a Gun Club show” vibe into focus. I’m not optimistic enough to think that there are lots of people clamoring for good modern no-wave split LPs like this, but damnit, there should be!
The Headies Meta-Pop LP (Creep / Square Of Opposition / Start Something / My Parents)
If you were a fan of Northeastern US pop-punk in the ’90s, there’s a good chance your heart was touched by Plow United, perhaps the finest musical group West Chester, PA has ever offered. I was (and I guess still am) a big fan, but there’s no way I’m as big a fan as The Headies – the way in which these guys emulate Plow United is startling. Plow was Creep’s flagship band (and Square Of Opposition reissued the last Plow record), and The Headies are only about thirty minutes away in Wilmington, so there’s no way this is some random coincidence. Seriously, my thoughts bounce between appreciation of The Headies’ exacting craft and straight-up anger that a band would dare to play songs like this without fully acknowledging their position as a tribute act. “Please Kill Me” is a mix of Plow United’s most memorable songs, to the point where I can’t believe they are trying to get away with this. It’s good, anthemic, scruffy-necked pop-punk, but goddamn, do your due diligence and check out Plow United before you consider giving Meta-Pop a spin. The Headies might throw in some keyboards to throw you off, but the resemblance is uncanny!
High Aura’d / Blood Bright Star split 7″ (Anti-Matter)
It’s not often that I get to say “this split 7″ comes in a visually striking package”, but I’m saying it now! The cover is a nice, art-paper gatefold sleeve, with a beautiful wrap-around silver print on the outside and some cool hand-written (or so it seems) font-work on the inside. And the vinyl is mint green, matching the inner sleeve’s print in a way that I’ve always wished my sheets and pillowcases would (maybe someday). It’s interesting that they went all out with this first-class packaging, because the music doesn’t seem to be making the same effort. High Aura’d is a cool name, and their track is a slow-burnt droner, guitar set to a self-cleaning temperature as swells of sound crawl up the chimney, like a small part of an Oren Ambarchi or BJ Nilsen track – really, this thing is as long as an average punk song, so there is no chance to remotely settle into its calming warmth. Blood Bright Star fares a little better, as they sound like Earth in their Pentastar phase, playing the same simple four-bar guitar riff over and over, lulling you into a sense of security as Satan slowly wraps you inside his wings. Cool stuff, but I’d prefer an album of boring slow-baked instrumental guitar music than this brief side of a 7″ record. i I love the unnecessary act of playing vinyl records in 2013, but I’m hard pressed to say that this split is worth the effort. If you need something cool to display on your shelf, though, Anti-Matter makes it a hard record to deny.
Joe Slope / Maximum Busy Muscle 12″ (Hessle Audio)
My eyes light up every time there’s a new Joe 12″ released – for having the most generic name possible, there’s really no one else like him. The last 12″ single featured shattered glass and the sound of sawed wood prominently in its beats, so I was ready for anything on this one. Surprisingly, I got two meaty bangers, about as club-friendly as Joe has ever gone, complete with a 4/4 thump. “Slope” has that modern post-dubstep house sound, not too far from Joy Orbison or one of the slicker Pearson Sound tracks, but it truly captivates thanks to an elongated Chewbacca vocal. Sometimes I’ll see noise guys twist a knob and wince, like they are playing a guitar solo or something, but it’s really a sound like this that deserves facial gymnastics. “Maximum Busy Muscle” turns up the heat even further, flailing through jazz drum particles, an old car horn, a couple different vocal tics, and some supremely farty bass blasts. I know “less is more” often applies to techno, but I love the sonic lasagna Joe serves up here, easily his most physically demanding (and sonically infectious) dance cut yet. It’s a good thing he’s never revealed his last name, otherwise I’d be all up in his Facebook, bothering him for more tracks.
Kerridge From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh 1-4 12″ (Downwards)
Downwards is a cool label for many reasons, but the one I’d like to emphasize here is that not only have they practically birthed the industrial-techno sound, they manage to continually find intriguing new artists who fit their aesthetic bill. This is the second Kerridge 12″ on Downwards this year, and like the other, this is a stainless-steel monster… it feels like some ancient society is building a castle on top of my head while I listen. From The Shadows That Melt The Flesh comes in four installments, and I can break it down thusly: “1″ is an unrelentingly punchy club-banger, “2″ is a psychotropical submersion tank, “3″ is an industrial-synth dungeon crawl, and “4″ is a horrifying spaceship malfunction. I could listen to Kerridge investigate any of those four styles all day long, which leads to me flipping From The Shadows over and over, like I’m purposely trying to achieve carpal tunnel syndrome. The vinyl is beautiful, I love the uniform Downwards sleeve design, and I don’t have one good reason to ever stop buying records like this.
Lazy Obsession LP (Moniker)
Lazy surprised me with their energetic punk rock on their Party City 7″, so when that title track opened Obsession, I was already pleasantly prepared. Lazy are kind of weird, though – they’re on a label that is anything but by-the-books punk rock, and I’ve never heard any punks mention their existence, so I still can’t tell if this is just an earnest punk band or some sort of cynical trick, like I am being lured into their fist-pumping punk music only to find out it was an art installation all along. The more I listen to Obsession, though, the less that sort of thing matters, because this band is really good! I am frequently reminded of West Coast punk and hardcore circa ’78 through about ’82 – I’m talking bands like Avengers and X, and the feral hardcore offspring that quickly followed them, like maybe Sin 34 or No Alternative. The LP ends with a couple minutes of silence and then a wacky medley of outtakes or something, and it kinda feels like something Geza X would’ve done, more than some modern-day Brooklyn hipster band. Honestly, if punks aren’t talking about Lazy, I have to wonder what’s wrong with punks?
Little Big League These Are Good People LP (Tiny Engines)
Is there such a thing as “city emo”? If so, I’d say that Little Big League are ripe for the designation, and if not, well, let’s forget we ever had this conversation, okay? They’re a Philadelphia-based quartet who play their jangly, indie-approved emo-pop with the swing of Braid, the oomph of The Breeders, the thoughtfulness of Rainer Maria and just a little bit of Feist’s good luck. The two guitars are almost always playing separate melodies, and vocalist Michelle Zauner belts her heart out like she’s finally transitioning from LiveJournal to Tumblr. It can be hard to tell where one song starts and the next begins, as they are all structurally complex and constantly shifting; kind of like Aloha, but without the xylophones. I also get a taste of Philadelphia’s “proud underdog” attitude here, and it works well with the uplifting melodies and navel-centric guitar work. If one of them hasn’t already served me a margarita or an iced chai, I look forward to that day!
Mad Nanna I Wanna See You / The Nectarine Tree 7″ (Soft Abuse)
More Mad Nanna? Sure, why not! They’re probably my favorite sucky group playing today, and while all scientific evidence points to me being sick of them at this point, it hasn’t happened yet. “I Wanna See You” is as close as I think they’ve ever gotten to actually rocking, following a riff-based rhythm with vocals recalling the stern diction of Dan Melchior. “The Nectarine Tree” makes up for the musicality of the a-side though, as it sounds like the main guitar is being played one-handedly. It’s almost as if you were told you were about to take a bite out of a nectarine, but quickly slipped an olive instead – it wouldn’t be so bad if your tongue was ready for it. I don’t know, I am probably too ashamed to play this record for my friends (and they already know I like horrible music), but I am willing to continue holding Mad Nanna as one of my few (and favorite) musical shames. They just nail it, what can I say?
Mole House Be Around 7″ (All Gone)
I’ve tried hard to like Mole House in the past and failed, but I can be really persistent when I wanna be, so please, allow me to give this new single a spin. “Come Around” rocks harder than anything off their debut single, and if you compare it to their cousins Mad Nanna, it’s practically Aerosmith-like in its ability to kick sassafras. No drums, just a couple guitars playing the same riff and a vocalist that sounds like she is concentrating on singing really hard, like someone’s gonna kidnap her baby if she misses a lyric. It’s not a good track, but I am willing to say I enjoyed it. “At My Cuffs” is a bit sleepier, like Garbage And The Flowers, but if the flowers were dead and actually just part of the garbage at this point. I think I prefer this one; it’s as soft as thrift-store cotton and the soloing is perfectly sour-sweet. Pretty sure the Mad Nanna guy sings on this track, if that is a selling point for anyone. I think I still don’t like this band, but at the same time, I know I could be easily swayed. Someone email me a paragraph as to why I should love Mole House, and if I believe it, I’ll mail the record to you in a cruel twist of ironic masochism.
Multicult Jaws / Luxury 7″ (Reptilian)
This is the third Multicult record to be reviewed on these pages, and while the group seem to have a pretty strong supply of angular post-hardcore riffs in their tank, I am running out of fresh ways to describe it. They’re still good, still rocking out with a mathematician’s sense of timing, and I still have difficulty remembering they exist unless their records are inches from my face. Just not really my thing, you know? “Jaws” is all about the bass-line, unrelenting and contorted, whereas “Luxury” is a few shades funkier, and were it heavier, it might be comparable to something off the last couple Rage Against The Machine albums (except, you know, no guitar alchemy or impassioned rapping). Like a non-emo version of The Red Scare, maybe? I don’t know, I probably already said that last time. Do I have to start researching bands that sound like this to keep my reviews fresh? Please say no!
Oake Offenbarung 12″ (Downwards)
Downwards just really has the gothic industrial morbid techno ambiance thing on lock, from their roster to the uniformity of the 12″ sleeves. I really love it, and love picking up records like this Oake 12″, not because they are necessarily blowing my mind, but because they are intriguing new chapters in the Downwards story. If the photo of the attractive-yet-forlorn man and woman on the insert is to be interpreted as the members of Oake, it makes sense, as their music is seething, slow-churning tech-crawl, filled with spooky corridors and ghostly, wordless vocals that fill the room like a demonic fog. If there was a Black Rain remix of Portishead it might sound like this, all creepy and slimy and cold, but with the production of an Ostgut Ton dungeon-banger. Highly undanceable, but perfect for spending the night in a home where murders were committed one hundred years ago to the day, or just being around any nocturnal paranormal activity. The track titles are all coded gibberish, but it’s the steamy, heart-racing pulse of “Nihnin Ned Bargund” that captivated me the most. Now imagine that just as soon as I finished writing this review, I turned to look you in the face and my pupils were missing!
Pharoahs Replicant Moods LP (100% Silk)
All I know of Pharoahs is the album cover, the credits on the back (they are hard to read but I tried my best), and the music of Replicant Moods. I like to think I go into every new-to-me 100% Silk artist on neutral ground, because this label has released some all-out bangers as well as some records that simply don’t move me, and well, I’ve gotta stick Pharoahs in the latter camp. It’s alright – their music is basically a soft collage of ’80s Jan Hammer, ’90s rave and ’00s chill-wave, mostly too energetic to mentally lose yourself in, and not energetic enough to dance to. Kinda like a mix of the more boring tracks on the most recent albums by Omar S and Coyote Clean Up? Without any sort of context for this group, like maybe they are twelve year-old Argentinian twins, or one of them is blind and made these songs on a braille computer, I am at a loss as to how anyone could consider this music to be exceptional – this is an okay album, it’s just that most of these songs seem like the music you hear while you are waiting for the stuff you really like at a club, because you got there a few hours too early. I’m prompt to a fault!
The Pink Noise Greedy Heart LP (Skrot Up)
Last I remember, The Pink Noise were another foot-long Blank Dog, but the last time I checked in with them, Sacred Bones was still screen-printing all their LP jackets. I’m pretty sure The Pink Noise has released half a dozen albums since then (or so it would seem), but I always thought they were at the very least alright, and Skrot Up is a hilarious nut-job of a label, so why not check in? I’m glad I did, because The Pink Noise have shed their lo-fi garage-goth beginnings for a Killed By Death-y punk rock strut. I’m getting serious vibes of Peer Pressure, Chain Gang and The Maids here, groups where the punk rock just kinda chugs along and some average Joe talk-sings over it in the most normal-guy voice possible. I love it when bands sound like this, where it’s punk but the singer refuses to ever really raise his voice, and The Pink Noise seem to have settled into this sound quite well. There’s still a synth darting in and out of these songs, and the drums might even veer toward a Liars- (or at least Factums-)approved disco beat, but the singer keeps things a little too dumb to ever be accused of being art. Certain sects of punk sound best when there’s a greasy burger in its grip, and that’s exactly why Greedy Heart has me hankering for a big old pile of fries. Slot this one next to that recent Sleaze LP and I won’t even care if the only ketchup around is Hunt’s!
Roachclip Discovery Park LP (All Gone)
Pretty cool start for the All Gone label, following Mole House with Roachclip, another band that feels like they can fit in the palm of my hand; very baby hamster-like. Roachclip seem like they’ve actually all attended a thing called “band practice” though, as their charmingly simple indie-rock is the sort of thing no stranger would leave out in the rain on their doorstep – you’re gonna wanna bring this one in. I’m reminded at times of Spacin’, in the way that Discovery Park feels like it has a beer in one hand and is reaching for the chips with the other… a good public-park picnic record. More often though, it feels indebted to The Clean and probably a dozen other New Zealand bands more obscure than them, all delightfully jangly and easy, with keyboards sometimes taking center stage, other times barely audible, and plenty of down-strummed guitars and stately bass-lines, all with a vocalist who sounds like he’s to Lou Reed as Shannon Hoon was to Axl Rose (you know, the corn-fed hippie cousin). Although the inclusion of noise freak Heath Moerland on bass had me expecting some sort of rock-based Prick Decay sound, the pleasantries exchanged here are difficult to dislike.
Russian Tsarlag Gagged In Boonsville LP (Not Not Fun)
Russian Tsarlag has been a staple of the ’00s DIY noise scene, creeping out of Tampa (or at least the Cephia’s Treat crew) and all over the East Coast. I swear I’m not a stalker, this is just a guy whose name has been around, you know? And sadly, I think this is the first time I actually heard Russian Tsarlag! I guess I always presumed it was cut-up junk noise, or some form of guitar autism (in my head, I’m thinking something between Pod Blotz and U Can Unlearn Guitar). Maybe at some point that was true, but Gagged In Boonsville threw me for a loop – this album is little more than mellow guitars, soft vocals and an unobtrusive drum machine filling in the rhythmic gaps. It’s cool! Imagine some lonely bedroom project on Captured Tracks, but renovate the bedroom so that there is no fancy new Macbook, just a Windows desktop someone spilled coffee on years ago, a mattress with the elastic sheet permanently dangling off one corner, and a filthy laundry basket that is now also used for Taco Bell wrapper disposal. Super lonely, decrepit music, almost reminding me of that recent Haves & Thirds album with the movie samples, but even that had some optimism to it – listening to Gagged In Boonsville often feels like reading some loser kid’s diary after he killed himself, and getting a glimpse of the pain he’s been hiding. The last song on the a-side samples in some laughter that turns to weeping (or is it vice versa?), which sums up the vibe eloquently. Lovely album!
Terveet Kädet Piinaavanautinto EP 7″ (SPHC)
What do the internet, Bon Jovi and Krysten Ritter all have in common? Terveet Kädet is older than all of them! Seriously, here’s a hardcore band you can rely on – they have been cranking out decades of hardcore, to the point where “legendary” status actually seems appropriate. And somehow, even as they have surely grown and matured as people, they are still releasing records of raw, non-melodic hardcore with crude images of male genetalia on the cover. I’m not sure how a band can release so many records without ever really progressing musically (how many d-beat riffs can you squeeze out of the same sponge?), but Terveet Kädet seem to have done it (although to be fair, I haven’t heard at least half of their sprawling discography, so maybe there are a few NOFX-sounding records in there – I am merely speculating). I actually had to check to be sure, but yeah, these six songs were recorded in 2013, and it’s as ripping as the young bands that wear Terveet Kädet patches on their denim jackets.
Those Howlings Paid For You / Dip It In 7″ (Swear Jar)
Which howlings am I talkin’ about? Those Howlings, man! They’re an Austin-based trio, and this is their two-song EP, as simple and acceptable as a grilled cheese from any diner in the universe. Their music is kind of like a ’50s sock-hop take on indie-pop, like if Go Sailor made their way to the Enchantment Under The Sea dance, or if the Vivian Girls dressed like Janelle Monae. It’s pretty fun, G-rated rock n’ roll, the sort of band that probably plays at those “school of rock” camps for eight year-olds, because they are talented, friendly, easy to listen to, easy to understand and impossible to be offended by. Not really my thing at all, I mean I’m never going to want to listen to Those Howlings again, but it’s nice just the same… kinda like finding some quarters in your pocket, you know? You’ll never think about those quarters again, but you enjoyed getting in a few extra rounds of pinball.
Tiny Migrants Tiny Migrants 7″ (Mere Noise)
One thing I really dug about the massive influx of current Australian punk 7″s was that it seemed to come from the simple desire to make music, like all these bands just love being bands and doing their own little records themselves or with friends. A real DIY spirit seemed to run through it, from Sydney to Melbourne, and I don’t know, this Tiny Migrants 7″ is the first recent Aussie garage single I’ve come across that emits a strong “pro-gear, pro-attitude” vibe. I might very well be way off, but from the credits on the back cover to the promo-sheet and the music therein, Tiny Migrants feels like a band that measures success in ways beyond “did we get free beer and a working PA tonight?”. The four songs here are suitable enough Back From The Garage interpretations for today’s modern indie audience, reminding me of anything from The Oh Sees to Dum Dum Girls, but without any distinct personality of its own. It’s a fine EP, I am just nervous about it for some reason, like if I say I like it, I’ll just find out a week later that all of Tiny Migrants’ parents are entertainment industry lawyers and sponsored by the Australian version of Monsanto. Whatever, my intuition is probably totally wrong, so I am going to punch myself in the balls right now so that Tiny Migrants don’t have to fly all the way over here to do it themselves.
Tropical Trash Think Back Kick A Beer 7″ (Sophomore Lounge)
This is the second Tropical Trash 7″, and it’s so similar in appearance to the first that they’re practically identical twins, both sporting irreverent cartoon images screened on a bulk-rate white sleeve. This one seems to rip a bit heavier than the first one, though – I remember the first being a weirder trip through various states of downer guitar-rock, but Think Back Kick A Beer starts ripping right away, bridging the gap between Rye Coalition and CCR Headcleaner. Definitely a faster noise-rock sound, a little too “rawk” to be an easy hardcore classification, but meaty and raging just the same. They still get a little silly – just check the up-and-down riff that opens “Ritual Bath”, which transforms into a Hot Snakes-styled song, oddly enough. Thought I heard some Landed in there at one point too, but Tropical Trash move around so fast that it’s hard to squeeze them into any cage, a quality they’d surely take as a compliment. Just like the cover art, there are a bunch of cool ideas all jumbled together, leaving it up to the listener to pick and choose what to focus on.
TV Ghost The Amputee / The Mold 7″ (Kind Turkey)
TV Ghost have got to be feeling pretty good about themselves right now, because it seems like anyone and everyone is clamoring to release whatever scraps these guys have laying around – first a reissue of their first 7″, and now this, their first four-track recordings! Hey labels: you know you can just send a band an email to tell them you like them without also offering to release a record, right? It seems like a bit much, but at the same time, it’s not like this is bad music – even in 2007, when the average band member age was 14, these guys had a handle on condemned garage-sludge. “The Amputee” is a spider crawling up your leg, its vocals bashing into guitars and drums, like seven Cramps records played on top of each other while melting in the sun. “The Mold” is exponentially more frantic, almost reminding me of The Crimson Curse, had they released their records as scratchy 78s that had to be dug out of the ground to be played. Both songs work together nicely, and I can understand why both Kind Turkey and TV Ghost themselves would be proud of this one. It’s a cool little time capsule for sure, but I look forward to moving into the future with TV Ghost, where we all belong.
Beau Wanzer Beau Wanzer 12″ (L.I.E.S.)
I dig the L.I.E.S. label, but not to the point where I am compelled to pick up all their releases – it’s just more than I need or can afford, really. So I pick and choose, and when there’s a guy named Beau Wanzer doing a track called “Balls Of Steel”, I must oblige. A-side “Outside Auto” is a very live-feeling and rudimentary tech cut, as the central disjointed loop never leaves the captain’s chair, with various drum machine patterns buzzing beneath. Definitely feeling a Hieroglyphic Being vibe there. “Two Orders” kicks off the flip, slightly more reminiscent of Wanzer’s work with Mutant Beat Dance (I’ll always love that name), but still very basement sounding, like Kassem Mosse controlling an 8-bit Nintendo helicopter. Finally, we get the “Balls Of Steel”, and I’m reminded of Levon Vincent’s earliest and grimiest recordings, all with the vibe of Green Velvet’s “Answering Machine”. Definitely the star cut here: it almost feels like a novelty, except the beat is no laughing matter. Give “Balls Of Steel” a listen and see if you aren’t clinking along in unison!
White Finger P.A.P. Fats 7″ (Finger Recordings)
So many White bands these days… kind of strange, isn’t it? Well, this is White Finger, and they are a modern-sounding noisy grunge group. If you were able to peel apart the grooves of the Nirvana / Jesus Lizard split 7″, and then thread them together, you’d be a genius, and it also might sound similar to the songs White Finger are cooking up here. The riffs are pretty cool, managing to be mean and simple without feeling too generic, and the vocalist does an echo-laced “I’m craaaazy!” vocal style which generally works well with these tunes. If Roomrunner had a high-school-dropout alcoholic bartender older brother, there’s a good chance he might be White Finger, or at least hang out together. I’d say it’s pretty good, but I also can’t see myself remembering much about this band a couple weeks down the road, if only because I already am keeping track of roughly two dozen White Something bands in my head, and these songs are satisfying if not overly noteworthy. If you live in the same town as these guys though, there’s a good chance you love ‘em and think I’m a fool for not giving this record an A+, which is the price I’m willing to pay.
Youth Code Youth Code LP (Dais)
Upon hearing about the existence of Youth Code, I was extremely skeptical – as I understood the group, they were the new industrial EBM project of Ryan George, a guy whose musical resume mimics that of Wes Eisold almost to a tee. I’m not saying I expect every grown man to play the same form of earnest hardcore he played when he was eighteen, but something about the idea of the guy from Carry On now doing an electro-goth thing seemed hokey at best and supremely disingenuous at worst. Still, I trust the good folks at Dais, and I have to say, Youth Code ain’t bad, nor are they Cold Cave Jr., much as I had feared. That isn’t to say the music of Youth Code is creative – they’re just mining a different specific sound, specifically recalling Skinny Puppy, Nitzer Ebb and KMFDM, with hints of Atari Teenage Riot, Portion Control and even Ministry. I can’t think of many (any?) other ex-hardcore kids doing a similar thing, and Youth Code does it well, blasting angry political snippets over gunfire drums, in-the-red vocal screams and pipe-bomb arpeggios. There aren’t any standout tracks, so much as one continuous flow of aggressive industrial-goth with plenty of anger and frustration guiding its path, or at least it’s so expertly faked that I can’t tell the difference. I like it more the more I listen to it, that’s for sure. I’d go and see them live, but I’m not sure I can risk looking at the Carry On guy in a Hitler haircut and leather pants – the music is definitely cool, but I’m not quite ready for that.