Archive for February, 2009

Ooga Boogas

Like many people, I first got word of Ooga Boogas as though they were some
sort of Eddy Current Suppression Ring side-project. If you’ll let me be honest,
honest with you, I wasn’t expecting much until they came to Philadelphia one
boring night and effortlessly destroyed the crowd. Their barbaric, steak-and-onions
rock n’ roll was undeniable and made me a believer then and there. A few weeks
later I found their debut album, ‘Romance And Adventure’, on my doorstep,
and with trepidation I put it on my turntable, fearing that their powerhouse
live set wouldn’t translate to a studio recording. Thankfully there was still more
crow for me to choke down, as ‘Romance And Adventure’ was one of rock’s
brightest moments of 2008, a true tumbler that harnesses the sideways glance
of ‘Grotesque’-era The Fall and straps it to the lurching, nearly-mechanical
garage menace of A Frames. These guys glide through their acerbic punk rock
with the ease of a pigeon taking flight, yet another reason why Australia is my
favorite country that is also a continent. I checked in with the boys and here’s
what they had to say. I tried to impress them with my use of “seppo” (short for
“septic tank yank”) but they didn’t seem to care.

Who came up with the name?
Leon (guitar/vocals): I’m not sure actually. Ask the other guys.
Per (drums): Richard did. Other candidates were “Barons Of Love” and “Atom
Brains”. All concocted by Richard. He is a classy man.
Rich (bass): Me. That was me. I did that. I also came up with the album title
and the name for the label. You can bet if it’s something good, I thought of it.

You guys are a little older than the average punk band, or at
least the average punk band putting out great records. Do you think
that changes the way you approach being in the band, differently than
if the Ooga Boogas existed ten years earlier?

Per: Definitely, ten years ago I was playing bossa nova for screaming
girls, now I’m getting surly nods from 30 year old teenagers. I don’t
feel bad about disappointing our audience, hence we are free to come
with some stupid-ass shit.
Mikey (guitar): Age makes us very unattractive to the opposite sex which makes
it easier to concentrate on the tight discipline of our music. Also 10
years ago I would have had a shitter record collection and very
possibly may have made some bad music so I hope our approach is
something I can stand by in another 10 years.
Rich: Cultivating a fun loving, anti-careerist image while conquering
the scene is a lot easier in your 30s.
Leon: Age explains the AOR approach on some of the tracks, and our new
direction since recording the album.

Would you believe me if I told you that I know at least a couple
people who prefer the Ooga Boogas to Eddy Current?

Per: Be careful, Mikey is a sensitive soul.
Mikey: Unbelievable! surely the mass shifting of units by ECSR proves
the better band! But seriously if anyone likes any band I’m in, I’m
Rich: I’m not surprised at all. Eddy Current are tight but they’re a
bit one dimensional don’t you think? We have far more depth and
originality. If we had their cute singer I’m sure we’d be just as
popular as they are, if not more popular.
Leon: Cute singer? Hey… hey Rich whaddya mean?
Credit: Bully Rook

I think Ooga Boogas are stocked with as many clean-shaven gents as
Eddy Current, honestly. I could certainly see the appeal for married
women getting bored of their husbands and looking for someone new and
exciting. Really, is there a bad-looking band on Aarght! Records?

Per: No, my Swedish aesthetics prevents any uggers from releasing
anything on the label. We only sign The Shaggs and the Kriss Krosses
of the world.
Rich: Yes, Eddy Current Suppression Ring.

A couple of you guys also run your label, Aarght! Records. Have
you put out your own records out of necessity, or for the sake of
artistic control, or some other reason?

Per: AARGHT! is a communal brodown melting pot. We all contribute. I
think it had more to do with not having to rely on anyone else. I
hardly think that we are in a league where we would have to worry
about artistic control. In fact, getting things past the critical ears
of Herr Stanley can be rather tricky sometimes.
Mikey: Having a label was originally an outlet for bands we loved but
seems to have turned into an exercise in egomania for myself.
Rich: I’m just a label runnin’ kinda guy.

On your US tour last year, were there any cities or gigs that
really stood out? You meet any Seppos?

Per: Columbus, NY, and Philly were interesting due to the drum kits I
had to use. A drumkit comprised of what looked like a deceased bass
drum with a taped up bass pedal and no snare stand, cement blocks for
drum stool and for propping up a one legged floor tom, and finally
Sean from Pissed Jeans 30″ bass drum monster kit that made me feel
like a character from a Tom Waits song…y’know, a one armed midget with
a trombone up my ass. All shows were heaps of fun though, Seppos or no
Mikey: The first show in SF stood out as we were officially shit. But
funnily enough that’s the one dudes cheered the loudest so maybe the
good version of us is actually the least good version.

What’s next for the Ooga Boogas? Are you treating the band as a
full-time venture or something just for fun on the side?

Per: Thrust the next “You’re The Voice” on the world in the guise of
our next epic single “Sentimental Stranger”. Ooga Boogas has never
been anything but a scapegoat to get me out of changing too many
nappies at home.
Mikey: I wanna throw down my guitar and pick up my synth and futurize
the Boogas sound. Per is getting his V drums on and we are gonna hit
the 22nd century. Hard.
Rich: People have said that the whole band hangs off my bass lines.
I’m happy with this arrangement, though I wouldn’t mind if one of the
others took some of the burden just once in a while.
Leon: We’re halfway through recording “Sentimental Stranger” but right
now I’m wondering if is there a future as I’m still trying to get over
Rich’s cute singer back-hander.

What’s “Sentimental Stranger”? A new single, or an album? Will that be
on Aarght! as well?

Per: Ask Stacky. It’s his magnum opus.
Leon: Stranger could be a excellent concept album but for now it’s
just a song. It’s about that special conversation/situation you might
find yourself in with a complete stranger that leads to life-long
friendship, or perhaps a damn good root.
Rich: It’s some ballsy shit is what it is. We’re currently in negotiations
with several American labels to release this one. I’m not sure Aarght!
is equipped to take the heat.

I’ll never be able to find a copy of your first single, will I?
Per: What is a life without dreams?
Rich: Ask Mikey, he’s a soft touch.
Mikey: Ask me nicely Matt and you shall receive.

Reviews – February 2009

Carl Craig and Moritz Von Oswald Recomposed – New Mixes By Ricardo Villalobos and Carl Craig 12” (Deutsche Grammophon)
Pretty interesting idea, ambulance take some tapes of Euro classical composers Ravel and Mussorgsky and let an elite bunch of current-day techno dudes go to town “recomposing”, sale
so to speak. I will forever check out anything Ricardo Villalobos does, patient
I’m totally sold, and while I thought the majority of Vasco was cool but a little too background-y, his a-side here is very nice. By no means a dancefloor buster, “Uli, Mein Ponyhof” is a gorgeous display of Villalobos’ total knack for texture and editing. He knows how to make songs like an iPhone; so simple and user-friendly yet technically staggering if you actually were to open it up and attempt to understand how it functions and was assembled. By no means a new landmark in his discography but a very fun track nonetheless. Carl Craig has the b-side and keeps it far more traditionally house-flavored. There’s probably more to discover on his side too, reminds me of Neu! when the pianos roll in, but I haven’t found anything too special to keep me coming back. The whole affair has kind of a snooty, scholarly vibe, like I’m supposed to listen to this in a university library and afford myself no fun in the process, but I find that charming in a way.

Clockcleaner Ready To Fight 12” (Fan Death)
I was more curious than confident in my purchase of a 15 minute-long cover of Negative Approach’s “Ready To Fight”, but Clockcleaner (not gonna do the “clean (space) er” thing, I just can’t) completely warp that timeless riff into their own nasty taunt. It’s an instrumental take, not counting the pre- and post-show crowd baiting, with Sharkey’s guitar spiraling over the bassline, slowed to a Flipper pace. I’m not a big fan of cover songs or live records, but this record does a fine job transcending those ghettos and ends up surprisingly more listenable and fascinating than the first few ‘Cleaner records. The skeletal groove of “Ready To Fight” gets thoroughly examined here and it’s all for the best; one of hardcore’s greatest songs deserves this sort of loving dissection. Negative Approach are one of the untouchable gods of hardcore, of whom nary a bad word is spoken, which makes their roasting that much more satisfying. Don’t let the fear of gimmicks or shtick keep you from this record.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring That Time Of Day 7” (Nervous Jerk)
Eddy Current had a big year in 2008, what with their soul-stirring Primary Colours album and the subtle-yet-effective Demons Demands single. Now here’s That Time Of Day, three new non-album cuts, all recorded in late 2007, which puts that around the same time as the Primary Colours session. These tracks have a rougher sound than the album, a nicely reverbed boys-in-the-garage vibe that serves the riffs well. There’s almost an Ooga Boogas styled stutter-step within “That Time Of Day”, which isn’t too long a reach considering the personnel, but it serves nicely as another fine showing of Mikey’s expert guitar craftsmanship. He works solely within the rock context and is somehow able to create new, almost free-flowing designs with those classic ingredients. Brendan’s still spinning simple themes and making girls pass out, and the two rhythm boys are as locked-in as ever. You’d think there’d be some decrease in quality at this point, two albums and a handful of singles down, but ECSR continue to dazzle.

Life Partners AIDS Of Spades 7” (Ride the Snake)
I’ve loved Life Partners since the first time I saw them, performing wildly to a tiny rain-soaked crowd at Jeff the Pigeon. It was a deliberately comical mess, more of a four-way tug of war with instruments than any sort of discernable musical statement. Through the years, they pared down to a two-piece, broke up, came back as Crystal Cock Over Canada (I have the LP to prove it), and eventually put together some actual songs, two of which are found here. Greg Kelley’s in the band now too, but even his proficient horn-bleating has difficulty following Dave Dougan’s manic vocals. The whole thing has kind of a late 70s Gulcher Records vibe, the sort of irreverence that’s spawned on inside jokes over Thin Lizzy records and cheap beer. It never reaches the absurdity of say, Sockeye, as Life Partners pound through some pretty hefty riffs and don’t ever reach the point of no return with Johnny Ryan-esque lyrics or skits between songs. Good record, even without the memory of your good buddy breaking his arm during their live set (no health insurance either) I’m sure you can enjoy this record.

Millie Sample Clearance / Path To Hell (Redemption Mix) 12” (Daphne)
A red-eyed Millie adorns the flimsy cover, which makes sense as both tracks on here enter some seriously bleary terrain. “Sample Clearance” is heavier than Khanate, working with almost a power-electronics set of sounds into a post-dubstep cut. Real nice, I’ve been back to it a few times and always notice something new. “Path To Hell (Redemption Mix)” is the side that reminds me this is dance music, but it’s still as thick and lumbering as “Sample Clearance”. The pull of gravity is extra strong when I lay down to this 12”, I think I’m gonna check the indentations on my couch for proof next time.

Millie & Andrea Black Hammer / Gunshot 12” (Daphne)
Really cool bass-loaded 12” from Millie, this time partnered with Andrea. Maybe that’s her on “Black Hammer”, riding a simple and provocative moan onto a sawtooth synth bassline. Super low bass, I know my system isn’t doing it justice. Tracks like “Black Hammer” make a strong argument for me to get out to a club once in a while. “Gunshot” toys around with a similar idea in a more subdued way, comparatively laid back, smoother and darker. According to the internet, Millie and Andrea are the aliases of more famous techno people, but I barely know any famous techno people anyway and I find it much more satisfying to picture two friends named Millie and Andrea behind the mixer.

Mind Eraser The Prodigal Son Brings Death 7” (Youngblood)
New ten-songer from Mind Eraser isn’t as compelling as the fantastic Conscious / Unconscious from last year but it’s still of the utmost grinding quality. I appreciate that these guys merge those first few classic Slap A Ham singles with a NYHC moshability, digging on a Cro-Mags kind of breakdown that No Comment would’ve only registered for all of four seconds. Prodigal Son isn’t overly technical, but that doesn’t render it predictable either. Definitely a top shelf modern hardcore-grind record, but part of me would love to see these dudes step outside the genre a little bit when it comes to artwork and aesthetics. I would love to know what is going on inside their heads artistically besides skeletons and Gothic fonts, because I’m sure they’ve got more to give.

T++ Audio1995#8 12” (Apple Pips)
‘Space Pong’ was my first T++ exposure and a satisfying one; I think he may have used a rainstick on the a-side and if not, even better. This new 12” is even greater, “Audio1995#8” sounds like a computer finally learning how to talk, a really creepy never-ending synth-pulse that is trying to tell us something. If I was afraid of the imminent Terminator War this track would certainly not put my mind at ease. The b-side is cool too, faster than I was expecting and just as refined. The packaging on this one is great too, die-cut cover and slick design, very clean and focused. It’s a gorgeous aesthetic that makes me eager for more of a thing called Apple Pips, that’s saying something.

Wavves Beach Demon, Weed Demon 7” (Tic Tac Totally)
Wavves seem to define a lot of what’s going on today in the basement internet punk scene: solo project; lo-fi recording; naïve and childlike vibe; unnecessary consonants; label dudes scrambling to release whatever MySpace MP3s haven’t already been pressed on limited vinyl.  I wouldn’t hold it against anyone to hate Wavves based on the many stereotypes they fill, but Beach Demon, Weed Demon is a nice enough slice of home-recorded indie. “Beach Demon” is a pop-punk blast calling to mind a more focused No Age; “Weed Demon” is the kind of acoustic floater that probably got Wavves those ridiculous and unfair Beach Boys comparisons. It’s got a nicely assembled grip-tape cover which might’ve kept a few people from eBaying their copies, and it fulfills the lack of Wavves in my life that a full-length LP would surely overload.

Zyanose Loveless 7” (Crust War)
I don’t keep up with the Crust War scene, but I’m a sucker for Japanese punk with “nose” in the name and there’s a dude in an Amebix shirt chainsawing another punk’s neck on the cover. Real primitive, fast crust on the a-side, with classic noise-core execution that’s easy to enjoy. A solid effort, but I was waiting for the weirdness to kick in and it certainly did on the b-side, “Voice Of Youth”. The song starts innocuously enough, until it becomes clear that they are just going to repeat the same mediocre guitar line over and over, a good five minutes of the same exact thing that would drive any sane person to stop the record. No fills, no choruses, no bridges, just that same thing again and again. It’s a remarkably strange decision, and this isn’t some outsider solo project, four individuals must’ve been in agreement here to say “yeah, let’s just keep playing that part”. Musically “Voice Of Youth” is not so hot, but the charm of this group named Zyanose that seemingly has no respect for good taste outshines anything else I’ll remember about this record.