Philadelphia’s got some great bands, and some awful ones, but if I had to pick a band to represent
this fine city, I’d go with Watery Love. Who better to represent the no-frills, working-class,
pro sport-enthusiast city than this crew? They wear t-shirts that come in sealed plastic
three-packs and drink Kenzingers before, during and after their gigs, usually booked in close
relation to a source of said beverage. They love baseball and carry a razor-sharp wit that snobs
from the suburbs might not expect. And judging from their answers to some of these questions,
they have reflected upon their own band less than most MySpace home demo projects do,
proof that this quartet doesn’t sit around contemplating their aesthetic or marketing strategy,
they just want to play guitars real loud.
If my understanding is correct, both Clockcleaner and Violent Students were
pretty much kaput, and then you got Watery Love going, right? What were the
circumstances surrounding the origin of Watery Love?
Richie (guitar/vocals): I don’t recall that the origin was very interesting. Max and I had
been talking about doing a band and I had already written a song. Meg’s a good friend and
she was looking for a change in her life. However, she would not quit her job and join the band
if we called it Manson Chicks. So we settled on the name Watery Love instead. Violent
Students was long gone, but Clockcleaner was still going. ‘Cleaner had a practice space and I
had some drums and amps there, so the three of us used that stuff and everything was easy.
It was just some Friday night stuff. We’d drink some beers and play some guitars. And those
two got a big laugh the first time that I tried to sing in front of them.
Max (guitar): I agree. Pretty boring.
Was there ever any other possibility, or was it decided from the start that you
would sing as well as play guitar? Are Watery Love’s lyrics the first you’ve ever written?
Richie: Oh yeah. Max and Meg told me from the get-go that if we were going to do this thing,
then I would have to be in charge. Max hasn’t been near a microphone in years, but
we’re hoping that he comes out of his shell sometime soon. In addition to singing and playing guitar
and penning the lyrics, I also get to tune the guitars, set up the amps, and put together the
drums. And yes, these lyrics are my first.
Max: We thought Richie was lacking in confidence and self-esteem, so we allowed him to be in
charge. Seems to have worked. Not sure I’d really call those “lyrics” though.
Simplicity seems to be key in the Watery Love equation. Is this an intentional approach,
or born out of the players’ skill level, or a combo of the two?
Richie: Yeah I guess that we’re limited by our abilities. But you fucking better not be saying that
we’re so shitty and suck so much that we’re good. I guess that it’s just fortunate that we’re
non-virtuosos and we want to play so-called simple tunes.
Max: Yeah, we’re not out to do anything other than play our songs. We actually practice and
try our best. It just so happens we don’t have much chops. We’re not deliberately trying to
dumb it down or be “back ta basics” (good label).
Do you feel like the band has improved since you started? Is the 2010 Watery Love
a more formidable live machine than that of 2009?
Max: I think we’ve gotten a lot better, although I don’t think the word “formidable” is appropriate
in any circumstance.
Richie: Sure. We improve by increments I guess.
I’ve seen Watery Love about ten times now, and I can’t remember the crowd ever really
enjoying it, so to speak. What would you consider a successful gig?
Max: I’ve had at least one stranger say they enjoyed it so I don’t know what the fuck
you’re talking about.
Richie: Well I don’t really know how to reply to your assertion that the audience doesn’t enjoy
our set. They all seem to stick around until the last song and I’ve even seen some of the
same faces at multiple gigs. In fact, Watery Love is probably a lot more crowd-friendly than
my previous bands. Beats me, man. I don’t get up on a stage and take my shirt off and
prance around like a ninny, but we give the crowd their money’s worth.
Are you referring to the fact that many of your shows are free?
What would you say are Watery Love’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Richie: This question is a lot tougher to deal with than you might have thought. I have no
insightful or interesting answer to this one.
Max: Unfortunately the answer is one and the same: the size of our hearts.
Watery Love has a fairly illustrious history of bassists: Kurt Vile, Daniel DiMaggio of
Home Blitz, Russ Waterhouse of Blues Control… who’s the best?
Richie: Yeah, we’ve asked three accomplished guitar players to dumb it down for four strings.
Early on, it was just the three of us: two guitars and drums. As a three-piece we even
played a particularly unenthusiastic gig in the basement of the Philadelphia Record
Exchange. At some point a few weeks later we invited Kurt to come by and play bass. He
brought all these effects pedals and stuff like that and he seemed uninterested in learning
the three or four notes per tune. He just kind of put his head down and messed around on
the non-bass section of the fretboard on a bass guitar. We were sad to see him go, but he
seemed determined for other things. And Daniel recorded our record and he owned a bass
guitar, so it was an easy choice to get him involved. He can also tune by ear and he can listen
to a song and figure out how to play it. That skill makes him real important when we
choose a cover tune. Russ turned out to be a quick study when we needed him a month
or two ago. Dan couldn’t make a gig, because he had already committed Home Blitz
to some stupid show in New York or Brooklyn. We had debated the merits of both Russ
and Lea, but ultimately settled on Russ because one girl in the band is enough. Russ plays
with a pretty hard rock attitude, so we were probably a little harder sounding than usual
that night. So anyway, I can’t choose. And we’re talking about three super-talented and
visually stunning guys, so I can’t be expected to pick a favorite.
Max: Other than Kurt, both other guys are great. They each have a great many positive
and negative aspects.
Are there any songs you intend to cover in the future? Or songs that certain members
wanted to cover that were nixed by the consensus?
Richie: We’ve tried some stuff that didn’t really work out. “Wild Thing” and “I Live to be Hated”
come to mind. And we didn’t quite have the finesse to do “The Hunchback”.
Will there be a new record? I know you’ve got the songs.
Richie: That’s very observant of you. Yes, we’ve got a few new tunes and we’ve been talking
about doing another record. It’s just a matter of time. We might even record it by the end of
Max: It’s a pretty significant accomplishment for us to actually complete a song so they
should be recorded for posterity.
Billy Bao Urban Disease LP (Pan)
Remember all those YouTube videos showing peoples’ reactions to the 2 Girls 1 Cup video? I’d imagine the people who paid the $35+ to own Urban Disease would provide a similar reaction upon listening to it: brief confusion, followed by stupefying fear and disgust. Billy Bao has had some great moments, like all of the Fuck Separation 10″ and most of Dialectics of Shit, but with that last stinker of an album, and this pretentious turd, I may have to stop following along. Across these two untitled sides of vinyl, spanning forty minutes, there are probably about five total minutes of actual sound – the majority of this record is silent. Interspersed randomly are slow claps, noisy outbursts, feedback, and for one brief section on the second side, a weirdly-chopped kaleidoscope of synthy sound, possibly the only enjoyable moment on here (and a brief one at that). So essentially, you sit there, waiting around for someone to turn on an amp or to hear Mattin turn the page of the newspaper he’s reading. I will give Billy Bao credit for legitimately bothering me with Urban Disease, there’s something to be said for that, but if pranking is the name of the game, I’d much rather just take a pie to the face and move on with my life than waste another forty minutes of my life with this total bore.
Bosom Divine Bosom Divine CD (Les Disques Steak)
French garage-punkers love using television stills for cover art, Bosom Divine being the latest in my collection. I always kind of get the impression that today’s crop of French punks are messing with me (A.H. Kraken, the Feeling of Love and Cheveu all come to mind) but Bosom Divine play it pretty straight – there’s no wacky melodica solo or field recording of a drunk chasing a flock of geese on Bosom Divine, just time-tested rock n’ roll. Bosom Divine’s rock moves sometimes call to mind The Original Sins or The Devil Dogs, but they balance that aggression with a taste for MTV’s Alternative Nation programming, thanks to the pop hooks that hint at the Dandy Warhols or Blur. I’m not particularly touched by this specific amalgam of styles, and Bosom Divine never really blow the roof off of things, but they seem to have a handle on their sound just the same. I wouldn’t wedge myself into a smoke-filled bar to watch these guys play, but I’d happily drink a glass of their wine after the gig.
Cold Cave Life Magazine Remixes 12″ (Matador)
“Life Magazine” was definitely the stand-out track on Love Comes Close, to the point that cultural touchstones as varied as Yellow Green Red and Radio Shack found value and satisfaction in its pop-ambient chords and layered vocals. That song gets the remix treatment here, with some menacingly beautiful portraits of Cold Cave associate Max G. Morton on the cover (those eyes!). Arthur Baker’s remix is the one I was expecting to hear, a pumped-up, arena-ready version that drags out the best parts of the track into some sort of mega-jam. Optimo’s mix takes on a life (pun intended) of its own, rubbing ’80s electro and Italo-disco together to make a fire, nearly ignoring the original melody altogether. I’ve been meaning to check out Pantha du Prince beyond a few mix appearances, and his version is the reduced-fat “Life Magazine”, with lots of rapid pops and subtle chimes, calling to mind some sort of early ’00s IDM on Mille Plateaux or something. Even the vocal is snapped to an impossibly short degree. There’s a full nine minutes of this and I don’t need to revisit it anytime soon. Prurient finishes things off much in the vein of his Benny-Benassi-plays-Hijokaidan style, a noise-drenched brand of melancholy techno that I’m always down to enjoy. For my money, I’d still prefer the original over any of these remixes, but that’s probably missing the point – the variety of distinct flavors on this remix single makes for a satisfying experience in its own right.
Drivan Disko CD (Smalltown Supersound)
No disco here, this is Disko, which apparently means “slow and somber acoustic guitar, piano and vocals, all of which occasionally flourish into bouts of trip-hop” in Norwegian. Drivan is the project of Kim Hiorthøy and three friends, presumably taking a break from their various visual art and graphic design jobs to jam some hushed and delicate tunes. I was expecting more weird electronic scribbling to appear, or some sort of artificial electronic environment, but Drivan stick to the familiar, with the songs sounding as if they were captured by a ceiling-dangled microphone while everyone walked across the polished hardwood floor (in their socks) towards their instruments. If IKEA started a record label, Drivan would be a great flagship band; the members even look like IKEA’s designers, you know, the ones who get their photo on display next to the shoe rack or lamp they created.
Endless Boogie Full House Head 2xLP (No Quarter)
Full House Head is a fine continuation of Endless Boogie’s endless boogieing, another two 12″ records composed of charcoal, Chevy exhaust and bacon fat. Lots of long jams, as to be expected, taking on an even more casual and front-porch approach, the kind of playing that won’t break a sweat, even on a summer afternoon. Contrary to the opinion I formed after listening to their raw and early self-released albums, Endless Boogie are not psychedelic, they are Dad Rock of the highest caliber, the music Brett Favre hears in his head as he steps into a fresh pair of Wranglers. Endless Boogie’s humble intentions are clear, and while they may not have progressed an inch since their last No Quarter album, it comes as no surprise. They found the sweet spot they wanted and ostensibly intend to ride it out to infinity. They also get silly sometimes, which almost reached a breaking point for me on “Mighty Fine Pie”, but vocalist Paul Major shows such conviction for his favorite baked good that I can’t help but belly up to the table and try to finagle a slice myself.
Fabulous Diamonds Fabulous Diamonds II LP (Siltbreeze)
Been anticipating this one for a while now, as Fabulous Diamonds’ debut album was crucial to my 2008 listening experience; I wore out my vinyl and MP3s alike. On this follow-up, the ‘Diamonds spread out longer than ever before, complete with two tracks that clock in at over ten minutes a piece, bookending the record. Like a lot of people, I can get into extended jams, but after spending enough time with Fabulous Diamonds II, I find myself wishing they’d cut it down to the pop-song length they previously worked with – they fit the same number of songs on this album as they did on their first 7″. Thankfully, their sound and formula remain essentially the same, with one drum-beat per track, playground-chant vocal rhyming and the deepest post-punk dub around. And the songs here are cool too, they haven’t lost their touch, it’s just that I don’t need an additional four or five instrumental minutes of any given Fabulous Diamonds track; three to four total is perfect. And while I’m griping, it’d be nice if they started naming their tunes, although after three records, I am not optimistic about it. I mean seriously, vocalist Nisa Venerosa repeats “I went to see the gypsy” like fifty times on the first track, would it kill them to call it “Gypsy” or something? Next time they come to town, I am going to holler out a request for “Untitled #3” and see how they like it.
Gangwish Space Case Vol. 1 7″ (Dear Skull)
Gangwish is the work of one guy from Pittsburgh, recreating Hal Blaine’s Psychedelic Percussion for today’s sophisticated young adult. Groovy, smartly-patterned drums collide with various tones of unexplained origin – there’s probably a Space Xylophone on here, if such an instrument exists. Delay and various layers of beats add to the disorienting effect, but Space Case Vol. 1 is firmly set in the same futuristic jazz-pop camp as Stereolab; this is under no circumstances a noise record. The sweet female vocal on “Sea of Love” only adds to the Stereolab vibe, which is pretty hard to dislike. Gangwish would be a nice opener for both Air and Mi Ami (hell, probably Air Miami too), which is a sweet little spot to inhabit.
Group Icky Rats Free Rock LP (Coat-Tail)
Sometimes a record will tell you what to do, like Free Rock here, explicitly instructing its owner to file it under “rock music”. Little do Group Icky Rats know, I run a straight A-Z filing system, not by genre (determining whether Black Flag are to be filed in either “punk” or “hardcore” would give me a stroke), but no one could deny this is a rock record anyway – sure, it’s frantic, disjointed, fully improvised and occasionally hanging by a thread, but there is no denying the rock within. There’s a good twenty songs here, give or take, all of which feature guitar, drums and stream-of-consciousness vocals. I’m reminded of the obscure NYC free-rock trio Demo Moe, or original no-wavers DNA and Mars cross-bred with the best of its second wave (Couch, Lake of Dracula, that sort of Midwestern nutty flavor). Even though it’s clear that Group Icky Rats only keep one hand on the wheel, I’ve certainly enjoyed the ride.
Kyle Hall Must See EP 12″ (Third Ear)
Detroit wunderkind Kyle Hall is no doubt a must-see character, reinforced not only by the title of this EP but with the music contained within. Four nice tracks on here, continuing in that tropical-utopian FXHE sound, house music for any occasion. Definitely a great starter record for anyone trying to get into Kyle Hall, as it’s an excellent showcase of his production style – KMFH weaves sounds that conjure different genres and time periods together into this perfect mix that is both timeless and modern. A crunchy drum loop will mix with balearic synths and jazzy piano chords, creating this odd mix of fabricated nostalgia and visions of the future. On a different note, the artwork of Must See EP is uncannily similar to that of Sightings’ City of Straw. Great minds think alike, sometimes in the strangest of ways.
Inoculist Spells LP (Heartbreakbeat)
Following last year’s split single with Jana Hunter, here’s Inoculist’s debut LP, Spells. Whereas I picked up more of a modern baroque-folk type vibe on the split, Spells plays things a bit straighter, coming across like an indie-rock take on the The Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack. The combo sad male/female lead vocals remind me of Quasi, if Quasi only ever saw their cup as half empty. No real hooks or memorable tunes here, just an unobtrusive playlist for an overcast Sunday morning as you update your Etsy store. It’s done well, and I am sure there are people out there who need to hear dozens of new records like this every year, I just personally don’t have much extra space for mopey, countrified indie-rock in my daily life.
Joe Claptrap / Level Crossing 12″ (Hessle Audio)
I’m tempted to post this review in a different font or all caps or something, as it’s easy to gloss over a blurb about some techno guy named Joe if you’re not already familiar, and I need to get the word out that this is one of the best 12″s I’ve heard all year. I loved last year’s Grimelight / Rut, but this one takes the cake… no idea if Joe is yet another Ramadanman or Pangaea alias, but whoever the human behind it, there’s nothing else out there quite like it – Joe has reinvented the marching band for a dubstep future. “Claptrap” is truly minimal, in the sense that it’s comprised of little more than a clap sound, a bass drum, a snare, and some coughing in the background. This allows “Claptrap”‘s ridiculous pattern to just grab you by your necktie and swing you around the room (while your cousin blares her Drumline DVD in the background). I could try to explain it further, and gush over the perfectly hilarious micro-second piano break, but you really just need to hear it for yourself. “Level Crossing” is cut from the same cloth, although its joints are looser and the sound palette more diverse (there’s even a school bell and a smidge of wobbly bass). So often I see the term “next level” thrown around, but as far as recent records go, only with Claptrap / Level Crossing do I feel it to be justified. A+!
K-X-P K-X-P CD (Smalltown Supersound)
K-X-P are a Finnish trio, working within a somewhat unrestricted grid of dance music and kraut-rock. On this self-titled disc, that sort of distinction usually means that one guy fires up a rhythm, the other two hop in and out, and it all flows organically, just one small nation under a groove. K-X-P is mainly an instrumental affair, although the occasional vocal will greet you, too (and propel the hook on “18 Hours (of Love)”). I don’t know, for as pleasant as this stuff is, there isn’t a heck of a lot on K-X-P that caught my ear; K-X-P are fine and good, but lacking any significant flair or drama or quirk. Compared to labelmate Lindstrøm, who takes immaculate care to provide only the best in his musical moments, K-X-P can come across as slackers. Maybe they are just getting warmed up, but I’m not sure I’ll remember K-X-P by the time their next record comes out.
LA Vampires & Zola Jesus LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus LP (Not Not Fun)
Collaborating with Zola Jesus is a surefire way to get me to check out one’s music. I may have (consciously or unconsciously) avoided anything too close to Pocahaunted’s camp, but LA Vampires’ collab with Zola Jesus piqued my interest and I’m all the better for having heard it. Housed in a cool printed DJ sleeve, LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus is pretty much the textbook definition of “two people hunched over delay pedals and moaning into microphones”, but I don’t think that whole style has to be looked upon with the derision it seems to invite. I can certainly dig a good murky moan-fest, of which this is top quality. I figured this collab wasn’t going to spotlight Zola Jesus’s goth-pop starlet sensibilities, so I experienced no letdown. And along with their drones, most of the tracks here utilize some sort of loose dub structure – mysterious enough to satisfy this week’s witch-house trend, and with enough dread and digi-reggae vibes to keep me entertained (“Searching” has a particularly compelling groove). Not sure if this is LA Vampires’ usual steez that Zola Jesus is just guesting on, but it kind of feels that way – I think I need to pick up some other LA Vampires vinyl to find out.
Marked Men On / The Other Side 7″ (540)
Marked Men are the type of band I’d really dig, but I’ve avoided them thus far. Not sure why, although I am pretty sure the lame Microsoft Word-preset font choice of their Ghosts album has a lot to do with it. (I just can’t support that sort of careless graphic design.) This single, however, with it’s die-cut center hole and casual artwork, looked sharp enough that I could forgive them, and I’m glad I did – unsurprisingly, these songs are great. “On” is a power-pop gem, getting by without a knockout chorus or vocal hook, but just the quality of their sound – vocals are sweetly in tune, guitars strummed with an exacting touch and the whole thing is recorded with a perfectly raw clarity. They speed things up with “The Other Side”, mechanically blasting like Chixdiggit at their finest or an American Buzzcocks. It’s really hard to make pop-punk sound this appealing to adults, but Marked Men have it down to a science (so long as they don’t whip out Comic Sans for their next album).
Melchior & Pronsato Puerto Rican Girls / We Make It Right 12″ (Smallville)
When I first heard that Thomas Melchior and Bruno Pronsato collaborated on a track called “Puerto Rican Girls”, I raced to the internet to purchase a copy, already daydreaming about the ridiculous tech-house anthem it surely must be. Melchior in particular has blown my mind on numerous occasions, from “Different Places” to all of No Disco Future, and Bruno Pronsato’s recent The Make Up The Break Up has received serious rotation in my daily playlist. My hopes were clearly too high, as “Puerto Rican Girls” is not a summer anthem, but a potent burner that takes time to appreciate. Rather than explode with some huge hook, “Puerto Rican Girls” kind of creeps around the beat, expanding and contracting with the subtlety of an eroding beach, aided by the cooing vocals of Ninca Leece. “We Make It Right” is slower, climbing an ascending bass-line to a café in the clouds (or so the cool cover art would lead me to believe). Not quite the power-collab I was hoping for, but a fine warm-water dip nonetheless.
Moodymann Ol’ Dirty Vinyl 12″ (Mahogani)
Moodymann is a pretty interesting dude, even when compared to the other colorful personalities of the Detroit house scene. Unlike most house producers, there seems to be some level of hatred that inspires his work – whether it is aimed towards fake DJs, fake pimps or white people, his ire is usually up. Ol’ Dirty Vinyl tempers some of that attitude, making for a fairly diverse and often thrilling EP. “Ol’ Dirty Vinyl” is a sweet and crunchy summer jam, not to mention true to its title. “We Don’t Care” and “No Feedback” come with a stronger sense of Moodymann ‘tude, aided by the cocky vocal riffs, presumably Moodymann himself on the mic. Most importantly, Ol’ Dirty Vinyl is nearly essential because of “It’s 2 Late 4 U and Me”, one of Moodymann’s finest works. It’s a nine-minute stunner with an intimidating bass-line and sumptuous vocal hook, masterfully spun into a dance-floor killer that can be enjoyed just as easily while lying on one’s couch. The lofty domestic price-tag might make this an easy one to overlook, but you’d only be punking yourself; this is the real deal.
Mount Kimbie Crooks and Lovers CD (Hotflush)
Mount Kimbie never struck me as anything more than just another face in the dubstep crowd, one of those artists you download, listen through once or twice, and then file away deep within the recesses of your external hard-drive. Not sure what it was that prompted me to check out Crooks and Lovers then; maybe I just like the challenge that a full-length album poses to modern electronic dance music, but Mount Kimbie has certainly developed a unique flavor that works exceptionally well in the album format. Crooks and Lovers is rainy-day dubstep, sharp beats filled with quick splices of stylus-crackle, the ambiance of a farmer’s market or other familar-yet-unplaceable sounds. More than anything, though, acoustic guitar seems to be the instrument of choice; it’s looped, degraded, saturated and left untouched, adding a nice sense of familiar comfort to computer-based music. Kind of hard to avoid a Fennesz comparison, it certainly came to my mind, but most of Crooks and Lovers maintains a pop sensibility, albeit a slightly fractured one – you can still groove to the majority of this record. It’s a cool concept, one that Mount Kimbie ran with excellently. I hope he sticks with this sort of thing; he’s probably the best hope we’ve got for a Jason Mraz dubstep remix. What? Like you wouldn’t want to hear that.
Neud Photo Synthetics LP (Custom Craft)
Can we just get the federal government to establish a Minimal Synth Authenticity Committee already? Neud Photo is another recent minimal-synth project who makes a point of noting “no software synths or drums were used” – some sort of governmental stamp of approval would make it whole lot easier, like the Nintendo Seal of Quality, rather than forcing the discerning synth-enthusiast to obtain each artist’s personal statement of authenticity. I mean, the last thing I want to do is listen to some synth group that used computer software to make their songs! Yuck! Sarcastic tirade aside, Neud Photo have put together a very satisfying debut album, softly menacing and never garish. Each track finds its pulse quickly, chugs along quietly, and moves out of the way. Synthetics definitely feels home-made, but by a pair of talented hands. Think of Ceramic Hello performing the soundtrack to Assault on Precinct 13 with some droning male vocals on top and you’re in the ballpark. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a letter to my local congressman that I have write.
Bill Orcutt Way Down South 12″ (Palilalia)
Harry Pussy had cool tour-only vinyl back in their day, and Bill Orcutt follows suit with Way Down South, a one-sided 12″ featuring a live set recorded in New Zealand. The crowd stays quiet through this series of meandering, confusing and satisfying tunes, allowing Mr. Orcutt to completely vibe out on his instrument and atonally converse with the spirits in the room. I vaguely remember hearing his yelps in the background of A New Way To Pay Old Debts, but his Shooby Taylor-esque vocal stylings are a bit more audible here, which I certainly appreciate. It’s also recorded cleaner, with a roomy sound that offers little of the fuzz and tape distortion present on Old Debts. Orcutt’s quieter passages shine through because of that, confirming that he doesn’t have to stab at your neck with his arrangements, he’ll gladly show cautious restraint as he slices you open, too.
Pollution ®SMUT LP (C6)
I checked out one of Pollution’s tapes based on the near-cultish praise, but I thought it sounded like a weak His Hero is Gone, or a lo-fi Dead & Gone, or a noise-rock Gone (okay, that last one is totally untrue, but the continuity couldn’t be passed up). That was an early release, and ®SMUT is a huge step forward, a monster-truck of a hardcore record that still has kind of a His Hero is Gone influence, albeit one that is expanded by highlights of the AmRep catalog, like Halo of Flies and Unsane. They’re reminiscent of Slices, although Pollution go straight for the gut over and over again; the closest they get to art is when they walk past MoMA to pick up guitar strings. Through the course of this record, they blast through grindcore, pummel with noise-rock, thrust with hardcore and scowl with a nasty dirge. In spite of that violent cornucopia, Pollution still sounds like the same band throughout, like these are all just different tentacles of the same kraken. I’m not a big fan of their URL-styled song.title.punctuation, but when forced to think of another current hardcore band so adept at cruising through various forms of aggressive rock music and making it their own, I cannot.
Psychic Baggage Psychic Baggage CD (Endless Melt)
Here’s some nice Australian improv, perfect for an art gallery’s opening night, especially if the exhibition consists of weird piles of metal-work and paintings that looks like big smears. There’s percussion and horns and drums, but Psychic Baggage never truly fly their freak flag – when they rustle an open hi-hat, it never reaches a roar. You could probably balance a game of Jenga on the bass drum, too. There’s some calming guitar drone, and occasionally some sort of electronic beat will float to the surface, if only for a fleeting moment. Reminds me of an unfocused Mouthus recording, or if Blues Control tried to suck (which you and I both know is impossible). I get a little lost in the longer tracks, and I almost completely forgot I was hearing anything at all while I was reading the spoiler to Audition (horrifying stuff). Not bad by any means, but I generally prefer my arty improv-drone to be a little meatier than Psychic Baggage.
Ramadanman Fall Short / Work Them 12″ (Swamp81)
Seems like it’s been a while since a proper Ramadanman release, as opposed to his many collaborations and aliases. (It’s actually only been like two months, but that’s a lifetime to an addict like myself.) Addison Groove and Skream’s contributions to the Swamp81 label have been fantastic, so it’s with a heavy heart I inform you that Fall Short / Work Them is the weakest of the bunch thus far. “Fall Short” comes with a nice sense of space, although its run-of-the-mill rhythm drags it down. I dig the short bursts of squiggly bass, and the emotive vocal hook, but this one comes across a little too lackadaisical for my tastes. “Work Them” packs a bigger punch, but the repetitive vocal jab reminds me of a watered-down “Footcrab” (Addison Groove’s killer Swamp81 a-side) and just makes me wish I was hearing that instead. Ramadanman probably should’ve saved this cool cover art for a better single. And you should probably go out and buy that new Joe single on Hessle Audio instead.
Rubbish Throwers Tapeworms 7″ (Endless Melt)
Took a chance on Rubbish Throwers, thanks to their cool name and country of origin (Australia, of course), and it paid off. I suppose it’s hard not to lump them into the “modern noise rock” stable, what with their rough-and-tumble rhythms, clanging guitars and unfriendly demeanor, there’s just something especially nice and unique about Rubbish Throwers, like they truly have nothing to prove, the sort of same angrily confident stance Feedtime took some twenty years ago. There aren’t any massive hooks, or songs I necessarily remember, but it’s such an enjoyable listen from start to finish that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this record. I think the thing I find so appealing about Rubbish Throwers is the weird angle from which they approach blown-out post-punk, like they are truly arty people making dumb music, rather than wishing they were arty and failing, if that makes any sense. I’m sure I’m thinking about this too hard, and should probably just throw some rubbish while I blast this single again, so I’m going to do just that.
Scorpion Violente Scorpion Violente 12″ (Bruit Direct)
The sunburnt jerk on the cover of this record is a good indication for the vibes contained within. These two Frenchmen provide a heavy dose of antagonistic electro on this three-song 12″ single, elegantly simple and crowded with rotten sentiments. A-side “Rome Violente” rides a three-note arpeggio through the night, tunneling down towards the Catacombs of Paris. By no means a complex track, but it’s really stuck with me. The b-side livens up a bit further, kind of like a chain-smoking Six Finger Satellite in electro-mode. “Mi Pute Mi Soumise” follows the same mid-paced tempo but adds some distorted claps and writhing electronics, the kind of mutated synth music that’ll wipe the smirk off anyone’s face. “Ich Kann Nicht” is the only track with vocals, reminding me of SPK in a way, with new-age synths giving way to a mean-spiritedness. Really good stuff – I’m gonna keep my eye on these guys and hope they don’t notice.
Shetland Excess 12″ (Apnea)
Shetland is the collaboration of Brendon Moeller and David Kennedy, the latter of whom is known to most as Ramadanman. I can see why Kennedy would want to slip on a new name for Excess, as there isn’t a single thread connecting the sounds of Shetland to dubstep; these four tracks are straight-up tech house, luscious and refined. Cruising at like 126 bpm or so, these tracks pump out Villalobosian bass, airy synths and understated patterns. It’s unpretentious, and kind of timeless, but along with that timelessness comes an inability to really place Shetland at the top or bottom of the heap, just somewhere contently in the middle. Kinda funny that the tracks are titled “Nothing Succeeds Like Excess” and “Moderation Is Fatal”, since there’s nothing particularly overblown or, well, excessive about Excess. Does make for a good soundtrack for finally splurging on some expensive designer coat you’ve wanted for months, though – I speak from experience here.
Slang / Mind Eraser split 7″ (540)
Commemorating their recent US tour, here’s a split 7″ by these two hardcore heavyweights. Slang contributes “Drug Society”, a thick and heavy hardcore scorcher ala Framtid that’s gone in sixty seconds. Mind Eraser use more of the available vinyl real estate with two cuts, opening with the full-on grind assault of “Prime”, breaking down into a His Hero is Gone-ish push-pit. “Crushing In My Dreams” reminds me of a more technical Crossed Out, especially with that slow riff march that ends the song. Doesn’t matter that it’s a tour-only split single, Mind Eraser still deliver the goods with stunning focus. I’d like to hear some more Slang, too – perhaps a split LP is in order for their next tour?
Son Skull Birth Scene / Rewind EP 12″ (Perennial)
Raw Pacific NW punk rock is alive in the hands of Son Skull, as attractively packaged on Birth Scene / Rewind EP. I was expecting something a little more esoteric, or proto-grunge or something, just from the band shot on the cover (only three people pictured, but Son Skull is a four-piece – does that last member look like Sloth from Goonies or is he or she just super lazy?) and their affiliation with Gun Outfit, but this is pretty straight-forward, hardcore-speckled punk rock. Feedback before songs start, easy-to-remember riffs, angry shouted vocals. I get a female-fronted Filth vibe (the ’90s Californian one), like I could picture this band opening for Mukilteo Fairies in a Portland basement to a crowd of sweaty punkers all going wild and hanging on the plumbing. I’ll admit, I would probably like Son Skull less if this record wasn’t beautifully packaged, what with its rose-tinted clear plastic inner sleeve and attractive little insert, but the whole things comes together so nicely that I’m not noticing any flaws. Seems like this sort of attention to detail is Perennial’s M.O. – can’t wait to see what they’re up to next.
Uffie Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans 2xLP (Ed Banger / Because Music / Elektra)
Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans! I had hoped that an Uffie album would eventually become reality, and here it is… falling far short of my expectations. I’m pretty sure the rest of the world hates Uffie, and I take no umbrage towards those who do, but Uffie’s ridiculous self-awareness as a spoiled Internet-generation slacker always tickled me the right way. Her songs have always been simultaneously fun and verging on new levels of stupid, but with a significant shelf-life; I don’t think “Pop the Glock” sounds horribly dated to 2006, I still find plenty of enjoyment in it. Good thing, because it opens Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans, which also contains the rest of her singles from the past five years. While disappointing, I don’t mind having those tracks in one convenient place, but the problem is that the rest of the album doesn’t keep up that level of quality. “Art of Uff” has the most words she’s ever said in a single song, and it’s a great, slow-cooked club track, but the rest of the new stuff falls short: “ADD SUV” is too much of a no-brainer for all involved, “Give It Away” is unfortunately not a ‘Chili Peppers cover and “Sex Dreams and Denim Jeans” shows just how far Uffie is from a disco-punk diva like Blondie. I do, however, appreciate Uffie’s explanation in “Our Song”, brimming with fashionable apathy and the Ed Banger speed-editing I’ve come to enjoy. I figure this album will bomb commercially, I just hope that its failure doesn’t mean Uffie stops cutting one or two awesome songs per year for the diehards like myself.
Viper Committing the Seven Deadly Sins 7″ (540)
Pretty cool concept here: total G.I.S.M. worship with each song tackling the seven deadly sins. I assume Viper’s personnel features ex- and current-hardcore kids, as they certainly stick to the piss-raw punk aspect of G.I.S.M., avoiding the cheese metal aspect (which certainly made G.I.S.M. the kings that they are, in my opinion). It actually reaches a speedy hardcore tempo for “Greed”, but most of Committing the Seven Deadly Sins stays in that Riot City Records / Bone Awl template, which hasn’t failed anyone yet. The singer’s got a great choked-out, semi-death vocal echo chamber style going too. Add in the thinly-veiled Satanism and you’ve got yourself a winner.
Void Vision In 20 Years 7″ (Blind Prophet)
The main Cult of Youth guy has been busy, opening a record shop and starting a label, of which Void Vision is its debut release. It might be weird (or Wierd) to say, but Void Vision are dead-on Xeno and Oaklander on these two songs, minimal-synth as performed by a duo that sounds more like a full five-piece band jamming expertly on their Rolands and Junos. They’ve even got the speedy undercurrent and pop structure of X&O. Maybe it’s because there’s only two tracks here, or because the band name reminds me of Void and/or Vomit Visions, but I think I actually prefer Void Vision. The singer has a great gothic moan, never hammed up by a false accent or anything, and it’s really a perfect match to the music. The chorus of “Black and White” hints at a pop fascination, with the gravitas to make it a reality. I listen to a lot of the modern synth-pop that’s going around, and maybe it’s partly because we apparently live in the same city, but Void Vision is most definitely more exciting to me than the rest.
White Boss White Boss LP (Perennial)
Another Perennial debut, and another winner, here’s White Boss’s debut LP. White Boss like to extend their clawing, violent hardcore bursts with these epic intros and outros, just laying out flat landscapes of guitar squall and repetitive riffing before belting out some jolts of nasty hardcore. When they really kick in, I can get a feel of a toned-down Die Kreuzen or a beefed-up Merel, replacing the thrashing with a strong sense of grandeur. The wide and cold horizon on the cover certainly helps one get into that mindset. It’s definitely a hardcore record, but there’s something about White Boss that’s difficult to classify… oddly enough, I get a strong Gravity Records vibe from White Boss, in the way so many classic Gravity bands (like Heroin, Clikatat Ikatowi and Antioch Arrow) worked within their own realms to emphasize the power and emotion that hardcore music could exude. I know Gravity’s still kicking around today; they should get on the White Boss tip, this is the type of band that could reinvigorate any label.
White Drugs Gold Magic LP (Kunstwaffe / Amphetamine Reptile)
You can’t keep a good ’90s label down, as proven by Siltbreeze’s somewhat recent revival and apparently now Amphetamine Reptile’s as well, although to what degree AmRep is operating on remains to be seen. White Drugs are a good fit, as they take a lot of the typical AmRep signifiers (loud, rocking, vibrant, noisy) with a raw and updated recording (no ’90s phaser or excessive compression here). I swear there are like ten bands with “White ___” names these days, and it’s getting hard to keep track, but after Gold Magic, I’m pretty sure I could pull White Drugs out of a lineup of perps. They rock in a burly manner, to the point where I nearly spelled it “rawk”, with a vocalist who spews a variety of phrases in some sort of spastic, off-time shouted-word – somewhere between Mark E. Smith and Landed’s Dan St. Jacques his spittle does fly. The closest modern comparison I can think of is Mayyors, although White Drugs aren’t nearly as rambunctious (or good, but who really is?). Song titles like “Money is the Future” get a chortle – these guys have a decent sense of humor, and I enjoy gold face paint on pretty much anyone. Maybe you won’t be won over quite as easily, but I’m on board.