There’s nothing quite like the feeling of throwing on a punk record you don’t know
anything about and having it knock you on your can. That’s what Constant Mongrel
did to me with Everything Goes Wrong, the sort of fully-realized debut album that
seems to come most frequently from Australia these days. Constant Mongrel are
musically crude, artistically sharp and proudly punk, forcing themselves to learn
their instruments as they go and slapping anyone who doesn’t get it in the process.
I’m reminded of the quick-witted annoyance The Urinals brought to the table in 1979,
as well as the noisy, modern-day doldrums of Lamps, but Constant Mongrel are clearly
their own little creature. I had to find out more about the group for myself, so I got
in touch, and they kindly answered my questions.
When and how did Constant Mongrel get started? I believe some of you play in
other bands, but I’m not quite sure of the exact family tree…
Hugh (guitar): Well it basically started off as Tom and I mucking around in this laundry-
room / shed out the back of Tom’s old house. He had just started playing drums with
another friend’s solo project called Woollen Kits, which at the time was a sort of
a K Records kind of pop-style punk thing. We wanted to make a more straight-up
proto-punk band, so I learned drums as I went along, which worked well in terms of it
being retarded sloppy fun shit to play. It was all about just making songs up really
quickly before shows and keeping us and others entertained, really. After a while,
we got a bit tired of it I guess and decided add a bass player, Amy, who is a babe
and in the local pop band School of Radiant Living, as well as Andrew Murray from
a Perth band called Taco Leg who we’ve always championed. So yeah, eventually the
ideas changed, but we still like to make songs up on the spot. Really the only
strong relation we have is to Woollen Kits and Taco Leg, but we all play in different
So are you are four-piece now? Did you add a second guitarist specifically for
the sound, or was it more of a casual “sure, you can come play with us” sort of thing?
Tom: Yeah, we are a four-piece now. Andrew (Taco Leg’s main man) joined the band just
a few months back. We met him when we travelled to Perth (for those who don’t know,
Perth is a four-hour flight away) about two years ago. We kinda hit it off from day one,
and told him if he ever wanted to play in Constant Mongrel that if he moved to Melbourne
he could. So yeah, he moved across after completing his masters in architecture over
there. Actually he sang on “In the Night” on Everything Goes Wrong, he recorded
the vocals with a friend in Perth and it all worked nicely, pretty cool we could do that.
Do all you bands on like, Bedroom Suck and R.I.P Society and Negative Guest List (and
maybe even Siltbreeze) all know each other? Living in America, I don’t have any understanding
if you’re all going to the same shows all the time, or if most of those labels’ rosters
barely ever interact.
Tom: Yeah, we do know a lot of the bands from R.I.P Society, etc. Not really personally,
but definitely from playing shows, that sort of thing. Australia is very large and
pretty pricey to get around; every city has bands that are related to those labels. I
guess it’s a pity we can’t play and hang with some of them more.
Hugh: For the most part we know each other. Those labels are all in separate states/cities.
Bedroom Suck and Negative Guest List in Brisbane, R.I.P Society in Sydney, also No
Patience in Adelaide are really good. Because there are only a few states in Australia,
all the bands from these labels tour quite a bit so we get to know each other that way.
We’re obviously chummy with the R.I.P guys and love catching up whenever they come down
to Melbourne. We also love playing in Sydney which we do often. Melbourne has the most
density as far as music. There are a ton of good bands, and a lot of people move from
other states to here because of that. I’d say at least two or three decent shows every
week for sure. There is definitely a strong community around the punk/hardcore crowds
and I suppose that has translated well overseas in the last couple of years. It’s always
surprising talking to other people from bands about how well their record is doing in the
United States… we certainly don’t expect it.
Do you find yourself getting a better reaction from the punk/hardcore crowd, or
more from the experimental / artsy types?
Tom: In terms of reaction internationally, or even nationally, we are not really sure…
In Melbourne, things are kinda divided but also connected. We have found people are
playing in bands that vary in style as opposed to staying on their side of the fence.
I do think that maybe we have been labeled as a garage / punky thing because of our
beginnings, so the people that are in that scene seem to have come along with us the
whole time, but we have found people involved with noise / experimental stuff have enjoyed
our record too. We love to play with bands like Mad Nanna but also can be put on a bill
with a grindcore band like Trench Sisters and not feel out of place, which is a great
testament to Melbourne music culture right now.
What inspired the shaving-themed artwork on the album? And why isn’t the guy on the
far right shaving anything (or is he)?
Hugh: Heh! The guy on the right is me, and I think it was just the picture chosen by
my girlfriend at the time who took it. I have a beard most of the time because I
actually hate shaving, so yeah I guess there’s that. The back was an idea of Tom’s as
a band bonding together shot. Like the band that shaves together stays together or
something? But the front was just an idea of mine. I just always admired that particular
basin and it ended up looking quite Duchamp-esque and bleak which is cool.
Do you recall when you first heard X_X? Are you into collecting obscure records, that
sort of thing?
Hugh: I’ve always thought that Electric Eels are the best and most punk band there has ever
been. In obsessing over them I came across some other stuff John Morton did, and found a
copy of that No Nonsense 7″ while I was in America. That track is actually a variation
of an older Electric Eels version, but it’s a much more interesting version. I’m really into
collecting records, yes. I haven’t been lately because of being in a ton of debt, but yes
obscure records are great. There is actually a lot of obscure ’70s and ’80s Australian
post-punk and even weirder shit that turns up occasionally that is always exciting. I like
that a lot of it is getting reissued so people can hear it, like Slugfuckers, etc.
I went crazy the first time I heard the Slugfuckers… couldn’t believe they existed
when and where they did! What’s the last great rarity you managed to pick up?
Hugh: I do own the Slugfuckers’ Transformational Salt LP which is one of my
favorites. They’re an incredible band. Well, the last semi-rare record I bought was an
original VOM Live At Surf City 7″, probably the best most retarded punk 7″ ever. The guitar
sound still blows my mind. Some poor idiot was selling it way cheap on eBay. Although it’s
not that rare I have the original Fad Gadget Ricky’s Hand 7″ which is one of my faves. Has
to be one of the best synth-punk singles of all time. So immediate and catchy! Got some
classic early Discharge 7″s recently too!… Enough wanking now.
Tom: I recently picked up three sealed Porter Wagoner records for under twenty bucks in a
record store in the country. Maybe not that rare in the US, but very very hard to find
in Australia! But you know a record’s a record… as long as you can hear the music, I’m happy.
How did you get hooked up with 80/81 Records out of California?
Hugh: Dunno, I think Matt found out about us after hearing Woollen Kits or another
Melbourne band, Mad Nanna. He just seemed really keen and was willing to risk it I
guess in putting us out which is nice of him. Things got slow in the final stages of
getting it out, but luckily Nick from R.I.P society jumped on board and helped put
the record out. Fucking legend.
Now that you’ve been a band for a little bit, do you feel like your actual playing
skills have increased? Is that something you expect will affect your sound, like having
already done a great first LP that is super primitive… what I’m wondering is, will
your songs get more fancy and complex?
Tom: Well, when we made this record it really all fell together while recording. I think
we had to have some on the spot creation for it to be “us” and to really work. We will
take new songs into recording and just wing it again with a general idea or palate. I
guess our playing style has changed since this record (it was a year ago we made it) with
new songs maybe leaning more toward a darker area, but that’s doesn’t really mean anything
in terms of a next album. More complex? Maybe, who knows. It’s great cause there’s no
pressure on us, I don’t think many people expect anything from Constant Mongrel (not in a
bad way), so it’s a great place to be in terms of creating new stuff.
Are there any future records planned at this time?
Tom: We are writing new stuff at the moment, so hopefully something will happen next
year sometime. Like I said, before we’d go in with enough material for a record and just
wing it with the style and feel of the whole thing. It has to be said we are a very poor
band at organising and pushing what we do, or even playing shows. It works for who we are
as people, but probably has an effect on our output and following. Like I said, there is
no pressure, so we actually really look forward to doing it again!
Where does the name come from? I like it, because it makes me think that there might
be a mongrel out there that is only part-time.
Tom: Well… It’s a bit cringeworthy now. The name is a penis joke. A mongrel is a
half-erection (like half-breed dog). I guess like our beginning as a band, the name was very dumb.
The Altered States Of The United Snakes Pagan Tiger Swing Band LP (Lost Treasures Of The Underworld)
There’s something about an LP jacket so thickly crusted with paint that I find undeniably appealing, from my copy of the Universal Indians / Gravitar split LP (which is still somehow wet!) to this wonderfully disorienting LP by The Altered States Of The United Snakes. I think anyone outside of Ohio probably figured this was an LP by the Pagan Tiger Swing Band from the cover design, but nope, it’s vice versa. Not sure if this is anything more than a one-off project from what must be some group of Columbus Discount buddies (a Cheater Slick? a T.N. Viking? Some sort of Basshole?), but I’m not too concerned with The Altered States Of The United Snakes’ touring plans – they gave us an album of nicely-distorted rock songs and that’s good enough for me. Musically it’s not too far from El Jesus De Magico, or maybe even The Dead C (if you want to expand the geography), but really this sort of thing has to come from Columbus; even Australians can’t rightly fake it. It’s kinda like the Columbus indie-rock answer to the early Comets On Fire records, where you can tell they’re in some cramped and stinky room, high, and jamming their songs harder and more extended than they should (who’s gonna stop them anyway?), with one guy chain-smoking and running keyboards and tapes through a space-echo just for the hell of it. Sounds like something I’d want to hear, and it certainly is!
Bitch Prefect Big Time LP (Bedroom Suck)
Bedroom Suck just keeps it coming, as there is seemingly an endless supply of new and interesting bands on their national radar. Here’s Bitch Prefect, and while they look like skate-rat punks, their music is a direct descendant of the K Records awkward-pop variety. There are two guitarists and a drummer, and all three of them sing, shuffling their way through pop melodies, slacker hooks and a personable likeability. Like Scott & Charlene’s Wedding’s scruffy younger brother, perhaps, before years of cigarettes and unemployment really broke them down? “Bad Decisions” has the same melodic hook as Four Eyes’ “Hat Nerd”, can’t go wrong with that. Overall, I dig Big Time each time I play it, even if the enthusiasm I feel for the b-side dwindles as I finish it off. Seems like these guys don’t have a care in the world, and I appreciate getting to feel the same way for twenty minutes or so.
Blawan Long Distance Open Water Worker 12″ (Black Sun)
I’ve been digging Blawan for a couple years now and still don’t really know anything about the guy. That’s alright though, because no colorful back-story or personality profile is necessary for me to enjoy his music, from his earliest post-dubstep bass grooves to the frighteningly mechanical techno he’s been pumping out as of late. Long Distance Open Water Worker is such a killer EP, four tracks of single-minded Berghain-style techno – these tracks are dark and pounding, yet dextrous enough that my mind is never allowed the freedom to rest. The title is crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he sampled his local water treatment plant for some of the ambient loops that churn within these tracks – “Breathe Them Knees In” is a relentless pounder underpinned with a heavy sway, like you’re nervously standing next to an industrial mulcher that could pulpify you in seconds. There’s really nothing remotely dubstep about Blawan at this point, but that’s no complaint – Ostgut Ton needs to throw their money in his direction, as Blawan is making his place clear as the future of dungeon dance music.
Zachary Cale Love Everlasting / Hallelujah Kid 7″ (Dull Knife)
The idea of a record label “singer songwriter” series isn’t the sort of concept that excites me, but Dull Knife’s smartly-packaged 7″ editions are enough to change my mind. Not familiar with Zachary Cale prior to this single, but I guess he’s played in some other bands here and there – I’d roll with my own name if I was writing songs like “Love Everlasting” though, a drunken waltz that sounds like a humbler Jonathan Fire*Eater, feeling pretty bad tomorrow morning but pretty great tonight. “Hallelujah Kid” is a finger-plucked delight, just waiting for the perfect sensitive indie-twee movie to come along and pick it up as the centerpiece of its soundtrack. Serious “driving across country to propose to her” song here. I’m really just impressed at the continued quality that Dull Knife extracts from these artists, especially as the 7″ single continues to become more of a novelty promotional tool than a respectable musical format in the indie-rock universe. These musicians take the Dull Knife request seriously, and I sincerely appreciate it.
Cheater Slicks Live Vol. 2 2010 LP (Columbus Discount)
There are two live LPs reviewed this month, and I like them both – unprecedented! Kinda makes me wish I still had a copy of NOFX’s I Heard They Suck Live handy to really make this a September to remember. Anyway, Cheater Slicks are an institution of blue-collar garage-rock, with surely at least half a dozen killer records I have yet to hear (among the many I have heard), but I’m listening to this live LP right now, and it sounds pretty darn good. The show they’re playing sounds like a real hoot, like they are performing in front of an audience who not only gets what Cheater Slicks are all about, they are hungry for it. And I know it’s probably the other way around, but a lot of Live Vol. 2 2010 reminds me of Watery Love in the way the music hits me directly in the stomach, or perhaps Feedtime in the way it sounds like calloused coal-miner hands are playing the guitars. That’d be one Manwich of a show: Cheater Slicks, Feedtime and Watery Love. Were I ever to attend such a concert, I’d probably stop waxing my chest once and for all.
Evian Christ Kings And Them 12″ (Tri Angle)
Tri Angle has been on a roll lately, so I figured I’d give the refreshingly-named Evian Christ a whirl. (Can you imagine if this dude married Zola Jesus? They’d have to hyphenate, right?) Whereas most recent Tri Angle releases have veered towards slow-motion tantric techno, Evian Christ is a hip-hop producer at heart, even if he’s clearly swayed by today’s ambient appreciation. His beats are spacious and cloudy, falling somewhere between those of Lil B, Salem and Burial, which is probably exactly what anyone would expect from a hip-hop record on Tri Angle. Nothing too exciting, but Christ is at least a capable producer when it comes to 808 thump and glossy ambient drift. The only thing that kinda irks me is the use of prolonged rap samples – presuming he just ganked these raps for himself, and that none of the vocalists actually came into his studio to lay down their tracks, it just seems a little too easy. I can understand taking a phrase or two and twisting them up, but Evian Christ is content to take entire verses and lay them on top of his beats… cool for a random mixtape, but kind of an odd business practice for an EP under his own name? I guess when it all comes down to it, who really cares, but I will be more impressed when Evian Christ does it all on his own, or at the very least, takes Zola’s hand in marriage.
Christian Cosmos Enthronement By God As The First-Born Of The Dead LP (Hospital Productions)
Got real excited at the premise of this Christian Cosmos LP, a collaboration between long-time chums Dom Fernow and Kris Lapke, a sort of “Vatican Shadow meets Alberich” midnight showdown. Love the silly name, the dramatic album title, the Jesus obsession, the amber-colored vinyl… and the music’s okay. I don’t know, it just seems like they both saved their best material for their separate solo efforts – Christian Cosmos weave ambient tones and pulsing beats with more stasis than passion. The beats hang in the air, tracks come and go, and the overall tone remains the same from start to finish. It’s good, just certainly far from either artist’s best efforts… it’s more like I’m listening in on two friends having fun together than some sort of meaningful musical endeavor. I’m certainly glad these guys make evil electronic music rather than play Call Of Duty when they hang out with each other, but those on the fence can comfortably sit this one out.
Darling Farah Body 2xLP (Civil Music)
Darling Farah isn’t the same Farah as the Italians Do It Better Farah, nor is Darling Farah a woman at all – it’s the work of Detroit’s Kamau Baaqi, and his album Body took me by surprise. Just reading the word “Detroit” will offer a clue as to Darling Farah’s tech-house sound, but he’s no Drexciya or Omar S clone – this is dark and quiet techno, distributed in four- or five-minute chunks to keep things moving. It kinda sounds like what I presumed Burial would sound like before I had ever heard Burial – Body reeks of flickering streetlights, dark alleys and cold winds, but it makes such spaces seem inviting and sensual. Even if the bass/snare groove isn’t always in your face, its presence is felt, pushing the tracks ahead much like Kassem Mosse and his analog gear. Ambient-house, maybe? Or Kyle Hall in study hall? In both of his Discogs pictures, Darling Farah is smearing his face with a hand or two, like he’s exhausted or tripping and just ready to melt into the carpet. Body makes me feel the same way and I love it.
Dopestroke Dopestroke 7″ (Badmaster)
Here’s a local hardcore 7″ that looks like a local hardcore 7″ – thin copier-paper cover with an 8.5″x11″ lyric insert, all black and white that’ll rub off on your fingers, with a blurred live shot of the band on the front and song titles on the back. All good hardcore bands started at this level though, and Dopestroke are pretty cool – it’s fast and snotty, but with unexpected parts (be they punk or moshy), a slight flair for metal, and an ability to thrash without mercy. Maybe like if those early Municipal Waste records came out of a West Philly punk house? Or if Sickoids took great pleasure and influence in all eras of Corrosion Of Conformity? Almost all lines are shouted by two different guys, one with more of a hardcore speak-shout, the other with a throaty bark, which adds to the “gang of roving punks” feel that Dopestroke maintain. And musically, it seems like Dopestroke have a ton of good ideas and the ability to blend them all together without any undesired lumps. Pure hardcore-thrash purée.
Family Curse / White Murder split 7″ (Doormat)
Cool and quick little split single here from New York’s Family Curse and Los Angeles’ White Murder. The cover art has kind of a graphic novel American Horror Story vibe, but there isn’t a shred of black lace or red wine found in the music, just driving, thoughtful punk rock. I already dug Family Curse, and their track here doesn’t let me down – I figure it has to be expensive to rent practice space in Brooklyn, but all their tracks seem like they took a lot of time to perfect, even though they’re easy to follow from a listener’s perspective. Or maybe they’ve just only got these three songs so far. Sounds like a less-weird Popular Shapes, or maybe Naked Raygun with a Wire fascination? White Murder were new to me (and their name has that “generic modern punk rock band name generator” vibe that I am not a fan of)… their track “Breakdown” is a pretty perfect match for Family Curse. A little more traditionally garage than Family Curse, but the playing is tight and energetic, giving me the same sort of caffeinated sensation I get when the Buzzcocks randomly come on the radio or when I throw on the Busy Signals LP. Can’t really go wrong with this one.
Fay Din LP (Time No Place)
Pretty zonked-out debut album from Fay (née Fay Davis-Jeffers), whose prior work in Pit Er Pat I recall seeing in record bins over the years but never actually hearing. Can’t imagine Pit Er Pat sounded much like Din, though, because I don’t think anything else really sounds like it – Fay is traversing a new frontier of post-Tigerbeat6 electronic dance freakiness. Imagine Blectum From Blechdom edited by DJ Nate or DJ Rashad, where strange vocal melodies, plastic percussion, rubbery beats and bodily functions are shredded and thrown back into rapid-fire juke beats. There’s usually some sort of determined rhythm at play, but Fay almost always manages to get it drunk and stick it on rollerblades before sharing it with her audience. Very woozy stuff, and when looped and processed as rapidly as any Chicago footwork mixtape, Din is like being tickled to the point of annoyance. I like annoying music though, and Fay has clearly figured out her own way to make me feel uncomfortable in my own skin while bopping to the beat, even if I haven’t yet been able to tolerate Din from start to finish in one session.
Mark Feehan MF LP (Siltbreeze)
MF is the debut LP from the “other” Harry Pussy guitarist, Mark Feehan, and it’s a scorching set of four-stringed improv blues! Just kidding, but I kinda would’ve loved that, hopefully prompting an eventual death-match between Feehan and Bill Orcutt. Feehan takes a far more varied approach to his music, going from multi-layered, fingerpicked insomnia (“Sonnabend”) to Reynols-style noise-pounders (“Sopio” and “Mash Electra”) to what sounds like a cocaine-fueled Jandek jamming with an overflowing sink (“See You In Brundisium”), ending with the strangest track of all, a sped-up ’70s television-ad jingle (“Coco The Magical Bird”). It’s quite a ride, but never overbearing or too crazy, as Feehan’s ideas either end before wearing out their welcome or are just too darn fascinating to ever possibly annoy. Now we just need the eventual Adris Hoyos album to lay waste to all the rest.
Forward Devil’s Cradle EP 7″ (540)
Forward stories are always great – regardless of the level of truth involved, I always hear about the Forward guys being involved in the mafia, beating people up, riding motorcycles, OD’ing on drugs… they’re like a Japanese Sons of Anarchy with a wonderful hardcore soundtrack. It’s easy for the average white kid in a Void t-shirt to fantasize about the Forward lifestyle (I’m certainly not immune to it either), especially as their Burning Spirits-style hardcore is always pretty great, epic due to its power rather than scope. “Devil’s Cradle” is probably some sort of wrestling choke maneuver, and it’s a formidable rager here, vocalist Ishiya barking out orders over tireless drumming and multiple guitars. The b-side “What’s The Meaning Of Love?” really caught my ear though, because not only is it great fun to imagine the Forward dudes sitting around pondering romance, they shout the title as the chorus, with some sort of Judas Priest / Motörhead-style raging groove backing it up. They seem utterly intent on finding the answer to their question and I have no doubt that they will someday find what they seek. Well done!
Future Blondes Feather 17 LP (Blind Prophet)
Future Blondes is the solo electronic project of Rusted Shut’s drummer, a Road Warrior-looking dude named Domokos. He’s been doing this stuff for a while, and is probably without the working Internet access necessary to learn that noisy techno beats are kind of a trendy thing right now. Of course this ignorance works in his favor, as Feather 17 is an intimidating hunk of ramshackle EBM. Opening with the five-minute palatte-cleansing drone of “Synth 1” (love that title!), “Feather 17” takes hold with a near-reggaeton beat, sweeping synths and distorted vocal sewage. The beat remains stagnant (and is probably still playing somewhere right now), so it’s up to the echoed, syrupy vocals and incidental noise to keep things lively. Same deal for “Fehe’r A Tuz”, clocking in at over 23 minutes and the b-side’s sole inhabitant. It’s another freaky cut, starting off with some backwards pads and then marching out an intoxicated groove that only gets busier as time progresses. Feather 17 feels out of time, like it’s actually some unearthed obscurity (I’m thinking about Transistor Jet) rather than a modern offering, which adds to the disorienting sensation felt when you’re fifteen minutes deep in “Fehe’r A Tuz” and have no idea how you got there. The perfect way to spark up a conversation with your unemployed cousin who used to run the Skinny Puppy fan club.
Giving Up (Peace Sign / Frown Face) LP (Sophomore Lounge)
I wonder if Sophomore Lounge signs bands by their prospective album titles at this point – along with Christmas Bride’s long and awkward punchline of a title, Giving Up go with a double emoticon for their second full-length. And like Christmas Bride, they are musically alright – Giving Up’s vibe reminds me of Milk Music (moreso than their actual sound), as if Milk Music came up in the basement pop-punk scene instead of hanging with Sex/Vid. A grungy Matt & Kim, maybe? Saturday Looks Good To Me in ripped jeans and unwashed long hair? Two band members sing, and those two sing constantly and in unison for most of the record, driving the songs with their vocal cooing and hound-dogging. Songs are about summer days, romance, and their idea for a revitalization of the National Football League (they’ve got my vote). Nothing too serious or painful, just a lot of happy, dopey love songs… music for kids whose biggest concern is whether or not another group of people are already using the rope swing down near the lake by the time they get there. They do this carefree stoner-pop indie-grunge well, and make me wish I found my way into more than just a couple pools this summer.
Go Genre Everything Domestic Dreams And Robots 7″ (Vacant Valley)
Yikes… Go Genre Everything are one of those bands that almost dare you to like them, like they go out of their way to make it as impossible a commitment as they can. I usually love that sort of challenge, but in the case of Domestic Dreams And Robots, I have to wave the white flag. They play this sort of earnest, simple indie-pop (just guitars, drums and keys), but vocalist “Jen” squeals in this insane high-pitched chipmunk tone that defeats me every time. The songs are okay, but it’s taken me a few listens to be able to focus on them and actually notice what is going on beyond that insane off-key falsetto holler. It’s like Eric’s part of Tim & Eric’s “Get Your Poke On”, but higher and even less palatable. I appreciate the fearless dedication of Go Genre Everything and Vacant Valley to support and foster such vocalizing, but this record is certainly not for me.
Hamamatsu Tom & Co. Starvation Box / Almost Cut My Hair 7″ (Dull Knife)
Nice rough-yet-slick rock effort from “Hamamatsu” Tom Triplett, the kinda guy who doesn’t have to tip his sunglasses down his nose to appear cool. “Starvation Box” is a sharp tune, complete with a grooving bass line, elastic guitars and Tom’s Jagger-ish caterwauling, eventually confirming that it is indeed he who is the man in the box. I dunno: gravelly indie-rock with a touch of Roxy Music, or Gary Wilson, or Crazy Horse? Tom and company cover “Almost Cut My Hair” on the flip, and it’s the guitar-led shred-fest anyone could hope for, rocking with an energetic ’70s cocaine-swagger that could power an entire episode of VH1’s Behind The Music. Not a whole lot else to it, just ’70s stadium powerhouse-rock downsized to fit in a modern-day club or bar, and Hamamatsu Tom does it well.
Heatsick Déviation EP 12″ (Pan)
I liked Heatsick’s debut album, even if the appeal of unwavering homemade dance-loops is somewhat restricted… that’s what he’s still up to, and this new EP is even more enjoyable. The vibe is pretty constant through these four tracks, and it’s a cool one – think Italo digital-reggae that could fit as easily alongside Richard Schneider Jr. as Peaking Lights. Opener “Déviation” even has a bit of a hip-hop strut, the sort of music you’d expect to hear as the soundtrack of some old VHS tape of dudes spray-painting graffiti in Manhattan. My favorite has gotta be “C’était Un Rendez-vous” though, as it adds bohemian vocals to that same vibe, kinda like a budget-basement version of Sébastien Tellier. Cool packaging too, and proof that for as high-art-minded as the Pan label seems to be, simple sunny fun is important, too.
Herpes Herpes 7″ (Goblin Shark)
You know it’s a classy music website when this isn’t the first band named Herpes to be reviewed in its pages! This Herpes is the New York-based (I think) hardcore group, not the German synth-punk band, and if I had to catch a case, I’d probably prefer this one. Six tracks of violent and tumbling hardcore here, somewhere between Shitlickers and Destroy. The drummer is tireless, there’s at least a couple gratuitous guitar solos, and the vocals sounds like they prefer the taste of blood to any other beverage on the market. Herpes are ex-No Fucker, and while the “noise not music” credo has a lingering effect here, they are certainly playing discernible songs and not just feedback-strewn d-beat improv. Factor in the black-metal Jabba the Hutt on the cover and how can you possibly say no?
Hoax 3rd EP 7″ (Painkiller)
After Hoax’s killer follow-up EP and their hilarious/scary live shows, I’m totally sold – this third EP only further solidifies my appreciation. They’re all about the evil dirge on the a-side, with two tracks that sound like molten lava overtaking a small village, thick and boiling and moshable. The b-side is even more dire and crawling, upon which “Stuck” is probably my favorite track of the four – when the singer screams “pestilence”, it feels like he truly understands the meaning of the word, and there’s no fast-part change-up here, just a slow-burning masochistic mosh. It might be their cleanest recording yet (appropriate for a switch from Youth Attack to Painkiller), but none of their negativity or heaviness is lost in translation. Their track record of cool cover art continues as well, with a fold-out poster and a sleeve that features a big pencil-drawn mace. I was eating a sandwich while first listening and I swear I got angry at it before I was finished. Hoax, you’ve done it again!
Hoax / Sewn Leather split 7″ flexi (no label)
Took a bit of effort on my part, but I finally tracked down one of these Hoax / Sewn Leather flexis, sold on their summer tour that sadly did not swing through my village. Figure I’m in it for the long haul with Hoax now, and Sewn Leather intrigued and impressed me with that last LP, so obtaining a copy concerned me more than my expired contact lens solution. Anyway, you know these one-sided red-vinyl flexis by now, and it sounds pretty good, all things considered. Hoax start it off with a faster cut than anything off their last EP, running at a brisk pace with vocals that sound cleaner than ever before. It’s almost so clean-sounding that it doesn’t sound like Hoax, but it’s a good cut nonetheless. It runs right into Sewn Leather’s “Bootz Are For Kikkkin”, a sparse little drum-machine slammer that sounds like M Ax Noi Mach’s snot-nosed younger brother, or Darby Crash if he grew up listening to the Ultra Eczema label. Nice record all around, giving me a taste of the Hoax / Sewn Leather tour without all the airborne bodily fluids and basement dust.
Homewrecker Worms & Dirt LP (A389 Recordings)
More Deathwish-looking grind-infused metal-core from the A389 Recordings label. I appreciate the extras that A389 throws in, like that one 7″ that practically came with an entire day’s worth of SXSW swag, and this Homewrecker LP comes with a massive poster, just begging to be taped on the back of your bedroom door, inches below your tiny Nerf basketball net. Musically, it is what it is – down-tuned heavy hardcore with metallic riffs, crushing breakdowns, and the occasional full-on grind assault… they probably listen to a bunch of Integrity and Trapped Under Ice and Mind Eraser, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. In fact, I wish I was enjoying such a playlist right now, but I’m listening to Worms & Dirt instead, which, while good, doesn’t satisfy my cravings for heavy hardcore – it merely whets my appetite. If you want to go for some Homewrecker, though, not only would I not stop you, I’d even step out of your way as to avoid any impediment whatsoever.
Hot & Cold Border Area LP (Moniker)
Interesting debut LP from Hot & Cold, the work of brothers Simon and Joshua Frank, two Beijing-based dudes who must’ve stared long and hard at that classic shirtless Jim Morrison poster before starting this band. One of them fires up the drum machine, the other starts playing a classic stoner progression on the bass, the other starts singing along, and boom, a song is born. Definitely has the feel of a Doors karaoke session, or a miniature Wooden Shjip, or that great Them, Themselves Or They single on 5 Hour Energy. It’s incredibly simple, and pretty unsophisticated, but what do you want, a complex jazz-fusion take on The Doors? I just wish Simon Frank had a stronger voice, because while I love these old-fashioned bass riffs, it’d be nice to have a singer that gets fired up by them too. Even so, if I were Mr. or Mrs. Frank, I’d certainly be proud of the way my two boys have chosen to stay out of trouble.
King Dude Dungeon Doo-Wop 7″ (Dais)
Everyone’s favorite poorly-named gothic troubadour has a new album coming out, so Dais released this 7″ to get us excited about it. The title is an apt description of the music therein, but while the a-side’s “You Can Break My Heart” has a ’50s slow-dance vibe, if you added an Echoplex and raised the vocal pitch just a hair, it’d fit perfectly within the last twenty minutes of Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. Not sure that’s what King Dude is going for, probably a little too druggy and not quite occult enough, but it sounds alright to me. B-side “Devil’s Tail” seems like it should be a Cult Of Youth cover, but King Dude’s keeping all the credit on this simple track to himself, which sounds like Sam Elliott strumming an acoustic guitar in a highway rest-stop bathroom. My voice doesn’t go half as low, and I’m jealous of any man capable of sounding this toad-like. Not sure I’ll remember to throw this one on too often, but I’m looking forward to the next LP for sure. King Dude’s got it.
Kitchen’s Floor Live In Brisbane LP (Quemada)
The only thing less theoretically appealing to me than a live record is a live tape, which is what Kitchen’s Floor’s Live In Brisbane was initially. Now, I don’t expect Quemada to fool around, and when it comes to a band as good as Kitchen’s Floor, I’ll take whatever I can get, so I was pleased as punch to throw this on my turntable. And it’s great! Most of the songs from their killer Look Forward To Nothing album are here, but sound entirely different – the album’s noisy, grungy guitars are almost completely absent here, replaced by a subtle acoustic guitar and droning organ. It’s a much quieter, sweeter sound for Kitchen’s Floor, but these songs are just so good and catchy that I would probably enjoy renditions of such by The Ridiculous Trio, too. They also seem to extend a few of the songs, there are lots of long vocal-less passages, and it feels so right – the six people in attendance applaud almost immediately after every track. Those are always the best shows, right?
Living Eyes Ways To Make A Living / Nose Diving 7″ (Anti Fade)
More rockin’ garage from Australia… do Australians still have to go to high school, or are they just given guitars and drums if they decide to opt out? “Ways To Make A Living” is pretty cool – it’s a simple, confident little strut with a vocalist who quacks more than sings, which results in a song that reminds me of one of those later Tactics LPs. The chorus sticks in my head, and that’s the point, right? “Nose Diving” has a similar vibe, maybe a little more trad-garage, riff-wise (particularly in the honky-tonk outro), but the vocalist remains the key to keeping Living Eyes from fading into the pack. There are at least a dozen “_____ Eyes” bands currently on my radar, but I’m gonna do my best to remember these guys when a new single rolls around.
Tor Lundvall The Shipyard LP (Dais)
When Tor Lundvall titles an album, he means it: The Shipyard sure as hell sounds like a shipyard. With titles like “The Shipyard At Dawn”, “Tugboats In Fog” and “Blue Rain Ships”, Lundvall is describing specific moments in the life of an industrial dock, and while it may seem like the sort of employment you stumble upon rather than seek out, this album makes the premise sound incredibly appealing. Various tones blink on and off, chilly drones drift into space, and the line where the water meets the air is blurred and grey. Could see fans of the Touch label going big for this, as it’s got that sort of Jóhann Jóhannsson-ish method where the music envelopes you like a mist, moving in slow and dissipating even slower. Some atmospheric drone records bore me mercilessly, but The Shipyard feels really good, as it is a studio-constructed electronic record that’s tricked my brain into believing it’s a field recording. Wouldn’t mind sealing myself up in a cargo container with some Tor Lundvall records and seeing where it takes me…
Dan Melchior Ghost In The Supermarket 12″ (Moniker)
Dan Melchior makes records with the same frequency that you or I make dinner, and I never really expect much out of any Record Store Day release, but this 12″ EP is bucking the odds by being great. The a-side is particularly delightful – “Ghost In The Supermarket” is a cute and silly ditty, like if The Clean hosted a kids show, and “Strange Antennae” rocks like Country Teasers covering AC/DC (which they probably already have). The b-side is more of the sweetly-weird, less-experimental Dan Melchior we’ve all come to enjoy, and while not quite as captivating as the a-side, it’s equally charming and fun. Just wish I had a budgie to enjoy the record with, for the full Melchior sensory experience.
Nervous Impulse Nervous Impulse LP (Undercurrent)
Kind of an unintentionally strange LP from Nervous Impulse, who opt for that “masturbation causes blurred vision” t-shirt font for their band logo. They’re self-proclaimed “old guys” from DC, and they blaze through eight tracks of fast and thrashy melodic punk rock. Reminds me of Dayglo Abortions, if the singer had aspirations to sing in Sacred Reich or Overkill. The music is frantic and probably about as authentically classic as OFF!, but the singer belts it out like he’s wearing leather pants, a spiked bracelet and a cop hat. Certainly not the style kids are clamoring for these days, but Nervous Impulse don’t seem too worried about staying trendy or current. As much as the hardcore scene would like to deny, it’s kind of hard to survive unless you are either trendy (trying to sound like the misanthropic Void demo that never existed) or really insanely great, so as Nervous Impulse are neither, I’d imagine their potential is limited. They probably actually were around to see Void back in the day though, and thought they stunk in comparison to Black Market Baby and DOA and The Offenders, which younger kids today will never be able to understand. So, while I can’t imagine this LP will connect with anyone who grew up using the Internet, I hope Nervous Impulse keep on being Nervous Impulse. Someone’s gotta!
Noothgrush / Suppression split 5″ (Fuck Yoga / Blow The Reactors)
I swear this record exists specifically to mess with my memory – did this split come out back in 1997 or 2012? How could it possibly arrive fresh and new in 2012? Before I go any deeper into that black hole of thought, I’m just gonna focus on this 5″ record’s brief grooves, coming from these two classic Slap A Ham-supported groups. Wasn’t sure how the slow n’ lengthy Noothgrush would fare in such tight quarters (although their track on Bllleeeeaaauuurrrrgghhh! – A Music War was pretty tight), but they sound better than I remember them sounding, slanging their distraught metal riffs with ease and distinction. It’s got a little more motion than their usual material, and I appreciate that. Suppression are as classically frozen-in-time on their side as well, blasting through whooping car-alarm feedback noise and some bludgeoning bass-heavy power-violence before the humorous NWA sample retires their side. I am so damn glad I bought this pointless little record, for real.
Per Purpose Warburton / Business 7″ (Bedroom Suck)
For some reason I had it in my head that Per Purpose had broken up – not so, and here’s a new record that sounds little like their last one, which is apparently their chameleonic style. The rough emo-hardcore of their 12″ EP is missing, and the same goes for the frantic Minutemen-ish punk of their debut single. Instead, these two songs flop along in some sort of aggressive art-punk manner, maybe like Rank/Xerox if they bounced instead of convulsed? The bass still plays a major role, but it’s happier here, and more inclined to run right off the track and hop a fence or two. Sounds real good, but it’s the vocalist that makes the EP for me – he is singing like his tongue is far too large for his mouth, the sort of voice that tries to say “asshole” but it just comes out like “apple”, and his bluster really makes Per Purpose sound like a distinctly weird band for the third time. Killer single!
Pharaoh This House Is Doomed 7″ (A389 Recordings)
I wonder if Pharoah only watched the first half-hour when they titled this 7″ EP… come on guys, House always figures out the diagnosis and cures it before the show is over! I know, I should go into stand-up, but seriously, I’m kind of running out of ways to talk about the good-not-great metal-core provided by the A389 Recordings label. Pharoah are a bit slower than the rest of the bunch, opting for a more atmospheric and tortured vibe than Cynarae or Seven Sisters Of Sleep or the rest of the records the label sent me. Kind of Neurosis-y, maybe a little Jesuit… certainly the sort of thing Hydra Head would’ve released in the early ’00s to little fanfare. Good stuff, there’s just not a whole lot more to it than that…
Pig Eyes Total Destruction Of The Present Moment 12″ (De:Nihil)
I know what you’re thinking – didn’t the Fucked Up singer guy already have his own side project? Wait a minute, this is Pig Eyes! They’re from Sweden, and have probably held Pink Eyes’ sweaty chest in the pit at one point or another, because they certainly go for the Fucked Up-style grandeur here – this is a four-song 12″ EP, but I swear they cram like twelve possible songs within it. It’s like they go from Murder City Devils-style booze punk to fast-and-gruff melodic hardcore to dramatic breakdowns, but within the course of like seven minutes per track. Not all rhapsody needs to be bohemian, but Pig Eyes certainly pack as much flair as possible in their epic tracks. They are good, but I find it to be an exhausting approach that I’d generally rather not hear, particularly as the endless building never really leads to anything fantastic, but instead, just another part. It’s all still rock music though, which works to Pig Eyes’ current advantage, even if it’s only a matter of time before they bring in the ska-band horn section, turntablist and artisanal harpist to finally “improve” hardcore. Hope De:Nihil is socking away some extra money for triple-gatefold sleeves!
Pop Singles All Gone LP (Vacant Valley)
If you’ve caught wind of the punk rock currently happening in Australia, it’d be easy to think every underground Aussie musician lives in a decrepit apartment, eating raw meat and watching black-and-white static on television. Most of them do, but it’s good to know there are also shy wimps making music down under, like Pop Singles for example. This trio sounds so emotionally frail and delicate that I get nervous I might accidentally snap the record in half while placing it on the turntable. I get kind of a Housemartins by-way-of Sarah Records vibe, or Royal Headache with all the energetic Green Day riffs and Billy Joel vocals removed; Pop Singles are nervous bookish types writing super-serious songs without the slightest care that few people will ever hear them. Of course in the insert they actually look like attractive people, but it’s the vibe that counts, and this record is perfect for singles who don’t have their act together and are content to live that way. No particular track really stands out to me, but I like All Gone for all the fear of romance and bittersweet new-wave rock it offers.
N. Racker Flock Toxicant LP (Pre-Cert Home Entertainment)
It’s hard not to get tempted by all these Pre-Cert releases and their hyperbolic Boomkat descriptions… you’d swear you’re unlocking the portal to hell by ordering these records after reading some of those wild promo paragraphs. I’ve been passing on some, but this N. Racker sounded too good to miss, yet another secret alias of probably one of the Demdike Stare guys. This one is pretty far removed from techno, though, and almost strictly a soundtrack / background music affair. The drones are omnipresent, old metal hinges squeak on key, and pianos and the occasional wind instrument weave foreboding melodies throughout. I guess that’s what sets this one apart from most “scary drone” records – N. Racker has a compositional eye, and isn’t afraid to work with standard melodies and musical structures to frame his uneasy moods. Flock Toxicant is the music between the scares in horror movies, like when the young couple comes home and notices that all the cabinets are open, but aren’t quite dragged to the basement by an invisible demon just yet. Good stuff for sure, and Halloween is approaching, after all… then again, I get the impression that every day is Halloween with the Pre-Cert bunch.
Rrose & Bob Ostertag The Surgeon General 12″ (Eaux)
Pretty cool premise for a 12″ here, an original 1977 recording by New York-based experimental “sound artist” Bob Ostertag with reworkings by dungeon-techno stalwart Rrose on the flip. The packaging is beautifully designed, the vinyl is colored… and yet I still feel kinda let down. Ostertag’s “The Surgeon General” is a sparse, gurgly trek through some large mammal’s intestine, with random plinkity-plonks and echo gasping for air. Maybe like if Tod Dockstader was commissioned to do a piece for a haunted house? Cool stuff, but nothing I will really remember in a week or two. I was really here for the Rrose stuff anyway, and the first track “The Surgeon General (No Child Left Behind)” is pretty much just a straight-forward Sandwell-style techno cut. I love this sound, but there’s nothing noteworthy here, and whatever borrowed bits of “The Surgeon General” made it through, I cannot tell. The second Rrose track is beatless and just kinda drifts like bubbles in the air, slowly bursting and removing itself from our consciousness as quickly as it arrived. Still not a bad record to have around, I mean it definitely doesn’t suck, and it looks fantastic… I just doubt I’ll be reaching for it the next time I need either an experimental or techno fix.
Satanic Rockers Eviction / Rat Versus Boredom 7″ (Quemada)
“Satanic Rockers”? The hell? I knew I was in for some nonsense from the start, but had no idea it would be this damn good. “Eviction” is such a killer cut, the sort of song I’d hear about, lust after, finally listen to, then pay multiple dozens of dollars to own the original obscure 7″ single that holds it. But this single is new, widely available and moderately priced! “Eviction” sounds like one of the “weird” bands on a classic hardcore comp, like Cyanamid or Church Police, doing their best Bobby Soxx impression (on the musical end) but ending up more like something White Boy And The Average Rat Band would’ve written and scrapped at their first practice. B-side “Rat Versus Boredom” isn’t quite as good, but it’s also a demon of a different color, more on the DIY-stumble end of things, like if The Good Missionaries or Swell Maps accidentally considered themselves a heavy-metal band for a minute. Maybe I just wasn’t prepared to love this one and the shock hasn’t worn off yet, but damn, Satanic Rockers have truly rocked me. Let us hail them.
Swarm Born To Ruin / Santiago 7″ (De:Nihil)
Strange 7″ here from Swarm (the eighth Swarm on Discogs, and not to be confused with The Swarm, either). The cover art is kinda sharp, utilizing the center sticker design as part of the band’s logo (and it worked out perfectly!), toggling their caps lock whenever they damn-well please, and generally keeping it minimal. I guess no cover art would really properly explain “Born To Ruin” anyway – it sounds like Harvey Milk earnestly covering Rage Against The Machine, like if some big-time record producer came to Harvey Milk and was like “we’ll give you $25,000 to cover Rage for a car commercial, but the deal is off if there’s any laughing!”. I guess I like it, although I’d certainly rather listen to either of those other groups than Swarm. The b-side is similar, but with a stronger alt-rock leaning, like the band members are all bearded tattoo-artists who secretly listen to Radiohead and Foo Fighters when their roommates aren’t home. They’re not bad by any means, I’m just not sure that heavy, polished, grooving, post-grunge alternative music is for me, although I do find myself listening to The Crow soundtrack way more than any dude in his thirties should.
Tin Man Neo Neo Acid 2xLP (Absurd Recordings)
The Tin Man just keeps coming… all the delivery restaurants within a ten mile radius of his ice cave must know Mr. Johannes Auvinen well by now, as I can’t imagine he has taken many breaks from music production in the past year. Neo Neo Acid is an apt title for this new album, going back to his roots as a slick and sensuous acid-house producer, all unnerving vocals and chilly ambiance completely absent. The song titles provide a deeper look into Tin Man’s approach as well, with names like “Museum Of Acid”, “Futurist Acid” and “Manifesto Acid” acting more like labels you’d stick on test tubes in a lab than song titles. I dig his clinical approach to acid-house, as the music sounds wonderfully sterilized and sparkling, disrupted by nothing more than a small metal can filled with used latex gloves in the corner. Tin Man’s vocal tracks will forever be my absolute favorite, but if you’re wondering what Omar S might sound like after a Hollywood nip/tuck session, Neo Neo Acid comes pretty close.
TNGHT TNGHT 12″ (Warp / LuckyMe)
TNGHT is a collaboration between Hudson Mohawke (he’s okay) and Lunice (thought he was wack), so I’m not sure why I gave it a spin. Listener’s intuition, maybe? I am so glad I did, because TNGHT is an absolutely stunning EP of hardcore hip-hop instrumentals, more excitingly fresh and modern and moshable than anything I hear on the radio. Seriously, go right now and position your browser at a digital version of “Goooo” and tell me it’s not gonna be the cornerstone track of Tha Carter V if Lil Wayne becomes aware of the beat’s existence. Huge synthetic drums, perfectly tweaked arpeggios, crispy vocal salad, sharp hand claps… I guess the best beats have always come from random nerds, not actual hip-hop street thugs, but man have these guys put together a fantastic set of tunes. I nearly dislocated an elbow from fist-pumping so hard to “Goooo” the last time I listened, no joke. I just want this track to become my entrance music to life, like when I walk into an Autozone or Bank of America, I want this to blast over the PA system announcing my arrival. TNGHT has left me feeling impenetrable and grand and I can’t thank them enough.
Zyanose Noise Philia 2005-2011 LP (540)
I picked up a Zyanose 7″ a few years back and loved it (think there’s a punk cutting off his genitals with a chainsaw or something on the cover?), so this compilation of demo, single and compilation material was a much needed update – a refresher in maniacal noise-crust, if you will. I suppose you could put them in the whole Confuse / Disorder school of noise-core, but Noise Philia shows a much more eclectic group… they rage with ear-piercing treble like early Contrast Attitude on some tracks, pound out the standard Casualties pogo-punk on others, and toward the end of the b-side sound more like Harry Pussy than anything else. Some tracks follow the standard punk rock structure, while others seem to mimic that of an overloaded washing machine, and it’s this noise-punk smorgasbord that makes the LP collection such an engaging listen, ending on that ridiculous track that’s just the same descending progression for what seems like an eternal loop, the track that got me hooked on them years ago. It’s apparent that 540 Records won’t rest until they release something by every band to have ever played Chaos In Tejas, and I am down with their mission.