Wednesday, May 23, 2018

THESE ARE THE REVIEWS FOR MAY

Um, so 2018 has been awesome so far.  So much good music has come out already and it's not even halfway through the year.  I realize I had previously mentioned I was planning on slowing down the review stuff, but honestly there's a lot I want to write about and I think this might be the biggest batch this year so far.
But just writing up review stuff is not all that I aim to use this space for.  I assure you, within the next couple weeks there will be some awesome label news.  So just letting you all know to stay tuned.
In the meantime, check the stuff out here and get mesmerized at all the cool music happening now.


THE APPARITION ORCHESTRA, “Obsolete”
The duo of Bob Gorham (Blood Sun Circle, Engineer) and Jon Davis (Difficult, Night Owls, Another Breath) have worked together on a variety of projects, including Broken Spirit, that have often involved going off to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, getting tanked, and writing lonesome campfire songs that have the weight of 100 suns.  They probably also wrestle bears and survive off of eating coyotes who might get brave and wander within 200 yards of these guys, but that’s just speculation.  Who knows what really goes on out there in the woods.  So going into their latest collaboration I thought it might just be more of that, but under a different moniker.  However, while this music sounds sparse and lonesome most of the time it has a far more cinematic, movie score quality to it.  I don’t listen to heck of a lot of soundtracks, but if I had to make any sort of comparison it would be similar to the music that went a long with “There Will Be Blood”.  That’s the best I got.  Overall it’s quiet and disarming, the hint of something sinister going on deep underneath, and primarily instrumental, save for one track where they are shouting like some combination of a chain gang’s work song and an ancient ritual being conducted in a cave.  It’s weird and it’s pretty cool.  It’s certainly a departure from the music these guys usually create with their other bands.  (Drops Of Us)


COMING DOWN, EP
They released a demo a little while ago, got kind of quiet, and now have come back swinging with this excellent new EP of songs heavily informed by rocking punk in the style of Swiz, Seaweed, Give, with hints of post-punk melody akin to Echo and the Bunnymen or other late 80’s DC hardcore.  Rochester’s Coming Down is basically most of hometown stalwarts Like Wolves, but with vocalist Rory Van Grol (Achilles, Soul Control, Standfast, How We Are) handling the mic.  It makes for a good mix of excellent people making some exceptional music.  I can’t describe how much joy I feel knowing that long time friends and creative types continue to make great music in different permutations, it keeps this whole thing going round and round.  All six songs on this are quite wonderful, but I think my favorite track might be “Exhausted”, as it combines some great catchy riffs with a perfect amount of aggression and good sing-alongs- “Trying to understand, your point of view!”  And check out that great cover art- it looks like something that would have come out on Cruz Records or Sub Pop in 1991 meets Keith Haring subway tag. (Sore Ear Collective)


THE GLOOP, “The Tourist” CD
The Gloop consists of members of Rhin, another band championed via review on this site, and they pine a similar territory, albeit with a little less distortion and less thick riffs.  Both bands love the noise rock cesspool of filthy rock, however The Gloop aim a bit more in a Hot Snakes meets early Nirvana fashion, but weirder and faster.  I’m perfectly OK with this and welcome their wild clatter.  Eight songs fly right by and wrap up quicker than you can rip the sleeves off a flannel shirt.  A good soundtrack for the next time you have a hissy fit.  (GrimoireRecords)


GONER, “goner.” EP
From out of the blue comes this new Syracuse band that immediately sounds like they have their business together and are ready to straight up murder you.  I’m getting a fairly strong Cult Leader vibe here, except with way more blast beats.  So get in that frame of mind of very metallic hardcore with lots of noisy, off-kilter parts and furious blasting.  It’s a pretty damn good introduction that ought to melt your skin right off of your skull.  The track arrangement really makes you think there’s only three songs given “Momentary Clarity”s rather epic ending and then, oh shit, here’s another song!  Add some subtle noise parts as segues and other violent tendencies and you got yourself a heck of a demo.  (self-released)


HEADS, “Collider”
I feel like between this German groups first LP and this new one a big change happened, but maybe I’m wrong.  I feel like their older stuff may have been more upbeat and playing it a bit loose and somewhat rowdy.  However, “Collider” is more serious, a weighty tome rife with huge sounds and calculated execution.  Imagine the slow, deliberate lurch and morose heaviness of Young Widows on their “In and Out Of Youth and Lightness” LP mixed with the bright, shimmering post-hardcore rock of Shiner/The Life and Times.  It’s less chaotic than I thought it might be, but it’s a welcome listen for sure.  I’m really enjoying it, in particular the lead single “Urges”, the almost industrial guitar grating of “Mannequin”, and the unexpected (but very welcome) bluesy textures added by a saxophone at the close of the epic swell in the final track “Youth”.  I really enjoy what this band brings to the table.  It takes some patience for each song to unravel and build, but the payoff is worth it.  (Corpse Flower Records)


THE HIRS COLLECTIVE, “Friends, Lovers, Favorites”
I didn’t know too much about this band for a long time.  I’d heard their name thrown around a bit and knew they were well-known within the trans/punk/DIY community, but I had no idea what they sounded like.  I really was unprepared for how fucking vicious this sounds.  Although this record abounds with numerous guests (hence ‘collective’) it seems the bulk of the songs are performed by the vocalist, drummer, and a guitarist with a fuckton of amps and cabs belting out 30 second blasts of grind, powerviolence, and monstrous metallic breakdowns.  In that sense it’s sort of low-hanging fruit to lose your damn mind to.  On another level, I’m personally not used to bands identifying as trans to have an interest in creating music this pissed off.  The closest I’ve experienced is G.L.O.S.S. and they did not trifle with these sorts of metallic barrages against sanity.  This is straight up revenge sort of music, taking that feeling of disempowerment, insecurity, oppression, and helplessness and turning it all into blistering rage.  So yeah, not only does this record have about 20 new songs, it also includes the “You Can’t Kill Us” EP, and- savor this because I will likely never utter these words again- some remixes that are not half bad.  They actually come off as cool experiments that completely transform the song instead of just shuffle around bits and pieces with a techno backdrop.  So kudos on that.  Also, this is one fancy-ass looking record.  It’s worth your time (since it takes all of about 25 minutes to digest all 35 or so songs here.  (Get Better Records/ SRA Records)


THE HIRS COLLECTIVE/ THOU split 12”
There’s no information on this record whatsoever.  No band names, no release info, no song titles, no credits, not even anything on the center labels of the actual record.  It’s just Thou on one side and HIRS on the other doing a bunch of Nirvana covers.  And, naturally, doing them well.  At this point Thou have done kind of a lot of covers and I’m almost surprised that they haven’t repeated themselves on this collection.  But you get the best out of both bands and if you have enjoyed this stuff in the past there’s no reason not to enjoy it now.  While there is no information anywhere on this record the cover art does allude to what’s in store, kind of (a heart-shaped box?).  I’m going to guess not many of these were made and they’re probably going to be rather difficult to find?  (Get Better Records)
 

QUICKSAND, “Triptych Continuum”
Record Store Day, in the last few years, is usually a rather dull affair with diminishing returns.  However, the idea of Quicksand dropping a 12” of B-sides from their most recent LP as a RSD release is reason enough to deal with the crowds. Fortunately, this year I found a store with no dumb lines and more than enough copies to go around.  Opening track “Multiverse” is a great addition to the new stuff and would have fit nicely on “Interiors”.  It’s got a great main riff and a great melodic chorus, like any good Quicksand song.  Then you get a quick little interlude, and the last track “Spoken Through Clouds”.  That song I can see why they left off the LP, because while it’s mostly enjoyable it sort of lacks a cohesive structure and then just sort of ends abruptly.  Bonus fun:  the B-side of this 12” is etched with a cool design.  Quicksand completists take note.  (Epitaph)
 

RED HARE, “Little Acts Of Destruction”
I’ve been waiting for this.  Ever since this group released their first LP my immediate reaction was, ‘when do I get more?’  As I grow older I become more enamored with musicians and bands that are older than I am who can continually conjure creativity in an exhilarating and refreshing way, and not phoning it in, because I hope to also be able to be at least a tenth as creative in my own way when I reach their age.  The people in Red Hare do just that.  Jason Farrell is seemingly an endless wellspring of incredible riffs and melodies.  Drummer Joe Gorelick compliments his playing perfectly, maybe a little less gonzo/off-the-rails than he was on the first LP, but equally as powerful and inventive.  Vocalist Shawn Brown continues to have commanding presence and I feel many of these songs contain some of the strongest, most poignant and well thought-out lyrics he has written.  Bassist Dave Eight completes the Swiz/Sweetbelly Freakdown triad, which most of Red Hare is culled from, with his lean delivery.  All these characters have spent a long time playing together and are completely tuned into one another to create a very distinctive style that combines the best of Revolution Summer-era DC hardcore, and the more rock n’ roll upbeat energy of 90’s Dischord bands.  But comparisons are mostly useless because eventually references primarily lead back to the band members.  No one plays quite like Jason Farrell.  No one sings like Shawn Brown.  It’s been a few years since “Nites Of Midnite”, which only gave listeners 8 songs.  This is a solid 14 tracks, none of which feel dull, or just shoehorning in to make for a longer record.  It all feels vital and welcome, from the aggressive thrust of “Edit the Family” to the bass-driven drive of “Foley Artist”, the stop-start stutter rapid delivery of the title track, to the super catchy feel-good nostalgia trip of “Take a Walk”.  Red Hare really nailed it once again and I couldn’t be happier.  (Dischord/Hellfire)


YOUNG WIDOWS, “Decayed:  10 Years Of Cities, Wounds, Lightness, and Pain”
Just to be clear, this is not a new Young Widows LP in the direct sense (however, just putting this out there to the band- PLEASE MAKE A NEW LP).  It’s a collection of all their singles, B-sides, and assorted ephemera they have released in their existence as a band that did not make it onto any of their official full lengths.  Since I fucking love this band I already have pretty much all of this stuff.  The songs from the five various split 7”s they did are all on here, as well as a couple stand-alone singles and comp appearances make it on to the record.  Finally, there are several songs that never made it onto anything else, so with that you get around 4 never-released-elsewhere songs.  That should probably be worth the price of admission alone if the very excellent cover art doesn’t get you first.  Again, while I have most of this material on other formats already I would still recommend this to fans of the band because some of these B-sides are very strong material for the band.  “Long Live the New Weight” might be one of my personal favorites from the band, as it is the most brooding, mysterious, and interesting songs the band has done.  I’m surprised it never went onto an official full length.  Also, the original recording of “Swamped and Agitated” is quite wonderful as well, since once again, it is one of the best songs the band ever wrote and what’s better than one version of a great song (it’s ‘two’, that’s the answer).  So, yes, this is for completist nerds.  But I think it’s also great to pick up if you’re a casual fan of the group as well.  (Temporary Residence) 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

REVIEWS FOR APRIL!

"Back, caught you looking for the same thing, it's a new thing- check out this I bring"  No, it's not a Public Enemy song, it's a handful of some excellent new records springing forth in this most excellent of Springs!  Contained within are some returns from veteran acts, as well as a few new bucks.  I have to constantly check myself to ensure that I do not simply cater to bands from my youth making their unwelcome comebacks, but give a positive nod to the endless sea of new music making the rounds as well.  I am constantly checking out new music so I feel like I'm good.  And I think, all fanboy gushing aside, that some bands that I have enjoyed for the last 15-25 years are still making (or returning to making) worthwhile contributions to music on the whole.  So with that being said, here's what's up:

BREEDERS, THE, “All Nerve”
I have missed out on the other Breeders reunion records that have been released in the last few years for whatever reason.  I have no good excuse for this.  However, this record here is the first to feature the complete lineup from the fan-favorite “Last Splash”, so I was expecting good things.  At first I was thinking it would be an upbeat burst of catchy indie rock with a playful aggressiveness based off the first single “Wait In the Car”, as well as my preconceived notions of what a “Last Splash” lineup would produce.  But “All Nerve” is mostly a breezy and lackadaisical affair, complete with the Deal sisters particular style of songwriting- soothing vocals, strangely melodic riffs that sound like what I imagine smoking a bit too much dope and having a pretty good buzz going from a few too many cans out of the 12 pack feels like.  At first listen was lukewarm to it.  But after a couple more spins it really revealed itself to me as a pretty excellent record.  “Spacewoman” meanders through hazy weekends of the summer, not having a care in the world, sleepy yet full of vigor.  “Walking With a Killer” has all the subtlety and soft melody of a Roy Orbison song, yet the lyrics hint at a sinister tension (and scary subject matter) that transform it into a song you feel guilty for humming along to.  “Blues At the Acropolis” is another excellent Breeders closing track, slow and steady, kind of epic in a not-trying-to-be-epic sort of way.  But there are the upbeat songs too, like the aforementioned “Wait In the Car”, as well as “Archangel’s Thunderbird”, a cover by 70’s Krautrock group Amon Duul.  The original sounds so much like a Breeders song it makes sense for them to do it in their own way, infusing it’s own psychedelic/slacker/grunge bit amongst the reverb-y vocals.  Honestly, I had no idea it was a cover and immediately thought of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump In the Fire” (just look up the “Goodfellas” soundtrack) as a point of reference for the song.  OK, enough obscure sub-referencing.  It’s a Breeders record.  It’s fuggin’ good.  Get it and enjoy a little slice of off-beat heaven.  (4AD)



HOT SNAKES, “Jericho Sirens”
As a creative type of person that I am I am completely envious of people such as John Reis and Rick Froberg, who both seem to be an endless well of ideas, art, and songs that are so plentiful in scope and are always quality.  How many albums did Rocket From the Crypt release?  How influential are those two Jehu records?  How perfectly simple, yet totally rocking, were those three Obits LPs?  Let’s not even mention the plethora of side projects and one-offs Reis has spat out in the last 20 years.  And now, over 10 years since the last Hot Snakes record, comes their fourth long player and it’s some of the best material they have ever done.  I’d say, on the whole, it feels a bit more aggressive than previous output, but that garage punk rock n’ roll they do so well is in full effect and recorded in such a way that adds an extra whallop to the 10 new songs they have blessed us with.  It’s at once kind of dark and mean, and also a fun blitzkrieg of a ride through the respective members brains.  It’s a pretty damn near perfect record from a band that I’m very happy to see active once again.  The only thing missing is the trademark art of Rick Froberg, but I’ll settle for a bitchin’ reflective cover featuring a photo of bassist Gar Wood catching a killer wave.  (Sub Pop)



MONOLITH, “Two Wolves”
While I guarantee that there has got to be at least three other bands currently existing with the name Monolith (their bandcamp address is ‘monolith8’, just FYI), who likely play, as one might expect, glacially slow and heavy sludgy doom I’ll give this one- located in the Ithaca, NY region- points for doing what they do considerably well.  Yes, they cover that Neurosis/Isis style of heavy that has been done so many times by so many bands, and I really thought that whole thing was kind of done with at least 6 or 7 years ago.  But hey (upstate) Monolith carries the torch without concern for who is doing what, where, or with the same name.  They are all exceptional musicians and remind me more of Isis, circa “Mosquito Control”/”Red Sea” more than anything with their relentless crush and bleak, abrasive sledgehammering of sludge.  The band started as the studio project of one of the members, but grew into a full band and this is their first output with all members contributing.  Hats off to them committing to their method of destruction, regardless of trends. (self-released)



NULL/ HUSBAND STITCH split 7”
This came out a bit ago, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t show it some love.  Once again, the Birmigham, AL posse in Null brings forth that sort of meditative, yet thunderously massive sound they have been chipping away at as it becomes this masterpiece of sonic perfection.  Their side of this split contains a single, seven minute song, “Pedestrian”, that works in their brand of repetitious mantra and accompanying sung vocals.  It continues what the band has been doing so well thus far, and I look forward to anything and everything they do going forth.
The B-side is Nashville’s Husband Stitch, the meaning behind the name being quite uncomfortable and I’ll leave it to you to look up on your own.  They offer two songs, both quite incredible in their own right, yet pretty far removed from their 7” partners.  “Snowflake” reminds me of newer noiseniks like Plaque Marks with a slight garage-y feel.  “Sincere Ignorance” could be a B-side from Jesus Lizard “Down”, with it’s driving bass, hopping drum beat, and sharp guitar jabbings.  Add to it snarky/pissy vocals last seen exiting an L7 record back in 1993, and I mean that as a good thing.  Two different bands, both making exquisite racket.  (WarCrimes Records)



WILL HAVEN, “Muerte”
I have always been a pretty big Will Haven fan.  They have been around for a good 20 years and have turned out a handful of great albums full of Fudge Tunnel-meets-Neurosis, wrapped in a shiny Deftones gloss.  I’m not sure how anyone who has never heard this band may take that, but that’s what I’m picking up with what this band has excelled at for ages.  However, most of their records are kind of same-y to me, with the exception of “Carpe Diem”.  For whatever reason, that one will always stand out to me as the best.  I will listen to it on repeat over and over again and never get sick of it.  It’s a fucking incredible record and it sits in the middle of their catalog, but I keep coming back to it some 18 or so years later.  So on “Muerte”, which the band has hinted at as being perhaps their final endeavor there is one thing that has changed with this group and that is how they have progressively made their songs slower, sludgier, uglier, and taking their time.  Sure, they have pretty much always kept songs at a moderate pace (with a few exceptionally upbeat songs scattered over the years), melding their sludgy tendencies with heavy rhythms and groove.  But that Neurosis ethic has appeared to have more of a hold on their sound these days as the band will make you wait.  They’re taking their time damnit because they can.  They’ve been at this 20 years, they can do whatever they feel like.  So I guess best to go out in their own terms right?  This is not a bad way.  (Minus Head Records)




WRONG, “Feel Great”
To me, one of the most exciting recent bands these days is Wrong.  I mean, they appeal to most things I enjoy in heavy music- insane live energy, clever dynamics, gross amounts of feedback and distortion, and yeah, they absolutely love Helmet.  Some people dislike this band for how closely they resemble Helmet, but I’m all for it because they do it so damn well.  However, for those who are of the ‘dislike’ camp I’d encourage them to give this band’s second long player a try.  The guys in Wrong started out in another band that was extremely technical and those roots are a bit more apparent on “Feel Great” where they are throwing out some intricate changes, stop-on-a-dime transitions, and some unexpected melody to go with their iron slab riffs of musical demolition.  And for us lovers of things 90’s-era, Wrong still hit the spot.  These are clearly musicians who can pretty much play anything they set their minds to, and what it seems they are getting a better handle on (at least in a few songs here) is the best trick that Helmet had in their canon- making very complicated songs sound simple; the easy riff driven by a semi-elusive 5/6 beat, the stop-start timing…  Wrong pulls it off on the menacingly slow title track and then right after that the jump-start melodic (and very cleverly written) catchiness of “Upgrade”.  They’re two totally different songs, but are the best on the entire record.  They also mess around with some studio tricks with the strange two minutes of feedback closing out “Zero Cool”, as well the clanging drum parade opening and closing “Anaerobic”.  It certainly feels that Wrong are stretching their wings a little bit here and coming into their own as well.  They really can do no…  ah shit, caught myself in a cliche’.  (Relapse)







Sunday, April 8, 2018

SHOWS! BLEAK, DIALYSIS, PSYCHIC TEENS

It's been a quiet Winter around here, and elsewhere....  but things are starting to happen, as is common with Spring!
Some bands we don't hear from all that often are going to be playing shows after a long absence!
First off, the fellas in BLEAK will be playing their first show in over a year as a benefit for a local Syracuse friend.  BLEAK went on hiatus after their guitarist TJ had some seemingly insurmountable health issues.  Good news is he has mostly recovered, which is great news!  So maybe we will see them play out every now and again?  One can only hope.  At least for now we get a show out of them on April 15th in Syracuse.
Check the link for info:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1900257786952677/

Next, I will be making a visit back to Syracuse at the end of April and while there I'll be doing a show with DIALYSIS!  It will be our first show in 6 months and ought to be chock full of ridiculousness, furious grinding, and all-out hijinks...  or three sad old men farting our way through 'songs'.  You decide on April 29th.  Info below:
https://www.facebook.com/events/231004040794896/

Finally, the dudes in PSYCHIC TEENS have not been playing as often as they put some focus into their alter-ego band Ex-Maid (which is pretty dang good if you ask me).  But they will reconvene as the gloomy force of nature known as Psychic Teens when they play this banger of a lineup in Philly on April 29th:
https://www.facebook.com/events/429406677488077/

More news on fun things to come.  Also, Portland is great thus far.  I highly recommend visiting if you've never been.

Monday, February 26, 2018

FIRST BATCH OF REVIEWS FOR THE YEAR!

Oh, is it 2018 already?  Oh, it's already nearly March you say?  No kidding.  How about that.  For all three of you who are avid readers of this stuff you will notice I have not added anything since late December.  It's not like I've been one bit lazy (however, I did consider the thought of just not doing reviews anymore).  I have been getting settled in my new home in Portland, OR, getting acquainted with a new job that takes a good deal of time, eating waaaay too much awesome vegan food, seeing an endless stream of awesome bands as they pass through town, and learning how to do letterpressing (if you check the Hex webstore you'll currently see three separate poster projects that I am selling HERE ).  And, as always, working to get the records from the label out to anyone who wants them.  So your boy keeps active, OK?
However, the year is already ripe with great music and it's not even Spring yet.
ALSO, now that I'm, like, a full-on resident out here, I thought it would be apt to feature a couple local bands who just released great new records and get out-of-towners interested in them.
Finally, I'm trying a new feature with these reviews by adding a song from each record reviewed so you can listen and read at the same time!  I know, super futuristic.  Give it a try.

BUGG, s/t
I’m completely aware that it’s a big trend for musicians and bands to recall 90’s music in various forms these days. And since my formative teenage years were spent within that decade, absorbing incredible sounds in my highly impressionable mind that formed a large part of the foundation that makes up my personal musical landscape, I have no problem with current bands doing their best to rehash that era.  Incredibly, many new bands have done a pretty good job of it, and Bugg is one of them.  Seemingly the project of primarily one songwriter Bugg kind of has a sort of Breeders feel (maybe it’s because their logo looks just like theirs), mixed with a sort of simplified and bouncy Dinosaur Jr vibe (minus the soaring guitar solos).  At times it ventures off into some Alternative Nation territory (yes, my age is showing) that was even somewhat embarrassing to listen to when it was new.  However, when Bugg are on the more aggressive side of their game it’s pretty excellent.  (PopWig)



GOVERNESS, s/t
I feel like the collective umbrella of Pygmy Lush extends into about a thousand other bands and projects and making any attempt to try and figure them all out is an exercise in futility.  One such offshoot of that group is Governess, which has a sort of middle-of-the-road upbeat indie feel for the most part.  It’s nothing that blows my hair back, but does at times have parts that remind me of the more mid-tempo bits of Pygmy Lush, as well as a little of Creepoid too.  There’s a touch of ethereal soothing haze to their sound, which is often broken up by the more straightforward parts.  I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to describe this further because it lacks distinction to set it apart.  It neither offends or inspires, it just kind of is what it is.  The ultra-plain simplistic cover art doesn’t help.  It’s music you could listen to if you want, ya know?  (Radical Empathy/ One Percent Press)




IRON REAGAN/ GATECREEPER split 12”
In their relatively short time as a band Iron Reagan has had quite a prolific output, and to be completely honest, this is the first time I’ve really given them a thorough listen.  And to be 110% honest, I’m hard pressed to really see a big difference between this and Municipal Waste.  OK, so the Waste has more ripping guitar solos and IR tends to be a little more on the ‘keep it fast and simple, stupid’ end of hardcore.  But where an unbridled love for thrash runs through each members DNA it’s difficult to get away from that which ultimately defines them as people.  Not like that’s a bad thing.  IR do what they do well and you’re already circle-pitting like a maniac and not even reading. Five songs on their side and…  quit shoving asshole, I just came to watch, OK?  Gatecreeper are (gets punched in the face), ow…  fuck…  a more traditional death metal band that (gets foot stomped on, beer poured on my back), also seems to be getting the masses riled up lately…  SHIT! With a sound that is nothing new, but done with the idea of paying homage to the greats and (smelly unwashed hair gets whipped in my face)…  gross… and implores the crowd to mosh, and…  fuck, does anyone in this place own a t-shirt that isn’t black?!  OK, I’m moving to the back. Three rippers on their end to complete this split. (Relapse)



MARRIAGE + CANCER,  s/t
They have kind of an odd name, but the goods delivered by this Portland-area band on their first full length are nothing short of gold.  Imagine the raspy vocals of Nirvana at their most somber set against some fever dream mash up of The Jesus Lizard, Unwound, and Drive Like Jehu in some strange kind of bummer mode.  I’m definitely hooked.  Getting an exact read on this band is difficult though as their songwriting process flows in a pretty strange sort of way.  There’s an occasional hook (the bass shot that opens this whole record is pretty memorable), but songs feel like they’re built more around peculiar guitar stabs, the hoarse nature of the vocals, and ebb and flow between aggressive and strange.  It’s a record that is immediately satisfying upon first listen, but you don’t know why really.  It’s going to take a few more listens at least to really unwrap how good this record is.  It’s also the band’s debut and one of the more interesting listens I’m sure I’ll be revisiting a lot this year.  (Self-Sabotage Records)




SHAME, “Songs Of Praise”
Man, people in England are just miserable, aren’t they?  Years ago, when I visited there everyone was so damn polite.  I imagine they’re just hiding all their gloominess under a cordial veneer.  London’s Shame are one such band of cheery-looking young lads who are just full of spite.  They blend the brightest and catchiest aspects of excellent post-punk and doses of Brit-pop and add snarky, shouted vocals on top of it to make for a hell of an excellent debut record.  At times repetitive and catchy like Gang Of 4, at times bluesy, sleazy, and sinister like The Fall, and at other times just wildly catchy and anthemic in the way that The Clash were able to conjure.  It’s kind of a nice mix of all those elements, which makes for music that doesn’t take a college degree to get into, but is also simply a product of great songwriting and a healthy dose of angst.  Also, if you happen to get the opportunity to see them live you must do it, as it’s one of the wildest times you will experience.  (Dead Oceans)




TURNSTILE, “Time and Space”
There’s a real conundrum at work here because Turnstile are a band associated with being really huge amongst a much younger crowd.  And there is that saying about ‘never trust anyone over 30’.  Well, I’m 40 years old and I fully endorse the shit out of this band.  So either this band has jumped the shark because old farts like me are all over this, or I’m just apparently hip to what’s cool these days.  Where is the truth?!  All that aside, there is no denying the massive amount of energy this band has, and how wild they can get live.  Everyone can agree on that.  Not everyone is pleased with the stylistic shift they have undergone from Madball clones to something else.  That couldn’t be more obvious on “Time and Space”, where they are making every attempt to keep that catchy and raw, live energy, but try out all sorts of other things.  The album starts off with “Real Thing”, an excellent opener if I’ve ever heard one that works around a grooving post-hardcore rhythm and ends up as a solid anthem.  Most of the other songs go fast, yet still somehow retain that groove.  I’ve started comparing this group to a modern day Bad Brains and I fully stand by it (even the re-recording of “Come Back For More” adds the sort of cowbell thing in the same fashion as “Pay To Cum”).  But you will hear them adding elements like a piano part in “High Pressure” that Andrew W.K. would be proud of, some mid-90’s breakdown and vocals on “Can’t Get Away” that sound like they were culled straight from some lost Snapcase record, and some more melodic vocals taking center stage in “Moon” (also featuring back ups by Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay).  Don’t get too flustered though, those seeking the slow heavy parts will find them scattered at various points on the record without feeling like they were shoehorned in just to appease long time admirers.  To me, this is one of the most exciting bands flying the hardcore banner.  It’s fun, there is boundless energy, and they keep it fresh.  I say good on them, I wish them the best.  Now, leave me be so I can go back to yelling at kids to stay off my lawn.  (Roadrunner)



UNWELCOME GUESTS, “Anything You Want”
Buffalo stalwarts who have been a local fixture for a number of years now release their latest LP, again full of made-for-Gainesville Fest rockers, heavy on the grown-up rock, with some slight nods to punk and The Replacements.  I wasn’t aware that they were still a band, but then again I’m not too in the loop of local Buffalo indie bands.  There’s nothing totally mind-blowing going on here, but these are rock lifers playing earnest music and there’s no shame in that.  This comes with a very nice insert/poster, as in, some quality control went into making this.  (Dirt CultRecords)





WINDHAND/ SATAN’S SATYRS split LP
While I am a fan of Windhand I feel like they’re writing the same song over and over.  I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way because it’s a good song, but sometimes a little variety goes a long way.  This opening track on their side of this split is strongly reminiscent of the opening on their debut full length, which was amazing.  Their next LP sort of missed the mark though in my opinion, so it’s nice to see them getting their groove back on this split, even if it does sound a little too close to their debut.  Nonetheless, expect quality doomy sludge with more than a hint of Sabbath and Electric Wizard and excellent, soaring vocals.  Satan’s Satyrs (who share members with Electric Wizard) are more upbeat on their side of this split with straight up 70’s biker rock, though I’ll say the recording doesn’t quite lend itself to that sleazy analog feel that goes well with the sort of evil rock n’ roll their aiming for.  A little work to nail it down is in order.  I’ll take this split for the Windhand side.  (Relapse)




YEAR OF THE COYOTE, “Siege”
Local Portland trio Year Of the Coyote unveils their first full length and it is rife with an uncompromising onslaught of non-stop grinding heaviness.  My first thought was that it has qualities similar to Coalesce’s “Give Them Rope” in that it never gives you a chance to catch your breath, it’s just relentless and suffocating in it’s audio density.  However, a couple more listens and it definitely recalls my hometown brethren in Engineer, in particular their early material.  The vocals have that consistent guttural scream and the avalanche of riffs that the defunct Syracuse wrecking crew were known for are front and center here, whether this band is aware of that or not.  Nevertheless, in a town that sort of typifies that laid-back Northwest attitude there is a band fully attempting to significantly harsh your mellow and I’m alright with that.  (self-released)


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

END OF THE YEAR 2017

What a year it's been.  Blink and it's gone.  Some part tragedy, some part fun, some very big changes, some milestones hit, and a bunch of great records and shows.  I got nothing else to impart other than hoping for an excellent 2018 and hopefully releasing some new records into the void.
Here's what did it for me in 2017:

Favorite records, in no particular order, except for #1

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10.) QUICKSAND, “Interiors”
Lots of hot takes on this one from frumpy old hardcore dudes.  Let’s just take a few universal laws into account though:  Walter is one of the greatest songwriters in American music, Alan Cage is an incredible drummer, Sergio Vega has an amazing bass tone and sense of rhythm, and all these factors put together create the unique chemistry that is Quicksand.  It’s what 22 years of living after your last record results in when you’ve grown as human beings.  It’s not “Slip” because that’s my favorite record ever and I’m not 16 anymore.  It’s “Interiors” and it’s a highly enjoyable record for a fan who is now 40.

9.) UNSANE, “Sterilize”

Old reliable.  They never made a bad record.  Consistent to a fault.  You know exactly what you’re getting and it’s ALWAYS sonic devastation crafted well, made by guys living rough lives and somehow still alive to tell you about it in the loudest way possible.


8.) METZ, “Strange Peace”
Their weird, jittery, and erratic punk pushes the boundaries of what one can do with two notes in the space of a song on their third album.  The Canadian riff dojo where Nirvana, The Wipers, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, and the Ramones all meet.






7.) CLOAKROOM, “Time Well”

It’s a bit of a grower.  But then, if you played your riffs this slow you would probably need some time to digest it all as well.  Taking some chances here with trying some psychedelic passages to go with their mountainous riff avalanche Cloakroom succeeds with a recording that is not only more pleasing to the ears in terms of production, but a nice step forward in their self-described ‘slow-core’ sound that is parts stoner rock, shoegaze, and enormous distortion.

6.) OPEN CITY, s/t
Philly punks keep it low key with adult lives, small and sporadic shows, and downplay the ‘supergroup’ tag as much as they can.  But the sum of their parts create radical, uplifting songs in the tradition of the bands they each were culled from (Lifetime, Paint It Black, Bridge and Tunnel, etc).  Short, sweet, to the point rockers with an incredible message




5.) OUT OF BODY, “Voiceless”

It’s like the feel-good post-hardcore record of the year, ya know?  Cobble together all that Failure, Quicksand, Shift, and Hum love and toss out a record’s worth of bouncy, melodic, and big-sounding rock jams.  There’s no re-invention of the wheel here, nothing ground-breaking, but it’s a certain style of hardcore done right.  It’s an easy, fun, and engaging listen.

4.) PISSED JEANS, “Why Love Now?”
I was ready to call it a day with these noise rock titans after the last LP was a bit lackluster.  But they spring back to form with some interesting choices for production and guests, and unleash another great record full of sloppy, pulverizing riffs, feedback, guttural shouting, snarky humor, and one of the wildest tracks of the year- “I’m a Man”.  Oh, and how awesome is the mid-life-crisis drudgery of “Waiting On My Horrible Warning”?



3.) BUMMER/ PINKO split 12”

Two very promising newer bands team up under a ‘noise rock’ umbrella to each give their take on it and I like where it’s heading.  Bummer relies on quick and burly headbanging riffs with plenty of feedback, and it’s real catchy.  Pinko smash their Refused riffs with spazzy, frenetic hardcore (I suppose people would term it ‘skramz’…  fuck, I hate even typing that), deft attention to intricate changes, and vocals that sound like Guy Piccioto (Fugazi) at his most frantic.

2.) TED LEO, “The Hanged Man”
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a Ted Leo album.  The man has been through a lot.  It shows on this record.  It’s a wealth of emotions spread across his patented mod punk/power pop landscape with all the brilliant lyrics, heartwrenching subject matter, and ‘fuck yeah’ sing-a-longs you would expect.  Well, there’s also a good dose of saxophone and piano on here too.  Don’t be afraid, it’s an incredible record.  


1.)  PILE, “Hairshirt Of Purpose”
I didn’t think I’d like this very much.  It’s slower, more reserved than previous material, and more contemplative.  But after awhile the songs wormed their way into my skull and haven’t left all year.  Rick McGuire is one of the most creative songwriters I’ve come across in a long time and with the weird chemistry that the rest of Pile add to these brilliant songs it makes for one hell of an amazing listen.  It’s two of the most attention-demanding slow songs- “Leaning On a Wheel” and “Dogs”- that come off as the best ones on the record.  Five albums in and they’re dropping their best record yet.


FAVORITE SHOWS:

BEAUTY PILL w/ ARTO LINDSAY, NYC Bell House, 4.28.17
I’ve been waiting to see a band Chad Clark fronts for at least 15 years, if not longer.  Beauty Pill are an astounding, very unique band in a category all their own.  However, having zero familiarity with headliner Arto Lindsay I guess I see where Beauty Pill got some of their inspiration.  As a surprise, the guy had fuckin’ Melvin Gibbs (ex- Rollins Band) in his group!

CHERUBS @ St Vitus, NYC 4.29.17
Who would have thought this obscure, long-dormant Texas noise rock trio would ever record again, let alone play shows?  I wouldn’t have expected it.  But fuck it, they invaded NYC and played a sold out show that was super fun, incredibly loud, and a near-perfect execution of their swirling, massive sound.

PILE w/ GNARWHAL @ Bug Jar, Rochester 5.15.17 (?)
I spent Mothers Day chilling with my mom.  I spent the night in Rochester witnessing Pile play most of the stuff from their incredible new LP and tearing the place down.  Gnarwhal opened, another band I had wanted to see for some time, do their thing, completely shredding bizarre tuneage and impossible fretboard gymnastics.


TED LEO @ Crocodile, Seattle 11.7.17
The man killed it onstage for two hours, nary a week after I landed in my new place in the Pacific Northwest.  The range of emotions that night went from sheer joy dancing wildly to “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone” and “Run To the City”, to contemplative attention during “Nazarene”, to actually crying a little when he played “Let’s Stay On the Moon”, and back to transcendent joy shouting along to every word in “Biomusicology”.  The world needs Ted Leo.


BAD COPS, GRIZZLOR, DIALYSIS, DIFFICULT @WCC, Syracuse 8.17.17
A bittersweet show for me, as it was essentially the last show I booked in my hometown before moving.  Thankfully it was with long time friends, some of which hadn’t played together in many years.  I was really happy to play a raging set with my own band, and close a door on a 20 year long chapter of my life.

QUICKSAND @ Warsaw, NYC 10.1.17
I was a bit skeptical of my favorite band ever playing with only ¾ of their lineup, but they proved to pull it off with aplomb and double the energy.  It definitely helped with it being a hometown show for them, and being surrounded by a bunch of dear friends to sing a long to the songs with.  Nothing will quite compare to seeing Quicksand play a tiny after-show in a 150-cap room a couple years back, but this was pretty damn good too.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

JUST A FEW MORE REVIEWS BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR

I was considering just writing up my end of the year list, but a few things came my way that I really wanted to write something up about before that, and then a few more things, and well...  here we are, with a pile of records that have some real black and white theme going on for the most part.  Anyway, in the mad dash of everyone's holiday bullshit please consider not purchasing gifts for other people, be greedy, and get some of these items listed here for yourself.

BUG, “Calamitas”
There is such a thing as Austrian noise rock and apparently Bug has been doing it for 20 years.  And this is apparently their 8th record.  So how about that, huh?  I have approximately zippo to go on if this holds up to any of their previous stuff, so I’ll just get to it and dissect this as best I can.  Alright, so this group apparently wrote this record as a concept based around an Italian prime minister and all sorts of other tangentially related stuff.  I can’t make out what they’re saying, but the vocals are slurred and growling, like they’re at one speed and the music is another, kind of Harvey Milk-ish.  Musically it’s all over the map.  There’s wide swaths of Unsane-style meaty rock, more experimental and weird pedal-heavy parts reminiscent of USA Nails, some epic math-y sections recalling Breather Resist at their best, and even some areas that dabble in black metal-s speedy onslaught.  Like I said, it’s a mixed bag, sometimes within the same song.  It’s a bit of a detriment because it causes the band to lose a sense of consistency.  However, the overall result is generally enjoyable because it’s a lot of neat things coming together that don’t always meet up.  (InterstellarRecords)

EFFECTS, THE, “Eyes To the Light”
Devin Ocampo is one of the most recognizable musicians to emerge from the ever-vibrant DC scene in the last 20 years.  From his start with art-rock masterminds Smart Went Crazy (where he played more second fiddle) to branching out more on his own with Faraquet and then Medications his distinctive wide-ranging vocals and peculiar style of math-y, complex yet insanely melodic and catchy guitar work is instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever paid any sort of attention to any of his bands.  Now, with The Effects he sets off on another project on their first official full length (they have released a series of EPs so far) and it follows suit with much of the other work Ocampo is known for.  If there is any noticeable difference I’d say that with the Effects the drumming tends to be a bit more reigned in and straightforward, giving the guitars a lot of space to take center stage.  In previous outfits his leads were often competing with the other instruments, which were just as intricate, complex, bewildering and jaw-dropping.  Additionally, The Effects feels slightly more like a traditional rock band in places, where an occasional big rock part meets bits and pieces of XTC or early 80’s Genesis worship, butted up against the signature style of the main fellow I’ve spent most of this review verbally jocking.  So yeah, if you’re still a fan of what Dischord continues to release (and why wouldn’t you be?) this is definitely one of the better records released by them in the last few years.  (Dischord)

KINDLING, “Hush”
Eastern Massachusetts Kindling has been pretty damn consistent throughout their discography, which is pretty sizeable when compared with how long they have been a band.  Anyway, their formula is a good one:  giant distortion and ethereal vocals with a punk beat.  My Bloody Valentine, as filtered through countless basement shows, and always on 11.  They even have a consistent design aesthetic flowing through all their record artwork.  I really liked it all.  So on “Hush”, their newest LP, things are a bit different and it’s been a bit hard for me to digest.  I mean, yeah, they’re still using huge distortion and the vocals are as atmospheric and dreamy as ever.  But it’s a different (more boring) looking record.  They have expanded their songwriting palette, which definitely shows some growth on their part by including bits of synth, mellotron, and even sitar.  The recording is more polished and professional sounding and again, I’m a bit on the fence there because I really enjoyed the massive fuzz on their previous output.  But after a number of listens this is finally growing on me and I can sit back and enjoy it as a whole for what the band has accomplished in terms of growth.  (6131)

“LIARTOWN The First Four Years”, by Sean Tejaratchi
Anyone who knows me knows I dabble in design and have been making flyers for punk shows for over 20 years.  And people often ask, ‘where do you come up with this stuff?’ and my answer has more often than not been ‘Craphound’.  It’s an 8-volume zine dumping ground of every odd assortment of weird and obscure clip art one could hope to find to fill all those graphic design holes you never knew existed.  It’s essentially my design bible.  Well, the man behind it all is one Sean Tejaratchi, and for the last four years he has been the man behind a site called Liartown USA, which is his digital dumping ground for all the bizarre ideas floating around in his head that he makes reality…  sorta.  He focuses his design on creating fake advertisement for billboards, 70’s chapbooks, TV shows that never happened, magazine covers, business cards, products, catalogs, you name it, and he makes it look believable.  And all that stuff has been collected into one gigantic book filled with literally thousands of hare-brained ideas and fake stuff.  Need a calendar of Shitty Lighthouses?  He made it.  Billboards for “Pillows:  Houston’s First Pansexual Fuckspace”.  Done.  Book covers for Hardy Boys mysteries that never actually happened, including (but not limited to), “The Hardy Boys Lose Their Shit”.  Theres several.  Multiple pages of fake dialogue Ice-T ‘said’ on “Law and Order”?  It’s there and I currently can’t breathe because I’m laughing too hard.  I can’t comprehend why this guy spends a massive amount of time designing things long since forgotten, thrown away, or never useful in real life to make his fake stuff look incredibly believable, but I’m incredibly happy that he did.  (Feral House)

OPEN CITY, “City Of Ash” 7”
I believe the two songs that make up this 7” are culled from the same recording session as this Philly group’s stellar debut full length from earlier this year.  However, I can see why they were left off the LP.  They don’t quite fit with the overall character and feel of that record.  These two tracks are a bit longer (I use that in a loose sense of the word) and slower (again, ‘loose’) than the rest of their material.  The title track fits more with the LP with its catchy melodies and overall upbeat feel.  “A Condition Worth a Mention” is the second track and it is way slower, way harsher, and definitely out of character with everything else this band has done.  There is a 7” version of these tracks, but it’s pretty pricey.  However, it’s Open City and they rule, so my suggestion is go to the bandcamp and plop down a few bucks to keep up with what is going on with this group.  (Open City)

SECT, “No Cure For Death”
I’m not even sure if I can classify this as a hardcore record.  On the vegan straight edge old man’s supergroup round two (and, I might add, a pretty quick follow-up to their debut last year) they go even deeper into grind, powerviolence, and death metal displays of HM-2 worship, a la Entombed, Trap Them, Dismember, All Pigs Must Die, and groups of that ilk.  I’m totally OK with that.  Additionally, I’m not sure if you can classify this as a ‘full length’ either because the entire record is over in all of about 17 minutes.  There is some part groove and a lot of parts blast beats, where most songs struggle to hit the minute-and-a-half mark.  But within those short blasts the band manages to cram in a whole lot to think about including missives on voting with your dollar (so to speak), our current political state of affairs, and the dreary state of ‘what the fuck sort of dystopian future am I living in’ paranoia happening like every waking moment.  If you know the deal with this band you know what you’re going to get.  If you don’t I suggest holding off judgment of hardcore dudes over 35 as being old and tired because these fuckers will blow your hair back.  (Southern Lord)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

TRANSMISSIONS FROM THE WEST COAST- NOVEMBER REVIEWS

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BRAIDEDVEINS, “What Did You Do To Survive?” 7”
Here comes a new offering from this Detroit crew, off the heels of an LP from last year.  Their style of rhythmic and angular post-hardcore puts them in league with bands like local notables Bear Vs Shark, as well as groups such as Q and Not U and At the Drive-In to a lesser extent.  However, there is a rough, burly edge to their sound as well that brings to mind lesser known outfits like Cutman or Pigs.  It’s a good mix of noodly technical spazz out stuff without going overboard and heavy-handed post-hardcore, rife with creativity and introspection.  I enjoy it.  The seven inch has three songs, as well as a digital-only cover of the Nine Inch Nails/David Bowie song “I’m Afraid Of Americans”.  (Dropping Bombs)

CHILD BITE/ STNNG split 12”
If I’m not mistaken I’m guessing this is the first Child Bite material with their new lineup because the playing on these two new songs sounds quite a bit different than their last two records.  It’s like the weird Jesus Lizard tendencies have been upped (especially on the “Nub”-influenced slide guitar of “The Will To Disappear”), and the more thrashy metal aspects have been dialed back.  I hardly mind.  Basically anything this band does is gold to me.  They have such a unique style that borrows heavily from several disparate sources to combine into quite their own thing, no matter who is in the band.  I could say the same for STNNG, who I have never heard, but who have been around for quite awhile now.  They are also an odd band, but have a catchier indie rock appeal to them.  I’m not sure why they inserted Joy Division lyrics in the middle of one of their songs here, but hey, it was a pretty good song so why not right?  They offer up three songs that lean on the slightly aggressive, but an overall more pleasant listen, for the tame listener.  I should make note of the obvious ridiculous packaging for this thing where they did a several layer screen print on the B-side and pressed the record on colored vinyl and it looks awesome.  This is not the first time Child Bite has done this and I’m glad they keep doing it.  (Forge Again Records)

IRON MONKEY, “9-13”
I’ll admit to never having bothered to listen to Iron Monkey in the past.  Maybe it was because their previous records album artwork was so awful looking.  Without hearing them I got the gist that their brand of aggressive music fell somewhere in the sludgy and chaotic realms of Eyehategod, Buzzov*en, and Cavity.  So this arrives in my inbox and I figure it’s about time to give them a listen.  It definitely sounds a lot like the aforementioned bands and that’s just fine by me.  I’ve heard a lot of criticism of this new album and I’m not sure why.  I understand the whole ‘shitting on the legacy of the deceased frontman by continuing the band’ thing and people get kind of emotional about it.  But I compared this record to “Our Problem” and, aside from a somewhat slicker production and a little quicker tempos on some of the songs, I’d say this fits in pretty well with the Iron Monkey canon.  But what do I know?  I’m a novice with this band.  All I know is I hit play on this thing and got beat up by some monster riffs, tortured screeching vocals, and lots of bad vibes.  So what’s not to like? (Relapse)


TED LEO, “The Hanged Man”
Ted Leo is one of the greatest songwriters of my generation.  He’s the Billy Bragg for people between the ages of 25-40.  And he hasn’t made a record on his own (not counting The Both, his collaboration with Aimee Mann) in quite awhile.  But here we are, and here it is, and it’s some of his most varied and compelling music of his whole career.  Abandoning the ‘and The Pharmacists’ tag in favor of just releasing this as a solo record it’s far from that.  It’s just that Leo wrote all the songs and played most of the instruments.  However, a number of guests (including current and former Pharmacists) contribute to the record too.  Ted Leo’s knack of drawing from his mod punk influences is on display, as always, but there’s a greater reach into less ‘punk’ sources (maybe ones just on the outer fringes of) like XTC and Joe Jackson to counter his adoration of the Buzzcocks and Cocksparrer.  It’s power pop at its finest and most creative.  Ted Leo always has an incredible lyricism to his songs and manages to make complicated words and phrases into the catchiest of tunes.  It took a little for this to grow on me because it is a departure, in some ways, from his older work.  “Run To the City” works in the well-honed Pharmacists framework until a ripping saxophone lead torn straight from some Clarence Clemons/Bruce Springsteen high-fiving 80’s session takes over.  It’s one of the most fun songs on the record and one of my favorites.  However, “Nazarene” is the complete opposite.  It’s a slow burner where the first half of the song is just Ted Leo singing over a simple piano coda before a sludgy bass section dominates the rest of the piece.  There’s variety like this all over the record and it all works together very well, when in some instances, it shouldn’t.  And like most of Ted Leo’s output there is a strong political commentary, often wrapped up in tales of personal interactions, and the socialist ‘were-in-this-together’ sort of vibe I enjoy immensely.  But in reading interviews with him there was a great deal of sorrow in writing some of these songs, some extreme hardships he dealt with, and it is reflected in songs like “Lonsdale Avenue” and “Let’s Stay On the Moon” (try to hold back tears listening to it, it’s tough).  Repeated listens (and seeing this stuff live) has really made a huge impression upon me and because of that I’m finding this to be one of my favorite releases this year.  Ted Leo truly is a master of his craft.  I encourage everyone reading this to give it a shot whether you’re a long-time fan, or have never heard of the guy.  (self-released)

PLAQUE MARKS, “Anxiety Driven Nervous Worship”
This collaboration of Philly miscreants draws from some guys who are well-versed in playing this kind of music, and a couple others you might think wouldn’t be game for it based on the kinds of bands they’re known for.  But either way, some people from Fight Amp, Creepoid, A Life Once Lost, Ecstatic Vision, and the Powder Room got together and wrote a handful of straight-up noise rock jams and threw them onto an LP/EP.  They are drawing straight from the noise rock playbook so it’s nothing earth shattering, or groundbreaking.  It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.  But it is satisfying.  “Oregon Chem-Trail” sounds like Cows, “Chow” with more glass-gargling vocals while “Urban Blighters” takes a passing semblance to bands like Glazed Baby.  The title track takes up the entire B-side of this EP and is essentially a spiraling mess of ultra-fuzzy slide guitar over acid-drenched sludgy wooziness that sounds like going to town in the woodshop with a table saw while drunk as a skunk and high on fumes at 3AM for 8 minutes.  Take that as you will.  Aside from a somewhat lackluster recording and a desire for more songs this is a pretty good start for a bunch of guys who just wanted to make some racket and go on tour.  Mission accomplished.  (Learning Curve Records)

QUICKSAND, “Interiors”
Yeah, how do I review the new record from my favorite band ever- their first in 22 years- and not hold it to incredibly unrealistic expectations?  C’mon.  It’s a fool’s errand.  I have entered into this new Quicksand material with a few notes to self:  I am not the same person I was when I was 15 and having my mind blown as an impressionable, identity-seeking teenager hearing this band for the first time.  The members of this band are certainly not the same people there were 22 years ago (I would certainly hope that they have grown as songwriters and as people with different things going on in their life).  Take this record for whatever it’s throwing at the listener and not as some cash-in nostalgia trip. 
            So, with those ‘notes to self’ in mind I have to say this is an overall good listen.  There is a chemistry that happens when the members of this band collaborate together that cannot be replicated.  I certainly wonder what would have happened had Tom Capone been involved in the writing process, as he certainly brings his own style to the table.  Or how would this sound if they had recorded with Wharton Tiers or Don Fury like they had in the past instead of Will Yip? There is a noticeable bit of gloom missing from this album, compared to previous records, and it sounds brighter and more crisp.  My feelings about some of Quicksand’s older music was that it was for the bad times in life, rising above it all despite surrounding negativity and that always came across in the way the music was recorded and the vibe they put out.  On this new album Walter and company still pine the depths of interpersonal conflict, working out rough spots in life, but seeming to have an overall more introspective vision regarding it all.  I suppose that happens more as one gets older.  Certain songs have a consistent Quicksand feel that long time fans will enjoy (like most of the A-side), some songs dabble more in shoegaze-y parts that the band probably wanted to do more of in their initial run but never got around to, and some songs feel like stuff that Walter would be using for more current projects or Rival Schools stuff (like a lot of the B-side).
            As a Quicksand super fan who has been along for the ride since around 1993 I’m happy to see that these guys can get together, write enjoyable music, play it live and genuinely look as if they are having the time of their lives while doing it and not just going through the motions of a reunion cash grab.  It’s real.  The title track, “Under the Screw”, and “Illuminant” are probably the strongest tracks here that resemble the Quicksand everyone knows and loves.  And there’s some stuff that you know is them, is pretty great, but takes things in a direction more consistent with what each of the members have been up to musically in the last 10 plus years.  And that’s perfectly OK.  Don’t be some grumpy old fart complaining that this isn’t “Slip” part two because that’s just stupid.  With any luck, some younger people will take notice, get into it, and go backwards from here, and take away something positive from this.  (Epitaph)


USA NAILS/ TONGUE PARTY split 7”
I’ve been all about USA Nails lately, but on this split I think Tongue Party is taking the cake.  Not only do they have a pretty disgusting name, but their music is pretty gross (in a good way) too.  For those heavy into this kind of stuff (like me!) think fellow labelmates Powertakeoff in terms of that heavily-distorted bass and give-no-fucks attitude, but with faster tempos and insane breakdowns.  That bass dominates almost everything while the guitar takes a backseat with some tense, nervous racket.  Two songs, smash everything.  USA Nails comes back with their jittery post-punk and Jesus Lizard-like songwriting.  These Brits have a pretty big catalog and while I don’t feel like this is their strongest stuff I would highly suggest checking out their full lengths for some truly jaw-dropping post-punk noise rock, especially “No Pleasure”.  Learning Curve once again unleashes a quality record.  They got themselves a pretty good track record.  (Learning Curve Records)


V/A, “Shattered, Flattered, and Covered” comp.
In this day and age compilations are a dicey proposition.  People don’t really buy them as physical products.  Like, maybe you can convince some people to plop down a few bucks on bandcamp if it’s a benefit of some sort.  What’s even more difficult to not only organize, but get people to spend hard-earned dough on is a tribute compilation.  But lo and behold this guy got like 30 bands to record Unsane covers and put it out as a double LP/ 2xCD.  That takes some boulder-sized stones and what I can only imagine is a Scanners-blowing up-your-head-level headache.
            The groups on here are split about half from the US and the other half from Europe (or elsewhere).  Well known noise rock bands of North America that you would expect to be on an Unsane tribute comp are present and accounted for, and turn in exceptionally good takes on some of the best songs (Grizzlor doing an awesome version of “Sick”, Multicult putting their spin on “Trench”, Child Bite doing an almost boogie rock version of a more recent track “Don’t”, and KEN Mode transforming “Broke” into…  well, a KEN Mode song).  Also of note are the Beige Eagle Boys doing an awesome, and somewhat humorously sampled take on the mighty “Streetsweeper”, while France’s Sofy Major gets the award for best sample in the middle of their cover of “Backslide”.  The CD has a number of bonus tracks on each disc that you won’t find on the LPs, some of them for good reason, some I wish got on the LP.  Hawks turn in an ultra slow and subdued cover of “Body Bomb”, which is sort of funny because it’s such an incendiary (get it) track otherwise, while Joe 4 attempt a medley of “Ruin”/”Swim” that just doesn’t work at all.  Some groups I’d never heard of make their mark, such as Flying Disk, Suma, and especially Seawhores doing a hell of a take on “Lead”.
            It’s a hell of an undertaking, and while there’s no surprise with the addition of some of these bands, it’s welcome to hear them pay homage to an obvious influence.  Unsane are one of my favorite bands (if that wasn’t totally obvious to anyone who knows me) who know how to write really good mean-spirited and agitated music.  Their influence is probably a reason why so many of the bands covering them I tend to like quite a bit as well.  (Antena Krzyku)