Friday, July 3, 2020

EXHALANTS DEBUT FIRST SINGLE FROM NEW ALBUM... WHICH YOU CAN ALSO PRE-ORDER


Austin, TX-based noise rock trio Exhalants will be releasing their second full-length, entitled "Atonement" on 9/11/2020 through Hex Records.

The first single from the record, "Bang", can be heard now via a premiere on Metal Injection.  Go and check that ripper right now.
And from there feel free to pre-order "Atonement" on LP, CD, or digital either HERE or HERE.

Exhalants began in 2017 sprouting from their local DIY and club scenes with one goal in mind; be loud as fuck.The three-piece quickly cut a demo, played some shows around town, and then set out to record their first full length not long after that.  That first LP yielded a strong collection of songs that balanced the moody experimentation of indie heroes like Unwound and the harsh distortion and feedback-drenched noise rock of Unsane, coupled with raw emotion on display. The record received a good amount of acclaim, which helped Exhalants get their name out more and tour throughout the U.S.  During this time they also recorded a split 7” with fellow Texas trio Pinko (Hex Records) to have while both bands were out on tour together.
Immediately following the release of their first record, Exhalants started working on new material. They spent most of 2019 writing and touring, fleshing out newer material on the road while still promoting their 2018 self-titled debut. While on their West Coast Tour, Hex Records spent a couple days getting to know the people in the band and offered to release their next record for them. After wrapping up both West and East Coast tours, exhalants focused on finishing the rest of the record and decided to take Hex up on the offer. Plans began to emerge for what would become their second LP, “Atonement”.
The band began recording the album in the Spring of 2020 in their practice space, with a pandemic looming on the horizon. While the pandemic caused some hiccups with getting things finished in the studio in a timeframe they had planned on, it eventually came together with a great deal of DIY know-how and taking some of the mixing duties into their own hands.  
The members of Exhalants all have roots with playing in multiple bands around the area and have been employed by various venues in town, so they are no strangers to the community aspect and DIY nature of playing the sort of decidedly non-mainstream music they do.  With a mountain of amps, precision pounding drums, eardrum-rattling feedback, and a healthy dose of experimentation Exhalants are easily one of the more exciting newer bands to gain attention within the punk/noise rock arena in recent memory.  “Atonement” aims to push that sound further for anyone willing to listen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

HERE'S WHAT WE HAVE GOING ON FOR MOST OF THIS YEAR

So we're already halfway through this incredibly weird and pretty miserable year.  However, always the optimist, I figured it was far past time to give an update on what's going on with Hex Records for the majority of this year.
If you pick up the newest issue of Decibel you'll see an ad for these plans laid out:
Obviously, events of this year have pushed things back a little bit, as I had initially planned to have one or two of these records out around July or August, but we're looking at September and October for most of this.
You all know that Gaytheist record is still on fire and they're fully intending to do more with this record (more on that in the near future) so check it out if you haven't already.
Next, we will be releasing the new LP from Austin, TX three-piece Exhalants.  I was so impressed with their self-titled full length that I just had to track them down and find out more about these fine Texas gents and now here they are with a whopper of a new album that we cannot wait to get out into the world.  Their blend of filthy noise rock excess, unexpected weird melodies, and amplifier worship is truly an interesting sound we want to share with the world. If you're unfamiliar you can check out some of their older music here.
Hot on the heels of that will be the third LP from some friends from Buffalo, NY.  Alpha Hopper haven't been around all that long, but they already have quite a discography under their collective belt.  The members are prolific musicians in their own right with guitarist John Toohill having at least three other projects he is consistently involved in.  Alpha Hopper combines a wild mix of off-the-wall guitar effects, bratty but existential vocals, and these total earworms hiding beneath the chaos.  I highly suggest their last LP, "Aloha Hopper" as a primer for what's ahead on "Alpha Hex Index" (which they named prior to even being approached by me), expected out in September.
And in late-October you can expect the fifth full length from London, England's USA Nails.  Talk about prolific.  "Life Cinema" was released last summer and by November of that same year (2019) they had already recorded another LP with the intention of waiting until the fall of 2020 to release it.  The band knows how to get to work.  More news on that in the near future.
Finally, I just want to add that this is not it for the whole year.  We got a bit of a surprise in store for the Winter.  I know things have been super weird, confusing, and often difficult.  I find, personally, just keeping the work going and keeping busy with that keeps me sane and I appreciate, to no end, the patronage and support received from people interested in these bands and records.  Thanks for hanging in there even through the tough times!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

IS THE WORLD OVER YET? REVIEWS FOR JUNE


So, sad to say we're all still living on Planet Shitball and I'm feeling just as much anxiety as the next person.  And if I may give myself an ever-so-slight pat on the back I feel as if I'm doing my civic duty by wearing a mask any time I go to a business or other indoors place that's not my own home, giving to a few charities, voting in my primaries, and demonstrating with the masses (wearing a mask, of course) in order to stand up for my fellow citizens against the nonsense of our corrupt system.  I realize that doesn't even begin to put the tiniest dent in all the bad things happening day in, day out.  But it's better than doing nothing at all.  And all that being said, it's still important to take a little time out for oneself and for me it's discovering new music and amplifying it so others can check it out for themselves.  A lot of us are struggling, many of us are exhausted, and despite our best efforts we all need a little break now and then.  So feel free to check out some of this stuff because this month I've come across some really excellent records that have definitely helped me get out of my own head for a bit.

-(16)-, “Dream Squasher”
For a band that has been around nearly 30 years with a cast of members rotating in and out the length of your arm -(16)- has certainly dedicated themselves to a particular sound.  It’s certainly grown more polished over the years as they have fine tuned their particular strain of cannabis-infused hardcore sludge, but I’m just surprised they sound as good as they do after multiple member changes, numerous full lengths and about a million splits and EPs.  For the uninitiated, in their most accessible moments -(16)-  may bring to mind Crowbar or Down.  And when they don’t really give a rat’s ass about appealing to your catchy sensibilities they are a down-tuned sludgy beast clobbering you over the noggin with riff after riff before shifting gears and drag-racing over your face.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of the content of the songs, but when you got a track called “Me and the Dog Die Together”- literally making a suicide pact with your dog- I’m inclined to believe the lyrical remainder of this album is equally as bleak and miserable as the music itself.  Intended exclusively for listening to when you develop a bad drug habit and are hanging out under a rain cloud that won’t stop following you.  (Relapse)


CORIKY, s/t
“All the pennies hammered into swords/ And the penniless that they’re pointed towards”.  So goes one of the best couplets on the debut album from the oddly-named Coriky.  But it’s a decent place to begin within the song “Last Thing”, which has a strong air of folksy protest leanings and I suppose that may be a direction the band is interested in.  While the news this group even existed led to a myriad of imaginative possibilities before they even debuted a lick of music (“Will it be like The Evens, but more electrified?  Or will it sound like Fugazi acoustic?”) I would have to say the resulting album sounds naturally how you might imagine the pairing of these three personalities sounds if you are familiar with their music from the last 15-20 years.  Yes, there are parts that remind me of later-era Fugazi material- delicate yet intense, clever and jagged (“Too Many Husbands” has this simple staccato riff going throughout the song that I associate with a number of my favorite Ian MacKaye guitar-playing moments).  There are certainly more than a few parts that bring to mind The Evens (Amy Farina’s consistently inventive drumming, cooing and terse vocals), and Joe Lallys monumentally dexterous yet deceptively economical bass playing that recalls work from his solo records.  All three parts work well together and obviously having those working relationships together in various bands over the last couple decades has something to do with it.  Still, there’s an element to Coriky that seems new-ish.  I think people who were really hoping for something more upbeat, or closer to Fugazi, than The Evens will probably be let down.  I’m personally invested/interested enough in the musical adventures of all the players involved to be overall pleased with what they have created here.  I think there’s a couple slower, meandering songs that don’t quite land, but there’s also a number of songs that may not have registered immediately that I later found myself humming after only a couple listens.  So that ought to say something about them being able to create earworms.  And there’s a few other songs that are immediately pleasing which, for me, was pay off enough to consider this an album worth getting.  (Dischord)


DUMMY, s/t EP
I may be a little off-base when describing the debut from Dummy because I don’t often find myself listening to music of this sort, although I do admit I find it enjoyable.  In my defense though, Dummy do offer up a mixed bag here as a few songs run through what appears to be a decided approach while one track is totally acoustic, and another is an extended electronic foray with blips, chirps, and chimes as some sort of meditative trance.  On the songs where they do find themselves falling into a groove Dummy set off on a trip that is part psych-bliss, part dreamy shoegaze, as dissonant Sonic Youth-inspired passages collide with Stereolab’s experimental weirdo pop.  It’s a nice change of pace from what I typically roll with and despite not yet locking down their sound it makes for a decent introduction to this new band.  (Pop Wig)


HEADS. “Push”
It has nothing to do with how this record actually sounds but I want to make a point to state that I really like the way this record looks.  It’s very minimalist in a unique way in that everything is right on the front- big, bold title, all the lyrics and information on the front cover while the rest is incredibly simplistic.  But that’s sort of the modus operandi for international noise rock group Heads.  They may seem like there’s a lot going on between effects, feedback, and various layers.  But at it’s base the band write simple, repetitive, and trance-like screeds that are as suave as they are surreptitiously vicious. The record bookends with a menacing machine-like drone with spoken word warnings while all the music between falls somewhere into early Young Widows worship and upbeat Euro rock akin to Lack if they’d gone post-punk.  Heads are several records deep into their career, and this one seems the most focused yet.  (Glitterhouse)


ILS, “Curse”
There’s a sense of instant gratification about listening to the debut full length from Ils.  Within the first minute of opening track “Bad Parts” you know exactly what you’re getting in the 10 songs on this record.  Their sound is informed as much by 90’s chain-wallet core (without resorting to the parts that didn’t age well) as it is by the precisely fine-tuned killing music of the last several Unsane records.  Everything is dialed in exactly as it is supposed to sound, each song tends to clock in around a lean 3 minutes average, and there’s a rhythm here so workmanlike it ought to apply for a union card.  The X factor here belongs to vocalist Tom Glose (ex- Black Elk) whose range goes from gloomy howls, rambled diatribes, and throat-shredding shrieks all within the space of each song.  It lends a dose of variety to enjoyable noise rock gut-busters that may otherwise suffer a slight case of repetitiveness were it being heralded by a singer with a singular delivery.  If you like heavy-handed, meat-y noise rock this is for you.  The only downside is all five of the songs from their demo have been re-recorded, so you’re really only getting 5 brand new songs.  But if you haven’t heard the demo then you’re getting 10 new songs if you want to go with a glass half-full approach!  (self-released)



LIGHTHEADS, “Cold Sheets”/”This Is Fine”
I’d seen this band here in town a couple times and have enjoyed their earnest, scrappy, and catchy brand of punk rock in cruddy dives.  But for the most part they were an easily-digestible opener for whatever band I was really there to see.  I feel like that is about to change with these two new songs that sound galaxies apart from what they had done up to this point (a demo and a split 7” to be exact).  There is so much more drive, focus, and an incredible-sounding production to these two gigantic anthems.  The bass is dialed into this gruff dirge worthy of the dirtiest of post-hardcore bands while the guitars shimmer and provide texture to the righteous Fugazi-esque vocals.  They still retain that scruffy punk side, but have given it purpose with developed songwriting and these massive choruses that make you want to go out and accomplish something meaningful, ya know?  Go listen to this and then run a marathon, or convince the entire Portland police department to mace themselves in the face.  (self-released)


TRUTH CULT, “Off Fire”
On their debut full length the kids in Truth Cult already check off a number of positives for me.  For starters, they’re named after a Lungfish song (closing track, “Where You’re From Is There Death” could have been a B-side from “Talking Songs For Walking”).  The majority of their music has an exuberant, positive energy to it in the spirit of Revolution Summer DC meeting up with the loose and wild fury of Swiz.  Opening track “Chemical Trials” immediately grabs a hold of the listener and clobbers them with a quick punch heavily reminiscent of early Ink & Dagger (not DC-derived, but Swiz-influenced).  And near the record’s end they roll with some grooving post-hardcore thump on “Vacuum Of Faith”, with its repetitive slink and alternating serpentine vocals.  So there’s a bit of a mix that hits upon a lot of stuff that I really, highly value, and it all works into an excellent record from some very exciting newcomers.  Listening to this is not only super enjoyable, but I get that weird feeling that seems to arise when you’re old and it’s that sort of proud/hopeful energy like, ‘the kids are alright’.  Damn, I feel old, but also pumped about the future of punk if these people are a part of it. (Pop Wig)

Thursday, June 4, 2020

HEX RECORDS BENEFIT T-SHIRT, AND BANDCAMP FRIDAY (6/5/2020)

As you may be aware, Friday 6/5/2020 Bandcamp is one again waiving all of their usual fees so we thought this would be a good time to spread some love around.
Here's what we're doing:
- 100% of digital download sales will be going to the artist. None of the bands on this label make a living off their music, but just like everyone else I'm sure they'd like to play out and tour again and I'd like to kick back to them because I love them
- 2019 titles will be discounted for the day because I need to make room for upcoming new releases. This includes titles from Post/Boredom, USA Nails, Great Falls, #TheFuneral, and Null.
- Finally, We almost never make t-shirts, but here we are. A proudly triumphant middle finger directed towards that which aims to take you down- be it a lousy boss, your bigot neighbor, an overly-authoritative blowhard, our crappy 'president', Spotify, whatever. Fill in your own blank.
Gilden shirts, all sizes, printed right here in Portland. White ink on a black shirt, one-sided.
100% of proceeds from this will be split evenly between Dont Shoot Portland (Portland) and Reclaim The Block (Minneapolis) because I believe in the important work they are doing, which is achieving the results we need right now. 

Get it HERE.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

NEW GAYTHEIST VIDEO FOR "CROOKED" UP NOW!



Gaytheist went and made a short animated video for "Crooked", off of the recently-released "How Long Have I Been On Fire?" album while locked down in quarantine.  Take all of just over a minute to check it out and get yourself a record if you haven't already!
You can view this over at BrooklynVegan as well!

Monday, May 18, 2020

NEW STUFF IS ABUNDANT. I REVIEW IT.

Like many people I am finding myself with some extra time to dig around, seeking out music, books, and other assorted ephemera to keep busy.  This is, in no way, all that different from my everyday life, I'm just doing more of it now.  That all being said, I like to share thoughts about all this stuff with people who might not be aware of it and therefore, now you too might have something new to spend time with.  And here we are.  A bunch of new records and one book for your eyes and ears.

BEAUTY PILL, "Please Advise"
I want to preface this whole thing by stating that I think Beauty Pill is a brilliant band making some of the most interesting and engaging music these days.  I’m telling you this now because what follows is going to sound like I’m disparaging the ever-loving shit out of them.  For the uninitiated, Beauty Pill is primarily engineer/composer Chad Clark’s creation, although there is a fairly consistent group of members/collaborators making up the core of the group.  Their songs may reside in the indie realm, but take from all sorts of sounds and genres and frequently feature sound collages, horns, strings, and various electronic glitches.  Their last release, 2015’s “Describes Things As They Are”, is a breathtaking masterpiece that friggin’ TIME magazine called one of the best records of this decade.  I’m inclined to agree that it IS up there.  The rest of their discography is pretty darn great as well.  So I’ve been patiently awaiting new material, and finally here we are with what has been sold as a new full-length, “Please Advise”.  Well, up to the point of it’s release that was the thought.  Instead we get a 5 song EP in which there are actually only two new songs.  A third song is a fun cover of a Pretenders tune, of all things.  Then we get not one, but two, versions of a song they had already released on a previous record.  Why?  To further feel a sting of deceptive marketing, there are three additional songs, but only one per format (in other words, to hear all three you would have to get the LP, CD, and cassette).  This just seems ridiculous.  In regards to the two new songs you get they are very good, “The Damnedest Thing” being the better of the two.  In the fashion of other BP material they incorporate varying instrumentation, multiple vocal melodies, electronics, and are exceptionally clever both lyrically and musically (side note: if ‘clever’ comes off as ‘snobby’ to you then please avoid the band’s twitter as it’s a regular dive into the long-winded answer to the question no one asked, with an occasional interesting story).  I was so hyped up on this release and the process behind its songs and art, but was very much let down by it’s brevity.  Although the two new songs are great maybe next time just sell me a 7”.  “Please Advise”?  Here’s my advice:  if you never heard the band get “Describes Things As They Are” right now, and then scope out the rest of the catalog.  (Northern Spy)



BIG CHEESE, “Punishment Park”
UK hardcore borrowing heavily from late 80’s NYHC and nailing it better than actual NYHC bands going for the same style.  Big Cheese go for that fast hardcore style, throwing in some metallic nods (they don’t shy away from the occasional solo), some thrash parts, and a tasteful use of breakdowns without going overboard.  This record sounds as if the band went down to Normandy Sound immediately following Sick Of It All wrapping up “Just Look Around” and the engineer didn’t bother to change any of the settings and just continued to let more tape roll.  It has that distinctive sound attached to an era, even though it’s coming out now, from another country.  And while like a majority of bands that unquestionably fit into the category of ‘hardcore’ Big Cheese are not re-inventing the wheel by any stretch of the imagination.  They just happen to play hardcore very well and I bet they’re a riot to see live.  “Heartbreak Ball” is the best example on this record of them effortlessly blending their styles into a cohesive wrecking ball.  (Triple B/ Quality Control)


COUCH SLUT, “Take a Chance On Rock n’ Roll”
Surprise!  Couch Slut decided to release their new record a couple months ahead of when it was scheduled because maybe they were just feeling a little daffy that particular day.  No matter their reasoning, I completely love the fact that one of the most dangerous-sounding bands out there right now decided to name their newest noise-rock-drenched, blood-curdling animosity-driven, knife-wielding, hammer-to-your-stupid-face record “Take a Chance On Rock n’ Roll”.  It’s like a dare to listen, as their ‘rock’ can be downright frightening.  Their songs meld later-era Black Flag sludgy-weird freakouts, Unsane’s grimy scum rock, and a dash of punk-hardcore punch to make things both energetic as well as unsettlingly heavy while lyrically it’s cringe-y tales of desperation, abuse, loss, and seedy characters.  They sound more together than ever on this record and perhaps it’s in part due to the addition of second guitarist Amy Mills (who, up to this point, had done engineering duties on their previous records), or maybe they’ve just been at it for awhile and know just how to perfectly fuck up your day.  No need to extrapolate the possibilities honestly, just know that this thing is a monster and I fully back it.  Take a chance dummies.  (Gilead Media)


GAYTHEIST/INTERCOURSE split 7”
Obviously, I’m super partial to Gaytheist so being objective towards their material here is difficult.  So I’ll be factual.  They offer two songs that didn’t make it to the new full length, and have been reserved for this 7”.  Neither of the songs hit the 90-second mark and “Cracks” is the better of the two as far as I’m concerned with it’s bouncy bass intro and sharp jabs that break into a spiraling melody throughout the verse and then get right back into thrashing around for the remainder of the track.  Quick, catchy, riff-y, fun, and clever…  all the hallmarks of what we have come to expect from the trio.  Intercourse hail from the opposite end of the country and present a very short original track, as well as a cover.  Their messy brand of chaotic metalcore harkens back to “Safe Place”-era Coalesce for the first song with even less regard for individual well-being while they follow that up with a “My War” cover that offers nothing new for the first half, but drags the second half out in a sludgy free-for-all as if their intake of downers suddenly kicked in full force and none of them were able to stand up straight anymore.  4 songs total in all of 7 minutes, what have you got to lose?  Also, this is some seriously fucked up cover art.  Groddy.  Groddy to the max.  (Learning Curve Records)


METZ, “Acid”/ “Slow Decay”
Any opportunity to hear some new Metz stuff is like a friggin’ holiday to me- take the day off and play on repeat.  Naw, just kidding, I work from home.  So I just listen to it on repeat all day anyway…  on the clock…  as I compile reports.  Alas, sticking it to ‘the man’ does not carry any weight in my 40s’ working for a non-profit like it did as a young man mopping floors for some heartless corporation.  But Metz certainly fills that void.  This was released as one of those bandcamp day things and consists of two songs left off their most recent full length “Strange Peace”.  One song sounds very in line with that Metz sound- loud, crashing guitars, a simple riff, lots of feedback, and drumming that hits so hard you’d think the guy doubles as a mob enforcer on the side.  “Acid” is the fun, kick-ass single that never was.  “Slow Decay” I can see how they opted to leave it off the LP.  While the overall structure of the song fits in with Metz material it’s the wavering, warped guitar sounds that throw the whole thing off into some semi-hallucinogenic stupor.  It’s still a banger though.  These dudes definitely have a knack for releasing quality singles, and even though I’m not sure if this one will ever make it’s way onto wax it’s a fun little reminder that our favorite globe-trotting Canadian trio are still here, just quarantined until they can make stages slippery with sweat, rock, and other bodily fluids again (in a safe sort of way of course). (self-released)



“MUTATIONS”, by Sam McPheeters
“Mutations” is a hodgepodge of stories, anecdotes, observations, and lore author Sam McPheeters (Born Against, Mens Recovery Project, Wrangler Brutes, MRR columnist, Vermiform Records founder, artist of countless record covers, and all-around shit-pot stirrer) has found himself a part of over the last few decades.  There is no set theme here, aside from a repeated mantra that he longer feels the ties he once did to the hardcore-punk music scene and a lot of looking back at some of the things he did in those years with some degree of regret.  And while anyone over the age of 40 will clearly look back at some things in their youth with some level of cringe I found way more entertainment in not only Sam’s humorous style of prose, but in the random weird things present in the 80’s and 90’s punk scene he found himself immersed in.  I love the stories involving minutia, odd scenarios in which underground figures are revealed in situations both outlandish and surreal- the Koller brothers from Sick Of It All on a rather hostile live radio debate with the author in 1989, Long Gone John from Sympathy For the Record Industry mournfully retrieving over 500 of his master plates from a bankrupt record pressing plant in 2001, the singer from the Crucifucks living out of a boarded up house in Lansing after decades of tormenting the public and feeding wild animals in his backyard.  McPheeters has found himself interacting within all corners and varying factions of this giant umbrella scene with a resulting mish-mash of wonderful stories, often centered around strange circumstances and correlations to seemingly unrelated subjects.  It’s a highly entertaining read that hardly puts forth the notion of ‘things were so much better in my day’ bullshit that so many aging punks spew forth as if they were possessed by the spirit of their parents they so adamantly swore never to become.  Rather, it simply says, ‘Here’s some weird stories and observations.  Things were different.  I don’t so much connect with these things now, but here ya go’ and does so in a way that makes unexpected connections with a lot of snarky humor.  (Rare Bird Books)

SHINER, “Schadenfreude”
Last time Shiner checked in with us they offered up “The Egg” way back in 2001, a record that laid out their rarefied form of rock n’ roll in a bit more of a straightforward (and somewhat less distortion-heavy) fashion.  The band has been on and off since then with live performances while main man Allen Epley focused on his other group Life and Times, which may as well be Shiner 2.0.  However, as a songwriter he remains so incredibly consistent that if his music were a disappearing act David Copperfield would blush with envy.  For the unfortunately unfamiliar, Shiner bring big atmospheric rock that somehow floats in a dreamy realm while being aggressive at the same time.  Epley’s guitarwork is often compared to fellow space-rockers Failure, but his songs tend to feel more weighty while his vocals remain ethereal and authoritative all at once.  The post-hardcore meets bendy-guitar warble of lead single “Life As a Mannequin” in a slow-motion crawl creeps until the big chorus payday pops off like opening bay window curtains after a week straight of rain to overwhelming sunshine.  But it’s a precursor to the more mid-tempo “Nothing”, which remains more upbeat throughout and revels in a massive, triumphant chorus that is as shimmering and positive-sounding as what I imagine Andrew WK’s voicemail greeting must be.  If you have been a Shiner fan in the past, or appreciate anything Allen Epley has lended his musicianship to, I have no doubt that you will flip your toupee over this new offering.  It’s exactly what you would expect and you will be a happy person as a result.  (self-released)


WAILIN’ STORMS, “Rattle”
Samhain and Bauhaus take turns injecting texture and mood into these swampy doom-punk anthems that really showcase when a band’s name can evoke exactly what you might imagine the music sounds like.  The North Carolina-by-way-of-Texas band is now into their fifth record and just beginning to gain some justly deserved notoriety.  But when you make a record like this, well, let’s just give praise where it’s due, OK?  If you require a soundtrack for committing a crime of passion in the middle of nowhere on the most humid night of the year this would be the soundtrack playing in the background.  Having had the good fortune of seeing this band once in a small room with maybe 50 other people, the red floods they brought being the only light in the darkness, and their incredibly eardrum-shattering (yet perfectly dialed in) sound seeming an ideal match for what they presented on record I couldn’t help but be reminded of my favorites in Blood Sun Circle, though maybe a bit more bluesy.  What sort of scene are Wailin’ Storms a part of?  They seem to check off most every box for ‘too X to be Y’ in each iteration of heavy guitar music.  So best to just take them as is because whatever little classification someone aims to box them into is a moot point.  Either way you’re going to get blown over by their sound.  (GileadMedia)

Sunday, April 19, 2020

MUSIC TO RIDE OUT THE APOCALYPSE... IN REVIEW FORM!

It's likely Monday as you're reading this and I know what you all are getting up to today.  But hey, we all have some extra time on our hands lately, right?  So you all do you.  On my end?  Well, not smoking the devil's lettuce.  But I have compiled some writings on new/recent music that you may be interested in.  So check it out!  It's not like you don't need a distraction from anxiety, misery, or other worldly weirdness.  And hey, if you're one of the lucky people with some extra gov't cheddar who also are still able to pay rent maybe some of these artists below would appreciate a little bit thrown their way!


BITTER BRANCHES, “This May Hurt a Bit” EP
This is a really weird juxtoposition.  Imagine taking D-FENS from “Falling Down” and dropping him into the middle of the Captain Chaos scene of “The Cannonball Run”.  Sure, it might make for some unique results, but it doesn’t exactly fit.  Here we have a project of older hardcore dudes playing a style of post-hardcore akin to bands whose entire discographies are relegated to split 7”s with glued-together covers and handwritten inserts.  And the frontman of this group is none other than Tim Singer, known for such emo-centric lyrics as, “you can’t kill yourself because you’re already dead.”  So, on here with Bitter Branches, Tim Singer is still doing Tim Singer- working out his frustrations, arguing with himself after 12 espressos, a nervous tick, and punching a bus driver- and then the rest of the band, who are trying to find that perfect link between old UOA records and early Boy Sets Fire.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy this.  It’s just a weird mix and doesn’t exactly gel considering the resumes of the members involved.  I’m really liking the bouncy stop-start riff from “Her Disease” though, that’s a keeper. (self-released)


EYE FLYS, “Tub Of Lard”
On Eye Flys initial outing their wink-wink, nod-nods to their influences were about as blatant as a Gallagher magic trick involving watermelons.  I thought it was a little too on the nose, even if they did have some serious riffage oozing out of their filthy pores.  I’d like to think that Eye Flys have grown a bit here, much in the same way that sonic brethren Wrong have evolved past mere Helmet worship and now do… well, they do Helmet worship with some tricks of their own making it a unique experience (at least to me).  Eye Flys are on a similar track.  There’s not a whole lot of nuance to their game.  It’s all about instant gratification that comes from overblown distortion on instruments delivering gigantic riffs and pulverizing beats.  It’s the same kind of sonic overload brought forth by groups like Fudge Tunnel (who seem to be a keen point of inspiration here), who equally throttled their instruments in search of that perfect hair-bending feedback.  Eye Flys manage to lay out exactly what the entire album sounds like within the first two songs- the title track, with it’s mid-tempo whiplash, and “Guillotine”, which manages to liquefy eardums with one sludgy riff and lots of guitar torture with a backbeat over two minutes.  (Thrill Jockey)



FED ASH, “Diurnal Traumas”
Various remnants of Syracuse’s Bleak and If Hope Dies gather in an abysmal pit to summon filthy grind with caveman sludge and ‘fight me’ vocals.  The result is Fed Ash and fuck you while we’re at it.  That’s what any person with a functioning amygdala would be saying after hearing this anyway.  Let’s be clear- this is not a pleasant listen.  It’s not meant to soothe you and should appeal the crust-grind-grouch inside you.  While relentless grind spasms tend to dominate this effort I find myself leaning more into the sludgy riffs and between-song noise patterns.  However, if this record were only those things I’d probably kind of shit on it.  The noise and sludge needs the grind, and the grind needs those other parts to make it all work.  Give the people some flavor is what I say.  I’m partial to the track “everythingallthetime”, even if the title sounds like it belongs to some emo sourpuss band.  Music for getting into a fight with a parking meter.  (Astralands)


KISSED BY AN ANIMAL, s/t LP
At this point in my life, reading a band bio is generally about as comfortable as reading condom instructions.  However, when your bio is as colorful and filled with neat artwork who really cares what it says right?  Equally as engaging is the exceptionally wild gatefold artwork for Kissed by An Animal (that’s the best band name they could come up with?) and their debut full length.  It’s an engaging listen chock full of power pop goodness made for sunny days either laying in your backyard (or on your roof), or playing fetch with your dog, who may or may not have doled out kisses and maybe that’s where the band got it’s name?  Do you like feel good power pop similar to baddies like Chisel, Teenage Cool Kids, or Dead Mechanical?  Well, meet your new baby daddy.  Expect large doses of average-whites-living-in-Brooklyn-lackadaisical-sweet vocals laid atop sturdy bass lines doing the heavy lifting, catchy guitar work alternating between clean riffing and the occasional slide, as well as some nice keys showing up for texture.  It works, it’s fun, and a delight to look at.  (Handstand Records)


MELKBELLY, “Pith”
I’m not sure if the cover is supposed to be some abstract sculpture, or what was left of a ten-foot hoagie after cubicle drone appreciation day over at the regional Liberty Mutual offices.  Bad cover art aside, Chicago’s Melkbelly have returned with a whopper of a second LP.  It’s so badass that if it were a teenager it would have a dust stache, wear a jean jacket with the sleeves torn off, and do donuts in the Grocery Outlet parking lot in a Camaro while simultaneously flipping off their boss and quitting their job.  The formula remains the same from their first LP, but everything is just stepped up a notch, and they have some new tricks up their collective sleeves here.  Picture, if you will, The Breeders with busy drumming, a bit more noisy flair, and occasional massive swells of noise, reverbed vocals, and feedback.  These cats can be fun (check the bouncy get-up of “LCR”), goopy emotional (“Humid Heart”), super dreamy (closing track “Flatness” is an airy ‘see ya later’), and still get weird and blow up your stereo (“Kissing Under Some Bats” spends it’s last three minutes continuously swirling and getting louder and louder until it consumes all within a mile radius).  There’s not a dud on the whole thing so take that as an official decree that this kicks butt.  (Wax Nine/ Carpark)



RID OF ME, “Summer” demo tape
Two members of Low Dose get together with another ex-member of Fight Amp to make a demos worth of material that sounds a lot like Low Dose.  I’m not one to complain because since that Low Lose record came out I’ve been wondering when their next effort would drop, but also…  I don’t see a whole lot of difference between that and this.  Take it as you will, because they’re straight up giving you 4 songs of grungy-noisy, punk rock glazed donuts for nothing.  So no griping you ritalin-addled whiners, just shut up and bang your head and smash a bottle on the floor. (Knife Hits)



STILL/FORM, s/t EP
Before they prematurely split up, Portland’s Marriage and Cancer had trimmed down to a trio, which worked really well for them in my opinion.  Their ear-bleeding loudness becoming stripped down and somehow heavier and promised great things to come.  Well, maybe guitarist/vocalist Robert Komets gained some insight from that because his new project Still/Form pushes sonic excess as a trio in ways that will murder your speakers.  That same feeling of unease between the guitars and raspy vocals that comes off like a tweaked out vagrant skulking filthy alleyways on a foggy night remains present in this new project, however I’d say where Marriage and Cancer displayed heaviness with cleaner guitars Still/Form gives a high-flying ‘fuck you’ to that notion and turns the distortion up to 11.  This sonic dirge, akin to a garbage compactor being used as a projectile against a hurricane, is most evident on the squealing guitars in “Hydrate” and the absolutely crushing “Just Adjust”.  One song harkens back to that unsettling clean style from M and C on “God Will Understand Why You’re Horny For Kids”, but- if the title is any indication- the lyrics are about as cringe-heavy as you can get.  Yikes.  Either way, this 5-song sonic leveler is an exceptional follow up to past projects and I’m really hoping this one takes off.  It’s a fucking crusher.  (self-released)


STUCK, “Change Is Bad”
Studio engineer types getting together as a band to record a perfect-sounding record is the fantasy equivalent to a horny teenager discovering he has self-lotioning palms.  In this case Chicago’s Stuck have gone through a box of Kleenex on their newest outing, if you get my drift.  They have taken their skills in the studio and applied it to their melodic, sometimes weird, punchy post-punk.  It’s an engaging affair that runs the gamut from tightly-wound moody minimalism ala My Disco, to off-kilter pop beauty reminiscent of Talking Heads, and then somewhere in the middle of more modern sounds that tie all that stuff together.  They were supposed to do a Spring tour with USA Nails (who I feel have a similar sound, albeit with more noise and chaos), but of course that shit got nixed.  Stuck are like a restrained version of that with a touch of XTC or similarly odd melodic thoughtfulness.  Jittery and wired, but somehow playing it cool.  It’s definitely a neat record, detail-oriented, and sonically pristine.  (self-released)