Monday, September 26, 2016

SUMMER'S DONE. READ REVIEWS AND GET OVER IT.

As the season comes to a close I realize I was just bum-rushed with a plethora of awesome records.  So much stuff that is really right up my alley in terms of what I tend to dig the most.  And a bunch of it shows up here is this review block.  So get cozy, read on, and really give some attention to a bunch of groups that are excelling at making my ears happy.
Oh yeah, Hex Fest is really happening at the end of the year.  You saw the thing about Achilles playing here, right (ahem, look)?  Yeah, stay tuned because in a few more days I'm going to give a few more details on things.  Don't be stupid, keep an ear to the ground, or an eye to the sky because I only advertise using subsonic thumping transmissions and smoke signals.


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ALPHA HOPPER, “Last Chance Power Drive”
What the heck did I just listen to?  How many weird subgenres and odd reference points can I shoehorn in here to attempt to describe Alpha Hopper?  You got a vocalist that sounds like Polly Styrene mixed with Yasuko from Melt-Banana.  Musically things bounce from post-punk weirdness with creepy leads, and clunky post-hardcore (think a somewhat more aggressive Unwound at times) to very 90’s riot grrl style, and more modern spazzcore stuff.  It’s a weird stew, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it.  If you’re feeling a bit adventurous I’d suggest you do the same.  (One Percent Press/Radical Empathy)

DOWNTOWN BOYS s/t
So this Providence-based band is kind of everywhere now, seemingly blowing up out of nowhere.  The thing is, though, they have been around for a bit and this LP (which is essentially a demo from a few years back) shows them in an embryonic sort of form.  It shows a group displaying their now-trademark blend of punk chords, deep saxophone flavor, and shouted vocals in both English and Spanish.  But it’s a band that hadn’t quite found it’s footing just yet.  Things don’t mesh as perfectly as they do now.  The ideas are there, no doubt, but the vocals are a little more random and off-rhythm (they still are, to a point, but it works effectively these days to command attention).  The saxophone is a little more present as well, also vying for attention when sometimes restraint makes more of a lasting impression.  I don’t want to knock it because what Downtown Boys are doing now (especially on the excellent “Full Communism” from last year) is so good, and this record just shows what they were working towards.  I guess if you prefer the revolution to come off as a bit more scrappy this is a pretty good place to catch some of that fire.  (One Percent Press/ Radical Empathy)

HELMS ALEE, “Stillicide”
The opening track on Helms Alees’ new record starts with the piano coda that closes out their very first LP, “Night Terrors”, before it mutates into a maelstrom of swirling distortion and thunder.  They have had two records between these two, so it’s kind of interesting the Seattle trio recall a tidbit from their first LP on their fourth long player.  I guess it shows that since that time they have remained a strange, bewildering beast, but have grown in many ways as well.  It’s that touchstone from the past opening a door to reflection, yet showing what’s new.  What remains consistent is how Helms Alee is the bewildering sound of hiking through the redwoods on a foggy morning before reaching a beach in the Pacific Northwest.  You look in one direction and there’s the water- calm and cool.  You look behind you and trees rise up like skyscrapers.  And in front of you are some of the most majestic mountains you’ll see.  It’s at once mesmerizing and beautiful, but you also realize the hugeness of all these things, how little you are, and it’s sort of terrifying and weird.  That’s the sound of Helms Alee.  They can twist and turn with odd rhythms, sinewy melodies, harmonized and haunting female vocals.  But they can quickly hit the distortion and come off as the most thunderous sasquatch of a beast you’ll ever hear between drummer Hozi Matheson Magullis’ polyrhythmic tom rolls, Dana James crushing low end and Ben Verellens howling baritone.  Whether it’s the continuous crush of the title track and “Galloping Mind Fuk” (sic), or the long, slow burn meandering of “Creeping You Company”, to a perfect combination of all their styles (melodic, weird, and pretty to beefy and mean) on “Andromenous” this new LP is really an excellent addition to an already stellar catalog from a great band.  (Sargent House)

KINDLING, “Everywhere Else”
It sure is popular now for bands to do the whole shoegaze thing.  For the most part I’m fairly pleased with the current tidal wave of bands copping this style.  I’m sort of wondering how many of these bands are ex-members of NeurIsis worship bands?  Kindling, to their credit, spring forth from totally chaotic spastic hardcore band lineage.  But that’s not important.  What is important is that Kindling is a good listen.  This is their first LP after a cool little EP last year and it’s filled with upbeat, punk-informed walls of guitars and atmospheric female vocals that bring to mind both the fairly obvious My Bloody Valentine, as well as the sounds of Lush.  They’re not re-inventing the shoegaze wheel by any means, but they certainly do it quite well, keeping things energetic, loud, occasionally heavy, and fun.  Definitely recommended.  (No Idea)

MULTICULT, “Position Remote”
Multicult would probably wholeheartedly agree that they share quite a bit in common, sound-wise, with the revered Jesus Lizard- snarled and howled vocals, knotty and intricate guitar lines, and one of the best damn bass tones you’ll ever hear.  But where Jesus Lizard were all proficient musicians that gave the illusion that all their music was careening off the rails at all times, Multicult present no illusions to how calculated and precise their somewhat misnomered categorization of ‘noise rock’ really is.  Every note, riff, grating guitar scree, or gnarled bass dirge has been fine-tuned to sound exactly as it is intended.  You will hear no difference whatsoever between this record- excellently recorded and engineered- and their live show, aside from a very loud ringing in your ears once they are through since they play so fucking loud.  So yeah, The Jesus Lizard can be master magicians at making you think they’re just being fucking awesome off the cuff.  Multicult offer a very similar level of talent, as well as a strikingly similar sound, but with an air of astounding determination and intention.  This is easily their best sounding record yet and the songs are pretty dang good too.  (Reptilian)


NIGHTWATCH zine #12
This is the metal issue.  Oh, maybe I should back up.  Night Watch is an art zine featuring loads of artists contributing work towards a theme (hence, ‘the metal issue’) and a couple interviews with some of the artists.  They have had many of the same contributors throughout their run, but have added some excellent new ones as well.  They may as well have titled this the Lemmy memorial issue because he shows up in many of the pieces throughout this zine.  The stand-outs include the Motorhead board game of Life spread, Phil Guys ‘What Me Worry’ Lemmy, Edward Justin Wright’s indecipherable metal guy diagram, and especially Ryan Besch’ Dan Clowes-meets-Charles Burns “Sin Town” piece.  This whole thing is wrapped up in a wildly detailed metallic ink cover.  Fun times.  (Night Watch)


POWDER ROOM, “Lucky”
For whatever reason I thought this band was going to be heavier and noisier than they were when I gave their last LP, “Curtains” a cursory spin and sort of dismissed it.  The thing is, this band is really good.  It just takes a little while for their music to sink in.  At least on this new record they very much nailed it, as they say.  Taking the attention to detail, allowing space for songs to breathe, and a similar heaviness and direction of Young Widows, and couple that with some of the pedal board love and rocking nature of a group like Roomrunner I’d say Powder Room have a good thing going on.  There is a bit of confusion with this record as the liner notes allude to all 11 songs being on the record, and in a particular order, when in fact a song from each side is missing and instead show up as a bonus 7” that comes with the LP (probably due to time constraints).  It’s a minor concern though as it all works out in the end.  I especially enjoy when these guys are moving slow, particularly on the creepy and ungodly heavy “Black Dress” (which happens to have a very catchy and sing-along-able chorus) and the bluesy “Workaround” (which also happens to have a great harmonica section that could only be topped by Unsanes’ “Alleged”, but in a far less scummy, far more positive, yet equally heavy sort of way).  Even though the slow and heavy comes off better on this record, opening track “Vanburner” has an alarming urgency that draws you right in with it’s repeated bleeps and galloping rhythm. (Learning Curve Records)

TRUE WIDOW, “AVVOLGERE”
I was quite vocal about this Texas band’s last LP, “Circumambulation” and how I just wasn’t into it really.  I mean, compared to their first two LPs it was kind of a downer, and not in the way that this band kind of pride themselves on being.  I thought, with time, I’d re-visit it and see if things changed.  Nope.  It’s still pretty dull.  So I have to say that it’s very good to know that on their fourth LP True Widow have once again found some of that magic that made their first two records so excellent, but in a sort of different way.  On the first pair of LPs they dished out True Widow really excelled at doing a loud-quiet-loud thing to give their somber shoegaze/stoner rock some great dynamics.  With “Circumambulation” they seemed to mostly give up on that loud-quiet-loud thing and went for somewhat flat versions of their overall style.  “AVVOLGERE” (whatever that hell that means or stands for) continues to sort of abandon the loud-quiet-loud thing, which is sort of disappointing, but they have made the majority of songs here a bit more upbeat and added a considerable amount of hooks in the riffs to keep things interesting.  It’s the small changes with this band that make the difference.  A casual listener might not be able to notice, but it’s at least what I’m picking up, for what it’s worth.  Whatever it is, I’m into it and knew I’d enjoy this record right from the start of the first song, “Back Shredder” once I started humming it for the rest of the day after one listen.  Glad to see they’re back on their game and doing cool stuff.  (Relapse)

VINCAS, “Deep In the Well”
This Georgia three-piece lays out some dirty, greasy rock that both reminds me of Cows in it’s repetitive and wild noisiness, but also of The Birthday Party in it’s stark, creeping evil.  It’s not quite what I had expected, but I’m into it.  Maybe there’s a hint of goth to it, due to the low, baritone vocals and cold post-punk elements.  But it’s a little too loose and erratic to start wearing black nail polish and lighting candles to.  So, I guess I’m getting a bit of a Jesus Lizard vibe too.  But TJL borrowed heavily from The Birthday Party.  So, yeah, kind of back to square one with my references.  Hell, the dudes in Psychic Teens ought to meet up with these characters.  They’d probably really get along well.  Fuck around with this for a bit while watching “Scorpio Rising” and then wander out in the desert for a couple weeks and let the concepts of death and weirdness sink in.  (Learning Curve Records)

Bonus Round:

THE FAREWELL BEND, “In Passing”
I’ve made a big to-do about Dischord-related type bands through these older reviews, particularly from the short-lived Slowdime label (Kerosene 454, Regulator Watts, etc).  The label may have been based in DC, and distributed by Dischord, but the bands weren’t relegated to just being from DC.  Case in point, the post-Boys Life/Giants Chair off-shoot Farewell Bend.  The group hailed from that vast expanse of nothingness known as the Midwest and featured the exceptionally unique nasally vocals of Boys Life frontman Brandon Butler, the extra-tight snappy drumming of Giants Chair alum Paul Ackerman, and bassist John Rejba, also of Boys Life.  From the rolling, almost post-hardcore rhythm of “The Pen Ran Out Of Ink” to the more upbeat and anthemic feel of “Go Easy” there’s no doubt that vibe of other mid/late 90’s Midwest emo bands of the Caulfield Records roster is quite present here.  Think more early Jimmy Eat World, the less weird/more rocking aspects of Drive Like Jehu, a good bit of Superchunk, and for a more modern example Boston’s Krill.  A lot of people tend to think the epitome of 90’s Midwest emo might be The Get Up Kids or Braid, but this is pretty far removed from Braid’s poppy technicality or Get Up Kids lowest-common-denominator pop rock, even though if Farewell Bend were to have played with either of those bands (and I imagine they probably did at one time or another) it would work out just fine.  I feel like what they were doing was a great example of indie/emo of the region for the time.  They got a great big room-y recording out this, their lone full length, with a bunch of great rocking songs with substance (even being able to create a great sing-along part out of the line “A little too much time spent fucking around”).  Yet it’s the longest, and most out-of-place song on the record, “St. Christopher” that is easily my favorite.  It’s slow and steady repetition through most of the song of “Help is on it’s way/ Gotta head to the freeway/ Help is on it’s way/ In the Western sky” before it breaks into a very upbeat section, followed by the stop/start crescendo with the chorus of “They say I waste my life/ Maybe they’re right”.  It’s a heck of a song I tell ya.  Currently not too sure of what the individual members are up to aside from Brandon Butler, who played some shows as part of a briefly reunited Boys Life earlier this year and has a very part time band going with Ryan Patterson of Coliseum called Six Bells.  But this here, this is easily my favorite project he has been involved in, even though it’s not the most known.  (Slowdime Records)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

IT'S AUGUST. READ REVIEWS.

I don't really care all that much about any opinions you might have regarding my opinions because my mind is going to be completely distracted this week while I'm finally, after 20 years of wondering how the hell they played those songs, going to see Drive Like Jehu not once, but twice.  If you're there feel free to fight me in person over my use of the word 'shoehorn', or my opinion that the new Star Trek has more plot holes than Florida has meth heads.  I'll be out of the office either way.  Discuss.



BLACK PILLS demo
The members of Taxa vary up their whole thing with this side project focusing on much harsher elements to get their point across.  Black Pills is no less involved or immediate as the post-hardcore thoughtfulness of Taxa.  Black Pills create heavy, dissonant music that is grating and hostile, but at the same time, one can tell that they didn’t just start hammering away and shat out four songs by the end of the day.  The vocals have a harsh, static-y delivery to them while music is chaotic in a later-era Level Plane Records sort of way (or perhaps having a Deadguy-ish appeal) but it still held in check by solid songwriting.  They could shoehorn themselves in to the crust scene if they had more D-beats, but the songs are unique and varied enough to fall under a general heading of hostile, yet creative hardcore.  A good start from these West Coast Canadians.  (self-released)

GREAT REVERSALS, “Mere Mortals”
Do you like Verse?  Do you like Trial?  Do you like Have Heart?  Do you think a mish-mash of all those bands together would be like the best thing ever?  Then this band is for you.  I always appreciated that all those bands had thoughtful things to express, but the way in which they (primarily Verse and Have Heart) did it didn’t really do much for me.  The music generally moved too slow, was melodic without really having much to latch on to, but the lyric sheets tended to provide some inspiration.  So the parts of those bands I see a lot of in Michigan’s Great Reversals doesn’t really do it for me.  But when they invoke the heavier, chuggier elements of Trial I’m a bit more interested.  Aside from the mid-90s stuff that I came up on I guess I tend to prefer my hardcore fast.  Still, I won’t deny that this band actually has substance, clearly exists for a purpose beyond just getting a pit started, and has a strong in belief in what they do.  And again, if you are a fan of slower, melodic hardcore you will probably really enjoy this.  (BitterMelody/ State Of Mind/ Hydrogen Man)

GUN CANDY, “Of the Third Kind” demo
I had the good fortune to have played with this band on a couple of occasions in their brief existence and I hope to play with them much more because they are a fierce and chaotic live group.  While new to the Buffalo scene they are composed of individuals who have been doing all sorts of things in a myriad of bands over the years, so they are no strangers to this hardcore stuff.  Either way, they took the dive and have cast an 8-song demo tape into the world for you all to audibly consume.  It’s not the greatest recording, but the songs are pretty damn rowdy.  Are they looking for a Black Flag “Damaged”-era vibe?  Maybe.  Some of the guitar work certainly alludes to that even though the majority of songs move a lot faster than even the briefest of Black Flag rippers.  The vocal variations move from straight-up shrieking to spoken/yelled, to some deeper hardcore shouts.  I love the weird art/mascot that looks like it was cribbed from an ad for mailorder horror props in the back of a 60’s comic book.  Not a bad start, but definitely a worthy group to catch if they happen to play in your town and/or prefecture/province/kingdom/reservation/conquered land mass.  (Peterwalkee Records)

PINKO s/t
I randomly came across this Texas-based band through some weird internet rabbit hole searching and I thought their name was really cool.  I’m glad the music that I got out of it was just as cool (if not even cooler) as the clever name.   Pinko rock out some crazy-ass 90’s San Diego spazz-out scene style chaos on their debut release, citing (whether they are conscious of it or not) groups like Angelhair, Clikitat Ikatowi, Song Of Zarathustra, and Nation Of Ulysses, all the while delivering vocals that could be swapped out with Guy from Fugazi if he was having a panic attack.  In other words, this shit is for me.  From what I could glean from their online presence this may just be a project band as each of these members seems to be involved in several other projects.  I listened to a few of the others, this is easily my favorite.  Drop your other shit and do this thing full time.  Make it happen you commies.  (self-released)

RINGWORM, “Snake Church”
I feel like there was a good stretch of inactivity for this long-running Cleveland outfit spanning from the mid-90’s to the early 2000s, or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention to them during that time.  I was always under the impression that they were older dudes who couldn’t commit to the road and had grown up adult schedules and shit.  I mention this simply because now, in 2016, they are much older dudes with probably even more responsibilities, yet I feel like Ringworm has been more prolific than ever within the last 5 years.  They have steadily released new albums, EPs, and splits, done a fair amount of touring, and have continued to stay consistent despite a handful of membership changes over the years.  This, like the last several Ringworm records, is a motherfucker of metal, hardcore, and crossover thrashing.  It is always hateful and Human Furnace’s screams are nothing short of shredding (yes, I’m applying this term to vocals instead of guitars).  He’s one of a kind.  This one, however, seems like the most straightforward metal album I have heard from Ringworm.  It doesn’t sound as dirty, and nixes obligatory breakdowns every now and again in favor of just crushing with speed, power, spite, and some truly heavy metal guitar solos.  It’s a solid effort that fans will enjoy no doubt, but lacks just a little of that grime that makes Ringworm truly ferocious.  (Relapse)

RIOT STARES demo
Right away this band gets all sorts of points for having one of the better names out there.  I mean, when you do a play on a Deadguy song title I’m already going to be interested.  Add to that some simple, yet revealing cover art and you got the makings of (probably) something cool.  At the very least you get some dudes whose heads are in the right place.  So musically, this actually bears a pretty strong resemblance to Snapcase (“Progression Through Unlearning”-era) and some mid-era Refused (“Songs To Fan the Flames…”), which is kind of weird.  But hey, a point of reference is just that.  And both those bands in that era sounded fairly similar anyway.  So yeah, mid-90’s bleached hair and baggy pants enthusiasts take note.  It might be difficult to properly mosh in Jncos, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying this band who love pinch harmonics as much as they love evolving beyond playing just e-chords and actually rocking the fuck out a bit.  (self-released)

SECT s/t
As far as most supergroups go they tend to not always measure up.  The members of Sect are probably the last people who would describe themselves as a ‘supergroup’, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to name the personnel involved when trying to promote this group.  Yet they have a good sense of humor about it all as they credit themselves as being ‘vegan straight edge’ and ‘old’.  Given the players involved it is sort of a mish-mash with varied results.  Some of this sounds like straight up powerviolence, while there are the occasional chunky grooves crammed in here and there (which I can only guess the Earth Crisis contingent of this group wrote), which feels slightly out of place compared to the grindy and hostile vibe of the rest of the music.  Over it all Chris Colohan’s recognizable grizzled shouting is front and center, though it does not always come off as confident as it has in his other bands.  Maybe because some of the music is a bit different than other bands he’s fronted?  Maybe because of this being a project band with members spread over two coasts, several states, and two countries, thus limiting the ability to really get everyone in the room together regularly to get comfortable with the music?  I don’t want to slag it because this is a pretty cool project that churned out some pretty vicious music that is rooted in ideals I can get behind.  But I think with a little more time together the band could feel a little more cohesive.  (self-released)

THROAT CULTURE, “Everyone Loves You” 7”
It’s not a hard stretch to say that a band from Albany takes some influence from dumpy NYHC.  It’s quite another to say they pair it with weirder grungy noise rock and pull it all off effortlessly.  Throat Culture have somehow taken those two flavors and made them taste great together.  Their demo hinted at these ideas but had more of a post-hardcore feel overall.  This new 7” really extends the members musical interests and makes them fit into their own thing and the result is really great.  If you really reach back into some more obscure territory No Escape kind of had a similar thing going, but maybe leaning just a bit more metal.  I guess my only hang up with the four songs on this record is that they don’t always end solid.  A couple of them seem to just sort of drift off at the end, as if they ran with an idea but didn’t know quite how to wrap it up.  But maybe I’m complaining just because I want more of this stuff.  Gimme more.  (Head 2 Wall Records)

Bonus Round:
PREMA, “Drivel”
Throughout the early 90’s when Krishnacore became a thing and bands like Shelter and 108 were creating crazy music, one-upping just about every band out there with some of the most intense and heartfelt live shows ever. Equal Vision Records seemed to be the place to go for these bands to find a home as well.  One such group of young upstarts called Prema were what was to be (maybe) the next wave of Krishnacore bands.  They released an EP of post-hardcore leaning jams that gave an indication of good things to come.  And then came time for their full length.  Well, they completely did a 180 (instead of a 108, zing!), more or less dropped the Krishna style, and threw everyone for a loop.  Just as an aside, this was around 1996 so the hardcore scene didn’t really know what to make of it.  They were opening their record with the slow and weird “Sounds, Shapes, and Shades” before the next track, “Smoke”, came on sounding like a spaghetti Western soundtrack before exploding into some San Diego-style chaos.  “Morphine Addict” probably wasn’t a good way to impress the straightedge crowd, even though it’s catchy dissonant lead plugged away like it had escaped John Reiss’ brain and traveled to Philadelphia to plant itself in Doug Freeman’s guitar.  Most of the songs on this record hovered near, or over, the 6-minute mark.  Even the last song- “Hair Dye”- is over three minutes of jazzy meandering before exploding into the crux of the song and the chaos that spews forth from there on out.  The whole thing was very Drive Like Jehu worship, which was fine by me because I was just getting into them around when this record was released.  Even their label, Equal Vision, didn’t seem to know what to make of the band.  I distinctly recall an advertising campaign in every zine out there describing them as “Rocket From the Crypt stylee (sic)”, whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean, and throwing credit towards the incorrect John Reiss band.  I don’t think the band stuck around for long after this was released, and aside from drummer Ryan Mclaughlin playing on most of best Ink and Dagger material I’m pretty sure most of the members of this band didn’t do much musically afterwards.  It’s kind of a shame though because this is one really cool record from some very creative musicians.  Unfortunately, it came out at a time when hardcore was pretty rigid and this band, who certainly did not fit into those rigid confines, was thrown into the middle of it.  Too weird to exist, as the saying goes.  But I think it makes for a pretty good lasting album.  (Equal Vision)

Friday, July 29, 2016

NO LIGHT, NO TUNNEL TOUR.

BLEAK freaks will be on tour again, in support of their spanking new full length "No Light, No Tunnel".  The trek will see the band head out West, do some dates with Crowhurst, and then round back to NY to close out the tour with a massive show featuring Pig Destroyer and Secret Cutter in Ithaca. Check the dates below.
8/25 Akron OH. Annabelle's. 
8/26 Detroit MI. Sanctuary. (w/ Die Choking) 
8/27 Davenport IA. Red Stoned Room. 
8/28 Minneapolis MN. Poser Compound. 
8/29 Rapid City SD. S&S Boxing Gym. 
8/30 Missoula MT. EEEELLL House. 
8/31 Seattle WA. Victory Lounge. 
9/1 Portland OR. TBA 
9/2 Ashland OR. Base Kamp Awesome. (w/ Crowhurst) 
9/3 1078 Gallery. Chico CA. (w/ Crowhurst) 
9/4 Oakland CA. The Golden Bull. (w/ Crowhurst) 
9/5 Los Osos CA. Sweet Springs Saloon. (w/ Crowhurst) 
9/6 Los Vegas NV. Double Down Saloon. 
9/7 Salt Lake City UT. Diabolical Records. 
9/8 Denver CO. Flux Capacitor. 
9/10 Ithaca NY. The Haunt. (w/ Pig Destroyer and Secret Cutter)

And if you still haven't picked up the new LP/CD what's your problem?  Get it HERE.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

REVIEWS FOR JULY!

Generally speaking, these days most of the stuff I end up reviewing are things I am personally interested in and seek out on my own, and then I feel compelled to write about it.  But I still get solicitations here and there and do my best to write something up about the ones I find unique in one way or another.  In the last month or so I've had more solicitations than usual and so there is a fairly eclectic array of stuff on this list this time around.  Oh, and the past review is from one of my favorite, and oft-overlooked, DC bands as they had a short-lived tenure.  But, ya know, big surprise that I write up something about a DC band right?
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A.M. NICE, s/t
My frame of reference for most things goes back at least 10 years so forgive me if what this sounds like to me has no bearing on you whatsoever.  This sounds just like early Chisel.  Ya know, the Ted Leo band before he went solo.  It’s like those demos, or maybe “Nothing New”-era where they were still kind of rough around the edges before the total Jam worship set in with “8AM All Day” and “Set You Free”?  No?  Nothing?  Well, screw you.  This sounds like early Chisel.  It’s fine with me.  Think some rough n’ tumble jangly guitar and some nods towards mod bands in the background.  It’s catchy, poppy, and still playing it kind of loose.  (Phratry)

CHRON TURBINE, “II”
A second full length dose of noisy goodness spews forth from this low-key band of weirdoes.  If any diligent readers recall my last review of this band I described them as The Cars as played by KARP, or something to that effect.  This new release is a little less overtly catchy, and goes for uglier stabs at delivering earworms, though probably not intentionally.  Things start off with some strong Jesus Lizard-meets-Girls Vs Boys vibes before going into “Love and Infection”, probably the most riffy, Sabbath-y, and lyrically funny song on the whole thing.  The remainder of the recording tends to be a bit more upbeat and frantic with the exception of the drunken swagger of “Midnight Mayor” and the closing droney epic “Way Out”.  This is good stuff, a bit progressed from their last record but just as freaky.  It would be nice if they played out a bit, I bet they would be fun live.  (Peterwalkee Records)

FAKING, “Goddamn Cowards”
I’m the last one to call out a band for paying respect to another band in their sound.  I like all sorts of bands that wholesale rip off their predecessors and peers.  But I really have to say, Faking play Young Widows, “Settle Down City” a little too close to the nose (they even have a very similar lights set-up live).  I mean, it sounds just like that record.  While it’s hardly a bad thing for a band to choose YW as an influence it comes off as a little too obvious and that may put some people off.  On the other hand, Faking do have a good sense of groove and power to their songs.  Their lyrics read like short stories of people making bad decisions, and they also somehow manage to turn a Gladys Knight and the Pips cover (“If I Was Your Woman”) into their own song.  I’m not sure how they pulled it off, but it works.  It could be a lot worse ya know?  They could totally suck.  But they don’t and so that makes this alright.  (Reptilian Records)

MAPLE STAVE, “V”
This band has a pretty interesting set up by forgoing the bass guitar and using a baritone guitar instead, which always sounds cool to me.  It’s like having a second guitarist and a bassist all in one instrument!  Hooray for efficiency!  Maple Stave border on the space between what could be Dischord-influenced rock (Bluetip/Jawbox) and clattering noise rock.  It’s a little too clean for a noise rock bit and a little less inventive than my Dischord heroes, but it gets the job done nonetheless.  In fact, I’m getting a strong Faraquet vibe from this, minus the algorithms needed to fully execute what that band did so effortlessly.  (Phratry)

MELVINS, “Bases Loaded”
Here’s the idea- since the Melvins have had about 50 different bass players throughout their time as a band why not make a record that puts the spotlight on the bass players, in which the band got several different people (including drummer Dale Crover) to slap the 4-string over the course of a dozen tracks.  Current bassist Steve MacDonald (also of OFF!), former (slah-occasional) bassist Jared Warren (of Big Business), Pinkus (usual guy, and former Butthole Surfers member), Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle musical prodigy), and even Krist Novaselic (from some band) all contribute tracks to this record.  As the Melvins have progressed their sound has veered from less sludgy mountains of riffs to more just weird rock (with some not-so-slight nods to Kiss and other arena legends) and to be honest, it doesn’t really do it for me.  I appreciate that they have done this forever, still tour year-round, still have creative juices to do whatever weird shit comes to mind for them, and seem to be completely satisfied and stable with how it is done.  I respect the shit out of that.  And while the music is obviously well-written it’s just not for me.  I think the last thing that really blew my hair back (as I now have none) was “A Senile Animal” so maybe it’s just me being an ignoramus regarding Melvins massive output.  (Ipecac)

NULL/ SELF DEFENSE FAMILY split 7”
Generally, SDF would be the lead name on a split simply because of how prolific they are.  But I gotta give the nod to Null, a side project of Coliseum drummer Carter Wilson (and others), for the stellar contribution here.  They go with a brooding True Widow-esque slow burner with haunting vocals and spooky riffs and I’m all over this like flies on that weird salad your aunt made for the family reunion BBQ.  I’d like to add, if you have not checked out their LP “Sleepwalking Days” they released earlier this year I highly recommend it as it is quickly becoming one of my favorite records to come out in 2016.  OK, so the SDF side is a meandering dream of a song with a single line repeated over and over.  I’m into the idea of them just doing whatever the fuck they please and not kowtowing to any sort of pre-conceived notion of what they’re supposed to sound like.  But the most recent spate of material they have released is a little too on the mellow side for my tastes and I kind of prefer when they have a little more energy going with their music.  (Protagonist)

OLD LINES/ WILL POTTER, “To Build a Fire” split 7”
One is a Baltimore d-beat wrecking crew, the other is an award-winning investigative journalist specializing in animal rights issues and how government surveillance impedes upon others fighting for the voiceless (and many other related issues).  The idea is to combine both music from the band and have it segue into Potter’s spoken sections on the topics listed previously.  On the b-side Potter opens things up with a very emotional and personal piece before Old Lines breaks into a fiery ripper.  It is nothing short of visceral, between Potter’s political/personal rhetoric (featuring some noisy sampling textures in the background) bleeding into feedback and Old Lines then completely annihilating the turntable with their super heavy, intense, and beyond pissed brand of hardcore fire.  Highly recommended for those needing a reminder that we are constantly being trampled on by the powers that be and why sometimes you just need to set something on fire to turn the tables just a little bit.  (Life Advice Records)

SOUND DISCARD, demo
Did this band design their demo to match their name?  I ask because this literally is sound on a disc placed inside a card.  Ya know, a sound disc card.  I got jokes for days, I tell ya.  All that aside, this new Syracuse-area band has picked on that shoegaze stuff that has been all the rage with the kids these days.  I might discard (no pun intended) this as young kids riding the coattails of the flavor of the month if these weren’t all seasoned musicians who have been playing in a multitude of bands over the years.  So while their music may take hints from bands like Nothing they certainly have a well-informed approach to it that is ethereal, spacious, melodic, and still loud as all get out.  Not a bad start.  (self-released)

SPRAY PAINT, “Feel the Clamps”
Did six months go by already?  They must have because another Spray Paint LP has arrived.  In what is approaching some sort of record this Austin, TX band has released 4 full lengths in less than three years, by my count.  These dudes obviously like to write and record.  And like their last release, “Dopers” (or was it “Punters On the Barge”?) it shares a similar production quality and song writing style.  I hate to say it, but Spray Paint is getting a little predictable lately and while I still enjoy what they do quite a bit I have to admit being partial to when they sounded a little more gritty.  Yes, the jittery fucked up guitar reverb is ever-present, as is the nasally vocals going on about weirdoes and white trash.  While most of the songs move at a pretty good clip I think I like the slow ones the best- “Shovelling” and “Heaps Of Ice” have an extra creepy/dude-on-cheap-drugs-coming-down feel to them.  Best line on the record:  “Shut up/I’m drinking over here.”  (Goner)

Bonus Round:

REGULATOR WATTS, “The Aesthetics Of No Drag”
Rising from the ashes of Hoover this DC band excelled at creating moody, feedback-driven songs driven by thoughtful and intricate bass lines.  Alex Dunham, who provided many of those guitar squalls and low, howled vocals in Hoover really accentuates the mood in these songs.  The cover art by Jason Farrell, somewhat out of character from this usual style, just drives it home with whatever the huge sleek machine engulfing a bridge over a bay, as if that picture was the sound of the band.  Things start off with “Mercuchrome”, a burst of feedback on top of a slick and repetitive bass riff that quickly jumps into a lock step groove with those sharp, yet steady, guitar jabs somehow making a melody over it all.  “20th Century Ltd.” follows a similar path, energetic and complex, but flowing together in a weird and noisy caterwaul.  As the moaning of guitars open “Seedtick East” one is reminded of a foggy bay in the dead of night as a ship sounds it’s foghorn to call out to other lonely ships passing in the night.  The high point of the record comes next with “The Ballad Of St. Tinnitus”, almost like welcoming the dawn and it’s huge swell of sustained guitar skree and harrowing account of losing one’s parents to drug and alcohol abuse before an epic finale and shouts of “The ring, rings/ Make the people sing”.  Things move into more melodic territory on the B-side with the rather smooth and upbeat “Pemberton red” and “Chechero”.  Bobby Sullivan from Soul Side does guest vocals on “False Idols” and it’s heavily dub-influnced sound.  The record closes with “Witchduck”, a move back into noisy and somewhat chaotic territory.  There’s really no way to describe what Regulator Watts did in their brief existence because there is really no one who plays guitar quite the way Alex Dunham does.  But if you are familiar with the more haunting aspects of Hoover (or any of the bands he’s done post- Regulator Watts) it will give a hint.  As well as being backed by an incredible rhythm section this is a true overlooked gem in the DC canon.  I never got to see this group, nor any other band these guys were associated with, and scant live video exists of them either.  They only released this full length, as well as a couple of EPs that were grouped together on the “Mercury” CD.  This record isn’t too hard to find though so I highly suggest doing a little digging and hearing for yourself the very unique thing that they brought to the table.  (Slowdime)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

108 IN NYC!


I’ve been so caught up with all this new record releasing business that I sometimes forget I utilize this site for reviews and whatnot from time to time.  So lets rewind way back to late May when I took a trip down to NYC to catch 108 bust out two sets in one day.

 
I got into town a day early so I could do some NYC stuff.  Typically when I visit I tend to just find whatever new vegan restaurant has opened up before catching a show and then crashing somewhere in Brooklyn, which I’ve done a lot.  So I thought I’d go back to things I haven’t done since I was a little kid and my dad brought me down to the city several times to do tourist stuff, as well as go to museums and see art.

I hadn’t been to Central Park intentionally since I was probably about 13. I decided that was as good of a place to start.  I walked from 70th through the park probably up to about 90th and halfway around the reservoir.  It was a pretty good, long walk. My intention was to walk back in time to get to the Natural History Museum before it closed, but I was too late.  Got some food at a nearby place and then trekked it all the way out to Kew Gardens, Queens where I stayed with some friends who had just bought a condo.  It’s weird to stay in an area of town where people had lawns.  Within a couple blocks of getting off the subway one could easily confuse this section of NYC with a suburb of Syracuse.  It was strange.  But it was nice to stay in a place with space.  I’ll never understand how any of my other friends in this city subject themselves to living in those tiny-ass railroad apartments.  It makes no sense.  Here I had my own room and a book about the history of Def Jam Records to lull me to sleep.

OK, so what about the shows.  Oh yeah, that happened too.  So, as I arrived at St. Vitus Sweet Jesus was just getting started.  These Providence/Boston dudes have been in a million bands and are continually active people doing a plethora of different-sounding, but all quite vital, bands.  Their singer, Pat Flynn talks a lot between songs.  It’s always good to have a frontman who has something to say, but I think he may have gone on a bit too long.  The point has been made, no need to drill it in further.  I made that mistake early on when fronting bands, not to go on for too long unnecessarily.  I figure a dude with a lengthy track record such as his would pick up on that as well.  But at least almost every between-song rant ended with some nod to how if you liked Sweet Jesus you should just go listen to Swiz, or pick up a Jason Farrell record instead.  It was pretty funny and lent a good vibe to the already awesome live delivery they had.  If you never heard the group think late 80’s/early 90’s Dischord hardcore.  Or for a more recent example think Give.

Blacklisted have never done it for me.  I’ve seen them multiple times in their various forms and none of it has ever resonated with me.  I could never get into the dudes voice, or his lyrics.  Some of the music is good, but it sounded muddled here and I can’t make out shit.  I’ve tried Blacklisted, I really have.  I just can’t hang.  It’s not you, it’s me.

So 108 does set number one.  It’s all stuff from “Holyname” and “Songs Of Separation”.  It never occurred to me until just now how much the song “Holyname” has a total Cro-Mags vibe to it.  It sure is a hell of a ripper to begin a set with.  From there on out basically every song that one would want to hear from those two records was played…  except “I Am Not”, which is not only one of my favorite songs, but I’m also pretty sure that in all my times of seeing 108 they have never played it.
For the last four songs they brought out Kate-0-8 to play second guitar with the band.  She may look like a full-on soccer mom these days but she was raging pretty hard and singing along with all of the pile-ons.  Not too fucking shabby.  Additionally, I may add, “Deathbed” will never not bring me to the verge of tears when they play it.

As an aside, I managed to run into a lot of unexpected people here as well.  There barely any NYC people I knew present, but plenty of random, unexpected folks from all over the place showed up to enjoy the show(s).  Friends from NJ, Philly, Albany, and even Norfolk, VA were in attendance and it’s pretty wonderful that this music in a small venue can drag people from distant locales to all sing along and have fun.  So between the two shows I made it my business to get some eats with some of these fine folks before heading back for set #2.

I again start things off by catching a portion of Sweet Jesus set.  They deliver more jokes about Jason Farrell worship, more excessive banter that is half ‘right on!’ and half ‘OK, I got it two minutes ago’, and more awesome songs.
Blacklisted sounds a bit better this time around, but I’m still not feeling it.
108 set number two is all “Threefold Misery” and later (more recent) material and I’m totally OK with that.  Unpopular opinion- I think “Threefold Misery” is my overall favorite record of theirs.  But my feeling on that is that the first time I ever saw 108 “Songs Of Separation” had already been out for a little bit and I was so impressed with seeing them that day that I went out and got the record right after.  But “Threefold misery” was the first record of theirs to come out where I was already into the band and saw them play stuff off that release when they toured on it, so it has a bit more personal relevance to me.  Plus, the bass tone on that record is so ridiculously awesome and heavy.

So anyway, they played the entire record.  The whole thing.  They also tossed in a couple songs from “Curse Of Instinct”, a few from “New Beat…” and “18:61”, which I feel are all excellent records.  108 is a rare example of a band that does reunion records that hold up just as well with all their classic stuff.  The band pulls a little cheat move at the end and plays “Solitary” again with Norm Brannon playing second guitar for them, as he was a member of the band for a short time.  The whole ting was extremely well done and extremely exhausting as well.  They must have played about 30 songs total between both sets.

From here it’s the long trek home.  I catch up with my friend from Norfolk as we’re both leaving from the Port Authority at approximately the same time.  So we take the subway back and catch up on old shit while waiting for our respective buses.  My stupid bus doesn’t take off until well after midnight, after some screwed up plans on Greyhound’s end that results in my bus being packed, not allowing me any space to sleep.  I rolled back to town at 5AM, took a nap, and went to dumb work.  Somehow I was still energized from the incredible shows and plowed through my day with relative ease.

Monday, June 13, 2016

GODSTOPPER JOIN THE TEAM, RELEASE A NEW EP, RE-ISSUE OTHER STUFF, AND DEBUT A NEW SONG!


This Summer Hex Records will be releasing material from Toronto's GODSTOPPER.
The band, which is essentially the project of songwriter Mike Simpson with members backing him live and occasionally in the studio, has recorded a new EP entitled "Who Tries Anymore" which will be released on 12" vinyl and digitally.
Additionally, Hex Records will be simultaneously releasing the band's last full length, "Lie Down" on CD, which was only released digitally until now.  As an added bonus, their EP "Children Are the Future", released shortly before "Lie Down" (and was also a download-only release), is tacked on as bonus tracks to the CD.
GODSTOPPER's heavy-handed approach brings to mind everything from the Melvins to Cave-In, Mare on up to Torche.  From "Children..." on up to "Lie Down", and now "Who Tries Anymore" the progression from harsh, down-tuned sludge with hidden hooks and melodies has almost been reversed.  "Who Tries Anymore" shows GODSTOPPER presenting their most blatantly catchy songs while still retaining heavy elements among exceptional songwriting and Simpson's pitch-perfect vocals.

The first track from the new 12" "Shoulder" can be streamed now at Exclaim: http://exclaim.ca/music/article/godstopper-shoulder

You can pre-order either of their releases, or both (at a special price!) at either  http://hexrecords.bigcartel.com/ or through http://hexrecords.bandcamp.com/album/who-tries-anymore