Sunday, September 28, 2008


Hex Records will release the debuts from two new Syracuse bands- Oak and Bone and Night Owls- soon after the new year.
Oak and Bone are a younger band whose members have played together in various incarnations over the years, settling on what they have now- dirty hardcore rock with riffs upon riffs, akin to Ebullition style hardcore mixed with some Lords and Queens Of the Stone Age (at least to this guy). They will be recording a 7" at some point before year's end. You can hear a few demo songs here:

Night Owls
are also a new band, but between the four members they've
put in time with dozens of well-known bands around town. With Night Owls they opt for something a bit off-course from what they're used to and go for punchy rock that brings to mind the songwriting of Hot Snakes, though a bit more on the hardcore side. They will be releasing a CDEP with a handful of new songs as well as their demo (the 7" version with three of the new songs will surface on Syracuse's own ever-cheerful Barbarossa Records). You can hear one of their demo songs here:

Monday, September 22, 2008


Well, here it is. I'm finally putting up the DEVO interview I did back at the end of June when I saw them in NYC. Yes, it's short, but that's all the time I had, so I wrote up a show review to go with it. A version of this (in comic book form!) will appear in the next issue of Translate, which ought to be out probably by the end of October. Also, this interview/ review ought to be showing up in the next issue of The New Scheme as well.

I was a nascent young spud back in the early 80’s when MTV came on the air. My already musical mind began to catch visuals of the same records that my Dad would play around the house- Genesis, The Clash, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello. Eventually I caught a video by a little band called Devo. In my youth I couldn’t quite grasp just what the hell was happening with the “Whip It” video, but the song was awesome and the visuals were hilarious. Who knows what the point was, all I knew was that I loved it.

That was probably around 1982. I was five. Fast forward
to 2008 and I’m thirty, and in a trailer where the members of Devo are donning their trademark radiation suits and energy dome hats, and I’m in there about to interview them.
How on Earth did this happen?
How did I go 25 years of being so influenced by the sounds and ideas of this band, having never ca
ught a glimpse of them live, and then jumping straight into interviewing founding member Gerald Casale right before they take the stage? I’ve never considered myself all that crafty, but I suppose when you envision a goal, when you’ve got your eye on the prize, and even a bit of the eye of the tiger, there’s simply no compromise. It’s destiny and it has to happen.
The actual story goes something like this: Devo were pla
ying New York City and that’s the closest I’ve heard of them playing for as long as I’ve been paying attention, and come hell or high water I was going. Upon tracking down all the pertinent details I came across a couple minor ethical dilemmas- the first being that this gig would run me about $60, which I didn’t have. Not a huge deal, I’d figure it out. Second, it was a Live Nation/ Clear Channel event, which aside from being a terrible business, they ripped me off of $25 once. It’s just not how I roll. I had to hatch a plan.
Seeing as I’ve dabbled in the zine medium over the years, as well as the occasional freelance writing gig for other fine publications I set forth to see about doing a live review of the show as a fast track around purchasing a ticket. I’m not beyond bartering work for a free show!

There was a contact e-mail on the official Devo website and I hit it up, wondering if there was a publicist I could talk to. As luck would ha
ve it, the webmaster was also their publicist and he immediately seemed enthusiastic about my proposal and offered me a shot to interview Gerald Casale. I thought this might have been a joke, but I played along, expecting basically nothing. I agreed, but didn’t take it too seriously. I just wanted to see the show.
So it wasn’t until I found myself milling about McCarren Pool Park in Brooklyn, waiting for the guest list to appear. And it did. And I was on it! And, sure that made me feel like a dork, but it was nothing compared to impatien
t 40-somethings who acted like the poor cute girl behind the table (who was obviously on her first day and learning the ropes) owed their greasy asses a favor.
The park is quite literally a massive empty pool surrounded by a big wall on all sides and a giant stage at the end. It was about as good as one could get for a 6,000 capacity outdoor venue.
It was about halfway through Tom Tom Club’s set when Devo’s publicist got myself and some Aussie photographer together and brought us backstage to do our press stuff. It was weird. Some stuffy old hipster/ schmoozey types were hanging around trying to either cling to some semblance of their former coolness, score some drugs, or perhaps snag some free cant
aloupe from the deli tray.
Off to the side Mark Mothersbough was on his phone doing something no doubt important sans Devo getup. Yet seeing that guy wander around in those trademark spec
s was sort of surreal. While killing time the photo guy and I made small talk and he used me as a guinea pig for how he wanted to photograph the band. I did my best Run DMC pose for him and it seemed pretty tough.
The Tom Tom Club finished up their set and all walked back towards us where they were instantly greeted by a gaggle of fake hanger-on's. I gotta say, Tina Weymouth still looks great. Chris Franz, on the other hand, looks like a bloated soccer da
d. I don’t know what happened there. I think I caught him alternating between wolfing down a hot dog and pulling some fake sophisticate snob voice when he called to another snooty admirer, “Darling!” It was weird. I mean, just because he played in one of my all time favorite bands (Talking Heads) doesn’t exactly grant him a free pass on current crimes.
So, a few more su
rreal moments later some manager type guy calls to me and says I have five minutes to interview the band, so here we go. I was hoping for a bit more time, but hey, I wasn’t about to complain.
I walk into their trailer and they’re all getting into their yellow suits, hats already donned. I gotta say, it was one of the more bizarre moments in my life. But it was also one of the better ones. Sure, this interview is brief, but what do you expect out of five minutes? I feel like the necessary details were addressed and, fuck it, I got to interview Devo. What did you ever do?
RYAN: In past interviews you’ve been noted as saying that you used to be a self-professed hippie, previous to doing Devo. What were you like back then?

GERALD: I definitely had a pre- 9/11 mentality. You could accuse me of that. I was a lot more naive. I really thought that, fundamentally, there was a possibility of justice and that there were just some bad eggs, and that activists could really make a difference and change the world.

R: So you think that they can’t now?

G: That’s right.

R: Wow, alright. Well, seeing as the music you make is very catchy, very poppy, very accessible... a lot of people can get into it-

G: - It only seems like that now. We were considered extremely radio unfriendly and bizarre. People wouldn’t even question it. They’d hear us and say, ‘that’s not a song! Those aren’t even songs, they don’t have hooks!’ And now, it’s different.

R: Sure. I’m 30 and when I was a kid I would hear that music and think, “that’ s catchy!” This was the early 80’s and I thought it was catchy music.

G: I wish more people would have thought so. We had an accidental hit with “Whip It”, but we were met with great resistance with radio and that’s the truth.

R: Right. So given that, how do you feel about now, where more people can listen to and understand Devo, as opposed to back th
en when it was a lot more difficult for the general public to get into it?

G: Well, it’s interesting because we’re sort of getting re-discovered as if we’re some sort of prehistoric curiosities, which is cool. So that’s a whole new audience, and they get it immediately. I think it’s because the songs were ahead of their time, and now they’re not. They’re contemporary.

R: So going back to the hopelessness of change thing you mentioned, how does that pair up with the sound of Devo, which sounds very cheerful on the surface? What was it on your musical path that led you to say, ‘this is how I’m going to present this music’?

G: Well, we tried to keep it a secret, but there’s a lot of talent in this room (indicating the rest of the band being in the room). So that’s why we did it. It’s just what we do.

R: I understand that on the surface it sounds catchy and
simple, but beneath it you can hear weird time signatures and so forth.

G: Yes. The parts don’t really fit together in an expected manner, and the progressions had some surprises at times. The lyrics were not your typical subject matter of rock n’ roll.

R: I have a couple somewhat off-kilter questions. The first is I wanted to ask about your Jerry Jihad project and what happened with it?

G: With Jihad Jerry what we were trying to do was to create a character, an alter ego, that was commenting on the fact that we live in a fear-driven climate where the citizenry was more than willing to give up all their freedoms to preserve ‘freedom’. That is, the democratic way of life they were willing to trash in order to catch Osama bin Laden. Of course, no one sees the supreme irony in that, and that’s the problem. Jihad Jerry was trying to point out that his was not a holy war. It was a war on stupidity. But nobody thought I was funny and I got viciously attacked and hate mail, and so on.

R: Another thing is that you do a lot of work for commercials and much of it seems seems like things you’d criticize in Devo. I take it you separate the two?

G: Yes.

R: Do you try to interject a bit of that into the commercial work?

G: You always try to do that. I mean, it’s apples and oranges with Devo. This is us. This is our self-expression. It’s like we’re poets and we’re being paid to be us. What we do is what we do. The commercial stuff is problem-solving. We don’t go to them, they come to you. You’re not the primary creator.

R: So when a beer company goes to you to come up with a campaign and you tell them, ‘OK, here’s my idea- beer is dumb, how about that for a commercial’?

G: That’s pretty much what I did. Any commercial I did for a beer company I was pretty much saying beer is dumb. And creatively, they were OK with it!

R: Last question- you’re a bass player and you play left-handed, and an upside down right-handed bass. How did that come about?

G: I was left-handed and no one in my town of Akron, Ohio a) had any left-handed instruments and b) was left-handed and played an ins
trument to show me.

R: So you never changed?

G: It was too late by then!

Exactly five minutes later I was finished with Jerry, shook all their hands, and was on my way.
While the schmooze party continued outside I helped myself to the fruit tray and saw Dan Deacon loading up on food as well and figured, ‘hey, this guy seems alright.’ He had opened the show earlier as a one man sound whirlwind, and playing right in the middle of the crowd, as opposed to the stage. Typically, I hate the laptop/ effects computer music DJ types, but he kept it fun and got not only some ridiculous circle pit going, but a conga line that wrapped around the whole venue. It was pretty entertaining and quite audience friendly to say the least. And he was an alright fella on top of it all, despite c
atering directly to the enemy... er, I mean hipsters.
In the meantime, Devo were taking pictures with Tina Weymouth from Tom Tom Club/ Talking Heads. Say what you will about putting people on a pedestal, or nostalgia-ladden gooberism, I was spitting distance from the bassist of one of my favorite bands of all time. I thought that was pretty cool.
Moments later Devo took the stage and I danced around like a little schmuck the entire damn set.
So here’s what I got to go on: If anyone has ever seen the 1980 Devo live video that was released a couple years ago this was pretty much the exact same thing. They set up exactly the same (drums on the far left and up front), the keyboards were still from the 1970’s. They had the exact same stage moves they’ve always been doing- that grouping of all the members and hopping in step to the break in “Uncontrollable Urge” remains exact. The gradual ripping of the outfits until they’re down to t-shirts, short shorts, and kneepads went like clockwork. They only played the m
ost familiar songs- “Gates Of Steel”, “Satisfaction”, “Whip It”, “Freedom Of Choice”, and so on. After all, why change it? Why mess with a good thing. They know exactly what’s worthwhile and what’s filler. And you know what- every damn second of it absolutely ruled.
Now if I already knew most of what they were going to do why was it so awesome? Well, here’s the thing- if maybe I’d already seen them 20 times perhaps I’d be sort of used to it, maybe a little bored even. But that’s not the case. I’d never seen Devo. And being there right up front while they went through their routine with a ton of other people dancing was excellent. Sure, their set is almost as robot-like clockwork as their intended android stage moves. But it’s done so well and played so perfect (hell, they’ve had 30 years to get it right) one can’t help but be bowled over with how entertaining it all is. Clearly I walked out of there beaming with a smile that lasted a good week.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


So a number of people have asked me about this Soul Control 7" that apparently I'm putting out. I figure most people know the deal by now, but I figured I ought to make some 'official' statement about it.
When those dudes initially approached me about doing a 7" I was totally down for it. They wanted to do one song and that was the only thing that threw me off. I said I'd do it if they recorded at least two songs. They said they would figure it out and get back to me. I just don't feel right selling people a one-song 7".
Well, somewhere there was a miscommunication because next thing I know I was listed as one of the labels releasing one of these 7"s. So I immediately hit them up again and let them know that I was only interested if it was more than one song. Well, that didn't fit with their plan of doing 4 one-song records, so we called it off.
There's no hard feelings, and I still think that band totally rules. And the new songs they recorded are dope. AND, there's the chance of doing something more formal down the line in the future (so keep an ear to the ground).
So hopefully that is out of the way. I believe the 4 labels releasing these records are Teenage Disco Bloodbath, Triple B, Dead But Dreaming, and Copper Lung Records. Go check them all out.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


So, here at the Hexquarters (AKA, my desk/office and storage attic) I try to stay on top of things as quickly as my brain conjures up new ideas. But if you ever took a good look at my site you'd know that it doesn't get updated super-often. Sometimes that's a good thing because every little thought that pops into my head certainly isn't worth turning into a news announcement. So I gotta have a filter at times. Thankfully, the webmaster for my site is also a very busy person and doesn't always get content (as in, the important stuff) up as quickly as I'd like.
Well, it gets bett
er. He's pretty much incommunicado and I have no idea what's happened to the guy. hell, the site hasn't had an update in over two months and I'm starting to get a little concerned about it.
Believe me, there's important content that needs to get up there.
Now, let's not blame delays squarely on the web guy. July was a pretty rough month for me- a computer crash that wiped out all my current reviews, a bicycle accident that took me off my feet for about a week, getting arrested, and other random bad luck all took it's toll.
But I've waited long
enough and I need to take matters into my own hands here.
So, first and foremost, I need to get some much needed reviews out of the way here. So look below and check them out:

BRAINDEAD, “No Consequences”
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the debut from Philly’s Braindead. It’s just that they don’t do anything for me at all. I gave this repeated listens, searching for elements that I may have missed the first time around. The only thing I could really come up with is how this is rather comparable to the newer effort
s that Crime In Stereo are messing around with, except on a slightly more aggressive side. Braindead use a lot of melody and play things mid-tempo often, yet still get fast and dirty on a few songs. Still, I’m just not feeling it. My only real critique is that the end of the disc, with that fade out, static-like stuff going on... yeah, need to cut that back a little bit... kinda dragged on for way too long. Additionally, I might add that the first thing that came to mind when figuring out the artwork was it looked like someone blew their wad into a swimming pool. Hey, that’s just what it looks like to me. It could be blue cotton candy to someone else. Just like the music that’s within... except that’s a much more harsh metaphor than I had hoped to make. (Burn Bridges,

CANCER BATS, “Hail Destroyer”
Canada’s Cancer Bats have been at it for a little while now, and in that time they have attempted to master the power of the riff and subje
ct it to enough voltage to light a city for a week. I suppose they’ve done alright. Their last full length was pretty good, but I’ll be damned if I can remember one song off of it. “Hail Destroyer” finds the band creating some songs that are a bit more memorable (at least to this guy). They stick to their style that brings to mind a good dose of Every Time I Die, minus the turdburgling smartass antics. I’d say Cancer Bats are slightly more serious, and abandon most of the obligatory breakdowns in favor of just solid rocking throughout any given song. The first half of the disc is pretty decent, but things really pick up with “Smiling Politely”- a good jab at the repetitive workday drone and a killer end chorus of “Your price is set/ Bought and sold/ Trapped in debt/ This is a choke hold.” Things continue on a good note with the blasting rager “Pray For Darkness”, and finish up with “Zed’s Dead, Baby”, the album closer which has a great riff running throughout it. Overall, a decent pile of songs you could play while jumping motorcycles over fire pits with some other biker pals. (Black Market Activities,

FARAQUET, “Anthology: 1997-1998

For awhile I was completely obsessed with Smart Went Crazy, the short-lived and overlooked DC group that were about the most clever band I’d ever heard. Members from that split off and created the rather different Faraquet. I suppose they were clever in a new sort of way. You can hear it now in Medications, which is where basically all these dudes ended up... except Medications bashes your head in more. That band loosened the floorboards at a packed house show I caught them at where they took their signature math rock sounds and unique vocals and pretty much kicked the shit out of me. Faraquet sat somewhere between the aforementioned bands. Particularly on this anthology, which collects all their early material (two seven inches, a split EP, and one unreleased song) and shows the band in it’s early stages, still figuring things out. It’s a bit more melodic and meandering than their later stuff (a lone full-length on Dischord which showcased the band’s more aggressive prowess while still keeping it catchy and melodic). These songs have that math rock sound, a lot less vocals, and a little less driving rhythm. It’s good to have as an example of a band transitioning, but if you want to hear a math rock kind of band do it right (that is, keep it complex but still catchy-as-the-clap tuneful) pick up their full-length, or anything by Medications. And don’t forget Smart Went Crazy’s “Con Art”.. if you want to get overwhelmed with goodness. (Dischord,

I’m not sure what to make of this. Is it a singer-songwriter rock guy throwing his hat in the ring to do a variation on metalgaze and sounding like modern rock? Is it a modern rock band rising above the hordes of mediocrity to do something a bit ab
ove average with some slowly developing (on some songs) interesting music? Does this simply suffer from mediocre engineering? All valid questions for Glacial. First off, this vocalist is too in the front of the mix and his modern rock voice could work for the music if he was toned down a bit. Additionally, his subject matter is pretty good, but the lyrics and the delivery are pretty terrible. Take “Bought and Sold” for example: “I don’t know what I need/ Tell me what I need/ “ (wait for it....) “Marketing.” It sort of makes me cringe a little bit. Musically it’s alright. Things kind of move a long well and these are clearly folks who can write a song. It neither suffers from the drawn-out dullness of most metalgaze stuff, yet doesn’t get caught up in plain old ‘give the idiots what they want’ cheese. On the other hand, I feel as if these songs, which are fairly well-written, could really stand out if there was a thicker production laid down on them during recording. (Exigent,

HAVE HEART, “Songs To Scream At the Sun”
Everyone’s probably got this already, so there’s really no need to review it. But for the five people who may not be at all familiar with Have Heart, they’re sort of the current reigning good guys of modern hardcore, played by hardcore kids, for hardcore kids. Upon first listen of this new disc I read a long with all of the lyrics. Despite going a little overboard with all the daddy/ grandpa/ brother/ sister/ second cousin twice removed stuff, it’s pretty moving. It’s well-written, pretty poetic, and quite inspiring how it fits with the music to hit those really anthemic highs and lows. Now on the second listen I jus
t played it and listened to the music, never minding the lyrics, and really it didn’t do much for me. It reminded me of Verse (who they share members with), often rolling with slower tempos, melodies, and nothing super-inspiring. So I guess to really enjoy this you gotta read along (or shout along) with it. The only time on here when you could do either and still want to do a couch pile-on in your house is the last song, “The Same Sun”, which just gets the ‘everyone in the place get your insane sing-along on’ regardless how much you do or don’t like this band. If anything, I’m glad a band like this exists and seems to be the hot shit right now. It’s better than some garbage like... I don’t know, open a copy of Outburn magazine and pick anything in there. (Bridge 9,

Perhaps it’s a far-fetched theory, but seeing as this band is from Virginia, and so is Avail, is it plausible to believe they got their name from “Live At the Kingshead Inn”? Meh, doubtful. One can still hypothesize though I guess. Either way, this demo has a very live feel to it. I don’
t mean that in the sense that it’s a bad recording. I mean, it sounds like the band is in the room with you, stomping the floor and jackhammering you in the nuggets with their guitars. That’s a very good quality. It gives these songs a lot of power. And that’s a good start. For an idea of sound, take some of the dirty crustiness and hardcore dirge of Cursed, but stick to a slightly more traditional hardcore sound and that’s a good idea of what Kingshead is starting out with. Again, it’s not a bad place to be, especially for a demo. (

My memory may be shit because for some reason I feel like this band sounded completely different on th
eir last release. It wasn’t all that long ago, and I ought to remember things better than that. Nevertheless, do the research on your own and then let me know if I got mush between the ears. All that really matters is the here and now because the new release from Florida’s LYOF is pretty fucking killer. At least it is for awhile, and then it gets a bit repetitive. It’s like Coalesce is grinding you under that same soccer kleet back and forth, back and forth. They don’t switch over to the lumberjack boots, or doc martens, or even stomp up and down, or that smearing thing. They just go back and forth. That’s kind of the rub (pun intended) I get from this collection of songs. They start off good, using that jagged broken chainsaw guitar sound and chunky beats and keep it going, culminating with the high point of “Five Blows”. And after that it starts to get kind of same-y, when at this point I’m sort of wishing for a little more variety. Perhaps it’s good then that this is an EP. It’s a great sound to roll with, but they need to mix it up a little more to keep from dulling the pain. Also, the samples seem a little out of place at times... not sure what they’re trying to connect at times, but whatever, it’s small issue. (Seventh Rule,

There are very few bands these days in the whole metalgaze- NeurIsis subgenre that do anything at
all for me. It’s another case of one or two bands really breaking new ground and a million piss-poor copycats half-assing it in ridiculously mediocre ways. I’d say there’s about a total of 5 bands that are taking that sound and doing something good with it. Mouth Of the Architect definitely break into that top five and are pretty fucking awesome at that. This new disc does an excellent job of using huge droning riffs, keyboards/ samples, and long-build ups to create one nice piece of work. MOTA are also pretty good at taking a riff, building on it, and then suddenly breaking off into something different and surprising, which is a good idea for this genre that all-too-often can drag itself down with repetition. My favorite track on here is the rather atypical “Generation Of Ghosts”, where Made Out Of Babies vocalist Julie Christmas lends her voice, adding a nice high end to the epic thickness and depression of the song. I have nothing to go on with this guest as I’ve never heard her other band, but this sounds fucking excellent. The closing track, “A Beautiful Corpse” makes no qualms and simply goes for the throat from beginning to end. A great way to end the record it’s massive pounding of sound, a leftover from “Through Silver In Blood” that was resurrected for the here and now, punching your face in. Yeah, this is a pretty damn good release. Glad this band decided to stick it out and give us another one. (Translation Loss,

NUMBER 12 LOOKS LIKE YOU, THE, “Here At the End Of All Things” CD/ DVD
Christ, was this necessary? Are two vocalists necessary? Alright, here’s what you get- a live CD and accompanying DVD. The D
VD has a song-for-song interview/ explanation. There are a couple videos for this band’s songs. And a live show. So let’s dissect it a little bit. First off, I want to know how people enjoy this band? Even in a live setting. Let’s take the main band they steal from/ butcher- when you go see Dillinger Escape Plan make sure you have health coverage. You go to one of their shows and it’s like getting sideswiped by schizo ninjas with chainsaws for limbs, both musically and physically. This group not only cannot string together a bunch of random tech parts to make a good song, but when they play it for an audience there’s just not a lot going on. Therefore, the live video of this, even when it’s dressed up with fancy stage lights, between-song samples, and plenty of audience cheerfulness, is about as exciting as watching flies fuck. Now about the horrible package this came in. I can’t quite tell if this is the worst cartoonist trying to draw something realistic, or the worst figure study artist attempting to be cartoon-ish. It’s like 5th grade terrible. I’m not sure why this got the green light at the label office. I’m not sure why this band continues to exist. (Eyeball Records,

PYGMY LUSH, “Mount Hope”
As far as I know I don’t think I heard the first full length from Pygmy Lush, but I feel as if it was a lot di
fferent than the fare happening on this record. At first I wasn’t so sure if I was going to like it. But it really began to sink in and became a seriously awesome record to just breathe in, relax to, maybe get just a tiny bit spooked by, and otherwise enjoy. These songs are all very sparse and show incredible restraint. The vocals are almost a whisper on every track, accentuated by a hollow sounding reverb, as if recorded in a cave (thus the spookiness of it all). Pygmy Lush is a full-band (2 guitars, bass, drums, vocals) but I’m pretty sure just about all of this is acoustic, with only minor hints of anything amplified. It’s a nice change of pace for, and perhaps it helped that I listened to this while out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere... it’s a pretty good place and setting for music of this sort. Again, most of these songs are slow, minimal, and haunting. Yet they mix it up a little bit with “Butch’s Dream”, a song that sounds like it was left off of the “O’Brother Where Art Thou?” soundtrack. “Hard To Swallow” also picks up the pace a little and continues with the spooky vibe. I feel, though, that it’s the last track on the record, “Tumor”, that not only strikes a melancholy chord, but also some dark humor. It’s probably the best song on here too. For being recorded on an 8-track this sounds really, really good. It’s nice to see that something this interesting and beautiful can also be so simple. (Lovitt Records,

RAMMING SPEED, “Brainwreck”
This sounds
like it came out in 1989 and shared studio time with Exodus. When these Boston heshers/ thrashers played here they all had high tops, smelled like beer and B.O., all had long smelly hair, and had pointy guitars with whammy bars. They were pretty much the real deal. Where their last seven inch sort of sounded like they were getting their feet wet and didn’t have much to say aside from loving pizza and thrashing it appears Ramming Speed have a little bit more going on with “Brainwreck”. Sure, it’s all in good fun at the end, but there’s a number of social issues raised concerning coercing the public with fear, immigrant rights, and confronting apathy. On the other hand, you also get songs with titles like, “Shane Embury Is the Brad Pitt Of Grindcore” and “Heavy Metal Thunder” (which sounds exactly like what you’d think it sounds like... Judas Priest and Iron Maiden would be proud). All in all, pretty good circle-pitting fun. (Teenage Disco Bloodbath,

The Roller neither falls too close to expectations, but they don’t stray from it all that much either. I guess it’s a middle road between what I figured they would be like, yet just a bit outside it. They’re most certainly a stoner metal band without a doubt. Yet, rather than simply playing to the bar they throw in some longer, drawn-out dr
oning in addition. It’s not quite Southern Lord, and it’s not quite High On Fire. It’s actually nothing all too special, but also not a complete bummer. I guess it’s just decent stuff all around, heavy on the rocking side of things and not exactly beating them over the head with drone... more like giving them a hard jab in the arm. (Monofonus Press,

SUICIDE NOTE, “Empty Rooms”
I don’t expect most of the readers of this to gush over with enthusiasm the same way I do when I hear about a new Suicide Note record. Nor do I expect people to find as much unique energy and creativity within their music,
all the while keeping it 100% ass-kicking, as I do. But this band just hits the right spot with me every time and that makes them winners in my book. Maybe it’s because they tour so infrequently and it’s only every couple years they grace us with new recorded material. Well, this happens to be a good year because I’ve seen them on tour and I have their new record. And it’s fucking great. While over the years they’ve grown outside of playing just straight heavy music, and adding other influences to their style, this has worked out nicely to really make them a group doing their own thing. It’s pretty hard for me to accurately describe them, but I guess if you could take the raging face-splitting hatred of Deadguy and couple it with the catchy rock-steady feel (and similar guitar tones at times) of Queens Of the Stone Age, and finally top it off with the clever forward-thinking of Fugazi that would be a decent start to how Suicide Note present themselves. And it never hurts when your guitarist has a doctorate in his instrument or something... it can make for some interesting new sounds. Regardless, the new effort from Suicide Note is really damn good. I think the B-side wins though, as each song is solid through and through. Things start off with “No Waves”- a fast and catchy song typical of what one would expect from this group, punctuated with the buildup chorus of “Just break!” Then it’s on to the neat and minimal (well, it sounds that way, but it’s actually in a really weird timing, making it that much cooler) sound on “New Eyes”. Next is probably the best track on the record- “Division Of Me”- a raging torrent of clobbering beats, lyrics that shout, “I’m glad that’s what’s left of me” before evolving into a blast beat and the call over it, “You dig too deep”. It’s a total ripper. After that they chill it out a bit with an instrumental song called “Ride Out West” which basically sounds like you’d expect it to and frankly, not too far off from music you could possibly hear in a spaghetti Western. Finally, “Black Snow” closes out the record in a way perfect for SN- wired, asymmetrical guitar over heavily distorted rhythmic punishment. Again, the layout is a nice piece of work with the typical inside jokes in the linear notes (“Thanks/sorry” and “bags of money provided by..”... shades of Deadguy anyone?). I seriously wish these dudes didn’t all live in different corners of the country because it would be great to be able to see them more than once every three years. This is definitely going to be a contender for record of the year for me. (Hawthorne Street Records,

THISTLE, “The Small Hours”
Apparently these guys have been a band for 15 years now! Good lord! I know I’m familiar with the name, and have heard one of their other records, but one would think with 15 years under their belt they’d have established a bit more notoriety at this point. Oh well, whatever the case, they’re making records and that certainly counts for something. And they’re fairly decent records at that. A number of bands on the Tiberius/ Phratry label have felt very Jawbox-inspired to my ears, but I’ve finally gotten that comparison out of my head with this release. Still, it reminds me of something else. Yes, I’m hearing a lot of Superchunk in this group and that’s definitely a good thing as well. All these songs have a very feel good and catchy vibe to th
em, though loose and rooted in early 90’s indie-punk. It doesn’t quite have all the hooks apparent in some of their influences, making it a little less memorable, but it holds it’s own alright in the end. It’s another decent effort from this group, though not necessarily doing anything 100% unique. (Tiberius,

U.S. CHRISTMAS, “Eat the Low Dogs”
There are just way, way too many bands that have taken the ideas and sounds of Neurosis and copied them ad nauseum until it’s just some sad photocopy that no longer has any meaning. But then there are a number of bands tha
t have learned from these ideas and expanded on them in new and exciting ways. And some of them typically end up on Neurosis’ own record label. Go figure. U.S. Christmas is one such band that has used some of these ideas and then given them a shitload of mushrooms and sat them down in an empty room playing 70’s snuff films. Their use of creepy, slow semi-accoustic jams with an almost constant use of theremin and spacey keyboards/ effects works pretty damn well to make one feel vibed out. Yet after awhile it gets a little repetitive, where every song starts to sound the same. This is basically the sound of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family reunion, U.S. Christmas playing happily in the background while Leatherface tosses some more meat (animal or human) on the grill. It’s creepy, fucked up, presented in bizarre colors, and spurting blood on the floor. (Neurot,

WAIT IN VAIN, “Seasons”
I don’t want to be one of those guys who takes someone from a band and compares whatever they do presen
tly against their past (and mostly more recognized) accomplishments. Still, I can’t hold back in this case. This really sounds like Trial. A lot. Far be it from me to complain about such a thing, so I hope Timm McIntosh isn’t reading this and getting pissed. He’s got a style and it works well. In fact, there’s a serious lack of bands that can do this right- that being modern fast hardcore with a penchant for, I guess you could say, metal drumming. Ya know, good breakdowns, tons of double bass parts that are far from cheesy and lyrics that actually mean something. This sounds like it was dredged out from 1998 and announced itself by giving everyone within spitting distance a big, fat black eye. Now, I also get the vibe that McIntosh pretty much writes the bulk of these songs, as well as the lyrics because he has a great way of keeping a good flow with the music and lyrics to match up very well in terms of the highs and lows, rallying cries, and so forth. This is most noticeable on the last track, “White Picket Fences”, totally raging in all respects. Oh yeah, nice Clash quote at the end too. Yeah, this is definitely a case of a group taking a bit of an older sound and giving it proper respect for the here and now, doing it extremely well. (Think Fast Records,

WETNURSE, “Invisible City”
Reading press releases should be taboo for music reviewers because you’re never going to get what you’re promised with what’s written within all the hyperbole. Still, I can’t really tell if it’s the band writing these things, thinking they sound like all these different things in their heads. Or is it some publicist trying to make a band out to be these things in order to make them better than they really are? In the case of Wetnurse I could have skipped the whole press release, or any prior information about them for that matter and saved myself a lot of confusion. They play tech-y metalcore with songs that are really long and a guitar wizard who can solo his ass off, and a vocalist that tends to be on the screechy high end of things. That’s the band in a nutshell. I have no idea where these notions of Bad Brains or AmRep stuff are coming into play. Who knows, maybe when the band is writing that’s what something they come up reminds them of, except filtered through their own sound. I do it all the time in my band, where some part reminds me another completely unrelated band. It just doesn’t make any sense to use those comparisons in the end... and maybe that’s what Wetnurse have done? Maybe not? Either way, I know what I’m hearing and it’s not what they may think.
(Seventh Rule,

VERSE, “Aggression”
Here it is. In 2008 if you’re a kid curious abut what hardcore is right now this is where they ought to start. Sit down with it, read
the lyrics, get pissed, and go out and do something (and then, of course, trace all the steps back to the originators... and figuring a skateboard and starting trouble in there somewhere as well ain’t bad either). Granted, “Aggression” isn’t too far removed from Verse’s other releases. They still play their hardcore like it’s 1995 with a good dose of melody and lots of slow, chunky heaviness. They keep that in check though with a few short, fast barn burners of course. I wasn’t so wild on the three-part “Story Of a Free Man” triptych though. It wasn’t bad. The music was good, but the whole thing felt a little too much. Everything else, though, is in just the right spot for intelligent, well-read politically-charged hardcore. “Unlearn” is probably the best example of this, although you could basically get angry enough to torch some cop cars... and then have a vegan potluck.. to any of these songs. Each one carefully breaks down the subject matter before culminating in some huge rally at the end, a good formula no doubt. It sure works on the closing/ title track, a great call and response against repression and commodification. This is a really kick-ass record and I’m glad this band keeps doing what they’re doing. (Bridge 9,

VON TILL, STEVE, “A Grave Is a Grim Horse”
KELLY, SCOTT, “The Wake”
You know the end times are night when both main dudes in Neurosis drop solo records and each has a death theme for the title. I say, ‘why so bummed out’? For real though, it’s just not the same. You can’t go from continuously crushing the life out of listeners with each Neurosis release to extremely sparse acoustic solo material. I suppose it’s a much more economical way to crush the life out of people, but still... Either way, both Von Till and Kelly have a similar thing going on with their respective solo releases in terms of instrumentation, title theme, and the fact both get kind of dull kind of quick. Von Till assumes an almost Johnny Cash style between the cold drawl of his voice and prairie-sparse feel of his songs. Kelly is, for lack of a better word, slightly more upbeat and offers only seven to “Graves...” 10 songs, making for a considerably shorter, and more easily digestible affair. For those that either like slow, minimal music, or are just total Neurosis nuts/ completists both these records may be right up your alley. For me, well, it’s just a bit too much take in for that long.

Could I ever get sick of this band? Doubtful. Over the years they’ve continuously released a string of CDR’s, a seven inch, and various other spots on their Blitz kick. They make no qualms about the fact that they love their Oi street punk as much as they like Thin Lizzy. It definitely shows in their music. And while Oi is most often associated with boot-clad skinheads kicking your drunken face in for giggles, a lot of people are unaware that some of the most well-respected street punk bands were exceptionally melodic, catchy, and not all that tough sounding. That seems to be the area We the People tread on this batch of new songs. The first song (and also the best) on here exemplifies that most with some serious melody through most of the track (not to mention Chuck working the range in his usually gruff voice a little more), and ending with a great rockin riff that brings to mind the aforementioned Thin Lizzy love. It all works out pretty damn well in the end. You get a couple more songs, and then a cover of “Solar” by Blitz. I should also mention that these dudes have pretty much always recorded themselves and they’re getting pretty darn good at it.
(Time To Operate,